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Death and betrayal aboard a vast steel space spider

The last ride of the Wastes of Space

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COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 9333333333333-[[[[[CHECKSUM ERROR:ℂlⓞ匚Ҝ’𝐒 B𝓸ⓁĻ𝓞𝓬ⓚ𝕤єᵈ}}#….[

Alice B: Oh no. I’m back here. It takes me a minute to work out where “here” is, but my hindbrain’s way ahead of me, already shuddering in revulsion. I’m in the bloody spider. Or rather, the gigantic vessel that looked like one. The name comes to my tongue like acid reflux: The Loveless. My self-built prison, and my only hope of escape from this life. There’s the revulsion again, as I remember more. The planet. The drills. Those godawful, squabbling buffoons who call themselves my crew. The helper android, ODD. And the mission.

The mission! Adrenaline surges through me, and I lurch from my bed. The mission! We were mining gold, for those heartless suits who sent us here to the rotten edge of space. A ton of the wretched stuff, or else they were going to send drones to liquidate us. When I went to sleep, we were way under quota, and our time was almost up. We’ve got to get to work! I’m punching in an emergency broadcast to the crew, when I stop in my tracks. The space clock’s looking a bit funny. In fact, everything’s looking a bit funny. That’s when Security Officer Crowley wakes up, and things get really weird.

It transpires that we’ve been asleep for… a bit longer than planned.

VIDEO LOG FOLLOWS:

*Record scratch noise*

*Freeze frame*

Yep, that’s us – Alice B and Nate, from Rock Paper Shotgun. Matt’s here too, but we don’t know that yet. You’re probably wondering how we got in this situation, trapped with a mad robot on a vast mechanical spider, on the distant edge of space and time. Well, we’ve been playing Space Engineers. More to the point, we’ve been on a mission to batter this sandbox construction and physics simulator into a deep roleplaying game, aided by our friend Sam Pinney, who’s acting as Game Master in the guise of smiley-visored android ODD. We did a whole series of diary pieces about this back in the summer, which were well good, actually – but you don’t need to have read them to know what’s going on here. We’re a crew of hapless space miners, and we’ve accidentally slept through the end of the human race. With no ties left to hold us down, it’s time for us to get off the miserable planet we’ve been trapped on, and seek adventure out in the black. It’s time for the final adventure of the Wastes of Space.

ODD’s new decor for the Loveless interior is… quite bleak.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG:

Nate C: Well, this situation is proper fucked. We’ve overslept, and while we’ve been under, humanity’s been chucked out the window like an unloved wanksock. Our employers are gone too. And despite what the commander says, that’s bad news. Like all good space cops I love order and hierarchy, and I was living to mine that gold. But the chief says the gold doesn’t matter any more – that the only thing our massive mining crawler is good for now is being converted into a spacecraft and flown outta here, so we can live out our days as wandering miners.

Eh, I guess. But we’re gonna need some massive engines for that. Ah well, whatever the boss says. At least if we can get this thing to space we’ll be safe from all the spiders who now apparently run the place, since they’ll just mistake our ship itself for a really big spider. I miss simpler times, like when I used to have car races with that git the Science Officer, or when I worshipped an ant god for a bit after going mad on the moon, and started calling myself Fossorius the Mole Lord. Heh.

COMMANDER’S LOG:

Alice B: I am, strangely, feeling quite at home. ODD’s creeping independence of thought, Security continually grumbling “Remember when I worshipped an ant god for a bit after going mad on the moon, and started calling myself Fossorius the Mole Lord?” in a sort of threateningly nostalgic way, and my own all-consuming exhaustion. Yeah, human race or no human race, it’s just like old times.

Odd adorned the bridge with these portraits of Dr. Arliss Loveless, the character portrayed by Kenneth Branagh in the 1999 film ‘Wild Wild West’.

The fact remains, though, that we need help. The Loveless may have some fetching portraits of its namesake in the cockpit now, but it’s still sustained some damage, and it needs fixing up. Also, it’s become clear that we can’t stay on this stale cabbage of a planetary body forever – we need to keep moving if we’re not to lose our purpose, and our minds. I almost miss our monstrous old employers, and their threats of giant sharks, because at least back then Security had some kind of motivation beyond whatever screensaver is bouncing around the inside of his head. I fear my own instructions will only occupy him so long.

