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John continues to record and broadcast to the team as he conducts the impromptu interview. "Yeah, looks like the Vatican's doing a great job of saving the world..." he tightbeams the combat footage from Colonel Sobucek's report to the mercenary's PCPU (or failing to detect one, puts it up on the mech's external cockpit display) and gives the man a moment to absorb what he's seeing before he continues. "Now, by the book the protocol is to black bag you for interrogation or vaporize you on the spot but we have some leeway. You're coming with us and we'll discuss 'God's work' later... your choice if we stuff you into one of the Engel's cargo pods or let you ride it out in the back of an APC."
Sorry for the late reply... busy week.
The mech's external speaker continues to drone on, almost regretfully. "I don't think you understand the gravity of your situation. The NEG does not liberate hostile territory with half a dozen pieces of armor. This is a black op, and standard procedure is to eliminate third-party actors without intelligence potential." Jon types in a command used when powering on and calibrating the laser, causing it to emit a menacing hum...
"Who hired you, and what are the parameters of your job? How will you submit your findings?"
Intimidate: 2d10 + 8 ⇒ (7, 3) + 8 = 18 = 7+8 = 15
Do the construction of the mech and the properties of the Eldritch Faculties spell allow me to use it on the battlefield? I just realized I might not need to rely on those X-ray scanners after all...
A person under the influence of Eldritch Faculties can sense things normally beyond his means. Anything invisible or mystically hidden is instantly revealed to him. He can also see the auras of living things – which allows him to ascertain a being’s health and wellness, its dominant emotional state or states, and if it is affected by or under the influence of magic or para-psychic powers.
Declare 2 actions
John stops short as he comes even with the building then abruptly pivots and targets his mech's laser at the person in the thermoptic suit. He warns the man(?), "You'd better explain your presence here very quickly and very convincingly."He is angled such that if the beam completely obliterates the man it will continue into the ground next to the building rather than continuing into the building's structure.
Quislings. Collaborators. Ugly words left over from ugly wars that mankind had been fighting since long before the Migu took notice of us. He'd seen the pattern before in labor camps- with most of the workers forced to do their part by threats of torture for themselves and their families, and sympathizers who would sell the others out in return for a more comfortable life. It was tempting to knock the foreman's head off where he stood... God, he'd seen his share of labor camps and could happily have gone the rest of his life without seeing another. Still, he doesn't know the full story and sorting this mess out isn't his job right now. He calls it in on the encrypted line.
"Zero father to zero team. The seismic disturbances on this end seem to be planned detonations. I don't see any hybrids, but there's one target in thermoptics. I'm going to engage. Zero father out."
John ignores the miners in his immediate vicinity and begins to approach the main building in his Rapier, but is careful to not walk directly toward the camouflaged figure.
John McNaught wrote:
With a quick gesture he directs his suit's LAI to pull up a tactical profile on the camouflaged figure (trying to match the thermoptics against the suit's tech profiles for NEG/Nadrazzi, Migou, EOD, and other factions, along with a readout on any hand held weapons that might be detected)
John's sensors are probing the thermoptic suit hard enough to make an unshielded form worry about long-term cancer risks, what I learn will have some bearing on my actions...
On seeing the horrendous masses of boils and tumors John double-checks the atmospheric seal... just to be sure. With a quick gesture he directs his suit's LAI to pull up a tactical profile on the camouflaged figure (trying to match the thermoptics against the suit's tech profiles for NEG/Nadrazzi, Migou, EOD, and other factions, along with a readout on any hand held weapons that might be detected) while he focuses on getting an accurate translation of what the approaching men are saying.
The order had to have an industrial presence somewhere, some method of getting the raw materials for their mechs. It wasn't too much of a stretch to imagine the non-breeding population put to work in the mines, their friends and families hostage against their continued production of ore. John cautiously descends toward the life signs to make contact and see what he's dealing with.
Is there anything on x-ray sensors in the area of the settlement/mine?
"Zero-Father, Zero-Team. I'm seeing several pre-fab structures and civilian vehicles along with humanoid life signs, near some sort of excavation. No sign of hostiles, weapons, or fortifications. I'm going to try to make contact. Imagery is being transmitted on channel delta-6, if I can push enough bandwidth through this dust..."
