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Mission7

GEOSCAPE

"Rise and shine, Headmaster. Rise and... shine. Not that I... wish to imply you have been sleeping on the job. No one is more deserving of a rest, and all the effort in the world would have gone to waste until... well, let's just say your hour has... come again. The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So, wake up, Headmaster. Wake up and... *smell the ashes*..."

Is the Thin Man talking to me? The speech pattern seems as subtly off as their movements were. Wait. Oh fuck you, I never could finish that game.

Wait. You shot me. Twice. Through a brick wall and the door of a car. You killed me, you asshole! But you didn't get any of my friends! I win! I WIN!

"God damn it, make with the sedative already!"

"We cannot, the patient's neurochemistry precludes -"

"I don't CARE! Fucking nutcase."

The Thin Man socks me, knocking me out. Now he's wearing a green sweater.


"... I win! I win!" And that's when Bradford had to knock me out, what with me trying to strangle him even as the life support tubes coming out of my chest were coming loose.

Bradford plays the back-to-back recordings of me acting like a complete tit, both at the end of the botched mission when I flat out panicked and curled up into a ball, and when I come to in the medbay. While offering praises to Riley for reaching what he considers an adequate battlefield proficiency given how he dispatched the last Thin Man after I got shot at and panicked, he goes on saying that I am confined to the med bay for my own safety and the safety of others, and he will take command of the Extraterrestrial Combat Academy until I have recovered physically and mentally or or the Council appoints a replacement.

\

(OOC Note: Apparently, I ran afoul of a known cover/hitbox bug. I will keep the result of the mission, but I replayed it until I got a critical wound rather than death for myself, so that the story can comtinue.)

The briefing is given to the entire base personnel via video, with Bradford using the giant situation room projector screen as a backdrop. I'm still woozy, and wonder if it's evidence of some sinister conspiracy that he has access to that control and I don't, then I remind myself that Bradford being a Thin Man was just me hallucinating. Behind him, the tape plays a loop of me being a moron.

The first order of business is to put Lena back in charge of all training.

The second is to resume research on the yellow canisters; the nanomachines contained therein, despite the obvious danger, might have led to better medikits. Dr. Shen's experimental warfare project is put on hold, and the engineering and research team separated again.

The third is to integrate into the combat doctrine file -- pending its complete rewrite by Bradford and Lena's hands -- that no one combatant should take it upon themselves to be a fire sponge, no matter how tough they think they are.

The fourth, and last for the day, is to deal with all non-military personnel by either formally conscripting them or sending them home, at Bradford's discretion -- this effectively means that my friends are to be brought to the floatplane that will take them to Osaka Airport and from there back to their homes.


I can barely move; after I tried to sit up, the tubes going in and out of me have been covered with a strong fabric mesh which I suspect is what's left of my underarmor -- good job, Dr. Shen, that thing kept me alive. All I can do is watch how my friends react to this second attempt at a coup...

Riley is also in the medbay -- I can't see him anywhere, though -- and his evacution is postponed until he can walk. He is slated to leave as soon as possible. He says this bullshit is no way to fight an alien species, and says "tell the X-Com director this is officially a race". (As written by Riley August) I don't know if he's talking about me or Bradford, but hope it's the latter.

Kite was slated to leave as soon as possible, upon arrival of the troops assigned to escort her to a holding cell to await arrival of the flightplane, finding her at the back of the barracks, still holding her sniper rifle, now lain upon an improvised bipod aimed at the barracks door, the matter was opened to discussion. It is believed some accommodation may be reached to continue her employment due to a position of "The nice men in overly tailored suits promised signing up for this meant killing things until the end of the war. I like this plan. Therefore, I suggest you keep me pointed at the aliens, because contrary to popular belief and common law, I am none to picky about the boundary conditions of the logical set 'things'." (As written by Kite Winters) Bradford and Lena have a row about the matter, but the lack of anything resembling qualified snipers plus the renewed emphasis on the need for secrecy means that Lena wins out; the alternative would be to set up a brig and live with the obvious damage to morale. Therefore, Kite remains with the project. Lena seems to have developed at least a grudging respect for Kite; seeing her in action probably helped.

Vee is slated to leave as soon as possible, but took Dr. Shen aside to discuss things before she could be put into custody; who knows what will happen.

Stephen is planning to stay for the forseeable future; not content to sit down and take defeat from a group of mindless aliens. (As Written by Stephen Mako). Bradford lets him know that he has no say on the mission rotation one way or the other, but seems OK with letting Stephen stick around at least as long as Riley is bedridden. I can't tell if Bradford genuinely doesn't want to antagonize us, or is just trying to perform a graceful takeover. Possibly a bit of both.


