The team, having looked into some different fixers to talk to, begins digging into the “smaller fish” going after Saeder-Krupp’s biz (after dealing with the “sharks” of ARES and NeoNET, as Hans Brackhaus called them). They make contact with 2 of the fixers and arrange meets, feeling that this will give them a useful, cross-checkable list. The Blemmyae agrees to find some info for them, and tells them to bring an offering for his pack, as well as the money. Al-Tayyib agrees to a meet at the Midas Touch after reviewing their street rep and finding it acceptable. They decide not to meet with Baligh after hearing he’s a mercenary striver, who is trying to get in good with Brokerage X and worrying that that might complicate things for them.
In order to kill 2 birds with one stone, as it were, Toast and Love decide to split off from the team and track down Erik Dannover, the assassination target Toast has been given by the Moonlight Thorns, and bring him to the Blemmyae’s ghoul pack as their offering. They head to the Red Square Vory V Zakone bar near the port to look for info (and also maybe try to get some info on Chimera ops in the city). They decide on the spot to meet with the fixer Zakhar while there, and Love impresses him with his ability to pour down vodka (using his toxin extractor).
Zakhar tries to get them to buy a bunch of military surplus before getting down to their business, so they buy a replacement bike for Toast. Toast eavesdrops around the bar while Love continues the meeting, and finds a variety of pirates, smugglers, and gangsters discussing biz, including some mention of their team and the various bounties. He pulls his hood a bit further up. Love gets info on Dannover’s location from Zakhar, as well as a list of some small-time locals getting into SK’s biz. There is one larger AA corp on the list however: Global Sandstorm, who have been using Mudaween connections to extort businesses into switching over. Zakhar also tells them that due to regional politics, Chimera doesn’t operate in the region, and that he’s heard that they aren’t currently looking for the team any more until the bounty gets higher. Love and him bond some more, before they head to the port.
There, they spot Dannover transferring some smuggled child soldiers to his ship, and set an ambush. They lure 2 guards off and ko them quietly, but Dannover doesn’t fall for it and flees. Love cooks him completely with a massive fireball, and they flee in bike with one of the ko’ed guards. They barely manage to evade pursuit from the cops and their drones, and call in a favor from Zakhar to find a place to hide locally. Love finally receives an invitation to join Neutral Ground after they collect the bounty.
Meanwhile, the other team has left Speed at the hotel to keep hiding out for now, and headed to meet Al’Tayyib. The dwarf is all pro- right down to biz, high security at the meet, no nonsense. He gives the team another list of local corps, the main surprise of which is that it includes Brokerage X. Gethin and Toast quietly debate what to do about this fact, and decide to hold off for now on making a decision, until they get the 3rd list and see who’s on it. They link up with the other team, and fly out to the desert to meet the Blemmyae. They land a little bit out, and Fentin provides overwatch while they approach on foot. He spots a few camouflaged snipers on nearby dunes, but they seem set up for surveillance more than an ambush.
The team is approached by a ghoul guard as they walk up, and ushered into camp- a caravan ring with a cleared center area. The guard takes their captive and shoves him into the center, after which a bunch of feral ghouls come crawling out of the various wagons and tear him to shreds. As they finish, the Blemmyae makes his grand entrance, gently petting the as he walks amongst them. As promised, he lacks a head, and his oversized features are set into his naked torso. He carries a strange staff with a magical aura, and is wreathed in a camo cloak. He greets them in somewhat theatrical tones, and continues in this fashion, holding forth amidst his “pack.”
They make a deal for the info, and find that it basically confirms the other 2 lists. There are a few that don’t overlap (including BX), but they feel they got what Brackhaus wanted. They also get good intel from the Blemmyae on the Order of the Assassins and their ops, as well as a deal to work together in the future to use the Blemmyae’s Bedouin contacts in the south to get the team access to the Apep Consortium digsite at the lost city of Ubar. The Blemmyae warns that MCT has turned it into one of their famed “Zero Zones” since acquiring Apep, so they can use all the help they can get.
