The Extraterrestrial Combat Unit

by Fox
X-COM
THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL COMBAT UNIT

Based upon X-COM: UFO Defense game
X-COM is based on characters and design by Mythos Games, rights reserved by Infogrames/Firaxis
Copyright 2003 by Ashton Pierre ashton.pierre@gmail.com


By Ashton Pierre



For the game that amazed us,
made us laugh; made us cry,
X-COM: UFO DEFENSE



Prologue:
The Kiryu-Kai



"Unknown objects are operating under intelligent control...  It is imperative
that we learn where UFO's come from and what their purpose is..."

-Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter
Director, Central Intelligence Agency 1947-1950




December 10-11, 1998



Four Japanese men rushed from a nearby landing zone, dressed in black jumpsuits and sporting small sub-machine guns, looking like some futuristic Samurai seeking their prey.  Not far behind them, their transport helicopter lifted up and twisted back around into the air.
Their boots slapped the moist ground incessantly, and no one said a word.  This was the first chance the elite Japanese group had to investigate one of the mysterious aircraft that had been reported all over the world for the past few months.  The Kiryu-Kai, as it was called, had been in operation for nearly six months now, and the Japanese air force had still not been able to successfully get within firing range of the unidentified radar blips.

But just earlier that day, Japanese government officials received a call from locals that a strange object had landed nearby in the fields and had not been seen since.  From then on the situation went by the book:
Japanese Air Command had given the experimental Kiryu-Kai full control of the situation, and within an hour of the call, a small prototype helicopter had been dispatched to attack and seize the unidentified flying object, or UFO.  Two light gunships had also been dispatched shortly thereafter.

Twilight had come now, and the four operatives flipped small goggles over their eyes, activating their night-vision.  The leader had to quicken the pace to the UFO in order to arrive before the two gunships.  Command had feared that the presence of attack helicopters might cause the UFO to take off again; a chance they did not want to risk.  At the same time, the attack helicopters might be needed for backup.  It was a delicate balance, and the Japanese commandos had been given roughly five minutes to assess the situation, and neutralize the occupants of the craft, if necessary.
The forest-like area they had landed in ended abruptly, giving way to a clearing of tall grass.  They all stopped for a moment, all of them scanning the horizon.  With the aid of their night-vision equipment, a white haze could be seen in the distance, possibly coming from the unidentified craft.  The leader thumbed a switch on the barrel of his weapon, and thin red light lanced into the distance.  Then he resumed his pace and the others followed suit by activating their laser-sights and sprinting behind their leader.

The leader slowed down moments later as he saw the UFO for the first time through the tall grass.  It was a small circular shaped-object, about ten meters by ten meters.  The soldiers kneeled down near each other, raising their weapons.  A door seemed to be open in the UFO, and through it the leader could see what appeared to be a computer display, of which he could not begin to read or understand.

In the distance, a soft humming sound could be heard behind the leader.  
Damn, thought the leader in his native language; it was the gunships.  
They have arrived too soon.  The choppers were on their way, and the men had yet to see even one UFO operative yet, if any.
Out of the darkness beyond, a green bolt of superheated energy flashed out at the rear trooper with a deafening YOOM.  The two behind the leader turned abruptly to see their comrade was missing his right arm.  His shoulder was smoking, and luckily (if any of this could be called "luck") his wound had been completely cauterized by the blast.  The trooper fell back screaming.
As the chopper sounds grew nearer, a tall, green, muscular humanoid ran from his cover towards the UFO.  The leader snapped off a few seconds worth of auto-fire, and the armor-piercing bullets penetrated the tough green skin of the alien.  The green, mutated creature fell halfway through the door to the UFO as radio chatter from the two choppers were picked up by the four men's headsets.
A small pistol peeked out of the UFO door and another BYOOM rang out.  By chance the shot missed wide, and as it did the shooter pulled its injured comrade into the UFO.  The door shut, and with barely a sound, the craft took off immediately, heading towards the incoming choppers.
The three uninjured men raised their weapons and let loose fully automatic fire at the UFO, the bullets bouncing off the bottom of the craft harmlessly.
The UFO flew away at amazing speed.  As it neared the choppers, a greenish-white light jetted out from an unseen weapon.  The first chopper became a ball of fire and twisted metal, and it fell to the forest below, fiery debris flying everywhere.  
Bullets poured from the cannons of the last chopper as the UFO veered towards it, but the weapon was no match for the heavy alien armor.  The four men on the ground watched in utter disbelief as the UFO twisted ninety degrees and sliced through the attack helicopter.  The helicopter split in half, the pilot's ejection seat shooting him straight out to the side, his parachute activating immediately.
The four soldiers continued watching helplessly as the aggressor flew unhindered into the night sky, towards some unknown destination.

As one of the men called for retrieval, the leader walked over to where the UFO had been.  He kneeled down and picked up a dark-blue rifle the injured alien had dropped.  This is not over, he thought as he examined it.  This is not over.

* * *

Delegates from nearly all the world's countries sat at their seats in a massive conference hall in Geneva, Switzerland.  On such short notice, only a handful of actual leaders were present.  The Representatives, Premiers, Prime Ministers, and Presidents listened intently as a man of obvious stature spoke.  In their eyes was something of curiosity... curiosity with a side of terror.
"The threat we face in the coming years cannot be handled alone."  The man's words pierced the hearts of all present.
"As the valiant Japanese have shown us, this is a phenomenon that requires the joint efforts of the world.  While so far we have seen nothing but their brutality, these invaders must be studied, to determine their objectives.
"If these creatures are indeed determined to be hostile, we must do everything in our power to stop them.  Everything mankind has worked for over the past two thousand years, everything we have learned, all we have gained, all our men and women have died to preserve, will go in vain.  I urge you all to vote affirmative on the proposition to form the Extra-Terrestrial Investigation Unit.  Do it for yourself, for your families.  Do it for the future of mankind."
The man stepped off the podium and a grim audience looked at the spot where he had been.  Most were lost in thought, but all knew what they had to do.


Chapter 1:
Occult Occurrences


"Maybe this world is another planet's hell."

-Aldous Huxley


January 1, 1999



Police helicopters buzzed around the Ellis Financial Center in downtown Miami.  News choppers were also present, keeping distance from the eighty-story skyscraper as ordered by the Miami Police.  Cameramen leaned as far out of their helicopters as they dared, seeking the best shot for the story of the week.
Smoke billowed out the side of a floor near the top of the building, but no fire could be seen from the outside.  The building was easily one hundred stories high, and getting support to the top was not easy.  Another helicopter carrying police officers headed towards the roof of the skyscraper, which had squad cars and fire trucks taking position on the roads around it.
But fire was not this building's enemy.  It was not that simple.

