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It is late in the week and I apologize, life has been exceptionally busy both professionally and personally. However, I feel this will not diminish this next entry in the XCOM Team GIO series. For those new to the series, I am playing through XCOM: Enemy Unknown using the names and personalities of my flooew GIOers. After a mission or two, I add some story to it all, focusing on the XCOM operatives aand try to add a little more action to an already awesome turn based strategy game. If you'd like to catch up, check my blog page and start with Episode I here.
Now, it is my pleasure to introduce XCOM Team GIO Eight: Ashes of Memories Past
Silence permeated the Commander's office. Captain Gardner sat in one of the lightly padded visitor's chairs reading through the last after-action report from Operation Frozen Spark, pausing to look at the satellite images of the giant brute aliens the researchers had recently dubbed "Mutons", a slight shudder working its way up his back.
To Gardner's right, Captain Saint looked aimlessly through the satellite images flickering by in constant rotation on the Commander's display screen, each showing a different aspect of alien combat and technology.
In the seat next to Gardner, fidgeting uncomfortably with the badges covering his shrapnel wounds, Sergeant Chris Mrkvicka sat impatiently. He was not accustomed to attending these meetings. He was used to training the new recruits, getting them ready to kill with extreme prejudice.
The last week had been quiet with little to no alien activity. Small teams had been sent on assignments only to find no trace of legitimate alien activity. The teams had been getting impatient and placed on high alert due to the potential for reprisals for having captured one of the Thin Men, but none ever came. The building tension was becoming unbearable.
The door opened quickly, the Commander walking quickly into the room and shutting the door hastily behind him. Saint and Gardner snapped to attention with Mrkvicka standing as quick as he could.
"Have a seat." Commander Noobtubin8er said, taking his own seat behind his desk. Once seated, the Commander pulled out a manila folder from a locked drawer in his desk, the cover emblazoned with red the word "Classified" in bold lettering. "As you are aware, missions have been minimal lately. While some say the aliens have turned tail and run, I worry we are being given a false sense of hope."
The others in the room silently nodded their agreement, knowing the Commander wasn't quite finished.
"The interrogation of the Thin Man Sergeant Mrkvicka's team captured has yielded unclear results. We know just as much today about their plans as we did yesterday. However, we know that those energy-based aliens have something to do with this and we will need to capture one."
The three operatives began voicing their concerns all at once, standing from their seats in objection. The Commander quickly raised his hand before the commotion could spread, motioning for them all to sit back down.
"I know capturing an alien isn't easy and these particular aliens are even more complicated. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, I have some other issues I need taken care of." The Commander set the file folder on his desk and opened it.
"We have been getting a lot of reports of alien sightings, most leading to nothing more than a remote controlled airplane or a kid dressed in an E.T. costume. But this one is different." The Commander clicked a button on his desk and the screen behind him lit up, showing a satellite image of a cemetery. "We have had three separate sightings at this particular cemetery, all from different sources."
"Sure," Saint spoke up "but we have had a number of sources identify plenty of other locations as well. They either turn up to be empty when we arrive or, as you said earlier, completely bogus. I have been sitting in the situation room. I have seen the reports as they come in, how is this different?"
The Commander slid the folder across the desk to the Captain. Saint opened it, jaw going slack as he looked at the contents. He looked up to the Commander for confirmation, receiving an affirming nod in response.
"What is it?" Gardner asked, looking over to Saint, puzzled.
Saint handed Gardner the confidential file folder. Gardner opened the folder to find the names of his deceased comrades, Jeremina Mojomonkey12 and Jolt along with numbers next to their names. The numbers, Gardner realized, were coordinates. The coordinates next to Jeremina's name matched the coordinates on the satellite image behind the Commander. At the top of the page, Gardner noted the title of the document: "Resting Places of Confirmed XCOM Operatives".
Gardner shook his head. "It must be coincidence."
The Commander thought for a moment as Sergeant Mrkvicka reviewed the documents. Finally, he replied. "While I cannot deny it is a possibility, I do not believe in coincidences." He sat back in his chair, deep in thought. "I have decided to send a team to stake out the cemetery. If alien forces arrive, I want to send them a message." He looked up at Gardner and Saint in turn. "I'm sending the two of you to lead the team."
