Lieutenant Morgan Callaway moved swiftly from the cover of a large tree to an outcropping of rock. He stopped and melted into the shadows of the night. Lieutenant Callaway knew how to use the advantages that came with nightfall. While most people feared the dark, Lt. Callaway embraced it. His CS Special Forces training served him well. Morgan laughed to himself. He could disappear as easily as his enemy, and he did so without the tricks of magic. Once Lt. Callaway was sure his position was secure, he slowly raised his C-12 rifle to his shoulder. He liked the C-12 even though it was considered an aging weapon out of step with the times, at least by the standards of the new and more powerful Coalition Military. It "was" big, heavy and lacked the finesse of some of the newer Coalition weapons, but that was exactly what the Lieutenant liked about the weapon. That and the fact that it was deadly accurate and one of the most reliable weapons in the field.
He began to survey his surroundings with the aid of the nightvision scope mounted atop the big C-12. The darkness and eerie blue ley line light suddenly transformed into shades of green. With the ambient light amplified thousands of times, Morgan could see his objective as clear as day. A small wooden cabin about six hundred feet (183 m) away. It was obvious that a large fire was burning in the fireplace inside. From what he could tell, there was at least one occupant inside. As he lowered the rifle his eyes adjusted quickly to the night. Lt. Callaway knew the specially modified Dead Boy helmets with nightvision gear would allow him full time nightvision but he just couldn't stand the confining nature of the helmets. That and the fact that they robbed him of depth perception and muffled the noises around him. He had been told that such impairments were all in his imagination, but he wasn't the only CS psychic in Psi Battalion to feel shut away and claustrophobic with the helmet and face plate in place. No, he preferred black greasepaint and open air.
Lt. Callaway raised his left hand in a clenched fist and gave the signal for the others to move forward. Like ghosts appearing out of the blackness of night, five other figures slipped silently toward him. While one crept forward, the others would cover his advance and provide overwatch. The 2nd squad of the 5th Coalition Reconnaissance Platoon, Psi-Battalion, consisted of six members. Lieutenant Morgan Callaway (Mind Melter) was the Commander with Staff Sergeant Stephen Devco (Minor Psionic Commando) as his second. Corporals Daniels (Nega Psychic), Jackson (Psi-Ghost Sniper), and Gelfman (Psi-Stalker Ranger) made up the fire team element. The final member of the team was their tracker, a Dog Boy by the name of Checkers. Collectively they were known as Specter Company, and they always came at night. Where they came from nobody knew. Where they went nobody knew. They were the best of the best.
This wasn't a typical mission for Specter Company, and they all knew it. They were far south and well out of Coalition territory, right in the heart of the Federation of Magic. They had "jumped in" two days earlier. The Federation of Magic represented everything the Coalition hated and feared - madmen, D-bees and monsters empowered with magic and dedicated to the destruction of humankind. Specter Company's mission: to "sneak a peek," as the lingo went, but also a search and rescue operation. The Coalition had lost two similar teams without a trace in the preceding month and High Command wanted answers. Reports of increased psychic phenomena and supernatural activity earned Specter Company the job.
Checkers was the first to notice it. Something was wrong. His ears raised slightly as he took in all of the sounds of the night. Suddenly the smell of the supernatural was all around them. Checkers brought his left fist up and moved it in the signal that meant danger, as the Dog Boy himself knelt closer to the ground.
Lt. Callaway and the others felt it too. Palpable. He could almost taste it. Something he hadn't yet encountered, and something big. He could barely see the point man out in front but every psychic sense he had screamed something was horribly wrong. For a moment he wondered if he should signal retreat. They needed more firepower than they had. He knew it.
The forest was quiet.
His training and experience had taught him that the only time a forest teeming with life is ever quiet is when it is afraid. The only thing he heard now was the beating of his heart. He signaled for the squad to take cover.
Checkers scanned his field of fire with his modified C-I0 laser carbine. The weapon had been shortened slightly and given a folding stock. Checkers had requested the changes to the weapon to make it lighter and more manageable when he took the point. He sniffed the air searching for familiar scents. Something was definitely wrong.
What the hell? ! Get out! Get out now! Move! Move! the Lieutenant's telepathic message screamed in the heads of his teammates.
That was when the hair on the back of Checkers' neck stood straight up and the Psi-Hound bolted at top speed; the Dog-Boy could feel the unnamed malevolence in the night, and was clearly panicked by it.
Beads of sweat seeped through the black grease paint on the Lieutenant's brow. They had to get out now, but he was afraid to move. Afraid to give away his position. A telepathic sweep told him the others were on the move. A moment later, laser cover fire bolted through the darkness.
