Liam, Toland and 'Sparks' are on their way to The Urchin Club on level 3. They have received an invitation to discuss a potential assignment with a new employer who has reached out to Liam through one of his contacts.
Two professional bouncers and a beautiful woman is standing at the entrance to the club. As the characters approach, Sparks accidentally stumbles into a robed figure and reveals it to be an advanced hybrid concealing itself. The hybrid is armed and makes an attempt to rush the entrance, but Liam and Toland throw it down and secure its weapon. The bouncers immediately arrive to take charge of the incident, and the characters are ushered inside my Kate Paloma
Kate introduces herself as the club's manager. She thanks the characters for their brave actions and arranges for complimentary drinks while she leads them to the booth in which their contact, Mr. Johnson, awaits.
Mr. Johnson smoothly introduces the characters to their assignment, which is to investigate the whereabouts and activities of an executive manager at Kora. The individual, Winston Shanter, disappeared three days ago and Mr. Johnsons employers have reason to believe that Mr. Shanter has been disloyal. However, due to his position it would be prudent not to reveal such suspicions without proof. "Internal assets" have been used to track Winston, and they believe he is hiding under a false identity at The Venus at level 0.
The characters – representing plausible deniability and therefore able to get closer without revealing their true employer – are to pick up the investigation.
The characters accept the assignment and begin by checking out Winston Shanter, Kora, and their parent company Gladius. Gladius is a large arms production company, while its subsidiary Kora Company specializes in the resale of used weapons. Neither are involved in any particular controversies at the moment, nor is there anything obvious on WInston Shanter. In fact, it seems to be a conscious strategy at Kora to maintain a low key reputation in corporate circles.
While on his way to a meeting with his contacts, Toland is witness to several Watcher squads arriving at The Venus and setting up barriers. He discovers that a violent attack has just been carried out and that a person has been murdered. The other characters join him at the location, and with Mr. Johnsons help are put in touch with Lt. Don Mackeroy, the Watcher lieutenant at the scene.
The characters learn that the hit was professionally executed, and that identify the victim is indeed Winston Shanter. The room he hired under the the false identify of Core Daniss is spartan; populated only by a large bag of cloths, an armored vest, an automatic weapon and large amounts of cash. It would seem as if Shanter was preparing to leave Equinox.
Taking the investigation to WInston's personal rooms on Level 2, the characters find that the room has already been ransacked but that the safe is still locked. Having found a keycode amongst WInston's things at The Venus, Liam opens the safe and discovers a large amount of documentation and a magnetic key. The documents are papers describing a shell company "WS Security Solutions" and its lease on a warehouse on level -2.
The characters visit the warehouse, only to be attacked by a desperate gang of individuals armed to their teeth. Once the smoke settles and the characters manage to convince their attackers that they are not whoever the attackers think they are, they discoverer that the attackers are the survivors of a group of smugglers. The smugglers have just been ambushed, and if not for all the weapons stored in the warehouse they would have been killed.
The warehouse turns out to be a location to which Winston traffics embezzled goods, selling them to the smugglers who gets out of Equinox. The smugglers have had a deal going with Winston for well over a year, and have no particular enemies (other than the authorities). The ambush took the totally by surprise.
While they all make their escape before those authorities show up, the characters learn that the smugglers were approached a mean mercenary-type named Jax approximately half a year ago, in a bar known as The Sway. Jax knew of the smugglers' connection, and asked or an introduction to Winston. The mercenary's interest were high-end weapons, beyond the range of the smugglers' preferred wares; and he would pay well for the introduction. Winston agreed, and they made their own arrangement parallel to the smugglers' arrangement with Winston. Apart from getting the impression that the mercenaries were a tough crowd to work with, the smugglers assumed that business between the two has been steady and functional.
However, something must have changed because the surviving smugglers can't think of anybody else who would ambush them with such capability.
The characters and the surviving smugglers go their separate ways, and Liam gives his report to Mr. Johnsen. Their employers asks them to keep investigating – in particular looking into the Magnetic Key that was found in the safe while Toland receives treatment for the gunshot to his arm.
Adam Tsuno manages to identify the magnetic key card as belonging to a public luggage storage unit on Level 1. A data chip is found within, containing several poor quality pictures of two males conducting what looks like a narcotics purchase. Some legwork identifies one of the men as Gagnan Dax, a petty drug dealer who works a number of clubs in the upper levels.
The characters catch up with the drug dealer, but as soon as he sees them the drug dealer bolts. It takes a fast chase through the Bazaar before Liam finally catches the dealer. Fortunately, as soon as the characters confirm that they are not Watchers (or any other form of official agents), Gragan is more cooperative. In exchange for destroying the pictures he agrees to identify the other man and help find him.
The other man is Arber Valendo, an engineer and long-time employee of Gladius. The man has been a customer of Gragan's for some time, although recently the man seemed to have taken a plunge even deeper into alcohol and narcotics abuse. Gragan has not seen Arber for a coupel days, however. Adam verifies Arber's identity and finds his address.
There is nobody at Arber's place, nor does it looked broken into. The neighbours haven't seen him for a few days, but reveal that Arber has a sister who works at the docks. Janessa Valendo is a technical agent and the two are often in touch with each other.
