The Third XCOM Saga, part 14

March 12th, 2084…

  • Depending on one’s point of view, Tex has either the most or least enviable of the three assignments.
  • The APC rolls up in front of the Temple of Sirius, certain to be unwelcome by the aliens if not the humans as well.
  • His team consists of Kite, Hussey, Amanda, and Chad.  All of them are given a quick prep for the mission.  It will be slow, careful, precise.  Orders don’t have to be popular, but they do have to be followed.  And unless the team is fired upon by the cultists, the only acceptable targets are aliens.
  • At that, they enter the building.
  • The temple looks like a mix between library and cathedral.  Its floors are lined with marble, and its walls are wooden with regal-looking cloth draped across it.  Almost everything is gold and red.
  • The team enters through a hallway that stretches off quite a distance.  However, the door immediately to their right is the first concern.
  • The scene beyond the door is equally beautiful and revolting.  Grand columns support elegant curtains.  Beneath those columns are two, recessed rooms with purple floors and seats that face teaching areas.  Wooden doors lead off to sides of these rooms, below the level our team is standing on.  There’s cover and blind corners everywhere, which makes this an equally dangerous battleground for all parties involved.
  • A brain races into the room and latches onto Tex.  It fails to break through his helmet before he batters it to death with his bare hands.
  • Hussey spots a second one stalking the squad leader and pegs it with a cannon shot.
  • Cultists enter the room.  They’re dressed in green and purple patterns that seem to mimic the hulks we fought in the prior war.  They’re also carrying guns, but to kill us?  Kill the aliens?  Or just make a show of force?
  • Tex tells the troops to hold.  We have good cover to hide behind, clear lines by which to support each other, and there’s a lot of chaos in this building.
  • A few tense moments pass.
  • A laser rifle shot connects with Kite.  The intentions of the cult are now clear, and Tex adds them as targets.
  • Amanda peers over a ledge, looking down into the closest pit.  She spots four cultists.  Luckily for them, she’s one of the less destructive people in our organization, and she drops a pair of gas grenades on them.
  • No sooner than the gas clears, another cultists runs across the worship pit, taking shots at us as he goes.  He then runs through one of its side doors.
  • With superhuman speed, Kite and Hussey pursue him, but before they can close the distance, he emerges in the second worship area.  Chad and Tex are already in position for the shot and put him down.
  • Looking around below, our MEC soldiers inform us the doors lead into a complex network of tunnels.
  • Tellingly, even though the team can hear both alien and human activity echoing through the temple, there’s no sound of conflict.  No gun shots, no screams, no hissing…nothing.
  • Tex notes that in a strange sort of way, this is a good thing.  No innocents means no hurry.  We can take this battle on our terms and make them come to us.
  • Kite and Hussey are given permission to check the corridors closest to the team.  After all, they offer easy access to our soldiers.
  • Following one of the hallways, they find a room hidden beneath the building.  It’s enormous, and the floor is decorated with an elaborate portrait of a gray’s face.
  • A single cultist is in the portrait room and begins firing at the MECs.  Hussey drops him with two cannon shots to the rib cage.
  • Another cultist charges in and throws a gas grenade onto the cyborgs.  Though it’s disturbing to ponder why they would want us alive, Hussey uses a few rounds to remind him that anesthetics don’t work on a cyborg.
  • We’ve killed or incapacitated at least six cultists — maybe eight — but only seen two alien brains.  Why are the aliens holding back?  Are they hiding behind the cultists?  Or are the cultists proactively throwing themselves ahead of their “gods”?
  • Hussey finds a grav lift in the back of a hall.  It leads up to a room with two rows of pews that stretch the entire length of the building.  This must be their main sanctuary, and what we’ve been presuming to be the worship areas are more like classrooms.
  • Tex barely gets out the order for him to come back before two cultists burst into the learning area, right behind Amanda.  And between them is a lamprey they seem to be keeping intentional pace with.  Their ambush could have been much worse, but the cultists miss.  However, the lamprey manages to hit her several times, burning through her armor.
  • Keeping her composure, Amanda returns fire.  Several shots from her heavy pistol kill the closer of the two cultists.
  • Chad and Tex move across the room.  Their shots narrowly miss the remaining cultist but spook him enough to run into the open.
  • Coming back the way she came when entering the tunnels, Kite is right on top of the second cultist.  Her cannon shots tear through the traitor, hitting the lamprey behind him.
  • Simultaneously, spitter acid flies past Chad.  Turning around, he spots two of them entering the room from the opposite side the lamprey is on.
  • The room is highly defensible, but there seem to be enemies moving in from every direction.  Tex orders the team to bunker up.  This area just became our fortress.
  • Tex tells Hussey and Kite to keep the lamprey busy.  With the spitters coming from behind, he and Chad have no cover from them.
  • Moving to flank the spitters, Amanda stops in her tracks and takes immediate cover.  Though Chad saw two spitters, there are actually four of them back there.
