Episode 22: SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
With the Chris Carney job behind them, the party returns to Night City for some down time and to prepare for their next mission, doing a favor for Bea I wonder though, can it actually be called a favor, when you’re being paid handsomely (six figures) for your assistance?
Bea’s mother, Julia Denmore (maiden name), is a Senior VP for Conover, a transportation company owned by Brexton Brands. Brexton is an umbrella corporation (holding company) that is diversified throughout the agri-industry. It is also in the middle of being acquired by United Agri Products. UAP is not interested in the entire company. One of the subsidiaries that UAP plans to sell off is Conover.
Ms. Denmore believes that the truck hijackings may be an attempt to drive down the stock price and create uncertainty among investors. Bea confides to Rose and Cleo that her mother is also worried by the falling stock price, because it affects the value of her stock options (her ‘golden parachute’). Bea’s mother believes the hijackings are an inside job, which is why she’s hiring outside assistance. The party has a month to turn up any leads or find the hijackers.
Since she thinks someone in the company may be involved, Julia can’t fund an investigation through normal channels. She is instead funding it through her executive expense account. She figures that with internal auditing, she’ll have about a month before it’s noticed.
So where is the group going?
Beautiful, Scenic Chamberlain, South Dakota.
Chamberlain serves as a collection point for Brexton Brands. Conover maintains a fleet of vehicles for the collection of agri-products (mostly grains) from the surrounding territory. It collects from corporate owned fields, as well as from local growers and ranchers (contracted). These agri-products are then shipped via short line rail, maintained by Conover (under state charter), from Chamberlain to Mitchell, SD and then onto processing facilities elsewhere in the region.
On a side note:
Short line or ‘local’ railroads are considered Class III carriers. Most of these small railroads have come into existence since 1980, when Congress passed a law (known as the Staggers Rail Act) streamlining the process by which railroads could eliminate unprofitable services. As large railroads began to abandon track that served small, out-of-the-way customers, short line entrepreneurs began to fill that market niche. Today short line and regional railroads provide the only freight rail service available to many rural areas of the nation.
The current situation in Chamberlain is tense. The locals are aware of what is going on. They are worried that Brexton Brands might close down the grain elevators and rail line to cut costs (to fight UAP’s attempted hostile takeover). The impending arrival of management analysts (efficiency experts) only seems to confirm their fears.
The two new players will be the group’s contacts within the town. Although not from Chamberlain, they are from South Dakota. They have been in the town for a couple of weeks, working in the warehouses near the railroad depot (getting the lay of the land). Jimmy will be their initial contact with the group. He’s actually the only one who even knows their names (at the outset). Jimmy is being hired to work at the grain elevator and warehouse and will share a room with Jason and Jose (the new guys) in Conover’s corporate dormitories.
The New Guys:
Jason Tuttle – Short and wiry girl crazy pretty boy, who seems to lack impulse control over his mouth. If his acerbic wit doesn’t land him in the hospital, his reckless driving might. Aspiring Panzer Boy or race car driver
Jose Thomas – Big as a Beefalo…you know…those cattle/buffalo hybrids; Kinda has the demeanor of one too. He and Jason go way back. After his father’s death (killed in his own gun store), Jason’s family took him in. Jose’s mother had lit out years before, never having wanted a kid.
Cleo’s preliminary plan is to divide the group into cells. The first will be Takashi, who will be hired as an IT specialist in shipping and inventory dealing with the cargoes that have been high jacked and Rose will pose as his wife. Both will have new identities provided by the company. The second group will be Doctor Freeman and Grimjaw (Ken) who will show up with flimsy covers and a van converted as a ripperdoc wagon. They will not deny being who they are if pressed, and will claim they are on the lam from DMS, who blames them for Chris Carney’s death (not true, I hope), and the Las Vegas DA, who has a material witness warrant for the Doctor’s arrest (true, but really unenforceable, especially where they are going to be.) Jimmy will be himself and be hired to work the warehouses/grain elevators for the company. Cleo (with a new identity, as Jane) will arrive on motorcycle as a drifter looking to hide out and build up her cash supply. Two new players are supposed to be joining the group, so they will be locals who work for United Agriproducts, and will be assigned to introduce these ‘cells’ to the local community. At first the ‘new players’ will only know the ‘cell’ they are assigned to help, and we will go from there. Bea (in NPC mode) will act as ‘control’.
Bea departs Night City with Dr. Freeman, Ken and Jimmy in tow. Jimmy is given the names of his contacts and is then sent off to be ‘hired’ by Conover, for work in Chamberlain. Bea takes Dr. Freeman and Ken shopping for a second hand drifter, which will act as their ‘mobile ripper doc office’ in Spokane, WA. After equipping the vehicle with the necessary equipment, they hook up with a truck convoy and start heading down (interstate) 90 towards Chamberlain, SD.
Rose and Takashi work on changing their looks. Since this job requires the pair to be under cover for a protracted amount of time, prosthetics or complicated disguises are out of the question. They opt for different haircuts glasses and for Rose, a change to the color pallet of her makeup. She’s going for a much more conservative look, which considering her normal look, which give her already conservative attitudes, sounded pretty ironic to me. One thing working in their favor is that there are no Japanese in Chamberlain and very few if any individuals of Asian descent. Lack of familiarity with Asian features may therefore make it hard for the locals to connect how they look now with their normal appearances…i.e. they all look the same to me.
Bea’s mom has provided them with new identities and has attached Takashi (Ichihara Mashiro) to the team of efficiency experts that are being sent to the Chamberlain. He is there to rework the dispatching system and evaluate where cost can be cut. Rose (Ichihara Yoko) is Takashi’s high maintenance wife, who he has ‘dragged’ along to the middle of nowhere. Think Green Acres, but without the love and laughs.
Cleo will be coming towards Chamberlain from the east. Her cover identity (Jane) is that of a drifter out of New York, who is stopping in Chamberlain to make some cash to fix her bike (motorcycle). Rather than relying on Bea’s mom for a false identification, she went through her own contacts. During the interlude, Cleo also paid one of the strippers from the Clam Shack to give her a crash course in stripping for money…there’s more involved than just getting up there and dancing.
After making sure everything is in motion, Bea ensconces herself in Mitchell (approximately 60 miles east of Chamberlain) and sets up her command center. Command center is a bit grandiose. It’s an efficiency apartment with a phone and Net hookup. The contact numbers and Net connection that the players have are for an exotic entertainment service. If connecting by phone, party members would ask for ‘Billie’. If connecting virtually, they would enter the code phrase ‘can’t touch this’.
If anyone gets a hold of the numbers, this set up should provide an extra layer of camouflage for the mission. It’s also something to keep Bea entertained while she waits for the group to check in or call for help. Manning the command post can be a boring detail. So, with the players at their starting marks, let the game begin.
Sunday April 24, 2025:
Jimmy arrives in town by ferry. He is picked up at the landing by a local taxi and driven towards the corporate dorms. The cabbie makes small talk along the way. He comments on Jimmy being hired to work for Conover in Chamberlain and hints that it may be a sign that the company isn’t pulling out of Chamberlain. This subtle probing is an attempt to pump Jimmy for information, to confirm or discredit the rumors floating around town. Jimmy’s retort, “you have to hire people to close down a business too,” leaves the cabbie unsettled. There is no further small talk for the remainder of the mercifully short cab ride.
At the dorms, the cabbie hands Jimmy an ID card. He informs Jimmy that the card is his company ID. It will give him access to the dorms and his room. The corporate dormitory is a secured building requiring a key card to gain access. The card will also allow Jimmy to purchase goods at the corporate exchange at reduced prices and functions as a time tracker (for when he logs in and out of work). Waving good bye, the cabbie heads off into the night.
Upstairs, Jimmy meets his new roommates and members of the team Jason and Jose. Both are a bit standoffish as Jimmy surveys the room and puts away his stuff. Jason breaks the ice by asking, “So why are you here?”
On the surface, it appears to be an innocent question, but the manner in which Jason delivered it, sounded like he was addressing something that he had just found on the bottom of his shoe.
Jimmy’s response, “You know why I’m here”, is a mixture of frustration and a growled challenge, like a new dog trying to establish his dominance within the pack.
Jason, either missing the challenge or just ignoring it, retorts with a smirk, “maybe we do, but why don’t you tell us anyway?” Jose seems content to let Jason do the talking. Jimmy doesn’t allow himself to be baited…although he is contemplating letting his fists do the talking for him.
The three trade what little information they have. Jimmy and Jose had been told to keep a low profile. Further instructions were to follow once they were contacted. Jimmy however doesn’t have any new information or instructions. It’s still a waiting game, so they sack out and prepare for a new work week.
Monday April 25, 2025:
Since it is off season for the grain elevators Jimmy will be working in the warehouse with Jason and Jose. There have been some recent openings, as two of the workers were fired for stealing. Jimmy meets the supervisor, Bill Denning. After some perfunctory platitudes and a half-hearted welcome to the team, Bill hands Jimmy off to Jose to show him the ropes. After a long 10 hour shift, the trio heads out to Hoser’s (local bar), for a little liquid pain killer.
Tuesday April 26, 2025:
While at work, Jason barely avoids running over Bill with a fully loaded forklift. White as a sheet, Bill retreats to his office. Jimmy notices that one of the crates that he and Jose are moving feels lighter than it should. He convinces Jose to put it down so they can investigate. Close examination reveals that the crate may have been tampered with. Jimmy carefully opens it. The crate contains electronic components and the materials for building a cyberdeck. Some of the parts and a cyberdeck case are missing.
Jimmy drags Jose off to report the theft to Bill, who takes the news with little to no reaction. He puts it off as probably the work of the two workers that were fired for stealing. Still, he has them fill out forms detailing their account of what they found missing. After they leave Bill’s office, Jimmy grills Jose about what he put down in his report. He wants to make sure that Jose didn’t mention that he (Jimmy) had opened the crate.
In the late afternoon, Ken and Dr. Freeman arrive in Oacoma. Based on the intelligence they were provided, Conestoga Park sounds like the perfect place to set up shop. They pull in and looking for the office….
The name comes from the Sioux word Okoma, meaning ‘a place between’. It’s an apt description for a town which straddles the line between seedy and respectable. Al’s Oasis saw Oacoma through the lean years following the Collapse. Nowadays, the Meuller family (Al’s kids), pretty much owns the town. Residents either work for the Meullers directly or rely on their businesses.
Oacoma’s relationship with Chamberlain is fairly amicable. It is similar to that of Boulder City and Las Vegas. Residents of Chamberlain like to maintain its small town charm, but realize ‘folks’ need a place to cut loose. As long as the rowdiness stays on the other side of the river, every body’s happy. Al’s Oasis still puts on the face of being a family friendly establishment destination, and for the most part it is. But if that’s what you’re looking for, be sure not to take a left on the main drag (route 16). The Palomino Club caters to more mature forms of entertainment.
The Missouri River, provides not only a physical boundary between the towns, it also marks the division between counties. Brule County ends halfway across the river. Oacoma is in Lyman County. This puts the town outside the jurisdiction of both the Chamberlain police and Brule County Sheriff. Lyman County relies too heavily on the income generated by Oacoma to meddle in its affairs and the State Police will only get involved if it effects interstate (or river) transport or spills over into another County. Most matters are left in the hands of the Oacoma police department, whose members are all related, either by blood or marriage, to the Meuller family.
In its heyday, Conestoga Park was a quite campground, nestled under the cottonwoods and sycamores, just off route 16. Before subsequent development removed the stand of trees fronting the highway, the secluded nature of the camp gave it the feeling of being in the backwoods. The campground fell into disuse after the Collapse. It became a bone yard for broken down RVs and trailers that the Meullers collected over the years. When business began to pick up, any campers or trailers that were still habitable were rented out to seasonal workers and ‘travelers’ at a highly discounted rate. Today the park is populated by a mix of families, drifters and small time ‘entrepreneurs’. If any part of Oacomo can be said to be on the wrong side of the tracks, this is it.
The office of Conestoga Park is just one of the dilapidated trailers. Dr. Freeman jokes, “What do you want to bet, it’s not really the office and they just hung a sign outside their trailer.” It seems that he may be right, when they first meet Roy. Roy is sitting glassy eyed thumbing through a dog eared magazine. He does not even acknowledge Ken or Dr. Freeman when they enter. Dr. Freeman snaps his fingers in front of Roy’s face to get his attention, who turns to look at them blankly.
Now that he can get a better look at the magazine Ken realizes that Roy has been ‘reading it’ upside down. After a completely fruitless conversation, Roy, looking confused yells out, “THELMA”. A scraggly woman enters the room, yells at Roy, for yelling at her. She is brought short when she sees Ken and Dr. Freeman standing there. The shock only lasts a second before she wheels on Roy and slaps him across the head, asking what he had gotten himself into now. Before it can devolve into another bought of yelling, Dr. Freeman hastily explains that they are looking to rent a site with a hookup. During the conversation Roy once again yells for Thelma, where upon, she smacks him across the head once again saying, “I’m standing right next to you, you damn fool”.
Site rentals are $30 a week. There is water, but no electricity. Thelma explains that the solar collectors on the roof of the main building (contains showers, bathrooms, and at one time vending machines) are on the fritz. This also limits the amount of hot water that the public showers have available. Dr. Freeman offers to take a look.
As Ken and Dr. Freeman are departing Thelma apologizes for Roy, saying that he hasn’t been the same since the accident. What accident you ask? She relates how Roy lost three toes in a thresher accident. He’s usually ok, but the scripts Steve has him on make him a little loopy. Asked about Steve, she tells them that he’s a guy that lives in one of the trailers, who has either stolen or has access to prescription pads and is proscribing pills, for which he either takes money or makes it up in trade for certain services.
Ken and Dr. Freeman set up camp. Since it is getting on to evening, Dr. Freeman decides to wait till the following day to check out the solar collectors.
Wednesday April 27, 2025:
Takashi (Mashiro) and Rose (Yoko) arrive at Chamberlain municipal airport by private corporate jet. Takashi is preoccupied with a phone call, leaving Rose standing there waiting for him. As he finishes the call, she begins to berate him for dragging her to this “god forsaken place” (the conversation is all in Japanese). When they both have exited the plane, they are met by a driver, Hector who says he will take them to their new home.
Rose questions Hector about local shopping and what kind of amenities the town offers. She also remarks on the emptiness of the countryside (playing up their cover story that they have just come from the congestion of Tokyo). The ride becomes tense, as Rose once again begins berating her husband. Who knew she could pull off castrating bitch so well. I feel bad for Archie. Hector finally hands the loving couple over to Kathryn Joiner outside their new home. Kathryn is the Staff Facilitator for Conover in Chamberlain.
Kathryn hands Rose a welcome basket and then bows deeply to both of them. She explains (in Japanese) that she is here to make their stay as enjoyable as possible. She then shows the couple around their new home (a two bedroom ranch with attached garage). Although her tone is jovial and the smile looks sincere, Kathryn herds marshals them through the tour like a parade ground drill instructor…or a border collie herding sheep. She apologizes that the company was only able to provide them with a City Car, rather than the four door vehicle they had request. This however does give her the opportunity to herd them into her vehicle, for a tour the town.
The tour includes a stop for lunch, where Kathryn introduces the Ichiharas to the locals. Everyone seems to be putting their best foot forward. Rose and Takashi are plied with discount coupons and free samples of the local specialties. By the time Kathryn returns them home, three hours have passed. Both of their heads are spinning. They thank her, but beg off any further sight-seeing, preferring to take the opportunity to get moved in. Takashi is supposed to start work Monday of the following week.
