Welcome to the fourth installment. ZerG~LinG, being the rather... Prolific reporter that he is, has gifted me with some advice on how to improve these reports. The first is to make them more legible, and I hope I have done so (EE's Note: ZerG~LinG still thinks they're hard to read. Maybe I should be listening to him.) His second piece of advice is to make the reports shorter, so I will be including merely two missions into this one, as opposed to three.

With that out of the way, I fire up X-COM and hop to the soldiers screen, prepared to add queued soldiers to the lists. To my horror, I only have two unnamed soldiers! dustbiter and Asmodeus both get added, with SS classifications. dustbiter has 54 TUs, 49 stamina, 27 health, 50 bravery, 43 reactions, 70 accuracy, 63 throwing accuracy, and 34 strength. Highlights are reactions, accuracy and strength. Asmodeus gets 53/63/32/30/46/68/68/25, highlights being stamina, reactions and accuracy. Welcome to the squad. Next, I order up as many more soldiers as the living space will allow, that is to say, six. I also begin construction on another Living Quarters, which will take sixteen days to complete. Sorry!

Now, to rearrange the setup of the Skyranger-1. The soldiers slated to go on the next mission are: Mark4, Decay, SnK-Arcbound, Dibbler, dustbiter, Wigum, TheCheeseManCan, Asmodeus, Landon_Fox, and Woah. Once again I realize that I'm low on armor, and in a fit of rage, order the engineers to, quote, "Hurry up!" I can be a cruel and vindictive person sometimes. Mark4, Decay, SnK-Arcbound, Dibbler and TheCheeseManCan will get armor, being senior officers. After that, I order more rockets for our brand new tank, and await events.

Days pass. The rockets arrive, and the tank is armed and loaded onto the transport. The new soldiers arrive, and more queued persons get added. SuingForDamages gets a G, with 58/53/29/20/31/57/60/21, highlights being TUs. Nodikus gets an SC, with 59/58/30/62/52/48/72/35. Highlights are TUs, stamina, bravery, reactions and strength. He'll make an excellent scout. His colleague Gurthang, too, gets an SC, with 60/57/31/50/36/58/64/37. Meatwhad gets a weird set of stats, prompting me to make up a new classification on the fly: GR, or Grenadier. He has 58/44/32/50/54/46/80/36. Good TUs, Bravery, Reactions, the highest Throwing Accuracy I have ever seen, and good strength. I'll load him up with grenades and use him to blow up cover, aliens, and offending trees. Tiger- gets a G, but will no doubt be upgraded at some point, with 58/52/35/50/30/64/54/26, highlights of TUs, bravery and accuracy. Finally, HeeroYuy gets an SC, with 58/66/32/10/50/53/53/39. Highlights of TUs, stamina, reactions and strength. Terrible bravery, though. With the new soldiers added, I sit back, await events and start a new paragraph.

Days pass. Research on UFO navigation completes, and I start on UFO power source. A UFO is detected, small, flying high, going fast, and going... East. Hmmm. Fortunately, we detected it in Spain, and an interceptor is dispatched to, uh, intercept. As it nears, the UFO changes direction and begins to fly south, into Africa. C'mon, interceptor, you can do it! In the meantime, I check one of the graphs. Yes, my suspicions are confirmed: UFO activity in Europe has stopped. UFO activity in southeast asia has skyrocketed. Time to go scouting over there, methinks. I suspect they've established an alien base, but we'll have to find out. Interceptor is off. Interceptor-1 catches up to the UFO due to it turning due north. Now, I still have a lot of fuel, and this this should land soon, so I could just follow it around. On the other hand, it might speed up south or east or something and escape, as it's already proven it's faster than I am. Not wanting to risk it escaping, I open fire, but it runs away. The fiend! We'll catch it yet. Interceptor-2, aimed for Asia, turns and runs after the UFO as well in case the first interceptor runs out of fuel. Then the UFO lands, and the Skyranger-1 is dispatched. Night UFO mission, here we come! Or, so I thought. Just as the Skyranger-1 approaches, the UFO takes off. The Interceptor patrolling over it shoots it down, and the Skyranger-1 continues its approach. Night UFO mission with pre-killed aliens, here we come!

The tank rolls off the ramp and looks around. No aliens in sight, no shots fired. To the left and behind the ramp is a field. In front is a farmhouse. To the right is the smoking, fiery UFO. Decay covers the right flank of the Skyranger-1, while SnK-Arcbound covers the left and Mark4 covers the farmhouse. The rest of the squad deplanes. The plan is for the two stun-bomb users, dustbiter and TheCheeseManCan, to go in the UFO first and stun anything left inside it. The rest of the squad will cover them, they hunt aliens elsewhere. End turn.