They arrange a drop with Awrah, and Gethin secretly edits the info to remove Brokerage X’s name from the lists. Gethin and Toast also give Mr. Bonds a heads-up that they did this, as well as a copy of the duplicate names on the lists, to give BX a headstart on recouping their regional investments. Bonds seems to think this is a good portion of the way to repairing their relationship. They don’t tell the rest of the team they’re doing this. Meanwhile, Speed barely survives an assassination attempt by the Hashishin at the hotel, when one disguised as a waiter cuts and poisons her at breakfast. She wakes up to find the man’s dead body nearby as hotel guards usher people out of the room and another waiter administers an antidote from a medkit.
The team all link up and rest at the hotel for a short period before Brackhaus calls them with the next gig: they are going to make an extreme example of one of the local A corps that has been stealing their biz: Native Land Industries is to be annihilated. They agree, and make a plan. Fentin hacks NLI’s corp office, which hasn’t upgraded their security to protocols matching their growing size while other’s surveil the site. Fentin get’s the CEO’s whole life: itinerary, home address, car GPS, etc, as well as discovering that his 2 bodyguards are secretly mages. They plan to leak this info after their attack to spread unease about who may be behind it. The others notice that the guards on site are very non-professional, and decide they can probably be scared or bribed off instead of killed. They examine the building’s and equipment on site as well, and head to IDEX to buy proper explosives to take it all down.
Fentin hacks the sec firms node to get blackmail info on all the guards on the nightshift, and then he, Toast, and Chem sneak into the CEO’s house while Speed waits nearby in a rental car. They trigger their ambush just as the CEO and guards enter, killing all 3 before any are able to respond. They sneak the CEO out to the car as Chem rigs a white phosphorous trap to set the site aflame shortly after they leave. They escape the neighborhood unnoticed, and get to the NLI site, where Gethin has concealed the bikes and explosives nearby. Love and Gethin sneak onsite while the other team drives over, and each takes one of the guard teams. Using the personal info Fentin got, they manage to scare them all into leaving with no combat, and the implied threat that if the cops happen to show up, the team will come looking for the men and their families.
They plant the charges around, destroy a bunch of on-site construction equipment, and leave the CEO’s body in his office to be discovered later. They also manage to open a small floor safe and find a hand-written journal. Fentin hacks the host again and copies and then erases all their records, as well as shutting down all their drones, and then uses C-squared to clean out the car and hacks and erases the GridGuide records, before sending it back to the rental spot. The team all escapes on bikes as they site explodes behind them. They rest up in the hotel, and pass all the info to Awrah again. The journal suggests that the CEO’s conversion to Islam was initially cynical but ended up being a very positive force in his life. SK only leaks the cynical bits, as well as the intel about the secret magic bodyguards, and some other damaging biz info. NLI is destroyed, never to be rebuilt.
Brackhaus isn’t quite done with them yet, however: he needs them to disrupt a meet between ARES and an Israeli diplomat, all while making it look like ARES’ fault (and making it impossible to trace back to SK, who want to keep the Isreali contract). The team agrees. After debating the merits of some various plans, and researching the diplomat in question (who likely works for Israeli military intelligence as well), they decide on a risky approach: they tip off the Hashishin about the meeting location, paying a fee upfront with more on the tail end for the killing of the diplomat. They use an official ARES corporate ID to call it in, procured from 2XL. They fail to mention the ARES presence and under-report the Israeli security detail to attempt to ensure that the hit fails.
They ambush and kill the drive of the speedboat that is to take the Israelis out to the ARES yacht, and replace him with Gethin, who does a good job of conning along as a very unprofessional driver, to get them in the mindset of disliking ARES a bit up front. Gethin also implies that ARES is double-dealing, and taking meetings with some of Israel’s regional enemies, sort of playing them off each other, just to plant an extra seed of doubt. Gethin then drops them off at the yacht, and plants a “fake” bomb that Chem made to look like a real bomb that had some small, common failure to detonate, and also plants a commlink with encrypted comms logs of communications and payments between the ARES ID and the Hashishin, intending for the Israelis to find it (if they survive).
The plan goes fairly well, with the team providing some suppressed long-distance cover fire when it might go unnoticed. They flee the scene after faking a call to the cops from the yacht’s transponder, to make ARES look even worse. They rest up, and then take another small job from Brackhaus: capturing, UNINJURED, 2 Lebanese militant/freedom fighters who have been hassling SK employees and jobsites in the region. SK wants to negotiate with them and see what the grievance is, but they won’t agree to a meet, so SK needs the team to make a quiet extraction.
