The team spends the next day hungover from the bday party and working on fixing up the Hab, now named AHABitat. They name the sub the “Shadowrudder.” Otoko has only been emerging for food occasionally while bingeing all the new sims Test bought her. Kinnie and Hotkey, in charge of repairs, make a list of needed supplies, and the team also makes a list of necessary upgrades and purchases to pick up. Carol, Avocado, and Aylin head to town in the sub to get all that stuff while Test, HK and Kinnie finetune the air recycler and fix the chemical toilets. 6Cyl does alchemy all day to begin stocking up their new Vault of Ages.
In town, the team splits up their purchases to not give any one supplier too much info about what they’re up to. Goober gets them sub upgrades and a water safe comms drone (also stealthed). They get enviro tech and filters from Sierra Corp to stay on the Sea Dragon’s good side by not polluting, and get all the other fittings and equipment needed from Ares. They then head into town further to meet with Red, and get some local vamp tips. Aylin makes fast friends with the ethical vamp, and gets good local info. He seems down to trade more info and favors for hooder runs.
They then head to Camp Lincoln, to try to rendezvous with the Fleshmongers, who purchase trapped bodies there to sell to local infected or part out. They successfully find them and make an ammo trade deal to get Aylin fed, and Aylin gets a dead drop to call for future needs. She feels bad about the scenario though and hopes to seek out more ethical feeding. The team then heads back to the sub and the hab, with their delivered purchases in tow.
The next day, the team gets the comms drone working and receives some messages. GC is trying to get ahold of Test, and Aylin’s mom has come to town, a surprisingly fast return from intense trauma therapy. The team contacts Mrs. Clean to get a rough idea of the payout on all her jobs, and chooses one to follow through on first. Avocado buys a car with a cowcatcher from Goober, and they head to the O’Hare Sprawl and meet a Johnson, who turns out to be ex-NN, in a poser/Zone tourist bar. Test makes a friend of one of the hostesses by mocking it all.
They agree to a price, but are a little uncomfortable that it involves handing over a shadowcaster named Opti, along with some data he apparently stole. With some background research, they figure out that their Johnson has lost some sort of “special project” that he salvaged from collapsing NN and was planning to use as a means to another job. He seems a bit down on his luck and desperate, but the pay is good. Test pays the hostess for any tips on odd happenings she spots.
They then get into a brief scuffle with 2 poser gangs in the parking lot, but easily scare them off. They then head towards the airport, and Aylin and 6Cyl meet with her mom while the rest meet with a young drake and a hugely charismatic woman named Mako. Aylin’s mom tells them she met these entities on Celephais, and helped Mako raise the drake along with 7 others from infancy- weirdly, again, for the relative time passed. This confirms that Celephais has some weird time shit, similar to the Seelie Court. Also strangely, Aylin’s mom only appears slightly older than Aylin remembers her from when she disappeared- only her eyes show all that she’s been through since then.
Aylin reveals that she is a vampire, and her mom tells her it was a vamp who gave her the Blood Box all those years ago. They bond and reconnect a bit, touchingly, and make plans to continue. Aylin tries to give her way too much money, and 6C very awkwardly declares himself part of the family too. They then head down and Aylin’s mom meet the team and they all chat a bit. Meanwhile, the team has met with the drake and Mako, who are here on behalf of the Sea Dragon to cement the agreement made with the merrow.
The team sends them to Carol, who lacks a good SIN other than his real one, and stayed with the sub. They get there surprisingly quickly, and he frantically gets some tips on piloting from Goober. They head down and he makes the intro to Otoko, who takes them down to meet Big Meat and Ryujin. Carol heads back to the surface and plans to meet with the team at Club Clusterfunk, their first lead on where to look for Opti. They all link up, and Carol borrows some money from his brother to get Seirra Corp to upgrade his SIN. Spending a while surveilling the bar they can’t find any obvious leads, so Avocado tries to casually ask one of the servers, who pleads ignorance. Kinnie heads back to the docks to work on the sub some more.
