Starships & Scoundrels & Grasshoppers

Tonight online, we played Starships & Scoundrels by Michael Collins, another Lasers & Feelings hack, as the crew of the long-haul freighter Raptor: ace pilot and ex-Federal Bat Stewart, savvy doctor Wiley, and spacer mechanic Parker. The Raptor is an old clunker barely holding together, but the sensors work and she’s pretty nimble for such a large cuboidal hauler.

Our story starts after the Kawasaki corporation hires us to deliver a package to a blue planet in the Epsilon system, a package that’s suspiciously human-sized as we learn when we arrive at podunk shipping depot to bring it aboard. Scanning it aboard the Raptor, we discover there’s a full-on cryo-chamber inside, actively keeping something on ice. Next we find ourselves failing our customs inspection when the inspector finds the number of beings on board increasing over time. Parker spacewalks to unhook the grappling cables they’d attached to impound our ship, and Bat steers us away so effectively the we even make up for lost time.

Down in the hold, we find additional boxes, exact duplicates of the one we brought aboard except the serial number seems to be incrementing. Cracking open a box, we discover it contains a humanoid with the eyes and antennae of grasshoppers. We fail to defrost the bug in the med bay, but do get readings on what’s going through its mind—images of leaves growing, grasshoppers in suits shaking hands, and a unicorn running through a stream. Doc Wiley pulls out a dream manual and tells us these folks agreed to repopulate the blue planet but that the duplication sequence must’ve started early.

We have to refuel before we can make it to the blue planet. At the fuel depot, we hear the hyper-lanes have been shut down, stranding a bunch Federals in the system, Federals who Bat antagonizes, leaving us no choice but to blast away from the depot with the Federals in hot pursuit. Bat manages to elude the Federals and get us to Epsilon before the Federals catch up to us. By now the boxes and duplicates are stacked deep in the cargo hold as the duplication process continues.

As we arrive in the system, a grasshopper faced fellow joins us in the cockpit. He explains that their elders had sold this brood into slavery and if we delivery them to the blue planet, they will be worked to death. The crew agree to drop them off on a nearby moon before delivering the original box to Kawasaki, hoping they will think they just got a dud that hasn’t duplicated. When we get there, Kawasaki is none too pleased about the missing boxes and thinks we’re just holding out for more money. He gives us two days to produce the missing 1000 boxes and even agrees to up the price for delivery. Instead, we take the two day head start and start looking for a buyer for a 1000 slightly used cryo-chambers.