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Welcome back to another "episode" of XCOM Team GIO. I cannot properly express my gratitude for everyone's support with this project and just how well it has been received by the community. You all are too generous, but you are the best. For those confused by what I am saying, this is an ongoing project whereby I play XCOM using GIO names and personalities with their permission, adding a story element to the game as I play. Writing these are a true joy, and I hope you get some small fraction of that joy by reading them.
If you'd like to catch up on the series, check out my blogs here and start with part one. For now, I present for your enjoyment XCOM Team GIO VII: The Killing Craft.
Through the sight picture of the S.C.O.P.E. Hist could see the team stacking up on the wall, preparing to enter the concrete structure. Shifting his rifle to the right, he could see any empty parking lot, dimly lit with overhead lamps. While the back area was too dark to see clearly, Hist could not make out any movement, so he shifted his rifle to cover the west of the team as the continued to discuss the best method for entry.
Hist's headset crackled to life, the voice of Captain Saint speaking clearly. "Get your team moving, Deadman! Standing next to the door debating your options isn't going to get you through this any faster." But the debate at the doorway continued.
To the left, Hist saw a flutter of movement.
"I've got a sectoid to the northwest, looks like the 1-2 corner of the building. He keeps popping his head around the corner, probably going to ambush the team." The words of Hist's spotter, Ashaman3000, confirmed his suspicions.
Hist nodded quietly, aiming into the shadows where he had seen the movement. Then it came again, the slight twist of the body and the over-sized head of a sectoid. "I've got him." Hist said quietly to his spotter.
Hist made the adjustments to the optics of his rifle, accounting for the distance and the light breeze. He mentally anchored his body to the ground, exactly as his mentor, Captain Gardner, had taught him. He breathed slowly, lining up his shot and held his breath as the crosshairs lined up over where Hist estimated the head of his target to be. He held his breath, paying close attention to his heartbeats. Thump...thump...thump... Immediately in between two beats, he fired his shot, the rifle recoiling violently as Hist lost the sight picture in his rifle.
Downrange, at the door, Corporal Deadman Walking flinched at the sound of the bullet erupting from the end of the Hist's sniper rifle. A mist of green and red spewed from around the corner of the building.
"Tango down, all clear." Ashaman said calmly over the radio.
Next to Corporal Walking, a new rookie, just delivered from basic training, started dancing on his toes. Without warning, he turned to the door, screamed, "LET'S GO!" and kicked down the door charging full speed into the building. The rookie was met with a hail fire of green bullets that splashed against his body and knocked him to the ground.
The lights in the XCOM training center turned on, revealing Captain Saint and Sergeant Mrkvicka standing on a catwalk overlooking the kill house the team had stacked itself in front of. Saint was leaning against the catwalk railing rubbing the temples of his eyes while Mrkvicka shook his head disapprovingly.
"Rookie," Mrkvicka started "what did you hope to accomplish by running into the kill house by yourself?"
"Sir, I sought to obtain room dominance through the element of surprise." The rookie responded, standing himself up and trying to wipe away the green paint that now covered his combat armor.
"Didn't quite pan out for you, did it?" Mrkvicka responded, shifting his gaze towards Deadman. "Corporal Walking, explain yourself, why did you keep your team outside of the door?"
"Sir, we were trying to come to a consensus on who would go first and how to clear the rooms inside." The Corporal responded.
"Deadman," Saint piped up next to the Sergeant "understand this one rule as a leader: your units live or die by your decisions, otherwise they will die by your failure to make decisions."
In the back of the training area, Hist and Ashaman stood from the positions they had been laying in and started towards the rest of their team.
"Hist!" Mrkvicka yelled, smiling. "Nice shot! But remember you are not allowed to lie down during combat, crouching behind cover only."
"Why?" Hist and Ashaman questioned nearly in unison.
"It doesn't matter why, that is just the way it is." Mrkvicka responded, irked by the question.
Saint and Mrkvicka's radios clicked on, the voice of Commander Noobtubin8er on the other end. "Sergeant Mrkvicka, Captain Saint, and Captain Gardner, I need you to report to my office immediately."
Captain Jack Gardner's voice responded over the radio first. "Can it wait? I'm in the middle of some calibrations."
"Of course it can wa-" the Commander started, suddenly stopping mid-sentence. "Wait a minute, I'm the Commander and when I say I want to talk, I want to talk. Get moving!"
Mrkvicka and Saint arrived in the Commander's office shortly after Gardner, who had already taken a seat with his crutches propped up against the desk. He clutched the wound on his leg where Ashaman had shot him, it was still sore even though the bullet went clean through the flesh. He nodded to the two as they entered and shut the door.
