UFO FanFic - Chapter 2


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#141 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 11:29 AM

"So let me get this straight."

"Ok."

"You killed four aliens, and three soldiers."

"Uh, yep."

"And you wrestled an intact explosive device from another alien, after taking a live hostage."

"Um, yeh, that too."

Rocio Lee looked blankley at Howitz through her one good eye. He was sprawled on his back in the snow. Having cooled off, he'd put the rest of his suit back on, but he was sure he'd picked up a few kilos of snow. He looked back with an apologetic face and shrugged.

"You couldn't hit a bus at close range."

He cringed at this, and shrugged again. "Well, I only used a few shots, and those were non-fatal. Actually, the only guy I hit was killed by his own side, not me. Used him as a shield."

The tone of her voice did not vary. "You killed them all with grenades."

"Well, I clubbed one of them with my gun. I let two of them live, you must remember."

"You also let one get away."

He chuckled as she strode off through the snow. He and squad one had congregated around their own 'Ranger, and the majority of the team were relaxing now that the Osprey had arrived. It wasn't often that he made any kills in a battlefield situation, so it was nothing to complain about given that it was his first mission. Heck, he hadn't even been trying...

Terrick had come round after being tended to by Tammy, and had insisted on changing his frigid uniform himself. Both he and Rick had been jabbed with some of the magic stuff they'd stashed in the medkits... It'd stop hypothermia, apparently, but Howitz had more trust in their position near the Osprey engines. It was unbearably hot at close range.

He'd heard rumours that command wasn't too happy with the way the mission had been handled. Well, sure, he'd been the first to open fire on the other forces, but even he was inclined to open fire when someone shoved an assault rifle under his nose. He figured he'd get off alright, even if he had fired the first shot. It seemed Dodge going to be in a bit of trouble when he got back to base, however...

No one really seemed to know what was going on, but with any luck the two prisoners would be able to shed some light on the situation. The merc he'd knocked out was most likely going to pull through, and the squad leader, Rick, had picked up another man, who for some reason was un-armed. Maybe there had been some sort of diplomatic meeting set up.

He snorted out another chuckle to himself. Battlefields weren't the best of places to turn up for small talk...
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#142 FullAuto

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 04:12 PM

"Dana"
  She looked round from studying the UFO.
  Tim Day, crouched by a bodybag, with Conner, Donovan and Ibsen in attendance.
  "Your new friend seen an alien yet?" Day called out, nudging the lumpy outline.
  Dana turned to Turmoil, raising her eyebrows.
  He hadn't, she knew, and if he was sensible, he wouldn't want to either.
  -like you were-
  She shuddered.  No one was sensible, at least not anyone who worked at Pine Gap and had enough clearance to get into the morgue.  Everyone just had to go along and see the dead aliens for themselves.  No matter how many nightmares they got.
All the corpses had been bagged and tagged before the Osprey had arrived, and although they were mostly still in situ, a few had been moved closer to the plane for convenience.
  Turmoil nodded, not quite able to hide how eager he was.  Sighing, Dana followed him over to the soldiers, shivering in the biting wind.  Cold gnawed at her through her overalls.  She made a mental note to bring a jacket on the next trip out.
Turmoil was too keyed up to notice.  Queasy from the flight, adrenaline still seeping through his system, he walked over to Day and crouched down beside him.
Dana and Rocio Lee were close behind, the latter's face carefully composed.  She hadn't been on base long enough to get around to seeing an alien body, though she'd heard rumours.
  Day unzipped the bodybag and took hold of the loose corner. "Sure you want to see this?"
  Turmoil nodded, leaning forward.
  "You sure?  It'll haunt you for the rest of your days." Day grinned at the other soldiers.
  Turmoil nodded again. "I'm sure."
  With a flourish, Day flipped back the top of the bodybag, revealing what was underneath.
  There was a jarring sense of dislocation.  Everything, familiar up to that point, seemed strange.  His own body heat, the figures around him, the snow, the sky, the trees.  It all seemed unreal, too much or too little, not right.  Turmoil glanced arund, making sure he was still on Earth, and that this lump of dead flesh before him was out of place, that it was the stranger here.
  Not him.
  It's huge black eyes were dull, it's small mouth lolled open.  There was a large wound in it's abdomen, big enough to fit a fist into, and a thick twisted bunch of blue gut hung out, dripping some chunky orange liquid that reminded Storm of melted cheese.  The alien lay straight, one long-fingered hand clenched tight, body and legs stained with it's own blood.
  Green blood, Turmoil noticed, leaning closer.  A thick, vivid green.
  "Hey, Ghost, can you smell that?" Day asked.
  Turmoil looked up at the soldier, squatting opposite him.
  Ghost sniffed, then shook his head. "Nope.  Can't smell anything.  You?"
  Turmoil inhaled deeply through his nose.  And retched.
  He spun away as the soldiers burst out laughing, gagging, holding back vomit as his stomach spasmed.  Cold sweat broke out on his skin as he bent double and took deep heaving breaths.  The stink had been a vile cross between rotten eggs and greasy bacon gone cold.  Heat rushed to his face and muscles strained as his guts convulsed, unsteady, knotting and unknotting, flushes of hot and cold making him shudder.  He rubbed some snow on his face, knocking his glasses askew.
  "Mmm, home cooking." Ibsen said behind him, and he retched again, bringing up nothing more than bile.
  Footsteps, then a friendly clap on the shoulder from Day. "They always smell like that after a chest wound." He walked on to the 'ranger.
  Turmoil stood up straight, a hand on his stomach. "Thanks for that." He replied, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.
  -God, that smell-
  The memory of it almost made him sick again.  He looked over his shoulder at the body.  Lee, her face showing nothing more than mild distaste, zipped the bodybag up.
  The sense of unreality faded, the messy truth covered by nice neat plastic, and the snowfield, and the people, and the sky and the trees and his own sense of self returned to normal.  Dana was looking at him, guarded sympathy in her eyes.  Ghost, Donovan and Ibsen were still smiling, watching him.
  He set his glasses right, feeling the hot flush of nausea fade, helped by the cool wind.
  Ghost tossed him a bottle of water.  Turmoil washed his mouth out and spat.
  "First time I smelled it, I barfed like a freshman." Ghost nudged the body. "Clumsy assholes like Donovan here gutshoot and stink up the place.  You see any aliens with head wounds, you know they're my work."
  "Beating them to death doesn't count, man." Donovan laughed, standing. "Come on."
  The soldiers headed for the 'ranger, weapons slung, already passing insults and jokes back and forth.  Ibsen threw something small and plastic to Turmoil as he passed him, saying "You'll need it for the trip back."
  Turmoil unfolded it.  It was a sick bag.
  Dana gave Storm a wan smile. "Welcome to X-Com."

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#143 storm turmoil

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 11:23 PM

"What do we have?" Came the terse question from Tactical command.

" well, we have a bunch of suspicious looking suits, a couple of soldiers, some barbequed bug-eyed monsters, and miracle of miracles, a mostly untouched UFO. Thats whats taking so long, by the way. we're stripping it of everything portable, and then we're going to rig it for lifting." Dana answered. While She wasn't technically an officer, when it came to recovery ops, the Scientists and engineers called the Shots.

" Intact, you say?"

" Thats right. Except for some superficial scorching from when the squad stormed it, it's complete. We'd like to keep it that way, if possible. having a complete one of these to study would be a major boost." She explained.

"How long?" Genega asked. She knew what He meant.

" Turmoil says an hour to stash everything and get this thing rigged to sling under the Osprey and Ranger. We're just lucky the thing's so light, or we couldn't have have lifted it and we'd have had to cut it up again. After that, back to pine gap in about seven hours, according to Doc."

" OK, approved. Just make sure our 'guests' don't go wandering; We need to know what they know." Genega warned, tension evident in his voice. It was clear He wasn't overly happy about the situation, but was grudgingly accepting of the possible gains from an undamaged UFO.

" What else, Aretefact-wise" He asked, suddenly brightening.

" Sir, I'm going to transfer you to Turmoil, He's been doing the cataloguing." Dana told Him. There was a brief buzz of static as the channel switched.

" Turmoil Here" came the voice.

" This is Tactical command. Dana said you were cataloguing the alien artefacts?" Genega asked.

" That's right. We've got three each of what seem to be alien Pistols and rifles. Also, Some suspicious looking purple Spheres, and a much larger blue sphere that's giving people a headache when they handle it. We put that in the Hazard box, just in case. There are also two much larger items than the pistol and rifle, but we're not sure if they're weapons or something else. Also-" and here He broke off to swap words with one of the troopers nearby.

" we also have the wreckage of what I've been told was some kind of mobile hover platform. Apparently two of the aliens were ordering it about, and Slice caught it in the blast radius of a rocket when He Used the tank to take them down. We'll bring it in anyway and see what we can do with it, though to tell the truth, there's not much left. Apparently, it was loaded up with weapons, and we think they may have cooked off in the blast."

" Now that may be worth knowing about. Do what you can."

" Will do. We also have two containers of those orange crystals, and what seems to be the alien equivalent of webbing vests, as well as an intact, undetonated alien version of a grenade, thanks to one of the troopers quick thinking. Thats in the hazard box too."

" Understood. The Ufo?"

" We've got the squads setting it up to lift. all the internals seem intact. We seem to have run into what seems to be the alien version of a toolkit, as well. That is, an engineers kit; We think we may be able to adapt some of them for our use: that'd make working with the alien metals a lot easier, though you'd have to talk to Dana about that, She knows more about the Alien Alloys than I do,  one of the tools seems to be a hull repair gadget that can sweat replacement hull plates on."

" Now that, we do need. Good work. Tactical command out."

********

" O' chez?" came the voice Rick secretly been dreading.

" Y-yes s-s-sir?" Rick managed, fighting the tendancy of his jaw to chatter; The medikit would apparently deal with Hypothermia, but not all the side symptoms.

" What the-"

" S-s-sorry Sir, I-I-I kind of took A s-s-pill through the i-i-ice." Rick broke off with a loud sneeze.

" That aside. you're still in charge, nominally. make sure that those 'guests' of your's don't stick their noses in anywhere they shouldn't. Keep 'em away from the Alien gear, and make sure they don't try to get away. If any of them ask, tell them it's quarantine procedure, and that they're being placed in protective custody. "

" Y-y-yess s-s-ir"

"Also, put them in with the biggest people you've got. Like Warlord and that Turmoil Character. That ought to curtail any questions. just Get 'em back here. No doubt we'll find out about all this when it hits the fan."

Genega sounded like He wanted to curse worse than that. Rick couldn't really blame him.

********

" Ok, take us up" came the order from the Osprey's rear ramp.

The Osprey lifted slowly, and as it did, the Skyranger behind it, tethered to rear of the UFO lifted too, picking up the slack. The osprey lifted the Front of the UFO clear, and the two lift craft made to leave.

" Are you sure you can manage this?" Dana asked of the Osprey's pilot, a little concerned at the tandem lift manouvre.

" Piece of cake. As long as we keep the throttle open, and Doc keeps the 'Ranger throttled down, we can't lose."

"Man, I wish I was in the 'ranger" Dana muttered

" Why, you don't trust this bird" The pilot muttered, a little dispirited.

" It's not that. It's just if I was in the 'Ranger, I wouldn't have to watch that thing swing" She explained, and the pilot laughed.

Over in the Ranger, Warlord and Turmoil were giving their 'guest's the 'strong, silent type' treatment, with the rest of the squad placed directly between them and the 'Rangers share of the UFO items.

One of them made to speak but Warlord Glared at him, and suddenly He thought better of it.

Turmoil Grinned, and Warlord Smiled back Grimly. The man suddenly went pale.

