Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
10 June 2015 / Catalina Island, California / Operation Vengeful Moon
“They’re not at all what we expected.” Dr. Vahlen clicked her remote and the slides progressed, showing images of the interrogated Sectoid. It looked no worse for wear, at least outwardly. “These Sectoids possess no sexual organs of any kind. That we know from our autopsies. What we’ve learned from this living specimen is something even more fascinating. They possess no brain activity in the fronto-median cortex, the area we associate with free will. If this is true, then these aliens are not really front-line troops. They are conscripts, or mind-slaves.
“Not that you should cut them any slack in combat,” she added, smiling wryly.
We laughed, but mostly because Dr. Vahlen terrified us all. She continued her presentation, cutting to a blurry image of a Sectoid, or at least something that look like a Sectoid. It’s skin was a vibrant red and pink. I instantly recalled an image I’d seen during my inbriefing, from one of the first missions X-COM had run.
“This, we believe, is a Sectoid Commander. It will have the ability to control other aliens, using them to achieve it’s nasty goals–whatever those may be. What we’ve found most remarkable is the connection in the alien’s brain between this image, and this one.” She clicked the remote and a new picture appeared.
Everyone in the room gasped. On the screen was the glowing, golden Outsider. It was seen from the POV of a Sectoid, making it stand even taller.
“The Outsider seems to hold some level of importance in the alien hierarchy. For this reason, we are updating our mission statement to include the capture of one of these deadly creatures.”
Hours later, sitting on the top of a grassy hill, I thought about how excited I’d been from that briefing, and how much I regretted it now. Not twenty minutes after Dr. Vahlen finished her presentation, we got the word that a UFO had landed off the coast of California, near Los Angeles. It looked like another exploratory mission, but it also presented a great opportunity for us. It was hard to shake my nagging suspicions. Two landings this close together?
It was a small Scout, and it looked beat to hell. If I hadn’t known it landed on its own, I would have swore it was shot down.
“At least it’s a little one,” Chris said. “Shouldn’t be more than a few Grays in there.”
Durand groaned. “You just screwed us. You know that, right?”
Chris grinned sheepishly. He was about to answer when the air above us crackled and sparked. We turned just in time to see two Seekers drop down from above, tentacles poised to strike. Durand and Chris fired at once, perforating the aliens’ silver plating and sending them crashing into the dirt.
I didn’t move at first. With the dead creature sputtering at my feet, I just sat in the grass and waited. And listened. Our surprise party had just been announced, and who knew what was waiting over the hill? When I was satisfied we weren’t about to be jumped, I gave the signal to move.
Three Floaters hovered near the entrance of the ship, searching for the source of the commotion. They were calling out, perhaps to the Seekers. Kreekal. Rowrek, Kreekal. I set up the bipod for my sniper rifle and waited for the shot.
Chris and Durand crept down from the side, covered by Corey and Yamaguchi. They paused at a crop of rocks and signaled the all ready.
“Green light,” I said over the radio.
Hell broke loose as everyone fired at once. Chris and Durand wielded their new laser rifles to great effect. Two Floaters dropped immediately, seared straight through by the intense red beam. The third had a moment to contemplate the loss of his friends before I placed a round into the back of his skull. The air was strangely calm, but only for a second.
Then we heard the roar.
“Adam?” Chris hunkered behind his boulder. Something was coming out of the ship. Something big. Something mean.
It stood nearly eight-feet-tall, with shiny green armor covering its massive body. Bits of brown skin could be seen between its gauntlets and shoulder plating. It carried a massive rifle in its clawed hands and wore a breathing mask over its face. We could only stare in horror as another two appeared behind the first.
“Contact front!” I shouted. “Put them down.”
We all fired, sending bullets and laser beams at the new creatures. Chris got a direct hit across the lead alien’s chest, but it shrugged it off as though it were nothing. Corey sent two bursts into another, barely denting its armor. Yamaguchi and Durand managed to piss off the third, enough that it beat its chest and roared in defiance.
Holy shit, we’re going to die.
Chris and Yamaguchi threw their grenades, blowing away cover and sending hot shrapnel pinging around the ship. One of the aliens collapsed on the ground, its chest looking like hamburger. It rose to its knees for a moment, but succumbed to death in the end. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least they can be killed.
The Outsider chose this perfect moment to make its appearance. It materialized at the entrance to the Scout and fired a burst at Yamaguchi. She took the hit along her side. Her armor melted and her flesh bubbled, but she didn’t go down. Screaming, she dove into cover behind a dead tree and fired back in a panic.
I took aim at a hiding creature and fired. The round danced inside its head for a moment before exploding out the back. The alien hit the deck of the saucer and didn’t move again.
Chris and Durand were shouting at each other. I couldn’t make out their words over the firefight, but suddenly they were up and moving. Durand fired his laser rifle while Chris sprinted headlong at the Outsider. He drew the Arc Thrower from his pack and charged in.
I fired as fast as I could, putting a slug through the large alien’s neck. Durand finished it off with a persistent burst from his rifle. Chris was on his own, pumping his legs to close the distance as fast as he could. The Outsider took a shot that flew wide, and suddenly Chris was there, unleashing a torrent of electricity at the strange being.
The Outsider screamed, sparked, and collapsed back in on itself. There was a tremendous flash of light, and then it was gone. Or rather, the bipedal creature was gone. In its place was a glowing golden crystal. Chris picked it up, uncertain he had just taken it down at all. Then, holding it over his head, he cheered.
We all screamed, jumping in the air, crazy with excitement. I’m sure things were no different back at Mission Control. Durand was already patching up Yamaguchi when I managed to make the call to Command.
“This is Strike One,” I said. “Golden Gift is wrapped and we are ready to deliver.” I was expecting Brandon to be on the other side of the line, as was the norm. Instead, the gravelly voice of the Commander came back.
“That’s good news, Strike One. Bag and tag and wait for evac. We’ll see you when you get home…Colonel.”