Episode 26: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
GM Note: After a week’s hiatus and a late start, we jumped back into the action. Jimmy was still a no show, but everyone else, including Dr. Freeman and Ken, made it. This episode picks up with Dr. Freeman and Ken’s visit to Mitchell.
Monday May 9, 2025:
The Drifter is fixed and Ken has finally tracked down Fatty. He is supposedly holed up in a triple decker (three family home) in a bad section of Mitchell. Ken is pissed and frustrated over the time they’ve wasted chasing after Fatty. He would like nothing more than to walk down the street, kick in the door and drag Fatty out by his short hairs, but Ken’s a professional. First, he wants to make sure that Fatty is still in the house.
A seemingly abandoned property a couple doors down and on the opposite side of the street, from the triple decker, might make the perfect vantage point for some covert surveillance. Ken has Dr. Freeman drop him off, so then he can check it out. Dr. Freeman drives off to park the Duster, where will it be safe and inconspicuous. The plywood sheets, nailed over all of the windows on the front and side of the house, appear to be secure. Ken follows the long driveway towards the back of the house.
The driveway runs to a free standing two car garage that is set away from the house. There is also a large back yard, which looks to be abandoned and overgrown. The top of a doghouse, sticks out of the high grass near the back fence. The fence itself is a six foot tall wood structure. Although some of the boards appear to be cracked and weathered, Ken surmises, that it should still provide him with sufficient cover from the house and yard on the other side.
Unlike the front windows, those on the back of the house are not boarded up. There sets of double windows on either side of the back door. The door is accessible by a low porch, which is reached by a short set of stairs. Without even mounting the stairs, Ken can clearly see the large padlock securing the back door. The house appears undisturbed, so Ken turns his attention to the garage.
The closer he gets to the garage, the stronger the odor of chemicals becomes. There are also noises coming from inside. Stealthing closer, the sounds become clearer. They are animal sounds, most likely dogs. Ken backs away from the garage hoping that they don’t catch his scent or hear him. Further investigation is interrupted by an urgent call (via commo) from Dr. Freeman. A car just passed him (Dr. Freeman) and is turning into the driveway of the abandoned house. (Dr. Freeman had been walking back to the house from parking the Drifter a couple of blocks away). With the early warning Ken is well hidden by the time the car comes into view.
The car stops in front of the garage. Two men jump out. One unlocks a padlocked door on the side of the garage and enters, which elicits a chorus of barks from the dogs inside. The second man pulls out a cell phone and retraces the cars path, back up the driveway. Ken warns Dr. Freeman about the guy with the cell phone, but remains hidden. Dr. Freeman for his part had continued to walk down the block rather than following the car down the driveway. The doors on the far bay of the garage swing open and the car pulls into the garage, out of Ken’s field of view.
Dr. Freeman reaches the end of the block, turns left and continues walking. He turns left again at the next street, so that he can make his way back towards the house and Ken. A couple of teens shooting baskets, through a makeshift hoop and backboard attached to a lamppost, see Dr. Freeman approaching them down the street. One of the teens asks him in a wiseass tone, “Hey, where’s his wagon?”
Dr. Freeman not understanding what their talking about, shoots back, “What?”
The other kid interjects, “You know, your ride”. Seeing the look of confusion on Dr. Freeman’s face, he hastens to add “your ambulance?”
Dr. Freeman finally understands, that they’re making fun of the way he’s dressed. His long coat, with a red cross on the shoulder makes him look like a medic or doctor, which is the effect he was going for. Around here though, it kinda stands out. It might explain when the guys in the car were giving him the hairy eyeball as they drove by. Dr. Freeman ignores the “kids” and continues walking down the road. His silent grumblings (“goddamn kids”) are interrupted by an urgent message from Ken.
Cell phone guy, is returning from his jaunt up the driveway, talking furiously into his phone. Instead of heading for the garage, he runs towards the back fence. Using the roof of the doghouse as vault, he clears the fence into the adjoining yard. This puts him behind the house on the street which Dr. Freeman is currently walking down. Thanks to Ken’s heads up, Dr. Freeman spots him as he comes around the back side of the house.
The man sees Dr. Freeman and drops down behind some shrubs. Dr. Freeman uses the opportunity to run for cover behind the front stoop of the house. Once out of sight Dr. Freeman takes the opportunity to scan for pursuit. There is no one in visible. Even the teens from earlier are nowhere to be seen. As Dr. Freeman turns to continue his escape, the man bursts around the corner of the house, with weapon drawn. He swings up and down the street looking for the good doctor.
With his attention divided by sneaking away and keeping track of his pursuer Dr. Freeman accidentally loses his footing (botch). He trips over some ‘lawn trash’ (garden gnomes and other assorted lawn ornaments). Hearing the noise, the man comes running towards the doctor brandishing his weapon. He tells Dr. Freeman to freeze and get on the ground. As if. Dr. Freeman bolts like a gazelle…ok, more like a wildebeest. While not graceful, it still catches his assailant flat footed (rolled a one for initiative). He still manages to squeeze off two rounds. Both miss, but not by much. One creases the corner of the house that Dr. Freeman ducked behind just seconds before.
This begins a cat and mouse chase through the front and back yards of the neighborhood. Dr. Freeman is able to stay ahead of his pursuer, till he gets hung up on a fence. Cell phone guy, who has been taking pot shot during the pursuit, finally has his first clear shot. He has Dr. Freeman dead to rights, but still manages to miss. Labored breathing from the exertions of the chase threw off his aim (he rolled a 2). Dr. Freeman has had more than enough of being shot at. He drops down from the fence and unslings his assault rifle from under his long coat. His pursuer sees this and ducks back behind the house. Dr. Freeman doesn’t follow. He’s pretty gassed from the chase as well.
(GM Note: There was some complaint to the fact that I was having Dr. Freeman roll for 15s to clear most of the fences, but I stand by my decision. We are talking about a character who has no Athletics and who is running around in an armored coat with a folded up assault rifle underneath. I thought a difficulty of 15 was more than generous. Besides, this little jaunt has earned him some IPs towards level 1 Athletics.)
The entire chase took about 5 minutes. While Dr. Freeman takes a couple of moments to catch his breath, his attacker has been making his way back to the abandoned house. Ken spots him coming over the back fence, just as the car pulls out of the garage. He quickly heads towards the garage, shuts the (garage) doors and hops into the car, which drives away casually. The dogs are still barking their heads off in the garage. Ken gives it several minutes before emerging from hiding. He is there when Dr. Freeman finally makes his way into the back yard. Instead of leaving, they decide to use the opportunity to check out the lock on the house.
Dr. Freeman has some skill picking locks. He is easily able to defeat the padlock. Unfortunately, when he tries to open it, the knob just spins in his hand. The doorknob appears to be broken. Dr. Freeman decides to try and force the door, by jimmying the lock. Closer inspection reveals that the entire area around the doorframe is sealed with spray-on (expandable) foam insulation. The windows off the porch are similarly treated.
Scanning for another way in, Ken notices a door under the back porch. It too is padlocked, but unlike the other door the seal is only a double layer of duct tape rather than expandable foam. Dr. Freeman once again makes short work of the padlock. After removing the tape and opening the door, Ken and Dr. Freeman are assaulted by a strong chemical odor. There are several large drums of volatile chemicals in the basement; everything you’d need to ‘cook up’ meth (by Dr. Freeman’s estimation).
While deliberating what to do with the chemicals, Ken notes noises coming from the direction of the driveway. Their first thought is that it’s the drug dealers are returning with reinforcements. The pair exits the basement to check it out. It’s not the drug dealers. It’s the cops. Several officers in body armor (bullet proof vests) are deploying from a vehicle. Ken and Dr. Freeman backtrack and are able to make it into the yard next door without being detected. Police cars are stationed at either end of the street and a fourth vehicle is stations in front of the house, whose back yard abuts against the abandoned property. It’s dicey, but both are able to make it out of the police cordon.
After making their way back to the Drifter, to drop off weapons and sundry equipment, the pair heads back towards the house, to see what’s going on. Ken and Dr. Freeman blend in with the gawkers, who have been drawn out by the police presence. The pair catch a break. Fatty is standing on the porch of the triple decker with Mary Jane, an older woman and a young girl. With confirmation, that Fatty is still in the house Ken and Dr. Freeman resolve to take more direct action later that evening.
(GM Note: Just because they take their sweet time getting there, doesn’t mean the cops aren’t coming. In this case, they showed up in force, because of other events that have happened in and around the area. It’s not a combat zone, but it’s gotten pretty hairy lately. Ken and Dr. Freeman left the basement door open, so the cops are going to get an early Christmas present. It may not lead to any direct arrests, but it does throw a minor wrench into the drug trade operating in Mitchell.)
Cleo’s stake out at the river is a bust. She decides to move on to the quarry. After a protracted approach, to make sure no one’s about, Cleo enters the quarry. Contrary to Jason and Jose’s report, the road does continue out the other end. Before following it, Cleo makes a closer examination of the tire marks. The optics in her glasses provide a higher degree of contrast, allowing her to see the treads more clearly. They appear to have been made by a straight truck (box truck) rather than one with a tandem axel. A couple of the hijacked vehicles were of this variety. As there is nothing else in the area, she takes images of the tracks for later review and then follows the road leading out of the quarry.
The dirt road follows a twisting path through the high grass and hilly terrain, but eventually cuts back towards the railroad. From there, it runs parallel to the tracks, towards Reliance (SD). The tread marks don’t follow the turn in the road. The grass and vegetation near turn is matted, like something heave rolled over it. This path continues down to the railroad tracks. Examination of the rails reveals shiny metal and flakes of corrosion. Something has passed on the track recently.
Although Conover is under state contract to maintain the tracks out to Kadoka (SD), there is rarely any traffic beyond Chamberlain. The marks appear to be fresh. Cleo follows the tracks west towards Reliance. The marks on the rails end at a railroad crossing about a kilometer outside of town (Reliance). The crossing is a paved road. There are no further tire marks to follow. With no clues evident, Cleo retraces her route, just in case she’s being followed. She changes clothes and takes a roundabout path back to Oacoma and Conestoga Park.
Dick Jones (the man in charge of Conover in Chamberlain) pops into Mashiro’s (Takashi’s) office. His stated reason is to check up on how Mashiro (Takashi) is making out, but seems anxious to make sure that the system is completely back online and secure. Mashiro (Takashi) assures him that everything is set. Dick butters him up, praising his hard work and diligence. Almost as an afterthought, he slips in a request for Mashiro (Takashi) to bring the IT techs (Mike and George) up to speed on the reestablished system.
