Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Casualty Report - Spectral Vanguard (XCOM Files)

PFC Adegoke & PFC Zaytseva
It is with great regret to inform you that on the morning of March 14, 2015, Private First Class Olufemi Adegoke of Nigeria and Private First Class Vera Zaytseva were killed in the line of duty while operating in Lille, France under the direct orders of XCOM command. It cannot be overstated that as a result of their sacrifices, the operation was a complete success and many civilian lives were saved. The alien abductions being conducted in Lille were completely thwarted by the classified operation that began around 1100 local time. It was the first mission for both soldiers since their participation in the XCOM project here at Cheyenne Mountain.

Over the course of the operation, six insurgents including PFC Adegoke and PFC Zaytseva were air dropped on to an overpass in Lille where a total of nine aliens - classified as sectoids - were conducting an abduction operation on the local work force. The mission was led by XCOM veteran, Specialist Shinji Kobayashi, an expert grenadier and engineer with two prior successful missions since the war began on March 1. His second-in-command that day was Specialist Julio Brito with one prior successful mission in his portfolio. Other members of the hand-picked team include PFC Felipe Andrade from Peru and PFC Riya Nalawangsa from Malaysia.

Detailed Operation Breakdown

Soldiers touched down on the construction site of a large overpass at approximately 1114 on March 14, 2015. SPC Brito made first contact with the enemy, reporting three sectoid aliens conducting abduction activities within the construction site. The team took up defensive positions along their end of the overpass. PFC Adegoke landed the first hits on the aliens, killing one sectoid as it moved through his line of sight. The team leader, SPC Kobayashi, took out a second sectoid with an anti-personnel grenade, as well as flanking the third sectoid and killing it with shots from his assault rifle.

Adegoke's First Killing Shot Fired
Around 1120 that morning, SPC Brito climbed atop a small service vehicle to get a better vantage on the area of operations. He spotted three more sectoid aliens abducting workers on a bus nearby. It was during this encounter that PFC Vaytseva was shot and killed while advancing on the alien position. Reports indicate that PFC Nalawangsa was especially disturbed by this and refused to move into position. SPC Kobayashi took point with SPC Brito moving up alongside him into advanced positions to counter the threat of panic overtaking their squad. Inspiring some confidence with his men, SPC Kobayashi killed his third sectoid on the mission with a decisive shot from his assault rifle. PFC Adegoke fired from somewhere behind SPC Kobayashi resulting in a second confirmed kill.

Kobayashi & Brito Advance on Vaytseva's Killers
SPC Brito advanced farther along the overpass and at approximately 1122 encountered the third and final wave of sectoids, huddled for cover on the back of a flatbed truck. SPC Brito was able to flush them out of hiding with a high explosive grenade that destroyed most of their cover. SPC Brito was then able to kill one of the wounded sectoids with a shot from his shotgun as it rushed for cover nearby SPC Brito's position. At 1123, PFC Adegoke closed enough distance to throw an anti-personnel grenade on the remaining, wounded aliens' location. Unfortunately, his ambitious assault fell short of its intended target, and Adegoke was left exposed to an unlucky shot that ended his life.

PFC Adegoke is killed instantly during his final heroic assault.
PFC Nalawangsa continued to panic as her teammates died around her. PFC Andrade left her alone to move up the right side of the overpass and earn a flanking shot at the wounded sectoids, killing one. Prior to this shot, he had stayed close to PFC Nalawangsa hoping to calm her down and get her back into action. This decision put him in a good position to surprise the aliens from a new angle and force them to move into better cover.

PFC Andrade makes a critical shot from the right.

As a result of PFC Andrade's flanking attacks, SPC Brito was able to kill one of the remaining sectoids with a close range shot alongside the bus, and SPC Kobayashi secured the construction site by taking landing the final shots with his assault rifle on the only remaining, wounded sectoid. There was no farther fighting in Lille that day and the survivors of Kobayashi's team were safely extracted by 1130. The science team followed up to retrieve any usable alien materials on site.

Aftermath of Operation Spectral Vanguard

The tragic loss of PFC Vaytseva resulted in a total loss of confidence in the XCOM mission from her home nation of Russia. As a result, Russia completely capitulated to the alien invaders and rumors have begun to surface that Russian military are aiding in the abduction of Russian civilians for alien experimentation. Our intelligence cannot confirm or deny these reports, yet, but it remains possible that the entire country is now at the mercy of the invaders. The XCOM project remains committed to protecting the rest of the world from a similar fate, and is equally committed to protecting the lives of the soldiers under its command. Intelligence officers are currently exploring avenues of breaking through the closed Russian borders in an attempt to counter-act the alien occupation, but so far there is not enough intel to take any conclusive actions.

A short investigation was conducted to review the actions and decisions of team leader, Specialist Shinji Kobayashi, following the deaths of two of his junior soldiers while under his command. It was concluded that his actions on the morning of March 14 were not only appropriate, but tactically necessary. The deaths of his team members was not a result of poor leadership or lack of tactical command. Furthermore, his display of valor when taking up a forward position to make up for the loss of PFC Vaytseva, and to encourage PFC Nalawangsa to not submit to her fears have earned him consideration for promotion to Lance Corporal along with future leadership positions within XCOM.

XCOM HQ has petitioned the governing council to replace these recruits with suitable cantidates as soon as possible, but as of this time no new recruits have arrived on site to replace the losses sustained during "Spectral Vanguard."

