Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
14 July 2015 / France / Operation Lone Prophet
I stood at the docks for half the day, waiting for my ride to arrive. My messenger bag hung heavy over my shoulder, cinched tight to my body so I could move more freely. I shielded my nose from the stench coming off the wharf. A whaling vessel had breached its hull escaping an alien attack, and now the cargo rotted in the summer heat. Don’t worry, I checked for Chrysalids first.
The past week had been pretty incredible. First, I flew to Paris to meet with X-COM: European Union Branch. Brandon’s counterpart here is a woman named Bonny Buffett. She’s impressive; her off-hand knowledge of the aliens rivals even Dr. Vahlen, and she is tactically refined. Also, in her words by the way, she looks like a hot librarian.
B.B. led me to the EXALT cell in the city. They’d worked their way into the Council’s inner circle and were spreading misinformation in an attempt to raise the panic of the populace. We learned the hard way with Argentina: if you don’t make sure people are willing to fight, they’ll roll over. I don’t even want to know what that part of the world looks like anymore. Last I’d heard, the aliens had completely obliterated it.
These EXALT people were unmodified, but you could always spot the muscle around the corner. Affected troops had larger eyes, and a slight reptilian look to the skin of their faces. Most wore bandannas to cover up their mouths (you do not want to see what’s underneath). My fake ID got me as far as their second-tier before I hit a wall. Only those willing to undergo some manner of augmentation were allowed further, and there was only so much I was going to do for X-COM.
Dr. Chen set me up with a pretty sweet laptop. Not quite as nice as my old MacBook Pro, but it’ll have to do. Haven’t tried gaming with it yet. But, it has a nifty port that, when connected to EXALT networks, sucks information right off their cloud. It wasn’t my first rodeo, so I managed to grab almost half their data before I needed to leave. A few of the guards were noticing me a bit more, and I wasn’t about to play with my luck. I beat it out of that warehouse before they had a chance to question me further, leaving behind a little going away present of my own.
That one was from Corey. He was pretty much a genius when it came to explosives nowadays, and he had jury-rigged a suitcase bomb. I laid it next to one of the support beams in the basement of the cell’s lair and left. It was set to go off if moved or on a timer, and I wasn’t planning to wait for either of those cases.
Now, standing at the docks and waiting for Big Sky, I worried that I had set the charge correctly. About a minute later, I felt the ground shake and watched a pillar of smoke rise over the city. Most residents would just think it was a building toppling from structural damage. A few would worry about aliens, but you can’t please everyone. I smiled to myself and imagined I heard engines whining in the distance.
I looked to my right and saw six EXALT soldiers approaching. They were armed and armored and about as pissed as you can look with lizard eyes (hint: super pissed). They didn’t look ready for explanations, so I drew my pistol and fired. One took a hit in the shoulder and the others ducked for cover. I managed to slip away into the maze of crates as return fire came my way.
“Big Sky, this is ManKorn! I need immediate evac!” A blast hit my cover and blew away a chunk of wood. “Position is compromised, LZ is hot.”
I stayed low to the ground, running in a crouch from crate to crate. Bullets snapped overhead, burying themselves in the boxes all around me. I fired blind at the soldiers, hearing them drop the ground to avoid the laser blasts. The fight was so intense I didn’t even notice Strike Two arrive on the scene.
Sam and Olga had dropped onto the roof of the nearby dockhouse and were laying down cover fire. Corey and Durand ran up the docks, firing long bursts at my attackers.
A grenade landed at my feet and I leapt over a shipping container to get away. The explosion knocked me to the ground, and when I recovered I realized I was in a dead end. I turned around to see two EXALT soldiers readying their rifles. I didn’t even have time to raise my gun before the shooting started. Laser blasts rained down from above, striking the two terrorists and laying them down. I turned to see Scott and Chris chasing after the last man. He didn’t get far.
When the fighting died down, we all gathered at the edge of the dock. Big Sky circled down for a pickup, spraying a mist of salty water into the air. Scott and Sam gave me an update on the missions back home, and Durand checked everyone for injuries. Minutes later we were airborne, burning our way back to Granite Peak. I connected the laptop to the console in the Skyranger and connected to CO Brandon.
“Great work, Colonel. Data are streaming now.”
I rested my head against the cushioned rest and let my eyes close. When I opened them again, we were home. Brandon was waiting for me outside the hangar. He shook my hand, told me my hard work was appreciated, and escorted me to Mission Control.
“Dr. Vahlen came up with a pretty interesting theory on EXALT, and I wanted to run it by you. This level of organization means there has to be a central command. They are coordinated, driven, and have an agenda all their own. If we can identify their main HQ, we can stop EXALT once and for all.”
I nodded. “But how exactly to we do that?”
“It’s going to take a lot of effort from the soldiers. I need a dedicated team of operatives to send on missions. People we can trust.”
“I’ll have a list for you tomorrow morning.” I started toward the barracks when a thought struck me. “Brandon, are we safe here?”
He looked at me quizzically. “What do you mean?”
“Can anything out there threaten us in here?”
“I think we’re pretty secure. The aliens have an idea that we’re here, but they don’t seem ready to mount that kind of assault. Besides, our air defenses would blast them out of the sky long before they got close enough to land. Why?”
“Just…B.B. was telling me about Argentina. They’d had eyes on when the attack went down…when South America went dark. The aliens hit them before they had a chance to sound the alert. It was over and done before anyone could even react. I just want to make sure we’ve got a plan in place.”
Brandon smiled. “Thinking like a commander now. I’ll run that by our security team and have plans drawn up for any contingency. Good work today, Adam.”