Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys #6 – “Transit”
The first paragraph of this session is one of the most powerful moments of the entire campaign, still talked about today. Mention of the incident among those who were there invariably brings on a moment of grim silence.
The conceit of the game being a sci-fi TV show from the late 1970’s (but with really awesome effects) continues. One of the passengers was touted as “Guest Starring: Johnny Cash as the Reverend Blaine Hollis”, in the tradition of programs like “BJ & the Bear” and so forth. As a result, there was a lot of good conversational role-play, but comparatively little action to report on.
Until the end, that is… when all hell broke loose.
The episode opened with the crew hearing an unauthorized docking in the middle of the night, as the boat passed near the rings of Saturn. The crew swung into action, with Dr Nanika securing the cockpit and two armed teams splitting up to investigate each of the two airlocks. The boat’s power was cut, leaving only dim emergency lights operating. As Bubba and Hal entered the upper cargo deck, on their way to secure the engine room, Bubba caught a movement from the corner of his eye. Identifying it as a pirate, he turned and fired… hitting Rahne dead-center.
And then Bubba woke up, in a cold sweat, with Osolo pounding on his door. The entire event had been a nightmare, brought on by his recent traumatic experiences. Shaken, he sought out Dr Nanika, who prescribed a cocktail of mood-altering drugs and therapy sessions.
Four passengers came aboard for the trip to the Ag’. Felina, being wealthy and idle, was coming along to spend some time with Samale. Cleavon Thoben and Matthew Bayona were traveling together as security for Long Tong’s secret freight. Finally, at the last minute, Rev. Blaine Hollis came aboard.
During the trip, the preacher offered his own form of counsel to Bubba. This ended up with Bubba refusing to engage in snake-handling.
As usual, Osolo was wildly curious about the passengers. While cleaning the room shared by Thoben and Bayona, he found a metal box, with an electronic lock, secured to the wall of the cabin. Unable to open the box, he talked Hal into coming along on a cleaning trip to check it out. When they arrived, Thoben was in the room, reading. Communication by gesture failed, but let Thoben know Osolo was interested. He offered to show them what was in the box, if they would like. When they agreed, he opened the box to display a collection of firearms.
This led to Osolo rethinking his plan to tear into the “no questions asked” freight with a crowbar. While Osolo was discussing them with the rest of the crew, Samale mentioned that he had seen such things in his past. The containers appeared to be military-grade nanosleep chambers, used to deliver genetically-engineered “super soldier” bioroids. Such bioroids were illegal by interplanetary treaty, and thus, effectively, slaves.
On more than one occasion, Dr Nanika found Bayona chatting up Shiela in the sickbay. Noticing that Shiela seemed to be returning the man’s interest, she took Shiela aside and pointed out that Bayona was working for Long Tong, with the obvious implications for Shiela’s continued freedom. This led to a quick end to the budding relationship.
When the Cabra came to the location of the drop-off, the crew discovered that the people on the other end of the drop were the Parson boys. Bubba announced that he had had dealings with the Parsons in the past, and they were likely to be unhappy to see him. He declared that he would hide out in the engine room while the transfer took place.
The drop was set up with a certain amount of paranoia. It was in the middle of a shoal of small asteroids. The Parsons’ boat was set down on the largest asteroid of the shoal. They had also set up a remote-controlled anti-ship gun on a smaller asteroid orbiting the site of the transfer.
Samale took on the job of leading Big Jesse Parson, the patriarch of the family, around the Cabra while the other Parson boys and Osolo unloaded the “no questions asked” containers. While doing so, he discovered that the Parsons had hired a pilot, Balentine Suracha. Samale had run afoul of the man in the past.
At one point, Big Jesse got a look at Osolo, and remarked that he looked familiar. Big Jesse asked Samale about Osolo, but was unable to satisfy his curiosity.
Eventually the work was done. The two crews returned to their boats, with Thoben and Bayona going with the shipment. The Cabra was set to leave first, allowing the Parsons to keep their direction of exit a secret.
As the Cabra started away, Samale and Big Jesse were trading their final respects over the radio, when Big Jesse finally realized why Osolo seemed familiar: he had recognized the family resemblance between the twins. Enraged, he ordered Suracha to fire the remote gun. Unable to evade the energy weapon’s beam using the sails, Samale called for the rockets. Of course, the engineering team wasn’t prepared for the change in direction, and so had to drop what they were doing to switch tasks.
Hal and Bubba barely managed it. They gave Samale rocket power just in time to barely dodge the attack and flee. Considering themselves lucky to have escaped both unscathed and paid, the crew turned towards their appointments in Agamemnon, and Carnivale.
* * *
The way the roll went, the engineers failed by 1 when rolling to bring the rockets online. Everybody around the table stared at the dice, stunned, wondering how quickly everyone on the ship was going to die after failing to dodge. The consequences of being hit had already been discussed. This wasn’t going to be a case of Bubba muttering “Shields at 50%”. A better comparison would be: imagine an 18-wheeler, pulling a tanker full of propane, being hit once by an explosive shell fired from a tank’s main gun. There’s no question of what happens next.
Then Hal’s player says, “Didn’t you pick up some good-quality tools a couple of ports back? Enough to give us a +1 bonus?”
Of course, everyone had forgotten this, which made the roll a skin-of-the-teeth success, just enough to save the day.
(In hindsight, this is a thing of Bart’s. He’s the mastermind behind both Hal and Needles. That’s twice now, in recorded play reports, where he’s taken a roll that everybody thought meant disaster, and reminded us that it was really a slim success.)
Hal got the Cool Point. Unanimously.