Dick’s voice takes on an air of concern. Placing a ‘fatherly’ hand on Mashiro’s (Takashi’s) shoulder, Dick tells him that he looks tired. Thinking that he has a sympathetic ear, Mashiro (Takashi) cuts loose with his tale of woe. He lets out his pent up aggravation over the indignities (real or imagined) that he has suffered over the past two weeks. Dick takes it all in and then gives him a wry smile and a friendly punch in the shoulder, telling Mashiro (Takashi), “Buck up, you’re still alive after all.”
Takashi counters, “If they wanted me dead, they should have put my wife in the box instead of the snake”. Dick lets out a hearty laugh. He tells Mashiro (Takashi) they are going to the Palomino Club. The statement sounds more like a command, than an invitation, but since Dick has offered to treat him, Takashi isn’t complaining. They leave right from the office.
At the Palomino, Cleo, under the stage name Blue, dances for Mashiro (Takashi). Dick seems to be taken with her. When Little Al stops by to exchange pleasantries, he takes the opportunity to ask, “Does she go to all floors?” (Does she work in the brothel upstairs?)
Little Al responds concisely, “not yet”.
After several rounds of drinks and lap dances, Dick sends Mashiro (Takashi) upstairs for a massage. Before Mashiro (Takashi) can offer any objections, Dick tells him, “a good massage will work wonders. Trust me.”
Dick could have saved his breath, Takashi was not about to turn down the offer this time around. He even indulges in the offered happy ending after the massage.
Back in Mitchell, Ken and Dr. Freeman have waited until dark to break into Fatty’s hid out. Activity around the house down the block has died down. There is still a forensic team processing the scene, but it seems quiet enough. Ken slides into the triple decker through one of the windows on the back porch. Once in, he can hear Fatty talking with someone in an adjoining room. A dim bulb struggles to push back the darkness in the room where the two are talking. Its feeble illumination does not penetrate the room in which Ken is standing. He is able to make it to the doorway with relative ease. Sidling up to the door jam, Ken has a clear view of Fatty and Mary Jane.
Fatty is trying to convince her that they have to leave. Mary Jane seems reluctant. Fatty assures her it’s for the best. He tells her they have money now and don’t need to impose on her mother. As Fatty is reaching over to console her, Ken seizes the opportunity to strike. Charging into the room, he swiftly knocks out Mary Jane with the butt of his katana and fist. She sprawls to the floor. Fatty turns quickly towards him, only to be staring down the barrel of a shot gun.
Both are frozen for a moment; Fatty, quietly crapping himself, Ken listening to hear if the noise roused any of the other members of the household. When no one appears, he quickly questions Fatty to find out how many people are in the house. Fatty, who has raised his hands in a sign of non-aggression, tells Ken that it’s just Mary Jane’s mother and younger sister. Dr. Freeman has made his way into the house through the same window that Ken used. He stands in the darkness of the other room, while Ken lays it out for Fatty.
It’s a replay of their last conversation in Conestoga Park, before Fatty fled. Ken wants to know where the equipment that was with the body is located. The entire recitation is delivered in a threatening whisper, so as not to wake mom and sis. Fatty hesitates, so Ken gives him one last nudge, “This shotgun is loaded with thermite rounds.”
Fatty looks unnerved but can’t seem to get his mouth to work.
Still in a harsh whisper, Ken delivers an ultimatum, “Either tell me where the stuff is or I kill everyone in the house.”
That seems to get his mouth in gear. Fatty tells Ken, in equally hushed tones, that the guy had an assault rifle. Ken asks where it is. Fatty sold it to the guys across the street (the drug dealers) for 1100 euros. He offers Ken the money if he doesn’t hurt them, but Ken waves him off and asks about any other equipment. Fatty once again seems hesitant. Ken reiterates his ultimatum, but Fatty swears he isn’t being evasive. He just doesn’t know what a lot of the stuff was. He does his best to describe the equipment, but years of smoking the herb has affected his memory.
Mary Jane begins to stir, so Ken is forced to knock her out once again. The process is taking too long and Fatty’s descriptions aren’t all together helpful. Ken tells Fatty to just hand over the equipment. Fatty says he can’t. Ken’s grip tightens on the shotgun, causing Fatty to wince, close his eyes tightly and turn away (as if it will ward off a shotgun blast) “It isn’t here,” he states, rather loudly. When the blast doesn’t come, Fatty looks back towards Ken
Ken reminds him of the level of his voice, by holding a finger to his lips…or where they would be if his skull faced mask had lips. He then demands threateningly, “Where is it”. Fatty, in a subdued tone, tells him he left it under the trailer back in Conestoga Park. To make Ken believe that he is being truthful, he swears on their lives. Ken tells him he’ll hold him to that. He reminds Fatty that he found him once and if the stuff isn’t there, he’ll track him down again. He emphasizes that Fatty, Mary Jane and her family won’t like it if he has to track him down a second time.
Before leaving, Ken asks one last question, “Who else knows about the body and equipment?”
Fatty volunteers that Mary Jane is the only other person that knows about it. She helped him bury the body. Ken’s sure that if anyone else knew, Fatty would have given them up. As he backs towards the door, he gives Fatty something to think about. “You’ve got a good woman there. Not many would help you bury a body and stick by you.”
Fatty mutely stares after him as he disappears out the door. Ken meets up with Dr. Freeman outside. They quickly head back to the Drifter for the hour drive back to Oacoma.
Blue (Cleo) overhears part of conversation while on shift at the Palomino Club. One of the patrons is telling another about plans to extend the railroad to Rapid City. The second patron seems skeptical, but as proof, his speaker draws his attention increased activity on the rails west of Chamberlain. The other patron counters that, a track inspection vehicle driving on the rail through Reliance is no proof that Conover or the state is going to extend the track. He continues with his own rumor of the impending closure of Conover in Chamberlain, but Cleo doesn’t get to hear it. She is being called to the stage to perform.
Jill and Jackie have taken Yoko (Rose) to Mitchell for dinner. They are dining at the Dragon House. Both are apologetic, that it isn’t Japanese cuisine, but hope that the atmosphere and Asian style dishes will help to alleviate some of Yoko’s (Rose’s) homesickness. Jackie comments that there is a nice sushi place in Pierre (SD) that they plan on taking her to later in the week. The food and service are excellent.
Upon returning to Chamberlain, Rose changes her outfit and heads over to the Cedar Shore Resort. Takashi is not back from the Palomino Club by the time she leaves. She runs into Lazlo and Moira in the lounge and sits down to join them in a drink. Since Moira has proven a sympathetic ear in the past, Rose cries to her shoulder about her husband neglectful husband. Moira offers her the extra bed in her room. She invites Rose to go four wheeling tomorrow. Lazlo quickly seconds the idea, saying it will be fun. Lazlo even offer to driver Rose back home to pick up some things, so that they can leave right from the resort in the morning. She readily agrees.
Tuesday May 10, 2025:
It’s past midnight by the time Ken and Dr. Freeman make it back to Conestoga Park. No one is outside as they pull in, but there is a light on in Fatty’s former trailer. Retrieving the cache might not be as easy as they hoped. Ken wants to avoid direct confrontation in Oacoma, just in case something goes wrong. After parking the Drifter he convinces Dr. Freeman to stealthily crawl under the trailer and retrieve the equipment. Dr. Freeman isn’t thrilled with the plan, but recognizes his smaller size gives him a better chance of slipping under the trailer undetected.
Donning full stealth gear (including helmet) Dr. Freeman sets off for Fatty’s trailer. He makes it there with ease, but negotiating the space underneath is a little more difficult. It’s tight even for him. Half way towards his goal, light appears from ahead. Someone has opened a hatch in the bottom of the trailer. Dr. Freeman freezes in place. After a moment, a head with an unruly mop of hair appears in the opening. It scans from side to side and then stops looking directly at Dr. Freemna. The face wears an expression of puzzlement expression, as if trying to make sense of what it’s seeing. Recognition finally dawns, the eyes bug out and the mouth utters an ear piercing scream. The head disappears back up the hole.
Hurried footsteps and the slam of a door most likely mean the occupant has fled the trailer. Dr. Freeman nonchalantly continues his crawl towards the trap door, which has been left open. The light from the opening provides good illumination of the ground underneath the trailer. Something has been dug up recently. It appears that someone else has already found the cache of equipment. Since it’s no longer occupied, Dr. Freeman climbs up through the trap door and begins to search the trailer.
Back in the Drifter, Ken hears the scream and sees the girl come bounding out of the trailer. She runs over to Jane’s (Cleo’s) Airstream and pounds on the door. When there is no answer, she flees towards the main road. After rifling through the trailer, the only thing Dr. Freeman finds, that seems out of the ordinary, is half a map in the trashcan. The map is of Chamberlain. It is covered in places with strange symbols and writing. Map in hand, Dr. Freeman exits through the door of the trailer and tries to stealth his way back to the Drifter.
Ken recognizes the writing as being Japanese. He is able to make a rough translation. The writing is next to important buildings in and around Chamberlain. Banks are marked, as is the police station and Conover’s offices and exchange. In total, there are about 15 locations annotated. The text next to each location details its security arrangements, and the response time to the location for local law enforcement. By the looks of it, the dead guy and whoever he was working for were planning something big.
Cleo’s walk home after work is interrupted by a traumatized Tommie. She had been waiting for the just outside of the parking lot of the Palomino Club. Tommie is hysterical. She tells Cleo how she had heard a noise under her trailer. Thinking it was an animal, she stuck her head underneath to check it out. Instead of an animal, there was a ganger in a motorcycle helmet (mistaking the stealth gear helmet for motor cycle helmet). She asks Cleo if she can come by with her shotgun to help her check around the place.
Cleo drops off her costumes, retrieves her shotgun and heads over to Tommie’s trailer. The place has been ransacked. The trapdoor is still open. Cleo first impression is that whoever broke in took the garbage bags filled with pot, but Tommie tells her they didn’t take it. She boasts that she sold it the previous week for 3000 euros. Although Cleo knows that she got ripped off in the deal, she doesn’t voice it to Tommie.
Cleo is half listening as Tommie prattles on about finding a huge field of pot and being amazed that the stuff just grows wild around here. Tommie tells her that she had mentioned this to her buyers, and they hung on her every word. Cleo can tell the girl is trying to impress her. Tommie’s ramblings do offer up one useful piece of information. The events which Rose had witnessed while staking out White River (in Episode 25) may have coincided with Tommie’s buyers moving the crop up river.
Looking down through the trap door Cleo sees dug holes. A sudden break in Tommie’s verbal fusillade draws Cleo’s attention. The girl is staring of into space lost in thought. The peace lasts for only a brief moment, as Tommie appears to come to some internal decision. She blurts out in a matter of fact tone, “They must have been after my money,”, as if the answer is the secret to the universe. Cleo points to the freshly dug hole with the barrel of the shotgun and suggests they may have been after whatever was buried there.
