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XCOM GIO 1: HISTory Kills

As promised, I have resurrected my XCOM Team GIO series. For those unaware, this series blog was the only "series" I have consented to write. I had a blast doing it before. Then, I got mired in a job search (which turned out quite well) and then my Xbox suffered a horrible fate involving my tile floor and my dog's water dish...I still have nightmares about this.

With a water-logged hard drive, it seemed as if the series was dead. Then, a few weeks back, fate stepped in and the gods at Steam put XCOM: enemy Unknown on the summer sale, leading to this: the resurrection of the XCOM GIO series.

Here's how it works, with GIO users' consent, I put their names in a running game of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The game is played on normal difficulty with every wave 2 special rule turned on. As the game has a terribly weak narrative, specifically surrounding the lives of the soldiers, I use my creative story-telling to fill in the blanks and add a little zing to the combat.

Combat is told as it happened, I pull no punches, even when I do something unbearably stupid (though I usually put that idiocy into the character in one way, shape, or form to maintain a fluid story).

Any GIO member can request to have their name emblazoned on a character, just let me know you are interested and I will do what I can to add your name.

Also, I write the stories listening to music for inspiration. This episode has a soundtrack in my head from Chevelle's album "Hats off to the Bull".

So, here it is. I can only hope it is half of what the original series was (though better would be nice). Let me know what you think in the comments, this is an ongoing project until the game ends or you are all dead.

XCOM: Team GIO
Episode 1: HISTory Kills

The underground hangar was a frenzy of activity, crewmen and women in uniforms moved quickly to pull unmarked crates off of the transport cruisers and stack them in predetermined locations. To the untrained eye, it appeared to be mass chaos, but the three highly trained soldiers saw through the chaos and into the organization that could only be attained through muscle memory developed from hours of serious training. But this was not just any training   this was military training, the three had been through much of it themselves training for various Special Forces posts.

Not twelve hours earlier, their commanding officers had presented them with vague orders to hop on an odd looking transport its pilots had called a "skyranger" to this odd underground facility in some dark corner of the world with very few instructions given aside from providing a codename and keeping their mouths shut to everyone until told to do otherwise.

A man wearing a green sweatshirt walked into the hangar towards the three. The man was obviously of some import around the base and bore a military-serious expression on his face. "Gentlemen," he said coolly as he approached, "You will have to apologize for the current state of things. You've heard of building an airplane while in flight? This is the metaphorical equivalent of designing and putting it together before it crash lands in a ball of fire."

The three soldiers looked at one another, all wondering what they had been assigned to.

Recognizing the hesitation, the officer continued. "I was just joking...kind of." He waited another moment for some or laughs but seeing none were forthcoming, continued. "Before you left, you were given instructions to come up with codenames, of which some of you were more creative than others, and speak to no one until you received your assignment. I am here to give that to you. Jolt, Hist, Jack Gardner..." the officer looked at each in turn, "you are here to be Earth's defenders from an unknown alien threat."

Hist and Jack both looked incredulous while Jolt roared out loud with laughter. "You pulled spec ops into a tizzy over illegal immigration?! That's hilarious!" Jolt stopped his laughter short, noticing the entire hangar bay had stopped their work and were staring straight at him.

"Jolt," the officer started, "this is no joke. The other day, the news reported a major weapons malfunction in Germany that caused major destruction in a three block radius. This was no weapons malfunction; it was our first contact with a hostile race not of this world."

The officer produced a small television from his cargo pocket and turned it over, hitting the play button causing the screen to jump to life. On the screen, the three soldiers saw the same film they had seen from the news coverage, but it was decidedly different: it had not been doctored to remove the green alien pods dug into the ground and the bipedal creatures with the classic television alien heads running amok in murderous fashion.

"The German government sent a rescue team of 30 in." the officer said solemnly. "None survived. We sent in a team of four trained operatives to assist, only two made it back, one of whom was seriously injured. But this alien contact taught us some important lessons. First, we are definitively not alone in the universe. Second, our little multi-continent, small budget XCOM project is no longer a joke. And third, the aliens are extremely hostile and we are hopelessly outgunned."

The soldiers stared at the screen, dumbfounded by the amount of information that had just been dropped on them and trying to come to grips with the shift on what they considered to be real.

