The 9th Squad had gotten together at Carpenter's house for a friendly weekend barbecue. The Carpenter family was introduced to Hemelshot and wife along with the rest of the squad as they arrived, one by one.
Everyone socialized for some time, as Carpenter's and Hemelshot's children became acquainted with "Kitty"—as they named Tyger—and excellent food was enjoyed by all. Unfortunately, the lovely day was cut short by an emergency cal—a robbery was in progress in Zeta Sector, combat cyborgs were involved, and several officers were down. The squad scrambled for their gear and quickly assembled at the precinct for a briefing.
At the precinct, Captain Richards summed up the situation—a group of four combat cyborgs, mercenaries in fact, were at a robbery in progress at a corporate research center for Phoenix Interactive. The cyborgs had already killed several police officers and the situation was extremely hot. The group quickly grabbed heavy armor and weapons from the armory while Tyger warmed up the Blue Steel Special.
9th Squad arrived on the scene just in time to witness the cyborgs gunning down even more normal police. Hemelshot touched the spinner down in a "combat landing," placing the group close to the cyborg commander while deftly avoiding some fallen power lines and wounded officers.
Tyger took up station on top of a nearby building in his power armor and initiated a full scan of one of the cyborgs—unfortunately, the computer was unable to get a solid lock.
The cyborgs responded by blasting the spinner with armor-piercing rounds from their 12.5 mm chain guns, badly damaging the vehicle. Apparently, these cyborgs had been equipped with "cop-killer" discarding sabot rounds by their employer. The cyborg commander had a rucksack filled with data drives from the research building.
Carpenter engaged the closest cyborg while Jama leaned out the spinner window to blast another with her "scissors" spell. Burton, meanwhile, was already modifying his databand's programming and mounting some additional equipment. In moments, he had hacked together an electromagnetically-guided datalink launcher. Burton took aim at the cyborg commander and fired, landing the datalink directly on target. Fingers flying, Burton overrode the cyborg's own neural signals and shut down the artificial limbs. All the commander could do now was growl in rage and issue clipped orders to find and eliminate the man with the computer.
Hemelshot stepped forward, announcing that he was the one operating the computer in an attempt to draw fire. Hemelshot's plan was successfu—perhaps overly so, as a single armor-piercing round from one of the chain guns blasted through his chest and took him out of the fight, badly injured.
Burton's wonder weapon continued to work flawlessly, and and Burton managed to shut down another cyborg. Combined attacks from Carpenter and Tyger's laser weapon eliminated the fourth. The other cyborgs destroyed the spinner and set it on fire (singing Jama) and took the backpack containing the stolen data from the commander in an attempt to escape with the goods. Tyger leapt down from the roof in the Blue Steel to engage in hand-to-hand combat with one cyborg—unfortunately, his blow had little effect. At pointblank range, the cyborg returned fire and ventilated the Blue Steel with a precisely-placed burst. To add insult to injury, the unlucky power armor toppled over onto the inert form of Hemelshot. Jama and Carpenter executed a double strike on the final cyborg, who surrendered when it became clear there was no way to win.
Hemelshot was taken to St. Francis hospital to recover from his severe wound, while the rest of the squad loaded up the wrecked Blue Steel and returned to the precinct with the prisoners. Burton analyzed the data stolen by the cyborgs and discovered that the drives contained information about a "bio-gestalt computer," a previously unknown project that combined organic wetware with computer software to form a highly intelligent and creative system—possibly the first step towards true Artificial Intelligence. Burton's extensive efforts to crack the encryption codes on the data drives were unsuccessful, however. Quite a bit more information was locked behind those codes and inaccessible.
Meanwhile, Carpenter, Tyger, and Jama went to visit Hemelshot in the hospital. Carpenter had some time alone with Hemelshot while the latter was unconscious, and prayed for him to get better—Hemelshot's wounds definitely seemed on the mend, far more than could easily be explained by medicine. A mysterious woman disguised as a doctor drew Jama aside and pointed her in the direction of the Hospital staff—she explained there was some serious organlegging being run out of St. Francis and that it may be connected to the robbery.