  • Official Report Filed on PFC Olufemi Adegoke and Vera Zaytseva, dated 3/18/2015

XCOM Report - March 14, 2015 - "Spectral Vanguard"

SPC Shinji Kobayashi (Japan) - Squad Leader
  • Confirmed Kills: 4 (Sectoid)
  • Total CK: 9 (8 Sectoid, 1 Drone)
  • Earned Promotion

SPC Julio Brito (Brazil)
  • Confirmed Kills: 2 (Sectoid) 
  • Total CK: 6 (Sectoid)

PFC Felipe Andrade (Peru)
  • Confirmed Kills: 1 (Sectoid)

PFC Riya Nalawangsa (Malaysia)
  • Confirmed Kills: 0

PFC Olufemi Adegoke (Nigeria) 
  • Confirmed Kills: 2 (Sectoid)
  • Status: Killed in Action
  • Earned Posthumous Promotion (Specialist)

PFC Vera Zaytseva (Russia)
  • Confirmed Kills: 0
  • Status: Killed in Action

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Severed Line (XCOM Files)

PFC Jenkins & SPC Kobayashi, Mar 8, 2015
You want me to tell you about Shinji Kobayashi? The first mission that I ran for XCOM, I was under Kobayashi's command. He had just promoted to Specialist after distinguishing himself on his first mission under XCOM command. These guys don't give a shit about whether or not you're a decorated war hero back home, mind ya. The only thing that matters here is how many aliens you have packed up in bags for the lab rats to study. Until you nailed your first extra, you were as green as it gets around there. Kobayashi had already killed three of the things before I even got to see one up close and personal.

The mission itself was back home in Australia, maybe why I got picked. I don't know. The extras had started abducting people in a commercial area of Canberra. They sent us in to take em out. Aside from Kobayashi, SPC Rojas was second the in command veteran on the team. There was also PFC Cerna, Kovac and Natale with us that night. It was their first mission as well. We all knew each other from training, but none of us were really friends. The other three rookies were all from southern Europe, so they may have been the closest out of the six of us, or I maybe just imagined it. We were all chosen for a reason, though, so I knew I could count on them with my life if I needed to.

SPC Kobayashi didn't speak much. I'd never even heard the guy's voice before touching down that night. Even then, he only ever spoke when necessary, barking out swift orders over the comms in a heavily Japanese-accented English. His stoicism really set the tone for our team. Like his words, his actions were very deliberate and meaningful. He didn't like to waste time, especially in combat. At the time, I didn't know him particularly well, but I did like the guy.

Canberra Drop Zone
We were dropped on the street around 0100 local time on the 8th of March. I remember it distinctly, because it was exactly a week after Kobayashi had distinguished himself on the first XCOM mission against these alien bastards. I was nervous as hell, but Kobayashi and Rojas were calm and collected. Their confidence was reassuring. It was dark, but I thought the other three rookies were just as pale and shaken as I was. I like to tell myself that I wasn't the only hardened combat vet out there scared to death of these scrawny grey men with blaster pistols from outer space. It sounds silly, right?

In front of us there was this big, family Italian-style restaurant. On the left side of that building, there was a laundromat. We weren't sure where the aliens were now. There was enough evidence to assume they had already rounded up all the humans in both areas. The street was deathly silent aside from the soft shuffling of our boots and gear. You know, I'd make a joke about these naked little grey aliens being up all night doing their laundry or something, but honestly remembering the sight of human bodies all wound up in some green ooze turns my stomach at the thought. It's real hard to make jokes when you are seeing these horrible things from some sci-fi horror movie right in front of you.

Kobayashi & Jenkins Push To the Laundromat
SPC Kobayashi split the team into two groups with some waving gestures of his hands. He wanted me with him in the laundromat, while Rojas took the others to secure the restaurant. Kobayashi took the lead on our side, edging forward to the big windows of the laundromat cautiously. Sure enough, he startled three extras that scuttled across the tile floor to take cover. He raised his hand to motion for me to take a shot if I had one, so I fired my rifle. I nailed one of the extras cleanly on his side, he died instantly, spilling out on to the white tile floor. The thrill of that first, minor victory was intoxicating to me. I felt like I had earned my place on the team right then and there. This is why they brought me aboard, I thought. Before I could relish that feeling, the remaining two sectoids began to fire on our position.

I remember Rojas mentioned over the radio coming to reinforce our position, but before Rojas's small team could retreat from their position, several more of these sectoid things burst in through the back door of the restaurant and a fire fight broke out inside. I couldn't tell you, honestly, what was going on next door. Kobayashi and I had our hands full, taking fire from inside the laundromat. If we let them take any more ground, these two groups of aliens would have us surrounded. I advanced up to the window to get a better vantage point inside, while Kobayashi fell back into a flanking position. From his new positon, Kobayashi clipped an extra coming around the corner toward the entrance of the building.

Kobayashi Takes a Shot Through the Front Door
I heard a grenade go off in the restaurant. The chatter over our comms told me Rojas had moved into a forward position to get a good line of sight on the aliens. They had them pinned down at the back door to the restaurant, but it was a stalemate. Sometime after the grenade blast, Rojas was hit. He went down hard, but he was still breathing and more importantly - he was still shooting. In that moment, Kobayashi was beside me. He didn't panic or falter for an instant. He told the other half of our squad to stay calm and protect Rojas. I couldn't believe how cool this guy was under this kind of pressure. I remember the moment so vividly because Shinji put his hand on my shoulder and said to me, "I have to go over there. You take this last one. He is yours." He spoke with such assurance that I felt full of pride and resolve. They were counting on me to secure this building, and Kobayashi seemed to know I could do it.

Jenkins Takes the Laundromat
I didn't have sight on the enemy inside, but I could hear where he was hiding. I tossed in an anti-personnel grenade to flush it out - hoping it would just straight up kill the bloody thing, to be honest. I moved into the building as the grenade exploded in the back. The slippery bastard scrambled out into the open, covered in its own mucus-looking blood from the shrapnel embedded in its skin. It tried to take cover behind a folding table, but I took the shot before it even lifted its weapon in my direction. I sent word over my headset that the building was secure, and Kobayashi responded with one single word, "Good."

As I swept through the rest of the building to make sure there were no more creepers lurking in the shadows, I heard Private Cerna ordered to patch up Rojas who was suffering from a pretty serious shot. The rookies had a hint of anxiety in their voices, but Kobayashi was as firm as ever. He had Kovac and Natale push their way into the restaurant. Apparently a successful endeavor because Kobayashi soon asked me if there was access to the back alley through the laundromat. He had everyone but Rojas ready to breach into the alley expecting to find more resistance waiting for us there, but it wasn't the case. We could tell from some unusual sounds that there was activity inside the building across from us, so again the four rookies took up positions against two doors hoping to get inside and surround any enemies we found there.

