In the Beginning
The story begins in mid-2012, when the group, four demons who kept tabs on each other for safety’s sake if nothing else, discovered a new cell-phone game, Sector, that was clearly associated with some kind of Infrastructure. The ring gets their hands on a few of the phones the next time they go on sale, and each does their own little investigation with it (Canticle’s sad little phone is probably still buried under that crap in the parking lot).
Eventually the trail leads to the maker of the game, a software house called Corexe. Adlai and Avery go in to get some information, and it comes pretty clear that the building housing Corexe is also Infrastructure. The name Doakes keeps coming up.
The plan proceeds, and the group hijacks a truck full of cell phones, stashing them in Avery’s bolthole and later rendering them inoperable before selling them to a fence at a discount. Adlai keeps tabs on Doakes with clairvoyance, learning the interior of the Corexe building, a significant victory considering its thoroughly non-Euclidean nature.
Meanwhile, in Sector, a campaign called GATEWAY is starting up, complete with new hotspots and new glyphs. It has all the hallmarks of some kind of summoning ritual, and the ring does everything they can to stop it. Canticle almost kills himself trying to Shatter one of the creepy sculptures the GATEWAY hotspots focus on, while Pernoja takes the less subtle but more effective route and simply drives into one. Damned cell-phone drivers!
Avery spends his time getting to know the primary programmer for Sector, one Damien Ellard, and convinces him to make some “edits” to the geolocation parameters. GATEWAY culminates with absolutely nothing happening. Disaster averted! For now.
Adlai undertakes a campaign to use a venture capitalist to leverage a hostile takeover of Corexe, and eventually corners Doakes during a meeting and reveals his nature to him. Sort of. The point is, he manages to convince Doakes that he speaks for The Man Upstairs, allowing him to effectively take control of Corexe’s operations and gain unlimited access to the building for the ring. Further experiments with the building’s mechanisms allow them to disconnect it from the God-Machine completely. Hooray for personal Concealment Infrastructure!
Pernoja and Canticle, meanwhile, follow up on the shipping company lead, and after Pernoja smashes her head into a steering wheel to fake a mugging, they learn where the phones Sector is played on come from — a cargo ship in the port of LA called the Caspian Monarch. Not too weird, right? Except upon further investigation, the Caspian Monarch hasn’t left port in thirteen years.
The ring sends Canticle in with a GoPro strapped to his head, and he infiltrates the ship with relative ease, finding his way down into the warm and humid bowels of the ship and discovering the ultimate origin of the cell phones. It turns out that a forge-worker pulls them out of a half-mechanical, half-biological oven with a long spatula, leaving them to cool on a plinth nearby. Creepy, right?
Canticle decides to extract with the knowledge he’s gained, but is cornered by a burly sea-captain-looking man. He tries to evade him, but the ship itself comes alive and grapples him! Only one thing saves Canticle: the Word. “SLEEP!”
Help arrives, and Canticle is freed despite the unconscious angel standing just a foot away. Pernoja, not willing to leave an angel at her back, coldly executes him, and he falls down what’s left of the stairwell he pursued Canticle up. Adlai finds another way down into the ship and convinces the crew (all thoroughly brainmelted by the God-Machine’s influence) that he, surprise surprise, speaks for The Man Upstairs, and orders them to flood the superheated and clearly supernatural engine shaft with bilge water, quenching it and deactivating the forge that produced the phones. Adlai goes to the forge to check on things (and munch on free Aether) but is attacked by the captain, who despite having a hole in his head and being on fire is still very much alive.
And then Adlai talks him into Falling. The ring takes him with them, wondering what they’re going to do with their new demonic friend and their completely unseaworthy cargo ship that poops cell phones.
Here’s where things get complicated: a few days later, as the ring recovers from the shock, Pernoja and Canticle are both contacted independently. Canticle meets Dillon, a burnout who also happens to be a demon. The meeting doesn’t go especially well, because Canticle. Pernoja, meanwhile, meets Grace, the new (and very sudden) replacement counselor at her daughter’s school. After a bit of perfectly nice suburban mom chit-chat, Grace reveals that she, too, is a demon. Miraculously, Pernoja doesn’t execute her on the spot.
A meeting is arranged. Grace shows up along with a tall, white-haired woman with scars and a look in her eye that’s more than a little reminiscent of Pernoja. Grace properly introduces herself — it turns out she’s both Dillon and Grace, and goes by Mx. Quicksand when they’re among their own kind. Her companion? Ms. Feather. They represent another group of demons, established and more than a little wealthy. Quicksand offers material support, including sources of Aether (a resource that the group is hurting for!), new Covers, pacts, and so on.
