Thursday, April 30, 2015





o Enemy Forces:
 - 35X Chryssalids, 4x Thin Men, 3x Zombies

o Friendly Forces
 - SPC Jade Colman (United Kingdom)
 - SPC Svetlana Petukhova (Russia)
 - SPC Naomi Bowden (United Kingdom)
 - PFC Jirina Markusova (Ukraine?)
 - PFC Qutuz Safar (United Arab Emirates)
 - PVT Dean Carter (United Kingdom)
 - PVT Synclair Mallari (Philippines)


o Strike Team deploys to Corrientes Argentina, 21 MAY 2016 @ 1653 hrs, IOT disrupt alien abduction operations.


The mission alert came in at 1528, and we were lifting off by 1540. We touched down in Argentina at 1653. I moved one fire team to cover and overwatch the restaurant, while the second team, headed by SPC Bowden, moved into a support position. After breaching the main dining room, I put people in place to breach the kitchen. When Markusova kicked the door open, we saw a trio of floaters. My reaction force moved in and Safar and Mallari immediately flanking and eliminating two of the floaters. The third proved to be a bit more cagey, and in an attempt to flank it, Bowden spotted a pod of Thin Men. I fired at them as Bowden withdrew, and they moved into the building to flank Markusova, though she was able to avoid their fire. 

The floater moved out of the kitchen, and Carter managed to wound it, with Bowden finishing it off. I followed up by taking down the boldest of the Thin Men, while Safar moved to claim the meld canister he spotted on the back side of the building. Unfortunately it closed as he approached. Meanwhile, Markusova fell back to cover, while Petukhova took down one of the remaining Thin Men. PVT Mallari then advanced and tossed a frag grenade, taking down the wall and exposing the Thin Man for Bowden to eliminate.

Before we could move, a pod of Sectoids with a Drone came into sight. The Sectoids scattered for cover, but the Drone took a shot and grazed Mallari behind the table. He returned fire and spanged a few bullets off of it, but did not seem to cause damage. Petukhova's shot was more effective. We advanced on the two Sectoids, which remained in place, waiting for us to come to them. 

Once in range, I was able to designate one of the Sectoids for Bowden to kill as the rest of the squad advanced on the last X-Ray. When it ducked out to take a shot at Markusova, I put it down with a burst from my LMG. 

We proceeded to secure the rest of the area, but encountered no further resistance. 


o Sustain:
 - Clear lines of fire
 - Prepare and breach

o Improve:
 - Increased operational speed to recover more assets
 - Use of full cover over improvised cover

Visiting Hours (20 MAY 2016)

The medical bay was quiet, but there were a few visitors still, despite the late hour. It had been determined a month ago that, unless there were actual life-saving procedures going on, there wasn't any particular reason to limit visitors to the medbay. Lieselotte Faber sat in a chair near de Matos' bed, while Ana Lucia Mardones leaned against an empty bed nearby.

"You're kidding me," Monica said, her brows lifted in disbelief. "A whale?"

"I wish I was kidding," Liesel replied. "I didn't get a clean look at it myself, but Mardones," she paused, jerking her head toward the other woman, "got an eyeful."

"Si," Ana Lucia confirmed. " It was covered in pods, you could barely see the whale, and the bugs just kept ripping their way out of it."

"Jesus Cristo," de Matos whispered. "How many do you think there were?"

"Armarnis said we killed at least thirty, maybe thirty five," Liesel said with a shrug, referring to her countryman by his nickname. "Who can say how many would have kept coming, if they hadn't blown the whole village to scheiße." 

"It was pretty terrifying," Ana Lucia interjected. "Those monsters, up close, they just..." she trailed off, unable to adequately express it.

"Especially after seeing what they did to the people of the village," Liesel agreed. "Mardones here was fearless, though. She killed three of them in under five seconds. Probably would have been more, but she ran out of ammo!" Liesel laughed a bit when Ana Lucia blushed and scowled at her.

"La mierda," she growled back. "I was scared out of my mind. Just couldn't let it get to me."

Monica took Liesel's hand, and reached out to Ana Lucia. After a moment, Ana Lucia shoved herself off the bed, and stepped over to take the offered hand.

"I'm glad you're both okay," Monica said. "It kills me whenever I hear that we've got wounded coming in, and I'd hate to lose another sister or brother." Ana Lucia smiled and squeezed Monica's hand before letting go and dropping back to lean against the other bed again. Liesel continued to hold her hand, while the two of them shared a long look. Just as Ana Lucia began to think she should leave them alone, Liesel turned to her and smiled.

"Who would ever have thought?" she asked. "A German, a Brazilian and an Ecuadorian serving together?"

"Sounds like the start to a bad joke," Ana Lucia agreed. "Stop me if you've heard this one..." The women laughed at that for a moment, before the conversation turned serious again.

"What do you think is next?" Monica asked. "The médicos say I'm going to be in this bed for another few weeks, but I'm dying to get back out there."

"I don't know," Liesel replied pensively. "We keep seeing more out of the X-rays. This new armor is excellent, and I hear they're working on actual laser weapons, but I can't imagine that things will continue to go as well as they have been." As she spoke, Monica and Ana Lucia caught the shadow that crossed her features. Both of them knew that Oksenov's death still bothered her, though she normally hid it well. They also knew the stoic German would open up about it when she was ready, and not a moment before. There was a long silence, each of the women finding herself momentarily lost in her thoughts. It was Ana Lucia that broke it first.

"I think I'm going to head to the gym," she said, "let you two have some time alone." She glanced around, seeing only the newly promoted SSG "Armarnis" Lindemann, taking his leave after visiting Hassan and Daiwa. De Matos smiled at her in farewell before reaching over to take Faber's other hand, holding them both as she looked up from the bed. Mardones left them in silence, nodding to Lindemann when she caught up with him at the entrance, where Makhandule stood waiting for him.

She glanced back once before she left, and smiled a little whens she saw de Matos pulling Faber down for a kiss. They'd be alright. With luck, they'd all be alright.

Monday, April 27, 2015



PREPARED BY: SSG Oskar Lindemann


o Enemy Forces:
 - 35X Chryssalids, 4x Thin Men, 3x Zombies

o Friendly Forces
 - SGT Oskar Lindemann (Germany)
 - CPL Constance Makhandule (South Africa)
 - CPL Shaojie Zhang (China)
 - SPC Ana Lucia Mardones (Ecuador)
 - SPC Lieselotte Faber (Germany)
 - SPC Ghaith Khadem (Egypt)
 - SPC Lorena Kline (United States)


o Strike Team deploys to New Foundland, Canada, 16 MAY 2016 @ 2246 hrs, IOT investigate the distress signal.


We received the Mission Alert at 2158 hrs. The Skyranger was wheels up by 2212, and we arrived at the mission site at 2246 hrs. Due to the unknown situation, we dropped without landing. SPC Khadem moved ahead first, taking cover on the side of what appeared to be a store or warehouse, and made contact as a pod of Chryssalids came charging at him. SPC Faber and myself opened up, while SPC Kline threw a grenade, which stunned them long enough for SPC Mardones and Khadem to finish them off with their shotguns. Nothing else approached, so we began to move cautiously forward, Khadem still taking the lead.