Bradford's management seems to not impact the lives of our trainees particularly much; there's a requirement to be in uniform at all times during the two on-duty shifts, corridor lines are painted for rookies to follow like at a military academy, and I get to see more salutes... not to me, obviously; One of the engineers (or was it Stephen? I think I was in a bit of a haze; I hope it was Stephen) has given me a remote control for the lifesigns monitor, so I can keep an eye on some areas of the base. One of the first things I see other than people doing calisthenics is the suit-and-tie types coming back, visiting the storehouse, and walking off with a number of alien artifacts slated for study, among which I recognize the burned-out nav computer which we were hoping to use for parts. A nap later, I change the channel to the storehouse again to see all the Sectoid corpses we had in storage gone -- so much for comparative genetic analysis.

I don't know how long I am out of it next, but my guess is a couple of days. The first thing I know for sure is that we're officially broke -- Bradford blames it on my mismanagement, predictably, saying I spent too much money on extravagant engineering facilities. However, I can feel the vibration of tunnel-boring machines. Nobody seems to really want to talk to me, but from what I can see out of the cameras I have access to and snippets of conversations I pick up, it would seem that the research into the yellow stuff has born fruit! It's programmable nanomachines, just like in the game Antaeus Rising! Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, they have strong safeguards against self-replic4ting; like the alien alloys, they are for us a nonrenewable resource. Eventually, I get someone to play back the right security tape (and I do mean tape; it seems that this base has a parallel, lower technology security system in place. I have to wonder what this place was used for in the sixties and seventies, given that some of the oldest metalwork is stamped with those dates).

"I... The next Commander will have to decide where the greatest advantage lies. Doctors, is there anything else you agree on?"

"Given the nanites' capability to allow interfacing human and alien biology, or biological and mechanical components, we have agreed to call them..."

"... Meld."

.

Despite us being reportedly broke, ground is broken for two laboratory annexes; access is restricted to everyone, including most of the research and engineering teams, so I have no idea what's going on in there. As a consolation prize, the people interested in the experimental warfare project are given the go-ahead to get back to work; both Vahlen and Shen's time seems to be completely absorbed by the new costruction, although I think both of them came over to see me. I guess it's good that nobody is attempting cuddles, because right now I couldn't physically handle it.

Oddly, Vee is returned to active duty by Dr. Shen's fiat; I don't know what she said in order to talk him into talking to Bradford, because I couldn't pick up any of it, but she passed by to see how I was and she told me that while the situation is still tense, the brass -- we have actual brass now, I guess -- were okay with her being deployed like normal. Apparently, she's just too badass to ground. I nod in agreement before passing out again.

As the days pass, the steps I hear outside tend to be less walking and more marching... I know they aren't sedating me, because it'd kill me, but I can't seem to stay awake for very long. That's not unusual, actually, it's how I recuperate. The alert klaxon does wake me -- the aliens have started another round of abductions! I can do nothing but look on as Bradford selects Argentina for the next mission -- we will be assigned men from the Grupo de Operaciones Especiales in thanks, and he obviously wants to get as many of his people in as possible. The Skyranger goes halfway around the world; I've managed to free my hand enough to bite my fingernails. I don't even know who is on the mission!

OPERATION

The squad heads to Cordoba; my TV screen is patched in to see what's going on; the place looks like a large garage, with annexed workshops. Lena brought Kite, Vee, and two rookies -- Leticia Gonzales, probably because she speaks the language, and Nobu Sato, I assume because most base personnel would appreciate seeing a Japanese national in action. Stephen is taking full-time care of Riley, which I approve of in principle; pretty sure so does he.

Kite is immediately ordered to take position on the roof and cover everyone else; I guess that Lena understood that while Kite is perfectly capable of capping everyone in the back of the head, mentally, she won't as long as there is real work to do. The rookies are told to advance with caution while Lena and Vee take point.

The slow advance pays off -- a pair of Sectoids come at the squad, and Lena effortlessly drops one.

Kite is told to check out the other side of the workshop, and -- OH GOD! FLYING TENTACLE MONSTER! It goes away after one frame... are we fighting flying invisible tentacle monsters, or was that a video glitch? I hope it was a video glitch. I call out to be careful, not that Kite can hear me. She does find another Meld canister.

Two sectoids emerge from behind a welding machine, and hole up in the showroom area like the other one did. Lena orders everyone on the roof, except for Vee and Mr. Sato. Is she intending to use them as bait?

