Ratched the Hatchet
Before they head to meet, Prot0 gets a load of investigative jobs from Perri, who wants the team to look into some cybermercs Bennett was using called Zero Day, as well as continue investigating the Null Sect, and another assassin/group called Synapse. Someone has been installing cranial shields into kidnapped TM’s, as well as persecuting and framing AI’s, e-ghosts, and TM’s, and Perri wants to know who. She also thinks one or more of these entities may be behind the Nexus’ beef with Jackpoint. And finally, she wants any info the team can get on De la Mars’ plan for a matrix security overhaul, which she is apparently planning to roll out in GW’s “New Denver.”
The team also hears reports of mass casualties and detainment centers in the AZT district, grudging cooperation from the PCC and Sioux, and lots of bluster and big talk from the UCAS/CAS, but not substantive action. The troll street preachers and militias have increased their activities, and ZDF troops have continued to let Warrens gangs roam free anywhere except the Hub, while the respective districts slowly dissolved and evacuate in preparation for GW’s seemingly inevitable takeover.
The cold calculation of the dragon only becomes clear in retrospect, as it has come out that the same day he made his demand and shut off the Denver matrix, the Corporate Court stripped NeoNet of it’s AAA and announced significant damages against it, as well as banning Richard Villiers from any CEO position for life, in response to their findings of fault for Boston. They also finally gave Spin Industries it’s long-sought third “A”, proving that Johnny Spinrad’s machinations and campaigns of the last few years were successful. The CC also possessed NN’s new home, the St Louis Archology, leaving them baseless. Reports of desperate new SINless former NN citizens flooding the streets (and shadows) have emerged globally.
Amidst this, the team is hired to look into what has been causing these reality rips that have been troubling the town. They get a bit of info from Darien Black, and some more on the Nexus, as well as some from their Johnson, including a dossier on where to start looking, before a rip opens at the meet, and they have to hustle the Johnson out, bringing another group of runners and THEIR Johnson along in the chopper. This other group is quite grateful and offers their services if needed, and the Johnson says that if they find any more tarot, SK is very interested.
PPJ captured one of the strange cartoon-ish creatures that emerged from the rip, and hands it over to Darien (and the team gets to witness some of their very unhealthy dynamic). Darien promises to share the IOND’s findings asap, and the team heads back to the safehouse to start digging. They decide to start their investigations in the warrens, at the first site picked out by the Johnson.
Using astral observation, matrix research, and social skills, they home in on an abandoned and run down mansion that seems to be the epicenter of local reality rips. They infiltrate through a disheviled garage and find it heavily armored and reinforced on the inside. They destroy some cameras, but maybe not in time. They also find a ton of small aerial drones and vats full of chemicals, with a system to load the chems into the drones. Ratched ID’s the liquid as a catalyst that will trigger a genetic sequence that Paladin clinics have been implanting in metahumans throughout the sprawl. They disable the system and rig some grenades to destroy as much as they can, and then find a hidden elevator into a tunnel to the house’s basement.
They get into a major firefight with a cybered-up goon and a decker, as well as two powerful spirits. They take them out, and Ratched steals the goon’s legs. Prot0 manages to get some data from the decker/spider’s setup, but loses some of the data to security measures. They also find a magical lodge, and determine that this is a Black Lodge chantry. PPJ gathers what he can, but all the mana being slung about during the fight opened up some reality rips and they have to flee further into the basement from the things that come through after them.
They fight off 2 terrifying biowaredogs that seem possessed, and find a hidden passage into what looks like an old mine shaft, and another huge ritual chamber ringed with orichalcum. They interrupt the lodgemaster and her 2 acolytes, and get into a brutal brawl. They manage to defeat the lodge members, with Aleiron in wolf form using her vengeance tarot card to chase down and kill the leader as she tries to flee further into the mine. This reminds the team that they had heard rumors of an old mineshaft under the nearby Paladin clinic, which was used as body disposal. They decide to flee that way, and eventually make their way out another exit in the south Warrens.
PPJ, thinking about what they saw, realizes that the ritual was in its early stages, and likely many more BL members would have been there had they gone later. They also hear reports of a large explosion in the Warrens, seemingly having destroyed the house they just left while the were underground. There go their dreams of orichalcum riches…. They report into the Johnson, and heal up for a bit before starting the next leg of the investigation. PPJ splits off to go over all the Lodge material at the IOND.
The team heads to the CAS sector next, and finds it a shitshow. As the evacuation deadline comes up, there are miles long traffic jams, and CAS/LoneStar checkpoints everywhere, with ZDF “observers” aggressively keeping an eye on it all but not helping. They make their way to Doorkickers to try to find out what happened to the last operative Mr. Johnson sent here, and continue his digging. They manage to find and defuse a tense standoff, mostly due to Jonny Silver being so cool. It seems the shops owner has been hiring runners on behalf of a CAS general (secretly) and one of the teams took some heavy hits on a job and came back looking for revenge.