Tommie laughs it off saying, “Oh, I did that.” She shows Cleo the phone she found. Trying not to appear excited, Cleo nonchalantly asks if she can see it. Tommie hands over a device that is obviously more than a phone. The device is still active. Cleo recommends to Tommie that she take the battery out of the phone. Tommie argues against it, but when Cleo tells her it may be what the person in the motorcycle helmet was looking for, she gives no further complaint.
Tommie begins fiddling with the phone to remove the battery. Off handedly she mentions the charger that was plugged into the base of the phone. She hasn’t figured out how it works yet. Cleo asks if she can take a look. Tommie fishes it out of her bag and hands it over. With her electronics warfare knowledge and a good electronic security roll, Cleo recognizes the ‘charger’ as a synchronized random password generator, a key for gaining access to locked devices.
She quickly stops Tommie from taking the battery out of the phone. Doing so would shut down the device, thus randomizing the password and locking it. Cleo holds no illusions that the password generator would still be synchronized. Tommie is a little peeved and whines, “but you just told me to take it out of the phone”. Cleo offers to buy the phone. That way, if anyone comes looking for the phone, they’ll be after her and not Tommie.
It sounds reasonable to Tommie, who asks for 500 euros. Cleo offers her 250 euros, take it or leave it. Although she tries to haggle up the price, Cleo stands firm. Tommie finally settles for 250, but sulks, till Cleo asks here if there was anything else in the bag. She shows her a map of Oacoma. “There are these strange marking, but it’s pretty accurate”
Tommie tells Cleo that this marking to the north is where she found the pot field. She’s checked out a couple of the other points, but didn’t find any more fields.
Cleo asks her, “where’s the rest of the map?” Tommie point to the trash can, but the map is no longer inside it. Cleo uses the optics in her glasses to capture images of the map as she examines the markings. She too recognizes it as Japanese. As with Ken and Dr. Freeman’s half, the text details security arrangements and response times to important businesses. The Palomino Club, Al’s Oasis and the Cedar Shore resort are all marked on the map. One additional item, not present on their half are raised bubbles along the map’s margin. Cleo depresses one of the bubbles and the writing fades into the background. The map appears to be printed on some form of smart paper. (1) Depressing the other nodes does not reveal any additional details or information.
(GM Note: (1) The smart paper used here is a combination of technologies. Smart and interactive paper technologies are an attempt to bring the physical medium that we are all accustom to into the next generation. A Disposable Paperboard Computer with 32 Kbytes of memory already exists. This interactive or digital paper can be used to create adds that can playback digital information embedded in the paper, through printed speakers. By further coupling this technology with the developments of digital ink and E-paper a nano-paper format with varying degrees of durability, can be created for packaging, brochures, pamphlets and even maps. It is a low cost alternative to a hand held device that is also disposable.
The nodes along the margin of the map are meant to provide different functions. Depressing the nodes sends varying charges through the material, which causes the magnetic inks to react in different patterns. This can be used to generate text, highlight locations on the map or provide other details. In the case of this map, the text is the only option that is currently loaded.)
Tommie is a little worried that whoever broke into her trailer might return. Cleo let’s her crash on her couch. She readily falls asleep. With Tommie snoring lightly in the other room, Cleo checks out the information on the phone. There are a couple of phone numbers, but they appear to have been ones that Tommie called. They still bear checking out.
The phone also contains audio and video footage. While the narrator’s face does not appear on camera, the footage appears to be the pot field where the body was found. The voice over speaks of making insertion safely and waiting at the rendezvous for pick up. The video and commentary runs for three minutes. The voice over cuts off abruptly and seconds later the picture disappears. From the looks of it, the device must have been dropped. There is the sound of a scuffle, but no further video.
After catching some rack time, Cleo gets up to make breakfast for herself and Tommie. Tommie peacefully sleeps through the banging of pots and is only roused by the aroma of breakfast and a firm shake from Cleo. They exchange some morning chit chat. Tommie seems calmer and less scattered after a good night’s sleep. Once Cleo is able to get her out the door, she jumps in the NET to run the reservation system at the Cedar Shore Resort.
The reservation system is fairly easy to penetrate. While it provides access to registration information, it is partitioned from the rest of the data fortress, which is off line. The information it contains is satisfactory for Cleo’s needs. The Edgerunner team, which Rose identified is registered under a corporate account. The reservations were made Channing & Chase.
Channing & Chase is the insurance provider for Conover. It insured the missing trucks. Cleo calls Channing & Chase contact number through the switchboard at Cedar Shore Resort. She impersonates an employ of the resort, calling to confirm the length of the stay. A representative from the corporation verifies the information. She thanks him for his time and disconnects the call.
It appears that the Edgerunners are working for the insurance company. This is a bit of relief, since it was originally feared that they were working directly for Militech. After disconnecting the call, Cleo backs out of the reservation system and calls Takashi at his work phone.
A trace reveals that the line is bugged. Cleo selects a male voice to speak in, to mask her identity. The voice asks Mashiro (Takashi) to drop into net. Once Takashi arrives at predetermined BBS, they begin to confer. Cleo asks. “How’s it going?”
Takashi gives a noncommittal “Ok.” When asked if he has spoken with the security administrator yet he says, “No.” Cleo is a bit peeved by this and demands to know why. Takashi doesn’t have a good answer. He kinda mumbles, “Uh, I don’t know.” She orders him to get on it right away and then disconnects.
The group at Cedar Shore Resort gets an early start. They’ve rented ATVs, which they ride up into the back country behind the resort. After several hours of barreling down twisted tracks and dirt roads, they stop for lunch in a rock pit. The atmosphere is fun and the company friendly. It’s easy for Rose to leave the cares of the mission behind, till Erica brings the illusion crashing down with one simple question.
“So, who are you really?” The question is delivered in a light conversational tone, but it slams down with the full weight of the other shoe falling. Rose knew this question might come eventually, but it still catches her off guard. Looking around, she realizes that the members of the team have her surrounded. Their faces are still warm and friendly, but Rose holds no illusions of what would happen if she tried to make a break for it.
She decides to play it straight. “I’m Rose” She then points to each Edgerunner and calls them by their real names. The only exception is Lazlo, whose real name, she doesn’t know, and she tells him so. Jock finds it funny and comments, shaking his head, “the biggest blabber mouth and the only one not to be outed.”
Erica seems undeterred by this revelation and continues with her questioning. “What are you doing in Chamberlain?”
Rose doesn’t want to give up the rest of the group, so she attempts to do some damage control. She feeds them a line of being Mashiro’s (Takashi’s) bodyguard. Lance calmly says, “She’s lying”. Rose begins to protest, till Erica calls her on her extra-curricular activities (i.e. the excursion to the river and dinner with the mayor). She offers a lame excuse about thinking corporate housing was secure.
Rose cops to Mashiro (Takashi) being in Chamberlain to investigate the missing trucks. She continues to try to shield the rest of the team. She even tries going on the offensive, accusing them of being the ones who broke into the house and roughed up Mashiro (Takashi). The tactic doesn’t work as well as she hoped, since they freely admit it was them.
Erica maintains her conversational tone, but warns of harsher measures if Rose is not more forthcoming. Rose does question, what they are going to do with her body if they kill her. People know she left with them. Jock answers blithely, “ATV accidents happen all the time. They have a tendancy to roll over and crush whatever’s underneath.” Rose tries to buy time, by asking for more food. “If it’s my last supper, can I have another sandwich, I’m still hungry.”
When threats of death don’t seem to have the desired effect, Erica tries threatening exposure. They’ll let it be known around town who she really is. Rose counters that, such a tactic is a double edge sword. She could just as easily do the same and then everyone loses out. It takes some fancy footwork and convincing lies, but Rose is able to keep her employers name a secret and safeguard the rest of the team.
Erica offers an olive branch. She suggests that the groups meet and share information, since they both seem to be working towards the same goal. Rose says she’ll run the idea past her employer. She asks that they return Takashi’s sword and gun as a sign of good faith. With the unpleasantries out of the way, the group settles in to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
(GM Note: Yes, they attacked Takashi. Their motivation, at first, was to make sure that the pair (Rose and Takashi were not working for Arasaka. Through contacts, they were able to compare their fingerprints against Militech’s database. Rose and Takashi’s fingerprints were on file from when they had been interrogated by Militech (Episode 14).
While it’s true they worked for Arasaka during the Ocean War, they were free lancers. Other information taken from Takashi’s deck pointed to some sort of involvement with the investigation of the hijackings. This little get together was meant to confirm the information they had already gathered about Rose and Takashi and if possible find out who they were working for.)
Cowed by Cleo’s reprimand, Takashi seeks out the Security Administrator only to find out he’s dead. George, one of the IT guys, tells Andy died about a month ago. He brings Takashi up to speed on the lurid details of the accident, but is sketchier about the details of Andy’s life. When pressed, George gets a bit defensive. “He was a dick, no one hung out with him. The only one that could stand him was his girlfriend…Talia or Tina…something like that.
Takashi asks if she is still in town. George says he hasn’t seen her around. He heard that she didn’t even show up at the funeral. From what he heard, she was living with Andy in corporate housing and was most likely kicked out after his death. To emphasize the fact that Andy was an unlikable guy, he points out that no family came to the funeral or picked up his stuff. As far as George is aware, everything is still in Andy’s house or in storage.
It becomes clear during the conversation, that some of George’s dislike for Andy stems from the fact that he had to help pick up the work load that Andy left behind. He seems more pissed at the dead man than he does at the boss who hasn’t hired a replacement security administrator.
After his conversation with George, Takashi checks the access logs. Andy’s access codes were used just before the breach. Takashi passes the info onto Bea who contact’s Cleo The access occurred from an external connection, which they are able to trace back to its source in Sturgis (SD). The trace leads to a motel room. The room was registered under the name of John Smith. The trail goes cold from there.
Cleo recommends to Bea that her mother should find out whoever gave the hiring freeze order. They might be involved in the hijackings or know who is. Randomly Takashi comments that he needs a gun. His was taken during the break in. Cleo once again reminds him to stop thinking like a net runner. “You are working for a corporation, go by security and sign out a weapon.” He does so before heading home.
Dean waves Jose and Jason over to his table in the cafeteria, at lunch He introduces them to some of the other guys interested in signing up for wrestling. Jose recognizes some of them from the bar fight at the Silver Dollar. All are wearing Conover uniforms. After introductions and an exchange of pleasantries, Al picks up the conversation that had been going around the table before Dean called over Jason and Jose.
