TY meets up with SEATac Sweetie to get all his drones back, and tries to have a normal human experience, with some success. The team meets up at the airport, and boards an unmarked military-looking jet, and get briefed on the job after agreeing to a significant payday. The Johnson is Samantha Roth, a talking-head geopolitics/military news celeb on NeoNET channels. She also has UCAS military intelligence ties from back in the day. She offers to clear their names with those old contacts, in regards to the Istanbul job, so they’ll only have angry shedim on their tail, instead of a travel ban.
The job is to hunt down the last surviving leader of Winternight, Friday, who recently escaped custody, stole some nukes from a UCAS airbase, and has gone to ground with a cell in Chicago, hiding the nukes amid the astral confusion and toxicity of the CZ. The catch is they have to do it on film, as they will be accompanying Roth herself and Brennan “Heavy” O’Dell on the mission while filming the latest episodes of Toxic Hunters, O’Dell’s NeoNet show. So civilian casualties and collateral damage must be kept to an absolute minimum, and O’Dell should be set up for good money shots, when possible. They agree, reluctantly.
They land in the O’Hare Sprawl, and meet the TH team- 3 mercs, O’Dell, and 2 trid crew, all kitted out in armor and conspicuously-branded fresh, new gear. They take VTOLs into the CZ, and wingsuit glide down into the top of Truman Tower, the tallest building downtown, even though it’s top 50 stories are bombed out. Aemon travels through a FAB III cloud and doesn’t feel great. They cautiously climb down through the wreckage of the top floors, choosing to land high, and ascend more, rather than risking a more dangerous but lower LZ. They get into it with an insect cult, who seem to be harvesting old wasp-spirit nests for telesma, and 1 merc is killed by the hybrid form leader as it emerges in spirit form. They kill the rest and continue.
TY gets some good surveillance via drones, but another merc is killed by a trap shortly after. They slow a bit, but Ro and Aemon are somewhat injured in another trap. TY finally spots the WN team, with help from Aemon assensing. WN is holed up in a 3-story open area, with the windows blacked, and good cover, as well as some drone support. They fight off a suicide drone rush as the descend further, and the last merc is heavily injured. They wingsuit him out towards the lake and call for a pickup- CZ airspace isn’t safe to be hovering in for long. They then burst into the room and rappel down to the floor while O’Dell and Roth provide cover. They get into with some rotodrones and 4 old-school looking street sams, all chromed out. TY takes out the sams with grenades from his own drone, but the drone is shot down. They finish off the rotodrones, but not before Friday, 2 toxic shamans, and 2 trolls carrying nukes on their backs make their escape via wingsuit, towards the old Transit Terminal.
The team follows while Ro snipes, taking out both mages! Ortega lands first, and comes under fire from 2 ground drones, but he, Aemon, Ro, and O’Dell manage to take them out, while TY pilots over his own Lynx. They race down the stairs, and Ortega sets off another trap, injuring him. However, he manages to dodge out of the way of a missile at the base of the stairs, fired from the back of a stripped-down ATV that Friday and 1 troll flee in with the nukes. Sadly, 1 of the trid crew is immolated in the blast. Ortega almost loses an arm to the axe the remaining troll charges him with, but Aemon manages to kill the troll. TY jury-rigs another vehicle, and they give chase.
Ortega and the Lynx provide covering fire, while TY drives and Aemon, Roth, and O’Dell try to line up shots. Roth tells them that if WN crosses the Chicago River, the Corp Council is going to Thorshot the area, not wanting to risk whatever toxic magic WN has planned- they’re headed right for the Cermak Crater! They manage to take down the missile launcher first, crucially, and then the troll. They wound Friday, and O’Dell finally drops her with the shot he’s been lining up forever, as her car just reaches the river’s banks.
No time to rest! They make sure Friday’s dead, but then have to get the nukes out of there to the nearby LZ that they can get picked up in- intel reports multpiple factions closing on their location! They split into the 2 cars, and manage to make the pickup and get out of there without further casualties, although with a sever expenditure of ammo. It takes Ortega and O’Dell both to lift the nuke cases in, 1 at a time. They dust off, and make it back to O’Hare. Roth tells them they will have a few days to heal at on-base housing, but then will have to make their own way, either home or into the city. She tells them that there is a lot of work now with Operation: Takeback happening, and that she put the word out that they are capable and in town.
