UFO FanFic - Chapter 2


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#181 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 08:41 AM

Two of Howitz's large packs had been layed in the warehouse. He'd snuck them in amongst the larger collections of crates, to make sure anything volatile or otherwise flammable went with the initial detonation - no point in leaving surprises ticking over for later. Luckily they'd provided excellent cover for him, as if he'd been spotted, he wouldn't have had a hope of killing them all. Surviving would have been tricky enough. Even if he could outpace the floating creatures (and he didn't think for a second that that would be a problem), they didn't have to run around the furniture...

In usual circumstances he'd have radioed his intentions to the rest of the team. In this case his radio refused to produce more then a faint hiss, either due to bad batteries or some sort of radio interferance. His positioning tablet seemed to be working ok, and since no one was anywhere near his location, he'd deemed placing the charges quite safe.

Now that he'd finished putting them down, he had a problem. He'd planned his exit route ahead of time after paying close attention as to where the floating creatures were patroling, but one of them had broken away and seemed to be guarding the door. It had his back to the soldier - however, if he fired a round at it he'd alert the other aliens...

But the clock was ticking. He'd allowed himself an extra half minute on the basis that the aliens didn't know he was there, but that time was being eaten into as he waited under his current cover. The purple thing wasn't gonna move.

Ah, well. "There's always the window." At least in this case there were many available at ground level. He pulled on one of the gloves he kept attached to his pack, then his boots nearly slid out from under him as he launched himself towards the closest pane. Two seconds later (though he wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't been counting) he'd reached it, slammed his fist at it, and -

The glass didn't break -

His momentum, which was supposed to have carried him all the way out into the alley that lead to the next building, had no intention of removing it's grip from him. He pulled his left arm up in front of him in time to stop his head smashing against the dirty surface.

Hey, hey! Security glass wasn't in the plan, Jack!

The flying creature that had blocked his first choice of exit turned in what seemed to be slow motion, whilst Howitz's own subconcious counting whisper seemed to die to a crawl as well. But his senses forced him to ignore the alien as well as the urge to strike another blow at the window. Instead the memory of the support pillars in the corners of the building - tall as the structure, metal, and above all as wide as he was - was forefront on his mind. And then he was off running again, discarding his pack and leaping crates as the remaining seconds ticked down...

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

A bare half minute after the first blast subsided, the second one rolled out across the harbour.

Johann was first on his radio as the dust cloud around it started to subside. "Hey, Warlord, what the he-"

"Hello? Helllllooooo...?"

The interuption was Ki-tat's voice coming in over the airwaves. Ibsen tried again. "What was tha-"

"Hell-lllooo-ooo?"

Rick had taken the time to check Thomas's vital signs be he spoke. "Ki-tat, cut that out. Warlord, you ok?"

There was silence for a while, and then:

"Heeeellll-"*thunk*

"Shut up! If you can't hear them, shut up! Give me that -"

After a brief assortment of scratching noises, Warlord was heard at full volume.

"Dunno if this thing is working - I'm pretty sure mine isn't - but I just fired a few too many bullets at a gas station. Kinda got a bit too close, too, the shock wave hasn't done our ears any good, we can't hear a thing..."

"Ok, you guys, stay put and wait for Ta-"

"I think we'll just stay here for now, send someone over when you're ready. Don't feel much like exploring like this."

Rick grinned. Even if Thomas couldn't hear his orders, he knew well enough to guess what they were. The pair over at the gas station didn't sound critical, but even so...

"Tim, get over to Warlord and Ki-tat, make sure no one gets the jump on them. Jennings, catch up with Tammy, and the rest of you can continue to Howitz's position."

"Heeelllllooooo?"

"And someone take that damn radio off Ki-tat!"
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#182 The Veteran

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 02:13 PM

All of a sudden everything had changed... Warlord was out of the fight but thankfully alive, Ki-tat had left the first of the apparently empty shots to attend Howitz's explosion but had run to Warlord on hearing the autocannon spraying death and Jennings was moving so carefully with the flamethrower he hadn't even reached the arcade before Rick had changed his orders!

Now things were starting to get a bit clearer but as Tammy reached the site of the initial explosion she began to realise there was almost certainly nothing to be done there...

Tim had already sped off to help Ki-tat and Warlord, not to mention shut up their radios, and Jennings was still a few minutes away as he'd not long left the car park when Rick had told him to cover the medic.

Now as Tammy reached the smoking carcass of a warehouse that was Howitz's location she reached a small side alley, windows ran the whole length of the wall approximately five feet off the floor.

That gave Tammy six inches to peer across what appeared to be a first floor gantry inside the warehouse. Various boxes were still aflame but much of the buildings contents were either strewn about the place in pieces or were simply no longer there.

The window she was looking through was half shattered, half melted but it was still in place. As were most of the windows on this side of the building that she could see... A few more openings down however she caught a glimpse of something unnerving inside the building.

A single black glove was on the floor inside the window and a single streak of crimson stained the glass. Further from where she was standing there was a very familiar looking item, a general purpose backpack, X-Com issue. She could see a medikit poking out of it where the material had been burned away by the blast.

Tammy stepped back from the window, unsure of what to think. Checking her positioning tablet again she saw she was only meters from Howitz's position. She was looking right at where he should be...

With a heavy heart Tammy turned away from the window and brought up the medical readouts again. Ki-tat and Warlord were now flashing green indicating a mild trauma of some kind but she knew both were fine. Ed was still red on the screen and Howitz still green.

With a final glance through the window behind her, she tapped the screen to bring up Howitz's details, still no readings. She tapped the screen a few more times and it returned to the main overview.

Jennings appeared around the corner cautiously and jogged up to the medic when he saw her there. She shook her head sadly and Jennings slowed down to a walk. Bringing out his own tablet he checked the area map. He and Tammy were bright yellow dots, a small white cross only meters away showed Howitz's final resting place.

Neither of them were looking through the window when it passed... No longer the beast it once was but a bloody mess, the orange monster Howitz had seen had somehow survived the explosions and now, with a face full of shrapnel and a jaw full of death, it wanted revenge...
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#183 Snikers

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 05:25 PM

"Uh..." Jennings's voice stuck in his throat. He had known Howitz, talked with him on the training grounds a few times. "Maybe he got away."

Tammy motioned towards the tablet in her hand, but Jennings persisted. "Well, it could be a, a malfunction maybe. I mean, it was a blast, right? Didn't Fitz have something like that? He...I don't know. I mean, there's no body..."

Tammy looked into the window again, biting her lip, and turned back to Jennings. Her mouth was open, about to say something, but words died when she looked at Jennings.

