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/tg/ - Traditional Games

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You desperately want to wake up and find everything is alright. You want to open your eyes to the sunshine, resting in your familiar bed and smell your mother's delicious cooking wafting through from downstairs. Your little sisters would pile onto your bed, Gabryjela fleeing from Halina. They would be screeching and yelling as they danced on top of you, ignoring your calls to get off so you could untangle yourself from the dreadful knot you'd have tied out of your sheets during your sleep. You'd walk downstairs, greeting your mother and father, Maksymilian already having set the table and waiting for the food to finish (that is, of course, if he was able to come home). That joyful scene of your family sitting around the table, digging in to food and engaging in mirthful conversation claws deeply at your heart.

You want to wake up, but you can't.

There's a war going on.

Inside the Jintsu, you've drawn away from the others, trying futilely to return to that morning scene in your mind as you wandered the halls. However, alien sounds, echos unfamiliar to your ear, come from around the corner. Curiously, you take a cautious peek. In the crossbar of the H-shaped intersection, you see two Martians. Socks is familiar, but the other one...

You quickly duck back around the corner. The foreign Martian is facing your direction. Why is it always me? you wonder to yourself. You pray desperately that he didn't spot you. As the seconds pass, the conversation continues, albeit with greater ferocity. You can't understand what they're saying, but you'd bet they're having a disagreement. Not chancing being discovered by your footsteps, you stay firmly planted around the corner. What do you do?

[ ] Take another look; what's going on?
[ ] Try to get away
[ ] Sit still and hide
[ ] Other
[X] Take another look; what's going on?

We are vigilant!
[X] Take another look; what's going on?
Trying to barely show any part of us, of course.
rolled 15 = 15

[x] Take another look; what's going on?
[x] Draw gun silently
And the awesomeness begins
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[x]Take another look

Gotta get another look at those long, meaty tentacles... For security reasons, of course.
[x] Take another look; what's going on?
[x] Draw sidearm
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Hand trembling, you draw your gun. You never really liked firearms; sure, hunting is an enriching experience and the meat your brother brings home is delicious, but this pistol is no hunting instrument. It's a weapon of war.

You spend several seconds trying to think of how you could orient your head to reveal the least of yourself, but you quickly abandon the effort. You settle with slowly moving your head past the corner, bringing one eye to the scene. Socks and the intruder are making animated gestures, matching the tone of their conversation. Neither seems to be paying much attention to anything else...

Wait, what's that?

Looking past the aliens, you see someone similarly peering around a corner...it's Cleona. What's she doing here? You thought it was strange that Socks didn't have anyone else around, but Cleona seems to be doing the same thing as you...
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THUNK! The sound of a sudden strike draws your attention back to Socks. The intruder has drawn a weapon, smacking Socks' head with the butt of it. Socks quickly drops to the ground, writhing in pain. Paralyzed with fear, you don't move. Just as you remember that you have a gun in your hands and that Socks must be kept safe, Cleona bursts forth from her hiding place around the corner. With deft aim, she fires a shot, striking the intruder.

Yes! you cheer. You may not like war, but anything can can end it more quickly... The intruder, caught by surprise, attempts to cradle his wound with a tentacle. He stares at his assailant before bolting from the hallway. He approaches your side of the intersection, turning fortuitously to the opposite side of the hallway, heading directly away from you. Watching him leave, you start to walk forward to greet Cleona.

Bang bang bang! Bang! Cleona fires her pistol several more times at the air before abandoning it. She attacks the air, lunging for it as though she might be able to hold it still.

"C-Cleo? What are you doing?" you whisper, frightened by this strange display. Cleona doesn't answer.

[ ] Try to shake her out of whatever the hell is going on.
[ ] Duck back behind the corner.
[ ] Other
[x] Duck back behind the corner.

She's got the Space Willies, and you don't want to get shot.

Duck back behind the corner and scream her name.
[x] Other
Cleo did say that the Martians can get in your head; the one that hit Socks must be making her see things.
Chase after him; we're the only ones that can while he's focused on confusing Cleo.
Trying to get near her will probably backfire spectacularly.
This sounds good. (She dropped the gun by the way.)
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Cleona's been good to you, a kind person who has tried to help you even when she doesn't know or understand what to do. Seeing her like this, wildly attacking an invisible enemy...it's frightening. "Cleo..." you whisper to yourself. You wish again you could wake up from this war. The image of your bed is so fresh, so clear. You can taste your mother's cooking as if you had just taken a bite. It's all there, so tangible...why can't life just let you go back?
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But you're here, not there. You duck back around that corner, your hands over your ears as you try to block out Cleona's battle grunts. She continues for what seems like hours, though it couldn't have been more than a minute. She comes into your hallway, still fiercely fighting that unseen foe. Before you can react, the night watch crew on the Jintsu come sprinting down the hall. One glance at the crossbar (and the injured Martian lying on its floor) is all they need. They advance on Cleona before you quite know what's going on, dragging her down the hall and outside. The pick up Socks as well, and for a moment you're worried they might strike him as he continues to writhe in their grasp. They carry him out behind Cleona.

