The team, introduced by their mutual fixer Pia Oliversson, first cooperate helping sort out some business for the Seattle Ancients, gaining Belial as a contact. Seeing that they work well together, and have a good skill spread, Oliversson continues to feed them work.
Job 2 sees them heading north of the city into Salish-Shidhe lands, with a Horizon Johnson named Johnny “Spazz” Silva, who seems like the most genuine, nicest dude, as far as they can tell. They are to sort out the case of the stolen medicine, and make sure that the people there get the vaccines and cures they need to deal with a recent hantavirus outbreak. They arrive, and investigate, and find that the meds were stolen by humans, but humans with some improbable strength. They eventually discover that there was an archaeology team digging in the area, and head out along a breakwater to an island off the coast, where they discover a pack of shedim pouring rats, feces, debris, etc into some snow makers, which blow the fine mist into the town, infecting the people there. The archaeology team seems to have been fully coopted, as do some townsfolk. They also spot the meds, and surround and attack the spirits. They defeat them, but are almost in turn defeated by a powerful master shedim: the doctor from the local hospital! They manage to overcome his regeneration and burn his body, and return the meds to a grateful town. Spazz gives them all access to Horizon’s P2.0 network as a reward, as well as paying them, and saying he’ll be in touch with future work. Servaas fails to find any BTL’s to take the whole time.
After returning to Seattle, they spend some time nursing their wounds and ruminating on new skills, and Shri makes a pact with Seducer, gaining power, but giving in more fully to her hedonistic side. The rest learn some skills and spend some of their hard-earned nuyen, and get really annoyed at Drekbomb’s frequent Miracle Shooter related posts on P2.0.
Shri, Servaas, and DB take a job from Oliversson to look into a matter of some sensitivity at the local Ares Macrotechnology dev office. They agree, and meet with Monica Jorda, an Ares fixer, who explains that someone has been killing off their Miracle Shooter dev team. DB is devastated, and has to compose himself to avoid instantly posting this news, as they have promised Jorda to keep it quiet. They investigate a bit, and find out that the killer seems to be using BTL junkies (Servaas cringes) to carry out the attacks, usually dying during or immediately after in a hail of bullets. They were using mass casualty infliction to deflect attention from their true targets: the main on-site dev & QA team for Miracle Shooter, who were overseeing bug patching and post-release support on the brand new update.
Ares only spotted the pattern when the head developer was killed out front of the offices that morning. They check out the corpses in the basement, and DB hacks their comms, and discovers that both were running Miracle Shooter in hotsim (fully replacing their regular sensory input), and that the game seems to have put them on a mission that lead to their targets (and deaths). The hotsim use explains why the earlier attackers were mistaken for BTL junkies, as there is plenty of crossover. Plus, 2 of the earlier attackers were wearing gang colors, but that seems to be a deliberate false flag. The game instructed them that a local quest was being made available from the Dark Jester, an npc new to this update, and then (once they flipped to hotsim) directing them towards real weapons hidden nearby, and disguised as power-ups ingame. They then were told to target a dangerous saboteur, and killed the QA head, as well as hitting each other in pvp crossfire- which initially also threw off the Ares investigators who first arrived on scene.
They report this to Jorda, who tells them they have to prevent any more attacks until they can get a patch out and remove this “Dark Jester”. She also wants them to find those responsible. DB, keeping an eye on the MS boards, discovers that these Dark Jester quests apparently offer huge rewards, but noone directly knows (or admits knowing) anyone who has actually survived one. He spots an announcement nearby that another quest has popped up, and they race to an Ares school, where they find an in-progress shooting, with 4 players participating. DB spoofs a message to 1 player that pvp mode is open as the “quest” is complete, and the player turns on one of the other players present. Shri and Servaas take him down after he kills his target, leaving 2 attackers on site. He seems surprised to be actually hurt when he emerges from hotsim.
They track the other 2 to a hallway leading to a certain classroom (where they are supposed to slay all the “demonspawn”), and take another shooter down in the hallway- this one a student. Shri drops the last shooter in the classroom, but only after he kills 2 students and a teacher. They hand over the shooters to Ares security when they arrive (the onsite cops having been the first casualties), and Shri grabs 2 students who she overhears freaking out about how “I didn’t think he’d come after us!”. 1 of them is panicking and not much use, but the other, Gina Holgersson, keeps her head. Between the 2 of them (threatening the panicked boy and promising to keep Gina out of trouble if she helps), they tease out the story: they (and the 2 dead students) were member of a wannabe wizgang called Cold Calculus that was about to announce their first big hack. The boy is the son of the lead QA guy, who apparently brought home a beta of the update trying (in vain) to impress his son. He and the rest of the gang inserted some kind of crazy smart self-replicating code into the beta before his dad bought it back to work. They got the code from some weirdo on the matrix who looks like some dark, creepy old clown. Gina says that she is the talent in the group, and can help clear the code if they agree to keep her from getting in trouble over this, and quickly abandons her erstwhile friend when Jorda agrees to this plan (though she emphasizes that the position will be very “probationary”).
They look into it more, and find vid evidence of this “dark jester” figure at or near all the crime scenes, planting weapons, vehicles and such as needed for the attacks, usually only shortly beforehand. He uses a variety of disguises but looks somewhat elven and appears to favor maintenance and service costumes. They track down the school janitor that he posed as to plant weapons the previous night, and find the janitor dead from some massive expenditure of mana, implying their target is a powerful mage. A neighbor also overheard some weird singing, which sounded like Sperethiel. Gina tells them that he repeatedly mentioned his hatred of elves, and said that he had something big planned for the next few days- she doesn’t know how to get in touch with him, though, he sought them out and seems to know a scary amount about them but it was too good of an opportunity to boost their rep to pass up.
They find 2 major elven events for that evening (the coders say they should have it patched after that): 1st, a concert, celebrating the passage of Prop 23, featuring the Tir Taingire musical phenomena Deirdre, as well as the long-popular (and far more political) CalFree orkrock star Orxanne. 2nd, a trade delegation of some sort from Tir Tairngire is apparently arriving at SeaTAC and convoying in about the same time the concert starts. They also search shadow-forums, and find some talk on ShadowSea of 2 different clown/jester figures. 1 has been hiring teams for esoteric jobs for decades, some highly dangerous, some an odd lark, and some merely indecipherable. The other is a recent arrival, and seems to have little value for life, or survivability on his jobs. He uses the name Gwynplaine, and seems to be the being that the team is seeking, though he is apparently rarely seen in person, and not much is publicly known. Runners are warned to be wary around him though.
They decide to split up, and have Servaas and Shri guard the concert, while DB takes the airport. S & S handily stop 4 attackers at the concert, and manage to avoid any major injuries amongst the milling crowd outside, though there is some panic. Luckily, the extra Skraacha security that they requested helps them keep things in check. Sadly, this seems to have been the secondary target, as DB finds at the airport: there are 2 weapon drops and 2 players almost on them when he arrives. He manages to hack another player’s rocket launcher, detonating the rocket as they launch it in his direction. It kills them but also wounds him heavily, and luckily finally warns off the incoming plane, which was cut off from comms (as was much of airport security) by a powerful jammer. This is also destroyed in the explosion, which is fortunate, as DB is felled by the other player, a sniper, but Doc Wagon manages to reach him just in the nick of time, barely saving his life. As thanks, Jorda gives them all lifetime access to Miracle Shooter, with 1 year at the “gold” tier free, and DB gains Alexander Horn as a contact, as well as receiving a custom deck upgrade from the crime corp boss while he recuperates in the hospital.
They hear from Spazz, and plan to take some more work for Horizon next.