While the rest of the team is initiating/observing Aemon’s family, Toff spends a bunch of time bonding about conspiracies and ancient texts with Barnaby “Wombat” Rudd, and getting a feel for Hamburg. Ortega spends a lot of time at a church nearish to Die Sickegrubbe that caters to the poor and downtrodden, and eventually notices that a woman with iron cross embroidery on her clothes seems to be observing him. He takes precautions to keep her from following him to the base, but continues to attend services. At the next confession, he once again apologizes for eating people, etc, but the priest is weirdly silent.
Feeling paranoid, Ortega breaks through the confessional screen, and finds the priest strangled with a note pinned to his chest that reads “WHERE THERE IS NO REPENTANCE, FORGIVENESS IS ONLY PERMISSION BY ANOTHER NAME”. Sadly, busting the screen has alerted people outside, and they start banging on the door and calling for the priest. Ort bullrushes through them, but panics when he sees that he has bowled over some children, and just takes off pell-mell. Cries of “monster!” and “murderer!” follow him down the street, but everyone seems reluctant to get too close, and he makes good his escape as the cops start to arrive. He finally pulls himself together and gets back to the base.
Toff and Rudd analyze the parchment, and say that based on the insignia Ort saw on the woman, and the archival quality of the paper, they would estimate that either some faction within the church is targeting him (and possible priests who will take confession from a ghoul), or that someone is doing a frame-up. Ort vows revenge, but they convince him to keep it on the dl for now, as there is a 50,000 Nuyen bounty for info leading to his capture/death, as after a few days the cops and news have linked this murder to one Ort actually committed in Bogota, of a pedophile priest (a fact which is conveniently NOT mentioned on the news). They warn of an anti-Catholic or perhaps anti-poor serial killer on the loose, and play up the “ghoul monster” angle, wondering if he perhaps is part feral. They id the quote as being a translation of a phrase attributed to the first female Chrisitan martyr, Thecla. They decide more research is needed….
Everyone else arrives back, and Aemon tells them all about the job he got from Simon Andrews. They are to meet a Saeder-Krupp rep named Jean-Claude Priault. He insists that the team leave behind or disable any devices capable of recording, which Chessick has a hard time with but adjusts to. They attend the meet, and Priault (after his security detail check them out), gives them the deets. He has multiple teams working on a complex job, and based on this team’s rep has potentially a few linked jobs on offer, if they succeed in the first one.
Task one: SK’s AGS military has been compromised by some highly placed double agents. Another team has already id’d the people in question, so this team needs to find out who they are working for, how they contact their handlers, what info they have passed, and then ensure their deaths in a way that does not link all 5 victims. He suggests a few methods, before Chessick and Toff interrupt to try to talk him out of the necessity of murder. However, he won’t budge, and Aemon convinces the team to agree, as they can at least do it pro and limit collateral damage to other personnel/families/etc. They agree, and set terms. Priault tells them he wants all 5 done in about a week, so that they can move forward with other jobs safe from scrutiny from within.
They decide to start that night with the 2 agents in Hamburg. They track one, a SIGINT captain and family man, and find his likely routes. Chessick steals a Car2Go, and they add morphing plates to the Bulldog. Chessick and Toff wait in the van as lookouts, while Ort squeezes into the C2G and Aemon sets up an ambush. The target’s car rounds the corner into his subdivision, and Ort rams them. Aemon kills the target and the wounded driver (before Toff can stop him), and then crudely cuts a ‘link out of his foot after Chessick scans him for hidden devices. They skidaddle as the cops close in, and repaint the van at a local runner-friendly Spray’N’Pray. Chessick takes some IC damage from hacking the encrypted comm, but they get some info about what intel the target passed along, and who to: Ares Macrotechnology. It seems like weapons data from SK subsids, primarily.
Next, they decide to take out the other Hamburger-er, a Commodore. Doing some social hacking at sailor bars in the port, Toff and Chessick finds out that she is well-liked, largely due to the fact that she volunteers for a lot of the long, lonely night watches. Her ship, The Mountain KIng, is being restocked and somewhat refitted between missions currently, and is out at sea about 1km offshore. They head back to the base to plan and resupply. They rent a zodiac from the anarchists, and Ort buys a fullbody drysuit and mask. He heads toward the MK using one of the underwater “emergency escape” jetboards. Chessick stays behind to do matrix stuff. Toff summons a spirit to help, and accompanies Aemon in the zodiac.