John will descend toward the life signs to try to get clearer readings and attempt a peaceful contact if they can be determined to be human to a reasonable degree of certainty.
When the hostiles are gone from the rooftops, John moves to destroy any of the weapons that remain behind. They might need to retreat back this way, and one ambush at a given position was quite enough.
@Alastair: "I've got something, a localized seismic event with an epicenter about 5-miles North. Permission to overfly?"
@Winston: --request sensor feed--
Dodge test (14): 3d10 ⇒ (10, 5, 3) = 18 = 4+10 = 14 (success)
Overwatch, Zero Father. Negative on seismics. The civilians are reacting to something to the South, I'll let you know if anything comes up on scans.
LAI action: Scan for seismic activity, telltale vibrations/infrasonics, etc. 10 + 3d10 ⇒ (9, 4, 6) = 19 = 19
Having made himself a target, John darts across the street to the next piece of cover just in time to avoid the RPG hurdling toward him. He pops above rooftop level long enough to snap off a shot at the nearest hybrid weapon team then returns to cover to check if there's anything to report on the scans.
Declare 2 actions
Yeah, I came across that. I figure that's why they give so many drama points- you have to spend as many on avoiding embarrassing failures as you do on achieving heroic successes.
The only things I could find that don't necessarily rely on attack rolls are placed explosives (satchel charges/claymores), ECM, and fog projectors.
I noticed an issue while browsing through the rules on combat:
Critical failures wrote:
While Critical Successes don’t apply to Combat Contests – the number of damage dice you get to roll for success already builds this in – Critical Failures certainly do. If a Character rolls a Critical Failure, treat his defense roll for the Contest as zero for purposes of determining the amount of damage done based on success. If a Character rolls a Critical Failure while attacking he loses his next two Actions or one full turn, whichever is greater.
Since John only has one dice to attack with, 10% of my shots will result in critical failures unless I burn two drama points- and even then there's still a 20% chance one of the extra dice will come up a 1. Can anyone think of a workaround for this? He is out of shape and out of practice for fighting on the modern battlefield, but that seems a little excessive. If mech combat missions end up being the majority of our missions I may divert some of my experience into bumping marksmanship up to Novice and buying a specialization so I can get three dice...
I see that we've tweaked things from the by-the-book sequence of declare actions --> everyone takes first action initiative order --> everyone takes 2nd action --> etc. due to the structure of PbP play. Will we be rerolling initiative on every round, or sticking with a constant initiative order?
Also, was I the only one who was surprised to note that a Saber doesn't give a sensor bonus? It's described as having the latest and best sensor systems in the NEG's arsenal...
"Roger Zero-Three, I've got 'em." As the rockets start to fly at Valkyrie, John checks his HUD for the current battlefield intel. It looked ugly; the fishies apparently had quite a cache here and the weapon teams were setting up with a smooth competency that showed at least rudimentary training. The screech of the incoming RPG gives John just enough time to blindly leap for cover. The 30 ton mech's A-pods protest as they throw him to the side. He tears gouges out of the pavement beneath him as he regains his footing and soars up to engage the nearest rocket team at point-blank distance.
The Saber hovers beside the roof of the building, using it for cover from more distant threats as its pilot calmly targets the RPG team with its laser cannon. The adrenaline seems to slow everything down for John as he pulls the trigger twice and scans the battlefield for threats. Another part of his mind reacts to the worsening situation on the ground- seizing on a landmark the passed a few minutes ago the lie springs to mind fully formed and blasts over the mech's loudspeakers.
The mechanical translation rings out in an oddly stilted cadence "Peace be upon you, citizens. Evacuation transports are waiting three miles West at the old soccer fields."
John sets the message to repeat several times, and a request to retransmit the message on external speakers pops up on Winston's display. The lie hardly registers on his conscience, just another thing that had to be said to accomplish the mission.
Dodge vs RPG (12) 4+3d10 ⇒ (2, 3, 7) = 12, 1 drama point 1d10 ⇒ 9, 9+4 = 13 (success!)