But alas, Royal Planetary Services – and all of humanity besides – are gone. It’s just the two of us, now.

My only companions in the entirety of this cruel universe.

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG:

Matt C: Or is it? No: it is not! For the Science Officer, too, has survived. Oh, such dreams I had. Such plans! Now robbed from me, by the incompetents who designed our cryo-pods. I awake to a world of sentient spiders and almost-intelligent ants (that’s what I used to call my former crewmates), and a choice to make between them.

I had quite emphatically betrayed the ants known as Alice and Nate, in order to strike out on my own. But then, with the rest of antkind wiped out, the whole feud seems a little tawdry. No: while ant-me’s relationships have hardly been seamless, we do at least share the same number of limbs. I shall jump into one of my fighter jets, and go to make amends.

When I make contact, it transpires they are having difficulty getting over the whole “ant” thing. I hover just outside their turret range, feeling my way through the process of ‘diplomacy’. “In a world of spiders”, I tell them, “ants have a lot going for them”. This pleases them, as I knew it would. I’m soon embraced back into the fold. Quite physically, actually, by the gurning mess of the Security Officer who I’d been trying damn hard to forget was my clone. There is a limit to how much my mind can endure.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG:

Nate C: Oh no, the git’s back. I mean, I try to be really angry about it, but as his ship thuds into the Loveless’ landing deck like a coke tin full of wee, I break out into a grin. Sharing my ‘last human’ status with the skipper was all well and good, but you can never truly be friends with a commanding officer. Even though I completely hate Science with my entire life, he is my best remaining friend.

As Science gets out of his stupid boat, the Commander is saying something about having to get loads of cobalt to build the big new engines with. But I’m not listening: I’m too busy conducting a cheeky bit of horseplay to welcome Science back, doing the classic welding torch hazing ritual:

VIDEO LOG FOLLOWS:

COMMANDER’S LOG:

Alice B: Ah, good. The lads are chasing each other round with blowtorches, giggling like simpletons. Inevitably, it seems the construction of anything useful will fall once again to me and the weird haiku robot. ODD places blueprint plans for four huge rockets, which will blast our mighty arachnid form into space. He says it will be a very close thing. We are, after all, very heavy, and not exactly aerodynamic. The drag on our big flat arse is going to be huge.

As such, this job needs to be done right. Science and Sec, the two appalling clones, will have to be sent on high-concept adventures to keep them out of trouble. Luckily, we’ll need ice for fuel, various trace minerals, and a lot of metal grids for the engines – so they can go out to fetch those.

After I brief Security on his forthcoming scouting mission to find metals, ODD reveals that he has rebuilt Sec’s beloved scouting Monster Truck, the Gigantor, and it is lowered from the Loveless’ undercarriage. Squealing like a pig eating bacon, Sec hares off into the distance of the alien veldt, while Science scampers merrily back into his aircraft to go and do fetch quests.

The Big Red Machine itself. And the Gigantor.


SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG:

Matt C: I’ve been back with my kind, such as they are, for all of an hour. Naturally, then, I pounce on the first opportunity to leave – at least I can get a bit of fresh air before I sign up to drift the stars alongside them for all eternity. I’m aware this is madness, but the spiderplanet known as Horace’s World leaves little room for sanity.

Back I go to my mountain fastness, deeply pained that my inferiors the ants will never now see it. It was such a good traitor base. Once there, I start grinding down the array of turrets I’d built as a means to murder the people I’m now helping. Swords into ploughshares, and all that, I suppose.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG:

Nate C: Now, see – I was absolutely, one hundred percent committed to following the boss lady’s orders. Trace minerals: no problem. But then when I turn on the old rockfinder widget, a magical, magical map marker pops up in my HUD.

“GOLD: 1.2km”

Gold. Gold! And we don’t need to give it to anyone else any more. I could have all the gold on this planet to myself! I rev the engine, send the Gigantor thundering towards the promised spot through the dark, and ready my drill as the opening strains of Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold play in my head.