You glance back at the intersection where this chaos took place. A few bullets, ruined by ricochet, litter the ground. A trail of blood from the intruder marks his escape. Apart from these, however, you couldn't even guess at what had happened. All in the span of a few minutes, and now it's over.

You wish the war was over.

[ ] Follow the sailors; they didn't look happy.
[ ] Find the others; they'll know what to do.
[ ] Other.
[X] Find the others; they'll know what to do.

Acquire sisters, employ knowledge.
[X] Follow the sailors; they didn't look happy.
You're the only one here that can explain what happened.
[x] Follow the sailors; they didn't look happy.
Gotta explain what happened, and have the ship raise an intruder alert.
[x] Follow sailors

They'll probably want to hear from witnesses.
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You follow the group that carried off Cleo and Socks. You have a bad feeling that there's about to be a serious misunderstanding. You come out onto the deck, trying to figure out which way they went. Choosing a direction, you make haste, hoping you aren't too late. A group comes into view, the night watch and a few others completing a circle with Cleo in the center. At the head of the circle is Admiral Isaki and a few of what you presume are bridge officers.

Before you get a word in edge-wise, one of the bridge officers steps forward, drawing a sword you thought was more for decorative purposes than for actual use.

"NO, WAIT!" you yell, but you needn't have put forth the effort; Admiral Isaki quickly thrusts his hand in front of the officer's chest, barking fierce orders. Reluctantly, the officer returns the blade to its sheathe, falling back in line with the rest of the circle.

Admiral Isaki stares at Cleona, a deadly serious look on his face, before turning to you. "What is it, Sub-Lieutenant Falkowska?" His voice lacks the subtle warmth it had whenever he had spoken to you previously.


[ ] There was an intruder!
[ ] Cleona didn't hurt Socks!
[ ] Other.
rolled 7 = 7

[x] There was an intruder!
[x] There was an intruder!

"She was shooting at a second Martian! Ask her! Wake Socks up and ask him!"


"Cleo, did you shoot at something and it somehow dodged completely?"
rolled 9 = 9

Also, bonus points for crying little girl
Both, damn it.
Which one is chosen changes what you focus on and present first. You obviously wouldn't hold back when your friend is in a serious situation.
[X] There was an intruder!
"There was another Martian that hurt Socks and Cleo tried to stop him, but he used some kind of mind trick on her and escaped!"
[x] There was an intruder!
That other Martian is now loose on the ship, and we need to put the Jintsu on lockdown.
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"T-there was an intruder!" you yell. They have to know what was going on, the safety of the entire ship is at stake. "Another Martian was in the hallway, he hit Socks!"

"An intruder?" Admiral Isaki asks, his stern look morphing into one of alarm and concern. He turns to the would-be swordsman, again speaking in Japanese. The officer snaps a salute, then starts yelling at everyone else. The group quickly breaks up, sailors forming groups to scour the ship.

"It seems these Martians really want our defector. I suppose there's good reason for it," the Admiral muses. Again he turns to Cleona. "That doesn't explain why you were flailing about like a fool."

"That wasn't her fault, Admiral," you begin. "At least, I don't think it was...Cleo, what did you see?"

She blinks. "What do you mean?"

"What do you think was happening in that hallway?"

"Well, the intruder, which I was going to get to if those fools dragging me had stopped being too busy banging me into every metal protrusion on the ship...anyway, he attacked Socks. When he struck, I came out from behind the corner. I thought I had him surprised, but he dodged every one of my shots." Cleo's face indicates her confusion at your reaction. "What?"

[ ] He was good, but you nicked him, Cleo. He was bleeding.
[ ] You weren't attacking anything, Cleo. Your first shot hit him hard and he fled.
[ ] Other.
[x] He was good, but you nicked him, Cleo. He was bleeding.

