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After the mess in New Mexico, the US government is asking us for laser pistols. They can't replicate them without alien alloys, and they haven't asked for schematics; we figure that they're going to hand them over to their spies. I authorize the transfer, largely because the extra funds will let us get to work on better capacitors for our entire line of laser weapons... which are probably going to be ready just in time to miss the alien base assault.

To my surprise, one of the pistols ends up in the hands of the head of the NRA, as part of some sort of civil-defense program. Wait, what? It's got to be a publicity stunt, right? Hopefully it'll appease the Republicans some... At least when they talk about illegal aliens they're not referring to Mexicans anymore.

I'm back to active duty tomorrow. The heavy lasers are ready, so are the SHIV repair modules. In a couple of days, the next logical development in our weapons program -- a laser sniper rifle for Kite -- is going to be ready. Everyone is rested up and in good shape.

The plan is simple; with the Satellite Nexus in place, we're going to finish up our little GPS constellation. At the same time, the Skyranger will mask itself as a scout UFO using the modified crystal drone shards, and drop six of us -- yeah, I don't care that the safe limit is five; we've come back from missions with Vee's suit and hundreds of pounds of loot, so stop giving me that -- into the base. Satellite overpasses have shown that there is a small concealed hangar; all we have to do is get the door open.

Then we go in and friggin' kill everything. I'm going to call a moratorium on gratuitous collateral damage just on the off-chance that we find something really juicy, like a FTL system, but as much as we'd love to find something like that, it's definitely not a priority.

What we do not have is a defense against psychic -- sorry, psionic -- attack. Given the circumstances, anyone going on the mission who wants to go for a public prayer may do so. I don't believe in much of that stuff, but if it helps even just that one person strengthen their resolve against artificial panic...

What we DO have is lasers. Lots of lasers. We got heavy lasers, a scatter laser with a reinforced front end for me, an adaptive-focus laser for Kite, and a regenerative CO2 laser for Vee that we ended up calling a "railgun" because it looks like one. About the only thing we haven't put a laser on are the SHIVs; we're taking a few days to train with the new weapons, but we'd rather not go into battle with untested SHIV firmware. Only Bill Gates ever took over the world with a beta version.

Since this is an indoor mission, Dr. Shen is refitting Vee's MEC from diesel to electric for this mission -- something apparently minor like getting new capacitors means not only that we can pulse our rifles more often (Kip has already given everyone an earful about how there's no such thing as a laser "rifle" unless someone was to somehow rifle the resonant cavity, but at that point you have a microwave oven, and the name's stuck anyway) but also the fact that Vee won't be nearly as loud on deployments. The diesel generator sounded pretty badass, though -- Vee even had her MEC suit done blue with yellow accents! Someone did make her a car helmet, but alas, it proved to limit her visibility. Anyway, since the whole assembly ended up being a little lighter, we added a bit of ceramic plating and a M203 grenade launcher on her shoulder. I suppose that'd be a MEC suit Mark 2, except we still only got the one. Autonomy is limited to a couple hours, but we can use the Skyranger's generators to keep the batteries topped up until we get there.

Having a feast before the alien base assault would look too much like a last meal; instead, the orders are to prepare the main hall for a victory party as soon as the Skyranger leaves.

"Headmaster, you shouldn't go." That's Bradford.

"Why not? I'm qualified."

"There needs to be some continuity of command in case this goes south. I understand that this may well be the end of the war, but..."

"Tell you what, Bradford." I put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm going to take Kite and Vee for sure. If neither of us make it back, you and Shen are in charge. Frankly? I understand your role in here is to be the Only Sane Man, but I think we got to you" I smile "enough for you to get the whole point of this operation anyway. Besides, if you get too stuffy, I'm sure Dr. Vahlen will take care of that."

To my surprise, Bradford glances sideways and blushes. "I... Thank you, Headmaster."

