Everything was burning.
Uxia remembered laying in the grass looking up at the sky, watching the remains of the EveningStar space station glitter and dance in a fiery cataclysm hanging in the stratosphere. The streaks of flames that exploded and fell to the earth like shooting stars from bursting Crash Coffins was etched into her memory. The way the sun was gone, below the horizon, but how the space station breaking up in orbit lit the fields like it was still daylight outside... and the cold, throbbing agony that was the wound in her gut.
She knew she was dreaming.
Somewhere she could hear the sound of a voice calling out to her. The emergency stretcher was slowly growing colder beneath her back and without warning it began to sink into the grass, disappearing, sucked into the cold water. Uxia struggled to stand and a hand took hers.
It was Alastair, but he was younger. She'd seen a photo of him once when he was still a Volunteer, before he'd been promoted, before he'd become a Grey Rifle. When they had served together when she was still a child. She honestly didn't remember him from back then-- but there he was, handing her Ramona, wearing his blue cap and carrying a chain rifle.
"We have to save them," he said to her.
"Where's your machine gun," Uxia croaked, hardly able to talk. "Where's your sword?"
"All I need is my chain rifle," he said. "Heaven is a place on Dawn."
"You died," she coughed.
"The Tohaa delegates are dying," Alastair insisted.
"I'm wounded," she told him. "I can't fight."
"You're not wounded," he said, puzzled.
Alastair wasn't wrong. The pain in her stomach was gone. She had not noticed its departure, but she could breathe again. Fire streaked from the sky down to the Paradiso brushlands, setting them ablaze. They didn't have much time before the Tohaa died, trapped in their Crash Coffins, cooked alive through the broken environmental protection plates.
"Follow me," he told her, taking her hand and drawing her towards the front line. "We have to save them."
Uxia knew this was a dream.
But she wanted to see what was going to happen...
We come back around to Paradiso again this week and it's time for Mission 302! This mission involves saving the evacuated members of the Tohaa Diplomatic Delegation after the crash of the EveningStar space station. So, you deploy, then you place a circular template in the center of the board and roll 6 times with the 1 facing your opponent and 6 times with the 1 facing your side, each accompanied by a matching 1d20x1.2" roll for distance. Each time you roll, you drop a Crash Coffin there.
What are crash coffins? Well, they're like Tech Coffins, but they're escape pods from the spaceship. Every time you touch one with any unit, you roll 1d20 to reveal what's inside of it-- on a low roll, it's a dead Tohaa. On a middle roll, it's a live Tohaa! On a high roll, the pod explodes for DAM 13 in an AoE burst.
You want to get to a pod and touch it, revealing the Tohaa inside. It might be a Tohaa Delegate-- worth 4 objective points-- or Tohaa support staff-- each worth 1. You're guaranteed to get the delegate very fast-- after 6 pods that have either a dead Tohaa or explode, you roll for all of the pods left on the board, and whatever is left is the Tohaa Delegate's pod. To extract the Tohaa, you need to be a specialist, and Doctors/Paramedics get +3 to their WIP to do so.
The goal is to get them evacuated off of your board edge in CASEVAC, removing both them and the trooper carrying them.
I win initiative on a roll of 16 thanks to the +6 Initiative from Immediate Deployment (hell yeah Paradiso) and choose to go first as is customary among my people. I get put on the bad board edge and we're on to deployment.
With that in mind-- this batrep will be much shorter than usual to support the limited time I have left to write and put it up! So buckle in and here we go!
I'm bringing my bog-standard list that I bring for everything-- with only a few changes. The main one is in Paradiso I can have 310 points of troops, so I ditch Isobel and my usual paramedic for my ridiculous wishlisty Doctor/Engineer/Minelayer spec-ops with WIP 15 and a boarding shotgun. I bring two more Highlanders, a Dozer and two regular Minesweeper Traktor Muls to fuel this order-hungry mission and place one SAS Forward Observer in Group 1 and Uxia in Group 2-- they're going to be my evacuation squad.
I put my fireteam on the east side of the board and McMurrough on the west side. I have 4 Highlanders and clump them all up to take advantage of smoke.
On the far side-- my Scots Guard Molotok in camo, ready to move up, with my Cateran prone atop the building above him. My HVT goes on the east side, beside my Fireteam.
Deploying second, my opponent sees my fireteam with the AP HMG and elects not to challenge it in ARO, going prone-- with a Hsien Warrior HMG Haris. He has a core of Kuang Shi in the rear watching the Haris's back and then 4 more Kuang Shi on the west side all along a building that a few other models are on-- including the only standing, available model, an Authorized Bounty Hunter with a sniper rifle who rolls +2 ARM on Booty. Not bad!