Some people may have asked what was wrong, but Jennings was a soldier just as Tammy was, and everyone in X-Com was, and was already turning, weapon coming to bear. But his finger fell off the trigger when he realized he was about to shoot a tongue of flame at something so close. Jenning was just inside the mouth of the narrow alleyway, and suddenly, the reports that civilians were reporting demons became much more believable.

It was one of the huge monstrosities that had thrown a car at him, but horribly altered. Jennings knew it had to be injuries from the blast, but his mind screamed that this couldn't be real; nothing so nightmarish could be real. Its furry flesh was torn and shredded on its broad back. Its mammoth legs were twisted, mangled, its long clawed toes twisted at unnatural angles. Its head was worst of all, blackened and the flesh almost torn off the skull; sharp bone made up half of its face, exhibiting a permanent grin where the lips had been torn away. Its lower jaw fit poorly to its top where it had been broken, some teeth missing, others simply stabbing its own gums.

Jennings threw himself backward, into the alleyway, fuel tanks clanking against the ground. Tammy was already backing up, fast - she knew the way these things could move, and she wanted as much distance as possible - but Jennings realized something.

"It's too big" he shouted as he pushed himself backward, getting to his feet, grin forming on his face. "The alleyway's to narrow for it to get in! The - "

And Jennings was proven both right and wrong when the giant roared and smashed one shoulder through the wall of the exploded warehouse and brought a jaw down on Jennings's upper arm. The only reason the soldier's limb was not instantly amputated was that its teeth was now crooked, broken, and inncapable of created a tight enough seal. As it was, all it did was tear effortlessly through flesh and lift Jennings into the air like a doll. The creature thrashed its head, planning to smash the soldier to the ground at a force that would crush his bones like eggshells, but the its broken jaw failed it again. Jennings went soaring out of the creatures grip, sailed across the street, and landed on the far sidewalk. His momentum carried him until his head and fuel tanks slammed into a wall. Colourful lights exploded in his vision and his body suddenly felt numb.

The creature roared and swung its head, bringing it into a remaining portion of the warehouse's wall. The weakened structure of the wall snapped under the blow, bits of material bouncing off its blackened skull and into the alleyway as it focused its attentions on Tammy. The medic drew her pistol and fired. Inside her mind, the probabilities of Jennings's survival and, if so, his likely condition and required treatment were calculated. Bullets thudded into its muscular back and traveled down towards its head, and Tammy was rewarded with a flash of what had to be brain as a lucky shot smashed into one side of its skull.

Except somehow, it looked like the creature wasn't quite so fond of its brain as the rest of us. And while it kicked and screamed as its cerebral matter splashed against the wall, Tammy could see as its eyes rolled back to look at her, and it gnashed its teeth, and it didn't die, and it prepared to leap. And then rolling orange flame swept along its back, and it was suddenly engulfed in flame; bursting fire rushed over its body like it was soaked in gasoline.

Jennings was hurt. He was pretty sure he'd broken ribs and, judging by the way his vision swam and rolled, he had a serious concussion. But he was still able to roll over onto his back, steady the nozzle of his flamethrower on his elbow and fire a jet of flame at his attacker. Seeing it erupt in flames brought nothing to him - he vision was too blurry to tell - but he was able to hold down the transmit button on his radio and speak. "This is Jennings! Tammy and I have a--"

Tammy could not understand why the creature could act after losing a brain but, after catching on fire, began to look like this - screaming a high animal wail and spasming wildly, one foot punching right through a yet undamaged wall, and staggering into the street. Insane, wild, the creature furiously attacking the first thing it saw - Jennings. Tammy could see as the soldier - not reacting in time, obviously injured - only look up at the walking inferno before giant jaws clamped down on him.

The teeth cut through the harness for the flamethrower and slashed Jennings's skin, though they were too broken to continue into his chest. Jennings's radio was thrown out of his hand and he was shaken from side to side, effortlessly lifted from the ground. His panicked scream continued as the creature ran, attempting to escape the fire that covered its body, down the street as Tammy rounded the corner, reloading her sidearm, in pursuit.

It made four blocks in a blink of the eye before the thrashing finally tore the harness apart and Jennings was thrown free, slamming into the ground. He blinked blood out of his eyes and saw the alien still swinging the flamethrower apparatus about, the straps caught in its teeth. Jennings watched, feeling a million miles away, before he noticed that as it bounced about the alien's back the tanks had caught ablaze.

Fuel burning. Fuel burning bad! Jennings tried to jump to his feet but instead could do little more than roll. He hit the curb and fought to gain a crawling position. His swirling fuzzy gaze scanned and he saw an alleyway to the side of a small store, and crawled. He dragged himself around the corner just as the fuel tanks exploded.

It was finally enough to end the alien's existence as pressurized fuel, bouncing about its head, blasted its skull to pieces. The body thrashed, nerves dying, on the street as flaming jelly coated everything for several metres and very nearly hit Tammy, who had caught up with the beast just in time to see its dramatic end.

She had also seen Jennings's retreat. Hopping between pools of flame, she came upon the alleyway and ducked into the shadow, pulling the Medikit out of her pack. Jennings's dark eyes focused a point somewhere in front of her forehead. "Is it dead?" he mumbled.

"Yes," said Tammy, noting the blood flowing freely from nearly every point on the soldier's body. "It's dead."

"Mrnm." Jennings gave a clumsy smile. His gaze shifted to somewhere to the left of Tammy's chin. "Good."

"Jennings? I need you to listen to me. Did you hit your head? How do you feel?"

Jennings's arm darted forward, his hand clamping around Tammy's wrist. "Is it dead?" he asked again, furious intensity in his voice.

Tammy was just about to mumble to herself about how her question had been answered when she felt a sudden rush of heat to the side of her head. A bolt of green blasted into the wall just over Jennings's shoulder, to the complete lack of response on the latter's part. Tammy herself drew her sidearm and swiveled, spotting a rifle-toting alien hovering ten metres in the air. She fired off three quick shots, then grabbed Jennings and pulled him against her wall.
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#184 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 02 July 2006 - 11:06 AM

Holding Jennings upright with her shoulder, the medic ejected her mostly empty pistol cartridge and slotted in a fresh clip. Well, now, this might be tricky...

The welcome sound of conventional rifle fire sounded out, followed by a gutteral moan and a wet thunk of flesh and metal against concrete. She glanced down at her positioning tablet - Sure enough, Ripper and Ibsen had finally arrived. Better late then never.

"Any luck with Howitz?", said Ibsen, his head sticking out around the corner.

"No sign of him. The positioning tablet shows his pack, but it's stopped showing him." She took another look at the unit status screen, and noted that Howitz's entry had finally changed to red.