"Gentlemen, it is time to turn up the heat." The Commander stood from his seat behind the desk and clicked on the large screen behind him. The image on the screen was an alien craft, larger than any the team had seen before. "This," he said, pointing at the screen "was taken less than ten minutes ago in a remote part of Russia. We do not know why but the aliens landed here, we did not shoot this craft down. However, it represents a significant yet very risky opportunity."
The Commander paused, looking each Operative in the eyes, none betrayed any emotion. "This is a low risk opportunity to capture an alien and figure out why they are here, what their intentions are." He then looked at Sergeant Mrkvicka. "It's time to get our newer units in there to get some combat experience. Because once we do this, I can assure you we are opening the flood gates of violence from these...things. Sergeant, I want you in charge of this mission."
"Yes sir." Mrkvicka responded. He then looked between the three. "Any opinions to who goes with?"
Jack spoke up first. "Take Hist as your sniper. He has the skills and Ashaman needs to take a little...break." He rubbed unconsciously at the wound on his leg.
The Sergeant turned to Saint. "How about heavy weapons, Captain? Do you have any recommendations?" Mrkvicka asked.
Saint considered the question for the moment before cautiously responding. "Corporal Deadman Walking could use some leadership experience. Putting him in charge of a fire team would do him some good."
Sergeant Mrkvicka began to argue the point given Deadman's poor leadership performance earlier but stopped short when he saw the look of determination in Saint's eyes. "Alright, I'll also take Jones and Wadsworth. They have proven their worth in combat and could use some extra time in the field."
"Excellent!" the Commander exclaimed. "That leaves one more spot on the team and I have just the person. We have a rookie coming in who finished top of her class, Theora Craft. Put her through the paces out there and let's see what she's got." The Commander nodded, indicated their dismissal.
"Oh yes," the Commander added "the armory has some new gear for some of your crew. Check in with them and make good use of it."
Sergeant Mrkvicka arrived at the Skyranger to see his team already prepping their gear. In the corner, he saw the new soldier, Theora Craft, inspecting her newly commissioned laser rifle. Ghost stepped over and picked up her tactical vest, offering to help. Craft responded by grabbing the vest and hitting Ghost square in the chest, yelling something at him Mrkvicka couldn't make out. He laughed to himself, now comfortable he felt she would be able to hold her own in the field.
Sitting down on the Skyranger's bench, he called over Corporal Walking and Squaddie Wadsworth who quickly joined him in the Skyranger hold.
The Sergeant looked at them both in turn. "Deadman, you're going to be in charge of your own fire team on this mission. You're going to be in command of Squaddie Hist and the rookie. Your job will be to cover my fire team."
Deadman nodded solemnly in acknowledgement.
Mrkvicka turned to Squaddie Wadsworth and handed him the alien stunning device. "Wadsworth, you'll be on my fire team. Our job is to capture one of the aliens, a job I am putting in your hands." He placed the device in the Squaddies open hands and slapped him on the back while Wadsworth nodded his head, looking quietly at the device.
Seeing the two were ready for their assigned tasks, Mrkvicka turned to the rest of the team. "Come on...let's get this over with!"
Operation Frozen SparkRussian Woodlands
The Skyranger dropped the team off kilometers from their target, allowing for a solid plan of a surprise attack, but it left a good distance for the team to travel. After a couple of hours, their GPS units started to buzz lightly, signaling they were approaching the designated coordinates. Sergeant Mrkvicka directed them up a hilltop, moving slowly.
As the team crested the top of the hill, they could see the glowing door of an object that could only be their target some distance to the north. Deadman moved his team north and maintained watchful eyes to the west side of the aircraft while Mrkvicka's team moved directly north towards the craft, with the Sergeant watching their eastern flank.
Deadman had his squad take positions behind cover while he scouted forward, almost to the bottom of the hill. Leaning out from behind a tree, he saw three Thin Men, inspecting an area to the southwest of the aircraft. Suddently, the Thin Men turned towards Mrkvicka's team, having seen them approach the aircraft. Deadman had no time to think, opening fire on the crowd of alien targets but failing to connect with any of his shots.
It was in this moment that all hell broke loose.
From the northwest, two floaters came crashing through the trees, jet engines propelling them forward and a cloud of debris behind them. In the distance, more Floaters could be heard, apparently delayed by the dense foliage of the Russian forest.
As the two Floaters came into view, a laser blast came from behind Deadman. The laser disintegrated the first of the two Floaters to make their presence known. Looking back to where the shot had been issued from, Deadman saw the helmeted face of Corporal Jones nodding back to him and taking cover.
Deadman quickly turned to Rookie Craft and gave quick hand signals, ordering her to flank the enemies to the west. She quickly complied moving along the hill ridge to the west to circle around the alien targets, firing on the remaining visible Floater as she ran.