Declare 2 actions
I'd like to use the suit's LAI to search for antennas or other military-looking transmitting equipment and activate the ECM. Perception check: 10+3d10 ⇒ (9, 3, 4) = 16 = 19
A breeding camp. He'd seen the imagery but never set foot in one. Even insulated from the city's oppressive heat and smell, something about the place's ambiance screamed of suffering and desperation. It had been a long time since John had been on a combat op, and at the woman's desperate plea he momentarily wishes he was fighting bugs (or Nadrazzi. Or the Chinese...). As far as he was concerned the mission now had a secondary objective; if time allowed they would survey the town, run bioscans for humans, and pass the intel up for a raid or recon-in-force.
He replied to the comm chatter while used the suit's AI to cobble together a few dictionaries for a crude real-time translation program, until they could get expert support. "It's not going to come to that 'fix... but yeah. You'd do the same for me."
Computers (12) check: (taking a 7) 6+7 = 13 success
Zero-Team, I've just about got that translation up-"
John's voice is replaced by an obviously synthesized female voice. The intonation of the translated words is flat, neutral, and and devoid of emotion. "please stop please this was done to me kill me kill my child please it is -- against Allah I do not want to go to hell please I beg you kill me kill us all"
He feels for her plight, but there was nothing that could be done for her or the others right now. If they had stumbled into a guarded camp instead of an abandoned city, their path to the island had just grown much more complicated...
With integrity scale weaponry and a sensor suite that includes x-ray imagery, a full targeting suite, and bioscans... I don't imagine that it would make much of a difference whether the hostiles are near the edge of the building or not. You'd just point a charge beam in their general direction and even without a direct hit, the exploding concrete and other structural material would probably make life difficult for an unarmored target. I'm more familiar with the Rifts style MDC/SDC division than this system's integrity/vitality scale, is shooting through buildings a viable tactic or are most things made of super-tough futuristic composites?
Also, I'm having a bit of trouble imagaining the experience of a cthuhlutech battlefield. Why would one walk/run instead of flying most places? Flight might be particularly noisy... how much noise does a mech on the ground make? Does a stealth system cancel out noise as well as visuals? We could hear the woman screaming so I assume we have external microphone pickups and not just comms. Does a pilot have a 360° field of view from the mech's sensors, or are there blindspots?
John felt... dwarfed. Even in his own suit of powered armor, it was strange going into battle next to war machines for which he was a tripping hazard or speed bump, respectively.
"Zero-Team, Zero-Father. I have some sensor glitches here, give me a minute to reinitialize the system before we get underway. Are we going through the town or around it?"
I was waiting to see whether the critical failure on sensors had any particular effect before posting further, but I'm fine with pressing forward.
John is looking a little haggard from the lack of sleep, but instead of resting once the flight is underway he asks not to be disturbed while he works. He marks off a portion of the deck several meters on a side where he will be out of the way of the crew and with practiced efficiency sets to constructing a ritual circle. The smell of burning incense, the sound of monotonous chanting, and the high pitched chime of a small bell would occasionally intrude on those nearby but other than that John's work is really rather dull.
He's conscious of the risk he's taking, and nervously anticipates the racing of the engines that will throw the deck aslant and send him scrambling to control unknowable energies... luckily it never comes. The ritual finishes in the last hour of the flight, and John settles back in to his suit for the tense wait to the drop site.
Once they arrive he tells the suit's AI to begin a full scan of their surroundings and goes over the imagery while they prepare to get underway.
Observation check: 10 + 3d10 + 10 ⇒ (1, 1, 4) + 10 = 16 = critical failure
John's been out of the field long enough that he knows it would be a bad idea for him to lead this part of the mission. I think Alastair should handle the tactical leadership at this point.
I'm assuming they have a Saber, if not then I'd go with a crusader or centurion- hopefully with a handheld x-ray scanner.
It was about time something shook Chang out of that self-pitying shell! I guess all it took was a hit of adrenaline...
"Yeah, I'll be joining you in Eritrea. I'll meet you in the hanger..."
"Colonel, load a Saber onto the Mastadon for me along with an EB-12." (hand-held small charge beam)
He was hoping to have some time for familiarization training, but the frame couldn't have changed that much since he was in it last...
