Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys, Season 2 #2 – “Felix’s Follies”

by mshrm

This was the episode in which we learn that Miranda actually does export something besides opium derivatives and corruption. They are also the source of the system-famous Corinthian leather. 

The character of Juanito Pequeño was accordingly played by Ricardo Montalbán, from the Fantasy Island days. 

Looking back, this was one of the episodes in which the usual plans of PCs ran afoul of the <cough> “realistic” nature of the universe. At one point, a couple of members of the crew were advocating for a plan the involved all the usual bits of a plan put together by players: ultra-violence, shock and awe, a variation of Klingon promotion… 

Don’t get me wrong. When I play, my plans are predictable, too. I’m a bad’n for “split up, circle around in a pincers maneuver, team A attacks hard, then team B attacks even harder from behind while they’re distracted”.  You may have seen an echo of that in the bandit ambush from the last DF session, actually.

Anyway, the problems with this are manifold, which is why people in the real world don’t go in to random businesses, assassinate the head managers, and try to take their desks. As mentioned below, the first hurdle is, you have to be the kind of person who can kill in cold blood. 

On the other hand, this episode also shows how even a Reluctant Killer can set into motion a series of events…

What Happened:

At breakfast on Wednesday, 23 April 2521, Jasmine Mung returned to the ship from her business, to find a cigar box full of paper receipts. Mel brought up her plan to track down Dr Clement to ask about the sniper she had foiled the day before, which gathered support from Osolo only. Hal remained on duty in one of the orbiting ships. Madame Dori evicted Mung from her chair to get her customary breakfast of a soft-boiled egg. Felix skipped breakfast with the crew to go find a bar, with Nuku-chan scampering along behind him. Sohio set Terreno to running laps around town.

Mel had done some research into Dr Clement, finding that he had a compound in Syracuse. Being the top representative of Weyland-Yutani in the Heinlein system, he was among the richest people living on Miranda. (As a matter of fact, the only reason Mel was able to do this research was thanks to the ‘net connection from Clement’s systems.)

After breakfast, Mung sat down to come to grips with the accumulated receipts. She rapidly discovered some… questionable… expenses, and began asking pointed questions to Osolo. After a few frustrating exchanges, Osolo turned off his communicator.

Shortly after, the Akbar brothers tried to call Osolo for advice on what to say to Wally’s local laborers, come to load the cargo. They were unable to contact him.

Mel and Osolo agreed on a general strategy of trying to meet Clement at a bar, but disagreed as to which kind of bar to look for. Mel went looking for the most high-class establishment, while Osolo looked for the places with the most action. Accordingly, they split up.

Meanwhile, Felix had managed to break through the language barrier and order a drink. To his pleasure, the bartender indicated that there would be no need for cash. He celebrated by ordering another drink. Then, as a small crowd began to form, by buying a couple of rounds.

Back at the ship, inflated invoices for Felix’s drinks started arriving. Thanks to the Arabic invoices, only the amounts could be readily understood. Mung began to become curious about the stream of costs, but had her own headaches. Among other things, she caught one of Wally’s hired laborers unloading the Cabra, rather than loading it, thanks to a badly worded work order.

A well-dressed man walked into the bar and approached Felix. Using accented Portuguese, he introduced himself as Juanito, a humble dealer in leather, from the neighboring country of Corinth, and offered to buy Felix a drink. This was acceptable, and so Juanito took a seat. Shortly, he had the bartender bring a deck of cards, and struck up a friendly game of poker, along with drinks, cigars, and civilized small talk.

As the conversation continued, the other members of the crew filtered in, one by one. While each on their own errands, Terreno, Osolo, and Mel all noticed the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd outside the bar – at 10:30am, no less – and made their way inside, while Mung finally got fed up with dealing with the bar’s boy and came to see what she was paying out for. As each crew member arrived, introductions were made, and Juanito had another chair added around the table.

When Osolo came in, he noticed Nuku-chan, cowering behind the bar, out of Juanito’s line of sight.