The unnamed officer broke their collective train of thought. "So, here's how this goes. XCOM, our group, is tasked with sending in quick reaction forces to stop alien threats as we cannot send in full scale military troops. The Commander will decide what missions we take and who is going on those missions so we can manage public fear, can't keep this under wraps for long after all. Your job is to kill the alien threat and grab as much intel on them as you can so we have a fighting chance in the long run. While your existing military experience will be helpful, it means very little at this time. Therefore, your ranks are all reset to Rookie. As you move up, the Commander will decide your role within the team and the skills you will be trained on. When not in missions, you are to train as often as humanly possible without affecting your field performance. Any questions?"

Hist raised his hand. "Sir, will we receive any kind of briefing on the abilities of the alien threat?"

As he finished his sentence, red lights and alarms kicked on throughout the base, followed by more organized chaos and the intercom declaring an imminent alien threat.

The officer turned back to the team and raised an eyebrow. "Follow me," he said "you're about to attend your first briefing on the alien capabilities."

The officer lead the team through halls filled with construction and repair teams and past rooms marked "Engineering" and "Science Lab". Before they knew it, they were in a room filled with armor and weapons, on the far side of the room stood a soldier already geared up with body armor and a shotgun.

"Team, this is Squaddie Mojomonkey, or Mojo for short. He'll be team lead on this deployment as he has the most experience out of anyone on the planet with the alien threat." The officer stated.

"Wait," said Jack "I thought you told us the XCOM division only had one contact with the alien threat."

"Yes," the officer responded "and Mojo was on the team. So, for all intents and purposes, he is the most experienced."

Mojo spoke up, a smile on his face, "Don't let my extremely high rank fool you," he pointed at the on bar on his shoulder designating himself as a Squaddie, a rank barely a half step higher than a Rookie. "I'm really a nice guy when you get to know me."

Minutes later, the team was fully geared up and on board a skyranger moving faster than any jet or helicopter the soldiers had experienced, ready for anything that came their way.


The Team

Nearly to the mission drop point, the team's radios crackled on. "Gentlemen, this is Commander Noobtubin8er. I hear for most of you this will be your first mission with XCOM, its mine too so don't screw up." Tentative smiles crossed the faces of the four operatives. "We have serious reports of alien abductions near a cemetery in Brisbane, Australia. Your job is to make them stop, by any forceful means necessary." Jack subconsciously pulled the bolt back on his assault rifle at the words.

The commander continued his in-flight briefing. "I don't need to remind any of you that these unwanted visitors have violated our peace and killed innocent civilians without a second thought. I don't care if one of those bastards walks up to you with puppy-dog eyes and begs for peace, you put two rounds in whatever constitutes their chest and one between their giant eyes to be certain. If that wasn't clear, I am openly ordering every alien sample you return to me to be unequivocally dead."

All four operatives replied over their headsets in unison, "Yes, sir!"

"Very good." The Commander replied. "As of now, Operation Glass Druid is active."

The skyranger touched down south of the AO with the team moving quickly down the back hatch and onto the poorly lit street of Brisane. As soon as all four were set on the ground, the transport leaped back into the sky, awaiting its orders to return.

"Alright team," Mojo said quietly "let's move to the entrance of the cemetery and form a line on the low brick wall. Keep your eyes open and call out all contacts. I've got point." The team moved forward towards the two foot wall that served as the cemetery's boundary.

As Mojo approached the cemetery entrance, he spotted two aliens to the northwest who saw mojo at the same moment and bolted for cover. "Two contacts to the north!" mojo called as he slung his shotgun over his shoulder and drew his sidearm, recognizing the ineffectiveness of the shotgun at this range. He fired two rounds at the enemy behind the least amount of cover with one round crazing the side of the alien's head as it stuck out from behind a low wall.


Mojo Opens Fire with His Sidearm

Gardner pushed up to the wall next to Mojo and opened fire on the alien with his assault rifle, the barrage of rounds bursting the chest of the alien open in a spray of green ooze and alien entrails.


Jack Cleans Up (or Adds to) the Mess

Hist and Jolt followed suit, taking cover behind the low outer wall and firing on the remaining alien with their rifles as they moved. The hail of fire causing no damage but keeping it hunkered down behind a tall headstone scrawled with the name "Jereminah". Recognizing its predicament, the alien waited for a break in fire and ran north, outside of the view of the team.

