Mr. Handsome calls the group in to discuss the matter of the deeds referred to in Grampy Handsome's will (and impress upon them the importance of discretion in all related matters). During the discussion Winnie chimes in, trying to convince Mr. Handsome to let her have a look at the journals, hoping to use her Photographic Memory to take mental "snapshots" of the contents. She fails to convince him as he's still rather uncomfortable with the details the journals contain. Lacy pitches in with Winnie though and, with her additional Willpower and Influence, manages to win him over. Winnie then spends the rest of the time memorizing the journals while the group drags out the meeting long enough for her to do so. Once she's done and they have their instructions from Mr. Handsome, the group heads to the bunkhouse to gear up for the trip to town.
Act I, Scene I:
At the barn, while the group is saddling up, Timothy Pranks and Allison Buford approach them. The members of Group One have pooled their cash, hoping to convince them to pick up a few odds and ends for them in town while they're gone. The player characters casually inform them that they're heading to town to access the cortex and gather what info they can on Damien Marus, not wanting to clue Group One in on what's really going on (respecting Mr. Handsome's request that they keep the matter discrete.)
The players agree to pick up some books and assorted entertainments for Group One while they're away, then saddle up and head out for Hannity's Cove.
Arriving in town a couple of hours later, the group heads right for the local mercantile to replenish their ammo supply and fill the shopping list for Group One. There the boys look into the guns the storekeeper has in stock and find two newtech heavy pistols on proud display, similar to those Winnie and Lacy used so well in the assault on the ranch. After a bit of hand-wringing, the boys decide to trade up and spend the next few minutes wrangling with the storekeeper over the matter. Thomas especially isn't happy giving up his customized holster for his revolver but eventually decides to. Hick drops 2 Plot Points for a story alteration, determining there are three such weapons in stock so that he can purchase one as well.
Once they've concluded their shopping the group then talks to the merchant about Mrs. Hardacre but find out he's never heard of her. They decide to stow the gear on their horses and ride on over to the saloon up the street to ask there. On the way they all fail Hard Alertness + Perception checks.
At the saloon they spend a few moments keeping their eyes open for trouble, since saloons tend to be troublesome. After they feel secure there won't be any bar brawls breaking out they ask the bartender about Mrs. Hardacre and find out that she is the local "crazy cat lady", someone Lacy is vaguely familiar with (having spend a few months in town before hiring on at Handsome Ranch). After identifying Mrs. Hardacre however, the bartender seems reluctant to provide any more information without knowing why these scruffy-lookin' folk are asking about her. Lacy offers her assurances that their intentions are honorable (while remaining vague on details) and wins him over. He gives her directions to Mrs. Hardacre's home.
Now that they have an address to work with and plenty of daylight hours left to run about town, the group decides to ride with Winnie over to the town hall to access the cortex. On the way they all fail Alertness + Perception checks again and start getting nervous about wandering around town. Once they've reached the town hall they stay long enough for Winnie to flub her rolls and gain no useful information on Damien Marus during her search. They decide then to leave her at work there and check up on Mrs. Hardacre themselves.
While they're away Winnie fails when digging for information on Grampy Handsome and Winifred Hardacre as well. She succeeds in her search on Karl Handsome and any related land deeds but there's no useful information to be found on the cortex on that subject. All in all she's disappointed in her search.
On their way to the address the bartender gave them they again fail Alertness checks (Thomas drops 3 Plot Points on his roll this time but still fails).
Act I, Scene II:
The group have failed to spot Precious and Percy shadowing them yet so we ride right on past that encounter until they do.
Act II, Scene I:
A block from Mrs. Hardacre's home the group (minus Winnie) runs into the old lady on the street, with Lacy spotting her and pointing her out. Lacy then takes the lead in the interview but fails to break through Mrs. Hardacre's suspiciousness. The old lady shoos them away and stalks off mumbling to herself. Prompted by his Duty to Handsome Ranch, Thomas encourages Lacy to try again and assigns his Natural Leader asset to the task.
