Few of Days and Full of Trouble

Episode XV: The Centurion Races

space_race.jpgOnce the Jia Li has safely escaped the Cerberus, Jasper announces,”I’d like to introduce you to my good friend, Finnegan Bentley. He’s a professional actor.”
“Are we dropping him off somewhere?” asks Bix.
“Actually, I’m interested in joining your crew,” Finnegan pipes up, hopefully. Everyone else looks skeptical.
“What skills can you bring to our missions?” asks Jasper.
“I can bring money!” Finn answers, but nobody can figure out how he has any money, since he’s just escaped from prison.
Jasper wants to hide out on a border world to lie low, while drinking copious amounts of whiskey, but the others are more concerned with getting help for Angelo, Milan’s comatose little brother. They gather in the cockpit to include Milan in the group discussion. After a long conversation, they decide to travel to Tethys, where Jasper’s brother, who is a doctor, lives. They hope he will be able to help Angelo. Although Jasper is asked to send his brother a message about the visit, Jasper decides to surprise his brother instead with no warning whatsoever. Suddenly remembering he has a horse to care for, he proceeds to the cargo bay where he gives Mustard food, as well as a large draft of alcohol. Then he stops by the common area, where he finds Lucy busily examining Dr.Mitchell’s laptop. She explains how she’s used it to hack into the company’s database, where she discovered Norton and Shelby’s latest nefarious scheme has been to set themselves up as the chief beneficiaries of Dr.Mitchell’s estate. The two accomplices stand to inherit a sum of one million credits as beneficiaries. Jasper fumes, stunned at their evil and dastardly deeds. Together, he and Lucy conspire about how to snatch the money away. Bored by their shenanigans, Bix goes to the cargo bay where he starts punching and breaking crates, while Mustard, the pleasantly tipsy horse, makes goofy faces at him from his stall.
Milan sets the ship on auto pilot and leaves the cockpit to visit his little brother in the infirmary. He bumps into Finnegan on the way, who asks him where he’s going.
“I’m busy,” answers Milan, throwing Finn a suspicious glance. Finn appears confused by Milan’s distrust.
“Bye,” snaps Milan, gruffly brushing past him to duck into the infirmary.
After discovering that Lucy can hack her way into the company and divert the money to a more deserving charity rather than to Norton and Shelby, both Finnegan and Jasper begin enjoying a bottle of whiskey in the common room, being terribly loud and raucous as if it’s their own personal party. While Lucy’s busy with the hack, she receives a wave from Luopan. She immediately leaves the noisy common area to speak with their benefactor.
Back in engineering, she answers the wave. Luopan asks if they’re ready for the next mission. Lucy tries to explain that they’re busy trying to find a doctor for Milan’s little brother. Luopan explains that if they carry out this new mission successfully, then as soon as it’s done, he’ll get Angelo to a medical cruiser, swearing to take care of all expenses involved as well. He explains that he must speak with Milan directly, since the job concerns him the most.
Lucy rushes to the cockpit after calling Bix up from the cargo bay. Once the three crewmembers are together in the cockpit, Luopan lets them all in on the job. He wants them to compete in the Annual Tilottama Centurion races against the corrupt Barbossa gang. If Milan succeeds in winning the race, he’ll be awarded a customized racing ship, along with 150,000 credits in prize money.
Lucy asks if they’ll lose their own ship if they don’t win the race. At first Luopan attempts to change the subject, but eventually it comes out that they will be gambling with the Jia Li, and she will be forfeit if they lose. Bix gets upset, unwilling to lose his beloved ship. Milan decides he’d rather buy a racer for the competition, than risk their own ship.
Jasper and Finnegan notice that they’re drinking alone, so they leave the common room to find the others in the cockpit, where they get filled in on what’s going on.
“You mean, we’re not going to my brother’s?!”Jasper gasps in relief, but, much to his disappointment, Bix says they can always pay his brother a visit after the race.