Jenkins & Cerna Fire on the Drones
We threw open the doors together and were surprised to find these strange little robots buzzing around - drones by the look of it. Nothing like any drones we'd seen before but unmistakable alien robotics bobbing around the inside of this store like insects in flight. I assumed they were some kind of advanced scout, trying to keep watch while the little greys did their business. The aliens probably weren't pleased about how their last abduction ended in Vancouver so now they had these drones watching out for their troops. Fat lot of good it did for them, though.

Natale and Kovac managed to hit one, but it was Cerna next to me who finished it off. I managed to land a hit on the other drone as it tried to swarm out into the alley, but Kobayashi - that madman - ran intot he store and fired a bullet straight into its little drone face. I guess he was pretty confident that these things weren't swarming all over that store - or maybe he just knew we'd be able to take them down if they were. Whatever he was thinking, it was as crazy as it was impressive.

Kobayashi Finishes Things
This guy is intense, right? It was that mission Kobayashi strapped as many grenades to his body as he could find. Most of us were only carrying one or two of them to get ourselves out of a tricky situation, but not Kobayashi. He had four, maybe five where ever he could strap them on to his uniform. He was later known for his tenacity as a grenadier, but I'm pretty sure that's where it all started. The troops at XCOM would later start calling him "Kaiju" after the popular Japanese film genre. I can only imagine the first time he heard that name being tossed around the base, he just gave some approving nod and said in a low voice, "Good."

  • from a talk with John Jenkins on the subject of serving under Shinji Kobayashi

XCOM Report - March 8, 2015 - "Severed Line"

SPC Shinji Kobayashi (Japan) - Squad Leader

  • Confirmed Kills: 2 (1 Sectoid, 1 Drone)
  • Total CK: 5 (4 Sectoid, 1 Drone)

SPC Roman Rojas (Guatemala) 
  • Confirmed Kills: 0 
  • Total CK: 2 (Sectoid)
  • Condition: Serious Injury

PFC John Jenkins (Australia) 
  • Confirmed Kills: 2 (Sectoid) 
  • Earned Promotion

PFC Barbara Natale (Italy) 
  • Confirmed Kills: 1 (Sectoid)
  • Promotion Earned

PFC Jarmila Cerna (Czech Republic)
  • Confirmed Kills: 2 (1 Sectoid, 1 Drone)
  • Earned Promotion

PFC Peter Kovac (Slovenia)
  • Confirmed Kills: 1 (Sectoid)
  • Promotion Earned

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Shattered Apollo (XCOM Files)

PFC Tom Shaw, March 1st
They told us we were the first humans to kill a creature from outer space. They told us we were heroes. They told us we were the best humanity has to offer to fight off this invasion. I'm going to be honest with you here and tell you, I don't really think any of that is true. These guys knew the aliens were coming. They must have known for a while. The XCOM project had been dormant for years before they came and picked us up and told us we were chosen to protect humanity. It's possible no one had seen or fought an alien before us, but then how did they know what to expect? How did they know when to expect it? We certainly weren't heroes. Most of us were just dumb kids who knew how to shoot. Yeah, we were trained to kill each other, but not one among us had been trained to repel alien invaders with death rays. Hell, I don't even really know what plasma is and I've been covered in the stuff.

You're here to talk about that night, right? I relive that night a lot in my nightmares. It's difficult to talk about for a lot of reasons, but as the squad leader of the first human beings to engage and defeat an alien threat - well I'm getting used to being asked about it. Well, here goes.

We were flown from the Cheyenne Mountain complex to Vancouver late on the night of March 1st. Aliens had touched down at a shipping warehouse and were in the process of abducting any humans unfortunate enough to be out that late. None of this junk sounded real to me, by the way. Here I was leading this team and I wasn't even convinced we were going to be fighting what they said we'd be fighting. I'd never seen an alien or a UFO. This was the stuff of TV shows and silly documentaries on conspiracy theories. How could this crap be real? It felt like a dream flying out to Vancouver that night. It felt like a dream until our boots hit the ground.

The Landing Zone
We dropped down on the street outside the parking lot of the warehouse. The lot itself was fenced in with a stone wall creating a bit of a fortress for these aliens to hide in. We could hear some damn strange noises coming from beyond that wall. That's when most of us knew that this was really happening. You can be dropped into a foreign country where you don't speak a word of the local language, but you know those sounds coming from the other side of the wall are human voices speaking human words that you just don't understand. This was not like that. No, sir. I can't even begin to describe these sounds to you. They were like nothing I'd ever heard on Earth. This was really happening.

First Contact
Grace was the first to lay eyes on an alien - Private Grace Russell, my fellow American that night. As she took up a position against the wall and moved forward to the entrance of the lot, she spotted three little greys working on one of their abduction pods. I guess they store humans inside these things for transportation. The science team understood more about that than I ever did, but we just called them abduction pods. Anyway, these aliens saw Grace and took up defensive positions behind the pod and some nearby cars. My Brazilian brother, Julio "Burrito" Brito, took up a position across from Russell at the entrance to the lot.

The Great Kobayashi Grenade
I couldn't see a damn thing from where I was pressed up against the wall, but the next thing I know I'm hearing the bizarre sizzling sounds of these plasma pistols firing on my team. Russell and Brito open fire, but they're basically exchanging rounds with the aliens shooting their green ooze back at us. That's when Shinji Kobayashi - no one even knew this dude until that night. This guy really kept to himself at the base. He barely spoke a word of English to anyone. He was definitely a loner. So this guy, Kobayashi, decided to sneak up along the outside of the wall and toss a grenade over the top on to the aliens' positions. The crack of his anti-personnel grenade marked a stop to the plasma pistols sizzling shots, but Russell could see two were wounded, but none were killed. Burrito and I slipped into the parking lot in this short window of opportunity.

