Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
18 October 2015 / Granite Peak / Ash and Thunder
We didn’t have a chance to move before the doors slammed shut and the lockdown began. Chris, Ewan and I scrambled to cover as bullets began to fly. I looked up and saw technicians–people I’d been working with for months, drawing down and killing their coworkers. A loud thunderclap shook the room and smoke billowed from the hangar. The Skyranger had just been disabled. CO Brandon fought with a deranged tech. I noticed that the aggressor’s eyes were milky white and appeared to be bleeding down his cheeks.
A pit formed in my stomach and I realized what was happening. Mind control. They had taken over our base. The aliens were attacking.
Immediately, a half-dozen Mutons dropped down from the ceiling, supported by two Mechtoids. We opened fire, along with two security personnel, and began to repel. I could just make out the sound of a door opening to my back over the cacophony. Doc had arrived with two more security officers. He hadn’t had time to grab his gear, so he was rocking a shitty vest and a bullpup rifle, but he was a welcome sight.
We laid down a heavy wall of lead and plasma, knocking the aliens to the ground. I could hear skittering coming from the walls and knew Chrysalids had to be close by. Two emerged a moment later, charging for Chris. One of the guards, Bernadette something from Canada, scored the killshot and put the giant bug down.
We waited in silence, reloading and training our weapons on every movement and sound. A hiss pulled my focus to the rear guard station. Blood pooled on the floor where the guards had once been. Brandon called out over the radio.
“Cyberdisks!” He had a good vantage point from the central command module above Mission Control. “Three, headed your way. Be ready!”
I saw the first one a ways off and sent two plasma bolts into it’s glowing face. The silver craft dropped hard and erupted, sending shards of alien metal all over the room.
The other two came in quickly, covering ground and gunning for the less armored humans. Everyone fired wildly. Ewan took a bad hit from the lead Cyberdisk and hit the ground hard. He popped up an instant later, but I could tell he was hurting.
“Floaters,” Brandon screamed. “Inbound on your location.”
Bernadette caught the Floater just as it landed, spraying its guts across the wall.
I joined with Chris and blasted the Cyberdisk until it went up like it’s friend. Two down, one to go. Drones came in after, trying to pin us down. One hit Ewan again and he screamed. I smelled burnt flesh and melted armor, even from across the room.
The last disk arrived, fired a long wide burst, and fell under the combined assault of every soldier in the room. Alarms blared from down the hall in the maintenance bay. I shouted for everyone to rally up and follow me. We took the corridor slow, covering every corner as we moved. Ewan hung back, trying to hold down a font of blood that painted his legs a vicious red. The one day we hadn’t packed our medkits.
A Chrysalid burst from the ceiling, dropping within a few feet of Chris. He fell back against the wall and fired, splitting the creature in half. The security guards pinned down a charging Muton a moment later, dropping grenades on its position until he grunted and died. Ewan pulled his pistol and shot a running Sectoid. He didn’t even acknowledge the amazing shot, he just kept limping along.
I took off toward a ladder nearby, hoping to get some tactical advantage. Just as I reached my perch, plasma bolts splashed the wall near my head. I hunkered down as a Sectoid hissed bitterly and returned to cover. Doc ran around to flank the creature and put a burst through its chest.
Sectoids and Mechtoids started dropping from the ceiling, supported by a Sectoid Commander. The guards all fired at once, taking a couple down but attracting too much attention. I took my time, lining up shots and taking down the bad guys. The Commander fell with a single bullet, and one of his buddies went quickly after. With the Sectoids down, we started looking for their big brothers. The monstrous cyborgs charged in, screaming a horrific battle cry.
Doc took a shot, but his rifle was no match for that armor. I signaled for the security team to move in, but they were a little more than hesitant. I had to take down one of the Mechtoids myself before they would even move.
“Colonel,” a voice said over the loud speaker. It was the Commander. “You have more contacts flooding in from the Forward Security Gate. If we can hold them here, we can save the base. I cannot impress upon you how vital it is we defend this installation.”
“You heard Command,” I shouted. “Push forward!”
Just as I spoke, the second Mechtoid burst from cover and charged. Doc and Chris unleashed hell, along with Bernadette and her team of guards (I don’t know if she was in charge, but she was the best shot). Doc finally managed a good flank shot and killed the pilot, knocking the machine out of commission.
We advanced as one, clearing to the other side of the Mech Bay. Chris and Doc had just reached the far side when the wall exploded outward. They froze in place. A Muton, a Berserker, a Mechtoid and a Sectoid all glared back, weapons glowing. Chris fell back to cover, firing over his shoulder. Doc scrambled back toward me and shouted for help.
The Berserker charged in, bellowing behind its heavy mask. Ewan lined up a perfect shot and double fired, sending a torrent of plasma into the alien’s chest. It collapsed with a whimper and bled out on the ground.
