Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys, Season 2 #4 – “Fallout”
The session where it all started to go horribly wrong.
The Venus spaceport was in orbit. Due to the harsh conditions, Venus had never been terraformed. People didn’t live on the surface. Rather, the planetary population lived in floating “cloud cities”, covered in manufactured diamond domes and filled full of breathable air. Being lighter than the surrounding atmosphere, they floated at a level above the corrosive rains.
One of the dirty little secrets in Felix’s closet was that he was interested in robots. Remember, the culture of the TL9 outer planets had a serious problem with robots…
Despite all the talk, this was actually the first session where we saw ziggy wrestling “on camera”. The ring was in the form of a cube. The edges were padded pipes, while the surfaces were formed of chain-link fencing.
Another point to remember from early on: when I went through my list of things to say “No!” to, I mentioned aliens, magic, and faster-than-light travel. There’s an exotic source of power that’s conspicuous absent from that list. This is the session when it finally appears.
At the bar, Dempsey bought a round for Terreno, Hal, and Osolo, while Mel, Felix, and Jasmine took the public shuttle down to the cloud city the ship was doing business with. Dempsey told the tale of how the loan three years back had turned his life around, concluding by handing Osolo a bag full of “bitcoins” (the money of Venus: TL10 digital currency in the form of poker chips with embedded computers) amounting to the full $100K of the loan. Osolo caught the eye of Hu Yi, and then the party really got started.
The ladies went to a spa, where they shopped for clothes. using the place’s holographic projectors, while being made over. At one point, Nuku-chan became excited and ran off. Felix followed, and got a look in the back rooms of the spa, where some of the staff had their living quarters. He discovered an obviously sick man on a cot in the back, and called the others’ attention to him. Over the fluttering objections of the supervisor, Mel diagnosed the man as having Venus fever, a contagious disease. The others backed away quickly on hearing this. Jasmine returned to her pedicure, while Mel set up to sit with the man through the night. Felix kept his distance, but helped Osolo and Frank fetch Mel’s special supplies from the ship. (They came down in suits, until Mel told them they were OK. Then Osolo ate the sushi the spa owners had prepared for Mel as a gesture of thanks.)
Realizing that Terreno’s face had been (badly) reproduced on posters for the upcoming match, Terreno and Hal followed the drinking with a successful search for local companionship. Hal was approached by a local gangster about the possibility of bribing Terreno to alter the outcome of his upcoming match, but declined.
The next day, it was back to business. Mel left the man in much better shape than she had found him, but saddened that she couldn’t do more for the suffering locals.
Osolo went looking for a special kind of passenger – women who would make good marriage prospects for the brothers – and got lucky, finding a group of seven “Inshe’hova”, followers of a religion with root in common with the Space Mormons (aka The Church of Jesus Christ, Zombie, the official church of the Cabra, since it was Osolo’s church, and he was the only one who really cared), who believe in good cooking and spiritual values over the worldly… but aren’t crazy about it. As unmarried women seeking husbands, their religion compels them to “cover themselves” in some way, be it with headscarf, veil, or anti-facial-recognition makeup, so as to assure that their marriage has a pure basis, not being based on the “vanity” of appearance.
Felix went to the spaceport’s flea market, looking for deals. In one dark corner, he found a mostly-complete android, deactivated, being used as a mannikin. After a quick negotiation, he purchased the item, and smuggled it back on-board, intending to make it his next project.
Sohio had Terreno working out at a gym under the full gravity of Venus before his match.
Jasmine went out to sell 20 tons of the extract from Miranda. After succeeding, she offered one of the buyers a bribe to beat her up. Thanks to her persuasive ways, he bemusedly accepted. Afterward, rather than pay the man as agreed, she shot him with her holdout laser and called the police, claiming he had attacked her. Given the man’s history of petty crime, the authorities found this plausible, and turned her loose. She called for the others to come pick her up, claiming the cargo had been stolen during the incident. The price of the cargo, a sack of bitcoins, went into Jasmine’s quarters.
After patching Jasmine up, Mel and the others escorted Terreno to his match. He entered the steel cage with Brontosaurus. After a spirited give-and-take, Terreno got the better of the local champion, forcing a submission.
While the match was going on, Mel noticed a man behind her trying to conceal a knife. Moving quickly, she turned the tables on him, injecting him with a hypo and leaving him unconscious.
During the handover of the championship belt, Brontosaurus went for an underhanded sneak attack, forcing Terreno to further rough him up. Taking advantage of the distraction, Hal and Osolo grabbed a couple of bottles of champagne, braced Mel’s attacker between the two of them, and hustled him out, pretending he was drunk, rather than drugged unconscious.
While the others celebrated Terreno’s victory, they took the man back to the ship for interrogation. There, they ran into Jasmine, who offered to take over the task. Once in private, she used her psychic powers (!!?!) to extract information from the man, finding that he represented the gang that had wanted to bribe Terreno. They had wanted him to injure Brontosaurus, in the match, as part of a larger plot. When the crew had declined to play ball, he had been sent to stab Mel as a message. The intention wasn’t to kill her, necessarily, but if she died, it wouldn’t be considered a failure.
When Jasmine relayed this information, it became a contest between her and Osolo as to who would blow the man out the airlock first, with Hal pointing out that there would be repercussions from such an act. After extended discussion, Jasmine hit the button, throwing the man out of the ship into the vacuum of space.
Felix worked through the night on his project, restoring the android.
With his match finished, Terreno was feeling the call of the road. With nobody interested in hanging around Venus, and more than one crew member actively interested in putting distance behind them, a speedy exit was organized. Osolo and Jasmine sought out cargo, selling off some of the ship’s load and exchanging it for local goods.
During the two days this took, Hal went to investigate Jasmine’s story of being mugged. After asking around in various dark corners, he was approached by a man who claimed to represent the criminal interests who had bought the poppy extract. Injured at the thought that someone would think them dishonest in financial transaction, he produced a copy of the bill of sale. He also mentioned that they hadn’t seen “Bob” since the trade, and people were becoming concerned. Seeing that something was up, Hal apologized for the misunderstanding, and offered to pass a message to Bob, should they cross paths.
After raising sail, Hal accused Jasmine of being up to no good, producing his evidence and demanding explanations. Though she had to talk fast, Jasmine managed to mostly divert suspicion from herself. In the end, she had to distract Osolo with sexual favors. Having him at a disadvantage, she slipped him a dose of a drug that knocked him out. (!!!?!?$&*%?!)
Leaving Osolo in her room, she went, one by one, to the other crew members. She drew them off and drugged them, knocking out everyone but Felix and Hal. Hal was too suspicious, and didn’t fall for her tricks. Fighting back, he managed to wound her, before she distracted him with a convenient clothing failure and got him with the hypo.
While Jasmine was tussling with Hal, Felix saw one of the airlock indicators trip, showing that someone had opened an airlock door. He was just gathering himself to investigate further, when he ran into Jasmine, outside his door. There, she informed him of the ongoing mutiny. She explained the situation, and that the passengers were actually replacement crew members in her employ.
“I like you,” she said. “I’ll can double your pay and keep you on as head engineer, or you can go out the airlock with the rest of the old crew.”
“Triple my pay?” he responded brightly.
Osolo awoke slowly, still groggy from the drugs. A half-familiar girl’s face came into his field of view.