A funny thing happened on the way to Denver.
Each of the party was contacted; over the ’net, by spiritual contact, or just plain old commlink. These messages were private, but each had an impact on the day to come.
As the van needed a refuel, they stopped in a nearby town late at night for a few soysnacks, a chance to walk the dog, and move along. Gambler almost got himself a new ghoul-friend; the town was infested with them! Having killed or converted the regular members of the town, the ghouls now waited for passersby as a sort of mobile snack. The party fought like wildcats for life and limb while their van finished refueling, then got the heck out of Dodge with only a few scratches.
The rest of the trip to the Sioux/UCAS border was pretty uneventful as Kitsune worked feverishly to keep the false trail going and erase any record of their own passage.
However, once inside Sioux lands, the driver, Shadowwolf, took a bit of a detour. A family affair, a need to meet with her tribal elders. While the others complained about the potential loss of valuable time, Shadowwolf insisted, and drove on to the “Ghost Walker’s camp” to meet with Bill One-Tooth.
Bill told them something interesting, then made them an offer. Seems Mr. Biggles is a bit more than an ordinary dog; he’s an experiment on four legs. He’s got highly unorthodox bioware in him that allows him to astrally project, even though he’s the most mundane of canines. As a coyote shaman, he very much does not want the tech boys mucking about in matters best left to the spirits. He offers to take the dog off their hands and will pay whatever price. The party’s resident shaman would be inclined to agree … but to a MUTT shaman? She follows Cat. Ms. Ruby obviously objects; this IS her mealticket to Horizon!
A rather heated discussion results in a polite refusal. Spitting curses … and the curses of a Coyote shaman aren’t lightly ignored … One-Tooth watches them leave. Surely nothing inconvenient would accidentally happen to them now.
Without Sioux help, the party can’t readily drive an implanted dog, lots of illegal hardware, and a heavily customized van into Denver, so they employ a coyote (no, not One-Tooth, but just a personal smuggler) to get them in sans van. A bit chagrined, they finally make their way to the Bar-None Tavern, their destination, where technicians are busily working on some improvements to the bar’s AR storefront.
One of the technicians (a dwarf) stops working and introduces himself as Thrain, son of Thrain, Human Resources, Horizon. At last, the payoff! In they go.
Something, of course, goes wrong … the doors click locked, the lights go out, laserbeams focus on their chests, and on the western dance stage is Mr. Iago, Ms. Ruby’s former (?) boss. Oops.
He gloats that he’ll be taking the dog, the research, and the credit, thanks to our helpful party’s work. Pity he had to go to such extremes to take credit, but Ms. Ruby’s clever trick with the dog made it impossible to simply access her research and take it directly. He concludes, " Thanks for doing all the hard work, you mangy lot. Don’t move, and you’ll still get paid. You did do the job you were hired for after all, haha. Now…”
And then a high-powered laser beam cuts from somewhere BEHIND the party and Iago’s head vaporizes. The other lasers wink out, the bar is plunged into total darkness, and the hiss scent of gas becomes apparent.