Chris and the Muton exchanged bursts, neither taking down the other. Chris called out for support as his cover exploded into fragments.
The Mechtoid rushed in, both arms glowing green as it readied its weapons. I took a shot and broke its front armor. Ewan followed quickly with a blast that evaporated the Sectoid inside. He was on a tear, getting payback for his own injuries.
Another Muton rushed for cover. I snapped off a quick round but missed a few feet behind. Damn, lead your targets. Come on, Adam, you know better.
Another Berserker charged, heading straight for Chris. With a yelp, Chris ran away, dropping a grenade and letting the explosion mask his trail. We set for the counterattack, readying all of our weapons on the only points of ingress.
My Muton made another move, but this time I was ready. The round found him in his scaly back, busting his chest open. I chambered another round and searched for more targets. Seconds later, the Cyberdisk appeared, dragging drones behind. All of the security guards opened fire, but hit nothing but air. The disk pushed forward, searching for a target.
Another Berserker appeared and rushed Bernadette. All at once, the guards let loose. Bullets chipped away at the alien’s armor and pierced its thick flesh. Finally, just as it closed in on the young officer, one of the guards through a frag grenade. The explosion knocked Bernadette to her butt, but killed the Berserker just in time.
I managed to land a clean shot through the Cyberdisk’s core, taking it down with a single shot. The explosion knocked out its drone and blew a hole in the far wall. We could hear more aliens getting ready to charge in, so we scrambled for higher ground and took aim. The room held its breath and waited for the next assault.
A Mechtoid, angered by the death of its friends, charged in. It didn’t last seconds under hail of gunfire and plasma bolts. My rifle finally clicked empty as I put the last round into the cyborg’s brain.
We advanced quickly and quietly, pausing in the Security office to drop off Ewan. He was bleeding worse and barely able to keep up. I had Doc do a down and dirty pressure bandage and we marched on. The last room was the forward access tunnel, the area where wheeled vehicles entered the base. We heard the click-clack of the alien language as we approached. I sent the team into two groups, fanning around the control tower until we engulfed the room. We found it hiding behind a few crates, nursing an injured arm.
The Sectoid Commander glared at us with compound eyes. It was definitely bigger than its cousins, and meaner-looking too. It set down the rifle on its arm as we closed in, facing us unarmed.
I wasn’t fooled.
The burst lasted only a second, but was incredibly loud and intense. All that remained of the Commander was a pink puddle on the ground.
Clean up lasted just over seven hours, long into the morning of the 19th. I led the way, sweeping each room clear. Most of the techs who’d been turned, those who hadn’t been shot after attacking, were well enough. They had been aware of their actions, but unable to control themselves. Dr. Vahlen worried that this type of attack could be just the beginning, but Dr. Chen disagreed.
“If they’d been able to do this before, they would have. We’ve been enough of a problem to warrant that. This was most likely a one-time attempt, and we are lucky to have survived.”
CO Brandon caught up to me while I watched repair crews work on the Skyranger. Big Sky stood nearby, angrily shouting orders to the mechanics.
“34 alien dead,” Brandon said. “And minimal casualties here. About as good a job as we could ever hope.”
I nodded. “How about Ewan?”
“A week, maybe more. The armor held him together, but he lost a lot of blood. He’ll be back in shape in no time.”
I chewed on my lip. “We aren’t going to win this way.” Brandon stared at me. “I was wrong before. We aren’t going to muscle these guys out. They were able to get into our heads, literally. We need to be even smarter. We need to be more.”
“More what?” he asked.
“More than human,” I said softly. I left him to think on that and went back to the barracks. I had been up for 30 hours and really needed the rack time. It took longer than normal to get to my bed, given all the debris and bodies. When I got there, I found a small black box waiting for me.
I picked up the leather case and weighed it in my hand. Heavier than expected. I opened the case tentatively, not sure if I was about to see General’s stars or something. I was getting used to this fast promotion business. Instead, I found something even better.
In combat, there are many medals you can win. Some are awarded for valor, others for merit, others for honor. One medal always shone brighter: the Medal of Honor. Given that there was no Congress to award the MOH, the Commander had devised something of equal caliber. It had been hanging on the wall since day one, just outside the training center: a goal for all us aspiring soldiers.
I lifted it up and read the inscription, engraved on the golden star with perfect lettering: Of all the stars in the Milky Way, She shine brightest of all.
The Star of Terra.
Ever since I’d arrived at X-COM and seen the device, I’d wondered if I’d ever be considered for it. In all my daydreams, it’d never happened like this.
I set the award on my table next to my pistol (I never slept without it, not since the first time I’d seen a Chrysalid attack). I don’t remember falling asleep, but I woke up 20 hours later. I’d missed three meetings and a surprise inspection, but no one woke me.
They may not have made it from the room had they tried.