For Jason and Jose’s benefit and partly to remind his friends, that he saw her first, Al launches into a description of the girl who somehow found her way into the back garage (of Conover). “She was a sweet young thing. Not much in the tit department, but nice none the less.” Dean interjects, “and she was lookin for Dave?”
“Which one was Dave,” Steve asked looking confused. Dean responds “You know the quite guy. He was only here for about for weeks, then he just up and quit.
“Maybe he got her pregnant,” Steve offers with a laugh.
Al, still obsessing on the image of the girl cuts them off, “nah, no way. She was rail thin. It’s been what, three weeks since he cut out? A baby bump would have shown.” He adds wistfully, “If she was lookin’ for me, I’d make myself easy to find.”
Jason and Jose aren’t really paying attention to the flow of the conversation. They listen politely, but don’t anything or ask question. Lunch flies by and it’s back to work. In the afternoon, they are tapped to make a delivery to Winner (SD). The ride is about an hour and a half. It starts out an uneventful trip, but quickly changes. A car overtakes the truck and passes across the double yellow line. It pulls front of them and stays about two car lengths in from of the truck.
The engine of the truck starts to sputter and finally dies. The vehicle rolls to a stop. The car begins to pull away, but then stops and backs up. Jason is attempting to get the vehicle to start. A man steps out of the car and approaches the driver side of the cab. He raises his hand in greeting and asks if everything is ok. “Do you want me to call someone?” he asks, pulling a cellphone from his pocket with his other hand.
As he raises the cell phone to his ear, the passenger window of the truck cab shatters. The cab begins to fill with smoke. Jason and Jose quickly try to jump out of the truck. Jason falls limply to the ground. Jose feels dizzy, but keeps his feet. He scans the terrain looking for attackers and is rewarded with two darts to the chest.
Brushing off the darts, he rounds the front of the truck and takes cover on the driver’s side. The driver of the car stands still as if frozen in place. Jose is reaching down to retrieve his gun from his coverall, when another dart slams into his back. He turns to see the driver of the car with a gun in his hand. The range is barely five feet, but Jose’s vision is swimming. The shot goes wide. The man fires another shot and everything goes black.
Returning home from the day’s excursion, Rose calls Bea to let her know the other group’s offer. Bea tells her that it’s a good idea. “Since we seem to be working towards the same goal, maybe we can help each other out.” The meet is for Thursday. To preserve Rose’s cover it will take place in Pierre. Bea brings Cleo into the conversation. Her mother has been in contact with Channing & Chase. The party is to play along for the time being. Cleo is adamant that if there is to be any exchange, the other group has to return everything they took from Takashi, including her very expensive program.
It is unclear who from the party will attend the meeting. Rose knows she is going. She’ll be in Pierre anyway, with Jill and Jackie. She leaves it up to others to decide and instead busies herself removing the bugs in the house. Now that she knows who placed them, there’s no need to keep up the charade. She also checks Takashi’s sword and gun for bugs. There is a locater in the sword hilt. Rather than being pissed, Rose sees it as good natured ribbing. Smiling, she whispers to herself “wise asses”, as she deftly removes the bug and destroys it. When Takashi returns home, she presents him with his sword and gun.
“How did you get these?” he asks flabbergasted.
Rose’s simply answers “Magic”.
Cleo knocks on the Drifter on the pretense of asking Dr. Freeman to service her cyberware. She bring Dr. Freeman and Ken up to speed on the equipment that Tommie had found under her trailer. She also informs them about the other team (Croft Associates) and the traffic on the rails west of Chamberlain. Ken says he’ll check it out (traffic on the railroad tracks)
Wednesday May 11, 2025:
Jason and Jose wake up an indeterminate amount of time later. They are lying on slabs looking up into the faces of aliens surrounding them. Neither can move. Just as quickly as they were awake, they once again drift into unconsciousness. Jason comes to on the side of the road. He is in his boxer shorts and work boots. Lying next to him is Jose, who is similarly attired. While not dead, Jason is unable to rouse him. .
Several hours pass before a vehicle comes down the road. It’s a pickup. Jason attempts to waive down the driver. His flailing arms draw the driver’s attention, but he doesn’t slow down right away. The vehicle makes a lazy loop about a hundred yards down the road and comes back up the road towards Jason and Jose. It rolls to a stop with the passenger window directly in front of Jason.
“What are you doin’ out here?” the passenger asks in a semi-amused tone. Jason is a bit annoyed. He thinks that a guy standing on the side of the road in his underwear, with another guy in underwear passed out next to him should give an obvious indication of what happened.
His answer, “We were hijacked”, comes out slightly more forceful than he may have liked…especially when trying to convince these fellas to give him and his unconscious friend a ride.
The occupants of the truck look at each other and break into laughter. The driver leans over to look out the window at Jason. “You must work for Conover.”
This last comment causes another hearty bout of laughter. It appears that the two have decided that Jason and his unconscious friend are harmless. The driver tells him to jump in back. As he turns to jump in back, he notices the passenger of the vehicle putting away a revolver.
Jason can’t lift Jose by alone. He momentarily considers leaving him and going back for help. After a moment’s indecision, he asks the occupants of the vehicle for help. The passenger is reluctant, but eventually gives in. The driver keeps an eye out with one of the rifles from the gun rack. They are eventually able to lever Jose’s unconscious form into the back of the pickup. As they are driving back to Chamberlain, Jason notices, that they are driving in the other direction. Winner is to the west of Chamberlain, but the pickup truck is approaching Chamberlain from the east.
Back in Chamberlain, the truck pulls up in from to the Conver exchange. Jason asks for help getting Jose out of the back. The passenger, says blithely, “You have forklifts here don’t ya?”
The two agree to wait, while Jason goes inside for help. He walks into the main entrance of the exchange in his boxers and work boots causing quite an uproar. The manager of the store quickly has him escorted off the floor.
Bill is livid. He demands to know what the hell happened. Jason relates the story of the hijacking, omitting several pieces of information, such as the part about the aliens and the driver of the other vehicle. When asked about his partner, Jason remembers that he’s still out in the truck. The two are taken to the medical center for tests. The police meet them there to take their statements. When time permits, Jason contacts Bea to tell her about the hijacking. He tells her everything that he can remember, including the part about the aliens. She tells him to sit tight, while she makes a couple of calls.
Bea contacts Cleo and lets her know what happened. She also tells her that the Regional Supervisor has been questioned ‘thoroughly’. He did put the hiring freeze in effect, but not for essential personnel. Based on the manner of questioning, he is most likely not trying to cover his butt. That means the local manager, Dick Jones, is either involved or negligent.
Cleo wants to put Dr. Freeman’s skills into play. He might be able to recover some of the lost memories by a combination of drugs and braindance. Cleo brings Dr. Freeman into the conversation, to see what he will need to attempt such a procedure. Bea makes a list and says she can have the equipment together in 48 hours.
Later that evening, Ken encounters a vehicle with Conover markings driving down the tracks towards the west. The vehicle looks to be designed to ride on both the road and train tracks. He follows the vehicle till it turns off the tracks onto the road. With a combination of IR and Thermal he is able continue his pursuit, till it turns onto a hard packed dirt road. There are only a couple of turn off and after some false starts, he finds the vehicle parked outside what appears to be a saloon.
The building appears to be nothing more than an oversized shack, sitting right on the edge of the Lower Brule Reservation. There are 4 trucks and a couple of motorcycle out front. Ken has to watch the place for several hours, but he is eventually able to snap some good images of the driver and passenger as they get back into the Conover vehicle.
Episode 27: CONDUCT DISORDER
Thursday May 12, 2025:
Cleo contacts Rose by phone to discuss the details of the meeting in Pierre. She is fine with the restaurant that Croft Associates has selected, but requires certain conditions be met before any meeting takes place. Before Cleo can enumerate her list of demands, Rose is saved by the bell. Someone is at her front door. She asks Cleo to hold on while she checks to see who it is. Cleo calls out to her, “take a gun…just in case”.
Waiting patiently at the door is Jill’s and Jackie’s driver, Luther. He tips his hat to Yoko (Rose) and bids her good morning. Rose is a bit confused by his presence, and tells him as much. Luther explains that he is there to pick her up for the trip to Pierre. With everything else going on, Rose had completely forgotten the trip was today. She quickly covers her gaffe with a convenient lie. “I thought we were meeting at the ferry.”
Yoko (Rose) apologizes to Luther, telling him that she just needs a couple of minutes to get ready. She leaves him standing outside the door, explaining that it wouldn’t be ‘proper’ for her to invite him in when her husband isn’t home. Returning to the phone, she breaks the news to Cleo. Rather than being a problem, Rose sees it as the perfect opportunity.
She tries to sell Cleo on the idea, that she can do both. Rose tells her she can slip away from Jill and Jackie for a couple of hours to meet with Croft Associates and then rejoin them. Cleo isn’t sold. She still considers Jill and Jackie suspects and does not want to risk them becoming suspicious of Rose. Cleo tells Rose she has to choose which appointment to break.
Rose decides to postpone the meeting and take the trip to Pierre with Jill and Jackie. Cleo tells her to contact the edgerunners and let them know about the change. She also tells Rose to give them an ultimatum. No meeting will take place till they return everything the stole. Cleo makes a cryptic reference to giving back something that belongs to them (Croft Associates), but does not go into details. She tells Rose to call her later with their response.
(GM Note: Cleo is referring to the Satellite uplink device retrieved by Dr. Freeman in Crow Creek. The device doesn’t belong to Croft Associates. It actually belongs to Militech. The woman that Dr. Freeman shot at Crow Creek was an independent contractor working for Militech. She had hired some of the Vandals bike gang as muscle to help her. The attack on the members of the Road Reapers was not done under orders. It was an opportunistic attack between two groups that have a turbulent history.)
After hanging up with Cleo, Rose calls Moria at the resort. “Hi, it’s Yoko…wink wink.” Rose quickly fills in Moira as to the need to reschedule and her boss’ ultimatum. Rose’s delivery, speaks volumes. She isn’t happy with Cleo’s decision to reschedule or with the need to return the programs stolen from Takashi. Rose still feels that he acted stupidly and got what he deserved.
Moira picks up on the undercurrent and lightly quips, “Sounds like she went to the same charm school as Erica.” She assures Rose that handing over the programs won’t be a problem. In a smirky conspiratorial tone, she adds, “I almost have the programs copied anyway.” She quickly laughs and says she is just kidding. Rose doesn’t believe her, but deep down, she hopes Moira has managed to copy the programs. Moira gives Rose a phone number to call once the arrangements are made.