[As it happens, Natural Leader doesn't quite work the way So Say We All does in BSG, not allowing Thomas to spend his Plot Points on his follower's task unless he has d12 in the asset. We shrug it off this one time, allowing him to spend an extra Plot Point to "buy" that aspect of the trait temporarily. He then spends 2 Plot Points, one to allow him to use his Plot Points in conjunction with Lacy's and one to add a +2 step to her check.]
Lacy drops 2 Plot Points of her own on an attempt to ingratiate herself with the smelly old lady but, despite her decent Willpower + Influence and the +2 step bonus from Thomas, she still fails.
Figuring that pushing the crazy old lady any farther might backfire (she was starting to get a little wild eyed) they drop back and confer on what to do next. In the end they decide to go rush Winnie through with her cortex finagling and get the group together again, then break into the old lady's house while she's gone.
Thomas stays to watch her house in case she returns while Hick, Duncan and Lacy ride back to the town hall to pick up Winnie. On the way they get another shot at spotting Precious and Percy, and this time Lacy pulls it off.
The group continues on to the town hall to link up with Winnie and while Lacy waits with her, Hick and Duncan head out the back door to circle around behind Precious and Percy. Once Winnie's logged off and paid the clerk two whole credits for her time, she and Lacy head back out the front door to confront the two vagabonds.
As Hick and Duncan have managed to get behind the two without being spotted and the kids don't run off as soon as they realize the two girls are heading right for them, they have no trouble confronting them in the street. Lacy is able to get the truth out of them fairly quickly and, after a short conference, they inform Precious and Percy that Handsome Ranch is indeed hiring. They ask them to wait at the town hall while they finish up some other business in town first but the two kids are eager to tag along, clearly worried they'll be left behind.
After chewing their bottom lips a bit, the group decides to have them along until they can link up with Thomas again, then spend some time interviewing the two in depth. In that way they hope to root out what kind of trouble the two kids might cause them before deciding whether to keep them around.
Act II, Scene II:
While the others are busy fetching Winnie and confronting the two prospective new ranch hands, Thomas spots Maia Lin coming down the street. She spots him at the same moment, startles and turns to run back in the direction she came. Thomas hesitates a moment then runs up the street after her, trying to keep both her and Hardacre's house in his sights. When he sees Maia duck into a bar a block away he stays put, doing his best to keep an eye both on the bar and Hardacre's shack.
When the rest of the group arrive, with Precious and Percy hoisted up behind Lacy and Winnie on their horses, they don't find Thomas right away so he's forced to hike back down the block to get their attention. When they learn Maia has ducked into a bar up the street they hitch up their horses, sternly instruct the two new kids to stay with the gear and head up the street to snatch Maia Lin. They're less than a block away when she reemerges with Rance Maynard and several other nasty looking men.
Though they try to stop and blend back into the crowd, Maia is looking for them to point them out to Rance and so they're soon spotted. Rance and his men then confront them, with Maia hiding in his shadow.
Now confronted openly Hick and Duncan both get their back up and start popping off at Rance right away. Thomas and Lacy try to diffuse the situation a bit (while still trying to get a quip or two in themselves). When a couple of Rance's men put hands to their sidearm Rance is quick to toss up his hands and put a halt to the whole escalating mess. He orders his men to cool off, then turns a smirk on the player characters, warning them to steer clear of the mess between Handsome and Marus...or else. The players sneer right back, daring the men to start trouble or get gone their own selves. Rance and his men just laugh them off though and head back to the bar, leaving two men outside to keep an eye on them. Maia slinks off alongside Rance and the players don't get a chance to interrogate her.
Turning around to head back to Hardacre's house and their horses, the players find that Precious and Percy have wandered up the street behind them. Thomas lights into them for following them, warning them that disobeying clear orders and abandoning their duties like that won't be tolerated on the ranch. The two apologize profusely and attempt to change the subject, professing that they're starving and need something to eat.
