Stonehenge and Other Anomolies is the 7th episode of Aztec Gold.
On October 16th, The Crew travels to Stonehenge seeking the second artifact. Along the way, they hear a news broadcast on the Net that Ares will announce a new CEO after the death of Damien Knight. That death has been officially ruled a murder, and one that has not been solved. The report indicates that at least three of the suspects are still at large, but does not identify who they are.
The report continues, saying that the new CEO will be announced later today, but that sources close to Ares suggest that director of engineering Sora Kobiyashi may take the helm, making him one of the most powerful men in the world. These rumors have not speculated who would take over for Mr. Kobiyashi.
On the third day of the trip, a heavy rain picks up, which turns into a full storm by that night. This causes a number of problems, from fuzzy instrument readings, to lightning striking the onboard lightning rods repeatedly. Mothra performs most of the navigation manually, through the ventral windows.
By the fifth day, the rain clears, but the dirigible starts making a clicking noise, smelling strangely of burning rubber. Mothra calls Doc asking for a mechanic near Michigan, where they currently are. Doc suggests someone in Whalebone Ridge, a shop called Wartusk and sons, and advises against stopping in Chicago.
The mechanic indicates that the whole ship is in bad shape, identifying problems with everything except the rigging. He sells them a new ship, a Sader-Kup Zephyrboard that is much faster and smaller than the Maiden Katrina, but insists that he'll have to report the alarming amount of explosives on board. The Edgelord persuades him to commit insurance fraud, clearing it with Doc, and the Maiden Katrina's explosives are activated, causing a small fire in the shop. Doc doesn't seem too happy about this decision, but authorizes it anyway. Mothra uses one of his fake SINs to register the new blimp, which The Edgelord negotiates down to 150,000 nuyen instead of the original price of 170,000.
Arriving in Stonehenge, the crew notices that the site is overrun with tourists and decides to return after sunset. They don't see anything special about the ruins, but several members reach into their technomancy, connecting to the Interweave. Those who do feel a strong pull to the monument, as well as a much weaker pull about 40 KM to the south. The sensation at Stonehenge is almost overwhelming, described as though someone was "strumming a musical chord with your veins".
Following that second pull, Mothra parks the blimp in an empty lot, and The Edgelord fabricates a parking ticket to hang in the window in the hopes that they can avoid getting a real one.
The pull is in a prison, so The Crew researches local criminals in the hopes of getting inside. Nova decides to pose as a reporter, and finds information about four local criminals: Rikkard Dobbs, a teenager who was recently arrested for murder; Veyman Roursch, who was convicted on vote manipulation and racketeering; Kirkman Legs who was in for vehicular manslaughter; and Vanessa Plubb, a woman accused of murdering her last three husbands.
Of these, Roursch had recently starred in a documentary that was largely filmed in this prison. Nova chooses Dobbs and goes to interview him. Dobbs' trial was set to take place in 3 days. The Crew leaves their weapons at the reception office and submits to full-body scans for cybernetic implants before entering the prison. This raises a small amount of alarm, as Burnout had brought more than half a dozen guns inside.
Traveling through the prison, Nova and Cybersloth notice that the pull is coming from the evidence room. She interviews the suspect, who is no older than 14. The evidence against his is a surveillance video that shows a man entering a junkyard, standing in one of a few blindspots of the system. Minutes later, Dobbs is seen entering the same junkyard carrying several large guns, with more strapped to his back. About half an hour later, Dobbs runs out, lightly glazed in blood. The other man's body was found the next day, decapitated. The head was never found.
Dobbs had fired his lawyer because "he said I was guilty of something, and he didn't care what". He also alleges that there is a conspiracy against him, saying that the man wasn't decapitated, he was shot, and that there hadn't been any blades present. He hasn't commented on this officially, because he is sure "they are trying to trick me into revealing one of these two facts, but I don't know which".
Dobbs refuses to comment on why he was actually in the junkyard, but it becomes clear that he was running guns for someone powerful that he is afraid of. Unbeknownst to the crew, that someone is the Yakuza.
Nova investigates and finds that the blood pattern was probably caused by a bullet. It's theoretically possible to generate a similar blood spray with a blade, but only if the attacker was at least 18 inches taller than the victim, and even then it would require a lot of force, likely using the pommel of the blade as a bludgeoning weapon. Given that Dobbs is almost a full foot shorter than the victim, Nova believes his innocence.
She finds evidence that the autopsy on the victim was doctored, and examines the security tape. She notices a loop in the footage and edits it for clarity, discovering several minutes have been removed. This would come up again in court.
Burnout investigates the crime scene and finds a .50 caliber shell and a bullet hole in a scrapped car that was in a blindspot from the cameras, and was at a vantage point that lined up with Dobb's story.