Ibsen nodded grimly as Donovan moved past him, alternately checking the ground and sky for more targets. Tammy started to lower Jennings to the ground, grabbing the MedKit from where she'd let it fall as she'd fired. The man had paled considerably, and she recognised the early stages of shock. She sighed, and started to work.

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

As Tim arrived at the remnants of the gas station, he found Ki-tat and Warlord sitting back to back on the cement. Thomas waved at him.

"We found another of those floating things in the gas station. Most of it got in the way of the roof."

Tim opened his mouth to speak, then caught himself and just nodded. The gas station was quite an impressive wreck; the tanker had been thrown over, it's side torn right open. Most of the building was obscured by the roof, which had splintered and broken where it had fallen on what remained of the pumps. A decent sized hole had opened up amonst them, and the majority of smoke was coming from that - though there were still spot fires scattered about the area. The place looked like it had been bombed.

While Ki-tat had no visible injuries, and was already starting to regain his hearing, Warlord looked like he'd been barbicued, the front of his jumpsuit like toasted bread. He'd undone the front and cuffs of the shirt, allowing it to hang loose, and taken off his watch and dogtags. Stuff like that would be rather difficult to remove if the burns made him swell up, even if only his hands and head had been exposed. Dispite all this, he didn't seem to notice his injuries, only occasionally tapping his ears as Tim moved to check out the remains of the blasted behemoth.

The ex-ASIO agent started as his radio fired up. Ricks' voice came over the com.

"How are they?"

"Well, Ki-tat seems fine, and Warlord hasn't taken anything that'll slow him down. That's if you discount their hearing - Again, for Ki-tat that shouldn't be a problem, but neither of them will be much use for the next hour or so."

"Take them both back to the 'Ranger, but don't take your time. We're running out of units."

Rick sighed as he hung his radio back on his shoulder. They had two units down, and the remaining active members were looking after the wounded. But, they were still ahead of the aliens. Command had pointed out to him that going by the size of the alien's dropship there'd probably be a handful more of the floaters and perhaps one more of the two-legged war hounds. Luckily, it seemed the purple brutes weren't very good shots - If a human had to kneel to fire with accuracy, then a being with no legs would be entirely at the mercy of air currents. Even so, they had a large stealth advantage... But with any luck those remaining wouldn't be co-ordinated enough to stage an ambush.

Also counting in X-Coms' favour was the lack of natives. Whoever had been in charge of clearing the area had been more efficient then Rick could ever hope for - There didn't seem to be a single non-combatant in the area. Certainly, it wouldn't have been his fault if there was, but it did make debriefing easier not having any third party casualties.

He'd moved out of the marina into a small area of fishing shops. Someone had left their radio on - It wasn't in english, but he picked up the repeated term "Buenos Aires" easily enough. He continued to creep along under the cover of the overhanging roofs, checking for unlocked doorways as he advanced. There was the sudden noise of a plasma blast, and then the radio cut out. He grinned. Ah...
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#185 Snikers

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 01:06 AM

Jennings carefully picked up his flamethrower and crept out into the road. His nerous eyes peered up and down, but saw nothing. Slowly, he took a few more steps forward.

He heard a growl. Spinning, he was shocked by the sight of the lumbering behemoth earlier - still alive. It was smoking, charred and burnt, but as he watched it grinned a horrible grin and leapt at him.

There was no time to dodge. Jennings screamed and fell backward, expecting its titanic black teeth to rip into his throat. But the pain never came, and when Jennings opened his eyes he saw the alien's face inches from his. It contained a feature he didn't remember, however; that of a shining steel blade portruding from its forhead. The blade slid upward, splitting the alien's skull in two. It slumped forward onto Jennings's legs, pinning him to the ground. Jennings bent back his head and saw the bearer of the sword; an incredibly attractive Japanese man, dressed in black attire. A rifle was slung over his shoulder and a modified Desert Eagle hung from his hip, as well as a plethora of other battlefield equipment.

Suddenly, there was a bizarre alien battle cry, and the edges of Jennings's vision was alive with movement. More of the armed, floatiing aliens - "Floaters" would be good enough a name, he supposed, leave the creativity to the scientists - appeared from outside the soldier's field of vision and soared about the sky. They were all armed with rifles but for one with the huge off-white plasma weapon, and Jennings lifted his flamethrower. It was immediately clamped back down by the foot of the mysterious newcomer.

"Don't worry," said the Japanese man in a melodious voice. "These are mine."

The one with the off-white cannon - something Jennings had heard could punch through a car, through he wasn't sure that was true - levelled its weapon first, and a rush of fear hit Jennings' system before he saw the Japanese man leap. It was like nothing Jennings had ever seen - from a standstill, the man soared metres into the air as if supported by wires. His body was carried majestically to the floater where he delivered what looked like a simple open-palm strike to the side of the Floater's neck. The blow sent the floater soaring sideways, though it kept its grip on the white cannon.

The man continued his glide until he came into contact with another floater - "collision" would not be an appropriate word, for there was nothing but grace in his movement. One foot landed on the floater's base sphere, and suddenly the sword was in the man's hand - it had been drawn too quickly for Jennings to see. The man backflipped off the floater, but as he did, there was a flash of light as it reflected off the sword and a spray of blood into the air. The floater looked normal for a second, before it fell to the earth - in two biscected pieces.

As the man spun through the air, the rifle - Jennings could see now that it was an AK-47 - was retrieved from his back. Even before he hit the ground it was firing, and lines of blood were being drawn up the bodies of two floaters. Both ended with shots punching through their skulls, leaving a trail of blood behind as a sort of makeshift tracer. The gun did not fire actual tracer rounds, however - Jennings could see that the man didn't need them. By the time he had hit the ground, another floater had been felled to the rifle, which seemed to barely show recoil at all.

As soon as his feet touched earth, the man threw the rifle into the air. He drew the modified Desert Eagle and started to fire. Even a single shot was able to blow the aliens' organs out of their backs, and one to the head was sufficient to reduce said extremity to a mist. The floater with the cannon still existed, Jennings assumed, only because he had not yet returned as a threat; only now was it regaining control of its movement.

It was only at this point that the aliens, so reduced by their inferior training, had time to fire. One that had avoided being shot or slashed started spraying snap shots at the man. Jennings was about to warn him, but saw that he had the situation under control when the Japanese man calmly avoided the bolts of green plasma with barely a small step at a time. Shots missed him by inches, but he seemed unconcerned, until at one point when he turned and fired his handgun at the alien. The bullet passed through a bolt of green plasma in midflight and came out the other side as an ultrahot slug of liquid metal. It punched into the alien's chest cavity, which immediately burst into green flames. The man calmly bent to the side, avoiding by hairs the final plasma round, as the floater was roasted alive.

