A Skinner, Darkly
Johnny rushes back into the Rat City bar, carrying a KO'd Ollie over his shoulder, demanding the hackmods heal her. Under the hackmod's knife, Ollie eventually comes to, but she's all shook up. Johnny learns that what attacked Ollie was no ordinary bad dude: it was a "Skinner", or someone who's paid a hefty price to get another skin plastered onto them. Johnny and Ollie leave to explore Livio (where these operations are conducted) for clues. Johnny assumes an identity as an undercover skin-vestor, and Ollie…Ollie just breaks in.
Meanwhile on Lucy, D'avin and Dutch recruit three green RAC lab nerds to help them wage technowar (and also regular war) on the Hullen army by purloining their protected data. Combing through one facility, the gang narrowly escape with their lives after two of the nerds trigger a decontamination protocol that incinerates all organic material inside one of the rooms. A+, guys.
At Livio, Johnny is being suckered in by the shifty proprietor Niko (also a hackmod) while Ollie stumbles upon the storage facility…where all the skinned bodies are hanging. The carcasses are getting sprayed down with the plasma, just like in a marinade. The two are warned to leave by a friendly employee of Livio, Yoki, who was also Clara's friend (Remember, Clara was the hackmod from last season that Johnny became friends with and is searching for). Before they finally beat it out of the human sausage factory, Ollie pilfers some severed hands Johnny can use for identification purposes.
Returning to the nerds: Whatever pathogen had infected the facility is now getting friendly with the RAC agents' bodies as well. Meaning if they don't act quick, the same sterilization response will be kicked up to charbroil them sans a preheating period. And Johnny, after running some tests on the hands, learns that Livio has been harvesting the skins of hackmod owners...including Ollie's.
Ollie assures him this is impossible: she's never been owned, but escaped directly from the factory. But a lapse in her memory would imply otherwise. In fact, the machine-gun arm and an irremovable mod on her chest leads Johnny to the conclusion that Ollie is actually Clara. And Ollie is some dead person's skin. And that dead person…is dead.
Dutch dons her own second skin in the form of a flame-retardant suit, and ventures into the bowels of the facility where she deactivates a switch panel that will prevent any more decontamination flare ups. And back in Rat City's finest hole in the wall Hacksaw Bar, Yoki tells Ollie/Clara how she lost her memory. It was Yoki and Niko who helped Clara destroy her identity, and replace it with a new one in the hopes that one day the two of them (and eventually all hackmods) could congregate in their own colony at the end of the Jade.
That dream comes to an abrupt end when the off-switch on Yoki's chest (the same one that Clara, and all hackmods, have) is detonated. Yoki and Clara go down for the count, just as Niko enters the bar looking for Johnny's basic butt. She kidnaps him back to Livio, where she begins the skinning process — Killjoy hide will fetch a pretty penny. When Clara awakens, she learns of Johnny's abduction, and leaves to save him.
Meanwhile in the facility, everyone's trying to escape before the pathogen overtakes them. Zeph, one of the nerds, goes rogue, and plans to override the system through some computer wizardry that might get them all killed. The whole place explodes. Luckily, it doesn't kill them. Double luckily, the whole mission was a simulation designed to test the nerds' skills, and predict how they'll respond in real-life situations. Minus one luckily: Zeph is sent home for disobeying orders. She knew it was a simulation, she thought she could game the system, the system gamed her. Gamed over.
Johnny manages to escape from the operating table using his own finger toothpick mod, and Clara dispatches with Niko's bodyguards until she's face to face with peg leg, ready to blow her face into the next millennium (or at least the next room). Paralyzed with ambivalence, Clara's hackmod pals from Hacksaw drop in to help her make up her mind. And squeeze some cash out of Niko to fund the revolution.
Back in the Quad, Dutch meets up with Zeph at Pree's to give her a second chance. Turns out this nerd is a bio wiz, and they could really use her on the team, despite Turin's orders. And back on Lucy, Dutch is dealt a surprise of her own when Johnny shows up — in the flesh, not in hologram form. The team is reunited and more determined than ever. They're going to need it: the plasma trail is growing.