Posted 02 January 2019 - 01:34 AM
The 'Ranger touched down, and the secondaries poured out into the deserted intersection. Garish neon signs flashed above, but the customary urban chaos of the Ginza was gone; automobiles rested where they'd been abandoned, and not a soul stirred.
Rawlings grunted. The locals had done their job, and done it well. The casualties, he could already see, would be much less than any previous raid.
The 'Ranger lifted off, heading for a holding pattern over the Bay.
Schancer spoke up.
"Welcome to Tokyo," he announced.
The silence was uncanny.
"Alpha, Beta squads, dig in and cover the western approaches. Gamma, hold back and watch the rear. I don't want anything getting this far." It must be hellish down in the subway tunnels, thought the Southerner. If we don't hold here, the bugs will have a field day in them.
Other 'Rangers, a few blocks ahead of the secondary team, descended in their transports. Schancer prayed silently for his people; they were going to see the worst of it.
Two hundred meters out of the Outer Garden, Dillan's crew piled out of their Skyranger. Almost immediately, plasma was in the air, and the battle was joined.
"Comin' hot and heavy from the west, over that moat," yelled Battelene. He egged his squad forwards, into the fray.
The First Kansai advanced under increasing fire. A shop sign was hit, and sprayed sparks down upon Yoshii's squad. An entire storefront was smashed into matchsticks by a concussion blast. Dozens of wild shots and near misses streaked by the First, but they were fast, and they were lucky.
"Take up positions around this intersection," yelled Dillan, crouching behind a power line A bolt slammed into the concrete pole, throwing boiling concrete in every direction.
Matsumoto opened up with his plasma, and the bugs' fire slackened.
"Only a few shots coming from deep in there," muttered Battelene. "Use the time and get under cover!"
The sergeant crawled behind an abandoned taxicab. Nakano scurried up beside him.
"So, how you like your first taste of street fighting?" asked the sergeant.
"Not much," replied the woman as a series of plasma shots pummeled an automobile, knocking it onto its side and then igniting its fuel tank.
"Looks like our cover's going," muttered Battelene. However, a burst of bolts from Matsumoto lashed out into the numerous shrubs and cherry trees of the Outer Garden. An alien sighed.
Probably coughing up his guts, grimaced Battelene. He stuck his head past the taxi's rear fender and peered into the darkness. His suit's nightvision compensated, and he spotted the profile of what could only be called a frisbee.
"Uh, sir," shouted the sergeant, suddenly not so confident of his chances. "Sir, the tanks are coming!"
Elsewhere, the Fifth Kansai had walked into a trap.
Approaching the landed 'terror ship' parked between the two 'battleships,' Davidson and his crew were one hundred meters from the moat surrounding the Outer Garden. High apartment buildings on both sides of their street, they could only advance or retreat. A sudden clicking sound from their rear narrowed the team's options significantly.
"What's that?" asked Hirsch, looking over his shoulder.
Kurihara screamed, whipping his plasma rifle to bear. He was too late; a man-sized crab sat atop him, ripping into his armor with twin sythe-like claws.
"Shit!" shouted Hirsch, his heavy plasma firing away. A bolt caught the monster in its flank, cutting it in half.
"More of them!" squealed Shinji Eshima. Dozens of multifaceted eyes peered from the darkness, focusing in on the nine XCOM soldiers.
Davidson dropped to one knee and opened up, his M-60 firing wildly. Troops to his sides dumped bolts and beams into the buildings around them, but the trap was sprung. Clicking bipedal killers leapt from behind cars and alleyways.
The captain twitched and pumped a burst into one as it lunged for him. Ignoring its steaming corpse, he rolled to his side, grazing another. The bug swung with a claw, catching Squaddie Etchu by the head. Neck broken from the savage force of the blow, the soldier collapsed onto his knees before falling face-first to the pavement.
Hirsch, wild with fright, removed the offending appendage from the creature with a plasma bolt. Another sent the bug's innards flying.
Davidson rolled away from the grip of another bug, sticking his machine gun's barrel in the creature's face. He pulled the trigger, spraying hot green blood across his chest armor.
A crab knocked Hirsch's plasma from his hands. Takahashi shot the monster in its back, boiling its guts.
Squaddies were all around Davidson, screaming and dying. The sergeant aimed at a bug who slammed into Naito, a rookie. His weapon's chamber was empty. Cursing, the black man frantically reloaded as the alien ripped apart the wailing rookie.