Lieutenant Blake Fox exited the chopper along with a horde of heavily armed policemen.  He stopped for a moment, gazing across the large rooftop landing pad.  His vision was a bit blurry, having been woken up so early after a crazy night.
Three men with machineguns headed towards him at a quick pace from the staircase exit across the pad.  The men were all dressed the same, dark blue coveralls, and a black vest with big yellow letters, SWAT.  Above the intense helicopter sounds, he heard the man speak.
"You the negotiator?" the lead man said to him as he approached.  
Blake stared at the man blankly for a moment.  He had gone through most of his adult life at the police force for the position, working hard for promotion after promotion, taking more classes he could think of at the university on criminal psychology and the like.  He was happy to get to position at the ripe age of twenty-four: he would have plenty of time gain expertise.  He had waited for this moment too long, for the moment when he could finally help someone and save the day.  But now, it seemed too real.
"Hello?  You think we got all day here, son?"  
Blake blinked for a moment and finally opened his mouth.
"Yeah, sorry."  
The man frowned and pointed his finger at him.
"You pull another one of those blackouts on me down there, I'll kill you myself.  You got a name?"  
He turned back towards the staircase, motioning for Blake to follow.  Blake picked up the pace with him, and the other two officers followed behind.
"Fox.  Blake Fox."  
The officer shook his head and chuckled.
"Well I'm sorry we don't have any martinis for you, Mister Fox Blake Fox, but we have a situation down there."  
He opened the door to the staircase and held it for Blake.  He looked down at the door and notice the handle had been completely incinerated.  Blake followed the man and held the door for the soldiers behind.  Blake paused for a moment when the soldiers refused to go in front of him, and he continued behind the officer.
"I didn't catch your name," Blake said.
"O'Neil," the man said mockingly.  "Brian O'Neil.  And I take mine shaken as well, Mister Fox."
The men headed down the stairs quickly.  As they got down farther, a crisp, burnt smell crept its way to Blake's nostrils.
"So, what's the situation?  They said I would get briefed when I got here."  
Blake felt rushed by the man behind him, who obviously wanted to go faster than Blake was going.  The man simply ignored Blake's query, as he spoke into his headset immediately after he asked.  He thought the flights of stairs would never end, and he was sure he didn't remember seeing the smoke come from a floor this far down.
"Doesn't this place have elevators?" Blake muttered to himself, half joking.
"They shut them down," O'Neil answered finally.  "Shut down all the elevators, all security cameras, and locked all electronic doors and access to the building's computer systems.  These people know what they are doing."
They rounded another flight and headed down.
"We don't know what they want, or why they are here.  That's what you're here for."
Blake smirked a bit and asked, "What do you know about the situation?"
"We know that they arrived about an hour ago.  We aren't too sure how they got here, and no one in the lobby saw them come in.  They started their little crusade on this floor."
Blake saw the number 72 on the door as they went down the stairs even further.
"It looks like they would clear out a level, blast a hole in the floor, and hop down.  Then they'd start the process over again.  They've killed a lot of people, and have even more than that hostage below.  They are also using some sort of energy weapons, very powerful."
"Energy weapons?" Blake asked.  
He moved over to the side to let O'Neil pass him, as he seemed irritated at Blake's speed.
"Don't ask me, I have no idea.  The other guys who were here earlier got fired upon, and say the weapons shot some kind of energy ball that melted through anything it touched.  Probably some new government weapon they stole."
As they went down a couple more flights of stairs, O'Neil went through the door with the number 68 above it.  Blake and the other two troopers followed him in.

The 68th floor was a disaster.  There were large windows that made up the outside walls of the building.  The windows were gone, probably shot out, and the bustling city below could be faintly heard.  The whole area looked to be remnants of offices.  Several SWAT men were taking cover behind an array of destroyed furniture farther to Blake's left, but no shots from anything could be heard.  The walls had countless burn marks and holes in them, and desks were overturned and ravaged.  A few wounded men were leaning against a wall in one corner.
"How many of them are there?" Blake asked O'Neil.
"Our estimates say around ten," O'Neil answered as he took a sidearm and Kevlar vest from another trooper.  He turned and headed back towards Blake.
"But a civvie upstairs said there were at least twenty of them."
He threw the vest to Blake, who caught it and began putting it over his white shirt.
"Of course..." O'Neil chuckled a bit.  "This is also the guy who said he saw a flying saucer bring them over here, so I don't know if you want to take his word for it."  
Blake stared at O'Neil for a moment, and nodded lightly.  O'Neil offered a small black sidearm to Blake, who promptly pulled out his pistol, switching the safety off and cocking it.  O'Neil lowered his pistol and smirked.
"Well I guess you know what to do from here, everything I know I already told you.  You'll be out of sight if they let you in.  We are ready to attack at a moment's notice.  Yell and you'll have us.  Take this."  
He handed Blake a small earpiece, almost microscopic.
"It's one way, I doubt you'll be able to talk covertly once you're in there.  I'll keep you updated on things out here."  
Blake nodded and took the small device, putting it in his ear.  He headed over to the blown out wall.
"Fox," O'Neil called to Blake, who quickly stopped and turned around.  
"Good luck."  
Blake nodded and went to the entrance.

Over the Miami high-rises, two sleek, ominous-looking helicopters cut through the air around a sophisticated-looking fighter jet.  Men in black combat jumpsuits stood in the cargo area behind a heavy machine-gunner on the helicopters.  A distance away, the smoking building showed clearly.

