Welcome to another mission report for GURPS X-COM: Noises in the Dark! Our characters for this mission are:
- Kendall Fairbarn: A paranoid hacker from the UK. Was completely convinced human society had been heavily infiltrated by shape-changing aliens… and it turned out he wasn’t entirely wrong.
- Minette Duvall: A bomb-disposal expert from Southern France, Minette is also quite handy with a rifle. She’s devoutly Catholic and swears a lot when faced with danger, which is all the time. Currently wounded and minding the Skyranger as an NPC.
- Niu Yulan (AKA Julia Yulan): A former hostage negotiator from China, built without a template but approaching a shootier Face. Her innate kindness and empathy came in handy in several of the missions! Currently controlled by Minette’s player.
- Jack Choi: A former police detective from Hong Kong, and a staunch adherent of the “kick down the door” school of policing despite his light frame.
- Sam McCall: A brave and burly former US Army Ranger, run by a new player.
In our last post, Strike One approached a crashed UFO and found itself witnessing a large firefight between unknown factions. They were too far away to positively ID either of them, and so after a brief discussion on what to do decided to sneak closer to get a better look.
Heading east while keeping to the cover of native vegetation, the squad approached the former Samarco building currently occupied by the grey-clad people they saw from afar. On the way they sneak past a couple of rusted, empty containers which have been abandoned close to the edge of the woods. Turning a corner on one of the containers, they almost bump into a Tree of Woe growing flush against its wall! Taking care not to touch the tree, they observe the building, now only 30m away.
The squad recognizes its occupants as Puppets of Ruin from the way they move, but their equipment is different from what they’ve seen so far. The grey outfits are some sort of futuristic armor covering their whole bodies, with a white faceless helmet or mask covering their faces and skulls.
Some of the puppets have painted ghastly smiles on their masks, but other than that they’re completely featureless. Their weapons are rifles capable of automatic fire, with underbarrel semi-automatic grenade launchers. As for the other side, they’re still about as far away as they were before, so the PCs can’t ID them.
It takes about a minute for the squad to observe all of this, which is when they notice one of the white-masked puppets stop shooting at the other party and raise a hand to where its ear would be in a gesture not unlike that of an Agent from The Matrix. It then looks directly at the party, despite there being no way it would be able to spot them from its current position!
As that puppet begins to raise its weapon in the direction of the party, they hear wet slapping sounds behind them, and turn to see that tree near the container dropping another three-puppet fireteam! The newcomers are close enough to attack with their swords, and they do just that.
Strike One is able to shoot them dead in short order, but the time it took for them to do that was enough for the masked puppet to aim and fire its grenade launcher, greatly damaging their cover and stripping the surrounding foliage bare.
The squad elects to begin a fighting withdrawal through the woods back to the north. Julia and Sam fire away at the “White Mask” as the others retreat, and though they’re pretty sure they managed to hit its center of mass several times, it doesn’t seem to react at all. The return fire sounds more like tearing silk than gunfire. Several of the bullets hit Julia and chew through her trauma plate, with at least one getting through and wounding her.
The PCs retreat behind one of the steel containers, and manage not to get shot again even as White Masks’ buddies join in on the fun. The shooting stops momentarily when a titanic explosion erupts from somewhere to the south, and as its roar subsides they can hear a faint whimper from within the neighboring container. Choi and Kendall throw some smoke grenades to give them some concealment, and then Choi and Julia move to investigate the other container.
Inside, they find an alien! They almost shoot it out of reflex, but stop when they notice this one doesn’t seem to be a combatant. Unlike the puppets, this individual is 1.5m tall at most, wearing a skin-tight dark grey outfit and with a skin or carapace of a very dark purple, two legs and four arms. Its face is vaguely human, but it’s a bright royal blue and has a prodigious nose reminiscent of a crane’s beak.
The alien is huddled in close to the container’s north end from where Julia and Choi comes in, and as soon as it spots them it raises its two top arms and shouts “Sparing us!”. Julia lowers her weapon and manages to talk to the creature, who becomes quite relieved when it sees the squad is friendly and that they bear the X-COM insignia on their uniforms. It’s apparently been looking for them! It’s obvious to the PCs that escorting this real live alien back to base is now their top priority.
There isn’t much time to talk, however, as three White Masks are quickly making their way to the squad’s position. Kendall pops more smoke in an attempt to delay them, but the alien warns in its peculiar dialect that it doesn’t work. The squad begins retreating to the Skyranger with their new charge in a tense game of cat and mouse with their three pursuers, which not only are better equipped than the “newborn” puppets they’ve been facing but are also much more tactically savvy. Their armor also seems to make them largely immune to even the PC’s assault rifles!
Choi then remembers the alien RPG they stashed a ways away, and runs ahead to fetch it and lie in wait. Though they experience a couple of scary close calls, the rest of the squad manages to lead the puppets to the trap and clear out before Choi fires the surprisingly light alien launcher and obliterates the three puppets.
With that done, there’s no further obstacle between them and the Skyranger. They strap themselves and the alien in, and take off, concluding the operation.
The spoilers and fight analysis for this operation deserve their own post, since they would make this one run too long. And after that, we’ll see what consequences this operation had on the campaign’s strategic layer.