They travel to the scrap planet Beylix, where Milan is hailed by the United Reclamation Society, and ordered to give them his registration number for collecting scrap from the planet. Milan stalls, asking the others what to do, while Lucy searches desperately for a number they can use to get past the Reclamation society and into Beylix. She manages to find a number, which is deemed acceptable by the Society. Once clearance is granted, Milan lands the Jia Li in a random area and they open the cargo bay doors to see miles and miles of ships, engine parts and garbage stretching to the horizon.
Lucy spots several small racing ships laying around, so everyone clambers into Jasper’s hover wagon to go exploring, checking out every racer they can find. Eventually they manage to uncover a promising racer. After scanning the racer’s tag, Milan discovers it is missing two parts: a catalyzer and a condenser. Despite the missing parts, the as-is asking price of 20,000 platinum AKA 10,000 credits, is a hell of a bargain. The racer’s wear and tear proves minimal, since it was discarded by the wealthy man who owned it after only running about 120 different races because he’d bought a newer model.
Jasper gets a hankering for a butler robot that he can program to feed and water his horse and clean up it’s shit. Fortunately Lucy talks him out of buying one, since Alfred can be programmed to do those chores. Milan purchases the racer naming it Brad’s Revenge, much to the approval of Brad the cat. They find a condenser to replace the broken one on the racer and use the catalyzer that Bix recently bought from the Cerberus. They find two afterburners to add on which will help boost the racer’s speed. Milan discovers an EMP rail gun, a high speed electronic shock that can fry out electronic systems, which he also purchases. It has four remaining shots left in it. Bix buys a turret gun for the Jia Li, paying 1500 for it along with 300 rounds of ammo.
The Jia Li, piled high with their newfound purchases, takes off from Beylix heading towards Tilottama, where the race will begin at the space station there.
On the way to the space station, the crew talks with Luopan who explains to them the Barbossa gang, consists of ten separate racers who work together to knock out the competition by any means necessary. The gang is suspected to be in the pocket of the Alliance. They’ve been raiding Resistance ships, stripping them of their supplies and killing entire crews.
After setting the Jia Li down on the visitor’s landing strip, Milan leaves to register for the race. Lucy manages to place a donation of one million credits from Dr.Mitchell’s estate to the Resistance. She skims 50,000 off the top, then splits it four ways, giving Jasper,Milan and Bix a share of the money. Delighted to find out that Milan is 15 to 1 in the odds to win, Jasper gathers up money to bet on his friend. After placing his bets, along with those of Finn, Bix and Lucy, he accompanies the others to the bar area of the space station.
Once in the bar they find Tessa Barbossa, the leader of the Barbossa gang, cheering on a huge man with a full face skull tattoo, who is engaged with throwing knives at a screeching and terrified young man. The young man’s wife is screaming like crazy, begging them to stop, but they refuse, continuing to torment her husband and making fun of them. Trying to ignore the violent debacle taking place, Lucy and Jasper go up to the bar and buy drinks. Although Bix and Finn both warily eyeball the skull tattooed man who’s torturing the young couple, they make no move to intervene.
One of the gang members yells out,“Race starts in ten minutes! We gotta go!”
Tessa laughs, shouting,“We’re having too much fun to leave!”
Jasper interrupts their ‘fun’:”Excuse me, but would you happen to be members of the famous Barbossa gang?”
Tessa answers,”Yeah, we sure are, who wants to know?” Awed, Jasper asks if he can buy them drinks, explaining he’d placed his bets stupidly, unaware the infamous gang was involved in the race.
“Who’d you bet on?”snaps Tessa, but after introducing himself as Norton J. Pepperdine, Jasper hems and haws, not giving any specific details, only saying he’d bet on someone who probably hasn’t even raced before. Tessa tells Jasper he can change his bet and sends him off with two of her bruisers to the betting area.
