The mission done, I returned to get some well needed rest. I'd prefer to never again make so many obvious mistakes in a single mission. What followed was another period of inactivity from the aliens. They were working behind the scenes on their nefarious designs, while we were continuing our efforts to build up the resistance and discover just what it was they were doing.
The techs have a new home for the week: The Shadow Chamber. An ominous name for a location. I hope it won't end up deserving it. Their new task: Discover just what is up with that vial we stole. What makes this chamber so special you ask? It has tools setup for decryption, but it also has a link with the ship's computer. Given the ship's alien origins, utilizing the computer for the large computing load involved with the research would give us a major advantage. We'd need more than human minds and traditional computers to solve this enigma.
In the meantime, the engineers were busy working on clearing out and building a new communications array. The AVATAR compound in west Africa still needed dealing with.
A week of dull scanning later, and the techs had an answer about this vial. The aliens never cease to amaze me with their depth of cruelty and unimaginable objectives.
Shen's initial guess on the blacksite's objective was correct: The place was a refinery. A genetic refinery, to be more precise. Millions of civilians were taken against their will and brought to locations like this one and processed down into bits of information. This singular vial that can be held in one hand contains the records of millions of people. Even worse, they were able to cross-reference some of the information with records of the gene clinics the aliens had setup as part of their "uplifting". These people had gone to the aliens for help, and had been repaid by being turned into this...sludge. Disgusting.
We're not quite sure what all this is for, even now. Knowing what the vial is does not help us in that regard, beyond confirming what we knew beforehand: that the aliens seemed very interested in genetics and human genetics in particular. In addition we did obtain some coordinates of another site related to the vial. This, also, is located down in west Africa. The guys there will be busy as soon as we make contact.
We get another lazy week before the aliens make their move against the resistance. Three operations designed to hamper our efforts. We can only reach one. Our best bet is to hit their efforts in Europe. They've managed to hide the purpose of this little operation from us, which worries me. Tygan informs me that with the construction of the Shadow Chamber, they're able to process numerous small bits of information and from that construct a very reliable knowledge of exactly what types of enemies we'll face and how many troops in total. We're in luck, there will be an officer at this location for us to skulljack.
Gaius and her knowledge of melee combat gets the skulljack and an upgrade to her sword. The sword has a small increase in lethality, but also gains a substantial chance to incapacitate stricken foes that we've cleaned from studying the stun troopers. Improvements to the skyranger also allow for an extra squad member to head out. Our 6 to their 8 sounds like much better odds to me. Our objectives are to destroy the alien relay and jack into the officer, without killing him first. Normally I'd hear grumbling from the soldiers about not killing an alien, but the word "skulljacking" seems to elicit such...flair that they seem happier about this course of action.
For once the geography of the area seems very much in our favor. We land behind a store building, with the alien relay across the street. Around us is wide open terrain, a patrol to our north with the captain, and another patrol of two sectoids to the east.
Normally we'd prepare a proper ambush, but in the chaos of such a situation it's likely the officer would be gunned down. We need him alive, and so we'll have to better coordinate our shots. The shots will be harder, but I'm confident in the squad. Health gets the first shot, terribly wounding the stun trooper, followed up with a strong barrage against the mec from Susanne. The initial plan was to have Gaius go in after the escorts were down, but instead she went for the reckless approach: rushing forwards for the skulljack while they were still up and trusting in her squadmates.
Her attempt is a success and we gain access when something very strange happens.
Out of some sort of portal comes something Tygan calls a "Codex" that is responsible for protecting their data. To say the least, it's a bit above my paygrade, but they assure me with their next recommendation: shoot it with bullets until it dies. That we can do. Culise gets a solid shot on it, but it's very tough. As if it couldn't get any stranger, the codex then creates a clone of itself. Luckily, the process seems to weaken it, but I doubt whatever weapons it has will be affected. Same health, double the danger.
The team finding themselves in dire straits, Lovenought yells out a single word: "RAMPAGE!". He fires a volley at the mec, then the trooper, bringing both down. He then rushes across the roof into sight of the codices, sending a volley towards both and killing each of them. He even ends it with a reload, leaving him fresh and ready for the next wave of troops. (Amusingly, this does earn me an achievement as well, along with the achievement for skulljacking the officer. Two in two minutes)
The two sectoids come up behind their building to hit us from our flank, but Culise is ready for them with a grenade, injuring them both and eliminating their poor cover. Health takes her pistol to one and her rifle to the other, finishing what Culise had started.
Gaius grabs the loot and scouts forward, spotting the last three aliens without being seen. A viper and two troopers. We get into position, with Spyhawk getting the first shot this time, but he misses and they dive into cover! Health and Lovenought target the same trooper and make their shots, bringing him down. Susanne works to suppress the viper, knowing she's highly unlikely to get a kill all by herself.
While the viper is hampered and misses her shot on Lovenought, the trooper does something rare and uses his gun instead of the preferred blade. He lands a solid shot on Lovenought, forcing him to seek cover inside the building where the relay is located. Culise launches his last grenade on the viper's cover, leaving her wide open for a shot from Spyhawk to finish her off. Gaius moves in with her new blade and easily defeats the other swordsman.
Unexpectedly, ADVENT reinforcements move in on top of Spyhawks position, and the team readies themselves. Lovenought in particular getting very secure in the building, and spending his time pouring bullets into the relay. Need to take that out before it finishes its transmission.
Out comes something interesting. ADVENT seems to have realized that their previous soldiers were a tad...useless. The captain has some slight upgrades in armor, but the soldier is clearly heavily armored and unlikely to go down easily. Susanne and Health both land hits on the armored officer, but don't bring him down. He is clearly much tougher than before. Out of ammo and surrounded, Spyhawk flees inside the building and tosses a grenade towards the officer. His armor is good, but not that good, and he finally ceases moving. Lovenought finishes off the relay; all that's left is the mec and the new soldier.
Susanne works to suppress the mec, but even through the gunfire it manages an accurate strike with its missiles. Injuring both heavies and leaving them open for further attack. The "shieldbearer" does something odd, sending out a wave of energy that forms into shields around the both of them. Seeking to hopefully shred some of their armor, Susanne launches a grenade onto both foes, only to meet with a surprising outcome: both are unarmed, but the shield is gone.
Gaius attempts another skulljack on the new soldier, but misses and only lightly injures him. Thankfully, her new sword is more than capable of piercing the armor and she ends him. Why did I never think of combining tasers with swords as backup 20 years ago? Health and Culise both fire rounds into the mec, but its heavy armor plating still holds. Lovenought moves out of hiding and fires in for the kill.
Before the techies get to work on examining the information we gathered and seeing what exactly this codex is, they unveil what they've been working on this month:
Armor! Using scavenged pieces from the numerous corpses we've collected, the techs have fashioned suits of armor for the team. Things are looking up.