When he reached a point where he could see around the building, another group of Chysallids burst around the corner, while another pod came running from the docks. CPL Zhang, SPC Kline and SPC Mardones engaged the pod on the docks, killing one Chrysallid, while CPL Makhandule fired a rocket at the pod coming around the building. SPC Khadem withdrew, and the squad braced for their assault. When they were close enough, Mardones went to work with her shotgun, injuring one and killing two Chrysallids. Kline yelled to clear the area as she readied a grenade. Khadem, Mardones and Zhang withdrew, firing and reloading, while Mak, Faber and myself fired into the Chryssalids, preventing their pursuit. Kline's grenade finished off the wounded Chryssalids.

I ordered the squad forward once the initial threat had been dealt with, which is when we met what I can only describe as a zombie. It was mangled and bloody, and moved as though its limbs didn't work right. We were still attempting to determine if it was alive when it suddenly collapsed, and a Chryssalid ripped its way out of the corpse. Mak, Mardones and I cut loose, shredding the bug before it had a chance to attack. 

When we advanced again, Khadem caught sight of two more "zombies" coming into the store. His first shot missed, but his second put one of the zombies down hard. I ordered Mardones and Kline forward, killing the second before it could become a bug. Then we took a moment to regroup before continuing forward. When Khadem called contact forward, Faber, overwatching from the rear put a bullet straight in the creature's head, but apparently this wasn't a zombie movie, since it kept coming. Khadem called contact again, as a Chryssalid burst out of the bloated body of a putrifying shark.

Makhandule moved first, putting a burst into the zombie's chest, which was apparently enough to put it down. Kline took a shot at the Chryssalid, but appeared to do nothing, with a direct hit. Khadem marked it for Faber, who put the monster down with a shot between the eyes. Then the forward element held position while I moved the rest of the squad up.

Without any warning, three more of the bugs came charging out of the wreckage of a boat in the darkness ahead, followed by four Thin Men. Kline, judging them to be the greater threat, lobbed a grenade into the rushing group of Chryssalids, stopping them in their tracks, though still alive. Mardones and Khadem took advantage of their stunned state to put two of the bugs down, while Zhang and myself eliminated two of the Thin Men lurking in the darkness. When the last Chryssalid rushed her position, Mardones finished it off with a point-blank blast from her shotgun. The Thin Men withdrew further, and we advanced.

When the Thin Men tried to reengage, Zhang shot one of them down. The other made it to cover, and managed to get Mardones and Kline with a poisonous cloud. Mardones was able to use the medkit she carried to sluice off the worst of the acid. When Khadem reported a Chryssalid down on the docks, Mak decided it would be best to open the area up with a rocket, and blew the Thin Man out of cover. It was quick enough to avoid most of the blast, but not quick enough to avoid Faber's headshot. 

The Chryssalid was behind cover, and did not move, so I ordered a cautious advance, with everyone ready to fire if it so much as twitched a leg. Meanwhile, Faber spotted movement from within the wreckage, and took a shot, critically wounding the zombie as it exited. Zhang finished it off, while Mak, Khadem and Mak assaulted the strangely immobile Chryssalid, killing it where it stood.

 When Khadem moved toward the wrecked whaler, he reported a strange sight within. It appeared that the whale corpse inside had been infected with dozens of pustules, each pulsing with alien life. As he watched, a Chryssalid ripped itself free from the corpse, falling to the deck, before squirming upright. I reported this to Central, who confirmed that this was more than we could handle, and serious enough to risk an airstrike, if we could activate the ship's transponder, and transmit its ID Code.

I ordered the squad into positions around the wreckage, and Khadem moved to board from the front, away from the hold and the bugs within. As he moved, we massed fires on the Chryssalids that poured out, killing several by the time he activated the transponder. Central confirmed that the airstrike was inbound, and I ordered retreat. Faber and I remained to the rear to provide cover as the rest of the squad disengaged, then when they made contact from the docks, we moved back toward the extraction point. 

The last pod of Chryssalids charged just as we reached the extraction point. We paused, well aware of the inbound destruction, just long enough to blow the last bugs to hell, as the Skyranger vectored in to pick us up. We were still close enough for the explosions to rock the Skyranger when the airstrike came in.


o Sustain:
 - Use of explosives to soften and slow the enemy
 - Massing fires to quickly eliminate the enemy

o Improve:
 - Move as a cohesive squad
 - Fire discipline

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lashing Out (06 MAY 2016)

"Ox, you're too exposed out there," Glynn called over the squad net. Oksenov didn't answer, but took a shot at one of the Sectoids exposed on the side of the train. Glynn cursed when he reported the miss, and scanned for anything that might take a shot at his comrade. "Ox, damnit, get out of there."

"He's right," SPC Faber said. "I'm taking the shot." There was a moment's silence, then the loud crack of her rifle was followed by the meld canister exploding, and the Sectoid behind it splattering across the rails. She cursed loudly enough, in German, to be heard without the squadnet.

PFC Glynn stood staring at the memorial wall, which now showed three portraits. It had been less than a week ago that CPL Huisman had died in Tennessee, and now Oksenov had joined him. That asshole had always been too confident, too sure of himself. Now he'd never brag about his combat prowess again.

The Sectoids were moving, and Glynn furiously scanned, his cheek pressed to the stock of his weapon, looking for anything to take a shot at, but nothing came into view.

"They-!" Ox yelled, staggering hard against the bench he was hiding behind. "There's something... something in my head!" Glynn lowered the weapon to look at him, saw him shake his head and raise his weapon, then reach up to key the squadnet. "There was a voice, flashes of images," he said. "I think-"

What he thought was never revealed as Glynn heard the slight hum that always preceded the firing of one of their plasma weapons, and a bolt of green light flashed out from the train and took him right above the chest plate of his tactical vest. He fell back, making choking noises.

Oksenov had been arrogant, but Glynn had liked him. He was reminded of his time back in the 82nd, the trash talk, the machismo and the fighting. It never came to anything, anymore than his rivalry with Ox would have. It was just a way to kill the time between missions, which had gotten slower and slower as the Coalition Forces role in Afghanistan had reduced. Damned if that crazy Russian hadn't managed to beat him on kills anyway, even though...

"No!" Glynn had shouted, then stood rooted, staring at Oksenov, now lying still, praying for him to move. He heard shouting and gunshots, as his comrades charged out and killed the Sectoids. He watched as Lehmann approached Oksenov's still body and leaned over it.

"He is dead," came Lehmann's voice over the squadnet, oddly emotionless, though he was still breathing hard from his charge on the Sectoid. Glynn shook his head, slowly at first, and then harder, trying to shake the cobwebs.

"Acknowledged," replied SPC Faber, her accent thick, but otherwise cool as ice. "We need to keep moving."

Glynn heard soft steps approaching, then felt a presence beside him. He looked over to see SPC Faber, staring up at the wall. He didn't need to follow her gaze to know that she too was looking at Ox's picture. He turned away from her, looking back at the memorial.

"Three casualties," she said, no inflection in her voice. "It has been over two months. By numbers, we are doing well." Glynn said nothing, only nodded woodenly. "This has been the most one-sided conflict I have ever read about," she continued. We've killed dozens and dozens of them." Glynn didn't know what she was getting at, and just wished she'd go away. After several moments of silence, he finally replied, hoping it'd be enough that she'd leave.

"Yes," was all he said. She glanced at him, then turned away, dropping her head.