More floaters soared into view, but Jennings knew they were but moths yearning to crumple and die in a candleflame. With a shake of his head, the Japanese man holstered his pistol. "So much limitation in guns," he said quietly, his melodious singer's voice clearly audible. "True strength can only come from one's own spirit..."

With a flash, the sword was in his hands again, and Jennings only saw a blur when he moved. There was a whirlwind of wavy-patterned steel as floaters were reduced to pieces of their former selves. Jennings saw the head fly off of one alien directly above him, its face forever frozen in a state of surprise as it bobbed into the air.

When only three floaters remained about him, the man sheathed his sword and had only his empty hands - thus resorting to his true ultimate power. A heel of the hand to one floater's chin instantly snapped its neck. An elbow to the chest of the second collapsed its ribcage, causing bloody vomit to spray out of its mouth before it fell stone dead to the street. The last tried to level its rifle, but the man grabbed its arm and twisted. There was a horrific popping sound as every joint was torn to shreds. The floater looked about to scream when the severed head of its compatriot fell back downward and passed in front of its face; the man drove a fist through the skull of the severed head, and continued on to punch right through the skull of the living without the slightest hint of effort.

And as the dead floaters fell away and the man dropped to the ground, Jennings saw that the floater with the cannon was still alive. It levelled its weapon at the man's back and seemed about to pull the trigger, when it suddenly made a choking sound and grabbed at its throat.

The Japanese man turned a condescending look over his shoulder at the floater. "That hit I made ruptured every blood vessel in your throat. You're drowning in your own blood."

The floater wrapped both hands about its throat, but to no avail. It gave an oddly human-like scream before fountains of blood gushed out of its throat, and it fell spasming to the road.

From the sky fell the AK-47, which the man caught with a dextrous movement before resting over his shoulder, barrel pointing behind him. He adopted a casual stance and looked down at Jennings.

"Oh my god, that was amazing! How much ammo do you even have left?" cried Jennings, overcome with admiration for the Japanese warrior before noticing a floater corpse behind him shifting.

"I have more than enough," said the man as a wounded, but alive floater rose from the ground and pointed a rifle, before the AK-47 barked - without moving from its position of pointing behind its owner from over his shoulder - and the floater was felled with a shot to the head. "And now I have none."

"What..." Jennings's words caught in his throat. "What's your name?"

The man looked down at Jennings through his deep, handsome eyes before speaking. "Oroku Gawa - or my enemies whisper, Night Stalker." He looked up at the sky. "I must now take my leave."

"Wait" shouted Jennings as Night Stalker leapt out of his vision, and he struggled to free himself from beneath the gigantic corpse. "X-COM needs you! Come back! Come back"

* * * * * * * *

"Come back...come back..."

"What's he talking about?" asked Ibsen, looking down at the heavily wounded Jennings.

"He's not talking about anything," said Tammy. "I had to give him some drugs for the pain, and to make sure he doesn't do anything in his concussed state. I'm amazed he's able to dream at all."

Ibsen's face went grim as he looked down at the heavily wounded body of his teammate, and he nodded.

* * * * * * * *

Greg Conner, otherwise known as "Ghost", was living up to his name. He had been with Ki-Tat before the latter had heard of Warlord's distress, and taken off like a bat out of hell. Ghost was fast, but even he had to admit that Ki-Tat was going at a rate he couldn't even expect from a human being. He'd have to, anyway, to get to Warlord - Ghost didn't know what he expected to do to help a man all the way across the bay...

The point was, Ghost was now alone, and if there was one thing he had learned from his Delta Force stealth missions, it was that the lonely get hidden or they get dead. And hiding was one thing Ghost was good at. So good, in fact, that an alien had soared right over top of him while he was between shops and hadn't even spotted him. So good, that Ghost had been tailing the alien, keeping out of sight, for a good minute now and it had been none the wiser. Ghost figured he could have killed it at any time with almost no risk of reprisal, but it was that "almost" that worried him. Alone, even the smallest chance that the alien could get off a shot could very well mean his death. So while he figured the odds were overwhelmingly in his favour, Ghost preferred to stay out of sight until he was absolutely sure he would have the drop on the alien.

He got his chance a few seconds later. The alien had gone inside one larger shop, the garbage bags of rotting food stuffs outside suggesting a restuarant, and had left an easy trail for Ghost to follow.

I can't believe it! How is it possible? seethed Ghost. To understand the concept of doors enough to know to open them, to even use the knob - but not have the manners and decency to close it behind them?! It's outreageous! It's outrageous and terrificially rude. I should complain about their terrible manners. I should - As he followed, he heard the sound of a radio very close by. He couldn't understand it, except for the final portion as a plasma rifle fired and the radio ceased. Ghost was able to translate that well enough.

Ghost leapt to the final door, saw it led into the main eatery, and saw the alien. Its side was to him, but it was distracted by the exploding radio. It was barely four feet away. He pointed the pistol and fired -

Except the trigger was of a different weight than he was used to, and it went off at the wrong time. Which was, in fact, a very good thing, as the shot flew past the alien and the serving counter to hit a table a few metres away. And as the antiphotons hit the wood, they reacted - creating a burst of searing heat that flew over the alien and continued to Ghost. He got rather little of it, being behind the cover of the alien, which was lucky because even as it was his exposed skin instantly recieved the equivalent of a sunburn.

Ghost shouted in surprsie and fell back away from the door, blocking himself from the alien for maybe half a second. Cocking hell! What the hell kind of dentists do these people go to! he thought to himself.

But he knew what had happened. Leave it up to scientists to design a science experiment when they should be making a weapon. The gun didn't throw off a bad amount of radiation to the user so long as it had the range to dissipate - normal weapon ranges, or at least, outside. Inside, however, at extremely close distances, there was still enough radiation to hurt the user. And Ghost knew just enough science to know that much radiation was Bad News.

He expected the alien to come after him with its much more indoors-friendly plasma gun, but he was saved. From the other side of the restauant he heard a door burst open, and heavy human boots clomp on the floor. It was a human...but that meant...

"DON'T USE THE LASER GUN!!! Ghost rolled to his feet as Tim's finger pulled away from a nerly depressed trigger. Other soldiers may have disregarded the advice, but X-COM was the best of the best and Tim trusted his teammate, whose voice he recognized as Conner's. Trust didn't mean the situation was resolved, however, and the alien was swiveling, plasma rifle coming to bear on him. Apparently useless/dangerous/something laser pistol in his hand, he dived behind a table and pulled it down to provide cover. Pulling a grenade off his belt, be peered around the cover to see the alien was much too close to use the grenade on - in fact, so close its gun was pointing right at his head...