Man, the first time I saw a grey - hunkered down behind that abduction pod, staring down at the shrapnel out of its body - I just fired on the thing. I ended its life. That thing didn't even see me sweep in from around the corner. Yeah, as far as anyone can tell me, I'm the first guy on Earth to take one down. I barely even got a good look at the thing before putting a hail of bullets into its small grey body. There was a certain exhilaration among the team knowing that our simple ballistic weapons had defeated these technologically superior beings with futuristic, space rayguns. Sadly this small moment of victory was diminished by the sounds of heavy plasma fire coming from further down the street.

Kobayashi Comes Under Fire
Private Kobayashi's bold maneuver had left him alone and exposed. He was pinned against the wall farther up the road and barely holding back four greys who were trying to gain a strategic position behind our squad. Knowing this, Burrito rushed across the parking lot toward the warehouse hoping to end our conflict inside the compound swiftly. The aliens were wounded and distracted by the loss of one of their own. They didn't even see him get in close and mow down a second alien hiding behind a car in shock. Grace had only reported three aliens in the lot, so I felt confident that Private Brito and I could pincer the last one on our own. I sent Russell, Rojas and Marin to backup Kobayashi on the street. You know, I think about this moment often and wonder if splitting up the squad had been a mistake. That might have been where things went truly wrong for me and Marin, but if I hadn't sent them, then Kobayashi would probably have died in the streets of Vancouver that night.

Burrito Gets the Drop on This Alien
As Julio and I pushed forward in the parking lot searching for that final alien, Russell, Rojas and Marin made their way up the street toward Private Kobayashi. We heard Marin nscream out in pain from our position and it still sends chills down my spine. Julio and I thought she was dead. As far as we understood, no one had ever been hit by these death-rays so we expected the worst. Rojas came over the radio, though, saying she'd been hit but she was still alive. She even managed to take one of the aliens down before falling back behind a car to rest. Adriana Marin was tough.

As far as I understand, while the aliens were distracted by Private Marin, Kobayashi was able to take up a new position across the street - rushing away from the wall where he had been pinned down. From there he was able to take down an alien firing on Marin and Rojas with ease. Although Marin was hurt, it sounded to us like the firefight on the street was turning in our favor. We could hear the aliens shrieking their horrible sounds and scattering back to defensive positions further down the lot. Private Brito and I obviously wanted to pin the aliens down, but before we could rejoin Kobayashi we had to take care of our immediate enemy. We found the final alien of the initial squad hiding behind a yellow car. I took some shots that missed, which to this day still haunt me. That damn yellow car is one of the last things I remember that night. After that, things go dark.

Just Before Things Go Dark
The alien that Julio and I were tracking was leading us into an ambush. Julio told me later while I was in the med-bay that three aliens popped out of the warehouse itself right on top of my position. One of them fired several shots into my left side, nearly covering me in that burning green plasma. I went down hard and Julio thought I was dead right then and there. I don't have any memory of this, you know? The last thing I can remember is missing that damn bastard who led me into the trap. I guess after I fell, Brito rushed up taking shots on my attacker and killing it. He said I was bleeding out right there in the lot. He reported over the radio that if they couldn't get me on the skyranger soon, and rush me to medical attention I was a goner.

Kobayashi Coming in Hot
Now, from what I understand, once Burrito reported I'd been shot down, Kobayashi took charge of the team on his side of the wall. To this day, I never heard the guy speak, but if you hear Grace tell it, without Kobayashi's leadership I wouldn't be here today. She makes it sound like Shinji single-handedly killed the rest of the aliens in some kind of maddened rage, which makes Julio laugh every time we bring it up. All he would tell me is that Shinji led his sub-squad around the northern end of the wall and closed in behind the ambush in a pincer attack with Brito. Together, their counter-ambush wiped out the rest of the greys on site and we were able to be extracted soon afterward.

That's really all their is to tell. The six of us took out ten greys. Marin was wounded, and I was rendered unconscious. Technically, I was leading the mission and I got the first kill so some people think I'm a hero. Personally, I know it could have gone better. I'm still kicking myself for walking into that trap like a goddamn puppet on a string. It was my leadership that got Marin hurt, too. Kobayashi was the real hero that night as far as I'm concerned and I don't think I'm alone in that regard.

  • From an interview with Tom Shaw, US Special Forces, Leader on Operation Shattered Apollo

XCOM Report - March 1, 2015 - "Shattered Apollo" 

PFC Tom Shaw (USA) - Squad Leader
  • Confirmed Kills: 1 (Sectoid)
  • Condition:  Gravely Wounded
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Grace Russell (USA) 

  • Confirmed Kills: 1 (Sectoid)
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Roman Rojas (Guatemala)
  • Confirmed Kill: 2 (Sectoid)
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Adriana Marin (Moldova)
  • Confirmed Kill: 1 (Sectoid)
  • Condition:  Minor Wounds
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Shinji Kobayashi (Japan)
  • Confirmed Kill: 3 (Sectoid)
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Julio Brito (Brazil)
  • Confirmed Kill: 2 (Sectoid)
  • Earned Promotion 

XCOM - The Long War Files

I recently became obsessed with XCOM: Enemy Unknown and decided to try out the player made overhaul known as "Long War" which expands the base game to be exceptionally difficult and in most regards more like an actual war. I decided to blog the exploits of my team in a yet unnamed project. I'd like each post in the series to be a stand-alone short story about the experiences of those involved - with some scattered pictures of the mission highlights. One of the greatest parts of the XCOM series is the stories it generates about these characters and their ordeals. I hope to capture some of that and share it here in this writing project.

Table of Contents

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Rise of the Valiant - The Second Week

Week 2 - Day 1 - "Big News!"

It's been an eventful day, but let me start at the beginning. 