"It does not feel like victory," she said, her voice muffled. Glynn turned then, and saw that her shoulders were trembling. She hadn't been his friend, but she had been in charge. Glynn hadn't really considered what that must feel like. The fact that she'd not been promoted along with the rest of the squad probably felt like indictment by the command, too.

"You didn't do anything wrong," he said, stepping awkwardly up behind her. She whipped around and glared at him. Her eyes were red, but they were dry.

"A man died!" she snarled, "he died under my command. I should have made sure he wasn't so exposed." Glynn backed up, whatever reassuring instinct he'd had withering under her glare.

"Of course, Specialist," he replied, coldly. "Maybe next time, you'll do better." He turned around smartly, though not before he saw the shock on her face, and strode away, every muscle tensed for her reply, but none came.

Relief and anger warred in him as he moved quickly, his footsteps coming down with unnecessary force, echoing down the corridors. Maybe it wasn't her fault, but it felt good to blame someone, to lash out. He almost wanted her to come after him, so he'd have some excuse to yell, but she didn't, and he was left fuming in solitude. Others he barely saw stepped out of his way, until he found himself in the gym.

With a growl, he went to the nearest treadmill, and setting it to a punishing pace, he began to run. Try as he might though, he could not seem to leave behind that frozen instant of seeing Ox fall to the ground.

Saturday, April 18, 2015



PREPARED BY: SPC Lieselotte Faber


o Enemy Forces:
 - 5x Sectoids, 3x Seekers armed with plasma weapons

o Friendly Forces
 - SPC Lieselotte Faber (Germany)
 - SPC Lara Jordan (Australia)
 - PVT Viktor Lehmann (Germany)
 - PVT Sivert Harstad (Norway)
 - PVT Caio de Abreu (Brazil)
 - PVT Jermaine Glynn (United States)
 - PVT Vladimir Oksenov (Russia) - KIA


o Strike Team deploys to Osaka, Japan, 05 MAY 2016 @ 1320 hrs, IOT disrupt Alien Abduction Operations.


The mission alert came in at 1130 hrs, and the squad was assembled and ready by 1143, when we took off. We landed in Osaka at the train station at 1320, and immediately moved to cover. Oksenov, acting as designated scout, spotted a pair of Sectoids upon, but our initial fires were ineffective. One of the Sectoids moved to cover inside the train car, and shot PVT Harstad, who panicked and hunkered in place. The squad advanced in cover, and Lehmann returned fire, killing one of the X-Rays. The rest of the squad focused on the Sectoid inside the train but were only able to wound it and force it to flee. Once Harstad recovered his bearing, Jordan moved to provide aid, and get him back into the fight.

Oksenov moved after the fleeing Sectoid, and spotted it hiding behind a canister of Meld. I directed everyone to hold their fire, and wait to see if it moved, as I did not want to risk damage to the resource. That was when a pod of three more sectoids advanced. Oksenov snapped a shot off, causing them to scatter back into the shadows. The squad advanced, and Harstad managed to wound one of the new Sectoids, but the original one stayed well covered by the Meld. PVT Oksenov advanced toward the Meld, firing at an exposed Sectoid, but did not score a hit. As he was now danger close to the enemy, I took a risk, and fired on the Sectoid behind the meld, but only managed the kill by blowing the canister.

Oksenov started to yell that they were doing something, that there was a voice in his head. Before he could finish his sentence, one of the Sectoids moved up and shot him in the throat. The rookies went crazy, De Abreu, Lehmann and Harstad charging into the open to kill all three of the Sectoids. Lehmann went to check Oksenov before we continued, but it wasn't a surprise when he reported him dead. 

Once everyone had calmed themselves, we moved method ically along the train, toward the sound of movement. Harstad was the first to get eyes on a second Meld canister. He did not approach it until the rest of the squad had advanced to cover him, at which point he carefully went forward and deactivated the self-sealing mechanism. It was only after everyone had repositioned that the remaining X-Rays, a pod of three Seekers, came into view.

They managed to squirm out of the way of our initial salvo, with only a few rounds spanging off of their armor. Then Harstand and Lehman re-engaged, destroying two of the hostiles. The last one went into stealth as we fired, though I think it was damaged before it vanished from sight. It was only gone for a few heartbeats before reappearing, nearly in the same spot, and combined fire put it down.

We swept the remainder of the train station, and encountered no further resistance. PVT Oksenov was collected and brought back to the Skyranger for evac.

I believe it possible that PVT Oksenov had discovered something about the X-Rays when he was killed. 


o Sustain:
 - Ensure proper coverage before advancing into an uncleared area
 - Proper ammo discipline

o Improve:
 - Explosives can shape the battlefield to our advantage
 - Don't leave yourself exposed

Wednesday, April 15, 2015



PREPARED BY: CPL Beatrice Rydberg


o Enemy Forces:
 - 15x Thin Men, 2x Seekers, 1x Chrysallid, 1x Sectoid

o Friendly Forces
 - SPC Beatrice Rydberg (Sweden)
 - SPC Clarisse Poncelet (Belgium)
 - PFC Ana Lucia Mardones (Ecuador)
 - PFC Svetlana Petukhova (Russia)
 - PFC Ghaith Khadem (Egypt)
 - PFC Simone Ribeiro (Brazil)
 - PVT Joosef Hintikka (Finland)


o Strike Team deploys to Lhasa, China, 05 MAY 2016 @ 0244 hrs, IOT meet a Triad informant and obtain the alien device.


We received the Mission Alert at midnight. The squad was assembled in the Skyranger, and we took off by 0023, and landed near the designated meeting area at 0244 hrs. We made our way through the city to the graveyard and found the contact, who offered the device on condition that we took him with us. It was then that the X-Rays attacked, though the contact showed quick reflexes as he put the Sectoid down with a pistol. Per guidance from Central, we agreed to bring him with us.

PFC Khadem was the first to move, advancing forward until he made contact with the enemy, consisting of a Thin Man and a pair of Seekers, one of which went into stealth as soon as he spotted it. I yelled at the contact to get behind cover and keep his head down as the squad moved to cover positions. Khadem fell back, and we braced for the assault. The Seeker flew forward and the squad cut loose, but we were unable to do more than graze its armor. Three more Thin Men moved into view, taking cover positions, and we heard more movement in the darkness beyond, suggesting a much larger force.

I gave order to fire at will, and our opening salvo killed the Seeker and a Thin Man, and wounded another. Mardones charged forward, and took out a Thin Man no one else had seen as it tried to move to flank us. That was when the second Seeker re-emerged, going for the contact. Khadem was on alert, and took it out before it could attack. Several Thin Men tried to take him down in retaliation, but he'd ducked back behind cover in time, and was unharmed. He then took a moment to aim, and eliminated one of his aggressors.

We exchanged fire with the X-Rays, with Ribeiro managing to kill one, covering Mardones advance to eliminate another, revealing still more Thin Men in the process. The Thin Men started to use their poison spit in response, but as I'd directed every trooper to carry a medkit, this did not slow us much. The medkits had been calibrated to stave off the worse effects of the poison, but the noxious clouds still made it harder to see. After some less than effective fires, we regrouped and waited for the poisonous gas to clear.

