Orientation of Surface Threats
Here is a very short and basic primer on the different threats you might encounter on the surface (or detect through your sensors). Note that your sensors can only accurately profile (ie categorize) Enemy machines, the biologicals may trip motion detectors but you will receive no classifications.
IWXs & SWXs
Science separates Machines into two basic categories; Initial Wave Xenomachines (IWX, "Iwex") and Second Wave Xenomachines (SWX, "Swex"). There are many considerations here and Science will be able to tell you more, but suffice to say that IWXes are generally huge, stationary installations (refineries etc), while SWXes are smaller, mobile units (and the ones that SURFOPS generally encounter).
It is worth remembering that the different Machines, especially the SWXes, come in a multitude of material combinations, modifications and variations. One Puppetmaster may look different from another, but their primary characteristics and behaviour will be the same.
It is also worth noting that some machine types are still being analyzed and/or that their data is currently classified, awaiting declassification by Haven Science, hence this list is incomplete.
XM1: Strip miners
Exceptionally large clusters of machinery interconnected by tubes, performing various strip mining, most often in mineral rich ground or mountain. Hard to observe due to large concentration of SWX and obscured by dust clouds and exhaust smoke. Are usually served by a host of orbital tugs and unclassified SWXes.
XM2: Refinery complexes
Similar to Strip mining complexes, but less modularized. Often found in cigar-shaped configurations ranging from fifty to two hundred meters long. Large concentration of support machinery and transport activity.
Production facilities of various kinds, most often dug into the ground. Has been observed to produce SWX machinery and other unknown production.
XM4: Spore chimneys
Appear to be primarily machine based but with certain biological components. Ranging in size from half a meter high to tens of meters high and wide. Highly irritant for humans as they spew out toxic amounts of spores.
XM5: Orbital tugs
A variety of automated transport ships that appear to be ferrying material or supplies down from the Orbital ships to the surface. Commonly around a hundred meters long and roughly cylindrical, but comes in a variety of sizes and shapes.
XM6: Sweepers (aka Nightowls)
Unarmed aerial drones ranging from fist sized to around a meter in diameter. Appears to perform reconnaissance and mapping functions. While they in themselves pose no threat, they have been confirmed to relay reconnaissance data to nearby SWXes, which then converge on the Sweepers position should the Sweeper find something of interest.
The smaller units seem to mainly operate thermal, IR and electromagnetic sensors. Reflective blankets have been proven to be a viable countermeasure for detection. Appears resilient to our electronic field projectors.
They sometimes pair with XM18, Rhinos, but not always.
Cylindrical aerial vehicles that seem to move in repetitive patterns over large areas, in a slow but steady pace. Our current working theory is that the Seeders somehow deploy small Spore Chimneys at preset locations.
XM8: Lotus pods
What seems to be one of the few SWXes without any variation or submodels. The Lotus Pods so far observed are uniform in construction and appearance: a twenty six meters long metallic “spine” to which six dodecahedral “pods” are attached underneath, and a spherical “bulb” at one end. Our closest analogy to describe this machine type is that of a “troop transport”. Observations have been made where these “pods” are dropped from the air, only to slow down just before touchdown, after which the shell of the pod falls off and deploys an SWX.
These aerial machines resemble a flexible metallic tube around five meters in diameter and roughly eight meters long, with three struts protruding from the side of the “maw”. This maw is a circular opening that seems to contain an array of grinding and cutting tools. The few observations we have of these machines suggest they are deployed as material samplers - even if this might easily appear as if they are “bunker busters” to us - as they will land, maw facing the ground, deploy their struts as supports, and proceed to drill into the ground, often disappearing completely beneath the surface. We estimate a Lamprey can cut through a meter of solid rock in just two hours.
XM12: Spider drones
A wide variety of spider-like or insect-like drones, ranging in size from a few centimeters to thirty centimeters across. We believe these fairly simple machines are mass produced “reconnaissance” machines, dropped from Lotus Pods over large areas. They have no offensive capabilities but are small and hard to detect.
