The team discuss whether they have enough evidence now to proe that Dean Costello wasn’t at the Lucom crime scene, and decide they don’t – they only have Taske admitting they were involved, not evidence that Dean wasn’t. And in fact, when Whiskey turns his commlink back on, he finds that Taske already wiped the recording he made of their conversation, since he had security access after breaking in earlier.
They decide to turn off the cluster of computers again now that the nuclear backup is disabled. when they do so, the system really does shut down this time, and in response the people in the warehouse start to look around for their virtual pets which have now disappeared. Some gsearch, some collapse depressed, and a few get angry, but none seem to identify the team as the source of the loss, in fact they don’t seem to see them still, the VR system is still running from somewhere.
They decide to try forcibly disconnecting a couple of people from the network, where they have removable trodes. The risks of brain damage are real and a couple of people pass out after this is done, but they free 3 people who stay conscious: a street thug, an accountant and a technician. The latter is the only one willing to really assist them, but they all report the same thing, that they entered the simulation via some other means (games, bar VR while drunk etc) and then lost track of time while patting little creatures that made them feel better.
At this point, suddenly all the chip heads in the warehouse suddenly look up and gaze in the same direction. In AR on one of the compromised commlinks they see a bright star overlaid, bobbing over somewhere to the south. Seems Tina is indicating the next target.
Knowing that this means someone is probably transmitting new information, Whiskey starts to try to trace it. Triangulating with the tech who helps, they identify the signal is moving slowly (walking pace) towards them from the north. Whiskey and Faceman get in the car to intercept.
A couple of blocks away the signal indicates the general vicinity, but it’s a busy road with a number of people walking and driving. By the speed they identify it’s a pedestrian, but Faceman and Whisky disagree – Whiskey thinks it’s the middle-aged woman in a wheelchair, Faceman is convinced (glitch) that it’s coming from a man’s Segway, and he takes it into his own hands by opening the car door directly in front of him, somersaulting him over. After it becomes clear the signal isn’t coming from there Faceman manages to smooth things over with a bit of apologetic banter.
Whiskey stops the woman in the motorised wheelchair, who pretends not to know why he’s doing it – it’s Tina, looking a little less glamorous than in the video, but nevertheless recognisable. After a bit of a chat, during which Whiskey drops a comment about her dead pupils, which immediately makes her break the charade, and look like she wants to kill him. Faceman steps in, briefly considering whether to subdue her – but she’s in a wheelchair in the middle of a crowded street, so instead he asks that they walk with her to the warehouse to talk things over, which she agrees to. However as the chair starts moving down the side road (away from the crowds), there’s a perceptible humming sound, more pronounced than just an electric motor. Hearing about this, Lightning starts running towards the scene on foot. When he gets them in visual range, he holds back to see what happens.
Whiskey thinks the worst (maybe a bomb), and grabs the wheelchair handles, and is immediately subject to a large electric shock – clearly a defence mechanism. Faceman decides that now is a good time to subdue her, so performs a sharp Kung-fu strike to her neck, which almost works but she manages to keep her consciousness through sheer willpower.
There’s suddenly an ear-shatteringly loud, high-pitched beeping of a personal attack alarm filling the scene, and both Lightning and Faceman are left crouching with their hands over their ears. Whiskey manages to just about stay focused but it’s painful.
Back in the warehouse with Mouse and Tor, ten of the larger, rougher-looking men suddenly run for the exit closest to the alley where the combat is happening, as if silently summoned. Mouse responds by dumping a stun ball on the area, which knocks out most of them (as well as all the others in the area). Tor also throws in a flash bang grenade which partially stuns the remainder (as well as Mouse a little since she was too busy casting to avoid it). That plus another stun ball knocks out all 10 of the backup thugs.
Lightning runs a distance away, still with his hands over his ears, until the sound diminishes enough. He then turns, quick-draws, and shoots the wheelchair in the solid area under the seat. A hole is punched right through, leaving a hole in the back which Whiskey can see a small electrical fire within, and the electric motor dies but the attack alarm doesn’t.
Barely keeping his concentration, Whiskey swings his foot up to connect with the is of Tina’s head, and with a painful sounding crunch she loses consciousness, although the alarm is still going. Faceman is making his way towards Lightning, hoping to get out of the sounds area. Lightning notices over his shoulder that 2 Knight Errant heli-drones are just appearing over the houses behind Whiskey, and they soon see that two more are approaching from the other direction. In contravention of police procedure, the barrels of their mounted cannons are already spinning up without even a hint of a “Freeze, scumbag” having been uttered yet. Maybe they’ve been hijacked to defend Tina?
Lightning switches to his big guns and shoots down the two coming from his direction before they get a chance to fire, but the other two open up on Whiskey and Faceman, who both get winged. However one of them has a malfunction and its gun jams, and Whiskey takes out the other one with two shots. Lightning takes out the remaining one before it can clear the jam.
Whiskey pulls the back off the wheelchair, still winding at the sound, and finds the ruined motor, a battery and a small server node within (but no attack alarm, it must be separate, in the arm maybe). He grabs the server and the unconscious Tina and runs towards the others, and Lighning blows up the remainder with his explosive ammo, finally silencing the alarm. Beyond, a couple of people are staring down the alley but are not approaching.
Back in the warehouse, the people there all suddenly come out of their VR experience and begin to disperse. Most don’t want to talk about their experience much but just want to get home.
Back at the motel, Whiskey analyses the server and find it contains a highly sophisticated R program, the result of many years of work probably. There a records of the hit on LuCom, not details of how the security was taken out (that seems to have come from somewhere else, maybe Taske) but information of the 8 ‘operatives’ who did it, and also a record of an agent called ‘Dr Squirrel’ by the system, but which has a commlink number and public ID matching Dean Costellos. It was the only node that was actively broadcasting during the operation, clearly indicating he was intended as the fall guy despite not being there. Compared to whatever Tina had planned next this seemed to be quite a small operation, but was quite violent probably because the controlled chip heads weren’t capable of much sophistication.
This is enough evidence that Dean was set up, so the team call Mr Johnson (via Miguel the Ork). They deliver the server data and Tina (who is still unconscious, Whiskey hit her pretty hard and not half as subtly as Faceman) to Don Casquillo, who is pleased and relieved, pays up the 6000 Nuyen they’re owed and throws in a decent linguine lunch for good measure.