Trying Something New, Y'All
With Big Tiny gone, the gang regrouped at the diner. Unfortunately, the whole "Big Tiny" thing got a little overshadowed - turns out, real life was calling. Charles saw the same thing I did - a video of a house fire. Not just any house fire, though - a fire at the same address we visited before, with the thugs that threatened us. Not a good coincidence. Luna15 saw it too, and gave Charles a call. According to the police, the two thugs in jail had committed suicide that night. Luna15 made sure we were all safe, and expressed some concern at Big Tiny, especially that he wasn't entirely in character. Kal suggested that maybe someone, like a dev, was controlling Big Tiny (and also expressed that he'd now figured out who killed Big Tiny - it was them! But how to turn himself in for the reward?). Luna15 agreed that it was likely (that Big Tiny was just an avatar, not that they should turn themselves in for BT's murder).
I stayed behind to write up more notes, but the others headed to Space Marines III to see Raquise's game, as long as they were hopping around. Unfortunately, since Raquise was leeching off McDonald's internet, his connection was garbage... Ah well. They managed to get a bit of healing in, then jumped games again to visit Tortuga.
While there, they joined a quest, helping Havanna Black, an escaped slave and freedom fighter. Under cover of darkness, they attacked a slave ship, freed the slaves, and dealt with some nasty pirates, too. With that done (and some nice loot to go with it!), they set off to see the Hag of Tortuga again.
She was, of course, just as flirty and spooky as before; she gave a few cryptic answers to their questions, but one in particular stood out. To Charles' questions about what could be behind the attacks in real life, and Big Tiny in the game, she answered that there was a clue "Right in front of your face!" Charles, realizing she may well mean literally, logged out and removed his headset, but all he could see on it was the Better Be Entertainment Group logo.
Wrapping up, they decided a good course of action would be to visit the police again. To Charles' shame, the video of them fighting the thugs had made its way around the offices, to the point of a few memes being made of it. They spoke with a Detective Eric Randolf, who said that there was no further investigation into them, and returned their weapons.
Raquise, somewhat later, looked up stuff about VR being a brain upload; he found an article about them, which strongly suggested that uploading a brain (personality, memories, etc.) would take ages over the low-bandwidth VR connection. Regrouping once again, we called Luna15 and talked about AI, VR, and a few other topics, mostly revolving around the people acting weird after using VR, and the possibility of VR copying/downloading memories or personalities. Luna15 was cautiously optimistic that VR couldn't directly copy memories, but it certainly could record anything that happened in the game. At least according to the software and hardware specifications, the headsets couldn't give you brain damage, but not everything is always perfectly to spec. There's definitely something going on. At the last moment, Dave realized that Better Be Entertainment Group's initials were "BBEG" - an old RPG term that means "Big Bad Evil Guy", aka, the main villain. Hmm... was that what the Hag of Tortuga was talking about, I wonder?
Finally, the group decided to try something new - there seemed to be clues scattered here and there in the games, so they opted to try a game they hadn't visited before: Vulture's Feast.
A new game! And one I haven't played at all, so I'm only going off of how they described it. The first thing they did was try to buy equipment, and quickly remembered that they had no cash. So, the real first step was finding a quest that paid good money. Luckily, there was one - a visit to the sheriff turned up a case for them to solve: the mystery of the missing Missus. Mrs. Bea (short for Beatrice, most likely) had gone walking, heading over to her relatives' home a bit north of her husband's ranch. Mr. Oscar Kinik seemed to run a good ranch, but he was obviously upset about the dissappearance of his wife. They rode over to the ranch with a ranch-hand who was in town to gather supplies, one Dusty Tracks.
Oscar told them all the details he could remember. Two days before, Bea had headed north-west, to her momma's house. It was only a 4 hour walk, but she never arrived. When Oscar showed up the next day to pick her up in the wagon, her family expressed dismay at her vanishing. Oscar, his ranch hands, and Mrs. Bea's family all search all day long, but didn't turn up a thing. That was the last anyone saw of Mrs. Bea - but, Oscar holds out hope that she's still out there, and was willing to pay $50 to anyone who could find her.
Heading north-west along the path she would have taken, the gang searched for tracks, but apart from the tracks of the search party, had no luck, until they met a strange fellow, one Irving, the Wanderer. He lead them down a box canyon, following a trail only he could see, until they came across a couple of bandits - part of the Red Scarf Gang. In a sneak attack, they ambushed the bandits (who were high on the canyon wall), taking them down with no injuries to themselves. They recovered a horse (that belonged to one of the bandits), as well as a pistol, a shotgun, some cash and ammo, and two red bandanas. The motif emblazoned on the red kerchiefs looked something like this:
The trail continued, until eventually they arrived at the bandit camp - Cazeon, of course, had a brilliant idea: sneak into the enemy camp, disguised as bandits, with some of their members as prisoners! The trick worked, more or less - Caz and Kenny got into camp, with Dapper Dan and Duramine as prisoners. Their new friend, the (undead?) gunslinger, stayed behind with his long-range rifle to pick off targets, should it come to that.
Inside, the somewhat-split party started investigating. There was a jail, in which there were three other prisoners - someone that just grunted, someone that growled, and someone who was all too happy to talk - a prospector of some kind. Outside the jail, apart from the various guards, there was a blacksmith, a cook, and some sort of big boss, holed up in a shanty. He really didn't want to be disturbed. The general consensus was that Bea was tied up in the shanty. After a bit of bluster and talking, in which Caz found that the "big boss" was visiting the next day, the party fell back on their usual tactics: shoot first, clean up later, if they had to.
The guards fell quickly, and Caz managed to stab the jailer pretty handily; he ran inside and unlocked the cells (actually holes in the ground), and took off back outside to the fight. Outside, there was quite the whirlwind of fighting - literally, actually, as the camp boss seemed to have some supernatural powers up his sleeve. Nonetheless, the bandits fell before the quick swords, guns, and spear of the team - helped in no small part by the long-range shooting of the Wanderer, who picked off the guards in the towers. Finally, they defeated the bandits, as well as the growling thing - some kind of undead monster! The prospector was glad to get out of there; the third prisoner, a native American, thanked them for rescuing him, and left... in a bolt of lightning. Don't ask me, that's just what they told me!
Mrs. Bea was returned to her home, with much rejoicing, and the gang got paid.