The sixth session ran long, and given the limited time I have left to finish this campaign, I wanted to get the fighting out of the way before the role-playing intensive session I had planned next. So, the players agreed to have "mini sessions" between the previous session and this one, and we had a sprinkling of one-hour/two-hour sessions throughout the week (and by "throughout the week" I mean "all on Tuesday, right before the next session")
Overall, each fight went quickly and smoothly and everyone played well. Each player achieved their mission, and I failed to kill as many characters as I had hoped (but I did manage to get one), and Icarus finally met his princess.
Mission 1: Rescue and Retrieval
Smoke billows from the fuselage of the dropship as it spirals through the air, alarms shrieking. The pilot shouts out for everyone to brace themselves, and then, with a stomach-lurching stop, smashes into a building. All goes dark.
The soldiers wake, the impossibly tough Rayner first. His night vision visor displays the world in hues of green while scrolling lines of text on his HUD report the status of his computer as it reboots, following swiftly by the shifting lines of a status report. His sleek, black cybernetic limbs hum as he shifts aside the rubble and hunts for the rest of his comrades, to find Bishop well and Strider already standing outside, his white-eyed sentinels watching over him while a small swarm of laser-pistol armed goblins explore the terrain. In the distance, the flash of gunfire and tracers light up the skyline, with the distant booms of artillery reminding them of the battle that surrounds them.
"We must move." Stride removes his helmet, his glossy armor glimmering darkly in the night, his white hair fluttering in the wind. "The princess cannot wait. Cannot wait. This is the..."
"Please..." The pilot hammers on the door between her compartment and the rest of the ship. "Can someone help me? I can't get out." A quick glance in her direction reveals the buckled, broken slabs of metal between her. The ships warmth grew ominous at the flow diagnostic display beside the door that suggested instabilities in the fusion reactor. The group fell silent for a moment, and she called out "Is... is anyone out there?"
"...the highest priority." Strider coldly resumed, swiveling his gaze back to the two human soldiers. "Let's go."
Sergeant Jack Bishop finished resealing his armor and readjusting his rifle on its strap, and then pointed a finger at Strider. "No. This is my command, my mission. Nobody gets left behind. Thompson, open the door."
"Sir." Rayner acknowledged with a snapped salute.
"Fine." Strider sniffed and replaced his own helmet. "Do as you wish. I am not under your command, and I will not forget the ultimate purpose of this mission." As one, the Tennin forces turned and moved out, quickly swallowed by the shadows of the abandoned section of the city.
With a quick heave, Raynor's new, powerful arms make quick work of the door, forcing it open to reveal the bloodied pilot on the other side. An unpleasant wound seeps through the rent in her combat suit. Raynor finishes shifting the rest of the debris, and helps her to her feet.
"I heard what the elf said." She grumbles, trying not to lean on Raynor as she favors her uninjured leg. "I won't slow you down. I'll keep up, just don't... don't leave me behind." She coughs and pulls away the visor to her rounded, pilot-helmet, and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand.
Sergeant Bishop shakes his head and offers her his sidearm. "You'll be fine. Raynor, carry her."
"Sir." Thompson acknowledges once more and then takes the woman over his shoulder.
Bishop stepped out and surveyed the broken landscape around them. A towering statue loomed above, it's head broken and toppled by their crashing ship, and debris and broken glass crunched under foot. Their drop ship had come to a stop in a large, ominous white building. While Bishop watched it through narrowed eyes, a snarling growl alerted him to the presence of a large quetzali male staggering out of the ruins. Thick, black fluid dribbled from blackened teeth, and he wore a smudged, white lab-coat. Suddenly, the quetzali unsheathed its claws and charged and, casually, Jack lifted his rifle and fired a three-round burst into the male, killing him instantly...
... or not.
As though it had felt nothing, the quetzali continued its charge, howling ferociously. Bishop fell back and fired a full spray of bullets, tearing the quetzali apart just as it was reaching him. Thompson stepped out, carrying the pilot, and looked at the gore covered Bishop as he wiped his visor.
"What was that?"
"I don't know. I didn't like it. Let's move."
Bishop moved to take cover behind the debris of the statue, the pings on his radar warning him of incoming mobs rushing at their position down the winding alleys of the abandoned, city streets. Bishop signaled for Raynor to go, and then erupted from his position. The underbarrel grenade launcher thumped as it sent its deadly packaging arcing through the air at the first swarm of quetzali militia, poorly armed and armored insurgents rushing at them with all of their predatory speed. His perfect shot blew away the first of the males, and then he laid down a hail of withering suppressive fire that tore through their ranks.
Raynor lifted his hand to salute his sergeant when the crack of not one but two portable railgun shots echoed through the air. The first cracked against rock, but the second made Bishop jerk. Bishop's diagnostic hit red in a split second, and Raynor's eyes widened as Jack slumped against the debris.
"It's fine." Bishop growled. "Go."
Private Thompson nodded and turned to go. As he ran, he heard the hail of gauss rifle fire as the dying Bishop laid down more fire. Finally, after long, silent seconds, he heard the detonation of several grenades, flare grenades arcing into the sky as Bishop ended his life in a fantastic fireworks display that took his foes with him. Raynor squeezed his eyes shut as Bishop's diagnostics flatlined.
