In the Eye of the Swarm
Once Upon a Time in Chicago
Corruption runs rampant across the windy city. Lone Star Security holds the contract for Chicago’s public safety, and is almost fully on the payroll of other entities. Those trying to make a difference are compartmentalized off, relieved of duty, or killed. It’s business as usual in a corporate dominated society.
Cut to Shawn Maniveck, head of internal affairs. One of the few good cops in the system who has been able to walk the line and make enough friends to do some good at Lone Star. That ends suddenly after pushing too hard on the wrong case. After twenty years of dedicated service, he’s shipped off to run the administrative unit, ending a career of service with the dead end of a desk.
With some time to reflect, Maniveck decides that something needs to change. He gathers up his closest contacts, people with clout in the organization, and they put together a plan to change Lone Star.
Even with all of their clout however, it’s clear they can’t do it alone. Working within the system has gotten them nowhere, and there are things they won’t be able to do personally if they want to stay under the radar.
So, they find themselves some not-so-legal help….a team of runners, to help them take back Lone Star. The plan is brilliant, reckless, and completely certifiable in near equal measure.
There’s no money lying around for this kind of thing, so they need to use what is available to them; information. They pull jackets on runners in the city that have both the right skills and at least a set of morals that doesn’t put them all the way into the black; people over which they can maintain a measure of control and who can at least pass as a Lone Star officer on a cursory glance when needed. After a considerable search, they find their crew and press them into service. Maniveck takes on the street name “Nilan” and plays the part of their Mr. Johnson.
It’s a precarious situation that has a very rocky beginning. Nilan doesn’t like working with criminals any more than the runners want to work with cops, and when there’s only the barest amount of money in play, it’s clear that this new “business” relationship could easily end badly. Still, Nilan and his crew have chosen well and, in the short term, they have the leverage to get what they need to get started.
Outside of this, the foundation they lay for their crusade is actually very solid and brings some strong early success. With Nilan heading administration, he has full access to the Lone Star bureaucracy. There isn’t anywhere he can’t gain access to or anyone he can’t get information on within the agency.
He makes the team’s Lone Star identities official. Although it’s thinly supported, the runners are, in effect, truly part of Lone Star. They create a dummy division within the organization called “Irregular Assets”, with badges and standard side-arm included. Much to the team’s amusement, they even get a paycheck.
On the Lone Star side, Nilan and his team create a strong resource and information net. Roger Malins, Nilan’s former understudy and still a person of some influence within IA, becomes the main source of information for the team. Although their team is small, they are highly skilled, are positioned in important areas across the corporation, and have deep contacts on the street. The runners add the missing element to the equation. From the moment they are brought in, it’s clear that Nilan’s team has a distinct advantage over their targets.
The most obvious corruption in Lone Star turns out to be corporate. Renruku has their hooks deep into the organization’s leadership and is using it’s influence as both a supplementary security force for their own efforts and to bypass security that would interfere with their operations.
The crew has some significant early success. Renraku has primarily been circumventing Lone Star security details in order to prevent Fuchi from completing a hostile takeover over Nashani Industries, a small but cutting edge research and development company local to Chicago.
In the beginning, the runners are just a half step behind their quarry, chasing fragmented information and piecing together clues from the wreckage as they collide with Renraku soldiers and Red Samurai. Before long however, they identify the key assets that had been selling out Lone Star, and have them on the run.
The Lone Star operatives that have sold out their company to Renraku are not easily brought down, but the runners are relentless in their pursuit. By the end, Frank Delorn, a sergeant assigned to corporate contracts is grabbed by the team and turned over to Nilan and Roger for questioning. Simone Ferran, captain of Lone Star’s Fast Response Unit (FRT) is brought down by the team in a brutal gunfight in the middle of the Lyric opera house. Nicholas Mann, the new head of IA, is exposed for his outside associations and is taken in by Lone Star.
In the wake of these events, Lone Star does not come out unscathed. Delorn does the most damage, selling out what information the company has to the highest bidder in an attempt to escape pursuit before being brought down by the runners. With certain critical operations now exposed, the company takes a series of high profile hits that put it’s competency into question. Their security contract for the City of Chicago is promptly revoked and transferred to the mid-west division of Knight Errant.