Across the river, Dr. Freeman spends the day checking out the collectors and wiring. The units are old and need to be replaced. Only about half are still functioning. Some of the wiring is also frayed. It actually looks as if something has been gnawing at the wires. When attempting to get down off of the roof, Dr. Freeman steps onto a place where the ceiling of the building has rotted through. He is thrown off balance (failed athletics roll) and falls off the roof. Luckily the distance is not that great and he escapes without serious injury. His tools however are scattered everywhere. His tumble elicits peals of laughter from a group of children who were watching curiously from a distance.
Jimmy, Jason and Jose once again head to Hoser’s after the whistle blows. Jason strikes up a conversation with a cute girl at the bar named Jenny. Everything seems to be going great until her boyfriend (Crazy Steve) walks in. Steve wants to know what Jason thinks he’s doing, hitting on his girl. Jimmy and Jose step up to try and rescue Jason from the brewing domestic dispute. Jimmy’s inserts himself into the conversation, which makes Steve turn on him, demanding to know who asked him to get involved.
With Steve momentarily distracted by Jimmy, Jenny takes the opportunity to head towards the door. She calls back to Steve that she can’t be around him when he acts this way. Steve completely forgets about Jimmy and turns to follow Jenny, all the while hurling obscenities at her as she minces out the door. Gus (the bartender) tells Jason that he’s lucky. Steve is insanely jealous. He goes crazy whenever he sees her talking with another man, but seems to be oblivious to the fact that she really does sleep around on him all the time. A couple of the guys at the bar grudgingly laugh, admitting that they have ridden that bus (meaning Jenny) once or twice.
Later that evening, Jason is confronted by Jimmy and Jose…mostly by Jimmy. Jimmy is worried that Jason isn’t keeping a low enough profile (due to the altercation in the bar) and tells him that he better watch himself or he’ll blow the mission. When Jason isn’t appreciative of this ‘friendly’ advice, Jimmy lulls him to sleep with a little ‘chin’ music. Jason wakes up the next morning with a fat lip and sore jaw.
Thursday April 28, 2025:
Cleo limps into Oacoma on her sputtering motorcycle (rigged to appear that it’s malfunctioning). She heads for the Palomino Club looking for work…
The club is situated on the north side of Cedar Blvd. (route 16), where the highway leaves Oacoma and curves north toward the Chamberlain Country Club (which is ironically on the Oacoma side of the river). The building is a three story structure, built in the style of an old hunting lodge. It actually operated as a hunting lodge for some time, but was closed even before the Collapse.
The Meullers purchased the land and building and refurbished it. The main floor is open to the public and houses a gift shop, restaurant, lounge and gentleman’s club. The second floor is a private club for members and their guests. The third floor is a mix of luxury suites and apartments. Club members from out of town may rent suites, ‘to keep up appearances’, but most everyone knows the third floor serves as a private brothel for club members.
Becoming a member of the club is fairly easy. Sure, there is an application, but that’s mostly a formality. If you pay your 20 euros (annual dues) you can become a member…although the Oacoma Police Department does run background checks on all new members. They don’t want to let in any crazies or degenerates.
Cleo has an interview with ‘Little Al’. He is willing to watch her audition. Instead of dancing on the main floor, Cleo dances for Al and two other people (Gina and Max) in one of the private club suites. Based on her performance he hires her for the late shift on Monday – Thursday (the club closes at 4 am). The apartments upstairs are a bit steep for her finances, so she takes Al up on alternate accommodations.
Max (head of security) sends Cleo with two of his men to Conestoga Park. Once there, the men evict a man and woman (for failure to pay rent) from a decrepit looking Airstream. The displaced man and woman move their meager belongings into an even more run down Winnebago, across the way. The inside of the trailer is a disaster. The mattress is a fetid mess. Max makes arrangements for a new one to be delivered. Cleo gets cleaning her new home, while she waits for the delivery.
Bill sends Jason and Jose out on a delivery run to Oacoma. Jimmy decides to tag along. Since he doesn’t want to have to lift heavy furniture, Jason readily agrees. Their first stop is in Conestoga Park, to deliver a mattress. While Jimmy wrestles the mattress out of the back of the truck, Jason heads up to the trailer door with clip board and invoice in hand. A quick wrap brings a vision of loveliness to the door. Although she changed clothes to clean, Cleo is still all dolled up from her audition at the Palomino Club. Jason is struck dumb for a moment, but quickly recovers and breaks the ice by saying, “Hey!”
(GM Note: It’s a good thing that he has his looks working for him. Cleo rolled 96% for ‘First Impressions’. At this time, she wasn’t aware that he was one of the people that Bea sent in under cover.)
Across the park, Ken, who is outside takes note of the Conover truck that had recently pulled into the campground. He thinks of checking it out as potentially another hijacked vehicle, but decides against it, when he sees Jimmy is one of the workers pulling the mattress out of the back. Jimmy sees Ken as well, but does not acknowledge him. He and Jose carry the mattress to the Airstream, where the conversation between Cleo and Jason has become a whole lot friendlier.
Jimmy motions to Jose to ‘collect’ Jason, while he manhandles the mattress into the trailer. He does not recognize Cleo, who has changed her appearance for this mission. Jose picks Jason up by the back of the coveralls and begins to carry him back towards the truck. Jason yells back over his shoulder to Cleo, inviting her out that evening. Before their conversation had been so rudely interrupted, he had been telling her about Hoser’s (and working up to an invite).
Back at the truck, there is a call on the radio. Dotti (warehouse dispatcher) has been trying to raise them on the radio. When Jason answers the call, she asks him if he has seen Jimmy. Bill is looking for him. At first he says no, but after a nudge from Jose, he tells Dotti that Jimmy is with them on a delivery. Dotti says they should get him back as quickly as possible. After making a second delivery to one of the nicer houses on the bluffs, the trio race back to the warehouse.
Takashi expertly portraying the workaholic husband heads into the office early, instead of waiting for Monday. Rose decides to go on a shopping spree. She heads into the main part of town to browse the shops. During lunch, she meets Ruthie and Stella, along with several other local women. She is bored to tears by the conversation, but puts on a good show of interested attentiveness. At the office Takashi finds that there is an unusual lag time on the system. It could be nothing or someone might be hacking the network. He decides to check it out.
Jimmy forces Jason and Jose to go with him to Bill’s office. He insists that they are the ones who told him to come along. Bill sends Jason and Jose back to without bothering to listen to Jimmy’s excuse for bringing them with him. It actually makes him angrier with Jimmy. Bill accusingly demands to know who Jimmy thinks he is, to order his workers around and go joy riding in a company truck. He then spends a half an hour reading Jimmy the riot act, telling him that when he slacks off or wastes company time or resources, he is not only letting him (Bill) down, but also indirectly stealing from the company. The incident is entered as a note in his file.
After his little talk with Bill, Jimmy leaves the office with a full head of steam. He wants to hunt down Jason, but knows that Bill is watching him. Jason for his part is doing everything he can to avoid Jimmy before quitting time. As soon as the shift is over, Jason heads into the corporate exchange rather than out the normal exit. Jimmy and Jose decide to wait for Jason in their room, but he doesn’t show. Jason purchases some new clothes in the exchange and then heads up to the Truck Stop to use the showers there.
Ken and Dr. Freeman decide to head out and begin drumming up business for their mobile ‘clinic’. Their first stop is the Palomino Club. Since this is about business, they don’t bother with the gentleman’s club, but instead hang out in the lounge. After a couple of drinks, both agree that the club might be a little bit too upscale for their business. They do however join the club before leaving. Ken uses his own name and information. Dr. Freeman makes up a false name and generally treats the application as a joke. On the advice of the bartender, they head for the Silver Dollar Saloon (the seediest bar in town).
Jimmy and Jose head down to Hoser’s, still looking for Jason. Jason outsmarts them by not going in, but instead waiting outside for Cleo to show. He flags her down and they head further down Main Street (one block) to the Silver Dollar Saloon. Out in front of the Saloon are a row of bikes, including two State Police motorcycles. Cleo recognizes the markings on the bike as those of the Road Reapers, a vigilante guardian gang, big in these parts.
The Road Reapers were at one time hell on wheels, but as its members grew older, married and had kids, their priorities changed. They can still raise hell and kick ass with the best of them, but most members have day jobs and some are even pillars of the community. They have a good relationship with the police. A couple members are even retired cops. They view themselves as modern day regulators, keeping the area safe from scum and road trash*.
The Road Reaper’s colors are a ‘double yellow’ lined road stretching towards the horizon. At the horizon, it disappears into the gapping mouth of a cowled skull (reminiscent of the grim reaper).
*Road Trash – refers to drifters, but it can also be interpreted as nomads or just about anyone else they feel shouldn’t be sharing the road with them.
Inside, the two state troopers are sitting with the Road Reapers. After a couple of drinks they get up to leave. One of the troopers gives a gang member a brotherly hug on the way out, telling him “catch ya later Lem“. Cleo notices Ken and Dr. Freeman in the back of the room playing darts. Without the distraction of Jimmy and Jose, she settles in to learn more about Jason. What she hears leads her to believe he may be perfect for her other schemes (as a wheel man for a jewel heist).
Their conversation is interrupted by Lem, who walks up to the table and asks Cleo to dance. Jason interjects, but in such a way that it’s not a slam to reproach of Lem’s offer. Lem backs off and lets them continue to have their moment. Unfortunately it does not last. Sick of waiting for Jason to show, Jimmy and Jose have been checking the other bars in town (all three of which are on main street) looking for the pair. They walk into the Silver Dollar and take up a position at the bar.
Both are standing with their arms folded, staring intently at the table where Cleo and Jason are sitting. Jason doesn’t even bother to acknowledge that they are there. The other patrons have noticed, especially the Road Reapers. The pair is staring so intently at the table that they fail to notice that they are being surrounded by gang members, till Lem confronts Jimmy directly. Cleo and Jason use the distraction to head towards the door, while Jimmy tries to talk his way out of a fight.
Jose makes Jimmy aware that Cleo and Jason are leaving, but accidentally makes an off handed comment that someone’s gonna get a beating. His comment was in reference to Jason, but he didn’t get the opportunity to explain that to the gang members as the fists started flying and the pool cues started cracking against their skulls. Preserving their cover (or leaving Jimmy to twist in the wind) Ken and Dr. Freeman don’t get involved. In the end, it doesn’t turn out to be much of a fight. The Road Reapers are only using fists, pool cues and brass knuckles. They can’t do enough damage to get through Jimmy and Jose’s skin weave.
They do however delay Jimmy and Jose long enough for Cleo and Jason to make a clean getaway. The Road Reapers are actually the ones who are on the losing end of the fight. After Jimmy and Jose are nudged out the door by the by the bartender (and his sawed off shotgun), Dr. Freeman offers to bandage up the injured Road Reapers at no cost. He also uses the live demonstration that Jimmy and Jose had just provided, to sell the gang members on the benefits of skin weave and other enhancements. The Road Reapers are interested and they discuss the matter into the night.
Cleo takes Jason back to her trailer for some fun. Jimmy, who is now fuming, shreds a set of Jason’s cloths in retaliation. Although he waits up, Jason doesn’t make it back to the room that night.
Cleo’s Point of View
Cleo did not depend on Bea’s mother for her fake ID (Jane) on the outside chance that the people involved in acquiring one might be compromised. It was not likely, but caution was called for. In addition to the ‘exotic’ dancing lessons, she worked on a new disguise and altered her tech hair implants (both of them), and dispensed with the British accent. Using her Audio Vox and Voice Pattern she changed her voice pattern, but relied on her native New York City accent. She also spends her free time using her netrunning skills to surf the NYC Net and become as current as possible on the present ‘scene’ there. She was the last team member to arrive, and NO one (except Bea) was told her identity or knew she would look like with her disguise on (the Disguise roll was an adjusted 30+). All characters using a disguise were given a code phrase to identify themselves to the other party members if the need arose to prove themselves.
Jane/Cleo arrived in Chamberlain early Thursday afternoon and cruised around on her motorcycle, which she had worked on to sound like it needed repairs. Eventually she made her way to the Palomino Club in Oacoma (a strip joint) to look for a job, where she was given an audition. She cleaned up, improvised a costume, and put on her Royo Body Free Mask, and with her Personal Grooming Roll pushed her ATTR to 11 from 9. That coupled with her dance roll got her 4 shifts a week (Monday thru Thursday nights). She asked about housing and was given the choice of living at the club (not a chance) or a trailer in Conestoga Park. They bounced a couple out of a trailer there for her (they hadn’t paid rent in months and just moved to another unit). It was, of course, an absolute “shit hole”, but at 30 eb a week it was not to be turned down. She did insist on a new mattress, which she offered to pay for, and a couple of other minor items to make it habitable. The management was agreeable and even offered to have the stuff delivered at their cost.
Now here is where it got interesting. Jane/Cleo changed into her ‘Daisy Duke’ shorts, tee shirt, and sneakers to start cleaning the place but left on the ‘Mask. If I had thought about it she would have taken it off, but I didn’t. The Club ordered what I bought from the Conover Warehouse and the GM assigned the delivery to Jason, who was told to take one person with him. He chose Jose, but Jimmy decided he was going to come too. Now, during my whole introduction to this arc of the campaign, those three were in the other room talking so they didn’t know the delivery was for a PC. Jason walked up to the trailer door and the GM made the introduction like I was NPC, so Jason immediately hit on Cleo or rather ‘Jane’.
This led to a roll playing dilemma, since Cleo was told the two local contacts were going to be beefy solo types, who worked on the grain elevator, but here was this young ATTR 9, COOL 10, BODY 5 kid with a winning smile. I decided to let the dice decide my reaction since it would be hard to make a choice that wasn’t colored by ‘out of game knowledge’. The NPC reaction percentage was a ‘96’ with +5% for opposite sex and +5% for ATTR >8 for a 106%. Before Jimmy (who failed to recognize Cleo) and Jose could drag Jason off we made a date to go out for drinks at Hoser’s that evening at 7pm.
Well, Jane/Cleo shows up at Hoser’s on her bike and Jason meets her outside and says they should go somewhere else. Unbeknownst to her Jimmy and Jose are inside waiting to take Jason away from his date. So they go down the street to the Silver Dollar Saloon. Outside there is a line of bikes, and with her Streetwise skill (coupled with a good roll) identifies their markings as The Road Reapers, a vigilante biker gang (a kind of Wild West violent guardian gang). They enter amidst catcalls and whistles but she is used to that. There are two motorcycle State Police (the local HiWay) talking with the gang in a friendly manner so it couldn’t be too dangerous, could it? Well, the cops leave and a big, bearded bruiser comes over to the table and asks in a menacing Animal House fashion, “Do you mind if I (we) dance with your date(s)? Jason stands up and smiles, and says, “No, we were just about to dance together.” This seemed to amuse the big guy and he walked away. Dr. Freeman and Grimjaw also show up having asked around where the roughest place in the area is, and apparently don’t recognize her either as Cleo.
