The team, while healing up at STV’s offices, sells all the varied data they’ve accumulated from the ECSE, as well as some stuff they’ve compiled from the larger Boston area over their stay. They sell Smedley deets on ECSE facility defense and layout, Erika Knowles gets Null Sect info (and an offer to smuggle her out which she accepts, returning the team a bit to her good graces), Prot0 also arranges to meet a Nexus courier in DeeCee in 2 weeks to pass along the info as well (as it wouldn’t be safe online), Jackpoint and Nexus TM’s and hackers pony up to buy the foundation creation/100 data and keep it out of corp hands (for now), they sell Mayor Meghan the MCT torture and experiments info for her to use as a bargaining chip, they pass along the result of the MCT torture to Nexus with the understanding that noone should profit off of that, but that if the info is erased someone will likely do it again, EVO gets the p-soft training CFD “cure” data, SK gets the Project Abyss and PAX info (and quickly Thor strikes an AZT black lab on the 128 corridor), and the team decides to hold onto their info about Lilith for now while they do more digging. Prot0 puts out some tentative feelers on that.
For all of this, they each take home over half a mil and leave a sizable chunk in their team fund and drone repair/replacement fund. They stock up on gear, ammo, etc, and both Kinnie and Jonny fake their own deaths, with a lot more people noticing Jonny doing so (tributes begin pouring in, though the corps consider it another terrorist down). STV gets them all a few new ID’s (plenty of opportunity in Boston), and they don’t tell many people where they’re going. They arrange to smuggle all their forbidden/restricted and obvious gear in a shipping container via the Yakuza to the massive Potomac Yards facility in DC, which is Yakuza controlled. They also pack Liam’s motorcycle and Erika Knowles in there, and arrange to bring Lys with them on the flight out. They introduce Genowefa Gale to Mama, Gale handles the surprise well and begins negotiating to represent the interests of Mama’s Boys during reconstruction, as well as linking up STV’s basement levels to the Catacombs.
With all that business attended to, they finish healing up, put on their “civilian” clothes/armor, and catch a corp chopper out of the QZ from the STV office. They transfer to a regional commuter jet at a merc airfield, and find a bunch of off-duty mercs, engineers, political aides etc aboard for the short hop to DC. They land at Baltimore-Washington Int’l (the least secure airport given KE/Ares making steps towards relocating to Atlanta and in a contract squabble with the Feds), and spend the better part of a day rejoicing in their return to civilization- they get sloppy drunk at the airport bar, spend way too much money on steaks, peruse some cheesy Boston mourning merch, and do a little local research. Kinnie finds out that his husband did make it out, but after 2 years of waiting for any word has moved on, and is now with another Boston survivor he met in a grief group. Kinnie decides this is for the best, as he’s not sure what he’s become or if he would want his husband to see/know him as he is now.
They eventually rally to take the train into town and get into their STV safehouse and pick up their STV van. Aylin gets her first exposure to sunlight since becoming infected and it is awful. They’re glad to have a UV protected full body suit but it still hurts and feels like heavy pressure bearing down on her. They get in to the safehouse and crash. The next day, OE and Guy make runs out to the port to get their gear back to the safehouse, while Kinnie guards the safehouse and gear once delivered. It takes 3 trips but goes smoothly, with OE covering for Guy’s social ineptitude- they’re really not in Boston anymore, noone knows Guy! The rest of the team goes to the meet, Aylin and Prot0 makes minor fools of themselves over a coffee machine but Jonny uses this as a feature- his team is so good at their specialties that they don’t need to all be good at the social side.
They get the rundown: some kind of explosion or other major event occurred 2 days ago at Ford’s Theater, and STV wants details. The team starts digging and finds out that the Theater has been under construction for a long time, seemingly as a front for some sort of odd magic or cult, that it came under attack from some milspec forces wearing Ares Bug Stomper armor, that the FedPol investigation into what happened appears to have stopped almost before it started, that FedPol is still guarding the site, that a massive mana void surrounds it (as if a tunnel in the astral had collapsed), that someone cut local camera feeds before the attack, that a vanm dumpster, 2 suits of armor (+ maybe occupants), and various weapons were burned with thermite out back, that over a dozen people died inside, and that their looks to have been a gate or portal of some kind in the basement, based on the hermetic/Masonic symbols that remain after whatever was detonated here went off. They also detect that a delivery drone flew through the no camera zone during the attack, and decide to track it down. And they notice they are being watched- Madeline Schmidt warned there would be other interested parties…
They send a drone recording of an unidentifiable odor to STV to run through their data vault, and get a report back that it is a compound found most often on the metaplane of ID- so that’s likely where they portal lead. Schmidt tells them to keep digging. They track down the drone courier, and Prot0 geeks out over his custom tech. They end up social manipulating him for the data, convincing him it’s too dangerous for him to even watch, let alone keep, and that they will try to warn others off him. Outside, OE sees that there is now another group following them; as opposed to the first pair who were decked out in camo cloaks, these 2 seem like ratty street teens, but have a slightly skittering astral vibe. Analyzing the drone data they see 2 figures in Bug Stompers leave the theater, one kills the other, and burns the body as well as his own gear in the van and dumpster. The drone gets bad image of him in the bright flare of light- muscled male ork. It also spots a Ford Americar parked nearby and gets the plate.
