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The Screaming Sky - DM Downrightamazed

Game Master downrightamazed

"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now." -- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow


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Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

I feel kinda bad for Winston at this point :P, I think it's the last time he'll try do something nice for Devereux ;)


Agility(Stat) + Agility - Short
4d10 ⇒ (6, 3, 5, 3) = 17
Keep: 3, 3. Total: 8 + 3 + 3 - 1 = 13. Fail DC16 Agility

Tenacity(Stat) + Tenacity
3d10 ⇒ (7, 7, 2) = 16
Keep: 7, 7. Total: 7 + 7 + 7 = 21. Pass DC14 Fear

The floor is slick with puslike ooze as Winston begins the slow ascent, flowing from beneath his feet like a ruptured carbuncle. He can feel it soaking into his boots and smearing against his pants, the squelching sound of each ponderous step releasing new odours which force him to gag.

"Come on man... Stay with me..."

As if in response, Devereux's weight shifts suddenly, an eruption of noxious liquids and flowing flesh rippling across the Nazzadi's chest as alien features swim to the surface and horrific alien growths threathen to subsume his humanoid form...

There is a viscous squelch as something horrific beneath him gives way in a discharge of oily bile.

He feels the fall coming...

Gravity is a harsh mistress...

He opens his mouth to swear, and regrets it moments later as the fall deposits him face down in the runny effluent, the rubbery impact of what used to be Devereux a dull ache against his back.

It tastes like Dot 4...

Burns like it too...

He wants to run, but he can't. Somewhere, a part of his subconscious recoils screaming. He silences it, forcing himself to his feet, wiping whatever he can of the slime off his face.

He glances back at Devereux's canker ridden form, slowly coalescencing back into something vaguely humanoid. Friendship and Duty against Mind-numbing terror...

"Let's try that one again."

He shudders at the touch of alien flesh, muscles straining against the dead weight of the unconscious alien form.

Wouldn't hurt if you could lower that incline somewhat big guy...

--------------------------------

@ Devereux: And you just got heavier... :-P Let me guess... you went off and did a Rite of Sacred Union while we were in the bunks... :-)


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Falling unconcious brings a moments reprieve to Devereux from the nightmares which assualted his senses, but soon even his subconsious mind is invaded.

An alien presence probes his inner most thoughts, feeling around as if getting used to a new home. Images flash through his mind, swirls of impossible colour and shape, some beautiful, others mindnumingly horrible.

Devereux fights to retain control of his mind, to share it with this being which threatens to consume him. Every ounce of him is focused on a single purpose, to return to the land of the sane.

------------------

@ Winston:Now why would I go and do something like that :P


Nodding to John, Alastair makes good on his offer and brings Chelsea near to where the Engel's are standing. He keeps several paces between them and Valk as the Seraph looks down to regard them in its own curious way. It started flexing its hand as it stared down at Alastair, eliciting a garbled chuckle from him. Having his fill of teasing his Engel he removes his helmet and Valk instantly relaxes, falling back to merely watching the two humans. "Chelsea this is my Seraph, Valkyrie..." As he speaks Valk's armored plates begin to ripple as the tall Engel rolls its massive shoulders and flexes its powerful frame. Alastair shakes his head at his Engel's odd display and adds sarcastically. "She is also a big show off..." After a minute of showing off its guns, Valk ends its display by releasing two bursts of steam from beneath its armored head and cracking its neck in an oddly human fashion. As the steam clears Alastair waves his hand to indicate the other near by Engel's.

"The other big guy is Azreal and that one is Artemi. Kyra and Cythera's Engel's respectfully." He turned to Chelsea and gave her a warm smile. "Hopefully Winston shows up soon or else I will hunt him and Dev down. In the mean time I am off to see what all mobile equipment is available and ready for our mission's abroad. I understand you have your duties to attend to so I won't keep you and thanks for entertaining Valk, apparently she is very bored as well. I will have to see your guy's rig sometime though, I never get bored at looking at armor as I used to be in a mechnized division before the Alaskan conflict."


In the hangar: Czerny nods at John's request and grins. "Took the liberty of getting exactly such a report ready for you, major." She speaks the nazzadi word for "sync" and a secure sync-lock request pops up on everyone's PCPU as the colonel's own hardware offers to send a ground report. "As for tying with the Hive's facilities, that should already be handled. This place seems to take care of its own. Unfortunately, it appears only to be a partial process. I guess The Hive has parts of itself it doesn't want us to know about..."


@Winston and @Devereux: Winston is sliding in the slop, his eyes and mouth burning and skin feeling disgustingly slimy, coated with goo. He has just gotten back on his feet and is trying to budge Devereux when the infantryman lets out an obscene groan, which depending on the circumstances could be one of either extreme pleasure or extreme pain. The shadows in the corners of Winston's eyes suddenly coalesce into a hideous cloak over Devereux's body, and their arrival startles Crash and causes him to lose his precarious balance and fall back again.

The shadow-thing descends on his companion's still form and the moans stop instantly. The shadow seems somehow to wrap completely around Devereux, then, and 'Crash has a single, horrified glimpse of fleshy tendrils sinking into the man's ears, hooked appendages lashing onto abraded skin and membranes closing over mouth and nose before the gruesome process is over and the nazzadi has been completely consumed by the bizarre shadow-thing, and both have vanished. One second they were right there on the ground, now they are gone. *poof*

Things are suddenly quieter; the buzzings and weird vocalizations from nowhere have ended. The geometry of the room is more manageable now, the slope of the floor not veering off into a brain-mashing non-euclidian perspective. The hideous sickly-sweet smell of rotting flesh and gore begins seeping into Winston's nostrils. He reaches out, tentatively, every better instinct he has screaming at him to stop and get up and just run, run, run; run before whatever that was comes to eat him, too...