Blake rounded the corner with his pistol lowered in both hands.  The wind blew through the disaster area; papers, blood and corpses strewn across the ground.  He saw no sign of the terrorists, but an entrance to another room was across from his position.  The entrance was another former door, once again blown to smithereens for whatever purpose.
Blake took another step into the room, and a green burst of energy spat out of the other entrance at him.  The shot barely missed Blake, and he dove behind an overturned desk.
"Stop shooting!  Stop shooting" Blake yelled at the terrorist.  "This is Lieutenant Fox, Miami PD"
Blake leaned against the desk, waiting for a response.  Outside he saw the same helicopter that brought him in circling the building.  
As it disappeared from view, Blake looked to his left to see a tall man with a tight, green jumpsuit on.  Equipment was all over him, some kind of grenades attached to a belt, and a grayish looking pistol.  His jumpsuit covered his entire body, save for the mouth, from which Blake could identify his race as Caucasian.  The man's eyes were covered with black goggles, which were completely opaque.
"Get up," he said in a deep, harsh voice.  
His pistol wasn't pointed at him, but Blake did not doubt the man's ability to raise it and fire faster than he could raise his.  Blake stood, and turned to the entrance where the shot had come from.  Two other green-suited men with blue rifles guarded, staring at him.  Blake walked to the two men at the entrance, and the other man followed behind.  
Around the entrance the two guards stood at was a scene of total chaos.  A few bodies lay around the room randomly, and a dead terrorist lay a ways away.  Blake thought of how the terrorist could have possibly been bested by one of these civilians.  
The civilians!  
Blake's grim expression turned to utter horror as he saw no fewer than twenty men and women kneeling on the ground, their hands tied behind their backs and mouths gagged.  Another five terrorists stood around the hostages, all clothed the same as the three he had seen before.  One of them walked to Blake, a blue rifle in his hands.
"Lieutenant, here to join the party?"  
Blake bit his lower lip, looking around.  All of his days in police training could never have prepared him for this.  The odd terrorists stared at him.  His right hand brushed his pistol.  
Why haven't they taken it?  
Somehow Blake forced a fiendish smile.
"I guess you could say that...  I didn't catch your name."  
The terrorist simply looked at him, his expression masked by the crazy getup.
"We do not need your weapon," he said, as if reading Blake's mind.  "You would be a fool to try and use it."
Blake narrowed his eyes.
"Tell me Lieutenant," the terrorist began, "do you believe in aliens?"  
  Aliens?  What is this guy talking about?  
He looked to the hostages for a moment.  They were all listening to the conversation between the two men, praying for some sign of hope.  Blake bit his lip and turned back to the terrorist.
"I'd say there's a pretty good chance we aren't alone in the-"
"Our Sky Fathers," the terrorist interrupted, "they created us."  
He turned around and walked a few steps toward the hostages, raising his weapon slightly.  The woman kneeled in front of him began to sob.  The terrorist turned back to Blake quickly.
"Now they're back.  They're back to reap the harvest.  We owe it to aid our fathers in their endeavors."  
Blake almost laughed, but caught himself.  He looked to the other terrorists in the room for some assurance that this man was joking.  He was met with cold stares.
"You tell your friends," the terrorist began, "that we need ten minutes.  In ten minutes we are going to leave via that window."  
He pointed to the "window", or what once was a window.  Debris dangled precariously from the blasted out opening, a light breeze moved bits of paper around the room.  Blake made a choked laugh.
"I assure you your friends will not be able to get through the air cover," Blake said, trying to remain neutral.  "The Miami Police Department has helicopters patrolling the area all around."
"We'll be taking these people with us."  
The terrorist pointed his odd weapon to the civilians kneeled on the ground, who were sobbing and trying to whisper prayers to themselves through the gag.  Blake's expression turned to disappointment.
"We can't let you take these people," Blake said.  "If we are to reach some kind of settlement, the terms will be for the safety of these innocent."  
Blake's earpiece beeped softly.  It was O'Neil.  
"Fox, looks like this operation is going to the feds.  Get out of there, now."  
Blake's eyes widened, and he looked to the two guards at the entrance to this room.  A simple lie to calm the terrorists could buy him enough time.  He nodded to the terrorist.
"I'll have to talk to my superiors about this.  I'll see to it that you get your ten minutes."  
Blake saw one of the green-clothed terrorists peer out the blasted window.  Blake, along with everyone else in the room, listened intently for a moment.  For a second, all that was heard was the whistling of the wind through the destroyed windows.  Then, suddenly, Blake heard the whine of helicopter screws and jet engines.  The man turned to the terrorist leader.
"We have trouble."
The leader shoved Blake down with seemingly no effort.  He slid across the floor, which was slick from some kind of liquid spill.  He stopped just before the opening to the abyss outside.
"You Lieutenant," the leader ordered, "will be coming with us."
Just as the leader turned to his guards in the other room, automatic fire was heard in the same direction: the SWAT team was trying to cover Blake's retreat.
The six terrorists turned to get a look at what had just happened, and started to run into the next room.  Blake immediately swung his left leg around to catch the terrorist near the window in mid-stride.  The green-clothed man lost his balance and fell face first into the broken glass on the floor.  His scream was heard by two of the remaining terrorists in the room, who quickly stopped and turned around.  Blake drew his pistol and shot both of the terrorists square in the head.  The two men died before they even hit the floor, due to their sloppiness in dealing with Blake's weapon.  The other three enemy operatives had sprinted into the next room; unaware of the damage their ignored captive had dealt.
Blake turned to the terrorist with the bloody face, and pointed the pistol at him.  Quickly the terrorist threw himself at Blake, not even fazed by the thick glass protruding from the green-covered face.  Blake, clutching his pistol, attempted to wrestle the man off.  With a burst of strength, Blake rolled over on his left, forcing the terrorist over with him.  But next to Blake was the 68-story fall, out the broken window.  With no ground to meet, the terrorist slipped off of Blake towards the abyss below.
As he fell out of the window, the terrorist's hand brushed against Blake's right arm, and he grabbed it.  Violently, the terrorist slammed against the wall of the building below level 68, the fall stopped only by Blake's arm.  Blake struggled to keep from falling with the terrorist, as he used his left hand to push against a protruding piece of metal from the floor.  He was sliding a little bit; he wouldn't be able to hold on much longer.
Blake looked into the terrorist's eyes, which were staring into the barrel of the gun that Blake's right hand held.  Blake moaned with effort, and moved his pistol just slightly to point right at the terrorist's forehead.
"Let go, or I'll shoot."
The terrorist paused, dangling for a moment, and smirked.  
"You are cattle to them," he said, and let go.

O'Neil dove behind an overturned desk next to another SWAT member.  Green blasts of energy stitched the air around the counter-terrorist team, who were completely pinned down.  The man next to O'Neil had to scream over the din.
"Sir"  
He was pushing his headset closer to his ears to listen.  
"They're telling us to abort!  I think the Marines are coming"  
O'Neil looked out of the blown wall to the cityscape in front of him to see the helicopter/fighter group break formation.  One of the helicopters headed straight towards O'Neil as the fighter and the second helicopter headed towards the other side of the building.
"Order the men to hold position"  
O'Neil was forced to scream over the intensity of the battle.  "I think we are about to get some cover to get out of here."  He was still staring at the helicopter heading towards them.

