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X-COM Chronicle – Entry 7: We’re Gonna Need Bigger Interceptors

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

04 April 2015 / Nigerian Forest / Operation First Engine

I watched the launch from the command room, shielding my eyes from the intense indigo glow of the geoscape. The signal appeared almost immediately as X-ComSat 11 came online over Nigeria. Green dots popped up on the map indicating friendly forces on the ground. CO Brandon often mentioned that activating our satellite network was key to the overall defense of the world. 

April 1st came and went without word from America. My ritual is pretty simple now. I wait by the radio every morning until all stations on the continent check in, and then I head out to the gym to meet up with the squad. All of us wonder what’s become of our families, but us Americans at least have a chance to make contact. We’re slowly getting control of Canada’s channels, and the rest of the world isn’t far behind, but for now intel is pretty minimal. 

I celebrated my brother’s birthday on my own, hoping that, wherever he is, he’s safe and surviving. If I’m feeling really optimistic, I’ll hope his family made it out as well. Florida was certainly not the worst hit in the attacks thus far, but it didn’t take much to start a general panic, and more people were dead from the riots than the aliens.

The gym is already loud by the time I arrive. Corey managed to smuggle his iPod in when he arrived, so we at least have some music to listen to. I’d never really been much for morning workouts, but when a little cardio meant the difference between life and death, it certainly gave me enough incentive. Sam and Corey were already at it, though Sam was struggling a bit more. I had just picked up a jump rope when the alarm sounded. Unidentified contact in Africa.

By the time we made it to Mission Control, the aerial battle was over. Raven 4 had taken a beating, but managed to bring down the ship. As the initial scans came in, CO Brandon began to speak faster and faster to the various techs. 

“Five times? Are you serious?”

Brandon turned to see me standing there, oblivious. He pointed in the direction of the hangar. “I need Strike One on site, ASAP. Get in the air and I’ll brief the commander.”

Hours later the ramp dropped and the Nigerian Forest welcomed us with muggy arms. The sweet smell of burnt wood and damp leaves mixed with the acrid chemical stink of the fractured alien ship. I could just make out the vague shape of the hull from our LZ; it was huge, easily five times as big as the Scouts. 

We’d barely stepped off the Skyranger before the first aliens attacked. Amber called out a contact, but by the time we turned there was nothing but empty air. 

“I saw it,” she said. “Hovering in the air. It just disappeared.”

I believed her. No one could doubt Amber when it came to sniffing out aliens. We pushed forward even slower, not willing to run into an ambush. We hit one anyway. Seconds after finding good cover we heard the roar of rockets and braced for bombardment. But these were MLRS. I looked over the top of a downed tree and saw something monstrous approaching. 

It was part organic and part metal, maybe the size of a young man. The lower half of its torso had been melded with engines so that it floated above the ground. The sounds that it made seemed to be more from pain than anything else. Before I could even call the contact, three more appeared and attacked. 

Amber was lost in a trance, watching the awkward, stilted movement of the aliens, so she didn’t see the burst of electricity at her back. Had I not been looking that direction, I would have missed it. A mass of tentacles and metal appeared, fangs out, and rushed at her. Corey had been paying attention and let loose a long burst from his machine gun, cutting the creature into pieces. Amber shouted in alarm, but quickly drew back on target. 

I sighted a floating alien through my scope. Up close, they were even uglier. Breather masks were surgically welded to their faces, and their plasma weapons snapped into the chassis of their bodies. I put mine down with a solid shot through its eye. Corey let rip with another salvo and took its partner out. 

A third floating alien zipped behind a tree before we could lock on. Moments later, it started peppering Sam’s position with hot fire. He ducked, suppressed for the time being, and called for help. I was just getting ready to assist when I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I turned in time to see four long tentacles reaching out for my throat. I tried to scream, but nothing came out. Cold metal began to caress my skin, and suddenly there was a huge explosion of sparks and metal. The cloaking creature fell to the earth, dead, and Amber chambered another round in her shotgun. She nodded to me and pressed forward. 

Revved up, we took down the remaining two floaters with ease. I shot the one suppressing Sam, and he teamed up with Amber to kill the remaining alien.

We reached the larger ship in minutes and took a moment outside to pause and reload. The structure looked the same, but this was an altogether bigger ship. Towering power cells pulsed ominously inside broken engine rooms, and the navigation computer sat unbroken against a tight wall. We cleared room to room, pausing at doorways to regroup for the assault. 

The command section came last as we arrived at the front of the ship. An Outsider appeared as soon as we opened the doorway, firing off a quick burst before taking cover. I managed to wing it with my pistol before Amber leveled her shotgun and put it out of its misery. We all tried to catch our breaths while standing in the sudden silence, but my heart felt like it needed to burst. The chatter from the scientists in my ear didn’t help at all. 

“Strike One,” a new voice said. “This is the Commander. Great work. Bring it home and get ready. The Council has work for us.”

The flight back to Granite Peak was loud and exciting. This was our most successful mission yet, and we intended to celebrate. Whatever liquor still existed in the world couldn’t possibly sate our thirst, but we were more than willing to give it a shot. I stopped off at my bunk before heading to the mess for the party. On my pillow, along with a printed copy of orders, was a pair of golden chevrons. The letter was from the Commander and SGT Fontaine, congratulating me on my promotion. “Good work, Corporal.”