At this point Laurel and Hardy show up….I mean Jose and Jimmy show up. They walk in, oblivious to the gang, take seats at the bar near us, and I quote, “We stare down their (Jason and Jane/Cleo) table.” Wow, I mean how thick can you get? Two strangers walk into a bar and glare menacingly at a cute biker chick and her date in a room full of bike gangers (in a place that group considers ‘theirs’), who are sitting there trying to figure out how to impress her. Six immediately go to confront the interlopers. Well, with violence imminent, Jason and Jane use their Hide/Evade to slip out the door unnoticed this is only successful to the point that Jose notices them as they step out the door. Jose is angry that Jason has again given them the slip, and remarks, “Someone is getting a beating tonight!” Of course the six gang members, who were in their faces at that moment thought that meant them. Jose turned out to be correct. Someone was going to get a beating tonight. Unfortunately, it was Jose and Jimmy. Good Skinweave prevented any serious damage, and the bartender pulled out a double-barreled shotgun with the request that the two leave. So Jimmy and Jose returned to their room and waited for Jason to come home that night to express their displeasure with his antics. Yeah, right, Jason found other sleeping arrangements, and Jane/Cleo got her itch scratched after a year of celibacy. As they were leaving the Silver Dollar, Jason had told her enough for her to realize that maybe she had just picked up one of her local contacts. She plans to check this out with Bea when she gets the chance. Maybe this mission will be fun?
As a side note, the Doctor and Grimjaw watched the fight, sat back and enjoyed their drinks, and took no part except for a little ‘darts’ practice. After the two were thrown out the Doctor offered some free medical treatment, and opened up with his “spiel” on the cyberware he had available that might help the gang in situations like this. I got to admit it was quite the sales pitch and now they have their first customers as well as being on their way to infiltrating the local “scene”. Kudos to Doctor Freeman and Grimjaw for exploiting a great opportunity and making great headway on the mission.
Episode 23: GETTING TO KNOW THE NEIGHBORS
(GM Note: We hit a small snag at the beginning of the session. Jimmy’s player was late. Rather than make the rest of the group sit around I moved up a sub plot that would keep Jimmy occupied until the player arrived. I definitely did not want to NPC Jimmy during his showdown with Jason. Sadly, the player called soon after to say he wasn’t going to make it (called into work). I had to improvise something else to delay the ‘reckoning’, so I hit him with fork lift. Hey, a warehouse can be a dangerous work environment. He is currently resting comfortably in the medical center. If he shows up next week, he’ll just be checking out of the hospital at the beginning of the session. And no, before anyone asks, Jason was not driving the forklift that hit him.)
Friday April 29, 2025:
Jason wants to call into work, but Cleo convinces him to go in. She offers to drop him off and then asks if he has any plans for the weekend. When he says he doesn’t, she tells him she’ll pick him up after work. Cleo even offers to wash his clothes for him. It’s close, but she gets him to work on time. Thankfully neither Jimmy nor Jose is waiting for him at the time clock.
The pair was already clocked in had been sent down to the depot to unload pallets from a train that had arrived earlier that morning. While unloading the train, Jimmy catches sight of a figure, in a jean jacket and black hoody, ducking around one of the flatcars of the train. He sets off in pursuit, with Jose close behind. Jimmy catches up to the retreating figure further down the track and tackles it. By the time Jose arrives on the scene, Jimmy has backed off as the person is brandishing a knife.
Being a trained solo, Jimmy is able to quickly disarm the individual. When he pulls back the hoody, it is revealed that she is a young girl. The police are summoned. When they arrive, she accuses Jimmy of trying to rape her. Of course he loudly protests the accusations. Jose springs to Jimmy to his defense saying, he was standing right there, but before he can finish his statement, the girl interrupts accusing Jose of also trying to rape her.
The officer trying to come up with a clear picture of what happened, asks Jose for his statement. Jose tells the utter truth of what happened. Unfortunately his testimony seems to back up the girl’s story and her explanation of why she stabbed Jimmy (which thanks to his skin weave did no real damage). The police officer asks both of them for ID. Jimmy produces his Employee ID. The girl makes a show of looking for her identification.
When she can’t produce it, she tells the officer, that she must have dropped it when the dumb ape (meaning Jimmy) was chasing her. She doesn’t look as sure of herself as she did before. Her accent (Northern Jersey) also marks her as not being a local. The cop is not an idiot. He knows that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Jimmy and the girl are brought in for more questioning. Jose goes back to work.
Over lunch, Jose brings Jason up to speed on what happened. They also discuss the incident in the Silver Dollar (Saloon). Jason is interested in knowing what happened after Cleo and he left. Jose downplays the incident, making it sound like it was nothing that they (Jose and Jimmy couldn’t handle. Jose gives Jason 20 euros. When Jason asks why he gave him the money, Jose’s answer comes out as an embarrassed half mumble. Even though he didn’t participate, Jose feels guilty about what Jimmy did to Jason’s clothes (last episode). The 20 euros doesn’t cover the cost of the clothes, but Jason accepts it in the spirit it as a peace offering between friends.
(GM Note: I don’t think the clothes were the real issue. Jose felt guilty about siding with Jimmy instead of his best friend (Jason).
The girl sticks to her story and, who knows, maybe she actually believes that he was going to try and rape her. It becomes clear to the police when they question Jimmy that it was not his intention. With the hijackings, and thefts at the warehouse they can understand tensions running a bit high. Someone, wandering around on the tracks, might arouse suspicion. The police are going to release Jimmy, but they ‘advise’ him to be more careful…next time the person could have more than a knife.
Jimmy is released after a couple of hours and allowed to return to work. This latest incident is just another hassle to add to the list of aggravations, that have been building up over the week (Jason, the fight in the bar, etc.). Arriving back at work, his mind is off somewhere else. He doesn’t here the backup warning alarm for the fork lift and WHAM…ever have one of those days when it would’ve been safer to stay in bed?
Takashi leaves early for work. He wants to get a head start on tracing down any extraneous access points (taps, hacks etc.) on the system. This leaves Rose to her own devices. She decides to reconnoiter the Artemis Spa & Fitness Center. This will help to maintain her cover (as a high maintenance wife) and give her the opportunity to interact with the locals in an environment which is conducive to striking up a conversation.
The sign may say ‘women only’, but that doesn’t mean Rose isn’t attracting admiring looks as she works out. Chamberlain may be a small town, but it’s not stuck in the middle ages. They pretty much don’t care what you do or who you do it with, so long as it isn’t thrown in their faces or doesn’t cross a certain line of decency.
Rose strikes up conversation with Jill and her friend Jackie. During the conversation, it becomes clear that Jill and Jackie are a couple. They live on and manage a goat farm. Jill talks about how it was her husband’s family business, but nothing is mentioned about where her husband is now. Rose talks about her dissatisfaction with her husband. Jackie offers some suggestions, which makes Rose quickly clarify that it isn’t sexual dissatisfaction that she was referring to.
Jill remarks, looking at Jackie and smiling, that emotional satisfaction is just as important. Rose quickly tries to steer the conversation in another direction, saying that she needs to get out for a night on the town, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of that in Chamberlain. Jill and Jackie agree and tell her of their regular visits to Mitchell and Pierre. They promise to take her on their next trip. Rose’s new friends offer to take her out to dinner that evening. She readily agrees.
(GM Note: Rose is intrigued by Jackie and Jill. No, not their lifestyle; she has her mind on the mission. The only source of income, that Jill and Jackie have mentioned, is the goat farm. Yet, somehow they are able to afford lavish trips and expensive dinners. Rose suspects that they might be involved with the hijackings, even if it is just providing a place to stash the stolen trucks (on their farm).
ARTEMIS SPA & FITNESS CENTER
The vision of Artemis Spa & Fitness is to provide a conductive environment which fosters health and wellness within the mind, body and spirit. Our comprehensive facilities give access to state-of-the-art fitness and strength equipment, aquatic activities, group exercise classes, court sports and an indoor archery range. Wellness seminars and preventive health services are available onsite and in virtual. Guests to our spa can expect an all-encompassing experience. It is a refuge of head-to-toe pampering with therapies and treatments inspired by the four seasons and Native American rituals. Whether it is after long satisfying fitness regime or a day spent in pampered bliss, be sure to visit our full-service salon and boutique.
(GM Note: ‘Conducive Environment’…yeah, read as women only. Exclusivity means a higher price tag. Granted, Artemis offers a heck of a lot of services, but if you’re just looking to work out, River City Fitness is just as good for half the price. The exclusivity angle really set in when the owners of the Cedar Shore Resort (just north of Oacoma) were looking to expand the amenities offered to their guests. Instead of building onsite, they partnered with a local fitness center that was in the midst of updating and improving its facilities.
They originally envisioned it as a place for wives to park their butts and while away the hours, waiting for their husbands to return from hunting excursions. Times have changed as has the Resorts clientele. The Artemis Spa is now marketed as part of a wellness package targeted at health conscious travelers, attempting to escape (even for a short time) the toxic society and polluted environment of the urban sprawl. The marketing campaign relies on Chamberlain’s small town charm, but it’s the local business and female population of the town who are reaping the benefits.)
After dropping Jason at work, Cleo heads back to her trailer. She calls the local building supply company (in Chamberlain), to order cinder blocks and timbers, The previous evenings amorous antics had set the unbalanced trailer to rocking. She wants to stabilize it before picking up Jason to avoid any mishaps. Flipping the trailer on its side could really kill the mood.
With the materials ordered, Cleo tackles her next project, chipping through the grime, filth and mold caked on the inside of the trailer. Instead of resorting to ‘good old elbow grease’, she opts for tried and true nanocleaners. After liberally dousing the inside of the Airstream she heads off to the Palomino Club to talk with Gina (Barton).
Gina is the club’s ‘den mother’. Cleo has some questions about what is allowed (touch / no touch) and what is expected of her. She also wants to know about any stores in town where she can purchase costumes for her routine. The public club (downstairs) is no touch. The private club is touch, but the girl has to initiate the contact. Generally, touch is nothing below the G-string, but Gina intimates that the girls can negotiate further touching with the individual club member…hinting at the brothel on the third floor. Cleo decides to leave that subject for another conversation.
By the time she returns to her trailer, the little buggers have nearly finished their work. The construction materials arrive soon after. Like Dr. Freeman before her, Cleo fix-it project gathers a throng of pint sized onlookers. While she is stabilizing the trailer car pulls into the campground and head over to one of the other trailers. The driver and occupant of the trailer appear to transact some business. The driver quickly gets back in his car and leaves. The scene is repeated twice more before Cleo completes her work and goes inside her trailer to clean up.
Cleo is on time to pick up Jason, but he’s not there. She waits impatiently for a little while, but eventually tears out of there on her bike, thinking he’s stood her up. Jason hasn’t blown her off. He’s actually back at the corporate dorm getting gussied up for their date. He wants to make an impression. Well, leaving Cleo standing there for 10 minutes definitely made an impression. Jason puts the 20 euro Jose gave him to good use, paying for a cab ride to Conestoga Park.
(GM Note: This was actually a pretty funny exchange. The player had not only forgotten the meeting time. He also couldn’t remember the name of the trailer park in which Cleo lives. Jason jumped into the cab and said, “take me to the trailer park”, to which the cabbie responded, “which one?”. There are several around the Chamberlain – Oacoma area after all. I keep reminding players that they should write stuff down. After a couple of questions it became clear that Jason was talking about Conestoga Park. Jason was so preoccupied trying to decide how to apologize to Cleo he didn’t even notice that the cabbie had charged him the full 20 euros for a cab ride of just over 2 miles. Call it an aggravation tax or a well-deserved tip for helping a “hapless” romantic?)
After some ‘splainin’ and profuse apologies, Cleo seems willing to forgive him. They are discussing their plans for the evening, when a pungent odor momentarily distracts Cleo It is the unmistakable sweet smell of ganja. Cleo nearly floats out the door on the scent trail, tracking it back to its source. Jason follows close behind. The smell is emanating from a large fire pit. Cleo recognizes the man tending the fire as the one who was transacting business from his trailer. He is a tall wiry white dude with a head full of dreads (dreadlocks). A beneficent smile nearly splits his face in two. It has to be that big to accommodate the massive blunt sticking out of the corner of his mouth.
As they approach he is dropping handfuls of the aromatic herb into the flames. Other denizens of the campground are gathered near the fire, in the path of the smoke, taking in the vapors. Arranged around the fire are fish on skewers, angled to take advantage of flames and smoke. The man greets Cleo and Jason and introduces himself as Fatty. He welcomes them to the circle by offering them a hit off his spliff. Cleo takes a drag and passes it on to Jason, who passes it down the line without taking a hit.
Fatty continues to make introductions as the joint makes the rounds. He points to a ginger haired cutie with a face full of freckles, “That’s my girl Mary Jane”.
She looks young, possibly even under age, but it’s clear he means girlfriend and not daughter. Next to her is Russ, who is passing a bottle of clear liquid in the opposite direction of the blunt. After Russ are Gooch and Polly.
(GM Note: Russ kinda looks like Nick Nolte on a bad hair day, except with a long droopy mustache and scraggly beard. Gooch is short for Goochi, which is a misspelling of Gucci (like in the hand bag). The nickname is in reference to his skin, which looks like worn leather. The smoke helps to relieve the pain of the skin cancer, which is slowly eating him away. Polly is a round faced brunette, whose deep set eyes are made all the more cavernous by her choice of eye makeup. Although she has cute dimples, her smiled is marred by severe dental issues.)
When the bottle gets to Cleo, she takes a surreptitious sniff, before drinking. It’s clearly grain alcohol or something just as hard. She takes a small sip before passing it on. Jason being unfamiliar with grain alcohol takes a swig and almost passes out. Fatty offers him the joint, saying it will help take out the sting. Even though his eyes are watering and head swimming, Jason still waves off the joint.
Cleo excuses herself to go get ready. Since she thought Jason had blown her off, she hadn’t bothered to get ready to go out. Jason decides to hang out by the fire. The quiet reflection is broken by a vehicle turning into the campground. It’s an all-terrain vehicle with ‘Police’ emblazoned on the side. The vehicle comes to a stop directly facing the fire pit. The officer exits the vehicle and begins walking over, calling out to Fatty as he approaches the fire, “You still peddling that stink weed.”
Fatty retorts, “C’mon, Digby you know it’s for the glaucoma.” The officer continues conversing with Fatty. The bottle, which had previously been making the rounds of the fire, finds its way into his hand.
Officer (Ray) Digby takes a healthy pull off the bottle, all the while eyeing Jason, who appears uncomfortable and nervous. (Hmm, maybe it’s all the illegal activity going on with a cop standing right there). After swallowing down the hooch, Digby looks directly at Jason and in a deep authoritative voice demands, “and who might you be?”
Transfixed by the officer’s glare across the fire Jason stammers out “James, no, Jason.”
Digby looks amused. “Ok, James No Jason, what are you doing here?”.
Based on his attire and personal grooming (all primped for his date), Jason obviously stands out from the other people sitting near the fire. Fatty tries to come to his rescue telling Digby, Jason came with the new chicky, pointing towards Cleo’s trailer with the smoldering end of his blunt. Digby asks Jason, “So, what’s her name?”
(GM Note: PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: WRITE STUFF DOWN! The player completely forgot Cleo’s name. He twisted in the wind for a minute before Cleo makes her grand entrance. Hmm…maybe she was still pissed about being stood up.)
Cleo confidently strides up to officer Digby, sticks out her hand and announces, “Hi, I’m Jane. Digby gives her an appraising stair (checking her out from head to toe). She is currently decked out in her party clothes, which covers next to nothing. At the moment, she is also at an 11 ATTR. He doesn’t take her hand right away (too busy ogling her). Not wanting to look silly (leaving her had sticking out there) she opts to make the offered handshake a grab for the bottle that Digby is still holding.
