Space Cowboy

Tijuana to Titan, Pt 5
Personality Conflicts

While the Swami distracted Bloodbeard with a tour of the ship, the Preacher put Grace at ease with some pleasant small talk so Andromeda could get more than just a surface scan of her mind. Primarily she believed she would one day be the most powerful pirate in the System and rule all of space with an iron fist. But Andromeda sensed a strangeness in her that she recognized from the children with the false memory implants.

After a quick crew meeting, it was decided to send Grace off to bed (in the room with all the surveillance cameras Andromeda set up) and let her bodyguard in on our suspicions… gingerly avoiding the part about Andromeda being a cursed mind-witch freak thing. After a short discussion, the following possible scenario emerged:

Commandante Malmano has Grace pre-programmed to kill her father, the Ultimo of the Barricado, once they are alone together. He arranges another faction to stalk her to make it look like their doing. Malmano hires the Crew to “rescue” Grace and deliver her to her father. Malmano intended to follow the Crew to the secret rendezvous location and take command after the Ultimo’s death and say the Crew did it all, but he loses them because of One Eyed Jack’s superior stealth capabilities.

The Crew bring in Grace but their questions set off her conditioning and she nearly kills Andromeda with a hidden mono-molecular knife. With some difficulty, the rest of the Crew beats renders her unconscious and ties her up in one of the holds.

Bloodbeard consents to allow Andromeda to “hack” Grace’s brain. In her deep unconscious, Andromeda finds the artificial training is comfortably similar to malware she is used to dealing with. She auto-deletes the programming and scrubs it clean from Grace’s brain.

Tijuana to Titan Part 4
Penetrating Swiftman's Box

With the passengers secured, the Crew returned to the hanger to pick up Joe’s ship and Swiftman’s box. Joe could no longer hide his mono-ship under a drop cloth if he was going to fly it into the cargo hold of One Eyed Jack.

With the dust cover off, the Swami recognized the ship as a version of a fighter that was outlawed by the SSC for its lethal part in the Titan War. Only this one was an upgrade, meaning someone had been working on improving an illegal warship. Given how Joe was transporting it, Swami assumed Joe had stolen it which tickled him enough to accept him as part of the Crew. The others didn’t care, even when the ship powered itself up to “growl” at Andromeda.

When they entered One Eyed Jack’s sensor masking field, the Barricado fleet surrounding TJ broke orbit into a search pattern. They obviously had intended to follow the two small ships back to their main transport which they believed was hiding somewhere just out of sensor range. But for what reason? If as an escort, why not rescue her themselves? If to stop her rescue, why hire the Crew in the first place?

Aboard Jack, Andromeda turned her full force upon the locking system on Swiftman’s box: a five pin spooling gravity whirlie-gig with a variant polynomial whatsit on a rotating thingamajig blah blah bladdie-blah… it was a hell of lock and it took her a couple of hours to make it her bitch. In the box were 3 things: 1) a 3-meter tall war-bot, folded for easy storage; 2) a flight pack meant to be mounted on said war-bot (some assembly required); and 3) a hard drive, presumably an instruction manual.

Andromeda made short work of the hard drive security but it took her and Frenchie to map out an algorhythm to decrypt the files and they had to let it run for several hours. Fine. Andromeda had other things she wanted to do in the meantime, like finding out if their passengers – specifically Grace – held any surprises for them.

TtoT3: Mercado Motel Extraction, Pt. 2
What's With the Midget?!

Exploding from the maid’s cart in a flurry of bath towels and – for some reason – steaming take-out containers filled with fedeo noodles, came a nappy-headed midget duel-wielding long knives and screaming in a mix of Mandarin and Mexican!

Joe shot the midget while Andromeda used the password Malmano gave them to enter the motel room. The Preacher pissed off the parking lot boys so bad, they got back into their car and tried (unsuccessfully) to run him down on the way to the fracas… thirty feet way, in a speeding car.

Joe knocks the two running for them down with the laundry cart and shoots out the tire of the rapidly approaching car, sending it skidding into the motel pool. The Swami caps one of the knocked downs in the knee and convinces the rest to rethink their life choices… somewhere else! And Andromeda comes running out of the motel room with young Grace protectively sandwiched between her and Bloodbeard, who is, as advertised, a ruddy big Barricado with a bright red beard.

Unfortunately, the Preacher – all the way on the other side of the parking lot – is still the only one that knows there is a sniper on the office roof. The group turns the corner and Bloodbeard takes a rifle shot to the face, piercing both cheeks and knocking out several teeth. The others try to return fire but he’s dug in like a Mexican space tick.