#144 Alitorious

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 01:53 AM

Dana grew tired of watching the grey mass of the UFO dangle between the two craft, and turned back to the damaged laser pistol in her hands. For some reason, it had overheated uncontrollably and unexpectedly in the field, and now it was her job to figure out why. She picked up the radio and contacted the ranger.
"Yo, what's up?" came Doc's voice.
"Can you get O'Chez on the line?"
"Sure thing." On the Skyranger, Doc yelled out,"Rick! Phone for you"
"Yeah, what is it?" Rick said as soon as he was able to.
"Can you take a look at your laser pistol?" Dana's voice came over the radio.
"Uh... I left it with Terrick back at the pond. Just a sec. Yo! Terrick! You mind handing over that raygun?"
Terrick's face turned to one of alarm. "I don't have it," he said simply.
"What?"
"What's going on?" asked Dana over the radio, not having heard Terrick but hearing Rick.
Terrick was looking a little more scared now. "It... it wasn't there when I woke up. Maybe someone else took it... or it could have fallen in the water?"
The medic who had looked after Terrick was listening in. "I was the first one there, and I didn't see anything of the sort," he said with his hands in the air in an I didn't do it! expression.
Oh, damn! thought Rick.
"What's going on?" demanded Dana.
"Uh... I think... I think the raygun's in the drink," Rick admitted.
Rick counted. Seven seconds.
"Excuse me?"
"We were by a frozen pond with thin ice. I didn't think it fell in... I remember having it there. Yeah, then the sniper shot at it."
Dana was too stunned to say anything.
"I thought it was with Martin, but we were still rather close to that pond and..."
"You mean to tell me," Dana said very slowly, "that an experimental weapon, with an unpatented but Nobel Prize worthy invention, is sitting at the bottom of a lake in someone's backyard?"
Worthy of a Nobel? Rick thought? Isn't that taking it a bit too far?
Martin looked like he was feeling sick. "Maybe I accidentally kicked it or something..." He was currently wondering how long it would take for someone to guess that he had stolen it.
Meanwhile, back in the Skyranger, neurons were misfiring in poor Dana's sleep-deprived brain. Of all the... why'd they have to drop it in water? Through a miracle, one of the signals got lost and arrived instead at just the right place.
Water.
She carefully inspected the casing again, paying close attention to the seams of the casing. They were definitely not watertight. Water had to have gotten in somehow and shorted something out. The snow in the air was probably enough to do that.
The other laser, submerged in icy water as it was, probably wouldn't fire again either. The antiphoton generator didn't mix well with water, to put it lightly.
Nobody suspected that it was Terrick, and not the pond, that held the prototype laser pistol.

-------

Back at Pine Gap, the news that a pistol had (supposedly) been left behind in a pool of water was not taken well.
"Can you turn back and retrieve it?" asked Geneva.
"Negative," responded the Osprey pilot. "We barely have enough fuel to make it back to base as it is. If we turn back now, then we'll have to make a stop somewhere and I think our 'luggage' will draw a bit of attention, eh?"
"Damnit," Geneva mumbled under his breath. Okay, time to try something new. He turned to Pickering, hovering somewhere nearby.
"Take care of that, too."

--------

Back overseas in America, Marvin was growing very annoyed at that jet that kept following them. He wished he could swat it out of the sky like the fly it was. Every once in a while the jet would grow tired of hovering behind them and do a few circles before following closely behind again. He'd never seen a jet like that fly so slowly. It was almost as if it could hover in the air. He didn't know that it actually could.
Frozen air still came through the broken windshield and swept past him. It stung his eyes and burned his face. Marvin ignored it all and kept heading determinedly towards his destination: The city of Washington.

Gia was getting impatient. Here was this crippled and limping animal. To any predator it screamed food! yet she could not do a thing. She had her orders.
She sighed, then decided to give her comms another try. Maybe she could persuade this guy to put it down or something. However, immediately upon being turned on, it squelched out at her ears.
"-peat. Unknown aircraft, this is Captain Donald Ramson out of Bolling Air Force Base. You are heading towards city airspace. Change your course to zero-nine-zero immediately and respond. Over."
What? Nothing's showing up! Oh... The range on her radar display was currently set to just a couple kilometers. That was the best to get the most detail she could out of the ground to relay back to the men on the ground. She switched the radar back to its full range, and sure enough two contacts were bearing down on her. Command should have been watching her back and should have notified her of this much earlier.
She had switched off Command.
"I repeat. Unknown aircraft, respond immediately or we will be forced to open fire." Secretly, Gia wished they would. It would be an excuse to fire back. Wisely, she chose the talking option.
"This is Lieutenant Gia O'Connor. I am a special forces pilot tracking fleeing hostiles. I cannot comply with your directions."

In the other plane, an F-16 Falcon, Donald Ramson was not expecting this. He just wanted to get back to base. He was this close to being certified on the new plane, the Raptor. Of course, nothing seemed to make sense today. Earlier they had been scrambled, with Command in almost a state of panic. There were rumours that a freaking U.F.O. crashed into Washington itself. Now one of the contacts he was chasing claimed to be special forces? Ramson hoped that she was just a crazy civilian pilot in a small plane.
Still, he had his orders. At least she was responding. Ramson's wingmate was unsuccessfully trying to reach the other slow-mover.
"Negative, Lieutenant." He didn't believe her. "Change your heading immediately, or we will be forced to open fire." Both as part of procedure, and to give emphasis to his command, Ramson locked on with missiles. He doubted it would do anything, though. A civilian craft couldn't detect it.

Back in the Hurricane, Gia's console lit up and started buzzing at her.
"Weapons lock," it advised.
"Dammit." She getting a bit more anxious. Even though at this range she could still defend herself, no pilot liked to be shot at. More on her nerves was the feeling of ineptitude, and she took it out on this intruder. "Captain Ramson, I am flying a military prototype. If you want to shoot at me, then I hope you have your retirement money already set up because your C.O. will court-marshall your ass before you can say 'oops.' Now you can turn around and head home and forget you saw anything."
She could now just see the two fighters. They were a pair of dark points against the bright sky.

Who the hell is this lady? Ramson wondered. She certainly seemed to be way too confident for her own good.
"Miss O'Connor, Lieutenant, whoever you are. City airspace is currently a no-fly zone. Change your course immediately, or, I say again, we will be forced to open fire."
Ramson knew there was no way he could shoot. The media will be all over it, and Command would have his ass. But this lady, what on Earth was she...
"Oh my god," he let out. He and his wingmate could now see her jet.
"Bighorn," called his wingmate. He was a bit of a greenhorn. "What kinda plane is that? I ain't ever seen it anywhere."
It definitely wasn't like anything he'd seen before. Maybe she was telling the truth about flying a prototype. It certainly looked like it could take on his small Falcon easily.
Damnit. Ramson just wanted this day to be over. They were practically at the city limits now.
"Just follow my lead," he ordered his wingmate.
"Believe me now, gentelmen?" asked Gia over the comms. "The slow-mover I'm chasing is an... 'enemy of the state.' I must apprehend him before he... Where the hell did he go?"
Ramson checked his radar. The other contact had simply vanished as soon as it reached the city. He rolled his fighter to get a better look. Sure enough, the helicopter was no longer in the air. There definitely was no fire or smoke to signal that it had crashed, either. What the hell?

"Gia to base. He's gone! I repeat, the helicopter's completely vanished off my screens! And now I've got two Falcons haggling me."
"Lieutenant, get out of there, now. That's an order." It was Geneva. "Get back to base."
Dammit! Gia pounded on her console. How could he have disappeared like that? If only those damn guys didn't show up, then she could have seen where he went.

"Holy shit" exclaimed Ramson's wingmate. Ramson agreed. The prototype just just pulled up. Straight up. It shot off like a rocket, disappearing into the sky in a matter of seconds. It didn't take long for it to disappear from his radar, either.
"Uhh... Ramson to base. I've got a bit of a story for you guys..."

-------

Marvin laughed triumphantly. His family was going to live.
"What the hell kind of stunt was that?" Red demanded. He was the first one to finish throwing up. Just a short while earlier, Rice had plummetted the helicopter straight into a busy Washington highway. In fact, they were still 'on' the highway, racing along barely a few metres above the ground. To any observer, they would have disappeared in the traffic. Marvin was lucky those other two goons showed up and caused a distraction.
His family was going to live.

-------

Meanwhile, fifteen thousand kilometres away and almost literally on the other side of the globe, John Pickering, Valerie Deacon, and Paul Jasper were impatiently waiting for their transport to arrive. Surprisingly, Davies was also waiting with them. He had a plane or something to pick up in America.
Pickering cast these thoughts aside, and again reviewed the mission profile in his head.
One - Gather information about the humans who were present at the recovery site.
Two - Attempt recover of the alien Plasma Pistol that was taken by one of the civilians.
Three - Negotiate with the United States government to maintain favour.
Four - Oversee the installation of an X-COM Agents program in North America with the intention of discovering possible human-alien coalitions and alien infiltration. Aside from just wanting to get out of the office, this was the main reason Pickering, the head of intelligence, was leaving.
Five - Recover the abandoned laser pistol. Pickering wondered why it was even given its own spot on the mandate.
John decided to only take two people with him. Valerie was a smart girl who would be a great asset overseas. An introduction to field work would be a good thing for her, too. Jasper's squad was still decimated, so he wouldn't be missed too much. However, Genega still only reluctantly let him go. As a spook already, he knew a lot about field work. Hopefully his combat experience would not be needed.
They would rendevous with the other agents in America. Technically John probably didn't need to go see them, anyways. They were trained professionals, and meeting them in person wouldn't tell them much that couldn't be sent over the phone. However, John quietly omitted that fact when convincing the Commander to let him go.
In the distance, the three agents and pilot could now see the headlights of the incoming plane in the dim light. Their ride was here.

--------

As soon as Donald Ramson stepped on the tarmac after climbing down from his F-16, one of the groundcrew had a message for him and his wingmate.
"Colonel wants to see you two." He jerked his thumb needlessly in the direction of the command center. The lights were on to ward off the approaching darkness of dusk.
Lieutenant Ryan "Bladder" Sheedy (who recieved the unfortunate callsign due to repeated practical jokes) looked expectantly at his wingmate. Are we in trouble? he seemed to ask.
Captain Donald "Bighorn" Ramson (much more lucky in his callsign) shrugged. "I don't think it could have gone better."

"Captain Ramson, Lieutenant Sheedy, please sit," was the first thing the Colonel had said after the usual military exchange of salutes was finished. The face of their commanding officer could often be seen with a warm smile. This was not one of those times. His wrinkles, one of the many drawbacks of age, seemed to be much more apparant than normal.
"First thing first, I want to say, personally, that I could not have expected any more from you two out there. Needless to say your orders did not leave you with much room, and the situation was definitely unique. However..." The Colonel looked over a piece of paper in his hands. Ramson wondered how many times over he had read it.
"I have my orders from high up... to say that this event never happened." Uh, oh, thought Ramson. It was definitely some high-end top-secret military project.
"Both of you did not observe a high-performance military aircraft," the Colonel continued. "As such, you will not mention its existence, or should I say non-existence, to anyone." There was  barely a hint of a smile on the commander's face at his little joke.
"Because you two were not distracted by this third party, the report will state that you failed to deter or apprehend or even track a non-compliant civilian, possibly criminal, helicopter entering Washington airspace, which subsequently escaped detection."
Ryan's face hardly contained his shock. This was hardly fair!
"I'm afraid I don't have much choice in the matter, gentelmen," their C.O. admitted. "These things... happen. That's why I have chosen to give you the... appropriate punishment... of flying the midnight shift." The grin in his eyes belied the Colonel's serious face. "Goldsmith and Fehr will just have to cope with turning in early."
At last the older man's face broke into a warm smile. "That's all I can do." He stood up and saluted. Sheedy and Ramson followed suit.
"Dismissed."

