While Ro and Toff are off on a side job, Aemon makes use of his new full Jackpoint membership to catch up on news. Mars is falling apart, with only Evo maintaining a significant presence. There is a massive news blackout, rumors of largescale nano-failure, damaging infrastructure and the terraforming project, and a Corporate Court-mandated quarantine upon arrival on Earth. There has been a mass exodus of those who could afford to leave. Public knowledge of the recent outbreaks of some sort of nano-disease has been slowly growing.. The Sioux Nation has also made a public offer for any head cases to come and receive treatment, sparking public outcry there and much suspicion and curiosity elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Chessick has hooked up with Carme Kofi and the Midwest Pirates Guild, and gets some major deck upgrades. He also gets a rundown on deep dives and the dream logic of the foundation underlying the new matrix. It seems bizarrely bio-organic, in terms of how hosts “grow” out of it. Excited about the prospect for accessing all that secret info, Chessick requests a tour sometime, and Kofi agrees, eagerly- he seems somewhat addicted to the UV/BTL-like conditions that the foundation provides to users. But it is a dangerous pursuit, so Chessick decides to hold off til he has a bit more downtime and cash for upgrades. He also finds an odd addition to his deck- a small part added on recently, which Slamm-O! id’s as nano-fabbed when Aemon posts it on JP. Chessick gets real stressed about Thankyou, as he was the last person that Chessick knows to have plugged into his headware.
Aemon gets a call through “mutual friends” from Nikolai Morozov, who tells him there is a simstar in the CZ that they want retrieved. They do some research into the job, and find out that he works for Evo, while the simstar is currently on Horizon’s roster. They figure it’ll be some quick cash, but want to bring some more muscle, so they call Chem and ask if there’s anyone promising hanging around the Vault. He recommends Tenten. They link up, and start researching the missing woman. They find out when she crossed into the zone, courtesy of a tip from Martin Tate. Aemon realizes that he has no idea who Tate actually works for, and after some research realizes he’s a Horizon employee, and he worries he may have just tipped his hand to the enemy.
They then call Nick Ryder, who gets them footage of her crossing a Lone Star checkpoint. He also says there’s someone else looking for her, and the team gets a call from Juan Xihuitl, who tells them Aztechnology has a kill order on the simstar. He offers them more money, but they refuse, and he says that he is disappointed and sadly must wish for their failure. Aemon accepts that, and they hit the street, questioning local dealers in the northern CZ. They find some that she encountered, while acting erratically, confirming their suspicions that she might be infected. They get a direction and start tracking her, and find the tracks lead to the old sniper’s nest near Garfield Park, after they pay Quantum Princess for some vid-footage from her relay there. Chessick briefly loses his shit due to flashbacks, but Tenten brings him back down, and gives him a kamikaze dose to use in case of emergency.
They sneak up to and enter the building, after Aemon gets some info from Plan 9 about a sign on the door- P9 id’s it as a sign of a safehouse for infected, and encourages an open mind. Aemon realizes they’ve stepped on a pressure plate and halts them. 2 oddly similarly-acting individuals come down a ladder and tell them not to step further in. Chessick tries to convince them to hand over the woman to spare the rest, but they say that although the woman’s body remains, someone else inhabits it now, and has no desire to return to corporate slavery. Although all the runners sympathize, they have a job to do, and Chessick tries again to convince them, even offering to help defend them against other runners who they are sure are on their way, due to tipping off the other corps to their involvement. They refuse again, saying (while completing each other’s sentences) that they will defend themselves, and refuting Chessick’s argument of a single sacrifice to fend off greater damage by saying they will not willingly sell one of their own out.
Tenten decides he better get things moving, and rages up while dosing on kamikaze. He punches the plats, breaking it, but also triggering the trap. Aemon manages to dive out of the way using his grapple gun, but Chessick gets near-fatally scorched by multiple flamethrowers. Tenten is wounded, but ignores the pain, and chases after the 2 head cases as they flee, knocking over the ladder they came down on in the process. Aemon and Tenten ko them both as they chase them through the building, and leave a drone by the back door. However, the 2 bodies are gone when they move back towards the front. Someone has moved Chessick’s prone form out of the way of the door, but the 2 are nowhere in sight. Tenten spots a man in security armor with a rifle across the street in the park, and races out to assault him. He comes under fire from multiple sources, and manages to drop the first guy before going down himself.
Aemon fires back a few more times, and exchanges some harsh words, while slapping the kamikaze onto Chessick to get him up and moving. They rush out the back, and get a message from Thankyou with a 10 second countdown. He races into the alley on a motorcycle with a sidecar, gunning down another sec-armored man. Chessick, still mad about his deck, almost refuses, but gets intimidated when TY turns his psychotic stare on him for a moment. They flee, spotting Omega Dawn’s symbol on the dead man’s armor as they pass. Aemon returns the next day with Chem, and retrieve the van, which needs some repair after being vandalized over the night. They also check the head case hideout, and find Tenten’s body strung up and eviscerated, with his guts twisted into a crude Omega. They also find a bunch of anti-corp literature, as well as some lines from a manifesto seemingly preaching freedom from the corps, and identifying the group as New Lives. Chessick, intrigued by his discussion the previous day, decides from his hospital bed to try to track them down and ask more questions. They return Morozov’s money, and he says he isn’t happy but appreciates their honesty, and that he will be hiring a “more capable” team to complete the job (if possible).
After Ro and Toff return, and get briefed on all the troubles, Ro and Aemon have a sitdown and discuss their suspicions about TY. They agree to keep an eye on him (and also Chem, given his poor recommendation of Tenten), and Aemon seems to finally acknowledge Ro as de facto leader. He also confesses his roll in the attacks on the Human Brigade settlement, which Ro (as a good leader) doesn’t offer judgement on, at least immediately. They agree to keep having these chats. TY tells them that he’s been researching Zion Amalgamated and Knights of the Dragon, as possible leads to further Gilgamesh Initiative facilities, and that all signs point to them setting up a new lab in Boston, which fits their MO. He says he may have more work for them soon.