Ignoring the storm gathering over Asia, Mr fish decided it was time to strike while the iron was hot with his own people. It was a complicated task being the Council's observer in the agency, he knew he was supposed to be far more impartial than he was capable of. It seemed to him that really the agency was an essential tool and the council had to support that no matter what. He straightened his tie and glanced at the dim reflection in the black semi-reflective wall of the lift.
Stepping out through the silently sliding doors he marched down the corridor to one of the conference rooms where some of the big names were waiting for him. Waiting to hear his report. If it was just him there wouldn't have been any problem. It wasn't just him though. Ms Chia would also be giving her own thoughts. She was a real mystery, even to him. He'd done the usual snooping and found a mixture of nothing and ambiguous tedium. Red flags the pair of them. Something wasn't right with Ms Chia and he couldn't help but wonder if she was there to observe the observer.
He fixed his polite smile and stepped through the doors...
...three hours later he stepped back out along with his mysterious female counterpart. She'd spoken highly of the agency. She'd defended some of their less thought out moves. She'd even come close to singing praises when it came to their research (figuratively of course - he couldn't ever imagine that well presented lady actually singing). And yet they'd failed. The assembled council representatives had agreed that fine work was being performed, but they just couldn't agree with the case for raised funding. Right now they seemed to be operating with no real shortages and wanted for little. What exactly did they need to see? He'd have to rethink his strategy for the next one.
[Diplomacy check to raise European funding: difficulty 14: 9+2. Fail]
He shrugged at Ms Chia, but couldn't think of anything particular to say. He scanned the notifications on his phone. R&D were going to task on some wide spectrum analysers that they wanted to strap onto the aircraft. The technical teams assembling the Rainbow Force armour were just finishing up. And best of all, there were no alerts of alien craft on the radar network.
In his hand the phone shuddered a little. A new item appeared. One of the data miners had come across a funding application from a young academic at the University of Helsinki. In their Anthropology, History and Sociology department. The man was asking for a few tens of thousands for something called "A history of alien encounters: Modern Man and his obsession with the extraterrestrial" - it was a detailed study of reported alien encounters in human history. One that was also going to keep tabs on recent happenings, the ones where the ground was still fresh and maybe they could actually interview somebody a day or so after an event. That could be trouble. Or it could be useful. Or it could be both.
jakobagger wrote: »
Re: scientists and engineers, the new lab we can build will give us more research points per turn. I assume there may be other buildings that increase our production output.
Quietly, assets were moved into core administrative positions at the University of Helsinki. The research grant itself was a drop in the ocean compared to the vast infrastructure of spies that had to be established to keep an eye on exactly where the project ended up. Several agents were already enduring a gruelling humanities re-education to ensure that when the Anthropology, History and Sociology department started applying for a postdoc it would be one of theirs.
Closer to home it was Dr Thomas who suddenly found herself in the spotlight. The basic premise of the communications research was that it was extremely unlikely the alien craft were all using tight-beam systems. It was too slow and required either a system of relays or an alien mothership floating unseen in orbit. Several of Dr Thomas' colleagues were quite to reject this assumption - on the basis that it applied human reasoning to an unknown force.
Still, the research would provide valuable insights even with a negative result. The Scotch scientist directed her crew to the development of all kinds of wide spectrum signal detection systems and mounted them onto both the interceptor and the assault lander. Both would start collecting data during the next engagement hopefully providing some insight into how the aliens were communicating (even if there was the lingering question of what an alien language might even be).
It was with some fanfare that the first field test suits of armour were produced (and painted) for use by the Rainbow Force. Most of the agency had assembled to see the hardened troops trying on the latest in high tech personal defence systems. As the team stood around posing the voice of Mother announced an alien event. It was a rare moment that Mother's grim news was actually met with a cheer.
Snatching up weapons the suited Rainbow Force rushed to the hangar.
Upstairs, details about the incursion were coming in. A deep sea oil survey vessel had encountered thick fog in the central Atlantic and then an hour later there'd come a distress signal. The message was brief and abruptly terminated, but it did describe something uncannily like a Jelly. For some reason they'd expanded their portfolio from stealing people to stealing ships.
zekebeau wrote: »
A Go, go Rainbow Forces (do-do-do-dodo) Go, go Rainbow Forces (do-do-do-dodo) Go, go Rainbow Forces, your badass armored Rainbow Forces, yeah
Kaplar wrote: »
We need 3 more vehicles. We have 2, but I'm not sure if those even fit into each other.
Kaplar wrote: »
Go go go.
Did our troops automatically gain armor?
Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
I am not dead, I've just not been back to mt house which makes posting difficult
Tiny wisps of mist were the only feature on the black expanse of sea. There were no waves at all and the horizon was lost in the general gloom. A dull glow marked where the sun was busily setting far away to the west. The calm scene was cut by the low-flying shape of the Assault Lander. Hiller was piloting it as low as possible, swirling up a great white streak across the surface.
Kilometres dwindled and turned to metres. Hiller abruptly pulled up, the craft sailed across the foredeck of the oil survey ship. From within, four brightly coloured shapes leapt out of the opened hatches and rolled across the deck. The four scrambled to find cover as Hiller turned his engines and had the lander fly vertically upwards. He braced for impact, the aliens would not take kindly to the Rainbow Team insertion. Nothing came, however. He chirped on the radio. Down on the deck they'd not made contact either. Strange.
The aft of the ship had a helipad, that would hopefully be large enough to let the lander down so that Hiller could join his team. Not his team. The team. It was Cooper's team now. The man had been field promoted and given the command following South Africa. Hiller didn't mind. He wasn't sore. He was too professional to bear a grudge. He couldn't let pride get in the way. He couldn't let his pride get anybody else killed. A small LED flashed blue beside the radar screen. Whatever Dr Thomas had installed on the lander was working.
Down below, the brightly-coloured troops were swiftly covering ground on the apparently deserted ship. The deck lights still burnt brightly. High intensity banks of white LEDs carving holes in the gathering night. Dutch hauled himself up a metal ladder that connected to the helipad. A reddish-brown streak was painted on the deck ahead of him. He squatted beside it. It was still wet. Blood. Raising his head, he saw the helicopter. Or what remained of it. A blackened frame pushed off to one edge of the pad.
Pulling a flare free from his belt, Dutch called down Hiller onto the pad. The air screamed as the Assault Lander touched down (pushing the shattered helicopter into the sea as it did so). The Rainbow Force gathered at the off-ramp. So far, all they'd found was the destroyed helicopter and some blood. Perhaps they were too late.
They had to be sure. It was time to head below deck. The hatch door was unsecured and hanging a few centimetres open. Hand signals were exchanged and Wolner crept forwards. Behind him a section of bulkhead exploded into a shower of molten metal.
Jellies. Three of them. All unfurled like flowers and bouncing those green beams between their angled mirrored surfaces before striking out. These were not attempting to take human specimens with stun bombs.
Cooper swivelled, his autocannon already spinning up. A wave of fire slammed into the Jellies, pushing them backwards and giving his team time to take cover. A green burst caught Cooper in the chest, putting an end to his rain of fire, lifting him off his feet and slamming him backwards. Surprisingly, the men returned to his feet, his bright red armour having saved his life.
A rocket streaked through the air and met the deck in a concussion blast and ball of flame. The fire reflected in the countless petal mirrors of the Jellies. Concentrated fire from Hiller and Dutch burst the bulbous shell of the first Jelly. A high pressure burst of pinkish goo splattered out and the alien collapsed into a shuddering heap.
Wolner and Vasquez took direct hits, again their armour saving their lives
[Phase 1: Hiller gets one hit. Two Jellies score hits
Phase 2: Cooper, Hiller and Dutch score hits. Two Jellies score hits.
Phase 3: Cooper, Hiller, Wolver and Dutch score hits. Two Jellies score hits
Phase 4: Cooper, Hiller and Dutch score hits. Two Jellies score hits. One Jelly destroyed
Phase 5: No Rainbow Force hits. One Jelly scores a hit
Phase 6: Cooper hits twice, Wolver and Dutch hit. Two Jellies score hits. Two Jellies destroyed]
With no immediately life threatening injuries Cooper gave the order to head below deck.
The corridors were narrow, ideal for setting up killing fields. Rainbow Force found themselves descending into the crew quarters. The ship was large enough to support a crew of almost fifty for months at a time. Motoring around between the shipping routes and deploying all kind of survey equipment into the depths. Each of the tiny double-bunk cells was empty. No sign of the crew anywhere - alive or dead. Fortunately there was also no sign of any other extraterrestrial threats.
Inside the Galley, the team sat for a moment. The big room was pristine and filled with metal tables and matching fixed benches. There was a lingering smell of something like bleach. Whoever ran the kitchen here was big on cleanliness. Dutch headed into the kitchen proper, having decided that all the killing had worked up his appetite. Several large pots still sat on lit gas burners. Their lids wobbled slightly as the contents boiled away. Smiling eagerly, the Austrian lifted a lid and took in a deep whiff. His face turned instantly. The lid fell to the ground with a clutter and the man started hacking loudly.
