Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys, Season 2 #6 – “Going Down With The Ship”
Osolo scored the Cool Point for this episode, through creative use of a frying pan.
This was one hard-drinking crew. Terreno had a Quirk on his sheet, that he truly believed he did his best piloting with a couple of drinks in him. I don’t think Mel actually had the Alcoholism disad, formally, but sometimes it seems like she took on the effects voluntarily. (In this case, as I recall, the player had to miss the game, so it was an easy excuse to say that she was curled up with her coping mechanism.)
The triple-barreled shotgun really became a staple of the campaign.
“Twelve hours. In twelve hours, we enter the atmosphere, and then there’s nothing that can stop us.”
After looking over Terreno’s navigational solution and making that pronouncement, Mel went straight to sickbay. She locked herself in with Mung’s body, pulled out her special bottle, and proceeded to drinkin’ hard. The rest of the crew scattered.
Reasoning that the near future would likely call for some daring and skillful acts of piloting, Terreno checked the control room’s stores of alcohol and found them wanting. Jasmine’s tequila must be held in reserve for dire emergency. He went to search for strong drink.
Hal headed to the engine room to suit up, aiming to do a survey of the damage to the sails.
Down in the hanger deck, Bubba tried to patch the leak in the rocket fuel tank and capture the loose fuel. This turned out to be more of an undertaking than he had originally hoped. As he worked, he realized that he had a feeling of not being alone. Re-thinking his entry into the hanger deck, he recalled hearing the sound of one of the inchworms’ airlocks cycling.
Osolo and Felix went to work at the communications board, broadcasting a mayday – or, rather, attempting to broadcast. Felix opened up the board and quickly established that the fault must be with the external antenna. The two speculated that Jasmine’s astropus might be to blame. While Felix called for Hal to wait up, Osolo went to prowl the ship, looking for the astropus, with a cleaver in one hand and his best frying pan in the other. When he heard Bubba’s news from the hanger deck, he recruited Terreno – returning, dejected, after failing to find any moonshine near the still – for the search.
Felix caught up with Hal at the engine room airlock, where they both suited up and armed themselves with spear guns. Outside, on the hull of the Cabra, they found the sails in twisted disarray. When Hal had cut the power, the superconducting cables had gone limp. Then, without the stable structure of the circularized sail to “push” against, the spin of the ship’s hull had been delivered to the limp sails, tangling the cables in a knot measured in tens of miles.
Seeing that the sails were not the job of a moment, they took a quick look at the ship’s main antenna. It had clearly been sabotaged, with wires hanging free. Seeing this, Hal pointed out that it would do them more good to have sails and no radio, rather than radio and no sails.
They debated their approach. On the one hand, the quickest way to complete the survey would be to split up and share the job. On the other, Felix pointed out that the astropus was still at large, and might very well be out on the hull with them. It could be, Felix argued, that the astropus had sabotaged the antenna as a ruse to draw the crew out of the safety of the ship, and was even now watching them through its alien eyes, cold-bloodedly planning its attack…
They decided to stick together.
After walking around the circumference of the ship, the engineers thought they had a handle on how to attack the tangle. They called Bubba away from the rocket fuel and called up both the inchworms, Bo and Luke, to help haul sail. Hearing what they were up to, Osolo and Terreno dropped by the cabin where Jamison and Earl were confined. Confirming that both were willing and able to help with the sail repairs, even if only as semi-skilled laborers, they sent the prisoners outside.
As search parties and trackers go, Osolo and Terreno were not the finest. Their approach to an astropus hunt was little more than to walk the halls calling out “Here, astropus…” Just as they were about to give it up, Terreno felt a strange, but not uncomfortable, feeling fall over him. In a twinkling, he realized that the astropus was actually his only hope of getting out of this fix alive… and Osolo meant to kill it!
Claiming to have seen the astropus, Terreno tried to talk Osolo into investigating the nearest airlock. While Osolo couldn’t put his finger on it, he saw that something was off in Terreno’s demeanor, and started to move away. However, with his attention occupied by the wrestler, he was easy prey for the astropus itself.
On the hull, the three engineers were supervising the two prisoners and the two robots. Bubba was a bit rusty at lightsail work, but teamwork was making up for that. Felix noticed that Bo was acting strangely, seeming to cast about as if in confusion. He pointed this out to the others. Bubba approached the robot, hoping to discern the nature of the problem, only for it to turn and lunge at him!