I'm worried about the Hsien but he goes prone with it when if he stayed standing he would've had a great shot at all of my 45th Highlanders.
McMurrough touches down on the far west side front, ready to rush the backline and cause some chaos.
My opponent's held is Su-Jian atop the building in the rear defended by the ABH with the Sniper-- prone, waiting for the Active to kick some ass.
The 45th Highlanders flock forwards. One throws a smoke they all move through, avoiding ARO from the ABH Sniper. Good!
McMurrough runs forward to a similar spoke, bottlenecked by the Sniper holding a commanding view of the choke in the center of the table.
I move my Cateran forward and the ABH delays, so I find cover. Next order-- surprise shot. The ABH is hit by the Cateran's T2 Sniper and makes the roll with no problems, succeeding at Guts to not go prone. Damn.
McMurrough rushes forward, super-jumping through the choke and into the ABH's face. He snipes-- and I take the shot to the face, chain rifling him to remove him from the board. The shot goes through, harming McMurrough, but the ABH biffs the two ARM saves and goes down. Not so many orders remain on McMurrough, so I retreat him back through the choke, tapping one of the Crash Coffins on the way back. It explodes-- and McMurrough lives!!
With a ton of orders in my 1st group and nothing to kill, I make the decision to go full nuclear submarine and DIVE, DIVE, DIVE! with my Highlander Grey link. We rush across the entire board in four orders, then pop up onto a crate-- putting me in LoF of several juicy targets in the Hsien Haris but not the Hsien-- not yet.
The Grey pitches five dice at one model, then another-- and is crit, going Dogged AGAIN for the 3rd game in a row. He musters his fury and remains alive for the rest of the round as the Volunteers dive onto the Hsien with shotguns, knocking him unconscious-- next to a Yaozao.
The next order brings a Volunteer out to see the core of Kuang Shi-- they dodge, chain rifle and smoke dodge, but one of the shotgun shots is a crit on a 19, contesting everything else very handedly. They take two wounds each, all dying.
I spend one order moving everyone around the rooftop into defensive positions, ready for the next turn before I commit the Grey to trying to put wounds on Su-Jian before my opponent takes the Active here in one minute.
The Grey moves forward now towards a bridge, stepping up until he's within LoF of Su-Jian prone on the building. Knowing he's dogged and will die, my opponent contests his AP HMG shots at 9 inches with his Spitfire shots, taking 2 hits and only being wounded once. Before the turn ends and the link breaks due to Dogged, I break the link and manually reform it without the Grey-- who dies right away as I'm out of orders.
My opponent's army has been so killed by now that he only has 3 orders in his first group, so he spends two command tokens to drag over his important pieces into group 2.
Unfortunately this turn begins with the Volunteer link being the closest models to the wall of Kuang Shi who lost their ability to be in a fireteam and they're all touching the wall of the building that I'm standing on or the wall of the building I'm standing across from.
One by one, like a scene out of a Zombie movie, the Kuang Shi are forced to whole order climb by Extremely Impetuous, coming to the top of the building and being shot 8 times-- twice with a rifle, 6 times with shotguns. Without the +3 BS from five-man I'm mostly shooting at 7s and 10s, but the Kuang Shi don't survive. The only one who can make it to the top and dodge after hitting a ladder hits his dodge, but then runs forward barely into chain rifle range and dies without wounding my Volunteer. All in all, it's almost 6 units that die in 7 orders, a crushing blow for my opponent.
In revenge, he stands Su-Jian up and unloads on my fireteam. Splitting 4 on 3 opponents, he places 2 on 2 of the Volunteers and lets the other shoot for free--
-- and the Volunteers only lose one of their fireteam members in 3 orders, critting Su-Jian twice to bring the beast low.
Without anything else he can do, my opponent tries to use the Sophotect-linked-Yaozao I left alive next to the Hsien to bring him back up. The Yaozao eats a plethora of shotgun hits but none clip the prone Hsien due to clever positioning. He rolls to pick up the Hsien...
He uses his last command token to roll again.
The Hsien dies, and out of orders, he must pass the baton back-- informing me that he is in retreat now, and that his next turn will be the last in the game... until we check the rules and see there is no caveat that the game ends if one party goes into Retreat! and that the author forgot to include it.
So... that's cool for me, since I was nowhere near getting any Crash Coffins next turn.
This turn is about getting Crash Coffins identified by bringing my disposable models into B2B with them.
