The Ninja Shuriken
by Drew Metzger
November 20, 2017
"They want us to do what?" Technician Second Grade Simmons turned off the plasma torch and looked up from the intake he was welding.
"Foggy is getting a new payload. Which we've got to make." Chief Technician Hill of the Savannah Combine Research and Development Facility finished, wiped his hands on a rag, and tucked it into the back pocket of his coveralls.
"What else is new? We're always making some electronic gizmo for him to play with." Despite the condescending tone, Tech Simmons was clearly excited over the prospect of this new task. "So, what do the spooks think we should create this time?"
The Chief pushed the tools on the workbench to one side and pulled up schematics on the holoscreen. "Well, let me show you . . ." he said with a grin. "You're gonna like this one."
The Ninja is the Combine's "stealth" Ogre, designed for a variety of missions and specializing in reconnoitering and raiding. As no two missions were identical, the Ninja was frequently modified with a variety of drones or mission-specific payloads to assist in the completion of the task. Despite electronic superiority on the battlefield, ultimately the Ninja was still a large military unit. This posed a problem in certain circumstances. The solution was outfitting the Ninja with equipment and drones designed to facilitate completion of the mission.
The Ninja themselves were keenly aware of their unique position within the Combine Ogre ranks. They took great pride in both accomplishing their missions as well as serving as a testing platform for certain technological advances within the military. Humans were equally aware of the computational benefits a Ninja brought to the table. Ninja were usually involved in every step of the way, from the planning of the operation; to engineering of the payload with which they were to be outfitted; to installation of the "pod" of equipment; and finally, the execution of the mission.
And Ninja executed their missions very well.
The sun was just starting to rise over the eastern hills as the old man ushered his flock of sheep off the dirt road and out into the meadow. The dew on the grass glistened as it caught the first rays of the dawn light.
One of the ewes ran off towards a copse of trees on the far side of the meadow. The shepherd looked down at the dog accompanying him and said, "You keep the flock together, Suzie. I'll go get our little adventurer." He shuffled his way after the wayward sheep, rubbing his hip and pulling his wool jacket tighter about him.
The ewe was grazing on dense patch of clover as he approached. He looped a rope around the neck of the sheep and turned to head back to the flock when he caught some movement out of the corner of his eye.
He turned to catch a glimpse of a small military hovercraft just before it disappeared from view about 100 meters away. Staring at the spot he last saw it, the air seemed to shimmer like pavement on a hot summer's day. He heard nothing beyond the bleat of the wayward sheep next to him and the pounding of his heart in his chest. Frozen in fear, his eyes were riveted to the disturbance in the air as it began gliding silently toward, and then onto, the road. The only true evidence of its existence was the grass springing back up after its passage.
"Dios mío . . ." he whispered as he fell to his knees. "The infidels now have ghosts!"
One common payload, to the point of almost becoming standard equipment, was the installation of a modified Gremlin LGEV engineered to the Ninja's specifications, and thus gaining the benefits of a Ninja in a small package. Named the Shuriken, it had the same attack capabilities of a Gremlin with the defensive benefits of the Ninja. The addition of computer reflexes and lack of human safety considerations also allowed for greater performance and speed on all terrain.
Shuriken – Attack 1, range 2, doubles in overruns as an Ogre. Defense 1 with Ninja stealth bonus. Move 5-4, as GEV. VP 6.
The attack capability is inconsequential from a game balance point of view. It primarily is there for defensive purposes. As an AI with computer reflexes controls it, the Shuriken's attack strength is doubled in overruns the same as all other Ogre weaponry. Additionally, thanks to the electronic warfare module and spoofing technology, all attacks are at -1 to hit against the Shuriken and individual units may not combine their fire unless they are attacking from an adjacent hex. Units further away must resolve their attacks separately.
The Shuriken may be launched at any time that the Ninja is in clear terrain or on a road. The Shuriken may move one hex from the drop point on the turn it is dropped, and then moves normally on subsequent turns. The Shuriken may re-enter a Ninja on any turn where it starts the turn in the same hex as the Ninja. It may not be attacked while transported within the Ninja, nor may it fire while it is stowed.
The colonel closed the briefing folder and looked back up at the individual in a finely tailored suit sitting before him. "Let me get this straight," he began. "You've put a tank inside a Ninja."
"In a manner of speaking," the man replied. "As you know, each Ninja has a mission pod that is customizable in a number of ways, depending upon the specific goals of the operation. Often this is filled with the standard long-range surveillance pod, enabling the Ninja to engage in reconnaissance missions. But we wanted to extend this capability even further. For all its electronics and stealth-tech wizardry, the Ninja is still a big Ogre. We wanted something small that could be used by the Ninja to scout further afield in a similar manner without raising an alarm."
The colonel leaned back in his chair. "I understand. But weren't the smaller drones of the surveillance pod doing the job?"
"Up to a point. But recent advances in EMP screens are causing many of them to fail. We needed something sturdier. By stripping the various support elements for the pilot out of a Gremlin, we were able to fill that space with drone relays and additional EW equipment, giving it the same spoofing capabilities as the Ninja. And because we released it from the limitations of a human operator, this unit is able to maximize its performance potential." The civilian leaned back in his chair, crossing his legs. "I anticipate using this module frequently."
The colonel opened a humidor on his desk, offering a cigar to the civilian who declined with a shake of his head. The colonel removed a cigar himself. "I expect it will perform well in-theatre," he said. He cut off the tip with an ornate cutter and lit the cigar, drawing deeply. "Very well. Let's see what it can do."
A Ninja outfitted with a Shuriken can be used in a number of different scenarios. The obvious use is to reconnoiter an area, perhaps with the Ninja acting as a diversion. Determining the location of a secret base, or a bank of off-line laser turrets, or some other strategic target, would all make for an interesting game.
Another potential scenario seed would involve moving a secure package from one point to another. Perhaps a spy has the plans for the next Paneuropean offensive and needs to get them out to Combine Command? Or Combine Command must get information to a fifth column in occupied Britain? The Shuriken could be the perfect adjunct to a Ninja for the mission.
Despite the minimal attack strength, even a surgical strike against a lightly armored target behind enemy lines might be possible for the Shuriken. Additionally, victory conditions for a scenario could be as simple as getting the Shuriken within 2 hexes of Point A, or establishing LLOS to Point B.
These are just some of the possible uses for this unit. Players are encouraged to come up with their own scenarios. If you do create an exciting scenario, please share it with us!