SnK-Arcbound gets shot by a plasma blast, but is unharmed due to his armor. Aliens are out there. We just have to find them. SnK-Arcbound takes cover behind one of the landing gears (what?) of the Skyranger-1, while the tank casts about in the darkness, looking for the elusive alien. No luck this round. Decay, due to a pathing error, runs back inside the Skyranger-1. Woah and Mark4 begin to clear the farmhouse, Rainbow Six style, and the rest of the squad hustles over to the UFO door. Dibbler also throws an Electro-flare into the darkness. Nothing revealed. End turn.

No aliens?  Darn.Something shoots at SnK-Arcbound, missing, but from the wrong side of the map! Looks like there's an alien on the right half as well. Hmm. Is anywhere safe from enemy fire for our vigilant hero? TheCheeseManCan leaps inside the UFO, ready for action, but is greeted by smoke, flames, and a Floater corpse. Looks like the Power Source blew. Well, now we know what we're up against. Disappointed by the lack of alien action, the rest of the squad begins to hunt for the remaining Floaters. Dibbler and his squad uncover the Floater on the right, and Wigum brings it down. SnK-Arcbound tosses an Electro-flare into the night and reveals the Floater on the left, then runs and hides. Decay tries to shoot said Floater from all the way across the map and through several sturdy wooden walls, and as predicted, fails. End turn.

Both Decay and SnK-Arcbound get shot at, but both shots miss. The Floater is nowhere to be seen, until the Tank rolls up and spots it. SnK-Arcbound blasts it to smithereens. The duo then ready grenades, but only Decay manages to throw his this round. On the flip side, he's a total weakling and can only throw halfway across the map. At least it will blow up some cover. The rest of the squad moves cautiously downrange, while Woah and Mark4 amuse themselves by shooting walls. End turn.

Young shoots and hundred day-old duck eggs for everybody!Well, that went by quickly. Decay's grenade went off, blowing up an entire building, a Floater floats into view of the tank, which promptly opportunity shots it into pieces. Mission ends -- but look! Promotions! MuLepton and Primal get promoted to Sergeant, despite MuLepton being responsible for the death of PeaceableGhost (you're never living that down, by the way,) Mark4 gets a promotion to Colonel, Epoch, that sneaky civilian-killer (you're never living that down, either) snags Captain rank, and finally, Endersshadow gets promoted to Supreme Commander of All X-COM, or just Commander for short. The highest rank there is, you can never have more than one Commander at a time. So if anyone else wants the spot (Mark4 will get it next, I'm guessing) they have to pray for Enders' death. Watch your back, Enders!

Kevin walked into General General Eldritch's office without knocking. The squad was out on a routine UFO capturing mission, in the hands of the capable Four. The General was reclining in his chair, radio on his desk, eating a ham sandwich from a comically '50s lunchbox. He waved Kevin into a chair. "So," he said conversationally, "what's up?" Kevin shifted a bit.
"I have some questions," he said. "You're from, uh, my -- our -- universe. How did you gain control of an organization like this?" The General swallowed another bite.
"Good question," he replied. "About a hundred of us, that is to say, Bureau officers, came through to this existence. We're very capable individuals. Taking control of a secret organization such as this wasn't much trouble. Out of curiosity, why do you ask?"
"Why bother?"
"Why bother what?"
"Taking over X-COM. What's the point? If you wanted me apprehended, you've already proven you could've gotten me in irons at a word, then taken me back through. So why bother with this whole X-COM deal? What's the point?" Kevin demanded, and the General replied in an evasive tone, "Well, we wanted to, you know, and the other thing is, well, we can't go back."

There was a significant pause. The two engaged in a staring contest, and Kevin lost. "What?" he asked. "Well," General General Eldritch explained, "we don't understand how we got here, exactly. The Wraith had apparently burrowed through the fabric of existence, and you were carried along. When we found out, we got carried along too, albeit intentionally. And now we can't figure out how to get back. I assure you, we're working on it." The radio crackled to life. Absorbed in the drama of the mission, the two men listened, until the radio turned itself off, signifying the imminent return of the Skyranger-1.