My mini-dorm-room looks the same as every other "single" on base, except that it's the closest to Mission Control and, since I pulled rank a little, the restrooms. Tomorrow we go. I realize that it's risky, but at this point -- it may be best to go all in; if anyone of my friends wants to stay behind to lead the fight in case we fail, I'll think them braver than me, honestly -- the backup plan is to take, in order, THOR, BLISSEM and any of the students as qualify. The satellites have been shipped to their launch sites, and will lift off when the Skyranger leaves the base.

My plan is to take Kite, Vee, Kip, Jonny, and DONDER -- Lily is still hors de combat, we can only upgrade THOR so much and I'm not sure the SHIV software is ready for lasers yet (yes, in theory it should be easier, since it's hitscan rather than ballistic.... in theory, and we don't have time for proper testing), and the plan is to go in and methodically walk through the whole base until we're the only things with a heartbeat. If we're lucky, we'll find an alien commander. If we're very lucky, having a SHIV with us will be our trump card against whatever alien mind trick we may see.

I decide to not make a speech after dinner -- there'll be time for a short one before we embark, and I'd rather try to keep my head level. I spend the evening adding what little touches I can to the doctrine file, and playing Team Fortress on the internal server. I still can't aim for shit...

Kite stands at the gun range, cheek twitching with the struggle to keep her cursing internalized. Had to stay centred. Had to adapt suddenly to a brand new gun that doesn't kick, only a few hours before needing to take it straight down the enemy's throat. Some were saying this might be the turning point of the war.

This isn't the end.

Kite wailed as she smashed her fist into the divider. They weren't- she wasn't-...the fucker that tried to break into her mind, tried and failed, tried and died. There would be more of them. They had to die. They all had to die to make the whispers stop.

Kite took several deep breaths and resumed her drill. It was an open secret among the 'students' that her very first experience with combat training had been the brawl with Leena. She was a good shot by instinct, by the blood thundering in her ears and the hate surging behind her eyes, the old-monkey calculus of bone and sinew making tiny adjustments as she caressed the trigger and her every cell singing in the exultation of slaughtering the enemy, of ending a threat to those who must be protected.

147 minutes remained to attune to a new tool before she would have to use it, and use it well. "You told me to keep fighting, Lady. This where you planned for me to end up?" (As written by Kite Winters)

As for me, I'm as ready as I'm going to be, that is, not very much at all. The scatter laser is basically a short range heat ray; it's a byproduct of long range autofocusing research that went exactly the wrong way. Since it fits my style of barging in like an idiot and pretty much using my gun as a club, Dr. Shen gave it a reinforced front end that shields the lasing elements under a lot of alluminium and alloy mesh. The only problem is that it looks like a giant stylized phallus with a Super Soaker grip. Heh. If anyone ever makes a movie out of this, I hope they keep it. This whole alien invasion thing hasn't done as much as I would have hoped to make humanity coalesce against a common enemy, but it's certainly done a number on civil liberties... as much as I have to admit pervasive surveillance is great when responding to a UFO landing, it's something I fear we will not be able to get rid of.

The base seismographs picked up a lot of noise last night. Dr. Shen confirms that it's consistent with people having sex. Good. I may feel utterly doomed, but it's my own damn problem, and anything that celebrates life is good. Griping goes upwards, and I guess I don't really have anyone to gripe at. I go over old saucy chat logs, and let myself try and draw passion from what was said then, as if it had been said now.

Heh, there's me ranting. Focus. In three hours, we're going to set off all the fireworks, and try to get the Skyranger in position -- we're basically going to do a suborbital hop with the Skyranger while our satellites, and other satellites that have been postponed or anticipated just for the occasion, get past the sky. If the aliens have orbital tracking, we're hoping that it confuses them. What we have picked up from automated recon is that the alien base has some sort of hangar "chute" that pops out of the water just long enough for the flying saucers to slot themselves in -- the one large non-saucer ship we hit, we assume it has a bottom docking port. The "skeleton key" built from the navigator-drone shards will be triggered to imitate what we are fairly sure is a distress signal, in the hope that the chute gets up and opens for us. Then... Who knows. Go in, kill everything that moves, I guess. What was that Pacific Rim quote? (As written by M K Borri)

I've kept my counsel of late, kinda just been swept along with the ride. And what a ride. I've seen this thing go from "why the hell did I ever sneak on to this island?" through "woah, they seriously let me point a gun at stuff?" to "shit, this actually is a frakking big deal." That doesn't even begin to capture it. The biggest of big deals. We're on a species level here now, and I appreciate the perspective. The little north London turf wars I used to get involved with, before I had what you might loosely term a job? Spectacularly irrelevant.