Grumbling a bit, the group heads back for their horses, checks their gear (to be sure nothing's been disturbed) and herd the two kids to the eatery up the next street. By now they figure Hardacre's house has been out of sight too long to be sure the crazy cat lady hasn't returned so there's no more point in further surveillance. They decide to simply check it out the old fashioned way before they break in.
At the eatery they buy the two kids a plate of dinner each and confer outside while they chow down. By then the two men Rance left outside the bar have caught up with them, having decided to follow and give the upstarts the sound thrashing they figure they deserve.
Outnumbering the two thugs that are cursing and taunting them by more than two to one, it doesn't take much for Hick and Duncan to decide to jump on them. Thomas doesn't want a confrontation but the girls are already joining in once they realize the other two boys are going at it, so he's forced to jump in as well.
Lacy takes first in Initiative so she snatches up a handful of dust and dirt from the ground, throwing it in the eyes of Redeye Richter (ironically) in the attempt to blind him. He dodges her throw, though. Moony Magee heads right for Hick, the closest opponent to him (and the ugliest) to throw a punch. He connects for 1 Stun point damage despite Hick's dodge attempt but Hick's mesh armor absorbs the blow. Hick returns the favor, tossing two punches and hitting Moony Magee once for 2 Stun of his own.
Thomas heads for Redeye Richter, whom the two girls are going after. He tosses two punches hoping more to soften him up for them than actually do any damage himself. Though Thomas only lands one hit, Redeye's choice of innate defense doesn't serve him well. Thomas lands a hard blow for 5 Stun. Redeye fights back but fails to land a blow on Thomas.
Duncan dives for Moony, intending to grapple and hold him so that Hick can beat on him with impunity. After all the dodging Moony's been doing up to this point Duncan lands a solid grapple and has him firmly locked down.
Winnie closes in on Redeye in the meantime. Being weak and not that skilled at unarmed combat anyway, she follows Duncan's example in order to make use of her d8 Agility instead. Attempting a grapple on Redeye she's surprised when she actually lands it and snatches him by the hair.
Lacy's good and riled up now from all the action, so she drops 4 Plot Points on a kick to Redeye's groin. With Winnie having a handful of his hair he's an Easy target but her choice of vital area drops a +8 Difficulty on the roll. She barely connects for 1 point (which we convert to 3 Wounds considering the Vital Area, though we forgo the bleeding). I decide that Redeye is forced to make an Endurance check to avoid being "stunned" for the turn and he does so easily.
Thomas attempts three attacks on Redeye before he can try to break free from Winnie, landing three good blows. Redeye is already in danger of passing out and barely makes his first Endurance check. He attempts to break free of Winnie's hold but she drops 4 Plot Points to maintain it and keeps a double-handhold on his scalp. After that Winnie hasn't any Unarmed Combat dice to pound on him herself so she contents herself with having held him for another turn.
Moony meanwhile tries to break free of Duncan's grapple but Duncan maintains his hold. Hick takes advantage of this by pummeling the loudmouth, landing three good hits on him but not quite put him at risking of passing out. Duncan follows up, using his grapple to smack Moony around a bit a couple of times as well but still doesn't knock him out.
Inside the eatery Precious and Percy finally catch on that there's a tussle outside. Precious races outside with the other patrons to cheer them on while Percy successfully pockets some cheap silverware on the sly before joining her.
Lacy forgoes another groin shot and just wails on Redeye instead. She levels her maximum of two hits (having Unarmed Combat at only d4) and hits both times for decent Stun damage. Thomas follows suit with three blows of his own, landing twice and dumping more Stun damage for Redeye to contend with. Redeye fails his second Endurance check and slumps to the ground in a heap before he can even attempt to break free of Winnie's grip again.
Moony tries again to get free before he's beat down as well but Duncan stubbornly hangs on. Hick continues beating him for three hits, two of them landing in extremely solid blows. Moony is forced to make his first Endurance check to avoid passing out but manages it. Duncan knees him twice more as well and pushes his total Stun damage past twice his Life Points, so I rule that Moony passes out right on the spot.