Let's not reveal that Witches can be mind-controlled. Definitely say that they can project illusions, though.
Who said anything about mind control? An illusion is exactly what it was.
[X] He was messing with your mind Cleo. Your first shot hit him hard and he fled.
>mind control

wut. Anyways,

[x] You weren't attacking anything, Cleo. Your first shot hit him hard and he fled.
[x] Other.
"He must have been putting out some of that psionic chaff that you and the others were talking about back on the Martian base. He probably didn't target me because he didn't realize I was there. You nicked him, he started bleeding, and he must have put up an illusion of him there, because he ran while you were attacking the air."
How oddly straight-forward and concise for a scared young girl...
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"...You weren't attacking anything, Cleo. Your first shot hit him pretty hard. I saw him flee the hallway, you can even check for his blood trail."

Cleona's eyes go wide. "...Are you sure?"


She stays silent while she absorbs this information. You can almost see the gears turning in her head as she realizes what this means for her. Somewhere, something is capable of making her see things that aren't real. What if the intruder had made her friends appear to be enemies? Cleona's expression is a chilling mixture of realization, fear, and...resignation.

"...You realize we cannot have you roaming about while this intruder or others like him are loose, yes?" asks Admiral Isaki.

"Yes, Admiral." Cleona's voice is weak as she stumbles to her feet. Admiral Isaki gestures to the officer still standing by his side, uttering a few orders. He and a few remaining men take Cleona and Socks, leading them back inside the ship.
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"Wait, what's going on?" you ask, puzzled.

"Whether by her own fault or by the actions of the enemy, I'm afraid Cleona Kukyendall is now a hazard to the ship. She will be locked up until we arrive in Brisbane, at which point her leaders can decide what to do with her. As for the turncoat, he will be held in a more secure location. We seem to have a problem keeping infiltrators off our ships; by keeping him in one place, we can more safely guard him," Isaki explains.


"I am already giving her much more than I would otherwise be willing to give, Sub-Lieutenant. If she were not the only one who could communicate with the Martian, I would have had her killed here, the USN's reaction be damned. I do not tolerate threats to those under my command lightly." The sharp edge in his voice cuts your objections short. His logic seems sound, but it still doesn't feel right...

[ ] Talk to Cleona
[ ] Talk to the others
[ ] Try to trace the blood trail
[ ] Other
[x] Try to trace the blood trail
But ONLY if we make it clear that the entire ship should be locked down while we do it. And tell the searchers to beware, the alien's armed.
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[x] Follow the blood trail

Round up a posse. Then split up and look for clues.
>[ ] Talk to Cleona
It could well be our fault Cleona's being confined, now. We should apologize.
[x] Talk to Cleona
It's our fault that she's going to be locked up.
[X] Talk to Cleona

Pretty sure we just stopped Isaki from executing her for treason...
Possibly, but we can still feel guilty for getting her confined to whatever.
>save her life
>feel guilty about it

Does not compute.
No, not about saving her life. That's a different matter. It is expressly about her being confined to quarters, and being an emotional teenage girl.

Henrietta can feel good about saving Cleo's life, but still feel bad about getting her confined to quarters.
But that wasn't our fault in any way. They just lessened her sentence from death to being put in the brig since there was a witness. You can't expect them to just do nothing because of one scared little girl's word.
You're not thinking about this as an emotional teenage girl at all.
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As Admiral Isaki and the few stragglers leave to secure the ship, you're left to ponder your actions. Did you do the right thing by letting everyone know that the intruder made Cleo see things that weren't there (and not see what was)? You're certain you did, but then why did it turn out so badly? Cleo helped you. She's a friend, and what did you do?

You got her locked up for the rest of the trip, to say nothing of where they might put her once you get ashore.

Feeling a little guilty, you head to the small room with the spartan racks your group has been using. They wouldn't lock Cleo up in a cell, would they? you wonder. Arriving, you find that a guard has been stationed outside, a good sign. You make to enter, but they cross their firearms, blocking the way.

"I'm just trying to get to my stuff!" you plead. The Japanese crewmembers give you blank stares. Your friend is locked up and seeing things, the Martian was hit hard, and you can't even get into your room. You wish you could wake up.

A curt knock sounds from the hatch and it opens from the inside. Lt. Caulders pokes her head out as the guards turn to look, confused.

"Oh, hey, I thought I heard your voice. What's going on?" Rae asks. "They tossed Socks in here and now we've got three creeps that won't get out." Inside you can see an uncomfortable Lt. Kellos trying to ignore the guards posted inside, but no Cleo.