Mrkvicka's team dropped into the closest cover they could find, avoiding incoming fire from the alien onslaught. He turned to Squaddie Wadsworth, nodding and signaling for him to move in and stun one of the aliens.
One of the Thin Men charged towards Deadman, preparing to throw a ball of poison in his direction. Wadsworth broke from cover, sprinting as fast as he could towards the attacking Thin Man. The alien turned towards the sudden movement, surprised by the incoming enemy, but was still able to throw the container in Deadman's area, poisoning him.
Wadsworth crashed violently into the thin alien, ramming the shock unit into its chest. The shock blasted the Thin Man backwards on its back, motionless. Seeing the alien was out cold, Wadsworth scrambled for cover, trying to put something solid between himself and the remaining targets.
On top of the hill, Deadman scrambled away from the cloud of noxious gas. Another thin man charged forward, seeking to fire on the stunned operative.
Feet away from Deadman, Hist caught sight of the attacking Thin Man in his scope, firing reflexively. The shot blasted the target into a cloud of fumes and squishy innards. Hist looked over to Deadman who responded with a thumbs up, identifying he was alright.
But the moment of relief was short-lived. Three the three distant Floaters came crashing through the woods, anxious to join the fray. Without hesitation, they opened fire on Wadsworth, who tucked himself tightly behind his rock cover, green plasma splashing on all sides.
The firing stopped suddenly, as red lasers leaped from the south, shots from Rookie Croft, drawing the attention of the Floaters away from Wadsworth. Using the break in fire as an opening, Deadman stood from behind his rock cover, rocket launcher in hand. Aiming carefully between the Floaters, Deadman squeezed the trigger, the resulting explosion sending three of the Floaters flying back into the woods they had flown from moments earlier.
The remaining Thin Man ran for the cover of its space craft, but was blasted forward onto its face by a bullet from Hist's sniper rifle. At the same time, Mrkvicka charged forward, pistol blazing towards the remaining Floater who absorbed a couple of the shots and flew for cover to the west of the alien craft and out of sight.
Reacting quickly Mrkvicka looked up to Hist. "Take Theora and secure the prisoner alien and hunt down the remaining Floater, make sure it doesn't sneak up behind us." He looked over at Deadman. "We need fire support on the inside, but stay close to your fire team, so take up the rear of the entry assault."
Craft moved quickly to the stunned body of the Thin Man, keeping her weapon trained in the last known direction of the unseen Floater. Above her, on the hill, Hist took up a covering position, providing protection for Craft while she bound the alien's hands and feet with zip-ties and covered its head with a fabric bag.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team stacked up on the doorway to the alien spacecraft. Chuckling to himself Wadsworth looked to the others and said "I hope they don't have castle laws in space..." trying to ease the tension.
Mrkvicka smiled a little and shook his dead. Holding up his fingers, he gave a short countdown, opening the door to the alien UFO at the end. The team poured into the open room, Jones and Wadsworth entering first and moving to opposite sides of the room on the other side. The entry room was long, forking into east and west hallways at the end, doors on either side.
Mrkvicka entered with Deadman entering last. As he did so, Deadman caught quick movement on the outside and the sound of jet engines kicking on suddenly. He turned quickly to see the second Floater soar back into view, just above Rookie Craft. The alien opened fire on the rookie, shots tearing through her armor and knocking her on her back.
Deadman looked on in horror as Craft scrambled to find cover as she fired back at the Floater. But it was no use, the Floater had the advantage of elevation and no cover in the area would stop be sufficient to escape the barrage of alien firepower.
Without warning, the Floater ignited in a display of sparks and flame, a sniper rifle bullet having torn through its jet engine and setting it ablaze. "You're clear!" Hist called to the rookie. "You alright?"
Theora stood cautiously, wincing from the pain coursing from each wound. "I'll be fine" she responded, gritting her teeth and reloading her rifle.
Deadman nodded to the rookie, relieved she would survive what should have been a guaranteed death. He turned back to the team inside the craft, who were already stacking up on the western doorway, with Jones keeping an eye on the door to the east.
Over the radio, Hist's voice issued a warning. "I just saw two very large aliens entering the back of the craft, from the west. I couldn't get a shot, but they were HUGE. Theora and I are going to swing west and try to flank them."
"Negative!" responded Deadman. "Theora is hurt, you stay-":
Deadman didn't have a chance to finish his order as Craft's angry voice cut him off "I am breathing, walking, holding a rifle and able to move my finger. That means I can still kill 'em. Save your pity and sympathy for someone who needs it!" The tone of her voice made it clear no response was necessary, or welcome.
Mrkvicka refocused his team on the door. "If they are in the ship, they may be on the other side of this door." He said, deadly serious as he and Wadsworth pressed themselves against the wall to either side of the door.