However, the mention of Opti attracts some attention from a bar patron, the shadowcaster Static, who seems to be a rival. She gets some money from them for an address for Opti, and they head out. Strangely, the square block around Opti’s hideout is one of the nicest parts of the CZ that they’ve seen, especially impressive given that it’s in the Noose. The team is starting to feel a little more iffy about handing this runner over to a corp Johnson given that he seems to be doing some good hooding work. For now, they continue, with Carol’s suggestion to contact him voted down. Half the team stays in the car to keep it running and do matrix support with Aylin floating up to the 3rd floor in mist form. The rest of the team uses spirit concealment to sneak through a thai restaurant to a shared courtyard with a door leading up to Opti’s.
HK luckily spots a secondary security measure, and him and Test bypass with some sprite assistance, opening the door. 6C notices astral markings in the narrow stairwell, but verifies it is a powerful astral ward, so he doesn’t think he can bypass it without alerting the caster anyway so they just walk in. They find a collection of shadowcasting gear, various bits of tech, and a lot of collectible ephermera, including a lot of Crow/Raven themed gear and a signed Jonny Silver guitar. Test gets an urgent message from GC and is told to make sure he grabs the beeping device inside and make sure it broadcasts. He tells them team but does so- it contains a fragment of the code string the Johnson gave them to recognize his program. It also pings 3 other map locations when activated- it looks like Opti disabled the antennae on the comm but Test bypasses that with his touchlink ability,
They are starting to poke around a bit more when 6C spots a spirit watching them in astral and the room starts slowly filling with acid fog, doing some armor damage to everyone. A 3-minute countdown also begins. Test stays til the last second, getting some info off the terminal before diving out the window, ko-ing in the impact. The room explodes behind him, but seems intended only to destroy the insides and barely damages the rest of the building. This plus the countdown implies this was more a security measure than a trap, as Opti seems to have not wanted to kill anyone. GC messages again when Test wakes up to tell him to track down the other 3 locations, and tells Test doing so won’t violate their team norms.
Test and HK then receive a call from an unknown number, offering info on Opti- they agree to meet and head to Jindrich’s, a small fancy bar near O’Hare. They meet a woman named Vox, who is on a list of allies/peers they pulled from Opti’s terminal. She asks them to go a quick task in exchange for the info and they agree. They head for a literal hole in the Wall bar called the Civil Libation Tea Room and Avocado distracts the chatty proprietor while Carol and 6C steal a datachip out of the safe, with Aylin and HK providing remote support. They return to Jindrich’s and hand it over. Strangely, one of the 3 map pins shows as being there as well. Vox accepts the info, seems to receive a message, and then looking slightly confused, hands the team her burner comm and tells them “this is what they need.” Having scanned the datachip, they know it’s a list of Seattle high society B and C-listers, and she offers to reconnect if they find themselves in that city.
Taking the burner comm to the car, Test connects both at GC’s instruction, and the code seems to copy it’s opposite instance to both. They now seem to have half of the code string. Following another map pin, they head to the Chicago Market area as the pin finally stops moving around. They find a huge music festival occurring and all buy tickets, it is a benefit for a “Save our Ghoul Youth” foundation, and seems to have some corp support from Evo and Horizon. There are some classic rockers playing, as well as a local opener and mid-tier shadowband member, Vendetta Violent, doing a solo set. She seems to be the target. Aylin and Avo buy VIP passes to get backstage, and Avo poses as a pusher while Aylin mists to bypass security to get into the musicians’ green room.
VV and another man inside, Monday Trip, ID him as a runner right away, though they don’t initially spot misty Aylin. They have a slightly tense negotiation of figuring out what he wants but seem basically chill, and agree to sell him the partitioned data package off Trip’s comm that has been giving them trouble. However, before the transfer can go through, the racist/metaracist Volk gang kidnaps a bus full of ghoul children, and VV and Trip tell Avo to get his team and save the bus, and they’ll give him the data for free plus a bonus. Aylin manifests and they seem a bit surprised, but all agree to the deal, and the team starts after the bus, which is speeding off trying to run over anyone it can as the children scream and try to escape from inside. Aylin hangs back to keep an eye on the payday.
