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Mission37

GEOSCAPE

"Toronto? You gotta be kidding me."

For a moment, I worried that I've been shooting at Riley and Stephen's buddies. Wouldn't make sense - why would they try to hack us and cause panic?

Looks like that the X-ALT HQ is there, though. This explains a number of things about the Canadian government. Now all we have to do is get an address, and then we can... eh, screw it, as far as I care we can fill the Skyranger with manure and pipe bombs and drop the whole flaming pile on their heads. I'll clean it myself afterwards.

The crystalline bodysuit got done - Kite and Gabrielle try it out, to inconclusive results. It looks a lot better than the one I remember from MDRS, although it's probably because this one incorprates kevlar mesh and graphene. While it's not as tough as power armor, it's just as agile and a lot less noisy.

We receive a request from the French government for laser rifles just before they release Vincent to us - the quid pro quo is transparent, but I don't particularly care.

Vincent comes back with a strange story - one that he can't corroborate, since they kept his laptop. Basically, the X-ALT agent that we failed to capture in France long ago was trying to defect from the organization; an alien abduction attempt on top of a dam resulted in the awakening of some lady with incredible psionic power, even greater than Kite's. X-ALT then got into a firefight with the Legion Etrangere as both tried to assault an alien supply barge carrying three more confirmed psionic individuals, all of which perished in the barge's explosion. Apparently, the first woman then joined X-ALT unbidden. Vincent admits that the reports on "Operation Progeny" were somewhat contradictory, and X-ALT leadership may have been rewriting them remotely as he was collecting them. For a subversive organization, they seem pretty authoritarian.

"It may just be a piece of internal propaganda, we've seen a lot of Meld usage but no psionics" Bradford opines.


We graduate Mary Holmes, knowing full well that her Meld-based modifications, however small, will attract the Canadian or American government's attention; she is given a secure email address to contact us with, just in case.


"Alloy cannon? What's that?"

"What do you think?"

"A cannon made of alien alloys? A cannon that shoots alien alloys?"

"Yes on both. It's basically a smaller version of the coil gun that Vee used to use before what she has currently. We have all this alien alloy swarf and shaving from manufacturing, that's too small to recycle properly."

I look at Kip. "So you made it into... looks like shotgun shells."

"That's exactly it! More than that, Dr. Shen took a combat shotgun and added a coilgun stage to the barrel, then we coated it in alien alloys for strength. The shards go through two meters of ballistic gel. Pump action... and a narrower cone to accommodate the fact that you have learned to aim at least a little bit lately."

There's only one thing I can say to this, but I'm embarassed. "Come on, say it." "Huh?" "GET ON WITH IT!" shouts half the weapons dev team.

Nothing to do but obey. "Groovy."


X-ALT has changed tactics - rather than encouraging UFO panic, what with there having been few sightings lately, they've started to spread rumors that we're some sort of synarchy or cabal bent on world domination. Hey, I thought that was their gig! Be as it may, their memes have taken hold in Japan, enough to start an official investigation about this island - the inspectors will be here in a couple of weeks. We decide to return the favor, and send Shin Takahashi to look at the cell's other activities; we all but have their HQ's address, but as much as I am wanting to just go beat them up, we have to figure out what the deal with "Progeny" was. If they know more than we do about psionics, that's flat out scary.

Dr. Shen is mildly annoyed that our supposed world domination plans involve keeping the aliens around as scarecrows and intimidating the world's governments into compliance by setting up a protection racket; he was expecting less politics and more army of robots. I note that Mary's room has been piled up with SHIVs too.


"I'm starting to wonder if we will ever figure out what the reason for all this was" muses Bradford at dinner. Good question -- the whiteboard is full of theories, and we've all gone over most of them until they look stale.

The Council report gives us a C grade - at least now they're actually talking to us. "You've done an admirable job in combating the alien threat over the course of the past month, Commander. However, we still believe there is room for improvement in your efforts." Yeah, we took out an alien battleship that you were about to toss a nuke at, figured out the secrets of the human brain... They do have a point though in that this past months registered the most deaths for us. Truth is, we don't know what else the aliens have to throw at us; maybe they'll give up on trying to conquer the planet, switch to wanting to destroy it, and go full Independence Day on us.

