XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 10

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25 April, 2015

Television programmes across the world are interrupted by emergency news broadcasts.

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The UFOs aren’t hiding any more.

They’re hovering in the skies across major global cities and firing on skyscrapers. In the wake of the collapsing buildings, aliens have been beaming down to sow more terror.

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XCOM concludes that the change in alien tactics is meant to send a message: that no one can stop them.

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The timing is indeed more than a little awkward, as the Commander has just sent two of the XCOM squad for gene modification.

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Lieutenant J3w3l , Sniper extraordinaire, will be getting eye implants for extra depth perception, improving aim and critical chance when at a height advantage, as well as extra leg muscle fiber density to super jump to high locations without need for any ladders.

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Our Assault squaddie Jeromai Wolf will be getting hyper-reactive pupils to increase aim after missing a shot (a base of 59 Aim isn’t terribly encouraging, y’know?) and adaptive bone marrow, which regenerates wounds and reduces recovery time (considering how much Taking One For The Team he’s been doing, think he needs it…)

One more Heavy was going to be sent for gene modification, but fortunately, the Commander remembered that it would be better to have a full squad on standby. Just in case.

Then all hell broke loose.

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26 April, 2015

5.09am

Amidst reports of escalating hysteria across the globe, one radar operator managed to keep their head long enough to pick up signals of a UFO fleet headed towards Shanghai. This was sent up through various relevant channels in time to get XCOM in the loop.

A response is expected, else the alien message of ‘abandon all hope’ will be the only one that rings clear and true.

It’s really not the best time, but there’s nothing for it. The last four unwounded and combat ready soldiers are called up.

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Lt. Syl with her trusty shotgun and frag grenade.

Cpl. Othnieltcs, steady and stalwart in his MEC suit.

Cpl.  Bhagpuss, complete with S.C.O.P.E. fitted LMG.

Cpl. Skyrim, our other sturdy Heavy on whom we paused for a time to dither between equipping with a nano-fiber vest for more armor, or a medikit, just in case. (“Just in case” won.)

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Operation Blind Sword will be fighting back a terror attack in Shanghai, China.

Eliminate all hostile targets, minimize civilian casualties and rescue as many as possible.

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The transport roars up by some docks overlooking the urban center.

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As the squad spreads out to look for civilians, it’s clear that aliens have hit this place and hit it hard, but it’s alarmingly still, with neither alien nor civilian in sight.

Did XCOM arrive too late?

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Lt. Syl makes it all the way into the warehouse before spotting the first civilian. Outside, naturally. Thank you, Murphy’s Law.

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Then the aliens show up. Two Floaters pop up on the floor overhead, where apparently another civilian was also hiding.

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Lt. Syl and Cpl. Bhagpuss get to take reaction shots from their surprise appearance, and one hits for 3 points of damage.

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Cpl. Skyrim fans out to the right, where another civilian is spotted just outside.

Driven to haste by two abruptly cut-off screams of civilians, presumably being slaughtered from places unknown, Cpl. Othnieltcs rushes up to evacuate the civilian on the left.

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He also takes 5 points of plasma gunfire as one Floater gets a free reaction shot at his bulk going past the large windows.

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His large strides are sufficient to take him to another civilian to evacuate, and he does so without hesitation.

As he ends his turn, secure in the knowledge that two civilians are safe, he looks up and a chill run down his mechanical armored spine as he spots four sinister glowing yellow eyes and a pair of silhouettes with way too many legs.

(The Commander was so spooked that no screenshots were taken in time to catch the sinister duo. One can just about see them via Cpl. Skyrim’s heads up display below.)

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After rescuing the citizen on the right side of the warehouse, Cpl. Skyrim smashes the glass and fires a volley at the nearest Floater. It does 5 damage, sending the alien machine crashing to the ground in an explosion of metal and organic goo.

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One very wounded Floater remains.

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Cpl. Bhagpuss moves up to intercept it.

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95% chance to hit, 50% chance to critical from this range, one damage to go, don’t frickin’ miss, ‘Broad Side’, please…

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Dat scope attachment, best gear ever.

He hits it and scores a promotion off it too.

It doesn’t rain, but it pours. Two more Floaters show up. moving around the back of the warehouse near where the Chryssalids are, doing heinous things to civilians in the background.

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In the meantime, if you can look upon this scene without pissing your pants, you’re a better man than I.

To everyone’s immense surprise, the two Chryssalids go right past Cpl. Othnieltcs.

Not wanting to go through the effort of opening a can when there’s good smelling food already out in the open, perhaps?