Once the clouds had dissipated some, the squad counter-attacked. Khadem and PFC Petukhova eliminated a couple Thin Men, clearing the way for Mardones to advance, flank and destroy another Thin Man. This in turn opened the way for Ribeiro to kill another that I designated for her. When another Thin Man literally dropped in front of our positions, PVT Hintikka blew it away without a moment's hesitation, followed immediately by PFC Ribeiro taking out another. I ordered the advance, shifting right to support Khadem and Hintikka, while SPC Poncelet advanced to support Mardones and Ribeiro. When a Thin Man attempted to flank the left team, she took it out with a quick burst.

Khadem, holding position on the far right, reported a single "Chryssalid", as they've been dubbed by the Research department, and took a shot, wounding it but leaving it still standing. No one else had a shot on it, so we held position, while Poncelet's team advanced cautiously on the left. When the Chryssalid advanced right up to Khadem's position, PVT Hintikka took it out from close range before it could strike. Petukhova, who had been lining up her shot, finally took out the entrenched Thin Man, clearing the last of the known enemies.

Poncelet's team advanced toward the back of the graveyard, and held position while I ordered the informant to advance on the left, where it had been thoroughly cleared. My team advanced on the right, with Khadem on point and Petukhova on rear-guard, while they covered the entrance to the graveyard. A Thin Man advanced on the right, but Khadem made quick work of it. When a single Sectoid appeared beyond the graveyard, PVT Hintikka eliminated it with accurate reaction fire. Upon exiting the graveyard, a single Thin Man attempted to prevent us from getting to the LZ, but combined fires brought it down quickly.

We encountered no further resistance, and managed to get the contact to the extraction zone safely, with no injuries or incidents. The contact, calling himself Shoujie Zhang, is requesting to join our fight against the X-Rays. My observation is that he follows orders well, and maintains his bearing under stressful conditions.


o Sustain:
 - Eliminating enemies to open paths for advancement
 - Use of medkits to offset Thin Man poison

o Improve:
 - Use of explosives could have ended stalemates earlier
 - Situational awareness, even in seemingly non-combat situations

Monday, April 13, 2015

In Memory (01 MAY 2016)

"It was the dodgiest squiddie I'd ever seen," de Matos said. She was lying in bed, her upper chest a mass of bandages, while Faber leaned against the side, listening. "It took three shots from point blank range, and still it kept coming. It was Hassan that finally put the caralho down. We were all so focused on it, we never even saw the bastardo Thin Man until he was almost on top of us. Daiwa was the first to react, but not fast enough. Huisman didn't make a sound. He just.. he.."

"Shh," Faber turned and caught de Matos' hand, lacing her fingers through it and squeezing tightly. "Monica, you don't have to talk about it right now." De Matos reached across and covered Faber's hand with her other hand, but she didn't stop talking.

"There was nothing I could do. I heard the shots and Daiwa called that it was down, but before I could even get Houston out of my way, I knew. The hole went straight through, Kevlar, alloy vest, everything. His eyes were still open. They were green. I never realized they were green." Her voice started to choke up and she finally stopped talking, as Faber leaned in to stroke her hair with her other hand, making soft soothing noises.

"But you made it count, Schätzchen," she murmured into Monica's ear. "You went on, and you put the rest of those fickeren into body bags, and you brought him home. More importantly, you brought the rest of them home alive." Faber glanced down the line, where most of the rest of the squad rested. She saw SGT Lindemann visiting with Houston and Maillet, the most severely injured of the survivors.

"Thank you, Liesel," de Matos said, pulling Faber's attention back. "Gata, could you get me some water? My throat is dry." Faber nodded, reaching out to stroke de Matos' cheek before moving away to grab the pitcher and a cup.


"How are they?" Constance asked. She was chafing at being stuck in medbay after her collapse, but the medics said she'd be out in a few more days, at most. Oskar came to visit her regularly, though today he'd spent most of his time visiting the member of the squad he'd just brought back from Oklahoma.

"They're very out of sorts. The pain medicine is very strong," he replied. "Still, they remember what happened."

"It was a good mission," Constance replied. When Oskar's face clouded, she said it again. "It was a good mission, Oskar. Your squad faced the biggest threat we've had, and you brought back enough materiel that the research and engineering teams are going to be busy for months."

"It was not worth the loss of a man," he replied, bitterness thickening his accent.

"It never is," she agreed. "It never is, but you're a soldier, as was Hidde. He knew what was at stake, and he made us all proud." She waited a moment, gauging the expression on his face. "So did you, Oskar. You wouldn't be wearing those stripes on your shoulders if the Commander didn't agree." She reached out for his hand, and after a moment, he extended it, letting her wrap her calloused, slender fingers around his larger hand. The contrast between her nearly black skin and his pale skin never ceased to intrigue him. She squeezed, hard, and he looked up, meeting her eyes for the first time since he'd sat down by her bed.

"It is harder, somehow," he admitted. "When I was KSK, it was human enemies. Even with the terrible things they did in Afghanistan, it wasn't so bad." Oskar clenched his fist, his jaw tightening as well, until he heard Mak make a small sound of discomfort. He relaxed his hands, and gave her an apologetic look, to which she smiled slightly. After a deep breath, he continued. "When I saw Huisman fall, I was scared," he said quietly. He glanced around to see who was near, but no one appeared to be listening in. "It was so much, I wanted to order everyone back to the LZ. We'd barely moved twenty meters, we were still outside the craft. I didn't know what else awaited within, and I didn't want anymore blood on my hands." Constance made a sound of protest, but he overrode her. "Hidde..." he paused, seeking the words. "He was quiet. Barely spoke to anyone, but always willing to help out, if needed. But on the battlefield, he was a monster. He charged in where brave men would hesitate, and he was a virtuoso with that shotgun."

"Oskar, you forget who was with you on that last mission," Constance interrupted. "I knew him, too." Lindemann nodded as she continued. "You couldn't give up, because you knew he wouldn't, in your shoes." Oskar just nodded again. He couldn't dishonor the man's sacrifice by giving up. "You know, he'd be proud of what you accomplished. This is a solid win, and Hidde's contribution helped bring it home, but it was your leadership that saw it through to completion."

Oskar just nodded again, no more words to be said. Mak seemed to know this too, and she just held his hand and closed her eyes with a small, sad smile.


The day room was quiet, but it wasn't empty at all. Most of the troopers were there, those not on duty or in medbay, but even the inevitable hum of packed bodies wasn't enough to cover the occasional cough. The small table by the memorial was lined with empty shot glasses, and all of the tables and chairs were occupied with small groups sitting quietly, some drinking, others talking in hushed tones, others still just sitting in silent contemplation.

Most of the troopers didn't know CPL Huisman well, but he was the first casualty since they got here. Some remembered Jensen, but they'd all been so new that his death hadn't made the same impact. Since then, there'd been injuries, even serious ones, but it had begun to seem like XCOM was invincible, that the war was inevitably theirs. Now, the reality of what they did was pinpointed by the photo on the memorial wall, and no one felt like celebrating the strategic victory that the mission represented.

Jade Colman didn't sit with any of the groups clustered around the room. She stood alone at the memorial wall, a full shot of whatever whisky had been going around clutched forgotten in her hand. She hadn't really known Hidde all that well either, but she'd been starting to. After he'd approached her the other day, she'd asked around, and learned that he didn't talk much. Most of those who'd been on mission with him expressed surprise that he'd managed to string so many words together as to actually hold a conversation, let alone the several they'd had before he'd gone on mission. She'd prattled on about rocks and geologic pressures and he'd listened without ever giving any impression that he wasn't really interested. When she'd prodded, he'd revealed small details about his life in Rotterdam, and had told her a couple stories about his brothers in Amsterdam that had her roaring with laughter. He had been a friend, and she'd thought maybe there was more.