She puts it to her lips and takes a sensuous sip, then offers the bottle back to Digby. He takes it with an outstretched hand, never taking his eyes off of her. Cleo smiles and turns on her heels. She calls to Jason as one would a pet, telling him to hurry up or they’ll be late. Jason jumps onto the bike behind her and they head out.
Takashi’s day has been unproductive. Try as he might, he hasn’t been able to track down any taps on the system. It is almost as if someone is working against his efforts… He decides to pack it in for the day and head home. At home, Rose informs him that she will be going out to dinner with Jill and Jackie, so he will be on his own for the evening. Takashi’s plans for a quiet night are interrupted by a phone call.
The call is from Bob Luddy, one of the other efficiency experts sent to Chamberlain. He asks if Takashi has any plans for the evening. When Takashi says no, Bob tells him he does now. Dick Jones, the regional manager for Conover’s operations in Chamberlain and the surrounding territory has arranged a welcome party for them (Takashi / Mashiro , Bob Luddy and Bob Slydell). A car will be by to pick up Takashi in a half hour.
A half hour later, a minivan pulls up outside. The Bobs are already in the vehicle. Once Takashi gets in, the three are whisked off to the Palomino Club. Dick Jones is a member of the club and has booked a private hospitality suite on the second floor for their use. The suite upstairs is not ready upon their arrival. The manager apologizes for the delay and comps them ‘club cash’ that they can spend club downstairs.
In the strip club, Takashi runs into Dr. Freeman who is enjoying the show. (More on this encounter later in the post).
Once their suite is prepared, the trio is escorted upstairs by one of the hostesses. A low, lit platform dominates the middle of the room. Several dancers are already undulating slowly to music as they enter. The three quickly take up seats on the overstuffed chairs and couches that surround the stage. A sumptuous dinner and open bar only enhance the experience. The Bobs are reveling in the evening. Takashi is attempting to remain reserved.
When the Bob’s head upstairs for some one on one attention with the girls, Takashi opts to remain in the suite on the second floor. He is playing the part of a loyal and dutiful husband to a T, even though it’s killing him inside. He resists the advances (several times) of Nikki, the dancer, who had remained in the suite to keep him entertained.
In an effort to fend off further seduction attempts, Takashi engages Nikki in conversation. They tell each other some lies. She spins a story of being a student, working at the Palomino to make money for tuition. Takashi uses the opportunity to reinforce his cover. He tells Nikki about Tokyo and his wife, Yoko (Rose). As the conversation progresses Nikki admits to Takashi that she admires him for remaining faithful to his wife. She also lets slip that Dick’s welcome party might be an attempt to gather incriminating evidence for blackmail. Nikki seems frightened by her slip and quickly changes the subject.
While Takashi is enjoying the show upstairs, Rose arrives downstairs with Jill and Jackie for dinner. At first, Rose acts confused, wondering why the pair have brought her to a strip club. She comments about what she would do if she found her husband such a place. Jackie jokingly states that they could pop back after dinner to see if he is there. Rose declines the invitation, saying that she trusts her husband.
Jill and Jackie reassure her that the Palomino is much more than just a gentleman’s club. They like coming here, because it is one of the few fine dining establishments in the Chamberlain area. The kitchen is top notch and the wait staff is impeccable. Rose begins to suspect that Jill and Jackie have more than a passing familiarity with the workings of the club. The waiter addresses them by name…Ms. Sutliff (Jill) and Ms. Burnum (Jackie) and several people stop by the table to pay their respects, during the course of the meal.
Rose tries to turn the conversation towards finding out what happened to Jill’s husband. Jill tells a sad story of how her husband and son were killed by Nomads about five years ago. Jackie, attempting to lighten the mood, tells Rose about a beautiful paddle wheel riverboat that she and Jill took a cruise on two years previous. The Laurel Lee is a floating resort, which plies the waters of the Missouri during the warmer months of the year. Both agree that Rose should book a cruise.
(GM Note: Takashi was still upstairs talking with Nikki, when Rose, Jill and Jackie depart. This avoided any awkward moments in the foyer of the club. Darn! Oh well, I usually have characters role a D10 if they are both heading to the same destination. The closer the die rolls are, the greater the chance that the players might run into each other. In this case, Takashi told me specifically that he was leaving around midnight, even if the Bobs planned to stay longer. The dinner finished well before that. Where’s the fun in that?)
When Takashi arrives home, Rose brings him up to speed on the night’s events. Takashi in turn, makes her aware of the potential blackmail plot.
Ken and Dr. Freeman are in their Drifter during the time that Jason and Cleo are meeting the other residents of Conestoga Park at the camp fire. Neither sees any need to go out and meet these people. The arrival of officer, Digby only validates their decision (in their minds). Dr. Freeman is getting antsy. He wants to go out. Ken plans to return to the Silver Dollar (Saloon) with a list of items he thinks would interest the gang. He is careful to not include everything they have, because as the player stated, “why put up a big sign saying please rob me?” They are still in the feeling out stages of their business relationship with the Road Reapers.
Dr. Freeman heads off to the Palomino Club, leaving Ken to take care of business at the Silver Dollar. He enters through the strip club entrance and takes a seat to enjoy the show.
(GM Note: This entrance is separate from the main entrance of the club. The main entrance opens up on the foyer, off of which are the front desk, restaurant and lounge. A corridor connects the front of the building to the gentleman’s club at the rear. Along the corridor are back house operations of the club and the gift shop. These act as a noise buffer between the strip club and the restaurant and lounge.)
Dr. Freeman has been enjoying himself for a couple of hours, by the time Takashi and the Bobs arrive. He sees Takashi and greets him by saying, “Hey, it’s Karaoke Time”.
Takashi not understanding that this is a slam asks, in all seriousness, “Oh!, they have Karaoke?” Dr. Freeman tries a couple of other veiled derogatory comments that fly right over Takashi’s head.
This exchange has not gone unnoticed and large gentleman is a suit is already making his way over when Dr. Freeman drops his last bombshell, “Hey, where are the whores?” The gentleman kindly as Dr. Freeman to come with him, and he will see if he can assist him. Takashi and the Bobs are heading upstairs to their private suite around the same time. Takashi holds the doors to the elevator, so that Dr. Freeman and the security guard can get on.
The guard thanks him, but says that they will wait. When the car returns, the guard stands aside and motions for Dr. Freeman to enter first. Once inside the elevator, the guard presses the button for the third floor, but presses the stop button on the elevator, when they are between floors. He then explains to Dr. Freeman that the club does offer the services he is seeking, but asks that in the future he refrain from such outbursts in public. The club has a reputation to maintain. As a member, he she be aware of the need to maintain an air of propriety.
Dr. Freeman listens intently and nods his head in agreement. Once he knows that he has been understood, the guard starts up the elevator and they ascend to the third floor. As a new member, Dr. Freeman is offered a discount on a suite and the service of one of the clubs lovely young ladies for the evening; at the low, low price of only 300 euros.
After officer Digby departs Conestoga Park Ken heads off to the Silver Dollar. Lem is definitely interested in what Ken and Dr. Freeman are selling. He says that they (the gang) can have some of the money together by Monday. After business is done, Lem buys Ken a beer. Lem spots Cleo and excuses himself to go ask her for a dance.
Cleo’s rush to leave Conestoga Park didn’t have anything to with their (Cleo and Jason) run in with officer Digby…well maybe a little. She was in a hurry to get the Silver Dollar for the live music. Friday and Saturday are live music nights at the Silver Dollar. She wanted to be able to get in and dance. Unfortunately the band isn’t there. The other patrons don’t seem to mind. Those that are dancing are making due with the music being pumped out of an antique jukebox. Cleo heads over to check out the tunes. There are a couple of new songs, but most of the selections are hits from the 80s and 90s.
She chooses a couple of songs and dances her way back to Jason It’s shaping up to be a relaxing evening. With their business concluded, Ken is kicking back, talking with some of the other Road Reapers. After making sure that Jason was ok with it, Cleo takes a spin around the dance floor with Lem. Once Lem has blazed the trail, her dance card is full for most of the night.
Around 9:30, one of the Road Reapers bursts into the bar. His right hand is clasped over his left upper arm. Blood is trickling out between his fingers. Mike (the biker) says that he was riding into town with Sid and Hoy, when they were ambushed. He knows Hoy went down, but he doesn’t know what happened to Sid. He could see how many people had attacked them, but he thought it best to warn the town and come for backup.
While Mike is recounting his story, Cleo stops the bleeding from his arm. He doesn’t seem to have any other obvious injuries. He is however looking a bit gray due to blood loss. As soon as he is finished filling the gang in on what happened, he is rushed over to the medical center. The Road Reapers are furious, to say the least.
Lem and a couple of the other Road Reapers are heading off to notify the police and call up the rest of the gang. They plan to ride out tomorrow to look for Hoy and Sid and whoever bushwhacked them. Ken offers to tag along, but says he doesn’t have a bike. Lem says he’ll send someone by to pick him up in the morning. The news pretty much puts a damper on the rest of the evening as people head off to prepare for the morning.
While all this is happening down at the Silver Dollar, Jose is talking up Dottie (warehouse dispatcher) down at Hoser’s. After Jason had rushed off to find Cleo, he had gone down to River City Fitness, to check it out. After a long workout, he had showered, changed and headed out for a couple of drinks at Hoser’s. That is where he ran into Dottie, who was out with a group of girls from the office. By this time Jose and Dottie were the only two left from the group.
Dottie confides in Jose that she had heard Bill (warehouse manager) talking about Jimmy. From what she heard, it sounds like he really doesn’t like him. Jose doesn’t press her for details. It seems like he is more interest in making a play for her, than gathering information. He even walks her home, getting a peck on the cheek for his ‘chivalry’.
Saturday April 30, 2025:
Dr. Freeman arrives back early in the morning from the Palomino club. His only thought is to climb into bed for some more rack time. He didn’t get a lot of sleep the previous evening. Ken convinces him to forget about the sleep and come join the posse. An all-terrain vehicle picks them up and takes them over to Chamberlain. In front of the Silver Dollar, there are at least 25 motorcycles and 4 jeeps. Thirty-five plus, heavily armed men are milling about. Most are armed with hunting rifles and shotguns, but a couple have M-16s.
Ken is a little bit worried about the legality of his participation. He approaches what appears to be the command vehicle (several men gathered around the hood of the vehicle, studying a map of the local terrain). The men look up from the map. Ken, being unsure how to phrase his question, hesitantly asks what happens if he shoots someone. A man in a Brule County Sheriff’s uniform cuts him off and asks directly, “Do you want to be deputized?”
Ken responds, “Uh…Yes?”.
In a dismissive manner, the sheriff replies, “fine, consider yourself deputized”. He turns back to studying the map, as do the other men.
The posse is broken down into teams. Ken is in a Jeep driven by another Brule County deputy (Jimmy Engel). In the back are two locals (Finn and Carter) with high powered rifles. Dr. Freeman is in another jeep, driven be a guy name Ed. Dan is sitting shotgun and Dr. Freeman is in the back with Crazy Steve. Crazy Steve seems excited at the prospect of shooting someone.
The search goes on for the better part of the morning, when a call comes in. Two kids were stopped joy riding on Sid’s bike. The scene, when Ken and Dr. Freeman pull up in their respective jeeps, is of two visibly frightened youths, spread eagle, with their hands on the hood of an ATV, surrounded by 30 heavily armed grim faced men. The Sheriff (Darrell Brady) is questioning them.
The boys swear they found the bike off the road, covered in underbrush. He asks them where they are from. Both immediately say Crow Lake. Sheriff Brady leans over, so that he is at eye level with both boys and says, “I’m going to send some of these men up to Crow Lake and they’re going to ask around to see if anyone up there knows you boys. If they don’t find anyone knows you boys…well things are going to go bad for you.” One of the boys breaks down crying.
Crow Lake is outside of Brule County (it’s in Jerauld County). This puts it outside of Sheriff Brady’s jurisdiction. Just so things don’t get out of hand he decides to send one of his deputies. He sends Jimmy, with Ken, Finn and Carter, to check out the boys’ story. As they approach the town, Ken smells smoke, but not the kind from a cooking fire. Jimmy stops the Jeep and Ken, Finn and Carter proceed on foot.
Crow Lake is less a town then a collection of houses along the shoreline, one of which is on fire. From their vantage point, the three can see a Drifter, two jeeps and a handful of motorcycles. Ken will attempt to move in closer. Finn and Carter will provide covering fire if needed. Ken is able to work to within 25 meters of the town. From here, he can make out four figures covered by a man with an assault rifle. They are kneeling with their hands behind their heads.
A woman exits one of the houses. She walks to one of the kneeling figures and backhands him across the face. The man fall to the ground, where upon the woman proceeds to kick him several times. “Where is it?” she demands.
Before Ken has a chance to hear any more a shot rings out. A sentry had spotted Ken and was about to raise the alarm. A second shot takes out the gunner on the pintle-mounted machine gun (on the Drifter).
The shots draw attention away from Ken’s position. He uses the diversion to sprint the remaining distance into the small town and attack the vehicles. Blasting away with thermite shells, he toasts the Drifter and one of the Jeeps. Finn and Carter are busy taking out targets of opportunity. Ken drops his shotguns and pulls his katana and wakizashi for close quarter work. Two fleeing combatants run afoul of his blades.
A lone dirt bike rips through town. It stops just long enough for the woman to jump on back. As it begins racing out the backside of town, a jeep comes barreling up the road and sets off in pursuit of the motorcycle. Jimmy had use the time that the three were sneaking up on the town to call in the cavalry.
Dr. Freeman is in the jeep chasing down the retreating motorcycle. Crazy Steve lets off a full auto blast from his M-16, but due to the jostling of the vehicle he misses. Dr. Freeman’s shot yields better results. He blows off the driver’s leg and hit the woman in the back twice. As the driver loses control of the bike, the woman is sent flying. She plows face first into a tree.
Dr. Freeman dismounts the vehicle to see if either of them is alive. Both are dead. The woman’s face is damaged beyond recognition. Since the rest of the posse seems to be mopping up the rest of the town in good order, Dr. Freeman takes the opportunity to loot the bodies. The driver has nothing on him. The woman however, has a map, marked with GPS coordinates, and a phone with GPS. Dr. Freeman decides to pocket these items rather than turning them over to the sheriff.
One of the posse comes to collect Dr. Freeman to take care of the survivors of the town. When the shooting started, the gunman, who had been guarding them with the assault rifle, opened up and shot them in the back. One is dead, but three survived. There is also one survivor among the gunmen. Sheriff Brady interrogates him, but he really doesn’t know anything. The girl had hired the lot of them as thugs. Since he can provide no useful information, the sheriff turns him over to the survivors of the town. It isn’t a swift end.
The survivors are brought back to Chamberlain for medical treatment. A more thorough investigation of the ambush site reveals two shallow graves. Sid and Hoy are confirmed dead. The bodies are carried back to Chamberlain and the posse returns to the Silver Dollar to raise a glass (or two) in their honor. Ken’s fighting prowess is well on its way to legendary status, thanks to Finn and Carter. Their accounts get better and better with each retelling. Sheriff Brady doesn’t even bring up the use of thermite rounds.
Cleo and Jason’s day is much more sedate. Cleo is going to teach Jason how to swim. They head down to the train trestle. It appears to be a popular swimming spot. Fatty, Mary Jane and most of the kids are about half way out.
(GM Note: I’m at a quandary. I can’t figure out if Cleo is still pissed and is spreading his torture out over a long period of time or if it is part of some bizarre trust exercise…do you trust me not to let you drown? Most people learn to swim in a as shallow body of water, maybe a pond or pool. Cleo’s method is to have Jason jump off the middle of a trestle into one of the deepest parts of the Missouri River. I guess she is of the school that you need to learn to run before you can crawl.)