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One of them takes out the civilian nearby. The count so far is 12 civilians left, 2 rescued, 4 dead.

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The other dashes right up next to Lt. Syl.

Boy, this feels a lot like déjà vu, doesn’t it?

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Okay, don’t panic, don’t panic, we’ve been here before. Shotgun to the face…

…for 3 points of damage.

Panic levels climbing.

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The two Heavies hustle to Lt. Syl’s rescue. Pray hard they don’t miss.

Cpl. Skyrim’s turn: 72% chance to hit, 0% chance to critical.

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Another 3 points of damage. The thing is still standing.

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It’s all on Cpl. Bhagpuss now. 76% chance to hit, 0% chance to critical.

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4 points of damage, one dead Chryssalid at long last.

The other Chryssalid has gone out of line of sight.

Moving from where Cpl. Othnieltcs was standing on the boat, and the next point of cover… it turns out to be a completely blind (but lucky? unlucky?) guess that he winds up right next to it.

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Oh.

Erm.

Well.

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I guess it’s a good thing he’s got one of these.

Two can play at that lethal melee attack game.

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Kinetic fist PUNCH!

Just as we’re chortling at the one-hit-killed Chryssalid splattered on the ground, a shuffling sound from behind Cpl. Othnieltcs reminds us that we’ve forgotten something…

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The civilian the Chyrssalid killed earlier… is not so dead after all.

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With one blow, it does 9 points of damage.

Cpl. Othnieltcs crumples to the ground, critically wounded.

O. M. F. G.

What the fuck?!

The only thing that comes to mind at this point is that it’s still damnably lucky that he’s not outright dead, and that one thought to bring a Medikit along, “just in case.”

Problem is, the Medikit is kind of far away and he ‘s only got 3 turns before he bleeds out for good.

And there’s two Floaters in the way. Oh, and the zombie, of course. Let’s not forget the zombie.

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47% chance to hit is not usually a chance I’d take. Especially not for Cpl. Bhagpuss.

But you know the saying about desperate times.

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It’s a hit!

3 damage only though, still alive, still able to fire on everybody.

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Lt. Syl has used Run and Gun to dash up to Cpl. Othnieltcs’ prior position on the boat.

100% chance and 70% chance to critical…

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4 points of damage.

The THING has 10 health bars to work through.

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Then the aliens get to attack.

One Floater rockets up into the air and with its height advantage, hits Lt. Syl for 4 points of damage.

One is starting to wonder if the squad is going to suffer more casualties trying to save one fallen soldier.

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The other Floater fires, and fortunately, misses Lt. Syl entirely.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t even aiming at her, but a civilian. Which it most definitely hit.

Oh well. The whole operation is kinda FUBAR’ed already.

Next turn, we briefly ponder the wisdom of attempting another shotgun blast at the zombie, then think the better of it.

Lt. Syl has her lucky frag grenade.

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Not only will this do 3 damage to the thing, the idea is to take out the entire left side warehouse wall, so that the two Heavies have a faster route to Cpl. Othnieltcs.

She hurls it. Wall goes boom.

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Yes, this will work nicely. Cpl. Bhagpuss now has unobstructed line of sight, the zombie is down to 3 health and has no cover.

80% chance to hit, 50% chance to critical…

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…if he wasn’t already pending a promotion, I’d promote him again.

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Our Medikit holding savior has an uninterrupted dash towards Cpl. Othnieltcs. 2 turns left before he kicks the bucket.

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Back to the aliens.

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One of them lands and fries another civilian.

I think, by now, we’ve gone numb to the situation.

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More importantly, on the very next turn, Cpl. Skyrim scrambles up near enough to Cpl. Othnieltcs to stabilize him with the Medikit.

Tombstone and memorial inscription narrowly averted. For one more mission, anyway.

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Cpl. Bhagpuss turns his attention back to the Floater on the ground. Another 3 damage.

Both have one bar of health left, but are still capable of plenty of mischief.

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Cpl. Skyrim takes 4 points of damage from the plasma fire from on high.

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Floater-on-ground fries yet another civilian.

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Cpl. Bhagpuss has another go at Floater-on-ground. 64% chance to hit…

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… first shot’s a miss. Of course. At least it’s not a clutch situation.

The Bullet Swarm ability allows for a second go.

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And he makes damn well sure this time that it’s dead.

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Yep. I think we can safely conclude that.

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Lt. Syl moves up to take on the last Floater.

64% chance to hit with a shotgun, straight up.

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Pretty fireworks in the sky.