I run the Highlanders forward, touching coffins as they go, with no one really left to oppose me. One explodes, then another, and the Highlander survives to go on to hit a 3rd-- a Tohaa passenger! McMurrough hits one, that explodes, and jumps up atop a building to hit another-- a Tohaa passenger!
In short order we're at the point in the game where 6 Crash Coffins have been discovered to be empty, a bomb, or full of dead Tohaa, so we immediately roll on the rest of the Coffins to discover the Crash Coffin closest to Uxia is the one with the 4 OP Delegate.
I use the rest of my orders getting everyone into range-- and then burn all of the orders in my main group having an SAS run into a Highlander-thrown smoke grenade, rescue a Tohaa citizen worth 1 OP and march to my evacuation zone at the end of my deployment to guarantee me a win over a tie.
With only 5 orders, my opponent thinks about diving into my line to meddle but instead simply hides his Sophotect for the MEDVAC rolls and has his Spec-Ops walk off the board so McMurrough won't kill it. Without at least 8 orders to walk up to a Crash Coffin and steal the Delegate he can't do anything else so he simply passes the turn hiding his units from my Extremely Impetuous units.
I start the turn using my last Command Token to bring the Dozer into group 1, and then the Dozer uses 4 orders evacuating the nearest Crash Coffin's civilian.
I then spend all of Uxia's orders in Group 2 going to the Tohaa delegate box, rolling WIP, succeeding and then trucking to my deployment and evacuating her.
I shoot at the lone Kuang Shi on the board with my Cateran as an afterthought and a way to lighten the mood. Daring, the Kuang Shi shoots back with his pistol. I have 6 orders to mess with for fun.
They both miss.
They both miss.
I hit the Kuang Shi-- he makes his ARM roll and stays where he is.
They both miss.
They both miss.
They both fricking miss.
The game ends.
Weird mission for sure-- definitely unlike last week's which was staunchly anti-CHA, this is very pro-CHA, requiring an order spam list with a LOT of mobility to be able to play the objective at all.
Using McMurrough and the Highlanders to hit a ton of coffins ASAP to seek out the 4 OP Delegate was the plan and I'm glad it went off without a hitch-- even if I ended up having to hit all 6 Coffins myself to get the delegate to arrive. My FO SAS and the Dozer getting a point was great luck as was Uxia securing the Delegate with an order to spare-- glad the Crash Coffins on my side of the board weren't all bombs or dead passengers.
Either way, a quick and painful game with a lot of crits on my side, but my opponent took it in stride as he usually does. Looking forward to a rematch in Phase 2!
Uxia held the hand of the Tohaa Delegate, leading her away from the fight, away from the horde of Yu-Jing who pursued them. She could see other Caledonians making their way into the night, away from here. In the sky, the EveningStar was entering its final descent and it fell from the sky like a match flicked into the air, its flame wicking and dying out, a column of smoke beginning to chase the final pieces of debris that didn't burn up into the atmosphere. Her lungs were burning.
Was this how things happened, back then? Uxia couldn't remember. All she could think of from back then was the leering face of Saito Togan as he looked down at her, laughing. "Caledonians," he said, "always good for a laugh." But she wasn't sure. Was that the way he had said it? She'd replayed it so many times in her mind, over and over. Did it really matter?
The Tohaa Delegate disappeared into the darkness, running along without her. "Maara," Uxia called out, but there was no answer. The light around her had gone out and there was nothing but darkness around her in the fading torchlight of the dying EveningStar. She could make out shapes in the twilight moving past her, hear their boots in the brush. She could feel the cold begin to seep into her bones.
Snow began to blow across the field.
From a distance she could see a flame lit in the distance and approaching her was a man in a blue tartan sash with a machine gun on his back, a crooked Caledonian cross on his shoulder pad. It was Alastair. His beard was perfect and his hair parted just so, not like how they had found him after the battle with the Hassassins. He was carrying a torch in his other hand.
"Alastair," Uxia called out, but he did not stop.
Now she could remember him when they were younger. She remembered when he had joined William Wallace's band so long ago, and how she had drawn on his shoulder pad that day. The way they'd made fun of her for being unable to keep the lines from going crooked...
"I'm going to go on ahead," he said.
"Alastair," she called out again. "I'm sorry."
"It's your turn," he told her, and as he passed he held out his torch. Uxia took it; it was brilliant in her hand, and warm.
And he was gone, walking into the dark along with everyone else.
As the darkness faded with the fire, Uxia found herself laying down in a cot, her clothes still on, feeling the groggy sickness of little sleep taking its toll on her. She stared into the tent's ceiling, thinking, until the artillery began to land again and the klaxons blared.
Taking her assault pistols in hand, she set out towards her men. It was time to carry the fire.