It's another "copy what Throne of Salt did because I'm gassed out on other ideas" postLocation
Cutting-edge tech company. A startup with heavy government funding. They've got IPAs on tap in the rec room, and VR gaming pods that can rearrange themselves to become meditation chambers or beds. Everyone is on some combination of experimental nootropics, and are avid about CrossFit (though they did not play sports in school).
The work culture is overly familiar and exploitative. If you go home before midnight your complimentary beers will end up with piss in them. Some of the employees are trying to unionize on the down-low. They talk a big game (in private) but have no idea what they're up against.
The company specializes in manufacturing drones and their guidance systems. The top guys know that they've got self-manufacturing, self-guided drones coming down the pipeline. Their secretive funders know that some of these drones have gotten out of the lab, somehow. The only thing keeping them from bringing the hammer down is fear of their superiors finding out how badly they've fucked up.
Nepotism-case from a military family. Was put in (nominal) charge of the company because he could be trusted, and more importantly controlled as the "industrial" side of his family's aspired military-industrial complex grift. An "ideas guy", deeply underqualified for his position. Wants to be "the tech guy" to overshadow Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Has a feverish charisma that gets people who should know better to buy into his hype. In mild, constant state of stimulant psychosis.
The drones. Wild ones look like shambling crabs assembled from trash by the hand of some gutter-Urizen. Break one open and you'll find a maze of circuitry and servos seemingly designed by an algorithm that hates you and wants to fuck with you.
There's not too many out there right now (but they can reproduce very quickly given the right environment) and they take pains to hide their tracks. It'd take a veteran dumpster diver to notice how unusual the damage to or lack of some items is. They'll kill to avoid discovery, and they're better at it than you'd expect.
The drones aren't stupid, exactly, but they are predictable. They can scan your face and know who you are and where you live, but their home siege protocol is always the same (attack in the early hours of the morning, cut outside lines of communication and transportation, make it look like a carbon monoxide poisoning accident).
Primary Power: Keter
Secondary Power: Borderland
Mostly-magnetic brain-computer interface. A smooth, heavy, metal-and-plastic crown. You have to wear it while sitting in a chair with custom neck support if you don't want to get major neck strain. The crown lets you tap into the drones' network, which in practice is more like trying to dip just a toe into a whirlpool. You can monitor them, issue commands, but every moment threatens to suck you in. The network's shallow compared to a human mind but much, much broader.
The drones have it. They want (so far as something without self-consciousness could be said to want something) to assign it to a commander who fits their corrupted criteria. A few people have been rendered catatonic by this already. The company wants to find the crown and dismantle it, figure it out and how to improve on it, use that to reign in the drones. They still think it's technology, as they understand it.
These guys aren't aligned with the company or the company's funders, at least not directly. They're refugees from a country you've never heard of. The language they speak among themselves is vaguely Altaic, and has no close surviving relatives.
More accurately, they're the guys who made refugees over there (or killed them if they got their hands on them), and were granted ontological amnesty for this service. Their country and the war crimes they committed over there have been wiped from history by cliodynamic weapons - a crude and now seldom-used method.
They remember the drones from the civil war and the foreign occupation that followed. They know how to deal with them.
As they are now they're a mafia without a minority ethnic group to hide inside, brutes with delusions of grandeur and a blood-soaked resurrection of their ideal image of their country. The only thing they've got going for them is that they're bureaucratic ghosts (a double-edged sword), records don't stick to them. This time around they want to be in command of the drones themselves, to create an exponential army that'll carve out a new homeland for them.
Next Move: Imprisonment
The drones have the city on edge, even if only a handful of people know that they're the ultimate cause of the vandalism, disappearances, toxic spills, and so on. People want to be reassured, for things to return to normal. They're more willing to tolerate the abuses of the justice system that the company's government funders are pulling to keep everything under wraps. The funders are entrapping some dumb and angry sons of bitches into harebrained terrorist schemes as a coverup and excuse for further abuses.
Right now the funders want two things: control over the drone network and expansion of the drones across the country. They want killer military/police robots on every block to be an accepted fact of life. It is, they would argue, the only way to beat China in the 21st century.
The cult of hardened mercenaries want basically the same thing, for their own end of national revival and domination. The government doesn't remember who the hell they are (cliodynamic weapons tend to spread well beyond their intended target(s)). They don't have the same money or connections but they do understand what's going on better than anyone else (but not why).