After two only partially successful encounters with UFOs and now with an aircraft still bearing the scars of its last mission, the interceptor crews were stood down. Instead, the Strike Team (or the Rainbow Force as they were becoming increasingly known after an ill-advised joke by Hiller about their new uniforms) would take up the chase, picking up the trail of the enemy craft somewhere over Africa and following until it put down.
It was a bold strategy. The assault lander lacked weaponry of any kind and was loaded with experienced and valuable personnel. They were under strict orders to retreat at the first sign of trouble and generally just keep their distance. Not that they had much choice on the latter, the craft were clearly faster than the lander and they were operating at much too high an altitude for the unarmed craft to make visual contact.
Once again the red spiral unfolded, the three red marks sweeping outwards across another ocean and heading for land. Upon detection a countdown timer had started. The three craft from the first spiral had all vanished at different times, with the second two returning to space shortly after the first was forced to retreat by the Agency interceptor, but there was some argument about whether those second two had completed their missions or if was a coordinated retreat. The timer was at one hundred and twelve minutes, the incursion length of the third craft. If they exceeded that by a decent margin here where they weren't actively harassing then it should give some useful information about what the aliens were trying to achieve. Killing all of the world leaders to then land a tiny craft in a rural Egyptian village and fly a few strange little rock-ships through the atmosphere did not speak of a coherent goal.
There was a small contingent of the Agency scientists who argued that trying to understand alien plans was a waste of time. They were alien. They had needs and desires that were not based on human psychology or neurology. They were not even based on the same evolutionary tree (this point obviously stirred its own arguments). It did not make sense to try and fathom the unfathomable. This dismissive movement drew a great deal of ire from the rest of the Agency teams for obvious reasons.
As the counter hit zero, Mother spoke to the The Pit (and her voice was broadcast to the Rainbow Force),
"Incursion time has now exceeded the previous window. All three craft are still committed to their initial routes with a tolerance of four point one nine percent"
And indeed they were. All three tracing their paths. The first skirting high above the Panama Canal, the second burrowing into the heart of Africa and the third somewhat harder to trace but somewhere in Antarctica.
Within the assault lander, tensions were high but there was no sign at all that they had been detected. At any given minute the skies were filled with aircraft, and hopefully that was successfully camouflaging their pursuit.
The countdown, not a countup and in white rather than red, showed fifty-five minutes and four seconds when the first red voxel (now somewhere off the western seaboard of Mexico) vanished from the holographic projection. The last seconds of position data were amplified. And there it was, sudden deviation and motion in all directions. It matched data recorded from the Agency's own attacks. Something had attacked one of the alien craft directly. Attacked and destroyed one of the three. Something which hadn't been present on the international radar network. Twelve minutes later the craft chased by the Rainbow Force accelerated upwards and left the atmosphere. Another half minute and the third did the same.
It was not one of the envisioned outcomes. And it was an unhappy one for the Agency. Two of the councils would be displeased as the lack of interception efforts and the information gathered about the purposed of the triple spirals was now convoluted with the unexpected destruction of one of the UFOs.
[-2 on diplomacy checks against Central America, additional -1 with Africa]
Mr Fish and Ms Chia, the European Council observers would shortly be back in Madrid. Given the situation there was a strong suggestion that the agency staff did something before they returned. The something that a lot had in mind was finding out more about the destroyed alien craft. And the most direct way seemed to be to try and directly access the secure information networks of Central America. Perhaps somebody had seen something that could shed some light. There were two ways yo go about this: Asking nicely or hacking their network and just taking the data. Both had their own pros and cons.
see317 wrote: »
(Question for Mojo, does the new hanger come with an interceptor/transport or are we going to have to fund that as well?)
Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
see317 wrote: »
(Question for Mojo, does the new hanger come with an interceptor/transport or are we going to have to fund that as well?)
It gives you two wonderful slots, but the buyer supplies the aircraft to fill them.
Majorgeneral Reichenbach decided that an honest, forthright negotiation was the best way to secure results. In the privacy of his own walnut-panelled office he sent a meeting request via some archaic communication system that for some reason the Central Americans insisted on using. A polite young lady answered the call and merrily informed the distinguished war hero that the Assembly would indeed be willing to meet specially to hear his request. An hour later there was a subtle tone and one of the wooden panels shifted upwards revealing a view into another wooden boardroom.
