The group heads out to the west-southwest of Refuge Point, hoping to gather more plant and soil samples to determine what exactly is going on with the excessive (even for post-DD) plant growth. Ang has to stay behind but Jared comes along, wanting to participate in an expedition, something he has not gotten to do yet.
As they make their way towards the St. Louis University Medical Center, they are having to hack their way through and around plants of all sorts. They reach a place that is unpassable. Natalie does some scouting and finds the path to the north around that goes near SLU Medical Center Stadium has a band of the Memory and Thought cultists, so they choose to go south around rather than trying to sneak past the cultists. As a result, they stumble into a batch of brightly colored flowering plants that Maddy accidentally hacks into, causing spores to spray everywhere. Maddy goes into severe hallucinations and is not reacting well. Nat, acting out of instinct, reaches out to try and heal her. Aided by the effects of the flowering plant, she flares brightly and heals Maddy but also reaches out further, sensing Maddy’s connection to Sandra, but goes unconscious before discovering her.
Jared is not shocked, per se, or necessarily even surprised. But he is a little unnerved by how Natalie’s powers are working now and just still adjusting to the new reality that she has them back in some shape or form. Maddy is left in a functioning condition, but with highly heightened senses.
They go to SLU School of Medicine and search there for some things, finding a journal documenting how to make a chromatograph out of every day pieces and parts as part of a plan to build out a fully functioning lab again. They then have to go a little farther out towards Botanical Heights, which is a small botanical garden near but not too near the large Missouri Botanical Garden further to the Southwest. There, they find the samples they are looking for and start heading back.
On the way back, they run into a group of Memory and Thought cultists who are carrying with them a naked woman as a prisoner (sacrifice?). The group can’t avoid running into them, so they set up an ambush to take them down. And the ambush works extremely efficiently – it helps that the group is armed with guns while the cultists are armed with swords and spears. Towards the end of the ambush, Wolf shows up and he is in a pure animal hunting mode. The cultists recognize him, calling him Fenrir, the great wolf of Norse legend that was a son of Loki and was prophesied to kill Odin during Ragnarok.
Natalie works on trying to calm Wolf down with some but not great success when Toby shows up and freezes the scene. Time has not stopped but everyone else is. He lets everyone but the cultists and Jared go. He informs the group that Jared is blind and deaf right now, but he can’t keep that up forever. It seems that Toby has been keeping an eye on Wolf (and his mom) and wanted to make Wolf didn’t hurt anyone or himself. Toby lets one of the cultists out of paralysis so he can be questioned and the cultist keeps calling him Loki and mumbling about how Fimbulwinter is coming. Fimbulwinter, Maddy remembers reading, is the mighty winter that is a prelude to Ragnarok. Toby also tells them there is something strange at the center of the Missouri Botanical Garden, something part plant and part human and they might want to stay away.
Meanwhile, Langston is quietly cutting the throats of the surviving cultists, an action that surprisingly for Jared, everyone in the group seems to agree with, including Natalie and Melody, two heroes who would’ve have been shocked and dismayed before Destruction Day.
Toby disappears, allowing Jared to be free and they release the woman and give her some spare clothes. She gives her name as Faith Ortega – the group immediately takes to her and invites her back to Refuge Point without very much questioning at all…