Hemelshot eventually was awake enough to speak with the squad, although hampered by his painkillers, and directed them to check out this lead as quickly as possible. Carpenter, Tyger, and Jama all returned to the precinct to confer with Burton and compare notes. Tyger called a good friend in the normal police (a captain in the Vice Department) to see if there were any leads there—apparently there was one man in Vice's files who looked suspiciously connected. This man, Andrew Dumas, was a files clerk at St. Francis and had been tenuously linked to previous organlegging investigations. Never convicted, Andrew Dumas was well-known to have a gambling problem and could be often found betting on the Lace & Steel fights in Iota Sector.
Hemelshot, upon his release from the hospital, went with Jama to check out Andrew Dumas' apartment while Tyger and Carpenter went to the Hyperdome, the stadium where the Lace & Steel tournament was being held. In the Lace & Steel circuit, there are various managers who run "stables" of L&S fighters. Andrew Dumas often associated with a manager known as Lucien St. Croix. St. Croix's stable was one of the second-stringer stables that clustered around the edge of the hyperdome and warmed up the audience with unknown-warrior matches before and after the main event.
Carpenter and Tyger didn't take long to track down their quarry inside the crowded stadium with the help of Hyperdome's security. Lucien and Dumas were found talking (and it appeared as if Dumas was making a bet) with two other Lace & Steel fighters standing nearby. Carpenter and Tyger (wearing undercover street clothes rather than their uniforms) approached this group. Carpenter attempted to arrest Dumas, but St. Croix panicked when he saw Carpenter's badge and ordered the Lace & Steel fighters to attack while he made his escape. Dumas also attempted to make a run for it. The two Lace & Steel fighters (Cyndi Sabyr—a woman wearing white armor with twin swords, and Marcy the Mechanic—a woman wearing armored overalls and bearing a large wrench) stepped forward. Carpenter found himself challenged to a duel by Cyndi, while Marcy stepped in behind Tyger as the clade took Dumas down with a legsweep move. Marcy's wrench slammed into the back of Tyger's skull, stunning the clade and enflaming his rage beyond control.
Carpenter quickly dealt with Cyndi and began chasing Dumas, pursuing a creative path through the crowd to catch up with his faster movement speed. Tyger turned on Marcy and opened fire, blasting her with his maser even after she surrendered. A wounded and weeping Marcy was tended to by Carpenter as the crowd looked on amazed—her situation stabilized, Marcy was taken away by an ambulance as the two XSWAT officers left the scene. Carpenter was initially furious at Tyger, who was no less angry at Marcy's attack from behind. Harsh words were exchanged as the two brought a strangely subdued Dumas back to the precinct.
Once back at the precinct, Dumas spilled his guts about the organlegging. Phoenix Interactive paid him quite a bit of money to arrange for terminally ill patients (and sometimes, horribly, patients who were actually recovering!) to be seen by special doctors who would come to excise certain organs. Particularly valued of late have been human brains. Dumas provided codes to access the data on the drives that he had previously attempted to erase—the names, dates, and circumstances of each abduction from St. Francis. Clearly, Phoenix Interactive's "bio-gestalt computer" was in fact composed of human brains and electronic software!
Hemelshot sought and received permission for a raid on Phoenix Interactive to round up the corporate executives responsible for this outrage. Tyger was officially placed on suspension, but Carpenter and Hemelshot approached him about participating in the raid the next day on a probationary basis. Tyger initially refused, but accepted after an impassioned discussion with Carpenter.
Afterwards, Tyger went to visit Marcy in the hospital and found her surrounded by friends from the arena, including Cyndi. A long conversation followed with apologies on both sides—apparently Marcy had undergone a sincere change of heart following Carpenter's healing at the Hyperdome. The discussion ended with Tyger offering an olive branch to the two Lace & Steel fighters, who accepted it on the condition that Tyger keep faith in himself.
Meanwhile, the 9th Squad prepared itself for an early-morning raid at Phoenix Interactive...