The team decides to deal with the Crying Mask assassination attempt first, and looks into it further. They make contact with Master File, the admin of a local shadow VPN, and trade some info for info on the target, as well as making plans to gain longterm access in the near future. MF also wants them to look into the Turing Army, as does The Probe technofetishist gang, who Kinnie and Prot0 go to for some surgery. Guy and Prot0 take Long Haul, and with OE and Jonny as backup, cruise around in the van watching for the convoy.
They day before Halloween, they spot it, get ahead of it, and spot the ambush setup ahead. They manage to clear a bunch of civilians out of the way surreptitiously, and Prot0, Aylin and Jonny collab on a quality press release and con blaming Ghostwalker for the attack., Prot0 hacks a ZDF badge on one of the attackers just for a second, and they flee the scene as a massive gunfight breaks out. The military seems to get the best of the runners, but an arrow hits a target in one of the armored cars (Toast?). However, the con seems to hold, and GW publicly gets the blame.
This leads to a lot of issues as GW retaliates against people mocking and threatening him, FedPol and military police get into a very public squabble, and the Crying Masks try to take credit and fail, but lose a safehouse and many members to GW’s wrath. The team then begins looking into the Compensation Army in the Anacostia Barrens on Ratched’s behalf (Equity is trying to make headway amongst their number with a leftist perspective), and finds that there is suspiciously well-supplied inner circle, who seem to have connections to a tumor spirit- Black Lodge affiliation perhaps!
The team buys a boat to have a sneaky way to investigate the CA further, and sets up a recon base on an island in the Anacostia river, inside the Barrens. They find a way in through an abandoned drainage tunnel from the factory (now the Old Republic CA HQ). They infiltrate the pipe, and Guy and Prot0 levitate up and sneak through an astral ward. Ratched finds the missing Equity member’s corpse. Prot0 hacks into the system through a camera up top, and gets some info: the top floor of the factory is sectioned off, with no surveillance, and the armory has better gear than most of the guards, including equipment similar to the Bone Ninja’s loadout. He also finds a delivery record showing regular resupplies but no payments, but who’s sending them is unclear.
They decide to leave and not push it further, but alert astral security after triggering the ward. A massive tumor spirit traps the team in the tunnel, and almost kills OE and Aylin. Luckily OE and Guy deal massive damage with spells and astral combat, and the spirit retreats to the astral to surveil the team and avoid disruption. They flee, killing 1 and knocking out 5 CA guards on the way. The hire the IOND to help them ditch the tumor spirit and not bring it to the safehouse. Guy sends Berto the car spirit to get Lys to also help.
The dead Equity member was also missing some organs, surgically-removed, which Prot0 spotted in jars. These are likely being used as hosts for more tumor spirits. They confirm this suspicion with Madeline Schmidt, who they sell the info too, after Ratched also reports into Equity and gets the OK. She also makes contact with the local Bright Star chapter, and convinces Equity to allow them to do some basic security work for them at least. Ratched agrees with Bullseye, the local Bright Star, that although they want to live in Equity’s world, it isn’t the one they live in right now and some nastier things sometimes need to be done to get there. Ratched is thinking about leaving the team and these look like some good options.
Lys and Berto show up at the IOND and chat with Guy, Lys is doing much better after getting clear of Boston. He agrees to distract the tumor spirirt while the team gets back to the safehouse to rest up. Aylin takes a few days to recover, while the rest of the team catches up on personal biz. They witness various protests and continuations of the drama they started by blaming GW, and get warned not to look into the archer assassin Toast too publicly due to his handlers being dangerous people. They hear about a concert by the monad synth-country artist(s) Two Minds, and decide to attend, hoping they can scope out some potential Turing Army supports amidst the protestors outside.
OE also does some recon for one of their jobs for STV- scouting a data vault that they need to hit. Looks like low astral security, but well-done. They head to the venue, a dingy roadside blues bar (the previous venue and opener having cancelled due to Purists protests), and make a security plan. Guy and Aylin take the dock and riverside, OE and Ratched take the front entry and parking lot, Prot0 and Kinnie do overwatch from the roof, and Jonny works inside. He also talks his way into an opening slot, semi-on purpose. They eventually spot some TA goons amidst the Purists protestors using a laser designator on the venue, and Guy manages to blow a drone missile out of the sky with an impressive lightning bolt.
The detonation scares off most of the protestors, but Guy manages to capture the rigger missile launcher with an air spirit, and OE and Ratched grab one of the ones up top (though Ratched becomes heavily meme’d and has to change her look significantly). They call into their local Garmonbozia contact, who requests they get some info from the 2 captures and suggests working with The Probe to do so. The team also reports that Aylin read one of the minds of a goon who got away and knows where their safehouse is, and Prot0 reports this. He is is then sent a live feed from a drone missile as it annihilates an apartment just as 2 men walk in fresh from the protests- 1 goon they recognize and 1 they didn’t spot.
They take the 2 captured TA goons to the location provided by The Probe, which turns out to be a medical industry crematorium just south of Bethesda. Leanna Octave awaits them, and says she has prepped various options for them. They decide to use gamma scopolamine combined with Aylin’s mind probe, not wanting to become the monsters they are fighting in resorting to torture. They find out that the recent resurgence of the TA is largely due to them getting matrix support from the Null Sect (though the TA doesn’t seem to know who or what exactly they have made a deal with…). This is disturbing, and the team tries to warn those they can, printing off some more paper copies of the Null Doc to distribute.
Prot0 also pays Guy to start going to therapy, and finds a good, expensive, and VERY discrete therapist to hire. It seems to be helping. Some of the rest of the team wonder why Prot0 isn’t one of the ones seeking some assistance…