We have to hurry up and finish the Gollop Chamber.


The firing range is glowing green from testing the new sniper rifles and plasma pistols - they look like something out of Tron Legacy. The pistols are built from sectoid wrist guns, but the long-range plasma caster is an entirely home-grown design; we barely have the resources to make two or three, however.

At this point, we're just waiting for the chamber to be completed so that the Soul Sphere can be probed in relative safety; the Firestorms execute suborbital hop patrols once a day, our satellites are up...

... and I'm therefore surprised as fuck when we're told that an alien supply barge has landed in North Dakota without having been detected in any way before touchdown; we get the call from a farmer phoning in reports of cattle mutilation. Why did our satellite miss it? Why did NORAD miss it, for that matter!

According to the hyperwave relay, this one is carrying a lich, as well as bugs. Maybe what I feared is going to happen; a lich lands a throng of bugs in the boonies, lets them feed, maybe manipulates the population into not reporting the issue as it almost happened, and we got a zombie apocalypse on our hand. Containment time.

"We have a chance to take home a live lich and another working UFO. These are, however, optional objectives - the primary goal here is to prevent Herbie the Love Bug from taking over the Midwest."

Kite is going to take Jonny, Girard, Nakagawa, Stewart, Charlie Henry, and me on this one. When it's pointed out that I've been on two consecutive missions, I answer that it'd be good to have me try to take down the lich -- just to be safe, everyone of us except for the snipers are carrying arc throwers. Girard is going to be wearing the crystalline bodysuit on this one - Kite is confident that she can resist the lich without it.

Two members of our squad are American; given the landing area, we figured they'd better do the talking, if any talking there be.

OPERATION

Heidi sets the Skyranger down to the ship's starboard side - the area is lightly forested, and there's a convenient log on next to the ship to form a firing line behind. Kite is wearing booster armor, so she's going to set up a nest on one of the trees. I'm on peekaboo duty; the more aliens we can drag out of the ship, the better the chance of recovering it intact, since our weapons won't do much to exterior walls. Kite says that this is what drones are for; I agree, but there was only so much room in the Skyranger and we have to take at least three students with us and besides, I'm wearing chitin plating. And have with me the scariest shotgun in existence.

While the squad sets up, I climb a pipe and pop my head past the ship's atmospheric shield - two orks and a berserker are patrolling the central cargo area. They see me; I blow a raspberry and duck back behind the ship's hull.

Like clockwork, the brute follows me, and is fried crispy by a hail of plasma. Gabrielle is excited at having gotten the last shot in - she's been training her psionic skill with Kip and Kite; I'm relieved that if there is a common denominator in psionics, it's not "has been friends with a crazy italian".

"Let's see if we can get the other orks out!" Kite uses the booster armor to climb down the tree a little, to get a better view through the ship's suprstructure.

I peek in again, and trade fire with an ork - it gets me, I don't get it. My armor takes it fine, but I think we've conclusively proven that my aim is worse than an ork's.

The orks are playing the waiting game too, retreating behind the keel ribs; the only one of us with a clear shot is Kite, who takes me out of danger with one ball from her new rifle.

"We can't let them figure out that we want the ship intact, or they'll scuttle it. Advance!"

I'm joined by the rest of the squad. The bridge is on our right, so I propose we make our way there first in order to prevent takeoff. Kite countermands me - she has more hours in the field, so she has seniority.

"First off, we get rid of the bugs. Then, we have to deal with the lich. That's not going to be easy. I hope I can stand up to one..."

I rather hope she doesn't have to. Apparently, the bit of gray matter that makes humans psionically active has been missing from my head since age 12. There's a chance that he may not even see me, which will mean the greatest wedgie in interplanetary history if I have my way.

"And Kay, no wrestling the lich down. If we can manage a capture, we're using the arc thrower. And no, I am not reading your mind, you're just making that face again."

While we don't use formal ranks, Kite has recently been promoted to Squad Mom by whoever got the trouble of making a rank insignia in the machine shop and circulating a sign-up sheet to that effect. I was signature number single digits.

