"Taming of the Screwworm" is...
Hea meets at the table with Marge and Tabby to discuss what's happening with all of them, with Tabby being particularly uneasy. Hea mentions that since she is popular at the museum - and that her employers already know about the Kirby Act warrant against Hea - they've stated that they'd hire Hea back just as soon as her Kirby Act affairs are over with. Hea asks Tabby to be brave, knowing that the Kirby Act enforcement could get Tabby in trouble too.
Hea's states that her strategy is to leave early in the morning the next day and drive to Houston to join Team Caged Dove - appeasing the outstanding warrants against her. Marge comments that her modeling career would be able to survive an alcohol-related scandal - but not the revelation of her being Mapacha. Tabby agrees that she'll linger around outside of the bar that Marge goes to - and wait for Shaniqua to come and get her and take her to safety. Hea warns Tabby that she could get charged with loitering. Tabby points out that the persecution of homeschoolers happening in Arkansas at the time justifies this course of action, as Tabby fears it's only a matter of time before the godless state cracks down on her anyway. She'd rather be hidden in a SCALLOP building, than find herself wrongly imprisoned in a state-run re-education camp.
The women head to bed in their morning clothes, though a weak and frightened Tabby secretly smuggles the Pusher's Ruby into her pants pocket. She knows it's against Team Gray guidelines for the ruby guardians to use rubies on themselves; yet Tabby fears she may have no choice if the Icy Finger finds her. She falls asleep uneasy, as she cannot believe she is about to attempt to get arrested by SCALLOP to avoid an even worse fate. Her mind drifts back to faces and friends she has had at the homeschooler's association, fearing how events would alter their opinions of her. It was a smokescreen: using one element of law enforcement as a shield against another, more-threatening element.
Screwworm Network revived
Rappaccini alerts Marblefaun to head to Italy and keep searching for the Rock Sculptor's Ruby, said to be hidden somewhere in the Vatican. If all else fails, then the Pope might know where it is. He is to be abducted and used to locate it. With it, the Sheathing Shield can be removed from the Cavern of Marlquaan Rubies that was created in 1897 in Mozambique by descendents of Miles Wealthington's brother. Without it, those rubies might never again be in the possession of any man. Acquiring them proves essential given the destruction of the Grand Ultimate's Ruby - as well as the fact that Hester's locket is still in Team Gray's possession. A SCALLOP mole inside of the Icy Finger takes great pains to hide his efforts to relay this information to a team leader - who intends to relay the information to Lex Philippine so he can relay it to Caged Dove. From there, the plan is for Caged Dove to relay the information to Spaghetti Liberation.
However, Rappaccini then turns his attention to Lionfish. He informs Lionfish and a band of Icy Finger foot soldiers that they are to start wearing Screwworm Network standard uniforms. In order to improve the Icy Finger's relations, they need the Screwworms to be seen as a separate entity by the public. The Icy Finger proper will remain in the background, while the Screwworms take the heat for all terrorist actions. Frank Meddington assures Rappaccini that Lionfish knows what to do - and that they've deduced where the Barrins are located. Rappaccini gives Meddington to clear to launch a full-scale raid. He ends the call by telling Lionfish: "You know what to do."
Attack on Lambrelli Labs
As Lex Philippine and Mallorie Wade discuss with a senator the ethics of the Kirby Act, an Icy Finger sleeper agent disguised as a state bureaucrat orders that Cupric be transferred from the SCALLOP Men's Containment Center to a state prison - this in spite SCALLOP personnel strongly objecting to the measure. The sleeper agent waits until he has Cupric a safe distance away, then reveals to Cupric what the real plan for him is. Cupric soon finds himself en route to get his old equipment back - as well as a Marlquaanite ruby ritual to give him an upgrade.
Within the next hour, he is told to attack Lambrelli Labs in exchange for another treatment that will stabilize him. Ron and Roger activate Pilltar and Ponicatar to aid the company's security in fighting off Cupric and the Screwworms. SCALLOP personnel alert Ron that they're coming to his aid, but that they also have a warrant for his arrest. Ron tells Roger to watch over the company, as the Gray Champion arrives and escorts him away to Italy. Cupric manages to steal some copper ore; but is ordered to call off the attack due to Pilltar buying the National Guard and SCALLOP time to respond. Ron makes a conference call to the staff at Lambrelli Labs, inventing an excuse why he had an emergency need to go to Italy. He also alerts them that Stephanie is in trouble again, and to make preparations until she can return.
