Ro Tain returns to Renraku’s warm embrace to “upgrade her body”, they have apparently made some advances since she was initially grown. The rest of the team (including Christopher Toff and Chem) leave Chicago, with Munty onboard as well. They smuggle Aemon and Ort out in the compartments, using some fast talking and bribes. They head for NYC, while shaking off the pestilential effects of the previous fight with the toxies. Munty hears from Pia Oliversson that she has a job lined up for them in NYC, and is sending a new runner named Twitch out to meet them. They arrange to link up at LaGuardia, and leave Chem and Toff with the vans in longterm parking, to watch over all the gear they can’t carry onto Manhattan.
They link up, and get kinda weirded out by Twitch, who asks to stash a large load of BTL’s in their van as well. They receive a message from a local fixer named Sully offering them a ride into town, and some help navigating Manhattan’s peculiarities. As Sully claims to know all the best spots, and they are early for the meet, Chessick gets him to drop by a quality back alley suit place, and get his armor repaired as well as some new duds. They head to the meet, at a bar called Contents Under Pressure. Weirdly, they have a window for the meet rather than a specific time. They get in with no trouble as they left all their weapons behind, and grab a table. However, they all get distracted or approached by various parties, including some agonizing college philosophers, a recent divorcee, a gigolo on the prowl, and a wine snob. Managing to control their tempers and navigate some social situations, they wait around for the Johnson, though their suspicions are somewhat aroused by the unusual forwardness of the patrons. Munty picks some pockets, but failing to find anything good, gives up and sleeps under the table for a bit.
After and hour has passed, they are ushered into a back room by an apologetic server, where an Asian man in fatigues with a 58th Battle Brigade unit patch brings them through a secret door. They find themselves in a loading dock, surrounded by more mercs, with a table set in the middle of the room. Across the table are 3 people: a large female African troll carrying a drone, a surprisingly-aged Asian elf man in a robe covered in Wujen symbols, with glowing eyes and lightning crackling from his fingers, and an Asian man who looks like a classic suited gangster. The gangster type ushers them over and tells them to sit. Chessick inquires what was up with that stuff in the bar, and the man half smiles and says it was “merely a test.”
After some cryptic negotiation of terms and pay, they introduce themselves as One, and explain that they are hiring on behalf of the Red Dragon Triad. They want to subsume the local Big Circle Triad into their organization, and want the team to blackmail 3 of the more vulnerable council members. As long as they convince all 3 to cooperate, or convince 2 and kill 1, before the end of the week, they will be paid in full and potentially offered further work. They receive a dossier on the targets, and get to work. After some B&E and some social engineering, they convince the first target to cooperate by securing surveillance of her communicating with the Triad, and threatening to alert her employers at Zurich Orbital Bank to her affiliations. Being a logical type, and seeing that she is a bad spot, she agrees. Twitch creeps everyone out a little by switching back and forth between a wannabe romantic comedy character and a noir detective persona during the run. Onto the next target!
They decide to have Twitch stay and watch the safehouse during the next leg, as he seems to have defaulted to his base “blank” state and is weirding everyone out. Sully messages Ortega that there are some of “his people” in a community in The Pit, after dropping Ort off near The Continental, and seemingly discerning his purpose/true nature despite his disguise. Ort decides to check it out while the rest of the team recons the next 2 targets. He gets to the Pit with no trouble, and follows his nose once inside. However, he fails to scare off some local ganger youth after misplaying his attempt to intimidate, and decides he better teach one a lesson. Before he knows it, he has caught and is devouring the youngest one, a boy of about 12. Horrified at his harming of a child, he panics, and Aemon has to talk him back to the safehouse, where he decides to lay low for a while.
The rest of the team checks out the second target, a talismonger with Aztechnology ties. Munty scopes out his shop, and spots a back room where it looks like the real deals go down, as the front is mostly tourist trinkets and some basic reagents. She buys an enormous quantity of rabbit’s feet as a cover, and leaves. Aemon mails them to Aemon’s Kids as a gift, along with a carton of smokes. They decide that Chessick (acting as a dilettante) and Aemon (his bodyguard) while distract the mark and get him out of the shop, while Munty infiltrates and sets up some surveillance gear. Chessick convinces him and his girlfriend to hit the clubs (on Chessick’s dime) and they close up early. They go to a Triad club, but Aemon is able to confirm via Jackpoint that it is neither Big Circle nor Red Dragon operated: a good first component for the blackmail.