The one on the other side of the screen was filled with tan skin and magnificent white teeth. The meeting was friendly and very polite, but by all accounts none of the Assembly were able to supply the Majorgeneral with any further information. Something had indeed entered their airspace and then it had simply vanished. There was no wreckage to be found or mission to create aforementioned wreckage. It was just another mystery in a confusing world.
[Diplomacy check for Central American intelligence: [12-2]. Failure]
Ms Chia and Mr Fish arrived to find the Agency in low spirits. They settled upon the obvious course: Securing more funds. Egypt may have been in the past, but it was still the core triumph of the Agency. Best to capitalise upon it late than never. Communication with the Middle Eastern Council was all through text. Silent and slow. At times it was not even clear if there was somebody else on the other end or whether the green blinding cursor had been abandoned entirely. The return messages from the Council typist were curt and to the point. After almost an hour it became very clear that there was not going to be any immediate pay out for promises of protection from extraterrestrial threats. Perhaps they had their own plan.
[Diplomacy check for Middle Eastern funding: . Failure.]
Good news finally came in the form of a tech demo. A group of scientists showing off a proof of principle rig. They'd somehow acquired a series of shop mannequins and the firing range was now populated by a charred and broken squad of naked, static human-shapes in a variety of poses. One of them was currently wearing a square of a dull blue metal on its chest.Grinning at the audience the white-coated man took hold of a particularly large handgun, donned his ear protectors and fired an inexpert series of shots at the unfortunate statue. The first shot struck the plastic man square in the head causing an explosion of dust and fragments but the second two hit the square in the chest plate.
A pair of interns, after ensuring that their supervisor was no longer holding the loaded weapon, quickly retrieved the mannequin. Dragging it forwards and unbuckling the blue square. The square itself was a little dented but there were no visible holes or serious deformations. The plastic beneath was unblemished too. They were understandably proud of their achievement: Armour for a modern age. It was a complicated combination of very large, but thin, single piezoelectric crystals arranged in layers sandwiched between an exterior sheet of metal and an interior system of tiny motors and hydraulics. A blow striking the armour created a localised electrical signal, much like a fingerprint which corresponded to the type of impact, and a distributed computer network reacted by sending electrical pulses to other armour sections causing it to flex and absorb the impact. State of the art stuff.
It was fairly heavy, but the final suit would be powered to some degree, enough to support itself. They'd tried out a few larger prototypes, but they'd been too slow and bulky. All they'd done was made for easier targets.
[Personal Armour research complete. It gives equipped soldiers one point of armour (which is like a wound that doesn't need medical attention). They cost €10M and 5EP each]
The rest of the demonstration was cut short, however. The alarm sounded. An unidentified object had been detected. By the time anybody that mattered reached The Pit it had already impacted. The thing had come in hard and fast, like a meteor that nobody had spotted until it was too late. The thing had ended up in the ocean shallows somewhere in the Solomon Sea.
Rainbow force were scrambling for the assault lander when the second alert sounded. It was a social media pick up. A video uploaded by some kind from just outside Cape Town. It looked like a hoax. Fortunately everybody that had seen it so far seemed to think it was viral marketing. Sadly it wasn't. It was a shakey phone video in the hills and it showed a bulky sphere crawling along on a mass of writhing silver tentacles: A Jelly. The video was location stamped.
Already the media control agents were isolated the video, removing it with as little fuss as possible and trying to find out more details.
Analysis of the video didn't yield too many useful details. The shot was digitally zoomed: sacrificing quality and detail for file size. The entity was making its way through some fairly dense scrub land, taking a a meandering path while remaining oblivious of the youth busily documenting things (despite his rather loud whispering about what was going on).
Pulling up the coordinates put the camera location in a disused quarry. Even after enhancing each extracted frame in turn, however, there was nothing that looked like a landing craft or another Jelly.
The assault lander came down in the cliffs above where the creature had been spotted. The good thing about having a cluster of swirling tendrils as your form of locomotion was the path you left in quarry dust. A long, swirled track that only needed a pair of eyes to follow. As in the video, there was only set of the tracks. A lone Jelly wandering around a South African quarry.
It had been five years since the company running the quarrying operation had gone bankrupt. Rusting piles of machinery, old portacabins and half-salvaged trucks littered the scene. It was the perfect site for an ambush.