Hea attempts to go to the bank to collect gas money for her trip to Houston. However, she discovers that her debit card had been hot-flagged. She attempts to leave the area, especially when suspicious vehicles show up. She only gets a short distance from the bank before Shaniqua shows up from behind a corner and confronts. Her. Hea surrenders without incident, even confessing to Shaniqua what Marge and Tabby's plans were to distract the media. Shaniqua warns Hea that such a plan could backfire horribly, then agrees to call for backup to find Marge and Hea before disaster strikes.
Marge attempts to go to bar with Tabby. However, the Screwworms identify the Team Gray girls in a matter of minutes. Marge leads the fighting away from Tabby, then returns to the bar to get drunk after her work as Mapacha is done. She makes sure to amble around in public once drunk, and is arrested for public intoxication.
Tabby attempts to flee from the Screwworms, but one of their agents begins pursuing her in spite Marge's diversion. Tabby decides that she's not willing to use the ruby, as it would get her in far worse trouble than she's already in if caught using it in public. However, being in possession of it makes her a liability of caught by her pursuer! She decides that if she's in trouble with the authorities anyway, she may as well break a few actual laws along the way to escape.
She runs through traffic and narrowly avoids getting hit several times. Her pursuer continues to chase her, growing visibly irritated by her antics. Once she enters the mall across the street, she discovers a group of drunks. She tricks them into fighting each other, which results in a massive brawl. She uses this diversion to reach the second floor while her pursuer retreats from the mob on the first floor.
Tabby attempts to pawn off the pusher's Ruby to a the pawn shop store owner. However, the owner recognizes that there is something unusual about the ruby and quickly gets Tabby to confess it is the Pusher's Ruby. He doesn't believe Tabby could possibly own the ruby herself, and orders her behind the desk at gun point. He informs her that under the Beliah Amendments, attempts to sell a Marlquaanite ruby without licensing or proof of ownership is a serious felony - on par with selling nuclear material on the black market. Tabby informs him back that the Icy Finger is hunting her; and that if she promises to give the ruby to SCALLOP and keep it away from the Icy Finger, she'll agree to go to jail. He orders her to remain hidden under his desk until the police arrive. She confesses on the spot to her whole motive - and to everything else she'd done.
Police, taking Shaniqua's advice when she says her SCALLOP backup cannot arrive in time, swarm the streets in search of Tabby to keep the Screwworms from getting too close to her. The pawn shop owner then calls and alerts officers that Tabby tried to sell him the Pusher's Ruby. The mall is swarmed with police within minutes, forcing the Screwworms to retreat. Tabitha is arrested immediately, and taken to the city police station. The now-quieted mob stares in awe as they witness an almost-13-year-old child being hauled away in cuffs. The media reports only that Tabby was caught attempting to sell illegal jewelry. Her friends in the homeschooling association view the news feed in disbelief.
Shaniqua's backup hauls Hea away to Houston, alerting Hea that Tabby has been caught and that she'll be okay. Shaniqua herself heads to the station and picks up Tabby. She promises Tabby that she'll be placed in a safe location - but warns her that only Tabby's juvenile status will work toward a softer sentence. She warns Tabby that as an adult, under certain circumstances, unlawful sales of Marlquaanite rubies under the Kirby Act can earn even stiffer penalties than murder. Tabby explains that as long as the Icy Finger doesn't have it, she's thankful.
Stephanie's honeymoon ruined
Stephanie Barrin and Jonathan Tannuli, suspecting that they might be expecting a child, are in their new home getting settled after having eloped a mere 13 days earlier. Stephanie is given time off from Lambrelli Labs, with a position ready to open up for her in a few months. However, Jon expresses his nervousness with Stephanie over Jacks' distress call and what it could mean for them.