"How can they do that? Just up and slap our wrists just because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time?" Ryan complained to his senior, who also doubled as a wingmate and good friend.
"It's just because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time," Donald answered back. "We're lucky we got off as light as we did. What's a midnight shift compared to the stockade or losing some stripes?"
The two were resting on their bunks, with the intention of stealing some sleep in the first few hours of the early winter night. The next several minutes saw no more conversation, but neither pilot could find the room for sleep.
"Hey, Bighorn?"
"Yeh?"
"You got that weird feeling too?"
Ramson waited for a few seconds before answering back.
"Yeah. I got it too."
"What's it mean?"
"It's the stink of them guys who can't stand you knowing anything," Donald joked.
"Yeah..." Neither man could shrug off the omen so easily.
They spent the next couple hours talking about other things. Donald's family. His younger daughter was so proud of her latest craft from school. His son was starting to get interested in some of the girls at school.
Ryan's girlfriend. He was asking how you know when she's 'The One.' Karissa was as close to perfect as possible.
It would be their last such conversation.
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#145 FullAuto

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Posted 10 July 2005 - 03:19 AM

"They don't count."
"They do."
"Dude, they don't count.  Live with it."
"Will you two shut up." Dodge, not at his best, rounded on Donovan and Conner. "All the way back in the 'ranger, and you still haven't shut up about it"
"Well." Conner hesitated. "Do they count?"
Dodge wanted to draw his gun, but wasn't sure whether he would shoot himself or the sheepish rookie, and walked off instead.
"What's up with him?" Donovan asked, frowning.
"Maybe they do count, and he's annoyed he didn't get any?"
"Nice try.  He's annoyed because they don't count, and he got some."
Most of the squad had dispersed, to clean up or get something to eat quickly before the debrief, but Conner and Donovan hadn't yet made it out of the hangar.
Donovan was seated on the ramp, legs stretched out in front of him, at ease.  Conner was pacing at the foot of the ramp, hands tucked into his pockets.
"Howitz said they count." Conner watched Donovan carefully.
"Howitz would, he got like three or four.  And it's his first mission.  That puts him right up front to win the pot."
Conner stopped pacing, spinning on his heel. "Pot?"
Donovan leaned forward, shrugging. "Yep.  Someone's running a book.  Most kills takes all."
"Who's running it?" Conner's turn to frown.
"How should I know?  Just somebody is, ok?  Kick in like, ten every week." Donovan took a sip from his water bottle, pausing reflectively.
"How do you know?" Conner squatted, getting level eye-to-eye with him.
"I just do."
"You're running it, aren't you."
"No, man." He took another sip. "I'm in, though."
"That's why you don't want them to count." Conner said, nodding.
"No, I don't want them to count because we're X-Com.  Know what the 'x' stands for?"
Conner gave him the finger.
"Close.  It actually stands for extraterrestrial.  We're here to fight aliens.  We're not H-Com, are we?  No."
"It's still a kill though." Conner spotted Ibsen talking to a pair of ground crew. "Yo, Ibsen"
The soldier turned.
"Human kills count, right?" Conner shouted.
"You're a sick man, Conner" The blonde soldier shouted back.
"Thanks" Conner turned back to Donovan. "They count, ok?  Don't be bitter."
Donovan ticked each point off on his fingers. "Ibsen says they don't count.  I say they don't count.  More importantly, whoever's running the book says they don't count.  The only people who say they count have an ulterior motive."
"So you do know who's running the book." Conner said, triumphant.
"Can you move your mind past that?  They don't count."
Conner shook his head, despairing. "I can't even talk to you, can I?  Just because you didn't get any, you want to deprive the rest of us from our rightful scores."
"You are sick, man.  Reducing human life to a number, just so-"
"Put the ethics down and come out with your hands up, you're the one running the book."
"Debrief in five" Chez called from the hangar entrance. "Conner, Donovan, Ibsen!  Get a move on"
"Ask him." Conner nudged Donovan as they rose and started walking. "Go on."
"I don't need to ask him, because I know they don't count."
"Unless you're the one running the book-"
"Oh, shut up about the book already" Donovan elbowed him in the ribs. "You're like a child.  Forget the book, forget your score.  They do not count."
"What doesn't count?" Chez asked as they passed him.
"Nothing." Both soldiers chorused, before hurrying on.
"Tape a 'guilty' sign to my ass next time, Conner." Donovan walked even faster.
"So you are running the book." Conner stopped, turning back to Ibsen "Hey, you're in, right?"
Ibsen gave him a friendly shove to get him walking again. "In what?"
"The book.  For the most kills."
Ibsen clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Conner.  I have said it before, so I will not say it again."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm a sick man." Conner threw his hands up. "They still count."
Ibsen just shrugged. "If I was you, I wouldn't ask that in the debrief."

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#146 The Veteran

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 06:05 PM

Squad One sat nervously in the briefing room awaiting Genega's arrival. Noone was looking forward to what could be said and most were already well aware of their own shortcomings.

Rick was pacing, as far as he was concerned it was a complete disaster and he'd always had an awful lot in common with his employer.

After an eternity of waiting the door finally opened and Genega entered with less than a mild grin on his face. Rick greeted him but gave the salute amiss. He knew the Commander and if he raised his hand now he was more likely to be knocked out than have the compliment returned.

"Squad One ready for your debrief sir," he said with as little emotion as he could muster.

"Ok Rick, thankyou. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that I want a private word when this is over?" Genega nearly whispered but everyone knew what was being said nonetheless. Rick nodded an acknowledgement and stood to one side, glancing over his squad sat before him.

"Gentlemen, congratulations," began Genega. "In the last six hours I've spoken to no less than fifteen different government officials and stood down exercises on forty-eight seperate military bases in North America and Canada."

Now Genega was pacing, Rick really did know him well. The commander rolled a Grandfathers eye over the squad. He knew what it was like to be out there, as a soldier, as a medic, as a leader, even as a pilot, he'd done it all in his time.

"I'm not going to dress it up men, this was a disaster, the entire exercise from start to finish was a textbook nightmare... But... We've sustained very few injuries, no fatalaties, and you've fought off two seperate enemies in one sitting."

Rick knew what was coming next, just as he knew what was coming last.

"It is however unfortunate that so many hostiles were declared in such a short amount of time... From what I can see, there was an awful lot of shooting going on out there and not much of anything else. We're lucky that we've managed to detain some of these 'diplomats', and I use the word loosely. Hopefully they will be able to clear up some important questions for us. The fact remains however, that the human casualties on this mission were nearly double the alien losses! When this war is over, and we will win, these battles are going to come back to haunt us! Every single detail"

Genega pointed at Terrick, "What do you think of you're wages right now soldier?"

"We- uh... I," Terrick stuttered.

"It's good isn't it? You feed yourself, you feed your friends, you feed the whole street on what we pay you... But what about after? Where will the money come from then? How will you pay for the next twenty years of your life once these aliens are all gone? How will you protect your future then? Your family..."

Terrick perked up but couldn't quite read Genega's tone.

"Once this is all over, the tabloids of the world will read 'prototype lost in fumbled mission', 'terror attack claims city', 'taxes pay for laser pistols'. You guys are going to be on every front page in the world, very possibly for the rest of your lives! Wouldn't you rather be remembered as 'our brave heroes', 'the men who saved the world'?" Genega scanned the room failing to make eye contact once.

"We cannot continue in the way we have begun, we all know that. As soldiers, you are expected to follow orders and so the blame does not lie with you... However, next time it will. Squad Leader O'Chez has my trust and respect and despite what I may be saying to him later he will continue to have my trust and respect. You men still need to earn that, but you must understand how much I want to award it to you. You are our hope in a fading future, the world truly does revolve around you"

Genega sighed and passed on the military lecture. "Rick I'd like a word with you, your squad is dismissed..."

Rick dismissed his troops and prepared himself for the long haul with Genega.

"Rick," he began as the door closed behind them. "I can imagine this being a tough mission, am I right?"

Rick nodded, "It certainly had space up its sleeve for a trick or two sir..."

"You did bad Rick, I'm not going to skirt around the issue... You opened fire on a civilian craft and that is not like you... I hate to say it but I think you set up your squad for the wrong kind of battle today. They respect you, trust you, like I do... But today you betrayed them. Why?"

"Rick felt his temples pinch his head as several emotions collided in his brain. "I..." Rick faltered. "I don't know..." He let his head fall and glanced to the floor.

"Rick?" Genega frowned thoughtfully. "Sit down... Please."

The two men pulled up chairs and sat facing each other with nothing but air and tension between them.

"What happened Rick? I know something has, you never usually think before you talk to me..."

Rick laughed and suddenly the tension was gone. He quickly regained a straight face but a lot was suddenly off his mind. "I... honestly don't know..." Rick shook his head as he pushed out one word at a time. As he lifted his head, Genega could see something out of place immediately but he couldn't sense what.

"Rick, you're not yourself and something tells me you weren't yourself earlier either... Would you say that's accurate?"

Rick pondered on this statement for a moment before replying simply, "yes."

"Yes? We're down to one word answers now? Come on Rick what happened out there? It's only me Rick... But one day it won't be. One day it'll be America, or Russia, or the whole UN bearing down on us... I don't think they'll take kindly to being told X-Com had a 'brain-fart'... Now come on, what's wrong with you?"

Rick moved as if to talk but stopped everytime before he said a word... "I can't remember," he finally said.

"What?" Genega instantly sat up in his chair and his look turned from concern to instant fear. "Please Rick, don't tell me one of these things is getting at my best man..."

"I don't know what else to say... It's like reliving a night out the morning after as everything clears up. I remember where I was, what I was doing, I even remember thinking 'it would be a good idea to shoot now' and 'maybe I should go over there' and all the thoughts that flood a soldiers mind every second of a fight... It's just..."

"What?..."

"I just remember wondering why I was doing things every so often... Like I knew I should be firing at the helicopter because the guys inside were hostiles... But I didn't realise until later on that they weren't hostile until I'd pulled that trigger... I was in complete control but... It just felt like..."

"Someone else was thinking for you..."

"Yeah... That's just how it felt..."
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#147 Snikers

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 06:02 PM

Though he did not know it, Marvin Rice was not chosen to steal the alien pistol randomly. In fact, the decision to kidnap his family was made by a particularly well-paid and tight-lipped man named Frank Burns, with a pool of several dozen pilots to choose from, each of which he was in a position to carefully study and evaluate for the position based on two criteria. The first was that Marvin had shown a strong attachment to his family and a precedent towards putting them above his job and all else. Marvin had some AWOLs on his record as his son had been injured or seriously ill, and the pilot had rushed out of work without taking the time to hunt down a superior officer. This was sought after, as it meant he could be led around on a leash with the threat of his family's deaths over his head.
However, the second requirement was that Marvin was a skilled, smart, and innovative individual who was capable of forming his own plans when needed, and doing so with both quality and speed even under the highest of stresses. The recovery of an alien artefact could only be left in capable hands.
Of course, Marvin Rice was not mulling over this himself. Rather, he was gritting his teeth against the howling wind against his face as he hovered through highway streets, straining to keep the helicopter low enough to be within traffic while making sure the blades didn't clip anything and cause the bird to crash. But he was confident, because he had gotten away from the crazies and he had picked up the alien pistol - he had it stuffed in his belt right now, snuggled securely against his hip - and he would be able to give it to the Japanese man and Alice and Charlie could go free and they'd be happy again - they'd be a big happy safe family and he'd never let them go again -
He was shocked back into reality by an ear-splitting siren. Craning his head around frantically he saw that he was being pursued by at least two police cars, probably more.
Son of a bitch! he thought. Being chased by the homicidal commandos from hell had completely made him forget about the local authorities! And what about when he got back to base - they'd need a full debriefing and they'd find the gun and then...He couldn't go back to base. He wouldn't. Alice and Charlie were on the line. But what could he -
He had an idea.
The chopper swung up, away from the highway and the patrol cars, and landed some ways away.