But there was no more. Not now, not ever. No more quiet conversations. They'd never go digging around in the tunnels like they'd discussed. This was war, and war tore friends away and ended possibilities. This was the greatest enemy humanity had ever faced, and she'd be damned if Hidde died for nothing. Those bastards wouldn't win this, no matter how many others fell. With that thought ringing defiantly in her mind, Jade lifted the shot glass of whisky, raised it slightly in salute as she stared at the photograph, and drank it down in a single swallow. She placed the glass on the end of the row, then opened her other hand, looking down at what it contained. She blinked several times, then set it down on the shelf, below his picture. It was a geode, broken open so the purple and green crystalls within caught the light, casting tiny ovals of color against the wall. Jade turned away then, approaching the nearest group, who made room for her without a word. Tomorrow was another day, another battle. Tonight, however, she planned on forgetting everything.

Saturday, April 11, 2015



PREPARED BY: SGT Oskar Lindemann


o Enemy Forces:
 - 1x "Flying Disc", 4x Drones, 4x Floaters, 9x Seekers, 2x Thin Men, 4x Outsiders, armed with assorted plasma weapons

o Friendly Forces
 - CPL Oskar Lindemann (Germany)
 - CPL Hidde Huisman (Netherlands)
 - CPL Shousei Daiwa (Japan)
 - CPL Monica de Matos (Brazil)
 - CPL Yusuf Hassan (Sudan)
 - SPC Jared Houston (United States)
 - SPC Sylas Maillet (Canada)


o Strike Team deploys to Tennessee, United States, 01 MAY 2016 @ 1957 hrs, IOT recon and exploit large, intact alien craft.


We received the Mission Alert at 1940 hrs. The Skyranger was wheels up by 1951, and we touched ground at 1957 hrs. We immediately moved to what sparse cover was available and began to assess the situation. The craft was enormous, and appeared to have a large open bay on the end nearest us. There were several dead livestock, and a number of strange devices deployed forward of the bay.

Before we could move up, a pod of robotics immediately approached. Four of the machines were the familiar drones; The fifth was unfamiliar, and appeared to be a smallish flying saucer. The squad immediately cut loose, but only managed to destroy one of the drones, as the disc suddenly rotated and unfolded, guns bristling out of every possible opening. PFC Maillet was injured in their return salvo.

I directed the squad to focus fires on the disc. CPLs Daiwa and Hassan did so immediately, with PFC Maillet finishing it off, which allowed Houston, myself and CPL de Matos to finish off the remaining drones. We did not even have time to reload before a pod of Seekers swooped into view. PFC Maillet led with an AP grenade, injuring the clustered machines, which the squad quickly mopped up.

Given a moment's respite, Daiwa moved up to get a closer look, allowing the rest of the squad to move to closer positions, utilizing what small amounts of cover were available. As soon as Daiwa reached the back of the craft, more Seekers and a drone, accompanied by a pack of Floaters flew out of the bay. I eliminated one of the Floaters immediately, while Houston and de Matos took out the drone, and Maillet the lead Seeker. 

Two more Floaters advanced, firing on Houston, but the remainder of the X-Rays we'd seen retreated to hide within the bay. When Houston moved toward better cover, one of those within winged him, though he remained combat ready. Huisman charged forward drawing fire from within, blowing through his armor and wounding him. He slid into cover behind one of the alien devices, and blew the nearer of the two Floaters out of the air with his shotgun. With his eyes on the interior of the bay, we had a better idea of what we were facing, though Hassan was unable to get a clean shot off before the two Seekers went stealth, and the rest of the X-Rays began raining fire down on Huisman. 

I brought the squad back into tighter formation, and we waited for the X-Rays. To pass the time, Daiwa popped one of the Floaters as it tried to take a shot at him. They didn't make us wait much longer as a Seeker appeared near de Matos, and we blew it out of the sky. When nothing else appeared, Daiwa briefly dodged out into the open to draw them out, narrowly avoiding their attacks, and revealing the Seeker for Hassan to destroy. When the last Floater charged out, de Matos and Maillet brought it to the ground. At this time, we still hadn't left the area around the drop zone. 

Maillet, having already advanced to the back of the ship, kept watch as the squad moved up to the side of the ship, and de Matos provided first aid to Huisman. Before we could get too close, a pod of Seekers and Thin Men appeared on the side of the ship. CPL Daiwa managed to put a bullet in the first Thin Man's head before he could get to cover. Then the squad focused fires on the two Seekers, though it was only with difficulty that the second one was finally put down. 

It was then, while the whole squad was focused on the Seekers, that the second Thin Man managed to get close enough to flank Huisman. Hassan and Daiwa aimed and fired as it approached, but not fast enough. CPL Huisman, unable to react in time, was shot and killed instantly. The Thin Man followed him into death moments later. De Matos checked Huisman's vitals, but she said he was already gone.

At this point, I considered withdrawing from the field. The squad was visibly shaken. But as I watched, I saw them all pull themselves together and reload their weapons. When they looked to me, I ordered the squad to advance up the side of the craft. We weren't going to let his death be for nothing.

I sent Daiwa and Houston up front to a platform with an entrance, while de Matos and Maillet climbed to the roof of the UFO and Hassan and myself positioned ourselves on the side. At my command, Maillet dropped an HE grenade over the side, and blew out the wall in front of myself and CPL Hassan, while Houston and Daiwa moved to the side entrance. The four Outsiders inside scattered for cover. Our initial salvo was not very effective, but as the Outsiders were surprised, their counterattack was less so, though the Seeker that flew out through the hole in the wall was unexpected. Maillet and de Matos, still on the roof, made short work of it before it could come after myself or Hassan.

CPL Hassan nailed the Outsider that was suppressing me, and in the lull, I stood up and finished it off. With nothing else in sight, he moved up, to the hole to cover Maillet's advance. I dropped down to go support Houston as Daiwa shifted through the doorway, while Maillet unsuccessfully attempted to blow cover on one of the Outsiders Houston was covering. Maillet then shifted to allow the prime spot to Hassan.

When Houston put a bullet into one of the Outsiders, de Matos tried to use the opportunity to drop down to assist. Unfortunately, she miscalculated her jump, and exposed herself to their fire. She managed to get herself to cover, despite serious injuries. While she got to cover and conducted self-aid, Houston managed to injure both of the Outsiders that had shot at her. Hassan drew aim, and put a bullet through one of their heads, putting it down permanently, while Maillet lobbed a grenade, severely injuring another, though that did not stop it from returning fire and injuring him nearly as badly.

Just as I made it around to the platform, Houston dodged across for a better shot, and took a major injury himself. Luckily, with de Matos right there, she was able to get him patched up, stimmed and capable of continuing the fight, so he could return fire. The resilient bastards seemed to keep coming back for more, though.

Maillet moved out of the line of fire, and de Matos made her way toward him to provide aid. I suppressed the Outsider nearest, so Houston could make his way to try to flank. Daiwa and Hassan continued to keep the other Outsider pinned while we concentrated on this one.