Bloodbeard, who all were amazed was still alive let alone able to fight, made the sniper back off with a well-lobbed frag grenade. And under a bristle of cover fire, Andromeda lead the group at a dead run into the impenetrable back ways of the Mercado.

Unfortunately, the Preacher – the only one with any doctoring skills – had been separated and was making his own way back to the space port hanger and Bloodbeard was losing blood fast. He found a food vendor’s hot plate and cauterized the wound himself… and promptly passed out from the pain of doing so. Joe carried him, Andromeda lead the girl and Swami brought up the rear, all the way to the hanger and safety.

See? Who needs a plan?

Tijuana to Titan, Pt. 3
The Mercado Motel Extraction

Malmano laid out the details: the extract-ees was Grace, the fourteen year old daughter of Ultimo Smith, the leader of the Barricado fleet, and her personal bodyguard known only as Bloodbeard. They were held up in a cheap motel across the street from the Mercado (an open bizarre), and were being watched… by other Barricados.

This faction of Barricados had unknown plans for Grace. Kidnapping and even murder were acceptable means of advancement within limits among the Barricado and so far none of them had broken their Code of behavior. Malmano and his men taking the girl would escalate matters. He was hoping the Crew could extract her and her bodyguard more subtly.

Not really the Crew’s strong suit but they gave it a try.

The Preacher set up in the parking lot, ranting about the evil’s of pirate life, enough to piss off a car full of the factionists. While they were distracted, Andromeda, dressed as a cleaning lady, wheeled a cart to the door their quarry waited in. Joe and the Swami hid behind the office, waiting to lend support when all this invariably went wrong.

But just as Andromeda was making her move, here comes the real maid. Joe jumped out and chatted her up to keep her busy while Andromeda got to the right room door. He was doing it best rico suave but she was acting like she didn’t speak his lingo, all the while sweating bullets and glancing at her own cart like it will bite her.

Meanwhile the Preacher is too busy inciting a pirate to beat him senseless to tell the others over the radio that he sees two more factionists the others are in a bad angle to see: one on the second floor stairs and a sniper on the roof of the office.

Then everything went Ozzy Ozborne level crazy.

Tijuana to Titan, Pt. 2
Let's Screw Swiftman

The Swami insisted on seeing the cargo before they accepted the job and went after the other passengers. They were taken to a non-distinct hanger of the spaceport where Joe’s mono-spacecraft, cargo #1, was covered with a drop cloth like a rich boy’s racer or something. It and Joe were to ride with them to the Saturn system.

Cargo #2 was a Crate, two meters by two meters by six meters, on an integrated hover skid and locked all to hell with high tech military style seals and encryption. It was to be delivered to the Almiri Security Group (a mercenary paramilitary company), to their new facility on Titan and to be turned over to no one other than Commodore Amanda Charger.

just as the Swami thought that Almiri sounded familiar, he saw the Crate’s owner attending it. Though dressed civilian, the Swami had known him from cortex images as Admiral Daniel “Dash” Swiftman. Swiftman had been executive officer of the Almiri forces lent to the rebels by the Europa Syndicate during the Titan War. He and his forces disappeared at a crucial moment (the end) of the War.

The Swami’s parents died in that rebellion. And now here was Swiftman, an “associate” of a commander in the Red Dragon Syndicate’s pirate navy, the Barricado.

At the Swami’s say so, the Crew took the job. They would extract the other two passengers with Joe’s help, and return to the hanger for the cargo, leaving the moment they did so. But the Swami had no intention of ever delivering Swiftman’s crate. With the briefest of explanations on the way to get the passengers, the rest of the Crew easily agreed.

Tijuana to Titan
Pt. 1: The Pilot, the Pirate and the Drag Queen

Fueled and supplied, the Crew wanted to track One Eyed Jack’s path back to where the last crew salvaged the Box to look for clues as to what it was and what the hell they should do with it. But they would need to use the Gates to get out to Saturn. They would need documentation that One Eyed Jack belonged to them.

Andromeda had already made false identities for the Crew so they could use the cortex without pinging the ISSP, who were looking to question them about Shit-Hole Station. But documentation that would fool a gate transaction required a specialist. Fortunately, she knew one nearby on Tijuana.

