The tiny alien disappeared into the dense brush west of the UFO just as Jennings got into a firing position. Rick moved up to provide cover fire for Jennings' next move. But just as Rick moved, plasma blasts lashed out of the gloom. He hit the deck as Jennings fired a loose burst back down the line of fire. He swung quickly back behind a tree as return fire lashed his position. The two soldiers looked at each other and decided not to move. The tree trunk was burnt nearly through.
Meanwhile, the Blue team had pushed through the remaining thicket. They were only slightly south of the UFO and within sight of Donovan. Tammy ran to his side where Shuwei lay, checking her vital signs and wounds quickly. She pulled open the armored vest - and immediately saw the plasma bolt wound that had been hidden by the twisted vest and tangled clothing. It looked bad.
"Is she -" asked Donovan. Tammy looked up, then seized a dressing from her pack. "Put this on her forehead, press it there to stop the bleeding," she instructed. As Donovan busied himself, Tammy explored the wound with one hand and held two fingers against Shuwei's throat with the other. Her pulse was faint and fading. And then it was gone.
She said softly to Donovan, "She's gone. There's nothing we could have done for her with that wound. It would have taken a surgical team." She said the last for her own benefit as well as his. She asked Ki-tat to show her where John O'Malley's body had fallen, but immediately she could tell there wasn't even enough of a body to bother with.
Rick sized up his situation and realized the tree trunks wouldn't protect them from another barrage of plasma. It was time to set up a crossfire - and according to his map, Warlord was in the perfect position.
"Blue-1, this is Red-1. We need some fire support! We have an alien in the thicket at grid 65,80! Can you spare some HE?"
"Affirmative, Red-1," rumbled Warlord, turning to face the grid reference. From south of the UFO he could see most of the thicket. "Hold still." The autocannon barrel motor spun up to a snarling whine. Tim ran to the near corner of the UFO to catch any aliens that might poke their heads up to see what the noise was. The rest of the squad straightened up and took positions as well.
Warlord glanced again at the map, checked his aim, and pulled the trigger, raking the thicket with 20mm explosive rounds. The dense organic greenery erupted into a cataclysm of flashes, flames, flying splinters, toppling stalks, and falling branches, filled with a cloud of smoke and smell of cordite. Six rounds later, there was hardly any more thicket. Warlord ceased fire.
Rick risked another look. As the smoke cleared from the thicket, all he could see was smouldering wreckage. Then movement caught his eye, and he sent three shots into the grey figure even as it dazedly staggered to its feet. "Red-1! Hostile down" he cheered. Jennings reached over and gave him a high-five.
Rick and Jennings quickly moved into the remains of the thicket and took cover again, watching the ground to the north and the door of the UFO. Warlord and Tim held position at the south side while Ki-tat, Donovan, Terrick, and Tammy moved up the flank of the stormy grey monstrosity.
Ki-tat was the first to reach the door. The team hunkered down and waited, but nothing emerged. Neither could anyone see a control for the door. Ki-tat stood up to search the door more closely - and it flew open, sliding upwards into the hull. The two aliens standing on the other side of the door were nearly as surprised as Ki-tat, but their weapons were already aimed at the door, and the team surrounding the UFO saw a bright flash as Ki-tat got off a few wild shots before being blown backwards from the door by two plasma shots. Tammy cried out and made to run to him but Terrick held her back. Rick fired at what he could see of the aliens to no effect. From his prone position, Jennings lobbed a grenade through the open door. The aliens turned to it and the door slammed closed again. A very muffled explosion went off inside.
Jennings and Rick got ready to move on the door but Donovan held them back with a look. He and Terrick flanked the door, making sure not to touch it, while Tammy pulled her pistol and crouched by Ki-tat. She looked him over, bit her lip, and lay the pistol in the grass beside her so she could administer first aid. "I can pull this guy through, if no-one else," she said.
Nothing continued to happen. The four men waited, guns pointed at the door, while Tammy did her work. Finally Warlord and Tim returned from their scouting trip and pronounced the rest of the area secure. Tim moved up to lead position and with Terrick right behind him, opened the door again. The only sights that greeted him were the two grey little aliens collapsed on the floor.
The rest of the disk-shaped UFO was empty and intact, including the softly glowing orange pillar surrounded by instrumentation in the core of the ship.
One of the aliens moaned softly. Tim aimed his pistol at the grey head, then recanted. Instead he bound the arms and legs and whipped up a blindfold using Tammy's surgical dressing. A little interrogation might be useful to the investigative team - this was the first real contact he'd had with the ghosts he'd been chasing since Darwin.
Edited by JellyfishGreen, 17 December 2003 - 12:52 PM.