Spanking New, At Half The Cost

"Welcome to Kansai Base," said Okano, an ear-to-ear buck-toothed grin sprouting from his face.

Rawlings wasn't impressed. The medium-sized townhouse sitting in the middle of a Japanese natural preserve might make a dandy party pit, but it was nothing to have an orgasm over.

"Uh, sir, you seem to be enjoying yourself a bit too much," he mumbled to Schancer.

The commander was rocking back and forth on his feet, smiling in synch with the base's chief engineer. He was making nervous gestures and giggling lightly.

"Jack, I don't have a hard-on for lack of a reason," Schancer grinned.

Rawlings looked up at the basement's ceiling and groaned.

"Not every thirty-five year old bird colonel gets his very own, spanking new, super-secret military complex," explained the commander.

The elevator control panel chimed, and the thick steel doors slid open. A pair of security secondaries, clad in the usual black jumpsuit with HK machine pistol, saluted the commander and held the doors. Okano, Schancer, and Rawlings crowded aboard.

"Six person limit," said the engineer, waving at the small metal plate denoting the maximum load of the elevator.

"Or one thousand pounds," added Schancer, smiling like an idiot.

"Well, I'll be damned," muttered Rawlings. He eyed the security people; they might be hired thugs, but they too were rolling their eyes at the commander.

"We simply must take a ride on the freight elevator," proclaimed Schancer.

Somehow, Rawlings couldn't feign interest in the workings of the other elevator shaft.

"We can lift fifteen metric tonnes on that one," noted Okano.

I'll bet you can, thought Rawlings. He wondered how they determined the maximum capacity of an elevator; it probably involved loading the damn things with the insanely obese...

"How many automobiles can we park up there?" asked Schancer, about the underground car lots he and his bodyguard had already toured.

"Twenty," replied Okano.

The elevator chimed, and the armored doors slid open. The three stepped out, trading salutes with the security crew. I wonder what shit they pulled to get that duty, mused Rawlings.

The door hissed shut--Rawlings didn't hear the elevator rise.

Probably something pretty fucking awful.

The noises of ventilators spinning and heating coils expanding and contracting were clearly audible as the two soldiers and the engineer walked down a short hallway to a set of heavily armored double doors.

"This alloy?" asked Rawlings, already knowing the answer. He looked them over; fitting cleanly together, there was about a hair's gap between the doors. Okano tapped a small video screen mounted next to the doors.

"Best quality alloy, straight from hull of UFO," he responded. The vidscreen came alive, and he chatted momentarily with the security man visible in its small girth.

The door opened, twin panels of mirror-quality alloy sliding to the sides. Rawlings stepped through the gap; the doors were easily a foot thick.

"The bugs build 'em tough, don't they," he remarked to the commander. Schancer, still smiling, nodded.

The new occupants were in the main hall of the base. Stretching one hundred fifty meters into the darkened distance, its length was broken up by small alcoves of easy chairs, and low tables. Here and there were clusters of plants, thick and leafy and removing toxins from the base's air. And about midway to the far wall...

"That a dartboard?" asked Rawlings, gaining enthusiasm.

"With reinforced wall, Jack," answered Schancer.


To the right of the lift entrance was a spacious cafeteria, long tables in the middle, and smaller four-person deals to the sides. Vending machines were in profusion along one wall; Rawlings counted six, and those were for the brands he recognized.

"Can machines?" he asked.

"Yup," grinned Schancer.

"Good, 'cause the twenty-ounce bottles make me have to pee in the middle of a mission."

Schancer walked over to a dimly door to the left. "Living Quarters; enough for one hundred fifty troops," he announced. Two more such doors were visible at regular intervals down the left wall.

Jumping over an overstuffed chair, Schancer sprinted to the next item on the right side of the main hall. "My damn office!" he yelled from afar. Jack and Okano leisurely followed him as he tested every chair in the hall.

Skipping past a cluster of pool tables, Schancer pointed out the final door on the right. "Communications and Tracking rooms. Hurry up, dammit! This is a real treat!" The commander disappeared through the light alloy doors.

"It is very 'cool.'" agreed the chief engineer. He and Rawlings stepped into the dark room, and instantly, Jack was awed.

An entire wall, two stories high and twenty meters wide, depicted the Japanese archipelago and the surrounding oceans and nations in stunning natural color. Techs, already on the job, manned but a few of the dozens of data terminals across the main floor. Dim red lights cast eerie shadows along the perimeter of the room. Rawlings spotted monitors displaying everything from closed-circuit TV of the main hall to remote cameras on the surface. He looked around for Schancer.

"Up here, Jack!" laughed the commander. He waved from the room's balcony.

Finding the stairs, Rawlings joined Okano and Schancer in plush theater seats above.