Cleo convinces Jason to jump off the middle off the trestle. Without a second though he jumps right in and proceeds to sink like a stone. She promptly dives down and rescues him. It’s not bad for a first lesson, although it doesn’t go much beyond learning to float and the dog paddle. Cleo and an exhausted Jason help Fatty and Mary Jane carry back the fish that they caught. Fatty invites them to a cookout tomorrow. When ask what time it starts, he responds, “Whenever”.
One the way back, Cleo spots Jose coming across the bridge. She hurries Jason back to the trailer and tells him he can have first shower. By the time Jose arrives at Conestoga Park, they are nowhere in sight. Jose approaches Fatty, who is cleaning the fish and asks if he knows where Jason and Cleo are. Fatty motions towards Cleo’s trailer with the point of the knife.
Jose thanks him and heads over to knock on the door. Cleo answers cradling a shotgun. The last time she had seen Jose, he had been one of the people staring down their table at the Silver Dollar Saloon. She asks him what he wants. Jose tells her that he is looking for Jason and wants to know if he is here. Nearly before he finishes his sentence, Cleo responds, “No.” She doesn’t even try to sound like she’s telling the truth.
Jose says he’ll go to the police and report him as a missing person. Cleo tells him to go right ahead. Jose strides out of Conestoga Park with a purpose. He plans to head back to Chamberlain and speak with the police. He makes it half way across the bridge, before he is passed by Cleo and Jason on her bike. Once at the Silver Dollar, Cleo puts a large dent in Jason’s paycheck. She is so drunk by the end of the night, that he suggests he drive them back…so they don’t accidentally drive off a bridge.
Rose and Takashi have had a quiet day at home. In the evening, there is a knock on the door. Takashi opens it and finds a package addressed to him, with no return address. They search it thoroughly with a bug and tech scanner and a chem. sniffer. The package comes up clean. Takashi nonchalantly opens the box and is surprised by the rattlesnake, which strikes at his arm. Luckily, he has skinweave and the snake is unable to break the skin.
Rose calls the police. Animal control arrives to remove the snake and the police take Rose and Takashi’s statements. The officer tells them that it appears that the snakes rattle had been cut off. They question if Takashi knows anyone who might wish him harm…but that’s a mystery for another episode.
Episode 24: FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES
(GM Note: Jimmy’s player couldn’t make it once again, so he’s still recovering in the medical center from his run-in with the fork lift.)
Sunday May 1, 2025:
After a night spent “getting her drunk on”, Cleo (Jane) awakes to an empty bed. Jason is already up and getting dressed. She asks if he wants to go swimming, but he tells her that he’s going to spend the day with his friend, Jose. Cleo’s a bit miffed. She considered he was hers for the entire weekend. Jason winds up hoofing it back to Chamberlain.
(GM Note: Wow, Jason’s got a set of big brass ones. After pretty much telling Cleo, “Hey, I’m gonna ditch you and go hang with my friend”, he actually had the balls to ask her for a ride back to Chamberlain.)
Jose isn’t in the room when he arrives, so Jason uses the time to clean up. Jose finally gets back from the gym and is surprised to see him. He asks Jason where he’s been and then tells him how Jane (Cleo) stuck a shotgun in his face and told him to leave. The details deviate a little from what actually happened, but it makes Jason wants to set things right. He doesn’t want any animosity between his best friend and ‘his girl’. They begin to head to Conestoga Park but detour for lunch along the way.
The residents of Conestoga Park begin to set up for the fish fry. Dr. Freeman mistakes the cookout for a farmers market. He begins questioning Fatty about the prices of the various food items. Fatty stops him and explains, good naturedly, that it’s a pot luck and that both Ken and Dr. Freeman are invited. They just have to bring something. Dr. Freeman decides to head over to the market to pick up instant brownies. In his haste, he forgets to disconnect the Drifter from the power hook up…it gives him something to fix later.
Dr. Freeman returns with brownie mix, rather than heat and serve brownies. This leads to a slight problem, since he doesn’t have all of the ingredients he needs and doesn’t know how to cook. Cleo (Jane) comes to the rescue. She sees Dr. Freeman is having difficulty and offers to help. Since her stove isn’t working, she asks to use the one in his Drifter. Cleo’s real motive is to make contact with Dr. Freeman and Ken private. Both have yet to see through her disguise. While she is putting together the brownies, she gives them the prearranged code phrase.
Before they begin talking, Cleo insists on scanning the Drifter. It’s clean, but there is a hit from just outside the vehicle. The signal is traced to the bike that Dr. Freeman and Ken recovered from Crow Lake. A locator beacon is attached just under the gas tank. Dr. Freeman regales her with the story of Crow Lake and how they came by the bike. He also shows her the map and phone. Cleo asks if the battery is still in the phone. It is.
Dr. Freeman points out the GPS coordinates on the map and tells her there are more in the phone. Based on the locations on the map and the ones in the phone it appears to be a grid search pattern that is sweeping east to west. There is a GPS coordinates about 1 ½ miles to the north of Conestoga Park, that is not marked on the map. It could be that they never got around to checking out that location.
Cleo recognizes the device is more than just a phone. It’s a hand held for a satellite uplink. She attempts to get a connection, but the device requires a code. Cleo excuses herself and heads back to her trailer, with the device in hand. She jacks into her deck and is able to crack the inscription. This gives her access to the stored memory. The GPS coordinates and surrounding area are mapped with high-resolution visual imaging, which is overlaid with IR and Microwave Radiometric scans.
The last data in the memory is of the attack on Crow Lake. The signal is terminated just as a bright flash erupts on the ground…the destruction of the Drifter. Cleo contacts Bea through the Net (in virtual). She transmits the data to Bea, who remarks that some of the coordinates correspond to locations where the trucks were hijacked. Bea asks Cleo if anything unusual is happening. When Cleo asks why, she explains that there have been several bursts of coded traffic from the surrounding area in the past week. Bea hasn’t been able to track it down, but she is still working on it. Before they disconnect, Cleo makes a point of asking for the names of their contacts in town. Her suspicions about Jason and Jose are confirmed.
About this time, Jason and Jose are nearing Conestoga Park on foot. Jose happens to catch sight of a glint and movement on the high ground behind Conestoga Park. (at about 150 m) (the player rolled in the high 30s on his Awareness/Notice) It appears to be someone skulking around outside of the campground. Jose begins to run into the campground with Jason close on his heels. As they approach Cleo (Jane), is exiting her trailer (after her conversation with Bea).
Jason prompts Jose to tell her what he saw. Cleo immediately links it to the locater beacon on the motorcycle and satellite phone. She heads off to inform Ken and Dr. Freeman. Ken says he’ll check it out. He claims to be a Deputy*, noting that he was deputized the previous day (Episode: 23) as part of the posse. If anyone was there, they are now long gone. Once Ken returns to the Drifter, he and Dr. Freeman head out to dispose of the locater beacon…They are going to attach it to a vehicle at Al’s Oasis.
(GM Note: *I’m not sure if he was just screwing around or if he actually thought he was now a deputy of the Brule County Sheriff’s Department.)
The rest, of the residents of Conestoga Park, aren’t blind to the commotion, but they mind their own business. Jason asks Fatty what the cookout is for. Fatty responds with a smile, “It’s May Day man”, as if it explains everything. Jason still doesn’t understand, but nods his head and smiles back.
Jose catches a smattering of conversation between two of the older kids. “Yeah, I saw him, he was dressed funny.” He thinks that they are referring to whoever was watching the campground. Jose interrupts their conversation and asks “what did you see?” The boys look a little frightened and the one who had been speaking says, “We didn’t see anything.” The boys quickly walk away to continue their conversation elsewhere.
(GM Note: I think the player sometimes forgets how big his character is. Jose is over six feet tall and heavily muscled. He would intimidate some grown men, let alone a 10 year old.)
Cleo took note of the interaction. She gives it a little time then approaches the youth when he’s alone. Being a boy, he is much more open to the attentions of a pretty woman. He tells Cleo that he and a couple of the other kids had been helping Fatty bring in the harvest. They came across a man hanging from tree in an odd outfit. The more he describes it, the clear it becomes that it was most likely someone whose parachute had become snagged in a tree. The odd clothing was clothes possibly a jump suit or maybe combat fatigues. The boy tells her that Fatty said he would take care of it and had dragged the body off.
When Ken and Dr. Freeman return from secreting the locater beacon on an outbound truck, Cleo excuses herself to go to the bathroom. In actuality she is going to call Dr. Freeman’s through her deck. She tells them about the body and who found it, but neglects to mention it’s in a pot field. Ken and Dr. Freeman are arguing about the significance of the body and the person(s) watching Conestoga Park as a wrap comes from the door to the Drifter.
(GM Note: Fatty had stopped by to make sure that they were coming to the cook out. Their argument carried right through the wall of the Drifter. Fatty walked off looking unnerved.)
Rose and Takashi are having a quiet day at home, when Takashi receives a frantic call from Bob Luddy. Bob has bad news. Someone has broken in and locked everyone out of the system. Even the administrative access codes have been erased. The Conover computer system is completely locked down. Bob wants to know if Takashi (Mashiro) saw anything when he was in the system over the past few days. Takashi says no, but that he will be over to see what he can do.
With access erased and locked down, Takashi is forced to hammer through the data wall. After a little effort, he gains access to the system and gets a nasty surprise. Whoever hijacked the system also left a Hell Hound waiting for whoever stepped through first. Takashi had not been expecting this and with no defenses up, decides to jack out. The Hell Hound gets off one shot before Takashi successfully jacks out. It does no damage but it did tag him. This will allow it to track him in the Net.
Takashi tries to explain to Bobs (Luddy and Slydell) what happened. They ask what he needs. Takashi still hasn’t replaced all of the programs he lost when the group was captured by Militech. He currently has nothing that will take out the Hell Hound. The Bobs are adamant that system needs to be ‘fixed’ as quickly as possible. They can have whatever he needs flown in. Takashi tells them to hold off, he’s going to try a couple of things first.
Back at the campground, the party is in full swing. Jose and Dr. Freeman partake of some proffered mushrooms and begin to trip the light fantastic. Both have moments of clarity interspersed among bouts of incoherence. Later in the evening, Dr. Freeman tells Ken, “C’mon, there’s death in the desert”, and then heads off into the night. He’s setting off to find the body while armed and tripping on shrooms. Along the way, he comes across a pretty wire and nearly picks it up to show Ken
Luckily he has a moment of clarity and leaves it alone. It’s a tripwire at the edge of a pot field. Interestingly the location of the pot field corresponds to the GPS coordinates. While Dr. Freeman tries to keep it together, Ken searches around for signs of the body. After some searching he locates some freshly dug soil. With no shovel and little in the way of help from Dr. Freeman it takes Ken nearly an hour to dig up the body, which is buried fairly deep.
The body is of an Asian man in a black jump suit. The body was wrapped up in a military parafoil. Although there are no markings or equipment on the guy, it is obvious that he isn’t some weekend skydiving enthusiast. Dr. Freeman, in a moment of clarity, catches Ken in deep thought. He asks Ken what he’s thinking about. Ken responds sarcastically, “I’m just thinking whether I should bury you in the hole.”
A sudden noise catches both of their attention. It’s a coyote stopped in mid stride staring at them. Dr. Freeman asks Ken if he sees it…just to make sure it’s actually there and not a hallucination. Ken tells him it must be his spirit guide. Dr. Freeman takes off in pursuit of the coyote. Ken follows to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else. Both forget to rebury the body. Eventually Dr. Freeman passes out and Ken carries him back to the Drifter.
Monday May 2, 2025:
Cleo wakes Jason and begins to make breakfast. Jason tries to wake Jose who had crashed on the couch. Cleo’s let them stay in her trailer rather Jose returns to the dorms in his altered state. Jose is feeling better, but the effects of the shrooms still haven’t fully worn off. Cleo calls them a taxi while they’re eating. They are a little late for work, but it doesn’t matter. The computer systems are still down. There is no way to “punch in” with their cards.
Everything was tied into the system, the company IDs, the computer systems, the registers in the Conover Exchange, etc. is being handled on paper or hand held (e-books) until the main system is back up. The dispatch and order systems are being reconstructed from offsite backups. It will be a couple of hours before any orders are ready to go out. In the interim Jose and Jason are sent to help clean out the silos at the grain elevator. Jose works diligently to complete the work, while Jason milks it.
Dr. Freeman seems none the worse for last night’s exploits. He has several clients visiting for skin weave shots. He diligently scans their DNA before injecting them, but his bedside manner still needs work. When asked by a worried patient, “how thick is this going to get?”, Dr. Freeman answered, “The skin doesn’t get much thicker… assuming you don’t have any kind of reaction. If you start to Michelin (blow up like the Michelin Man), come see me right away.”
(GM Note: Way to instill confidence!)
After his morning patients, Dr. Freeman and Ken take the dirt bike from Crow Lake to Curt’s Cycle Center. Curt is one of the Road Reapers. He doesn’t have the equipment needed to fix the frame, but he offers a trade. Curt will build Dr. Freeman a new frame in return for a discount on a skinweave shot. He’ll make it so that they can reuse most of the parts from the dirt bike or if Dr. Freeman prefers, he’s willing to trade parts for a further discount on the shot. Dr. Freeman agrees to the trade, but wants the frame to be fitted for Ken
While Jason and Jose are rushing to work, Takashi is still trying to figure out how to get rid of the Hell Hound. His first thought was to get in touch with his contact back in Night City and have them send the program he needs. This unfortunately might blow his cover and there could be a ‘slight’ delay shipping the program from Night City to South Dakota. Rose urges him to call Bea. In his rush, he almost jacks back into the Net. Luckily he remembers the Hell Hound has his ‘scent’ and that he had left a nice big hole in the data wall for it to leave the system and come after him. He is reduced to phoning the exotic entertainment service and asking for Billie.
Takashi tells Bea what happened. She is surprised that he hasn’t replaced his programs, She tells him that the team has already been paid half of the 100k euros, and asks what they are doing with the money. Takashi has no answer. He hangs up to discuss the matter with Rose, who indicates that any purchase made through Conover would probably come back off their bottom line. She calls back Bea to see if she can set up a conference call with Cleo
Cleo is sitting outside her trailer (working on her bike) when the call comes. She gets a quick run down from Rose and then asks to speak with Takashi. She gets on his case for thinking like a netrunner, rather than the corporate he is impersonating. Cleo tells him to call Net Watch, hangs up and goes back to working on her bike.
A call to Net Watch yields a host of net weasels in short order. Being the middle of South Dakota, this is the biggest thing that has happened in quite some time. They quickly dispatch the Hell Hound and then politely ask if they can investigate the intrusion. Even with the Hell Hound eliminated, the site can’t be brought back online until the breach in the data wall is repaired. Takashi’s next call is to have a system technician fly out with replacement hardware.
About the time Cleo is hanging up with Takashi, Dr. Freeman knocks on her trailer. He brings her up to speed on what they had discovered in the woods. Unfortunately, his story is colored by hallucinations from the previous evening. She gets “a dead Asian guy in black cammo was stuffed in an animal hole, with a parasail, parasal no parafoil.” He also obsesses about this interesting wire he found and about the space coyote that Ken said was his spirit guide. Cleo tries her best to pull the details out of his ramblings. Thankfully, the conversation is interrupted by a call from Bea. She has information about the data that Cleo had sent to her. The telemetry was from a Militech satellite. Brexton Brands has contracted security through Militech. It appears they might be running their own clandestine investigation of the hijackings.