I spent a long time deliberating on a course of action for the week. Knowing Margaret exists just beyond the mountain, I wanted a way to connect our two homes. If Margaret could access my crops and watch after them on any days without rain, I would feel a lot more comfortable heading out into the wilderness for a few days to explore farther than I've been able to go previously. There are two real options to connect our lands. I can build a safe, reinforced tunnel beneath the mountain out of the already pre-existing network of caves, or I can build a tower that scales up the side of the cliff to the top of the mountain. I really like the idea of a tall tower to give me a vantage out over my own valley, but I really lack the necessary resources to build it. I need more manpower in order to make these two projects a reality. 

Early this morning, I set out to discuss the situation with Margaret and get her input. I also asked her about the campsites that I've been finding all over the place. To my surprise, she told me that there were other humans on the planet who had passed by quite recently. They had not taken any interest in her, so she hadn't gotten the chance to socialize with them to her sincere disappointment. They spent the night on a nearby mountain and were heading west the last time she had seen them. This news changed everything. 

I spent much of the day leading Margaret through the series of caves to my side of the mountain so she would know the way. As we went, I made sure to properly light the path with torches and cover any dangerous ravines with wooden planks and platforms. It is quite an uncomfortable journey even with better lighting and footing. It's a temporary solution for now, but Margaret is also convinced we need to make a dramatic change. Nevertheless, she now has a clearly marked path to and from our homesteads. She promised to take care of the crops while I"m away. After I finish this entry, I plan to set out tonight to try and catch up with the human campers. 

One last thought, though: Margaret is an odd creature. She doesn't seem to have much awareness about space or what lies beyond the surface of our planet. She has no knowledge of the planet's name, or really what a planet even is. She doesn't understand why I'm so worked up about these nomadic humans, or what it could mean for me if I find them. They could be the ticket to getting off this rock if they happen to have a ship. They could even be from a human settlement that we could potentially move into that would be more self-sustaining than our simple farms. Everything may change if only I can find these humans. 

Week 2 - Day 2 - "Meeting Alex" 

It's late. I had a long day. I hiked for almost twenty-four hours through the mountains and valleys west of Margaret's place. I finally managed to catch up to all that remains of the human explorers. I found a broken man at an all but abandoned campsite named Alex. We talked long into the night. I think it's getting close to dawn right now. I can't keep my eyes open much longer, but finding Alex has been quite disappointing and somber to say the least. 

Alex is the last man of a five-man team that was sent to survey the moons of Talitha Rim I. Apparently that's the name of the golden planet we are orbiting. The two moons were likely candidates to start a new colony for the displaced human survivors such as ourselves, but over the month the team spent here tragedy befell the group. Now only Alex remains. They do ... Alex does not have a ship of his own. They were dropped off here while other teams were dropped in other locations. The ship that sent them on this mission never returned to collect them. Alex has been waiting for several months and has given up hope. I don't know what this means for me, yet. I'm much too tired to think anymore about it today.

I'd like to take Alex back east with me, but he seems insistent on staying here at their main camp. They chose the location for its proximity to a nearby mine - abandoned long ago by some unknown prospectors. Alex assures me the mine is dangerous and the first of his team was lost trying to explore its depths. He claims winged creatures with long, elastic tongues lurk just below the surface of the planet. I sympathize with him and his loss, but I fear if he stays here all alone he will join his teammates in death. I will have another try to convince him tomorrow. 

Week 2 - Day 3 - "The Beacon"

Alex refuses to return with me. He is adamant in remaining here at camp. He claims its the safest place on the planet, but was panic-stricken when I tried to enter the nearby mine shaft. He dragged me out by my arm before I got to the first set of platform stairs heading into the depths below. I'm not sure what to do about Alex. I can see that grief is causing him to lose his judgment. Aside from that, I did discover something quite valuable. Just inside the mines there is a device - a seismic transmitter - that is monitoring the geology of the planet and sending a signal to some unknown receivers. It's quite possible that I could adjust the device to transmit a distress signal instead. Alex didn't care much about the machine so I packed it up and took it homeward with me. Perhaps tomorrow I will set it up to broadcast a simple message into space. 

Perhaps there is hope of a rescue after all for Alex and myself - and Margaret if she chooses to come with us. 

Week 2 - Day 4 - "Tunnel Construction"

Margaret has insisted we begin work on a tunnel to connect our two homes. Apparently making the trip through the natural caves is as unpleasant for a Glitch woman as a human man. We were up before the sun rose to get started on this large project. Margaret was able to use the seismic survey machine to get accurate readings on where to construct the tunnel so that we would accurately connect both sides of the mountain at the right altitude. It was slow going once we got started with only a broken matter manipulator between the two of us, but Margaret is quite skilled as a structural engineer. The two of us have a wealth of skills that will make living on this planet more comfortable indefinitely.

When we finally broke ground on my side of the mountain, Margaret began construction on my house while I worked on the transmitter. She insisted it wasn't right for me to live in such a simple shelter with a sleeping bag. She set to work on upgrading my tiny farmstead into a real home. I helped here and there, but most of my attention went to fine tuning the distress beacon. Hopefully, it will reach someone in space soon. 

Week 2 - Day 5 - "Home Improvements"

The construction on my house was completed today. Margaret returned to her own valley about halfway through the day. Before heading out, Margaret built me a table and chairs as well as a soft bed from the fabric she'd been making in her spare time this week. She is quite extraordinary. I think in days to come I may return to exploring and gathering resources so that Margaret can continue to put them to good use. It seems like the best application of our skills at this point. She seems content with our modest amount of food and our humble homes, but I'm constantly thinking of what we can do to improve the situation here on this small moon of Talitha Rim I. 

Neither of us have heard anything from Alex. We are both growing extra crops for him, now, but I wish he would just come live over here on our side of the mountains. I'm worried about him living alone in such a remote location. 

Week 2 - Day 6 - "Contact!"

I awoke early this morning to a strange humming coming from my second floor. Apparently, my distress signal had been received and a small frigate was on its way to the planet. Unfortunately, they were also in distress and looking for a place to set down for repairs. It appears we are going to have guests. I rushed through the new tunnel to tell Margaret that more people were coming. As always, she was delighted at the prospect of new company. Her only regret was not having any tea to serve. 