They contain a very simple “CPU” and an electromagnetic pulse transmitter, and we believe they are basically disposable units. Their main danger lies in their ability to get into small openings, and may pose serious threats if getting in to Haven or Outpost ventilation systems or exhausts. Their pulse transmitters are fairly weak, and as such they are cut off from communicating with machines on the surface if separated by just half a meter of rock or soil, but if they were to get into one of our tunnels and remain undetected they could certainly return to the surface to report their findings, calling in reinforcements.
These are are squat cylindrical machines ranging from fifteen to sixty centimeters high and ten to thirty centimeters wide, and have two manipulator arms that retracts into the cylindrical carapace. A small hatch on the top opens up to reveal a small sensor knob and a directed energy weapon of short range. They appear to be a form of sentry machine that burrows into the ground where the unit remains stationary. The units appear to sometimes be deployed in rings around IWXes and act as a stationary line of defence. Very hard to detect, and difficult to engage in combat as they present a very low profile.
These six-legged machines measure roughly four meters in height and have a boxy carapace hanging from where the legs attach to its top. A bristling array of manipulator arms and what appears to be some form of hoses or tubing protrude from the sides of the carapace. These slow moving machines appear to be some form of support vehicle for the Spore Chimneys. Are not aggressive, and appears to ignore us, but we believe they do call for reinforcements.
Two-legged, vaguely humanoid machines seemingly designed for search-and-destroy duties, these machines have been observed to incorporate a wide variety of weaponry, ranging from microwave projectors, kinetic weaponry and micro-explosive launchers to different forms of cutting and slashing implements. A few models appear to be equipped with a directional subsonic inducer that causes great pain, disorientation and acute nausea in humans.
They are extremely dangerous and almost impervious to small arms fire, but are susceptible to our electromagnetic field projectors, which can cause them to enter some form of temporary shutdown state. This state seem to last anywhere from thirty seconds to a few minutes until some onboard repair system reactivates the unit once again.
Field report 27.128 makes it clear that Stalkers employ an onboard overload switch for their microreactors, which appears to be a last failsafe should the unit be tampered with in its deactivated state. The overloading of the reactor causes a significant explosion with a high yield of exotic radiation affecting up to a three hundred meter radius.
Two-legged machines measuring three meters in height and employing some form of thermo-optic camouflage when they detect a threat, making them very hard to detect visually. They have a needle-like “beak” in the front, measuring roughly a meter. This appears to be a high power railgun capable of penetrating very dense materials. Very fast, can reach speeds of up to 70 km/h.
Squat, slow vehicle-like XM that appears to be primarily concerned with moving through debris or packed dirt or snow. Sometimes, it seems to decide that movement is a cause for removing whatever terrain is in its path. To this purpose, it employs a wide array of what appears to be weaponry to us, but it is most often used on stationary ground targets and physical obstacles.
The machines known as “puppetmasters” are most often seen in the form of a carapace about a meter in size, covered in a black, film-like material which tends to hang down in tendrils, and four tapered legs, the front legs slightly shorter than the hind legs. These machines appear to control sequestered life-forms (notably humans with enough of a working central nervous system) through the means of radio controlled nerve interface shunts.
The Puppetmasters themselves are slow moving, fragile machines but they surround themselves with hosts of sequestered lifeforms - not only humans but all manner of higher order vertebrates - although they appear to favour homo sapiens.
The sequestered lifeforms (“puppets”) appear to retain basic motor functions (albeit in an erratic manner), but do not appear to retain sentience. The human "puppets" controlled by the Puppetmaster can use tools (such as firearms).
There is much to say on the Enemy biologicals, their behaviour and characteristics, but here are the very rudimentary basics you all know:
The bios come in all shapes and sizes, most of them utterly alien to us, with a few seemingly being modified or “corrupted” Terran lifeforms. They all lack any sense of self-preservation and rarely retreat from an engagement, seemingly “programmed” to fight to the death, but they are also very unintelligent. If they lose your trail or you distract them enough, the seem to return to their primary pack behaviour and lose interest in pursuing.
They are mostly active during the day, and they are mostly active during warm periods. Long, cold and dark winters make Bio contact somewhat rare.
Suffice to say that many, many of the biological enemies you encounter are fiercly aggressive and very dangerous. For more detailed information on Enemy biologicals, contact Thermopylae Science.