OPERATION DEVIL’S KNIFE
“Come on, come on you piece of crap. Come on!”
Mister Coach slapped the encoder, trying to get it to work. He put his flashlight in the mouth, shining light on it so he could see what he was doing. He had hidden inside the town hall of a small English village, trying to stay out of sight as the data was transmitted to XCOM HQ. He had hidden the transmitter away in a small cargo truck further away, hoping that it wouldn’t be found until he was long gone.
“Come out, come out where ever you are…” an EXALT soldier called outside the building, and Mister Coach quickly switched his flashlight off. He quietly swore, watching the silhouettes pass by the window. He had ducked inside a small storage shed next to the main building, correctly thinking that they think he was in the main building but he wasn’t sure how long he could keep it up.
Still keeping his flashlight off, he worked by touch to troubleshoot the encoder. Not knowing what else to do, he felt for the reset button and hit it. After 30 seconds of silence there was a whirring sound, and the status light of the encoder showed green. There was the sudden crash of a window shattering, and the voice calling out, “If you won’t come out we’ll smoke you out!”
Creeping up to the window, he looked at the figures in the street and saw lit Molotovs in their hands. Coach ducked back into a corner of the shed, and looked at his watch as he listened to more windows being broken. To his dismay, he saw it was another 5 minutes before the squad was scheduled to arrive. Resisting the urge to break radio silence, he unholstered his laser pistol and waited.
“You think you’ll defeat the aliens?” called out another voice, this time behind the shed. “They are here to bring their glory to our Earth! They will usher us into a new age!”
Mister Coach glanced out the rear window, and saw another group of EXALT soldiers. He was quietly thankful that it was night time, and hoped that none of them were smart enough to open the door to the shed. He could smell the smoke from next door as the town hall started to burn and he wondered why he couldn’t hear the sirens of a fire engine, when he realized the whole town was probably under EXALT control. As he hid behind a toolbox, he glanced through each window, wary of anyone who decided to poke their head through, when he thought he heard the droning sound of an approaching Skyranger. He held his breath, trying not to let himself get excited, but the sound was definitely getting louder and louder. He glanced out a window and saw the Skyranger hovering above the ground, causing the EXALT soldiers to shout and run for cover. He saw three lines drop from the Skyranger as the squad fast roped down, followed by a MEC suit jumping to the ground. The fire next door was starting to engulf the town hall and in the light of it he saw a new soldier, and standing next to him was a new MEC suit with the word “VULCAN” stencilled down its arm.
“Chariot 9, are you still alive?” asked Ravenshaw over the radio.
“Roger that Captain! I’m in the shack to the left. The EXALT are around here, they set the town hall on fire.”
“I see that. Hold your position.”
Coach watched Ravenshaw gesture to the squad, and the rest of the squad pushed into the town hall as Ravenshaw and the new soldier rushed to the shack. Coach opened the door as both soldier ran inside, and quickly shut it behind them.
“Alright, Coach, where are they?” asked Ravenshaw.
“We’ve got a couple of fireteams wandering around here. They’ve got some helicopters squirreled away in the village, didn’t see any weapons on them. The encoder’s finally running, so we can get that info for XCOM. I’m Squaddie Mister Coach, by the way,” he said, turning to the new soldier.
He shook Coach’s hand and said, “I’m Sergeant Anselm Maxwell. Transferred in from China.”
Coach nodded and said, “Cool.”
There was a burst of rifle fire outside the window, and Ravenshaw said, “Both of you get to that window, now. Protect the encoder, we can’t lose that information.”
OPERATION DEVIL’S KNIFE
Thakilla leaned against the Roman pillar, listening to sound of helicopter rotors getting closer. It was hard to see in the dead of night, but he could make out the faint silhouette of an approaching helicopter. He raised his laser rifle at it and fired, though it seemed to do very little. He watched 3 EXALT soldiers fast rope out of the helicopter, taking cover amongst the cars in the street, and called out, “3 more contacts!”