Rose takes the time to memorize the phone number and then erases it along with the rest of her phone log. She doesn’t think that Jill and Jackie are involved, but why take chances. She then heads out the door. Luther is still dutifully waiting outside. He opens the door for her as she climbs in. Yoko (Rose) experiences a rush of embarrassment. Jill and Jackie are sitting in the back of the car.
Yoko (Rose) profusely apologizes. She tells them, had she known they were waiting in the car, she would have invited them in. She tries to once again explain why she did not let Luther in, making allusions to the visits her neighbor across the street receives. She stresses that they are always welcome in her house. Both reassure her that they don’t feel slighted in the least. They do stress that they will now have to race to make the ferry.
Yoko (Rose) makes show of sending a text message to Takashi to let him know they are leaving for Pierre and that she will probably be home late. This message is to keep up her cover, but also to let him know where she will be. No need have him panicking; thinking she’s either been kidnapped or killed. If something does happen, he’ll know where to look for the body and who to question first.
With a little excessive speed and Luther’s driving skills, they make the ferry. During the voyage up river, Rose spots another ferry carrying several trucks. The ferry is heading down river and as it passes, she snaps several pictures with her cell phone. The trucks look to be the same make as those that were stolen, but appear to be new. Yoko (Rose) comments to Jill and Jackie, that she didn’t know there was another ferry on the river. Neither Jackie nor Jill recognizes the boat. Jill notes that there’s a large amount of traffic on the river. It could be from further down river.
Yoko (Rose) excuses herself to go to the bathroom. She sends Takashi another text message. Unlike the sickly sweet love note in the car, this one gets right to business. It contains a brief summary of Rose’s observations and the images taken from her camera. The message ends with the text “look into this now”. To make sure the pictures are received in case anything happens to her and Takashi, Rose forwards the message to Bea. After everything is sent, Rose deletes the images and message log from her phone. Joining Jill and Jackie back on deck, she enjoys the rest of the trip to Pierre.
Cleo jacks into the net and contacts Ken’s cell phone. She wants to know if he found anything while checking out the tracks. Ken transmits the visual data and gives her an overview of the Conover truck’s visit to the bar just off the reservation. After some brief questions, she moves on to other topics. Cleo tells him meeting (with Croft Associates) is postponed. She also voices her concerns over about the edgerunners. Croft Associates usually operates as a group of seven. So far, the group has only made five of the members. She warns Ken and Dr. Freeman, by extension, to watch their backs.
Cleo also asks Ken to come up with some scenarios for grabbing Dick Jones. She tells him of the interrogation of the Regional VP. Things seem to be pointing to Dick Jones. Cleo states that Dick is either negligent for not hiring a new security administrator or incompetent…and she’s not betting on incompetent. She wants to grab Dick Jones and make him talk; break him if necessary. The only problem with grabbing him is if he’s innocent, the group is screwed.
Cleo’s next call is to Bea. She wants Bea to arrange for an apartment in Mitchell where the meeting with Croft Associates can take place. Cleo doesn’t plan on being present, but she wants to be able to communicate with the people at the meeting. She gives Bea a rundown of how the room should be set up.
Cleo would also like Bea to check out the Bobs (Luddy and Slydel) and ‘the IT guys’. She wants to know if there have been any large deposits to any of their bank accounts. She also asks who would have had Andy’s access codes. Bea says that from what she has heard, Andy was a control freak. He probably wouldn’t have given them to anyone. Bea suggests that someone may have found them in his house or used his personal system. She forwards the address to Cleo
Bea advices Cleo that the apartment might take some time to arrange. On a happy not, the memory extraction is all set to go. She forwards the address to Cleo, so that she can pass it on to Ken and Dr. Freeman. Jason and Jose will be picked up at work tomorrow. Cleo disconnects and calls back Ken.
She gives him the address for the memory extraction and then forwards the address for Andy’s house. Cleo tells him she wants him to check out the former security tech’s house this evening. She stresses that they should look for any clues about a missing girlfriend. After giving them their marching orders Cleo calls Bea one last time.
She would like Bea to run scenarios for what would happen to Dick Jones if Conover went under or was sold off. Bea is quick to point out that at his level of management he probably doesn’t have a golden parachute. Undeterred, Cleo asks her to investigate any links Dick might have to the Palomino Club and other businesses or people in Chamberlain and Oacoma. With everything set in motion, Cleo heads to the Artemis to unwind.
Jason and Jose have been placed on light duty. They’re day consists of sitting in the cafeteria drinking soycaff or pushing papers in the office. It also makes them available to meet with the Bobs (Luddy and Slydel). Each is sat down in turn and asked about their normal duties. They are asked to run through a typical day. Both are questioned on how they were hired, being that there is a hiring freeze in effect. Jason gives a winning smile and answers simply, “I applied.”
Jose for his job description offers up, “I lift things and bring them into the warehouse”. Jason and Jose think the interviews went well.
After meeting with the Bobs, they are sent to sit and watch some training video. It’s kinda boring, but helps to kill time till lunch. Their viewing is interrupted by another meeting. The pair is ushered into a conference room. A gentleman with glasses is sitting behind the table. He gestures towards two chairs on the opposite side of the table and asks Jason and Jose to sit. As they are taking their seats, he asks them if they mind if he records the session. Neither has any objection.
The man does not introduce himself but instead launches into a series of questions, that he appears to be checking against a written record. He asks their names and a series of statistical questions. Satisfied with the answers, he asks them to recount the circumstances surrounding the hijacking. He asks Jason if he remembers what mile marker they had passed before the hijacking. Jason says he doesn’t remember.
(GM Note: Since they were found several miles from the site of the incident, locating the crime scene and therefore physical evidence, has been difficult. He’s not telling them, but the GPS trackers for the truck they were driving was ‘conveniently’ not working.)
The gentleman then asks if they have recently been using drugs. Both answer in the negative. Jason and Jose are shown copies of the statements to the police. They are asked to read through them to verify they are accurate. The man asks if they have anything they would like to add to their statements. Again, both answer in the negative.
He thanks Jason and Jose them for their time. As they are getting up to leave, he hands each of them a card, indicating that they should call him if they think of anything else. Through the entire meeting, the man’s facial expression did not change. He appeared to be mildly bored with the whole proceedings.
As soon as they are out of the room, Jason throws the card in the first convenient trashcan, without even looking at it. Jose looks at the card. It is a plain white with the name Jack Avery and a phone number. There are no logos or other information. Jose pocket’s it and follows Jason back towards the cafeteria. On the way, they are stopped by Hank (a fellow worker), who asks “How’d it go with the dog from Militech?”
Both are clueless to what he’s talking about. Hank motions towards the door, the two had just walked out of. “He’s here investigating the hijackings. Word is they’re looking for someone to hang it on.
Jason who either misses the significance of this revelation (or just doesn’t care) describes the meeting as a boring waste of time. “He just went over the statements we gave the police. He didn’t ask anything new.” Hank seems to accept the answer and continues on down the hall.
On the way back to the cafeteria, Jason tries to convince Jose to ditch work and go out on the town. He’s trying to figure what they can do with no money, when Jose shuts him down, “We aren’t leaving while on shift.” Seeing no fun in ditching alone, Jason slogs back to the cafeteria. He flips through the local paper in an attempt to relieve the boredom. In an attempt to emphasize his boredom to Jose and punish him for not ditching work with him, he goes through the paper reading each story aloud in a jovial announcers voice, with a fake smile plastered on his face.
“Jose, listen to this. A body was found about a mile and a half north of Oacoma. The body is severely decomposed and has been eaten by animals. They are attempting to piece together fingerprint in an attempt to get an ID…Oh, here’s some good news, Conover stock price is moving up…Hey, they’re announcing the new inductees to the South Dakota Hall of Fame…look, admission is free. We should go check it out.” Jason’s running commentary is thankfully interrupted by Bill. He is not the least interested in the body found near Oacoma. He wants Jason and Jose to get off their butts and report to Dottie in the dispatch office.
After lunch at the Dancing Fish (Sushi Bar), Jill and Jackie take Rose shopping. Rose mentions a nice restaurant she’s heard about (the original meet place). Jill tells her it’s a fabulous restaurant. She has Luther call to make reservations (at the restaurant) for dinner. Even though the meet has been postponed, Rose still wants to check out the location.
In one of the numerous shops they visit, Rose notices Jill talking to one of the shop girls privately. It does not appear to be a discussion of which pair of shoes she should buy. The girl could be cute, but her choice in makeup is all wrong. The color of her hair is also a bit unsettling. It’s a bright shade of fuchsia. As they are leaving, Jill and the girl embrace. Rose overhears the girl call Jill “mom”.
Back at Conestoga Park, Cleo is trying to suss out the particulars of how the third floor of the Palomino Club works. She picks the brain of a couple of her coworkers who also live in the campground. Tommie had been bending their ear with stories of her trip across country. She was working up to asking them getting a job at the club. Cleo tells them that she’s thinking about taking the plunge, but wants to know what she’s getting herself into.
She is able to worm out information about high rollers and regulars. It turns out that the Bobs have been there several times. Lori volunteers that there are some girls that have given up dancing all together an only work upstairs. She uses Tina as an example. After some chitchat off the subject of work, Cleo heads back to her trailer. She invites Tommie back for lunch.
Dottie takes Jason and Jose to the conference room. On the table is a large stack of paper files. She tells them that the files need to be placed into boxes and then brought down to the loading dock and placed in the back of a pickup truck. Jose begins to open one of the folders, but Dottie abruptly grabs it. She scolds him, saying that they are confidential.
The rebuke comes off a mite harsh and she apologizes. Before any further direction can be given, Dottie has to leave to answer the phone. She is no sooner out the door, than Jason starts leafing through the files. They are employee records. By the size of the stacks there are possibly hundreds of them. Jason decides to dig through the pile to find his file. Since they are in alphabetical order, it’s fairly ease. Jose tries to stop him, but soon follows suit and locates his own file.
Flipping through their files, both of them notice the third page is missing. There is also a piece of red tape on the top right hand corner of each file. Jose flips through a couple of other records till he finds one with a third page. The page is a performance appraisal and psychological profile. Going through the stack, it appears that the third page is missing from all of the files with red tape on the front. There are about forty folders marked with red tape.
Jose notices that Dean’s employee record is one of the ones marked with red tape. Jason takes the papers out of his file, folds them up and puts them in his pocket. He still puts the empty folder in the box with the rest of the files. Neither removes the red tape from their folder. After loading up the truck they head back to the cafeteria to amuse themselves for the last half hour before their shift ends.
