The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

X-COM Chronicle – Entry 6: Close Encounters of the 4th Kind

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

20 March 2015 / Kolkata, India / Operation Frozen Stranger

I had just sat down to eat when the alarm blasted across the mess. Amber and I stood in place, holding our steaming trays of military-grade mush while the announcement rang out. CO Brandon called out the play-by-play as Asian SatCom picked up another dispersal drop. That’s when the X-Ray shot those pods into a populated area and the aliens come in to collect. 

They picked a poor spot: Warehouse District in Kolkata, India. Most of the population had fled to the more rural areas, figuring the invaders would favor more urban settings. They were wrong, but it wouldn’t help to point it out. 

We set down in the Skyranger as the sky crested the horizon. As the door opened, the smell of restaurants and shopping stalls overwhelmed me. A second later, the unmistakable stench of death grew as well. Bodies lined the streets, cut down by plasma fire or crushed by falling pods. You’d think that by now I’d be used to this, but 3 weeks in hell hasn’t desensitized me in the least. 

We split into our buddy teams–Command still wouldn’t let us bring more than 4 soldiers per mission–and set out to clear the area. The aliens’ abduction missions usually included only a few Sectoids, so four trained riflemen would be plenty. We hadn’t seen any more of those light-creatures since the assault on the alien ship. Dr. Vahlen had called it an Outsider, given it’s apparent ability to live outside our dimension until needed. All I know is I’d rather never see anything like it again. 

We landed near an old butcher’s shop and shot out into the dark. The howl of the Skyranger’s engines blasted my eardrums and threw out a fierce wind that nearly knocked my flat. I slammed into the wall by the butcher’s window, catching my breath as I scanned the area. All clear. 

Victor Fournier, our new rookie, landed beside me. He was taking Corey’s seat for the trip while my buddy recovered from his injury. Unlike most of our raw recruits, Victor seemed pretty confident in his abilities. He’d been a hunter back in France and boasted how he could hit a fly off a horse’s ass at a dozen paces. I’d never heard anyone talk like that out of an old movie. 

Amber and Akemi called out over the radio and had us move forward quickly. Sounds were emanating from the freezer at the far end of the area, and the pattern of cocooned bodies indicated a strong presence for Sectoids. That familiar scent of ammonia and rot filled my nostrils and made every muscle in my body tense. Amber ordered me to the roof for overwatch and I went gladly. Anything to get a breath of fresh air. 

The freezer was a huge three-story structure with a rollup door in the front. Akemi set up on the side and waited for the others to get into position. Amber and Victor flanked the rollup and counted off to three. Vic opened the door, and suddenly all hell broke loose. 

Four Sectoids screeched in alarm, scrambling into cover and firing wildly at us. Victor took a snapshot at an alien in high cover. I almost laughed at his rookie mistake, but he connected. The alien pinwheeled and dropped to the ground. Amber caught another in the midsection and it crumpled to a heap by a slap of ribs.

Akemi kicked in her door and rolled a grenade into the middle of the freezer, but it only blew away cover. The aliens regrouped in the rear and fired off another salvo, narrowly missing Amber’s head. I lined up my scope on a particularly gnarly beasty and squeezed the trigger. He shot backward and slammed into the tiled wall, sliding down in a mess of green gore. The last alien took off toward the far door at a dead sprint, crawling on all fours. Victor took the shot and managed to hit it right in the head. It went down hard and slid to a stop behind a broken crate. 

In a second, all was quiet again. The cold wind blew over our sweaty faces and felt perfect. We let a collective cry of relief and called for Big Sky to come back for pickup. Almost three full weeks of constant fighting was taking a toll, but we were finally feeling that we could win this. If these attacks were the best the enemy had to offer, we just had to survive a little longer and we’d wear them down. 

This might just be a winnable war. 

Adam Korenman, Squaddie, X-COM