[ ] Stay and converse with them
[ ] Give a brief summary and check the brig
[ ] Other
[x] Give a brief summary and check the brig
>[ ] Stay and converse with them
[x] Stay and converse with them
Not being able to speak Japanese, and most of the crew not speaking English or Polish, we'd just get lost trying to find the brig.
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>quest thread
>expecting people to constantly act in character
I can hope, Levar. I can hope.

But no, I don't really expect it.
It's part of the charm of quest threads that the character isn't set in stone. Otherwise there wouldn't be much of a point to running the quest instead of just writing a story.
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Not willing to brave the foreign ship to search for the brig (or wherever they've put Cleo), you decide to stay and talk. You again try to enter the room and the guards block you. The sound of their firearms hitting each other is annoying.

"Oh for the love of god," moans Rae. She grabs one of the rifles and shoves it upward, breaking the neat military X the two guards had made. Surprised and angered the guard leaps out from his position to the side of the hatch, turning around to threaten Rae. He begins to yell, but stops when he sees Rae's expression. Intimidated by her, he slowly returns to a more professional stance. When you approach, they don't block you again.

"So," Rae begins, "what's going on? Where'd Cleo go? She was going to check up on our favorite Martian here."

You hang your head guiltily. "She's...uh...locked up."

"WHAT!?" the others exclaim suddenly.

"But what did she do?" asks Miranda.

"It's...not what she did. It's what happened to her."

"Wait, what? Are these Japanese stupid? You don't lock someone up for something someone else did to them!" complains Rae.

"There was an intruder, another Martian. He attacked Socks and...made Cleo see things that weren't there."

"Wait, what?" They turn to Socks, a fresh bruise forming on his head as he lies on an inadequate cushion. You guess he's here and not in an infirmary because no one knows how to treat Martians. "You mean like, they got inside her head? Like Socks does, but she didn't notice?"
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You frown. "I don't know. Cleo thought she was fighting him, but the Martian fled."

Miranda and Rae turn to each other. "What if..." Miranda begins.

"They can do it to everyone?" finishes Rae. She shakes her head. "I don't think so. They'd have exploited the hell out of it before."

"Maybe they need to be close to do it. Maybe it only works on Witches," Miranda suggests.

"...I'm thinking we need to be a bit more cautious before we leap in to fight, next time."

"How surprisingly reasonable of you, Rae!"

"What's that supposed to mean, Miranda?"

You watch them go back and forth for some time, before being distracted by Socks. He's sat up, his mouth making movements without sound. Curious, you watch as he continues for several minutes. You almost don't notice as he starts adding sounds.

"Hi, heh, ha, he, hellu, he," he says unintelligibly.

"Guys, look. Socks is acting weird," you point out. Miranda and Rae turn just in time to hear it.

"He-llo, ge, gu, guys," he says, with an accent out of this world.

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I don't even
Awesome job, Kota.

You pull a fast one at the end of every quest thread.
“Nice goddamned shooting!” Beyside crowed, swooping overhead. Chrichton pulled up, avoiding the falling debris, and scanned the air. Only one sled was left. Blair and Garms were hot on its tail, peppering it with M2 fire, and it slewed side-to-side, juking unnaturally. It sideslipped out of Garm’s range of fire, so that Blair would have had to fire through his wingmate to hit him, then suddenly arced upwards, pulling into a loop that would have brought it right down behind Blair.

“Denied!” Duberstein barked, firing his own Brownings into the sled’s belly. The alien craft shuddered, but kept arcing. The overwatch Mustang darted under it, then rolled around to re-engage, but it was over. The sled was clearly ballistic. It kept accelerating downwards to the ocean, until it impacted with the force of a missile. It collided with the ocean going five hundred miles an hour, and detonated in a fireball that the impact spray consumed.

Chrichton let out a shuddering breath. “Good job, Paladins. Form up on me and head back to the base.” He opened his frequency up to the airbase, trying to keep the adrenal shakes out of his voice. “Vadina Vadina Vadina, this is Paladin 13. We have splashed four sleds, no friendlies downed. Give me RTB.”

“RTB, Captain, well done,” the controller said, clearly relieved. “Lieutenant Colonel Algoud will want to speak with you when you return.”
Sure enough, the Colonel was waiting for Fourth Flight as they stepped out of their aircraft. A small army of mechanics swarmed over the aircraft, swearing oaths of violence against the pilots. The pilots ignored them completely, clambering out of the Mustangs and making for the ready rooms.

“Captain Chrichton!” Algoud called, moving to intercept. “A word!”

Chrichton sighed, his visions of a hot shower fading away. “Can I help you, Colonel?” he asked. He turned to face the taller Frenchman as he did. To his surprise, Algoud was extending a hand, smiling.