* * *

The diplomats did nothing as the helicopter landed roughly in the snow. Red's eyes flashed to the woman he had communicated with earlier and had pulled him into the chopper. He nursed his hand, sore after he had punched the pilot.
"Wonder what happened to Bernard and Shipley," she said, finally.
"Shipley?"
"The intense lady with the white hair."
"Ah." Red said, drawing a cell phone, as the door to the cockpit opened. Every eye in the room flicked to the pilot. With blood dribbling out of his nose down to his lips and sleet bonded to his face, he made an unsettling figure.
"I managed to buy you some time," he said, voice clearer now than just after his nose had been broken, "but they're going to be coming for you. They're going to kill you. I managed to get you close to the city." He pointed to the doors. "If you get out and scatter, you lose yourself in there. Then you can call whoever you need to call and get rescued." His piercing eyes darted from face to face. "This is your only chance. Go."
Even as the other diplomats began to file out of the chopper, but as Red stood he gave the pilot an accusing glare. "I don't believe you," he said, and then the pilot noticed that none of them did - each and every one of them had been trained to lie and detect lies.
"Then we can do this." The pilot drew his sidearm and flicked the safety off with his thumb. It stayed pointed at the ground, but no one doubted it could come up in a split second if he wanted it to. "I'm going to give you thirty seconds to run. After that, I start shooting to kill. Whether or not I can do it depends on how far you've gotten in that time."
That got them moving. As Red pulled on the collar of his jacket the pilot gave him a look to stop.
"Give me the cell phone."
Red was incredulous. "You want my cell?"
The gun came up and pointed at his gut. Red put up both his hands, then slowly crouched and placed the phone on the floor. Then he took off like all the others - he was no fool.
Marvin had no intention of sticking around for a full thirty seconds. He plucked the phone off the floor and dashed away from the helicopter in the opposite direction of the diplomats. There was a street hard to discern from snowy ground level, but he had spotted it from the air. His guts turned to ice as he dialed the number he had been given.
"Frank Cowley." The voice was loud and very American.
"It's Marvin Rice."
"I don't know no Marvin."
"I've got your alien thing. It's a gun."
The voice instantly switched to the smooth Japanese accent he feared. "Ah. You remember where to drop it off?"
"I need help. A car. Something."
There was a pause. "Are you being pursued?"
"I was. I might be soon. Not now. I need a car."
"Where?"
Marvin told him, and then the line went silent. "Please" Shouted Marvin after several seconds. "I have your damn gun! I did what you wanted! I just need a ride! Please! Please"
Marvin's panic was unfounded, as what the man on the other end was doing was arranging for an agent in Washington to pick him up. Truth be told, Marvin had already done far better than their expectations. Finally the Japanese man spoke. "A white van will be passing you in about four minutes. Be ready. Give them the gun. They'll drive off. After one hour your wife and son will be released you can find them at..."

* * * *

One week later Marvin Rice was out of a job. His going AWOL, leaving the chopper, and general acts of gross irresponsibility had him fired on the spot. He would be fervently searching for some form of employment that could utilise his helicopter-piloting skills. Such jobs were not easy to find. However, he would be searching at the side of his wife and child.
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#148 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 07:53 AM

Howitz started to remove his battle gear, in the privacy of his own room. He'd moved out of Hankosha's quarters - the mans habit of throwing knives at whoever opened the door had been a bit off putting - and for the time being had a pad to himself.

As he started emptying his pockets, he found a small scrap of cloth he'd forgotten about. It'd torn off that Sectoid that had jumped at his head... Funny looking Sectoid, come to think of it, but it couldn't really have been as tall as he thought it had been. The thing had been as light as a feather. He'd been more interested in the grenade at the time, and had just shoved the rag into one of his jacket pockets.

It was orange in color, and while the fabric looked thick it weighed nearly nothing. Hmm. He tore a few inches off, jammed it in a drawer, and strode out with the rest towards the bio labs.

-----------------

In his own room, Terrick was adding to his equipment pile. He'd been wounded before in battle, taken shots and fought on, but his energy was nearly spent now. Sitting through the trip back and the debriefing had been pure torture.

The bullet was most likely somewhere in his side, he wasn't sure where, but it hadn't killed him so he'd have to have it checked out later. He'd convinced the medic that he'd passed out due to the shock of the ice cold water, had managed to hide his wound while he changed... But it hurt, hurt bad, and his endurance was waning.

But he couldn't afford a trip to the med bay. He had a laser gun, and he had to turn it in. This was his last chance.

The door rattled. He froze, and his eyes swiveled. He'd forgotten to lock it...

Karl Green, his bunk mate, came through. Terrick stayed stock still. His shirt was off, and he was covered in his make-shift bandage, soaked in blood. The laser pistol lay on his bed...

"Hey Terrick."

Karl went to sit on the bunk, then saw the gun. "Hey, isn't that that lost laser?" He looked up enquirying at Terrick, with just enough time to see the mans wild eyes before a rifle butt knocked him out cold.
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#149 The Veteran

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 03:00 PM

*You heard the news yet?*

Gia jumped slightly as her comm sparked into life and was very quickly back in the room.

"TJ?" she replied uncertainly, "is that you?"

*Were you expecting someone else perhaps?* he replied.

Gia chuckled, she could feel him smiling from all those miles away. "No, you just surprised me is all... What news am I supposed to have heard?"

*That chopper you were chasing has landed in the city limits, local authorities are treating it as a suspected theft! Turns out it was a military chopper, not sure where from. No sign of any pilots or passengers now but apparently it's been shot up pretty bad. Apparently that was our boys, the mission all went a bit Pete Tong by all accounts...*

"So it just landed?" said Gia ignoring ninety percent of the message. "How did I lose it if it just landed? That is so annoying... I'm so annoyed"

Trigger laughed into his comm, *I know exactly what you mean, it won't be the last time either, trust me on that! What are you up to now anyway? I was hoping you could find some time for me when you got back...*

"Aww, you know I would but I'm flying back to that last landing site. You must've heard about the lost laser pistol."

*Yeah but I thought Davies was going after that, he left a few hours ago to do something...*

"No I don't know about that but TC told me to go and take a look for this pistol so I doubt that's where he's going too..."

*Oh... So, when are you going to be back here then?* he asked hopefully.

"Not until I find this pistol I guess, I have a feeling it'll take some time, Rick said it could be under the ice so I don't know what I can do about that! Still, I have my orders..."

*Ok, well I guess I'd best leave you to it. I'll just go and... sit... or something. You get back soon ok? It's boring here on my own.*

"What about Rick and Warlord?"

*Rick's been with medics for hours now, I have no idea why, I didn't even think he was wounded... As for Warlord who knows. He's probably bench pressing that UFO of ours somewhere. I'll be ok, I always have my good friend television.*

"Ok sweetie, you go and watch your box. I'll see you when I get back. Stay out of trouble ok?"

*Come back soon, if I hurt my eyes it'll be your fault!*

Gia chuckled her final farewells and shut off the comms just as she made her final approach to the scene of the last battle. The Hurricane hovered effortlessly above the snow and gently placed itself onto the ground. Even from here it was already possible to make out some environmental battle scars. Bloodied snow was not yet quite covered, burnt wood was still smoking, artificial bunkers dotted the battlefield. And there was a hole in the ice about 200 meters away...
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#150 JellyfishGreen

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 04:14 PM

The Hurricane's engines sighed as the turbines wound down. Gia cracked her cockpit and could hear the pinging as the hot metal cooled. A refuelling truck was visible through the trees and Squad 3 were busy wrestling a fuel line towards her plane.

"What's all the stuff doing lying around?" she asked Fitz. "Didn't Doc drop you and the techs off hours ago to do site cleanup?"

Fitz shrugged. "We're not to touch anything until Pickering gets here."

*****

As the Osprey refuelled, maintenance techs conducted a hasty inspection, and the pilot & copilot eased their cramping bodies out of the cockpit while the replacements suited up.
Jasper spoke to the pilot. "Is the ride as rough as all that?"
"Aw, don't talk to me. We had a heckuva time dangling that UFO for two hours."
"Where is it now?" asked the former CSIO agent.
"Aboard a container freighter, lashed down and camoflaged with a tarpaulin to look like another hundred containers. Someone finally figured it was easier to bring the techs to the UFO rather than the other way around."
Pickering reached around from his seat on the plane and knocked on the side of the door. "Whups, I guess it's time to go." Jasper checked his pistol and gear once more and climbed aboard.


*****

The modified transport jet safely stowed in a guarded hangar, Shipley and the hooded alien made their way to her private offices. The Ethereal was looking more sickly than usual. *I can't survive like this for much longer,* it thought at her. *I must use the console to contact my Overmind. And I need to recharge it with some of your Elerium.*

Elerium - the power supply for the alien energy weapons and antigravity drives, a radioactive element with properties unexplainable by known physics - maintained in a stable state only by alien technology, every gram of it priceless - a small container of it had been hidden here in her building along with the communications console.  Shipley herself was under orders not to let any of it go missing. She had received many requests for a personal favor of a loan, veiled threats even. She went to the computer and typed in a code to open two secret panels. The Ethereal unlocked the Elerium container and took one of the "batteries". As it went about fitting the new power cell to the console, Shipley tried to feel out its mood.

"We followed our instructions to the letter. Perhaps you should not have changed your plans or come to our planet so soon. The risk -"

*It is fortunate for you I was here. Redirecting the mind of the XCOM leader - only I could have managed that. My Sectoid bretheren would not have had the strength. Continue to pressure the powers supporting these annoying mercenaries - we have more combat-ready races that will serve us for the next phase.*

It placed both hands and its forehead against the purple plastic interface pads of the console.

Shipley caught the whiff of distaste in the mental imagery projected, as she had before. It was something towards humans as a species, but there was an underlying reason she couldn't quite delineate.

The Ethereal spent about an hour in communion with the Overmind. Then with all its knowledge uploaded, the body fell to the floor, dead. Shipley had heard the explanation before. The Overmind considered clones of no value individually and could create an exact copy by downloading the same mind-patterns. Still, it was always disconcerting to see in person. She felt the edges of her own implant absently, then closed the wall panel hiding the console, strode to her telephone and ordered trusted associates to have the body cremated.

It came to her later that day. The Ethereal considered humans not just ugly aliens but a mutation of something it considered normal; as if humanity was headed in a direction the Overmind had not...chosen?
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#151 The Veteran

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 06:58 PM

"Well quite frankly I'm baffled sir..."

Rick sighed, two and a half hours of his life wasted just so a shrink could be baffled by him...

"I'm going to have to look into this but..."

Rick perked up. IT was starting to sound like this appointment may have a vague conclusion after all.

"I think... You see... Well..."

"What is it Doc? Do I have 24 hours to live or something cos you seem to be having a hell of a time bringing yourself to tell me the news..."

"I'm sorry, it's just..." He paused again but must have had some psychic tendencies himself to realise that remaining silent would see him in the med-lab permanently. "You're an anomaly." He said finally.

"I'm an anomaly? What does that mean, am I a black hole?"

"The thing is, the tests we've given you today have been carried out before on many soldiers who have all responded to the stimulus at least in some small way..."