There is no way to know how many are coming or how long they will be staying to make the repairs. It's clear, though, that we need to expand our farming efforts in order to feed any more mouths for any amount of time. Margaret and I agreed that consolidating our farming efforts would be our best chance at survival for now, so we set to work leveling and tilling up Margaret's Valley which had much more land available for farming. Margaret set out to cultivate more corn, potatoes and rice. I spent the entire day building a makeshift barn in the middle oft he valley where we could store up grain and crops. I'm sure in the future Margaret will make necessary upgrades to the barn, but for now it does the job.

Week 2 - Day 7 - "The Arrival"

The frigate arrived sooner than I expected. Today I met with the three crew members of the Naka. The captain is a Hylotl named Shinobu whose motley crew includes the Avian, Chef Ihui, and the Floran, Mar Ryespine. Her skillset has not been disclosed to me yet. It's not clear to me if Shinobu is a man or a woman, but it seems impolite to ask. Margaret came over to greet the crew at my place where we had a simple lunch of corn and potatoes toasted lightly on a campfire. Chef Ihui was not pleased. 

I offered to let the crew stay in my home until we could make other accommodations, but they decided that was not necessary. Ihui was insistent we get a kitchen set up for him right away so we could all enjoy a proper dinner. After living on rice, pearlpeas, corn and potatoes for two weeks I could not be more delighted at this proposition. We took the crew of the Naka to Margaret's Valley where Ihui overlooked the crops. Between the five of us, we decided the best place to set up a temporary barracks would be within the tunnel itself. Only Mar seemed displeased at the lack of sunlight living under the mountain, but Shinobu assured her that she would get plenty of time outdoors in the days to come. 

Between the five of us, construction of the barracks went quickly and smoothly. There were finally enough people available to clear a considerable amount of land, gather enough resources and construct a working home all at once. Margaret oversaw construction with Ihui and me, while Shinobu and Mar gathered up the stone, wood and dirt necessary to keep everything running smoothly. Unlike my first nights on this moon, they will sleep well in beds tonight. 

Next week we have to assess the damages to the Naka and prepare to get her shipshape. 

- Excepts from the Journal of Edge Valiant on the Founding of the Valiant Empire

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Memories of You

I have to warn all who dare enter that this post is going to be emotionally charged.

I actually wrote it a year ago. My wife went to the hospital for pregnancy complications and was told she'd be leaving with a baby - a few weeks earlier than expected. I only had a few days to process this information, which for reasons that will be explained within was complicated. I couldn't sleep and I was up all night writing and sorting through my feelings. This blog post is one of the results. I didn't post it because it felt unfinished, unrefined. I didn't mind putting my emotions out there for all to consume, but I did want to edit the writing before posting. I just wasn't brave enough to re-read it after it had been written.

My new son turned one yesterday (May 4, 2016) and I felt it was time to revisit this and put it online.


"キミの記憶" or "Memories of You" is one of the most important songs in my life. My Japanese is pretty bad, because I let it fall far into disrepair over the years, but for some reason this song spoke to me even before I transcribed the significance of every word and stroke of every character into my mind. I was listening to the soundtrack of Persona 3 one night and this song came on. It's peppy and upbeat. It's pretty and I've always enjoyed it since playing Persona 3 long ago. This particular night it was the English words that caught my attention because they play off a few lines from the game said by one of the characters. In particular, "I will never leave you" stuck out as one of the most meaningful moments in the game. It was then that I realized what the song was actually about and from that moment I had to know every word. As I began to unravel the meaning of the song, listening, reading the lyrics and translating them, I unraveled emotionally as well.

Since that night, I always turn to this song when I need to actually, truly feel my feelings. Even on antidepressants, the song manages to burn through the haze of emotional indifference to rip the true feelings from my heart and slap me in the face with them. I even wrote a poem that night several years ago about teardrops filling up the concave inside of my glasses - it wasn't a great poem so I won't share it, but I really liked the imagery of my tears falling onto my lenses. It was the first big release of tears since my son died. Several months had gone by and I had done my very best to lock it all away and bury it with mood altering drugs. I put on my brave face to "get on with life" and left a huge emptiness lingering inside. But that random, fateful night, this song dove into my heart and dredged up all that pain.

The very strange thing about this song among countless songs of love and loss in any number of other languages is that it's about a female android mourning a human whom she had grown to love over the course of the game. The nature of her love is fairly ambiguous - whether platonic or romantic - but it really doesn't matter. It's strange that this song and that relationship is what the developers chose to focus on when there were many, many other relationships in the game that could have been emphasized. It is a game about relationships, in fact. The reason the android is so meaningful is because she begins her chapter of the story without even realizing she's capable of human feelings. Over the course of the game, she comes to understand friendship and develop true, meaningful relationships with the people whom she had been alienated from her entire existence. She expresses her new-found feelings and then suddenly and unexpectedly (SPOILER) the character to whom she is enamored dies. This song is very much about how she processes this grief - something I try really hard to avoid, I think.

I think about Aigis a lot. I relate to this fictional android in several ways which emphasize why this song is so powerful in unsealing what I have buried deep inside. It explains why I can put this song on whenever I need some relief from the emotional pressure building up. As a robot, Aigis's lifespan is fairly indefinite. For her, this encounter with the characters of the game is probably only going to be a mere instant of her existence, but definitely the most meaningful time of her life. She forges a friendship that would teach her what it meant to actually be alive, and to be human. Then, that friendship abruptly disappears in an instant and Aigis makes the choice to live on and carry those memories of him forever (hence the name "Memories of You"). She could shut off her emotions and go back to being just a robot, or shut down completely and withdraw from living in a technical sense, but she makes the choice to go forward because of what her friend taught her about being alive. This choice to carry the memories forward is pretty similar to how I feel about my son, Rhys, who only existed for 6 weeks but changed my life forever. It was like a drop of water in the ocean of life experiences - six weeks out of 35 years seems so inconsequential. He never said a single word. We only made eye contact a few times. This tiny thing that existed in the blink of an eye had the power to change things forever.