For Lone Star, it’s a devastating blow to their Chicago operations, but, for the team, it’s a clear, if not bitter, victory. The corruption that they expose and the loss of the city’s contract draws the attention of the upper brass, bringing some official support to Nilan’s crusade. He and Roger are recognized for the part they played in the capture of Officers Delorn and Mann, and are rewarded accordingly. Nilan is brought in to consult with top Lone Star officials on the clean up of the agency, and Roger replaces Mann as the head of IA.
In a show of good faith, Nilan clears all trace of the runners from the Lone Star database, and offers to keep them on as they look to finish what they have started in the agency. Nilan is pulled away to work with Lone Star leadership, and, although he is still involved in the overall operation, Roger steps in to become the team’s primary point of contact.
With some dangling threads still remaining from the team’s initial activities and the increased information flow resulting from Nilan and Roger’s reinstatement to positions of real power in the agency, the team is quickly sent back into the field. Roger is less forthcoming on mission details than Nilan was, but the pay is substantially better and the work is fairly direct and uncomplicated. In situations where Nilan may have expressed some moral consternation around the team’s methods, Roger’s approach is surgical and ruthless. It doesn’t take long for the message to resonate across the agency. While not every hint of corruption is directly cleared out by the team, much is handled by reputation.
There are however…some exceptions; threads of corruption in the agency that are not so easily routed out. While most of their targets present them with fairly transparent motives, in a few distinct instances, the objectives of their targets and their associations are unclear. The runners stay on point, but their success is limited, and there is the overwhelming sense that their quarry remains perpetually one step ahead.
Changes internal to the team are somewhat to blame. When Nilan was directly calling the shots, the group’s goals were always very straight forward; tactical, precise, and uncomplicated. Under Roger, this approach has shifted significantly.
In addition to being less forthcoming with information, as opposed to having a single unified goal, the team seems to be chasing down many leads at once. Some of the missions seem to be completely off message, colliding with individuals or organizations that, on the surface, appear to have nothing to do with Lone Star. Others simply feel more personal than professional. In the beginning, the change is gradual, but as time passes, Roger’s deviation from Nilan’s initial purpose becomes too obvious to ignore.
Suspicious of Roger’s motives, the runners bypass him, bringing information to Nilan on their recent activities. Nilan has trusted his life to Roger for years, and can’t see past their history to truly believe what the runners suspect is true. Nilan moves to confront Roger, and the group finds themselves torn between following through on a lucrative job and backing up Nilan. They take the mission, trusting in Nilan’s contacts to keep him safe.
Whatever measures Nilan takes are not enough. When confronted, Roger gets the upper hand and kills him on the spot. Understanding that the runners are the only group that can truly tie him to Nilan’s murder, he turns Lone Star assets against them, burning most of his influence with the agency to ensure they are eliminated.
The Lone Star fast response teams isolate the runners from each other, take each of them by surprise, and utterly fail to complete their assignment. Roger immediately drops into hiding, using the vast resources at his disposal to disappear off the grid. He underestimates the lengths the runners will go to in order to find him.
Everything that the runners have been planning gets discarded. From top to bottom, they tear into what they know of Roger’s life; contacts he’s introduced them to; suspicious jobs they ran for him; his office, home and haunts. With a set of rusty pliers, they peel back the onion and uncover what Roger has been up to while moonlighting on Nilan’s task force.
Roger has his hands in a dozen different pots. His position on Nilan’s task force is ironic and hypocritical. Even with all of the corruption they have seen in the agency, nothing so far matches Roger’s dealings.
His deepest ties lie with the Humanis Policlub and organized crime. It is clear that he has lined his pockets through the tactical use of information, influence, and muscle by use of Lone Star. From there, his activities span far and wide with reckless abandon.
The runners find corrupt ties to at least five different corporations, most of which he has apparently played off of one another for his own advantage. They uncover evidence of a recent association with Knight Errant where he has been selling critical, private, and proprietary information to them for a fortune in profit. At the end of the dizzying trail of deceit, they discover that Roger is actually listed as a protected government informant, providing value as a source of information on the very policlub whose interests he has been benefacting.