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Operation Blind Sword comes to an end.

7 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost. (Unbelievably so.)

11 of 18 civilians saved. (Well… 61% survival rate. Could be worse.)

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The after action report is busy indeed, with two wounded heroes.

All the Corporals have now been promoted to Lieutenant and have earned the right to official nicknames. (Insert ye olde standard disclaimer of automatic nicknames and drop me a line in the comments to request better ones, yadda yadda.)

I’ve gone ahead and given a Taken One For the Team medal to Lt. Othnieltcs. The +5 bonus to cover doesn’t really apply since he can’t get into cover anyway, but I think he’s definitely earned it several times over now. :)

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 9

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25 April, 2015

7.09am

Operation Morbid Thorn

Alien abduction in progress at Alexandria, Egypt

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From right to left, Cpl. Othnieltcs, Cpl. Bhagpuss, Lt. Izlain and Lt. J3w3l disembark from the transport.

Besides the heavily armored MEC trooper, the rest of the team is equipped with the new carapace armor.

We’ve also invested in a S.C.O.P.E advanced targeting module for Cpl. Bhagpuss, which gives a +10 to Aim. (That should help change the odds of hitting the broad side of a barn to something better than a coin toss.)

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The site appears to be some kind of temporary observatory or monitoring station.

All is disturbingly quiet. Cpl. Bhagpuss opens the door of the first building and finds no one inside.

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Cpl. Othnieltcs fans out to check the left flank.

The container tanks outside look a mite worrisome, with the possibility that they might be carrying some sort of flammable gas or liquid.

Then he hears it.

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The sounds of some shifting movement, not from the XCOM squad, but from the building adjacent to the first one.

Lt. Izlain joins Cpl. Bhagpuss inside the first building, and carefully opens the adjoining door.

Inside, is a veritable nest of aliens.

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A pair of Seekers, who promptly go into stealth.

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And a duo of Thin Men, doing something nefarious to their abductee.

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They scatter for cover.

Lt. Izlain only has a 57% chance to hit the Thin Man from across the room, from where he’s using the doorway as cover, but at the moment, there’s not enough pay in the whole world that could induce someone to step in there just yet.

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It will have to do.

His aim, as usual, is spot on.

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Unfortunately, it looks like the Commander has to invest in better guns soon. Only 2 damage. Everything’s still alive in there.

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The alien duo drop into Overwatch. Goodness knows where the stealthed Seekers have gone.

This would have been a good time for Lt. J3w3l’s battle scanner, but she’s busy backing up Cpl. Othnieltcs outside.

And a good thing too, because out of nowhere, a pair of Floaters rocket up with their characteristic scream.

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Cpl. Othnieltcs’ overwatch shot misses.

Feeling a little exposed with no ability to take cover, and all these potentially flammable canisters in the way, Cpl. Othnieltcs uses his superior mobility to hustle back under the sniper’s watchful eye.

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Both drop into overwatch and lie in wait for the first alien to fly by.

(Hey, if LOS around a corner is good enough for MMOs… We can play the same trick here.)

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Meanwhile, inside the building, there’s an almost tangible sense of danger in the air. Like something bulky is standing or floating in the doorway.

(It’s kind of a dead giveaway where you hold down right click and find out that you aren’t allowed to move into the room at all.

Hmm, maybe ‘dead’ was not the best choice of words to use, eh?)

There’s nothing for it but to wait, though. Neither soldier has a frag grenade that would justify moving them out of position, and Cpl. Bhagpuss can’t move and fire his rocket launcher.

Better to just cover each other in overwatch. They’ve got more armor now, right?

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The first Floater outside screams its way around the corner, and then screams again as Cpl. Othnieltcs minigun turns it into Swiss cheese for 6 points of damage.

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Inside, we have the expected Seeker strike, strangling Lt. Izlain for 2 points of damage.

Guess it’s all on Cpl. “Broad Side” Bhagpuss now.

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84% chance to hit and 50% chance to critical at this range.

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The angle’s awkward, but it’s a hit!

Though only for 3 points of damage.

It does, however, force it to recoil off Lt. Izlain and free him to catch his breath.

The wounded Seeker jumps near to the door the squad used to enter the building.

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The Bullet Swarm ability on Heavies allows them to fire twice in a turn if their first action was firing the primary weapon.

Cpl. Bhagpuss takes aim again, with a 68% chance to hit and 50% chance to critical.

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And finishes it off for good this time.

Outside, joint overwatch fire from Cpl. Othnieltcs and Lt. J3w3l takes care of the second Floater.