I used to think I was a lucky person. It's silly really. I was walking around this planet thinking that I was someone who never really had bad things happen to him. The older I got the more bad things actually started happening, but I just clung to this mentality that I wasn't the type of guy that had truly bad things happen. I had friends who would witness me go through some pretty awful situations and wonder how I held my resolve, how I remained so calm and cool and collected about everything. When Rhys died, that perception of myself as a lucky person completely shattered. It was a few years ago, now, and for the most part the pain is just a dull ache instead of crippling stabs into my chest cavity - but the pain still exists. It's still in there in full, terrible form. There is such a tremendous amount of pain waiting to be unleashed by something as simple as a song about a robot and her dying friend - and it can hurt like the day it happened if I let it grow. It feels like I am now marked by this pain, that my soul is torn so deep that it defines me. In one terrible night, I transformed from that casual, friendly person who could bounce back from anything in stride. I was dismantled and crushed and replaced by a person who now knows he isn't lucky. He knows terrible things have happened and can happen again at any moment.

This weekend a new baby is going to be born. I've spent nine months hiding from it, pretending it's not real, trying not to look at ultrasound pictures or feel the kicks. I needed to pretend it wasn't happening, because I can't handle it. I have to handle it and I will handle it, but my emotions, my anxieties, my endurance is not ready for this challenge. I'm terrified. If anything bad happens again, I don't know how I will survive. This is true of my other two surviving children, as well, but they're already here. The risk of losing them in some sudden accident is already real and prevalent. I've been coping with that for years. I won't even get started about what I go through when leaving them with other people, or sending them on field trips. But it's not nearly the same as having another newborn - another precious, fragile, tiny life living in my house. Another defenseless human being that my wife and I are charged with taking care of.

That's not all and this is why I need Aigis tonight. I'm not ready to let go of Rhys. My rational brain realizes that I don't have to "let him go" and that he'll "always be here." I know that I'll never forget him, but I'm so tremendously scared that I will. I think I always have been. We didn't have enough time together. I can't remember the way he sounded. I can't remember the way he smelled. I remember how he made me feel - I mean, how happy I was to be around him and how wonderful it felt to hold him close, but that's the best I can muster. I don't want him to disappear forever. I don't want him to be buried so deep in my heart that I never let him out. I don't want to replace him with a new baby. I know he won't be. I get it. I tell myself a million times in the last two years, but it doesn't matter what my brain says will be true compared to how I actually feel. I fear the evanescence of my son every passing day. Sometimes it's so real and brutal and painful that I feel like he just died yesterday, but most times I feel like he was just a pleasant dream I had once and the longer I'm awake the less I'll be able to recall it.

Aigis chooses to live. She could shut down. She could go to sleep or simply reboot. She could erase her memories and her feelings, but because of what she learned and how she developed she comes to understand the value of life and living. She chooses to keep going and hold on to the memory. I chose this as well, but my memories degrade faster than a computer. I carry his memory with me as one of the very, very few people who even knew him in his brief existence. That burden is oppressive sometimes and what if I fail? What if some day I can't find the way he made me feel? What if I can't remember how he looked or how soft his skin was? Who will remember him if I don't? What if my new son terrifies me? What if I'm too afraid he'll die so I don't allow myself to get too attached? I know all this is stupid, because I've always fallen deeply in love with my children the instant we met face-to-face, but that scares me almost as much. How defenseless will I be if something bad happens again?

I'm so scared.

(originally written May 2, 2015)

Rhys (Aug 17, 2012 - Sept 27, 2012) 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Rise of the Valiant - The First Week

Week 1 - Day 1 

Those mutinous bastards left me here to die. I don’t even know where here is. We dropped out of hyperspace long enough for them to drop me on the nearest planet with breathable air, and frankly, that was their mistake. They should have killed me. At the very least, they should have pried this matter manipulator off my arm, or taken my arm off at the elbow. They may not have agreed with my decisions as their captain, but they have no idea how resourceful I can be. I am stranded on this deserted planet, but I will not die here. Those thieving bastards better pray I don’t get my hands on another ship because I will hunt them to the ends of the universe to make them pay for this transgression.


Revenge aside, food and shelter are my biggest concerns. The first thing I've learned about this planet is that there is no shortage of rain. I beamed down into the middle of a tremendous rainstorm with winds so fierce I'm surprised my molecules weren't scattered upon entry into the atmosphere. Angry and wet, I took out my aggression on nearby trees so that I could pull some kind of shelter together to weather the storm.

The rain didn't last all day. Once the storm had passed over, I managed to scout the surrounding area. To my east there is a tall mountain, and to the west there is a shallow canyon. I plan to conquer both in time, but before I can venture out on excursions, I need to make sure there's enough food and water to last me the entire week. At the very edge of the western canyon, I found an old storage capsule chest from some forgotten previous excursion. I managed to drag it out of the canyon and back to my lean-to. I plan to store whatever food and seeds I can scavenge from the nearby area.

So far today I managed to find 2 ears of corn, 2 potatoes and roughly 4 servings of rice. It's almost enough to get me through an entire week if I ration it right. Enough rain has accumulated in the shallow recesses along the canyon that I have a decent supply of dirty water to drink for the next day or two, but tomorrow I need to work on something better.

Week 1 - Day 2

Today I dug out a shallow drinking well not far from the lean-to in order to catch some clean drinking water with the next rains. I reinforced it with stones that I hauled out of the mountain in the east. There are some expansive caves running through the mountain that I can see from the foothills, and it didn't take long to find enough loose stone to build a small ground cistern. Once it rains, I should have a decent supply of fresh water.

I found no more fruits or vegetables in my travels between the mountain and the canyon today. The local wildlife could be a good source of protein, but I haven't tried to eat one yet. I'm sure the bastards aboard the Indomitable would like to think these beasts have gotten the better of me. To be fair, I've had a few scares. Beasts I can't even begin to describe right now are coming at me like ravenous wolves, or territorial jumping slugs as it were. I've been able to beat them back with a bent piece of metal I found near the canyon, but a real weapon would be nice. I managed to carve a couple steaks out of the ones I've managed to kill with the sharpened end of this metal rod. The steaks aren't pleasant to look at, but once I throw them on the fire I'm sure they'll taste all right.