“Well done, Captain,” Algoud said. He reached out and grabbed Chrichton’s hand, shaking it briskly. “Four sleds destroyed, then?”

“That’s right, Colonel,” Chrichton said, relieved. The Colonel was in a good mood at last. “Four sleds down.”

“Indeed. We had a ground spotter at Lavilanella confirm the kills,” the Colonel said, waving a piece of paper in his hands. “You got two, Duberstein got one, and Garms got one.”

“Ha! Hey, Duberstein!” Chrichton called over his shoulder. The younger pilot flinched and turned around, clearly wondering if he was being reprimanded. “You and I made ace today!”

Duberstein stared. “What.” His voice was a flat note of shock.

“Five kills, genius. You and me both.” Chrichton beamed, almost giddy. “Hello? You there?”

“I…fuck yes!” Duberstein crowed, pumping his fist. Beyside slapped him on the back as a few of the other pilots in the massive hangar cheered. “Oh, hell yeah. I’mma clean up and head out, if you want to celebrate later.”

“Count on it!” Chrichton said cheerfully, before a discreet cough from Algoud brought him up short.

“Don’t, actually,” he said quietly. “There’s something you need to hear.”
Half an hour later, Chrichton was cleaned and dressed, and sitting uncomfortably in a conference room with three pantsless women.

“I’m sure you’re all wondering why I called you here today,” he joked feebly, and Giselle giggled.

“From the look on your face, I bet you think you’re here for a dressing down,” she said coyly.

“I thought that was more of a Witch thing,” Chrichton deadpanned.

“Funny man,” Letty grumbled. “Look. I’ll be honest with you, Captain, I didn’t want to tell you this, but we found something weird during that fight.”

Chrichton blinked. The dark conference room was in the basement of one of the outlying buildings of the jumbled base, and the number of leaves and bars in the room was a little unnerving. Algoud himself was there, and the three Witches too. His own Major, Heidmack, was sitting behind a cloud of cigarette smoke, staring at him impassively. Another man he didn’t recognize was there, sweating bullets and swooning. He wasn’t wearing a uniform at all, just a rough shirt over soil-stained trousers.

“Define ‘weird,’ please, Lieutenant,” Chrichton said nervously.

Giselle leaned forward and tapped a button on a film projector. “This is weird.” Chrichton glanced to the side at a screen in the corner. A grainy image of planes swooping around and flares of light skipping off of water was playing now.

“Is this…the furball from this afternoon?” Chrichton asked.

“It is, Captain. This is how we confirmed your kills,” Algoud said. He gestured at the nervous man to his side. “Missere Adono here is one of our coastal spotters. He had his camera with him, and recorded the entire fight.”
“Oh.” Chrichton glanced at Adono, nodding. “Grazie.”

“Nessun problema, Captain.” The farmer managed a wobbly little smile.

“So…how is this weird?” Chrichton asked.

“The film by itself isn’t weird. This, however,” Giselle said, pressing a button on a shimmering little object on the table next to her, “is completely bizarre.”

The room filled with a horrible gurgling sound, and Chrichton recoiled. “What the hell is that?” he asked over the din.

“That, Captain, is what happens when Martians are screaming,” Luisa said coldly, speaking for the first time since they had sat down. “What you’re hearing is the Martian radio chatter that Giselle managed to record during the fight. She was testing these new-model radio headsets,” she added, pointing at the weird machine. To Chrichton, it was all magitech, but even he could see that it was substantially bigger than the little earpieces they usually wore.

“I was calibrating it to the earbeads that Letty and Luisa wear when I heard the loudest damn screaming. I realized after you reported the fight had ended that I was listening to the radio of the Martian sled flight leader,” Giselle explained. “You see the significance, here, right Wally?”

“Uh…we’ve never had coordinated audio and visual recordings of Martian aircraft before?” Chrichton guessed.

“Very good,” Heidmack said quietly. His eyes shifted to the nervous farmer. “Missere Adono, thanks for your help.” He stood and gently guided the farmer to the door, pausing before he showed the man out. “Here, a little something for your trouble,” he added, stuffing a few bills in the farmer’s hands.

“Ah, te grazie, Missere Heidmack,” the farmer said, straightening up and managing a passable salute. “Adio.”
Heidmack waited until the man disappeared down the hall before returning to the table. “he doesn’t need to hear this,” Heidmack said under his breath.