Several of the portacabins had recently been moved. Long cuts into the dusty earth had been carved as they were pushed together. They didn't seem to form any particular shape though, although each of them touched at least one another square on. Perhaps they'd been re-purposed. Taking up cover behind one of the corrugated shapes, they could all feel the slight hum of power.
Pulling out in a circle, the rainbow force searched for an opening.
The shout cut short the silent, measured scouting. A twirling cylinder was arcing through the air. A Jelly stun bomb. Rainbow Force had been engaged.
Hiller's call let the est of the squad fling themselves to cover but the disorientating flash caught him full on. Dutch dragged him behind a pile of rubble as the others opened fire. There were three of the things, each hurling out those terrible stun bombs, looking to take the Rainbow Force alive. Cooper's steady stream of fire plinked away at their armour, but these things were tough as ever. A direct hit by Vasquez saw one of the three explode into pink soup.
From within one of the portacabins a new threat erupted. Bipedal, multilimbed and much larger than a man but sheathed in a blackness like congealed shadows that made gaining any more detail almost impossible. The tip of one of its four/six/eight/ten limbs ended in a blue sphere. As it clambered across the abandoned site it unleashed bolts of chaotic lightning. One took Dutch square in the chest, but he kept on firing.
Cooper saw off one of the two remaining Jellies, shredding it with concentrated fire, but Hiller and Wolner were already down under the prolonged attack from their stun grenades. Vasquez rushed to find a better angle while she hastily slammed a fresh rocket into the launcher. Bursting out of cover she took aim at the last of the Jellies but took a direct stun blast. Cooper too, fell shortly after.
And that left Dutch. All alone. Abandoning his position, he sprinted after the fleeing alien, skidding beneath the remaining Jelly as he did so and peppering its undercarriage with close range shots as he did so. The Jelly collapsed in a sea of disgusting fluid but his real target had already made its escape. Nestled down in a hollow, and previously covered with vegetation and sand, had been the alien craft. It rose into the air as Dutch kept on firing at it.
This craft was again vaguely cylindrical but much wider than the other had been and a little squatter: a broad cone with the central volume from tip to base extracted. And now it was gone, leaving behind an almost invisible purple streamer in the twilight sky. Worryingly, it was gone without appearing on the combined radar network which fed The Pit.
[Phase 1: Hiller, Cooper and Wolner hit. Hiller takes a stun damage]
[Phase 2: Cooper hits. Hiller and Vasqeuz take a stun damage]
[Phase 3: Hiller, Cooper, Vasquez  hit. Jelly Stunner down. Hiller, Cooper, Wolner and Vasquez take a stun damage. Hiller is down. New alien arrives]
[Phase 4: Dutch hits. Wolner takes a stun damage. Dutch takes a lethal damage]
[Phase 5: Cooper and Dutch hit. Jelly Stunner down. Cooper, Dutch and Wolner take a stun damage. Wolner is down]
[Phase 6: Dutch hits. Jelly stunner down. Cooper and Vasquez take a stun damage. Both are down]
=50% friendly forces down. Panic attack. Dutch takes 1 Psyche damage=
[Phase 7: Dutch hits. Alien misses. Alien flees]
[Promotion: Blain Cooper is now a Sergeant. Earns [Even The Odds]: +1 on rolls if outnumbered]
[Promotion: Alan "Dutch" Schaefer is now a Squaddie. Earns [Iron Will] - +1 Psyche]
Looking inside those old quarrymen's offices was a living nightmare. They were some kind of lab. A terrible lab on a scale not intended for a human-sized scientist. Slender tubes that extended from floor to ceiling and filled with organs. Human corpses partially cut open and with bizarre devices rammed into the cadavers. Even plants, carefully pulled from the earth with every root cleaned of all dirt and then apparently discarded in heaps. It was impossible to guess what they had been doing here. But they'd been stopped from doing it any more.
Reviewing the footage of the alien which escaped clarified a few things. That black-skin was some kind of clothing or armour which shifted in form to cover its owner without the need for folding or having to hang loose. This was more or less an essential given the nature of its limbs. They collapses down to four main stubs, but each of those could unfold as required, granting extra arms and hands to clamber over difficult terrain. The head was a vague, broad expanse confusingly obscured by the form-fitting clothing.
Kaplar wrote: »
Wouldn't 7 technically be 8? 5 is repeated.