With the whole fight over so quickly there isn't time for the clerk at the eatery or any of the onlookers to get very upset about the fighting going on. They admonish the player characters for getting into trouble but Thomas responds (before any of the less diplomatic player characters can) that the two men started all the trouble. With the two brutes being obviously a bit older than anyone in the group, they favor the players a bit and offer to call the law to deal with them while the clerk checks everyone over for hurts that need tending.
The group decides there's still plenty of hours left until sundown so they head into the eatery to grab a bite themselves while waiting for the local law to come pick up the two men outside.
Act III, Scene I:
When Sheriff Daily arrives on the scene with a couple of men the player characters are surprised when he isn't as polite as the other townsfolk have been. It's clear from the start he doesn't take kindly to Handsome's ranch hands being in town considering the trouble recently at the ranch, seemingly assuming they're the sort that stirs up trouble. He warns the player characters to wrap up whatever they're here to do and get outta town. He also warns them that he isn't well disposed toward whatever conflict Handsome is stirring up with Marus and is clearly on Marus' side in the dispute.
The players decide it best then to get what they came for quickly and ride back to the ranch before they can get into any further trouble. They assure the Sheriff that they're heading out of town within the hour and herd Precious and Percy toward the horses. Mounting up they head on down the street to Hardacre's house (and away from the Sheriff).
Act III, Scene II:
At Hardacre's house they're fairly sure they're out of sight of the Sheriff and there aren't many other people around the area, so Duncan slips into her yard to check the windows. A quick circuit around the house reveals that all the windows are boarded up and the glass that is visible is just too dirty to see through clearly.
Being the only entrance that they can detect the group sidles up to Hardacre's front door and knocks, hoping she'll answer if she's home. When she doesn't a quick look around reveals no one is nearby to see them break in, so the boys get to work on the door trying to figure a way to jam it open. They find out that it's unlocked quickly enough and everyone scoots inside before they're spotted.
Duncan scoots right back outside again when he realizes it's nearly pitch dark in there. When his player opts to resist efforts to talk him back in (angling for a Plot Point/Advancement reward for his Phobia complication) he botches the roll and Thomas has him stepping and fetching right back inside the shack. He gets a couple of Plot Points anyway and fumbles for his flashlight before moving through the front door, still arguing that he'd better serve as lookout outside.
Once inside with the door firmly shut (to prevent witnesses spotting them), the players dither a bit when confronted with the noxious environment. They take a moment to be sure that all the subtle movement around them is the result of cats skittering about rather than anything more threatening before sending the boys forward to check out the place. Though Duncan has the highest Agility and would make the best sneak, he refuses to venture any farther into the house and insists on staying with Lacy at the door as a lookout. Winnie determines her Perception skill would be best served as lookout too, considering Lacy's is so low, and that leaves Thomas and Hick to scout ahead for the deeds.
Moving through the house it's clear there aren't many places that the deeds could have been stashed without cats ruining them, so they move on through relatively quickly toward Winifred's bedroom. As they move on the number of cats confronting them seems to grow until they have to start being careful not to step on them. Hick is the first to fail to spot the cat under his foot and steps on it, causing it to shriek bloody murder and setting all the other cats in the house off. A subsequent encounter with a teetering stack of old magazines falling over on him doesn't help matters. Thomas and Hick come to a halt and even draw pistols, waiting to see what the cats do in response to all the ruckus, but they settle into hissing and glaring at them after a minute or two.
When one of the cats darts forward out of the darkness to bat at Hick' feet the players manage to hold their fire but decide it's time to hustle up and get back out of this place. They push on through to Winifred's bedroom, dodging a few swipes by irate kitties as they pass but suffering no damage. Once there a simply search turns up no deeds in either the wardrobe or the chest near Winifred's bed (the only two cat-proof containers in the room). They do discover Hardacre's journals however and a quick once over determines this may be the only thing worth looking at in the place.
