Dead or Alive
Background: The local Sheriff is bedridden from a bullet wound taken in a recent arrest. The sheriff's deputy is left in charge of town. Raids and cattle thefts on local farms have been occuring in the area with greater frequency than usual in the last couple of weeks. Unbeknownst to the townsfolk a nearby hill village has been taken over by a small band of hardened criminals hiding out from the law. Several families have been driven out and have turned to raiding isolated farmlands out of desperation. One such raid results in the death of a farmer and the player characters are forced to see to it.
Players decide they're hanging out at the church with Lily at the start of the adventure. They hear a ruckus out in the street. They all go to investigate and find a woman and her two children, now surrounded by concerned townsfolk, have just stumbled wearily into town. They're fairly ragged looking and the woman, who they recognize as a local, has a mean looking cut on her arm and is bruised a bit about her face.
As a couple of the townsfolk run off to fetch the deputy, Lily speaks with the woman. She tells her that strangers had broken into her barn and her husband had gone out to see to the disturbance. There were at least eight of them, she tells Lily, and at least two or three of them were unusually young. Words were exchanged when her husband tried to drive them off and then someone shot her husband. He went down immediately. When she tried to go to her his aid, two of the bandits tried to stop her and she struck out at them. She was knocked unconscious from behind. When she came to, her husband was dead and the bandits had made off with two of their best cows.
The deputy arrives and questions the woman as well, getting the same story. While they talk, Lily grabs her doctor's bag and tends to the woman's wounds. Afterward, she and her children are shuffled off to a bystander's home to be cared for. The deputy organizes a makeshift watch, choosing a few able-bodied men to take up arms just in case. Betty loudly suggests that the woman couldn't have put up much of a fight, considering she's just slightly cut and bruised while her husband's lying dead in a barn somewhere. This earns the PC's the enmity of the crowd and some rather harsh words are exchanged.
Attempting to defuse the situation, the deputy asks Lily if she'd take her two kin out and check out the farm, stay there until he can get a few other men together to come and check things out properly.
The PC's hop into Marl's hover mule and drive out to the farm. There they find obvious signs of struggle outside the barn and Marlin finds indications that several people milled about in and around the cattle pen. Marlin also notes clear tracks leading off from the farm toward the nearby hills. The farmer's body is found where the woman had indicated. A cursory examination reveals to Lily that the man's bullet was actually tended to recently, though very poorly. Also, the man was most likely already dead when he fell as the bullet probably pierced his heart. The PC's hold the farm until the deputy arrives an hour later.
The deputy arrives with two men to investigate the farm. After the PC's stand out of the way for a bit, he approaches them and offers to deputize them. According to him several of the townsfolk are raising a ruckus about all the recent pillaging and banditry escalating over the last two weeks and fear for the town itself. He's reluctant to leave town at the moment to chase down the murdering cattle rustlers considering the unstable situation in town. Betty naturally suggests that maybe he could piss his trousers just as easily chasing down the bandits as he could hiding in town. Lily quickly volunteers herself and the others and does her best to sooth the deputy's ruffled feathers. Both she and Marlin drag Betty onboard the mule before the sheriff can get good and riled up.
Lily stops to say a quick prayer over the dead farmer and the PC's hop aboard Marlin's mule to track down the killers.
Lily follows in the hover mule while Marlin attempts to track the bandits by foot. Despite no apparent effort being taken on the part of the bandits to hide their trail and Betty lending her eye to the task, Marlin loses the trail due to his poor tracking skills. Betty manages to find the trail again and puts him back on it. After four hours of hiking into the hills the PC's spy a campfire up ahead, with the trail seemingly leading straight to it. They immediately kill the engine on the mule and draw weapons, spending a moment listening quietly for signs they might have been heard or seen approaching. They don't detect anything.
Marlin, his pistol drawn, motions for his sisters to stay put and creeps carefully ahead to spy out the camp. He manages to approach the perimeter of the camp without being spotted and gets a good look at the hill folk there (four grown men, three women, four teenagers and several small children).
Betty, tries to go after Marlin soon after he leaves and Lily attempts to persuade her not to endanger him by blundering after. She succeeds but Betty, suddenly overcome with conflicting impulses to protect her brother, breaks down and begins sobbing. The near hysterical crying isn't a loud enough ruckus to draw the attention of the hill folk over the noise of the children playing around the camp, though. Hearing the crying going on behind him, Marlin sneaks back to the mule to see what the heck is going on. Together he and Lily manage to calm Betty, who immediately insults Marlin for running off alone and does her best to act hard for a while.