COMMANDER’S LOG:

Alice B: I check in on Security only to find… he has gone completely off-brief, and is hunting down gold. Even though it has no value now, he claims he will “start an economy” with “a fintech platform”, and that he wants to be “the Pharaoh” of humanity, although he graciously allows me the chance to retain my role as Commander. Oh dear. Furthermore, in a turn of events that even Mystic Meg could have predicted, Science has somehow become stranded at his own mountain base, I am… weary. This is going to be a long night.

In a desperate bid to get Security back on our track, I divert the Loveless to his mad whims for a short while, driving over to where he is rolling around gleefully in a pit of yellow ore. ODD and I agree to use the Loveless’s mega-drill to hyperbone the strata beneath him for gold, if he’ll at least shut up about it. Luckily, we find a deposit immediately, and Security is allowed to press the big drill button. “We’ve got thousands!” he yells, in unconfined glee. I already regret this. But at least he’s back on task now. Whatever that means for him.

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG:

Matt C: My departure back to the Loveless with supplies is impeded by my own base becoming hostile. It seems the flight computers on my backup murder jet are confused about my allegiance, which I reluctantly admit I cannot blame them for. I spend a gruelling twenty minutes wrestling with faction permissions, before realising I’ve actually just forgotten to turn the aircraft’s engines on. I’d been moaning about the situation to the Commander over the radio, naturally, but I choose to keep this revelation to myself. I make my return, as dawn approaches.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG:

Nate C: Meanwhile: spiders! The old inhabitants of this world, presumably left behind by their spacefaring cousins because they were criminals and baddies, are erupting from the ground in fury at the mining. I decide I’d better come back on board, with what gold we harvested. I want to keep it, but the Commander says we’ll need it “for space” and only allows me a little bit as “pocket money”.

I go to secure my meagre allowance in my quarters. While I’m there, I rifle through the Loveless’ inventory and sneakily embezzle the ship’s entire stock of gold into my own pockets. And all the platinum too. That’ll show the Commander.

But as I try to sneak out of my quarters again, I find the door locked. It seems Science has returned to the Loveless too – and this is one of his pranks. It makes me very cross.

VIDEO LOG FOLLOWS:

COMMANDER’S LOG:

Alice B: The boys are back, being idiots and knocking holes in the ship in their Tom and Jerry bullshit. Still, I manage to get them to get some work done as we make our final preparations for launch. To be fair, they pull together: Security even does some useful mining for the last of the cobalt we need.

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG:

Matt C: Dawn arrives. The engines are finished and gleaming, the fuel is prepped, and after three million years grounded on this turd of a world, it’s time to leave. Everyone assembles in the cockpit – and the rockets are ignited, instantly evaporating a load of spiders in a casual war crime against the masters of the galaxy. We think. I privately hope these are the luddite spiders that the rest of the galaxy doesn’t care for.

COMMANDER’S LOG:

Alice B: Before we launch, I ask Security to fix the window he broke so the air doesn’t get out. Grumbling, he welds a series of ugly iron blocks over the breach, really stretching his ability as an engineer. He and Science then refuse to wait safely in the crew quarters, and instead go to the Loveless’ bum deck to watch in awe as the ship takes off.

Slowly, majestically, like Queen Victoria getting up out of a chair, the Loveless rises. The landscape dwindles beneath us, and the sky darkens above as the atmosphere becomes a pale blue corona. It is… beautiful.

I wish the same could be said for our fuel situation. Our hydrogen stock is dwindling like a parental liqour cabinet at a teenage house party, and ODD’s projections are bleak — in order to maintain enough speed to escape the gravity well, we’re going to need every last drop. If we burn out of fuel before we cross that horizon, the rockets will sputter out and we’ll crash back down onto the planet below. It is, genuinely, a very tense situation, and it does not let up.

As we climb and climb, the percentage of fuel left keeps pace almost exactly with the percentage of local gravity. This is going to come down to the space-wire. The Loveless shits out all its excess rock and iron from the bum ejector, to rid ourselves of excess weight – but it’s not quite enough to ensure safety. There’s a discussion about sawing off the legs, but ODD reminds me that we’ll need those to stay disguised as a spider.

Science and Sec have, for this entire crisis, been trying to shove each other off the ship’s back end for a laugh. I’m pretty sure they’re aware that each of them represents a full third of the remaining human population, but if they care, it doesn’t show. I wish they could just help with our mass problem!