Kurihara's corpse suddenly twitched and rolled onto all fours. Hirsch, grabbing the previously dead man's plasma rifle, accidentally stepped on the downed soldier's head.
"Shit, shit," breathed the sergeant.
Kurihara grabbed Hirsch's leg.
Panicking, Henry pumped a pair of bolts into Kurihara's face.
"Oh shit!" screamed the sergeant.
But instead of collapsing back onto the blood soaked pavement, Kurihara's chest burst open--and a small crab stretched its claws.
"Behind you, sir!" yelled Takahashi. Davidson felt a sharp pain in his back. He spun and brought his machine gun down on a bug's head.
Reeling, the crab recovered, and then jabbed with a huge claw. The captain parried with his M- 60. A pair of plasma bolts ripped into the monster, throwing it down.
"Evac!" bellowed Davidson. Katoh ran by, firing his awkward heavy laser into a crab's chest.
"AAAAGH!" screamed Yanagi, tossing aside his laser and running like a man possessed. It clattered along the pavement behind him, still attached via its power cable.
Davidson dived to his left, a chitinous claw swinging over his head.
"Eat this shit," snarled the captain, lashing out with his ruined weapon.
"Head for cover!" yelled Hirsch. Takahashi blasted Kurihara's corpse, burning apart the baby alien emerging from the dead man's chest cavity.
Katoh lanced a beam through the crab attacking Davidson. The captain rolled to avoid the spray of viscera, colliding with Hirsch's legs.
"Shit!" shouted Hirsch, narrowly avoiding shooting his friend. He pulled Davidson up.
A flurry of plasma bolts streamed down the Tokyo street. Katoh yelped, and fell on his side.
Davidson scooped up Hirsch's heavy plasma, scanning around for crabs.
"Evac!" repeated the captain. "More coming!"
Takahashi grabbed the downed sergeant's extended arm, pulling him from the center of the street.
"Looks like the motherfuckers are gone," rasped Hirsch, a dozen claw marks over his armor.
"Let's take their cue, and exit stage right," replied Davidson. He checked his weapon's charge, and fired a burst at the outer garden.
"Who do we have left?" he asked, covering Katoh and Takahashi.
"Oh fuck," muttered Hirsch. He ran a red eye over the scattering of dead crabs and shredded armor.
A plasma rifle on automatic opened up further down the street.
"Get it off me!" weakly cried Araki, a soldier from Katoh's squad.
A soldier, crawling on all fours, sat atop the squaddie. It jerkily punched him in the head, even as Araki tried to struggle away.
Hirsch took aim, and double-tapped the zombie.
"They plant eggs in you if they get you," mumbled the sergeant, stepping over and helping Araki up. The dead soldier's corpse wriggled with new life. Davidson blasted it, green blood mingling with dried human guts.
Another barrage of plasma bolts flew down the street.
"Hirsch, Araki! Dig in on that side! Takahashi, get Katoh behind something solid and get that laser working!"
Davidson scrambled for the cover of an apartment building's front stoop. We might be through with the crabs, thought the captain, but the regular troops are on the way.
Battelene scrambled behind a van, wincing visibly as his previous cover, a luxury car, exploded in a violent fireball.
"Nakano? You still with me?" he asked.
The rookie dived behind the van, a plasma bolt pulverizing the pavement at her feet.
Battelene dropped to his belly and emptied his plasma rifle's clip at the nearest UFO tank. The First had been tank-rushed, no doubt about it, but the squads were regrouped and resisting.
"Can we get some heavier weapons in here?" shouted Battelene, rolling aside as the tank's plasma beam punched a dinner-plate sized hole straight through the van.
Nakano pulled out a knobby alien grenade and sidearmed it at the alien vehicle.
"Let's go!" yelled the sergeant, Nakano on his heels.
The grenade's blast mingled with the dull thump of the van's fuel tank going.
A SAW chattered away.
"Umeyama, save it for the infantry!" ordered Battelene.
Running, he wildly fired his plasma into the flank armor of a disk tank. Its main weapon savaged the storefront behind him.
"Sakurai here. We'll try to draw away the tanks."
"Fuck, hurry!" responded Battelene, rolling behind a dumpster.
At least this doesn't go bang when they shoot it, he thought. Nakano sprinted over, plasma bolts sizzling the air behind her.
Battelene pulled a satchel of thermite explosive from his back webbing.