They chase down the bus, with Kinnie joining just in time to pull the car around. Avocado uses commanding voice to get the rest of the team into the backstage area and 6C summons a spirit to boost his speed on foot. Hotkey and Test manage to tagteam a hack and dump the Volk hacker out of the bus system, while Kinnie pulls the car up next to the bus and Carol uses a grapple to jump up on top. 6C catches up to the Volk car on foot and blasts one of them who was trying to get a rocket launcher set up, and then mana balls the car, finishing off the dumpshocked decker and 2 others.
The remaining passenger shoots 6C but he dodges, Then, the driver clips him with the car, sending him flying into a building, killing him. His CrashCart bracelet activates, and the team sees an ambulance racing in from the concert (where Evo had a major presence). They finish off one more of the Volk and then focus on slowing the bus down as the Volk car speeds off. Unfortunately, Kinnie crashes the car, not being a great driver, and almost totals it. The limp back to the concert area, with Carol heroically riding atop the bus after poking his head in to calm the children, and deciding not to climb down in and risk a bite.
Test gets a hashtag started to boost the team’s local rep, and they get the data for free from VV. Aylin is also told she can get food for life (at a reasonable rate) from Long Pig Farm in thanks. The team sees the data combine with the previous packets once again when Test links them, and head to Goober’s to swap cars while theirs is repaired. They then head for the final geotag, also in the Zone. They find a fortified warehouse with a mishmash of senors and drones protecting it. Using some excellent surveillance, spirit support, recon, and hacking they manage to infiltrate the facility with no alerts and find the onsite decker Numitor (from Opti’s enemy list) engaged in a matrix fight with some sort of digital entity.
They make their way through a few floors of traps fighting over a dozen drones who are creepily all dressed up like local runners, fixers, and Johnsons, some of whom the team recognizes. It looks like Numitors uses them for target practice, and they do some research and find he in a former Otaku who faded instead of emerging, and has become spiteful and hateful. They find his hardened safe room, and manage to blow their way in, with Carol and 6C teaming up to just barely prevent him from detonating a suicide vest before they can grab the cyberdeck they seek.
It has the antenna disabled, once again, and they jam it while Test links it up with the other fragments. They all copy to the deck, and the team finally seems to have the full file Mr. Johnson wanted. Now they just need to find Opti…. They leave the area and receive a message from Opti telling them to meet them where they first got the job so he can talk to them and their Johnson and sort things out. They don’t have a way to respond so they call the Johnson and head that way. Montgomery is nervous when they arrive and frustrated that they won’t give him the data right away. They eventually assure themselves there isn’t an obvious trap, and also no sign of Opti, so they pass him the data.
He jacks into the deck and seems relieved to find it all there, just before the bar’s auto turrets deploy and blow him to pieces. A voice over the PA announces that it is the now recompiled AI known as “Skeleton Key”, a sort of protosapient matrix B&E expert program. Opti comes out from the back and seems just as surprised as the team that his “tech guy” was in fact an AI, who just murdered the Johnson (with cause, but still). Just as Opti is negotiating to pay out the team and go about their separate ways, a heavy duty corp strike team rolls in and fans out into the bar. The turrets retarget and there’s a brief pause while the corp team tries to convince the team to come over to their side for pay.
In the parking lot, 6Cyl sees another runner team sneak up on the corp troops and get them in a crossfire. They tell the corp troops to stand down and everyone can walk away, but then the turrets kick in. A brief gunfight ensues but the corp troops quickly retreat, outflanked and overpowered. The second team explains they came to back up Opti, and the team finishes negotiating, gets paid, and gets a local rep boost and a promise of a shoutout on Opti’s next ’cast. They try to track the corp teams to figure out who they were working for but lose signal on the tracer 6C placed while heading out of town to the North.
Meanwhile, Carol has passed out in the trunk from too much stim, and the Tan Robes pay him another visit in his dream state. This time they read his mind, find out what happened in Fauth-Doshgoi, and tell him that when the team goes to space, they will kill a man named Fentin Walls, and agent of GOD, in order to square themselves with the TR. Otherwise, trouble and pain. Carol is annoyed, but so injured he is unable to effectively resist.