MMFEC tries to take a stand to save a life, but time runs too short to do things by the book. Will Cromwell survive this turn of his moral compass?
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We rejoin MMFEC immediately after Cromwell has injected himself with a sample of the ultra-deadly VITAS virus, retrieved by blood mage Juamet at Cromwell’s request. The rest of the team hastily grabs their ventilators as Cromwell is descended upon by a series of Aztechnology mages. They insist on taking Cromwell immediately into quarantine, but tell MMFEC they may follow for further debriefing.
Once gathered in biohazard suits at Cromwell’s bedside, MMFEC hears from Juamet that he may have (intentionally) misled the team. While a single unwilling sacrifice – in the form of Granny Powell – will almost guarantee saving the lives of millions of residents of Hermasillo; the minimum number of consenting sacrifices is three. Each beyond three increases the odds of survival for the individuals involved; three alone almost guarantees death for the volunteers. Unwilling sacrifices are more powerful than willing ones.
Armed with this knowledge, Juamet gives MMFEC 6 hours – until 11:53 PM – to locate willing sacrifices before Granny is offered up instead. The team must split up – Ma1n can get access to the Aztechnology Grid from the medical center, so she will stay with Cromwell. Fang, Mordecai and Elsie must go into the city.
Elsie has an emotional goodbye with Cromwell, and Cromwell also asks Fang privately to look after Elsie should he pass away. Mordecai proves that his planning was sorely needed – he produces a curative spell in a bag, and tears the bag away, demanding Cromwell take the stick. The curative spell shoots through the stick into Cromwell, providing much-needed strength for the battle of immunity ahead.
Meanwhile, Ma1nframe creates fake IDs for the three (Juamet is operating outside of corporate approval and cannot provide legal access). With these fake identities, Ma1n schedules a supply run to the city.
A supply run is useless without a vehicle. Knowing time is of the essence, Ma1n cracks her fingers and uses her new Positive Quality Go Big or Go Home (she’s been drilling herself on efficiency after a few runs where she couldn’t accomplish much but bricking) and places three marks on one of the unused armored personnel carriers in a single Matrix action, like a digital battering ram obliterating the APC’s defenses. Once she has control, she invites Elsie to also access the vehicle, and the team is on their way.
Once the away team reaches the checkpoint, it is a matter of tact as Fang’s ID is not as convincing as the other two (there were no Orcs readily available whose IDs could be cloned in the outpost’s system.) Still, they manage to squeak by thanks to Elsie’s sweet-talking and move on to drive through the eerily abandoned, curfewed, darkened city towards their first target as specified by Sharky, who is “swimming” through the air in front of the APC.
Elsie and Fang head into the apartment building where the first individual with the correct antibodies lives. They go in to the heavily quarantined building to discover their target is a single mother, Benita, whose son is dying of VITAS. Elsie manages to convince Benita to save her son by volunteering, and the single mother leaves her son reluctantly with a neighbor.
Meanwhile, Mordecai is left mostly to his own devices. The APC drew suspicion as it pulled up in an otherwise curfewed area, so Elsie asked Ma1n to play an ice-cream truck song remotely to make the vehicle less intimidating. Unfortunately, this goes too far in making the vehicle approachable, and many children begin wandering up seeking ice cream in a world gone cold. Mord panics and uses his electroball attack to stun a few children who chose to bang on the vehicle.
As Elsie and Fang exit with Benita, Ma1n snoops some comms traffic near the vehicle. They’ve been made – the children Mord attacked have reported the incident. The away team must abandon the APC and instead hot-wire an SUV for the ride to the next pickup location: a hospital.
The hospital grid is well-protected and takes Ma1nfram3 a much longer time to hack, with a false start or two along the way. Visitors aren’t being allowed in, so she must somehow provide permission for the away team to enter the premises, presumably as employees. As Ma1n works on this problem, Mordecai blurts out rather insensitively that the next target’s aura is very similar to Fang’s, indicating it is one of her siblings.
It is decided that Fang will go in alone to face her family member, with an astrally projected Mordecai guiding her through the hallways. Ma1n manages to create a new fake ID for Fang – surgical intern Trellis Bane – and in she goes to face her brother. But not without a much-needed infusion of the charisma-enhancing “sparkles” from Mordecai to Fang. CONSENT!
Fang’s brother Rahmet is impatiently awaiting his release and did not expect to see Fang, to put it lightly. Their conversation is initially strained, though Rahmet does reveal he sent the new WolfBlade to Fang. After some roundabout conversation, Rahmet apologizes for not believing his sister’s innocence, and says he won’t make that mistake this time. He chooses to believe Fang is telling the truth and agrees to go with her as a willing sacrifice in the ritual.
While waiting for this situation to clear, Ma1n gets an idea. What if other patients were released as cured after Sharky did his initial pass? She checks the discharge logs and finds another patient also “cured” of VITAS who has not yet been handed their discharge papers. Victory! Ma1n hastily informs Fang and provides the information on the new patient. Just one problem: they’re in the psych ward.
After Mord astrally walked Fang to her brother’s room, he returned to his body to help Elsie retrieve another one of the candidates. This one, a teenager named Ivan, is actively participating in a violent riot. Mordecai tries to use suggestion to bring Ivan to the van and it works a bit too well – Ivan comes and tries to smash the van with a baseball bat. Mord takes a hit to the face, but then manages to parry Ivan and calm him enough to talk to him. Long story short, Ivan also agrees to come along for the ritual, and hops into the van with Benita in the back, who just keeps repeating “This is for my son.”