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG:

Matt C: We have a weight problem, apparently. And I have a Security problem. These axioms offer an elegant syllogism: I shall kill two ants with one stone.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG:

Nate C: I’ve been tussling with my clone all the way up, having the time of my life. But during a momentary pause in the horseplay, my gaze is drawn past the edge of the ship, to where the indigo of the stratosphere is bleeding into the infinite, peaceful darkness of space. It’s… beautiful. I stand transfixed, the last of the atmospheric moisture crinkling into dry slivers of ice on my boots, and I find what I suppose you might call perspective.

The gold and platinum in my pocket… they mean nothing. My love for drills. My big red car. Law, and order, and dungeons. It’s all an illusion; a dense, fevered tapestry of nonsense that I’ve built over the firmament of reality, to distract myself from what really matters. Now, as we leave the planet, those distractions are thinning like the last of the air, and I can see the truth with crystalline, vacuum-sharp clarity. I move to the very edge of the ship, to marvel at the cosmic immensity being revealed to me. Here on the edge of everything, with so much lost, it’s people that matter. All we have left is each other, and if we can’t live for each other – well, that wouldn’t be a life worth living.

I’m just resolving to take all those precious metals back inside and return them to the storage bay, for the good of us all, when a pair of gloved palms settle on the small of my back, and shove.

VIDEO LOG FOLLOWS:

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG:

Matt C: lol.

COMMANDER’S LOG:

Alice B: A strangled yell breaks through the static on the comms. Security has left the ship. He is trying and failing to catch up using his jet pack, but there’s no way he can make it, given our speed.

Unfortunately, I have more pressing concerns than the rapidly approaching extinction of the human race. Our fuel reserves are at 1%. If we can’t break the chains of gravity now, that extinction point is going to approach very rapidly indeed. I take a deep breath, look into the implacable, smiling face of ODD, and pulse the engines one last time. And… ah! Our speed isn’t degrading! We’ve broken through into space! We’ve made it, on the very last push. I’ve never been so relieved in my life.

Security, on the other hand, has a 20 km fall ahead of him. Or rather, behind him, as he seems to be falling face up. He sounds quite cheerful, though. Peaceful, even – for him at least. I think it’s the way he would have wanted to go. Wants to go. Is going. You get the idea.

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG:

Matt C: Eternity amongst the stars is looking up without my fool of a clone, but we’re not out of the woods. Apart from anything else, having escaped gravity, we’re now hurtling though space with no means of slowing down. This seems appropriate, if alarming.

The robot comes to our rescue , however. He has a plan to build a special engine, apparently beyond even my comprehension, that could let us gradually slow down without the use of primitive chemical propellant. The device needs platinum, but that’s no problem. I head down to storage, throw open the locker – and find it empty.

That’s when Security announces he’s stuffed his pockets with the stuff. The pockets that I’ve just sent plummeting towards the surface, attached to idiocy and greed.

It’s the last straw. I dive overboard, eyes fixated on that receding blob of red, and all the ludicrous “security trenches” and stupid trucks it stands for. A planetary smushing is too good for him. I’m going to catch up with him and strangle him.

Commander Bee, visible as an orange speck, looks miserably off the back of the Loveless as the only other humans alive plunge towards a brutal death, still bickering over the radio.

COMMANDER (Alice)

Alice B: “Literally all our problems would be solved if we had that platinum,” says ODD. “All” seems a bit of an overstatement. I mean, yes, if we had a retro thruster we wouldn’t be speeding through the abyss between the stars with no control over our speed or direction. But I’d still be the last member of an entire species. Through Security’s relentless, useless greed, and Science’s (kind of justified) spite, I have been condemned to be the last of my kind, drifting through space in a corroded spider, with a mad robot for company. Oh well. Time to make a nice cup of space tea. Wonder what we’ve got in the food store, actually?

ODD’s done his best, but he’s not much of a cook.

Ah. Oh well. at least there’s ketchup.

We hope you have enjoyed WASTES OF SPACE. If you haven’t read the whole series, you can read through the entire adventure here. One last time, we’d like to thank Sam Pinney, who played ODD and acted as our game master, as well as Wheatles, who played the voice of the computer. Sterling work, the pair of them. Sam will be writing a piece for us on how he set up the series, and talking about creating makeshift RPGs out of sandbox games – look out for that soon.

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.

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