Thomas and Hick divvy up the journals, stash them away, give the room a quick last look and high-tail it back to the rest of the group. By now the threatening behavior of the cats in the house has reached a crescendo and it seems certain they may attack en masse at any moment. Checking the street with a peek through the front door doesn't reveal any obvious witnesses so the players abandon the house full of hissing and shrieking cats before the situation deteriorates further, shutting the door firmly behind them.
After sidling away from the house to an appropriately innocent distance, they talk over the matter of the journals and decide to look them over before returning to the ranch. Most likely Mr. Handsome won't appreciate them having broken into the woman's house and stolen her journals so they figure they better have some good information to offer if he's to find out they did so.
After coming to the conclusion that there isn't anywhere in town they can hunker down and look the journals over without the Sheriff accosting them, they decide to stop somewhere on the way back to the ranch. They saddle up, hoist Precious and Percy onboard and head out of town.
Act IV, Scene I:
Nearing the town limits they're discouraged to find Sheriff Daily and four other dubious looking men waiting for them on the side of the street. He waves them to a halt, ordering them off their horses. The player characters are surprised to find they're being arrested for several counts of murder, not only of the horse thieves who were supposed to be sitting in the Sheriff's jail but of Greg Katzenburger, Kurt Clifford, Eileen Travis and Vincent Butcher, their old enemies from the ranch.
When Thomas attempts to ask questions in order to argue that they're innocent the men with Sheriff Daily all draw weapons and seem a little overeager to start shooting. Sheriff Daily warns them again to dismount and disarm, in a clearly "last chance" tone of voice. Thomas decides to order everyone to ride out of town quickly and, worried one of the other player characters might decide to stay and start shooting, uses his Natural Leadership with two Plot Points to get them all moving at once. His Rotten Luck complication comes into play and he rerolls but doesn't get a result lower than the 9 he first rolled, though.
Lacy tries to challenge it anyway, hoping to use her talents at Distraction to first buy them a step or two before the Sheriff and his men start shooting...but she botches the roll. She unconsciously spurs her horse forward the moment Thomas gives the command so that when she turns to speak, in the attempt at distracting the men, she loses her balance and falls right out of the saddle for 2 Stun points when she lands on her butt in the street. Percy, who was riding in the saddle behind her, suddenly finds himself on a riderless horse and throws himself forward to grab the reins.
With Lacy now sitting in the street behind them and the Sheriff and his men about to open fire, Thomas turns to draw his pistol and defend her. The other player characters all likewise resist the command Thomas just issued to help but only Hick succeeds. Winnie and Duncan fail and are still riding hard out of town before they realize it.
Hick takes first Initiative and draws his pistol to fire on Sheriff Daily, hoping to knock him out of the fight first. He opts to take out the Sheriff's shooting arm right off (not wanting to kill a Sheriff) and drops all 7 of his Plot Points on the single shot to make up for the +4 Difficulty and the -1 step penalty for shooting from a moving horse. After drawing his pistol this is a second action as well, bringing another -1 skill step penalty. He hits well though even despite Daily's dodge, hurting him badly and putting his shooting arm out of commission. After dropping his gun and grabbing his arm in pain, Sheriff Daily immediately ducks and dives into the hotel behind him for cover.
Gunny Joe turns and fires twice at Thomas as he rides up to cover Lacy. Thomas dodges the first shot and relies on innate defense for the second. It hits him but it's not even a graze (only 1 Stun) after his mesh armor absorbs the hit.
Lefty Sims fires twice at Hick. Hick dodges the first shot but the second one hits him and he takes 4 Stun. Jake Carver then opens fire on Hick as well with two shots and though Hick is now reduced to relying on innate defense Jake manages to miss with both shots anyway.
