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I wake up to see the end of the field operation -- Dr. Vahlen works fast. She tells me that they've removed a bit of my lung, but since I am not a smoker, I should barely notice once I'm back on my feet. There's some scarring, but with the advanced facilities here I should be up and walking in a couple of days. The bed I am in has a string of monitors on the side for me to keep an eye on operations from, so I'm guessing that Bradford's coup did not take. I quickly learn that he's still tied up to a chair; Kite is running a poll to decide what to do with him.

I fear we'll need him; he's the only one who knows how to do the logistics, and since it's obvious that the Council wants him to keep an eye on the project, I'd rather have the devil we know. Plus, he's genuinely passionate about this project, and not just because the aliens escalated the conflict -- he's been running things from the start, after all. Jonny has offered to replace him for communication duties, which honestly is tempting.

(OOC NOTE: I'm going to try to replace Run and Gun with another ability for my avatar, if that fails, I will demote myself to Rookie and pick a different class).

The new alien type is terrifying. Tentacle monsters, Gigeresque insectoids, zombies... The aliens are trying to scare us. Why? Do they get off it? Is it part of their bushido? Do they want to harvest our adrenaline?

We're broke, the world is in panic, and Bradford put everything on hold save gearing up for new lab facilities to be able to use Meld with. Both R&D teams are pretty excited about the stuff; to be honest so am I. If we can figure out how to use this stuff, we could.... The problem is that much like alien alloys, we don't know how to make more; we cannot risk becoming dependent on their technology. Maybe that's the overall plan? We get harassed, fight back the invaders but become dependent on their technology, and then in six months Sectoids in suits and ties come over to discuss opening a credit line with the galactic bank?

Wait, that's basically the plot of the second half of Battlefield Earth. Ugh, what did Vahlen sedate me with? I think she used the next Arc Thrower prototype... I better be the voice of reason on this one, as much as giant robots (Dr. Shen, glad you're having Vee do the art, but why did she draw the pilot compartment that tiny?) and redundant organs (Dr. Vahlen, is that a sketch of yourself with grafted yarnall tentacles in the margin?) sound appealing.

To the family of David Anderson, of Perth, Australia:

Today, your son died, your brother died, your uncle died. I am sorry. We have failed him. There is nothing I can say to make it hurt less. But I can tell you that he died fighting monsters from the abyss of space. He gave his life trying to protect you, us, everyone on Earth. If there ever was a just war, it is this one; David Anderson died to give his species a chance of survival, he was vigilant, he could be relied upon. Trying to keep matters secret at this point would be a farce; when this is all over, he will be remembered as a hero.

It's all I can think of writing. I barely knew the guy -- not too tall, a bit chubby when he came in, he shaped up a lot better than I did. And how he's gone. Overall the alien war so far has been oddly bloodless; the 9/11 attacks ended more stories than this. I don't think that will be the case for much longer. I am very sure that letters going out are being censored, but hopefully whoever the Council has doing it will understand.

Our major problem is that, given our lack of resources, Bradford has pretty much forced my hand in making use of the Meld facilities. We have a lot of the stuff and frankly it's a little unnerving to see it accumulate; according to Dr. Shen it's basically a firmware change away from grey goo.

As infodumps go, this was so far off the chain that the chain was barely still in sight. The shock that there were aliens out there and that they were coming for us had been big news last summer, but up to now it had seemed like an empty threat. To find out that the Skyranger ships, as they called them, were involved in a heavily surpressed war against the invaders blew my mind. And it sounded like it was spiralling out of control, the attacks getting too much to keep out of the news for much longer.

Kay had been incredibly lucky, and luckier still that a good surgeon was on hand to patch them up. But I was shocked what a shoestring operation this was. Come on humans! The fate of the whole fucking species is at stake here, why ain't money being thrown at it?

It felt like the natural thing to do to offer help where I could. I ain't no good with a gun, except down the arcades, but I can talk and I can network and I can get on the mic when the team need to make their case to the world. And I can pull favours. I can ask for a secure line and punch in a satphone number from memory. Man like Ultra AKA, right now the biggest star on the planet, the skinny kid from Iran who washed up in Manchester, who I could never beat at Street Fighter II. He's gonna get on side.

