September 1st, 2055
Fallout from the Maria Mercurial run encourages the team to spend several weeks lying low. Suzu and Ransom meet with Buttercup to pass on their information regarding Aztechnology’s blood magic, which the free spirit digests with visible concern and even alarm. She explains that such magic leads to numerous problems, such as a pollution of the “manasphere” that can lead to magical dead zones. Buttercup leaves with the data, saying that she will pursue the matter with other allies and that she will return the favor.
A couple of months pass with the members of the team taking on smaller jobs on an individual basis, mostly taking advantage of the surge of business from the Seattle mob war. At the end of August, the group is contacted by both Heidi and Mike, each with different jobs. After some cajoling and surprisingly successful manipulation, the team gets Heidi to explain that her job involves a Johnson from Saeder-Krupp, who wishes the team to sneak into the United Oil lab complex in Auburn—presumably to verify reports that the company has the body of a dead dragon. The team does not commit to the job, but Hawthorne expresses extreme reticence toward it.
Mike, however, offers up a job that the team ultimately takes: babysitting a camera crew from independent news media station KSAF in Chicago. Ransom surprises the team, the Johnson and even Mike in her negotiations with the Johnson. Ultimately, the team is flown (along with Nef’s van) to Chicago, where they wait with a camera crew that watches a particular power relay station on Cermak avenue.
Hunch and Midi scout out the area and ultimately run across a pair of Universal Brotherhood preachers and a mutated bug man who attack them in private. Though the runners handily defeat their opponents, this proves a dire omen. Overnight, Chicago explodes into chaos as more “bug people” and even giant bugs erupt from many corners within the city. Shortly before dawn, the team and their camera crew witness a raid by well-equipped commandos on the power station that ends with a surprisingly small but entirely frightening nuclear blast, destroying the station.
Evacuating the building immediately thereafter, Nef earns every bit of her money for the run as she drives the crew through a city undergoing a bug spirit-fueled apocalypse. As the National Guard and other authorities try to cordon off the city, shutting down all communication and travel in and out of Chicago, Nef locates a single likely way out. The team rescues a National Guard tank crew from a swarm of ant, beetle and wasp spirits, which all seem to follow the orders of a handful of shamans. The grateful tank crew promptly assure the runners that their passage will not be reported. Nef continues on, driving her team and their charges away from one of the worst disasters ever to hit the Sixth World.