From inside the first helicopter, the pilot saw the SWAT team taking cover from behind various pieces of debris.  A ways farther into the ravaged room, he saw the vague shapes of the terrorists.  A green ball of energy skimmed past the cockpit window, melting the glass a bit.  
The pilot spun the helicopter for the machine-gunner to bear.  The mini-gun spun for a moment at first without any consequence, and then rained lead on the rear of the room the SWAT team was in.  The fire continued for a moment, and the pilot watched out his side view port to see the SWAT team rush from cover into friendly territory.  Unfortunately the weapon was too terribly inaccurate to hit any marks, but that wasn't its goal.  
The chain gunner stopped, and the pilot pushed the helicopter up out of view of the terrorists.

On the other side of the building, the jet fighter activated its Vertical Takeoff and Landing thrusters, and slowed to a near stop by another blasted out window.  The pilot eased the jet to port and the wing barely touched the side of the building near the floor of level 68.  The second helicopter eased over the fighter quickly, and slowed to a stop almost right above it.  One miscalculation, and the helicopter blades could easily get caught in the building, or the fighter could catch its wing in the debris of the window.  The black-suited commandos dropped their lines out of the helicopter onto the wing of the Interceptor.

Blake had begun untying the hostages, and looked behind him in amazement as he saw the group of commandos slide down their lines onto the wing of the fighter, the first commando dropping onto a bright red "X" decal.  The engines of the fighter moaned heavily as the commandos ran off the wing, and jumped over the gap into the room with Blake.  The men unstrapped themselves from their lines and the helicopter veered off behind, the cords being pulled with it.  
"Where are they?" the first commando asked.  
Blake pointed his pistol stupidly towards the room behind him, as he was still mesmerized by the art in which the men had entered the building.  The first commando nodded.
"Guard the civilians.  Stay here," he said, as he turned to the pilot visible in the hovering jet and nodded.
The pilot, "Mad Cat," as stated on her helmet, gave the commando a thumbs up, firing the fighter's engines and blasting forward, the hostages covering their ears from the deafening sounds.
The commandos locked and loaded their jet-black rifles, and stormed the next room.  Blake took cover with the hostages behind a decimated couch.

Like clockwork, the four commandos poured into the room at once, spraying automatic fire into the desks that the terrorists hid behind.  The armor-piercing bullets penetrated the cover, and found their mark into the green-clothed men.  Only one got up.
The terrorist popped out from his cover, a dark red bloodstain on his hip from where he had been hit.  The terrorist snapped off a quick shot from his rifle, and the green superheated energy blast smacked into one of the commandos.  The blast incinerated the whole right half of the soldier's torso, and he fell to the floor, his weapon with him.  
Just before the terrorist could pull the trigger on his weapon again, the lead commando fired his weapon, the bullet meeting the terrorist in the left eye.  He emitted a light groan for a moment, and then went limp, slamming onto the floor.  

* * *

The roof of the building was packed with post-battle miscellany.  Bodies were put into neat rows near the stairs, with white sheets covering them.  The odd weapons the terrorists used were being loaded into one of the federal helicopters; the commandos standing near the other, where one of their own lay dead.  The police helicopter that brought Blake in was on the other side of the building, and near it police officers, SWAT members, and other higher ups were assessing the situation.  
Out of the stairwell door came O'Neil and Blake, followed by other people: crime scene investigators, some hostages, and police.  Blake rushed to the commandos that had "saved the day."  O'Neil followed behind.
"You want to tell us what the hell is going on around here?"  
Blake pointed the butt-end of his pistol at the lead commando, who turned around and smirked.  The commandos, now clearly visible, had a wide array of equipment strapped to them.  Around their combat suits they had Kevlar padding, vision-assisting equipment was flipped up over their brows, and cargo pockets full of who-knows-what.  Their arms had a sophisticated computer display on them; their waists had other various pieces of equipment hooked on.  Most notable was the sleek, futuristic pistol each carried as a sidearm.
"Lieutenant Fox, Lieutenant O'Neil," the commando began.  "Thank you for your help back there.  I'm sorry I didn't get to exchange pleasantries in the middle of the crossfire."  
Blake frowned.  O'Neil shifted his weight, crossed his arms, and then frowned.  The commando offered a gloved hand.
"Colonel Marcus Lecointe."  
Blake shook his hand uneasily, and O'Neil did the same.
"Colonel of what, if I may be so privileged?" O'Neil asked sarcastically.  Lecointe simply looked at him.
"No, you can't."  He turned his gaze to Blake.  "And to answer your question, what happened here was a terrorist attack.  It's as simple as that.  If you'll excuse me."  
Lecointe turned his back to the men.  Blake spun around and looked at O'Neil.  They started to walk back to the police chopper.
"That guy was an asshole," O'Neil said.  "Who the hell does he think he is?"  Blake shook his head.
"I don't know what the hell is going on here.  All I know is that there's something missing."  
O'Neil wasn't listening.  He put his hand to his ear as his earpiece gave him orders.
"Acknowledged, be there in twenty."  
O'Neil sighed and stopped at the helicopter.
"I have to go.  Listen Fox, I know things aren't adding up to you right now, but you've got to believe me, I see this kind of shit all the time.  Crazy fanatics trying to get famous, so they kill some people and put on a light show."  
Blake looked to the ground.
"You did well for your first time.  At least you didn't end up like those guys laying down over there."
"Lieutenant, we're leaving," another SWAT member called.
"I'll keep in touch Fox."  
O'Neil slapped him on the shoulder and rushed off into the helicopter, which was powering its rotors.  Blake watched the chopper take off, and turned around to the commandos again.  He paused and made to jog over to Lecointe and his men, when he saw another chopper land in the other's place.  Inside it he could see his superiors, and his chief.  They were undoubtedly here to talk to him, and it would be a lengthy conversation.  He turned back to the soldiers.

The commandos were packing their equipment into the helicopter when Blake rushed up to them.  
"Colonel," Blake said.  
Lecointe looked over to him and sighed, putting a box of gear into the chopper.
"What is it Lieutenant?"  
Blake paused for a moment.
"I almost died down there Colonel, I deserve the right to know what really happened."  
Lecointe turned to Blake with a menacing look.
"Yeah well so did about twenty other people, Fox.  Not to mention the thirty some odd people that did die."  
Blake stood resolute, and Lecointe chuckled to himself for a moment.  He looked down to his dead comrade, who lay on a stretcher with another white sheet over him.  The other two soldiers were picking it up to load into the chopper.  He looked back to Blake.
"You any good with that pistol?"  
He pointed to Blake's silver 9mm in his holster.  Blake narrowed his eyes.
"Top of my class.  Who do you think took out the two that were lying in the room when you got there?  Not to mention the green pancake lying on the road."
Lecointe took in a deep breath, smirked and nodded.  He reached into one of his large cargo pockets on his leg, and pulled out a wallet.  He took out white business card and looked to the left and right casually, almost as if he were afraid someone would catch him with it.  He handed it to Blake, who took it and stared at it for a moment.