"What tests?" queried Rick, "the only stimulus I've had all afternoon was that nurse about half an hour ago..."

The doctor glanced down at his notebook and crossed off the only comment he had made.

"Well that makes you even more of an anomaly," he said flicking the blank piece of paper over in his hands.

"Why am I an anomaly" said Rick in frustration, "what tests? What are you talking about?"

"Please calm down, it's nothing sinister I assure you... You see the tests I'm referring to aren't like any tests you can think of. I was examining your subconscious mind, mental instinct, reflex, all sorts of involuntary functions of the body and mind."

Rick looked at him questionably and wondered what he was talking about.

"You were referred to me by the base commander, I'm sure you already know that. He was concerned that you were showing signs of susceptibility to the alien 'mind control' that several of our soldiers have been experiencing."

Rick nodded slowly, having understood several of the simpler words used.

"In the past however," continued the doctor, "soldiers who have experienced the symptoms you described have afterwards proved to be very susceptible to subconscious stimulation, subliminal messaging, sounds and images hidden in the area around you now have proved very effective. Some of the men I have tested in the past have performed simple tasks without even knowing they have done so at the end of the test. You however..."

"So?..." Rick was finally piecing together what the doctor was saying to him but he still didn't know what to make of it.

The doctor leaned forward in his chair and lowered his voice to the tone used by one describing an idea they expect to be worth stealing. "I have tried everything I know today to influence you and it hasn't had the slightest effect on you. I am of the personal opinion that you are incredibly defended against the attacks that these soldiers have been subject to but the evidence kicks up a worrying theory."

The doctor sat back in his chair and placed each fingertip against it's opposed counterpart one at a time.

"What evidence? What theory?" asked Rick now fully aware of what was being told to him and very intrigued by himself.

"The fact that you have felt effects similar to those described by other soldiers suggests that you are in fact susceptible to these mental attacks. The fact that you are not responding to any of the tests I have set for you however, suggests you have a very high level of mental strength..."

"So what's the theory?" asked Rick curiously.

"Either there is a flaw with my testing which I refuse to believe, or... There are stronger enemies out there waiting for us than these Sectoids..."

Rick had been waiting for just such a theory and the second it was said he closed his eyes tightly, hoping it would go away. These greys were bad enough but if there were more out there who knows what they'd be? Flying aliens? Swimming aliens? Maybe both! There could be enemies the size of houses out there carrying howitzers as sidearms...

Rick opened his eyes again to see everything unchanged. This was a problem he would have to face up to it seemed. He just hoped he would have a little time before that happened.

Rick stood to leave and looked down at the cup he was holding.

"Doc," he said looking up at him. "Is one of these tests of yours making a brew by any chance?"

The doctor looked at the cup in Rick's hand and smiled, "You know it is! Now why haven't I written that down anywhere?" He started flicking through his notes and then looked up at Rick who was holding out his empty cup.

Rick grinned from ear to ear and the Doctor took his cup instinctively.

"It was a good brew, thanks Doc" Rick turned away and left with a wink.
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#152 FullAuto

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 12:25 AM

"Don't look so anxious.  We probably won't have to kill anyone."
  Valerie Deacon looked up from her coffee and decided Pickering's smile was meant to be reassuring.  Sat opposite her, loading magazines, his scarred face looked more demonic than friendly in the wan interior lighting.
  "Probably." Jasper said, yawning.
  He was laid out on the floor in a thick sleeping bag, head pillowed on a lumpy backpack.  His normally spiky hair lay flat, and he yawned again as he rolled over to face the fuselage.
  Deacon felt her stomach give a little lurch, and decided coffee had been a mistake. The flight had been smooth so far, and that was the only reason she hadn't thrown up.  Her hands were both cold and sweaty, her stomach was unsteady and she was far too hot.  She stripped her jacket off quickly, pushing it down behind her to cushion her back and buttocks.  The seats were obviously military issue, both small and uncomfortable.  She glanced across at Pickering as her pistol caught on something, jamming the barrel into her kidney.
  How did he cope?  He was a foot taller and had to weigh twice as much.
  Pickering saw her looking and misinterpreted it again. "Dump the coffee, drink water or milk.  Nothing acidic.  Makes you feel like it's eating through your stomach."
  Deacon managed a wan smile, wedging her cup between a seat back and the fuselage.
  Pickering thumbed bullets into another magazine even as he spoke, punctuating each sentence with a click. "It's normal.  You learn to use it.  Then you get used to it.  Eventually, you stop noticing it.  It's the difference between riding and being dragged."
  She drew her pistol, bulkier than Pickering's Glock, looking slightly absurd in her small hands. "Never really done anything like this before."
  "That's alright." Click. "We probably won't get into any drama anyway."
  "Probably." Jasper echoed again, rolling back over to face them.
  Pickering shook his head. "Ignore him.  And dump your twenty-three.  It's X-Com issue, we don't want it getting traced."
  Deacon unclipped her pancake holster from behind her right hip, slipping the pistol into it and tucking it between her thighs.  The mag carrier came off next, from behind her left hip.  She passed them both to Pickering, wincing as she felt sore skin press back against the hard seat.
  -just an analyst no dirty work-
  Pickering worked the holster a little between his hands. "Leather.  Not broken in either, eh?"
  "Sorry.  I usually drive a desk." Deacon cleared her throat. "Most I've ever done is a walk past."
  "That's all this should amount to." Pickering assured her. "Jasper."
  "Hmm?" He sat up, pushing the sleeping bag down to his waist.
  "Dump your gun and your mags.  You won't be needing them."
  Jasper ran a hand through his hair, blinking repeatedly. "Didn't pick one up."
  "Good.  We'll grab weapons Stateside." Pickering pushed a magazine into his Glock, snapped back the slide and holstered up. "First job is to make kissy faces at the proper Yank politicians.  Second, we get that laser pistol.  Thirdly, get access to the crashed UFO at the bottom of the Potomac.  Hopefully, we can take care of one and three at the same time."
  "Ok.  How are we going to do that?" Jasper kicked himself free of the sleeping bag and got up. "Dying for a piss, 'scuse me."
  He moved past them, swaying slightly, grabbing up an empty bottle.
  Deacon turned back to Pickering, blushing.
  Pickering leaned back in his seat. "Deacon can be the X-Com rep.  We'll just be the heavies.  We'll stand behind her, look suitably menacing."
  Jasper whistled merrily as he urinated.
  "The Yanks will take it a lot better coming from one of their own.  Nothing puts their noses out of joint than playing second fiddle to some jumped-up European country." Pickering grinned. "If they think we're just muscle, they'll be a lot happier.  Think you can handle that?"
  Deacon nodded automatically, panicking inside.
  "We present ourselves as a Yank-led effort, that keeps the rabid anti-one-world crowd off our back.  We apologise, blame whoever and whatever else we can.  Basically be slimy little maggots.  Politicians are used to that." Pickering cast an annoyed glance at Jasper when he broke wind noisily. "Recovering the laser pistol shouldn't be a problem, I'll sort some diving gear along with the weapons.  I don't suppose either of you have any experience."
  Jasper's flow trailed off and he zipped up and capped the bottle. "Nope."
  Deacon shook her head. "Sorry."
  "Ok.  I'll go down for it and you two just wait up top for me." Pickering leaned back in his seat, stretching his legs out in front of him. "No problem."
  "I've never done any BG work." Jasper made his way back to them, bottle hanging loosely from his hand.
  "I haven't done much." Pickering confessed. "It's just like operating normally, watch for threats and surveillance.  Except you have to protect your principal as well as stay alive.  Can get tricky."
  He eyed Deacon.
  "Got an advantage this time though.  They won't reckon on our rep being armed."
  Jasper plopped himself down into a seat by Pickering. "Yeah.  Nasty surprise time."
  Deacon began to feel like a worm on a hook.  Pickering leaned toward her. "Have you ever used a submachine gun?"


  Terrick hurried along the road to the gate.  Getting to the surface had been easy.  Getting out of the gate would be a different matter.
  His pistol bumped his stomach.  The holster was a little bit loose.  Covered by his T-shirt, it was still easy enough to draw quickly.  The laser pistol was in another holster at the small of his back, covered by his T-shirt and his jacket.  Though bulky, the jacket was baggy enough to cover it, and with his pockets weighed down with magazines, it wouldn't flip up in a strong wind.
  He could use it in an emergency.  If he had to.  Two mags on his left hip, two more in each jacket pocket.  Six spare mags, one loaded, eighty-four rounds in total.
  If he got into a situation that needed more than that he was caught anyway.
  The gatehouse was occupied; one soldier sat at the window, working on a crossword.
  Terrick slowed his pace, composing his features and wiping the sweat away with a jacket sleeve. "Excuse me."
  The guard looked up.  Thin and well-tanned, eyes set in a permanent squint, he pursed his lips contemplatively. "Yeah?"
  "I need to go out."
  "No chance, mate, sorry.  Last time I did that I got my arse kicked good and proper." He went back to his crossword.
  -Green will wake up soon I'm bleeding-
  Terrick took a deep breath, gritting his teeth as his swelling lung pushed against something inside him that had been broken by the bullet. "I really need to go."
  The pain was making him sweat.  His anxiety was making him dizzy.  Blood loss was going to knock him out before he could hand the pistol over.
  -no no no no no no-
  "Sorry." The guard shrugged, not looking up from his crossword.
  Terrick looked back down the road, then out past the gate.  No one.  No vehicles.  No patrols.  He gave it one last try. "Please.  I need to see my family."
  "I know how it is, mate.  I can't." The guard nibbled on his pen.
  Terrick evaluated the situation as best he could through his fear and pain.  No way to get into the gatehouse before the guard raised the alarm.  No way to keep the guard covered while breaking in.
  He stepped in close, lifting his T-shirt and drawing his gun.  The guard looked up.
  Terrick fired.  The .45 bullet smashed into the guard's stomach and knocked him backward off the chair.  Terrick moved round to the back, holstering the 23, noting the parked Humvee.  One well-placed heel strike just below the handle popped the door open.
  His side cramped up with pain.
  He limped in, stepped over the groaning guard and hit the green button below the 'GATE' sign on the wall.  The gate began to hum open.  Terrick turned, stepping over the guard again, and took a set of keys off the wall.  He nudged the guard with his foot. "You'll live."
  He couldn't manage another kick, and so knelt and punched, twice, sharp vicious jabs.
  The guard went out like a light.
  Terrick tried to get up and fell, his side locking up completely.  He felt blood slip down his side, slow and slick.  He clawed his way up the wall, smearing blood, and leaned against it, limping, sliding along the wall as he moved.
  The gatehouse phone began to ring.
  -not good-
  He hurried, staggering through the doorway and managing to stay upright across the vast plain between the gatehouse and the adjacent Humvee.  His side simply froze up as he reached the vehicle, yanking the door open and falling in.
  He fumbled for an ignition for several minutes, slumped forward onto the wheel, before budging the starter button accidentally.  The engine rumbled, softly, steadily.
  He tossed the keys out of the window, shaking his head
  Time to go.

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#153 Alitorious

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 08:59 AM

Ryan was still sour about the midnight shift, but several kilometres away and thousands of feet in the air, it didn't feel so bad. Flying hadn't quite lost its charm with him yet. When you're in the cockpit, you're invincible. You're in control. Hell, you even defy nature herself by defeating gravity.
Still, it was nearly one o'clock in the morning. Because of his indignation at being wrongfully disciplined, Ryan nearly forgot to wonder why he was patrolling Washington in peacetime. Had a war started that they didn't know about?