They stop about about 500m from the MK, and scope out the target under spell protection from Toff. Ort approaches underwater with wireless disabled, and positions himself astride the bow, to see both side a bit. Aemon spots the target walking the deck with a hooded lantern, and takes his shot, seeing bone and brain matter exit the far side of her head. Toff’s spirit follows it’s command and shoves her tottering corpse towards the railing, where it folds and goes over. Ort manages to grab it before the rescue drones reach the area, having detected a “man overboard.”
They rendevouz at the base, but are unable to get more info from the corpse, as the head (and whatever ’ware was inside) is effectively gone. Ort takes the corpse down to a deep underwater, abandoned room with an air pocket, and floats it there for the mutant crabs and fish to eat. They hope that her crew will assume suicide. Next up: 3 more targets; 2 in Berlin and 1 in Frankfurt.
They head to Berlin first. They decide to catfish the first target, a man living on an secure airbase with his teenage daughter. Using Ro as “bait”, Chessick and Sem-par create a profile on a military dating site that they know the target uses. Chessick manages to talk the guy into drinks, at a trendy new bar in a gentrifying neighborhood. Aemon and Ortega, after some research, pose as members of a local gang, who “attack” Ro as she approaches the bar. She calls her date for help, and he rushes out, and Ortega stabs him to death in the ensuing brawl. They flee as the doorman opens up on them with a shotgun.
Next, they get Chessick to commit his first murder. Aemon buys a small drone, which they equip with a dartgun. Chessick hacks and blags his way into her building, posing as a repairman, and plants the drone as well as sabotaging the door lock. However, she returns before he finishes so he has to improvise. He fires up a jammer, the drone shoots her, and after she recovers from the initial paralysis, Chessick interrogates her for info about her handler, what info she’s sold, etc. He finds out that she was being blackmailed into passing secrets along, but feeling that she is going to die by someone’s hand (given the betrayal of SK), he might as well make it painless. So he simulates a drug and alcohol overdose, after promising he’ll take care of her pets. He adopts the 2 cats, after finding out which shelter they ended up in, but they eat the dog, which her handler made her get as an excuse to go out on long jogs and pass info to dead-drops.
That done, Chessick feels pretty queasy and terrible- this isn’t quite what he saw himself doing with his life. Next they head to Frankfurt (after once again swapping plates and paint jobs on the van), for the final assassination. The man they are after is older, lives alone in a somewhat ritzy building, and collects art. They can’t find any particular events he’ll be at in the next few days, so they decide to stage an “accident” in his condo, after id’ing a statue that it looks like they could tip on him from a photo spread in a magazine. Aemon poses as a repairman this time, while Chessick hacks his cover into the system. Toff summons a spirit, and after enjoying the range of emotions coming from the man’s art collection in astral space, tips the statue over on him.
He calls for help, but Chessick intercepts the signals and tells him someone is on the way. He pops the door lock for Aemon, who enters and interrogates the man before killing him with a piece that broke off of the statue. They find out that the man, who is looking rather gaunt, was terminally ill and had been approached by an Evo rep who told him they could upload his consciousness (perhaps as some sort of e-ghost?), to preserve his existence. He seems to have totally bought it, whether or not they actually have that capability.
With the 5 tasks all completed, and info for 3 of them, they report back to JC Priault. He is disappointed that they couldn’t learn who everyone was working with, but says that they have some ideas who the naval woman may have been signaling, based on analysis of her watch schedule, and which other corporate vessels were nearby at the time. They get paid, and Priault tells them he has another job for them: planting a spy in Ares naval sub command in Norfolk, CAS. They agree, and head out, hearing that there are more jobs in Chicago, and figuring that a free flight with their gear most of the way there isn’t a bad deal at all. Toff seems to be drinking more than usual, and Chessick is experiencing some PTSD flashbacks from the series of murders they just committed.
They make contact with the double agent, and receive a dossier on the Ares base as well as the target. The double agent, as far as they can tell, is an identical copy of the target, so the swap should work out fine as long as they don’t attract any attention while performing it. Ro and Chessick go and buy a lightly used van for the team, after Chessick does some hacking of the dealership to get a military discount. Ro and Ortega then take the van down to Atlanta to meet up with Jackpointer Turbo Bunny, whom they hire to trick it out with 2 smuggling compartments, ruthenium coating, morphing plates, and a couple spare spoof chips.