"With due respect, sir, how the fuck did you pull this off?" he asked, marveling at the map of Japan.

"I told the Japanese government what we needed to win this war," answered Schancer. "War isn't new technologies; it's the men whose asses burn if that tech doesn't work. I wanted to give the teams a reason to come back home alive."

"Pool tables? Dart boards? Vending machines? I'm not complaining, sir, but..."

"Jack," Schancer interrupted, "if you saw the price tag of this base, you would faint. And then Okano and I would have to kill you. This facility cost more money to set up in thirty days than it would take to rebuild Osaka in thirty years. The Japanese government knew that when it signed up to build this; but they did not complain. This is a protective measure, and now it's up to us. If we don't do our jobs, the Japanese government doesn't have to worry about going into debt for us... because we'll all be dead."

This man is made of the shit they shape into Presidents, thought Jack.

"Well, enough of this seriousness," demanded Schancer. "Senior Tech on duty? What is the time to arrival?"

A balding white man looked up to the balcony and shouted back, "Five minutes out, sir!"

Schancer smiled, again, to Okano and Rawlings.

"To the hangars, men."

Milling around in the glass cage that was the number one hangar control booth, Schancer sat down and rested his feet on the inside railing. Okano quietly conferred in Japanese with the techs; Rawlings merely stood and watched.

The hangars were oversized, being able to hold and service four Skyranger light transports at a time. Yellow lines, sprayed on, marked out the landing spots for the aircraft, along with a fifty by fifty meter hazard zone near the far wall. That was the closest point in the hangar to the surface; only five meters up, through dirt and sand, was the mountainside. The huge accordion doors were closed for now, but as the two techs manning the hangar controls received new data from the communications crews in the radar room, they flipped the toggle switches to the trapdoor.

It folded up neatly, and sunlight poured in. Ten seconds later, in a rush of smoke and flame, a 'Ranger dropped out of the sky and into the hangar, computers halting its fall ten meters from the floor. A gentle landing, and the bird was down.

"Shit," muttered Rawlings. He never liked watching a 'Ranger land; it unsettled the stomach and questioned one's faith in God.

Rolling along at walking speed on its four pairs of oversized tires, the blue bird pulled into the nearest maintenance zone. Techs, emerging from shielded bunkers on all sides of the hangar, swarmed over the aircraft, popping open hatches and maintenance panels almost before the jets had died.

"Skyranger Two has successful landing in hangar two," announced a tech. Schancer nodded, watching the doors fold out to hide the sun. Florescent lights once again signaled day.

"Come on, Jack. The troops await," said Schancer, climbing down the stairs from the control booth. Rawlings hurried after the commander. Adjusting his tied down plasma pistol so it rode high in its holster, the bodyguard strode alongside.

The rear ramp of the 'Ranger was down, and the First Kansai team was marching out, black uniform bags slung over their shoulders and crates filled with weapons and ammunition swinging between pairs of troopers. The regular soldiers, sergeants on down, filed past the commander, all nodding slightly and saluting informally. Colonel Dillan, the last man off the aircraft, carried only a huge duffel bag filled with his clothes and personal effects.

"Greetings, Colonel," saluted Schancer.

"Hello sir. I see that the base is well into its final stages of completion," responded the First's officer.

"The intercept and assault capabilities of Kansai are operational. Manufacturing will be along in three more months."

Rawlings sighed. More construction would mean the constant ruckus of noises interrupting sleep.

"Will this base be staffed with research techs?" asked Dillan.

Schancer shook his head. "Another base will handle those operations. We ship samples there." The commander glanced at Dillan's baggage and then at Rawlings.

"Help with the bags there, sir?" asked the bodyguard.

The colonel handed the bundle to Rawlings. "Thanks, soldier."

"We'll get your quarters in order... once the other teams arrive, I'll give the call for a base assembly."

The two officers walked off towards the barracks modules, Rawlings staggering behind them with Dillan's duffel. Damn thing weights as much as ol' Frank Hudson, he pondered. A chill ran down his spine: Perhaps the colonel did have a body in the bag...

The officer's quarters were located directly inside the middle barracks entrance. Bigger than the cubicles at Bluegrass, they still weren't much. Ten by twelve feet, with an attached bathroom consisting of a shower stall, a toilet, and a sink, the only furniture was a cot, a desk, and a metal cabinet. If an ranking soldier wanted to relax, he or she'd have to make do in the main hall.

Rawlings gingerly placed Dillan's load inside the door. Mercifully, he opened it immediately, withdrawing at stack of books and slaying Jack's suspicions.

"Expecting to do a lot of reading, Gary?" asked Schancer. "The base mainframe does have access to on-line libraries."

Dillan shook his head. "Call me old-fashioned, sir, but there isn't any substitute for good hard copy literature."