The bruisers accompany Jasper, but as soon as they reach the betting table, he fumbles, claiming to have left his wallet back in the bar. The biggest of the two thugs, Big Mike, grabs Jasper roughly by the arm,”No, you place your goddamn bet Now..or else.” he threatens, but Jasper quick draws his gun, and, shoving it under the man’s chin, he insists Big Mike back off immediately. A bit of a struggle follows, but Jasper somehow wins out, getting Big Mike to relent, while hinting about private information that he won’t divulge unless he plays along with the ruse.
Meanwhile, Milan and his newly refurbished racer are lead to the starting area, where he puts a few finishing touches on his ride. He’s surrounded by other racers, ten of whom are in the Barbossa gang. The Barbossa gang racing ships are extremely rough looking, spray painted and covered in sharp pieces of metal. One of the gang members approaches Milan, asking him what his name is and where he’s from. He answers that his name is Shelby Looker, he spends most of his time on Pelorum, but travels alot, since he’s often busy selling his Dr.Griffin’s Miracle Elixir. Another of the gang members, a young woman, seems terribly interested in the Miracle Elixir, firing curious questions at Milan about it. Milan explains,“Sorry, I don’t have a bottle with me, but I’ll be happy to bring you a sample after the race.” She thanks him in advance, telling him not to forget his promise.
Jasper and the bruisers return to the bar, where Tessa Barbossa asks Big Mike if their new friend Norton has fixed his bets. Big Mike lies through his teeth, answering ,“Yes” to her question.
She seems pleased, inviting Jasper/Norton and the rest of his friends to come drink with them. The young couple they’d been tormenting earlier seem to have disappeared, but nobody bothers to ask where they’ve gone.
Tessa asks if the others had also placed bets, but Lucy answers that her friend Norton placed a bet for her. Bix says “Nah,” dumping whiskey on himself and pretending to be drunk, although he’s not. Lucy hangs off Bix while he scans the room making note of all the exits. He blushes profusely, unprepared for her sudden clinging.
At the starting line, the seconds are counted down, the starting gun goes off and the racers immediately burst into action. The Barbossa gang racers all take off screeching forward insanely fast. Milan is in fourth place, but he puts on a burst of speed and manages to push forward into third place.
Back in the bar, Tessa’s expression tenses, she whirls on Big Mike insisting loudly that they have to win, they absolutely have to. Big Mike replies,“A’course we’ll win, we do every year.”
One of the Barbossa gang members turns to Finnegan, his face glowing in admiration, and whispers that he really loves Finn’s work and hopes to see him in a performance soon. The guy tells Finnegan all about an action film script that he’s written and his friends in the Barbossa gang want to make. They’d be thrilled if Finn would star in it. He says the money will be crap, but they’ll give Finn plenty of free booze and fun for his troubles. Finn smiles, chatting up the guy, who begs him for an autograph. The others are too intensely watching the race to notice Finn and his new found friend.
Milan is catching up with the second place racer, from whose ship suddenly emerges a row of hidden band saws, attempting to cut into Milan’s racer. Since they’re in space, Milan easily moves upwards, maneuvering out of the reach of the idiot with the band saw attachments. Milan edges in front of the second place racer.
Back in the bar, Tessa freaks out, throwing a temper tantrum, she flips a table.
“Who’s that racer? Anyone know?!”she screams at the top of her lungs.
Nobody knows, she asks Big Mike if any of their racers ‘helped’ that racer and Big Mike answers that yes, they must have.
As Milan is racing ahead, he hears a strange bumping noise coming from one of his afterburners. He suddenly realizes that some sort of bomb must have been planted on his ship, inside one of the afterburners. It was most likely snuck into place while he’d been distracted talking to the young woman racer about Dr.Mitchell’s Miracle Elixir. Milan steers his ship closer to the racer with the band saws, edging his sabotaged afterburner towards the whirring blades. The other racer cackles, thinking he’s winning, slices off the sabotaged afterburner. However, his actions slow his racer even more and Milan is able to push forward into second place.