Jonny talks them into taking product instead, and gets info on the General from the proprietor in exchange for helping save his life (though he had enough explosives to go out on his own terms). The team then buys a map from a street dealer to sneak through back alleys to the amusement park where the CAS military evacuation of the sector is based. Jonny leaves the dealer a MeFeed review, which later gets the dealer killed. Woops. The team successfully makes their way to the park with no major trouble, thanks to the map, and starts looking for a way in.
They decide to take out a small motor pool squad that is ditching civilian cars in a mall parking lot after the civvies get sorted in the tent city in the park to await air evacuation. The team’s ambush goes quite sideways, but they do eventually succeed, and get uniforms and badges for everyone. They are aided by the chaos of the situation, and the last minute/impromptu nature of the camp. They also meet a real urban survivor ork child who is holed up in a Stuffer Shack who comes out to loot the military dudes while they’re ko’ed (or dead, for a few).
The team bluffs their way onto the base, and Ratched heads to the med tent to maintain their cover, restock the medkit, and find an escape vehicle. The rest of the team heads to the command post to find the General. However, someone got there first- all of the command staff is dead, and some kind of deck has been plugged into the main comms terminal. They race upstairs to find more bodies, and the General dying from a bad sword cut, having only gotten a few shots off. The assassin leaps out the window as Kayra enters, leaving a beast Jaguar spirit to cover her retreat, she seems to be an elf woman and looks like probably the same person who followed the team on motorcycle before an AZT assault previously.
The Jaguar heavily injures Prot0 and Kayra and chases off the others, before also exiting. The team flees the building, barely escaping before it is levelled by some missiles launched from some mysterious jets that do a supersonic flyover. They flee in a medical jeep that Ratched steals, and head back to the mall, where they swap for a civilian mini van and head back to the safehouse to heal up. They rest for a day and a half while Jonny makes a very popular guest appearance at a Front Range benefit concert to cover medical costs for people injured in the recent troubles and “heal Denver.” Jonny advocates for the poor and downtrodden, and gets the crowd riled and invested.
The team then heads to the Sioux sector, via Rhinegold’s smuggling services, to look for a smuggler who may have some intel. They hit up a bar he supposedly frequents, and manage to successfully navigate the subtle nuances of Sioux culture well enough to get some info. Some local runners try to drink them under the table, but also tell them where the smuggler’s mechanic shop is, and warn them that he’s been real paranoid and recently came into some big paydays. Sounds like they found their guy…. The team heads out to check it out. They eventually discover him dead amidst a bunch of disabled or tripped traps, and find his place trashed- looks like someone beat them there.
They find a shipping manifest, and find out he’s been bringing in rare reagents and powerful ritual supplies, and track the deliveries to Horse Trot Ranch. They infiltrate (with an incredibly brazen distraction, when PPJ intentionally causes a rift, gets captured and interrogated, and has his memory erased), and find a powerful circle of Sioux shamans, aspected towards multiple mentors, and some impressively clean mana/astral space. The shamans explain that they are trying to keep the city from falling apart, and keep the rips from spreading towards Yellowstone, and are prepared to sacrifice themsevles if needed. They hint that Aztlan might be behind the various deaths and conspiracies, and coordinating against GW. They then KO the team, and they wake up again back in the smuggler’s lair. They escape the Sioux sector and lay low to heal up.
Heading for the last job segment, they interview some rift watchers in the PCC and then get into a gunfight with an AZT strike team hiding out seemingly keeping an eye on a large arena which may contain a ritual. In over their heads, they call in the ZDF, and Prot0 uses his last use of the 404 tarot card to help them escape. They meet the Johnson who’s a bit disappointed with the final leg of the mission, and pressures the team to do one more thing for a little more money- they agree, and he opens a rift and sends them to a metaplane.
They work their way through multiple lairs, detonating small packages the Johnson gave them, which seem to sever the lairs as they go (and based on their clown theme suggest that Harlequin is either behind this or someone wants it to seem so). After traveling to the peak and surviving an ambush, they find a strange tower filled with arcane mysteries, and verify that they have been traveling through the metaplanes GW assembled to bring Zebulon back. However, they have to hurry as the plane and mountain seem to be coming apart under them. They find a fight between GW and Harlequin happening on the tower’s peak, and agree to help Harlequin destroy Zebulon to save Denver, and do so.
GW and Harlequin, both injured, survive the fight and the tower’s collapse, as does the team, but Zebulon is destroyed. Harlequin opens a portal back to Denver and suggests the team join him, but Kayra decides to take a chance at her revenge and shoots GW, to no effect, and is swiftly eaten. PPJ, seeing this, keeps his anger in check and the team flees. They emerge in the Warrens, and Harlequin suggests they get out of town ASAP, and then splits.
The team contacts Frank Incense, their Catholic contact, and make arrangements to leave via BBE merc corp, who has fake ID’s and whatnot prepared to get them out of town. They bail fast as GW’s deadline comes, and the Denver borders and matrix get locked down. They land outside Boston in what looks to be staging area BBE is setting up to run support for other merc’s pushing back into the city sometime soon, and start gearing up to head in and lay low for a while, as they hear GW is looking for them…