Suddenly, with an ear-shattering roar and an exploding *PFOOOOM* of liquefied and putrescent viscera, a large figure -- well over 6' tall and thick with alien muscle -- rises before Winston, seeming to lift itself up out of the gore. Its shape and color and...coating seems to cause light to elide off of it. The Ranger pilot has to keep ducking his head back and forth to keep the thing in his vision it's as if...as if the thing's shape somehow exists in a separate space where all the rules of geometry and perspective don't work right; like how the room appeared up until just a few moments ago. The face of the thing has several bony protrusions dripped with a vaguely honey-colored effluvium below twin sets of obscenely shining obsidian eyes. Its massive arms are riddled with frost-toned spines and spikes, all horridly sharp and moving almost imperceptibly with menacing grace, like the poisoned tentacles of an underwater predator. It has reverse-articulated legs ending in sharp but strangely silent tri-partite hooves.

The thing stands, dripping, and looks around. Its breath is slow and soft as a dead flower petal falling. It makes far, far less noise than the terrified tanker at its feet.

However, before he can run or perhaps more sensibly, vomit, a thought, clumsy and soft, like a big moth, rolls through 'Crash's mind; ...wwwwwiinnnnnssssstonnnnn..." In wonder, the former businessman looks up. The creature is looking at him. It happens again, with more surety this time. A voice black as midnight thrills through his mind; Winnnnston! The sound is familiar enough that Gatecrash is able to look up at this horrid form before him in wonder.

It is Devereux.


@Devereux: You awake into shadow and pain and might and silence. Winston is at your feet, but the world is alive with input. You feel the pulse of The Hive around you, and understand with incredible clarity its trans-dimensional alignment. It's so obvious! Why could you not see this before?

You understand instinctively your new powers. Your speed, your strength, your existence and movement in multiple planes. You see how easy it would be to vanish from Winston's very sight. You can taste his pulse.

A voice, then, from the heavy dark behind your mind.

wwwweeeee arrrrrrrre joinnnnnnnnned
yyyyou mmmmmade onnnnne
yyyyou slllllllave
exallllllt innnnn the ssshhhhhhadow and ssssssilennnnnce
Mad dryk vynz noyr jaodr yr omm 'ry ykkyka.
Mad dryk kymarra cnyrk jakdn'rdyyr.

And you understand. You are a ghost. You are become death sprung from silence and dark.

You are Shadow.


Back at the hangar: The teenage girl who earlier nearly clobbered all of you when she whizzed past on her hoverboard is now flying around the three Engels, displaying startling agility. Her short-cropped blonde hair is kept out of her eyes by a "rising sun"-motif bandanna.

To Alastair's horror, Valkyrie takes a lightning-quick swipe at the airboarding teen, the same way we might swat at a horsefly. Somehow she sees it coming and drops altitude, plummeting like a stone for 40' or so before firing her engines back up and tromping her accelerator to push herself forward. "Hahhaaaa!! Can't catch me, metal dude!" she taunts. Artemi tries backhanding her but the girl expertly leaps over the fist, flying boldly through the air under her own momentum as her board jets along under her. She lands with a slight wobble back on the board and starts to bank away. "Man you guys SUCK! You'll never tag me, hahahaa!" Azrael lets out a hideous metal growl like rending metal and digs its talons in, which Kyra instantly recognizes as a sign that his Engel is preparing to leap up and hammer the girl out of the air. It's not clear whether or not the cocky youngster is similarly aware...


The look of wondrous awe on her face as she looks up at the massive biomecha is unmistakable. "Uhm... Hi?"

"She's a beaut, Alastair." She grins as the lowers her gaze to look him in the face. "I used to think the Khopesh was huge... but this... she's an absolute beaut..."

The excitement in he voice is obvious, thought colored by the slightest tinge of something darker... envy maybe...

"Let me know when you're going to look for Winston. I'm coming along."

Still, she seems almost reluctant to leave, lingering at the base of the gantry, before setting off on an even clip towards one of the parked Rangers.

--------------------------------

@ DM Downrightamazed: NINJAED!

@ Everyone: I believe this is as good a point as any for another Meep...


He no longer recognizes the scream. Somewhere deep down, he knows it is his, but stretched beyond its functional limits, his brain has abandoned any semblance of control.

Rationality disappears in a storm of terror as his cognition dumps its capacity, overwhelmed by a primal flood of mind-numbing fear. Limbs flail wildly, each moving purely on muscle memory, scrabbling for purchase in the muck as whatever little remains of his body's self-preservation attempts to back away from... whatever it is.

A fragment of his consciousness, stubbornly unwilling to abandon it's post despite everything that has transpired, makes the leap linking the vague images before his eyes to Devereux.

It doesn't matter.

There aren't enough neurons still at their posts to make sense of the flashing synapses.

His legs swing out from under him and he tumbles backwards into the muck again, whimpering...


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Devereux looks down at Winston, then slowely around, breathing in the new sensations. After what seemed like an age of torture it was over, whatever it was.

Suddenly, he felt an urge to feel his own flesh, and a surge of panic struck him, What if I'm stuck this way? he thinks. As soon as he thinks it he feels his body begin to change, the spines that cover his body shrink back into his flesh, his legs reform and he shrinks in stature back to his normal nazzadi form.

