Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys #8 – “Grog and Typhoon”

by mshrm

We really blew the special effects budget for this episode in the last ten minutes. People freaking out, dice flying in all directions… it was a heck of a thing.

“Ziggy” is slang for “zero gravity”. Most of the action, this session, took place in a hanger with practically no gravity. Magnetic boots were quite common. All of the PCs, particularly, wore theirs constantly, through the entire campaign. They could be switched on to walk “normally”, or turned off for zero-G acrobatics. 

Coming up with technology adapted to ziggy was a recurring thing in this game. Mentioned in passing, below, are a spring-loaded rocking chair and a harness for ziggy dancing. The chair was hooked to the hanger floor with clips which fit into the ubiquitous attachment cleats for cargo. (Nearly every surface in space that could have them, had fold-flat metal loops no more than three feet apart from each other across the entire surface, to make it simpler to attach equipment and cargo. When not in use, they folded into a recess, out of the way.) Stiff springs and a safety belt allowed the user to sway back and forth in a motion similar to a rocking chair’s. The harness was a system of belts and cables to keep a person anchored in a single spot in three-dimensional space, while allowing great freedom of movement on that spot. The idea was to allow expressive dancing without having to worry about the dancer floating randomly around the space.

The players became really attuned to certain things. All I had to do was mention “Your ears pop”, and everybody, every time, would drop whatever they were doing and figure out how the air was leaking. 

What Happened:

The crew spent 22-27 March 2518, the last 6 days before Carnivale, getting ready for the upcoming party and lining up cargo for the upcoming trip to Mars. Samale located a group of refugees from Mars, trapped on the wrong side of the lines, and signed up six of them for the trip, then went out with Felina to talk up the boat party to her friends. The boat also secured a small shipment of 21 tons of ammunition, and bought 400 tons of prime manure as cargo. The crew also hired Short Round to advertise their boat party, with particular mention of the extended concert by Osolo.

Hal tripped while rolling out half the supply of Bubba’s rotgut moonshine, sending the barrel into a fatal collision with a neighboring ship. Fatal for the barrel, at any rate.

Osolo rigged a stage from freight-handling supplies, then rehearsed, only to pass out from fatigue and insomnia. Dr Nanika took time out from brewing up recreational drugs for the party to put him on a drug regime to keep him sleeping on schedule.

One evening, Bubba ran in to Dempsey Solo, a cousin and mail carrier. While drinking together, Dempsey mentioned that he was short $100K for getting his mail ship running again, with only a week left before having to get going before he lost his contract. Bubba looked over the ship, then brought the situation to the attention of the crew. From correspondence with the rest of the family, Osolo knew that Dempsey had had problems with drink in the past. Despite this, the rest of the crew voted to help him out.

Lo Pan sent word that the would-be assassins had all, regretfully, died under questioning, but they first revealed that they were low-rent hit-men hired by one of his rivals. In light of that unpleasantness, he invited the crew to continue their conversation at a more secure location on Monday, 4 April 2518, the first business day after the end of Carnivale.

After word of the party had some time to spread, a promoter for a ziggy wrestler named Boom Boom Kim approached Bubba about having an exhibition bout against one of the crew. His thinking was that cowboys have a rough-and-tumble reputation, so it would be a good draw. Bubba went through with the fight, even though he had a nightmare in which he accidentally killed his opponent.

On Sunday, 27 March, Gramps insisted on taking Hal to church. While there, Hal had a bit of a misadventure that led to punching a preacher, and ended with a heavy Bible coming down on his pickin’ hand. This rendered him unable to perform during Carnivale. That evening, he happened to be the one to answer the door when Morgan Skaggs III showed up, seeking Osolo. Hal claimed to not know anyone of that name, even when Skaggs mentioned having a check for him. Skaggs left a card, just in case, which Hal passed on to Osolo the next morning.