The PC's decide, over Betty's objections, that Marlin will sneak up to the camp again and get the drop on the men, then signal for his sisters to come up and cover him. Marlin does so and manages not only to sneak up undetected, but steps right into the camp and has his pistol at one man's head before anyone knows he's there. He manages to intimidate the entire camp with nothing more than a hard eye. At this point Marlin realizes he has no way to signal his sisters to come up (he is, after all, mute) and is forced to merely glare at everyone in the camp for a while until Betty and Lily get worried and come up on their own.
With the whole camp still fairly intimidated they make quick work of disarming them and getting everyone down on their knees. While Marlin and Betty cover the group of hill folk, Lily interrogates one of the men and easily learns the story of the wanted criminals who've taken over their town, raping and pillaging, and how the four familes were driven out into the hills. The rag-tag group of hill folk were driven by starvation to raid the farmer's livestock, the evidence of which the PC's can see clearly around the camp...bones and hide from the slaughtered cows are clearly evident. The farmer's shooting wasn't intentional, they claim. The three young boys they came along with the men were a might twitchy and one of their rifles went off all accidental like. They tried to tend to the man but he was already dead. Fearing retribution, they fled back into the hills.
The PC's confer and decide they'll have to take the whole lot back into town and turn them over to the deputy. Hearing this, though, the men loudly object saying they ain't going to no jail. The PC's can't watch all of them all the time on the way back to town and they'll sure enough escape. Or, at least some of them will. Lily attempts to reason with the men, but the whole group of hill folk quickly begin getting worked up.
As things begin tensing up in a hurry, one of the men among the hill folk speaks up and offers to take full responsibility for both the raid and the farmer's death. In exchange he demands the PC's assurances that the rest of the folk won't be punished in any way and, furthermore, that they be offered shelter of some sort in town. The others quickly pipe in that they'll all be more than willing to pay their way if given the opportunity. All said, they just want to be somewhere safe again.
The PC's confer and decide that this is reasonable compromise. Unfortunately, they can't speak for the deputy in town so they can't offer the hill folk any solid assurances. In the end, the hill folk agree to go peacefully so long as the PC's give their word to back up their offer to the deputy. Mutual assurances are exchanged and everyone makes preparations for the long walk back to town.
The PC's arrive back in town mid-morning the next day, with no difficulty from the hill folk. Lily persuades the deputy to accept their proposal and he binds only the leader by law. Lily sets the other folk up at her church for now and everyone plans to spend the day there resting.
The deputy arrives around midday at the church. He tells the PC's that, from what he's been able to pick up over the cortex locally, the bandits holding up the hill village are probably the Maynard gang. As it happens there's a respectable bounty out for the lot of them, dead or alive. Of course, seeing as how there's a lot to do in town just yet, he suggests it might be profitable for the Sanchez kin to go up there and collect. After all, best way to help those poor hill folk is to give them their own village back.
When they indicate their interest (and Betty manages to remain silent) the deputy gives them what information he's been able to gather on the gang and goes on about his business. The PC's get a fairly accurate set of directions from the hill folk to their village in the hills and gather their gear for the drive. They decide to rest a little now and leave at early evening, hoping to arrive at the village in the predawn hours.
When the time comes, the PC's hop into the hover mule and make for the village. While the mule gets them well into the hills in short order, they soon find they overestimated its abilities and are reduced to a crawl by the thicker woods and broken terrain. Figuring they're near enough to the village to walk, they abandon the mule and proceed on foot. Still a good three hours hike from the village, they expect to reach it well after dawn.
No more than two hours from the village the PC's come across three ragged looking men coming in their direction. The group fans out a bit as they approach and the strangers all pull pistols once they come within fifty feet. The PC's draw and/or aim their weapons as well. Since no one is opening fire right away, we don't roll Initiative just yet.
Betty immediately yells out for the men to drop their weapons or she'll start putting holes in people's nether regions.
One of the men returns the favor, threatening to shoot if the PC's don't drop their weapons. Lily attempts to open dialogue with the men before shooting starts and the PC's find that the men want whatever food they're carrying...or else. Lily tries to talk the men down and, after a bit of mutual yammering, the men put their weapons away and begin begging for food.
[Lily rolls an opposed Will/Persuasion check vs. the men's Willpower to talk them down, spending two plot points on improving the roll. She gets an extraordinary success against all three. She gets one of them back for succeeding so well.]
Betty and Marlin step forward and disarm the men with no resistance. The PC's didn't bring any food or rations with them, unfortunately, so they can't help the men directly. They do manage to get confirmation from them that they're on the right track the village, however. Though they don't seem to have much faith that the PC's can take on the Maynard gang, they lead them back to the village anyway.
The PC's arrive about an hour after dawn and don't catch the gang sleeping as they'd hoped they would. Marlin and Betty scout around the village perimeter to gather what they can. They learn the general layout and where the most activity seems to be taking place without being spotted by anyone in the village.