"Eat this shit," snarled the sergeant, touching off the bomb's igniter and hurling it over the garbage heap.
He leaned around the dumpster. It shuddered with sickeningly powerful plasma shots; but it held. Battelene fired away at a tank. It hovered over the charge.
The American pulled his head back barely in time. A tremendous series of explosions kicked the dumpster, and the soldiers in its lee, back a meter, breaking every window for blocks around.
"Check one tank," smiled the sergeant. Nakano laughed and glanced over the garbage.
"There are at least five more, sir," warned the rookie. A SAW opened up.
Battelene's tactical radio squawked alive. "We got greys on foot," reported the colonel.
A strange whoosh and another massive blast shook the streets of urban Tokyo.
"YEEHAW! First Panzer here, ready to rock-and-roll!"
"Who the fuck?" asked Sakurai, Dillan, and Battelene.
A light tank, built low to the ground and mounting a small cannon drove by at high speed. Battelene noticed its treads, its radio aerials, and the white XO's on its sides.
"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," muttered Battelene, leaning around the edge of the garbage bin. The tank shot by an alien tank and spat lead into its alloy side. Smoking from the damage, the disk wobbled unsteadily, hesitant to fire.
A LAW anti-tank guided missile slammed into the bug vehicle's side, flooding its delicate inner workings with thermite plasma. The disk crashed to the street, and promptly exploded.
"Sweet," praised Battelene, reloading his plasma.
The tank rolled by again, plasma bolts welting its forward armor.
"Greys, lots of them!" yelled Umeyama. The squaddie, ten meters down the street and crouched behind a smashed auto, opened up with his machine gun.
Battelene and Nakano shoved their weapons over the top of the dumpster, opening up on an approaching squad of little grey men. The bugs dove to the pavement, returning fire. Another light tank rumbled by, crushing the aliens under its treads.
"Look both ways before you cross--" snickered the sergeant, picking off a survivor with a well- placed shot to the rib cage. The smoking alien fell on its face.
Rockets, shells, bolts, beams, and grenades were flying everywhere. The bugs were desperately attempting a full frontal assault out of the garden, and they were meeting unexpected resistance. Greys went down left and right, screaming and bleeding and dying.
A courageous bug charged Nakano and Battelene's makeshift bunker. Clutching a grenade, it threw itself at the two soldiers. A timely lance of microwaves cut down the bug, though, and its body shattered from the blast of its own grenade.
"Nice shot," yelled Battelene over the fray.
"Thank you," replied Nakano.
Smoking from a dozen plasma hits, a tank swerved off the pavement and through the light guardrail separating the street from the moat circling the garden. It splashed into the murky waters, tracks still whirring. A pair of alien grenades shut down the robot.
Four greys charged over the small bridge leading to the garden. A tank, equipped with a minigun, mowed them down like weeds. The vehicle shuddered, though, as a grey, advancing with a heavy plasma, punched a trio of holes into its armor.
The tank's ammunition supply exploded, throwing its turret off. Smoke poured from the mounting ring. The grey calmly strode forward through the fray, leveling measured shots at the other armored robots.
A pair of human tanks swerved by the alien, narrowly avoiding a collision. With hair-raising certainty, the grey grimly marched ahead, dealing out bolts to the entrenched XCOM soldiers. Silhouetted by the flaming wreckage of the minigun tank, it cast the image of bravery. Sorry bud, apologized Battelene. He focused his plasma on the bug and extinguished the alien's life with two swift bolts.
"Wish we had folks like that," muttered the sergeant. He glanced at Nakano. She didn't seem to care one way or the other.
The last alien tank shook and buckled under the constant barrage of Colonel Dillan's heavy plasma. A burst of M-249 rounds grazed its hull; lashing out, the disk slowly fired twice before exploding.
Nakano and Battelene fired away at the fleeing profiles of greys. Nakano caught one between its shoulder blades. Yelping, it struggled to run, but a tank drove up and smashed the little alien into a greyish smear on the blood-drenched Tokyo street.
A moment of profound silence passed, the only sounds those of the remaining robot tanks' engines.
"Who's left?" whispered Dillan.
Battelene glanced around.
A bloody figure staggered out of a blasted storefront.
"Umeyama's dead," coughed Nomura. The squaddie clutched his laser rifle in one hand; the other he used to grab the dead man's helmet.
Battelene glanced at Umeyama's corpse, and looked away, a wave of nausea sweeping over him.
"His SAW overheated and jammed, sir," reported the surviving squaddie.