Down below, a Fox News van was trying to set up by the Potomac River. Several cranes could be seen, getting ready to hoist something out of the river. There were plenty of reports earlier in the day that a UFO had been shot down into the river. Patricia Keynes didn't quite know what to think about those, but something was up. The military had cordoned off the site, and trucks and even tanks could be seen around. Patricia even thought that she could see some men in those hazardous materials suits. She urged her cameraman to get set up faster. They had picked a concealed location, but it was inevitable that the army or something would evict them quickly.
A few divers had surfaced on the lake, and gave the thumbs-up to the crane operators. The cranes winched up the object and it emerged from the lake. At first Patricia thought that its large grey surface suggested that it was a whale, but more of it was revealed.
"Oh my God," she muttered. Behind her, the cameraman started recording. There was no way that was anything but a UFO from outer space. It had a distinct saucer shape to it as well, although two 'wings' could be seen off to the side. Though it was midnight, city lights illuminated enough so that Patricia thought she could make out scorch marks and large holes which meant that it must have been shot down. The military couldn't try that "neither confirm nor deny" crap with this.
The UFO was swaying gently between the cranes. Then it jarred slightly as a wire or something slipped.
Patricia's insides froze. She watched as what looked like the body of a small child fell out of a hole and plunged into the waters below.
"Did you get that? Tell me you got that"


Back on the other side of the world, Pine Gap's powerful active radar system continually swept out and detected many objects. Most of the things it detected were terrestrial aircraft, and the computer matched up the contacts to known flights or simply registered the aircraft's transponder signal. What was left was mostly erratic data, left over from the power of Pine Gap's radar. After the computer filtered out weather patterns and other contacts with nonsensical movement patterns, not much was left. The operator musing over all of this supposed that a meteor could probably set off the detector, but what were the chances of that happening?

An alarm brought him out of his trance. The contact was near the edge, if not farther than, the range of the radar. In truth, the contact was actually out of line-of-sight of the radar station itself, and it is only because the radio waves reflected off the ionized layers in the Earth's atmosphere that it could be detected. If that was the case... then this contact would be large. The technician checked again. Although it was faint, the profile definitely matched that of one of the alien's terror ships.
The readout for the UFO's direction started to come through, which was based on both Doppler readings and time-averaged estimation. The operator did a double-take.
It was heading towards Washington. And fast.


"Gia? Gia, are you there?" cracked the radio inside the Hurricane's cockpit. Gia wasn't there to answer it, as she was standing by the lake, trying to peer in with her flashlight to see through the hole in the ice. It was cold in the night air.
"This is stupid," she said to herself.


"Ramson? Sheedy?" came Bolling base. "You are directed to head on course one-four-seven and intercept a contact. Do not fire, but stay alert. We are scrambling reinforcements. You are hereby designated Talon flight."
"Roger, Command," confirmed Donald.
"What's this about?" inquired Ryan.
"I don't know... but I have a bad feeling about it."
"Talon, contact is now at heading one-one-four, shift your course to zero-eight-nine to intercept. It is at one-six-zero miles,"directed Control.
That takes us directly over the city! Ramson noticed. Then he thought about the coordinates some more, and realized that this thing must be moving fast. Definitely faster than that prototype earlier that day.
"Contact should be in your radar range now, Talon. Hold your fire." advised Control. As if on cue, the contact showed up on his screen in front of him. Information also showed up on his heads-up-display. Ramson could hardly believe what was showing up. And, more importantly, at this rate he wouldn't intercept before it got to the city.
"Uh, Bighorn?" asked Ryan. "Is that a UFO?"
"I'm not sure," replied Ramson. "Mach seven-point-three... only think I know goes that fast is the Space Shuttle coming in re-entry. ICBM's also go that fast, but they don't fly like that."
"So it's a UFO."
"We'll know when we see it."
The two Falcons, or Vipers as most pilots and crew liked to call them, continued on at over the speed of sound. Despite that, the UFO would reach the city minutes before they got there. The two pilots, and all those at NORAD control and even back at Pine Gap, watched helplessly as the alien ship bore down on the city.
Then it just stopped. From seven times faster than the speed of sound to zero airspeed. Zero.
"Like hell this isn't anything but a UFO," Ramson said to his wingmate.


"Oh my god, what is that?" yelled Patricia over the loud thrumming sound. She pointed to the grey mass floating above, as if anyone could miss it after it had passed scarcely a dozen feet over their heads. It was also humming like a mess of giant bees. Upon a closer look, it was an exact twin of the UFO just dredged out of the waters, only this one obviously had no battle damage.
A green glow appeared on the side of the UFO facing the other. Barely a second later, a blinding beam of green light lanced out towards the other, penetrating the hull easily. The beam of plasma continued until it passed through one of the power generators, irradiating a small amount of elerium with radiation and forcing it to undergo its characteristic anti-matter reaction. It was lucky that only a small amount of elerium actually reacted - the rest was simply incinerated in the explosion.. Despite this, the energy of the explosion was still immense. However, the alien alloys that made up the hull kept their structural integrity amazingly well. It was only when a large portion of the hull melted that the explosion's full force, now significantly less, was released on the city.
Patricia was engulfed in a world of heat and light and weightlessness. It was only after she landed, a few metres behind her, that the sky faded back to blackness and the cool night air blew over her gently. Surprised at still being conscious, Patricia sat up and looked back where the UFOs were. Amazingly, the explosion did not do much damage. One of the cranes was toppled over, and several buildings had scorch marks, but that was about it. The one UFO that was being dragged out of the river was completely gone. Whatever chunks of alien metal were left had already sank to the bottom of the river. The other UFO hovered anxiously in the air, as if it were contemplating its next move.


The two pilots swore. The light of the explosion was unmistakable.
"Talon to command. Target has unleashed a payload on the city. Requesting to engage."
"Command to Talon. Explosion has been confirmed over the city. You are authorized to engage. Bring it down, boys."
"Roger, Command. Ryan, lock and load Sidewinders."
"Gotcha."
Ramson armed his missiles and confirmed weapons lock. The buzz signalling it in his ears was probably the sweetest thing he'd heard all night. He thumbed the trigger twice.
"Ramson, Fox Two, Fox Two, Ripple."
"Sheedy, Fox Two, Fox Two, Ripple."
Two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles fired from the wingtips of each Viper, and rocketed towards the alien ship. When they were about midway to the target, a green glow appeared on their side of the UFO.
Ramson's instincts screamed at him: Danger!
"Evade" Ramson yelled, even as he did so himself. Immediately a green beam lanced out from the UFO, passing much too close for comfort to his own fighter.
"Bogey is returning fire"
Meanwhile, the heat-seeking missiles bore down on the alien saucer. They had a firm lock on the hull, which was still hot from re-entry into the atmosphere, and was also contrasted against the cool landscape behind it.
"They all hit" exclaimed Ryan. "Confirmed! Four direct hits... the hell?"
The smoke from the explosions had cleared, and the alien ship was still floating there. The only effect the missiles had were to blemish its otherwise grey hull with scorch marks.
"Hit it with Slammers," Donald ordered. He primed the two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles carried underneath his wings.
"Ramson, Fox Three, Fox Three, Ripple." He thumbed the trigger twice, and the two missiles dropped a short distance before activating their rocket propellant allowing them to race towards their target.
"Sheedy, Fox Three, Fox-"
A green glow had appeared on the side of the alien craft, and fired its lethal plasma cannon before Donald could let off a warning. The beam hit a fuel tank on Ryan Sheedy's aircraft, and it was engulfed in a fireball. He had no chance to eject.
Both missiles had been fired from each aircraft, but one was sent off course by the explosion. The remaining three fire-and-forget missiles slammed into the side of the alien craft and covered it with explosions.


Her cameraman being knocked unconscious, Patricia picked up his camera and filmed the conflict between the UFO and the Air Force. She grinned as the second set of explosions rocked the alien craft. She was going to get the Pulitzer Prize for sure.
It looked like the aliens had enough, because the humming of the alien's engines grew louder. It felt like the humming penetrated her bones. A second later, the alien craft accelerated away and vanished from sight.
Although she didn't know it, the amplified magneto-gravitic field from the elerium engines wiped clean the magnetic tape, and her chances at being taken seriously were gone with it.


Ramson swore. The aliens (What else could they be?) had killed his friend, taken half a dozen missiles, and was still alive and running away!
In desperation, he launched his two remaining Sidewinders. They covered the distance between him and the UFO quickly. However, a green bolt shot out, destroying one of the missiles. The other managed to hit the fleeing ship, but the alien craft just shrugged it off and continued heading to space.

#154 storm turmoil

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Posted 28 August 2005 - 11:09 PM

Pine Gap base, workshop 1, 2.00am

two figures slumped over a workshop bench. Though in truth, the term slump implies tiredness, when frustration would be closer to the mark.

" So, Now what do we know?" Dana Farber took another sip of the sludge in her cup that most of the base would call 'coffee' and the rest of humanity would probably call in a hazmat team for.

The red haired engineer opposite her pushed his glasses back up on his nose and pulled out an object in each hand.

In his left hand he clasped a large Blue sphere, seemingly made of metal but with a strange tacky surface that seemed to defy catalogueing.

" This little gizmo is still giving us the runaround. it gives everyone bar me who handles it a headache and we haven't dared cut it open in case it turns out like these" He said, indicating the smaller purple sphere clutched in his right hand.

" Right. So much for Photon's breakthrough. Has he come round yet?" Dana asked, grinning.

" yeah. Though I wish he hadn't. if it comes to that, at that moment i was wishing I'd stuck with the UFO." David answered

" You know we can't do any work on it while it's on the ship. Well, while it's on that ship, anyway; we'll have to see about getting our own assigned ship if we get anymore intact UFO's"

" Can we?" David asked.

" Have you forgotten who you're working for?" She asked.

" Point. As for the Purple spheres, its almost as though they're meant as a knock out device, except that we had to hit it with a diamond drill to crack it, and there's no other way to get them open; there just doesn't seem to be a detonater of any kind involved."

" Life support capsules?" Dana wondered aloud.

" I don't know; The ships don't all seem to have them though, so I'd say no. Of course, I've no Idea what else they could be." He conceded.

" Maybe we could ask the troops tomorrow if they ever saw the aliens use them." Dana suggested.

" Now that, is a great idea. I'm glad one of us in this room has a brain"

" Flattery isn't going to get you anywhere, you know" she replied.

" It isn't flattery if it's true. I'm really only here because I embarassed the higher ups. That and I'm good with my hands."

" So what about this thing?" He asked, rolling the blue sphere carefully over to her. She picked it up for the fifth or sixth time that night, and as before, as soon as she did, her eyes bugged out slightly and her head had an unusually stuffed feeling, as if she had had something crammed into her ears until their was no more room.

" You say you don't get anything like this?" She asked him.

" Nope, just a prickling in my thumbs like static, but no headache." He told her.

" How's the busted knee doing?" She asked suddenly.

" It was only a sprain, and It's mostly better now. I can't believe I fell out of that tree trying to recover a few bits of blown up alien metal...come to think of it it, I can't believe I actually told you...." He said, his trailing into a hoarse whisper.

" ...Matter of fact I'm damn sure I didn't tell you...So how the hell do you know about that?" He exclaimed suddenly, Staring at her face, partly obscured byt the shiny blue sphere...

#155 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 31 August 2005 - 02:00 AM

Howitz wandered around around the labs, distracted by the sights of alien technology in pieces. He was slighty dissappointed to find the grenade intact. A slightly worried scientist who was trying to keep an eye on him inconspiciously had looked quite a bit more worried when he'd offered to help take the thing apart.

He was was just about to consult the man about his scrap of fabric, when he saw Rick come out of one of the small rooms that made up this part of the lab.

"Hiya. Doing some sight seeing as well?"

Rick looked around, slightly surprised.

