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Imagine my surprise when I'm woken up with the early shift and shuffled to the eastern cavern, along with all the other trainees and what passes for cadre.

"Everyone up and fresh? Gut. I am Panzergrenadier Lena Krause! The pitiful excuse for a tactical report my superiors have received have one thing that isn't complete nonsens in them -- Close combat is the key to defeating these alien invaders on foot! I am a close combat support specialist. I am also the woman who will make you eat coal, drink steam, and shit diamonds!" I blink several times. "Er, actually I am in com-" "Zut! I did not address you, so you are not talking to me!"

Ugh. Did we suffer a coup while I was recuperating? (OOC note: The game gave me her as a reward for the extraction mission, and she DOES outrank everyone, at the moment).

Officer Bradford looks on approvingly from the gantry. Or he's staring at Lena's curves. Which are indeed worthy of being stared at, I'll admit.

"From now on, I vill be supervising ALL training and ALL deployments until this outfit garners something resembling military discipline! I already arranged for an extra seat on the Skyranger to do so." Wonder how she wrangled that out of the Council, actually -- I asked, I went as far as having two more seats built and installing one myself, but they were removed and taken away. I guess that carrying Van Doorn out made the point that the Skyranger can handle it. (OOC Note: Having a Sergeant allows the Officer Training School to operate, and one of the first upgrades you can buy is Squad Size, which we do need). She walks down the line of soldiers and punches a few in the stomach if they're slouching, me not included -- guess the bandaged shoulder gives me a pass.

It is something that could readily be suggested that the people sent to be the guinea pigs in answering the question 'How best do we fight aliens?' are not likely to share a significant Venn overlap with 'people who can conventionally be called sane.' Of course, respect for the chain of command is an important, perhaps even all-important part of traditional military doctrine, which may be why Panzergrenadier Lena Krause did not consider that there could be adverse consequences to punching someone who is slouching, bleary-eyed, grumbling, and generally conveying an air of 'Why have I been woken up this early if it isn't to kill something?'

Certainly, in a normal military situation, the greatest possible extent of the consequences would potentially be some grumbling afterwards. Thus, it is entirely possible that she may be forgiven for not having realized that punching one Kite Winters in the stomach at 0617.13 would not in fact produce cowed obedience and improved posture, but being grabbed by the shoulder, savagely headbutted, and tackled to the floor in commencement of a brawl. Both 'participants' once separated insisted that no medical treatment was necessary, but a plentiful willingness to correct this for each other.

Doctor Vahlen has commented that, as equipment to render xenoforms unconscious with a minimum of bodily harm will be required in order to capture any aliens alive, it is likely positive that the base contains members willing to volunteer to be test subjects for such equipment. No one is entirely sure whether or not she was joking.

(Contributed by Kite Winters)

I am not much of a fighter, my reflexes stink and the only reason why I went on a sortie is that there was nobody to tell me I couldn't do that, but I can take a lot of blows; when there's a fistfight I usually position myself in the middle of it until it stops. This time, due to a nasty plasma burn, I can't do that. Bradford orders Kite and Lena separated, which six of the recruits do with a remarkable turn of speed. Then he orders Kite detained, to which the folks holding the German soldier let go.

"Oi, wait a minute." I step out of the line. "Why?"

"Uh, Mrs. Winters started a fight, she struck a superior, existing procedure mandates-"

"Actually, Lena started a fight. Did anyone see who hit first?"

It's a rhetorical question, but almost nobody answers. Come on, dammit, we're supposed to be better than this, fight that bystander effect, people! The hands of my friends go up; I know they're going to back me up, but someone else has to say it, or it'd defeat the point. Nobody does, so I let Riley, Stephen and Vee answer. They point at Lena, obviously. "Great, because I'm very sure Lena hit Kite in the gut with no provocation. Now, Mr. Bradford, folks, I don't know where you went to school, but the principal at Saint Mary's Institute always said that words only call for words, and whoever hits first is at fault. I seen him send a professor home for hitting a student in anger one time, and that was after they both ended up with a broken nose."

I walk over to Kite and Lena; the latter hisses at me. "Vat are you doing, you idiot!"

"Sargeant, this is NOT a military operation. You're not in charge, Bradford is not in charge, and frankly I am in charge specifically because I don't particularly want to be. We're here to figure out how to fight aliens. I think we've had several millennia to get good at fighting each other. If both of you want a rematch, we have a boxing ring in the gym. For now, both of you, please go clean up and head directly to the mess hall where the rest of us will join you shortly."

Kite is let go; Lena salutes me, rigidly. I hold my hands together and bow my head, rather than returning the salute. "This all said, I'd love you to handle the physical training, we can learn a lot from you."

I turn around to address what are effectively my fellow students. "Okay, a few things. One, please look up "bystander effect" and learn to avoid it. I think the aliens are playing upon our fears, to some degrees, and our response to a scary surreal situation should be -- well, two, you've just seen a seasoned warfighter getting attacked by someone who by right shouldn't have lasted two seconds against her, and getting her ass kicked. It's been said before and it'll be said ad nauseam; this is a new kind of enemy, we need a new kind of fighting, and WE ARE IT. Three, and last, Lena is right -- most of you already know how to fight as part of a military unit. Me and the rest of the faculty don't. So we will be working under Lena on deployments, and we'll make use of her skills as a PT instructor, at least to some degree. But this isn't boot camp, we don't need to be an army, there's enough of those on Earth already. We need to be something else. And I need each of you to help figure out what, because if we fuck this up, it's all over. Speaking of all over, go get breakfast before that's all over too."