"Battelene? What's Alpha's status?"
"One walking wounded, one dead."
"Get your act together, sarge! We're reserves for the Fourth's attack on the big UFO parked five hundred meters west of here, and I want all squads ready for combat in five, five minutes."
"Get anything you can off of Umeyama," ordered Battelene, still sick.
The colonel spoke up again. "Oh, and good job, people."
We are so fucked, thought Davidson.
He peered through the night, watching the aliens slowly work their way down the street. Huge slug-like beings, the creatures resembled snakes with arms. Even with half their body folded underneath to serve as a giant foot, these bugs stood a meter and a half tall, and a meter wide. A short armor vest protected their shoulders and neck but not their abdomen.
All the easier to kill, winced Davidson. His back still ached from the near-puncture of a crab claw. The damn thing also killed our chances of reinforcements, he sighed, fully aware that the strat-com radio on his back had saved his life. Only to die in this attack.
"At my word, we fire. One shot, one kill," ordered Davidson, eyeing the half-full clip on his heavy plasma.
"Boss, I got spare clips," whispered Hirsch.
The captain rolled his eyes, rasping, "Why didn't you give them to me earlier?" He snarled at the soldier on the opposite side of the street.
"What you got for charges, men?"
"Three-fourths charge," replied Takahashi, "and Katoh's got a plasma pistol with three full clips."
"Half charge," answered Araki.
"Five shots and four grenades," muttered Hirsch, kicking himself in the head.
Davidson glanced across the street, realizing that Araki and Hirsch were going to be running on fumes very quickly.
"Henry, I want you to toss those heavy plasma clips to me. Takahashi, Araki--you open fire when he starts. Aimed shots; we don't have much for weaponry here."
The black man waved a hand at the sergeant across the street. He looked down at the wounded sniper.
"Katoh, Henry's in better shape than you. I need to get that plasma pistol to him."
Helmet off and breathing feebly, the Japanese sergeant weakly nodded. Davidson pulled out the weapon, checked its safety, and motioned to Hirsch.
The aliens didn't notice the flying pistol and banana clips until it was too late. A microwave laser beam sliced through the lead snake's unarmored lower torso, causing no lack of alarm in the bug ranks. Slithering as fast as they could, two more fell as the crack shots of XCOM gunned them down.
Davidson propped his heavy plasma on a concrete railing and opened up with deliberate delay. A snake gurgled pain as a plasma bolt smashed into his back. Another died sans head.
The aliens who had reached cover returned fire, pitting the street and maiming buildings with their terrible aim. Takahashi nailed one in its scaled eye socket and the screaming alien was put out of its misery by a comrade.
Hirsch pitched aside his plasma rifle and readied his pistol. The bugs were going down, but he knew it was a matter of time before the lasers ran out and the plasmas were silenced. That's when I want this baby to go to work, thought the sergeant.
A snake opened up with his heavy plasma, savaging the steps behind which Davidson, Takahashi, and Katoh hid. The captain swore, lowering his heavy plasma.
"Get down!" he yelled, swatting Takahashi in the back. A plasma bolt splintered the cement railing and sent it crashing down on the two.
"Grrrgh, Hirsch--keep them from throwing grenades!" shouted Davidson as he and Takahashi struggled to shove aside the debris.
The sergeant pulled an E-115 charge from his belt and pitched it down the street. Struggling in slow-motion slithers to evade the merry bouncing bomb, the snakes could neither dive or run. Instead, they died, horribly, agonizingly, as hundreds of razor-sharp alloy fragments cut through their scaley hides.
"Mmm," muttered Davidson, successfully tossing aside the hunk of building that had pinned him down. He glanced down the street.
Arahi picked off the survivors, burning holes in their backs as they conducted the EBE version of the 'tactical withdrawal.' The rookie cursed as his charge ran out.
"What now, boss?" asked Hirsch, strapping the unused pistol to his belt.
Davidson methodically scanned the street, looking one way and then the next.
"Araki, Hirsch, grab the biggest plasmas you can carry from those dead fucks. I'll cover you--get one for Takahashi, too. Then we pick up Katoh here. Then we withdraw."
Somewhere southwest of Dillan and Davidson's squads, Wilkes kicked open the door to a bathroom.
Glancing behind himself and clutching the crushed armor of his right arm, the colonel stumbled to the far corner of the tiled room. Shaking from fear, he clumsily attached his portable medikit to the contact on his chest.