Skaggs ambushed Osolo just before his first appearance. As the local representative of the RIAA, he offered a good-sized sum if Osolo would cancel the show. Osolo refused. Eventually, they hammered out an agreement in which Osolo agreed to avoid touchy political topics, while performing songs from the RIAA catalog. Furthermore, the RIAA would provide studio musicians to fill out the band.

Osolo stuck to the RIAA agreement until the last day, performing only neutral music in public, but working on his own material behind closed doors. Samale locked down the bulk of the control room panels, leaving lights and sound under Rahne’s control. This had the added benefit of keeping her away from the bar in the lower cargo hold, where Dr Nanika was handing out moonshine, beer, and heavy drugs.

On 2 April, the final day of Carnivale, Osolo took the stage with an agenda. With a strip of tape prominently displayed over his mouth, he stuck to the letter of the agreement, by not singing anything controversial. On the other hand, Rahne used her holoprojector to display his highly-charged lyrics behind the stage.

During the show, Hal – sitting in a spring-loaded ziggy rocking chair outside the stage-side airlock door with a shotgun broke open over his arm, scanning the crowd – noticed his old buddy, Sen Yung, waving to get his attention from the far side of the crowd. Hal made his way over to where Sen was lurking. As he got within shouting distance, he asked what was up…

… and then everyone’s ears popped. Sudden pressure drop. Looking towards the sound of the explosion, everyone saw the smoke and heard gunfire. “Isolationist attack,” Sen Yung yelled, just as pandemonium broke loose.

Samale had been standing to one side of the crowd, chatting up a group of Felina’s model friends. He sprinted for the open ramp to the lower cargo hold, where Dr Nanika was already waving people inside. Seeing this, Bubba sprang from the stage to the cargo hold ramp, leaving Osolo to struggle free of his three-axis harness (for ziggy dancing) all alone.

Hal displayed his zero-G skills, bounding from floor to ceiling to the cargo hold ramp. This gave him a good view of a group of militia, wearing red headbands, approaching from the direction of the firefight. He put his shotgun into play, forcing them to take cover before firing wildly towards the crew and crowd.

Several members of the crowd fell. Seeing this, Dr Nanika pulled her ever-present medkit and started down the ramp towards them, even as Samale hit the controls to close the door. Attempting to stop her, Bubba misjudged his leap and knocked her nearly-senseless. While Bubba joined Hal in suppression fire, Nanika ignored her own condition and crawled forward to drag one last civilian into the hold before the ramp closed.

Osolo slipped in through the lower airlock. Rahne forwarded a broadcast from Sgt Jones, telling anyone in the spaceport to evacuate. As soon as the cargo hold ramp started moving, Samale sprinted for the control room, shouting over the communicator, telling Rahne how to re-connect the control panels. (Rather like giving the kid the password that controls access to the rated R movies. Or, in this case, the gun safe.)

Samale dove on the controls and got the boat in the air, ripping it loose from its moorings and sewage connection. While Osolo herded the 32 new passengers, Hal and Bubba raced for the engine room to suit up. All around the Cabra, other ships tried to take off in a panic. Explosions and an expanding firefight added to the chaos. The boat took some buffeting on the way out of the spaceport, scraping the upper crane off along the way. The stage, of course, was a total loss. As they exited the asteroid, the destruction of the spaceport became general, as explosions tore it apart. Most of the docked ships never lifted off, and of those, few made it to clear space. The Cabra was one of the few left dodging drifting debris.

Nanika staggered into the control room as the boat left Agamemnon, and was suddenly hit by delayed email from the Signifyin’ Monkey. As she shared with the others later that evening, it warned that the crew was in danger from a double-cross by Lo Pan. Some of the crew thought that the attack on the spaceport might have been an attempt by Lo Pan to kill them, but the consensus was that the two were unconnected. It was decided that the crew would keep the appointment with Lo Pan, sending Bubba and Hal. Nanika drafted a course to one of the Ag’s smaller spaceports.