The game opened with the group being escorted into Humphrey’s Peak. A quick walk through the base, a room assignment, a chance to shower and dress in provided uniforms, followed by a quick briefing informing them theyíd have one week to consider an offer: join the organization or be terminated. They were all already officially dead, so their old lives were over.
The following week involved indoctrination and training in either Force Alpha, the military arm of the Trans-Gateway Operation or the scientific team. Or, in Maxís case, underwent testing for psychic sensitivity to test for compatibility with Project Stargate. Eddie, Michael, Reggie, Sam, and Sonny were assigned to Corporal Scott Free’s Combat Squad 2, part of Staff Sergeant Chance Drake Mission Team 5.
Drakeís other primary squad was run by Sergeant Juan Sanchez, who seemed to draw a lot of attention from Drake. Corporal Free explained to those in his squad who asked that Sanchez was having problems, second-guessing his commitment after finding out the girlfriend whoíd dumped him was breaking off her marriage. Of course, Sanchez wouldnít be able to let the woman know he was still alive, but that fact wasnít enough to keep him from doubt and distraction. Free further explained Drake had faced the same situation a couple years prior and had turned the young manóSergeant Jim Fairfax (who Reggie and Sam had killed)óaround.
Deena met with her Science Squad 1 teammates. They were mostly quirky scientistsóphysicists, biologists, and an Army doctor (Major Nan Blanchette) who had a lot in common with Deena (short, competitive, an addiction). One, the horribly disfigured Dr. Rao, was the only living survivor of infection. Deena quickly began studying up on available knowledge of the virbold, the ìsensationî psychics had detected as self-identification for the extra-dimensional creatures that threatened Earth.
After a week, each member met with Colonel Parker, the commander of TGO Pacific. Not surprisingly, they accepted the offer, some with a simple yes, some with more lengthy explanations (Sonny explained his acceptance as part of his current path, but warned he would follow the path should it change). In the end, they were all given ranks (private, corporal, captain for Deena).
Further training followed this acceptance. As part of the training, Drake put Freeís Squad 2 up against Squad 1 in a field training exercise in a midnight maneuver. Each squad had to track a ìtangoî and capture it. The squads were dropped off in the middle of the desert and given their first marks.
Freeís squad, with Mike and Sonny tag teaming on the tracking, were able to compensate for their inexperience in the field with superior tracking skills. Unfortunately, Sanchezís squadís experience in the field ultimately proved the greater advantage, as his team called in their ìcaptureî just as Free ordered Mike and Sonny forward to ìcaptureî their target (a small cooler with a blinking UV light).
The squads returned to base. The group began to develop an understanding of their comrades. Two were pranksters, one was a Chicago tough guy, another was an Alabama jock, and one was a laid back northern California Chinese surfer dude. After a few hours of sleep, the squads were awakened for PT.
As they were heading back to shower and grab some chow, Drake received orders to have them ready to go in ten minutes. Sensors had detected ìmicro-burstsî near Gila Bend, and Drakeís team was the ready team. The Force Alpha members changed into uniform, grabbed some grub, and headed for the waiting Blackhawks. The Science Squad piled in with their gear.
The scientists explained that the virbold used micro-bursts to test TGOís capabilities. Usually, they just sent through bio-mass (akin to excrement). The bursts were too small to send large numbers through. Fortunately, the bio-mass provided some insight into the creatures, so there was actually an upside to it.
As they flew in, the teams spotted two dogs heading away from the target, one running west, one running east. The choppers dropped the mission team off and headed back to base. As expected, they found bio-mass. The dog footprints originated from the micro-burst site. Another, never before seen footprint was also present. Drake sent his squads in pursuit of the dogs. Infected dogs were new, but they were still a potential infection source.