 Oh, speaking of - I built a campfire. I've also taken a few moments today to reinforce the lean-to a bit. Ultimately, I will need something more sturdy to keep the damn wildlife out of my hair. If I can't find shelter from them soon, they will wear me down one day at a time and they will have the last laugh - or the last meal.

Week 1 - Day 3

I'm discouraged because the cistern doesn't appear to be collecting much water. It rains everyday so I'm not dying of thirst, but it would be nice to build up a reservoir and not worry about the day it decides to stop raining. I've made some improvements to the rock wall lining the cistern. I also transformed the lean-to into a true shelter. I put up walls and doors which help protect me from the elements and the local fauna. The ground around the shelter is not arable, but it's clear I will need to start growing food in order to survive. I needed to venture out beyond the canyon or over the mountain, and the canyon seemed the lesser of two obstacles.

It was a bit shallower than I previously thought. I managed to get to the other side quite quickly. I noticed several caves leading deeper underground and a crevasse or two as I made my way across. Beyond the canyon, I found some pearlpea plants. It's not my favorite food by any stretch of the imagination, but food is food. I can't afford to be particular right now.

I found a cave in the foothills of a western mountain that looked like it had been occupied by a vagrant like myself not too long ago. Unfortunately, a bottle of some sweet-smelling rum was completely empty. However, after a wash in the cleaner pools of the canyon, the sleeping bag I found is quite serviceable.

I decided that one man's cave dwelling aught to be another man's farm. The ground here is less rocky and I assume a bit more fertile than on the other side of the canyon. I'm not really a farmer, so I don't know much about it. Nevertheless, I spent the rest of the day leveling out the land and clearing out the rocks. In days to come, I may relocate my own abode to these new farmlands.

Week 1 - Day 4 & 5

Yesterday (4th Day) I ventured into some of the mountain caves in search of resources. There is an abundance of coal which I used to fashion some rather rudimentary torches. I saw a bit of copper and iron in those caves, but without proper tools they are currently useless to me. My matter manipulator can move wood and small stones, but will need serious repairs before it can do any true mining. As I mentioned before, the canyon is also full of nooks and crannies waiting to be explored and my inner child wants to map out every cave and tunnel, but I don't have the time for that right now if I'm going to survive. I have to focus on what matters most - revenge. After spending - perhaps wasting - most of the day exploring a few caves in the mountain and tunnels in the canyon, I set back to work on the new farmhouse and surrounding farmlands.

It wasn't until today that I feel like I finished my work on the house itself and actually began toiling in the fields. The house isn't much to look at, right now, but it will serve its purpose. It will protect me when I'm working or sleeping over here, and it will eventually make a nice place to store some food. Before settling in for the night, I planted several wheat seeds and pearlpea seeds. I only found one potato seed. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with the wheat since I'm no baker - nor do I have an oven for that matter - but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

 It rains several times a day which makes for lousy working conditions, but at the very least the crops and I will stay well hydrated. The small cistern I dug out is actually filling up now, so my fears are abated somewhat. I'm really pleased that it's finally holding water in and I have a relatively clean and steady supply of water now.

Week 1 - Day 6 & 7

I spent two full days exploring and unlike last time, I don't feel like they were wasted. I'm not alone!

Just beyond the farmhouse is a steep cliff. I tried my best, but I simply can't scale it without proper tools. There are also some pretty deep caves just beyond the farmhouse leading into the face of the cliff. I thought about sealing them up to protect me from anything lurking in that darkness, but I'm so glad I didn't. I got up early two mornings ago and made my way into the caves with nothing but a handful of unlit torches to light along the way. I had to widen a few passages, and keep from falling into a deep darkness occasionally, but eventually I made it through the cliff to the other side of this western mountain. As I stumbled out into the light, I couldn't believe my eyes. There was another house just sitting there in the foothills - not unlike the farmhouse I'd built on the other side!

 I made the acquaintance of a Glitch woman. She calls herself Margaret Haddaway and she's been living alone for quite some time. Although she was initially frightened by my sudden appearance in her backyard, she was eventually grateful for someone to talk to. We exchanged stories. I told her briefly of the mutiny and the marooning. She told me that she had no memory before awakening on this planet herself. From what I understand of these self-aware Glitch, they are often hunted by their own kind as some kind of abomination. I surmise that Margaret became self-aware and was similarly abandoned on this planet, but there's no real evidence to support this assumption. She has been content to live a simple life tending her garden and working on her skills as a seamstress - a profession she believes she had prior to her awakening.

The trip through the cliff caves is not easy. It is cramped, dangerous and wholly unpleasant. That said, I'm happy to have a new neighbor and someone to talk to from time to time. Margaret and I made a promise to help each other out with food and supplies whenever we had need of one another. We took comfort in not being alone - she more than I, perhaps, but I do not quite know the ways of the Glitch.

Margaret told me that from her side of the mountain, it is not that difficult to scale. She also said that at its peak she had built a small, but beautiful, lake gazebo where she often went to relax. I promised to return so that she could show it to me, but I wanted to get back to my side of the world before dark.

I slept in the farmhouse last night. It was cozy. I set out today to try and climb the eastern mountain. The trek up was not bad and there is a beautiful view from the top. I found some old camping equipment at the summit. I would have to inquire with Margaret if she knew who lived on this side of things before me - she made no mention of anyone else. Unfortunately, the eastern face of the mountain is just as sheer a drop as the eastern face of the western mountain. Again, without proper equipment moving forward is impossible, I fear. Despite these setbacks in the east, it has been a momentous week. I am confident now that I will survive on this planet as long as I need to. Hopefully I will figure out a way to get back into the stars before too long.

- Excepts from the Journal of Edge Valiant on the Founding of the Valiant Empire