"Pain...kill...her," he shivered, quietly realizing that he was going into catatonic shock.
A shelf of electronic hardware collapsed in the store outside of his refuge. Wilkes nearly jumped, and he struggled to retain control over his body. Shrinking into the corner and clutching the pack of morphine which threatened to render him unconscious, he closed his eyes, focused his mind, and called one word.
Schancer struck a pose on a compact Honda.
"I have seen the enemy, and I think him an ugly sonuvabitch."
The secondaries of Gamma squad laughed uncontrollably.
"I've got a dozen of them, a dozen, I tell ya!" barked Schancer. He privately thanked his repertoire of tired jokes and impressions. Keeps the tension from getting to them, at least, he thought.
The wait was terrible. Dozens of sketchy reports were starting to trickle in, painting either a picture of complete, utter victory, or colossal tragedy on a scale of Osaka.
Dillan, Sakurai and Nader said that there was nothing but the ships to clean out. The Nebraskan had bragged of personally killing six greys.
Yoshii, Ogata, and Itoh were embroiled in a seething stalemate, relegated to trading shots with the greys near the southern entrance to the Outer Garden.
But what troubled Schancer the most was Wilkes and Davidson, the center of the XCOM line.
No reports had come from them.
"Sir, we've got three, four people approaching from the west!" yelled the impromptu sergeant of Alpha squad.
Schancer hopped off his soapbox and accepted the plasma rifle Rawlings held for him.
"Where are they?" he asked, accepting a pair of binoculars from the sergeant.
He peered down the street, reading the LED clock in the binocular's upper left-hand corner--1:30 AM. He spotted the shape of what could only be the stereotypical black captain.
"It's Davidson," said the commander, handing off the binoculars.
The captain of Fifth Kansai approached, gaze lowered and carrying the feet of a soldier. Hirsch held the wounded man's upper torso.
"Fifth Kansai reporting in, sir. The crabs got half my team, commander. One wounded, four pissed off as hell."
Schancer motioned for Alpha squad to pick up Katoh.
"Why didn't you report in?" asked Schancer. "And what 'crabs?'"
"One of them got my radio--big, two meter tall, two legged motherfuckers that try to rape you and don't even bother to look for a hole," snorted Davidson, answering both questions in one shot.
"They make one," added Hirsch.
Rawlings walked over. "What crabs?"
"Black as night, two long claws, two spider eyes, antennae, very fast, very strong," said Takahashi. "I do not like."
"Oh, we also killed at least two dozen snake things."
"Snake things?" inquired Schancer, very puzzled.
"Why don't we go have ourselves a look?" sneered Davidson, glancing around at all the armored secondaries.
Schancer was about to debate the question, but the stratcom intervened.
"Commander Schancer?" asked Colonel Yoshii in the Southerner's earpiece.
"Colonel Wilkes is hurt and his team is dead! He is in danger!"
"Where is he?"
"A large department store... he didn't say!"
"What? Colonel Wilkes? Can you read me?"
"His radio is dead, sir! You must send help for him!"
Schancer looked at Araki and Takahashi. "Either of you know a large department store, this side of the garden?"
Takahashi nodded. "Maruzen."
Schancer looked over his team of secondaries and over Davidson and his tired, wasted team.
Almost as Schancer thought it, Rawlings spoke up.
The commander nodded. "Takahashi? Show him the way. Rawlings will take it from there."
"Motion scanner," ordered the bodyguard. A secondary threw him one. Checking his nightvision, Rawlings slung his heavy plasma over his spare shoulder.
"Let's go, soldier."
Takahashi and Rawlings jogged off. Schancer watched them fade into the distance.
"SDF Forces are moving up from the south and the north. They're going to clean out the Garden, thank God. Commander? You listening?" asked Dillan. The other end of the stratcom radio was silent.
"Excuse me, Colonel. Good luck with cleaning out the UFOs. Yoshii thinks she's outmaneuvered the greys down at the south end. I'm holding the center of the line, looks like Davidson scared off their main thrust."
"Something happening, sir? Something the world should know about?"
"Nothing, Colonel. Nothing at all."
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Zombie: Empirical data's your only man, when formulating a research plan.
A soldier's death is never in vain if it makes the formula more plain.
A few dozen make a better case for refining that third decimal place.
They call me Zombie because I don't sleep, as I slowly struggle to climb this heap,
of corpses, data points, and trials, but from the top - I'll see for miles!