COLONEL LECOINTE, MARCUS J
UNITED NATIONS COUNTER-TERRORIST SPECIAL FORCES

555/9266/226/2328/968/3696

"Call that long number there.  You'll hear ringing after the first seven but just keep putting the rest in.  Tell whoever answers that Lecointe recommends you."
"What's this for?" Blake asked him.
Lecointe had lit a cigarette and pointed it behind him.
"Looks like someone wants to have a word with you."
Blake turned around and saw that his superiors were heading over to him.  The "suits" as he and his other coworkers called them, always seemed to have plenty of critiques to dish out, but never actually did much of anything.  Behind him Blake heard the chopper's rotors start, and he turned to see Lecointe standing in the doorway of the cabin.
"Make sure you don't give that card to anyone else, Lieutenant," Lecointe said with a smirk.  "Or else we have to change the number."
"And hey," he said quickly.  "Happy New Year."
He slid the door shut and the helicopter lifted off the roof.  It spun around swiftly, and headed of to the east, the second chopper following.  Blake turned back to chief Bishop, who already had his finger pointed menacingly at him.
"Fox!  You were under strict orders not to-," the chief was cut off.
"Fuck off, Bishop."
Blake brushed past him and walked right through the congregation of high-ups, as chief Bishop lowered his finger in shock.  He headed back to the staircase entrance.


Map of Level 68, Ellis Financial Center
Miami, Florida, USA
January 1, 1999



Chapter 2:
Domestic Disturbances



"Statistically it's a certainty there are hugely advanced civilizations, intelligences, life forms out there.  
I believe they're so advanced they're even doing interstellar travel.
I believe it's possible they even came here."

-Astronaut Storey Musgrove
Apollo 16


January 2, 1999



Alec Horton threw his keys to his son, James.
"Use the small one to open the weapons cabinet.  Grab the shotgun and your rifle."
James was not quite sixteen years old, but was mature enough to know the seriousness of the situation.  The rancher family had had to deal with their cattle being stolen and brutally murdered for the past six months, and it was going to have to end soon if they wanted to make any money.  The Hortons were struggling enough as it was, and this was the last thing they needed.  
The Horton's ranch outside of Sheffield, England was your stereotypical farm-like scene, a big wooden barn behind the house, and a few other buildings here and there.  The family had never had any serious trouble with their ranch besides some financial situations, but since the summer of 1998, the family had begun to notice their cattle population steadily decreasing.  At first the cows were merely being stolen, without any trace.  But in mid-September, Alec had been finding his cows killed on the fields.  It wasn't just the fact that they had been killed that bothered him, but they had been mutilated beyond recognition.  The only way Alec had been able to identify some of them as a cow was by the grass in their stomach, if the stomach had been left at all.
The curious thing about the situation was that when the cows were brutalized, pieces of them were often missing.  Most of the time it was the eyes, the brain and other various organs.  Legs were almost always removed.
Alec and his wife, Miranda, had been to the authorities, countless private investigators, and had even posted rewards for the names of anyone responsible, but nothing had been unveiled.
The lights they had seen outside beyond the trees on this dark night was the first time they had seen any trace of the felons, and Alec was not about to miss this chance to get even.
James ran away quickly down the hall, and Alec turned to his wife.
"Miranda I need you to call the police while James and I go out and take a look.  Tell them to get here as fast as they can, or Alec Horton is going to raise hell at the department again."
Miranda grabbed the phone next to them, and smirked a bit.
"Well I'm sure they'll heed that warning, I think they've seen enough of you."
Alec couldn't help but smile, she was right.  He turned around and ran down the hall where his son had disappeared.
"Be careful" Miranda said behind him.
Alec vanished around a corner, and Miranda ran towards the phone.  She picked it up, but there was no dial tone.

Outside in the bushes in front of the house, Alec and James sat loading their weapons.  James held his grandfather's old Lee-Enfield rifle; Alec held his father's combat shotgun.  Alec's father had told him the stories about his two weapons from the second World War many times before he passed away just the year before.  These two weapons were used in the Normandy invasion, and Alec was confident a couple of warning shots from either weapon would be enough to drop the fools beyond them to their knees, begging for mercy and forgiveness.  They would receive none from Alec Horton.
Beyond them, to the north and in the direction of the pastures, was a bright haze of light.  Alec wasn't going to try and guess what it was, but he knew the people were going to have hell to pay when he got hold of them.  James switched the safety off his rifle and lifted it up, checking the sight.
"Ready?" he asked his father.
"Yeah," Alec said as he tried to peer through the shrubbery.  
Nothing could be seen past the trees that separated them from the light.  He looked to the storehouse northeast of their position and pointed to the window on the second floor.
"Sneak over to the pasture house and take a position on the second floor.  I'm going to check the lights out, and you need to cover me."
James stared at his father.
"What if they have guns too?"
Alec thought for a moment.  These jokers were indeed hurting their family, but it was not worth the risk of any of their lives.
"If they have guns, we'll go back to the house.  But if it looks like I need the help, you give it to me.  Do you understand?"
James nodded.  The boy was terribly mature for his age, and smart too.  Alec knew the boy understood, and he trusted the boy's ability as well.  James crept out of the bushes, took a quick look towards the light, and made a run for the storehouse to their right.  From the pastures, Alec heard a disturbing moan come from one of his cows, and he swung his head quickly back to the north.  
The two silhouettes gave him a shiver as they ran from the corral behind the storehouse.  Alec squinted through the darkness.
Children?
Indeed the silhouettes were short, no more than four feet tall.  He continued watching as they ran behind the trees in the distance.  
What are we dealing with here?
Out of the open window on the second floor of the storehouse, Alec saw his son's rifle barrel peek out.  That was the signal to get moving.
Alec sprinted along the same path his son had gone and went through the opening of the storehouse.  He scanned the room and made for the door that led out to the other side of the building.  Out of the silence above him his son spoke.
"Dad, you should come up here," James whispered.
Alec looked up the stairs and saw his son peering out the window, rifle resting on the sill.
"Dad, I think you should see this."
Alec climbed the stairs and his eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness that shrouded most of the small building.  The window his son peered out of gave the room a bit of light, but it was barely enough to see where he was going.  Alec moved next to his son and peered out the window.  Beyond the trees, Alec saw where the light was coming from.  
The immense metallic craft was hovering about two meters above the pasture.  It had to be at least three stories tall, and a good twenty meters across.  It was bigger than the Horton's house.
"What the-," Alec stopped in mid-sentence as his eyes drifted to the bottom of the craft, where he saw one of his dead cows being lowered back onto the ground by some kind of machine.  The cow was completely disfigured, missing various body parts.  Around the UFO the "children" stood watching the cow being lowered, and two others were leading another cow to its brutal death.
"What are they, Dad?"
Alec shook his head, staring in disbelief.
"We need to leave right now," Alec said to his son.
James turned and headed down the stairs quickly, and Alec turned to follow him.  He stopped on the middle stair as he saw the dark shape of one of the creatures in the corner of the room.  Light from the outside shined on the being's bug-like eyes, and it stood motionless, staring.
"Go" Alec yelled to James as he ran down the rest of the stairs.
James did not ask questions, he just ran.  He bolted across the field back to the house faster than Alec had ever seen him run, and stopped by the side of the house.  He raised his rifle and aimed towards the alien craft, covering his father.  Alec ran out of the storehouse when he saw James stop, jetting across the clearing.