Mumps Henderson, being the mean and stupid variety of bad guy, opens fire on Lacy who's still on her butt in the street. She opts for innate defense, figuring she's going to get hit anyway and wants to shoot him right back when her Initiative point comes around. The second shot misses but the first drops 6 Stun damage on her. Lacy's Initiative comes right up though so she draws from where she's sitting and fires off three shots at Mumps. She hits hard with all three shots as well and Mumps is forced to make his first Endurance check to avoid dying right from the get go. He succeeds for now but he's thoroughly chastised for shooting at poor Lucy. Thomas already has his pistol drawn so he opens fire with three shots on Gunny Joe, the man who just shot at him. Only his last shot hits but it hurts Gunny pretty badly. Percy gains control of Lacy's horse and tries to ride close enough for Lacy to jump back up again. Luckily no one takes a shot at him in the process.
Winnie and Duncan meanwhile realize they're riding hard in the wrong direction and rein in their horses to wheel about and draw their pistols. They're a good ten yards away from all the shooting so Winnie opts to ride up next turn before she starts firing. Duncan opens up right away from where he's at since he's still just inside close range. He fires at Gunny Joe with one shot, having wheeled about and drawn this turn already, but he misses.
Hick fires off three shots at Gunny Joe, hitting twice and forcing him to make his first Endurance check to avoid dying. Gunny Joe isn't quite as dumb as Mumps so he staggers back for the hotel entrance, looking for cover before he passes out. Sheriff Daily is still inside the hotel, hanging around peering through the window, waiting to see which way the fight goes. He grabs Gunny and pulls him inside with his good arm, then takes his pistol away in case he has to shoot off-handed.
Lefty Sims hasn't been shot by anyone yet and hasn't caught on to how badly the gunfight is already going for his side. He fires off two shots at Thomas, who tries to dodge, and lands both shots. Thomas soaks up 8 Stun from the attack.
Jake Carver is still focused on Hick and he fires of a couple of shots in his direction as well. Both hit hard and Hick suddenly has enough Stun damage to force Endurance checks to avoid passing out. He succeeds in his first check but it's now looking grim for poor Hick.
Meanwhile Mumps is too dumb to realize all the implications associated with the fact that he's about to die...he's still intent on shooting Lacy. His second Endurance check fails badly (luckily for Lacy), his eyes roll back and he's down and out before he can fire again.
Lacy turn comes up and she decides to take advantage of her position. She falls back prone for the light cover this affords her and fires off three shots at Lefty Sims from the dirt. Her first two shots hit hard, forcing him to start his own Endurance checks against death. He makes the first one now but like Gunny Joe, he's not dumb enough to stand around dying. He staggers back for the door too. Thomas fires now on the last remaining combatant, Jake Carver, who's yet to be hit. He tries to end the fight before any of his people get hurt by dumping his last remaining 4 Plot Points on a head shot. That shot hits hard and knocks Jake right into Endurance check territory. He actually fails the first check and drops dead right there. Percy meanwhile gives up trying to rescue Lacy, who clearly neither wants or need it, and dashes out of all the gunfire, off toward Winnie and Duncan.
Though it takes two turns to organize, Thomas has everyone mounted up, turned about and riding hard out of town before anyone shoots back. Most of the men with the Sheriff are dead or dying and Sheriff Daily doesn't trust his aim with his off hand, so they hit the edge of town moments later without anyone shooting them in the butt.
Hick fails his third Endurance check after riding hard out of town and passes out in the saddle. He falls to the dirt and the group has to stop and get him tossed over his horse before dashing off again.
With the possibility that Sheriff Daily might be organizing a posse to ride after them, they opt not to stop and look over Hardacre's journals and ride straight on to the ranch as quickly as they can. When they arrive they report what little they know to Mr. Handsome, as well as admitting they broke into Hardacre's house and took her journals. He's furious at first but quickly turns his attention to the fact that they're likely wanted by the law now. After thinking it over for a moment he orders them to make straight for the old cabin near the deadfall woods to hold up, taking the rocky back trails to obscure their trail. He tells them to keep Hardacre's journals rather than risk being caught with them himself when the inevitable Sheriff's posse rides up to interrogate him.
With that he waves them off quickly and they ride hard for the cabin to hide from the law. As they ride off, Mr. Handsome shouts his assurances that he'll straighten the whole matter out himself...somehow.
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