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X-COM Chronicle – Entry 24: The Lion’s Mouth

Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor


5 October 2015 / Argentina/ Operation Fading Dirge

We broke through the smoke and fog at 0300. The command ship lay below, hidden in the dense Argentinian jungle. It was massive, stretching several football fields long, and emanated heat even at this altitude. The aliens preferred warmer climates.

Big Sky didn’t find anywhere we could land, so he hovered over the back deck and let us rappel down. Wearing our new armor, and carrying those heavy plasma weapons, I wasn’t sure I could hold on to the rope. When my feet touched down on the corrugated deck, I heaved a sigh of relief. 

“This is Strike One, we are on site and ready to execute.”

It wasn’t CO Brandon on the other end, but the Commander. “Roger, Strike One. You’re on your own from here. Signal’s won’t make it through that hull. Good hunting.” The line died. 

We were standing on a raised platform overlooking dozens of stasis pods. I could just make out the terrified faces of abductees inside. A part of me knew they were already dead, but I felt the urge to break a few out. Dr. Vahlen had already tried on several victims of the abductor ships, and none could be revived. 

We all wore different helmets to protect against the unknown elements inside. A few of the aliens wore atmospheric masks while operating on Earth, and they may be pumping toxic gasses into the air. The lids made us look like robots from some scifi movie, which was pretty awesome. 

Chris led the way, along with Sam and Ewan. Durand, Corey and I hung back, covering their movements. We advanced as two fireteams, scanning the dark corners and pausing to listen for movement. We were maybe fifty yards into the ship when a Cyberdisk appeared from nowhere. 

Up close, they were plenty terrifying. The clamshells opened to reveal a twisted mass of black tentacles and spikes, all charging up to fire. Two drones hovered over to support. We all ducked for cover and fired. The Cyberdisk absorbed the plasma bolts and shuddered, collapsing to the ground with a loud SLAM. It sparked there for a moment before erupting into flames, taking out its drones at the same time. We took a second to collect our breaths and moved forward. 

“Well, they know we’re here now.” Sam took point, leading us through a small navigation section.

Two massive computer terminals ran the length of the room, the indecipherable alien language dancing on their screens. Chris snapped a few photos for the science teams, just in case we weren’t able to come back to this section. Official orders were to smash this ship and everything on board. If we couldn’t take out the command section, they would drop a tactical nuke on the site and wipe them out that way. 

I was hoping for Plan A personally. 

Two Mutons rounded a corner up ahead, grunting and roaring and firing their rifles. Chris barely dodged the shot and returned a burst of his own. One Muton dropped to the ground instantly. I lined up my sights on the second and fired. The plasma sniper rifle bucked, launching a green dart into the head of the alien grunt. Most of the top half of its body disappeared. 

“Woah, I LOVE this gun,” Chris shook his rifle and hooted. 

We entered a wider room that stretched high overhead and far off into the distance. It was so large you couldn’t see the end from where we stood. Dozens of stasis pods littered the floor, along with power pylons and strange gas containers. Ewan took a few samples while we reloaded. 

Just as we cleared a platform, something large and red dropped down from the ceiling. I shouted for everyone to take cover and searched for the target with my rifle. After a second it appeared, but I couldn’t fire. 

Two Mutons stood on either side, barking orders and shaking their rifles. In the center, standing at least eight-feet-tall, was a monster. It looked similar to a Muton, but wore MASSIVE claws on its fists. It bellowed–a terrifying, inhuman sound–and charged. 

We all fired at the same time, plasma bolts flying in every different direction. The Mutons were hit and fell to the ground, but the crazy bezerker thing kept coming. It was on top of Ewan before we knew what to do. He fell to the ground, pulling out the Arc Thrower as a last resort. The charge sizzled up the creature’s body and puffed out its head. It teetered for a moment, then collapsed in a heap next to Ewan. 

More Mutons appeared, trying to flank us. Corey popped a gas grenade and hurled it overhead. The noxious cloud spread in a tight circle, engulfing the aliens. They hacked and wheezed, stumbling from the mist and into our killzone. They didn’t stand a chance. 

Seconds later, three Chrysalids burst from the walls. They knew we were here, alright, and they weren’t happy. Corey and Sam hurled grenades, splattering the insects across the floor. We continued moving past their twitching bodies. I pulled out my pistol and put them out of their misery. 

We reached the command room fifteen minutes later and did a quick halt. I pulled the group into a huddle and spoke in a low whisper. 

“I don’t know what’s on the other side of these doors,” I said. “But whatever it is, we are not leaving here until it is dealt with. I want you to remember the people we’ve left behind, the friends and family we’ve lost. I want you to gather up every ounce of strength you have, because we are clearing this ship of any alien filth left. Only one species walks out of there alive.”

The bridge is incredible. Computers and holographic projections show the alien’s different bases around the Earth. Symbols denoted suspected X-COM bases. I was glad to see they hadn’t pinpointed Granite Peak just yet. I also saw a strange symbol that I figured must be EXALT. Even the aliens don’t want them around. 

I sent Durand, Corey and Sam to the top to provide cover while the rest of us scouted below. Strange sounds echoed around the room, and I wasn’t keen on walking into an ambush. 

“CONTACT LEFT!” Corey shouted almost immediately. 

We turned and saw the Cyberdisk emerge from behind cover. A lot of things happened at once. I noticed a massive pillar of light and metal standing in the back of the room, Corey started to suppress the disk, and a large Sectoid walked ominously toward us. It was bigger than its brethren, and even seemed more focused. Its skin was red and pink and glowed with an inner light. 

“I see him,” Chris called out. “I see the commander.”

A sudden thought struck me. This Sectoid didn’t seem much tougher than any other. “Ewan, can you take him alive?”

“I only have one shot left.”

I smiled. “Then let’s make it count.”

We swarmed the commander while Corey and Sam put down the Cyberdisk. I saw the Sectoid’s head swell and contract as we charged in. 

It’s a psychic attack!

Corey shouted in alarm, firing wildly into a computer terminal. He regained his composure a second later. “It tried to get into my head.”

“Ewan, TAKE HIM DOWN.”

Ewan dove at the alien, knocking it to the ground. He pulled the Arc Thrower out and placed it against the creature’s flesh. “Say hi to Dr. Vahlen for me.” The charge pulsed through the commander’s body and it lay still. Durand sprinted over and checked its vitals. We all held our breath and waited for his report.

Durand held a thumb up and grinned. “We got the fucker.”

The room erupted into cheers and shouts. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling as I walked to the central console and connected my radio. It was the same build as all the other alien vessels, and we’d managed to work out how to tap into their transmitters. I sent out the call, my entire body electrified. 

“This is Strike One in the open. Operation Fading Dirge is complete. Requesting pickup and immediate extraction.”

Holy shit…we won.

Author: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor

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