"Nah. Command sent me down here to get my head checked." He looked slightly embarresed, and carried on when Howitz said nothing. "He thinks the aliens might have been playing with our minds again. I'm still not to sure about the whole idea, but the doc in there says I should be ok against that sort of stuff."

"Don't see why they'd want to check you out. I didn't see you acting up back there."

"If only because you tried to keep yourself out of sight of things half the time."

Howitz chuckled, and leant against a handy wall. "Well, whatever the boss says, I think we did alright. No casualties in our department, a heap of dead greys, and a UFO all to ourselves. I've got no idea who those other guys were, but they signed their own death warrents when they started pointing guns our way."

The other man shook his head. "Politics doesn't work like that, Jack. This mission could have gone very badly for us. I don't know who those guys were either, but apparently Genega does, and he thinks it means trouble."

"If they were supposed to be there, then X-Com should have been told. That's the entire point - anything to do with the aliens are supposed to go through us. If they were the local military, then they should have been called off. If they were diplomats, then I don't think the other countries will be too happy with them. Especially China." His brow wrinkled. "Which country did we end up in, anyway?", he added, half to himself.

-----------------

Green woke up, and found himself lying on Terrick's lower bunk. His head felt like it was full of seawater. He tried to sit up, but fell back down again as his vision lit up in red. What had happened? One minute he was saying hi to Martin, the next -

He groaned as his memory came back, the last sight of Terrick's rifle swinging at him puncuated by a sharp crack. He felt his head to see if it was bleeding. It was.

Swearing under his breath, he half fell off the bed to his feet, and staggered out the door of his room. He stood there for a moment, dazed, until he noticed a shape watching him.

"You allright,Green?"

It was Hiroshi Escalante, his squad leader.

"My room mate knocked me out..."

Escalante grabbed his shoulder to support the man, who looked ready to fall over again. "That would be Terrick?"

"Yeah." Green paused, still looking confused. "He had that laser gun he said he lost." He lurched out of Hiroshi's grip, back into the room. "It's gone. Where is he?" He cannoned out, starting to feel much more alert, and feeling very, very angry. "Where is he?"

-----------------

"Whatever." Rick shrugged and moved towards the corridor leading to the elevator.

"Hey, wait a minute - check this out. I forgot I had this before." Howitz held out the scrap of rag he'd ripped off the alien.

"What is it?"

"Alien costume."

Rick took the orange cloth, and fingered it slowly. "They don't wear costumes."

"This one did."

"Where's the rest of the alien?"

Howitz shrugged. It was his turn to look embarrised. "It got away. One minute I was running through the snow, after that big grey SkyRanger, the next thing I know this alien has landed on my head from out of nowhere and it's clawing at my face."

"It didn't just shoot you?"

Howitz shrugged again. "Don't think so. Those ray guns they fire make a heck of a noise. I tried to throw the thing off, and the next thing I know, it was gone. Couldn't see it anywhere. It was like it flew off, or something - there weren't any prints."

"Flew off..."

-----------------

The two men, Green and Hero, looked at the guard slumped behind his desk. The downed man moaned softly under his breath. The two soldiers exchanged glances, and Green picked up the gatehouse phone.

-----------------

"Maybe I need my head checked, too." Jack grinned. "But, I tore that grenade I got off it, and that rag was attached." His brow wrinkled again. "Seemed kinda tall for a Sectoid, but it all happened so fast... Nah, had to be a Sectoid. Nothing human-sized would have been that light." He shrugged a third time, and took the fabric back. "Anyway, I figure I should take this down to the - "

He was interupted by the deafening noise of the base alarm, blaring through every corridor. Rick appeared to mouth silently back at him, but neither man could hear anything over the din. They ran towards the lift upwards.

-----------------

It was probably doing him damage, but by now Terrick couldn't even feel the jarring as the humvee bounced across what passed for a track in the desert. His vision was blurring, and he had to blink often and hard to focus, but he was nearly there. A black chopper ahead sat in a dimly lit drop zone.
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#156 The Veteran

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Posted 02 September 2005 - 02:56 AM

"Goddammit it's just my luck" Trigger, who had until very recently been sleeping, was halfway through getting properly dressed before finally giving up and leaving in just about enough uniform to not be shot on site.

"The one time I'm here on my own! The only one time ever! No Davies, no Gia, just me and some lunatic in a humvee..."

It wasn't just the lone pilot who was working up a frenzy, much of the base was up in arms and the skyranger was already in the air with a small quick response team along with two more teams deployed by landrover.

As Trigger strapped himself into his Hurricane he couldn't help feeling that it was a little excessive for the task at hand but there were very few other options from what he could tell.

"Ok, he's in an XCom vehicle so he'll be bugged straight away, that's a bonus..." he said to himself drowsily. "He's also been gone less than an hour so he can't be far. All I have to hope is that this isn't a planned getaway." If Terrick ditched the Humvee and took another form of land transport it would take a keen eye to catch him again. Fingers crossed he thought, if he changes vehicle it'll be to the airways not the motorways.

Rick meanwhile was similarly miffed to not only be part of a quick response team but also to be part of one in a landrover. Even if it did come to it there was no way he'd get to the action before being told to turn around.

Warlord was in the Skyranger and no more happy about it than Rick was to be on the ground. For some reason the three teams being sent now had absolutely nothing in common with the three core squads. Troops were mixed together every which way and Warlord didn't recognise anyone.

To an unsuspecting third party it would seem that only Terrick was particularly happy about being on the road and this would be true if only for the reason that he had escaped a top secret extraterriestrial research and combat base 100% alive.

As the chopper in front of him began to wind up it's rotors Terrick was finally beginning to feel like he'd made it. He screeched to a halt grabbing up a rifle and a sidearm from the ammunition locker and sprinted towards the chopper like his life depended on it... which realistically it probably did.

As he approached the chopper he smiled for a fraction of a second before he managed to seperate the pilots words from the chopper's background noise.

"We've got to go now! There's a contact approaching from the west and it's coming up on us fast"

Terrick's heart sank. "Ok, let's get out of here, fast... And stay low."

He climbed aboard and looked back over the dusty landscape below him as the humvee slowly disappeared behind them.

Now it was all just a matter of time. And a lot of luck...
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#157 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 25 September 2005 - 12:53 PM

The Hurricane barreled past the road vehicles laden with soldiers. Trigger hadn't bothered gaining much more altitude then needed, and even in the darkness the men on the ground could see it easily.

It wasn't long before Doc's SkyRanger followed it's lead, then Cheese piloting the Osprey. All hands available had been crammed into transports at random, as soon as they could be found and directed somewhere.

The humvees bounced along the track half found and half forged by Terricks' vehicle. The soldiers inside felt the journey was just that little bit more pointless, as they bounced slowly along after the rapidly vanishing aircraft...

Eventually they found the helicopter's LZ, if only because Terrick's rover was more or less parked there. There was no chopper, not even any spent flares. Just a lot of dust and a circle of sand.

At least there was a lot more leg room, driving three Humvees back.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Terrick sat in the open door of the chopper, wedged in as best he could manage, rifle ready. He doubted he could aim it if he needed to, for all the good it would do, it was the best he could do not the puke, let alone focus... He felt his lungs would come up it he tried either, so mostly he concentrated on keeping his eyes open. He could barely see anything, even considering the wind in his face and the darkness of the night. It was all one dark blur.

The pilot wasn't flying directly away from the X-Com base, but was rather going in a large semi-circle that would place them on the other side. From there they'd head off towards the south, stop in the refuel, then take a long trip back around to the north coast of Australia. Any tails would - hopefully - continue in the same general direction as Terrick's land based route, thinking that the escapee would try to beeline away as fast as possible. They were flying low, real low, and if they could evade the radar signals then they'd be hard to find.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Genega stood in the command room, glaring at anything and anyone that fell under his gaze. One of the large monitors was devoted to the dossier for Martin Terrick. He could hardly believe it when he'd heard there'd been a breakout - sure, the odd soldier had been caught sneaking out for a bit of leg room, but someone actually trying to leave the base for good was unheard of. It had taken a while to sink in, he'd first thought one of the men captured that day was the fugitive, and it hadn't helped his mood when he found that this was not, in fact, the case.

Now he had a man on the run with confidential information and a weapon which, while rather primitive, could revolutionise the arms market .

First instinct was to catch or kill. On second thoughts, this must be the man who Pickering had been bugging him about...

He rubbed the back of his head. Hmm. He'd definitely prefer the man alive.

On the other hand, what if he could catch his contacts too? If any information had been leaked already, it would have to be contained.

But that would risk losing everything, and he couldn't afford that. He face hardened further; he couldn't afford this regardless of how it turned out, if anybody outside of X-Com found out...

He opened the comms channel to the Hurricane, and donned a headset.
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#158 storm turmoil

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 01:03 AM

Green was wandering. at least, if he was honest, that's what he was doing, though he'd deny it if asked. He was bored, embarassed and angry, to say nothing of badly bruised too.

That's why he was once again snooping round the labs and workshops. It had been Howitz that put him on to that; apparently, they hadn't the slightest clue about some of what they were doing, and Green had to admit that watching something similar to what Jack had described, a roomful of scientists all keeling over from opening one of the alien gizmos, would lift his spirits no end.

it was the near incomprehensible swearing that told him he was onto a winner though, with cuss words from english, German, Chineses and Russian mangled into one incoherent whole.

Following his ears, Green headed off to seek what amusement its source could offer.

********

Warlord was tired, as he thought he'd never be, and it wasn't merely physical, either; this business with Terrick was a blight upon the very esprit du corps that had been pretty much the only thing keeping the emotionally exhusted 'Commers going recently. He could tell it was bad because Rick was only a few steps behind and yet wasn't needling him over anything.

Then the two heard the shouts.

"You can't just waltz in here and ..." Came the voice of Chris Black, yelling in a way that only an indignant scientist could manage. Rick and Warlord were still round the corner, but they never heard any response, just the heavy strides of someone clomping purposefully away.

When they rounded the corner, the first thing they saw was the trail of blood.

********

Daniel had to admit it, he was out of his element here. All he'd been able to catch was David Brown stalking angrily out of Workshop one, frantically wrapping a bundle of Gauze from a roll around his left hand and cursing loudly. He'd never even had the chance to ask what the shouting was all about, completely unable to get a word in edgeways.

needless to say, he'd given up any though of trying when he saw Brown tie the bandage off and place the roll on the bench, using his right hand to open one of the workshops tool drawers and withdraw a tool that looked awfully like a very sharp machete. An odd light had gleamed in his eyes and Daniel had felt a strange shudder pass down his spine as Brown Stalked out the workshop, blade in hand.

what puzzled him most, however, was the incessent muttering.

After all, what did he mean " I don' believe it, the damn bastards are no smarter than we are! and we fell for it"

********

Chris black was almost beside himself.

Rick and Warlord were merely puzzled.

" That's all he did?" Rick asked.

" Yeah, came in, one hand in a big bandage and a machete in the other, pulled out a sectoid specimen from one of the storage capsules and hacked the hand off"

" And then?" Rick asked. There was no response from Black.

" At least he'll be easy to follow" Warlord offered, smiling slightly in the first time for too long.

********

The trail of blood led back to workshop one. Rick and Warlord were a little surprised to find Daniel standing outside.

" What's going on in there" Warlord asked as a peal of maniacal laughter echoed out the door.

" Damned if I know. Brown came back with a machete in one hand and a bloody alien hand tucked under his arm. Then he started yelling 'hah! I knew it! I'm such a genius" Daniel offered.

Rick looked at Warlord. Warlord looked at Rick. Both nodded and pushed the door open.