Laser fire is a truly surreal sight to behold. Being utterly noiseless and having no visible muzzle flash, beams of light appear and disappear in split seconds. Targets simply burst into flame or vaporize on contact; elegant and deadly. The night lit up with the flash of lasers and showers of flame and splinters from exploding and crashing trees hit by errant blasts. And so began an intricate dance of retreat, cover fire, retreat, fire again, Specter Company working in predesignated battle buddy pairings. While one soldier pulled back, his battle buddy would fire blind suppression fire over the shoulder of the retreating trooper. Then, their roles would switch, with the first soldier covering the second as he retreated. This was not only an exercise of precision teamwork and military training, but absolute trust.
Then the light show stopped.
A telepathic scan told Lt. Callaway the others were definitely gone. Not dead. Gone. Only he and Checkers were left. He hoped the Dog Boy would run like the wind. Meanwhile, he knelt stone still and silent. He was afraid to move. "Keep still," his gut told him.
As a soldier he knew fear was another tool. It kept one alive. It kept him alert. Fear controlled was as much an asset as a detriment. As for gut feelings, he had learned to trust them when he was still a kid. Minutes seemed like hours as he waited ... for ... what? He didn't know.
Even with a Mind Block in place, closing himself from psychic and supernatural sensations, he could feel an unnatural cold and darkness. The cold touched him to his bones, although it was a balmy 88 degrees Fahrenheit. As he contemplated the cold, he realized two things. One, it was the cold that made him afraid - afraid almost to the point of unreasoning panic. Two, the cold belonged to something hideous and inhuman. A supernatural force unlike anything he had ever encountered.
Then he saw them. Gelfinan and Jackson.
Both had removed their helmets and they walked slowly and in plain sight. He didn't need to use empathy on them - the looks on their faces was that of deep sadness. They were saying something he couldn't yet make out. He decided not to use psionic probes for fear it might give away his position. He didn't even dare to use psychic nightvison, relying instead on his Multi-Optic scope. Yet somehow, he knew Gelfinan and Jackson were gone. Their life essences, perhaps their very souls, had been somehow replaced. Replaced by the cold. The unfeeling and inhuman cold. It had them now. They were an extension of it. A moment later, Daniels joined them. As the men vanished into the darkness, the cold went with them and Lieutenant Callaway knew the danger had passed.
He found the headless body of Sgt. Devco near where he had last seen him. An Object Read of his weapon told Callaway that the Sarge had blown his own head off rather than give in to the
There was something else too. Somehow the cold had left a lingering impression. The cold and darkness had a name … Nxla, The Harvester ofSouls. And it had only begun to harvest.
The 32nd SET
Night has fallen in the Ohio Valley, and your team finds itself in what is commonly known on Rifts Earth as “The Magic Zone.”
The Tomorrow Legion has received intel from one of its allies, an emissary from the independent city/state of Magestar, that a powerful magic item being called colloquially the “Orb of Mist” has been seen in the area, and that rival factions are after it (including the True Federation of Magic). The Orb is rumored to give its holder the ability to see great distances remotely in real time; with the Orb, one could theoretically gather intelligence from a city miles and miles away and track troop movements, infrastructure, and even political dealings. As an intelligence tool, the Orb would be invaluable.
Of course, Magestar cannot risk an open conflict with the True Federation, and the Tomorrow Legion knows their erstwhile allies will staunchly deny any knowledge of the Legion’s dealings in the area, should the mission fail.
Your team was assembled and dispatched with all haste to retrieve the orb and bring it back to Castle Refuge with all possible speed. The Legion brass considers this important enough that they re-formed the legendary 32nd SET for this job, and you each wear the distinctive “32” symbol, the numbers split by a dinosaur’s toothy skull, on your uniforms or armor somewhere.
For your trip, you were issued a Mountaineer Mk2 ATV equipped with a Medium Rail Gun, a Plasma Cannon, and an Anti-Personnel Ion Blaster. Someone please add this vehicle to their sheet and keep track of it for the group. Whoever takes this administrative task on will get a +1 to all rolls involving the team’s Mountaineer (Driving, Repair, etc.).
Who Are You Guys, Anyway?
You are now a day or two away from the suspected location of the Orb and are camping out in the wilds (the nearest town would take you too far off course). While preparing evening chow and setting up watch rotations, you find yourselves with a little bit of time around the campfire to swap stories.
This is your chance to share an interlude! Roll 1d4 and write up a story of at least 2-3 paragraphs that you share with your comrades following the format below:
- 1=Clubs- A tale of misfortune from your hero’s past, perhaps revealing something of his Hindrances or a dark secret.
- 2=Diamonds - Something your hero wants or already has. It might be a material possession, recognition, or something else entirely.
- 3=Hearts - A tale of the hero’s greatest love - lost, found, present, or waiting on her back home.
- 4=Spades- A great victory or personal triumph.
Anyone who completes the interlude may take an immediate Advance. Please update your character sheet accordingly.