Reaching a hand down to Winston he says 'It's alright, come on, lets get you out of here and cleaned up, I need to get dressed too, then we better find the others.'


He screams until he cannot scream...

And then he screams some more.

He cannot understand what he is seeing.

He staggers to his feet, fighting the vertigo and the rush of blood, feeling his mind threaten to tear loose again and clings violently to his fading grasp on sanity.

The Human mind is a wondrous thing - what it cannot understand, it reshapes and re-engineers according to it's own biases and understanding, to approximate reality the best it can.

"What the hell are you...?" The first coherent thought punctures the endless sound of his own terror, wobbly and unstable at first, yet gaining in sophistication with each passing moment.

"Who the hell are you...?" A word changes this time as his mind grapples with the information before it, refining its response.

"What the hell is going on...? A clarification, designed to elicit information to compensate for ignorance.

Warily, he backs away from Devereux, never letting his questioning gaze leave the man's face.

--------------------------------

@ Devereux: AIEEEEE! DON'T EAT ME! Oh wait... You're not a Phantom... :-P


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

'Winston, calm down, it's still me. Look, why don't you walk with me out of this place, you'll feel better, and I'll try explain as best I can.' Devereux says in what he hopes is his most soothing voice.

If Winston agrees to leave with him he talks while walking, otherwise he stays there and tries to explain it. If they're walking he's making his way to his room.

'Look, I'll be honest with you, I'm not 100% sure what just happened. Let's start from the beginning, why I left you guys.

You of all people know that sometimes everything gets too much, well, I had one of those times, seeing the wonder of this place bought back memories of the lie I had been taught to believe, all the things I used to think were great which didn't exist at all. While walking I was led to this place, admitedly the decor wasn't so bad when I came in the first time.

There was a girl there, and she told me I had been chosen, and to take a seat. As if to agree, the Hive put a wall behind me. I was in such a terrible low at the time the thought of doing something which might kill me and end it all seemed like a good idea, I honestly didn't consider any other consequences.'

Devereux sighs, 'I don't know why what has just happened has happened, but I have become bonded with a being from another dimension, and while this being is completely alien, it is still me in control.'

Turning to face Winston (Assuming they've been walking), he says, 'Please, can I trust you not to tell the others what you've seen, at least not until I have had time to process everything and find some answers for myself.'

---------------------------------
@ Winston:What has been seen cannot be unseen huh ;)


"I will come get you before I leave then." Alastair nodded to her and watched Chelsea go his warm smile fading, replaced by a look of sadness once she had turned away. He mumbled something quietly to himself as turned back to look at Valk "Never time to mourn, only time to fight and bl..." He paused as he saw the hover girl and stood in horror as her antics angered Valkyrie. He quickly shouted something in gaelic at Valk, trying to calm her down, as he put a hand on one of his Defenders. He spread his feet and widened his stance as he prepared to draw. My bullets won't scratch their armor but the sound should distract them... He watched the engels hoping he would be quick enough to strike first. "You are pushing your luck girl! Stop th...."

This would be as far as got before Azreal did his thing, just didn't want Alastair standing there like a chump. ;)


"Hey girl what the hell do you think your doing? Azrael is about to pounce and I don't need that on my conscience." Kyra calls out when he sees Azrael prepare to pounce.


"So..." His brain runs out of words capable of expressing himself further and there is a hanging pause as his speech centers rush to catch up.

It all just seemed so... strange.

He feels his rational mind capitulate - It no longer needs to make sense, merely accept that it simply is...

"So... you're now the mild-mannered-secret-identity of some... symbiotic transforming alien superhero hybrid thing..."

He seeks solace in the sarcasm. There is a perverse absurdity to his words, made all the more surreal by the strange reality that confronted him. A statement that could originally have been made only in jest now makes sense now.

"Pardon me when I say this is going to take some getting used to..."

--------------------------------

@ Devereux: Amazing how a throwaway line comes back to bite you, isn't it?

Winston "Gatecrash" Chang wrote:
"I think I've seen this before... First, they ask you to save the Earth..." He deadpanned with the slightest hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Next thing you know, BAM! You're the host of a symbiotic alien policeman."


Surprised yet again by this strange place, John taps a few keys to accept the file and put together a network query. He wants to enumerate all the network nodes he can reach and construct a map and index of what all is out there. He carefully constructs the query so that it could not by any means be interpreted as intrusive- he's not digging for hidden systems or trying to hack into anything.

At Kyra and Alastair's shouts, John looks up from the tablet. He watches in horror, his PCPU forgotten as the girl's distant taunts reach his ears. Was she trying to get herself killed?


With a guttural snarl, Azrael vaults into the air. It looks like the girl doesn't have a chance. In fact, it looks like she doesn't even see the engel coming, but then, once again at the last second, she kicks her board off into the open air, launching herself in the opposite direction -- right towards Valkyrie! As the confused Azrael grasps at empty air, the teen grabs onto one of Valkyrie's armor plates, landing with a chuff of expelled air as the wind is knocked out of her. She manages a weak laugh. "Ah-heh. Heh. Hah! Made it!" She smacks a remote on her wrist and her hoverboard starts heading back towards her, homing in, but Azrael intercepts the thing and plucks it effortlessly from the air, its tiny thrusters no match for the mighty engel.

