Otoko emerges briefly to say hello and rub her bleary eyes before heading back to her den to continue bingeing trids. Patty C helps 6Cyl with some alchemical projects, and he finally learns the art of the alchemical bullet, a long goal of his. Test hears from Mrs. Clean that his new ID got burned again, and decides to start looking into what’s going on. He has a lead – a Foundation-obsessed decker at a bar called “The Hangman” in the Noose, but he can’t find him on the matrix- IRL visit it is. They also get word from Ryder that no useful ID’s have been made from the photos from the body pit but that they were printed in an old-school darkroom, so the chemicals needed might be way to track down who printed them, though Zone records are not exactly great.
Most of the team head to the bar to back up Test, and end up meeting with Quantum Princess, an old-school decker who helped set up NooseNet. She checks their reps, getting a bad vibe off Test, but after he explains himself and everyone else looks solid, she brings them into a backroom and shows them 4 comatose deckers, including the man Test sought. She tells them they were all early Foundation divers, and are now all that remains of the Midwest Pirate’s Guild. They all got obsessed with skimming the Null node, giving them access to lost info only usually accessible to TM’s, but said that they all eventually noticed something following them around the matrix (and after that, IRL) afterwards. Test, having skimmed the Null node in the Seelie Court, confirms the few steps he’s been through of this, and is worried about what’s next for him.
QP tells him that the MPG had figured out that they needed to perform some sort of ritual of obeisance to allow the Null node to “pwn” them in some way, but were unable to find their back to the necessary areas to perform it in time. They also debrief a bit about the Null Sect in general, and speculate about their involvement here. Test agrees to share any info he gets with QP, and the team takes a box of mesh repeaters to put up around town to expand NooseNet further, especially as DelaMar’s New Matrix expands into the Zone with the rebuilding. Test also confers with GC, who verifies that the New Matrix is much, much harder for AI’s and Garmonbozia specifically to stay concealed in, and agrees to see if GB wants to coop with Test vs the Null Sect longterm.
The team then gets a call from Becky 99, who says that she has a building with some creepy rumors around it she wants the team to check out. The Desolation Angels have a meeting with one of the few gangs they’re friendly with nearby, so they can meet up after and debrief on next steps tracking down their missing people. She can’t pay much, so they negotiate for future favors instead and agree to terms. They also hear that Ares was successful in rescuing Moonberry from and MCT Zero Zone, but it seems like someone warned MCT they were coming and the Ares team took heavy casulaties. Weirdly, the Ares team is wearing full armor, seems t be able survive what should be lethal wounds, and took all their casualties with them, according the footage leaked online. Based on the resilience of some of the MCT guards, it is speculated that they also have something up their sleeve, possibly confirming rumors that they are providing a safe home for some shedim in exchange for protection duties.
The team head to the building for B99, a former Fuchi dev center, and find it abandoned and looking kinda haunted. They sweep it with drones and, seeing no threats, head in. It looks like someone used breaching charges to enter the building a long while back and then boarded over it, but some of the boards have been pried or weathered down since. They check out the first floor, and find it totally trashed, but find some Universal Brotherhood recruitment material moldering in a break room. They spot a pack of devil and demon rats upstairs, but decide to steer clear for now. They head down to the basement, where the background count gets even worse. Weirdly, there is also a strong dissonance pool in the building. The building was built with some wireless blockers that are badly interfering with their comms as well.
They check out the basement and find 3 large chambers, the first a server room that is totally trashed. They find a journal from some employees who considered themselves loyalists but seem to have been overrun after barricading themselves here. In the next room they find the source of the awful odor and background count: a massive pile of twisted skeletons, some cocoon/pods that are husked and dried out, and a massive cloud of FAB III. The awakened team members flee while the rest continue to investigate. The pile of bodies looks to be the right amount for the entire staff of the facility, confirming rumors that this was the only Fuchi location in town that noone made it out of. The FAB canisters and other expended ordinance are all Ares brand from the appropriate era, suggesting this was one of the sites they hit where a hive was located. The pods look to be filled with the mutated remains of the “loyal” employees or perhaps other neighborhood strays, midway through their infestation.
The third room contains a destroyed decontamination chamber with a collapsed tunnel filled with more twisted skeletons, as well as more UB propaganda, suggesting that this office was infiltrated by bugs before the walls went up, and heavily enough that they took over and prevented anyone leaving. It seems to have been a roach nest. However, noone has been done here since, it seems, so the team figures it’s good paydata but not relevant to the current job. Carol grapples up the 2nd floor to investigate the sole semi-intact room the drones found, and avoid the rats, and finds what looks like a “brains-in-jars” experiment that feels related to The 100 experiment from Boston. Notes about “electrokinetics” on a whiteboard suggest that the brains likely belonged to Technomancers, explaining the dissonance well also. They find a scrap with the name “Halberstram” on it, but it looks to have been abandoned since the early 2070’s, so they figure again, good data but not currently relevant. The demon rat sneaks up on Carol and melts some of his armor but he escapes out the window, and see B99 and some other DA’s getting chased by a large mob of Ramblers.