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(Love the corner. All hail the mighty corner.)

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Inside, that tangible sense of foreboding is still making it impossible to enter the room.

Welp, I guess we know what’s coming again.

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Yep. Called it.

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Cpl. Bhagpuss repeats his “84% chance to hit, 50% chance to critical” shot again.

This time it criticals for 6 damage and drenches Lt. Izlain in a shower of defensive stealth smokescreen as the broken machine crashes to the ground.

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(His armor, alas, does not have the right materials and surfaces to interact with the vapor and help him go invisible like the Seeker does.)

Outside, Cpl. Othnieltcs advances again, and picks up a Meld canister signature.

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The earlier one was lost, since there was no way in hell that Lt. Izlain and Cpl. Bhagpuss were going to dash into the second building (between being exposed to lots of  Thin Man shots and spit, and later a practical impossibility when the Seekers were physically blocking the doorway.)

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This one, though, seems clear enough.

Perhaps the Floaters were previously guarding it.

Cpl. Othnieltcs will pick it up in the next turn.

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It’s time for the pair in the building to venture into the second room.

All is quiet again, and assuming the Thin Men were in cover where we last saw them, the Commander orders Lt. Izlain to move up slightly to the full cover of the pillar on the left.

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To everyone’s surprise, a Thin Man pops up from where he was previously crouching unseen and takes a reaction shot at Lt. “Bad Luck” Izlain.

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That’s 3 damage of hot plasma pistol burns to the chest.

Okay, that’s seriously taking protectiveness testing of the new carapace armor a little too far.

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Wanting to return the favor, Lt. Izlain takes aim for a 92% chance to hit and 10% chance to critical.

This is the previously wounded Thin Man, so 1 damage is all it takes to kill it.

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The shot misses…

Cpl. Bhagpuss is somehow just out of line of sight of this sneaky little git and can’t fire.

It may have been a slight tactical misstep to dash up to the telescope in the center of the room and wait for the next turn, instead of moving up to the furthest railing and seeing if the Thin Man was in line of sight then.

(The Commander was generally nervous about moving up too far and finding more aliens lurking in wait to take advantage of a separated squad.)

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The slimy little Thin Man repositions itself…

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…flanking Cpl. Bhagpuss from behind and nails him for 4 damage.

All this, when it’s only got 1 bar of health left!

What is it? Some kind of Thin Man hero?

Heroes become martyrs though.

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Two can play at that reposition and flank game.

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91% chance to hit, 50% chance to critical…

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…and a full automatic burst from Cpl. Bhagpuss’ LMG finally puts paid to the wannabe alien legend.

Outside, Cpl. Othnieltcs has retrieved the Meld canister and the MEC trooper and sniper duo move up to enter the building from the side doors.

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One disadvantage of moving too quickly with powered mechanical limbs, it’s impossible to stop and turn on a dime.

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Cpl. Othnieltcs crashes through the first door to find the last Thin Man unexpectedly in that small room.

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It gets to take a 4 damage reaction shot as the MEC trooper rushes right past.

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By the time Cpl. Othnieltcs screeches to a stop, he’s well into the next room.

Oh well, he’s got 14 armor and health bars to work through anyway.

And the Thin Man really doesn’t have that kind of time.

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Who knows if aliens think or dream? But if they did, I imagine the last thought going through this one’s head would be “Life’s so terribly unfair.”

A sniper lying in wait outside to cut off any hopes of escape.

In the other direction, 99% chance to hit, 60% to critical, from a minigun wielded by a ten-foot tall mechanical exoskeleton suit.

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That’s all she wrote.

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Operation Morbid Thorn ends at 5.09am.

6 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

1 out of 2 Meld canisters recovered.

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All in a day’s work for our experienced XCOM squad.

The carapace armor seems to be working relatively well. Our only casualty is Lt. Izlain who has to take 4 days to recover from first-degree burns to the chest and some minor bruising around the neck.

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We also seem to have picked up some extra medals. Any nominations?

Hooray, with this post, we’ve finally caught up to the present day and I get to play XCOM again shortly.

I do hope the long interval hasn’t left me too out of practice…

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 8b

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21 April, 2015

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning

Chongqing, China

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When we last left off, Sgt. Syl was in drooling distance of a four-legged terror.

As fortune would have it, the alien had just spent its entire turn getting into melee range and did not attack.

Yet.

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Naturally, the first thing on everyone’s mind is “Kill it! Kill it dead!”

Sgt. Syl has a 100% chance to hit with a shotgun that luckily still has some rounds loaded.