It turns out Janessa didn't show up for work today, and nor did her boyfriend Daven. The characters find Daven at his apartment, though; cowering with a gun. After a rather violent inroduction, Daven is subdued and convinced that the characters don't mean him any harm. Turns out he and Janessa were assaulted on the way home from a club the night before, and Janessa was taken. Daven has been waiting to get taken as well ever since. His only clue is that a few rew gangster-looking types approached and bothered Janessa withs ome personal questions about her and her brother at The Molecular Bar earlier that evening. Daven is taken to a Watcher station in order to give his report to the authorities.
Talking to employees and checking the security systems at The Molecular Bar, Daven's story is confirmed and video footage of the incident is obtained. The characters do some legwork with this imagery, and manage to identiy the thugs as part of DIzlo's gang. A rough bunch of gangsters who often hang out at The Pit on Level -4.
Arming up, the characters head down to the The Pit and cautiously work the place until they find out where Dizlo and his gang hides out. They work their way there, looking to have a talk with Dizlo and his gang; but talks with the sentries at Dizlo's hideout quickly deteriorate into a gunfight. Fortunately there were few people at the hideout, and after dropping a few thugs Dizlo himself comes out and calls for a cease fire.
Once the characters rounded up Dizlo and the surviving gang members and began their interrogation, they discovered that Dizlo is rather frustrated and angry. He was hired by some mean military types to snatch Arber and Janessa Verlado. However, when time came for delivery their employers only took Arber, leaving Dizlo with a female hostage he didn't want. They were still holding her, mostly unharmed; and trying to work out what to do with her.
Dizlo has a gut feeling that the military types, despite introducing themselves as mercenaries; are in all actuality some kind of sanctioned special forces. He has no evidence of this, apart from the rather formal, uniform attitude and attire among the operators. Dizlo was put in touch with the mercenaries via Jakks (the same smuggler who worked for Winston). Although Dizlo doesn't know anything else about his employers, he did take some precautions and had them tracked down to a location in Level -6 where he believes they are holding up. He offers to trade that location and Janessa against the characters walking away and leaving him and what's rest of his gang alive. This is an offer that the characters accept.
Leaving Dizlo, carrying the drugged and unconscious Janessa; the characters make their way back to the elevator – only to be ambushed by some opportunistic scavengers. The first shot takes down Gagnan, and the ensuing gunfight draws the attention of Dirk and Michael. The two smugglers draw close to see what's happening, and are surprised to find acquaintances fighting off desperadoes just a few blocks away from the Pit. Once the ambushers are fought off, Liam recruits the help of the two smugglers and the group carried on.
Liam contacts Mr. Johnson and arranges to be received at the Sea Eagle Clinic. While the doctors check up on Janessa, the group summarizes their situation in a nearby meeting room. They make a plan with Mr. Johnson to descend to Level -06 and verify the location of the mercenaries. Once the location is verified, Mr. Johnson will be able to call in a Gladius Strike Force.
However, the characters first need to recruit the aid of a guide. Establish contact with Mr. Lipus of Lipus Repair Shop they arrange to have an associate of Lipus escort the characters to the location via the inter-level maintenance tunnels. Those tunnels are not without danger, however; just before they arrive on location the group finds themselves ambushed by a pack of Kraal Hounds. They manage to slay the savage creatures, but not before loosing their guide.
Not knowing the way back, the characters push on to the location and manage to reconnoiter the mercenaries' stronghold. Having confirmed the location, they settle back to enjoy the show. It doesn't take long before the strike team hits the location, and a furious battle ensues. The characters pull back, but unfortunately Toland manages to trigger a booby trap that blows the gangway they are hiding on, dropping them right into the combat zone.
Scrambling for position, the characters find themselves between the battle and the mercenaries' escape route. They all manage to find hiding spots, keeping their head down as a the surviving mercenaries move passed in disciplined fire drills. Suddenly, the characters are shocked to see one of the mercenaries turn and drop a few grenades among his comrades. The blast takes them out, leaving only the traitor to make good his escape.
The characters take claim for the grenades, not mentioning the traitor to Mr, Johnson. They all investigate the stronghold, and find Arber Valendo in the main container. He has been executed at the start of the attack. Among the computers left behind Gladius technicians confirm several files of blueprints and plans for super-cavitation weaponry that most probably Arber provided and unlocked.
The investigation formally concludes that Winston Shanter has long been guilty of embezzlement, stealing weapons and parts from his company Kora and selling them through a smuggling operation he had connections to. Once he recruited Arber from Gladius into his scheme, they were contacted by mercenaries that would be able to move more high-tech and sensitive material. This arrangement turned sour, however; and Winston arranged to escape Equinox, leaving evidence that pointed to Arber. The mercenaries caught wind of his plans, however. They killed Winston and kidnapped Arber and his sister, probably using Janessa as leverage in order to get Arber to unlock the files containing the weapons data.
As all mercenaries were killed in the strike, Mr. Johnson concludes that the leak is plugged and the damage to Gladius and Kora has been limited. He is pleased with the services of the characters, but at the same time seems as uncomfortable as the characters with certain unusual details in the investigation. Who were these mercenaries? Why such a public execution of Winston? Why eliminate the smugglers who dealt with Winston?
As for the characters, they question who the traitor was?