The team gets fixated on the recent reappearance of the Taco Temple franchise, which they all remember from their youths but have no evidence of actually having existed. They make great tacos though, and there’s one just down the block from the safehouse, so aside from Aleiron they’re thrilled. They begin doing some digging and smear campaign prep for Imaginary Annie, and manage to secure a solid lead for Kathleen Shaard in the race for Underground Mayor. They also make the dragon-backed opponent out to be a radiation-spreading madman, and use the same tactic against Kalanyr’s candidate for governor. They also find out that Charles Seaver, another candidate, is likely possessed by a shedim. A voudoun summoner named Shockwave warns them off of pursuing him further, given his likely power level, but the Draco Foundation is interested. Jenny is off in the wilderness somewhere, the team finally having forced Butter to expel her from the safehouse.
Eion and Grackle bond on a trip to Glow City, and Eion and Yanko progress in their magical trainings, both initiating; Eion in the Painted Horse Lodge (which seems suspiciously dark magic-friendly), and Yanko in Vigilant Iron Schooling House, after honing his skills at Sticks and Stones. They finally pay the Reality Hackers back for their help in prison by rescuing some technomancers from the Yakuza goons who are rounding them up for delivery to MCT, including a new team member who decides to stay with them instead of going to the technohaven the RH’ers provide. Blue seems like a skilled hacker and sniper, but a real weirdo. Should fit right in. Eion continues training his new bandit “pets”. Aleiron expands her messaging for her cult.
The team takes some sketchy work for decent pay, mostly because Wat wants a motorcycle. After doing very little research, they end up in a war zone, between Northern CalFree and Southern TIr Tairngire, TT seems to be taking the opportunity of Hestaby’s absence to push south, while militias fend them off. Merc’s work both sides. The team gets caught up in some murky ARES corporate infighting over some various arms deals, for which they are initially working for the unethcial side (wetwork, chemical weapons, etc), but eventually swap sides and (secretly) betray their hirer (affiliated with Damien Knight) for the other faction, which seems aligned with Arthur Vogel, a dwarven environmentalist on ARES’ board (thought of as the corp’s conscience). They got dosed with Laes in the coverup and lose some time, but get paid and think it won’t come back on them.
Butter heads out in search of an alchemist named Squeamish, who is supposedly very paranoid but in possession of a lot of useful info, including the location of the PNW’s famed “parliament of cars”. Grackles becomes a full Halloweener, and spends hours crafting the perfect skull makeup design with Iva Linus Hathaway. Aleiron consults with Izidor Kurtlanik about spinning the recent wetwork they did in CalFree as opposing metaracism (given as the arms dealer they killed was affiliated with the elf supremacist Brat’Mael). The team digs into a bunch of 6th World Tarot stuff, finding both hints that Taco Temple is more than it seems, and that the deck as a whole seems to hint at something big- seemingly including a map?
Butter gets some leads on Squeamish via a Puyallup PI named Jimmy Kincaid. He decides not to make contact in order to help the team on another job: tracking down some more technomancers in danger for the Reality Hackers. These TM’s might not come willingly, and it’s unclear exactly how many there are, between 1 and a half dozen. The RH’s offer a bonus for any hackers they rescue as well. The team finds out that the TM gang, called the Resonance Junkies, is on the run from a corp hit squad after developing some software for the corp.
They track them to an abandoned trainyard in Renton, where they are guarded by some surviving Night Hunters. The team decides to full frontal assault while Yanko sneaks, not sure if the TM’s are guarded or hostages. The team almost gets killed by Night Hunters but Yanko manages to sneak past them, climb the tower, and grab the leader of the RJ’s, then convinces them that he is there to help with a stunning intimidation. The rest of the team gets scooped up by Butter to flee the bloodthirsty NH’ers. Butter comes back after dropping Wat and the team off at Trickster’s Daughter’s clinic, and comes back and grabs the TM’s/hackers. However, there isn’t room for all of them, so they leave Yanko and one of the RJ’s behind, who Yanko shortly ditches to escape from the NH’ers, while the less agile RJ is torn apart, screaming.
Butter also does some digging into Tommy Vermont, his recently CFD-infected friend/cop contact. He gets his medical file from an info broker contact and forwards it to Riot to take a look. Riot examines it and says that it’s beyond her, but passes it along to her street doc mentor, the legendary Butch. Butch, through Riot, says that if the team can safely bring Vermont in, in containment, she may be able to help: she is developing an experimental treatment, but will need the assistance of a submerged technomancer as well as all her medical skills. Butter says that this will have to wait, but is interested.
The team does some more political digging, and finds dirt on all the remaining candidates for governor, to various degrees of quality, with one exception. They help Shri manufacture a scandal about Choi, and ex-FBI candidate, by knocking out a surveillance detail on one of her people. Grackle and Wat manage to salvage enough tech from the surveillance van to upgrade Grackle’s deck and Wat’s link. A composite sketch of Wat is released, but he was disguised enough that they’re not worried. The team also meets a PI named Glenn Steele, who’s been double-checking their info for Annie, and doing some secondary digging. He seems competent, and him and Grackle bond a bit.
They also finally make contact with Squeamish, who proves to be even more paranoid than advertised, but they talk him out of killing them, and make a deal. They will bring him pairs of HMHVV infected (ghouls, vamps, etc) to experiment with, and for the first pair they bring he will tell them where the parliament of cars is. He also has some various reagents he needs on his quest to become a Master Alchemist, so he gives them a list and says he’ll pay well for delivery. The team track down a gum toad in eastern Redmond, and meet up with an IOND magic-school graduate named Linnie Han, who helps them slay the gum toad and harvest its excretions in exchange for pay. Plus now they know a mage, which could be handy.
3 Card gets help from Wat to romance Gina, Grackle witnesses firsthand how terrifyingly powerful Nightmare, the leader of the Halloweeners is, Grackle goes on another mysterious package delivery quest, Blue keeps leveling up in “Marry Me” via a registered sprite, Yanko visits Cobra, the child who delivered his ominous prophecy (and only gets more disturbed by cryptic hints), Eion makes a deal to get 2 feral ghouls from the 162’s in exchange for 2 bodies, Butter makes a pact with a wild spirit and receives a strange boon (perhaps a friendly introduction to the Parliament), Aleiron becomes better at profiling people and deepens some connections, Wat writes more stories for “Marry Me”, and the whole team enjoys their new access to ShadowSEA!