"Hey!" the kid shouts indignantly as she starts climbing down Alastair's engel. "You can't do thawhoooOOOPS! HEY!" She is cut off as Valkyrie calmly plucks the girl off her armor, hoisting her up by her jacket collar. The kid swings her fists as Azrael brings the hoverboard over to Kyra and appears to offer it to him, like a gift. "You can't give him that, it's mine!"

Dr. Yaradua shakes his head. "Tch. Kina, you have been told numerous times not to taunt any interdimensional or alien or supernormal or paranormal inhabitants. I believe you are getting off easy in this case."

As the doctor finishes his admonishment, Czerny's report finishes coming through -- looks like the island has seen a fair bit of Dagonite activity, up to and including mecha, but is otherwise spookily deserted. Vatican City, meanwhile, is just on the cusp of a heavy fire zone. You would have to approach from the southwest or do a hot drop and assume you'd take fire coming in from the air.

As you're sifting through this info, Devereux and Winston walk in the door. Devereux seems...bigger, somehow, and Winston looks a bit green around the gills.


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Assuming we've gotten cleaned up, and i'm dressed now?


Alastair motions to Valkyrie to lower the girl down and continue holding her. Once she is at eye level though he truly noticed the headband and for a moment his face is unreadable, for the girl though she would see a flash of sadness cracked his hard features before quickly being brushed away by his . An old symbol that, men fought to the death in the name of honor while wearing those proudly across their brow and now its worn by teenagers like it was a joke.

He pulled the headband off her head and barely refrained from grabbing her by the jaw as he looked the angry teen straight in the eye. "I don't know what your playing at kid but this isn't the time nor place for jokes or tomfoolery! Your lucky we work so closely with these three or else you would have been introduced to more then just their backhand More importantly... Do you even know what this stands for?! Or is it just a cool thing to wear?" His last question is emphasized by him unraveling the headband and holding it in front of her.

What does the girl look like, caucasian, asian (I am assuming~) or?

He barely notices the (nude) Devereux and Winston enter as he deals with the reckless teenager hanging from Valkyrie's claws.


There is a commotion and the rumbling footsteps of mecha coming from the other end of the hangar but at this point, he is past caring.

Winston trudges across the hangar deck, trailing a viscous slick of foul smelling gunk behind him. He smells like he's been on a sewer expedition through the bowels of a septic tank, the eye-watering odor rolling off the fetid slime that covers him an almost physical force, like being slapped in the face by a rotting trout...

Hardy-har-har, big guy. I'm SO sure the only route back to the bunk HAD to pass through the hangar deck.

A gaggle of passing technicians follow his passage with some degree of amusement, heckling laughs hinting at some sort of initiation test. He ignores them, slopping past a row of parked Rangers, towards the far door.

As he plods past, Airfix stops whatever it was she was doing and peers down at him over the lip of the Ranger's turret, a questioning eyebrow raised.

"NOT."

"A."

"WORD."

She has enough sense to wait until he's three vehicle lengths away before bursting into laughter.

--------------------------------

@ Everyone: First person to get between Winston and the showers gets mauled.


Devereux Atkinson wrote:
Assuming we've gotten cleaned up, and i'm dressed now?

LOL! Yes. Good heavens, yes. I should have been more specific. You mentioned you were heading for a shower so I handwaved that, but I should have said so. It was my intent that Winston and Devereux would have showered, etc. before arriving in the hangar, but this has turned out to be much funnier.

Grand Lodge

Funnier, yes, but if it's the same with you I might rock out into the hanger dressed. I didn't want to haveto explain to the party what happened quite this way. I'll write up a post a lil' laters.


caffeine_addict wrote:
Funnier, yes, but if it's the same with you I might rock out into the hanger dressed. I didn't want to haveto explain to the party what happened quite this way. I'll write up a post a lil' laters.

Yup, that's fine. Maybe Winston had some residual goo he didn't get cleaned off, or he showed up first, then went and showered, whatever. *handwave handwave*


***Snickers*** hence why I put (nude) in parenthesis. I was assuming you weren't actually there naked ;) BUT I had to have fun with it while I could!


DM Downrightamazed wrote:
caffeine_addict wrote:
Funnier, yes, but if it's the same with you I might rock out into the hanger dressed. I didn't want to haveto explain to the party what happened quite this way. I'll write up a post a lil' laters.
Yup, that's fine. Maybe Winston had some residual goo he didn't get cleaned off, or he showed up first, then went and showered, whatever. *handwave handwave*

I'm just going to go with the idea that the Hive has a sense of humor.


The teen girl, a pretty and athletic young blonde of mixed blood -- she would perhaps be described as "post-racial" -- scowls at Alastair and stares daggers. "WHO THE F*%* ARE YOU TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO?! YOU CAN'T TALK TO ME LIKE THIS MY DAD IS AN AMBASSADOR AND YOU'RE GONNA BE IN DEEP S+$& WHEN HE FINDS OUT YOU'RE TREATING ME LIKE THIS PUT ME DOWN!" She looks to be about 15 or 16.

Standing over by John, Czerny shakes her head and rolls her eyes. "That damn kid is more trouble than she's worth. Story is her dad basically has her stowed here because she was engaging in some, er, 'unfortunate' shenanigans at various functions. The Hive seems to tolerate her, though the engels don't care for her one bit. So..." She nods to John's PCPU "What do you think? We've got transports on standby, you guys going in tonight? Splitting up? You need more time? Word we got was a 24-hour launch window but I suppose as local command you can supersede that if you want."

