Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys #11 – “Yo, Ho, Blow The Man Down”
The Cool Point for this episode went to Dr Nanika, for outstanding roleplay of the Truthfulness disadvantage. She ducked, she dodged, she sweated, and in the end… she gave up everything she knew. Later on, she demonstrated how Truthfulness is not Honesty, nor even necessarily niceness.
Remember, Hal is being actively hunted by the interplanetary Mafia.
The Cabra entered the heavily-regimented traffic around Mars. At dinner the evening before disembarking to take the space elevator to the country of Tharsis on the surface, the crew discussed their situation and plans. Bubba had received a message instructing him to present himself and Rahne for a custody hearing on the far side of Mars from Tharsis. Hal volunteered to take over Bubba’s usual port-side duties. The crew talked about the possibility of using the location of the wreck, either selling it to Weyland-Yutani or to some third party, but decided more consideration was needed before taking such a risky step.
During the last leg of the trip, Nanika had exhausted the abilities of her available tools without entirely completing the analysis of the contents of the canisters. From what she had gathered, she suspected it to be life-extension drugs, but she wanted to keep this to herself until finishing the analysis. She had kept it under wraps, until Osolo asked her outright. Unable to lie or dodge the question, she spilled. The crew considered different options for the canisters, but decided to wait before doing anything.
The next morning, Bubba and Rahne were on their way early. The rest of the crew took their time, exploring the facilities aboard the space elevator, while Samale was scoping out the situation with an eye towards disposing of his two tons of bentlam. He particularly noticed the tight customs controls, including the drug-sniffing genetically-enhanced dogs.
The crew was not impressed with the surface of Mars near the base of the space elevator. While it did live up to the name of the Garden Planet, every patch of grass large enough to step on had a sign ordering everyone to keep off the grass. While there were bars, the strongest drink they served was 2% near-beer. Perhaps worst of all, in Osolo’s eyes: the entire planet was vegetarian. By law. Tofu was available in abundance, but no meat, eggs, or dairy.
Nanika, with funding from the rest of the crew, re-supplied and upgraded the sickbay. She also underwent a quick elective surgery to get Jarvis implanted in the same way Rahne has Cervantes.
With her new cutting-edge equipment, Nanika made short work of the canisters.1 To her amazement, she discovered this was something much more than just a couple of doses of life-extender serum. This was the fabled raw nanotech “fountain of youth”, made to roll back the effects of aging, anywhere from 50 to 100 years. It was entirely too strong to be taken by any member of the crew, as it would try to send them back beyond adulthood, killing them. It had gone out of favor long ago, largely because of its sheer strength. Duplication was conceivable, but would necessarily destroy at least one dose in the process, and required expensive equipment.
During the same time, Samale and Osolo came up with a scheme to get the bentlam off board. Once again making good use of his freight-handling skills, Osolo wrapped the two tons of designer drugs in an airtight package, then covered it in warning labels, claiming dangerous chemicals. Wearing the required coveralls and air supplies for transporting caustic agents, the two managed to talk their way through customs uninspected and unimpeded. They were halfway to the surface before they realized they hadn’t given any thought to the next step, what to do with it on the ground. Quickly improvising, they slipped the cargo into a self-store facility near the base of the beanstalk.
Meanwhile, Hal was going through the unfamiliar chores of picking up spare parts, fuel, and supplies. Splitting his attention between his checklist and the map of the local cowboy’s mall, he managed to get somewhat turned around. Thinking he had gotten re-oriented, he opened a door… only to find himself standing ten feet behind an apparent hostage situation. A man in a suit had a gun to the head of a girl, using her as a human shield. He was paying more attention to the mixed crowd of police and armed men in nice suits in front of him than his immediate surroundings, which included Hal, who impulsively went in for the tackle.