While the scientists gathered samples and a casting of the new footprint, the squads tracked the animals. Mike and Sonny found an odd set of tracks while tracking the dog. Free sent them to pursue the odd tracks while the rest of the team finished off the dog. As Mike and Sonny sneaked up on a chicken-sized creature that had exceptional chameleon abilities, Reggie, Sam, and Scott opened fire on the dog. Eddie hung between both groups, edging towards the chicken-beast trackers.
Three more micro-bursts suddenly went off near the original site. Vault 4 operations radioed a warning to the teams. Drake radioed for his squads to return full speed. Gunfire erupted as six never-before-seen creatures stepped through the micro-portals. The helicopters, about fifteen minutes out, were called back at full speed.
The combat squads sprinted up and down ridges and jumped over gulleys while Drake and Deena tried to save the scientists. The creatures that came at them were tougher than the infected beasts they were used to dealing with. They shrugged off staggering amounts of damage. One of the scientists, ìDocî Walters, went down in a bloody pile, and only their armor saved Drake, Deena, and Major Blanchette.
With the creatures closed around the scientists in a circle, the combat teams arrived and opened fire. Mike and Sam used their high-powered sniper rifles to rapidly eliminate three of the beasts. Eddie, Reggie, and Sonny closed to provide support fire. Scott led the squad and provided support fire. Finally, the last of the beasts went down under withering combined fire.
Scott sent Eddie, Mike, and Sonny to find and dispatch the chameleon chicken beast and to recover the dog corpse. Deena and Major Blanchette stabilized Doc Walters. Sanchez sent half of Squad One off to recover their dog corpse.
The helicopters arrived as the cast, bio-mass and creature samples were bagged and sealed. The remaining evidence was incinerated with massive thermite charges. The helicopters lifted off and returned to base.
Session Seven End
The game opened with the group getting a sense of life at Trans-Gateway Operations. The Force Alpha folks (military) performed a lot of training, scientific folks did a lot of research. And Max passed initial tests, marking him as a high-potential psychic candidate.
Deena’s background research filled her days. When she had the time to listen in on the findings from the specimens and samples brought back from the Gila Bend Incident, she was intrigued to hear there were a lot of “firsts” and concerns. Among the firsts: the new specimens—the tough creatures that had ambushed them after the combat squads had headed out and the rooster-sized creature; the first dog mutants sent from the other side (mutants are almost always humans and had never before been sent from the other side); an ambush (the microbursts to lure the team to the site, the dogs to distract the combat squads, followed by the tough specimens attacking.
The tough specimens were determined not to be mutated humans. This led to the theory they were the first clear encounter with the extra-dimensional beings (virbold) themselves. The rooster-sized creature was similarly determined not to be something mutated from Earth stock. With senior biologists focused on the tougher creature, only junior techs were available to work on the chicken creature. They couldn’t figure it out, so Colonel Parker decided to fly it personally to a vault in California.
The scientists and military leaders considered the Gila Bend Incident a troubling situation. It showed new creativity and sophistication for virbold tactics. It also seemed to be an escalation in their attacks.
On the Force Alpha side, the team saw Staff Sergeant Drake struggling with his self-confidence after his own tactical screw-up (sending both squads off in pursuit of the dogs rather than splitting the teams up or just sending one team after both objectives). At the same time, he was still having to deal with Sergeant Sanchez’s continued uncertainty. Samuel spent a great deal of time talking to the experienced soldiers about optimal shot placement and virbold tactics as the loss of Jerry, his friend infected in Montana, finally started to bug him and turned the situation personal.
The solution Colonel Parker seemed to arrive at was to put together a joint operation with another mission team (Mission Team 3). Parker assigned Lieutenant Rick Booker to lead the operation. The second mission team was run by Staff Sergeant Eric Powell. The combat squad got the sense Powell was a no-nonsense guy, not as well-liked as Drake.
At a briefing on the eggheads’ latest findings (from the Gila Bend Incident), the military folks were given insight into tactics changes they were going to have to make. Samuel and Ranger Mike asked some extremely well-thought-out questions (how did the virbold know when to send their folks through for the ambush? might they have a hive mind?). Those questions and thoughts were passed back up to the eggheads for analysis.