The soldiers were on the edge of the fire light, and he could faintly make them out. He fired his laser rifle at the same as Tin McGregor and Hellbilly, killing one soldier immediately. Suddenly, there was the distinct crack of a sniper rifle and Thakilla ducked back behind the pillar, hearing a pop as the round passed inches from his face.
“Sniper!” cried out Hellbilly. Across from him, Thakilla could see the rookie McGregor under a window, warily poking his head up. Thakilla peered around the pillar and spotted the second soldier rushing towards the town hall, and as he brought his rifle up there was another rifle crack, driving him back into cover.
“We’re pinned down near the front of the town hall,” called out Thakilla over the radio.
“Roger that. Keep them busy, I’ll wrap around from the rear,” replied Strawberry. Suddenly, the nearby EXALT soldier yelled, “Frag out!” and there was the sound of a grenade thumping against the ground, rolling under the window Tin McGregor was under. Thakilla shouted, “Grenade!” as it detonated, splintering the wall and peppering Thakilla in shrapnel. He felt dust and heat wash over him as he kept his eyes closed, coughing through the smoke. He could hear the sound of a laser rifle and Hellbilly shouting something, when there was the sound of a MEC’s minigun firing. As the dust startled to settle, Thakilla glanced over at McGregor and saw his bloodied body sprawled out on the floor, and looked around the pillar. The EXALT soldier that threw the grenade lie dead, and Strawberry was advancing in his MEC suit rapidly on the sniper, firing his minigun at him. He dashed towards McGregror’s body, hooking his arms under his armpits and dragging him back behind a table. Kneeling over him, he placed his fingers on his neck but didn’t feel a pulse.
“Chariot 12 is KIA,” Thakilla informed the squad. There was another burst from Strawberry’s minigun, and he called out, “Sniper is down, western sector is clear.”
“Don’t be so sure, they could be bringing in reinforcements,” replied Thakilla, keeping a watchful eye on the sky. He could still hear gunfire from the eastern side, where Coach had placed the encoder. The gunfire started to fade, and by the time the final shot had been fired there was no sound of approaching helicopters.
“Eastern sector is clear,” said Ravenshaw over the radio.
“So is that it? I don’t think they’re bringing any more reinforcements in,” asked Hellbilly.
“I think so. Chariot 14, can you come by the shack? We’ve got wounded over here.”
“Chariot 14 moving,” replied Thakilla, and then he called out to Hellbilly, “Can you grab a bag from the Skyranger?”
Hellbilly nodded, and Thakilla moved briskly towards the eastern side, where Ravenshaw, Maxwell, and Coach had holed up. The small shack had been decimated through the fighting, most of its walls destroyed, and when he approached Thakilla could see Coach holding his arm, his sleeve soaked. The new sergeant, Maxwell, was tending to him and Thakilla pulled his medikit off his belt, moving towards Coach.
“Here, let me see,” muttered Thakilla, cutting away the excessive cloth to look at the wound. It looked like the bullet had passed cleanly through the arm muscle, and Thakilla said to Maxwell, “Sergeant, can you go help Hellbilly get McGregor onto the Skyranger?”
A look of confusion passed over his face before it clicked, and he said, “Right. On it.”
He took off at a jog towards the Skyranger, and Thakilla turned back to Coach. “So, what’d you learn during your vacation? Know where these guys are based at?”
Coach winced as Thakilla placed the nozzle against the wound before saying, “Well, not- ow, that hurts.”
“You’ll feel better in a few minutes,” said Thakilla. Moving Coach’s arm up and down to work the medical compound into the wound, he said, “So, you were saying?”
“Well, I, ah, didn’t exactly learn where they’re based at,” said Coach. Thakilla looked up at him, cocking an eyebrow, and Coach continued, “It was more like where they’re not, Lieutenant.”
“And where is that?”
“The Arctic Circle.”
Thakilla stopped moving arm, looking up at him. “Is that a joke?”
“Not at all, Lieutenant. I know for a fact they are precisely not within the Arctic Circle.”
Thakilla sighed and said, “This is going to be a long conflict.”