I lay down some covering fire while my squad advances; Henry runs ahead of me and lands a shot on the ork. Bradford tells us that there are other sources of movement further back into the ship.

We take cover in one of the cargo compartments - there isn't much to hide behind, just a used Meld container. Having a drone tank on this mission would've been useful.

"Instructor, Scanners show one large trace, moving slowly."

"DREADNOUGHT!"

Well, that's what was in the other cargo bay; the two attendant drones fly forward. "Take those out before they can repair the dreadnought, then get into cover! Gabrielle and me got this!" Kite calls.

One of the drone comes into view, drawing fire from Gabrielle and Jonny and ultimately landing a shot on Henry. The big bipedal walker ends up on the wrong side of a partition wall between two cargo holds, and proceeds to start pummeling at it - it's not structural, so the ship should be operable without it.

The walker comes into view, and is bathed in plasma - most of which fizzles harmlessly on the upper plate; some of the armor bends off, but the remaining drone flies in and welds that back in place.

Then it aims its laser cannon at me, and I go red-blind even past my arm. There's a neat thumb-sized hole in my abdomen, right past the armor. It smells like barbecue, and doesn't hurt as long as I don't move.

Gabrielle takes down the remaining drone.

"Don't die!"

"I'm fine!"

"If it's not hurting it's not a good sign!" I distinctly hear Jonny's radio - Bradford told him he can see right through me with the shoulder camera. For a moment I have a vision of Death Becomes Her. It's the scariest movie I know. I bow out, flump against the external ribbing, and jam my medkit into the wound trying to not look at it.

I hear it shoot at Gabrielle - she's alive, but instincitvely ran back and fell down the ship.

While everyone else of us tries to get a shot and Gabrielle hides behind a rock, Kite fires at its sensors - just in time for it to fire its mortar through the ship's shielding, in a shallow arc, hitting where Gabrielle was moments ago.

Kite keeps plinking at the dreadnought - the plasma gun affords for fairly rapid fire, and the thing is a big target, albeit one that doesn't much mind getting hits. The dreadnought exposes its chest cannon again to retaliate.

"I got a clear shot!" Henry calls. "Take it!"

Henry runs ahead - I've seen myself do that a number of times in replays - and shoots the dreadnought's exposed insides point blank, then jumps back. The thing takes careful aim at Kite, then explodes loudly when its gun goes off on itself. "Hah! Got it!"

"Henry! Ork elite! Behind you!"

We run to the left to try and provide cover for our newest hero. Tony throws a smoke grenade between him and the elite ork, me and Jonny run over to try and get the drop on it.

"There's three of the damn things!"

Me and Jonny hide behind the exterior ribbing, and feel it get hot from the plasma -- it holds together. "Rocket!"

"I'm not in position!"

I run ahead and do what I do best: blow away an alien's head from point blank range. "Get in position then!" Kite doesn't say anything this time. Then I duck behind another spent Meld canister.

Charlie and Jonny get their shots in, pinning another of the elite orks long enough for Gabrielle to run over to the other side and line up a shot.

The two remaining elite orks rush me, roaring. I roar back - it doesn't go farther than my own ears, but it's all it has to do. I shoot one in the shoulder before it pushes me off to hide on the other side of the canister - the other runs at me like a berserker would. Its helmet has been blown off by Charlie before. I blow its head off.

"All right you primitive screw head, listen up!"

The remaining ork raises its head.

"This. is. my. BOOMSTICK!"

I aim the alloy cannon at the ork's head, and it collapses with a nosebleed. What the hell?

I look behind me, and Gabrielle and Kite grin at each other, their hair swept back by an absent wind. "Kay, you're an idiot, but that was legitimately badass."

Hail to the Headmaster, baby. (OOC NOTE: Close Combat Specialist + Alloy Cannon kicks ass!)

We try to take a moment to regroup and reload - Gabrielle gets Kite's medical attention, other than me she is the only seriously wounded soldier on this mission so far -- when two Sectoids and an alien MEC come out of the engine room to check on us. "Hit the deck!"