"So what will happen to me, when I get back?" Kevin asked. "I don't know," General General Eldritch replied. "What do you want to happen to you when you get back?" Kevin considered this.
"I wasn't aware I would be given a choice. I guess I'd like to go back to being a shuttle captain." The General laughed.
"No dreams of galactic domination, eh?" Kevin shook his head, and left the office without another word.

UFO dealt with, I can now turn my considerable resources on the investigation of troubles in Southeast Asia. Go, my interceptor of doom! As it flies off to scout the area, the Skyranger-1 gets a new soldier complement. Convider, Epoch, Nodikus, Gurthang, Desert Demon, Commander_Keen, NtN-Scissors, snowyday, Dagomar and Tiger- make up the new squad. Interceptor-1 fails to find anything around Korea, so we'll try south China next, as soon as Interceptor-1 returns and starts to refuel. Go, Interceptor-2! Hmm. Nothing. Central China, maybe? Nope. East India? No. Huh! Maybe they haven't built their base yet. We'll keep an eye on the place. Time passes. It seems that the aliens have decreed that Europe is the place where old or sick aliens go to die, and are as such avoiding it A sort of extraterrestrial burial grounds, if you will. Oh well. We finish making armor, and then UFO Power Source finishes researching. We can now work on either Power Armor, armor twice as good as Personal Armor, or UFO Construction, and thus better craft. As tempting as Power Armor is, I've been having trouble chasing down quick UFOS with our clumsy Interceptors, so a few Firestorm class UFO fighters will be handy. UFO Construction it is.

Hooray!More time passes. The end of March looms. I start to consider the virtues of building a second base, and resolve to do it, and then... March ends. And since we had like, what, two missions in that month, only Nigeria, good ol' Nigeria, decides they like me enough to pay me... Thirteen thousand more per month. Thanks a lot! Cheapskates. With the new funding, I begin a second base. Conventional wisdom dictates that your second base should be in Europe or North America, whichever one you didn't have to start with, and I agree with said wisdom. Western Mexico gets a new base, entitled /forum, to appease the NH forumer types. Plus, I think that Mexico, with its poor hispanic people and filth and heat and deadly venomous creatures makes a fitting simile.

Huzzah!This second base will also allow us to split up the workload. As soon as .php gets its Avenger, the Skyranger-1 will be moved to /forum, allowing however many soldiers that are stationed there to go on missions, too. Since I am a man of modest means, and since building space is so limited early on, I choose to build a Hangar, a Living Quarters and a Large Radar Station in /forum first. So, we'll have soldiers, but no weapons. Works for me. Maybe they can punch the Chryssalids to death. Meanwhile, time passes. UFO activity in Europe seems to have dried up completely. Our soldiers grow restless. They need action. I check the graphs again. According to this, there's been no alien activity in Europe at all since February. Southeast Asia had a humongous spike in March but then declined sharply as April approached (read: when my Interceptors started scouting the place) and Africa had a few flybys. Other than that... Quiet. Too quiet. They're plotting something. Work on the UFO Construction finishes, so I start on New Fighter Craft, namely, the Firestorm. Suddenly, Living Quarters finish in .php. Hooray! More soldiers! I order up fifty more of the unlucky sods. THAT should provide more than enough potential names. I hope. And promotions. Promotions are good.

Still I wait for UFOs. Four months have passed all together, the last two being almost completely dry of any aliens. I sense they are gathering forces, to crush me into paste. It's worth noting that the engineers at .php have been spending their time making stuff to sell, as we don't need any more weapons or anything. It's all that's keeping us afloat, as it were, with all the expenses flying around, but a few alien artifacts would be a true boon right now. C'mon, you little grey bastards! Ah! There! A small one, flying erratically. Go, Interceptor-1! Interceptor-1 catches it over north Africa, and decides to follow it around instead of killing it. As a reward, it accelerates over the atlantic and flies into South America, where the interceptor runs out of fuel. Darn! Hopefully Interceptor-2 can pick it up again. Nope. Rats. And then... Boom! Fifty more soldiers arrive. Time to add everybody on the queue.

