Space Assassin

“Oh right, I’ll just kick the octopus in the head or something.”

Space Assassin by Andrew Chapman

Cover: Christos Achilleos

Illustrations: Geoffrey Senior

The screaming dagger is a bit out of place on a sci fi cover.

The guards hastily switched the channel from a cooking programme. A dystopian cooking programme.

Space Assassin is another sci-fi book, this time it’s about… oh you can figure it out, I’m sure. The idea is to break into a starship – which is like a dungeon, really – and kill a scientist, who are sort of like the wizards of space. It’s very bizarre and also very fun. There’s not much more else to say about it, really. Time to roll some stats.

Oh, and this book contains the phrase “You fire at Cyrus’s Waldo.” I promise it’s less amusing than you think.

Statistics

Skill: 10 (woo!)
Stamina: 22 (yeah!)
Luck: 8 (argh!)

Armour: 11 (1d6+6 and every time I get shot I have to test it like luck to see if I get hurt or not)

Credits: 6

What’s this, money as a stat? Yes, you roll it up on one die (it’s really called “points” and doesn’t really represent money but whatever I’m abstracting it a bit) and then get to buy gear, which is a nice idea. I can buy things like an electric lash (which sounds like a fun toy), an assault blaster (which sounds good to me), grenades, extra armour, and gravity bombs. The latter being a small black hole that sucks in everything in a ten foot radius. Unfortunately those cost 3 credits each so I might have to go without the most amusing item in the book.

Equipment:Assault blaster, 3 grenades, 4 pep-pills (they restore 5 Stamina each and probably taste like cheese), sensomatic armoured pressure suit, and five empty spaces for things I find on the way.

Onward to Adventure!

Cyrus, colossal jerk and scientist-dictator of the local space sector, Od (we couldn’t afford a second ‘d’), has been completely messing up my home planet. Aside from the robots and mutants, he likes to abduct people and experiment on them. So naturally it’s the last straw when someone finds out about his latest space experiment: Raining viruses and radioactive waste down on our planet to see what happens. I think the hypothesis is that we will all die. In response to this, whoever is in charge of the planet has hired the Assassin’s Guild to stop him. They chose me to sneak on board his starship, the Vandervecken, and capture him. Wait, capture? I’m an assassin, not a kidnapper! What use are my high-tech weapons, fancy space armour, and mastery of twenty-seven alien martial arts? Absolutely none if I have to capture him. Damn it. Stupid guild. They still haven’t put the death-only clause in the space assassin’s space assassination contract.

I set out anyway, since turning down a job is probably not a good idea when I belong to a professional association crammed to the rim with people who consider any dispute to be best solved by sudden and surprising death. So I set out, travel around the sector for a while, and eventually find the Vandervecken taking on supplies. So I sneak on board the space delivery shuttle. It’s kind of cramped but I can always steal some of the space chocolate for later. Rather than sneak on board while the shuttle is being unloaded, I decide to opt for the totally unnecessary but thoroughly cool trick where I use the airlock to blast myself into space and skim along the side of the starship looking for a way in. Luckily I find a hatch. Good thing that panned out, and I didn’t end up gliding off into space.

Look, it's a spaceship, okay?

What is with evil spaceships and the pointless spiky bits? I bet they write angsty poetry and dye their hair black too.

Inside the hatch I loot a corpse that conveniently has some broken electronics on it. I don’t know why, but the first broken gadget you find on a mission always turns out to be useful. Then it’s onward into the ship. One dead guard robot later I have some vague information from a space prisoner, rob some rat people who are probably scientists, steal some food from a space kitchen, and then run into another robot, and find a gravity bomb. After that it’s off for a trip to a science lab! The laboratory I walked into has all manner of interesting – that is, completely horrifying – equipment, and also a cannister of nerve gas. Which I take, because I’m an assassin, not a goodwill ambassador for Od. Interplanetary warfare conventions do not apply to me. I also grab a large dead space crab, because if I lose my weapons I can always throw the crab at an enemy and in the confusion run up and space assassinate them. A space assassin is always prepared! To throw a crab in someone’s face!

As I travel further into the dark, dank, and deadly starship I come across a library of sorts, and have a quick look at a book about molluscs. I know from space assassin training that a mad scientist always has a giant squid stuffed into a space locker somewhere, and I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll find it by accident. Of course I should really stop opening all these side doors… Except when they say “CEPHALO SQUIRRELS: HANDLE WITH CARE” in which case I can’t help but check things out. The squirrels are terribly cute, with their six legs and black fur and screeching and carrying on. I try to get one out of their space cage but they all escape. The one I grab wants some food, so I grab some squirrel fruit out of a space crate and continue on my mission with a furry sidekick on my shoulder. How can I fail now?

That same gleeful overconfidence promptly saw me dropped onto a torus-shaped planetoid, thanks to my pressing all the buttons in sight on a door. I wind up on a plain, and decide to head north. Or where I think north is, anyway. I eventually find some pretty red shrubs… which explode when I brush against them. Okay, so the mad scientist has bred an explosive shrubbery. I walk around the least effective minefield in the history of sneaky munitions, and eventually find a chasm which I gingerly sneak into via some stairs, which nearly fall apart as I go down. Following the floor of the chasm east I come across a lake. You know what the best part of wearing a suit of space assassin space armour that also doubles as a space suit is? I can go space swimming in it!

