Mission 18

OPERATION DEFIANT KING
ALIEN ABDUCTIONS
SHANGHAI, CHINA

Walter Lancaster held his breath, watching Sergeant Maxwell creep towards the two patrolling Mutons. He had rested his sniper rifle on the gravestone in from him and couldn’t help but imagine a hand reaching from the grave under him. He tried to distract his mind by finding something poetic about having a firefight in a cemetery, but failed. Next to him, Volkov was crouched behind a tombstone as well, also observing the patrolling Mutons. Lancaster muttered to Volkov, “You got the one on the right?”

“Yup.”

Lancaster fiddled with the scope, bringing the Muton into sharp focus. Looking over his rifle, he watched the dark silhouette of Maxwell as he crept towards them, hiding behind a mausoleum. He fiddled with something on his belt, and then lobbed the grenade around the corner. It was a perfect throw, landing directly between the Mutons, and as soon as the grenade exploded Lancaster fired, hearing Volkov fire half a second behind him. The round hit the Muton’s head, the top half of it exploding into a green mist, and the Muton collapsed. He looked over his rifle and saw the second Muon had been killed as well. Maxwell was still looking around the corner said over the radio, “Great work, guys. Now, if only we could work out a system that doesn’t involve me putting my neck on the- FLOATERS INCOMING!”

Lancaster winced, Maxwell’s shout driving a pick into his brain. Looking up into the night sky, he could see the twin jets of two Floaters flying high before the suddenly dove, landing on ground near Maxwell. He fired a retaliatory shotgun blast, though it didn’t find its mark. Before he could fire again, Thakilla suddenly shouted from behind him, “Leave one alive! Paddon, get a flashbang on them!”

Up ahead, Lancaster watched Thakilla and Ben Paddon break cover and run towards Maxwell. Maxwell shot again, driving the Floater pair behind the mausoleum, and Thakilla shouted, “Keep them pinned! Snipers, watch the sky!”

Feeling useless so far away, Lancaster watched the top of the building, making sure neither alien escaped. He heard the heavy footsteps of Mendiola’s MEC as he tried to find a good position, when there was a bright flash, followed immediately by the dull pop of a flashbang detonation. There was more commotion from behind the mausoleum, and Thakilla’s voice said over the radio, “Mechtoid incoming, we need everyone up here now.”

Immediately, Mendiola started to run forward and Lancaster muttered, “God dammit,” as both he and Volkov picked up their sniper rifles and ran towards the squad’s position. Maxwell had stuck himself against the wall of the crypt that dominated the center of the cemetery and was firing at the out of sight Mechtoid, and Volkov and Lancaster threw themselves against the mausoleum, looking around the corner. Up ahead, Lancaster watched a Mechtoid encapsulated by a blue bubble fired plasma at Mendiola as he, Thakilla, and Paddon all fired at it, and Thakilla called back to Lancaster, “Any time now, Lancaster!”

A red lance of laser pierced the bubble, striking the Mechtoid underneath, and Lancaster brought his sniper rifle and got the alien in his sights. He fired his rifle, the heavy round piercing the Mechtoid’s arm and Volkov followed with another shot, causing the alien to stumble backwards. Up ahead, Paddon unhooked a grenade from his belt and lobbed it under the alien, exploding. The explosion demolished its legs, creating a strange bowlegged effect as it fell backwards. Thakilla fired his laser rifle once more into the distance and then reported, “Sectoid down. Everyone OK?”

Everyone confirmed they were still healthy, even Mendiola. Lancaster loaded more rounds into his sniper rifle to top it off, glancing down at the 2 Floaters in front of him- one unconscious, and the other a bloody mess. He could hear the clicks as the rest of the squad did the same, and Thakilla called out, “Let’s keep it moving. Maxwell, Paddon, you two on point. Volkov and Lancaster will bring up the rear.”

Maxwell replied, “Ready to take the first plasma bolt!” as he passed by Thakilla, earning an icy glare from him. Once Paddon and Maxwell were further ahead, Thakilla left cover and followed, Mendiola’s heavy footsteps right behind. Lancaster slipped out of cover, drawing his laser pistol as Volkov did the same.

The squad continued the patrol through the cemetery, and Lancaster glanced nervously around. The moon didn’t provide much in the way of illumination, and the darkness had ample places for an alien to hide.

“Snatcher 1, I think we’re done here,” called out Maxwell over the radio, “If there were any more on site we would’ve found them by now.”

“Call it a hunch, Snatcher 3. Let’s keep it moving.”

There was a crunch behind Lancaster and he whirled around, raising his pistol. 20 feet away there was the hulking silhouettes of a Muton pair, comically crouched behind a bench. Lancaster shouted, “CONTACT” and fired his laser pistol, striking one of the aliens. He dove for cover as a plasma bolt sailed overhead. He fired again with his laser pistol and then started to crawl for nearby cover, keeping his head low. The rest of the squad started to engage, and he heard a roar as one of the Mutons died. Finding cover behind another tombstone, he sat up and looked over at the remaining Muton just in time to see it get cut down by a burst from Mendiola’s minigun.

Lancaster could feel his heart thumping in his chest from his brush with death and leaned against the tombstone before suddenly recoiling from it, not wanting to tempt fate. He held his position, looking for any more aliens sneaking up on the squad when Thakilla declared, “See? I told you there were more hanging around.”

In an irritated voice, Maxwell replied, “Oh, Captain, you’re so strong and wise. I hope I can be like you when I grow up.”

“Maybe you will one day. Let’s get everything together for the science team.”

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