Inside, Osolo’s view was obscured by the many legs of the astropus, as it jumped from a place of concealment onto his head and shoulders. He saw that Terreno was coming in to attack, and knew he had to act quickly: he brought his favorite frying pan up in a powerful arc ending directly on his own face.
The blow would have knocked a man unconscious, but given the circumstances, it was enough to break the beast’s concentration. Terreno came back to himself, and the two crew members turned the creature into sushi with their bare hands. And a small selection of foreign objects. And Osolo’s cleaver.
(The camera averted its gaze, in good Hitchcock fashion, leaving the viewers at home with shadows and several seconds of disturbing noises before cutting away to the next scene. We’re cable, not late-night cable.)
Outside, Bo had pounced on Bubba, pinning him to the hull and rolling him around like a puppy playing with a bone. Hal attempted to distract the robot by punching it, but being made of motors and sheet metal, it paid no attention. Finally, it snagged Bubba’s belt and flung him entirely off the ship!
Suddenly, during the dis-assembly, Osolo realized that Bubba was in trouble through their long-dormant psychic link, and tore off in a rush, leaving Terreno to finish the job alone.
While Hal deactivated his magnetic boots and jumped after Bubba, Felix jumped astride the crazed robot. He finally managed to pull lose a couple of key connections, shutting the machine down. Hal caught up to Bubba, clipping the two together before discovering that he had once again forgotten to look before leaping: he had forgotten to secure a way back for them both. Luckily, Osolo came out of the airlock with a lasso, managing to get a loop around the two before they drifted too far. Working together, he and Felix reeled them in.
After a brief moment and a heavy sigh of relief, the engineers got right back to work on the sails.
Returning to the control room with adequate supplies of booze, Terreno surprised a robot at the controls! It was Felix’s android, and it seemed to be trying to set a course for Earth-That-Was. Attacking ferociously, Terreno ripped one of the android’s arms off and slammed its head multiple times against the door frame. In seconds, it had again been reduced to spare parts. (Later, Felix would take the basket of parts back to his room, swearing to rebuild.)
After several hours of work, the engineering team came inside to wait out the circularizing of the sails. While everyone else on the crew had dinner, Hal and Felix grabbed a couple of quick sandwiches and went back out to work on the communications system. (Soundtrack: “Working Man”, by Rush.)
Discussing recent events, the crew realized that Jasmine Mung, the real Jasmine Mung, must have transferred herself into the body of her astropus familiar. It had been behind the antenna sabotage, but the sound Bubba had heard on the hanger deck wasn’t the astropus going outside, as he had thought, but coming inside, where it would later attack Terreno and Osolo. Meanwhile, the robot had come to life and apparently started working to get itself to Earth, damaging the fuel tanks and trying to turn Bo and Luke against the crew. The robot’s chosen landing coordinates meant nothing to anyone except Osolo, who recognized Area 51 from historical fiction he had read.
With a working radio and an operational – if fitfully sparking – sail at their disposal, the crew examined their options. The best bet seemed to be a small family space station in low Earth orbit. Osolo contacted the station and negotiated with Anatoly Pavlovich, the patriarch of the family, for docking rights. After he understood the stakes, Pavlovich demanded to know how much cash the Cabra had on hand. Downplaying their resources, Osolo claimed they had $5 million. Pavlovich noted that this would be a fair fee for docking, and the terms were agreed to.
Expecting to meet new people, Felix returned to his room, planning to use some of the core worlds cosmetics that he and Mel had split from fake-Jasmine’s room. When he opened the lockbox and unwrapped the contents, however, he found no cosmetics at all; rather, there were four doses of some drug, set up to charge a spray hypo. The doses were labeled only with a bar-code. (Osolo had found similar hypo loads in the real Jasmine’s room, earlier, while searching for the astropus.)
Babying the repaired sails, Terreno put the ship on a docking course. As they approached to within the last few tens of miles, the engineers struck the sails. Osolo hid the spare money and nearly all the crew’s guns. Bubba, of course, was an exception, and retained his sidearm.
Docking completed without incident. The crew gathered at the cargo bay door to meet their new hosts.
When the doors opened, they found themselves facing three young members of the Pavlovich family, aiming triple-barreled shotguns at the crew.