They agree, and scout the targets: Tarif Yared and his LT, Nabil Saleeba. They hang at a dangerous fundamentalist coffee house called the “Jewel of Arabia”, so the team poses as gunrunners and arranges a meet with the 2. They lure them out back of the bar, and KO them both and stuff them in a waiting van (where they displayed the weapons as a tease). They race out of the area, with militants pursuing, but ditch them with fancy driving and an illusion. A short while later, a 2 million nuyen bounty appears on Neutral Ground, 1 mil for the team’s capture or death, and 1 mil for the militant’s safe return.
They get a call a few hours later from a very pleases Brackhaus, who says that Israel has reaffirmed their commitment to SK, and they are proceeding with negotiations with the militants. He has one final job for them before they leave Dubai, which he suggests they do soon- they are becoming a little too well known locally. For the final task, they are to gain access to DIVE (the Draconic Information Virtual Exchange) in order to purchase info from a member named The Impartial Observer who SK believes to be based in Dubai. The team uses their Jackpoint membership to make contact with another DIVE member/crossposter named Wyrm Watcher, and Fentin trades WW some of the secret dragon info the team has uncovered for a provisional DIVE membership.
Meanwhile, Chem and Toast dig around on the public portions of DIVE, and find out what kind of info they should offer IO to lure them in. They also find out that the source of the 1 million nuyen bounty against them is likely the middle eastern dragon Aden, who often antagonizes Lofwyr, and supports many radical movements in the region. The team decides to stay in the hotel until the job is done, and leave via the helipad on the roof, to not risk further exposure. Fentin contacts IO and offers the truth of The Black Lodge’s involvement in the beef between Lof and Hestaby in order to prove his seriousness, and also ends up paying out a half mil for all the info on Hestaby and Aden that DIVE has collected. IO sets a meet time for the next day, to give them time to collect and encrypt the info.
Gethin heavily diguises themselves the next day to go to the meet, and the team sticks to IO’s terms: 1 member only, no one following or observing, etc. While the rest of the team provides overwatch as best they can from the hotel, Gethin heads out, right past some assassins observing the front entrance, who don’t see through the disguise. However, they eventually notice a tiny drone trailing Gethin, high in the air. Fentin checks it out, and it turns out to be an SK drone. They call in to Awrah to confirm it’s on their side, and also to register their complaints at not being told, but she brushes them off, telling them that it’s their’s and no need to worry. The meet goes fine, with IO not noticing the drone, and Gethin gets the chip back to the hotel and makes the handoff to Awrah.
Brackhaus tells the team he is very pleased with their services, and pays them the remaining balance. He also says to contact him if they are looking for some corporate assistance on their next task, if it is what he thinks it is, in exchange for a small favor. The team contacts him, interested, and he offers them a steeply discounted TacNet to use against MCT’s Zero Zone around Ubar, the Atlantis of the Sands, which is where Jane wants them to go to seek the next cache. How Brackhaus knows this, who knows… However, they can’t pass up a good deal, and accept the TacNet. The one condition is that they will provide SK with all footage of their gaining access to and exiting the Zero Zone, however they do it, in order to prove that they are not infallible after all. The team agrees.
While digging around on DIVE, they also uncovered evidence that the shapeshifter assassin Canary has been posting their, and seems to have been using info to track and kill drakes and lesser dragons, and steal their hoards. As Canary is one of the assassins who killed Gethin’s parents, they are very interested in this info, and decide to offer it up to Simon Andrews on the condition that before they kill Canary, they get Gethin in a room with him to ask some questions. Andrews flits quite a bit but agrees- maybe Gethin will get another step closer to their final revenge! The team also notices a disturbing occurrence: it seems that IO was black-bagged after their meet, and although someone using the IO handle posted a thrilling account of their subsequent escape, the team doesn’t fully believe it to be the same person.
They call Brackhaus to verify, and he neither denies nor admits what happened, which they take to mean that SK snagged IO, and are now imitating them on the board, for some purpose. They register their displeasure at being kept in the dark about parts of the mission, putting them (and their rep’s) at risk, but Brackhaus basically gives them the brushoff of “well, you’re shadowrunners, what do you expect?” The team, a bit disgruntled and on the run from various hired killers, excitedly vacates Dubai, heading south.