The team sets up an ambush to help out, and gets some good hits in. Luckily they managed to avoid killing anyone, and end up convincing Griller, the Rambler head, to take a payout and an apology after they sort out what is going on. B99 apparently went on a rampage after the last mission, thinking the Ramblers were responsible for her missing people, based on what seems like a mediocre quality frame job. Griller affirms that they weren’t and threatens her further if she moves on them even the tiniest bit again, but takes off. B99 and the team debrief a bit and the DA’s head for a nearby safehouse to patch up and rest- it seems like she hasn’t slept for days. She gets them to go to the gang meeting at the nearby cemetery on her behalf. When they arrive, they find that the Crypt Keepers, the gang there, have all been massacred. They were a pacifist ghoul gang that offered burial services in exchange for food, and kept the bodies from being useful to shedim. With some clever hacking, they retrieve some data, and find that once again, someone did a frame-up attack on these guys, dressed in DA colors but obviously not the DA. However, they are skilled riders with both physical attacks and magic available.
The team does some digging on local gangs, and can’t figure out who it is, unless one of the syndicates sent in some muscle to fuck with the DA’s, since the DA’s interfere with human trafficking often, but this seems like a weird way to go about it. They call up Goober to see if anyone has been buying a ton of weird bikes and stuff recently, and find out (after convincing him this is a major community issue) that a creepy kid named Altar Boy has been. The team assumes he is likely a shedim, based on his appearing and all of this kicking off shortly after the major shedim presence in DeeCee got shut down. Reviewing footage, they also find a circle of dead flowers and weeds at the cemetery, further confirming. They get 2 leads fro B99 on where to look into Tasha more, and see if the team can figure out where she got spotted and photographed initially, to try to find more leads.
Tracking down the 2 leads to Brother’s Scrap Yard and the Maker’s Collective, they make some interesting contacts at both spots. They also link up with STV’s local liaison through Madeline Schmidt and agree to some future cooperation. Using some complex mixes of perceptions they manage to locate where the surveillance shots of Tasha and Misa Sanchez (the young dwarf TM from the DA safehouse) were taken, and confirm that Altar Boy was at one site with a fancy street bike, and an elf in slightly concealed Ancients colors was at the other. 6C is thrilled to finally get to go after his nemeses. They ask around a bit and find out about an Ancients clubhouse in an old S-Mart near the Cermak crater. They do some drone recon and gear up to go in heavy.
They confirm Ancients are onsite, due to the 12 fancy bikes parked out front. The drones don’t see any guards and proceed inside. They hear chanting from deeper in, and the team sends the drones deeper but loses comms and they don’t return, so the team rushes over to get in there, worried about a ritual. They call in backup from Becky and Nick Ryder (who’s drunk but gets a ride), but they will take some time to arrive so the team launches some grenades in ahead of their entry and rolls in. They spot some Watcher spirits observing them while others zip off, presumably to warn someone. They find the dead drones inside, near an expelled charged ward, which seems to have zapped them. They notice there is a large area in the center of the warehouse where astral space has been cleaned, and some sort of ritual is occurring,
They head in, with Avocado hanging back to lead from the rear, and Ryder and the DA’s finally arriving. The DA’s start trashing bikes outside, while Ryder dashes up to join the team, wearing some cobbled together and ill-fitting bulletproofs. They enter the center area and see Altar Boy about to plunge a knife into Misa Sanchez’ chest on top of an improvised altar, with a ring of 12 dead-eyed Ancients circled around, chanting. AB delivers a villain line, and Carol shoots him in the chest, but the rounds just bounce off, only slightly staggering AB. 6Cyl jumps in and pulls an amazing trick shot, shooting the knife out of his hands. AB declares the team the great heroes and says they can have the girl, and then flees, slipping into the shadows and moving unnaturally quickly, implying the use of some spirit powers.
Strangely, the Ancients don’t seem to be shedim-possessed, just mind-controlled, but 6Cyl revels in cutting them down, especially once the team notices they’ve all been implanted with cortical bombs, and a few of them detonate, almost taking out Aylin (who luckily regenerates). They kill all the Ancients, and looking down 6C notices that they are all very young, and realizes he saw a look of terror behind their eyes as they charged, and finally lets go off his childhood fear/hatred of them- he’s (almost) their height now, and obviously more powerful. 6C frees Misa and she asks if the others are safe, so the team races for the back of the store. They spot the area where AB warped through the wall to escape, and also find a busted walk-in full of bodies- each with a stab wound through the heart.
They find Tasha and the other TM’s they were seeking from the flower shop abattoir photos, except for SM-501, who is absent. It looks like they’ve been killed one at a time, once per day. Based on what AB said as he was fleeing, they know he has a Master and that they are apparently seeking some way to inhabit TM’s, based on the new revelations about the connections between Resonance and magic that the team has been involved in discovering/releasing. Becky takes Misa in quickly, wrapping her in an oversized gang cut and promising to keep her safe. She, Ryder and the team all vow to continue this investigation and get revenge/end this threat, and Ryder promises them get out of jail free favors from him (for something “reasonable”), and they head their separate ways to regroup.