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Wastes of Space: A Space Engineers Diary - Part Seven: The Ant Man Cometh

This was inevitable, really

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Previously on Wastes of Space: Hapless astronauts Alice B, Alice L, Matt and Nate were duped into signing up for a one-way mission to the distant exoplanet known as Horace’s World. Alas, they were not there to make new lives for themselves among the stars, as they believed – they were indentured labour, bound to mine 1,000kg of gold and launch it into orbit for their sponsor: the rapacious megacorp Royal Planetary Services.

Despite their foibles (Science Officer Matt believes he is a god, while Security Officer Nate – who turned out to be a clone of Science Officer Matt – is fixated on dungeons), they’ve managed to survive against the odds, thanks to the help of the enigmatic android ODD. When we left them last, the colonists had just bedded down for the night in the belly of their freshly built mobile mining base, the Loveless…

INCOMING COMMS LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384200

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384211

Alice: Wzrf… wha… Huh? What the — how long have I been asleep? Flashing red lights? I didn’t even know we had red lights! And now they’re flashing! I’m still strapped in bed but I can tell The Loveless is no longer standing level. It’s had a bit of a fall. In a further surprise, I then discover we have a ship’s computer, because a soothing automated voice is listing off all the things that are damaged aboard our colossal spider. Mayhap we encountered a web?

I miss a lot of the computer’s messaging about “critical damage” because I’m too busy processing what it says next: the minibar is offline. This loss seems too much to bear at a time when a captain surely most needs a stiff drink. I blink away tears and try to process Brent’s latest email. Weapons fire? Crew missing? What is going on? Where is ODD? I then realise the tears in my eyes may also be due to all the smoke, because everything is on fire.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384211

Nate: I wake up screaming from a nightmare about money. I then continue to scream, because of the flashing red lights and the smoke everywhere. The loveless is fucked. Commander Bee’s trying to fix things, so I try to rouse the rest of the crew, but there’s none to rouse: Ligz is a bullet-tattered mess in her bunk, while Science is gone altogether – along with half the weapons in the lockers.

Has Science killed Ligz, in some sort of revenge slaying for their altercation yesterday, and then fled from my rough brand of frontier justice? Or has something else broken in, killed Ligz, and absconded with Matt? And where the hell is ODD? There’s much to ponder. But first things first – the base is on fire. I’d better see to that. Tight after taking a nice, long relaxing space shit, that is. The toilet is still working after all.

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384213

Alice: In between yelling at Sec to get off the space bog, I yell at him that we need to get the life support back online and yell at him that we need to find ODD. I envisage a sore throat in my future. I wonder if there is such a thing as Space Lemsip.

Whilst I am frantically trying to take stock of the materials we have, need, and could cannibalise, as well as how many things exactly are on fire, I hear the roar of an approaching engine. Then the snapsnapsnap of gunfire. A strange, dark airship sweeps past, strafing the bum end of the Loveless and causing more damage. But before I can take cover or warn Sec, it banks and then speeds away to the mountains in the distance.

I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. But we have some more immediate problems.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384214

Nate: It feels wrong to leave my commander firefighting alone – especially when that bloody spaceship flies past and nearly guns her up – but I need to find ODD, our robot mate, if we’re to have any hope of recovering the situation. Try as we might, we’re just not quite competent enough to fix this turd circus on our own.

This thing’s proper busted

Now, ODD doesn’t know this, but I sellotaped a tracking chip to his bum a few days ago. At the time I was having one of my wild swerves into space paranoia (I thought he was trying to hoard food), but now I’m grateful I did it. My tracker bleeps, and points me towards the Gigantor, my beloved Big Red Mining Machine, which is parked just a hundred yards from the Loveless’ head.

The surface is still swarming with those fucking spiders, like an army of idiot parodies of our vast iron god, but there’s nothing for it – I need to get to ODD. And so, jumping to the ground and grinding my way through the swarm in a spray of green ichor, I rush to the rescue. When I get there, I find ODD slumped in the cockpit, nearly out of power – but a series of Robot Chest Comrpessions, administered via pneumatic drill, soon has him back in the land of the living. I whisk him back to the ship.

How to: Robot CPR

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384217

Alice: We have a sit down meeting in the fancy new ready room, where ODD explains the situation. The situation is now a bit more relaxed, as only half the base is still on fire.

A serious meeting. There’s even a hologram

It turns out Security’s first instinct is right: the rogue enemy is indeed Science, who has gone space mad, and doubled down on his insistence that he is a god and we are ants. With hindsight, there were a few red flags on that front that I should have picked up on earlier — but to give myself some credit, there was another crew member exhibiting much more obvious signs of space madness.

I pause to commend Sec for not being the crew member to go rogue and betray me, and the whole operation, and apologise for having doubted him for literally the entire period of the mission up to now. Then, reasoning that morale is very important at times like these, we ceremonially drill Science’s bed into dust. I also delegate the job of “trash talking Science over comms” to Sec.

Mission accomplished.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384222

Nate: I absolutely roast Science over the pipes. It’s a verbal demolition job, and it makes me feel like the big man. I also do some spannering and that, to help ODD and the Commander fix the Loveless: I might be the Flava Flav in this particular Public Enemy, but I’m still a Space Engineer, dammit.

Sure enough, it’s not long before we’ve got the behemoth mobile base back online – indeed, we get it in better shape than it was before the Betrayal; by the time we’re done, it’s actually capable of movement. Another quick meeting seals our resolve: we’re going to drive out in search of Science, and beat the piss out of him. Who knows; we might even find gold along the way?