Miranda Horton peered out the kitchen window, which overlooked their backyard and the buildings beyond.  She squinted her eyes trying to see in the darkness, as her son and husband ran across the grass from the storehouse.  Behind them, a small figure ran towards the light beyond.  She turned around to go meet them at the side door, when she saw a short, gray demonic child standing before her.
It was just about four feet tall, with an impossibly large head: its most predominant feature.  Its eyes were large and black, its nose and mouth just mere slits in the rough gray skin.  Its arms and legs were like twigs protruding from its deformed body, and a small brownish utility belt/holster loosely hung from its hips.  In the being's hand was a freakish syringe.
"Oh my god" Miranda screamed as she tried backing into the wall, petrified with fear.
"Alec" she screamed.
As if her prayers had been answered, she heard the side door to the house swing open.  The creature turned its head to look at the newcomer, and made a charge towards Alec.
"No!  Alec watch out" Miranda screamed again.  She ran to the hallway after the creature, just to see Alec dodge its charge.  The alien continued with its momentum and crashed right into James.  The two fell into the half-open door to the outside, and James' rifle clattered to the ground.  The two struggled on the ground, as the creature fought to insert the syringe into James.  Alec yelled and dove into the fight.
Miranda, overcome with terror, ran to the phone.  She tried it again and again, but still there was no dial tone.  She bashed the receiver on the wall in a vain attempt to make it work.
"Come on godammit"
The battle continued in the hallway, as James and Alec wrestled the alien for their lives.  The alien was unbelievably strong, and even the combined strength of the father and son could not have prevented the creature from inserting its needle into James' shoulder.  The creature immediately released James and hit Alec in the face.  He fell to the ground, holding his bloody nose, while the alien bolted out of the door to the outside.  Alec got up with a bit of effort and hopped over James' body, grabbing his rifle on the ground.  Through the darkness, he aimed at the figure running to the trees in the distance and fired.  The precise shot caught the creature in mid-stride.  It faltered and fell to the ground, a harsh scream piercing the silence of the night.  He shut the door to the outside and locked the deadbolt.
Alec turned and knelt next to his boy.  Miranda was shaking him.
"James!  James, wake up" she was saying.
James' eyes slowly were closing, as he drifted off into the alien drug-induced sleep.  Alec grunted as he hefted the boy up, the rifle slung over his shoulder, and headed into the bedroom, Miranda following behind, barely holding onto her sanity as she tried to grasp the situation.
"Is he alright?  Alec, tell me he's alright"
Alec laid James on the bed, and Miranda rushed over to her son, her hands on his face.  She began to sob at the realization that her son could be dead.  
Alec turned his head at the sound of a heavy bashing somewhere in the garage.
There's more.
"Miranda, are the police coming?"
"Phones..." she muttered through her sobs, her head on James'.
"Phones what, honey?  Phones what!?"  
Miranda shook her head.
"The phones... they are... dead," she said, barely able to get enough air to formulate words through her crying  "James..."
Alec took a deep breath and looked around.
"Stay here honey, stay here," Alec said as he fumbled in his pockets for his car keys.  
Alec grabbed his shotgun from the floor, dropping the rifle in its stead.  He ran down the hall towards the garage.  
Behind the door, Alec saw another creature rummaging through his tools and equipment.  To the rear of the creature, was his red Volvo, completely demolished, along with the Horton's only hope of quick escape.  Alec had to think fast.  
As quickly as his feet would allow, he charged the demon child.  He swung his open hand into its long, slender neck, tightening the grip as it met with the scratchy, gray skin.  With relative ease he swung the alien around and into the bumper of his car.  Green blood oozed out of a gash in its head, but it was far from neutralized.  With impossible strength the creature swung a fist into Alec's torso, and he promptly fell to the ground clutching his shotgun.  Just as the creature drew a pistol out of its odd, leathery belt to deliver the final blow, Alec pulled the trigger of his weapon.  The old weapon burst forth immense power, and the sound was deafening.
As the smoke cleared, Alec stood regaining his breath and saw the body of the alien leaning against the car, green blood splattered across the floor.  He was just about to head back in to get Miranda, when he heard a muffled sound on the other side of the metal garage door.  Suddenly it lifted up, and two of the creatures stood behind it, menacing looks on their faces.  Alec ran back into the house, locking the door behind him.