Crazster, G: 56/43/25/10/57/63/74/34; Notes: Amazing Reactions, good Accuracy & Strength
squad, G: 56/45/28/20/43/52/80/23; Notes: Good Throwing Accuracy.
Niek, HW: 56/49/26/30/40/52/66/34; Notes: Good Strength.
waki, SU: 56/68/26/10/49/42/80/36; Notes: SU for Support. Will carry stuff around. Good Stamina, Throwing Accuracy (critical for distributing ammo) and Strength.
iwas, G: 55/70/36/20/47/52/72/21; Notes: Good Stamina and Reactions.
dodopout, G: 56/69/40/50/42/61/80/23; Notes: Perfect Grunt except for Strength. Good in everything, esp. Throwing Accuracy, Health, Accuracy, and Bravery.
The Dark Lord Sindri, N/A: 58/52/34/60/40/55/58/31; Notes: No classification because his name is too long. Would have been a G or SC. Nice TUs and Bravery.
Tripe, SC: 58/66/35/20/53/46/77/26; Notes: Good TUs, Stamina and Reactions.
Charbroil, SC: 58/59/31/40/36/41/71/20; Notes: Good TUs and Bravery.
Mayday116, SS: 53/68/32/20/60/69/57/26; Notes: Good Stamina, stupendous Reactions and great Accuracy. Poor Strength, though.

Shiny!With that out of the way, I begin waiting... Again... For action. Research on the Firestorm completes, and I start on Plasma Cannons to arm it. As soon as we get a free hangar slot (read: when the /forum hangar completes) we'll make a Firestorm. Now, let's put these things into a Starcraft setting. An Interceptor is like a Wraith that can only fire its laser. A Firestorm is like a Scout that fires its missiles twice as fast as usual. A Lightning, the next craft, is like a two-hitpoint Dropship that has a Marine gun on it and costs a ton. The Avenger, the ultimate craft, is like a Battlecruiser that moves at the speed of a Mutalisk, and fires two Yamato Cannons shots every second. Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's still grandly powerful.

At this point, a UFO is detected. Sound the alarm! Go, interceptor! Shoot it down! And it does. It crashlandsin eastern Africa, and Skyranger-1 is sent out. To arms, my brethren! To arms! As we land in the desert, the tank rolls out and looks around. The crashed UFO is off far to the left, with nothing but empty, dark desert around. Our troops set up a large field of fire near the ramp, ready to hit anything that comes into view with opportunity shots. The soldiers are equipped with laser rifles and heavy plasma, except for Dagomar, who has rockets, and Gurthang and Epoch, who have stunners. As the turn ends, something from far off shoots at the crew. It seems that the distance impairs its aim, and it misses. Desert Demon tosses an Electroflare off into the distance, revealing... Oh, shit.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEKMutons. I hate Mutons. I hate Mutons with the fiery passion of a thousand intensely burning suns. The game has skipped from Snakemen, the usual "next alien" and gone right on to... Mutons. Mutons. The very word radiates fear, hatred, and insanity. I fear and hate Mutons, and whenever I fight them, I end up going insane. Mutons. Muuuutooooons. Argh. This is why Mutons are evil: they don't die in one shot. What this means is that your man will shoot the Muton, the Muton will shoot back, and your man will die. Your second man walks up, shoots the Muton, and if he's lucky the Muton dies. If not, the Muton shoots him, too. Usually they die on the third hit. Usually. Another bad thing is that I don't have flying suits yet, so we A.) have weak armor and B.) can't fly around. With all the Muton bashing/loathing out of the way, I order Desert Demon, good ol' reliable Desert Demon, man with a thing, and a gun, to take it out. He does. Props, man.

NOOOOOOOOOOThis turn was very weird. The tank died to enemy fire from somewhere unseen. Rest in pieces, you little automaton. The shot came from northeast of the first Muton, so I toss an electroflare up there. Nothing revealed. It must be further north. Throw a second one. For some very, very weird reason, it vanishes in the blackness. What? Throw a THIRD one right onto the edge of said blackness, and it fails to illuminate it! Weird as sin, or something. Hopefully the invisible Muton won't kill me. A fourth Electroflare is thrown to illuminate the side of the UFO, and yes, that one, too, doesn't do anything. Argh. End turn.

WABOOMThe invisible Muton throws an alien grenade at the squad, thankfully missing most of them. Gurthang and Commander_Keen were wounded, but medikits quickly bring them back to good health. Nodikus steps forwards one square, revealing the Muton, despite the fact that it has two electroflares right next to it. Weird. The squad opens fire, but due to distance, smoke and interfering cacti, everyone but Desert Demon misses. The Muton, too, is foiled by the desert plants, and misses with its opportunity shots. Gurthang fires a stun bomb, which hits the giant green creature dead on, knocking it out. There's a live alien for us to capture Here's hoping it's a navigator. Regardless, it's out of the fight. The squad begins to converge on the UFO. End turn.