Once Houston got into position, I continued the suppression while he drew a bead, and crippled it. It tried to flee, but between the two of us, it didn't get far, and he put it down permanently. At the same time, Daiwa, Maillet, de Matos and Hassan massed fires on the Outsider they'd pinned down, and destroyed it.

We carefully cleared the rest of the craft, but it appeared that we'd met the full forces early on, as we encountered no further resistance. We managed to get our wounded back to the Skyranger, as well as bringing CPL Huisman's body back with us.

No brother left behind.


o Sustain:
 - Mass fires on designated threats
 - Use all tools to shape the battle

o Improve:
 - Move and shoot, advance in cover
 - Beware of overwatch from enemy you can't see

Friday, April 10, 2015

Geodes (28 APR 2016)

PFC Jade Colman sat on her bed, towel spread out carefully below her as she worked. She picked up the knobby round rock, looking at it carefully, trying to find the right spot. After several moments of inspection, she nodded absently to herself, and picked up her rock hammer, keeping her eyes on the spot she'd selected. A couple long, slow breaths, and she brought the hammer down sharply, hearing the satisfying crack as the stone split, exactly where she'd wanted it to. She brushed the chips off of her lap, and picked up the stone to look at the freshly revealed inner surfaces.

Just as she'd expected, it was a geode, with traces of amethyst inside. She held it up, letting the overhead light catch on the tiny crystalline points inside, sparkling brightly. As she turned it back and forth, she heard a polite cough behind her. She set the stone down and turned her head to find one of the other troopers standing a respectful distance away.

"Can I help you, Corporal?" she asked.

"I did not wish to interrupt," he said somewhat diffidently, with a small smile. "I've noticed your small collection, and wanted to see how you do them."

"Oh, quite alright," she replied, smiling. "It's always nice to share my hobby." She flipped back the towel, and gestured toward the foot of the bed. "Have a sit, and you can look at this beauty I just opened up." The Corporal sat down, and she caught a glance at his nametape. Huisman. She'd seen him around, and he'd just come back with de Matos on the mission before hers. She'd heard he'd been quite the gung-ho on that mission, but in person he seemed kind of shy. She handed him the half-geode she'd just been examining, and he took it carefully, raising it to the light as she'd done.

"How do you know what will be in it?" he asked as he looked at the crystals. "The outside looks like any other stone."

"Well you never really know for sure, until you break it open," she said. "But you can usually tell a good candidate." She reached out, touching the backside of the stone he held in his hand. "Do you see here, how it's knobbed and bumpy? That, and its mostly round shape are good indicators that it's a geode."

"It is very pretty inside," he said quietly. "You wouldn't expect it with the boring exterior."

"Oh, rocks and minerals aren't boring," Jade said, excitedly. "There's just so much that most people don't realize." He turned his eyes toward her, lifting a brow and smiling slightly. Jade blushed a little. She'd often had this problem, most people weren't quite so enthusiastic about rocks. Still, he didn't seem like he was mocking her, so she continued in a more calm tone. "The processes to create various stones and such are interesting to me. For instance, you know how a diamond is formed?"

"I have read in school that they come from coal," he said.

"That's not actually true. Coal forms when carbon, from some sort of living thing, like a plant, is buried before it can decay, and then compressed over a long time into coal, which is why it burns so well. Diamond, on the other hand, is usually formed much deeper than you'll find coal, and are usually much older than the history of plant material." Huisman's gaze did not waver, but Jade started to feel a little self-conscious, and smiled and waved it off. "It's not interesting to everyone, but it's been a hobby of mine since I was a child."

"I did not know about that," Huisman said. "I am usually interested in pretty objects, so your collection of stones and crystals caught my eye. My mother used to collect such things when I was a child, back in Rotterdam."

"Oh, I got the love of stones from my father," Colman replied. "He was a geologist, always assumed I'd follow in his footsteps."

"But you became a soldier, instead?"

"Surprised everyone," she confirmed. "Even myself, a little bit."

"Why is that?" he asked, setting the rock down on the towel to listen.

"Well, I was in college, studying geology. I had a fiancé, had even moved into his flat. The future seemed pretty clear."

"So why did you enlist?"

"It was few years ago," she said, her eyes going unfocused. "I was on Easter holiday in southern France, when Merah shot and killed several people in Montauban and Toulouse. I had actually been in the shopping center the day before the attack in Montauban. It made it seem quite personal, you understand."

Huisman nodded. "So, you enlisted after that?"

"Yes," she said, her eyes coming back to the present. "I will tell you, my father and my fiancé did not take it well."

"Did you end up marrying him anyway?"

"No," she said, shaking her head and smiling wryly. "As it turned out, a girl in the Army was a little too much for his sensibilities. Last I heard, he married a first-year, who's already given him a daughter."

"Not your dream, I take it."

"Not even a little," Jade laughed. "Even if I hadn't joined up, I still would have wanted to travel, and continue my studies."

"I hear that there are a few troopers alive because of you, from that drop in Toulouse." Huisman said. Jade blushed again, but didn't bother to hide the pride in her eyes.

"Oh my, that was certainly different than my last visit, yes. A couple of the squiddies had grabbed Yusuf and Donohue. I took care of them." There was a certain malicious satisfaction as she spoke, and it made Huisman smile, and Jade smiled back.

"I'm glad you didn't settle down to be a geologist."

"Me too!"

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gallows Humor (27 APR 2016)

The medical bay was pretty full, but most of the personnel present were visitors, not patients. That was something to be thankful for, Bradford reflected. Four injured, plus CPL Makhandule admitted for enforced bedrest, after her collapse. The Commander hadn't wanted to send her back out again, but without knowing what they'd be facing, he'd wanted the best he had available, and she was the best Rocketeer they had. She'd more than earned her corporal stripes. Bradford stood off to the side of the doorway, watching the buzzing activity for a bit longer before he turned to go.

IO Pidgeon leaned back in his chair, smiling. Ward was so wrapped up he could barely move, and he was still cracking jokes. Pidgeon had come to ghost-write a letter to Mike, since Ward wouldn't be holding a pen for another couple of weeks, and he wasn't entirely sure that the things Ward was dictating weren't at least partially to make him blush.

"Sign it," Parsons paused, considering. "With burning passion and dreams of-"

"Ward!" Pidgeon exclaimed, dropping the pen, "I'm not writing that! You wait until you can write your own smut." Parsons laughed, and tried to raise an apologetic hand.

"I'm kidding," he after the laughter had died off into a series of wheezing coughs. "Sign it, 'With all my love, W', then a couple Xs and Os." Pidgeon rolled his eyes and jotted it down.

"There," he replied, carefully tearing the pages out of the notepad. " You want to proofread?"

"Nah, I trust you, mate," Parsons replied. "Thanks a bunch for doing this. Mike would probably flip if he didn't get a letter this week, so soon after we got permission to start sending mail."

"It's no problem," Pidgeon said, carefully folding the paper to fit an envelope. "So, hey, I have a question."


"After the mission, I heard several of the others referring to you as Shroud?"

"That's... not a question, mate." Parsons replied after a brief pause. "You want to know why?"


"Mak tells me it was because my shots just seemed to come out of the darkness, during the last mission. I was on the rooftop, overwatching the battle, with my marksman rifle."

"So, shroud?"

"Yeah," Parsons confirmed, then chuckled. "Course, that's not what Faber tells me."