...when an arm wrapped around its neck and pulled backwards, throwing off its aim, and second arm plunged a combat knife into its throat. "You have terrible manners, by the way," hissed Ghost's face, appearing over its shoulder; apparently, Ghost was more than deserving of his nickname and had noiselessly moved from his hiding place to the alien's back.

However, it was unfortunate that as quiet and skilled with a knife as Ghost was, he was used to fighting human opponents. It was more unfortunate that though human necks are a vulnerable portion of the anatomy, all the vitals of this alien's neck were protected by layers of muscle and bone. And so, while a knife to the neck was certainly disturbing to the alien, it was by no means lethal. And that allowed it to pull away, bringing its rifle to bear.

If they were outside, this would be the end of the X-COM soldiers. However, the complications of the environment finally began to work in the humans' favour; this particular alien was quite fond of its ability to fly. So much, that as a whole they fight and move with the presumption that they would have room to make the use of three dimensions. However, the ceiling was low, and the alien had to glide unsteadily to the side. And while it could do this quickly, quicker than most people could react, X-COM agents were not most people. And Ghost, extensively trained in Close-Quaters Combat, reached out and grabbed the end of the alien's rifle.

Immediately he could feel the barrel, still hot from the plasma that it had fired into the radio, burning his flesh. With one fluid movement he pulled the gun towards himself and pivoted, delivering a strike with his other hand to the creature's elbow. Again, alien anatomy got in the way and its grip stayed strong.

Whatever. Ghost yanked the alien towards himself a delivered a crushing elbow to its face before twisting its arm, trying to force it to drop the gun. This only seemed to tighten its grip, and as its gigantic hand closed around the grip green plasma bolts ripped into the floor. Blasted burning embers flew across Tim's face, whose training didn't allow to do much more than watch and maybe cheer.

Ghost gave up on his disarming maneuvers and just yanked on the gun proper. It popped out of its hand easily, but Ghost dropped it to the floor. Too unwieldly at this range. And anyway, without duct tape, it would take both hands on the grip to fire, something he certainly couldn't do with some purple thug all up in his face like -

The alien delivered an outstretched arm and a closed fist to Ghost's jaw. The soldier's head snapped back and his jaw closed with a metallic snack sound. His vision reeled and all he could think was: God, he's a strong sunuvabitch, ain'he?

It was a good thing he was so trained he didn't have to think. The alien swung at him again and he grabbed its arm, twisting under it and smashing it across the face. He spun, rolling across its body, and delivered a punch to where its temple would be, were it human. It wasn't human, however, and an individual lump of bone stuck out from its skull and succeeded in breaking Ghost's ring finger. Grabbing its other arm and locking it in a hold proved slightly more useful as he brought a knee up into its midsection, right where metal met flesh.

A gnarled purple arm swung about and was blocked by Ghost's own, but he wasn't expecting the alien's anti-gravity machinery to lurch backward and pull him off balance. Another blow smashed into his head and threw him backwards, falling onto a wooden table that shifted under his weight. The alien started to pull away, heading back towards its weapon, when Ghost jumped furiously off the table and jammed his heel into its back. He followed this up by grabbing the bizarre cape it wore and yanking, pulling it towards him. He then just let loose; delivering a flurry of punches, knees, elbows and slasms to anywhere he could. He no longer cared about hitting when it hurt, as it seemed this monster was deliberately constructed just to frustrate him; he just wanted to keep it busy.

"Tim, goddammit, do something! I don't know how to kill this bastard"

"Then move and let me shoot, Conner, you're blocking me" Ghost paused to look over his shoulder and saw Tim, crouching, both hands wrapped around the grip of the rifle, the end of it placed on a table. The ex-Delta Force operative locked an arm around the alien's neck and held it still, almost like some twisted version of friends with arms across each other's shoulders.

"Say cheese" shouted Ghost as a bolt of green fire, like the tongue of a dragon, shot from the rifle and buried itself in the alien's midsection. There was a frankly horrific smell, though not so bad as those of the bug-eyed grays, as its torso opened up and burned organs and circuitry spilled from the wound. Its anti-gravity abruptly died and it crumpled to the floor. Ghost, who suddenly became aware of pain lancing about from most of his body, fell back against a table, panting heavily.

Tim stood up. "So, now that we've almost died, why can't I use the laser?"

"Goes off like a firecracker at close range. No one figured we'd be firing pistols that way. Goddamn lasers." Ghost's face twisted into a grimace and he started furiously kicking the corpse in between words. "It's things - like this - that make - me wish - I had - my CAR-15 - if someone - didn't give - me crap - about the number - of items - on the goddamn - plane"

Tim rolled his eyes and looked away, then back. "Wait a minute. Conner?"

"Yeah?"

"Didn't you get killed by that big alien?"

Ghost tilted his head and took on a confused expression. "Didn't I what?"

"When we got out of the plane. Didn't you get hit by that alien?"

"What? No, that was Dodge."

"Oh." Tim was silent for a moment. "Damn. Dodge...damn."

"Yeah." Ghost nodded and looked away, before muttering to himself. "They do so count."

"Hmm?" asked Tim.

"Huh?" answered Ghost, feigning obliviousness.
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#186 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 05:14 PM

Rick sidled into the restaurant following his rifle barrel, but relaxed when he saw the two other soldiers standing over the alien corpse. "I got another one in the next building over. We should be running out of targets soon."

The men started as a sudden but distant roar sounded out across the bay. The squad leader talked into his radio with the beginning of a grin coming onto his face. "That noise what I think it is, Gia?"

"Roger that. Seems someone doesn't want to play with you guys anymore."

The grin continued to grow as the three looked at each other. "I guess we kicked arse," stated Ghost. And that pretty much summed it up.

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

Cheese watched Gias' craft accelerate as it followed the alien drop ship away from the city. Attacking it while it was over the area was unthinkable, but with any luck she'd be able to fire off some shots prior to its planned escape. Like its predecessor, the ship had hovered over the area throughout the battle, but this one hadn't bothered to land before leaving. That meant that either there weren't any soldiers worth collecting - Or there weren't any ground forces left at all.

Ki-tat wandered down the ramp leaving Warlord reclined across several of the Rangers side seats. Not much of Dodge was left visible due to the immense bulk of the alien that had collapsed on top of him. Jennings and his escort crew were coming into range, and made for a much less depressing sight, despite the fact that he was on a stretcher. It was better then a body bag.

"What happened to him?" yelled Ki-tat. "Thomas won't let me have my radio back."

"Well, we got what we reckon to be the last of them. Howitz is either crushed or vaped, and Stump here is just about both, but other then that we've taken no more casualties."