A SLIGHTLY LESS IMPRESSIVE WABOOMBoom! Another grenade goes off, once again away from the troops. A close call still. It came from inside one of those strange, not-illuminating areas of blackness. Time to manually scout the place out, and Nodikus is just the SC classified guy to do it. After revealing the Muton, NtN-Scissors takes it out with some lucky Heavy Plasma autoshots. Way to go. The squad continues to make tracks to the UFO door. End turn.

Nothing bad happens, but there's apparently at least one Muton still left. Probably inside the UFO. But just to make sure, three squaddies will clear the map, while the rest clear the UFO. Next turn, the squaddies collect around the UFO door. Turn after that, I decide on the unlucky soldier to go in. The chosen one is Epoch, the soldiers with the highest Reaction of all the squaddies on the mission, who will hopefully shoot first. Good luck, soldier! And he does. The Muton, unawares, is blasted by a Stun Bomb, and Epoch nobly knocks himself unconscious to save the rest of the squad. Way to go, soldier. End mission.

Holy scha-MOLY, batman!As you can see, we got quite a lot of promotions. Quite a lot indeed. Gurthang and Commander_Keen were both wounded, but will recover in a week or so. Please excuse the poor image splicing. Notable promotions are MuLepton to Captain, once again despite his constant teamkilling, Epoch and Desert Demon to Colonel, and finally, Lithium_ and Kevin to Captain. A note on Commander_Keen: I have reclassified him to SC, due to his high TUs.

Kevin once again found himself drawn to General General Eldritch's office as the squad flew off to capture a UFO. Inside, Eldritch was engrossed in a magazine, Hypergate Monthly. Memories flooded Kevin's head as he remembered his own subscription to that same magazine, four months ago and thousand of years in the future. Then he noticed the date. "Hey!" he cried, "That's from October, 1721NC!" Eldritch glanced up, then checked the date on the magazine.

"Why, so it is," Eldritch said, in a tone of mocking wonder, "what an interesting discovery you have made." Kevin frowned at this. "That's over two years past when I, uh, died," he said.
"Yes," Eldritch agreed, then, changing the subject, said; "Did you know my name isn't really General Eldritch? It's Captain Eldritch. So from now on, please call me 'General Captain Eldritch."
"Your first name is Captain?"
"That is the strangest thing I have ever heard."
"I thought the data logs on the alien we captured was the strangest thing you've ever heard."
"They we- hey! How did you know I said that?"
"I know everything," Eldritch asserted.
"That's really creepy."
"Mmm. What do you need, Sergeant?"
"I," Kevin said, rallying and getting back to his original train of thought, "want to hear about home."
"Home, eh? I'll try to remember. What planet are you from?"
"No, no," Kevin said, "I want to hear about the galaxy. The whole thing. The Aurorans, the Rebellion, everything. What's happened since I was gone? Has there been a war?"
Eldritch considered this. He recalled the horrible fleet battles in Auroran space, where tens of thousands had perished as their ships crumpled around them; he recalled the deceitful toppling of the Rebellion, the public (and private) executions of hundreds of their more resistant freedom fighters; he recalled the Polaris Raven, the most powerful weapon ever created by human hands, brushing aside entire fleets of the elite Federation Navy in its inexorable quest for Sol, until, finally, the combined fleets of Moashi Aurorans, enslaved Vell-os and the battered remnants of the Federation Navy, under his command, had brought the enormous vessel down; he recalled the push into Polaris space, the phyrric victories bought with the blood of thousands as the Nil'Kemorya, the warrior class of the Polaris, fought tooth and nail for each sector; he remembered the last push into the heart of Polaris space, with a bare thirty ships left, and many hundreds of thousands of soldiers and crew dead, until at last both sides were exhausted, and the Polaris capitulated; finally, he recalled the hundreds of small skirmishes, the many lives lost in what was eventually called the Greatest War.

"Yeah," he said, finally, "sort of."
"What happened?" Kevin asked, hungering for news of his home galaxy.
"We-ell," General Captain Eldritch said, deliberately drawing the word out to annoy Kevin, "first off, the Moash house of Auroran space dealt with the Bureau, that is to say, me, and managed to stage a coup, controlling the entire Empire -- but of course, under the real control of the Bureau. Brought a lot of peace. Next, yours truly went to Rebel space, and managed to trick their leaders into thinking I was a turncoat to the Feds. Next thing you know, bam, they were imprisoned. Peace brought there, too. Next, there was this huge war with the Polaris, and, eventually, we won. Galactic peace and harmony, now. It's pretty cool."
"Awesome," Kevin said.