The Let's Play Archive

Freespace 2

by Psion, BloodWulfe, & Gasket Basket

Part 26: Return to Babel

Bosch's Fourth Monologue / Mirror (High Quality, 19.6MB)
Youtube Link / Backup

(You should watch this)

Return to Babel
Command Briefing Video / Mirror (25,729KB)
Command Briefing Audio-only / Mirror (3825KB)

Some pretty big news this time. The Colossus destroyed the Sathanas, and everyone is optimistic - "This victory proves without a doubt our technological superiority over our Great War nemesis."
However, the Colossus is damaged; only 80% of its systems are operational, and it will take a few months to repair. And the GTVA is continuing their evacuation of Capella until they can finish securing the nebula.
Next step? Bosch. AGAIN. The GTVA is going after him, led by the GVD Psamtik, and Allied Command has released information on what exactly ETAK is. It's a communication device which lets humans communicate with Shivans - resurrecting a defunct GTI program (see: Silent Threat) of studying Shivan technology and physiology.
Now this may be a bit and I have no evidence whatsoever, but what the hell. Bosch, in his monologue, indicates he fought against the GTI rebellion in Silent Threat.
It's possible, then, that the player was a young Bosch in ST. indeed! I've never seen this idea come up or be contradicted, so for any conspiracy theorists, here you go. (Your player character can't be the same as the one who destroyed the Lucifer, as those pilots were trapped in Sol after the detonation of the ship. So it COULD BE!)
ETAK is short for Etamnanki, the tower that may have inspired the story of Babel. (Please note the mission name )
The NTF was nothing more than a smokescreen for Bosch to plunder Ancient artifacts from Vasudan systems to let him open the Knossos portal and attempt an alliance with the Shivans.

I mean - don't YOU always think of racist genocidal war as the ideal method for gaining access to an archaeological dig site? I know I do!

Oh, and last (and certainly least) we now have access to the GTW-19 Circe; it's a Lamprey that doesn't suck as much. It's still not really worth it unless you want to micromanage your guns, but a Circe and Maxim combination is pretty potent. I'm still against it, mostly because Shivan fighters have weak hulls, so taking a gun which is murder on hulls but worthless on shields just means it takes longer to get a kill in my experience. Still, they're there - give it a try. Maybe you'll like it (or maybe you'll like the Circe/Prometheus-S better.)

Mission Briefing Video / Mirror (6692KB)
Mission Briefing Audio-only / Mirror (1086KB)

Recon wings have found the Iceni. Bosch obviously made contact with the Shivans - an Azrael class transport is docked with the Iceni, and a second is nearby. Although the GTVA does not know who's boarding whom, our objective is to destroy the two Shivan cruisers guarding the Iceni, send a special forces unit in (on the GVT Qeb) to capture the Iceni, and more importantly, to capture ETAK.
"Command has absolute faith in your ability to succeed in this endeavour."

Of course they do. Of course. I mean, for one, what challenge have you failed? None. So that's pretty obvious. For another, why send you if they aren't confident you'll win! duh

Unfortunately for me, we're back in the nebula. As is typical, you can see some red dots at range, but no discrete targets until you get closer:

Beta 1: I have detected hostile fighters. Iceni is not yet on sensors.

Command: The Azrael has undocked with the Iceni. The vessel is preparing to engage its subspace drive.
Alpha 2: I am now reading the Iceni at 1200 meters. The Azrael is docked with the comand ship. The first Shivan transport has departed, Command.

As the Iceni comes into view, the Shivan transport undocks and quickly jumps out. No chance of intercepting it, so you're tasked with taking out the fighters and cruisers so the Qeb can capture the Iceni - hopefully Bosch left ETAK behind on the Iceni.
Alpha 2: Shivan cruisers now in range.

Before I can even roll into an attack on the Shivan cruisers, Command changes my orders:
Command: The Shivans are attacking the command ship! Changing IFF status to friendly. Defend the Iceni, pilots. We must retrieve that technology!
Iceni: This is Lt. Rusk, NTF Iceni! We need immediate extraction! Please assist!

If they want to be extracted, these cruisers have got to go. First on the list is the Cain-class cruiser Azmedaj

Command is hilarious here when dealing with Rusk. Poor sap.
Command: What's your status, Iceni?
Iceni: The Shivans boarded us! They killed everyone! I've got thirty-three survivors on deck seven. There's got to be more below.
Command: Where's Admiral Bosch?
Iceni: They took him away, with Gibson and Sarno and about a dozen others. You've got to get us out of here NOW!

The Shivans - seeing we're trying for the Iceni - send in a wing of Nephilim bombers. Nephilims are nasty sorts - they're extremely durable and have seven front guns, all in one bank so the refire rate is incredibly fast. The good news is they have no afterburner so if you let one stay on your tail, you have problems.

Command: Is the Communication technology on board?
Iceni: Listen to me! Bosch initiated the self-destruct sequence! WE have only a few minutes left!
Command: Transmit the specifications of the ETAK device now, Iceni.

I have to admit I laughed at this one. "Yeah look we don't CARE about you. We just want the ETAK device, transmit the data."

Iceni: No can do. You get us out alive, Command, I'll get you those specs! You understand?
Command: Our fighters must eliminate these cruisers first, Iceni. Stand by.

Imagine this scenario, seriously: "We're about to SELF DESTRUCT HELP US!"
"Stand by."

Ice cold, Command. Ice cold.

Once you take out both cruisers - the other is a Rakshasa called Sammael - Command sends in the Qeb and the boarding party, and the Shivans try with some Nahema bombers this time. Nahemas are nasty little guys; think a bomber that can outfly most heavy fighters and still lay down a lot of punishment.

Still, Nahemas, like so many enemies, have a distinct weakness to, say, ramming the Iceni repeatedly and making themselves stationary targets for me to blast into tiny bits. Whoops!

The Shivans send in Mara fighters to try and stop the boarding process, but you and your wingmen pick them off and allow the Qeb time to dock. I have to give the Qeb some serious credit here. Not only is it a Terran transport mislabelled as the GVT Qeb (It's GTT) but they're also voluntarily docking with a ship known to be detonating in a few minutes.

Qeb: Qeb here. Docking point secure. Iceni, stand by for boarding.

Iceni: This is Victor 3 [same voice as Qeb; it's one of the boarding party]. We've entered a slaughterhouse, Command. Casulaty rate in the thousands. Shivan bodies are among the dead. Proceeding now to deck seven.

In their continuing display of ship variety, the Shivans send in a wing of Basilisks, then Astaroths - we've already had Maras, Nahemas, and Nephilims.

I mean what's next?

The Qeb gets the survivors off the Iceni, and undocks.
Qeb: All survivors are now onboard the transport. We have the specifications. Undocking now.
Command: Get out of there, pilots! Stand clear of the Iceni! Self-destruction is imminent!
Qeb: This is the Qeb. Now making the jump to subspace.

And not a moment too soon:

Command: Mission accomplished, pilots. You are authorized to return to base.

I order my wingmen home, and jump right after they do.

I can't say I'm sad to see the Iceni go. Little bastard's been causing us trouble since what, mission two? :p Of course, given how hard they clamped down on ETAK, I'm surprised they didn't just shoot us for being anywhere near it at the time for fear of being a security breach.

"I would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those pesky ki^H^H Vasudans and that obnoxious Alpha 1!"
Yes, Bosch, we're coming for you. And you're on a dinky-ass TRANSPORT. Thanks for evening the odds?

Also: We're in the home stretch! The next mission kicks off the final plot arc of the game. It's going to get a lot crazier from here on in.