"Favorite author?" inquired the commander.

"Steinbeck. Yours?"

"Cervantes--transelated, of course."

"Figures, sir."

Schancer raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean by that?"

Dillan shrugged and laughed. "You seem to be one of the few idealists in this institution we call the military."

The tall southern commander stared at the shorter colonel for a moment before Rawlings whispered, "That's a compliment, sir."

Schancer laughed, and raised his palms. "I suppose..."

"Sir, it's just that the men seem to regard you as the only officer who sees the big picture. They like you because you know where you're headed."

"And the beer's good, too," added Rawlings.

Situation diffused, the three men departed from Dillan's quarters.

"I've heard about your little 'tradition.' I suppose you're going to make it a standing order after any terror-site mission," mentioned Dillan as they re-entered the main hall.

"Most certainly," promised Schancer, a twinkle in his eye. "Most certainly."

Davidson eyed the narrow barracks hall. Six cots on each side, a boot locker before each, and a cheap metal closet next to every bed.

"Home sweet home," he muttered. The sergeant tossed his heavy gear bag onto the bed; its new springs creaked approvingly.

The soldiers of the First Kansai staggered in and stowed uniforms and clothes. Davidson lay down on his cot, staring at the ceiling. He rested his hands behind his head, and snorted.

"Everything OK, Mike?" asked Hirsch, hanging his spare jumpsuits within his closet.


Hirsch dropped a tailored armor liner on his bed and walked over to Davidson's. "Hey man, you're starting to scare me," he said, lightly punching the black man in his muscled shoulder.

The sergeant continued to zone out for a few moments; then he slowly mumbled, "Fuck off."

"What the hell's wrong with you?" yelled the squaddie, angered.

"Henry, fuck you."

Hirsch glared at Davidson momentarily, but his fury was gone as quickly as it had came.

"If you need to talk..." The squaddie returned to his cot, frustrated.

Takayasu glanced in the direction of the senior sergeant. "What is his problem?" he asked.

Shrugging, Hirsch responded, "Splitting up with the Bluegrass crew really bothered him."

"Like us leaving the Forces to join XCOM?" ventured the sergeant.

"No," said Henry, shaking his head. "Mike kinda thought he was the Sixth Bluegrass--his old unit."

Davidson heard the conversation. "Fuck you, Henry," he announced.

Smoldering, the squaddie continued. "And now he's being a dick about it."

"He is angry that the other soldiers did not follow him?" asked the Japanese.

Before Hirsch could answer, the colonel entered the side hallway where the First Kansai was bunked. Dillan looked over his troops, as if he hadn't noticed them for the whole month they'd spent training at the SDF military reserve in Hokkaido. He rubbed his chin.

"Senior Sergeant Davidson, I'll ask that you mind your language. Sounds carry down here; I don't want my crew to get a reputation for being a clot of lousy sailors."

"Yes sir," answered Davidson. He sat up in his cot.

"Finish unpacking, people. The commander wants a general base assembly ASAP."

Dillan walked off. Sakurai glared at him.

"Officers should not be given their own quarters. It just makes more sons-of-bitches," he snarled. Tahara and Nakagawa laughed heartily; Battelene and a few others chuckled.

"Fucking 'Anti-Terrorist Commando' jock," whispered Takayasu to Hirsch. "He did not make any kills in Osaka; most likely shit in his pants and hid."

"What did you do in Osaka?" asked the squaddie.

Takayasu smiled. "I sat in second floor window and shot three invaders, all 'confirmed kills.'"

Hirsch nodded. "That's some cool shit. I burned a bug in the ass."

"With laser?" inquired the sergeant.

"Yup. Two centimeter hole, so clean you could see what the bastard had for lunch." Hirsch made a small circle with his thumb and index finger and looked through it.

Takayasu laughed. "I like the laser. The aliens cannot tell where you are; it is invisible. No muzzle flash, no sound."

"It is very decent," agreed the American.

The PA system squawked once, and the soldiers of the First began to wind up their conversations. Hirsch caught Tahara explaining "Dirty Pair. Dirty Pair. Velly good" to Battelene. The rookie laughed and flashed the corner of a Penthouse to the Japanese. Nakagawa gave a thumbs-up.

"Mess hall, boys," rumbled Davidson. Without waiting for his squad, he marched off. Hirsch shook his head.

After announcing the basic rotation of teams for the next two weeks, along with the wide variety of cuisines available at the meal counter, Schancer dismissed all but the combat officers.

"Does this mean I can go play darts, sir?" asked Rawlings.

"Don't shark too many rookies, Jack," grinned the commander. His bodyguard trotted off.

Dillan smirked. "Sir, I don't know how you find crazies like that."