This gives the Sectoid time to generate a shield around the MEC; this time, however, Kite and Gabrielle can feel it happen. "Can you tell me roughly how strongly?" Dr. Shen asks on the radio. They do, and after a bit of math, this lets us triangolate where the MEC is - standing right in front of the engine room. Great, now how do we ambush it?

"Stewart, cross the keel and shoot some spam their way - don't hit anythng powered. Me and Gabrielle are going to mess with its head if it pops it out. Everyone else, get out of the ship, and climb back in on the side."

We do that. The two aliens stay put; however, the sectoid that isn't generating the shield steps forward and hits Stewart in the arm as he lays down suppressive fire. Good guess, or did we just get outmaneuvered by a sectoid? Bradford reminds us that there's a lich on the ship, and is probably keeping an eye on us.

Gabrielle says something in French, and the sectoid collapses backwards. She seems to have picked up this faster than both Kite and Kip. Incidentally, another possible correlation with psionics seems to be good aim.

We advance,and get ready to jump on the MEC. A glance tells us that this alien supply ship is largely empty; the Meld canisters are empty, the abduction devices and stasis tanks are thankfully empty... are they running out of stuff, or just risking an empty barge?

The flanking maneuver works - the MEC gets onto the ship's keel, and Kite unloads her anger at it, obliterating its shield. Stewart gets a shot in from the side; so does Jonny. I don't -- too far away. I feel a little numb, estranged from what's going on around me.

Henry finishes the alien MEC off with a well placed shot. I need to put myself on more gunnery practice.

The alien barge is indeed a barge - there's a bow section with the controls and maneuvering engines, a stern section with the main engine, and the middle section is cargo holds and can be made longer or shorter, up to whatever limits their reentry shielding has. As best as we can tell, the components are older than the welds, meaning that these barges may have been assembled just to go against us - this hasn't been the case for other UFO types, leading to our guess that the aliens didn't bring a drydock along.

We get ready to jump up to the engine room. "Remember guys, we want to keep this one together."

Gabrielle pops open the shield door and - "LICH!"

The hell? Why is it in the engine room?

One of the two bodyguards run out towards the engine aerospikes, while the other plants itself in front of its master. Gabrielle doesn't have time to raise her weapon, and tries to prod the ork with her mind instead -- and slumps against the engine hut. Looks like the lich is protecting his bodyguards.

"Try that with me, you shriveled bitch" Kite says, getting up the airlift. Apparently the lich is female.

The lich doesn't seem to retaliate, retreating to the engines herself. The other bodyguard had climbed up the engine hut, and fires at Stewart as he covers Kite - he's fine, but not if he doesn't take cover. I look at Jonny. "Go?"

"Go!"

Jonny pins down the ork bodyguard still inside the engine hut while I cross over, pull myself up a ladder, and shoot the second bodyguard twice in the balls it doesn't have.

Stewart and Henry move forward and take down the bodyguard Jonny had pinned down. The lich is alone. Maybe we can knock her out.

And that's when Gabrielle shoots Stewart in the back, saying something in French. Henry recoils like I've seen sectoids and orks do from Kite and Gabrielle's mental assaults.

"We didn't even know she was compromised! What the hell!"

Does being psionic give less resistance? No, couldn't be... maybe it just was less visible?

"ALl right, fuck this. LEROY JENKINS!" The lich doens't understand the reference, but the squad does - we bum rush the alien. In response, it puts up its shield, and reflects as many plasma bolts as it can. I hear Gabrielle groan in pain and see some color come to the lich's grey hands; the brainwashed woman walks forward behind us and shoots Kite between the shoulder boosters.

Jonny breaks the shield. Kite managed to ignore the plasma bolt to her back, and stands up, glaring at the lich. Even I can see the air between them crackling purple. Now's my chance!

I jump at the creature, arc thrower in hand -- and she reforms her shield, slamming me against the back wall of the engine hut. "Graargh!" In a monotone, Gabrielle declaims "You shouldn't hit girls, subhuman!" Her face is emaciated, glassy. Reminds us of a Twilight vampire.

The lich on the other hand, looks... healthier. Is she draining Gabrielle? Her shield is back up. "Let's see if you can bleed, bitch!"

Kite pins Gabrielle down after getting another shot from her plasma pistol into her armor.