Tessa yells again,“Who the FUCK’s that racer?” One of her guys speaks up, saying that he saw which ship the guy took the racer out of. She orders him to go with three other guys and find that ship. They leave, but Bix and Finn meander out after them, using the excuse of needing a cigarette and/or a piss.
While stalking their prey, Bix asks,“You got a weapon?”
“No,“Finn replies,” do you have a knife I can borrow?” Bix hands him a knife as they continue strolling along after the four gang members.
Meanwhile at the bar, Jasper treats the Barbossa gang to their favorite, extremely alcoholic beer, Blue Tumbleweed, ordering a party platter of chicken wings for them as well. He and Lucy huddle close together for safety as the Barbossa gang grows increasingly more tipsy.
Out on the walkway, Finnegan and Bix sneak up on the four Barbossa gang members. The gang members are talking about the ship, when out of nowhere, Finn draws a gun, and blows off the head of one of the gang members. The rest of the gang members roar,“What the FUCK!” but Bix explodes into punches, bashing all three in their faces. They turn all their attention away from crazy Finn waving his gun, and attack Bix instead.
Still trapped in the bar, Jasper and Lucy continue to drink with the Barbossa gang, but Tessa is livid about Milan moving up into second place. Suddenly, she flips out, jumping up from her seat, without provocation, she punches Lucy in the face. Flailing wildly, Jasper leaps up, trying to attack Tessa, but he’s tripped by one of the Barbossa gang members and misses completely.
Irate, Jasper bellows angrily,“I’ve been buying you drinks and these damn tasty chicken wings! How DARE you punch my friend!”
Tessa only snarls back,“You buy everything for us, rich man.” She leans closer and hisses,“If ya wanna live, ya better shut the fuck up.”
Jasper draws his gun, replying,“If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’ll shoot you.”
Tessa only laughs in his face,“Yer on my turf, rich man, you don’t got a leg to stand on.” Jasper begs to differ, since he’s the one with a gun aimed at her head.
Tessa chuckles, “There ain’t gonna be no more fist fights.”
“Good,”says Jasper,“or there won’t be any more chicken wings either!”
Big Mike turns to Tessa,“See,I told you this guy was fun,” he says.
Lucy stands up, but is stopped short by Tessa demanding,“Where you goin’?” Pointing to where she just got punched, Lucy answers that she’s going to the bathroom to clean herself up. As soon as she’s in the bathroom, she pulls her rolltop from her bag and using her many connections and backdoor passwords, begins to dig up incriminating dirt on Tessa. She discovers Tessa has been receiving her ship raiding tips directly from an Alliance operative, whom her gang members know nothing about. It’s quite likely her gang will not be thrilled to find out the truth behind their ship raiding success.
Milan is inching closer to the first place ship, but realizes that his current racer doesn’t have enough speed to catch up with the completely tricked out racer in front of him. He decides to shoot the racer with the EMP railgun he’d stowed on board. The EMP cannon rolls out from his ship, a blue white pulse zaps out from Milan’s ship, hitting the first place Barbossa racer. The blast sends it spiralling away, out of control, all of it’s circuits fried. Milan streaks forward into first place.
Meanwhile, Finn aims his gun at another of the gang members, shooting him in the jaw. He falls to the ground garbling and spraying blood. Bix punches one thug in the face, sending him stumbling back. The thug rights himself and, lunging forward, manages to stick a blade in Finn causing one lethal damage. The other thug stabs Bix, also causing one lethal damage. Bix pummels the thug who stabbed him, unleashing a flurry of punches that knocks his assailant to the ground.
Back in the bar, Lucy returns from the bathroom, where she covertly whispers what she’s found to Jasper, unnoticed by the Barbossa gang members. Tessa glances at one of her guys standing near Jasper, and makes a motion for him to punch Jasper, but the guy’s punch goes wild, missing by a long shot. Big Mike looks at Jasper, but Jasper only gives him a big smile. Tension crackles through the room, all the guys are eyeballing Jasper, itching to fight some more.