By the time everyone had assembled, Juanito’s small talk had turned to anecdotes from his childhood in Corinth. He particularly mentioned an occasion when rustlers stole from his father, and his father had the men tortured and crucified for the offense. As the crew’s nervousness increased, Mel ran Juanito’s face through the local ‘net news database, discovering that he was, in fact, General Juanito Pequeño, the warlord of Corinth!

Felix put two and two together and realized that Juanito must be Nuku-chan’s original owner. He was just working through a combined confession and attempt to return the creature, when Terreno noticed Nuku-chan escaping through the kitchen. Mel and Osolo exchanged a series of meaningful eyebrow gestures that led to a trip to the bar and a whispered consultation. Upon their return, Osolo faked a drunken sprawl across the table, sending cards and local currency flying, and giving Terreno the cover he needed to get Juanito in a choke hold.

Several members of the crowd revealed themselves as Juanito’s agents, drawing guns, but held off firing for fear of killing their employer. Mung patted Juanito down, taking his concealed laser pistol. Osolo started crawling for the back door, calling for the Akbar brothers to come to the rescue, with the added advice: “Bring the guns!”

Just as it seemed that a Mexican standoff would firm up, Felix threw a knife, crippling one of the gunmen, and triggering the other two to fire. Mung’s right arm was crippled, but she was able to spray covering laser fire around the bar with Juanito’s pistol in her left hand. The crew made their way towards the rear of the bar, with Terreno dragging a gurgling Juanito along.

Bursting out into the alley behind the bar, the crew found the ship’s white van, driven by Daniel. Everyone piled in and they took off. To begin with, they just circled, while arguing about how to proceed. Osolo and Mel, as the crew’s radicals, described a course involving infiltrating Juanito’s compound, several hundred miles away, to get at the secrets in his safe, then killing Juanito to set up one of the crew as a warlord by taking advantage of the resulting power vacuum. (Enthusiasm for this plan dampened after Mel applied her psychology skills and realized that only Mung seemed to possess the required cold blood to pull off the role.) Others saw this as overly risky, and preferred a quick getaway.

Finally, they at least agreed to return to the ship and take off as soon as possible. While the crew was making final preparations, including obtaining food for the upcoming 4+ month voyage, a Walken approached the ship. He explained that General Pequeño was his employer, and his mission was to negotiate the General’s release. If negotiations failed, he continued, it would be his job to authorize the use of deadly force.

A short, tense talk was had at a local taco stand. In the end, it was agreed that the crew would hand over Pequeño in orbit, in exchange for safe passage and 26 tons of mega-poppy opium. Osolo spent the rest of the day with the Walken, playing go and preparing a fine meal for them both, acting as a hostage against the crew’s good behavior.

Unknown to the rest of the crew, Mel made contact through the ‘net with Dr Clement’s systems and negotiated her own side deal. In exchange for protection for the Solo family in the Heinlein system, she traded the time and place of the hand-off.

Osolo got to travel into orbit aboard a TL 7 ship. (As in, the kind of rockets that took us to the moon… complete with countdown.) He found the experience displeasing and frightening, being accustomed to the relative quiet of the Cabra.

The exchange went smoothly, to begin with. Felix suited up and went outside to help attach a plastic transfer tube between the Walken’s vessel and the Cabra. While the cargo was moved, Mel tested each package for purity. Finally, Osolo and Pequeño traveled the length of the tube together, each starting at his own end. When each had gone the distance, Felix and the warlord’s man detached the transfer tube.

Mel ran from the cargo bay to the control room. As she entered, Terreno turned from the controls, and so, only saw the flash of light from outside.

Felix hurried into the airlock, looking back just in time to see a streak of light cross the heavens.

Looking out the control room’s main window, Mel saw the explosion of Pequeño’s ship, blown apart by some kind of missile.

The Cabra bucked under the impact of the expanding cloud of gas that had been the warlord of Corinth and his ship and crew. The only injury was to Mel, when she got hit in the throat by an empty bottle of Scotch thrown across the control room by the unexpected maneuvering.

The crew immediately turned to the task of raising sail for Venus.