I know he's got a cool couple bill locked up in Kashmiri crypto. He knows his space science, he tried to get on a moon shot with the Chinese a few years back. I know he ain't gonna want to let the species go down without a fight. Fuck, I'll promise his name on the side of a Skyranger if he pays for it. This is where we push back. Bring it.

(as written by Jonny Flames)

"Mister Bradford, I believe that you are well aware, that it is my current desire where you are concerned, to bring about an immediate and messy end to your miserable life." C3 wasn't actually empty. It never was, attacks could, and did, come at any time, and response needed to be able to come at any time. However, contrary to what was generally percieved, Kite was entirely capable of whispering. "You should also be aware that every being upon this earth whose permission to do so I feel I require... has given it."

"And yet... I'm still breathing." Bradford did not whisper, a few heads turned. And then turned back to their monitors. It was not hard to see that plenty of the staff had their loyalty to the aims of the project rather than an individual leader.

"There's a democratic process involved. If I killed everyone that I wanted to, well, doubtless a number of places would be less crowded. But I imagine that is true of many people. Some think you'll be useful still. The right scumbag in the wrong place can apparently make all the difference in the world. But you are a dead man, Mister Bradford."

"You know, when I signed off on you joining this project, your 'Headmaster' had said you'd be a positive influence on morale."

"When it's time for cookies and icecream? Sure, then that side can come out. For now, though, it's all about the blood, and about ending lives. I suggest if you want to survive this war, I suggest you consider attempting to ensure that you are someone else by then."

"You're insane, you know that, right?"

"I've known that for years Mister Bradford. Just remember. You are not yet the right scumbag." (As written by Kite Winters)

Our counter-coup succeeded largely because nobody expected Kite to up and do to Bradford what Bradford did to me, or Lena Krause to not back him up, or me to tell Bradford that while he is on notice I will not punish him. Look, there's doctrine to write and trainers to train, the only way to do this is by fighting aliens, not each other; we had millennia to get good at it.

Jonny is officially inducted as a rookie and unofficially told to set up shop in one of the satellite uplink rooms; Kite's partner is asked to help out the engineering team with robot designs; both Dr. Shen and I are a bit too utilitarian, and in the preliminary phase, well, we could use some Awesome. I make my own work available to Dr. Shen, but to avoid favoritism, ask him to go over it, be as critical of it as possible, and submit it to the design pool under Riley's name, since he did do a significant part of the work back then. He tells me that with the expertise we have, putting together a fabrication line for a "substitute heavy infantry vehicle" will cost about half as much what he originally thought it would.

Another piece of good news is that the Arc Thrower will be ready sooner than we thought; Dr. Vahlen is an excellent physician. What worries me is the amount of time she's spent listening to Helloween and drawing plans for Meld-assisted genetic modifications; the stuff basically gets rid of most or all organ rejection issues without compromising the immune system, and I think she's put some in my system to let me recuperate so quickly -- she denied it, and the stores seem untouched, but even so.

It will take a couple of days for me and Kite to be clear for combat duty, and for the new "foundry" facility to be ready to go; in the meantime, I have to deal with the fact that more than half the world is stricken by panic. The UN delegation from Egypt even tabled a motion to surrender to the invaders; just the fact that it is being considered worries me. The vote is in eight days, right before the Council report. Bradford says that our standing orders are to remain concealed; he'll have to explain the politics to me, and I need us to at least be on professional terms for that. I did let him keep my office, partly because I wasn't using it, and partly because we've bugged it.

We have to get as much as possible out of Lena and Mr. Diaz; they must return to their countries to teach local forces what they learned with us. I am very grateful of their help in teaching us about conventional warfare, and will especially miss Lena, but that was the deal.

We're writing the textbook on fighting the aliens, but we're severely behind on autopsies; at least we have been able to confirm that the danglies are not former humans. Sgt. Diaz suggests that we liaise with some people he knows back in Argentina; according to him "they have ways" to speed this sort of work up. I'm a bit hesitant to ask; we're mixed up with gangsters enough as it is.