They heal, think about some skills, and stock up on overpriced gear when they can find it, and TY does some research into Chicago’s sights, sounds, and factions. They soon have more work, setting up matrix relays for Quantum Princess. She tells them it should be a days work or so in the CZ, and will greatly help Chicago’s fragile grid. They trade ammo to min-max their weight to efficiency ratio, at Ammo Jims, then head to Garfield Park first, and get the relay set up, but come under fire from a sniper. They get pinned pretty bad, and Ro fails to countersnipe and nearly dies. TY panics, and jams the drone gun, but Aemon comes through with an extreme-range killshot. They raid the building, and find that the guy was apparently a delusional loner, who believe that he was killing zombies. They are horrified by his kill total, assuming the others are also people. The whole place is filthy, and he obviously doesn’t leave much. But, the stairs are knocked out on the first 2 floors, so it seems pretty safe, and they decide to rest up.
Simon Andrews gets in touch with more work, and as it’s nearby they decide to do it first, before the 2nd relay. They find an old abandoned-looking building that he wants them to check out, and investigate. It seems a bit haunted, and lots of distressing phenomena follow them as they move through. They also notice some cybered gabriel hounds watching from a distance. They find a basement lab, the only part of the building not in a shambles, and find 1 dead scientist and 2 dead guards, all about a week old. They also find 12 clone tanks, 1 of which (labelled #1) is busted open and empty. They also find a cranial bomb, recently removed, and a commlink on the table. They retrieve the data server Andrews wanted, and send that & the ’link to him via aridrone. He pays up and thanks them.
They head south again, to Midway Airport, the neo-anarchist controlled, bombed-out last place to land in the CZ. They talk their way in, and after the A’s check out QP’s rep (and the team’s) they put the 2nd relay up, and get paid. The A’s explain that the relays should allow QP to keep Noosenet, Chicago’s hidden matrix, up and running on the grid as the corps move back in and take over. They trade the delusinal sniper’s rifle for a place to stay, and Aemon heals some wounded, from a recent skirmish with the nearby racist Human Brigade.
They head out in the morning, with one of the A’s, and claim the bounty of the Garfield Park Sniper, after Ro agrees to use her legit SIN at Archangel Bounty Redemption. She sees a promo for their Toxic Hunter episode while there. They hit up ATF, restock on armor and ammo, and sell off some other goods. Ortega insists on visiting a nearby orphanage compound that he heard of from a Black Star member. They go there, and decide to stay the night. They also get another job from Juan Xihuitl, to track down a missing person as a favor for a friend.
Aemon invites Simon Andrews, his new bff, to come smoke drugs with him and some of the orphans and staff, and he agrees. Ro and TY also participate, but Ortega insists on keeping watch, having heard that fleshmongers sometimes try to intercept babies and children as they are dropped off or approach the safe haven. TY gets a little too high, and remembers some of his past: he left his village to go to a bigger town, as he showed academic promise, just as Nelson Rosslee told him. However, he also remembers that he was kidnapped, drugged, and forced into a militia while on the way, and never made it. He has some nightmares of things he did for them.
Meanwhile, Ro is astrally perceiving for the first time in her life, and it is goddamned glorious. She decided to sleep with Andrews, as his light dims all the others present. Aemon tries to show off on Andrews’ janky Harley, but crashes on the ice sheet that he cast on the street. Andrews does a magical fireworks show for the orphans, who all watch out their windows, and then takes Ro and Aemon on a bender through the CZ to Freak Town, where he and Ro do indeed hook up while Aemon trick-shoots stuff around a fire with some of the denizens.
They wake the next day to find him gone, and are both crashing pretty hard, so they waaaay overpay the bribe to leave the CZ to the Lone Star guards on duty. They link up with the team at the Maker Collective, the last known spot the missing girl, Sam, was at. Based on info from some orphans and others, they think she might be the escaped clone (or original?), but they checked out the guy who is looking for her, Nick Ryder, and he seems legit, if also a cranky drunk. They find her with little problem, and Ro and TY manage to bond with her surprisingly quickly over their various shared experiences. She seems to rapidly trust them, and wants to find out more about her past, so agrees to accompany them.
They disguise her with bits and pieces of their gear, and head out. Ro is alarmed at how competent she seems with the auto-shotgun she gives her, and Sam also seems initially surprised. They avoid another team headed their way using the blimp feed, and meet up with Ryder. He explains that Sam is his oldest case, from 2 decades ago- she was kidnapped by some kinda goon squad in a van right off the street when she was 6, and he hadn’t had a lead on her until a few days back. Her family bailed when Bug City hit, so he’s the closest thing she’s got here, but he convinces them he has a workable safehouse for her and can help her figure out her past. Ryder tells them that he checked out the lab location, but it was already scrubbed clean (by Saeder-Krupp? or others?). It was owned by a Shiawase subsid before the walls went up, but who knows what they’ve been up to since then?
He and Sam leave, and Sam says thanks and that she may be in touch. They notice a kind of creepy-looking dwarf medic (Carol Hindrance) in the ambulance that they leave in, but Ryder doesn’t seem concerned so they let it go. They decide to figure out where to rest up a bit, and their comms ring with more offers of work.