Algoud leaned forward, skewering Chrichton with his gaze. “Captain, we want the guncam pictures from your Mustangs as soon as possible. We are going to attempt to synchronize the Martian radio transcript to the film and your photographs as soon as possible. We have never had a better chance to decrypt the enemy’s audio chatter before.”

“Oh, absolutely,” Chrichton said, feeling slightly relieved. He was half afraid he had done something wrong. “I’ll make sure you get them as soon as they’re developed.”

“No, Captain,” Algoud said, leaning forward. “We want them NOW.”

Chrichton stared. “I’ll…get right on it,” he said, standing.

“Please do,” Algoud said, settling back in his seat.
Chrichton walked into the hangar, casting his eye around. He spotted the Chief Engineer of the Paladins, Kenneth Wabash, already working on Garms’ plane, and jogged over. “Hey, Chief!” Chrichton called.

Wabash slid out from under the aircraft, glaring daggers at Chrichton. “YOU!” he barked.

Chrichton slowed down. “Uh, yes.”

“What the FUCK did you do up there?” the stout engineer snarled, wiping some grease off his hands.

“I shot alien motherfuckers, what do you think?” Chrichton said. He came to a halt safely out of range of Wabash’s wrench. “Why?”

“Because now I get to experience the JOYS of replacing FIVE Mustangs’ worth of spark plugs and oil, you massive dickhead,” the Chief said angrily.

“Whatever. Listen, I need the film from the guncams, right away, Chief, it’s important,” Chrichton said. “This is urgent.”

Wabash clenched his teeth. “What, in some big hurry to go fall between the hairy legs of some local bitch? Well tough fucking shit, I’m going to be here all fucking night as it is.”

“Chief, that was an order from Algoud himself,” Chrichton said, making eye contact with the shorter man and staring. “Listen. This is huge. We may have caught something unique, here.”

Wabash paused his ranting, looking back at the pilot. When he spoke again, his voice was quieter. “Like what?”

“We may have a shot at some intel that could change this theater. Please get me the film, Kent,” Chrichton said intently.

Wabash stared. Seconds of silence passed. “…Yeah, all right. Fine.”

“Thanks, Chief, I promise this is big,” Chrichton said, letting the engineer wave a few other technicians over.

“I’ll bet it is,” Wabash grumbled.
Several hours later, the film was developed, Chrichton was back in the conference room, the sun was going down, and Algoud was losing his patience. “Well?” he demanded, thumbing through the photographs.

Heidmack was paging through his own copies. “Here’s one. Garms firing on one sled. About two minutes in. Lieutenant Morcia?”

“Yep,” she said, tapping a magitech button. A few seconds of garbled static filled the room, interspersed with distinctly Martian blurbles. Suddenly, the sound cut off, and Heidmack brandished the photo.

“That was Garms killing him. Major, can you move the frames, please?” he asked.

Luisa turned the film reels on the projector until the same few seconds of film were playing. Heidmack squinted. “All right…so the pilot was saying something when Garms hit him with the Brownings.”

“Right.” Luisa replayed the few seconds of video. Chrichton leaned forward, staring at the Martian aircraft. It was banking hard, but Garms was in just the right spot. The aircraft shuddered, tilted, and exploded. The audio cut off, but the last few moments of Martian were much louder.

“He was terrified,” Chrichton said to himself.

Luisa laughed darkly. “Who wouldn’t be?”

“True enough.” The American Captain was looking through his own guncam shots, and paused when he saw the rockets smash into the second of his two kills. “Hey…Major, can you replay the part where I hit the diver with the rockets?”

Luisa did so, and Giselle obligingly replayed the sounds of the corresponding part of the fight. The explosion was silent, but the Martian radio chatter wasn’t. The last surviving Martian was saying something, even though there was nobody left alive to hear it. It was talking constantly. Yelling, in fact.
“Who the hell is it talking to?” Algoud asked rhetorically.

“Probably trying to raise the other Martians in the area, to beg for reinforcements,” Chrichton said. Heidmack glanced at him.

“Why do you say that, Captain?”

Chrichton paused, unsure. “Well…it makes sense. Reinforcements were pretty much the only way it would get out alive, under the circumstances. And it’s not going to be talking to itself, is it?”

“For all we know, it was,” Algoud said irritably. “Nothing they do makes sense.” Chrichton grimaced. “I’m not saying that you’re wrong, Captain, but let us confirm this first, eh? Before we begin speculating.”

Chrichton nodded reluctantly. “Yes, sir.”

