With the team unable to get into the arcoblock where Pico Navarres lives without pissing off 5 different gangs, the decision is made to catch him while he’s on his vector bike in the Death Race, an annual sporting event popular with the lower and upper classes alike. The race starts in North Ring City, proceeds in a no-holds-barred way through the slums and officially ends on Avalon, although nobody in recent memory has made it that far without getting blown away by the mega-corporate security armies. Whoever finishes the closest to Avalon is declared champion, and any methods – by hook or by crook – are legal. Some take superfast sports cars, some vector bikes, some aerodynes, some APCs, some microgliders, it doesn’t really matter what vehicle it is. Weapons of almost any kind (barring ABCs) are allowed, and teams sometimes group together for protection or to eliminate stronger opponents.
As luck would have it, the PCs come across a gang squabbling over a beat-ass truck jury-rigged with machineguns and heavy armor. The owners get whacked by some Panteras de Oro, who in turn get their asses handed to them by Tang, Rooster & Sega, who take ownership of the old dodge to get into the Death Race. Sega and Rooster mod the truck for greater speed, lighter armour and a homespun bio-interface control rig that lets Rooster redline the beast to an optimal state. The monster truck is nicknamed “Numbskull” and the team is ready for the race.
As the crowds mill around the starting line and dozens of vehicles loiter on the ground and in air above the slums, the air becomes thick with pheromonal scents, phantomic overlays, digital graffiti, Sureno cooking and oiled weapons primed for use. The race starts in chaos as a Muslim suicide bomber blows a fifty-person hole in the starting line, and the whole convoy rushes out of the staging area southwards towards glory!
Rooster hacks into Pico’s vector bike and inserts both a tracker and a backdoor for future use, but Pico quickly outdistances them. Various speedsters try and fail to blow up Numbskull, bystanders take pot-shots at the racers from their balconies, hacks and viruses fly through the air back and forth until finally the seeker team drives off the beaten path into a long, wide concrete floodway in an industrial area, where they almost catch Pico until a sleek, monad-controlled APC ambushes them with micro-drones and rips their softwar defences into shreds. Numbskull loses a tire and its control rig, and while it’s being repaired the contoured, fuligin-black APC attacks with small aeromorphic drones. Rooster duels the monad AI in cyberspace and takes over the drones, eventually kamikazing them into the APC.
The chase resumes through the Chinese sector, and the team makes heavy use of Imago hacking to disguise themselves from security and bystanders, all the while capturing Pico. It seems that somebody was trying to eliminate the clerk as well. The team eventually leaves the race and heads downtown, interrogating Pico in the meantime. Chuck learns that Pico was being manipulated by Lisa Langford, one-time girlfriend of Mark Smith and a common denominator across many of the people involved in the PAD theft at police HQ. Lisa is also associated with Bioliberty, a group trying to free what it considers to be enslaved AIs used by corporations and governments. She may have connections to an even more nefarious hacker collective called Tabula Rasa.
The team hands Pico over to El Halcon, the SSP liaison, and returns home to rest and await new instructions.
After a day of convalescence, the group decides to investigate Mark Smith at his home again, this time taking greater precautions not to be spotted, marked or trailed in any way. Leaving their heavy gear behind, they infiltrate into Orange County again, take turns on the stakeout using disguises, use numerous hacks to avoid detection and manage not to be spotted. Which gives them the perfect vantage point to see a convoy of heavy security aerodynes land and disgorge the leader of the Laguna Cartel, el Espectro himself, right to Mark Smith’s apartment. And the lady who meets this feared cartel boss is none other than Lisa Langford, in a new form.