Ibsen gave Ki-tat a quizzical look as he nodded at his response. "Your ears back in order, are they?"

"Other then the ringing noises, and the pain, they seem to be working ok now. I wouldn't recommending sneaking up behind Warlord though, he's a scary man when taken by surprise and he's still not hearing anything."

Tammy gave Jennings another quick check before moving into the Ranger, before Ripper and Johann carefully lowered the man to the ground. He'd stopped his murmering, but was still shifting restlessly from time to time.

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

Tim was just about to step back out onto the street when an almost imperceptical noise on his left made him pause. He waved at the two behind him to be quiet, before slowly edging out the door, combing the area with his eyes and gun.

The men behind him followed him out, and moved to take up positions behind the seats which the eatery had spread along outside the building. Rick heard a second noise just as he began to step out, but this time on his right - He spun around with his rifle raised, coming face to face with Howitz performing a near identical move as he stepped out from the alley alongside the restaurant. The smaller man quickly raised his hands as he realised his mistake.

"Uh, sorry about that. I heard gunfire in there, didn't know who was gonna be coming out the door..."

The grenadier slipped past his squad leader back into the room just vacated, and whistled under his breath at the purple mess on the floor. He was missing his jumpsuit, but this was the second most noticable thing about him - Usually never seen without an explosive of some sort, the only weapon he had visible was his laser pistol.

"I saw the UFO head off. I suppose this means we're done here? Only I got some stuff to take care of, if you guys could give me a hand moving corpses..."

Ghosts' tongue caught up with him first. "You're not dead?"

This met with a confused look, followed by a theatrical display of self inspection. After checking his own pulse, Howitz shrugged, "Well, if my med training thus far is worth anything, I'd say... Nope."

"So what happened?"

Looking slightly embarrised, Bomber related his story. After finding himself trapped in the warehouse he'd managed to take cover behind one of the support pillars before the charges had gone off. When the dust had settled enough that he could breath again without covering his face, he'd found that the crates had softened enough of the blast that the buildings walls hadn't given out. After a bit of cutting work with his laser pistol, he'd managed to get out, but he'd had to leave the majority of his equipment behind due to it catching fire.

"So there's a decent amount of corpses in there up for grabs, but more importantly my pack's still in there. We'll need to detonate it before we let the populance back in the area. If any of the safety pins got loosened, just touching the thing could be lethal. It's not like you can put them back in once they're out."

"It didn't go off with the rest of your charges?"

Howitz raised an eyebrow. "You see that building over there?" he said, pointing at the sagging remains of his structural victim.

The others turned to stare at the smoldering ruin just visible over some of the smaller constructions, and Ghost nodded.

"Exactly."
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#187 Ego Terrorist

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 01:51 PM

Washington DC

John rubbed the back of his neck, it had been rather stiff lately, all those late nights spent at his desk, and the mornings waking up at his desk were apparently starting to take their toll. The two Senators had both asked for a break after word had been received that X-Com were engaging an alien force in Buenos Aires.

Once the Senators had left the room Paul became increasingly withdrawn, the reason was obvious enough. John put a hand on Paul's shoulder. "Look Paul, you wouldn't get down there in time to make any real difference."

"It still doesn't make me feel any better." Said Paul who was was stuck in a conference room in the comparative safety of Washington DC while his comrades-in-arms were fighting off an alien terror force.

John nodded sympathetically. "Yeah." He didn't know what else to say. Often he would find himself observing a battle unfold via an overhead satellite from the safety of Pine Gap. His job wasn't to fight the aliens, his job was to figure out how and where to fight the aliens. Which was a hell of a problem given that the aliens couldn't be infiltrated, they didn't seem to have any form of communication, and there didn't seem to be any pattern to their attacks. What he needed was more information. Instead he was stuck here playing politics and having to deal with humanity itself. "We don't get paid enough for this crap." Said John.

The doors to the conference room opened and Valerie and a rather well groomed and smart looking gentleman in a black suit strolled in sharing a joke. He leant in and whispered something in her ear which made Val go an interesting shade of red. The gentleman turned and looked directly at John. "Hi John, how are you?"

John noted how Paul and Valerie exchanged a look of surprise. He forced a smile. "I'm fine Mac. Now would you like to tell me why the hell you're here?"

"Is that anyway to welcome an old friend?" Said Mac as he spread his arms open and gave John a wounded look.

"Yeah, well I'm still a little sore over the way you screwed me in Beloretsk-15."

A wry grin started to form on Mac's face. "You got out alive didn't you?"

"Barely." Was John's curt reply.

"Ah, they were good times." He made his way over to the table and propped himself up against it. "So enough reminiscing. I'm here to ask you, why are you here?"

"Surely Langley must have some analysts who can offer an informed guess?"

"Of course we do." He took a brief pause as he rummaged through his jackets interior pockets. "However I'd like to hear it in the flesh."

"Then you know why I'm here."

Mac sighed. "Okay." He pulled out a pack of nicotine gum. "I gave up smoking last year. The only thing that stops the cravings is about 4 or 5 sticks of this crap." He unwrapped a few of sticks folded them and placed them into his mouth and started chewing. "Did you know that there are a handful of high ranking brass that have commented on how crashes on US soil should stay on US soil?"

"No, but it doesn't exactly surprise me." For the last fifty years the US military had gotten used to being in command, and then all of a sudden a new international force had came along and started to take what should of been theirs. "But what interests me is why you're telling me this?"

Mac's face lit up with a grin. "Because the alien threat is one that threatens the freedom and independence of the democratic nations of Earth, and only by presenting a unified front can we hope to be victorious."

"Try saying that without the grin and I might actually take you seriously." Said John flatly. "So are you actually going to tell me why?"

"I think you know me well enough to know why." With that he got up and started walking towards the door.

Mac only cared about two things: The United States of America and himself. He was already hating himself for even considering this but Mac was a damn fine agent. "Mac, if you want to meet up for a drink tonight, I'll be in a bar on 34th Street called The Prince."

"Maybe I will." Said Mac as he pushed the door open and left.

The room fell silent as John stared at the door, thinking. Valerie was the first to break the silence. "What was that all about?"

"It doesn't matter." Said John after a few more minutes of contemplation. The last person he'd thought he'd see and the last person he had wanted to see had just walked in, did what he normally did and then left. "Anyway, I thought you said you were going to get us a coffee while you stretched your legs?"

Before Valerie could explain the two Senators walked back into the room. "Ms Deacon, we've been monitoring the situation in  Buenos Aires, you'll be pleased to know that the alien vessel has taken off, it would appear that the X-Com force has won this battle. Now perhaps we can continue with our negotiations, and perhaps come to an agreement that satisfies both our interests."