On their way in, they detected a small armada of Barricado ships in a holding pattern around TJ, waiting for something. The Crew parked One Eyed Jack out of visual range (sensor invisible) and flew the shuttle in as casually as they could.

They met Andromeda’s contact, Mamma Juanita, a cheery middle aged Mexican drag queen dressed like Rita Moreno. But she (?) was not alone. At her table was Commander Malmano of the Barricado fleet and Joe Noland who, like certain cargo Mamma was going to pawn off on the Crew, was looking for a ride out of TJ.

Though Mamma Juanita did not look upset (she never does), she had as many men watching Malmano as Malmano had watching her at the meeting. What ever job she was brokering between the Crew and Malmano, it didn’t look like Mamma had a choice.

The job, which would net the Crew unassailable documentation on One Eyed Jack, came in three parts:

1) Joe was looking for a ride through the Gates from Tijuana to Saturn for him and his light spacecraft, which would easily fit into one of Jack’s cargo bays.

2) An associate of Malmano’s was looking to move a half ton crate from TJ to Titan with minimal questions asked.

3) Malmano also had two passengers that needed extraction from their present hide out to specific coordinates near Saturn.

A light extraction (of people Malmano assured the Crew who wanted to be extracted), a few passengers and two pieces of cargo, all headed in the direction the Crew wanted to go anyway.

What could go wrong?

A Simple Passenger Job, Pt. 4
Koto Obe's Decision

The boy was getting sick, seeming to recognize the facility from other than his implanted memories. The Preacher stabilized him by convincing him to use his superior martial arts abilities (which he may or may not have had) to break down the door. He did it with a mighty kick that also shattered almost every bone in his foot.

Most of the guards refused to help or hinder the Crew. Obviously the facility was in the middle of some kind of coupe orchestrated by Obe and they weren’t certain who would be paying them by the end of the day.

The middle girl recognized the way to the “treatment” room and made a run for it. While Andromeda and Frenchie chased/calmed her down, The Swami, the Preacher and the body guard took the boy and the younger girl to the room… where Obe and three armed guards were waiting. Obe explained that he bore them no ill will. They could leave the children (to die) with him and be on their way, with their pay.

The Swami refused… with gunfire. In the hail of return fire, the body guard was badly injured. The boy took out one of the guards with a single blow, but another guard shot him with what looked like a fatal would. The Swami took down that second guard while the Preacher distracted the third by surrendering, all the while slowly getting the girl set up on the treatment table (she was beginning to get sick).

But Obe produced throwing knives and planted one into the Swami’s heart. Even so wounded, he held Obe off until Andromeda and Frenchie caught up to them. Frenchie held Obe at gunpoint while Andromeda helped the children onto the treatment tables.

The Preacher set to help the Swami but the Swami insisted that he try to save the children first. He stabilized the boy and with Andromeda’s help, figured out the extremely complex gene therapy machines. With seconds to spare, the children were gene infused and their vital signs returned to normal.

Meanwhile, Frenchie and Obe were eye-locked. Obe had one last knife. Could he get it out before Frenchie (a scientist, not a killer) pulled the trigger. There was an intense mental exchange punctuated by a single soft phrase from Frenchie: “Don’t do it.”

Frenchie saw the resolve flood Obe’s eyes: even if he was not fast enough, death was better than the dishonor of capture. He went for his knife. Frenchie pulled the trigger. The outcome was never in question and Obe fell, dead.

With the coupe thwarted and the conspirators dead, the next highest lieutenant profusely apologized and paid the Crew, including a handsome bonus for their troubles. He also did not object when they used the treatment room to patch their wounded – and stole every identifiable medical supply that wasn’t nailed down.

Before the Crew left, the body guard introduced himself as Lucius Khan, a humble servant of his master who must remain nameless. But should they need anything a simple body guard could provide, he owned them a debt of honor.

A Simple Passenger Job, Pt. 3
The Asteroid Platform Betrayal

Approaching their destination, a massive mobile landing platform set in an asteroid, the Crew gathered the children and the body guard together. Unfortunately, the younger girl was no longer in the lounge with Frenchie. She was in bed with Frenchie. Neither was sober enough to remember how they got to his room or what happened to their clothes.

Captain Parrin took exception to this (the girl being only 15 or so) and after nearly breaking Frenchie’s nose, swore over the comms system to leave the Crew the moment their business with the Box was through… and she could secure another ship.

Parrin stalked off into the interior of the ship in a huff and Frenchie, hung over as all get out, went with the landing party just to get away from her.