Speaking of which, we receive a request from the same unnamed brokers that Bradford calls the gray market for some alien alloys -- we have more than we can use right now, and we need the money to be able to build the jail. However, they refuse to show up in person to seal the deal, so I deny the request.

The Foundry looks insane -- this is definitely the world's best makerspace now; I think Dr. Vahlen is a little jealous, as our lab facilities are cramped, with fully half of them devoted to a genetics lab that we probably won't use any time soon. Since we have a lot of automated manufacturing capacity now, we are a lot less dependent on the mainland for construction materials -- if we have leftover steel or copper or concrete, we can recycle it in-house using idle machine tool time. According to Dr. Shen, that's enough to start working on the jail... I note that a small amount of alien alloys has disappeared from storage, beign duly signed for; it probably went when the flying boat carrying our foodstuff came. The signature on it is illegible; for all I know Bradford approved it while he was in charge.

With the arc thrower ready and the jail under construction, we have to pow-wow about capturing a live alien; that's a new chapter in the textbook, obviously. A good thing is that our satellite tracking system is almost ready; with luck we'll be able to increase our coverage before the UN vote and the Council report... that should get some countries back into our camp, although I'd rather deploy satellites according to logic than to politics, it seems we won't have much of a choice.

Dr. Vahlen wants to spend time on autopsies; we still do not know our enemy well, and we are behind on that program. However, some of her team think that the high-density batteries we had to come up with for the Arc Thrower bode well for the development of beam weapons. Given that our standard assault rifles are horrible, I'm very tempted -- I mean, LASER GUNS. That'd be awesome. Maybe I can even hit things further out than eight feet!

As a compromise, the decision is made to start opening up the yarnalls -- they are fully mechanical, and maybe we can learn from its power system. Kite offers to help with the "autopsy".

The four satellites we've set up are shipped to Wallops for launch; we are using a Molniya orbit variant for most of them, the idea being that a small sat in an eccentric orbit makes it less likely that an alien ship will intercept them. From what little I was able to decipher from the intel reports we are getting, panic is worst in Egypt, France, China and Australia -- so we offer them coverage. It's not the most efficient use of our resources, but politics will have to trump logic for this one.

The yarnall autopsy is finished as we nervously wait for the Council report; I recommend that the hollowed out front shell be installed in the canteen restroom as a urinal. Kite chides me for the bad pun, but likes the idea. She and Dr. Vahlen look at each other, to which I realize that I have no idea what they did with the tentacles. The two of them did come up with an anti-strangulation collar; I give the green light for Kite's partner to put together the first one, and personalize it for her -- hopefully he'll finish it in time for the next deployment, since the damn things seem to have a thing for sharpshooters and she's the best one we have. The next priority is, of course, the Lovecraft Bug. Something that can turn people into zombies must be studied as soon as possible.

The Council transmission comes in -- Bradford calls for everyone to clear out, but I countermand that. Also, this time around we've set up an old fashioned camcorder at the big screen, to see if we can get anything interesting.

"Given the circumstances of the latest terror attack -- we are extremely impressed with the project of the XCOM Academy project thus far, Headmaster..."

What the fuck? This has to be a recording. It's the same words and even the same tone of voice! Even the first sentence seems spliced in. We've been allocated a significant increase in funding, which makes sense, and it's shown as a powerpoint deck to the side of the Councilman, but... Hey, are that guy's lips even moving? Looks like a dubbed movie...

Kazmarek, Peterson, Krause and Diaz graduated; Anderson was killed. No confiscation this month.

Well, that's enough money to start work on the SHIV; some of the rookies also have decided to use workshop tools to come up with a unified tactical rigging system. I okay the project, even though it looks expensive, because the more hands-on experience the rookies get the better.