Part of me is glad of it, that collectively we can wake up now and see what things are really all about. See that we have this chance to even the score and then start to make things right for ourselves. For all of us. Part of me regrets it, that it takes this to force the issue. That we weren't mature enough to find this conclusion on our own. Like it wasn't totally effing obvious the whole time. And a small part of me, the part that paces the streets in the dead of night with clenched fists and despair, is a whisper that says "let it fail", that says we deserve for it to be ended here. We had a chance and we fucked it up.

But that part of me doesn't get to come out today. Today I'm here with my gun and my armour, and I'm standing alongside my comrades. There are a load of alien faces out there that don't have enough laser in them. We're gonna fix that. We're gonna fix that really, really hard.

And when that's done. We're gonna come back here and we're gonna fix everything else. We have the technology. They let me use the technology. You wanna wait and see what I'm going to do with it.

(As written by Jonny Flames)

The whole base is standing around the Skyranger as it gets ready to launch; we've enticed the otherwise unflappable flying boat pilots with chili to keep the utility vehicle here, just in case we neeed to commandeer it and get the troops to the mainland; the satellites are on the launch ramps and we're good to go in minutes. Breakfast was light. To prevent leaks, Bradford is going to notify the Council, or anyone, about the base attack when we're physically on top of it and not before -- the poorly-lit, bald politicians are scheduled to call later today, and however it goes, there will be a lot to talk about. Those of us who aren't semi-comatose due to waking up early for their shift look at me; this is where I say something before we go.

"I'm going to keep it very brief. We're going after the alien base. As far as we can tell, they've used it as a staging area to do who knows what to abductees and to throw nightmares made flesh at us. When the aliens showed up, a lot of people thought it was the end of the world. Well you know what? I think they were right! This has changed everything we know! It has changed everything we must do! The last trumpet has sounded. The beasts have risen from the pit. And today we're going to go dive into that pit and blot out the darkness! WITH LASER GUNS!"

I can kinda sorta make myself believe that when I say it, when I thrust my suspiciously phallic laser shotgun into the air and shoot into the ceiling. Maybe it's even true for ordinary people. From what I've seen, between X-ALT and diplomatic dickery, we're as divided as ever, horizontally and vertically. But for now, the people I have been working with for three long months, my comrades, cheer. I roar. Today at least I can and I must believe that there are no shades of grey, I can be innocent, I can be without conscience. We're all superheros today.

We troop into the Skyranger, Vee and DONDER last in and first out, and take off.


(OOC NOTE: Insert landing)

(OOC NOTE: Insert descent)

We're here. The base is not quite completely dug into the rock like we expected, parts of it are exposed to the ocean, ghostly light filtering in, the sea kept at bay by some sort of energy bubble, it looks like it's the same stuff that makes up the UFO's heat shields. Under us is a natural cave that the aliens have done a minimum amount of digging into -- we're above a thermal vent, and there are huge... veins, tentacles... going down toward it as well as more conventional chains and cables. The alien base is literally sitting on the back of some enormous foetal creature. We can't hear a heartbeat, but we see the fleshy tubes pulsate in the volcanic glow below. The base is a placenta for some kind of alien kraken. Dr. Vahlen admonishes me to not jump to conclusions; the biological components of the base may simply be its life support system. As it is, everything else looks like the sort of technology we are more or less used to -- the base has been built out of UFO modules. More schizo tech on the aliens' part.

We're a good two hundred meters down, and even though the instruments say that we're at one atmosphere, it's easy to feel it. The air is breathable, but the smell is... odd. I literally have no words to describe it. Are the aliens after Earth because it'd spare them the effort of terraforming it? The smell of ozone is overpowering.