Behind John's expressionless face was a number of thoughts churning away. The terror attack on Buenos Aires was but one battle in a larger war, in the long run whether X-Com won or lost this battle would be a trivial concern.
...because at the end of the day the Soldiers that died can be replaced.
Meanwhile this meeting would have a long term effect on X-Com, as it would affect how large a force it could support and how well equipped they would be, R&D budgets would be affected, thus research into new weapons and defensive technology would be affected, construction of new facilities, replacing and procuring new fighters and transports. Any sort of a budget cut would be a tragedy.
Saving the Earth on a budget!

Edited by Ego Terrorist, 19 November 2006 - 01:22 PM.

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#188 The Veteran

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 10:48 PM

"I like Buenos Aires," said Ibsen nonchalantly.

"Yeah it's ok, I'd like to come back in the Summer. Apparently there are more humans around when the weather's nice."

Donovan and Ibsen had started to clean up some of the mess they'd made over the course of the mission, both dragging bags of alien artefacts, rifles and the like.

Warlord and Ki-tat were sat on the ramp at the rear of the Skyranger on lookout just in case one had slipped past them. Rick couldn't give them any orders they'd be able to hear so he figured that was the best use for them both!

Tammy was still sat nursing Jennings while Tim had left her to help Howitz with a little high explosive trouble before they let the kids back to play in the ruins.

"So what do you reckon's left in the bag then?" he asked the expert.

"Well bearing in mind how much of the building is left I'd say there are still two charges in there and I can't really see any grenade damage in here so they probably didn't go off either."

"What are the chances of that huh? I'd have kinda thought that explosives caught in an explosion would, well... explode"

Howitz kicked his way through some rubble picking up a charred plasma rifle here and there.
"Explosives are an art, they need a certain amount of input from a competent user in order to actually function. It's not 1945 anymore, the stuff I use is quality, every component used to make it is completely inert and unreactive unless its properly activated."

"So how come we have to detonate what didn't go off then? Doesn't what you just said mean that it won't go off unless you make it?"

"Well yes but you can never be too sure, its just a safety precaution really. It's like a razor in a girlfriends appartment, you never know what might have happened to it while you were away."

Tim nodded silently, he could certainly relate to that!

Donovan had left Ibsen to finish loading what they could into the Skyranger now and headed out to gather corpses, he was headed for the marina now but he had no idea how he'd get this one without electrocuting himself! Luckily he didn't have to think about it for long...

As he approached the pier he saw a figure dressed in blue with a cloth cap covered in lures sat on a fold up camping chair with a hot flask and sandwiches next to them. A fishing line dangled in the water next to 'Ki-tat's floater' as Rick had called it.

"I didn't realise they were letting civilians back in already", chuckled Donovan as he approached his squad leader.

"Just having a bit of a break," said Rick grinning up at the man behind him. "Besides I don't fancy any part of me in the water with that." he continued pointing at the still sparking alien base. He gave a tug on the line and both men watched as the alien drifted slightly closer to the pier before the cloth cape tore. "Could be a while with this..."

Donovan chuckled and wandered back to dry land leaving the Squad leader with a pat on the back.

Howitz meanwhile had just finished preparing his detonation and rather cleverly, or lazily, had stacked the disfigured blobs of what were once alien creatures all the way round the charges. There was no point taking it to the scientists just to have it be incinerated as useless biological material and the certainly couldn't leave it here so what the hell!

Tim was doing his 'brace yourself for an explosion' rounds but had perhaps lingered on Warlord and Ki-tat, who still didn't understand what he'd been trying to tell them, slightly to long! As he headed back out to find Rick, a massive eruption of smoke and flame tore through the very sky itself prompting the end of Bomber's task. It took a minute for the blast to clear but when it did Tim could have sworn there was never a building there in the first place!

With Jennings, Tammy, Ki-tat and Warlord already back at the Skyranger it was only Tim, Howitz and Ibsen left wandering the streets and it wasn't much longer until the cleanup was officially dubbed succesful. Somehow it seemed a waste of funding to bring the Osprey all the way out to Buenos Aires for a couple of mangled monsters but there was no way the crew were travelling nearly 8000 miles home with one of those things still breathing next to them.

The three soldiers finally managed to find their way to the pier where Rick was still fishing for floaters.

"What on earth..." muttered an astounded Tim.

"About time you boys got here, this things harder to catch than bigfoot"

"You're fishing?" said Ibsen with a raised eyebrow.

"Sure are," said Donovan turning to face his cleanup buddy with a grin. "Why don't you grab a rod and give us a hand?"

"Well I don't know about you two but I can't fish," said a rather confused Howitz.

"Ah, don't let a little thing like that stop you, I can't drive but they still gave me a licence," said Rick.

An hour later Doc radioed in to Rick. Gia had managed to down the terror ship just far enough off the coast for noone to run aground on it so the mission was officially over. Command had also arranged a local agency to fly the monster to Australia so all that was left for the troops to do was wait for them to arrive and make sure they didn't see what went into their vehicle!

When they arrived later that evening eight soldiers a medic and a pilot were quite happily chatting by the dockside with boots off and their feet in the water. All in all the day had been a good one. One fatality, but a brand new alien species in live captivity. The next mission was getting it home, but Rick wasn't too bothered about that. It was Tim he'd chosen to travel with it!
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#189 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 02:18 PM

Rick finished dumping the last of his armor suit onto the ground, while various engineers examined the discarded pieces for damage. The sour faced nurse from the med bay poked at his shoulder while he discussed matters with Dana.

"So it's not too heavy?"

"Heavy? Nah, but it could fit better. Wouldn't like to attempt the hundred meters in it."

The developer of the alloy forge added a few notes to her clipboard as her other crew members re-assembled the suit around a dummy near the wall. Although the design of both projects had been somewhat rushed, they'd each been quite easy to pull off; The forge was a lot like an electric generator - You put alloys in the middle of it, and they became as moldable as soft tin. The suit design was based on earlier projects outside of X-Com, but with the stronger and lighter material providing great benefits.

"Shouldn't be much of a problem. We'll be able outfit everybody with their own suit given a week or two, then we can start going into making adjustments."

Rick gave a small sigh of relief. Having personal armor suits so soon wasn't what he'd been expecting, and given how much he'd sweated in his, he didn't relish the thought of trying on someone elses miniture steam room. Besides, it'd be nice not to be the only one dressed as a clown.

He flexed out his arm a few times, producing a sniff of annoyance from the nurse who was trying to paste what felt like iodine on it.

"It's great stuff though. That hit I took would probably have taken my arm off if I hadn't had it on."

