It was another installment of the “Texas Big-Rock Massacre” last night.
When last we visited Scenic Pine Box, TX (town slogan: “Everyone Comes to Pine Box Eventually”), the PCs were following up various leads to the identity of the late Joe Landis. Mac and Ginny Sue didn’t have any luck among the Popular Crowd. The Padre (Father Joseph Ricks, I’m told, but I’m going to keep calling him “Padre”) got some more documents from Officer Richards, including the original accident report that Richards had filed, but which was rejected by his superiors. The Padre learned that the van Joe died in belonged to one Greg Sheetz, whereabouts unknown, and may have been used for smuggling immigrants. The Padre spent the day at the County records office, trying to find out some more information about Mr. Sheetz. He came up with little, but did learn that Greg has a sister who lives in town.
Tom had the most luck finding people who actually knew Joe, but still didn’t manage to learn a whole lot. Joe had friends who hung out at the campus computer lab, and they noticed Joe had been around less often lately, but they didn’t know why. They didn’t think that Joe had been acting particularly strange or evasive lately. They suspected that his new job was keeping him busy, but didn’t know much about that, either. Fortunately, one of them knew that Joe had gotten the job through his advisor, Dr. Glass, the head of the Computer Science department at S.E.T.I. Tom went to see Dr. Glass, and learned that Joe had an unpaid internship at MasterGene, a local company that makes pharmaceuticals out of soy beans. Tom did some Internet research, but couldn’t turn up any evidence that MasterGene was anything other than what it claimed to be.
Without much more in the way of leads, the party went out to look at the crash site in daylight. Near where the crash occurred, they found a motorcycle hidden in the bushes, with documentation proving it belonged to Joe. At the clearing on the logging road, they found a 35-milimeter camera, also belonging to Joe, but broken, and with no film. The party concluded that Joe must have been investigating whatever had been happening in the clearing, and that it probably had something to do with MasterGene.
Tom decided to try to bluff his way into an internship position with MasterGene, despite the fact that he has no computer skills or references. He was invited up to the building to fill out an application, and the Padre kindly gave him a lift. Tom made a good impression, and picked up lots of glossy pamphlets, but learned nothing useful from the HR rep, who didn’t seem to know Joe. The Padre wandered the grounds a bit, inspecting the sealed greenhouses, until some stone-faced guards herded him back to his car. The Padre engaged them in pleasant conversation, but didn’t get anywhere.
On his way out of the building, Tom happened to bump into a man in the lobby who he recognized as Dr. Perry, the founder of MasterGene. Tom brazenly struck up a conversation, and was rewarded with a tour of the facilities. He learned that certain underground parts of the complex are dangerous and off-limits, but other than that, he only saw some perfectly normal server rooms and greenhouses with soy plants.
Mac and Ginny Sue, meanwhile, went to check out Joe’s dorm room, in the hopes of finding out more about his MasterGene investigation. Joe’s roommate, Steve Church, wasn’t yet aware of the fact that his roommate had died, and in the face of Ginny Sue’s wiles, gave them free reign of the room. Mac discovered a floppy disk and some e-mail transcripts with encrypted addresses, but the body of one of them detailed the time and place of the meeting where Joe got himself killed.
The party met up again at El Pollo Loco to compare notes. (I’d like to mention at this point that I’ve never played a campaign before where the PCs spent so much time apart. Not good or bad, just an observation.) Popping the floppy into Tom’s computer, the party discovered some poorly encrypted (or possibly just really corrupted) files of notes, with a few clear incriminating words, like “insanity,” “clinical trials,” and “92 percent mortality.” The PCs didn’t need any more prodding to decide that MasterGene was up to no good, but didn’t know what to do about it.
On the way back to campus from the restaurant, the Padre’s car was rear-ended at a stop light. The driver got out, had a brief conversation, and tossed a gas capsule into the car, knocking out all the occupants, except for the Padre. A quick chase ensued, but the party was no match for their pursuers, and they were apprehended.
Are the party’s assailants MasterGene flunkies, or just a bad driver who really can’t afford another accident? Will the PCs get any closer to finding out what’s going on? Will there be more big rocks? Tune in next time to find out!