THUMP went the door behind Alec as he put all of his weight against it to prevent the creatures from getting in.  A few feet to his left, he had dropped the shotgun on the floor.  He didn't dare move or the creatures would surely break through.
THUMP.
"Miranda" he called to his wife.  "Miranda!  Get me the gun!  Miranda I need you to bring me the gun"

Still sobbing over her unconscious child, the terrified woman somehow found the courage from her husband's desperate words to get up.  She leaped over James and grabbed the shotgun on the floor.  Rounding the corner, she handed the weapon to Alec.  Quickly, the man turned around and fired a deafening blast into the door.  The lethal buckshot tore the heavy wooden door apart, and the alien screams heard were enough to ensure a person nightmares for the rest of their life.  Through the holes in the door, Alec saw two dead bodies sprawled on the floor, half leaning over the wrecked car.  How such small creatures inflicted such massive damage was beyond him.  An energy bolt seared through the top part of the door, forcing Alec and Miranda to duck.
"Honey, get to the bedroom and lock the door.  Get into the attic from the closet and hide.  You'll have to get the radio and call for help."
Miranda shook her head, tears streaming again.
"No, Alec I don't...?"
"Miranda," he put a hand on her shoulder.  "You need to do this for me.  They don't quite know there are two of us here.  Honey... please."
Fighting her instincts, she nodded and they embraced.  
"What about James?" she asked.
"I'll get him.  You just get up there, alright?"
Wiping her tears away, she let go of Alec and ran to the bedroom.  Alec took a deep breath.  He knew this was a fight they could not win.  Somehow the creatures were jamming communication, as the phones were dead.  If they were jamming them, the radio would undoubtedly not work.
How had it ever come to this?  For generations the Horton's had lived in this house, and in just one night everything would be destroyed.
Alec gripped his gun tightly and looked out the kitchen window in the next room.  A new group of creatures was coming from the direction of the lights, but the threat was different now: they had weapons, big ones.

In the bedroom closet Miranda pulled the ladder down from the ceiling.  Shoving the multitude of clothes out of the way, she clambered up.  At the top, she pulled the ladder back up, closing off the entrance.  She grabbed the string hanging from the light bulb and pulled, bathing the whole room in light.  To her left was the radio atop a mound of boxes.

Outside, an array of alien watchers saw the light turn on through a small window on the top of the house.  Their attention was now undivided, the neutralization of the rebellious Hortons was now their primary objective.

The radio didn't work.  She struggled and struggled, but all she would get was static.  Outside she heard the deafening blasts of her husband's shotgun.  Falling into a terrified despair again, she threw the radio across the attic.  The alien's screams were heard plainly, punctuated by the scream of her husband.
Miranda turned off the attic light quickly and crawled into the corner of the attic.  She struggled to see in the dark as she hid behind the stack of boxes, and heard the soft pitter-patter of feet below her.  
THUMP.  There were heavy pounds at the door to the room, as the inhuman invaders attempted to break the door.
THUMP.
For what seemed like hours the creatures slammed at the door, and finally Miranda heard the wood give way, and the taps of the demon's feet inside the bedroom.  She saw the ladder door open downwards, bathing the attic in light, and she put her head in her arms, as if to escape the imminent danger; her terror was unparalleled.
No one would hear her screams.

Map of Horton Residence and Property
Outside of Sheffield, England
Jan 2, 1999



Chapter 3:
The Secret Saviors




"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in
the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

-George Orwell



January 6-7, 1999


The Miami Police Headquarters was bustling with activity as usual on this Wednesday afternoon.  The normal scum of the city was being dragged in like the animals they were, there was shouting and screaming, and your random people running here and there.  Blake wondered how he made it through every day.
In his minuscule office he slouched in the chair, twirling the card he had been given just the other day by the UN official.  The card had been nagging at him for the past five days, and he had spent hours just staring at it.  He leaned forward and set the card on his desk, looking at his telephone.  He looked at the open door, as a few people rushed past.  Reaching out he swung the door shut, and returned to staring at the phone.
As he mustered some courage, he slowly reached his hand for the phone, as if it would run away if he tried grabbing any faster.
The phone rang with a loud, obnoxious tone, and Blake jumped in his seat.  He sighed and leaned back in his seat, shaking his head.  After a few rings, the answering machine picked up.
"This is Lieutenant Blake Fox.  I am currently busy at the moment so please..."
Blake leaned forward and picked it up quickly.
"Yeah," he answered.
"Fox," said a familiar voice.  "It's O'Neil.  You see the paper?"
Blake turned his gaze to the unread paper on his desk: "ISLAMIC TERRORISTS HOLD OFFICE BUILDING HOSTAGE."
"Yeah I glanced at it."
O'Neil chuckled a bit.
"Sure as hell didn't look like Islamic Terrorists to me.  And the pictures of the guys captured?  I'm pretty sure none of those bastards made it out alive."
O'Neil was damn right.  Blake didn't know what to make of the situation; he had never seen anything like this before.  On his first assignment to end a dangerous situation peaceably, he had utterly failed.  While the hostages under his care had survived, the mysterious commandos had killed all the terrorists without question.
Blake's new secretary barged through the door just as he was about to open his mouth again, carrying a couple of folders.  He had never had a secretary before, and frankly, he didn't want one.  Chief Bishop didn't care about his complaints though, so he was forced to make do.  She meant well, but had little or no manners.
"Sergeant Jameson has these papers for you to go over from the raid last night, he says-," she was cut off.
"Annie, I'm on the phone," he said covering the mouthpiece.
She made an 'I could care less' face and set the folder on his desk.
"Just make sure you go over them today, that's all," she whispered and slowly crept back out of his office, neglecting to shut the door.
Sighing, Blake leaned over once again and shut the door.
"Anyways, as we were saying," Blake resumed.
"I don't know why they are covering this up, Fox.  I've been asking my superiors all week about what the hell was happening.  I don't get shit."
"The cover-up doesn't bother me half as much as those commandos."
"I hear ya."
"O'Neil," Blake began, "Who the hell enters a building by dropping on to a jet and hopping off the wing?"
Annie, who carried another folder filled with papers in her hand, once again barged in Blake's door.  Before she even said a word, she was met with Blake's infuriated gaze.  She put her hands up in defeat with a look of terror on her face.  Annie mouthed "OK," and backed out of the office, closing the door behind her.  Blake sighed once again.
"I gotta go O'Neil.  If I hear any news, I'll call you."
"Likewise, later."
Blake hung up the phone and leaned back in his chair, running his fingers through his hair.  His gaze met the card on his desk again.

With a bit of hesitation he finally grabbed the phone and started dialing.  After the first seven numbers he heard ringing, but kept punching the rest in.  After the twenty-first number, the ringing stopped.  Almost immediately he heard the other end pick up.  A woman spoke.
"Name and location."
"Uh, Blake Fox, Miami, who is this?"
The voice on the other end ignored the question.  Blake heard typing in the background.
"Florida?"
"Yeah, Florida, where else?"
"There's a Miami, Oklahoma, I'll have you know, smartass."
Blake was taken aback, and decided he'd just answer the questions from now on.
"Who recommended you?"
"Uh, Colonel Lecointe...?"
Once again the woman paused, typing.  The silence seemed to go on and on, and Blake thought he had actually been put on hold a few times.
"Were you given a card?" she asked finally.
"Yes."
"Tomorrow at eighteen-hundred hours local time, go to gate C-17 at the Miami International Airport.  A man will meet you there.  Do not bring weapons; do not bring any communication equipment.  Do not bring anyone else.  Burn your card and flush the remains down the toilet."
With a click, the phone went silent and was disconnected.
"Wait, hello?" Blake asked in vain.
Blake put the phone back and stared at the card on his desk.  He stood up grabbing the card, as he groped his pockets for a lighter.

