There’s a moment in every botched Invisible, Inc. mission that you know you’ve stayed too long. Your palms start to sweat as the alarm starts throwing guards you can’t hope to deal with at you, all between you and the all-too-distant exit. You start to think about how you got here: the awkward shape of the level, an exit too close to where you started, waiting too long for the best loot to open up. You start to think about which agent you’re most willing to lose, whether there was a rescue mission on the map and if it’ll be gone by the time you return to base.

But sometimes, you find yourself in such a situation and the inevitable doesn’t happen. Sometimes, you escape by the skin of your teeth, every option exhausted, every lucky break taken. That’s what happened to me, and it was the best moment I’ve ever had in any video game. Let me tell you how it went down.

I was making my second attempt at completing the “experienced” diffuculty campaign. I’m trying out a new program this time around, parasite, which is free to use and removes one firewall from a device every turn. BUT, crucially, every time you install an additional parasite, the cost ticks up by one.

For the first few turns, this seemed like a typical mission. Smooth, even. Sure, the exit too close to the entrance, but at least I knew where it was. I was even able to get around without knocking out the guards pretty effectively.

By around turn 8, I had reached the vault, the high-security optional area that requires you to do a whole other mission just to unlock it. I’d been here once before, on another mission in another run, without the keycard. I was finally ready to find out what was in there.

This was when I realized that Internationale, the agent holding the keycard, was several turns away, and she was pinning an unconscious guard (pinning a guard keeps them unconcious longer, buying precious time before he wakes up and triggers a domino train of danger and stress.)

This should have been my que to abort, call off the mission and send in the extraction team. I’d locked down some good rewards already (vault missions, besides having a vault, have more loot than normal missions), but the vault would take me 3 or 4 more turns just to get Internationale to it, and then I’ve got to get out again, and by then that guard will wake up, and he’ll have reinforcements. Yep, right then would have been a great time to wrap up the hacks on the contents of those expensive-looking glass cases and get outta dodge.

But the vault was right there.

Internationale is my best character. She can see devices through walls, and hack terminals without touching them, saving precious action points. A side-benefit of her ability is intel; you can use her ability to learn the layout and see turrets and cameras through walls and around corners. She also starts with +1 in hacking, so she gets more power to initiate hacks. Central, the head of Invisible, Inc, has something negative to say about everyone, but all she can find fault with in Internationale is that she’s socially conscious (“Don’t ask her about the plight of the global proletariat”). She’s awesome.

But she’s not very fast.

I can make it, I told myself. It’ll be fine. Banks can cover the door for her while she loots the vault. There’s only one guard alerted, and there’s no one near him. And what are the odds that a guard will spawn in that guard teleporter right next to the exit? I decided to go for it. (Spoiler alert: huge mistake.)

By the time Internationale could finally unlock the vault, another guard had spawned and the first had woken up. I was definitely feeling the pressure by this point, but it seemed manageable. Just one more turn to raid the vault, then we’d be out of here.

What I didn’t know was, in order to access the money in the vault, I would need to break into a terminal with 3 firewalls. The only program I have is one that breaks firewalls once a turn. I would need to hold out for 3 turns before I could even access the money.

I decided to wait it out. I positioned Banks, the one with all the action points and none of the computer smarts, outside the door in case one of the alerted and very angry guards came through. And I waited.

With one turn to go on the vault terminal, the guard Internationale had subdued before burst through the door and pointed his gun at Banks. Rookie mistake: I forgot to leave her on ambush. Now the alarm would go up even faster and more guards would be headed this way. I knocked him out and tried to drag him out of sight.

Finally, the last firewall cracked. In 4 towering safes, I found more money than I had found the entire rest of the game. If I could make it out with this, I was going to be able to buy anything I wanted. And since I hadn’t managed to find a third team member, having good gear was going to be the only way I’d make it to the end.

Now it was time to survive. The only exit to the vault room opened on a hallway with little cover, which in turn lead into a wide-open room with no cover on one side and a security gate splitting it down the middle. This was the gauntlet I had set up for myself, and the guards running the opposite way were making it look really unlikely I would be able to get both of them out alive.

By this point, every guard in the level had been alerted and was running directly for the vault. 6 guards in all. There are only a handful of ways to deal with 6 guards at once in Invisible, Inc, and I didn’t have any of them. I’d gotten myself into a situation like this before, and it was my last mission of that run.

What followed was me desperately trying to squeeze my agents though a maze of guards, using all three of my rewinds (letting me retry my last turn). If I distract this one here by closing this door, then leave this one open so the other goes to look in that side room, then knock out the second guard and step into cover so the camera can’t see me… nothing quite worked, but I got closer every time. Before spending my last rewind, I remembered that Banks wasn’t completely gadget-less; she had a short-range cloaking module. She couldn’t move far once cloaked, but maybe it’d be enough to squeeze her through.

It worked! I was able to trick 2 guards into going past my agents to look in the vault room, then activate Banks’ cloak and walked right in front of the others. But this left Internationale stranded in that room, crouching behind cover that was immediately invalidated by a scanner thrown by one of the guards. Leaving Internationale, besides being a setback I would probably never recover from, was just not acceptable. She was leaving this mission alive, or nobody was.

I used my last rewind. This was going to have to be perfect from here on out.

I had one last idea I could try. I could hand off the cloak to Internationale, since she had fewer action points, and let her slip out into the wide open room and go around the laser gate to the right. Maybe, if she was lucky, the guards would walk past her, and the scanner would be out of range. Then Banks could go around to the right, staying behind cover, and they just might miss her. Then she’d have enough action points to sprint to the exit.

It was all I had open to me. It would take Internationale the long way around; even if she made it, it’d take her three turns to even have a shot at the exit. But it was the best plan I had. I committed. Another guard spawned outside the exit.

Banks had a clear shot at the exit teleporter, and Internationale hadn’t been spotted. This could actually work. I’d have to leave Internationale partially exposed to have enough action points, but if anybody spotted her I could just duck behind the wall… and wait for them to find and kill her. It was the only option. I swallowed and told Banks to go to the exit and wait. Just 2 more turns.

Another turn, nobody had spotted Internationale. But the guard that just spawned saw banks, and every guard in the level is now pointing a gun at her. If she doesn’t take the teleporter right now, she dies. And Internationale has no way around the literal swarm of guards standing outside the exit.

I was out of options. Could I beat the remaining missions with just one agent? Probably not. I was resigned to a slow death as I activate the teleporter, standing her in the level. But before I send Banks to safety, the game asks me “Are you sure you want to teleport this agent out of the level? They will not be able to come back, and the elevator will be on cooldown for a few turns before it can be used again.”

It can be used again.

There was a chance, just a chance, they were both leaving alive. I sent Banks to safety and hid Internationale as close to the exit as I dared, and hoped that they would all miraculously scatter like cockroaches on the next turn.

They did nothing. They didn’t even move, they all just made some noise about scanning the area. That was ok, because the elevator was on cooldown anyway (probably?), so I waited another turn. And this time they all turned to look in other rooms, one running right past her hiding spot, leaving just enough of an opening for Internationale to sprint to safety.

I was so happy when I push the teleporter button that I screamed aloud and pounded the desk. (I went on to beat the campaign, in almost as close an encounter as this one. Invisible, Inc. is really good at generating stories like this. I only wish that I had also recorded it so you could see what I saw.)