  • Tex tosses a gas grenade into the middle of the spitters.  Two of them drop and one retreats.  Chad is able to kill the remaining one.
  • Kite and Hussey chase after the lamprey as it retreats back into the hall.  They find themselves facing not just the first lamprey, but also a second one, an Anthropod, and a spitter that have joined it.
  • Several shots from Hussey’s cannon bring down the spitter.
  • Kite traces shots after the Anthropod.  It doesn’t die, but it does fall back, giving the duo more room to work.
  • A cultist climbs up from the farther of the two pits, likely having gotten there through the maze of tunnels below.  He runs right past Tex, Chad, and Amanda, charging the MECs from behind, hitting them a few times.
  • Tex orders Hussey and Kite to stay on their original task.  They have to stop that alien push.  Chad it to cover the door the spitter retreated through while he and Amanda flank the xeno-worshiper.
  • Still tracking the Anthropod, the MECs send it to the grave and continue advancing toward the lampreys.
  • A brain pod opens up near the fallen Anthropod.  The monster races between the MECs and scuttles up Amanda.  She struggles with it, managing to pull it off before it does any real damage.
  • Throwing the alien to the floor and stomping on it, she then levels her pistol at the cultist she was chasing and guns him down.  However, before he dies, he rolls a gas grenade between Chad and Tex.  Unlike the cyborgs, that will absolutely work on them.
  • The two snipers rush to get clear of the anesthetic.  Both manage to hold their breath and rush free.
  • Back in the hall, the lampreys charge Hussey and Kite together, spewing one attack after another in a blinding display.  Enough hit Kite that her armor fails.  The left side of her chassis begins to fail as well, sparking and flooding her mind with erroneous input.
  • She continues limping toward the aliens, firing shot after shot.  Her body withers under the continuing attack, revealing its skeletal interior.
  • A vital sign alert is sent to the rest of the team.  The systems controlling her brain case are failing.
  • Unable to break from his position, Chad throws a medkit toward Amanda.  She sprints to it, grabs it, and runs for the hallway.  We have no tools for repairing Kite’s body, but her brain is still a human organ and can be saved like anyone else’s.
  • The whole building begins to shake.  Possibly malfunctioning, possibly enraged, Kite unleashes a barrage of explosive rounds on the lampreys.  The hallway fills with smoke and fire, but when the volley is done, so are the two aliens.
  • Amanda manages to catch Kite and hook up the medkit to the leads already prepared for medical intervention on the brain’s container.  The kit takes over the functions her mechanical body is now failing to provide.
  • As Chad and Tex cover the back room, they can hear the spitter running into walls and vomiting repeatedly.  The look at each other in befuddlement and begin a slow advance on the door it’s behind.
  • When the door slides open, they find a hallway with the curtains collapsed and walls dissolving under huge amounts of acid.  The spitter is standing there in the middle of it all, running about wildly.  Is it confused?  Panicked?  Cut off from an intellect that normally controls it?
  • They watch it for a few seconds with a mix of amazement and curiosity before raising their rifles and bringing it down.
  • As they move up to check the area, a spray of bile comes from behind a curtain, injuring Chad.  The attack reveals a cluster of eggs tucked away there.  Though reeling from the injuries, he and Tex are still able to make short work of the immobile targets
  • Kite and Hussey continue down the hallway, sweeping for targets.  Amanda follows Kite, doing her best to keep the medkit in place.
  • Then she feels something bump into her.  Looking over her shoulder, Amanda sees an equally surprised cultist that apparently just ran out of a hallway and right into her.  Pistol still cradled in one hand, she points it back and shoots the traitor at point-blank range.
  • Hussey meets up with Tex and Chad as they sweep toward the back of the building.  In a crazed charge, three cultists come off a grav lift from the tunnels and open fire.
  • Having run out of armor-piercing rounds, Hussey switches to his Stun Grapple and takes them down one after another.  Not that we have any interest in taking them home, but explosives would destroy their weapons which we could otherwise salvage.
  • With Kite stabilized, Amanda begins scouting some of the smaller areas the cyborgs are passing.  Entering a small room beneath the “pulpit” of the main worship area, she finds her roles flipped and almost runs face first into a spitter.  Several fast shots put it down.
  • One of the cultists that Hussey stunned struggles to his feet.  Tex puts him back on the floor in a much more permanent way.
  • As Hussey completes another circuit of the building, he finds a cultist standing in the middle of the sanctuary, spraying machine gun fire.  He stuns him and leaves the body in the middle of the aisle.  It seems fitting.
  • The team is in shambles, but no one is dead.  And not only are there a lot of aliens to load up, but Tex has the team take all of the cult’s weapons and ammo.  However, the stunned humans are to be left alone.  Executions aren’t his style, and survivors can relay messages the dead can’t.
  • All three missions are a success, though Chad, Ryan, and Kite will be spending some time in the med bay.

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