"What'd she say?" Pidgeon inquired, raising a brow.

"She said it was because they were pretty sure I was dead, when they got me onto the Skyranger," Parsons said with a grin. "Said I was ready for a burial shroud."

"That's horrible!" Pidgeon's eyes widened. "Why would she say something like that?"

"Relax, mate," Parsons returned. "It's just the sort of jokes you make in that sort of situation. It's called gallows humor, and it has a history going back all the way."


"Cause you might die any time you go out," Parsons explained, picking his words carefully, the smile gone from his face. "You can't just stare that in the face without blinking. So, you joke. The jokes may never be funny for anyone who hasn't been there, but they're a damned sight funnier than dwelling on death and pain all the time."

"I guess I can understand that," Pidgeon replied.

Sunday, April 5, 2015



PREPARED BY: SPC Spencer Donohue


o Enemy Forces:
 - 12x Thin Men, 2x Sectoids, 2x Seekers, armed with plasma pistols and carbines

o Friendly Forces
 - SPC Spencer Donohue (United States)
 - SPC Shousei Daiwa (Japan)
 - SPC Yusuf Hassan (Sudan)
 - PFC Jade Colman (United Kingdom)
 - PFC Naomi Bowden (United Kingdom)
 - PFC Sylas Maillet (Canada)


o Strike Team deploys to Toulouse, France 26 APR 2016 @ 0058 hrs, IOT investigate the site of the ambush of a French military convoy.


We received the Mission Alert at 2320 hrs, 25 APR, and we were in the air by 2334, with boots on ground at 0058 on the morning of the 26th. Once we'd oriented ourselves, I split the squad into two fire teams, one going straight forward with SPC Daiwa in charge, while I accompanied the other team around to the left, more intact portion of the building.

We received contact almost immediately, as a pair of Thin Men entered the building, then withdrew to cover. PFC Maillet was able to eliminate one immediately as it reached cover, while Bowden severely injured the other. As my team maneuvered into the building, I saw an opportunity to finish off the second Thin Man, and took it.

Daiwa's fire team spotted another pod near the next building, with two Thin Men who darted inside for cover while a Seeker advanced on their position. They cut loose at the approaching Seeker, but Bowden only managed to wing it. My team continued to maneuver for better position inside the building. The Thin Men began to suppress Daiwa's fire team, while the Seeker went into stealth mode.

Colman, from my fire team, moved over to support Daiwa's team, and let loose with her SAW once Daiwa had designated the target for her, ending the suppression. I opened the roll-up door and took a shot at the other Thin Man. At first I thought I'd got him, but when I saw it crawl back into cover, I realized it was still alive. Hassan, who'd been covering the alley to the left the whole time, moved inside, until we knew where the Seeker would reappear.

As it turned out, it reappeared as soon as he got into his new position, wrapping its tentacles around him, which we'd seen them attempt before. Colman charged back over and blew it to hell before it could do much damage. While this was happening, Daiwa called out more contact to the front, another pod consisting of a Thin Man, Sectoid and a Seeker.

While Daiwa finished off the wounded Thin Man, another shot a cloud of acid at Hassan, who was still recovering from the Seeker's attack. Before I could maneuver to provide aid, the second Seeker darted into the room and got its tentacles around my throat. Before I knew what was going on, there was a roar of automatic fire and the Seeker collapsed to the ground at my feet. I looked up, and Colman was standing there with her SAW still smoking.

Bowden, meanwhile, was maneuvering forward on the right flank, and managed to severely wound the Thin Man that had poisoned Hassan. Hassan, while still suffering from the poison gas's effects, took aim and finished the bastard off, with a little targeting help from SPC Daiwa. Maillet advanced, drawing fire from the remaining Sectoid, which advanced and took a shot at Colman as well, which allowed Daiwa to put it down.

The squad advanced cautiously, through the no-man's land between buildings. SPC Daiwa and myself moved into the second building, searching for survivors or some sign of what happened to the convoy. We noted that the wounds on the dead did not appear to be caused by plasma weapons, but found no sign to show what happened. I directed Colman onto the roof of the second building to provide overwatch, and Hassan took the roof of the first building, while Maillet and Bowden provided security along the roadway. That was when we saw the wounded man.

Daiwa was first to approach. The man was stable, but uncooperative. He was in no condition to give any real resistance, so we started to move him back through the building toward the landing zone. That was when the X-Rays attacked again. One Thin Man dropped in directly behind Bowden. She snapped off a couple shots, killing it. Daiwa came under fire from another as he moved back into the building. I moved to provide cover, and took a shot when it advanced on our position. I wounded it, but got a poison cloud for my troubles.

Daiwa spotted another and moved to the door to the alleyway, dodging plasma fire to eliminate it, while I charged the first Thin Man, and took it out point-blank. PFC Bowden, from her position on the road killed another as it approached. Maillet took over on assisting the survivor move toward evac, against his protests.

Another wave of enemies came in, from all directions, including a Sectoid only 10 feet away, flanking me. I was still hazy from the poison cloud, so I dashed forward and felt the shot before I realized, burning through my armor and into my shoulder. I was still standing, so I put a burst into the Sectoid's head. Bowden fired off a few shots at another Thin Man, until her weapon jammed. Luckily, Hassan had a clean shot, and blew the X-Ray's head off while she cleared the jam. Daiwa, meanwhile, still covering the alleyway, took out another Thin Man there, and then another as it approached, which cleared the way for me to start moving up. I moved along the alley, providing self-aid for my shoulder.

Maillet got the survivor into the Skyranger, and the rest of the squad cleared the Area of Operations. We encountered no further hostiles, and found no other survivors.


o Sustain:
 - Intersecting Fields of Fire
 - Fire Teams
o Improve:
 - Explosive battlefield shaping
 - Don't move through enemy zones of fire

Saturday, April 4, 2015



PREPARED BY: CPL Oskar Lindemann


o Enemy Forces:
 - 4x "Arachnids", 8x Floaters armed with plasma carbines

o Friendly Forces
 - CPL Oskar Lindemann (Germany)
 - SPC Hidde Huisman (Netherlands)
 - SPC Constance Makhandule (South Africa)
 - SPC Monica de Matos (Brazil)
 - PFC Clarisse Poncelet (Belgium)
 - PFC Jared Houston (United States)


o Strike Team deploys to Tennessee, United States, 07 APR 2016 @ 2037 hrs, IOT respond to alien terror tactics.


We received the Mission Alert at 1250 hrs. The Skyranger was wheels up by 1258, and we touched ground at 1437 hrs. We took up initial positions between a large building and a storage shed. SPC Mak moved to the door of the large building, opening it to get a look inside. Once she announced it was clear, PFC Poncelet moved in, providing cover while SPC Huisman advanced to the next door inside. Meanwhile, PFC Houston and SPC de Matos provided cover while I advanced to the corner of the building to assess the situation. I saw a few civilians cowering  nearby, but they did not respond to verbal directions to leave the area.

That was when PFC Poncelet called out a contact report. She was unable to easily articulate what she was seeing, then she started firing and retreating, and SPC Makhandule joined in, killing one of the creatures as they bolted into the room. Mak fired a shredder rocket into the midst of the charging pack, pausing them long enough for Poncelet to recover and throw a grenade. Huisman eliminated one of the remaining X-Rays as Houston fell back to provide support, killing the other. 