Without any direction from Kyra, Azrael walks up to Kina and taunts her with the hoverboard, causing her to launch into a hysterical string of invective that turns the air blue, and causes Alastair to shake his head and roll his eyes in an expression that mimics Czerny's with remarkable accuracy.

At this new litany of curses, Colonel Sobucek turns to John. "See what I mean?"


Alastair returns the girls stare with one that would turn most men's guts to water, as he said to her in a dead calm and coldly collected voice. Keeping his tone low enough that only those who were really close could hear what he was saying. "I am Warrant Officer Cadwallader, the man who's Seraph holds you by the throat and you best respect that. Your fathers diplomatic immunity only protects him and does not extend to you, especially not here. So go Call him then, please tell him everything because I will include this in my report and that will be sent just about..." He tapped his PCPU and keeps it shielded from the girl, just before an excited prompt chimes from the unit. Dimming the screen he continued to look her in the eyes.

"Your cursing will make a good addition to the report. Also girl I could give two Shi%s if he was God's messenger. You will respect this hangar or I swear I will tan your god forsaken hide like he should have. If you think I won't do it then just try me and you [b]will come to regret the day you were born."[/b] With that he said something to Valkyrie and the Engel dropped the girl unceremoniously on her rear. He dropped the Rising Sun bandanna on her head and turned on voice recording on his PCPU before snapping his heals together in a mocking salute. He spoke in a very official voice as he allowed the recorder time to catch up. "Please remove yourself from the hanger before I escort you to your quarters for your own safety miss. Your property will be returned to you in due course, pending investigation, please submit a formal complaint to your immediate official and if you are unable to find said official I will carry the complaint for you personally to my commanding officer." With that he offered her a hand to stand her back up and waved her off the gantry.

Angry Alastair

Presence - Since I don't have any skill at intimidating people... Seriously need to fix that

2d10 + 5 - 7 ⇒ (7, 7) + 5 - 7 = 12


can't edit posts... Wierd...

Sometime later

Once the girl had been sufficiently dealt with, Alastair scolds Valkyrie for a moment. Only to be rewarded with a tilted, curious stare from the behemoth sized Engel. With a sigh he stepped off the gantry and did as he said he would earlier.

After a good half an hour of inspecting equipment, and calming his emotions, he rejoins the others. When he finds out the time frame on the launch window he considers for a moment before adding. "I say we strike the island, full force and get used to our new partnership. We can use this mission to build on our tactics and teamwork before we go into a hotzone like Rome. However I don't mind separating our forces to accomplish multiple goals, I just don't recommend it yet."


The helmet under his arm feels leaden - no that wasn't right. It was his arm that felt leaden, the numbness of his arm, slowly spreading outwards, enveloping the rest of his body.

He feels the weight in his stomach, the slow sinking feeling of incoming violence and death that preempted every engagement. Would it be this one?

Not if he could help it.

He buried the thought the best he could and stepped through the door into the hangar.

Airfix fell in beside him as he walked, her own helmet slung over his shoulder. He glanced at her and nodded and she reciprocated the gesture wordlessly. He didn't need to ask - he knew she was scared on the inside as well.

There were those who mocked it, denied it, embraced it or ignored it. But it was always there in the end - Please... Please let it not be me...

He swallowed and shook it off. It was the way it had always been. Putting one damn foot in front of the other and repeating the process until death or exhaustion claimed him.

Death hadn't quite caught up yet but the morbid joke was that it didn't bother him at all.

It wasn't that he feared dying...

It was the thought of coming back - being the one who was left to count the dead.

The last one left...

Alone with the dead...

That terrified him.

Ours is not to question why. Ours is but to do or die.

Filing in with the rest, they waited for their orders.


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Walking into the Hanger Devereux is dressed smartly in his uniform, and feeling someone safer with his sidearm now within easy reach. He smells like someone skipped the soap stange in the washing process however, and went straight onto the harsh chemicals.

Spying an officer, he walks briskly over and salutes, 'Sergeant Major Atkinson sir'. He then turns to John, 'Sorry about the absense, needed some fresh air, and the Hive took me on somewhat of a journey. Whats the plan?


John watched approvingly as Alastair dealt with the girl then nodded to the Colonel, "Yes, I see what you mean. Let's tentatively plan to depart for Eritrea at 0600 Monday. We'll coordinate any changes in that schedule through you. In the mean time I want to know what tools we have available to detect this supposed artifact, and a secure vessel to transport it in if it should prove to be hazardous. I also want a team looking over the Vatican City message- look up any references to Harvey and Sullivan, dig through any period the code books we can get access to and see if the phrase has any meaning in that context. My team will go over this file and plan our insertion, exploration, fallback points, extraction, and so forth."

"I wasn't assigned to a weapon system when these orders came down, do we have anything suitable on-site or will I be be pulling overwatch on this one?"

He continues discussing operational matters with Colonel Sobueck until Alastair finishes his inspection of the vehicles. He nods at Alastair's suggestion, "I was thinking along the same lines. I don't like the idea of going into a hotzone like Vatican City for our shakedown mission." When Winston and Devreaux report back, John tells everyone "The tentative plan is to leave around 0600, that leaves about 11 hours to sort out logistics and put together a detailed mission plan. Let's find a briefing room and get to work on this!

What is the situation with satellite comms and surveillance in this setting? I know the migou have a strong orbital presence... have they methodically destroyed all of our satellites, or are there still some up there?


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Devereux coughs discreetly, 'There is that meeting tonight as well...'