They were greeted at the landing pad by an overweight, bald half Asian also in full-regaled traditional kimono who introduced himself as the administer of the facility, Koto Obe. He informed the Crew that payment and processing of the children was not ready yet and would they please wait in this drably appointed waiting room for just a little while.

Without the stabilizing distraction of “challenging the greatest warrior” the boy was beginning to break down and question his identity; while the middle girl was in full blown paranoia mode as her memories truly began to unravel. After the “waiting room” door was locked from the outside, the Crew realized Obe intended to let the gene therapy fail, potentially killing the children.

A Simple Passenger Job, Pt. 2
Three Kid Monte

The boy and the younger girl escaped their rooms almost immediately but thanks to Andromeda’s security cameras, this was known to the Crew, and oddly expected by their body guard. He went searching for the, secure in the fact that the middle girl would stay in her room.

Andromeda used his absence to have a conversation with the middle girl who had been very pensive this whole time. During long conversation that revealed nothing, Andromeda scanned the girl’s surface thoughts and found that she was doubting her own identity. Several key memories seemed fake to her and lesser peripheral memories did not exist at all. On top of that, she was feeling ill, like she was coming down with a cold.

Meanwhile, the body guard was satisfied that the younger girl would stay in the lounge with an indifferent Frenchie, engaging in some disco dancing and both of them drinking themselves into a stupor.

Just as the Crew was to confront the body guard with the strange nature of the middle girl’s “illness,” he was attacked by the boy who announced – in a very cartoonish way – that he must defeat the greatest warrior on board to prove himself worthy of his high ranking in his school of martial arts. The Space Swami convince the boy that it was Ghan, not the body guard, who was the greatest warrior on the ship. Indeed, Ghan happily sparred with the boy for hours, eventually ending with the boy declaring Ghan an honorary member of his school.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Crew confronted the body guard who admitted that the children were not who they appeared to be. They were decoys for a powerful and wealthy man’s children in case of kidnap or assassination attempts. To be completely convincing, each had undergone memory implantation along with gene therapy to look like the originals. But, he added, the gene therapy was wearing off and causing “malfunctions” in the memory implants. Hence the middle girl’s paranoia and the boy’s cartoonish behavior… the youngest really was a rebellious alcoholic though. They were on their way to a facility that would “re-infuse” them and probably save their lives.

With some convincing, and mental scanning, the Crew decided they believed him and would just drop off the passengers and get paid.

If only.

A Simple Passenger Job
Ceres Shuck and Jive

If you’re looking for good paying, fast turnaround time jobs, you’ve got to go where the action is. And in the Belt, the action is on Ceres. Parking One Eyed Jack a discreet distance away – and leaving Ghan and Zach on board to watch Cilia and maintain the radar invisibility – the rest of the Crew docked on Ceres using fake IDs Andromeda set up.

While waiting for a meeting Captain Parrin set up with a potential employer, a low level street thug made a humorous attempt to “kidnap” Frenchie. After taking his weapon and buying him a drink, the Crew let him go.

The Crew met with Parrin’s contact, a fixer named Tanaka; no other names were exchanged. The client, a traditionalist Japanese in full kimono, simply met them to look them all in the eye. With that he agreed to hire them. The job: transport four passengers from Ceres to a private facility sixteen hours spinward into the Belt, using full radar invisibility the entire way. Payment: full refueling and a modest stock of supplies, all up front if they could leave in the next ten hours.

Short-handed as they were, it was stretch. They even had to let Cilia help. It was fine, though. She said One Eyed Jack wasn’t sure he wanted her to kill them anymore.

When time came to load the passengers on to the shuttle, members of the Red Dragon Syndicate gang that had attacked Shit Hole Station were milling around, asking if anyone had seen the Crew. Fortunately, they had no photos and, more importantly, people on Ceres knew better than to talk to Red Dragons.

The Crew used a series of well-coordinated distractions and loaded the passengers: a huge black body guard and three young people in robes and hoods… LOOKING like people who were trying to conceal their identity. The oldest was a boy in his early twenties with tattoos on the side of his face marking him as a student of specific Martian school of martial arts. The next oldest was about seventeen, a goth girl with purple hair and eyeliner who kept to herself even from her fellow passengers. The last was an eye rolling fifteen year old girl with earbuds constantly blaring synth-pop music.

The three of them had a family resemblance that suggested they were siblings. The initial plan of the Crew (and the body guard) was to confine the siblings to quarters for the relatively short trip.

They had other ideas.


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