Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
15 March 2015 / Pocatello, Idaho / Operation Empty Jester
“We’ve got a bogie!”
I was sitting in a briefing with the Commander when the call came out. We were all on our feet immediately, sprinting down the corridor to Mission Control. We arrived just in time to see the Geoscape shift to an image of Raven 1 streaking through the sky. Moments later, a UFO appeared on screen.
The aliens used a variety of ships, according to the science team. Most of their craft were small scouts: Skeleton crews setting out to harass the populace and identify targets for abduction or seizure. There were larger ships assigned to assault missions, and then the big command ship that arrived on Day One. This was just a Scout, but they had proven quite effective at shooting down our best fighters.
The Ravens stationed at Granite Peak were state-of-the-art. The F-41 Raven Interceptor had been a redesign of the F-37 Superiority Fighter. The wings and frame were worked over to give the fighter increased speed and maneuverability, sacrificing armor for agility. Ravens bought us the airspace at a high cost, which made each mission count even more.
Lou “Ketchup” Heinz, the Squadron Commander, took this sortie. He closed with the Scout in seconds, firing off a quick one-two punch of Avenger missiles. The first flew wide, but the second punched a hole right through its aft section. The saucer sputtered in the air before dropping hard to the ground below. The room erupted in cheers and applause. Everyone celebrated taking down another one of the enemy’s ships. Everyone except for CO Brandon. The intel officer spoke into his headset rapidly.
“Alpha Squad to the Skyranger for immediate deployment.”
I heard the call the second time and took off toward my bunk. Corey was already there, strapping on his armor and sliding a picture of his mother into his chest pocket. I grabbed my gear and chased him to the hangar, stopping at the armory along the way to pick up my new rifle. The M27 Springfield was nearly as tall as me, and heavy to boot. The .50 Cal slugs it shot worked like a charm on Sectoids, so I didn’t complain. We were in the air the moment my ass hit the seat.
X-COM Squads were teams of 4. The Commander had made the call early on in the fight, back when there were only a few saucers populating the sky. Since most trained military personnel bought it during the initial fight, rank and experience tended to be a fairly rare commodity. As Brandon put it, until someone proved they had what it takes to lead a larger group, only 4 soldiers would risk it at a time. It also meant that we were going into the shit with only a battle buddy to watch our backs.
We landed just outside a small town in Idaho an hour before midnight. Smoke from the crash drifted up from the center of a shopping strip not far from our LZ. Amber led the team forward, bounding us in teams of two. Corey and I took the left flank while Akemi and Amber headed right. It didn’t take long to meeting the welcoming committee.
It was just two Sectoids, each bruised and bloody from the hard landing. Corey and I split them, taking the shots one after another. Mine went down quick, but Corey’s managed to get a shot off. The plasma splashed over Corey’s shoulder, spraying melted armor onto the parking lot. He shouted a curse before putting the bastard down.
Akemi charged into a nearby sports bar, kicking down the door and sweeping the room with her 240B. Against the far wall rested a tall silver container with glowing orange mist. She tagged the material with a locator so the follow-on team could collect.
Two more Sectoids appeared in the burning junkyard behind the bar. A destroyed highway overpass pointed the way toward the wreckage, and we could just make out the familiar blue glow of the alien’s shields. Akemi fired off a burst but chewed up nothing but gravel. The alien chittered in response, loosing a stream of plasma in my direction. The second Sectoid made a gurgling noise and, I shit you not, started glowing purple. Its whole head lit up like a beacon, and suddenly the other one did as a well. I’d heard about this from the science guys, but never seen it before. Mind Meld, like a Vulcan or something. Apparently it made them a stronger fighting team.
Amber shouted for me to take the shot, but I was still a little rattled from the near miss. I fired wide, pinging a rusted sedan and leaving the Sectoid maddeningly alive. Corey managed to bring down the super charged alien closest to him. Now disconnected, the Sectoid ran back to its ship for cover.
We closed in, moving quickly to surround the broken ship. I took position behind a shattered tree on a hill overlooking the Scout. Amber and Corey moved in closer, with Akemi providing backup. I sighted the lone alien through my scope and squeezed the trigger. Green mist exploded into the air and the Sectoid dropped out of sight.
“Stay alert,” Amber shouted. “I hear more inside.”
Just as she finished speaking, the air inside the ship took on a sudden glow. A golden spike appeared in the air, unraveling into a wiry creature. It seemed to be made of golden metal and light, and carried a large rifle. No one moved as the new creature ran to cover and opened fire. A massive burst of plasma tore a chunk out of the wood by my head. Amber send a return volley from her shotgun, but missed by a mile. Corey tried to shoot next, but he didn’t have the angle.
I had to run from cover to cover just to find the damned thing, but it moved again quickly after. Amber finally gave up and charged headlong into the fray, placing her shotgun inches from its chest before firing. This time the alien exploded into fragments of gold and metal, landing in a heap on the Scout’s deck. We all stood there, sweating and panting and terrified, until the silence seemed overwhelming.
“What the hell was that, Strike One?”
Adam Korenman, Squaddie, X-COM