Dana tried to hide a smile as she continued to inspect the wear spots on the suit. It was nice to see a direct result of her work.

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

"So if I understand this, you came along solely to make it into this book thing?"

Conner shrugged, and pulled another swig of coffee from his mug. "Guy's gotta start somewhere. If I don't make kills, I don't get a prize. My last mission was a total flop." He waved his hand vagualy, displaying the splint holding his final three fingers out straight. "Lucky I swung with my left, or I'd be in real trouble..."

Tim leaned back in his own seat, tapping on the table between them while staring at the other man. "But you got a kill. So this and how many others, makes...?"

"No others. Just this one." Donovan reclined across two chairs, with his legs on the second. "He never got any greys."

"Ah. So he came along on this one to make up for lost time. I'd give up on it, though - Bomber seems to have a knack for this sort of thing."

Conner suddenly leant forward, nearly spilling everyone's drinks. "But my last mission didn't even involve any aliens! Plus, explosive kills shouldn't be counted. He's cheating."

Donovan waved a finger back, replying in a weary voice. "You try telling that to Warlord after what that gas station did to him. Besides, the book keeper has only one rule - you kill an alien - you get a point. That's it. End of discussion."

"But all his other points were human kills anyway, so he can't be leading"

"I heard it was four greys, and I counted at least three Floaters when I went into that building with him," mentioned Tim, between sips of his own coffee.

"Seven..." Ghost suddenly flopped back, looking thoughtful. "So how come the third squad didn't get sent off to this last one, then? It was their turn."

"Well, they don't have the numbers. Those new guys have only been here a day, they still have trouble finding the floor elevators, let alone the hanger."

"So they lose out too! They should already know enough to fire a rifle, and Fitz reckons he can go out -"

"Fitz has a nurse spying on him at all hours after he sneaked out on the Osprey the other week. Sure he's managed to get out of the medbay, but he's limping on both legs. Besides, Howitz would've ended up going anyway - He got assigned to that squad when Brick fell off that roof, and he isn't cleared for missions just yet. Bomber's the only other grenadier besides Gaston, so that's why he ended up in on that lastest mission."

Conner snorted. "Brick's up and about, he's just delaying his first mission. Anyway, if this keeps up, I'm gonna have to get me some of those high explosive packs... Those demolition guys get all the fun."

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

Meanwhile, in the medical ward, Howitz was wrapping bandages around the various burns he'd picked up. Beside him lay Gaston, who'd finally pulled out of his coma, and was making suitably pathetic moans whenever he thought he saw a cute nurse - namely Tammy - in the area.

"I'd watch that if I were you. You'll attract Old Lady Trouble."

The bed ridden man grinned back cheekily at him. "She's not here. Seems your squad leader, he isn't interested in visiting us, so she's gone out to hurt him for a time."

Howitz chuckled. The nurse who'd eventually scared (for want of a better word) Ki-tat out of the medical dorm was no less pitiless when dealing with her other patients.

"She has to run after yours as well - Fitzy was a walking bruise after what happened to him, but he won't come down here either. Ping should be fine though, he's better off then I am, and I should be alright if something doesn't come up in the next week."

The french man nodded sadly, his grin slowly fading. "You forget, I went to that hell hole, but only to replace the third of us. I think I prefer my position in the second squad."

Bomber shrugged. It was getting hard to keep track of where any given soldier was stationed, as various injuries and fatalities were causing constant re-assignments. He noticed the other soldier didn't have any happy memories of his last outing, and decided to change the subject.

"We've got working laser guns now, but they haven't ironed out all the bugs yet. I managed to avoid the majority of an exploding building only to nearly get fried by my own gun trying to cut myself free. I took it down to the engineering department but I've got no idea what they're gonna do about it."

He flexed his shoulders again. The pain was only starting to set in, as a tinge, but he knew from experience that he was going to be hurting in the morning.

"Ah, we're all just science experiments in the end. Look at me" Gaston nodded his head - about the one thing he could freely move - at the various drips hooked up to him. Howitz laughed at this.

"At least in your case it's doing something! I tell you, having access to all the latest wonder drugs on the market is working in our favour. We'd've had to release you and put you on a pension, but it looks like you might even be out of here in the next few weeks at the rate you're healing. But I'll give you this, the supply of demolition guys is running a bit dry. If this keeps up folks'll start to think we're jinxed."

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

Genega allowed himself a smile as he leafed through the variety of reports that had been arriving on his desk over the evening. For once, things were going right. Soon after recieving Gia's report that the south american harbour had been secured - admittidly with a casualty on their side, and a handful of injuries - he'd recieved a communication from Pickering about a funding bonus recieved from the national authorities. It was quite a nice sum, and had gone quite a way towards covering the new fighter jet being currently outfitted in one of the hanger bays.

On top of this, the piles of gear carried in on the 'Ranger would not only replace the usual troop outfitting costs, but improve upon their offensive potential. A nice supply of grenades had been included in the supply, which would lead to faster research on the explosives, along with another of the rare stun bomb launchers. He'd ordered in a large supply of stun prods - essentially tazers - but ranged weapons were going to be needed to start capturing live ETs.

Then there was the huge pile of corpses cooling down in the morgue. Contrary to being so much dead meat, he'd had Paul Johnson (Pickering's apparent understudy) root out a few blackmarket contacts, and once his own scientists had gotten enough information out of them there were plenty of people happy to pay big money for genuine alien bodies. He just hoped no Sectoid Sausages came out on the market.

The inclusion of a living alien seemed to be the cheery on top - although sustaining injuries that should've killed it on the spot, it was currently romping about a specially padded containment cell, terrifying eggheads as it tried (with no success) to bash it's way out. The holding bays had been specially modified to fit the smaller grey species' enviromental tastes, however the beast didn't seem to care what the air was like and already showed no signs of discomfit at its wounds. It'd be a nice spotlight point come his next debriefing to the nations of the world.

He reclined back in his seat, holding his hands behind his head, and allowed the chair to swivel around towards the view over the hanger bay. An old memory came back of feeling this way before - knowing that they could win. Knowing that they could keep X-Com alive, keep humanity alive.

He chuckled as the other half of the memory came back. He'd been knocked out in the command center in the middle of the night, knocked out in his own damn office, and no one had ever figured out who'd done it. Now he had a primary suspect - a Martin Terrick - down in the holding cells. He looked forward to personally conducting that interview, when the medics deemed the man able to speak with him.

Of course, there were other people down there as well to keep him busy in the mean time. They'd need to be dealt with before their owners - whoever they were - started causing him trouble. He sighed, picked up another pile of papers, and continued to read.

**** END CHAPTER 2 ****
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