After helping Takashi solve his little problem, Rose hits the gym. She then works on keeping up appearances around town. In the afternoon, Jackie calls to invite her out to the farm. She also tells Rose, she must come see Pierre with them Jill and Jackie) Rose retorts, “as long as Pierre isn’t a guy”. Jackie laughs, and informs her that it’s the state capital, which is just up the Missouri (river). They have to go there next week on business. Jackie will have a car sent around to pick her up tomorrow.
Cleo has her first shift at the Palomino club. She makes fairly good money for a Monday night. At her urging, Jason does not come to see her work. He is instead across the river pricing a car. He leaves a deposit on a rebuilt 2005 Toyota Corolla. Jason and Jose plan to go in on the car together.
(GM Note: A car might look good for their cover and give them mobility, but it doesn’t leave them with any walking around money. As it is, they have to wait for payday to afford for the car and registration.)
Tuesday May 3, 2025:
Jason and Jose get a reprieve from cleaning the grain elevator. They are tapped to make a delivery. On the way out, the radio in the truck goes dead. There is no static (like a mistuned station) it is just dead. Jason fiddles with the dials and hits the dash board (thinking it might be a loose wire), but there is no sound, even though the radio is obviously on. As the vehicle continues down the road, the radio cuts in again, blaring. When fiddling with the knobs he had accidentally turned up the volume.
On the way back they see a man walking on the side of the road hitch hiking. He is swaying from side to side and the left side of his face is covered in what looks like blood. Against better judgment, they pick him up. The man thanks them for stopping as he unsteadily climbs into the cab. He says his name is Joe. When asked what happened. Joe recounts how he was driving down the road towards town, when his engine cut out for no reason. The bike went out of control and he crashed. “That’s” when this happen”, he says pointing to the lacerations and blood on the side of his face.
From there, his story takes a turn for the surreal. He talks about coming to and have tall grey aliens standing over him. He thinks he must have passed out again, because the next thing he remembers is waking up on the side of the road, with his bike and the aliens gone. Jason and Jose listen and nod politely, but think the grey aliens are probably from planet Concussion. They take him to the Chamberlain medical center.
Rose is picked up by a driver and taken to the goat ranch. It is much larger than she first thought. After a delightful lunch, Jill and Jackie take her to the Golden Buffalo casino on the Sioux reservation in Lower Brule.
Meanwhile, Dr. Freeman decides to confront Fatty about the body. With Ken in tow, he knocks on Fatty’s trailer. Fatty is jovial, till they begin questioning him about the body. He swears he has no idea what they are talking about. They tell him, that they aren’t the ones he has to worry about…hinting that others are also looking for body. They succeed in intimidating him, but Fatty holds firm to knowing nothing.
Wednesday May 4, 2025:
Cleo’s shift ends at 4 am. Heading home, she notices something is amiss with Fatty’s trailer. The light out front, which is habitually on, is off. The collection of equipment and clutter outside of the trailer also seems to be smaller. She retrieves her shotgun and goes to investigate. Peering into the trailer, things appear to be strewn about. Fatty and Mary Jane are nowhere in sight. The only occupant of the trailer is a girl who had taken up residence in the campground on Monday. Instead of sleeping on the bed (which has no sheets), she is in the main living space sleeping on a pile of overstuffed garbage bags.
Cleo quietly enters the trailer. This is easily accomplished since the lock on the door is broken. She taps the girl with the shotgun. The girl comes awake brandishing a knife, only to realize that she’s staring down the barrel of a shotgun. Cleo asks her where Fatty and Mary Jane are. The girl tells her they cut out a couple of hours ago. The way it looked, they weren’t coming back, so she moved in. She comments that it’s more comfortable than the ratty Winnebago she had been sleeping in. Cleo asks her why she isn’t sleeping on the bed. The girl explains that she needed to keep an eye on the bags, so someone would make off with them. Cleo asks, “And what’s to stop them from cutting your throat and taking it anyway?” The look on the girl’s face makes it clear that she hadn’t considered that possibility.
Cleo asks her name. The girl says Tommie and puts her hand out in an offer of a handshake. Cleo doesn’t lower her shotgun. She looks at the offered hand and back at the girl, as if to say, “what are you kidding”. The girl puts her hand down. Cleo introduces herself as Jane and tells Tommie she should consider replacing the lock. And since Cleo’s advice and assistance are never free, she takes one of the bags of sweet stinky weed as payment.
At work, Takashi (Mashiro) receives a call from David Sommers. He is with Militech and is calling about the security breach. He has a couple of questions for Mr. Ishihara (Takashi). Mr. Sommers is interested in the delay between when the system breach was identified and when Net Watch was called in. The conversation goes downhill quickly. Mr. Sommers tells Takashi (Mashiro) he will be emailing him an incident report that he wants filled out and returned or that he will come out personally. Takashi, wanting to thumb his nose at Mr. Sommers answers Hai! (Japanese for yes) and then hangs up the phone.
Takashi original intention, when he receives the incident report is to fill it out as if it was a joke and send it back to Mr. Sommers. After discussing it with Rose, he decides to send back an email indicating that system security is not his job and attach the name and phone number for the security tech, which he obtains from the corporate directory.
(GM Note: Unfortunately for Takashi, the corporate directory still listed a security tech who died 3 weeks previously. He was killed in an ATV (four wheeler) accident. His position had yet to be filled. The software administrators who had previously worked under the security tech (who was also the IT manager) were been picking up the slack of the vacant position. Neither is a netrunner and neither wanted to make the call to contact Net Watch, hoping that it could be dealt with internally.
The call to Net Watch would be logged as a system penetration, which could possibly be used to further erode confidence in the stock. They were more than happy to allow the ‘efficiency expert’ to take the flak for the call. The report that David Sommers received from Net Watch listed Mashiro Ishihara as the reporting party, which is why he contacted Takashi (Mashiro).
Unbeknownst to the party, the Shadow War is starting to heat up. Takashi just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If Militech starts to dig or look closely at the town, they will find Dr. Freeman, who is known to have worked for Arasaka during the Ocean War. Takashi and Rose’s covers might not hold under heavy scrutiny. This might lead back to Bea and her mother. Bea’s mother is running the operation on the QT in order to ferret out a mole within the company, but due to the past association of the team she has contracted, Militech may mistake her for the mole…but that’s a story for another episode.
Episode 25: CHOKE POINT
(GM Note: Well, three players were off the reservation this week. Jimmy continues to cling to life in the medical center. The other two players were Ken and Dr. Freeman. Although there were missed, their absence was easier to explain than if it had been some of the other players…I mean, how many people can you hit with a rogue forklift?
For the session, Ken and Dr. Freeman were off tracking down a lead on Fatty. They were in Mitchell (South Dakota) which is about 60 miles to the east of Chamberlain on interstate 90. The Drifter began to run rough on the way there. They were stuck in Mitchell until Dr. Freeman repaired the vehicle. Ken used the time to find Fatty.
The party members still on the job in Chamberlain met with varying degrees of success. Some stayed on mission, striving to get to the bottom of what’s going on. Others blundered from one situation to another. ‘Out of character’, their antics had the whole group laughing. ‘In character’, several party members expressed the desire to “choke the crap out of them.” But saying more would spoil the story…)
Thursday May 5, 2025:
At Cleo’s urging, Takashi begins writing a program to compare the newly uploaded database (from the offsite backup) to the scans he had made of the system, prior to the breach. The program is set up to cross reference the directories. He is trying to make sure that no other programs, beyond the obvious deletion of the HR (human resource) files, are missing Once the program is churning through the data, Takashi turns his attentions to investigating the truck hijackings.
(GM Note: Takashi was attempting establish a pattern. He was searching for anyone that may have had access to all of the trucks that were hijacked. Since his search covered multiple departments and functions within the company, the information wasn’t gathered in a nice neat package. He had to plumb the depths of the database. In the course of his investigation, he accessed several files which were flagged. When opened, a notification was sent off. Takashi assumed that these flags were setup to notify the administrator when someone accessed these programs and since he was using the administrator access he expected they would come to him. He seemed unconcerned when no notifications were forthcoming. This more than likely means the notifications were going somewhere else.)
While working out at Artemis (Spa & Fitness), Rose notices a woman she’s never seen in the gym before. Even though it’s possible that she hasn’t met everyone in town, this person definitely stands out. What draws her attention initially is the woman’s sculpted physique and the insanely large amount of weight she’s lifting. Rose continues to watch her surreptitiously and begins to pick out details; a glimpse of a tattoo, plugs at wrist and neck. Even the manner in which the woman moves and carries herself bespeak of a certain vocation. Rose is certain she’s an edgerunner; most likely a solo.
When the woman moves on to free weights, Rose attempts to lift a set of finger prints from the recently vacated exercise equipment Having no skill in forensics and with no equipment at hand, ends up using a piece of scotch tape and paper obtained from the front desk. She lifts about seven or eight prints of varying quality. After dropping her gym bag and the collected fingerprints off at home, Rose heads to the Cedar Shore Resort for lunch and to shop for a new bathing suit.
It is while paying for her new suit, in the boutique (at Cedar Shore Resort) that Rose runs into the woman from the gym for a second time. The woman is walking across the lobby in the company of a man. Her form fitting gym cloths have been replaced with a tiny bikini and sarong. The tattoo is now fully revealed. A stylized creature that is part giant centipede and part dragon covers most of her back. The body of the beast is bent in a U-shape, with the oversized head on her right shoulder blade.
This image, gives a good idea of how the tattoo is arranged on her back…if you put the head on the right. The tattoo is a stylized version of the Asian dragon with the traditional snake-like body with five claws replaced by that of a centipede.
The pair is walking towards the patio exit of the lobby. Rose quickly finishes her transaction and shadows them, at a discrete distance. It becomes clear they are heading for the marina. Rather than risk ‘sticking out’ on the dock, Rose breaks of pursuit and instead takes up position on the resort’s (guest only) beach, so she can watch them at a distance. The pair cruises out onto the river in an expensive looking speed boat. Rose decides to hang around until they return. In an effort to appear less conspicuous, she joins a pickup game of volleyball. When the game finally breaks up (several hours later) she joins some of the other volleyball players (Moira, Lance and Jock) for drinks on the patio.
Moira is a small waifish girl with glasses. Her coppery hair is worn short in a bob. This short boyish cut coupled with her slight build and glasses make her appear extremely young. As they sit in the shade of the patio, her skin begins to lighten. Rose may not know much about cyberwear, but she knows that isn’t normal. She guesses that Moira is probably augmented. Based on the moves she displayed during volleyball, she’s also probably not as frail as she looks.
Jock is a large powerful man, whose every feature seems oversized. On a smaller face they might appear comical, but Jock’s broad visage provides a perfect canvas. The effect, while not beautiful is still pleasing to the eye. It’s the kind of face you’d expect to see stamped into a coin or carved into the side of a mountain. That rugged severity is at the moment cracked by a large grin and framed by an unruly mop of sweaty black hair. The jovial lilt and cadence of his Aussie accented voice further contradicts the intimidating persona Rose had recently faced across the volleyball net.
Lance rounds out the trio. Like Jock, his current demeanor is at odds with his performance during the game. The wildly grinning madman, who threw himself all over the court, to dig out every point, has been replaced by a mild mannered office worker. Steel gray eyes pear out of a thin face with a languid smile. It’s a pleasant enough face, but one that easily forgettable. Next to Jock, Lance appears small, but then again, who doesn’t? In actuality, he’s of average height and build. Most everything about him appears average.
By the way they talk, it is apparent that the three know each other, but are more than just friends. As the conversation continues, it becomes pretty that they are edge runners. They are here on vacation after a recent job. The middle of South Dakota seemed like the perfect place to get away from it all. After all, as Lance puts it, “who expects to find edge runners in the middle of South Dakota?”
Jock invites Rose to dinner. She is at first reluctant, using the fact that she’s married, as an excuse. Jock reassures her that it’s just dinner. He tells her, that her old man (husband) doesn’t have anything to worry about. It’s not like he’s going to take her right there on the table. The comment causes Rose to blush, but elicits laughter from Lance and Moira.
In the afternoon, after working on her bike (motorcycle) and joining the Artemis, Cleo contacts Takashi to see how the search is going. He tells her about the program. She recommends not only checking the directory for file names, but also size. Just because a file is still in the system, doesn’t mean that it’s not empty. Instead of stopping the search already in progress, Takashi revises the base programming (adding the additional variables). He plans to run the new version once the first search is completed. Takashi also makes Cleo aware of the flagged files. She recommends that he check with the ‘security guy…security administrator.
(GM Note: Which Takashi doesn’t do. He is still unaware that the guy is dead.)
After work, the boys (Jason and Jose) get in touch with Bea. They tell her that Jimmy was stabbed and then hit by a forklift. The manner in which the story is related makes it sound as if both occurred in a single incident. Once things are cleared up, Bea tells them to sit tight and she’ll get back to them. Her plan is to hook them up with Dr. Freeman and Ken, but when she can’t raise them by phone (1), she contacts Cleo
The Drifter isn’t in Conestoga Park. Cleo hasn’t seen them all day. Bea is worried. She doesn’t know why they are incommunicado. She promises to contact them or track down what happened to them. In the meantime, she wants to Jason and Jose to reconnoiter the last three GPS points (2) from the hand held device. Cleo tells her, they should have a car by Friday. She also comments on Bea’s use of ‘big words’ (3)…which isn’t the way Bea normally talks.
Bea tells her that her mother has been on her case about her vocabulary and even bought her a ‘Word of the Day’ calendar. Cleo appears to accept that answer. Bea assures Cleo she will continue to try to reach Dr. Freeman and Ken or find out what happened to them. After signing off with Cleo she calls back Jason and Jose and tells them to call her once they’ve secured conveyance…She then explains to them what conveyance means.
(GM Notes: (1) Dr. Freeman and Ken are currently out of cell range. There is no cell coverage between the towns. Contact will be restored once they reach Mitchell.
(2) The first coordinates are 2 miles north of the Cedar Shore Resort on an access road. The second point is 4 ½ – 5 miles south of Oacoma, at the mouth of the White River, where it enters the Missouri. The last is off Route 16; 3 miles beyond the Chamberlain Country Club.
(3) Leave it to Cleo to pick up on the little things. I’m not sure if it was paranoia on the part of the player or just amazement, that Bea knew such big words properly. He could have also been chiding me about being off on how I was portraying Bea, but my bet is on paranoia. Since they are dealing with her in virtual or on the phone, there is the possibility that someone could be imitating her voice. No need to worry though. It’s really Bea.
Her mother did get on her about her vocabulary. The whole, “people judge you by how you present yourself” is an old argument between the two of them. Since she and her mother had something of a reconciliation Bea didn’t want to blow it by starting a fight. She took the calendar in the spirit it was offered, screwed a smile on her face and said, “Thanks Mom” with all the sincerity she could muster. Her mother was so please, she didn’t even bust on her for saying “thanks” instead of “thank you”. When Bea arrived in Mitchell, she promptly threw the calendar in a draw and forgot about it, but acting as ‘mother hen’ for this mission has her bored to tears. To pass the time, she’s actually found herself flipping through the calendar. She’s peppered some words into her daily speech, to varying degrees of success.)