Their celebrations are cut short when Screwworm agents start gathering in her front yard. Jonathan runs for his shotgun to blow the intruders away, while Stephanie reaches for the controls to a Strawberry. The Screwworms continue to raid the house with a battering ram, firing machine guns into the living room window as well. Jon and Stephanie shoot their way free via the back door and start hopping fences. However, they don't want the Screwworms to get at the intel and company secrets that are in the house. Stephanie activates her Strawberry, which arises from a secret compartment beneath the living room floor and begins making war with the home intruders. Said intruders being tearing apart walls of the house in search of Lambrelli tech they can confiscate. They assemble an MPF generator cannon inside the house, which they will use to trap Stephanie in once they've captured her. Strawberry battles to disable the generator - and keep the Screwworms focused on her instead of the Tannulis. However, several agents gang up on the robot and abuse it brutally. Stephanie decides to implement "the near-nuclear option," sighing under her breath that history is repeating itself as Jonathan asks what she means. Strawberry damages the MPF generator, then self-destructs. The blast kills several Icy Finger goons, and the flames detonate and trigger the house's self-destruct. The Tannuli family watches across the street in a neighbor's yard in horror as the house that symbolized their marriage burns to the ground. The next-door neighbor's roof catches fire too, much to the couple's dismay.
As the couple hear fire sirens in the background, they realize they're technically trespassing in a neighbor's yard - fortunate that no one is home to complain. Jon explains he can't afford to get into any more trouble with the law. Stephanie reminds him that the Kirby Act wants her, and that he needs to head to a relative's place and lay low. She will head to Houston and take the heat for both of them. He tells her to negotiate for solitary confinement to protect the baby. She states she'll do what she deems necessary. Stephanie kisses Jon goodbye, then tells him to find his family. Stephanie boards a bus for Houston, and goes to attend the conference Jack and Lex arranged.
Houston mayoral troubles
After a meeting with various SCALLOP lawyers concerning Kirby Act enforcement, the mayor of Houston is suddenly ambushed by Lionfish. Several city officials are taken hostage and city hall goes into lockdown mode. The Screwworm Network launches a raid on downtown, placing a Chafer mecha beneath the street and patrolling with the aid of several Stagtar droids.
A frightened Frank is comforted by Donte, who gives him special instructions on how to survive at the SCALLOP Juvenile Containment Center. Donte is soon sent into another room by guards, where he and Jack meet up to await further instruction. Wilbur is revealed to be there, and the younger two check on his vitals as he appears ill. He assures them he will be fine. Evan is brought into the room next, more roughly, as he protests being "Shawshanked" while Marblefaun is still on the loose. He observes the other three prisoners, and asks them in confusion who they are. Donte volunteers to explain to Evan who's who in the Sodality of Gerosha, as plans are made by officials to transport them to the SCALLOP Men's Containment Center. Tobias is sent to the room with them, interrupting Donte briefly but promising to explain to them who the Swappernetters are next.
Meanwhile, Candi is informed that her ride is ready to SCALLOP Women's Containment Center. She finds herself loaded into the back of a van with Keet Kabo, Mingmei, Dolly, and Miranda. The Sodality women and Mingmei begin discussing what's happening, and praying. Keet interrupts some of the conversation, clearly still in the dark about certain details. Dolly admits to finding Keet amusing, but decides to otherwise keep quiet. When it becomes clear however that Keet and Mingmei aren't able to get along, Candi steps in to explain things to Keet and to help keep the peace. With Mingmei's cooperation, she is eventually able to convince Keet to relax. However, Keet still vows to find a way out of prison the first chance she gets.
Candi and Dolly are sent to their cell first, as the two of them familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Dolly asks if it will be possible for them to function as support staff for the Spaghetti Liberation team while in prison, and the guard promises them that Lex is already figuring out a way to get them a radio kit. Brian separates Mingmei and Keet, realizing that Keet is too obnoxious to be ignored. He has her sent into a separate cell, then embraces Mingmei the minute nobody is looking. Mingmei assures Brian that she missed him too, then kisses him. Brian inquires why Keet was bothering Mingmei, and she assures him it is merely because Keet cannot accept Caged Dove as her calling. Brian gently escorts Mingmei to her cell, then closes the door after the two wave goodbye. Each of the girls sits on her respective bed, awaiting further instruction.