After seeing the evidence list contained 16 guns, a small knife, and an old necklace, Nova starts to ask questions about Stonehenge, convinced that the necklace is the artifact she's after. Dobbs gets angry, saying that if she gets him out of here, he'll give her a "damned tour" of Stonehenge, but that at the moment he needed a lawyer, not a tourist. Burnout takes issue with the prisoner's attitude and promises to kill him upon release.
Nova considers setting off the prison alarms in order to snatch the necklace from evidence, but decides that subtlety might work better. She agrees to represent Dobbs, and continues collecting evidence before the trial.
The trial is televised, so the crew goes out to buy nice clothes for themselves and Dobbs. At court, the video surveillance evidence is thrown out due to Nova's own tampering of the tapes. Nova brings up the rest of the evidence, and the Edgelord makes a statement to the jury. He was able to get if from a hopeless case (with execution on the line) up to a hung jury, and a re-trial is scheduled for the following month.
Mothra pays bail on Rikkard and The Edgelord convinces the judge to let his necklace out of storage until the trial. The crew goes to Stonehenge, and Nova inquires about the necklace, certain now that it is the source of the pull she feels. Rikkard informs here that it's been in his family for generations, and that his mother showed him how to communicate with the spirits of Stonehenge.
Mothra explains that they can't stick around, especially since the trial was televised, but that hopefully they generated enough buzz about the case to get a better lawyer -- one actually qualified -- to take the case.
Arriving at Stonehenge in the dead of night, just hours after his release, Dobbs pulls out the necklace and asks about their actual reasons for coming. As an answer, Burnout draws his gun and shoots Dobbs in the head, killing him. Panicking, Cybersloth uses the translator software she bought from Lady Retweet to read the inscription on the necklace. It reads "Sever the bloodline on the day of equals". Mothra explains that this is almost certainly a reference to the solstice, which wouldn't happen for a few more months.
Cybersloth collects the necklace while The Edgelord and Burnout both collect samples of Dobbs' blood (The Edgelord in glass vials, Burnout in an empty milk bag) while Mothra hides the body in the woods nearby. The crew leaves immediately, headed for Giza.
Arriving in Giza, The Crew rents a car and heads to the pyramids, following their senses. They find one pyramid near the Sphinx that they feel the strongest draw to (though they feel a faint draw to the sphinx itself, almost as though it was sleeping). After dark, The Edgelord picks the lock on the pyramid and travels inward, quickly crossing the roped off area that is preserved for tours. The crew heads further and further underground until they get to a sealed door covered in hieroglyphics.
The hieroglyphics are translated as a riddle: What can you enter 77 times, but never leaves. Mothra mentions that "77" to Egyptians is figuratively the same as infinity, and the group struggles for an answer. They find additional hieroglyphics that lead them to believe that the answer is something that every building has. Cybersloth suggests "an entrance" before the answer of "an empty room" is finally accepted.
Inside, the crew finds a burial chamber with a sealed sarcophagus, a scroll containing information about the other artifacts, a blade forged from pure meteorite, an amulet of emerald and gold, and a small totem of a sphinx. Nova collects the amulet, which she's certain is the artifact, and Mothra examines the scroll. It reads:
Maori: Hidden on an island far from home
Aztec: Heart of a jungle, closely watched
Atlantians On the move, out of sight.
Chinese: With the dead, ask Xia for directions.
Israeli: Holy ground, protected by their god
Egypt: A special fortress, constructed for this reason.
Gaelic: The world beyond, in a place of power
Burnout decides that the blade is cursed and shuns it it. Cybersloth picks up the sphinx token and tries to interact with it, calling upon her very reserves and burning a point of edge to use it. She successfully summons it, and an enormous incorporeal sphinx fills the room. The crew feels the ground shake like small earthquakes from outside and decide to wait out whatever is happening.
Despite being urged not to, Burnout opens the sarcophagus, unleashing a cloud of thick black particles that hang in the air and seem to crawl into lungs and pores, driving the crew out of the pyramid. They can see that the real sphinx has awoken and is assaulting them. Cybersloth uses her totem to command her spirit sphinx to tussle with the one of stone, and as soon as it leaves the pyramid and has space, it becomes tangible and the two start wrestling.
Mothra investigates the space under the sphinx, finding a bunker with MREs, which he collects. Everyone piles into the rental car and rides away from the chasing sphinx as quickly as they can, finding news reports the next day that someone had moved the several ton monument "as a prank".
If the crew had still been traveling in the Maiden Katrina, an old enemy of Doc would have threatened them down as as they entered Egyptian airspace, saying "Dammit Doc I thought I made it clear that if you fly through my area again, I'll shoot you down. Tell me why I shouldn't blow you outta the sky right now. And if your answer doesn't sound like the 30,000 nuyen you owe me, well then those are probably just mistakes on your radar and you can safely ignore them."