Still in first place, Milan is just turning the corner round the main sun, Kalidasa. As he’s darting along at the head of the race, he spots a ship hiding just to the side of the sun. It’s waiting for him and is obviously armed to the teeth. A series of missile tracer rounds shoot towards his ship, but by expertly veering to the left and then to the right, he manages to avoid them. He flips his remaining afterburner on and, putting on an enormous burst of speed, he darts round the sun, then back towards the space station and the race’s finish line.
Back in the bar room, Tessa, red in the face and fuming with anger, stands up and snarls,“Okay, let’s go” Her lieutenant signals to the rest of the gang. They all stand up and file out of the room, looking shady as if they’re on their way to start a riot in the winner’s circle, which is most likely the case.
Lucy uses her rolltop to lockdown eleven ships, all owned by the Barbossa gang members who are hurrying away.
Back on the walkway, Finn tries to shoot the last gang member, but his gun is out of bullets and only clicks. Bix whips out a knife and quickly slits the guys throat. They leave the bodies where they fall, immediately running back to the bar where they’d left Jasper and Lucy.
Milan uses ludicrous speed to book it, screeching his way past Heaven on his way to the finish line at the space station. The crowd goes wild with enthusiasm. Finally the Annual Tilamatta Centurion Races have been won by someone other than the Barbossa gang.
Finn and Bix burst through the bar doors, just as Jasper and Lucy are standing up to leave. Jasper hurriedly explains that he must stop by the betting station now that the race is finished, so he can collect his winnings.
Bix says,“Okay,” takes one shocked look at Lucy’s face and roars, “What the fuck happened to Lucy’s face?!” Jasper glances at her, then replies,“Oh, yeah, somebody punched her.”
WHO?!?”
Lucy answers,”It was Tessa.” Bix’s face turns into a fiery inferno of rage, but Lucy begs him to not go after Tessa. Despite being livid that she was attacked while he wasn’t there to protect her, he obeys Lucy’s wishes…for the moment.
Milan is escorted to the podium amongst fanfare, fireworks and flashing cameras. He’s awarded 150,000 credits in prize money as well as the second place contestant’s ship. The ten Barbossa members whom he’d been racing against, gather around the podium, glaring at him, waiting for the press to back off so they can take their revenge.
Suddenly Tessa strides into the winner’s circle, closely followed by the eleven remaining gang members from the bar. They all look ready to rumble as they advance upon the podium. Unnoticed, Bix moves away from his crew members, intent upon Tessa and exacting vengeance for what she’d done to Lucy.
Taking matters into his own hands, Jasper hops up on the podium, grabbing the microphone from the announcer, he motions for Milan to come closer. Milan jumps to his side as Jasper begins making a speech about the Barbossa gang. He introduces Tessa as the leader, explaining that their good fortune in ship raiding is all due to her Alliance inside man, even saying the name of her Alliance contact aloud. Tessa pulls her gun and aims it at Jasper up on the podium, which he points out as an admission of guilt. Smiling conspiratorially, Jasper asks Big Mike if he’d like to own the ship that won the race. All he has to do is leave Tessa’s gang for good. Big Mike graciously accepts the offer, taking the racer, Brad’s Revenge as a fair trade for never being forced to deal with Tessa’s bullshit again.
Bix sidles closer, while Tessa’s focus remains on Jasper, he manages to get right in front of her. Blocking her way, he growls,“I got a fucking message for ya, from a friend a’mine.” She looks up, annoyed and puzzled, “What now,”she grumbles. With no further warning, Bix suddenly winds up and lands a punch square in the middle of her face, smashing her nose into a bloody pulp. Her gang gathers around, but half of them are screaming for her death and the other half are trying to defend her. All hell breaks loose around them.

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