The others were on the feet and beside him in seconds. Cooper cautiously advanced on whatever it was that had caused the sudden revulsion.
A bubbling pot of flecked white. It was undoubtedly soup. Dutch raised a hand and finished gagging to explain,
"Not just *hack* soup. Broccoli and Stilton! What kind of monster puts cheese in soup? Blue cheese even. Should be fucking outlawed."
Rainbow Force burst into fits of laughter.
"Wait. Wait. Guys. Is that a...?"
It was Vasquez who ended the moment of merriment. Rocket launcer slung on her back she'd spotted something underneath of the steel counters. A red something. A human finger. Charred at one end. Still wearing a gold ring.
"Okay, break time is over. Back to work."
The disconcerting find put them all back into search mode. Vasquez dropped the finger onto a counter, leaving a smear on the perfect surface. Hiller had spotted the huge walk-in freezer. Specifically he'd spotted that the handle was broken, sheared off and apparently repaired by welding what looked like a chair leg at right angles to the door. It was sloppy work. A bodge that obviously out of place. If you were going to the trouble of welding something, you'd spend more than two seconds thinking about how.
Gripping the makeshift handle he tugged the door open. And found the crew.
Maybe it wasn't quite everyone, but they'd need a manifest to check. Every crewman was dead, most with scorched holes carved at random points in their bodies and then sealed in what looked quite a lot like the anti-static plastic used to package electronic components -a slightly silvery grey. The crew were all neatly shrink-wrapped, with no joins, like they'd been immersed in a vat of molten plastic and left to set in the freezer. They hung from the rails. There was no sign of the food that they had displaced, but the freezer was empty aside from the collected corpses.
It might have been disturbing if there had been time to reflect. An arc of electricity exploded out of one of the doorways. Rainbow Force were not alone and the Jellies upstairs had not been the sole orchestrators of what happened here. What had fired was not a Jelly at all. It was one of the strange shadow shapes from the vivisection lab in South Africa. It was on the other side of a doorway taking cover, a broad multi-limbed thing with a glowing orb.
Dutch fired on the new arrival. They could work out its anatomy when they had a dead one back at ESAC. The lightning had hit Vasquez square on. She was down and not moving, but caught in the open. Wolner charged and kicked off a table, he'd spotted another of those shadow things at another door. Crawling waves of electricity splattered across the metal surface.
The first creature was shattered by Cooper's autocannon. It erupted grotesquely. The exterior of solid shadows pushing outwards to form a vast sphere before becoming fluid and forming a pool on the ground. The internal structure was an utterly destroyed madness. There was no understanding what had worn the shadows. There was a hint of something vaguely crustacean. Or possibly mollusc.
A green pulse of energy shot from behind where the alien had taken cover. There was at least one more Jelly out there. More and more aliens were converging on the galley.
"We're pulling out."
It was Hiller who took the decision,
The four surviving members of the team charged at the second of the undefinable aliens. This one went up with the same kind of bang as the first. The shadows were some kind of environmental suit and it didn't seem to cope well with being shot at. Cooper, Hiller and Dutch trampled through the confused alien remains. Destructive green rays sliced into the bulkheads behind them. Wolner was hit squarely in the back and collapses into the alien mush.
[Phase 1: Dutch hits. ??? hits. Vasquez is dead. Wolner gets +2 on attack rolls
Phase 2: Cooper, Hiller and Wolner hit. ??? hits. Wolner is dead
Phase 3: Hiller hits twice. ??? hits Hiller. Jelly arrives.
Phase 4: Hiller and Dutch hit. ??? hits Dutch. ??? is dead
Rainbow Force flee]
There was no time to even attempt recovering Vasquez or Wolner. They were just dead weight. From every hatchway, Jellies were erupting. Writhing masses of silvery tentacles armed with those terrifying beam weapons. Somehow, they had it to the Assault Lander and Hiller was off and away without looking back. Green streaks of terror lanced through the night after them, but they'd survived. They were going home now.
[No diplomacy changes from combat in international waters]
Even as the Assault Lander raced back to Spain, Generalmajor Reichenbach was ordering the Interceptor go out. All civilians on that ship were dead and it was best they destroy it now than face whatever the alien plan was coming to pass. Halfway across the Atlantic the radar signal from the ship vanished abruptly. The aliens had figured out how to disconnect the transponder. The interceptor swept the last known area, but there was no sign of the ship. It had vanished into the mist.
Internal Message, Anonymized GID 456FCA wrote:
Hey <redacted>. We're a secret organization and everything so we should have clearance for this stuff - is Red Mercury a thing?