No peace for the Peacekeepers
While hiding in Canada, Jackal and Socratic debate going after Keet and Evan. They resolve that they should wait for Keet to give the signal that a rescue attempt is worth the while, as Socratic recalls going through rehearsals for the "Radio Budgie" protocol. Their ship scanners soon detect that a band of Phaletori ships have docked somewhere in England. They are about to set their coordinates for England, but are suddenly hailed by an incoming helicopter. A puzzled Jackal responds, and learns that Anarteq has intercepted Black Rat. Black Rat asks to join them aboard their vessel, stating that he needs to debrief them on the gravity of their situation. Socratic grants Black Rat permission to board.
After discussing matters and showing them a copy of Jack's distress call video acquired via Miriam's hacking, Black Rat convinces Jackal and Socratic to join Spaghetti Liberation. However, they also state that they will rescue Keet and Evan at the first opportunity. They question how Anarteq was able to find them, and he alerts them that their ship over the sky is hard to miss - even with radar jammers. Anarteq leaves, and the others prepare to set course for England.
The Sodality members not yet captured all convene at the secret underground headquarters established for them. Lex informs them that they have to decide which strike team to join. Team Spaghetti Liberation will be awarded with MPF deflectors - which SCALLOP has in short supply. He also informs them of how serious a deal it is that the Phaletori and Icy Finger have joined forces. The rest will be expected to join Team Caged Dove.
John Domeck appears on the side opposite of Lex, offering volunteers for Spaghetti Liberation an opportunity to go to Italy with him. He warns them of the dangers they face. Lex provides a live feed video of Mingmei from within her cell, informing Caged Dove how those with actual criminal records will stand a slight chance at entering the state's prison system. From there, weeding out Icy Finger recruits is critical. John, Anna, Pablo, Eric, Jeral, Anna, and Ron get transferred via wires to Italy. Jordan and Chris greet them, and they get settled in to Venice and try to lay low while they get a support staff in place.
Emily, Michelle, Angelo, Stephanie, and Celia all take cards from Lex, telling them to use the info on those cards to negotiate with police when turning themselves in. Emily goes straight to the nearest police station ahead of everyone else, taking pains to ignore anything that gets in her way. Stephanie gets distracted by the cries of a child trapped on an apartment ladder. She encourages the child to remove his shoe and jacket, and then she catches him when he falls. The bullies that originally trapped him find him with Stephanie, and attempt to attack her with a crowbar. However, police arrive on the scene and the bullies flee. As Stephanie is hauled away, the boy Tyler tells Stephanie that she's his hero. She thanks him, saying she needed that reminder. Police promise to locate the bullies.
Sodality of Florence to the rescue
As Angelo, Celia, and Michelle are on their way to the police station, the Screwworms activate their Chafer mecha. It erupts out into the road, while Lionfish sends video feed to the heart of the city and makes demands to have SCALLOP emptied of all Hebblekin-related criminals. The Screwworm agents inside the Chafer begin tearing apart the road and buildings in their area.
Celia reveals to the other two Florentines that she has spare Zeran wardrobes for herself and Michelle. Cocklebur calls out Lionfish, distracting him while Taterbug frees the city hall officials. She reveals herself to be Celia to them, and pleas for leniency during her sentencing when she turns herself in for her own crimes. The mayor promises her that he'll do what he can. Cocklebur uses the brief moment of gratitude between Celia and the mayor to charge his power, thus making himself strong enough to resist Lionfish's venom and fight back to completion.
Feruga battles the Chafer, and eventually captures both pilots. The pilots detonate themselves rather than be captured. The scene caused results in the public cheering for the Florentines. However, Lex has Shaniqua arrive in a SCALLOP helicopter and order the Florentines to surrender. They do so, publicly, as crowds continue to cheer them on. Celia and Michelle take off their masks before being handcuffed, so the media can identify them. Angry senators begin calling Lex and Mallorie, complaining about how the public loves the Sodality of Florence in spite their crimes. His reply amounts to "too bad."
Notable characters by faction
(This section is incomplete or pending.)
(This section is incomplete or pending.)