I have to say goodbye to Mr. Diaz and Mrs. Krause. I will miss their help, although I won't miss the cramps that Lena caused me. She makes me promise to keep in shape before she goes. Both instructors are leaving with an old-fashioned 3 ring binder with the first version of our course program; hopefully their militaries will make good use of it. Of course they also have the whole thing on a usb stick, but we felt a hard copy was warranted. We don't even have a title yet; current candidates are "Counterinvasion Field Manual", "Xenopaedia", and "Human Infantryman's Uplifting Primer".

For May Day, I blast music from Red Alert through the PA every once in a while, and suggest that the officers get to the back of the chow line for the day's meals, and take a turn at sweeping the hallways. Surprisingly, Bradford plays along. Dr. Vahlen is fine with the food thing, but has no time to waste in theatrics -- I can't blame her; her team is understaffed, although we got new people in.

When the jail is finished -- it looks like a giant fishbowl, with blast containment clamps that can close in two seconds and Arc Thrower probes -- we start work on expanding lab space. We have to tap the second steam vent, so the small sauna will have to be moved to the side and be fed with ordinary hot water -- I'm told that this will make it less therapeutic. I give the OK for any volunteers to start digging for another steam vent.

From the Lovecraft Bug autopsy we learn that the "zombies" are not in fact coming back from the dead; a Lovecraft Bug tries to kill a human by severing their spine at the neck, and then injects a neural parasite that literally rides piggyback on the body. What worries us is that this parasite can quickly consume its prey to become another Lovecraft Bug; the implications are obvious. This information is added onto our textbook and quickly disseminated. Dr. Vahlen decides to continue the autopsies, and tackles the Slenderman and the danglies next.

With the satellites and the secondary hangars in place, we are issued new interceptors -- which we have to pay for, ensuring that we're once again more or less broke; the current plan is to use what funds we have left to expand our satellite coverage.

Another round of abductions! The suspicion is that the aliens have figured out we only have the one Skyranger, and are messing with us. We decide to route to the UK, simply because as a UN security council member, they have more clout than Australia and Argentina -- we cannot focus on any one country too much, and we're hoping that with Mr. Diaz having set up a training program, the Argentinians will be able to handle the matter internally.


We have a secondary objective: capture a live alien. The new tactical rigging was an excellent investment; it lets us use under-armor without sacrificing arm mobility, so we can still do over-head throws with the grenades. Vee will be leading the squad; I'm going to heave to ease myself back into field operations after having been benched; me and Lily are technically still in training. Kite forgoes the under-armor for the new collar. The other trainees are Jonny Flames, because he might as well hit the ground running and he's local, and Melissa Matthews, a Nigerian-Canadian who is doing this in the hope of signing up with the Mounties afterward. Vee pretty much orders me to take an assault rifle rather than the shotgun; she specifically wants me to cover her, meaning she'll go in first, and no ifs or buts. Since she's taking the first operational Arc Thrower, that makes sense. I'm taking one of the prototypes, though. Before we leave, we're told that Dr. Shen has started working on the first Substitute Heavy Infantry Vehicle. It'll need a better name...

We get there right before dawn -- it's a highway overpass. Oddly, the traffic is on the right side of the road... A quick look at the map confirms that in fact we're right outside the Chunnel train terminal; right ahead of us is the world's weirdest cloverleaf, used to switch over road traffic to the left. I could've sworn that was done on the French side...

Vee leads us off the Skyranger; we spot two yarnalls doing something to a human body -- the drones immediately cloak. This time Kite has her collar -- well, the anti-yarnall collar -- so she can safely stay behind and get on top of a truck to set up. I follow Vee; she keeps moving ahead, to find three slendermen trying to figure out how to drive one of the abandoned trucks. They drop the pretense of humanity, stand up straight, and pole-vault over the truck to hide behind it. Obviously, they're the best target for a capture. While Jonny and Lily get into position behind us, Kite takes a headshot at one of the slendermen who were following the movement. From where she is, she has a good visual on the entire stretch of roadway; it's like having artillery support.

Vee shoots one of the slendermen in the leg with her sidearm after I miss horribly -- one of us will have to run there and tase the fucker. She tells me to stay put and cover her. One of the yarnalls uncloaks in front of Jonny -- and eats lead; looks like our newest recruit already got a kill. The two remaining slendermen shoot at me and Vee, hitting her. We keep advancing, with Kite taking out the second slenderman -- I call for trying to capture the third one.

