Arriving in London, they head straight to the meet, it being a last minute thing. Someone named “A Johnson” has requested their presence, and even though its a basement bar in a back alley, they handily navigate there via the omnipresent ARO’s that have been bombarding them since halfway across the Channel.
They meet a man who identifies himself as Artholomew Johnson, which they all think is just a bit too cute to be real, but thats how it is. He lays out the job: he needs to know which way a tight vote on a transit tunnel is going to go, before the vote happens. He has secured them invites to a pol-function where many of the relevant figures will be, and gives them some names to look into in specific. He doesn’t seem to have an agenda as to swinging it one way or the other, just wants to make money by knowing which it will go. They fumble the negotiation a bit, and he brings down his offer slightly after threatening to walk. They talk him back around, and he gives them all the needed info and invites.
They find a hotel that seems decent, though a bit far from the city center. Toff buys a decent suit on Saville Row, so that he can blend in, and assures the team that his magical abilities will make him a useful component of this job. They find a message waiting for them at the hotel desk when they check in, from a woman id’ing herself as Rhiannon Glendower. She says that she knows who they are working for, and will offer assistance if they help ensure the vote goes her way. She says an elven woman named Elwes will be in attendance at the function tomorrow, and that they should make contact on arrival.
They do some research on all 3 people, and find that Johnson is an info-broker, who seems to have illicitly made some money in New York in a past life, before fleeing just ahead of the SEC and setting up here. So that all checks out. Elwes seems to be Glendower’s main London operative, Glendower herself apparently residing primarily in Wales. Glendower checks out too: she is concerned with urban renewal, and is one of the sponsors of the original transit plan, which would connect the Lambeth Containment Zone (aka the Squeeze) to the Underplex, and the rest of city transit, finally giving the cordoned-off residents some economic opportunities. However, Renraku has attempted to repurpose the funds to connect their London arcology to the Underplex, increasing their market share there, and driving up the value of their corporate scrip.
This is a bit of a dilemma: Ro definitely wants Renraku to get what they want. But Toff feels that the LCZ strongly resembles the Ork Underground, and wants to give those people a chance. Ortega and Aemon are both more on the side of the Squeeze than the Corp, but they decide to, for now, see which way the vote is going before making any hard plans. They also meet up with a tabloid reporter named Chessick Allens-Whitehill, who says he has been sent by Art to make sure they can handle the social aspects of the evening ahead, as he apparently feels they were a bit lacking in graces. After discussing the plan further, Ro agrees not to prevent the team from swinging the vote to benefit the Squeeze, so long as she doesn’t have to act directly against Renraku, as she really dislikes metahuman experimentation.
They stock up on needed gear (RFID mics, a puzzler gun for Aemon, stylish clothes as needed), and Ro and Chessick brief the team on appropriate etiquette and Japanacorp styles. They head to the Lobbyist’s Ball, with Ortega acting as driver/security, and the rest posing as trade delegates. They mingle, and all manage to find some people aligned with their interests to tally votes from. Aemon corners the rural contingent, Toff looks into the religious vote, Ro closes in on the other trade delegates and Japanacorp employees, Ortega makes small talk with the other security onsite, and Chessick finds Elwes to compate notes. After spying on the speaker of parliament and his aide, as well as much convo, they end up with a worrying tally: 33% against, 66% for the Renraku plan. There is only 1 vote unaccounted for: James Helling.
They leave, and do some digging. Apparently Helling has received some sort of unspecified threats, and has been holed up on the family estate, with increased security, for the last few weeks. He has been voting from home during this time, but doesn’t seem to have deviated much from his regular stances on things. However, Chessick digs through the All-Seeing Eye back catalog and finds a grainy vid that looks to be Helling entering a dingy back alley establishment of some sort with 2 guards, and stumbling out 4 minutes later with what looks like a fresh bite mark under his arm. He has been involved in a long-running series of drink/drug/gambling/prostitution scandals in the press, and this seemed initially to be another one, though the team begins to wonder what exactly bit him… They also find rumors of some sort of red-haired trickster harassing people all around the British Isles, and worry that it may be Dark Harlequin.
They decide they better go to his estate and at least find out which way he’ll vote (and maybe make sure he goes their way). After doing some surveillance, they decide to try to spoof their way past the gate, and Chessick hacks his way into the system and adds their car and ID’s to the “approved” list without getting spotted. They enter, and the guards ignore them- they seem focussed solely outwards. Toff does some astral recon, and finds a powerful mana barrier protecting something underground, but the mansion otherwise unpopulated aside from a lone butcher in the kitchen, chopping raw meat. There is a pig outside, but after describing the meat to the rest of the team, they think it may be human.
Chessick blags his way in, posing as a “cleaner”, called in by the family to take care of a “mess.” The butcher is confused but convinced, and allows them into the wine cellar, where a shelf slides aside to reveal a vault door. It opens, and they enter, passing through the mana barrier, which deactivates their spells and foci. The door slams shut behind them, closing them in the pitchdark basement. They explore, and find a relatively clean and empty underground facility- some sort of bomb shelter perhaps? There seem to be more levels below, but they stumble upon a pack of feral ghouls and get distracted.
They manage to fight off the ghouls with their limited weapons, helped by the fact that Ortega rushes in to the mob, and they seem fixated on the snack. After slaying the final ghoul of the bunch, an astral form approached Toff and tells him to leave this place if he values his life. Sensing that the team is in a precarious position, but must pose a threat for this offer to be made, Toff negotiates. They arrange for Helling to vote against Renraku in exchange for promising not to tell what they have seen here until the residents can relocate somewhere safer. They also pass along contact info for Nomusa Iblis, as Asamando seems like a good bet as to where to go. Chessick gets the man, who identifies himself as the family doctor, Baxton Gresh, to agree that they will also give The All-Seeing Eye an exclusive interview once they’ve reached safety.
Gresh says that he must get the deal approved, and flies off. Toff comes back to the team, and they wait for a few tense minutes, until the vault door swings open again, apparently signaling agreement. They exit, and pass the butcher on the way down, carrying a large bin full of raw meat. He doesn’t meet their eyes. They leave the mansion without further trouble, and pass along the info to Art and Glendower. They both say that payment will be arranged on the morrow, assuming the info is good. The next day, they hear that the vote has failed by 1, a major public blow to Renraku, whose PR machine is already in overdrive trying to spin it to look better for them. Ro feels conflicted, but they all get paid as promised, and both Art and Glendower say they will contact the team with future offers, as their work proved satisfactory.