Fang and Rahmet make it to the psych ward and provide discharge papers to Carlos, a mental patient anxiously awaiting this discharge. It seems the hospital willingly “overlooked” his cured condition due to his incurable seizures and instability. Fang makes a failed attempt to convince Carlos, but Rahmet – who works as a Face in the shadows, like Elsie – gives a stirring performance that brings Carlos to their side, too.
Back at the medical center, Cromwell is descending rapidly into an extremely bad case of VITAS. It is lucky for the ritual that it is advancing so quickly. Ma1n spends a lot of time with Cromwell’s doctor, absorbing detailed information. She and Cromwell also have the closest they may ever get to a somewhat unfortunate heart-to-heart before he worsens.
But once the delirium sets in, Cromwell begins spewing nonsense to Ma1nfram3 : “I’m sorry I left in the forest”, and “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when it was born.” Ma1n can’t make heads or tails of this, but takes pity on him – regardless of whether she agrees with his choices – and scrounges a stuffed bear from the supplies at the med center which she silently places in his arm as he sleeps. It seems as if he hugs the bear later, and he smiles softly, briefly. But Cromwell remains deathly ill.
Against most odds, MMFEC now has 4 willing participants PLUS Cromwell (if he survives). 2 known candidates remain at large, but they are an hour’s round trip away and there are only 2 hours until the ritual; to say nothing of any additional riots or problems that may wait along the way. In the chaos, while Ma1n is tending to Cromwell, the away team decides to direct Mordecai’s spirits to kidnap the last two candidates, reasoning that they can be offered the chance to consent once they are safely at the ritual site. The spirits dispatched, the group of 7 heads back in the cramped SUV for a final exit checkpoint.
In the med center, Cromwell becomes delirious again, now taking in his sleep about being sad that someone thought he didn’t love them. Ma1n finds this deeply upsetting, thinking this must be Cromwell nearly passing on. It seems the only thing to do is to play the mysterious stranger he’s speaking to, perhaps helping him to find closure in these final moments. So Ma1n replies to Cromwell, something about not doubting Cromwell’s love – when he snaps to suddenly, and becomes very awkward, telling Ma1nfram3 that he’s not attracted to her that way. Exasperated, Ma1n gives up trying to explain her attempt at comforting a dying Troll and walks out of the room.
Unfortunately, the two souls the away team kidnapped were successfully kidnapped – but both were killed by security measures in attempting to leave the city. MMFEC’s body count is already higher than Aztechnology’s – at least where it comes to sacrifices.
The other 7 make it back to the medical center – MFE and the 4 volunteers. Cromwell has remained alert since snapping to consciousness during the ill fated conversation with Ma1nfram3, and it appears he is through the woods and considered largely cured.
Knowing now that each additional volunteer ups the chances for the ritual’s success – and knowing that they have at least 5 volunteers – Mordecai is emboldened to take on the blood mage’s magic holding Granny Powell unconscious. (This may also be motivated by his recently developed but apparently deep seated hatred of Juamet). Mordecai summons his power and manages to break the spell keeping Granny Powell at bay, causing her to wake up in her box and Juamet to come running angrily into the room.
A period of exposition ensues, where Granny is brought up to speed (by the rapidly growing list of shadowrunners and sacrifice candidates present – Granny’s shadowrunning team of 5, MMFEC, and the 4 other sacrifices, plus doctors and Juamet). She also consents to participating in the ritual, reasoning that Aztechnology would probably just kill her anyway otherwise.
With 6 willing participants, it’s time for paperwork – which Ma1n has prepared explaining the potential side effects of participation, including maiming or death. Each participant is asked to name what they wish to sacrifice – whether it be blood, a limb, or a more symbolic quality. Cromwell says blood and makes a show of it, but writes “eyes”.
Time running short, they are all escorted to the historic ziggurat where the ritual will be performed. For some reason they are all issued capes – Aztechnology is concerned with putting on a show, with media and full movie lighting present.
Cromwell and Elsie have another emotional moment, where Crommie asks to see Elsie without her goggles one last time. He also tells Elsie that Fang and Mordecai will be there for her if he doesn’t make it – even Ma1n, he posits, as he reveals (erroneously) Ma1n is in love with him.
The sacrificial candidates are helped onto a plateau and, after some miscommunication about the order of operations, the blood ritual begins.
- The mages slash Cromwell’s eyes, rendering him instantly blind. He takes a tremendous amount of damage and is laid prone, but manages to maintain consciousness.
- Benita does not manage to survive her bloodletting and dies, leaving her son an orphan.
- Ivan, the teenager, is rendered unconscious by the loss of blood but survives.
- Rahmet sacrificed his face, and is dealt a horrific wound from navel to cheek. He loses consciousness but survives partially due to Fang’s encouragement from afar.
- Carlos from the inpatient ward asked to lose an arm, which leaves him unable to deal with the massive blood loss. He perishes.
- The elderly Daisy Powell manages to barely survive her blood loss against all odds.
The power of the spilled blood and sacrifices well up, and an aura of magic surrounds the place of the ritual, moving towards Hermasillo. All indications are that the ritual was successful. As the only conscious sacrifice, Cromwell takes advantage of the chaos post-ritual to punch Juamet from his prone position. He makes contact with a glancing blow, knocking Juamet to his feet and drawing attention from the security forces.
After a few hours, the world learns that the outbreak of VITAS has been cured. MMFEC receives no payment for their efforts, though they find their expenses paid. Juamet seems amused but unwilling to do much except offer Mordecai tutelage in the blood magicks. And the team has yet to deal with the fallout from their intervention which resulted in one life saved, but more lost.