One of the sectoids that walked inside the showroom didn't quite manage to hide behind something; Sato shoots it, albeit non fatally. That's still impressive, given how horrible our assault rifles have been.

Vee runs past Sato and tries to finish the job, but misses.

All of a sudden, the squad is attacked by flying.... things! Two fly past Vee, strange things that look like a man's upper half with a jetpack. They zip past the doors, flanking her. Is THAT what they're doing with abductees?

Right after, Kite is attacked by one of the tentacle creatures! It wasn't a video glitch, we are fighting INVISIBLE FLYING TENTACLE MONSTERS! Before she can whip her sidearm out, the thing strangles her. She shouts "No! Yarnall!", which if I remember correctly is some RPG beast that she had a bad memory of. Oh gawd. I half expect her to freak out, but she doesn't.

"There's two of these dangly fuckers over here, I'm bugging out!" Vee shouts as plasma from a Sectoid hits her. She shoots one of said dangly fuckers in the face and hides behind a pickup truck.

Lena gets the tentacle monster -- yarnall -- off Kite's face by a careful shot on its carapace, with Mrs. Gonzales looking on in case there's more. Sato takes position next to Vee and shoots one of the danglies, to little effect.

When the yarnall moves, no doubt trying to hide again, Kite blows it away with her sidearm, a grunt of satisfaction following the crack of the shots.

The cyborg dangly things -- we need a better name for these; I can't hear Bradford on C3, but even he is standing there in astonished silence at the new alien types -- gang up on Sato; one misses, the other hits hard enough to make me glad I field-tested that underarmor for him.

Kite is told to get off the roof and recover the Meld -- I try to shout "Are you nuts?" at the screen, but to no avail; She does so dutifully. Didn't you people see there's TWO of those tentacle monsters?

Vee loudly proclaims having had enough of this shit, and tosses a grenade in the entryway where the two cyborg dangly things are... standing? floating? in ambush. I can clearly see a humanoid face, horribly warped. It looks like the Toclafane from Doctor Who. Are these former abductees? Is that what they're doing with us? Is that what the Meld is for?

Dr. Vahlen complains that killing aliens with explosives makes recovery difficulty. Did everyone in the command staff's priorities shift with me gone, or were they always like this and just hiding it?

One of the danglies is still twitching, and gets airborne again; Sato has a clear shot, but manages to miss -- the cyborg boosts off. Self preservation, or trap?

Sending Kite to get the Meld was a bad idea; two sectoids get to her, and even though she's still standing I can see the holes in her armor. She didn't even cry out, just growled. If that wasn't enough, the second yarnall appears out of thin air and makes a dive for her... and is promptly dropped by Lena.

Leticia and Sato are sent forward to face the dangly and the sectoid -- god damn it, these are trainees, not pawns in a chess match! There's no cover there! Fortunately, Leticia gets the dangly. Sato, however, misses his shot -- Vee pops out of cover and, shouting obscenities, rushes over to save his ass -- and misses!

Lena takes out the sectoid who was coming after Kite, but is herself ambushed by another sectoid -- fortunately, the layered armor holds; Kite, having patched herself up, is back into the fight and runs over to help Vee.

Vee, having taken fire and also sporting visible wounds, takes no chances and physically knocks the Sectoid over, finishing it with a shotgun blast before slumping against a billboard exhausted.

Lena uses her grenade to blow the last sectoid into mist. "Operational objectives completed" Bradford comments cooly as everyone more or less limps into the Skyranger. The only one who isn't hurt is Leticia, who has to help Kite and Vee walk back to the dropship.

Leticia has demonstrated enough firearms proficiency to warrant being assigned a sniper rifle; while it is clear to everyone that Vee's ability to fight and care for her squadmates puts her on par with Lena, Bradford gets around that problem by promoting Lena to Instructor and giving Vee Lena's old rank. Kite is also awarded a promotion -- if she was leaving, she would count as having graduated. Maybe it's a not so sublte hint from Bradford; she takes the pips with a snarl, and lets everyone know that her plan is to spend the next two weeks in bed with her partner and anyone disturbing her will do so at their own risk.

If this is how XCOM intends to do its business from now on, I am appalled. We got lucky that nobody died. And those cyborgs! The names "yarnall" for the tentacle beast and "dangly" for the mutilated half-man, half-rocket will stick... I can't shake the notion that the danglies are what came out of earlier rounds of abduction.

Bradford performs a corny little ceremony to award the new ranks and to welcome Gabriel Diaz, heavy weapons specialist, into his fold. The secondhand adrenaline stops having an effect, and I black out again.

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Page last modified on January 02, 2015, at 05:04 AM