Lieutenant Booker briefed the team on the joint mission Colonel Parker had put together for them. He was going to lead the two mission teams to a site that had a couple decades before registered an anomalous reading. Two previous teams had gone to the site over the years to see if they could determine the cause of the readings and had never found anything.
Booker had at his disposal two scientists who weren’t part of TGO: Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, a specialist in theoretical physics, and Kelly Agutter, his graduate assistant. Booker planned to take Ms. Agutter with Mission Team 3 and work in from the west of the mysterious signal. Drake, augmented by a third combat squad (led by Sergeant King), would start at the east of the area to be covered and work west. They would meet at a point in the middle. One of the goals of their mission was to plant new sensors in the area and upgrade software on existing sensors once everything was in-place. Max was also assigned to Drake’s Mission Team 5, along with Major Blanchette and Deena. They had three days to accomplish the mission, almost all of which would be in rugged, lightly-forested terrain that shouldn’t see too much contact with civilians.
The teams were outfitted then ferried out by chopper. They picked up Yang and Agutter outside Flagstaff. Drake and Sanchez had to deal with their ongoing situation without letting it affect Free and King, who also needed Drake to provide leadership. The choppers split into two groups, one taking Booker and Mission Team 3 to their zone, the other taking Drake and Mission Team 5 to their zone.
The first day was largely uneventful. Dr. Yang deployed squads to plant several sensors and worked over the radio with his assistant to bring them online. Max experienced headaches and nausea towards the end of the day, but nothing much else. Drake set up camp and a perimeter watch rotation.
During Combat Squad 2’s (Free’s unit) watch, Reggie was distracted by thoughts of his slow torture and murder session with Sergeant Fairfax, so he failed to notice something moving near his position. Ranger Mike and Eddie noticed something at the opposite side of the perimeter. They went to check it out as Samuel watched them with his sniper scope.
Ranger Mike saw something moving through some scrub and Eddie moved to flank it. Eddie stepped on a very loud twig and froze while Ranger Mike headed for a treefall in the opposite direction. He made the treefall and flanked the area where the scrub brush’s limbs had been shaking. He saw nothing, although his peripheral vision caught movement—more disturbed brush—further downslope. On edge, the squad made it through the rest of the night unmolested.
The next morning, Max seemed to be doing better with his headache and nausea. The teams pressed on, planted more sensors, and ran more software upgrades. Booker’s team did the same. About midway through the day, Sonny spotted a disturbing sight: two tents and a few backpacks. He waved Mike over and radioed back for the team to stop. Sonny moved forward with Mike and Samuel covering him.
The fire pit had warm coals at the bottom. The tents were empty and held four sleeping bags. One of the backpacks had a small zippered black bag with morphine inside it. Sonny found three sets of ID and no sign of the campers. Deena said the morphine bag was probably for a terminal cancer patient, someone who wouldn’t have just wandered off on his own. Everyone thought back to the infected they’d faced in Montana and Samuel wondered what an infected cancer patient would mean. Concerned, they pressed on.
Drake reported the finding to Booker. A few hours later, Booker reported finding a campsite. A little later, Sonny spotted something even more disturbing: an abandoned Boy Scout campsite, numbering in the 20+ range. Booker found another campsite on his side as well.
With night settling in and 30+ potential infected around, Drake decided they were best served finding a defensible position. To complicate matters, radio communications with Booker became unreliable and with each loss of communications, Max’s headache and nausea returned. Dr. Yang could see energy—probably the anomalous signals—on his equipment, pulsing in time with the radio problems and Max’s headaches. Drake spotted a promising ridge, but it was steep and probably a 30 minute all-out climb. Drake ordered the team forward at double time.
As Drake’s Mission Team 5 jogged towards the base of the ridge and began ascending it, Booker’s Mission Team 3 came under attack. Booker’s Combat Squad 2 was wiped out in the first engagement. He and the other two squads fled. Eventually, he and Ms. Agutter got separated from the others.