"Yes, there should be plenty of time to meet with your contact and accomplish all the necessary planning..." John checks his watch, "It's almost two hours until that meeting, lets see what we can get done in the mean time."

How are warrant officers addressed? The US Army term is 'Chief' but I haven't seen anything mentioned in the NEG background info.


As they file into the briefing room, Winston manages a grim chuckle.

"Major, with all due respect, we've got an entirely new crew. I'm sure most of us are hotshots in our respective fields, but... I'm used to seeing Engels soar in like angels-on-high... not fight in the field alongside them. I'm sure the reverse is similarly true of them and the Metal Box Brigade." He intentionally raises his voice, keeping the conversation loud enough for the rest of the group.

"I think we're going to have to take some time to work out the kinks even BEFORE we hit the field. I need to know what my infantry complement can do..." He flashes a knowing glance at Devereux.

"NO surprises. Likewise, unlike the tin-men, I'm not likely to be growing back a..."

Smashed turret.

"...thrown track so that's something to watch out for."

"Then there's the matter of the Ranger seeing things the rest of us don't." He tapped the side of helmet. "X-Ray Sensors. I'm not used to being the snooper, but we've got to get used to sharing target telemetry anyhow."

"The Ranger's good enough in all environments, but I'm not sure about the Engels. Our surf-and-sun happy funtime calls for aquatic mission packages and hand-helds. Don't want a nasty surprise when you find your existing weapons systems malf underwater."

Check yourself as well, he wanted to say. There was a huge difference between wearing out a weekend-warrior Centurion in Dad's Army and suiting up in combat.

Instead, he bit his tongue and continued.

"We don't get some sim time together, we're just going to die in detail out there."

--------------------------------

@ John Mcnaught: Not singling John out for abuse here, but Winston's cynical enough at the best of times... This isn't the best of times.

@ Everyone: Not trying to derail the plot here, but I think some In-Character off-screen combat familiarization is necessary. Handwave it?

Also, with regards to John's question, Mortal Remains discusses how the various units keep their own cultural heritage, but for the sake of this game, (As much as I'm stifling the reflex to call him 'Encik') let's just stick with Chief.


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

SM Atkinson listens to Winston The man is good, when he's not trying to get himself killed, I'll give him that.

Standing up from the plushy chair he was relaxing in he speaks in a softer voice then Winston, but with just as much authority, 'I left the group earlier today because I needed to clear my head, I was in a pretty bad state of depression and I thought a walk might help. The Hive directed me to a room and made it quite clear that it wanted me there. For reasons I'm not quite clear on I was offered to undergo a ritual by a woman I have not seen before. And, given the circumstances, and some personal reasons, I found myself agreeing to it.

I want you to know that no matter what you see next, I am in full control.

After this, Devereux excuses himself from the room, where he strips down in the hall, not wanting his clothes to get butchered by the transformation.

*poof*

The door swings open, but you see and hear nothing, the door shuts again.

Then, in the time it takes for you to blink a 6' tall monster is standing by Devereux's chair, The face of the thing has several bony protrusions dripped with a vaguely honey-colored effluvium below twin sets of obscenely shining obsidian eyes. Its massive arms are riddled with frost-toned spines and spikes, all horridly sharp and moving almost imperceptibly with menacing grace, like the poisoned tentacles of an underwater predator. It has reverse-articulated legs ending in sharp but strangely silent tri-partite hooves. (Your description was perfect DM Downrightamazed, I'm poaching it :P)

As you stare at the creature, you hear a voice invading your mind, it is slow and deep, 'Wwee aarree SShhaaddoww'.

Hard Observation Test:
You see a man sized shimmer enter the room, but you find it hard to put any features to it, you find yourselfs straining just to keep track of it. It makes its way to besides Devereux's chair.
.


Tenacity(Stat) + Tenacity
3d10 ⇒ (4, 5, 1) = 10
Keep 5. Total: 7 + 5 = 12. Pass DC 12 Fear.

--------------------------------

Winston glances up at the ceiling for a moment.

"Big guy. Do us a favor and seal this room for the moment. Redirect anyone else not currently part of the mission team away from here."

He folds his arms across his chest.

"Dev, whatever you're currently planning to do... in the interest of public decency laws, please don't drop that form in public."

"Thanks."

--------------------------------

@ Devereux: Dude... You're Fear Factor 12... you just set off a fear grenade in the room.


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

heh, i missed that... Oops ^.^. You guys needed to know what I look like anyway, stop you from shooting me first time I go all Hulk.


Tenacity feat test (12): 7+ 3d10 ⇒ (4, 8, 10) = 22 = 17 = success
Observation (22) test: 10+3d10 ⇒ (1, 2, 2) = 5 = 14 = failure
Challenging (?) Occult (16) test: 6+2d10 ⇒ (7, 10) = 17 = 16 = success (?)

I agree that the conditions aren't ideal, and God only knows why the powers that be thought it would be best for us to kill a week N'Guigmi instead of preparing for these missions... but that's the situation we're stuck in. Both of these jobs are time-critical; the Dagonites might find what they're looking for and in Rome a stray blast might take out the archives and the whole block around it before we have a chance to investigate. We can drill overnight and catch a few hours sleep in the transport, I really don't think we can afford anything more. I'll ask the colonel about simulators."