Chris opened the door and he and Wadsworth turned in quickly, covering their assigned corners while Deadman kept his LMG trained on the center of the room from the hallway.
"Clear!" both Mrkvicka and Wadswoth called nearly simultaneously. The room was empty except for a power source in the center of the room on a raised platform. On the east side of the room was another doorway, leading to the center of the craft.
Mrkvicka scanned the room and got ready to pull the team in to enter the other room when he heard a noise from the other side of the wall. It was deep and guttural grunting. The Sergeant looked at the wall and at the door, memories of the energy-born alien flashing through his mind.
He held up his hand. If he went through the doorway, there was a good chance that alien would show up and his team would be fighting on two fronts. He realized he needed to be the dictating the flow of combat, not the aliens.
"Jones," the Sergeant called over the radio "I need you in here. Deadman, watch our backs." Jones and Deadman switched places, as requested. Once in place, Mrkvicka continued his orders. "Jones," he said pointing at the northern wall "I need a hole right there."
Jones understood immediately what he was asking and pulled a grenade from his tactical vest. Mrkvicka and Wadsworth ducked behind the steps, awaiting the coming blast.
"Fire in the hole!" Jones called, tossing ht grenade against the wall on the othjer side of the room and taking cover behind the southern door frame.
Shrapnel blasted out the doorway and past the team as the grenade exploded, demolishing the northern wall of the room. On the other side, two giant green brute-like aliens stood, dumbfounded by what had just occurred.
Mrkvicka and Wadsworth wasted no time, firing in rapid succession at the surprised aliens. Every shot found its mark, but seemed to do very little, the aliens seeming to laugh at the bullets from the rifle and shotgun of the two XCOM operatives.
The two beasts returned fire on both Mrkvicka and Wadsworth, hitting their targets repeatedly without fail. Blood seeping from their wounds, the two operatives tried to slide out of cover, pain blinding them with every motion. Jones tried to lean out from the wall to fire, but had to duck back into cover as the aliens fired on him as well. Deadman ran over to the doorway, opposite Jones, realizing the situation was dire, but he too had difficulties firing any shots on the aliens.
When all seemed over a grenade flew into the room from outside, Rookie Craft yelling "Danger close! Get down!"
The grenade exploded, blasting the two aliens backwards from the wall. Deadman and Jones exploited the opening in combat, finishing off the two large aliens in a hail of lasers and LMG bullets. The two beasts fell over hard on their backs, motionless.
"We're clear!" Deadman said, giving a thumbs up to Craft in the woods. "Nice toss, rookie."
Jones helped Mrkvicka and Wadsworth to their feet, dressing their wounds as best as he could.
"Well," Deadman said, turning towards the unopened door "now we just gather the bodies and get the heck out of here."
Deadman casually pressed the button to open the eastern doorway Sergeant Mrkvicka yelling for him to stop as he did so. As the doorway opened, a flash of energy gathered in the middle of the now open room, materializing into a glowing alien form that charged at lightning speed at Deadman, standing stunned in the doorway.
Hot laser beams raced past Deadman's head, smashing into the body of the oncoming alien, killing it instantly.
Behind the paralyzed Deadman, Jones stood, rifle barrel sizzling from the heat of the lasers, masked face betraying no emotion. "Cody says 'sit your ass down'." Jones said dryly.
The team finished cleaning up the site, gathering bodies and securing the Thin Man prisoner in the Skyranger with no further complications. Deadman sat, taking deep breaths, trying to stow away the adrenalin still running through his veins.
Jones sat down next to the Corporal slapping him on the back.
Deadman turned to the Jones. "Who is Cody?" he asked.
"My puppet." Jones responded. "He's kind of a womanizing jerk, but I love him."
Deadman raised an eyebrow, sub-consciously trying to move away from his fellow operative, whom he now thought may be completely mental.
The medical team was there to whisk away the injured teammates as soon as the Skyranger touched down. A team of operatives was on hand to take the prisoner off to be questioned.
Deadman unloaded his gear onto a rolling table to be returned to the armory as Captain Saint walked up to him, slapping him on the back. "For your first time giving life and death orders, you did quite well, I must admit."
Deadman returned a deadpan smile. "I almost got a teammate killed. If it wasn't for Hist, she'd be dead."
"You don't know that." Saint responded sympathetically. "We cannot know what will happen when we give orders. But we can be certain that if we failed to give orders, people will die. But, I am confident loss of life will be minimal with you leading teams, which is why we want you to do it more often." Saint laid down a set of Sergeant rank patches and pins on the table next to Deadman's gear. "Congratulations Sergeant."
Deadman stood speechless as Saint walked away confidently, talking jovially with Hist.