The talismonger procures some drugs from a source at the club, who he seems to be steeply in debt to. He gets Chessick to overpay, paying down his debt a bit, and they all slam back a small vial. Chessick is forced to astrally perceive for the first time ever, and spends hours dancing, before Aemon makes him vomit to try to get him out of there (after the mark leaves). Chessick keeps tripping for hours though, and has a nasty crash afterwards, as well as terrifying dreams of shadowy forms trying to grasp him. He wakes up wanting more, desperately, and Aemon, with some research, is able to confirm that he has become addicted to tempo, an incredibly dangerous drug with some nasty side effects. However, they got good blackmail info.
Meanwhile, Munty infiltrated the shop (using biometrics that Chessick had hacked in) without a hitch, and plants the cameras. She tries to steal another rabbit foot on the way out, but almost sets off a motion detector and bails instead. They decide to leave the cameras to gather more evidence for another day or so while they check out target 3: a Renraku Computer Systems security officer. His only vulnerability (as he lives where he works, at a secure Renraku complex) is his daughter, who attends a prestigious private girl’s school downtown. They decide to take a 2-pronged approach, so Chessick hacks her social media profile, figures out how to copy her writing style from some old assignments, and forges some heavily plagiarized work for her upcoming assignments, explicitly violating the school’s code of conduct. He sets a data bomb inside, to delete the files if the father cooperates.
That night, Munty sneaks past the school’s security, while the rest of the team provide matrix, astral, and physical overwatch, and gains access to the girl’s room. She takes a picture of her gloved hands “framing” the sleeping girl’s face, and then plugs into her commlink, which Chessick hacks and uses to submit the plagiarized assignments. Munty can’t resist stealing some ice cream from the dorm room fridge, and slips while climbing back out the window and trying to eat it at the same time, falling into some shrubs below. Luckily, she manages to slow her fall and creep off before security responds, though it does look like she woke up the people in the room she left as well.
They call the father from their doss in Terminal, and give him the terms: he will cooperate or they will get his daughter expelled. They send the pic Munty took to get his attention, and prove they can get to her when/should they need to. He grunts and angrily tries to argue but Chessick shuts him down, having correctly surmised that attending this school will be a major social step up for the next gen of his family, and that he is unwilling to compromise. He agrees to help, although he says that they have greatly dishonored him, which Chessick scoffs at. They bail on Terminal, in case the sec officer tracks them, and head to The Pit to try to crash with the ghouls. They find the Ghoul Liberation League compound without any trouble, and arrange to rent a safe room there for the next few nights. Ort is summoned upstairs to meet their leader, Vasuda Mueller.
She tells him that his actions of a few nights previous have caused some problems, as the GLL has a carefully negotiated arrangement with the other denizens of The Pit. Eating children on the street is not how they do things here. He apologizes, and she tells him that it would be a shame to have to throw him in with the ferals in the underground. Ort takes the hint and promises to behave. She also says that given his situation (i.e. the bounty) it would be best if he laid low, as she doesn’t want any trouble for her people, though she appreciates his True Communion teachings. He tells her he is only passing through town.
They decide to retrieve the gear from the talismonger’s, and Munty sneaks back in while Ort provides lookout, while Chessick and Aemon go back to the same bar to meet up with the proprietor again. They quickly review the footage, but don’t find any further incriminating evidence- it seems like he runs the shop pretty clean, and mostly keeps his habits on the sidelines. So Chessick lays it out with what they have: he is addicted to a notoriously dangerous, unstable drug, and is in debt to dealer’s working for a different Triad, all of which Big Circle would frown upon. The mark agrees to swap loyalties, on the condition that Chessick gets Red Dragon to square his debts and allow him to do as he pleases with his free time. Chessick runs it by One, who agree, and confirms.
With that completed, they accept a final small task from One, and deliver some sort of message scroll to the Big Circle Triad’s incense master at his fancy penthouse. The rest of the council is also there- the sec officer staring daggers at them, the talismonger casually greeting them, and the auditor avoiding their eyes. The fact that runners, rather than Red Dragon Triad members, delivered this message is a calculated insult (and perhaps the real message) to remind the BC of their new place as RD subsids. They leave, before any trouble starts, having succeeded in not doing anything grossly inappropriate. Ort receives a call from Vasuda, who tells him her sources say that some Euro types have been asking after him around town. The team decides not to go back to the GLL place, in case it’s being watched, and accept another job from One, which includes a decent hotel in the pay. This time, they’re going to break into the ultra-secure offline archive and steal the master blueprints for NYC!