At this point we're just pounding the lich's shield with our gun barrels. Jonny gets the arc thrower out, and yells at me. "Cross the streams!"

We empty the tasers into the lich, and it collapses. So does Gabrielle. Kite carries Gabrielle over to the lich, and puts them next to each other; I offer help, but she pushes me off at first. "Wait, you're safe." She accepts the help, and has me put the comatose bodies almost as if they were spooning. "This should keep the lich alive for now. They can't sustain themselves. Gabrielle should make it."

We regroup while Kite and Jonny break the lich's cloak into bands and ties the two together; I idly wonder how long until out-of-context frames from the video feed show up online.

I'm okay for now, other than my gut being full of med-gel but by this point my immune system should be used to it. Stewart and Herry are in very bad shape.

"With the lich's lights out, there's nothing to stop the..."

Bugs! Three Lovecraftian horrors barrel down the corridor above the keel and between the cargo bays, followed by three elite orks. We hide in the engine hut. Kite reacts faster than all of us, and takes a bug out at long range. The other bugs sprint towards us, jump up to the engine hut platform, and are met by a hail of projectiles.

The elite orks are smarter than that, and take cover in the cargo bay - we defended that position well earlier, and now we're being shot at from it. And we can't just wait for them to come in if we are to take the barge intact, they'll shoot up the power plant whether accidentally or on purpose.

Fortunately for us, they are off the leash and come at us blindly - all we have to do is shoot slightly upwards to not hit the wheelhouse hut, and two of the orks fall from plasma and alloy shards as they use the airlift. Thanks for the chokepoint, assholes. The third one comes to its senses, and hides in one of the cargo bays.

"Okay, we gotta hunt it."

Jonny is in the best shape of any of us; Kite is going to get on the hut's roof with the last of her booster fuel, and cover him.

Rather than shooting, Kite confuses the ork - it cowers for a moment, and Jonny manages to take him out.

"All right, that's it-"

"Three more, coming from outside the ship!"

Three more orks in red armor climb up the side of the ship. Jonny's out of position! "Covering fire! Run for it! Hide!"

We run inside the engine hut - and the orks promptly blow a hole in its side. It's still inside the atmospheric shield, but they came this close to hitting the powerplant.

Steward is down. "Vitals falling!" Vahlen calls.

Okay, new door. I run out of it - Kite yells something I don't understand, and one of the orks pops its head out from the shield emitter. I blow its head off, and start laying down suppression fire at the one that just came up the side of the ship. "Kay! Stay in cover dammit!"

I hide behind the shield generator, then realize that it's a horrible idea -- if that gets shot, this ship won't be able to reenter from a suborbital hop. I jump out -- the ork misses me. Henry follows. Now we're flattened against the bulkhead, trading fire and hoping that the ork doesn't cripple its own ship.

Kite walks forward, and starts using the last of her medikit's supplies on Steward... then puts her hands on his head, "Get. The. Fuck. UP!" And the man stands up. "We aren't done here, get to it!"

(OOC note: Kite has the Revive skill, but I'm fluffing it as a psi ability)

"I've seen it, but I scarcely believe it" Dr. Shen comments.

Out of ammo, and a plasma pistol won't do much against these guys. We keep trading shot, to little effect - Stewart got up and started shooting. He's unsteady on his feet, but leaning back against the engine hut's wall and shooting through the hole.

We trade shots until Kite stop holding Stewart up and manages to take aim, finishing the ork with a headshot.

And then, the last ork -- who had run all the way around -- climbs up the ship and blows Henry's head off from behind.

"NO!"

Jonny takes it out with a prolonged bursts as soon as Henry's body falls and he has a clear shot.

We lost a man - woudld've lost two, but for a miracle.

We have a living -- well, conscious -- lich, and an intact UFO.

The plan is for Heidi to take Kite, Gabrielle and the prisoner home flying manually, after I wire up the Skyranger's control box to the alien ship and help Dr. Shen calculate parameters for a suborbital hop.

We're just about almost done when two columns of Army vehicles, one from the US and one from Canada, converge on us and light up a forest of floodlights.

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Page last modified on February 18, 2015, at 01:42 AM