We get down from the rappels, Vee landing with a loud clunk carrying the SHIV in her suit's arms. Weapons check.... Shit. First problem. Everyone's batteries read empty.

"Fuck!" Jonny kicks the SHIV in frustration, and notices that it regains its balance like normal. Hmm. "Hey, Vee, can you flex?"


"Was the suit any sluggier when we were climbing down? Is it now?"

"No, not at all. The battery reader on it also says zero, though, I just noticed."

I take my sidearm out and try to shoot at a bulkhead -- the power indicator doesn't move, but the laser beam comes out just fine, leaving a mark and giving us a split-second light show as the light interacts with the complex environment. "Looks like it's working OK. Dr. Shen, are you getting any telemetry?"

"We are, we're working on it. I suspect that the force-field airlock you passed through earlier messed up our battery level measurement systems. Using alien alloys in batteries is a new thing, so-"

I get the idea - it's the same issue that LiPo batteries had a few years back; can't just use a voltmeter to tell the level. "This place just feels very staticky."

"Treat it as a minor leak short." I nod. Great. What's next, alien sparklepires?

"Okay, so, forget about the charge indicators and try to let the capacitors charge after every shot -- the longer we stay here the longer we're likely to have a battery failure, so let's get going. We can do science to this place after we've conquered it."

We look around -- the room contains a number of alcoves, each with six fluid-filled tanks in them. Most are empty... most. One definitely has a human being in it. I'm tempted to smash it open, but Kip stops me. "We can do that later."

A catwalk seems to be the only way to proceed; Vee and DONDER take point, with me and Jonny following and Kip covering Kite as she looks for a vantage point. This place feels cramped even if it's a big room with walkways rather than a series of tunnels.

"It looks like we've found where they've been taking the abductees, but it still doesn't explain what the purpose of all this is." That's Dr. Vahlen; the feed from the shoulder cameras must be working.

We're very bunched up; I don't like it -- one grenade and we're all dead. Still, there's only one way to go that we can see... When I climb, I notice an identical catwalk on the far side of the chamber, leading to an energy door just like the one we're going for. Well, I'm not in any mood to split the party, so we'll stick to the right hand rule for now.

The catwalk also feeds secondary chambers dug straight into the rock -- the SHIV spots movement, and Kite reacts to its soft beep by peeking past one of the bulkheads. "One wells and one drone!"

We know that the mini-UFO carries a grenade, so it's important to take it down immediately. "They seem to be in sentry mode." We charge the capacitors; for all we know, the battery leak is real rather than just instrumental and we only get one shot. "What's the plan?"

Why's Kite asking me? Heh, when in doubt, go with what you know. "Right, stay close... do exactly what I say... get ready..."

I unload the scatter laser on the ceiling to confuse the robotic aliens -- the mini-UFO deploys into its insectoid shape and reacts to the light show. "GET HER!"

Vee runs forward and empties her weapon into the Wells while Kite steadies the long-range laser against a railing; she finishes the thing while it tries to curl back up into its disk shape. Jonny and Kip quickly take the drone out.

"Get her? That was your plan?"

"Look, it worked in Ghostbusters, okay?"

"... No it didn't."

We get ready to breach the energy door, and notice that yes, the capacitors crapped out after one shot - but have reloaded normally. Dr. Shen confirms that it's where the leak is; we're to ignore the charge indicator and hit the reload switch any time we're not firing, and we'll probably have to trash the batteries after this mission, but tactically we should be okay. He does say that it means our sidearms will need the same treatment, rather than being able to fire continuously.

We bunch up around the energy door and try to get an idea of what's coming, based from the growls we can hear. "Find something to get behind, we may have to fight defensively if they come get us" Kite warns. She has a point.

So there's another energy door to breach - these just sort of open; it's the same electrostatic suspension that makes the UFO's heat shields and the bubble we're in, and I shudder to think at what happens if they decide to collapse it on us. We have a system: the SHIV goes in first, then Vee, so we have some armor to hide behind.

