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.

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