It is clear that Roger’s deception has been cleverly cloaked from the opposing array of influential organizations he’s been using for his own ends, but his web of influence can’t survive exposure. The runners have a wide net of influence of their own, and they use it to shatter his ties with a wrecking ball.
While the truth of his dealings are enough turn most of his minor allies against him, his ties to organized crime and to the policlubs are too insulated to crack. Long placed lies within lies provide an explanation for the rumors of his double dealings, and his perceived value to the organizations is too high for them to simply cut him loose.
At least, that’s their position before the runners tip the scales in respect to risk versus reward. When their war of information fails to completely eliminate Roger’s ties to the allies who are protecting him, they fall back on what they do best, and set Roger’s world on fire.
Burning resources for information, the runners go on a reign of terror, targeting associated assets across the city. Contacts, family members, and known associates of both the Humanis Policlub and of the Vincetti crime family are gunned down in the street. Holdings of both organizations go up in flames. A dozen slicers rip apart their matrix presence, raiding their resources and exposing their sensitive operations to the world.
The Vencetti crime family does not last more than a week. Rival families, having been somewhat tipped off about what was to come, sweep in to take over their territory and absorb what little influence remains. A few members of the family escape into hiding, but they are left in no position to aid Roger
The influence of the policlub runs deeper, and it doesn’t take long for them to discover the team’s identity. They retaliate, but, in the end, it becomes apparent that they have far more to lose than the runners do. In a tense meeting, they achieve a temporary detente with the group, offering up Roger’s location for a cease in hostility.
The Policlub negotiates in good faith. The runners find Roger held up in a safe house, protected by splinter faction of the Humanis Policlub, whose loyalty he has secured. He is cornered by the team and promptly killed. In a fitting end, his last words are spoken in negotiation, offering to cut the runners in on a potential deal in exchange for his life.
With the elimination of Roger, the runners are on their own in the windy city. Though Nilan’s task force has crumbled to dust, those of his contacts that remain are absorbed into the runner’s network. On the street, due to recent events, their reputation couldn’t be better.
There is no shortage of work and, with only the barest measure of downtime, they are back in play, commanding top nuyen for their services. However, freelancing across the Chicago metroplex turns out to be nasty business and something new is clearly stirring in the shadows of the Chicago Streets.
The runners quickly find themselves on a collision course with new, powerful players. Aztechnology and Yametsu make their presence known and begin openly operating in force.
Underground groups of unknown affiliations become suddenly and uncharacteristically active across the city. In a significant show of force, Knight Errant steps right up into the face of it, splashing national vids with the city’s dirt and putting numerous failed shadow ops on full display.
In the wake of all of the activity, it’s difficult for the runners to make sense of what they know. The runners pull on a few stray threads, and the curtain comes down. Under the cover of chaos, there is a deeper and unfathomable threat, nearly too horrific to comprehend. Although only to their eyes, the vile workings of the Universal Brotherhood are exposed, and the answers to many unsolved mysteries become clear.
As is their way, the team approaches the problem head on, though the claws of the conspiracy run too deep and they are too late to combat the Brotherhood in such a direct manner. As the extent of the organization’s influence becomes clear, they discover an opportunity to thwart their plans for the city, but the outlook is bleak and the window of opportunity is small. They are left with a Hero’s choice, with their personal well being and that of those they love held in the balance.
In the language of the shadows, the word “Hero” means “Fool”. The group wastes no time pulling up roots. For those they care about, they do what they can, but not all can be saved in time. In the end, even the group itself is splintered, with only Vertigo, Finn, and Lizard cleanly escaping the city.
What happens to the others is unknown, but, they drop off the grid. What is left of the team slips out the thinnest of windows before government walls lock the horrors within. The city is behind them, but terrifying images of what they have learned and what they have left behind remain.
It takes a few days, but, mostly in silence, the runners make their way to Seattle. Word of Chicago has reached the city, but the events are muted and it’s impossible to ignore the perverse level of detached excitement in the air.
Unlike those around them, the runners are not graced with ignorance. The similarities between Seattle and Chicago, before the fall, are impossible to ignore. While the normalcy of everyday life spins around them, they find themselves on edge, staring suspiciously at shadows, and questioning what terrors lurk here, hiding just below the veil.