John doesn't bat an eye at Devereux's revelation, he's been in this line of work for entirely too long."That... is very interesting. Last week, when we met Nyx, she referred to you as a Tagger. Working in intel... you hear things. It's outside my area of expertise, but I've read the briefings, I've heard a bit about that ritual. I'm sure we all have our secrets," he glances at Alastair briefly, "but if this really came as a surprise to you and Nyx knew about it a week ago- damn. Things are more complicated than I thought."


Alastair ignores Winston's usual cynicism as he focuses on the high points of what he had to say. "I can see if I can get a torpedo pod launcher and exchange it or Valk's rockets, other then that she moves at an even clip whether in the air or water. Good points though Winston. As for waiting to come in and support you guys, forget that. I never stood for remaining in reserve until the right moment. I'd rather be in there taking the fire for the armor and infantry so they can focus on taking ground instead of bloodying it."

Valk flinches at being mentioned and Alastair doesn't seem to notice his Engel's peculiar reaction. He was far more concerned with the horror Devereux brought into the room.

Tenacity 3d10 ⇒ (3, 4, 6) = 13tenacity 6 + 7 = 13

Perception 4d10 ⇒ (1, 6, 2, 8) = 17 Perception 8 + 8 = 16

His right hand brushed his holstered defender as he barely bit back saying something in Gaelic. He didn't even notice John's comments as he continued to watch what stood next to the Major. He did however mumbled darkly. "I've got enough on my mind, so Get. The. Hell. Out." He didn't miss John's glance though and couldn't help but think about what he just miss. He pulled his hand away from his gun with visible effort before running it through his hair. Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing. Still doesn't make me not want to lurch at how that shade looks... [smaller]"Sim training, perfect. Shall we discuss further tactics or get some rest and reconvene in the morning when we've had a little time to recoup?"[/smaler]


Tenacity(Stat) + Tenacity
3d10 ⇒ (3, 8, 8) = 19
Keep 8, 8. Total: 7 + 16 = 23. Pass DC 12 Fear.

"Holy crap..."

The smooth reflexive draw meant she had her Defender out and trained before she consciously realized it. It looks as if it's taking every ounce of her self-control not to put several 10 millimeter slugs into the Tager as she shakily lowers her sidearm.

"Devereux... what the hell happened to you...?"

She flinches as she put two and two together.

"Winston... you didn't just..."


"Nope. Beyond having the misfortune of having a soak in alien afterbirth, still me unfortunately."

He gives another of his cynical laughs as he shoots Alastair a sidelong glance.

Taking ground... HAH.

"Don't worry Alastair. I'll be right beside you once we get round to our next military success of consolidating our unshakable hold on China."

"Anyhow, back to the task at hand... We've got two time-sensitive missions and several unresolved housekeeping issues and only a small window before we drop so we've got to get cracking..."

"We need to meet Kyra's contact in an hour or so, so that's a priority, though whether everyone needs to go is in question. I don't know about the rest of you, but I need to bone up on my sensor sweep techniques if I'm going to be playing Scout. I trust the rest of the Engel pilots will get the techs to see to their mission-packages as well. Catching some Zees is a bit low on the priority list - as John pointed out we can sleep on the way in."

"Besides, if you don't mind hot-bunking, the Striker Fast crew can usually spare the beds."

--------------------------------

@ Alastair: Some day, Alastair and Winston are going to be VITRIOLIC BEST BUDS. Today is not that day. :-P


tenacity:3d10 ⇒ (7, 10, 9) = 2610+9+7=26
Observation:3d10 ⇒ (10, 4, 4) = 18 10+8=18

"While its true engels can fly and drop in its untrue that we.don't fight along the ground...Azrael has been modified slightly to fit my fighting style let's say he likes to get in close when he can." Kyra says as he listens to Winston go on about engels not fighting along side the infantry. "What does he think we are some incompetent morons who have never fought for our lives or watched friends die?" He thinks to himself.

When Devereux comes back into the room as that...thing he barely.even reacts when your combatantives teacher drops a live Gaunt in class as a "lesson" you get used yo wtf moments like this one. "I see you got some cosmetic surgery done Devereux...nice it really brings out your eyes."


Tenacity:3d10 ⇒ (1, 8, 10) = 19[ooc]10+7=17

Cythery raises an eyebrow at Winston's comment about engels but leaves it alone.

"Devereux....dear...its nice to see your doing well...your looking different... She says sounding concerned...and a little bit weirded out.


Alastair gives Winston a withering look, clearly he wasn't amused with the man's attitude. "I'm too damn tired to point out the obvious failures of the NEG command structure. Australia, China, Alaska, hell pick one of dozens of fronts that our command so ineptly lead from their desks. It is only because of people like John, Dev and you Rangers that those fronts holds at all." I don't care to pay the man a compliment, but... And this is why my rise through the ranks halted completely, best start chewing on the boot I so easily placed in my mouth.

He didn't look at Devereux, just in case he lost his nerve, Chelsea's display though was exactly what he wanted to do at first as well. Whatever that thing was though, it twisted his stomach in a bad way. "As I was reminded, we have sensitive issues to plan out and getting a weapons permit hardly requires all of us to be there." Besides Kyra is perfectly capabale of getting things done with or without us.

"As for tactics, what we three have done for awhile now is let Valk come in first and begin pounding enemy position and drawing their attention. Kyra and Cythera are both excellent at close combat tactics which reflects in their Engel's fighting abilities as well, while this leaves me to take the hits they are taking out critical targets and tearing up the enemy lines. If we run into enemy artillery units they become my top priority, granted I will still spare additional salvos to keep up some cover fire for Kyra and Cyhtera to advance. Simple tactics when you have plenty of ground support. Are we going in with soldiers to help us make a beachhead John?"


Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Happy that everybody had a good look at him and wasn't going to shoot on sight in a combat setting, Devereux disapears, causing those who were looking at him's eyes to water as they tried to focus on the spot he once was. door opens, door shuts. *poof*

Several minutes later, Devereux walks back into the room and takes his seat, muttering something about having to try convice the hive to make him a cafe.

'Agreed Alastair. I can provide recon on Enemy troops prior to combat. I wont be able to help out much against enemy mechs, but I can infiltrate artillery bunks ahead of the strike to give you time to get up close and personal. I also have the ability (in my other form) to shoot paralytic needles for silent takes downs.


"Infantry support seems unlikely. From what I was told, most of the soldiers here are from support career fields... they might have some sort of combat team though. I'll run it past the colonel. I think we've addressed most of the weaponeering issues, at least until we get an update about the troops and equipment at our disposal in the Hive, let's go over the terrain; I think this rise here would be a suitable fallback position for you and Valkyrie. We just need to be careful about the possibility of aquatic reinforcements from here or here..."

John would try to keep the planning session on-track, and is greatly relieved when Devereaux changes back. He could tolerate the presence of the alien thing, but it was a strain on the nerves and he needed to be at his best for this planning session. He'd continue to discuss various tactical and operational issues up to when Kyra needs to leave for his meeting, then call a break and speak with the colonel about any issues they still need to coordinate.

Answers we need from Colonel Sobueck
• Are any weapon systems available/assigned for John's use?
• Can a torpedo package be mounted on Valkyrie in the mission's current timeframe?
• Are there any real time surveillance packages available (especially X-ray), either satellite-based or drones? Will these platforms be able to provide intelligence about sub-marine activity?
• Are there any combat troops assigned to the hive?


He shakes his head as he looked at the map again. "This whole place is Mecha territory and I'm guessing the fishboys are expecting NEG to see the little light show as well. I'd expect at least an ambush or two from one of their mobile combat nodes."

"The Ranger is rated to handle a 60 degree incline, but that's about as far as I dare push the damn things. Topography looks downright unfriendly for tracks. Looking at the lay if the land, it's difficult going trying to cross those rocks at anything resembling combat speed. If there's a rollover and I turtle the tank, she gets a closed casket funeral. Simple as that."

Chelsea crosses her arms across her chest and mouths a silent sarcastic "Nice..." at the remark.

"That's a risk I'm not particularly keen on taking, which means unlike the rest of the Engels, mobility is going to be my Achilles heel since we're hemmed in by terrain unlike the rest of you. The fishboys probably know that and if I was the fishboy in charge, I'd try and pin the tankers down somewhere nasty in the interest of goading the rest of you out into the open for a knock-down-drag-out fight where he can lump together all his forces. They're many things, but from what I've seen, stupidity unfortunately isn't one of them."

"Regardless of what I've said before, regardless of what you think of me, please... please just take this is an honest assessment of capability. By virtue of our terrain limitations, you've got to accept that 'Fix and myself are going to be real tactical liabilities for this op which will need to be planned around and compensated for."

--------------------------------

@ Everyone: Winston "Gatecrash" Chang


@John: I know that my missles can be upgraded to a torpedo package, as for how long that would take I am unsure. Mainly I lose range when out of the water though and I think that't about it.

==========================================================================

One thing that had changed over the year was the fact that more and more battles were fought from range and sometimes you never even saw the man, or woman, that killed. Because they struck from over a mile away with a high powered rifle, reducing you to headless brainless shell slumping to the earth. God, I hate what war has become... And the fighting only gets dirty with every year.

Alastair rubs his chin, considering the hard facts that perhaps it would be best to separate their forces. He tried to word it as best he could as he laid out his reasoning. "If the ranger is going to be such easy pickings in that rough terrain perhaps we should divide and conquer, if John is able to provide overwatch he can easily give us tactical support along with the staff assigned to us here at the hive. It'll mean he divides his attention between both groups but I am sure he is up to the task." Alastair points to the streets in near the Archives. "The terrain here will be a hell of a lot easier for your Ranger to traverse, no extreme inclines and with all the fighting you may or may not go unnoticed. If Devereux leads the way you should be able to scout out the area sufficiently and provide combat support as I picture you encountering more ground troops and... That thing that Dev err... Summoned could prove useful there, especially since most troops would be scared to death of him. It is Just a suggestion though, could be as easy as slip in and slip out or hard as hell but at least we'd be using time and resources effectively. The hardest part of the logistics would be landing and extraction points..."


Chelsea looks at the data appraisingly."As much as the idea of not coming off the field in a body bag appeals to me, thanks-for-that-great-mental-image-Winston, I can't agree with you on that assessment, Alastair. "

"Ignoring the fact that he drives like crap..."

"HEY..."

"He's right about the Ranger's terrain limitations.

"The Eritrean situation looks like a routine recon-in-force; barge in, find the source of the disturbance and recover, shooting the place up if necessary being a job perk. With three Engels, you have enough firepower that you might not need boots-on-the-ground when the shooting inevitably starts. Still, unless you enjoy knocking things over and sifting through the debris, you're going to need your infantry support for the search and recovery."

"Which is where we come in to deliver. There are enough sites we can land a Ranger, but Winston's point about ambushes comes to mind..." She trails off suddenly, and you can almost see the dawning realization across the Private's face at exactly how far she's stepping beyond her current pay-grade.

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