Mrkvicka jumped out of his seat, wincing at the pain it caused. "You're going to send them and not me?! I was there too, I killed that piece of sh-" Mrkvicka stopped mid-sentence, seeing the look of anger on the Commander's face. "Sorry sir."
"Chris," the Commander said, his face softening a bit "I understand how you feel, but you are in no shape to be running into combat. Last I heard, the doctors had just pulled the last bit of alien shrapnel out of your shoulder this morning."
Mrkvicka sat back down slowly, wincing from the pain.
The Commander reached back into his desk drawer and pulled out another file. "I have something else I need you to handle." He slid the folder across the desk to the Sergeant who snatched it before it fell off the desk to the floor.
Mrkvicka opened the folder simply labeled "B4T" and looked quizzically up at the Commander who looked back with an even stare.
Operation Broken FallSydney Australia
Squaddie Ashaman sat in the front seat of the cable branded survelance van staring in disgust at the food in front of him. "How do people eat this garbage? Vegemite, doesn't seem like there's any veggie in it."
Squaddie Ghost leaned forward between the two front seats. "I heard it was banned in the Us because it is some kind of well-known poison!"
Ace, sitting in the driver's seat, rolled her eyes. "It is a yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing and has never been banned in the United States."
"Thank you Sergeant Wikipedia." Sergeant Deadman Walking said groggily, rolling over on the floor and trying to fall back asleep.
"Sorry," Ace replied "two days in a van with you guys should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Also, why are we even in a van with business markings on it?! Are aliens really going to be able to tell the difference between a nice luxury RV and this?!"
The arguments continued while Saint and Jack slipped out the back of the van into the cold midnight air. They walked silently towards the cemetery across the street. It was their nightly ritual, scanning the cemetery for activity while looking for Jeremina's gravestone.
Jack shifted the armor plating hidden under his trench coat, eyeballing the street for any onlookers but the street was empty.
As the two approached the gates to the cemetery, Saint's arm jumped out and caught Jack's holding him back. "Do you hear that?"
Jack strained his ears to listen, searching for whatever it was Saint had heard. After a moment, Jack finally heard it. To the north, somewhere inside the cemetery, a few small jet engines could be heard. Jack shot a look over to Saint and both ran back to the van, throwing off their trench coats.
Saint ran to the back of the van, throwing open the back doors and grabbing his weapons while Jack banged on the side of the van. The team inside sat bolt upright and grabbed their gear quickly. Jack turned back around towards the cemetery, watching for any sign of movement.
The team exited the vehicle, fully decked out in combat gear. Saint walked around from behind the van and tossed Jack his sniper rifle.
Jack surveyed the area, looking for areas of cover behind cars and walls. Directly ahead of them was the entrance to the cemetery. Just a little to the west was an alleyway he knew eventually entered the graveyard towards the back.
"I have an idea." Jack finally said. "Saint, you take Ghost and Ashaman through the entrance to the cemetery. You can pull the alien forces into the middle of the graveyard area. I'll take Ace and Deadman and go through the alleyway and flank them. If things get bad enough, the wall on the alleyway gets low at the top, we can provide covering fire from there."
Saint nodded his agreement and the team split up and moved to their designated positions, keeping an eye on the field for any movement.
As Saint approached the entrance to the cemetery, he saw three Floater aliens rush into view, headed towards the memorial statue in the middle of the graveyard. Acting on instinct, Saint reached to his tactical vest and pulled out a grenade, launching it into the path of the alien forces.
Pieces of cement and grass took flight as the grenade detonated. Two of the Floaters were blasted sideways by the concussion, but they stayed upright, turning towards the source of the grenade and opened fire. Saint tucked himself behind the cemetery wall that effectively blocked the enemy firepower.
Ghost ran up next to Saint, taking cover behind the lower portion of the wall. He leaned over the top of the low wall and fired on one of the wounded Floaters, blasting it out of the sky with his rifle. At the same time, the blast of Jack's sniper rifle echoed off of the walls from the west. The shot from the rifle burst open the head of the Floater that had been uninjured by the grenade attack, its lifeless mechanical body falling limply to the ground with a metallic thud.
Ace and Ashaman had taken cover behind separate vehicles but could not get clear shots on the remaining Floater. Deadman moved quickly past Jack, training his LMG on the alleyway, ready for any alien thinking to flank the team from that direction.