* * *

It was five minutes until six o'clock as Blake walked the concourse.  He had his hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket, and saw "C-17" on a sign in the distance.  He checked his watch and kept strolling to his destination.  

He took a seat at the curiously empty gate and looked to the unmarked Boeing 757 attached to the jetway outside.  At the front desk a woman typed into a computer, and above her the electronic sign showed in bright red:

FLIGHT 9266
DENVER CO
DEPARTS 630

Blake turned his gaze back to the hallway of the concourse, as a man came from the crowds and sat down next to him.  He wore a black trench coat, with a business suit underneath.  The man seemed about the same age as Blake, dark short hair, and a light beard.  The two men looked a bit alike actually, save for the beard.  He set a black briefcase down in between Blake and himself, and leaned back, putting his right leg over his left.
"Looks like it'll be an empty flight today, right Lieutenant Fox?" the man asked.
Blake turned his head and looked at the man, who now held out his hand.  He shook it.
"Sorry if I'm a bit late, Blake, if I may call you that.  I'm Leonardo Nash.  Please call me Leo."  The man turned his head back and looked to the crowds.
"You know why this flight is empty, Blake?"
Blake shook his head.
"Because no one has tickets to it.  Not yet.  But depending on how our conversation goes you might get one."
Blake made an odd face, narrowing his eyes.
"Listen, uh, Leo... am I in some kind of trouble or something?"
Leo laughed a bit, raising his hand to stroke the beard on his chin.
"The truth is, Blake, that we are all in a bit of trouble."  He kept looking to the mass of people bustling about in the concourse.
"But no one knows it.  No one knows the danger they are in, my friend.  And they cannot be allowed to know."  Leo turned back to Blake, his face stern, almost out of character for the jovial man.
"The only ones who know about this danger are their Secret Saviors; the ones who guard them in their sleep, the ones who protect their lives while they work, while they play.  The people who will risk their own lives to ensure the safety of all of theirs."  Leo motioned to the people in the hallway.
"Is this about the terrorists?" Blake asked.
"Those fools are just the tip of the iceberg, Blake," Leo said, knowing immediately what he was referring to.
"I've told you all I can tell you," Leo began again.  "If you want to go home and live your life as one of them," Leo motioned again to the travelers in the concourse, "You forget we ever spoke, go to work tomorrow just like any other day."
Blake took a deep breath as Leo paused.
"If you want to know what's really going on, I give you a ticket, and you walk on that plane."  
Blake looked to the attendant who was now opening the jetway door.
"I have to base my choice off of what you just told me in a few minutes?  You haven't even told me what I'm joining for, what I am going to be doing..."
"It's the way it's being done, Blake.  I've gone to see three other people today just like you, and they've all said the same exact thing."
"Yeah and how many went with you..." Blake said sarcastically.
"Every single one of them."
Blake turned to Leo, who had a kind of smirk on his face; he had been wanting to say that.
"It's not just a problem of national security, Blake, it's a problem of world security.  My telling you any more than I am without you joining us, would threaten lives."
"What about my apartment, my car?"
"It'll all be taken care of."
Blake shook his head.
"What do you mean, 'taken care of'?"
Leo looked at Blake sternly.
"It means just that."
"What's the catch?  Besides going into some operation blindly?"
Leo took out his briefcase and opened it, pulling out a sheet of paper and a shiny pen.
"You sign on for two years, and you follow our rules unquestionably."
"This is bullshit." Blake said, getting up.  Nash got up and stopped him.
"Blake, listen to me.  Think of the worst thing that can happen to civilization as we know it."  He paused.  "Now make it ten times worse.  You know something is going on Blake.  You saw the beginnings of it in the Financial Center.  Are you going to just let the other day go?  Can you convince yourself it was Islamic terrorists?"
Blake looked to the crowd once again, biting his lip and narrowing his eyes.  Was the truth worth two years of his life?  Did he even want to know the truth?
All of Blake's life he wanted to be somebody important.  He had always decided his goal would be best achieved by saving people's lives, and pursuing justice.  He didn't even know what this whole thing was about, but his guess was that it was indeed something important.  
"What's the pay?" Blake asked, still staring.
"Two-hundred and forty-thousand dollars a year.  Tax exempt."
Blake almost felt his jaw drop, and turned his gaze to the paper and pen.
"Sign on the X?" he asked.
Leonardo Nash smiled.

At the entrance to the jetway tunnel, Blake gave a thick, red transparent card that had been given to him by Leo to the desk attendant, a petite Japanese woman.  She took the card and swiped it through a small device on her desk, and returned it to Blake.
"Tank you Missah Fox," she said with a strong accent, as she bowed lightly to him.
Blake smirked to the woman and pocketed the card.  He turned back to Leonardo.
"You coming too?" he asked.
"No," he said, his face getting dark.  "I have other business to attend to while I am in town.  But don't worry; you'll be seeing me again."
Blake nodded.
"When you get to Denver, just follow instructions and present that card when needed.  Enjoy your flight, Fox."
Leo smiled and turned quickly to the concourse, and Blake turned back to the Japanese woman.
"Follow me," she said with an impossibly large smile.
Blake paused for a moment before following her, thinking.  He was about to leave his life behind, embark on an unknown journey to an unknown destination, for an unknown purpose.
He grinned and stepped into the tunnel.



Interlude I:
Progress


On January 1, 1999, representatives from across the world met for the second time to deal with the alien menace.  When presented with the new evidence from around the world on the creatures, the vote to evolve the Extra-Terrestrial Investigation Unit was unanimous: countries would not fight this menace with their armies, and the general population would not be made aware of the threat.  An elite group of soldiers, scientists, engineers, and secret operatives would deal with the threat behind the curtains.  The Extra-Terrestrial Combat Unit, X-COM, was born.*

From all corners of the globe, the United Nations enlisted the help of other countries, and private businesses.  The most advanced equipment and weaponry the world had to offer would be at X-COM's disposal.  The most intelligent scientists, the most skilled engineers, and the deadliest soldiers would be hired to work for the secret unit.

The UN council had elected the Japanese mastermind General Sohiro Yamamoto, distant relative to the Japanese Empire's Admiral Yamamoto,