The restaurant is everything Jill said it was, but the atmosphere is somewhat spoiled by a new dinner companion. Justine, the shop girl from the shoe store has joined them. Jill introduces her as her daughter. Justine has toned down her makeup, and dressed conservatively, but her hair is still glaringly bright. Rose looks for any family resemblance between the two women. Justine catches her looking and appears a little self-conscious.
Self-consciousness turns to anger and she blurts out “So, are you one too?” (directed at Rose)
Jill is horrified, Jackie just looks angry, but Rose maintains her composure and shoots back, “No, I’m stuck in a loveless marriage with a man.
Justine is at first taken by surprise. After a moment, she smirks, ceding the point to Rose, “touché.”
Although less outwardly bitchy Justine remains catty. She seems to reserve most of her ire for Jackie. After they have ordered, Rose suggests the she and Jackie go to bar, so that the ‘girls’ (Justine and Jill) can have some mother daughter time. While at the bar, she has a heart to heart with Jackie, who reveals that Justine isn’t Jill real daughter. Jill is her step mother. Justine was the daughter of her husband, from his first marriage. Once Jill had their son, he neglected Justine. Even after the baby, Jill made time for her and they grew closer.
Rose asks what happened. Jackie frankly admits that Justine blames her for ‘stealing her mother.’ Rose can tell it’s a painful topic and changes subjects. She asks Jackie how they met. Jackie reveals that she used to be a high powered corporate lawyer working in Night City. She had enough and transferred to the middle of nowhere to get out of the rat race. She met Jill when she was sent out to foreclose on the ranch. It was after her husband died and she was having trouble staying afloat; financially and emotionally
Rose comments, that she thinks Justine protests a bit much about her mother’s chosen lifestyle. Justine smiles “yeah, she’s pretty deep in the closet.”
Rose comments that she can’t believe that in this day and age, such things still matter to people. Jackie retorts, “Welcome to middle America.”
Using the rapport that she has built, Rose changes gears and voices her worries about the possible buyout of Conover. She asks Jackie what would be the effects on the local area. Jackie tells her that things will still go on, but there would be hard times. Part of the land deal that Jill and she are negotiating is securing a right-of-way to the river. They plan to put in a landing to move their livestock by boat. It’s a contingency incase the railroad does shut down.
Rose brings up the hijackings. Jackie says that she wouldn’t be surprised if locals were involved. Too many trucks have gone missing with no one seeing anything out of the ordinary. She is quick to stress that she doesn’t think it’s anyone in Chamberlain, but surrounding towns….possibly. Jackie stresses that she and Jill believe in Conover and by extension Brexton Brands.
They’ve been good corporate citizens in Chamberlain. Jill and she have been purchasing Conover stock. It will either keep those shares out of the hands of those attempting a hostile takeover or provide a profit if the buyout goes through and the stock price increases. Looking back at the table Rose sees Jill and Justine hugging and their food arriving. She indicates that it should now be safe to return to the table.
Late in the evening, Ken and Dr. Freeman gear up to check out Andy’s house. Like Rose and Takashi, Andy lived in Conover corporate housing. It’s just another house in a normal residential neighborhood. Ken and Dr. Freeman go in expecting hefty security, but other than a couple of locks on the doors, none seems to be apparent. The only alarm is on the car, which is parked in the garage.
At first blush, the house appears to be a bust. It’s spotless; nothing of Andy’s remains. It’s most likely been sent off to storage. The house has been prepared for its next occupant, the new security administrator; who was never hired. Ken and Dr. Freeman busy themselves looking for secret compartments and hidden safes. While searching the bedroom, Ken finds a small box attached to one of the slats on the bed. It was secured on the underside of the slat with a strip of Velcro. The box contains three chips. Further searching reveals nothing else of interest in the house. It’s after midnight by the time they exit the house. Ken leaves a message for Cleo to inform her about their discovery.
Friday May 13, 2025:
Cleo attempts to call back Ken as soon as she gets the message. Being that it’s after 4 am (after her shift at the Palomino) there is no answer. At the more reasonable hour of 7:30 (am), Ken picks up. Cleo is still attempting to maintain her cover. She tells Ken to bring the chips over under the pretense of wanting to borrow an item of food. Ken can’t be bothered with the charade, so he sends Dr. Freeman.
With the chips are safely in her hands, Cleo dives in to check them out. The first chip appears to be surveillance footage. It follows the movements of a young blond girl for several hours. Most of the footage is taken up by mundane tasks, but it begins to heat up near the end. The girl meets up with a guy, who Cleo recognizes is Dave. The two embrace and go into a hotel room. The recording stops and then picks up again from another angle, with what appears to be a different type of lens. Dave and the girl are doing more than hugging. The playback ends soon after.
(GM Note: Dave is one of several “phantom” employees, who were working in Chamberlain just previous to the group’s arrival. Their employment records are on file in the local database, but no record of them can be found in the main HR system back at corporate. Their disappearance seems to occur in the weeks following Andy’s accident.)
The second chip is a record of changes that have been made to truck routes and shipping manifest over the past six months (up to the time of Andy’s death) It includes documentation VIN numbers and truck identification tags being switched from the old trucks to the new ones. Although the information does not come out and point a finger, it implies that someone in dispatching may be involved or know something.
The third chip is the most damning of all. It contains what appears to be an S&M vid. What is notable is the stars. Bill and Dottie are there as is Tina, from the Palomino Club. Cleo recognizes her. It also becomes apparent, the girl in the S&M vid and the one from the surveillance footage are the same person. The look is different, but it’s definitely her. Tina was dating Andy and two timing him with Dave.
Cleo downloads the information to a safe place and then connects to InfoComps to use their facial recognition software. She runs Dave through the program. The software chews on the data for a while, but spits out no matches. It is an expensive dead end. Cleo contacts Bea to find out the location of the meeting. After providing her with the details, Bea also hits her with a little tidbit about the rail road.
(GM Note: If Conover abandons use of the railway for a period of a year, the right-of-way reverts to the state. If the railway is considered abandoned, land owners owning land contiguous to the right-of-way can either purchase state owned land or petition to have land returned to them with the dissolution of the easement. The county board can however block this. They can initiate a discontinuance by introducing a resolution declaring that the “public interest requires it”. In effect, Chamberlain and the other counties along the rail line could continue to operate the rail line without Conover.)
Rose contacts Bea to tell her what she learned at dinner the previous evening. She also asks Bea if she’s heard from Cleo. Rose says she’s waiting to find out where the meet is taking place. Bea is a little surprised. She informs Rose that Cleo was expecting Rose to call her.
Rose gets in touch with Cleo through Bea. Cleo wants to meet up with her at the Artemis spa, to hand off the satellite uplink device (from Crow Lake). She gives Rose a rundown on the arrangements that have been made for meeting in Mitchell. She gives her the directions and also the exit out of the meeting place. Cleo also gives her a new contact code and advises her not to rely on the other team for a ride. It sounds a little like the other group is being setup for a hit.
The exchange at the Artemis goes smoothly. Rose heads home to contact Moira. She tells her that her boss called back. After giving the location and time, Rose asks if they want her to go with them. After the briefest of pauses, Moira tells her they’ll pick her up on the way.
Jason looks through the pages he had stolen from his file. Once done, he tears them up into tiny pieces and throws them in the trash. A man walks into the cafeteria holding a clip board. “Are you Jose and Jason”. Without hesitation, both say yes. The man turns towards the door and calls back over his shoulder, “Ok, let’s go.”
Jason and Jose call after him. He stops and looks back at them. “What’s the problem? I’m your ride.”
Both look at him with looks of confusion. Jose tries to explain that they can’t go with him, because they’re working. The man puts up a reassuring hand and tells them, “Leave it to me.”
With the two in toe, he heads for Bill’s office. Leaving Jason and Jose in the outer office, he goes inside to talk to Bill. Although the conversation does not carry through the closed door, Bill does not appear to be enjoying what the man is telling him. Stepping out of his office, Bill tells Jason and Jose to go with the gentleman, but report back to him when they return.
They follow him outside to a car with Conover markings on the side. As they hit the highway, the guy lets out a deep breath. “Well, that was easy.” In a jovial tone, he introduces himself as Joe and asks, “You’re friends of Bea right?” Both nod their head. Joe tells them to sit back, because it will take about an hour to get to Mitchell.
(GM Note: The ‘saga’ of Jason and Jose is one of the funnier story threads which played out during the game session. Due to the compartmentalization of the party and the need to maintain secrecy, information has been passed along on a need to know basis. Unfortunately, sometimes the information someone needs to know does not always make it down the chain of command. Case in point, Jason and Jose haven’t been brought up to speed on the fact that they are being taken to Mitchell to be put through braindance by Dr. Freeman.)
Two miles outside Chamberlain, Joe pulls the car over to the side of the road. He gets out of the car and walks around to the passenger side. Jason and Jose are already feeling a little uneasy. Pulling over two miles outside of two only compounds their unease. When Joe suddenly ducks down by the front passenger door, both are out of the car like a shot.
Jose, who is in the rear passenger side seat has a clear view of Joe as he exits the car. He is pealing the Conover logo off the side of the vehicle. Joe looks at Jose questioningly, “What’s up?”
Jose mumbles, “Nothin,” and gets back in the car. Seeing Jose reenter the vehicle, Jason does so as well. After removing all of the Conover decals from the car, Joe throws them in the trunk and then jumps back in behind the wheel. After an apology for the delay, he gets back on the road and continues on towards Mitchell.
The trip to Mitchell ends inside of a large warehouse. The inside is all but empty. Other than a small piles of crates, the only thing inside is a tractor trailer. Built into the side of the trailer are a set of retractable metal stairs, which are extended. Joe leads Jason and Jose up the stairs and into the trailer. The inside is set up as a medical suite. Joe indicates a waiting area, where the two can “cool their heels” till the others arrive. He doesn’t bother explaining who these others are.
A familiar Drifter enters the warehouse a couple of hours later. Dr. Freeman exits the vehicle decked out in his white lab coat. Ken follows close behind. Joe introduces himself to Dr. Freeman and Ken. “Bea sent him as the braindance technician.
(GM Note: He neglects to mention his knowledge of braindance comes from running a braindance parlor. Hey, it’s the best Bea could get on short notice.)
Dr. Freeman asks imperiously, “Where are they?”
Joe directs him to the semi. As Dr. Freeman appraises his patients, Joe dons a lab coat. He then busies himself checking over the equipment. Dr. Freeman asks, “Ok, who’s first?”
After a brief moment of deliberation and looks of confusion, Jason raises his hand. Ken secures Jason to the examination table, while Dr. Freeman prepares the drug cocktail, which will hopefully counteract the drugs used by the hijackers.
