Diary

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

A shadowy representative from the Council comes up on screen – they’ve got a mission that only my team of science fiction authors can handle.

Mary Shelley is back from the infirmary looking like a million volts, Harlan Ellison and Arthur C. Clarke are prepped, but with Tiptree gone we need new blood. Robert A. Heinlein and his goatee come up from the barracks and join the squad.

He wears a look of disappointment across his face when he sees the Skyranger and realises the team isn’t fired down into the mission zone from orbit in drop-pod torpedoes. There’s just no pleasing some people…

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

OPERATION ROTTING GIANT – Extraction of Key XCOM Personnel

The team stands assembled inside an observatory with a scientist in their midst. He explains that he has been tracking UFO flight patterns, and I realise I have no idea how the team got here. I don’t remember the team landing and getting indoors… I might need to cut back on the drinking.

It’s a large facility with no clear exit route. I move Heinlein to one door and he pops it open – no surprises.
I’d be tempted to split the team up to cover more ground and potentially offer flanking support once they’re outdoors, but with an asset to protect that is out of the question.

Shelley – who I only just now realise is a medic without a medkit (must stop drinking) – spots some new sort of alien. It wears a suit and human skin, but the way its spine bends and stretches is both alien and reptilian. A friend warned me about humanoid reptilian aliens, but I never took him seriously.

I move the scientist into position between Heinlein and Shelley in the side room. Clarke takes cover and aims at the alien with his pistol, but hits nothing. Ellison has better luck with his LMG, mutilating the Thin Man in a hail of bullets.

Harry Central gets on the comm and warns of a wave of X-rays heading in. I get everyone into the side room so we can exit the building in a tight group.

Shelley pops the door and comes face to face with another of the ugly reptilian bastards. Her and Heinlein unload at it and somehow miss at point-blank range.

Ellison misses too and I order the scientist to run for cover. The Thin Man cuts him down mid-stride. Mission Failed, but I still have a team to extract. The alien critically wounds Harlan, who’s carrying one of the two medkits. The team deals with the X-ray and Clarke stabilises Ellison.

The three standing soldiers move out and spot three Sectoids. The Sectoids fire and miss, and Heinlein takes one out with a grenade – not the two I was hoping for. Shelley decimates another, but when the remaining Sectoid returns fire he kills Heinlein and gets revenge for his fallen alien foes. Looks like Heinlein will have to get his citizenship papers post-mortem.

Clarke and Shelley miss their shots, but when Shelley gets wounded she panics and kills the Sectoid. There’s another near the evac which Shelley flanks and despatches. Mission Complete. Mission Failed. 2 writers to appear in the obits tomorrow, and a dead scientist who could have helped us learn so much…

Back at HQ we launch a satellite over Canada and transfer an Interceptor to protect it. The satellite doesn’t even make it into position before reports come in of three simultaneous abductions – Brazil, Russia and Australia.

If we’re successful in Australia we’ll have a sergeant transferred to the unit. Experienced troops are hard to find, so I tell Harry Central to prep the team for a trip down under.

Clarke is ready as ever, Shelley and Douglas Adams are out of the infirmary but we still need one more. L. Ron Hubbard comes up from the barracks and is given the newly-built Arc Thrower, which he insists on calling an e-meter. Nobody can be bothered arguing with the crazy bastard.

OPERATION SWIFT CRONE

The team lands in the middle of a large stretch of highway. The only sound is the buzzing noise of the roadworks sign that’s still glowing, unaffected by the events that took place around it.

Shelley moves to cover near the sign and Hubbard runs past her to hide behind the scoop of a large piece of digging machinery. Some Sectoids spot the team and move to cover, escaping our collective line of sight.

I charge Douglas Adams and his LMG – nicknamed “The Towel” – to the front line and move Clarke down the flank. It’s a smart move except he spots another pack of Sectoids and brings them into the fight.

Clarke takes a hit and dies instantly. He was the highest ranked solider on the field, but the others keep it together.

Hubbard misses a shot, but Adams and the Towel deal with the only X-ray we have eyes on. Shelley gets a chance to take out a Sectoid whilst on Overwatch, but misses. I’m sure it’s Clarke’s body at her feet putting her off her game.

Adams and his rocket launcher – “Don’t Panic” – take care of a Sectoid. We can see it was mind-melding, but we can’t see if they both died in the attack.

Hubbard and Shelley move towards the last point of contact we had with the aliens. A Sectoid cowers behind a yellow NYC cab. It’s nearly as far from home as the X-ray.

Another Sectoid flanks Hubbard but misses. He whips out his e-meter and audits the poor bastard so hard it collapses in a heap. Nobody deserves that, not even a vicious alien from beyond the stars.

Shelley and Adams move up, and together the three soldiers head towards the alien presence. Hubbard and Shelley both hear separate points of movement ahead, and as Shelley moves up she spots 2 Sectoids violating a green slime coated body.

Hubbard dodges a reaction shot as he moves forward. From his new vantage point he has eyes on three X-rays. I’m starting to wish I hadn’t made Adams let loose with his rocket earlier.

Adams moves up and the X-rays return fire. Shelley panics as she gets wounded and another X-ray flanks Adams. Douglas falls to plasma fire, and I hope that he’s at least having a decent meal at the restaurant at the end of the universe.

Shelley and Hubbard dispose of the remaining enemies and Harry Central calls it a successful operation. All I can see are two dead masters of their artform.

As if to say thank you for the sacrifice of these two great science fiction minds, the UK panics. What the fuck, Jake? I thought you had my back?

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