DONDER is driven through the door -- there's a gantry with ramps that overlook a large mass of flesh within the alien beast below. A feeding bay? Is that what they do with the abductees when they're done with experimentation? Two yarnalls float up from behind a control console -- rather than cloaking, they leap at the drone tank; we quickly switch it back to sentry mode, so it can fire. We all get behind Vee on the narrow walkway, and between all of us, the two mechanical squids go down in seconds -- one falls down at the bottom of the bubble; the energy shield holds, but I think we all skipped a beat there. The beast is actually through the bubble; presumably the shield can be controlled from those consoles.

There's a distinctive growl further up -- bugs. Hopefully we won't face zombified test subjects. DONDER is reloading, so we send it forward and have it play mobile tower shield for now. It catches movement, and just as it stops to enter sentry mode, two Slendermen run off from the opposite feeding bay and hide behind the consoles! "That's it? Maybe we can talk to them-" "Nah."

Kite takes position on top of the feeding bay on our side -- "Bugs!" A pair of the fast-moving nigthmares advance towards the first extraneous thing they see; fortunately it's DONDER. Did they... spawn from the Kraken below us? If that's what the critter is for... Ugh. Me and Kip take cover behind the drone and one of the console, as we let Johnny and Vee set up. The Herbies are just going to come at us stupidly -- they pretty much have to, since there are no innocents to feed on -- and we're going to greet them with a lot of coherent laughter. Hopefully we can withstand Slenderman fire.

The bugs fall in a light show that dissipates into the bubble's walls; Kip actually shouts Disco Inferno! I think I got one and Vee got the other, but it's hard to tell. One of the Slendermen lifts his ugly head out from the dais to spit poison in Kite's face -- fortunately she's wearing the medikit's mask. Come to think of it, I think she's done that on every mission... Coughing but unscathed, she decides to return fire rather than leave her vantage point -- that's a hit! The Slenderman is still up; we see metallic reflexes under the suit. Have they started wearing armor? Where'd the other one go?

Me, Kip and Jonny lay down suppression fire to give Kite and Vee time to reload -- sending DONDER forward reveals that the other Slenderman has reached the feeding bay console on the other side from us. Is he hiding behind it or messing with it? "Easy on the demolition, guys. We don't know if this thing is gestating, or sedated."

The Slendermen poke their heads out -- DONDER blows one away, the other aims his plasma gun at me... and then spits! Gah! What is this stuff? Acid! Fuckfuckfuckfuck - smells like chlorine, and I can see my armor bubble. I gotta be careful how I move lest I get some on my skin.

I hide behind DONDER, reflexively; Vee gets him for me. Still hissing -- I probably look like the fat version of the robot cowboy from Futureworld, heh -- I get up and gingerly move away from the feeding bay. "Right-hand rule, let's continue" I say between coughs. We get ready to breach the next door, after I go stupid for a moment and drive DONDER through the puddle of acid -- there's some smoke, but it looks like the treads are tougher than the alloy mesh I'm wearing.

"Should we leave someone here?"

"What for?"

"In case the big critter wakes up."

"Not a lot of point..."

"Bradford, if you're reading this -- in case we lose contact and you see something on seismometers, I don't know how you do it, but call down a nuke. Got it?"

We quickly vote on that last, and find ourselves unanimous on it. I doubt this is the aliens' only base, but even so, the last thing we need is new terror from the deep. What's growing down here looks like a proper sea monster. Now I'm imagining Vee drive a giant robot... heh, sorry, but since I'm the boss, I get first dibs at that.

"Ready to breach?" I can't run and Vee's frame is not moving as fast as it ought to, hopefully because of the batteries being drained rather than having been drained already. "Okay!"

I'm still coughing -- this stuff is releasing chlorine. Bah. Come on. DONDER is sent forward to reveal a small Elerium reactor, just like the one we saw on UFOs, and a big bulky storage unit which we guess contains the big creature's food. Is that how they're recycling the abductees? Before we blow this place up we're going to have to get Dr. Vahlen down here.

Sending DONDER further shows a big chamber full of canisters, flanked by two elevated platforms -- they look symmetrical; the one that the drone can see seems to have dissection tables on it. One is undeniably occupied. I call for giving mercy if we can spare the sidearm shots. We advance, and...