Prot0 hacks some traffic cams nearby to get into a license registry and finds the name and a photo of the car’s owner- a muscled ork with a military haircut. Time to track him down! They contact Erika Knowles to get info given the possible Ares/Firewatch connection, and then decide to deal with the folks tailing them. They set up an ambush at the edge of the Anacostia Barrens, but only the teens fall for it- the more pro pair tracks them with a blimp drone. They kill one of the teens and ko the other, Aylin reads her mind and tops up on essence before they kill her too. There is a lot of debate about that morality of these actions, but OE’s paranoia (and quick trigger finger) as well as Jonny’s burgeoning cyberpsychosis take the day, for now. They find out that the teens were recruited from a local shelter by a slimy/charismatic elf shaman, who they take to be a bug guy. He was using some sort of group perception spell to see what the teens saw, so he presumably knows some of what went on here.
Guy sends an air spirit up to distract the blimp while the team skedaddles, and they ditch pursuit in time to make some next plans. Prot0 gets a message from someone suggesting that they should share info, and they hear on the local news that there is footage of 2 local teens being killed in an ambush. However, it’s only infrared so not identifiable. The mysterious caller suggests that Jonny cooperate if he doesn’t want the teams ID’s and images getting leaked, and Prot0 tries to reverse hack on the call while Jonny stalls. They caller isn’t interested in his chat, so Jonny agrees to share the drone footage (since they figure they already have a little bit of a headstart there) in exchange for some other info on the bug kids and not releasing their info.
They send the file over, and head north to get the supposedly sole copy of the incriminating images from a courier drone. Prot0 has backtraced the call to a nearby mortuary, and they investigate a bit, finding that all the plants on site are fake, and that there is a faint shedim vibe in the astral but nothing current. They figure a shedim must have possessed one of the corpses inside to make the call and then bailed. Jonny reports into Madeline Schmidt with a progress update, and she says she’s looking forward to the full debriefing. They also hear from Erika Knowles that the FW Ork, Ben Maddox, made contact with an ex-colleague (one of her fellow rebel FW members) and wants to defect (which could be a trap). He’s also known to have a local friend with benefits. They get her name, and call her, suggesting that she should really have her friend call them if she doesn’t want bad things to happen to both of them.
Jonny convinces Maddox to meet up, telling him that they can get him to safety with the rogue FW faction, and they start setting it up with Knowles. She tells them to get him to a secure dropoff at the Draco Foundation HQ and she’ll take it from there. Maddox says he’ll give them the info he wants, but only after he’s safe. He seems paranoid but honest. They arrange to meet on Georgetown campus, feeling that Catholic mages will likely be able to keep the shedim and bugs at bay (hopefully). Guy magically alters the van appearance, while Prot0 conceals them in the matrix. They also use another air spirit with concealment to hide them. Meanwhile, Aylin and OE take the spirit bike and ride around to attract attention and act as both backup and a distraction. OE spots a shedim in astral near the campus, goes to fight it, and is quickly ko’ed. Fearing possession, Aylin races him onto campus and dumps him there, fleeing with the bike as sec drones briefly follow.
Jonny coaxes Maddox (with a bomb vest) into the van, and they carefully drive over to DF HQ without any issues, and pass Maddox off to the rogue FW team there, they exchange the proper passcodes which seems to reassure him. He tells them he stashed a comm with all the info near a market in Kansai Village. OE wakes up on campus to find 2 priests leaned over him, they declare him free from possession but make him pay a fine. After he explains about the shedim thing they try to convert/recruit him, which he rejects. He links up with Aylin, and they head to the market and into the cafe there to get the comm. Aylin spots a terrifying cancer spirit observing/tailing OE n astral, and attacks it, disrupting it before it can see him grab the comm from it’s hiding place.
They sneak back to the safehouse, splitting up again in case of spirits, and examine the data. Apparently Ares has developed some sort of explosive “device” that can disrupt magical portals/astral connections, and their FW teams have been using it to disrupt bug hives globally. Maddox’s team was the North American group, and had recently been ordered to DC. This was their first local gig, and seems to have been based on bad info, or an intentional setup- no bugs onsite, and Maddox was ordered to make sure he was the lone survivor, which he did, but felt awful about. However, when Ares hitmen plus the bug shaman Stokes who the team saw in the teens’ memories tried to kill him at the debrief, he went underground, his loyalty to the corp finally broken. They also get useful project/ops data on a few different Ares secret programs, as well as a hint at where to look next- a local shadowcast called Neon Ascension, and a recent caller named “Agent X.”