With the only ruckus detectable in the village coming from one particular building, the PC's decide to proceed there. They manage to waltz right up to the building without anyone taking note of them (there doesn't appear to be anyone milling around at all in the village). Hearing harsh, threatening voices and pleading from someone else from within, the PC's spread out to either side of the front door and spend a moment listening.
From within they hear the muffled sounds of at least two people demanding to know "where they are", "where they went" and another, likely a villager, claiming not to know and begging not to be shot. The PC's decide to move inside quietly and try to get the drop on the gang. Marlin goes first, being the sneakiest Sanchez of the bunch. He manages to get inside the room with the three men and covers them with his pistol without them noticing him.
Following immediately behind, Lily and Betty alert the men to their presence, but they're already under Marlin's gun so they take no immediate action. Seeing that the three men match the general description of the Maynard gang, Lily attempts to talk them down while emphasizing their warrant doesn't require them to be alive when they're brought in. Realizing they've been mistaken for the Maynard gang, the leader of the bounty hunters tries to convince Lily that there's been a mistake.
Deciding the leave the cover of the doorway to one of his sisters, Marlin spends his non-attack action from his Fightin' type asset on dodging this round. He fire two shots at the bounty hunter leader. One hit and one miss. Betty unloads two shots from her shotgun at the bounty hunter leader and, choosing to leave the doorway clear for Lily to take cover, doesn't move. Both her shots hit, with the second being an extraordinary success. The leader makes his Endurance check but still flops to the floor dying.
Lily moves to the 50% cover of the doorway, firing twice at the bounty hunter on the right. She hits with both shots and one extraordinary success, which give the bounty hunter a serious injury.
Marlin fires two shots at the bounty hunter on the left, who dodges once. One hit and one miss, but the damage is enough to drop the man.
The remaining bounty hunter draws his weapon and fire two shots at Marlin, who dodges the first shot. Both shots miss.
Betty pumps two rounds at the remaining bounty hunter, who dodges the first shot. Both shots hit and he falls down, dying.
The PC's decide not the bother tending the dying men, seeing as how the bounty is dead or alive. Lily escorts the villager huddled in the corner of the room outside while Betty and Marlin reload and check over the dying men. Betty discovers the men aren't the Maynard gang when she loots them and sees their identification. They yell for Lily, who comes in to tend to the men. She attempts to revive the bounty leader but fails.
[All three bounty hunters fail their second Endurance checks and die before she can work on any of them. Lily's attempts to revive the leader with a Int/Medical expertise roll and fails.]
They PC's finish looting the bounty hunters and grab their identification as well. Outside they find the handful of remaining villagers milling around cautiously. From them they learn that the Maynard gang left just yesterday, though they don't know where to, and that these bounty hunters arrived just hours before. They've spent the whole morning roughing folks up trying to get information on the gang's whereabouts.
The PC's figure they're relatively safe from criminal prosecution in the deaths of the three bounty hunter, considering the circumstances (and the isolation of the village), so they leave them where they lay. They spend the next two hours talking with villagers and looking the village over for clues to where the Maynard gang might have gone.
[Everyone gets a plot point for a relatively successful Act II.]
The PC's wrap their interrogation and investigations with nothing to show for their trouble. There's no clue where the Maynard's may have gone. An attempt at sussing out a trail in the surrounding bush offers nothing either.
The PC's attempt to make off with the bounty hunter's horses leads to a tense moment with the hill folk, who are bound and determined to make a meal out of them. Disagreement between the hill folk and the PC's over the issue leads to an unkind remark levelled at Lily...which leads to a shotgun butt to the man's head by Betty. Lily manages to smooth thing over enough for the PC's to back cautiously out of town on foot, as the hill folk aren't really all that keen on taking on yet another band of armed troublemakers.
The PC's manage to hoof it all the way back to Marlin's hover mule with no difficulties. It is noted that Marlin's mule is past the half empty mark on fuel, which is only available in the Patience's town (a good half-day's drive). The PC's board the mule and head back home.
They arrive at the Sheriff's station to find the deputy awfully glad to see them. It seems the Maynard gang waltzed into town early that morning and is still raising hell down at the bar at that very moment. The deputy has been trying to get some of the townsfolk to stand with him and arrest the men, but hasn't been able to get anyone to help. After some snide remarks between the Betty and the deputy, the PC's head for the bar. On the way the deputy manages to make himself scarce while they're not looking.
The PC's take a moment to consider the layout of the place before barging in. Marlin decides he'll enter through the backdoor of the place. Lily tosses on her overcoat to hide her sidearm and calmly enters the bar to get a drink and keep the attention on her. Betty takes up position near the front door, out of sight.
Lily attempts to enter the bar in such as fashion as to enthrall the Maynard gang and ease Marlin's covert entrance from the rear.