"What's that blue stuff?"

There's a line of blue particles going from the canisters to the feeding container. It doesn't show on DONDER's camera, or any of the others we have -- we describe it to Vahlen. Kite also reports feeble tendrils of the stuff from the dissection table that we can see. "Could it be - life force? Psionic emanations?"

I don't think so, and it's odd to hear Vahlen say something like that. "Fuck that shit, this thing is the squid monster from Watchmen!" We shush the radio as Shen, surprising me yet again, explains the reference to Bradford. Incoming! Three Herbies run down from the upper platform to the lower, again focusing on DONDER.

"Don't use explosives! We can't risk blowing up those canisters! Or... the people." That's Kite, after she takes position behind a railing. "It may be what's keeping the kraken asleep."

Vahlen agrees -- whatever it is, it must be looked at.

The bugs rear up before descending on us -- and we weren't in position. We fire wildly, even as Vee comes in from the back.

"Screw this!" Kip arms a grenade. "NO!" "I know what I'm doing!"

Kip bounces the grenade off DONDER just as it, hastily switched to sentry mode, tears into one of the bugs. The critters take the plasma blast, rearing up in momentary blindness; this gives Jonny enough time to cover them in cleansing light. One of the bugs tears a big gash in DONDER's armor; the other collapses.

While me and Vee take down the last bug, Kite calls out -- two orks are on the other platform! We'll have to take them down carefully; all the stuff around here is fragile. Were they counting on this? But if that's the case, why have orks guard it? They're not the most careful of marksmen either... Maybe that's the idea. We'll have to be.

"What could they possibly be storing in those tanks?" Vahlen is using the video and what little telemetry we're sending up to start an analysis. Kite sets up behind the opposite railing, and we send DONDER to soak in more fire -- the little tank is in surprisingly good shape given that it's got slashed by a herbie twice. I find a place to cover behind; this requires marksmanship, and I don't have any. The recent running has given me some acid burns -- I just noticed, after the bug-induced adrenaline surge. Just when we figured Slendermen were little more than a nuisance, they got dangerous again.

"They're repositioning on us!" Jonny found somewhere to hide behind that looks like just a structural element, but stirred a couple of alien drones in doing so. "I got those! You guys take the orks!" There is nothing fragile between me and the drones, so I do what I do best -- run ahead and fire in the bad guys' general direction. It doesn't work, but I got their attention...

It takes the combined efforts of Kip, Jonny and Vee to bring down one of the orks; the other one emerges from its hiding spot, and shoots at Jonny -- direct hit! On cue, the drones stop looking at me and focus their fire on the British man. "AAAUGH!"

"Are you okay?"

"Help me!" He's screaming bloody murder, which is good because it means he's conscious. I blink. When'd I get so callous?

Kite has a perfect shot on one of the drones, and takes it; I run up to the other, and shoot at it from below -- the scatter laser spreads too wide, it's still up! Porco giuda, misjudged the vertical. "Cover Jonny! I'll be fine!"

We have DONDER suppress the remaining ork -- the bullets flop through the bubble ceiling, and then sink down into the water; hopefully it won't be enough to wake the beast. Kip and Vee get closer, ready to take it down. "Dangit! Weapon's dry!" Vee's heavy laser is wired to her batteries; looks like they're being drained faster than we thought. We better hurry up.

Jonny gets to cover; suppressing the ork seems to do the job in terms of not letting it get out. The drone doesn't seem to understand shooting directly under itself, and fires wildly.

I take the drone out, but the remaining ork has entrenched itself well -- we can't get at it without either a suicide charge, or risk damaging the stuff that we should probably not damage. I remind myself that some of that stuff is people, who whether they're still alive or not, are at least still twitching. Even Kite can't flush it out. Given that I had to run after drones, the second obvious candidate for a suicide charge is DONDER.

The little tank all but parks itself in the ork's face, behind the bulkhead.... and two bugs run after it, surrounding it! Sucks if we lose a SHIV, but -- imagine if that'd been a person. I quickly switch it to sentry mode, for the good it'll do.