Letty sprawled across a chair next to Chrichton, clearly bored. “Hey, let me see those,” she said, sticking her hand out for Chrichton’s photos. He passed them over, and she stared at them. “What’s this gas?”

“What?” Chrichton asked.

“This stuff you flew through,” she replied.

“I have no idea,” Chrichton confessed. Heidmack glanced over, asking a silent question. Chrichton shrugged. “I flew through some purple gas that was leaking from the sled that Blair spooked. I’m fine, and the plane didn’t do anything, so I thought it was just exhaust.”

“Their engines don’t use combustion, Captain, they have no exhaust we know of,” Algoud said, grabbing his own copy of the photo. “Major, would you please play that section of the film? And you as well, Lieutenant?”

Giselle huffed, but tapped the button on her headset as Luisa turned the projector back on. The scene of the fight replayed, and a plane – Chrichton’s – flew through the gas, then started banking a moment later. The Martian radio chatter was intense and loud, as the flight reacted to the unexpected attack.
“They don’t even seem to notice,” Chrichton said. “I doubt it was a weapon.”

“I agree,” Heidmack said faintly, staring at the photo. “Hmm…Giselle, would you please replay the recording from the beginning?”

“Sure,” she said. She pressed the button again, and the whole recording played. Chrichton watched as Luisa replayed the film as well, and cocked his head as he saw a sled shudder and dive.

“I got that one. Didn’t kill it, though,” he said under his breath. “He’s trying to run…” He sat up, the last few words registering in his mind. How did he know?

He leaned forward, staring at the projector, the alien chatter buzzing in his mind. He saw Blair enter a controlled spiral and a sled pursue him. Suddenly, the chatter turned curt and urgent, and the sled fired his maser, cooking some paint from Blair’s tail. Blair broke his spiral and jerked back on the stick, rising rapidly and burning some smash, and the alien voice changed tone. “Taunting,” Chrichton whispered. “He knows he nearly had Blair…”

The film kept playing. Chrichton grabbed at his photos on the armrest between him and Letty, staring at one with shaking hands. It was ten seconds ahead in the fight, when Beyside took a shot at the sled that Chrichton had been fighting. He stared at the picture, his eyes wide. The chatter filled his ears. “He’ll be calling it,” he mumbled. He glanced up at the screen, numb. Adono’s film showed the Mustang take a shot at the sled. The magical radio played a sudden, abrupt gargling sound. “He’s startled,” Chrichton whispered, adrenaline racing through his hands. His flesh turned cold. Spiders crawled through his hair. “He’s afraid.”
The video showed Chrichton break and dive, plummeting towards the water. The two living sleds were having an argument, from the sound of it. The one higher up was desperately dodging Blair and Garms, and the other was dogging Chrichton’s tail. The Martian yammering changed tone, and the sled behind Chrichton fired some rockets. As they soared past Chrichton’s cockpit, the tone changed again. “Recrimination. Anger.” Chrichton was whispering so faintly that he could barely hear his own voice. He gripped the armrests until the wood creaked.

Finally, the sled eased down after his plane, firing masers. Chrichton’s plane wheeled around, firing rockets. The voice of the Martian near the water – how could he tell them apart?! – suddenly yelled something. The voice went silent as the rockets slammed into him.

The other one took off screaming, trying to evade, but Duberstein swooped in, nailing it with his Brownings. “Forgiveness. He wants forgiveness,” Chrichton whispered. The sled exploded. The recording ended.

Chrichton sank down in his chair. He was shaking from head to toe. He buried his face in his hands, squeezing his eyes until little white lines appeared under the lids.

“Captain?” He jerked his eyes open, staring in fear. Luisa was standing next to him. “Are you all right?” she asked.

“N...no, I’m not. Sorry. It’s hard to watch Beyside and me nearly die like that, over and over,” he improvised. The tremulous tone in his voice was not faked.

Luisa nodded, smiling in sympathy. “I understand. I think we’ve squeezed all the knowledge out of this that we will until the Section Ten men arrive to examine it. If you’d like to go get some dinner…”
“I, I would. Yes. Actually…” Chrichton said, clearing his throat. “Duberstein and I made ace today, you know. I think I’d like to go into town and celebrate, if that’s all right with you, Major Heidmack,” he said, glancing at his superior.

“Oh, really? Hey, congratulations, Wally,” Heidmack said, looking up from the photos. “Major Girroti’s right. I think you’re done here, we can send these off to the Intel guys.”

“Thank you, Major, I appreciate it,” Chrichton said gratefully, shoving his shaking hands in his pockets. “Colonel, Major,” he said, nodding to the other two senior officers and making his escape.