The ring does not receive the offer well, taking the fact that the others are very knowledgable about their activities as a not-so-veiled threat. In the interest of mending fences, Quicksand offers that their group is fairly certain that the Infrastructure complex Sector represents the tip of is tied, somehow, to LAX, and that hunter angels have been scrambled in the wake of the ring’s exploits in and around the Caspian Monarch. They also mention that another parent at Pernoja’s daughter’s school has contracted with a private security firm to spy on her. This is the first that the ring has heard that Pernoja has a daughter, and Pernoja immediately goes into I Will Take A Flaming Shit In Your Soul mode.
After the rocky meeting, Pernoja corners said parent in a racquetball court, convinces him that she is literally Lucifer, and pressures him into signing over his soul in return for youth, wealth, and fame. Good job, Pernoja!
Avery takes the initiative and tries to patch things up with Quicksand… and give Adlai a chance to stalk them as they go about their boring-ass part-time 7-11 job. After nothing happens, Adlai’s next step is to return to the Caspian Monarch, possess one of the crew, and try to replicate what happened at Corexe and disconnect it from the God-Machine there. Instead, he manages to reactivate it.
This is when the hunter angel shows up, picking Adlai out of the crowd and ordering him to follow him to his car for further interrogation. Naturally, this is when Canticle and Pernoja intervene, and for the first time the rest of the ring gets to see what Pernoja looks like when she goes into full-on Fuck Your Shit Up mode. Somehow, they manage to defeat the angel, who promptly attempts to self-destruct anyway! Along with the overheating mechanisms that scuttle the Caspian Monarch, this leaves a massive crater in the port’s blacktop and prompts a huge terrorism scare. YAY! The ring, quite wisely, goes to ground.
Over the next few days, they keep their ears and eyes open, and begin to put together a few connections between news stories they find in the wild. Life goes on as Cover-normal, aside from Pernoja’s daughter, Athena, using her creepy baby devil-child powers to spy on her mother.
Canticle finds a street kid following him around, or at least going to all the same spots he goes to. The rest of the ring backs him up when he confronts her because that’s what rings are for! Turns out the kid was being paid to keep an eye on Canticle, and Pernoja pressures her into turning double-agent. Adlai uses a clever bit of wordplay to prove that the kid is actually a demon! She admits that her name is Wolf.
Adlai finds that one of his subordinates at what’s left of Corexe has gone missing. A little clairvoyant snooping reveals that he is, in fact, at home. Dead. With no eyes. After wracking his hard drives Adlai realizes what this means — a hunter angel is on his trail. Throwing caution to the wind, he possesses one of his security guards and confronts a woman who is clearly surveilling the property. Somehow, despite the heavy suspicion that this woman is the angel, he walks away alive.
Avery and Pernoja meet up with Quicksand again. Pernoja is there less because she wants to and more because she feels a maternal responsibility to stand next to Avery and look threatening. Aside from a nibble of Aether and the establishment of a dead-drop for communication, the highlight of the meeting is the following exchange: “Ms. Pernoja, youv’e been rather quiet.” “I told Avery I wouldn’t threaten you.”
Later, the dead drop provides a “request” — Quicksand’s ground wants the group to poke their noses into Principle Security, a private security contractor, to see if it’s as rife with the God-Machine’s influence as they seem to think it is. Promise of payment is assured with a successful infiltration!
Adlai and Avery arrange for the Cult of Corexe to hack into Principle Security. They make off with the Personnel records, against all odds. With this, they successfully put a name to the face of the woman outside Corexe: Regina Caetani. The ring goes on to break into her home, making off with a gun hidden under a kitchen tile and an increasingly certainly that Ms. Caetani is an angel.
Adlai arranges a consultation with one of Principle’s executives, Lauren Reeves, and promptly hijacks her identity. Using facades, Pernoja becomes A Loyal Principle Security Customer and Avery becomes Lauren’s Assistant (“Assistant.”). Pernoja enters first, derailing the Schmooze from a sales representative with a visit to the bathroom and subsequently Knocking Blow-ing him and stashing him in a toilet stall. Adlai and Avery make their way in, retrieve Pernoja, and escort her into the more secure areas of the building. Pernoja sneaks into Archives and proceeds to memorize four years worth of financial records, while Avery and Adlai con the sysadmin into cloning Regina’s hard drive. Along the way, they come up with security diagrams and blueprints for the building itself. Keen!
The ring successfully extracts and sets up a meeting to deliver (some of) the goods to Quicksand. They meet in a vacant lot, and Quicksand demonstrates the use of the abandoned payphone that is still connected to some vestigial Infrastructure, providing a fresh breath of Aether for the group. Along with the minor cornucopia, Quicksand gives them the name of the group they work for: Feather Schema (FINALLY, AFTER SEVEN SESSIONS, THE NAME-DROP).
Canticle does a spin-kick. Not at anyone, just in the air.