Vee slams her armor against a different bulkhead; her suit's not moving as fast as it ought to, so risking a rocket-punch may give the bugs a shot at clawing at her fleshy bits.

DONDER finishes the job it had started and takes out the ork before being savaged by insectoid claws... and when we're done making holes in them, is still standing!

Time for me and Kite to do some triage -- I dismiss my acid burns and tell her to look at Jonny; she gives me a glare, but he's worse off. I take a quick look at the drone. "The minigun is inoperable, but drive is still good, it's still got most of the armor, and the right-side sensors are still in one piece."

We regroup at the next door -- and only then notice that one of the blue canisters was shot, possibly by us, possibly by the drones. "Guys, good news and bad news" Vahlen calls.


"Bad news: either DONDER's accelerometer is shot, or that was movement under you. Didn't you feel it?"

None of us felt it. Granted, we were distracted, but... Can't be the bubble dampening it; the tank is inside it too. Did we just wake up Chtulhu? Why didn't we feel the vibration?

"What's the good news?"

"It was only one kick. Whatever that blue stuff that's not showing up on camera is, there's some redundancy built in." It's true; the broken canisters haven't cut the chain of blue particles moving around, just narrowed it a little. "That looks like grey matter in there..." Kite notes after patching Jonny up.

We quickly regroup in front of the next door, and check batteries and capacitors. We should be good for... another ninety minutes, maybe. If we have to get out of here, I'm going to carry Vee out.

Beyond is a corridor or antechamber -- barely a walkway above the bubble, another door right past. We hear growls. DONDER can't shoot, but it can still scout around, so we'll stick to that procedure.

DONDER breaches the next door -- the room is a lot more expansive. There's some red light at the end of it.... an upper level with two ramps.... and a lower level, full of consoles, with what from the camera looks like a separate bubble. "Get in there. I'm going up top and setting up a nest. Kip, Jonny, stick to the wall and advance carefully. Vee, cover me. Kay, see if you can figure out what that thing is."

I know Kite hates being in charge, but when she has to be, she does it admirably well. She grapnels up on the ramp -- there's some sort of projector up there. I take a glance -- it looks very.... swirly, distracting. "Is that the brain-whammy thing?" "Negative, Kay, it's just you being a spaz!" Vee follows Kite up the ramp, and spots a dangly on the left side, maybe two. "Got it!" We switch to following the left wall, since DONDER reports nothing on the other end.

With Kip and Jonny covering me, I look down. It's not a second bubble. It's the outline of a brain! Looking carefully shows the fractal nature of the projection, superimposed on a big lump in the mass of tentacles. "I think they're stereolitographing it a brain!" No way to tell if they're anywhere near done or not. Part of me wants to take over the process, rather than stop it... are the aliens messing with my head or am I just going megalomaniac? Bradford says this is over when we take this base -- what happens next?

We forgot to change DONDER's orders -- the little tank dutifully sticks to the right wall, until...

That looks like a big pillar of light -- it can't be a laser, it's pulsating, glowing with energy. A Sectoid with an enlarged brain is next to it, doing God knows what; when it spots DONDER, it hides behind a bulkhead. I saw the head for a moment -- looks almost like the aliens in Mars Attack... I feel queasy; for a moment, we all do.

"That alien is clearly different from the others... it's wielding a power unlike anything we've previously encountered." Vahlen says most of her telemetry just gave up.

"Still got company up here!" Vee misses a dangly. "Kite, if you have a shot, take it!"

We trade fire with the danglies -- too many blinking lights around us. "My position's been compromised!" Vee had to stop to shoot at the dangly, so Kite is alone up there. Blast it! I see the big-headed Sectoid take aim and... headbang upwards. I catch a glimpse of a purple phosfene from his head. "No! NOOOOO!" "Kite, are you all right?"

Dr. Vahlen tells us that Kite's heart rate and blood pressure has skyrocketed -- panic attack.

"Take the danglies out! NOW!"