The lake is calm and placid, and I’m not in any danger. So I decide to swim down to see what that glinting object down the bottom is. It’s a submarine. Of course. And the thing grabbing one of my legs is a giant octopus-type thing.

Try not to think too hard about what it's going to do with that tentacle.

Unfortunately I cannot wait 12 months for it to die of old age, since it’s trying to eat me.

Luckily for me I read that book on molluscs, and now have an edge in the martial arts battle that ensues. I am using an intricate and precise form learned through years of practice from an ancient master. The octopus is employing a traditional style called Grab a Second Limb and Wrench in Half. Somehow I win, and then use the submarine to get out of the lake via an underwater exit, and then end up on a pathway suspended above the alien world, which eventually takes me to a security room. I can tell because the space guards are watching what a broadcast of one of those zero-gravity spiky ball sports, and only security mooks would be watching sports when on duty. They look up and ask me who I am, and I respond by throwing a grenade into the room, splattering them across the walls.

Space assassins: Stealthy as FUCK.

After blasting the security guards to smithereens I steal all their cheese sandwiches from the break room and head onwards into the ship. The first thing I find is a pool full of octopus/human hybrids, who actually manage to hurt me before I dispatch them, and then I meet an alien who has a disintegrator, and wants to ask me a riddle. Thankfully I know the answer. On my way through I consider space assassinating the Zark to steal the disintegrator, but maybe that would be taking one too many chances. I pass through one of the three doors, and find a room full of gadgetry and fancy seats. I sit down and a simulation launches. I have to pilot a space tank and blow up another space tank. This isn’t exactly turning out to be the simple assassination mission I expected. However, my tank-battle skills are up to the task because as a space assassin I have to be ready for anything.

Wireframe tanks are the best tanks.

Just to be entirely clear here, you cannot drive to the volcano, okay?

Afterwards I am rewarded by being thrown towards a huge space monster, maw agape. It does not like the gravity bomb I throw at it. In fact, I bet it thought that gravity bomb really sucked. Further on I find the bridge, where the ship’s robot pilot asks me a bunch of questions about existentialism. I could just blast it into a pile of slag but I figure, how bad could it be? Not bad at all, as it turns out, and I get sent onwards. I pass through the astonishingly primitive mainframe computer and into an opulent room which contains a lot of nice furnishings, and also one mad scientist.

Cyrus is really not that cool. He doesn’t have any cybernetic eyes or limbs. He’s not confined to a wheelchair with many devices sustaining his withered husk of a body, seemingly helpless but deceptively so, the same technology keeping him alive also making him one of the most dangerous individuals in the galaxy when cornered. No, he’s just some old guy. This is a bit of a let-down. In fact, I’m left wondering what the hell motivated him to kidnap people for experiments and rain destruction down on our planet. Oh, right, he’s run off while I was standing there looking confused. I give chase, and eventually find a private shuttle bay, which will facilitate my escape. I also find the villain, inside some power armour and wielding an industrial laser. Of course, since he’s a scientist who spends all his time grafting tentacles to people and not a trained space assassin, he wasn’t smart enough to ambush me. I disable the exoskeleton easily and drag him out of it, giving him a good kicking in the process. Space mission space accomplished. Now all I have to do is get off this ship somehow…

Wrapup

This book is great, what with it being all mad fun in space and delightfully bonkers scenarios. Tank battles, alien worlds, martial arts fighting a squid, squirrels, it’s just completely mad and so much fun. There’s also a lot of ways to get through the book, various solutions to problems, and also a chance to overload the reactor of the ship and blow it to pieces. That counts as a failure, though, since the virus payload of the ship gets strewn through space.

The Vandervecken having an old mainframe is part of the joke in the book. I think there’s something to be said for an author who can guess that depictions of futuristic computers at the time would look woefully dated in the actual future.

The actual ending is, I think, the second most abrupt in the series, which is a bit unfortunate. Oh and at one point the book genders the protagonist as male. Damn, it was nearly perfect.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: I’m ninja fighting a octopoid the size of a house? Underwater? And it’s already grabbed me? And I haven’t had all the blood and bones wrung out of me yet? Uhuh, suuuure.

Ridiculous Battle: At one point there’s a six-armed insect with six different weapons, which is uses at random each round. The 6th is a disintegrator. Though the Skill score with each is progressively lower, there’s a 3% chance of instant death each attack round.

Victory: I hauled Cyrus out of his exoskeleton and then uh… won? I guess? It’s not the most evocative ending paragraph. Hey, there’s also the hilarious idea of triggering the self destruct on the ship…which is a failure even if you escape due to seeding the entire sector of Od with the deadly viruses. Which is a pity because having a second way to win would have been pretty cool.

What Was I Thinking? In future, when presented with a door that has two buttons, or levers, or whatever, and I’m given the option to manipulate either the left or right one, or both… Don’t pick both. Just go with left!

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4 Responses to Space Assassin

  1. Awesome stuff. I’m still five books behind you, but this is certainly inspiring. Apologies if I plagiarise your ‘run up and space assassinate them’ – that image is going to be hard to shake off :)

    • Heh, no problem. The whole space whatever thing in old sci fi still amuses me. It’s actually not too hard to complete, which might be a relief after the three that come before it.

  2. Hervé says:

    Sorry to say that the scifi FF books are really bad compared to the fantasy ones.
    Even a Livingstone is better than this one x(

    • I find them a good break from the fantasy ones. I also think the series needs more humour and surrealism because they can’t always do the more traditional narratives with a second person narration structure.

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