Jason is strapped face down on the table. His head is cradled in a face rest and immobilized velcro straps. After preparing the injection, Dr. Freeman leans down to show Jason the needle. He tells him, “this big needle is going into the back of your head, so don’t squirm around.”
Jason looks apprehensive. Dr. Freeman reassures him, “Don’t worry, you’re in the presence of the greatest neurosurgeon ever.” While Jason is trying to wrap his head around this last statement (and what is about to happen), Dr. Freeman sticks the needle into the base of his skull, to the horror of Jose who is looking on.
Jose demands, “What did you do to him?”
Dr. Freeman fixes Jose with his most professional glower. In a bored tone the doctor declares, “We just went over this? I shoved a needle full of drugs into his brain,” Dr. Freeman hastens to add, “and you’re next. You can either get on the table willingly, or I have a gun full of darts”.
That’s all Jose needs to hear. He bolts from the trailer. Joe looks up from where he is adjusting the braindance controls and asks, “Is there a problem?”
Ken takes off after Jose. Dr. Freeman yells after Ken, “Watch the head. We need it intact.” After squeezing off a shot from his needle gun and missing, he yells even louder, “if it comes to it, we don’t need his other limbs.”
Jose out distances Ken, but his lead is short lived. Ken is able to close the gap, as Jose’s progress is blocked by a locked door. Jose is able to give the door one good kick before Ken is upon him. The kick is sound, and bends the metal door. Unfortunately, the door is made to open inward, from the outside. It does not give. The pommel of Ken’s katana and a successful second shot from Dr. Freeman’s needler, combine to put Jose down. Ken carries him back to the trailer over his shoulder.
The scans go fairly quickly. Trying to unravel the muddle images and put them into some kind of semblance of reality, takes much longer. Refining the scan and probing key memories reveals a partial license plate number. Beyond that, Jason remembers fairly little. Jose by comparison was able to get a good look at the driver’s face.
Beyond the events of the hijacking are the images of Grey aliens. Both experience the same image of aliens standing over them. Joe says that in his educated opinion, it is either an implanted memory or one experienced through braindance…the angle and lighting are an exact match. Although he won’t admit it openly, Dr. Freeman knows that implanting memories with braindance is not his field of expertise. He does however know of a surgeon who specializes in the field (see Chris Carney story arch).
Rose rides to Mitchell with Lazlo (behind the wheel), Moira and Erica. Instead of riding in a single vehicle, they are being followed by the rest of the group in another Humvee. Before reaching the meeting place, the other vehicle turns off. Lazlo stays behind the wheel of the car. Erica and Moira head up to the apartment with Rose. Entering the apartment, there is no one in sight. The only furnishings are a table with chairs, a speaker phone with an optical hookup. Rose has a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
After the exchange of ‘loot’, the phone comes to life and an obviously computer modulated voice (Cleo) welcomes them to the meeting. Both groups have the GPS coordinates and share what they found out. Croft Associates never made it to the parachutist, but they have worked the Arasaka involvement from other angles. The other points of interest were a large scorch mark caused by errant fireworks and a drug drop point (mouth of White River). The only point that might relate to the hijackings is the rock quarry and that trail is cold. Erica makes a point of rejecting any Arasaka involvement in the hijackings. Their best data points to it being a ‘ghost operation’ to make Militech waste assets in the region. Continuing down that line of thought, Erica reveals the identities of the four Militech operatives currently operating in the Chamberlain area. Jack Avery, (the man who questioned Jason and Jose is one of them.
Croft Associates also has intelligence which corroborates the players’ suspicions of Bill’s involvement in a smuggling operation. The intelligence points to the involvement of one or more individuals operating out of the Lower Brule Reservation. Erica suggests that this operation may have something to do with the hijackings. They’ve come across the name Thomas Little Tree several times, but the data suggests this may be an alias. Cleo (The voice on the speaker) brings up the various connections between Andy, Bill, Dottie, Tina and Dave. It mentions the other ‘phantom employees’ and how tracking them down might shine more light on the situation.
Erica reveals that Dave was found dead in Sturgis. She has people looking into it, but the trail appears to be a dead end. She suggests that Tina or Bill would be an alternative, especially since they are both so close at hand. The voice (Cleo) is in agreement. Bill is probably the easier to get a hold of. Erica proposes a joint operation. If the players can grab Bill, she has someone who can handle the interrogation. After a momentary pause, the modulated voice indicates that it has just the people for the mission. Before Cleo (the voice) breaks contact, it gives Erica an online drop box. This address is to be used in case of emergencies. Contact, for the time being, will go through Rose
Upon hearing her name Rose looks up. She tires her best to mask the embarrassment and boredom that vied for her attention during the meeting. Moira at least had her cyberdeck to hide behind. She was able to keep herself busy displaying visual data to accompany Erica’s intelligence presentation. Rose had no such refuge. She offers a weak smile and a subdued apology, to anyone who will take it. It is clear by the way Moira won’t meet her eyes and the palpable anger radiating from Erica that the meeting could have gone better. The speaker phone and camera, instead of a face to face meeting was probably not the best idea. In an effort to change the mood, Rose proposes that they go out for drinks.
After disconnecting from the meeting, Cleo calls Ken. Anxious to grab on Bill, she asks him if Jason and Jose will be up for some action tonight. Ken informs her that Jason’s scan is completed. He has Dr. Freeman administer something to counteract the anesthetic. While he is coming around, Ken brings her up to speed on what the braindance reveled.
Jason is still a little groggy when he has the phone thrust into his hand to talk with the boss. To maintain her cover, Cleo once again resorts to the computer modulated voice. Jason is still not fully coherent. The modulated voice throws him. He finds it oddly humorous. Jason takes on a half mocking tone as he converses with the person on the other end of the line. Ken is aggravated by his unprofessional manner. Cleo (the voice) explains the need to abduct Bill and how it should be accomplished (i.e. invite him out for a drink). When she is sure that he understands the importance of the mission, she puts him on hold to contact Rose.
Leaving the meeting, the three (Rose, Erica and Moira) return to the car. Erica has Lazlo drive them to the nearest bar. Once they are away from the building, Erica makes a phone call. She doesn’t bother with a greeting or preamble, but simply says “Stand down and chill out,” then disconnects the call. The tension in the car seems to visibly lift. Although she does not voice it, Rose gets the feeling that Erica doesn’t hold her responsible for how the meeting went.
By the time they reach the bar, the mood is much more jovial. Lazlo elects to go his own way rather than joining them inside. He promises to be back in a couple of hours to pick them up. It’s an impromptu “girls’ night out”. The three make the most of it. Rose is well on her way to getting completely soused when she notices someone watching their table.
She quietly tries to bring the person to Erica attention. Erica had spotted him as well. She informs Rose that he works for Militech. Before anything can be done about him, Rose’s phone rings. It’s Cleo or more precisely the modulated voice. Rose puts on a show of being drunk and acts as if she is talking to a friend who just called her to meet up. She lets Cleo know about the tail and then passes the phone to Erica on the pretense that she (Erica) knows the directions to the bar.
Once on the phone the modulated voice informs Erica that it will connect her to the operatives, who will be pulling the extraction. They just need to know where and when to deliver ‘him’ and the name of their contact. Erica is placed on hold while the voice (Cleo) reconnects to Jason. While on hold, Erica is able to get Moira’s attention.
Moira isn’t too happy about being sent to distract the Militech agent. In an uncharacteristic nasally whine, she demands, “Why does it always have to be me.” A look from Erica seems to convey the importance of the call. With slumping shoulders and an exasperated sigh Moira gets up from the table. By the time she is facing towards the agent, she is once again bubbly and all smiles.
Cleo connects Jason to Erica. She continues to listen to the conversation (in mute mode). With Moira running interference, Erica quickly delivers the address and time (9pm) of the rendezvous. Their contact’s name is Lance. She then quickly hangs up the phone and hands it back to Rose Taking out her own phone, she makes a call to Lance. She tells him to have Conrad arrange for a little Q&A and gives him the particulars of the rendezvous.
Erica leaves it in his hands and hangs up the phone. She turns to give Moira the all clear signal, only to find that she is sitting at the agent’s table laughing and joking with him like longtime friends (or a girl on the make). Commenting that she’ll (Moira) come back when she wants to, Erica orders up two more drinks instead of three. They stay in the bar to keep their tail occupied and provide themselves with an alibi.
As soon as Erica is off the line, the modulated voice (Cleo) returns. It instructs Jason to hand the phone back to Ken. Cleo gives him the particulars of the mission. She wants him to go along, to ‘baby sit’ Jason and Jose and make sure they don’t screw up. By this time Dr. Freeman has finished with Jose.
Like Jason, he’s still a bit loopy from the sedative, but he’s coherent enough to talk on the phone. Cleo asks to speak with him. Jose doesn’t put the phone to his ear. He instead stares back at Ken with a look of confusion. His last clear memories were of Jason motionless on the examination table and Ken chasing after him as he fled the trailer. Jumbled in with those memories are the relived experiences (through braindance) of the hijacking.
Instead of being strapped to the table, Jason is standing next to Ken grinning broadly. Jose has a feeling that he’s been punked. He eyes the phone suspiciously and then looks back to Jason and Ken. “Who is it?” he inquires suspiciously.
Ken flatly states, “It’s our employer.”
Jason encouragingly quips, “Its Mr. Cylon.” (His affectionate name for the computer generated voice).
Still eying the pair suspiciously, Jose puts the phone to his ear and hesitantly says, “Hello?” The voice asks if he knows Dottie. Unsure of the direction of this questioning, he haltingly answers yes. The voice warns him to be careful around her, but to be friendly if they run into each other. After this cryptic piece of advice, the line goes dead. Jose is left more confused than when he first woke up.
Jason tries to bring him up to speed as they get changed. Since they came straight from work, both are in their coveralls. Joe provides each of them with some generic clothing to change into. Ken hustles the two into the Drifter. It’s an hour’s drive back to Chamberlain. With a 9pm rendezvous, they’ll have at most 40 minutes to locate Bill and secure him.
After disconnecting with Jose, Cleo contacts Bea. She passes along the intelligence garnered from the meeting with Croft Associates. While forwarding the data, Cleo takes a moment to vent. She’s feels that the players gave more information to Croft Associates than they received in return. She’s pissed by the lopsided exchange and a bit worried that they’ll grab the credit and leave the players in the lurch.
Cleo asks Bea to acquire a safe house in Chamberlain. She lets Bea know about the Militech operatives that are shadowing Croft Associates. Cleo wants her to call them off. Before disconnecting, she also asks Bea to check into having Dick Jones’ Militech (security) card canceled. Bea assures her that she’ll look into it.
