Cast of Characters
After a second night’s rest in the woods, the team wakes up with confidence of the general area that the TerraFirst! group is likely making camp based on the pattern of attacks and the tracks Walker has been able to find at each site. As they debate their approach, Duchess decides to try something and throws a mana barrier around her before going into the astral.
Able to cover distance at the speed of thought, and well familiar with the corrupted mana at each of the attack sites, she’s quickly able to spot a few spots of corrupted mana, one that seems to line up with the Johnson’s research station and one closer to the team’s current location. The closer one is also the strongest background count seen yet, as she moves into investigate further, she spots a powerful toxic spirit coming towards and immediately races to her body in the mana barrier.
At the TerraFirst! camp, Melvin Cohen, a former PhD candidate at Berkeley, is alerted by his toxic abomination spirit of the intrusion. And he begins rousing the camp, yelling, “Interlopers come! They wish to stop our great transformation but nothing can stop our work! We will create a Terra that can be free of the poisonous megacorporations and treacherous governments.”
He orders all eight of his cell to lay an ambush on the direct approach from where the spirit saw Duchess retreat and then heads back into his tent to continue planning subsequent attacks while two spirits look over him and the camp.
Duchess readies two spirits, and Ace gets a serious headache failing to summon a spirit, and the team heads in the direction of the suspected camp. As they get close, the woods get very quiet and a couple of the runners hear some faint rustling ahead. Duchess orders one of the raccoon spirits to conceal the party, and without realizing it the team slips right by the ambush.
The team comes up on the campsite and as Eternal takes up a sniper position, Duchess’ manifested raccoon spirit suddenly begins screaming and thrashing next to her, as it is ambushed in the astral by one of the two abomination spirits in the form of a grotesque mockery of a wolf. The other manifests ahead of the team.
The raccoon spirits engage the astral abomination, and the team unleashes a volley of manabolts and the ineffectual swings of a sledgehammer on the manifested toxic spirit. The toxic shaman comes screaming out of his tent as the commotion, calling for his cell to come back while taking up a place in cover.
As Eternal plugs away with his rifle trying to take out the mage, the team continues to fight the spirits, with Duchess’ first raccoon spirit ultimately falling under the savaging. Duchess also feels the other raccoon spirit, still Astral, be ripped away from her as a horrible corrupting feeling comes across her mental link with the spirit. Soon after the other wolf abomination manifests, accompanied by a mutated and distended raccoon spirit, now corrupted by the toxic shaman.
Eternal is able to land a kill shot on the toxic shaman after flushing him out with a flashbang and then turn and blow a huge chunk out of the first wolf abomination mauling Sledge. Despite Walker’s rush to help, Duchess falls from the spirits attacking her but the team is able to ultimately put down the remaining spirits.
The team quickly moves into secure the camp, doing a quick search, before hearing signs that the rest of the cell is returning. The team quickly sets up an ambush position, and with a combination of a high ex courtesy of Eternal and a physical barrier to ricochet the blast around, a third of the returning group is wiped out instantly. Half of the remaining break and run, the other dropping prone, and those that remain are quickly taken out by the runners.
Between notes found at the site and a call with the Johnson, the team ultimately is able to put together that the researcher was doing work for Wuxing to test how various pollutants affect the mana of a natural area. Melvin was in the area planning some environmental protests against the logging operations but the increased toxicity in the astral opened the door for a toxic spirit to reach out to the frustrated environmentalist and corrupt him to a toxic path, which he was ultimately able to convince his group to fall in line with as they saw “results”.
Pay secured, along with the bonus of a jeep thanks to the team grilling the Johnson on what really went down, the team made their way back to the city. However shortly after crossing over the city line, the first vehicle with Duchess, Ace, Walker, and Acorn is pulled over. Eternal and Sledge drive on without incident.
The SFPD takes Walker and Ace in, although not under arrest, to speak with a Lt. Trish Rueben and allows Acorn and Duchess to go on their way.