Schancer frowned. The colonel, unaware of impending danger, blithely charged ahead.

"I've heard some real stories about that loon. Seems he killed three bug snipers just standing out in the open and firing one of those clumsy grenade launchers. Took all of thirty seconds... talk about a deathwish."

Wilkes raised an eyebrow. Schancer chuckled lightly.

"Colonel, he was shielding me for that half-minute. The greys ambushed my chopper, and they killed the crew before we could get back on."

"Oh... I'm sorry, sir. I just..."

"Save us the apology," muttered Taoka. Dillan narrowed his eyes, but held his tongue.

A tense moment of tangible electricity stretched forever before Schancer cleared his throat and spoke in carefully measured tones.

"Well. The reason for this meeting is the singular matter that Volga Base and Suise Base are, at this moment, a half-hour from launching an assault on what we suspect is a heavily entrenched alien facility in the foothills of the Caucasus."

This silent moment was purely the result of surprise.

"If there aren't any objections, let us proceed to the radar room."

In the second floor balcony, two seats were already occupied. A tall dark-haired European with a hawk nose momentarily glanced at the new arrivals. The other, a sickly scientist, denoted by his lab duster, merely peered at the screen through tired, blurred eyes.

"People, these are Chief Airtech Mark Will and Theater Chief of Research, Re-engineering, and Development Vladmir Gradenko. They will be viewing the festivities with us," announced Schancer.

"Good day, sirs," said Will. Gradenko mumbled something in Russian.

"Theatre Chief?" whispered Dillan to Schancer. "What is that the equivalent of? Theater Commander?"

Annoyed, Schancer responded, "If you must know, my official title is Asia/Pacific Theater Commander-in-Chief, XCOM... we're the same rank, but since I'm military arm and Vlad's sci-arm, I give the orders. If this was a combat situation, then even a rookie would have that power. But it isn't."

"Not for us," added Wilkes. The screen, which had previously been displaying the standard view of Japan and company, suddenly switched to the red, black, and white of the XCOM battle flag. Techs below, unaware of the greater scope of events, expressed their surprise in the form of profanity. The Senior Tech on duty glanced up at the commander; Schancer waved back. The datatechs calmed down.

My, oh my, mused Schancer. The banner does look like the Nazi flag. He hoped that it wasn't intentional.

The XCOM insignia gave way to the bearded visage of Commander Molotov. He looked quite like a man at peace, content with his world. Gone were the fiery eyes and waving fists of the Commander's Conference debates on the vidnet. There was only tranquility in his eyes, and, in a calm manner, he began his announcement.

"Soldiers, comrades, humans. Today, we shall overturn a stone under which the extraterrestrial menace has hidden. We shall wipe from the stones of Russia the slime of the horde, and perhaps today, they will learn that humans do not go easily. Perhaps they will learn what it is like to be hunted and slain to the last."

The flame reignited, a distant pinprick of light.

"God willing, we shall be harsh teachers, and the lesson, taken to their collective soul. Too long we have allowed them free reign over our existence; today, we break the yoke with our new-found strength and turn on those who would make us serve in misery. We are proud, and today, we shall stand tall, united as one. Into the caverns of the enemy we march, hunters, teachers, the free and the strong.

"Today, we flood their burrows with the blood of their dead. Tomorrow, the skies will run red. And perhaps, with a just and wrathful God nodding consent, one day these foul blights upon our Earth shall be utterly slain... to extinction."

The bearded crusader closed his eyes and nodded his head.

"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ do we pray. Amen."

The sound of the massed Russian teams cheering spilled into the microphones. Molotov waved, a single hand held up for silence. The inferno was gone, but the embers were there, submerged under not tepid pools of water, but petroleum.

"The basic attack shall be as planned. NATO ground-assault fighters will open the alien facility's hangar door and suppress response fire; two Skyrangers will land on the surface, these assault teams will search out alternative entrances to the hangar and seal them. The other four teams will enter the hangar itself and destroy the base from within. Secondaries, and spare transports, will withdraw usable salvage as soon as possible. All forces are to return to Volga Base at the completion of this assault."

"Kalinkov? Singer?" asked Molotov. "I thank you for your contributions. I promise you, the Council, and the troops, that I shall do my utmost to manufacture a victory. Video feeds will be established as soon as possible; you may watch, and offer advice."

"Does that include us?" inquired Wilkes.

"No," answered Schancer.

He leaned over the balcony and spotted a security secondary. "Call up the cafeteria. Have them send down five liters of regular coffee and seven lunches," ordered the commander.

The guard saluted and tapped a code in his portable phone. Looking back at his companions, Schancer ran fingers through his hair, a deep crimson in the red backlights.

"Ladies, gentlemen, make yourselves comfortable. We are going to be here for a long time."