John nods slowly as he mentally slides that tidbit into the rest of the intelligence profile he had on Migou activities and begins tapping notes into his PCPU. As if the blanks weren't bad enough! He lingers for a moment to look between Alastair and Dr. Giri and compare their auras. The copy was downright uncanny, but he had the feeling that this was hardly the most strangest thing he'd see in here...
"Erm... no, I haven't." John turns to Kyra and tells him "Your call if you want to come along on this; you can get this briefing later if you'd rather leave now."
He then gestures to Dr. Yaradura, "Lead the way. I am currently under the effects of a first-order scrying spell granting astral perception. Do I need to take any particular precautions in the artifact room, or should I dismiss the spell entirely?"
"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
Tenacity feat test (12): 7+ 3d10 ⇒ (4, 8, 10) = 22 = 17 = 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."
"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.
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?
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?
"I can inspect the transports and support equipment if you want to work out the logistics side of it Major."
John nods at the pilot's suggestion, then tells Colonel Sobucek "Have your analysts put together a briefing on the two sites, with a focus on the current disposition of enemy forces. I'd also like to meet your admins and get our comms tied in with the base facilities."
John returns a crisp salute then offers a handshake. It was a little odd to have a Colonel reporting to him, but such things happened from time to time in intel assignments. "Pleased to meet you, Colonel. The others are on-site, just making the acquaintance of the Hive according to Dr. Yaruda. Honestly I'm a bit overawed by all this," he waves his hand around to take in the whole hanger and the facility beyond it, "has your company had any incidents with the Hive since you arrived?"
Communication is not just words: communication is architecture. Because of course it is quite obvious that a house which would be built without that sense… without that desire for communication, would not look the way your house looks today.
A chill runs down John's spine as he is once again taunted by his memory. Doctor Yaruda's explanation of the Hive conjures up a passage from a half-remembered book he read decades ago but the things that should matter like his honeymoon and the birth of his son are just gone.
Intelligent, curious, protective... that described the best kind of warrior. There were always exceptions for *certain* jobs, and a leader had to know his troops but just what kind of soldiers had they been sending down here? Suddenly thought comes to mind- John asks Dr. Yaruda "Has the hive reacted to the presence of the Engels? I'm certainly not an expert on them, but from what I've heard they don't have the sort of personality that you describe as agreeable to the Hive..." John trails off with a glance toward the Engel pilots present.
"How's the leg doing today, John? Need a hand?" She beckoned him to hand over the suitcase with her free hand.
John gladly accepts the aid. "Oh, it's not so bad today. Truth be told, I'm glad to get a chance to stretch it out after that train ride."
I knew I was forgetting something... Tenacity (16) test for chronic pain = 7+3d10 ⇒ (2, 7, 10) = 19 = 17
Quick rules question...
Core rules, pg 55 wrote:
What's your view on this rule? Can we use drama points for fear/insanity/magic tests?
This was not at all what John had expected, though it did seem quite secure. He was glad that he had decided to travel light, having only his backpack a single small suitcase made maneuvering through the enormous hanger somewhat less of a chore than it could have been... although his knee still wasn't particularly happy with him. Seeing the Engels first hand was incredible. Fighting the war from a desk, seeing it through intelligence reports and tactical maps- it was easy to lose track of the scale of the fighting. Here, dwarfed by these things, he was reminded of just how far from the font lines he'd been for the past few years.
John nods at Devreaux's information and murmurs back, "I think we'll have some time to ourselves soon, right now I want to find out who else is waiting for us."
Before they part ways with Dr. Yaruda John inquires, "Excuse me Dr. Yaruda; if there's no chain of command, is there at least a quartermaster? I'm curious about exactly what NEG resources and equipment have been positioned here so far, and I'd like to introduce myself to the support personnel you mentioned."
Since 'the hive' is referred to as a living being, is there any sort of aura to be noted? After what he saw with al-Khidr, John is only dropping the eldritch faculties spell if he sees something so terrible that it threatens his sanity.
"We have some strange allies on this mission; in all likelihood they were escorting those transports. I'll fill you in once we're somewhere more private, here's some background reading..." John makes a quick gesture on his PCPU and sends the mission files we received from al-Khidr to the rest of the team.