Rose provides Takashi with a detailed description of who she saw (tattoo lady, the guy she was with) and met (Moria, Lance and Jock) at the resort. She also informs him that she’s going out to dinner with Jock to try and gather more information. Before leaving, she hands him the scotch tape with the finger prints, to see if he can get anything from them. Rose takes a taxi back to the resort to meet up with Jock. Jock is there, as are Moira and Lance. Also sitting at the table are the woman with the tattoo and the man who had been with her in the lobby. Jock introduces them as Erica and Lazlo. Since Rose had been a bit skittish of dining alone, he thought she would feel more comfortable with everyone there. Moira and Lance are cordial. Even Lazlo offers a sociable greeting. Erica has a look of barely concealed disdain (rolled 05% on first impressions).
Over dinner, they exchange more stories. Rose (Yoko) talks about her arranged marriage to Mashiro (Takashi). She puts on a good act of being near tears as she relates how he then dragged her off to the middle of nowhere (Chamberlain) for his important job. Moira is sympathetic, but as it becomes clear that her hubby is here to take jobs away from hard working people, Erica doesn’t even bother to conceal her growing dislike for Yoko (Rose). Rose compliments Erica on her lifting at the gym. It is a blatant attempt to curry favor and both are aware of it.
Rose talks about traveling, which Lazlo seizes upon. He asks her where she’s been. She covers the slip up by citing her imperfect English. She meant her husband’s job would allow them to travel, since he has to go several places to fire people. She claims to not have been out of Japan. Jock comments that Japan would be nice except for Arasaka. He tells her that he speaks some Japanese. Rose decides to test him to see if he actually speaks the language or if it is chipped. She asks him something obscure in Japanese, but can tell that it goes over his head. He smiles good naturedly and admits he didn’t fully understand her. Jock states the reason for his inability to understand her as being a difference in dialects, “The person who taught me was Okinawan.” Lazlo uses the lull in conversation, as an opportunity to launch into an anecdote about Okinawa.
He barely gets beyond the preamble before Erica leans forward. Placing her hand on Lazlo’s, she tells him not to bore the girl (Rose) with such things. She apologizes to Rose saying that if she would let him, he (Lazlo) would talk her ear off. Lazlo waves it off with his other hand. The one on the table is currently being crushed in a viselike grip by Erica. Jock jumps in to cover the lull in conversation, by asking Yoko (Rose) if her hubby lets her go on vacations by herself.
Rose says no. She claims that she actually fibbed to him about tonight’s dinner. Jock asks her to join them on the river tomorrow. He isn’t forceful, but it doesn’t appear that he will take no for an answer. After dinner Jock, with Lance in tow, gives Rose a ride home in a tricked out Humvee. Rose has them drop her off a block from her home, so as not to rouse her husband’s suspicions. Once safe inside, Rose briefs Takashi on dinner and the rest of the team’s names.
Friday May 6, 2025:
Jose puts up a sign at work trying to get people to sign up for wrestling at River City Fitness. He had put one up at the gym, but only has three signatures so far. Although he called them pussies, it seems that the Road Reaper who used wrestling on him made an impression. He’s trying to drum up enough participants for the gym to offer it as a class. When he checks it at lunch, there are a couple of names, but on closer inspection, they’re someone’s idea of a joke. Names include Chuck U Farley and Handzy McGrabass. Jose is feeling disheartened. He’s about to gripe to Jason when he happens to look up and see someone walking purposefully towards him. It’s one of the Road Reapers from the altercation in the Silver Dollar. In fact, it’s the ganger who put him in a hold during the fight. The guy holds up the sign he had posted and asks “Did you put this up?”
Bracing for a fight, Jose says “yes”. The guy surprises him by saying that he’s interested and might know a couple of guys who he can get to join. He introduces himself as Dean and actually apologizes for what happened at the Silver Dollar. Jose asks what happened. At first Dean doesn’t understand, thinking Jose is messing with him. Jason steps in and says Jose means he considers it forgotten. Dean seems to accept that and says he’ll talk with his buddies about signing up. Jose sheepishly he adds that he was kinda surprised when he saw him here in the Conover cafeteria. Dean tells them that he works for Conover; in the garage. He actually has to get back there, but promises to be in touch in the next couple of days.
(GM Note: It’s kinda humorous, that the player has chosen to obsess on learning wrestling. He is so preoccupied with getting this class set up, that he seems to forget that the group is only going to be here for another couple of weeks. I’d like to say he’s just trying to maintain his cover, but such guile may be beyond the character and player.)
Rose meets up with Jock and the others dockside at the resort. They’ve rented a pontoon boat for the day. That ‘team’, with Rose in tow, travel south along the Missouri to the mouth of another river (White River). The place appears to be a popular swimming area. Locals are swimming closer to shore and there are several water craft nearby. Lazlo drops the anchor further out from shore, so that they can have a little privacy. Most of the team members prefer to stay on the boat, but Erica jumps in to go for a swim.
Rose asks Lance about his occupation. “Mergers and Acquisitions, my dear”, he quips with a thin smile, adding “you could say I’m into corporate downsizing, like your husband.” Rose talks about her interest in botany and says she hopes they (her and her husband) will be here long enough for her to start a garden. While keeping up her side of the conversation, Rose is keeping half an eye on Erica. She seems to be following a deliberate pattern as she swims back and forth near the boat. Based on her Rose’s dive training, it appears as if she is executing some sort of search pattern. Rose’s plans to come back later and investigate what Erica might be looking for.
Cleo finishes working on her bike and decides to take it for a test drive. She uses the test drive as cover to check out the northern most GPS coordinates. Off the access road, she sees burn marks on the trees and investigates. The trees are burnt on the northern facing side. There is also no undergrowth visible in the burned area. Cleo follows the burned trees to the GPS coordinates. There is a 10 meter diameter burn mark on the ground. She takes images of the area with the optics built into her glasses.
After work, Jason and Jose rush over to the dealership to pick the car and get it registered before the weekend. Once ‘conveyance’ is secured, they call back Bea. She gives them the directions to all three locations. The plan is to check them out and report what they find. Jose calls it an early night. He wants to set out first thing in the morning. Jason wants to go visit Jane (Cleo), who still hasn’t told him who she is. Instead of taking the car, which they had just spent almost all of their money on, Jason decides to walk to Oacoma.
Cruising over to the Silver Dollar, in the early evening, Cleo passes Jason walking across the bridge. She pulls over to ask what happened to the car. Without the car, they are pretty much useless for the time being. Jason assures her that the vehicle is secured. He just felt that it would be a beautiful night for a walk. He meant it to sound charming, but Cleo wasn’t in the mood. Live music and dancing was what she had in mind. She left him standing on the bridge to ‘enjoy’ his walk, calling back, “I’m heading for the Silver Dollar, I’ll see you there”.
While waiting for Jason at the Silver Dollar, Cleo overhears a conversation about the bandits who were killed at Crow Lake. Word is, they may have been members of the Vandals. The Vandals are a roving bike gang that most everyone despises. The Road Reapers seem eager for the Vandals to swing through the area. Rumor has it that Scenic, SD (near the badlands) might be the gang’s hideout. When Jason finally makes it to the bar, Cleo asks him what he has planned for the weekend. Jason tells her, “Jose said we’re going to check out a couple of places”, not wanting to reveal they are going to check out the GPS coordinates. Cleo construes it as getting the brush off once again. She proceeds to drink what remains of Jason’s paycheck (approx. 40 euros) to sooth the emotional trauma caused by his romantic gaffe. Jason heads home afterwards with an empty wallet and mixed emotions.
Returning from her river excursion, Rose updates Takashi on the latest intel, including a potential lead on one of the edge runners. When they had been disembarking back at dock, Lazlo had called Lance, “Grady”. Rose had been walking away from the boat, so she did not hear the rest of the conversation, but it was clear that Lazlo had been addressing Lance by name, or nickname. Rose further informs him of her plans to go back to the mouth of the river later that evening. She has Takashi locate the White River on a map and provide her with directions for returning by land.
Later that evening, Rose parks the car about half a mile from the river mouth and stealths in. She takes up position with her spy camera and waits. Around midnight, a ferry heading north along the river passes close to the river mouth. As it comes abreast of the river a zodiac glides out of the shadow of the larger watercraft and makes for the river entrance. The craft is nearly silent. The occupants are crouched low in the vessel. As the zodiac hits the shore, 5 people jump out. They start loading bundles, taken from the high grass on the bank, into the water craft. Once the bundles are loaded, they push the craft back into the water and disappear into the grass. The zodiac makes for the Chamberlain shore of the river. All during the operation, Rose was snapping away taking pictures. She waits an additional hour after the zodiac disappears from sight, but there is no further movement on the bank. Rose stealths back to the car, changes out of her stealth suit and drives home.
Rose recounts what she saw as Takashi’s downloads the pictures from her camera to his deck. While Rose was keeping watch over the inlet, Takashi has been in touch with Bea. She sent him a story of an unidentified body that washed up near the same spot. The story ran in the local paper several weeks ago. Investigators believe the body had been carried down the White River.
During the conversation, Rose’s attention is drawn by movement across the street. She quickly turns out the lights and tries to make out details. There are two figures across the street. Within minutes of the lights going out in the house, they retreat through the backyard of the house across the street.
(GM Note: Yep, Rose was seen at the river. There is still some debate among the player as to who saw her.)
Saturday May 7 2025:
Takashi’s programs have finished their run. Several of the files were much larger than their restored versions, but none of the information stored in the files appears to be missing. Takashi thinks that the discrepancy in file size might point to a Daemon or some other program that may have been imbedded in the data. He contacts Cleo to compare notes and to bring her up to speed on Rose’s extra-curricular activities. During the conversation, Rose leaves for her daily workout.
Cleo wants to hear what happened directly from Rose. She asks Takashi if he has trodes. Cleo is a bit aggravated when he tells her he doesn’t. She tells him to get some from work and that she will call him back in the afternoon. Takashi retrieves the trodes from work and then calls Rose.
Rose has finished her workout and is brunching with some of the ladies from the Artemis. To cover the real intent on the conversations, she makes appear as if Takashi is calling her to arrange a ‘nooner’. She excuses herself and drive back to the house. Walking in the door, she asks him, “What’s up?”
Takashi dangles the trodes suggestively, to which Rose responds, “you know I was just kidding about sex right?” They wait for Cleo to call back.
Jason and Jose head out at 6 am. They decide to start at the southernmost point first. The road leading to the White River is not well maintained. It takes a while, but Jason is able to negotiate the Toyota Corolla down the rutted and potholed road (like rose had to do the previous evening with the City Car). The rugged track of the road finally opens out into a parking area. There are eight vehicles already in the parking lot. Jason and Jose are greeted with stares as they exit their car.
(GM Note: Someone in the gaming group thought the stares were because Jose is Hispanic. While there are few Hispanics in South Dakota (in cyberpunk), that’s not the reason they were getting strange looks. Part of it had to do with locals being territorial about what they considered “their” swimming area. Other looks were of disbelief. All of the vehicles in the parking lot were either trucks or ATVs. Jason and Jose came bouncing down the road in a 20 year old Corolla. The car runs well, but it is a patchwork of body panels taken from several different Corollas, of varying colors. It’s not as garish as a Harlequin VW, but it’s not far off. It’s not something the locals would expect to see coming down the access road. Add to that the huge monster of a man (Jose) who stepped out and it’s no wonder they stared.)
The boys never make it to the water. Feeling self-conscious from all the looks, they jump back in the car and bounce back up the road. On the way back, they hear gunshots. Jason continues to drive on, but Jose tells him to stop. Jose sneaks back towards the beach to see where the shots are coming from. The shots are coming from tall grass across the river. A couple of guys are blasting away at ducks or some other kind of bird. Jose makes his way back to the car and they drive up the long rutted road to check out the other locations.
Their next stop is the location off of route 16. The side road they turn down seems in fairly good repair, but starts to degrade after a mile. The pavement gives way to gravel and finally, to a dirt track, which terminates abruptly at a 5 foot crater that takes up nearly the entire road. The road continues on the other side of the crater, but there is no way the Corolla can negotiate the gap. Jason decides to do a little off-roading. He turns into the high grass off the road and starts up an incline. They are making good time through the grass, when Jason luckily spots a stump directly ahead of them (before they run into it). Worried about damaging the car, Jason and Jose decide to get out and walk.
They’ve gone no more than a couple of yards, when Jason steps on a rattlesnake. He steps on its head, which surprises both him and the snake. When asked what he does, he says he steps on the head again, trying to crush it. Jose hears a rattle behind him. Thinking that they have stepped into a rattlesnake nest, the two bolt through the high grass. Although both take a couple of hits, none of the snake bites are able to penetrate their skin weave.
Good perception and reflexes serve them well once again. The grass they are running through suddenly gives way to open air. Both avoid running off the edge of the shear drop. The grassy knoll that Jason and Jose had been ascending first in the car and then on foot, plummets 50 feet into a quarry below. At the bottom, they can see the road continues through the quarry. Looking around, the pair starts for the opposite slope of the hill, where it descends back towards the road.
Jason walks away from the cliff face, but Jose possibly fearing more snakes, walks along the edge. He gets a surprise as the ground gives way beneath him. He throws himself bodily onto the hill and grabs great handfuls of the long grass to pull himself back up. Jason calls out to Jose to make sure he is okay. Although there is concern in his voice, he does not approach too closely. Once Jose has safely levered himself back onto the top of the cliff, they continue down towards the road. This time, both are walking well back from the cliff face.
Finally reaching the road, they follow it into the quarry. Looking around, they spot some standing water in a fairly deep ditch and multiple tire tracks left by large vehicles. Jason and Jose seem unimpressed by their discoveries. They are more worried about getting the car out of the tall grass and back onto the road. After the most cursory of examinations, they leave the quarry behind and begin the long walk back to the car. Jason and Jose opt to follow the road rather than climb back up the hill. Back at the car, they thoroughly check to make sure no snakes have found their way into the vehicle, before getting in. Jason executes a three point turn and they head back the way they came, completely forgetting (or not caring) that the road continued out the other side of the quarry. It’s off to the third and final location.
Cleo finally contacts Rose and Takashi. She has them meet her in a virtual chat room based out of New York City. Rose goes over the information yet again. She tells Cleo about the watchers across the street and that they may have been made. Takashi sends Cleo all of the pictures and information. He tells her that he has investigated their names, but hasn’t been able to turn up anything as of yet. At the moment, he considers it secondary to investigating the connections in the company…which is why he is handing it off to Cleo.
After disconnecting from the virtual conversation, Cleo heads for the best source of information, InfoComp. It’s expensive, but well worth it. After six hours, she has put together a dossier for the key members of the group. The team is known as Croft Associates. The woman with the tattoo is the group’s leader. Her real name is Sandra Croft. Lance, A.K.A. Grady, is William Mosby. He is the son of James Mosby (four star general in the US Army). William is a graduate of the Army Sniper School with 92 confirmed kills, before retiring to civilian life. Moira’s real name is Rachel Carlson. She is a net runner. Nigel Haller (Jock) is a former member of the SARS. There is currently no information on Lazlo. Their most recent stint of jobs has been working for Militech.
Cleo passes the information onto Bea, who says she will look into it. On a bright note, the prodigal sons have been found. Dr. Freeman and Ken are in Mitchell. Cleo calls Dr. Freeman for a situation report. He tells her about the lead on Fatty and the problems they are having with the Drifter. She asks when they’ll be back. He tells her 2-3 days.