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The pellets slam into the alien for 4 damage.

The tough armored thing is -still- standing.

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Not if the rest of the team can help Sgt. Syl out though.

Lt. Izlain takes aim with a 100% chance to hit.

(After some research, the Chinese character on the tombstone appears to be “終” or “zhōng,” which means “end” or “death.” Rather apt.)

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“Izlain – for when you absolutely positively need to kill every motherfucker in the room.”

The strange alien goes down without getting a chance to attack.

Just the way we like it, thanks. The scientists can carve into its corpse and figure out how it works later.

Since a number of the team has already taken action, the squad stays put for a quick breather while the rest keep an alert Overwatch.

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The aliens really seem to want that suitcase.

Another Thin Man drops in…

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…and is taken out by Sq. Skyrim for 5 damage on Overwatch.

The squad inches up through one more row of graves, and yet another Thin Man shows up.

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Along with one of the original aliens with an expanded cranium. This one seems to be alone though, no Mind Merge for it.

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They trigger a hail of Overwatch fire…

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…which all misses.

Those Thin Men can be annoyingly slippery when in cover.

Wanting to end it quickly, Sgt. Syl runs up to flank the Thin Man, which draws a reaction shot from it.

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Lightning reflexes negates any damage though.

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The Commander did fail to take into account the second alien, who was also in Overwatch, and it hits her for 4 damage with its plasma pistol.

On the bright side, that’s a successfully flanked Thin Man.

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100% chance to hit, 70% chance to critical.

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Shotgun style.

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Meanwhile, Lt. Izlain moves up to take care of the remaining alien.

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With the place temporarily cleared out, Zhang makes a run for it to the evacuation point.

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The squad boards the transport, with Zhang and the alien device in the briefcase.

He mentions a little more about how he came across it:

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Apparently, he was hired to do a delivery of this package to a predetermined location, but got unnerved when he actually saw what was inside it.

Unanswered questions abound. Were there more packages? Were they successfully delivered by others?

And what on Earth do the devices do?

Well, if the XCOM base later explodes, I guess we’ll know then.

In the meantime, that’s it for Operation Fading Thunder.

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8 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

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The after-action report is full of promotions. Sgt. J3w3l is now a Lieutenant, ditto Sgt. Syl.

Sq. Skyrim is now a Corporal.

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The scientists and engineers back at the base confirm that the device is of genuine alien origin, and have a number of theories as to its purpose, but it’ll take them time to figure it all out.

The Commander’s a lot more happy about the influx of cash from the Council.

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The Genetics Lab is finally set up.

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The satellite that the Commander was also eagerly awaiting is launched.

Completing satellite coverage of South America unlocks a bonus.

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Presumably they sent a skilled contingent of scientist-interrogators our way.

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All the alien bodies in cold storage were pulled out of freezers and lined up in rows in the biohazard morgue for the specialists.

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The original humanoid alien has been termed a “Sectoid” and have been found to be perfect genetic copies of each other, with organs that show signs of genetic manipulation.

They have a sizeable brain to body ratio, and were fitted with cybernetic implants that appear to boost some manner of telepathic ability.

The implications are not reassuring. Surely there must be some manner of progenitor alien, to produce these augmented identical clones? And for what purpose?

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The Floater corpses also reveal extensive biomedical and cybernetic implants, turning them into a blend of organic matter and machinery.

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The Thin Man has been intentionally designed and genetically modified to appear human, which suggests a capability beyond our own, though our scientists are fast catching up by reverse engineering some of the captured technology.

The eyes, poison glands and internal bone structure of the Thin Man still remain distinctly reptilian – giving it a remarkable flexibility through segmented bones, possibly accounting for its slippery nature.

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The Seeker turns out to be entirely machine. No living tissue is found within.

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The new alien the squad just encountered has been termed a “Chryssalid.”

The autospy reveals some rather disturbing facts about the way it reproduces. They appear somewhat similar to our earthly parasitic wasps, that lay their eggs into a living larva host, allowing their young to eat their way out when grown. Except that the Chryssalids seem to have adapted just fine to using humans as hosts for their offspring.

The cash from Operation Fading Thunder has been used for constructing suits of new carapace armor, developed from alloys retrieved from the crashed UFOs:

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Lt. Izlain is our first model. Or guinea pig.

So far so good, it didn’t crush him or anything.

So the rest of the squad is kitted out too.

Just in time, as a new Alien Abduction alert sings out through the base.

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We will see our newly armored XCOM team next post in Operation Morbid Thorn!