"Goodbye, Sarge." He whispered.
(Sometimes, when you get hit in the torso, the GM rolls a 1 on a D6, and it means it was a vitals shot and it sucks to be you. Jack had the Dramatic Death perk, and so went out with a bang).
Mission 2: Escort
Maddie, still riled from her "failed" date with Emerson joined Mackenzie (who flexed and played with her cybernetic limb, eager to prove her worth in battle), Amy (also emotionally uncertain), Sage (Surprisingly sober) in her IFV, Chaos and (of course) Seleya, and Snow, with Roughneck at the head of the column. The tank rumbled to life down the winding boulevards of Grrarrashe-Ya, wending its way towards the central palace. Tall buildings lined the sides of the streets, looming over the group.
Suddenly, swarms of quetzali militia erupt on the rooftops wielding old, chemical slughthrowers and heavy grenade launchers.
"Move move move." comes Roughnecks command across the comm system, and everyone flows into motion. Preternaturally aware of their surroundings, Maddie and Chaos move first. Chaos shouts at Snow to top the building, shaking the marine from his surprise and sending his huge, power-armor clad form bounding up the side of the building with alarming speed. Maddie's gauss LMG charges with a whine and she lays down a torrential hail of bullets which spark against stone and shred uprotected flesh while the rest of the column moves forward quickly, the group trying to get behind the cover of the tank while the quetzali on a third, smaller building lay down fire.
("This doesn't seem so bad," comments Maddy's player.)
"Gonna blow the building. Cover me." Mackenzie announces. Chaos and Selena hit the ground, their twin portable railguns aimed at the third group while Snow and Maddie make quick work of the other two groups. A few moments later, the third building explodes, with Mackenzie outrunning the blast radius, showering brick and mortar, removing the third group....
But not the threat.
From another side street, a quetzali assault craft and a squad of heavies charge forward. The leader wears armor covered in baroque gold and murmurs prayers or poetry into his speakers. Another group ambushes them from atop another set of rooves and lays down yet more fire, taking down one of the unnamed soldiers in a spurt of blood and spasms. Amy rounds on the attacking force and, without thinking, fires her grenade launcher at one of the power-armored assault troops and, surprisingly accurate for the young novice, managed to kill him in one shot. An instant later, starfire splits the sky in a terrible, thunderous roar as the tank destroys the assault craft in a shower of burned, metal parts. Maddie's ears ring for a second, but Chaos clutches at his ears, unable to hear anything and nearly floored by the pain.
The Assaulters sprint forward, impossibly agile and swift, leaping onto and over the tank, their long legs eating up the distance, except for the gold-clad leader, who turns his eyeless, dour gaze on Amy Carver. Rushing forward, he catches her helmet and faceplate in his claws, lifts her from the ground, and runs with her, rushing across the street at full speed, directly at a wall, while she clutches at his claws and screams.
Maddie moves in slow motion, dropping her machine gun and reaching inexorably for her missile launcher. She manages to have it on her shoulder just as the quetzali races across her sights.
("Do you aim?" I ask. "I can't, I don't have time! They're too fast!" she replies. I nod "Then roll, but you're at -6 for their IR cloaking).
The fire and fury rush out of the barrel, but zip helplessly past the rushing quetzali, unable to find her target.
("You have luck, you can roll twice more." "I did, those missed too.")
Amy's head slams into the far wall with a sudden crack. Blood spatters against her faceplate, which cracks under the pressure of the superhuman strength offered by the power armor. Her vitals fluctuate rapidly and she whimpers over the comm systems as the quetzali raises his claws for the final blow. Chaos struggles to shake himself free of his stupor, to aim down his sights at the quetzali, but can't focus. Maddie cannot reload in time. They watch, helpless...
("Right, so, that missile is still in flight and it might lock on to another target. Roll." She rolled a three. I kid you not. So I sigh and say "So, who do you want it to hit, you can pick anyone." "I know just the target." She replies.)
Suddenly, a crash and an explosion rips the quetzali heavy. The missile merely needed a moment to lock, spun a u-turn, and then zipped back, blowing away the surprised quetzali. Amy slowly slid down the wall to the ground, sobbing in terror with the severed hand of the quetzali still grasping her helmet.
Mackenzie's freshly set-up turret begins to lay down heavy suppressive fire, and Chaos manages to draw an EMP grenade and throw it at the base of the tank. The moment it hits, it explodes in an electronic flash, killing the systems of several human soldiers, but also those of one quetzali heavy and actually causing the armor of a second to seize up so that he collapses to the ground. Behind them, a new squad of quetzali militia sprint down the street, but they ignore the humans except to stop by Amy and patch up her wounds as best as they can, and to lay down fire against the other quetzali, momentarily confusing the human soldiers.
To deal with the final group on a rooftop firing at the squad, the tank turns and fires its plasma cannon once more, its roar threatening to damage the hearing of those nearby again, so that they can barely make out Roughneck shouting "No, no stop your fire!"