Mission Team 5 moved up the incline as quickly as they could. Eddie, Reggie, and Samuel had serious problems keeping up. Thanks to their excellent conditioning, Corporal Free and Sonny pushed on with ease. Deena and Major Blanchette pushed themselves and each other and Dr. Yang to keep up. Sonny and Corporal Free took on some of the others’ loads to help them. It was dark and they were only halfway up the ridge when Mike spotted movement maybe two minutes behind them. The infected had found them.
Drake got his team to the top of the ridge with little time to spare. Sonny scouted ahead as the team climbed the last stretch. He gave Drake a heads up on what they had to work with and Drake positioned the team around the top of the ridge to deal with the charging infected. They’d been surrounded, forcing him to spread the team all around. He decided to rig some of the thermite charges normally reserved for disposal of infected corpses as booby traps. Eddie joined Deena, Max, Major Blanchette, and Dr. Yang at a small, defensible position away from the edges of the ridge top.
Mike and Samuel opened fire while everyone else set up positions and booby traps, hoping to whittle the numbers—33 infected—before they reached the top. With frightening speed, the infected were on them.
The booby traps crippled three infected who were quickly gunned down. Reggie spotted a slower, larger and slightly glowing infected that the other infected seemed to be giving a wide berth. Reggie took the distinctive beast down with a single shot to the head. Unfortunately, that allowed several other infected to get up on him quickly. Reggie went down beneath a vicious blow the first few seconds of initial contact. All around the ridge, armor saved others from certain death. Corporal Free held the team together and delivered lethal kicks and punches to three of the infected. A couple soldiers went down, but the assault was finally broken. The proven tactics of concentrated fire and preying on wounded targets won out again.
Radio communications were re-established with Booker. They could hear gunfire and see occasional distant muzzle flashes below. Drake had the teams deal with the wounded, rig slings for Reggie and another seriously wounded soldier, and toss the infected corpses on the burning pile and thermite them. Booker and Drake worked out a rendezvous point and Drake led the team down the ridge at double time, Mike and Sonny on point.
Several minutes later, Mike and Sonny spotted Booker’s unit in a firefight. Two of the infected were circling wide to flank Booker’s team. Mike and Sonny failed to spot two more infected about to flank them, but Samuel saw them. Samuel and a few other sharpshooters killed the two infected about to attack Mike and Sonny while Mike and Sonny finished off the two getting ready to attack Booker’s team.
The teams hooked up. The last of the infected were dead. Booker sent teams out to gather and burn the infected and to gather gear off the Force Alpha corpses and mark their bodies for retrieval. While that was going on, another group planted the last of the sensors and Dr. Yang and Ms. Agutter brought up the new sensor network.
The combined team set up a defensive position and rested. Max and the Yang/Agutter located the source of the strange energy and everyone agreed it would be best to check the source after resting rather than returning to base.
The next day, the team found the site—an outcropping with a hidden area. Eddie identified what was happening with the energy pulse: a cave was opening in the hidden area for about 10 seconds. Mike and Sonny secured the hidden area. The mission teams followed them down.
Calls back to base resulted in delivery of more supplies and a remote drone. The teams figured out the cave that appeared was in the virbold’s dimension and that time moved normally there (one of Deena’s concerns). Samuel cleverly realized that each closing of the entry to the other dimension would cut whatever was between the two dimensions in pieces (he used a rope lowered into the cave opening, letting the closing of the hole prove his theory). The group photographed the cave opening and the cave (placing a camera on a rope secured to a piton inside the cave, dropping it and a glow stick into the cave). They later dropped the drone into the cave.
Finally, with so much uncertainty about how the portal was being opened (machine/tech? other?) and how to permanently close it, Booker suggested Deena and Corporal Free’s team go into the hole at the next opening.
Session Eight End