Diary

Fridiary – XCOM – The Pen is Mightier than the Plasma Rifle – Part II

Alien abductions at a construction site in Kolkata, India. Arthur C. Clarke is back from the infirmary but Ursula K. Le Guin and Mary Shelley are still out. Rounding out the team are Rookies Douglas Adams, L. Ron Hubbard and James Tiptree Jr. I tell Tiptree that she can use her real name here at XCOM, but she won’t hear of it. She salutes as they board the Skyranger.

Is the team ready for whatever they’re about to face on the ground in India? No, not at all.

[Note: Classic Ironman playthrough, where Earth’s mightiest science fiction writers are all that stand between us and extinction. Part I is here.]

OPERATION FROZEN GOD

Hubbard and Adams move forward, startling a pair of Sectoids who scurry behind cover. Tiptree heads in close while Clarke takes position near the rear with his newly-acquired sniper rifle.

Adams takes a non-critical hit and Tiptree responds with deadly force. I move Adams forward again, forgetting that the second alien is in overwatch. Adams takes another hit, but stays on his feet.

Clarke startles two more Sectoids who take flanking positions. Hubbard gets a reaction shot but fails to make it count. Somehow – impossibly – with aliens all around us, we don’t take any hits.

Adams and Hubbard move towards the last of the first pair of Sectoids and Adams extracts sweet vengeance from the large, grey head by way of bullet manipulation. Hubbard again proves himself useless.

Clarke brings his sniper rifle to bear, but blames a crooked sight when he hits nothing. The Sectoids don’t have the same trouble though, and one of the grey bastards critically wounds Hubbard, sending Tiptree into a panic. Clarke straightens his sight and nails the alien that got Hubbard.

As far as we can tell, there is only one alien left. It retreats and with the extra breathing room, Adams has a chance to stabilize Hubbard. You still won’t die today you cockroach son of a bitch.

I want to rush Clarke and Tiptree forward, but I don’t need another dead author on my conscience. Instead I wait until Clarke can heal Adams, and the three of them slowly move towards the sole Sectoid.

The alien seems troubled, erratic, obviously aware that the net is tightening around it.

Five misses, but eventually Tiptree gets another notch on her belt. I lean back in my chair, but HQ doesn’t signal that the mission is over… What can they see on their scanner that we can’t?

Tiptree spots the last two Sectoids, who move forward to engage. Tiptree takes a shot, and misses, but it’s enough of a distraction for the two men to get behind cover. Adams skillfully decimates one, and Clarke throws away another chance at a Headshot. Reliable Tiptree gets the kill, making that three in one mission. These aliens might be Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home, but she’ll send them all back in bodybags, three at a time.

We head back to base and I’m informed that Adams and Tiptree have both been promoted, both going down the Heavy Weapons path. Personally I saw Tiptree going Assault, and Adams going Support, but at least they aren’t still useless rookies like Hubbard.

* * *

I bide my time and watch the holographic display of the world – without decent satellite coverage most of it is still in the dark. Against all odds our single satellite picks up a bogey and I scramble an Interceptor to take it out.

The Interceptor takes heavy damage, but not before knocking the clumsy-looking UFO out of the sky.

Clarke, Tiptree and Le Guin are ready for combat, but with Hubbard and Adams temporarily out, we need another pair of boots. I call Harlan Ellison out of the barracks.

OPERATION FADING HEART

As the Skyranger comes within view of the UFO crash site Ellison comments about how the broken earth looks like the post-apocalyptic landscapes he imagined for A Boy and His Dog. Tiptree tells him to quit being a wanker.

The team debarks and Ellison and Clarke move forward. To the left Clarke spots two Sectoids, but the path is clear to the right for Ellison.
Clarke can’t move and shoot, so he’s left holding his impotent rifle as Le Guin and Tiptree move forward to support. The Sectoids mind-meld and one of them takes a pot shot at Clarke that burns the air over his head. Clarke returns fire, scoring a two-for on the psychically-connected pair.

The team leap-frogs forward cautiously until the ship is in sight.

Tiptree spots a “being of almost pure energy” and takes cover. My instinct is to have her explode the sonuvabitch with a rocket, but we need everything we can salvage from the ship.
The others move closer and I get Tiptree to open fire with her LMG in the hopes of destroying the alien’s cover in preparation for the others. She does even better than that, nearly killing it. It retreats and returns fire from twenty yards away… sadly, James Tiptree Jr. – aka Alice Bradley Sheldon – is killed in action.

It killed her from such a distance that none of my remaining squad can get a decent shot without moving closer still. Clarke and Ellison move in towards the front while Le Guin moves around to the left to flank. She takes a full hit from the Outsider as more Sectoids join the fray – she’s badly wounded, but still standing. She panics and kills the Outsider, while Ellison panics and kills one of the Sectoids. These writers might not be mentally stable, but they get the job done.

Clarke moves forward to heal Le Guin, but the remaining Sectoid flanks them both. Le Guin can barely stay upright, but she can still despatch the alien and end the mission.

The team struggles onto the Skyranger as the engineers arrive to take apart the alien craft.

Ellison gets promoted to Heavy and Clarke makes Corporal. If it was up to me Le Guin would have been promoted due to her courage under fire, but the military is nothing if not sexist.

The team heads to the infirmary, and I mix myself a drink… It’s going to be a long year.

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