Outside, he sank against the stone hallway. He choked on his own bile, holding back a vomiting spell with an effort. He gripped the stone walls, knuckles turning white. “It was deduction,” he whispered to himself. “It was obvious.” He wobbled down the hall, seeking the exit. “It was deduction. That’s all…”

He emerged into the setting Mediterranean sunlight, and pulled his aviator shades on. “I’m all right. I’m fine.” He sighed heavily, making for the motor pool. “I’m all right.”
Half an hour later, he was starting to believe his self-assurances. He and Duberstein were the toasts of the little bar in town, and two beers were warming him up. Duberstein was holding court at the counter. “So, of course, I swoop down on the fucker and nail the bastard. Those asshole never see the bounce coming,” he chuckled with practiced casualness. The English-speaking half of the room oohed and aahed, while the other half looked to Chrichton.

“He’s partially right,” Chrichton said in French, though he was gesturing as if he was admitting that Duberstein was absolutely right. “He only got the one that was left after I got two.”

“Hey, thanks, Captain,” Duberstein preened. Several people in the audience chuckled dutifully, including the pair of lovely brunettes that were, by this point, all but hanging off of the bar on either side of him.

“I humor him sometimes. It’s good for morale,” Chrichton said as an aside to the nearest handful of people. They laughed. One, a delightfully curved lass that had been hanging onto his every word, bit her lip and smiled.

“I like that you bothered to learn the language,” she said. “Most of your squadmates can only speak English.”

“Well, thank you, miss,” Chrichton said in French, before switching to Italian. “I’m of the mind that you should always learn the tongue of your workplace.”

She giggled. “The tongue of the workplace…sounds interesting,” she said, also in Italian. Chrichton nodded respectfully.

“Touché,” he said. He downed a mouthful of his third beer, glancing over his flight. They all seemed in good spirits; but then any battle against the Martians that ended with no actual people dead tended to lend itself to celebration.
He set his drink down, thinking. He had understood those Martians. Hadn’t he? He shook his head. “It was luck,” he muttered under his breath, in his native language.

“Mon pardon?” the girl asked.

“Sorry, just thinking about something,” he said in French. He smiled at her over the rim of his drink. “So…what’s your name?”

“Marie,” she responded. “Yours?”

“Captain Wallace Chrichton,” he replied. She eyed the bars on his collar. “At your service,” he added. She smirked.

“Impressive. What do you fly?”

“A P-51D-25a Mustang,” he said. “A fighter.”

“Sounds difficult,” she murmured.

“Not with practice,” he said, all clear-eyed honestly. “Practice makes perfect.”

She ran her tongue over her lips. “I know.”

Chrichton stood, dropping some coins on the bar. “The burdens of command weigh heavily upon me, kids,” he said to the rest of his pilots, who were dispersed all over the room. “I’ll see you all tomorrow.”

“Command, he says,” Beyside muttered.
Chrichton grinned, holding his hand out for Marie to take, and she did, smiling seductively. “Marie?” he asked, grinning.

“I suppose I could show you the quickest way back to the base,” she said, holding back an excited smile. Her friends made various catcalls as the two of them made their way over to the exit, walking out into the night.

The smells of salt and gasoline mingled in the night air, as the evening breezes from the Med blew in. Chrichton tugged his hat on and followed Marie down the street, grinning triumphantly as she paused in front of a darkened house. “Why, miss Marie, this doesn’t look like the base at all,” he said innocently.

“I can show you that tomorrow morning,” Marie said playfully. “You’re staying here tonight, fear not.”

“The burdens of command indeed,” Chrichton sighed dramatically, following her in.

And that's Chapter three. Enjoy!
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Hasn't been archive in a well and people on the IRC were talking about picking up Sockswitches. So here ya go:


Up to date on all your witchy needs.
>people on the IRC were talking about picking up Sockswitches

You're a sick and twisted man, joking like that.
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Whats that? Trude collection? I have one right here!
And all your various SW pron needs
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But they were.
Go to bed, Panzer.

I'll never believe your lies. I have three readers, maybe two, and it shall stay that way.
Wow... that is an impressive cat.
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Oh hey, The Editor, are you there? Please pop into #writescribbles with Kota and me if you get the chance.
By the way, I should clarify. SuWQ is NOT tomorrow. It's next week.
Aw, why not?
Tired, need to get school in order, maybe even [nospoilersontg]get a job[/nospoilersontg]
Well, I guess that makes sense. Not that I was expecting you to run tomorrow.

Good luck with it.

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