Meanwhile, Chessick, Toff, and Aemon research the job, and find the best times to bypass security, as well as formulating a plan to pose as appliance delivery men. Chessick hacks the subcontractor that the real military-approved deliverymen work for, and finds a delivery that matches one of their ideal insertion windows. He swaps the 3 employees biometrics for his, Ro’s, and Aemon’s, and they plan an ambush site. When the day comes, Ortega overtakes the delivery van on a rural frontage road and cuts them off, forcing them to a stop, after which the team quickly ko’s everyone (at Toff and Chessick’s insistence), with Toff even stabilizing one man who was on the brink of death, while Chessick jams transmissions.
Ortega stays with the men after hiding their van in the woods nearby. He has 3 doses of Laes to give them once they heal enough that it won’t kill them, and some C-Squared to clean off biometric data on the van. Chessick pulls the delivery van’s transponder and puts it in their van, and then turns off his jammer. He also clones the van’s comms so he can answer any calls the delivery center tries to make to them. They head to the base, to make their delivery window. With some fast talking (and good etiquette) they make it through, with Toff and the double agent wrapped in an algae blanket in one of the Faraday-ed smuggling compartments.
They travel easily through the CAS section of the base, with Chessick really enjoying soaking in the “culture” such as it is- he only really knows the Americas through sims so he’s observant. They reach the ARES section, and once again manage to sneak past with some solid social skills. They divert from their scheduled delivery path slightly, to go to the target’s house (the double agent having provided her schedule so they know she’s home, and alone). The double agent contorts herself, creepily, into the dryer they are to deliver, and Toff magically silences Aemon. Ro and Aemon haul the full dryer up to the door and knock, awakening the real Captain Rebecca Smith, who seems annoyed and slightly suspicious. Aemon, forgetting he is silenced, tries to explain, and Ro decides to push through so she can’t shut the door.
The double agent triggers a jammer, and Aemon slips inside and ko’s the surprised Smith with Stick-n-shock. The double uncontorts herself, and strips off the real Smith’s clothes, before dressing in them herself and helping Ro and Aemon stuff her in the dryer. The rest of the team has had no LOS or comms inside during this, but Chessick has been in the throes of an epic flashback so he’s pretty useless anyway. Ro and Aemon haul the dryer back out, with the double acting a scene for neighbors benefits, as some military police pull up. Chessick manages to snap out of it, and explain that their van has been fritzing and they had the wrong address. The police check with Smith, but seeing as she confirms the story, they agree to escort the team to the proper address.
They deliver the stuff, and actually figure out how to hook it up correctly, after stuffing Smith and Toff back in the compartment. However, unable to communicate, they don’t know that Smith woke back up (auto-injector?) and got into a terrifying CQC fight with Toff before he managed to stunball her into unconsciousness more long-term. He is fairly injured and covered in stinking algae and piss by the time it’s over. They exit the base without any trouble, and make contact with the SK agent to arrange the real Smith’s extraction from the country, now that the mole is in place.
Ortega stages a car crash with the other van on a plausible route, carefully placing the drugged and ko’ed deliverymen in the van after. They toss the old appliances in, and Chessick reconnects the transponder, and undoes his comm-fix. They head way out of the city to a dilapidated barn, with Toff headbutting Smith every once in a while to keep her out.
Ortega is the only one to spot the heavily camoflagued soldiers as they open the barn doors, revealing a similarly cloaked T-bird. Their liaison lifts his optic gear to reveal his face, and tells them to get the target out so they can move. They comply, and receive their pay as the SK forces take off, leaving them awash in downdraft. Priault tells them that he is well-satisfied with their work. Toff isn’t looking (or smelling) great, so they grab a hotel for the night, and clean up, figuring they’ll roadtrip up to Chicago next, after programming a new set of spoof chips to get across the border.
They also hear from Sem-par that Priault has been hiring a bunch of pro teams for big runs against other corps, globally. SP, Lafeyette, and Yuyi, alongside some other skilled infiltrators, inserted some stuff on a Shiawase base, as well as on CAS and Aztlan naval vessels. Plus another team got into a massive firefight with the Red Samurai trying to “kidnap” a Renraku exec in Chiba City, but SP has it on good authority that they actually made a swap with an identical double similar to what they team just pulled, using the “kidnapping attempt” as cover. So it seems like SK is set up to do something major to a bunch of it’s main competitors, all at once, if they so choose…..