Marlin sneaks in through the back door of the place and through the storeroom door with pistol drawn.
With Marlin in place and all eyes on her, Lily announces that it's the Maynard boys lucky day. They get the chance to turn themselves into the law before her brother (whom she nods toward) and sister (who enters dramatically with shotgun shouldered) shoot them all dead for their bounty.
The Maynard gang, being the twitchy sort, all startle and go for their guns:
All three PC's manage to get Initiative over the individual Maynard gang members.
Marlin uses his Fightin' type non-attack action to dodge this turn, steps to the half cover of the bar and unloads two shots into the man he's facing. One miss and one hit, putting the man into wound penalty territory.
Lily draws and fires two shots at Bloody Bill Maynard at close range, both shots miss.
Betty steps to the half cover of the bar and pumps two rounds of buckshot at Bloody Bill Maynard, figuring him to be the greater threat. Her first shot hits but her second smashes through a bunch of whiskey bottles on the bar, spraying bits of glass into her eyes (botched attack roll).
Whiskey Jake draws his pistol, overturns his table and takes cover behind it (over half cover). He fires one shot at Marlin. Marlin chooses to use inate dodge and is hit.
Smokey Bear draws his pistol and overturns the table near him to take cover as well (over half cover). He fires once at Lily, whos uses inate dodge. He botches and drops his pistol. Not much of a multi-tasker, that one.
Bloody Bill Maynard use his Fightin' type non-attack action to draw his pistol. Figuring he now has half cover from Marlin and Betty, though he is at close range, he ducks down to get over half cover and fires twice at Lily at close range. Lily actively dodges both shots, but is hit twice and knocked back unconscious.
Marlin fires two shots at Bloody Bill who is at over half cover, hitting once. Bloody Bill is hit hard and goes down, dying.
Lily uses her Second Wind for the day and shakes off enough stun points to immediately regain consciousness. She takes to her feet, staggers back to the front door of the bar and takes cover there, firing one shot at Whiskey Jake, missing.
Betty spends an action shaking bits of glass from her face and pumps two rounds at Whiskey Jake, hitting once and missing once.
Whiskey Jake fires twice at Marlin, who actively dodges both. He misses both shots.
Smokey Bear snatches up his pistol and fires twice at Lily, who is at 90% cover and uses inate dodge. He misses both shots.
Bloody Bill botches his Endurance check and starts pushing up daisies.
Marlin uses his Fightin' type non-attack action to hustle around Whiskey Jakes cover and fires one called shot at his head. Whiskey Jake actively dodges the shot to the noggin' and is hit. He is knocked out and dying.
Smokey Bear turns and fires twice at Marlin, who actively dodges. He misses once and hits once, scoring only a graze.
Bloody Bill continues with the being dead thing.
Whiskey Jake makes his Endurance check.
Marlin fires once at Smokey Bear, who is at half cover from his angle. Smokey Bear actively dodges and the shot misses.
Betty fires once at Smokey Bear and is out of ammo. Smokey Bear actively dodges and the shot misses.
Lilly fires twice from the doorway at Smokey Bear who dodges once (house rules, max three active dodges per turn). Both shots hit and he's ko'd and dying.
The PC's reload while watching from cover to be sure everyone's down and out. Lily emerges and staggers over to check the men out. Bloody Bill and Whiskey Jake are already dead. She tries to stabilize Smokey Bear, despite his odor, but fails. He croaks.
The deputy appears with pistol drawn, as if he just barely missed the whole thing, darnit. Betty and he exchange harsh words and she manages to push him too far. The deputy points his pistol and Betty and binds her by law for disturbing the peace. Betty's starts reloading her pump shotgun, all fired up to aerate the buhn dahn. Marlin restrains her. Lily attempts to calm the deputy and redirect his attention to the corpses laying all around, but the deputy's had enough of the Betty and is determined to lock her up.
Betty spends the night in jail and Lily spends the night charming the deputy. Charges are dropped in the morning. The deputy hits the cortex and turns over a hefty 200 credit bounty to the PC's for bringing down the Maynard gang.
The PC's return to the church. There Lily checks her messages and they find a wave from their uncle's ranch hand. Their uncle, their last remaining close relative, has passed away in the night.
The PC drive out to the ranch and begin making arrangements for the service and tending to Uncle Isaac's affairs. In the course of which they discover his will, duly encoded and witnessed. In it he leaves the ranch and surrounding land to his foreman, a woman who the PC's strongly suspect may have shared more than a business relationship with the widowed uncle over the last four years since their aunt's death. His remaining bits of meager wealth are distributed among the handful of ranch hands that have served him faithfully over the years.
They are also surprised to find that their uncle is co-owner of a Hornet class fast courier...and he's left them equal shares of it, as well as a several Alliance bonds worth a total of 1,000 credits.
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