Jolt went to break into a run but was stopped short by Mojo over the radio. "Slow and smooth, team take it easy and they'll all be dead soon enough. No point in getting killed before you put one down. Push into the cemetery nice and slow and make sure you stay in cover. While we know of the one, there could be twenty more waiting for us in there for all we know."

Mojo moved into the cemetery, taking cover behind a monument to someone who had apparently been well-loved in life. Mojo turned to the team and waved them forward while he peered around the monument, pistol raised and ready for any trouble. The rest of the team hopped over the low wall and took cover behind the scattered headstones but seeing no sign of their quarry.

The team pushed up further. To the east, Mojo made out movement and identified two additional alien contacts to the east which he called out to the rest of the team just as the enemy bolted out of site into the adjoining alley and deep into the cemetery. The team continued their plan to push north, the contacts to the east would come into play shortly.

As Jack moved for cover next to a small set of stairs, the alien that had run from them to the north unleashed an ambush of plasma fire that Jack deftly weaved out of the way of. Jack slid in behind the low wall by the stairs and narrowly missed the alien with a burst from his assault rifle.


Duck, Dive, Dodge, and Duck

Jolt turned to Hist, "Move east and lend Mojo a hand with the other two, Jack and I have this one." With that, Hist ran to join Mojo on the east side of the cemetery while Jolt pushed up next to Jack, unleashing a burst of his own rifle that ricocheted harmlessly against a headstone between himself and the alien contact.

In a moment of what could only be insanity, even for an alien, the enemy burst from its cover, dashing first behind a large monument in the center of the cemetery as bullets from Mojo's pistol whizzed over its head then behind a headstone just yards from Jack and Jolt.

Without hesitating, and in a moment of comparable insanity, Mojo sprinted out from cover straight at the alien contact. Nobody had time to react as Mojo seamlessly holstered his pistol and unslung his shotgun from his shoulder in one quick movement. The alien turned its head just as the shotgun barrel was pressed against its head and an explosion of buckshot ejected from the gun, the force of which removed anything from the alien that could possibly resemble a head. The remaining lifeless alien body slumped backwards against the headstone.


Say Goodnight

Shaking off the shock of the action that had just unfolded in front of them, Jack and Jolt pushed forwards towards the center monument and gaining eyes on one of the alien targets that had run for cover. Hist pushed up from the east and put pressure on the alien, skimming its arm with a burst from his rifle. Howling in pain or rage, the alien ran north again, finding cover behind a crypt that had been destroyed and replaced with an alien pod.

"You guys push in and keep up the pressure, just remember there is another in that alley somewhere. I'll take up a containment position to the west." Mojo called as he moved to another crypt to flank the injured alien target.

Jack peered around the corner of the monument and saw the perfect moment materialize in the holographic sight of his rifle, the head of the alien popping up around the corner of the pop, seemingly in slow motion. Jack pulled the trigger on his rifle, seeing a gratifying green mist as the alien fell backwards into the bushes, dead.

Seeing the enemy fall to the ground, Jolt decided to take the fight to the alleyway with the only other identified alien. As he sprinted for cover on the east side of the cemetery, the alien in the alley opened fire from behind a dumpster, the plasma bursts coming close enough to burn away some of Jolt's scraggly beard but otherwise unharmed.


Jolt Executes the Four D's

Hist pushed forward, deciding to end the fight quickly and without further risk. Taking cover behind a headstone, he estimated the distance and location of the alien based on the incoming fire and lobbed a grenade over the cemetery's tall outer wall. Seconds later, there was a deafening explosion as the alien was launched 15 feet in the air, riddled with shrapnel from the grenade.


Baggage Fees are Extra (this Ain't Southwest)

Suddenly, over the radio, a female voice kicked in declaring her to be Dr. Vahlen and, from the tone of her voice someone who thought they were of great importance. As she began giving a lecture about keeping alien relics intact, Jolt switched the channel on his radio and gave it the bird.

The team finished clearing the cemetery noting no additional contacts and gathering as much intel as they could while a "clean-up team" gathered the rest.

The ride back was filled with laughter, a stark difference from the prior mission Mojo thought quietly in the back of the skyranger. The last mission's return had a cargo hold filled with the body bags of two of his teammates and blood as the critically injured Saint was fighting for life from the wounds he had sustained in combat. Mojo couldn't help but think this joyful ride was going to be the exception to the rule before this war was over but for now he would join the others in their temporary elation.

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