The team, having healed up in Butch’s street clinic, heads out and immediately comes under attack from 3 ork street sams, who seem to be waiting for them (or at least someone) right outside. They defeat them, but they prove hardy foes, and 2 manage to regain their feet and flee after what should have been killing blows. Butch heals them a bit, and tells them she has to move clinics again as “they” are onto her. She is researching some kind of bizarre infection that she believes has ties to the recent nanotech failures, and warns the team against nanotech. She also asks them to bring anyone exhibiting certain symptoms that they encounter to her, once she has a new spot set up.
They notice her assistants dumping C-squared all over, and hear some gunshots ring out from a back room- she says she doesn’t have as protocols for moving some of the subjects. She gives them some medical supplies and her contact info, and they head out to meet the Johnson the Exchange set them up with. They see a filthy anglo man get thrown out as they approach. The Johnson is a somewhat effete Korean man with a pencil mustache, out of place in the barrens bar where they meet. He has a simple job: retrieve a comm from a street dealer. He doesn’t explain what is on it. They agree, not wanting to anger the Exchange, and bribe some gangers to get easy access to the dealer’s room in the coffin motel where he’s holed up.
They find him dead, and with 2 comm’s. He was strangled, and has been dead 6-12 hours. They also recover some nuyen and his drug stash. They leave, and meet the Johnson. He accepts the dealer’s comm, as expected, but tells them he doesn’t want the other: it looks like it could be valuable, but not to him. Intrigued, they dig into it, and TY finds an encrypted contact list with 18 names, and a hidden partition containing who knows what?! They call Sem-par, who is on a job and sends them to Barnaby “Wombat” Rudd, who opens the partition and decrypts the contents. However, the data is fragmented. He tells them it likely has an additional part, and the need to be put back together to make sense of it.
Luckily, some fragments still stand out: they identify the comms owner as Seth Dietrich, and find that it contains files suggesting that Kenneth Brackhaven has been using a shadow operative named Bill to assassinate key figures in the Project Freedom movement (the group pushing to legalize the Ork Underground). This has included the strangling of Dietrich’s FBI agent predecessor on the case, using the Mayan Cutter copycat, and the firebombing the team helped deal with, as well as assassination attempts on Bull MacCallister. The files also allude to some (still forthcoming) plan, called Project Daybreak.
They contact Bull, and he seems appropriately interested/disturbed. He explains that Dietrich was a fed, but that he came over to Project Freedom’s side after going undercover as a runner in their midst. He hired a team and was working on something big when he vanished last winter, his team all turned up dead. Bull also says he will put them in touch with his son Tauren, one of Project Freedom’s lead deckers. They plan to meet up once he can get a protective team together, and the team decides to keep driving around till then. Sadly, their van gets hacked by someone named Bios-Fear while passing Glow City, and they come under attack from a pack of predator-modded gangers with eerie, supersonic howls. Their van is trashed by a handful of frag grenades. A hidden hacker damages and probes their gear until they slay the 5 gangers, who fight with tooth, claw, and cyberimplant blade.
They then scatter to the surrounding buildings, as they hear the screech of approaching tires. A heavily cybered-up, physically huge, stereotypical mafia mobster hops out of the front of the truck, while 5 goons leap out of the back and pelt the team with molotovs. The cybered-up guy ko’s Ro with an auto-shotgun, but flees after Aemon grievously wounds him. The rest of the goons rush Ortega with baseball bats, desperate to stop his suppressive fire, but do no harm and are quickly killed.
However, there is not a moment to rest as Ortega, TY, a drone, and Aemon all come under attack from katana-wielding ninjas! Ortega takes a heavy blow, the drone is destroyed, and TY is ko’d. Ro manages to take out the guy attacking Aemon, Aemon drops one of the 2 on Ortega, Ortega takes more damage, another attacks Aemon, and Ro drops him also. The real heavy hitter who has been bashing Ortega tells him he “fought honorably” before fleeing. The last remaining ninja detonates frag and smoke grenades to cover his escape, killing himself, and damaging some of the team.
Tauren finally calls to tell them there’s a retrieval team incoming, and they should expect a pickup by a Knight Errant paddy wagon, driven by Tosh Athack. He arrives, and they head for the Ork Underground, and healing there. On the way, they receive a call from a man claiming to be Dietrich himself (who has been missing for almost half a year). He seems rushed and tense, but tells them that he needs his comm back, and will pay a lot of money for it if they meet him the next day to hand it over. They arrange to meet at the zoo, mid afternoon, and then spend the remainder of the evening healing.