As I bolt fresh turrets to the giant spidercraft’s abdomen, turning it into a mobile weapons platform, Commander Bee ascends to the Pilot’s Throne at the head of the vehicle.

Wassup cap’n, let’s make it hap’n

I’ve never been more proud of her. Starting the reactor, she slams on the titan’s eight massive red headlights, honks its deafening foghorn, and…

…drives it straight backwards over a cliff.

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384223

Alice: Look, I’ll be the first to admit that we shouldn’t have built our massive rolling spider base on the edge of a cliff. Lesson learned, alright? At any rate, because of our ceaseless vehicle disasters, we have a pretty good grasp of how to right the Loveless, and it involves pistons. Due to the Loveless’s vast size, however, we need correspondingly vast pistons. We have cheeringly early success in our venture. It seems certain that soon the Loveless will be upright again! Where once it was like a sad, rolled over tortoise, it’s spindly legs waving a sad hello to the alien moon, it will soon be an earth-trembling force to be reckoned with once more!

helpless as an inverted turtle

In the interim, we have to scuttle around the upside-down innards of the beast, as if we were bit players in a C-rate disaster movie. Also, because the pistons are so big, and they’re inching up a weight that can only be measured in absolute units, they become a species of brute force drill, compressing the rock of the planet so much that it is annihilated in great clumps. We accidentally make a massive hole. I avoid obvious innuendo. In contrast, Sec starts muttering “We’ve made an earth fucker!” a lot, and I remember why I was concerned about him.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384231

Nate: Eventually, ODD figures out some sort of less penisy piston design, and gently heaves the vehicle upright. Good grief though, it takes some time, and the absolute pounding already inflicted on the soil has stirred up a tsunami of big angry space spiders. As ODD works, the Commander and I fight off waves and waves of the bastards, in a scene resembling the most tragically straight-to-video of the Starship Troopers sequels.

Sign up for Space, they said. You definitely won’t end up fighting death spiders away from an even bigger spider’s robot dick, they said.

Every now and again, one of us will jet up into the overturned hulk of our base in order to manufacture fresh ammo, or refresh our suit power from the reactor. I build a little ledge for us to crouch on beside the inverted life support terminal, and feel for a moment as if I am a Bornean cave swift, constructing a little nest from my own spit in the towering darkness of a sea cave.

I can’t believe me made a machine powerful enough to bang a planet.

The giant hole created by several successive pistonings.

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384234

Alice: Security becomes, predictably, a bit wistful at the missed opportunity to build a giant dungeon in the giant earthfucker hole, doubly so because he had to destroy the monument to his last dungeon to provide more steel for the giant pistons. It hits me now that the Loveless has become a pure example of nominative determinism: one reason I found calling it the Loveless so funny was that the character Loveless (who makes the big Spider in the film Wild Wild West), makes an inexplicable reference to building a big steel dildo. How remarkable, that we turned our homage into just that. Much like dinosaurs, and Jeff Goldblum, life, uh uh uh, finds a way.

The main problem with driving the Loveless is that it’s so heavy that normal engines will barely move it. ODD suggests we add jet engines to increase speed and power, and I repeat this suggestion as an order to pretend I am in charge here. As we finish installing them, Science, apparently upset that we aren’t paying enough attention to him, attempts another fly by. It is way less successful than his first one; he instead somehow just rams into Sec (who was trying to build a machine gun turret) and damages his own ship on the hard top edge of our compiler. He is a proper shit Maverick. He’s Goose.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384211

Nate: I can’t believe that clone git turned me into mist. What a total wagon: I’ll do him. Satisfyingly, I get to watch hubris do him first.

ODD spots Science coming about to strafe again, but then loses track of him. Initially, I want to stamp on my hat in frustration, and then get even angrier when I realise I don’t have a hat. To calm down, I jetpack out to observe the state of the Loveless, which is when I notice that Science is hovering under our abdomen in a very smug way. He is so smug that he doesn’t notice me shooting him full of bullets.

Panicking in the manner of Robotnik fleeing from the smoking exoskeleton of a trashed Sonic boss robot, he flies straight into one of our crane-sized legs, then ricochets off into the side of a mountain. Alas, he has escaped from the wreckage by the time we get over there to stamp on his body, but I hope he got loads of gravel in his grazes.

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384211

Alice: With Science having lost his precious attack ship, we feel safe enough to begin rollin’ once more. With the improved engines, I am able to pilot the Loveless down the hillside at a pace which seems gentle to us, but at ground level is pulverising trees, wreaking vast ecological damage, and absolutely wheel-fucking those spider bastards who were giving us so much trouble earlier.

Insert AC/DC at deafening volume here

ODD is receiving a strange signal from the mountain top, and some lights. We reasonably assume that Science has been having an extremely normal one and building a supervillain fortress, so decide to investigate. The Loveless rolls on.

But then ODD receives another reading, and tells us to look heavenward. Hanging in the sky, but growing larger as it moves toward us, is an ugly, black shape like an eagle’s goth dad.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384211

Nate: Oh no. That ship he crashed. It wasn’t his only one, was it? This one’s bigger.

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384211

Alice: And it’s got rocket launchers.

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3384211

Matt: Whhhhoooooooosh, bitches.

Read on here for Wastes of Space part 8, in which Bum Eggs Mountain will be assaulted. Or we’ll just bugger around crashing aircraft and hallucinating being trapped on the moon. You’ll have to see for yourself!

Once more, we extend our heartfelt space thanks to @GinBroguesHats, who plays our Robot ODD and basically masterminds this entire thing. Special thanks this week must also go to his wife @Wheatles, who very kindly provided the voice of the Loveless’s computer.

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