He took down the man and was able to hold his own in the ensuing scuffle. The girl ended up on the bottom of the pile, but the relatively low gravity of Mars meant she wasn’t injured. When the hostage taker went down, his gun hand was thrown wide, so he was unable to bring it into play before one of the well-dressed men brought a well-shined shoe down on his hand. Hal was picked up, dusted off, and hailed as a hero, while a cry for “the Don” went up. An older gentleman came up from the back of the crowd and had a tearful reunion with the girl, obviously his grand-daughter. Figuring out that this might not be his crowd, Hal tried to slip out, but failed. He was introduced to Don Giovanni, clearly of the Martian Mafia.
When the Don approached, he did the same little eye twitch that every wired Core Worlder does when they access their computers. He hesitated for just a moment, then finished moving for the handshake. After delivering some predictable words of thanks in his “outdoor voice”, the Don leaned over for a private word: “I know who you are. All is forgiven. If there is anything I can do, remember my name.”
With that, the Don turned and left, grand-daughter in tow. Many of the younger gangsters offered to take Hal out for a drink. Still trying to catch up to events, Hal pointed out that it was hardly worth it for the weak stuff in town, and countered with a proposal of dinner with the family, to which they readily agreed. When they heard that Hal was interested in meat, they said that they knew just the place. Hal gathered the rest of the crew, who were all eager for the wildest night available on Mars.
That evening, the young mobsters met the crew for the drive out of town. After driving beyond the edge of town, past green fields, into a patch of desert, they came to a stop before a dilapidated shack. The gangsters knew the proper passwords, so they were allowed within the shack, where they found a cave entrance. Inside the cave, there was a small dining establishment… and in the back room of the back room of the place, there was a bar with a few tables, where the waitresses went topless, and where one could buy distilled liquor, and both chicken and pork.
This was pretty tame, by usual landing party standards, but it seemed the best game in town, so the crew made the most of it. Nanika got into the spirit so much, she had one too many and passed out. Osolo and Samale wanted to discuss the sale of the bentlam, but couldn’t politely ask who would be the person to talk to. Taking the soft approach, they made some jokes concerning those who deal in large quantities of designer drugs, then caught three different mobsters glancing at one guy before laughing. Pulling that one aside, they smoothed his ruffled feathers with drink and the offer of a good deal on the cargo. The agreement was made, and the next day, they handed over the merchandise.
On his way to the meeting, that morning, Osolo thought that he would smuggle an egg off the ship, as a gift to their new friends. This time, he was caught, and given a lecture on how Mars was much too civilized to actually eat meat. He was about to make more of an issue with it when he finally noticed the “Death to drug traffickers” signs, and decided a low profile might be best. He retreated, leaving his egg behind.
Over the next few days, the crew threw themselves into prep for the next journey, to Ganymede, in the Jupiter system, for the family reunion at the end of the year. Finding freight was little problem. The crew decided against looking for passengers, since they didn’t want to bring outsiders into family business. On the other hand, Nanika did a scan of the network to see if any family members might be looking for a ride. She found Seth Solo, one of the older generation who isn’t attached to any particular ship; instead, he acts as a floating troubleshooter and lieutenant to Grandma, an “uncle”. Offered a place, he jumped at the chance, even offering to help out around the boat while still paying his way as a passenger.
Bubba returned from the custody hearing.
Rahne did not.
After breaking orbit, life settled into its new routine. Seth lent a hand in every station on the ship, helping out and listening to stories. With no one making any real effort to pull the wool over his eyes, he shortly had a pretty good idea of the events of the past year. (In particular, when he asked Osolo why he was putting up with what the RIAA was doing to him, Osolo replied “Because I’m a cowboy.” This got an approving look.) At a dinner pow-wow, he brought up the question of Lo Pan. He pointed out that Grandma wouldn’t be at all pleased with someone who thought he could just kill members of the Solo clan in cold blood. (Even if he only thought his target was a member of the family.) The crew agreed, Lo Pan was a problem.
“I think we should kill him with the youth drug,” Nanika said.
1The “rock-paper-scissors” goes like this: The canisters come from a TL9 that used computers. The Cabra is from TL 9 with no computers. The new sickbay and Jarvis are both from TL 10 that uses computers. Plus, it was a natural 3.