They head over to the bar to meet Ryder, grabbing HK on the way, and get the rundown. Another Johnson is also present, Martin Tate, a doctor with clinics throughout the Zone. Him and Ryder both are invested in the missing persons case, and give the team a few specific ones from the last few days to follow up on. They arrange payment, including some ’ware and surgery from Tate, and both hint they will be good people to know in future. Ryder also tells them to expect a call from a contact of his named S@m, who sends her sprite Remo to tell them to look for a missing TM named SM-501 as well, who 3D has also reported as missing to HK: the investigations overlap!
The team heads out to the first locale, 2 families that missed a neighborhood watch meeting the previous night. The area seems well defended and very clean for the Zone, centered around the split level house that the 2 families share on a fenced and defended triple yard. The team teaches some local patrolling teens some better tactics to ensure they are welcome here and explain their presence as investigators. This seems to work and they receive a warning about the house being trapped, and spot some trip wires, sensors, and pressure pads. Aylin also spots a lot of dead fowl in the detached shed, and from the maggots they think they could potentially determine time of death, which might hint to time of disappearance, but Avocado narrows it down to “sometime yesterday”. The house also has a suspiciously well-defended matrix host, styled to look like a high-end but not suspicious home security system, which raises the team’s hackers’ eyebrows.
Seeing that the converted garage door drawbridge is lowered over the lot’s moat, they think that’s probably the best way in, and prepare to enter. After they stress for a while, Carol walks across and with no problems, the car follows. Carol spots some dirtbike tracks behind the chicken shed that noone else had noticed that seem to be from around the time of disappearance, and in a place not visible by the house’s cameras. He also pukes, hard, after opening the shack. The team carefully heads in, wary of traps, and manages to avoid triggering any. They use a maglock to backdoor into the well-defended system, and Test uses TM powers to obscure them while HK recovers cam footage and some log data. Reviewing it, they see one of the dad’s of the families go out to check out the shed after a sensor activation around when the bike was there, and then return into view about 1/2 an hour later, seeming both stronger and lighter on his feet somehow. The team assumes some sort of spirit possession.
About another 1/2 hour later, both families pile into their 2 cars, lower the drawbridge, and drive off. HK, being a family man familiar with having a go-bag and a quick exit plan, takes a look around and confirms that the families left in an orderly hurry. There also seems to be a surprising lack of electronics in the kids’ rooms, implying they were possibly TM’s themselves. Carol finds a hidden room in the basement, with evidence which implies that the parents have been in the Zone since around when it went up, searching for “Melissa”, who they assume is Melissa Truman, the famous missing heiress to the corporate fortune. They gather all the evidence and head out to the next site. As they leave, they spot some Desolation Angels watching them from a distance, but lose them quickly.
Rolling up to Tate’s recovery house, they find 4 unmarked but corpsec-looking guards on 2 entrances. They don’t give the team any trouble once they confirm they are from Tate, and take off. The team gets the power back on inside, seeing that something seems to have punched a hold in the panel and bypassing it, decides not to loot the medical supplies onsite since Tate didn’t give them those passcodes, and get more security camera footage. With some impressive analysis, Test is able to spot another dirtbike’s shadow just out of frame. Shortly after, 2 children (who they recognize as the missing kids from the previous house) run up to the door screaming, and the guard and nurse let them in. Ushering them into the back, them and the kids are all KO’ed by 4 smoking canisters the kids pop open. A blurry figure then enters through the front door and everything is lost in a cloud of smoke for a short moment before the power cuts. They assume this figure was either camo’ed or moving super fast but can’t get a good image.
They also get a list from Tate of what implants the recovering patient had, and find out he was getting super kitted out with deltaware. They also do some digging on his name, and find out that he is an employee of Truman Technologies (now a Horizon subsid), in their “special projects” wing. They wonder if the previous house’s occupants gave up the location to this clinic, given the Truman ties, or what is going on. Carol also spots a disconnected and dusty LoneStar emergency button, and sends a pic and some anonymized details to Candice, for her campaign against them. The team heads to the 3rd site, and runs into more Desolation Angels. The address they were given as a last known for SM-501 looks to be a bombed-out ruin, and the DA’s are digging for bodies.
Aylin approaches Becky 99 in astral, and they agree to chat in meatspace. The team heads in, and a few get details from Becky while HK uses his computer skills to help located bodies by seeking active devices. Apparently this was a DA safehouse for people who needed a safe and secret location to get away from dangerous men or organizations of whatever sort, so noone else should have known it was here. Test recovers some info from a smashed comm that HK digs up, and it seems like someone set off a gas leak to blow the building and also had set up a jammer to keep those inside from communicating out. Disturbingly, there are only half as many bodies as there should be, and although a lot are badly dismembered, noone finds any pieces of the missing 4. Carol once again spots some dirtbike tracks.