(GM Note: The powers which some of the players think Bea has at her disposal, amazes me. Regardless of what the players might think, this is still a covert operation. Bea’s mother preempted the insurance company notifying Conover by calling them directly. At the moment, pulling Dick Jones’ security card might be difficult. Militech isn’t in the loop.
Bea’s mother is still playing it close to the vest. Channing & Chase has been sharing its information with Militech, but has agreed to sit on the players involvement, as long as they share information with their team (Croft Associates). Recovering the trucks would be nice, but Channing & Chase’s only true concern is the effect such a large payout would have on their bottom line.)
As the Drifter approaches Chamberlain, Dr. Freeman asks where they’re headed. Jason points out that Bill told them (Jason and Jose) to report to him when they returned. They try his office, but the building is dark. No one is inside. By now, it is nearly half past 8. Jason hits on the idea of checking out the bars on Main Street.
After unsuccessfully locating him in any of the other establishments along Main Street, the two breeze into The Silver Dollar Saloon. Dr. Freeman and Ken follow them in a half a minute later. Jane (Cleo) is inside enjoying the live music and talking with some of the Road Reapers. Spotting Jane (Cleo), Jason wanders over to say hello. His mission seems to be all but forgotten and time is ticking away.
Jane (Cleo) asks him where he’s been. He sits down and recounts the story of the hijacking. He tells her he’d buy her a drink, but he’s currently flat broke. Jane (Cleo) buys him one instead, but is curious how he is already broke on payday. With concern, she asks if he was robbed. Jason tells her about having to leave early, that morning, before the checks had come in. He tells her that Bill told them to see him when they got back.
Jane (Cleo) volunteers that maybe Bill has their checks. She raises her voice (between songs) and asks if anyone in the Saloon knows where Bill lives. She makes sure to add that Jason and Jose are the ones looking for him. Being a small town (where everyone knows everyone else) the address is obtained fairly quickly. With address in hand and a little (verbal) shove out the door from Jane (Cleo), Jason and Jose are once again on the trail of Bill.
Ken and Dr. Freeman once again give Jason and Jose a little bit of a lead, before following them out the door. They pick the pair up in the Drifter and head over to Bill’s place.
There are two cars in the driveway. Bill’s car is blocked in by another vehicle. Dr. Freeman stays in the Drifter, while Ken accompanies Jason and Jose to the door. He is armed with his katana and Dr. Freeman’s needle gun.
Jason, who is in the lead, walks right up to the door and knocks. Cursing under his breath, Ken quickly takes up position to the side of the door, out of sight. After a bit of delay, the door swings open. The man behind it is not Bill. Smiling, Jason asks, “Is Bill here?”
The man doesn’t spot Ken. He does however give Jason and Jose the once over, before answering, “There’s no Bill here.”
Jason looks unsure about how to proceed. Instead of calling the man on the evidence at hand (Bill’s car in the driveway), he blathers out “uh, ok then”. The man swings the door shut in his face before he can ask any more questions. Jason and Jose look ready to turn around and walk away from the door. Ken steps in and takes control of the situation. His power kick nearly knocks the front door off its hinges. The door doesn’t even have a chance to rebound from the wall, before he is storming into the house.
The man, who had answered the door, is a mere three feet away. Further into the main room, Ken spots Bill on his knees, with a gun stuffed into the back of his head. Two additional targets are standing near him with guns drawn. The needle gun discharges twice. The first dart, aimed at the attacker with his gun to Bill’s head, impacts harmlessly on armor. The second finds its mark. Fast acting tranquilizers go to work, and the assailant slumps to the floor.
Discarding the needle gun, Ken closes on the nearest attacker with his sword. He takes the man high on the shoulder. The momentum carries it down through his chest. The two targets left standing fire their weapons, but their bullets fail to hit home. Spinning away from his last victim, Ken continues on towards Bill and his last to targets. His blade continues through its arch, decapitating one. A reverse downward slash dispatches the other.
Scanning the room reveals no other attackers. There is only a startled Bill and Jason and Jose. The pair appears to be wresting with each other near the front door. Disgusted, Ken turns his attention to Bill. Bill’s eyes are staring wide. He seems to be attempting to speak, but all that is coming out are small guttural noises…”Guh Guh.” Ken quickly zip ties Bill’s hands behind his back. He does the same to the drugged attacker. Keeping half an eye on Bill, he retrieves the spent darts and the needle gun.
While Ken is occupied policing the scene, Jason walks up to Bill. He inquires, in a smartassed tone, “So where do we pick up our paychecks again?” Ken stares at him with a look of stupefied horror. Before shouldering the drugged assailant, Ken searches the bodies for identification. For some reason, he’s worried that he may have killed cops. Jason and Jose take the opportunity to grab guns off the dead bodies. They have to run to catch up with Ken who is herding the still traumatized Bill out the front door. They pile into the Drifter and drive away before the cops show up.
Ken is more than a little angry with Jason and Jose. In his mind, they almost blew the operation. His opinion of their abilities grows only worse, when they arrive at the rendezvous. Bill tries to bolt out the door at the drop off point. Jason and Jose were supposed to have been watching him. They had not even bothered to gag or blindfold him. Ken is able to quickly horse collar Bill and drag him down, but his yells for help may have been heard. What’s worse, the escape attempt happened in plain view of the other edgerunner team. Anger over the escape attempt mingles with loss of face in front of peers. Ken blames Jason and Jose for both.
The hand-off is made to Lance from Croft Associates. Ken requests to be present for the questioning. Lance has no problem with that. He tells Ken to have his driver follow him. As Ken walks back to the Drifter, Jason takes the opportunity to applaud his skills, “You’re cool. You kill really fast.” Ken ignores him and climbs back into the vehicle.
Ken has Dr. Freeman administer a counter agent for the tranquilizer. He wants a chance to question the surviving attacker before Bill’s interrogation. It doesn’t take much convincing to make him talk. The man and his friends were from Winner, SD. Glancing at the blood stains on Ken’s robes, he doesn’t bother to ask what happened to his friends. He tries to sell them the line that they were just there to question Bill. The gun was only to his head to keep him from crying out while Jake answered the door.
With a little more cajoling he admits they were there to kill Bill. The shipment that had been hijacked on the way to Winner had been destined for their boss. He wasn’t too happy when it didn’t arrive. The man offers up the name of his boss and of others involved in the smuggling ring. Ken files the information away, but kills the man any way. Dr. Freeman is disappointed. As part of the interrogation process, they had bandied about various methods of killing the assailant. Dr. Freeman had taken a real shine to the idea of watching Ken decapitate someone. Ken snapped his neck to keep the mess to a minimum. As it is, the back of the Drifter will need a thorough going over with nano-cleaners.
Lance pulls into a hanger at the municipal airport. Dr. Freeman pulls the Drifter around the side. He tells Ken to go in and he’ll wait in the van. There’s an unspoken understanding that someone has to keep an eye on Jason and Jose. Inside, Ken is introduced to Conrad, another member of Croft Associates. He is prepared to go to work on Bill, but Ken asks if he can run the interrogation. Lance looks to Conrad. With an off-handed gesture and slight grin, he cedes the interrogation to Ken. To show there are no hard feelings, he adds, “It’s always good to see another professional at work.”
He even offers Ken the use of his tools. Ken thanks him but says, “I’m good.” His tools are his voice, his mask and fear. Ken stares down Bill with glowing eyes. Unnerved, Bill is forced to look away. The names and information gained from the interrogation of the assailant come in handy. Ken uses them to sow doubt into Bill’s mind. Doubt grows. It becomes unease and finally fear. At one point, he literally scares Bill to death!
Dr. Freeman is quickly called in with the defibrillator and his ‘bag of tricks’. The doctor is loath to leave Jason and Jose alone in the Drifter, but it can’t be helped. Being sure to take the keys, he gives them a stern warning, “Don’t leave the fucking vehicle,” before hurrying into the hanger. Jason curses himself, half-jokingly, for not knowing how to hot wire a car; like they need to make more trouble for themselves.
As Dr. Freeman attempts to resuscitate Bill, Conrad advises Ken of his medical history. Bill has a weak heart. Conrad isn’t telling Ken to back off. He’s just suggesting he modify his approach. Bill survives his brush with death, only to find himself face to face with Ken. “Did you think you were going to get away from me that easily? We have the equipment to keep this going for days.” A combination of the pain from the heart attack and Ken’s continued onslaught finally cause Bill to break. He begins laying out the entire smuggling operation.
Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the hijackings. The hijackings actually hurt the smuggling operation. When Ken thinks he has everything out of him, he turns to Lance and Conrad. Conrad makes a quick call. “It’s Conrad…Yes…Yes…singing for the choir (of angels) or jury…ok.”
Hanging up, Conrad informs Ken, that they have been directed to hold onto Bill for the time being. They will be taking him to a safe location. Before Ken leaves, Conrad compliments on his interrogation technique. “It was a pleasure to watch you work.’
Back in the van, Jason and Jose just want to know when they can go home. Ken tells them soon and then calls Cleo. After the reader’s digest version of events, he ends with, “So what should I do with them?” Three dead bodies in Bill’s house and a bar-full of patrons who can testify Jason and Jose were looking for him earlier that evening…It looks bad.
Cleo asks hesitantly, “Can you stash them somewhere?”
“I can drop them off at home or in a lake,” he replies flatly. “Which do you want?” Before making a decision, Cleo asks to speak to Jason. In the same computer modulated voice, she tells him that he can’t go home. “If the police aren’t looking for you already, they will be by morning. You and Jose have to stay out of Chamberlain.” She gives him a number to reach Bea.
Jason rebels. He is tired of being dragged around. He demands to know where they’re supposed to go and how they are going to call Bea when neither he nor Jose has a phone. Jason is on the verge of hysterics, when the voice cuts him off. It tells him to put Ken back on the phone. After a terse exchange, Ken has Dr. Freeman drive to Oacoma.
They dump Jason and Jose on the side of the road, in front of a motor lodge. Ken hands the pair 50 euros and then slams the door. As the drifter pulls away, Jason suggests they go to Conestoga Park and crash in one of the abandoned trailers. The 50 euro can be stretched further on food. It’s a practical suggestion, but Jose is in no mood for further adventures. He takes the 50 euros and begins walking towards the motor lodge.
Jason contemplates crossing the bridge and going back for his car and clothes, but fear of Ken (rather than the police) makes him reconsider. With one last wistful glance back toward the bridge, he walks to Conestoga Park. Instead of knocking on Jane’s (Cleo’s) Airstream, he crashes in one of the abandoned trailers.
Cleo sits in her trailer, waiting patiently for a knock, which never comes. She finally nods off around 1 am.