Bradford is practically fuming as we walk to the chow hall, the last to leave. According to him, I have destroyed any chance of having any sort of discipline or even unit cohesion for the foreseeable future, by giving Kite's insubordination a pass. "Mr. Bradford, I assure you that if there's someone in this cave who understands the meaning of obeying orders, it's Kite. That's not the point. The point is that we have to get to where people will do what works because they know it works, not because someone with a fancier hat than themselves tell them to do it."

I think I survived a coup attempt today. I wonder if this, too, is some sort of test, or if it's just Central Officer Bradford wanting to call the shots.

Rank does have its privileges in that he'll get to cut at the head of the chow line, which is fine. I take a detour to sign up as a test subject for the Arc Thrower project; I can't go on missions for a few days, and if a Taser variant can knock me out, it can probably knock out a grey too. Besides, so far our combat doctrine seems to be snipers in back and brawlers in front; we may well end up standardizing on an electric sword or something. I'm not surprised that my name is not the first on the signup sheet.

It seems that the morning's episode caused an informal boxing tournment to get set up; I limit it to four rounds per match, to reduce the chances of injuries that could get in the way of a deployment. Bradford spent most of the day in the situation room; Dr. Vahlen takes an hour out of my day to help the medics get my vitals.


Whatever Sgt. Lena had planned for morning calisthenics never materializes; the next day we're all woken up rudely again at four in the morning, but this time it's by the alert klaxon. Alien abductions have been reported in Bangalore, Cairo and Saint John's, in Canada. Stephen and Riley agree that the first target is more important -- it's the closest to us, and the Indian government has agreed to bolster our engineering team with satellite experts we need to expand our coverage. After a few jokes about "doing the needful" that I let slide, the team saddles up; we're actually going to send out Lena with Kite, Stephen, Riley and Vee, so that we can see her in action and learn something. I will be keeping an eye on things in C3 with Bradford.

The team lands in a somewhat Westernized part of the city, no doubt one of their tech parks; the abductions have taken place in or around a liquor store. I never thought I'd hear Riley and Stephen call for going easy on collateral damage. "First kill, then pillage, then burn, okay guys?" Lena shushes them.

Lena takes point and prepares to sweep the parking lot, going ahead and motioning for the others to follow her lead -- while this probably makes sense in an urban combat scenario, we see that conventional tactics have holes against this enemy; Kite spots two Sectoids while she gets into position, and unfortunately for her, they're already inside the store. Stephen drops a smoke grenade to give her some cover, prompting Kite to put her medikit's surgical mask on.

Despite this precaution, both Kite and Stephen are hit! Lena finds herself in the rearguard, having misjudged the aliens' position. Rather than charging in blindly to attract fire, which would be heroic but stupid, she takes cover behind a car and takes a shot at one of the greys, missing it. Kite takes advantage of the suppression, and nails the very same critter as soon as it pokes its head out, despite Bradford commenting that she had at beast a one in four chances of a hit. So far, assault weapons have been rather useless; we seem to be doing better with bolt-action precision rifles, and boomsticks.

Stephen gets away from the burning car and uses his other grenade to take out exactly one sectoid, both of the liquor store's cash registers, and no booze whatsoever. I'm impressed.

Vee dashes forward to retrieve the yellow stuff; doing so, she finds another couple of sectoids, doing... we're not sure what to one of the wrapped-in-algae bodies. Riley repositions to deal with the new threat, taking cover behind one of the abduction devices after giving it a good kick.

The sectoids do that quick talk thing -- I still wonder what that is even about, but it seems consistent with sectoids encountered in pair; are they sharing some sort of kiss before one of them dives into danger? -- and get behind cover, ready to pick our squad off.

Vee gets behind cover, and narrowly avoids plasma blasts from the diminutive alien -- after a "kiss", one tends to hide, while the other is emboldened. I think about soldiers in invading armies. Wonder what they were told about us, to get them to make war on us across light-years... I'm probably anthropomorphizing too much; according to Dr. Vahlen, their brain implants and cerebral structure indicates that their sentience is severely dampened.

Riley and Vee fire at the "kisser", with the latter hitting; the little grey man falls over backward... and we are surprised to see the other one curl up and die as well! This is definite evidence of some sort of mental link between the creatures, one that is strong enough to infuse courage and transmit the shock of death. That has disturbing implications. Bradford cuts into the audio feed; it seems that we came in late enough that these were all the stragglers there were. He congratulates Vee on getting two kills with one shots. I shake my head; I can't stop imagining those last two sectoids as doomed lovers, now. Dr. Vahlen is right; we have to capture one alive. Maybe if we can talk, there's still time to de-escalate this madness.

On the way back, we determine that Vee's proficiency in blasting aliens is a good initial standard for what will constitutes "graduation" for our trainees. The "two X-rays with one shell" thing impressed everyone, and she gets to listen to the cheers via radiotelephone on the way back from Bangalore when we show the mission feed on the internal TV. Maybe he's trying to be conciliatory, but even Bradford agrees with the assessment.

Kite and Stephen are out of the fight for around a week; I privately think that it'll avoid conflicts with Lena. Kite's partner has been offered to move on base and help with maintenance and might actually be here before the Skyranger return depending on airliner schedules, and Stephen has Riley, so I am not worried about either of them receiving proper care.

During mop-up, a second canister was recovered, as well as several other "suspicious containers" from the liquor store.

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