Both hit the deck as the all too familiar howl and screech of massacred molecules heralded the arrival of nightmarish green fireballs, reflexes kicking in before their eyes or minds did.

Then they saw Brown cradling a roll of duct tape in the crook of his left arm and a still steaming alien pistol in his right hand, and grinning triumphantly. There was a blasted crater burned into a stack of ceramic mats stacked on the floor, and Rick vaguely noticed the prescence of the bloody alien arm on the bench.


Then his mind caught up, but Warlord beat him to the punch.

" You actually got one of the damn things to actually work?" Warlord asked. David just grinned slightly creepily.

********

" You're telling me the only thing keeping us from using the things was duct tape?" Genega commented, not quite able to believe his ears.

" Essentially, yes. The alien weapons all have morphic grips that adapt to the users hands, but under that layer, there's a pressure sensitive mesh that only allows activation if a certain pressure pattern is matched" David explained.

" So that's why you took the hand..."

" Yes, sir. The first firing was accidental, I was mashing the gun in a two handed grip to try and balance it and the gun went off. That's what set me wondering. After all, our own pistols have grip safeties, so why not theirs. we were searching for a high-tech answer when they'd simply used a low tech one"

" So all you need to get them to work..."

" Is to tape up the grips to match the alien handgrip pressure pattern. After that, you just put one of the clips in, and pull the trigger."

" And the burns...?" Genega asked, of the now more profesionally treated burns on David's left hand.

" Oh that. You just have to be careful not to put your hands on these areas on the weapon when you fire" he indicated on the unloaded pistol he carried. " they seem to be a sort of heat radiator and they get damn hot damn quick when the thing fires..."

"And the other Alien weapons..."

" we're looking into them now. hopefully, we'll be able to get them to work as well. on the other hand, we're still no nearer to understanding how they work, other than they're some kind of small scale plasma accelerator..."

" Plasma...weapons? this is starting to sound like a bad sci-fi plot..." Genega laughed. his morale was still low, but it was much improved from how it was. this was a real coup for x-com: solid proof of X-com's worth, and a victory the bureaucrats couldn't ignore.

" Sounds like it sir, but that is apparently what they are. we have no idea how it's done, yet, and we couldn't even begin to build one of these ourselves yet, but we should be able to use captured units. "

" That alone is invaluable. "

" Also, now we know how they cause damage, we have a better understanding of how to protect against it. Dana says that this could be a real boost to her work with the alien metals. It may be possible to make an armour that would absorb or deflect the plasma blasts." David explained. Genega's attention suddenly jumped.

" How sure are you?" Genega asked cautiously. Behind him, Rick and Warlord were glancing at each other, and maybe, just maybe, allowing their hopes to climb a little.

" Look at those Ceramic mats" David said. Genega did. the mats were shattered and molten, but he got the point. the ones at the bottom were untouched.

" Plasma causes damage through physical impact and heat transmission. Ceramics stop the heat, but shatter under the impact. metals stop the impact, but conduct the heat."

" Damned if you do, damned if you don't" Rick threw in. Genega  shared the sentiment.

" Once, yes. But...with the conductive properties of the new alien metals, it may be possible to combine layers of metal plates with a conductive mesh fused into them that will spread both the heat, and spread the impact over a large surface area, while insulating the wearer using multilayered ceramic coatings on the inside" David explained.

" And you can build something like this?" Warlord asked, allowing himself to hope. The alien weapons had been a terrible twofold advantage. now, they had a chance to cut that advantage away.

" Dana thinks so. Once I finish with templating the captured weapons, I'll be assisting, but She sees no reason why we can't produce something that will offer at least some protection against a plasma blast"

Rick said it for all of them " this is the sort of thing we've needed all along." Warlord and Genega both nodded assent.

"Glad you feel that way. Because as of now, Mr Brown will be taking over an hour of your training time every day to instruct the troops in the operation of the Alien weapons. You never know when you might need to use a seized alien weapon." Genega informed them as he left the workshop.

Rick and Warlord Glared at the Engineer.

" What?" He asked, shrugging his shoulders.

#159 JellyfishGreen

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Posted 27 October 2005 - 10:35 PM

Genega still had the urgent matter of the escaping fugitive in his mind.
"At least the ground team had been able to confirm it was a helicopter," he said to the crew chiefs. "There's no way he'll outrun Trigger, but we don't know where to look. He'll be flying low, because he knows this place is bristling with radar, that will keep his speed lower too."
"But there's just too much space for any normal search pattern to work," said one of the staff.
"We can get the 'Ranger patrolling too, " injected Forrester. "It'll be able to fly all night, even with a team on board, if we want it to."
"That's the spirit," answered Genega. "Other than Alice Springs Airport, there's nothing but restricted airspace and desert for five hundred miles in any direction, that's why we picked this place. Get that Skyranger in the air as soon as the tanks are topped off. Keep your eyes alert for any contact and the channels open for any transmissions. The second he clicks on a radio I want a directional lock and a heavy jamming beam."

Trigger had streaked out in the direction the humvee had been heading, gone out to the max possible range the helicopter could have reached, and had found nothing. He was doing high speed zigzags on his return trip to cover more ground when Genega broke into his comm channel.
"Trigger, do a high-speed circle of the base at 200 kilometers radius - make sure that fella's not trying to throw us off the trail, while I try to think of a better search pattern."
"Sure thing, chief."

Trigger had half of his attention on his FLIR, which was the best chance of picking up a hot helicopter below him against the night desert, but he was mainly trying to cover the impossibly large search area as quick as possible. If he kept his speed up, he could probably circle the base and spiral outwards every ten minutes - but that would leave 20 km between each pass for the heli to be hiding in. The supersonic jet rolled its thunder through the night.

Through the open door of the chopper, Terrick and the pickup team saw and heard the jet pass not more than fifteen kilometers to their northeast. The pilot cursed. "I'm taking us closer to their damn base, until we can slip away, if that Hurricane is going to be running border patrol." The already tense atmosphere got heavier as the minutes slowly rolled by.

On the western outskirts of Pine Gap, the sentries at Lima post were more alert than usual, now that the word had gotten out, and after weeks of guard duty they knew all the usual sounds of the desert. Very faintly, a sound grew that was out of place. One of the two sentries at Lima caught his breath and listened. "Do you hear that?" "Hear what?" responded the other sentry.
The sound got just a little louder as the far-off helicopter crossed a valley leading to Pine Gap, and then they both heard the unmistakable rhythmic beating.
"Command, Sentry Post Lima! We have definite helicopter sounds"
"Lima, Command. What direction?"
"Southwest, I think he just crossed the Finke Gorge"
Trigger was off like a shot.
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#160 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 12:28 PM

David Brown wandered back towards his sector, holding the pistol by its barrel. The duct tape which allowed the weapon to fire made it inherently unsafe, but he wasn't prepared to remove it until he'd recorded the pressure points precisely.

He was considering drawing up some charts to show to the soldiers. Genega had rattled off a list of times he could fit in the extra training - he'd watched the two enlisted men wince at each entry as he'd scribbled it down - and then got back to directing the chaos that was the command center.

Now, dealing with the ammo cartridges would be simple enough, they simply slotted or slid into the weapons. He'd have to find the pressure points on the larger weapons before they could be used.

The only other piece of equipment that could be introduced in the field was that weird mind probe, but there was a maybe attached to that. He'd considered telling the Commander about it, but he knew a busy man when he saw one. Plus, he himself couldn't get it to work... Dana had managed to 'show' a few of the other techs and brains how to do it, but it always just made his thumbs itchy.

He had a suspicion they were playing a practical joke on him.

--------------------------------------

The insides of the Skyranger were, as usual, cramped. Although the HWP hadn't been loaded, the hap-hazard craft assignment didn't leave much room. Everyone present had already gone through the motions of checking their equipment was battle ready, as they knew the air ship would be the most likely to intercept the fugitive.

One of their own...

Usually conversations weren't common in the 'Ranger, unless the craft was returning. For some of them, it could be the last ride they ever took. In this case, they were after an easy target, but none of them were happy about it. Not everyone had officially met Terrick, who hadn't been more social then he'd needed to be, but he'd been at the base long enough to be recognised.

Jasper sat close to Fitzwilliams, his squad leader. He was uneasy, even compared to the other troopers in the craft. Fitz seemed to have gained an extra edge to his personality after he'd led his team into disaster, and was starting to rival Tolstovich in terms of strictness at training. Now the man sat there looking like a dormant volcano, at a glance calm and collected, but there was something there that made you do a double take. The man was simmering, and had seemed all to eager to get into the 'Ranger.

Oh, well. Combat probably wouldn't be a problem, as even if Terrick had been able to meet up with armed contacts, they'd have to have been a small group indeed to get anywhere near Pine Gap undetected. The man would give up due to sheer force of numbers.

He attempted a quick headcount, but soon gave it up. He couldn't see through the crowd. He could see Sandy, and everyone recognised Poison, even if they hadn't dared speak to her. Keller and Dujardin always seemed to end up in the same place, coincedence or not, and one of the asians was either Ki-tat or his twin.

Come to think of it, he had no idea as to who was in charge of the mob.

--------------------------------------

The young scientist yawned, his chair creaking as he leaned back on it. He looked at his watch, grimaced, and started sliding papers back into the folders on his desk. The sun would be up soon, and he didn't intend to be awake to see it. He sometimes felt that he was expected to stay awake 24/7 in order to meet his deadlines, but he knew it was mostly self enforced labour. Even so, Daniel Morlone still couldn't get his motion scanner design to work.

He'd figured out how it was to be done. The catch was making something that could be carried - something not only small, but robust. Only one small design had worked, but it had failed the moment he'd turned it up-side-down. No moving parts, that was the way, a few small gas chambers might do the job. Or a plasma one... Zager's wonder batteries might give him a few more options, but too many circuits made heat -

The door to his office creaked open, and Brown's head peered through the gap.

"Hey, Psawhn, did you see where I put that that spheare thing?"

"I think Photon was playing with it."

"No, the big blue one."

"Oh, the crystal ball?" Daniel yawned again. "Think I saw Dane playing with it again, telling fortunes or something."

The larger mans forehead wrinkled. Daniel shrugged, blinking away his urge to sleep.

"Dana, I mean. When she was done she put it back into the stores."

"Can't find it in there."

"Some other tech must have it, then."

David looked worried as he wandered through the stalls, glancing at various desks to find the elusive orb. It had occured to him that it should probably be locked away safely, because if it really could read minds, then there was going to be trouble.

--------------------------------------

The sun started to glimpse over the horizon, boosting visibility. The chopper pilot slammed the control stick, which was relatively safe, because the rotors were no longer spinning.

They'd touched down in an obscure dip on the edge of a vally, a location he'd noted on his map before he'd started the mission, not too close to the base but far enough away that he could slip away when the search intensity died down.

He hadn't been expecting to need such precautions, but things hadn't gone to plan. Terrick was supposed to have slipped out undetected, dissolving the need for such stealth. Terrick was also supposed to be a super soldier, a regular commando from what he'd heard.

What Terrick was not supposed to do was turn up an hour late, barely coherant. Now the man lay in the back of his craft on a stretcher. After he'd touched down, the two other men he'd been flying with had declared him unconcious, and started messing around with various medical sets. The way he figured it, it would be easier to just lodge a bullet in the guy's skull and leave it at that; no point in carrying dead weight. But apparently Terrick 'knew' stuff.

And so he'd been left to drag the camouflage sheet across the chopper on his own, no easy task. He'd just finished messing up the LZ (as having any debris blown clear was a dead give away), and now all they had to do was wait until the coast was clear. Or until they were captured. Whichever came first.

Worse yet, he'd forgotten to bring breakfast. Another beautiful day was beginning.
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