Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys #7 – “Bridge”

by mshrm

It’s been a poor week for posting:  the day job has been particularly intense, the last couple of days, and what energy I’ve got left over, I’ve been devoting to game prep. (Not everything can be posted before the PCs encounter it, after all!)  Still, the Space Cowboys’ story carries on…

I can’t recall if previous play reports mentioned the Drum or not.  Most of the Ag’ was under no gravity to speak of. Those with the money could set up enclosed habitats with spinning cylinders to simulate gravity, similar to an orbiting space station, just enclosed within the rock of the asteroid, spinning on an axle. The largest of these habitats was the Drum, so named after the perceived similarity to a giant spinning oil drum. 

I’ve got to admit, this session involved one of the most memorable moments of role-play I’ve ever seen. Everybody jumped when it happened, and I think it was one of the defining moments for the character…

What Happened:

The episode opened with Hal fumbling a wrench on the bridge of the Cabra, startling Samale as he was busy transferring to Agamemnon traffic control, on 13 March 2518. No one was harmed, but several harsh looks were passed around.

During the days leading up to docking with Agamemnon, talk around the dinner table was serious. There was discussion of the recently-concluded “no questions asked” deal, as well as the fate of Sheila and Felina. The latter, at least, had expressed great interest in sticking close to Samale.

Sheila sent word that she was finally willing to speak with Hal. She explained that considering everything, if he could set her up with $10K to start a new life in Agamemnon, they could call it even. In the end, Hal agreed, and had Bubba, as quartermaster, handle the financial details.

Upon docking on 19 March, the crew was greeted with drawn weapons. Sgt Jones (from Episode #1) had been put in charge of spaceport security, and set up a special welcoming party as a joke. While Bubba and Jones renewed their acquaintance, Osolo handled the usual bribe to the cargo handlers.

Due to new tariffs and fees associated with the war, the ship lost money on the trip from Mimas. Somewhat subdued at this news, the crew, again guided by Short Round, went into town to celebrate landfall… specifically leaving Hal’s name off the official crew lists.

Felina led most of the crew to a sprawling party in the Drum, while Bubba and Rahne went on to the Mangled Puppy for more family-oriented entertainment. At the party, Osolo was rapidly split from the herd by Brenton Heuwinkel, an agent, who promised an audition with the recording industry authorities for only $10K. Osolo made an appointment to meet the next day to turn over the money. Later, he was approached by Roberto Weston, whose approach was much more appealing. However, when Weston heard that Osolo was already in talks with another agent, he claimed that he ethically could not continue, and withdrew.

While this was going on, Samale caught the eye of a local lady and wandered over to introduce himself. Just as the conversation was getting interesting, her boyfriend intervened, asking what Samale thought he was doing. Before Samale could explain, Felina smacked the boyfriend full across the face! She admitted that Samale had been hitting on the woman, but seemed to feel that there shouldn’t be any objection to this. Dabbing at his bloody lip, he introduced himself as Bob Pacino and accepted Felina’s challenge to duel. He gave an address and announced a time the following morning. In an attempt to defuse the situation, Hal took Pacino’s pistol away from him, leading to a rapid retreat in the face of security.

Over the course of the evening, the crew began to gather at the Mangled Puppy, where Bubba, Rahne, and Sancho Panza (Rahne’s buffaloid) were enjoying ice cream and the Japanese-style baths. It was decided that the crew would organize a “port party” under the Cabra’s landing gear during Carnivale, partly to raise money selling tickets, and partly to build buzz for Osolo’s music career.

While fetching a round, Hal ran into Dub (see Ep #1) at the bar and invited him back to see everyone. Dub mentioned that he might have a business proposition of interest to the crew: While working on his sensor certification, he had shipped out as a “junior apprentice navigator’s assistant’s assistant”. He claimed that late one night shift, he had spotted what appeared to be a derelict ship, possibly a damaged pirate vessel, in a gravel shoal in the ABA. A deal was struck, in which Dub would come along as an unpaid extra hand when the Cabra left port, on its way to Mars. On the way, they would investigate Dub’s derelict, and he would receive 10% of the resulting profit.

The next morning, 20 March 2518, everybody went to the duel. At the last minute, Samale, knowing that Feline didn’t have any experience with guns, offered to take her place. Pacino readily agreed, since his quarrel was with Samale in the first place. They stood back-to-back, took 30 paces, and turned. Samale took a snap shot, which missed, then dove to the ground as Pacino took careful aim.

Samale’s strategy became apparent as he activated his backpack Dragonfly. In a scant 3 seconds – during which Pacino fired and missed – Samale got the ultralight transformed and into the air, if just barely, accelerating towards Pacino. This threw off the gunman’s poise, spoiling his aim long enough for Samale to approach to close range. He shot Pacino once in the neck as he swooped past. Pacino fell, Dr Nanika patched him up before he lost too much blood, and everybody called it even.

On the way out of the dueling courtyard, Hal ran into an elderly man, who turned out to be Gramps, in town to sell some wood from the ranch! After hearing Hal’s story, he had some rough words about the slave trading, but approved of his handling of Sheila. He agreed to sell the boat enough wood to make a new bar top.

Having discussed the two agents with the rest of the crew, and including the insights of Dr Nanika, who had researched them both on the ‘Net, Osolo met with Heuwinkel and politely ended their budding business relationship. The agent took it relatively well. (That was one really good Reaction roll.) Osolo then made an appointment to meet with Weston later on in the week.

That evening at dinner, the topic of conversation was the meeting with Lo Pan. Rahne tried to get permission to come along, which Bubba immediately denied. She attempted to wheedle permission, and others tried to sway him, until Bubba’s temper flared. He pounded the table, and Rahne fled.

On the morning of Monday, 21 March, the crew met with Lo Pan, with the exception of Dr Nanika, who stayed back at the boat with Rahne. Shortly after the meeting started, Rahne revealed that she had sent along one of her toy soldiers in Bubba’s pocket, and sent its broadcast audio and video to the sickbay monitors.

The meeting was at Lo Pan’s extremely private Chinese garden. No guns were allowed within the garden, which included many displays of artifacts from Earth-That-Was. The group met near the prize of the collection, an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus.

A tense discussion ensued, in which Lo Pan caught both Bubba and Osolo in lies. During the discussion, Lo Pan revealed some of the contents of the encrypted file from the Signifyin’ Monkey: medical records having to do with the Zombie Virus, stolen by the Monkey on Ceres before he assassinated a CCW politician. According to the Monkey’s message, he might have been exposed to the virus during the mission.

As Lo Pan turned to Samale, Hal noticed that the nondescript gardeners who had been quietly trimming in the background had turned and began to approach in a threatening manner. He drew everyone’s attention to this. There was just long enough for Bubba to yell out for the crew to protect Lo Pan.

Despite the thorough search for weapons, Bubba came up with a shiv, which he handed off to Osolo, and Hal pulled out a half-sharp screwdriver. Taking advantage of the low gravity, Bubba threw Osolo at one attacker, then grappled with another. One of the gardeners pulled out a grenade and threw it into the middle of the crowd, where it started spouting smoke. Thinking fast, Hal kicked in away from the crew and into the head of one of the attackers. In seconds, the tide of battle had turned, and the two conscious attackers fled.

Lo Pan thanked the crew for their help and bravery, and ordered his Walken to arrange for the captives to be questioned. (Ominous music.) The crew turned their attention towards preparing for a trip to Mars after Carnivale, and partying in the meantime.