Lodestone, using his Sanja SIN, has been operating a legit one-man detective agency on Mars for almost two years. Business has really taken off recently due to his success in rescuing the child of upper city politician Lihua Wan from an undercity Christian cult. Today is no different: early in the morning he gets a call from Robert Toomey asking for a matrix meet. He agrees, and Toomey hires him to track down some diamonds that arrived on Mars a few months back. They have unknown provenance, use, and ability, and Toomey’s only clues are the arrival date, and that a large South African man with oversized cyberarms is thought to have been the courier. Sanja agrees to check it out, for his usual retainer.
He traces the courier to the Mungikicontrolled area near the core, with the help of Ibn Hassan. He goes there, and meets Rooster at a free clinic run by the ork shaman Samson. Rooster offers to help him look around, and they talk to Daniel Agabo, who they bribe into telling them that he saw the courier outside a local church during a firefight there, and that he left with some Knight Errant security and a local dwarf ganger who recently died.
Rooster calls John Caruthers, who tells him that the dead dwarf is probably Harmony Craig Bottow, and tells them where the funeral took place. They go to check out Slot, and after asking after HCB get sent to the Slaughtertower, where Ivan the Jackle instructs the remaining team to meet them, see what they want with HCB, and take any actions necesary. Rooster and Sanja quicky recognize Thankyou as the courier, and a standoff ensues. After recognizing their common friend (Arlen Thompson) K and Sanja agree to work together. Thompson hires them out from under his old nemesis Toomey, although Sanja doesn’t tell Toomey yet. The rest of the team goes along, and TY tells them what he knows.
He brought the diamonds from Africa to Mars after a run in which a more experienced team was wiped out, and part of his team was killed, by an incredibly powerful mage. The mage instructed him to get the diamonds off planet, and told him a man would meet him at the spaceport to get them from him. TY then was recomended to Ivan the Jackle, presumably by this same group, although Ivan also knows nothing of the diamonds. Everyone’s contacts come up short, as well.
The team decides to check out the spaceport first, and find that the vidlogs of the day in question, as well as the flight records have been scrubbed. The mages locate a powerful astral residue lingering around the spot where TY made the handoff, and they track it out to the parking lot, back in, and then lose the trail at the entrance to a private shuttle facility. They decide that the diamonds likely remained on Mars, although where on the planet is in question.
Sanja gets a call from Wan, asking him to check in on their recently returned son, as he has been worsening in recent days and is mostly incommunicative. They think seeing his rescuer might help. Thompson calls K around the same time, worried that the cult the boy was rescued from may be related to the insect infestations. They check it out and it seems likely, given Sanja’s recollections, so he goes to see the boy at the Wan family compound in the upper city. The boy, Dengxiang, is about 19, and is pale, sweaty, and heavily bloated since last Sanja saw him. His astral presence is also somewhat skewed.
Sanja calls in Thompson and K, who verify that Dengxiang has been infected with some sort of awakened parasite, but appears to still be alive underneath it all. Thompson has him rushed to a hospital, where he assists in the surgery to remove the dozens of tiny insectoid life forces that Sanja found within him. The team goes back to looking into diamonds while waitig for news.
They check two undercity churches where the insect cult had operated, since TY’s superstition led him to believe that the two things are connected. Neither has traces of the diamonds, and are both cordoned off with KE tape. They decide to check Heliopolis as well. Rooster and Sanja are somewhat horrified to see the extent of the devastation of that town ( Better Nuke the Place From Orbit), having only heard the news reports of an ‘earthquake’. The center of the Thor shot impacts are huge crates, with a flattened glasslike surface for a significant radius around. Outside of that, remains and rubble increase in size and frequency, but the town has been utterly destroyed. The brutal astral disruption of such an act damages K, who flees astral space to recover. Sanja holds his own, and manages to filter out the diamond aura from the others, locate its strongest point, and compare that to a satellite image of the town when it existed.
The location? The old Thoth temple, under which the insect hive grew. However, the aura seems to have been fading since before the town was destroyed, so Sanja assumes they were moved again. He traces the path, and it seems to head straight for the Crater. Disturbing. The team decides to prep more before heading any further in.
On the way back to MC, Thompson calls and tells them that the boy survived the surgery, and the infectious nodes were safely removed and destroyed. However, he is unsure how much mental or physical function the boy will ever regain. The Wan family is distressed but optimistic. Rooster also tells the team that Caruthers wants him looking in to the assassination of his uncle, niece, and nephew via a carbomb, and K is excited to hear that Caruthers has returned to society, although he is surprised to learn that he has become a mid-level mafia boss.