The creatures, on closer inspection, were unlike anything we've previously seen. Most of the X-Rays appeared to be generally humanoid, with the exception of the robotic drones and seekers. These were more insect-like, with vicious blades where legs should be. They most closely resembled the "Arachnids" described to me by SPC Donohue, from some movie about aliens. After brief inspection, I directed the squad to move on.

I moved to an overwatch position on the rooftops, while the squad advanced on the back of the next building. Screams from the darkness spurred us on, with de Matos, Huisman and Poncelet taking point as they breached the back door, and Mak and Houston hanging back for support. Once de Matos opened the inner door, they spotted four Floaters. Immediately, Poncelet threw a grenade into the room, injuring two. Mak moved to the other door, setting up intersecting fires, as de Matos fell back, drawing ineffective fire from the injured Floaters. I moved down to support from the outer doorway, while de Matos and Huisman finished off the injured Floaters.

Just then, one of the Floaters took off into the sky, coming down behind Houston and Makhandule. Houston and Mak charged at the thing before it could get off a shot, killing it. At the same time, de Matos moved into the room, and Huisman advanced recklessly through the room to get around the remaining Floater.

This proved ill-advised, as before he could level his shotgun, four more Floaters advanced to surround him. Huisman, surrounded and in bad cover, blew the first of the new Floaters out of the air, as I opened fire and Poncelet ran into the room, lobbing a frag grenade, and blowing out the wall, leaving one of the floater's exposed for de Matos to eliminate. By this time, the Floaters were in motion again, but Huisman turned without a second's hesitation, and blasted one of them at point-blank range. The last Floater scared, jetted into the air, and came down immediately behind me. I jerked my LMG around and blew the X-Ray through the wall.

We cleared the rest of the site, finding 13 civilians still alive, as well as a number of dead. We encountered no further resistance, and returned to the Skyranger for extraction.


o Sustain:
 - Mass fires on group targets
 - Applied use of explosives simplifies many problems

o Improve:
 - Never leap before you look
 - NEVER leap before you look. NEVER.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Echoes (22 APR 2016)

This was not, Corporal Lindemann reflected, the worst thing he'd had to do in the military, but it was near the bottom of the list. He re-crossed his arms and shifted around so the outcrop didn't dig into his shoulder as much, and eyeballed the group of privates toiling away before him. He didn't guess he really blamed them, but he'd be damned if he let them see that.

Nearly two months had passed since they'd arrived, and these troops still hadn't been out of the HQ. Lindemann had been out three times on mission, and even he felt a little stir crazy. He'd been spending more and more time in the hangar with Constance, just so he could get a look at the sky regularly. No, he didn't blame them at all for cutting loose a little bit.

It had all started a few days ago, before the latest abduction. Glynn and Oksenov had started talking smack back and forth, both of them expecting to be selected for the next mission, each bragging about how many X-Rays they'd bag. With only ten troopers left who'd yet to go on mission, their chances were good. The rivalry got a little out of hand, and they'd ended up tussling on the floor of the barracks, and had to be broken up by their peers.

When they'd received the mission alert, neither one of them were on the roster. That night, while Parsons and his squad were in Australia, they'd convinced the rest of the privates to conspire in the prank. It'd been a pretty good one, as such things went, but they'd been sloppy, and got caught laughing about it in the day room afterward. Steps had to be taken, mostly to assuage the outrage from the kitchens. Sectoid fingers didn't look that much like spaghetti, anyway.

De Abreu set his shovel aside, and arched his back, producing several audible pops. Oskar winced at the sound and shifted again. As he did, he caught movement coming up the corridor behind him, and turned swiftly, his whole body alert and ready. He needn't have bothered, he realized a moment later as he realized it was another trooper approaching. Unfortunately, it was far too early for SPC de Matos to take over on supervising the punitive detail. He squinted in the dim light as she approached.

"Who comes?" he called in a challenging voice. The woman paused, obviously not having expected to be challenged, then adjusted her path slightly toward him.

"PFC Colman," she replied. "What are you doing down here?" After a second, she seemed to recognize him, because she quickly added "Corporal," and drew herself up. "Apologies, I did not know you at first."

"I should put the same question to you," he said, bristling a little bit. "This is a punitive detail, and you're neither on the detail, nor are you scheduled to supervise."

"I didn't even know this was going on," she replied, hands raised in defense. "It's usually just the engineers. I made friends, and they usually let me come sift through the excavation piles for interesting stones and rocks. It's kind of my hobby." As she spoke, Oskar relaxed a little bit. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary.

"Well, it's not a good time, now," he said, tossing his head back over his shoulder at the laboring troopers. "These idiots decided it'd be fun to play pranks, so they're working it off." Colman glanced past him, then turned her eyes back toward him, a slight glimmer appearing there.

"Is this about the spaghetti?" she asked. "I heard the kitchens were in an uproar." Oskar didn't say anything, but she must have read confirmation from his expression, and she giggled under her breath, a surprisingly throaty sound. "I wish I could have seen their faces on that one."

Lindemann allowed himself a brief smile, though he kept any amusement out of his tone. "Biological research material doesn't belong in food service areas. Who knows what could have happened?"

"Yeah," she agreed after a moment, then leaned against the wall. "Bet it's no fun having to stand watch, eh? You didn't even do anything wrong."

"Rank has its punishments," he replied. He was the first to achieve the lofty rank of Corporal, which meant he was at least nominally in charge of the barracks. It was an honor, but a dubious one.

"Privileges, too?" Colman replied. "I did note that you got to customize your gear a bit, when I was in the readiness room last."

"Ja," he confirmed. "I've been told it's something of a tradition."

"What's Armarnis?" she asked, shifting her weight. The stone of the wall didn't agree with her, either.

"It's a bit of a long story," Oskar demurred.

"Well, if I'm not allowed to dig through the excavation site, and you're not allowed to leave until your relief shows up, it seems like we've got some time, Corporal."

"I suppose that is so," Oskar shrugged. "It came from my time in Afghanistan. My team was part of a joint operations task force, and I had a workout buddy from Iceland. He'd run for an hour straight, never seemed to phase him, while I usually stuck to lifting." He paused, thinking about it, remembering. "I used to call him Langbein because he was tall, and ran so often." Seeing her confusion, he elaborated. "Langbein is long legs in German. In return, he'd call me Armarnis. I didn't know for a while what it meant, and he'd never explain. After a while, it just stuck, and others started using the same nickname. It wasn't until after he went MIA on mission that I bothered to actually look it up. It should have been obvious, of course."

"Big arms?" she guessed.

"Nein, just arms." Oskar looked back into the cavern where the men toiled, but his thoughts were far away. "I never saw him again, they never found a body. I've kept the nickname since, in memory."

"Makes sense," Colman replied quietly. For several minutes, the two of them just stood there in silence, with only the sound of the picks and shovels echoing through the cavern. After a while, Colman quietly excused herself, leaving Oskar there to watch the troopers.

Suddenly, claxons began to sound, deafening in the enclosed caverns. Oskar listened carefully to the pattern, until he was certain. It was the All-hands alert, which meant everyone needed to be in the barracks, ready to be called. They'd only heard it once, during orientation. This was the first time it'd been sounded in earnest.

"Shovels down," he roared above the din. "Get to the lift, everyone to the barracks."