The remaining Floater retreated deeper into the cemetery while Ace and Ashaman fired on it, their projectiles missing and the injured but still agile alien took to the sky.
Saint and Ghost moved quickly into the cemetery, taking cover behind grave memorial statues, a pang of guilt entering their minds as they stepped on the graves of those who came before. They opened fire on the retreating alien, a burst of fire from Ghost catching it in the back and finally dropping it to the ground in a heap of mechanical parts and biological blood.
To the west, Jack, Deadman and Ace moved up the alleyway, eyes scanning for any movement and using cover as they moved with Deadman on point. Out of the corner of his eye, Deadman caught movement to the north, just over the wall. Before he could call out a warning to the rest of the team, five Floaters burst from the darkness of the cemetery, firing on Saint and Ghost as they came forward.
Jack reacted quickly, seeing his teammates in danger. He pulled his rifle up and over the wall, quickly picking up on one of the Floaters. Without thinking, he adjusted for the speed of movement and the distance to his target, firing at the exact moment of need. The bullet tore throught the Floater's jet engines, knocking it face first into the ground. The impact of the fall crushed the alien's head, smearing green blood across the cement walkway of the cemetery.
Inside the cemetery, Ashaman returned fire on the remaining group of Floaters with his pistol, holding them at bay while Saint and Ghost were pelted with chips of gravestones as the aliens fired on their cover. Recognizing the pistol was getting him nowhere Ashaman holstered the sidearm and pulled his sniper rifle from his shoulder, and fired a snap shot at one of the floating aliens. The impact of the bullet sent the Floater flying backwards.
Using the fatality as a moment for action, Saint switched his cover to another gravestone, giving him a better angle on the alien threats. He held his LMG against the gravestone he was using as cover and opened fire on a Floater sending shreds of metal and alien matter in all directions. The Floater fell in a heap to the ground.
Ghost fired from his position, wounding one of the two remaining Floaters as rounds from Deadman's LMG flew by the same target.
The two Floaters retreated in separate directions, one to the north and one to the east. Jack saw this, realizing the retreating aliens would separate the team and possibly lead them to their deaths. He pulled a sensor unit from his vest and tossed it down the length of the alleyway, no alien signatures appeared on his HUD.
"Deadman," Jack said "the alleyway is clear. Drop down and help the team in the cemetery. Ace, you do the same. I will cover and provide fire support from up here."
Deadman wasted no time, vaulting over the low wall and down about ten feet onto the soft grass of the cemetery. He used his forward momentum to propel him towards the memorial in the center of the graveyard. Ace did the same, taking cover behind a grave marker closer to the alleyway, ready to fire on any incoming aliens.
From the east, where one of the Floaters had retreated, two Thin Men came running into the cemetery, plasma guns blazing on Ghost as he ran for cover behind the memorial.
Sliding into cover, Deadman chuckled "Did you all get an invitation, 'cause I don't remember getting one."
"What invitation?" Ashaman asked over the radio.
"The invitation to the intergalactic kegger." Deadman laughed.
As he laughed at his joke, a laser beam flew by his head, the shot from Ace's rifle causing a Thin Man to explode into a cloud of noxious fumes.
Using their forward momentum, the team on the ground pressed towards the memorial in the center of the cemetery. Ghost killed the remaining Thin Man as it tried to move into defensive cover.
Saint pressed forward quickly and took cover behind a small white tombstone. He quickly fired on and killed the final Floater as it tried to fly off into the distance. As he scanned the rest of the field, his eyes were drawn to the name on the tombstone "Jeremina Mojomonkey12".
Saint stepped back carefully off of the gravesite, waving Jack over but unable to say anything. Jack hpped over the wall and jogged over to where Saint sat on his heels. His eyes went to the name on the tombstone and he slowed to a stop next to Saint.
Ace called in an extraction Skyranger and cleanup crew as Jack and Saint sat silently around the tombstone. In a matter of minutes, they had cleared a cemetery filled with aliens and without injury. That fateful day, Jeremina had been killed by a single alien in the blink of an eye.
Saint shifted forward onto his knees, whispering "I'm sorry." He touched the tombstone and stood. Jack and Saint turned to the rest of their team and made their way to the waiting Skyranger. As they left, Saint and Jack shared a look, knowing every mission they walked away from was a blessing all its own.