OPERATION DEMON MOON
Thakilla squatted on his haunches, staring down at Zoey Winters. The plasma had hit her straight on, splashing against her face and neck. The flesh had been burned away, leaving only charred muscle bordered by waxy white skin. Looking down, he couldn’t help but feel thankful that it was a quick way to go.
There was a sound of running footsteps behind him, and an out of breath Sans Leon said, “I’ve got the bag, Lieutenant.”
“Unzip it, bring it around here.”
Leon took a knee across from Thakilla, opening up the body bag. He bent over Winters, seemingly at a loss before saying, “I, uh, I don’t know what to do, sir.”
Thakilla looked up at Leon, surprised, before remembering that most of the soldiers hadn’t fought the aliens since joining XCOM. “Right. Pull it out lengthwise alongside her, zipper side up. I’ll roll her to the side and you slip it under, and then we’ll repeat it on the other side.”
Placing one hand on her shoulder and another on her hip, he rolled Winters towards him as Leon struggled with the bag. He never got used to how toneless dead bodies were, and this was no different. Eventually Leon got the bag stretched out, and Thakilla gently laid her back down. Leon grasped Winters and rolled her towards him, and Thakilla couldn’t help but notice the uncomfortable look that crossed his face. Thakilla pulled the bag towards him, making sure to open it as wide as possible and said to Leon, “Alright, you can place her back down.”
Leon laid her back down, and Thakilla tugged the back out and over Winters. On the opposite side, Leon did the same and then Thakilla pulled the zipper up, closing it over her face. The two men sat in silence for a moment before Leon blurted out, “I’m sorry I thought that the Thin Man-“
Thakilla held up a hand to silence Leon and said, “What’s done is done, Leon. No sense in living in the past. Did you bring the stretcher?”
Leon’s eyes went wide and he suddenly ran past, presumably to go get a stretcher from the Skyranger. Thakilla stood up, watching him run around the bar’s corner and out of sight. He took a deep breath, enjoying the cold night’s air in his lungs when he heard footsteps around the corner. Thinking they were too light for Leon to be returning already, he felt vindication when Captain Ravenshaw rounded the corner. She looked at Thakilla, and down at the bag, and with a confused look asked, “What is she still doing here?”
“Leon forgot to grab the stretcher,” replied Thakilla.
“Oh,” said Ravenshaw, standing in silence. Both soldiers remained in place until they heard the sounds of running footsteps, and Leon rounded the corner with a stretcher with Hellbilly trailing behind
“We’ll take her to the Skyranger,” said Leon, placing the stretcher down on the sidewalk. Quickly, both men placed Winters on the stretcher and then rounded the corner again, moving towards the Skyranger. Thakilla looked over at Ravenshaw and seeing a worried look on her face asked, “Something on your mind, Captain?”
Ravenshaw hesitated for a moment before replying, “I’m just worried about Mister Coach. Hope I didn’t send him to his death.”
She gave a small gesture, indicating a return to the Skyranger, and Thakilla walked next to her. “I’m sure he’s fine,” he said, “He’s an eager guy, but pretty on the ball.”
Ravenshaw bit her lip, thinking. “I hope so. What do you suppose these Exalt guys are after? Why target our research?”
“No idea, Captain. There’s no accounting for the crazy people in the world. Besides, just think- all those people who believed in UFOs were crazy until about 4 months ago.”
“That may be so, but at least they didn’t want to kill someone,” replied Ravenshaw.
They continued walking in silence, approaching the Skyranger. Hellbilly and Leon had both finished loading Winters into it, and were standing around the ramp. Far off into the distance, Thakilla could see a pair of approaching lights as the sounds of an approaching aircraft reached him. “Looks like the science team is here,” he said.
They watched the lights approach until the aircraft was hovering above the parking lot and descended to the asphalt, touching down and powering the engines off. As the science team started to dismount, Ravenshaw said, “God, I hope Mister Coach is doing alright.”