DONDER is still following the perimeter -- we get a quick view of the brain-sectoid's backside, but that's all. I'm worried about Kite and, well, do what comes natural; run up the closest critter, in this case one of the danglies, and beat the crap out of it, in this case shoot it point-blank. Vee turns on her jetboots and chases off after the other one.

"It's... in.... my... HEAD!"

"Kite? Kite?"

"Headmaster, telemetry on Kite went back to normal, just... not quite -- pressure nominal, heart rate nominal, EEG is consistent with a dream state!" Did the alien knock her out by brain-whammy?

Kip and Vee take out the second dangly by blowing up the bulkhead it was hiding behind.

"Jonny, is your taser still charged?" "Eighty percent!" "Mine too. Let's go get this guy."

"We're going for a live capture?"

"If Bradford is right, this is the mastermind of the whole mess -- it's got to stand trial. If he isn't, it's a valuable prisoner. Either way, I want Kite to have a chance to slap it around."

"Bloody right!"

"Guys, cover us."

We run towards the critter, and... Kite jumps down from the ramp, gracelessly. She staggers towards me like a zombie -- Did he -- NO! No, calm down, there wouldn't be life signs then. "Kite? Are you okay?"

Before I know what's going on, she's got her arms around my neck; I struggle to break free. All of a sudden, her eyes go lifeless, her skin pale, black cracks on it. (OOC: The Sectoid Commander panicked Kay while MC'ing Kite, and Kite decided to bum-rush Kay, so I figure they're in melee.) I am sent back to a few years ago, when one of the people who I was trying to get through rehab flipped and strangled me. Kite looks possessed -- I see the methhead's gaze in her eyes. "NO! This is a nightmare! I beat you back already! I BEAT YOU BACK ALREADY!"

What follows next I can only tell by hearsay; Jonny figured "bollocks to this" and shot the rocket launcher right in the alien brainiac's face -- while it didn't blow up anything vital, the creature managed to hide behind a protrusion and let it take most of the hit. After that... he freaked out, and started running, for no reason at all. Who knows what he saw. My mind suddenly clear, I found myself with my own hands around my throat, looking at Kite steadying her weapon to aim at me.

"Hey! Dood, it's me!" Okay, if I wanted evidence of mind control, I have it. "Weapons free! Blow that little fucker up!"

Kip, being level-headed as usual, all but hugs Kite and drops a smoke grenade at their feet; if she does shoot any of us, the thick smoke will dissipate some of the beam. Vee takes aim and fires a grenade from her launcher -- the brain-sectoid hides behind DONDER as it was passing by, making the tank take most of the hit! They're both still up.

And that's when in perfect synchronization the alien fires its plasma blaster at my chest and Kite shoots me in the back.

"NO! WHAT DID YOU MAKE ME DO, YOU-" And that's me, unconscious, probably with another hole in the head.

"Feels we're finally turning the tide. Now that we've captured their device, the aliens are running out of secrets."

Huh? What happened?

I wake up on the Skyranger, hooked up to an IV. My head hurts. What did I miss?

"So, after Kite shook off the mind control... which isn't quite mind control, it's more like puppeteering... the alien sorcerer caused Jonny to have a panic attack. Jonny hid behind DONDER, then when Kip started throwing grenades at the alien, Jonny went berserk from the noise, ran at it, and shoved the arc thrower down its throat." Vee is towering over me, I try to wave at her, can't tell if I succeeded.

On the flight back, Kite refuses to make eye-contact with anyone, alternating between staring at the unconscious alien and her own hands, twitching violently. Shortly after takeoff unloading both her rifle and sidearm and passing the batteries to Jonny in order to push back the desperate desire to kill the bastard now and be done with it. Every breath is a struggle not to vomit between the memory of her own hands wrapped around a loved one's throat, of the rifle she was to use to kill the enemy lancing into a friend's spine. Hands don't know it wasn't her brain that gave those orders. But brain knows it was her hands that carried them out. Have to kill them all. Have to kill them all to make the whispers stop. (As written by Kite Winters)

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Page last modified on January 02, 2015, at 05:17 AM