The remaining slenderman shoots me, allowing Vee to run up at him and return fire; I wrap it up by frying his ass. The Arc Thrower's battery can do two shots; looks like we've got a capture. I'm okay; there's a burn under my magic underwear, but I'll definitely live. "STOP BEING AN IDIOT!" Kite calls. "FALL BACK!" Vee just nods. I let her move forward. as Lily and Jonny catch up to me.

The second yarnall appears behind Jonny, and Vee blows it away. It seems that we have a working doctrine against these things. Things are going well.

I had to think that, didn't I? We spot three... I don't know, three orks in green battle-armor, doing something vaguely culinary to a body over the burning wreck of a car. Fuck. I have a moment of panic, and hide behind the truck. They're a LOT bigger than me.

"Lily! Rocket launcher!" Lily gets into position to fire the rocket, but has to run past the truck and out of cover to do so.

"Raaaaargh!" Vee runs ahead, slides past one of those algae-maker machines, and shoots one of the orks right in the face! Holy crap, and I'm the irresponsible one? She's got to be doing this to make us less scared. It's working, but dammit, this isn't a RPG!

Jonny advances to cover Lily while Kite repositions herself. "Blow the fucking things up! We already got a prisoner!" I call.

I poke my head from behind the truck to see a trio of danglies boosting at us. Great. Shooting blindly, I think I manage a glancing hit on an ork.

We exchange fire with the aliens -- the orks seem to be as bad shots as me, fortunately. Then one of them up and charges Vee, unloading its plasma gun into her at point blank! She shrieks horribly and jams the Arc Thrower in its gut, then flips the switch. I can see the damage on her armor from here; at least plasma wounds cauterize themselves.

"Lily! Rocket! Rocket!" The remaining aliens have circled the wagons around a Meld canister -- and a bunch of cars.

"I'll hit the Meld!"

"Who gives a shit! Fire!"

Michael Bay would be proud of the explosion -- the yellow glowy stuff spreads out in a shockwave and a miniature mushroom cloud erupts from the scene; a couple of dangly boosters fly off into the sky. We cheer over Dr. Vahlen complaining about the uncontrolled Meld dispersal, and wait for the smoke to dissipate...

One of the orks is still up. One of the orks is still up. The fucker took a shotgun blast to the face, and an explosion to the back, and it's still up.

Fortunately, it's dazed and doesn't move, so me and Jonny advance on it, and take it down with crossfire. Fucking thing. This is probably the first time the assault rifles do anything more than be a paperweight.

Bradford compliments us as we get back -- we've tied the slenderman and the ork to the Skyranger's cargo ramp in a way that Kite assures us is nonlethal but uncomfortable. They twitch the whole way. Hmm, if the Skyranger can hold us and an ork, there's really no reason why we can't have another person in here...

While we get back, we take a look at Vee's wounds -- she's out for a week. I'm told that precautionarily I should take it easy for a few days too, since I haven't fully recovered yet. "Vee, are you trying to get hurt? That almost took your arm off." She shrugs. "Those big doods, I bet they didn't expect ME to charge at THEM. It worked, no?"

Looks like the Reckless Hero Ball has officially been passed. Jonny has come home with a kill, and is officially not a rookie anymore, already. He and Lily spend half the return trip discussing rocket launchers, so it looks like he's picked his specialty.

Dr. Vahlen gushes at us for the excellent result, the stretchers intended for our wounded carrying away live and tightly bound aliens this time. I ask about what the current wartime conventions on alien interrogation are, and both the rest of my squad and the good doctor... uh, I hope they're laughing with me rather than at me?

Once recovering from the spurt of laughter and catching her breath, Kite suggests, "I figure our 'rules' for handling alien captives should be if they are extraordinarily cooperative, they will be executed humanely once we know everything they can tell us. Else, we will vivisect them once we have tortured everything they know out of them." (As written by Kite Winters)

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Page last modified on January 02, 2015, at 05:06 AM