He rushes at the destroyed building, flames liking up its sides, and indeed, the shadows of small, childlike shapes writhe in the fire. He pulls at the boards covering the windows and doors, trying to get at the innocent quetzali civilians. Maddie and Chaos quickly join him, and when the innocents within refuse to go with the "alien" heroes, Chaos' skill in Tyrannic quickly convinces them to trust the humans and flee the inferno.
Mission 3: Who Says Being In Reserves Is Boring?
Moments after the drop ship fell from the sky, command signals the reserve forces to ready themselves. Icarus dons his powerful armor as swiftly as he can, but an officer informs him that he cannot bring his massive plasma cannon with him on a "rescue mission" as it would cause too much collateral damage. After an "interesting" encounter with the supply clerk, Icarus arrives at the next drop ship carrying a supply of limpet mines and a dinky little pistol (dwarfed by his over sized gauntlets)
Ducky and Dr. Emerson wait for him, the latter once more surprisingly comfortable in his tacsuit, wielding his rifle skillfully.
"Is this going to be a problem? You and I, on the same team." Emerson asks with a lifted eyebrow. Icarus scowls and replies to the negative.
"Oh god, I'm going to die." Ducky rocks back and forth, clutching his rifle in his hands, the inside of his faceplate already steaming up from his insecurity.
"Hey!" Emerson growls. "Don't talk like that. We have a duty to the rest, to your sister, to get through this. No fear. Just get the job done."
Ducky calms, thinking of Mackenzie in battle, and resolves to stay strong "for her."
Before long, the drop ship lifts off and speeds over the city, offering the heroes the vision of the war-torn city below, with pockets of resistance lighting up the night with sprays of tracer rounds, followed by the clap and flash of plasma fire or artillery ordnance. Below, the beautiful, too-delicate Tennin embassy swings into view, it's fragile pillars toppled, it's elegant walls broken, and the rough shapes of the reptilian quetzali stalking through its halls.
"Pilot!" Icarus shouts. "Swing low, I think I can just jump in." The pilot suddenly swerves and Icarus times his jump and then, after flying through the air, the familiar sensation of joyous freefall pleasing the spacer, he crashes through a hole in one of the walls, and rolls to a stop before three surprised quetzali soldiers. Bouncing to his feet, he smashes the first through a wall and chases the second two away. Outside, the drop ship slowly stabilizes, dropping cord so the soldiers within can disembark.
Icarus makes his way deeper into the embassy, limpet mine in hand, ignoring the desecrated beauty of the embassy and letting his computer system guide him through the schematics of the building. He bursts into a once lovely chamber with an anti-gravity fountain sending sparkling beads of water up and down around spiraling, geometric shapes, with panes of frosted glass obscuring various parts of the large, vaulted room.
Quetzali gauss bullets shatter glass panes and bounced off of Icarus' armor like rain off a tin roof, he sweeps the room with his radar, picking up multiple pockets of resistance, and charges the first like a steel-clad rhino. The enemy scatter like leaves on the wind, and Icarus slams a limpet mine on the faceplate of the first male quetzali he can find. After the terrible bang, the headless quetzali drops. Icarus struggles with the remaining enemy when a HEMP grenades shatters a glass pane near him and, fearing for his safety, Icarus breaks through the delicate, internal walls of the embassy, accidentally crushing a burned Tennin corpse along the way. Enjoying the cover, he scans the building and looks for a good route around the attackers, flanks through by charging through a variety of walls and then bursts back into the room just as Emerson and Ducky and the rest of the soldiers arrive on the scene.
"We've got this. Go go!" Emerson shouts as his grenade launcher kills another quetzali.
Icarus agrees and charges deeper into the Embassy, hunting for the prized Ambassador. Finally, he tears through a door to find her trembling form. The light of artillery explosions outside paint her long, silken, silvery hair with the colors of fire. A flowing, silken white dress accentuates and covers her soft, supple blue skin, and her liquid black eyes widen when she sees him. He throws his hand towards her and shouts "Ambassador?" the echo of his loudspeakers booming through the room. She rises to her delicate toes and flees the room as fast as he can. He pursues her, smashing through inconvenient doors, his heavy armor thundering behind her. Finally, he breaks open the door to her safe room to find her unconscious, fainted, on the floor.
Suddenly a small shape drops on him from above, it's chubby, goblin legs wrapped around his neck and plants a limpet mine on his helmet. Thinking quickly, Icarus removes his helmet and discards it, only to earn a knife stab directly where his neck and shoulder meet. Shouting in pain, Icarus seized the goblin, ripping him from his position and dangling him above the floor. The goblin glared back with feral teeth, a scar across one black eye, and long, ragged ears quivering with rage. Then, suddenly, the goblin stops dead, staring at him.
"It's you." He says.
Icarus narrows his eyes. "What do you mean?"
The goblin squirms from his grip and drops to the floor, and then rushes to a fallen sketchbook. Flipping through the pages, he brings it to the marine. A sudden flash of a distant explosion briefly illuminates the ambassador's artwork: a sketch of his own face.
"She's been waiting for you." The gobling growls. "What kept you?"