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!

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 8a

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21 April, 2015

12.39am

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Operation Fading Thunder is on its way to make contact with a member of the Triad, who has come into possession of a device of allegedly alien origin.

If true, alien activity is expected at the site as they may make an effort to recover the device.

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From left to right, the team going in will be Lt. Izlain, Sgt. J3w3l, Sq. Skyrim and Sgt. Syl.

Chongqing, China

The transport lands and the squad disembarks at the rendezvous point.

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The contact is already there and waiting.

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On first glance, he’s the splitting image of every unsavory stereotype of a Chinese Triad mobster.

A scar runs down one eye, and he’s got the dead stare of a hitman that won’t blink twice before gunning down someone in cold blood.

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Except that now he’s on the run from said criminal organization, with a very special briefcase in his possession.

This “thing” as he shows the team, appears to be some kind of alien signaling device.

Certainly, the materials that make up the device don’t look to be of any terrestrial origin, with lights blinking on and off again at strange intervals, emitting electromagnetic pulses at strange wavelengths.

Viewing through the cameras mounted in the squad’s helmets, Dr Shen suggests it might be a transponder of some kind, and that it’s best brought back to the XCOM base for further study.

The contact, who introduces himself as Zhang Shaojie, is unwilling to be separated from the briefcase, so that means extracting him along with the device.

Either that, or it’s an alien bomb.

Guess the team will find out one way or the other.

Just as the squad gestures for Zhang to come along with them, he whips out a pistol:

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Taking out an alien that just showed up on the scene.

Looks like our contact can take care of himself.

(Though it would have been nicer if the game -did- give him a pistol to fight with. He looks all competent in the cutscene, and then is reduced to a civilian with a briefcase in the actual mission.)

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Guess that device is genuine and the aliens really want it back – or it’s a very elaborate ruse.

Well, either way, the team won’t find out by standing there all night.

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The site is some kind of Chinese cemetery or temple or a cross between the two.

There’s ample stone walls for cover.

Sgt. J3w3l takes up a slightly elevated position behind a stone pillar that should give her a clear line of sight through the path we’re intending to use.

Sq. Skyrim moves out to the other flank as our Heavy, just in case.

Lt. Izlain will be traveling with our contact as additional protective insurance, and our Assault Sgt. Syl gets to be the squad’s vanguard.

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Almost immediately, Central Command picks up alien activity headed the team’s way.

They’re literally dropping in – some kind of phasing technology or stealthed UFO dropship that our technology is unable to detect so far?

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One Thin Man shows up like a bad penny on the cemetery grounds just a little in front and below the team, and then another turns up right on the team’s left flank, a spitting distance away.

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That invites a slew of reaction shots from Sq. Skyrim, Sgt. Syl and Lt. Izlain…

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…on the first alien that popped into view. Two miss, but one hits for 5 damage and that Thin Man is no more.

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This one flanking us is still a problem though.

Sgt. J3w3l tries to hit it, but sniper rifles can be inaccurate at close range and she misses.

Lt. Izlain probably wouldn’t miss at this range, but the Commander was hoping to inch Zhang and him a little closer to the pickup point.

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Our long distance Heavy gets a shot at it.

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Sq. Skyrim most satisfactorily fills it full of bullets for 5 damage and converts the Thin Man into an expanding cloud of green gas, just a hair uncomfortably close to Sgt. J3w3l.

Doesn’t look like she needs to move out of the way though. Which is good. Snipers that need to move make me sad.

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The rest of the squad moves up methodically, from cover to cover.

Sgt. Syl in front, Zhang in the middle, Lt. Izlain behind him.

In the midst of our slow midnight crawl through a Chinese cemetary, Sgt. J3w3l shows off why snipers in a good position are awesome.

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Another Thin Man shows its face and tries to move. She’s in overwatch…

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…Bang. 5 damage, no more Thin Man.

Also a pending promotion.

Assuming everyone gets out alive, that is.

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Central alerts the XCOM team. It’s detected an alien, entirely different from the others.

We catch a glimpse of it before it scurries out of sight, obscured by obstacles – large, scaly, moving on four legs that look more like lethal bone spikes.

Like something out of Alien or Starship Troopers, one gets the feeling that one really shouldn’t get up close and personal with this species.

But that’s not the only thing to worry about.

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Another Thin Man drops in, at the very heart of the cemetery, very close to flanking our squad, and -definitely- in poison spit range.

Two reaction shots, and both miss.

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The four legged alien is out of sight, and the team has to deal with the more immediate threat.

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Surely Lt. “Bad Luck” Izlain will be able to take this Thin Man out, with 81% chance to hit, and let our shotgunner go into Overwatch to lie in wait for the other alien?

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He hits! For 2 damage…

It’s still alive.

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So now it’s down to Sgt. Syl.

88% chance to hit, 20% chance to critical, just one more bar of damage.

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Goodbye Thin Man, but now no more Overwatch for Sgt. Syl.

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Sq. Skyrim, bringing up the rearguard, is the only one of the moving squad who can.

Along with our “eye in the sky” sniper, of course.

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The four-legged creature shows itself, moving at a phenomenally fast clip.

Dr. Vahlen laments over the comm link that this alien species appears to be nothing like the others, and that any patterns or theories the scientists were previously entertaining may have to be rethought.

The team has more important things on the mind.

Like not getting eaten.

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Sgt. J3w3l and Sq. Skyrim take their reaction shots.

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The hail of heavy weapons fire goes wide, but the sniper’s bullet is on target.

For only 3 damage though, and it doesn’t look the least bit fazed, with 5 more bars of health left.

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The slavering creature positions itself right next to Sgt. Syl…

(So, how was that dead pool coming along?)

…the action continues next post!