They research the teams who attacked them, and determine that it was likely the Shotozumi-Gumi yakuza, working on behalf of MCT, the Ciarniello mafia family, working on behalf of Ares, and the Night Hunters glow-punk thrill gang, working for Brackhaven. They also hear from Rudd, who has managed to evade his pursuers and safely reach the base, though the team is worried someone may have followed, or more hitters may come.
They gear up with dress armor and light arms, and head to the zoo, with Tonie Dick scouting ahead, finding nothing unusual. They make contact, but Dietrich appears to be having some sort of episode, and refers to himself as Armitage, and claims that he has no memories of the last 2 decades, or the deal they made. Aemon assesses him, and notes that he has the same oddity with his aura as the cyber-orks who attacked them at Butch’s. Before he can get more info, Dietrich is killed by a silenced sniper’s round, which also breaks open the nearby basilisk enclosure. TD, on point, comes under fire from 2 human cyber-assassins, and Ro is charged by an enraged piasma, while Aemon fights off the basilisks with Ortega’s help. They recognize Dietrich as the man they saw thrown out of the bar earlier.
They manage to escape mostly unscathed, and everyone except TD manages to flee the zoo without getting arrested. TD manages to avoid answering questions until Imaginary Annie Goldsmith, the Invisible Esquire, arrives. She introduces herself as his lawyer, courtesy of the Exchange, and gets TD out, after which he spills a bit of info about Dietrich to her. The rest of the team, having found Dietrich’s 2nd comm, as well as the promised money, link up with Tauren and figure out that they now have the 2nd piece of the puzzle.
They receive calls from 3 people: a shadow runner, possibly working for Kenneth Brackhaven, named Gregory Zane, offering a huge pile of cash for the 2 comms, and reps for Ares and Mitsuhama offering large but lesser amounts. They ask Tauren what he can pay, and he puts them in touch with Eliza Bloom, a Project Freedom leader and wannabe governor, who offers by far the smallest amount. However, despite Ro’s resistance, they decide to sell it to Bloom and cohort, who promises to also get it to DA Dana Oaks, who is working on an indictment against Brackhaven.
They come under attack from Zane and a runner team before they reach the Ork Underground, and engage in a rolling firefight. TY manages to jury-rig the car and keep it rolling on, despite massive matrix and physical damage, and they do enough damage to drive the opposition off- the orks with AK’s and a rocket launcher at the entrance probably don’t hurt. They manage to get inside, while the orks scare off a circling helicopter, and get some healing while the Skraacha move them to a secure location. They also hear from Bloom, who tells them she has more work for them based on info gained from the decrypted files on Dietrich’s comms.
They meet with Bloom, Bull, and Dana Oaks in the Underground to hear the debts. They are to use disposable gliders to infiltrate Brackhaven Investments to gain a secret “insurance policy” data store in an offline server there. This is supposedly the info that Dietrich died trying to retrieve. They agree, and plan and train for the job. They also decide to hire Sem-par to do the hacking part, rather than using Tauren, as Bull seems a bit nervous for his safety.
They head to the hotel that has been rented for the job, and jump through the removed windows on the top floor, while Bull, Tauren and others provide external hacking support and edit camera feeds. They also send along a spirit of man to provide concealment, though it can’t enter the building due to the magical wards protecting it. They manage to glide in past the sensors, and avoid triggering the antiaircraft guns. They enter, and carefully descend the 40 floors from the top to get to the server. They have to hide from guards a few times, but make it almost all the way before getting in their first firefight. They easily deal with the underarmed guards, but have a harder time with 2 spirits which keep messing with them.
They race for the server, realizing that they need to get it done fast, and just get set up for a fight as Sem-Par gets to hacking. 2 corpsec teams and 2 more guard teams assault simultaneously from the elevators and the stairs, and they get in a brutal, lengthy firefight. Everyone takes some heavy damage and expends multiple clips, but they manage to keep them from reaching Sem-Par, and they get the file just as they finish dealing with the guards. However a hacker bricks Ortega’s cybereyes, so TY is having to help him move and aim. They race down a few more flight of stairs, before getting messed with by spirits again.
They decide to abandon the stairwell, and exit to the 3rd floor, where they get into another gunfight with corpsec guards. They emerge victorious, blast open a window, and rig up their grapple guns to allow them to descend. As promised, there is a raging riot, with protestors fighting corp goons and Metroplex Guard units, and the waiting spirit of man conceals them again. They make their way through the crowd, with TY leading the still-blind Ortega, and reach the hotel, where they load up in 2 waiting step-vans and race off to relative safety.
They get a “get out of jail free” card from Oaks, good for anything short of felony murder she says, as well as the promise of future favor from the Underground. And, of course, their pay. Time to heal up and find more work!