Jason and Jose cruise through Oacoma on their way to the last location. All along the way, they’re attracting further odd stares. Both choose to ignore them and continue on to their destination. The burned trees and scorch mark are just as Cleo had seen them the other day. The only difference is the foot prints, they discover around the site. Jason makes a special note, to ‘lock them in his memory, so he doesn’t forget’. Unlike other team members that have scouted the locations, neither Jason nor Jose had bothered to borrow or buy a camera.
Heading through Chamberlain, they are stopped by a patrol car. The officer asks them for license and registration. Jason greets the officer jovially. When he sees the officer skeptically appraising their ride, he states, “Great car, isn’t it?”
The officer looks him straight in the eye and asks, “you boys been doin’ some off-roadin’?”
Jason fires back with that same innocent grin, “Yeah, we were seeing how she handles.” Shaking his head, the officer throws the ID and registration into Jason’s lap and tells them to get it off the road and wash it. He then gets back in his vehicle and drives off.
(GM Note: The car is completely trashed. Besides the dirt and grass sticking out of the rims and wheel wells, there is mud half way up the sides of the car. The officer pulled them over, because he didn’t recognize the vehicle. Being a small town, he knows most of the cars. He wanted to get a ‘look see’ at the driver and a closer inspection of the vehicle.)
Once the car is cleaned up, Jason and Jose contact Bea. They give her a spotty run down of what they saw at each of the locations. The crowd at the river serves as their excuse for why they did not reconnoiter that area. The scorch march is described as just that, “A great big scorch mark on the ground”. Even though he ‘locked it in his memory’, Jason forgets to mention the foot prints (which were Cleo’s any way). The most atrocious bit of scouting has to be the quarry. Jason tells Bea that the road dead ends in the quarry and Jose backs him up. Even after she asks if they are sure, they are adamant that the road ends there.
(GM Note: Well, according to the enhanced visual scan retrieved from the hand held device, which just happened to be up on the screen in front of her, the road continues on for quite a ways after the quarry. Guess who won’t be getting any more scouting missions.)
After the virtual tête-à-tête with Cleo is done, Rose heads back over to the Cedar Shore Resort for some face time with her new ‘friends’. It feels a little like walking into the lion’s den, but she is using it as a barometer to gauge if it might have been the edge runners from the resort who were watching them last night. Rose is happily hanging out on the beach with Moira, Lance and Jock when she receives a call from Jill and Jackie. They are going to have dinner at the mayor’s and wanted to know if she wanted to join them. After the briefest of deliberations, she agrees. Jill and Jackie will pick her up at 8 pm.
She expresses her delight to Moira, playing up the flighty social climber aspect of her cover identity. Rose heads back home in the late afternoon to get ready for dinner. Before leaving, she accepts an invite to go back out on the river tomorrow. Jock adds that she should invite her husband along.
Dinner at the Mayor’s house is quite enjoyable and educational. Jill and Jackie wish to purchase land owned by the town, which abuts their farm. The mayor seems agreeable to the to the purchase and says he will back it when it comes up for a vote. Cliff (the mayor) and his wife Gloria, appear to be thick as thieves with Jill and Jackie. Cliff asks Rose how she and her husband are finding the town. He shows interest in whether Mashiro (Takashi) plans to recommend layoffs. Rose attempts to allay his concerns while also talking up Mashiro’s (Takashi’s) strong points.
While Rose is off schmoozing at the mayors, Takashi receives some unexpected guests. He is in the bedroom diligently working on cross referencing reams of gathered intelligence, when there is a sound from the other room. He isn’t expecting Rose back for hours. Remembering the watchers from the previous evening, he retrieves his gun and katana from the closet. With sword and gun in hand, he quietly makes his way towards the kitchen.
Takashi is at the doorway to the kitchen, when a slight noise behind him makes him look back towards the bedroom. The door that was previously open is now closed. He reverses course and heads back towards the bedroom. On the way there, he tucks the gun under his arm and pulls out his phone to call 911. He has barely finished dialing, when he is struck from behind, by the leads from a Taser II. Takashi remains conscious and turns to face his attacker.
See that his surprise attack has been unsuccessful; the attacker once again attempts to shock Takashi. Whether the barbs were displaced by his sudden turn or the adrenaline pumping through his body is keeping him up, the Taser fails to have the desired effect yet again. The attacker follows up with a kick to the head, which Takashi attempts to block with his Katana. The gun, like the phone had fallen to the floor during the initial attack. The kick slips past Takashi’s guard. While solid, it does no telling damage. Takashi reverses the blade and tries to strike back at his attacker, but misses. A final jolt from the Taser is enough to end the combat and put Takashi out on the floor.
His next memory is of being revived by the police. Takashi doesn’t know how long he has been out, but his gun and katana are nowhere in sight. When he is able to make it to his feet, with the aid of an officer, he returns to the bedroom to check on his deck. The face and keyboard are smashed and all of his programs are missing. There are racial epithets and threats about what will happen to Mashiro (Takashi) if he takes jobs from the locals. Takashi’s glib response to the whole scenes is, “We may need to fire more people than we first thought.” The officer taking his statement is somewhat taken aback, but after a brief pause soldiers on.
Rose walks into the house and surveys the damage. The police had called the mayor’s house to notify her of the break in. Jill and Jackie had rushed her back to the house. After checking to make she that Mashiro (Takashi) is alright, she begins to berate him in front of the police and Jackie and Jill. The tongue lashing starts in English, but eventually devolves into a mash of English and Japanese.
Takashi receives a reprieve when the mayor shows up to survey the damage. Rose starts another tirade complaining about how they have been treated since their arrival. She brings up the snake that was delivered to their door. She is nearly apoplectic when she shoves Takashi’s smashed deck under the mayor’s nose demanding to know who will make this right. She rants that her husband can’t do his job without it. She raves that maybe he should fire everyone and just be done with it.
The mayor appears somewhat ashen in the face of Yoko’s (Rose’s) rage, but as an experienced political animal, he fixes her with his most resolute expression and promises to get to the bottom of the matter. He further promises to see what can be done to replace the shattered deck. Pulling out all the stops he hits both of them with his most remorseful tone (the kind saved for state funerals) expressing heartfelt sorrow over this violation of their home and their lives. He vows to do everything in his power to restore their faith in the town and its people.
Rose suspects that he is feeding her a line of BS, but he is very convincing. She allows herself to appear mollified, so they can get everyone out of the house and assess the real damage. She sees off Jill and Jackie, who tell her to call if she needs anything. Once everyone is gone, Rose checks on her equipment and the closet. Nothing has been disturbed. She then pulls out the bug detector and checks the house. There are three bugs (kitchen, bedroom and living room). Takashi’s phone, which had been left by the intruders, is also bugged.
Leaving the bugs in place, Rose and Takashi go into the bathroom and turn on the water. He tells her that he is sure his attackers were solos. When he relates how he was injured, Rose holds her tongue, rather than deriding him over his failure to contact the police at the first sign of trouble. Rose calls Bea to break the bad news.
(GM Note: This made for an interesting turn of events. Rose started out the argument playing the part of the angered wife, but once the ball started rolling her own anger and frustration kicked in. She is tired of continually being paired with Takashi on missions, because they make the perfect ‘Japanese couple’. Knowing the importance Takashi placed on his sword, she seized upon it as another way to twist the knife in his manly pride. “What kind of Japanese man are you, to let someone come into your home and take your sword.” A kick to the family jewels would have been less painful.)
Although the deck is smashed and everything on it is now in the hands of whomever, the information isn’t lost. Takashi has backups for most of it. What he doesn’t have backed up can be reconstituted from other sources. The problem is figuring out who stole the information.
Rose makes a show of continuing the fight, saying that she no longer feels safe in the house. She tells him she is leaving to go stay where she feels safe. Rose heads over to the Cedar Shore Resort. (Once more into the lion’s den.) In the lounge, she runs into Moira, who listens sympathetically to her story. Moira offers Rose the extra bed in her room, which she accepts.
Sunday May 8, 2025:
Cleo is filled in by Bea. Due to the dangerous turn in the mission, Cleo decides to take a ride to Mitchell to retrieve her guns from Dr. Freeman. A fire fight might not wait for Ken and the good doctor to make it back to Chamberlain. Jason stops by to talk, but Cleo is already on the road. He returns home dejected.
(GM Note: There’s this great new invention. It’s called a phone. Actually, I don’t think he has ever asked her for her phone number. Hmm, maybe it’s stereotyping. Maybe he thinks that people who live in run down trailer parks can’t afford phones. At least he took the car this time rather than walking.)
On the river, Rose regales the rest of the edge runner team with last night’s drama. Her personal anger starts to bleed through as she once again describes how he tried to take on the intruders personally. Jock quips, “A man’s home is his castle”, to which Moira interjects, “maybe he’s trying to impress you.”
Moira actually sounds sympathetic to Mashiro’s (Takashi’s). Rather than go down that road, Rose puts on the air of the self-centered wife, complaining about the lost data and how it means they will be stuck here (Chamberlain) longer. Lazlo gives a sardonic laugh and comments, “there are worse places to be stuck.”
Cleo Explains it All
Almost Half Way Done (with a half-baked plan)
There is one thing that the GM did not put down for Sunday evening (May 8th). Cleo (Jane) took her stealth gear, some weapons, cameras and other gear (with some civilian clothes and ‘stuff’ in a bag which she hid outside town for her return), and went down to the riverside location to check it out for herself that evening. She went in slowly and stealthy (no cars or other thing that might announce her approach). She spent a lovely evening finding nothing of consequence, so she headed towards the quarry later in the night (or very early in the morning depending on your point of view). We left her in a camouflaged cold camp between the two sites.
At first glance I have not been too pleased with the course the mission has taken, but on reflection, we are not doing too badly. We are definitely in over our heads to some degree, and some of the characters aren’t performing on a level that the mission calls for (but it’s VERY funny to listen to and watch nonetheless). Primarily people are acquiring intelligence but instead of passing the raw Intel up the chain, they are making decisions as to its value and only passing along what they think is important if they pass along anything along at all. As I had explained to everyone at the beginning, an observation might have no apparent value on the surface, but when you look at it with ALL the data collected by others, it might actually be very important. Your (their) job is collection, not analysis. So as I listen to the sessions progress, I have to keep my mouth shut, and only make my decisions based on what information has been passed up to Cleo (Jane) rather than what I have heard as a passive participant in the gaming session.
We have been given four to five weeks to complete the assignment. The plan was Week One: The group will enter Chamberlain staggered over that first week, establish their cover stories, (Jimmy) meet the local contacts (Jose and Jason), and attempt to blend in with the local ‘scene’. Week Two: Everyone was to establish themselves in the targeted section of the local society that we deemed might have connections with whoever was high jacking the trucks, and try to appear useful to those who might be involved. Also, we were to gather any promising leads to the mystery. Week Three: It is hoped during this week we would develop a few solid leads and be starting to home in on the operation. Week Four: By this time, we want to be on to the hijackers and be gathering up enough information to allow our employers to move in and put them out of business. Week Five: If this week were needed, it would be used to finish up any business that was not done. Investigations like this do not do well, when held to rigid timetables.
Well, we have finished Week Two, and our plan has not completely collapsed yet. In fact, we are as ‘on schedule’ as this group of screw-ups could hope for. Cleo (Jane) has buried herself in her part, and is perhaps enjoying herself too much. She rationalizes that by giving herself over to drugs, drinking, dancing and sex, she is establishing her cover, but actually it is a release for the enormous pressure she has been under. Understand she has made a LOT of powerful enemies around the world, who would like to see her dead (or make sure her ‘reported deaths’ are true). She has organized or been heavily involved in art and jewel heists that total about 100 million euro, helped overthrow the government of Grenada, planned and help execute the assassination of three major Mafia leaders at a guarded ‘summit’ meeting, and taken down (killed everybody present) a smuggling operation that was cutting into the operations of a powerful but corrupt Eurocrat. (All this in game) The Organitskaya, which she is technically still a member (no one ever leaves, EVER), would like to have a word with her (probably followed by two behind the ear). Her father is a hit man for that mob, and he got the crap beaten out of him as a consequence of her actions in Las Vegas (see the Las Vegas Campaign for details, she called herself Alexis there or is sometimes referred to as PC2 is a few posts). Actually she was VERY happy about ‘Dad’ getting thumped because she just hates him (but still craves his approval). Yes, she has serious ‘Daddy issues’, which she addresses in therapy in her downtime. Anyway, that is a lot to deal with for a nineteen year old. Being ‘Jane’ has given her time to be a teenager, and not be concerned with appearances as leader of an Edgerunner team (the Killer Bees).
Both Rose and Takashi have not only succeeded in establishing themselves in the community, they both have developed a few leads that look promising. Yes, they have made a few mistakes, but everyone does now and then. Doctor Freeman and Ken (Grimjaw) have also done very well. They have befriended the local gang and a few members of the police in the area. They have come up with some of our best leads. Again, a few mistakes were made, but that is to be expected. Jimmy, Jose and Jason have been a little bit of a disappointment but not completely so. Jimmy, by turning in the pilfered electronics container has marked himself as an ‘honest’ worker, so NO one involved with the heists will now approach him. Jose and Jason have not been big producers of information, and have failed to report what little they have learned. However, they are both new players to the game, so we must cut them a little slack here. They have been role-playing well (especially Jason), so while they haven’t been big information producers, they have added a lot to the gaming group’s enjoyment.
At this point, Cleo (Jane) feels that Takashi has uncovered the most promising line of inquiry, but he needs to continue his analysis of the discrepancies between the various versions of the company memory core and the missing personal files. Also, the only common factor in all the hijackings is that the trucks were all old. Since the cargos have been mixed and often really not worth the trouble of stealing due to the monetary value, and the trucks themselves are old and nearing the end of their corporate usefulness, the only reason that a sophisticated operation would be doing this is to drive down the company stock value. Also, the body of the skydiver was of an oriental man dressed in black, which on the surface points to Arasaka. Cleo (Jane) checked and the security company for Brexton Brands (Conover’s parent) is Militech. Her next inquiry will be for the name of the security companies that United Agri Products uses, and the name of any company that has shown interest in buying Conover if UAP acquires Brexton Brands (and, of course, the name of their security company, if any). Cleo (Jane) is starting to think that Croft Associates (the team ‘on vacation’ at the resort) is working for Militech, as they have done a lot of work for them in the past. If they are not involved with the hijackers, or if they are working on the same mission we are, we have to figure this out quickly so we don’t waste resources and time on them.
During the next week of the mission we hope to be concluding the analysis of the company hard drives, and get a few people investigating who was the last person(s) to service the missing trucks. Everyone (who shows up) will be contacted and reports taken from those who have not seen fit to give one yet. Hopefully that will give us enough information to use the coming weekend for a major intelligence push to get us moving in the right direction. Also, we will have Bea (through her mother) to put out corporate feelers to see if Croft Associates is working for Militech on an investigation similar to ours. It would be tragic if we got into a fight with them and it ended up that we were working towards similar ends.
For now we will keep the party divided and (mostly) unaware of each other’s identity. It is safer that way for security reasons. Jimmy (if he is back), Jose and Jason may be hooked up with the Doctor and Ken by the next weekend to give them more ‘boots on ground’ to use. Jose and Jason will NEVER be sent alone on an investigative recon mission. They need a little more training to do it right. Takashi and Rose’s personal security has to be tightened. And Cleo/Jane will spend the beginning of the week (after she gets back from her ‘camp out’) doing NET investigations (with and without Takashi) during the day, and shaking her ass (and other parts of her anatomy) for money (and hopefully information) at night.