Becky gives them images and names: a human and dwarf woman, SM-501, and Tasha, the DA’s young TM mascot. Becky seems distraught and offers the team a bonus for sharing their findings, making clear she wants revenge as well as wanting them found. Test has a bright idea, and coordinates with HK, a skilled profiler, using the 3 sites they’ve interacted with to triangulate a potential locus to focus on. Sending out drones to do recon, they find an abandoned flower shop pretty much dead center, with 3 dirtbikes and one of the family station wagons parked out back under an awning, all unlocked and with keys in them, seemingly either ready to go or waiting to get stolen. Avo calls Holmes and gets confirmation that none of their missing people overlap with the folks recruited into Fey bargains, with HK adding a ton of random names to their list to try not to give Holmes too much info.
The DA’s agree to help the team secure the area around the flower shop, and prevent attempts at escape by the kidnappers. 6Cyl sends in a spirit that warns of a terrible background count, and doesn’t want to go further. It also warns them of multiple magical signatures but no auras on the first floor, but Avo gets impatient and flips the lightswitch just inside the front door. This sets off a fireball spell, which torches the shop, but is quickly put out by some sprinklers. Carol steps in and is instantly almost killed by some DMSO/Slab solution in the sprinkler spray. They haul him out with a grapple and 6C cleans him with a water spirit, before they heal him up a bit. They head in more carefully after the sprinklers die off, and find the shop looking long-term abandoned, but the freezer room in back still operational. Locating a hatch in the floor, Carol opens it and pukes, hard, again at the terrible odor from within, and falls in the hatch getting stuck.
They haul him out, and see that the larger team members are going to have to strip their armor off to fit down the narrow, old-looking tunnel. This is also where the background count gets especially bad and Death-aspected, so they assume this must be shedim and not bugs. A few of them head down, with Carol stripping off his armor to fit, and Test slips in the gore and gets some in his mouth. They seem like old bootleggers tunnels, and given the collapses visible, not very stable. Carol enters an abattoir chamber ahead where it dead ends (ha) and finds bits of a few of the missing people, but none of the TM’s, and finds creepy surveillance photos crossed out of all the TM’s they had ID’ed plus a few others. Unfortunately, he doesn’t see the mistform vamps who slip in through a crack in the wall and they get the drop on him, nearly killing him and beginning to feed.
The team frantically shuffles around in the tunnel to try to get in to help, and 6Cyl manages to take one vamp down, with Aylin chasing the other in mist form back the way it came. She emerges into a city utility tunnel filled with Fear the Dark graff and manages to catch and kill the 2nd vamp. She starts to find her way back, following the death aura, and based on the lack of vamp bites on any of the body pieces, assumes that the vamps had likely done the same and were not the original killers. The bodies in the chamber are fully torn apart, and look chewed on. The team quickly grabs the photos off the wall and the few non-disgusting bits of evidence they can find as the chamber begins to collapse from the gunfight damage.
Aylin mists through the debris and rejoins them as they reascend, and Kinnie confirms that 2 of the side tunnel collapses look recent and planned, so someone likely came down here, escaped via one or both smuggler’s tunnels, and closed them behind themselves. They debrief Becky 99 up top, and confirm that a few more of the depicted individuals are missing TM’s. B99 says she wants her people rescued and/or wants revenge, and that she’ll be in touch. The team keeps one of the kidnappers dirt bikes (after checking for traps) and the Desolation Angels take the rest of the vehicles.
The team heads to the bolthole in Hoodville to patch up and do some research, and confirm between talking to 3D and checking missing persons boards that the rest of the photos also depict missing people, all of whom are known or suspected TM’s. They also some do some more digging into the “Melissa” angle and find some more hints but everything seems out of date. This doesn’t explain why Truman Tech was sending in a fresh operative though… They arrange to meet up with Tate and Ryder, and head to Tate’s newest clinic, being built out and guarded by a tribe of Neil the Ork Barbarian cosplayers. They give Ryder the intel first, and he pays up, saying that he hopes the team will keep looking into this as well. He seems confused that one of the pics they found was of S@m, and suggests that one of her clones must have survived after all, and gotten free (and then snatched up again). Tate dismisses him, but he takes the pics to run some tests.
They then debrief Tate, who agrees to get them some discout ’ware as promised, and seems very interested in the Melissa Truman intel, and says he will likely have more work for them soon. They head back to Ahabitat to rest up for a few days and figure out next steps.