Mission 21

OPERATION SEVERED GAZE
ALIEN ABDUCTIONS
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

The ramp dropped, revealing HQ’s hangar, and Volkov walked down it wearily as the medical team pushed past with its stretcher. As he reached the bottom of the ramp, he heard someone calling his name, and looked up to see Lancaster running towards him, wearing sleeveless body armor. He grinned as he approached, asking, “How’d the mission- oh.”

Volkov stepped off the ramp, watching the medical team carry the loaded stretcher past them and down into the morgue. Lancaster watched them go, mouth agape, before saying, “Who-“

“Squaddie Verdant.”

“How did he go?”

“Mechtoid. Had its bubble up, and he made a dash to kill the Sectoid but he didn’t make it.”

“God damn.”

The rest of the Bodysnatcher filed out of the Skyranger and into the hangar, dispersing among the many doorways leading out. Absentmindedly, he watched Mendiola walk towards the garage to get his suit stripped off and fixed up, when his eyes were drawn to a soldier he had never seen before, who was chatting animatedly with Ravenshaw.

“Who’s she?” asked Volkov. Lancaster shrugged and said, “I guess the deal was that if we helped out Russia they’d send us one of their finest, and she showed up a little bit after you guys called the mission complete. Coach says her name is Captain Wolfswift.”

“Her first name is Captain?” asked Volkov.

“May as well be,” replied Lancaster. Volkov chuckled and looked over Lancaster and asked, “What’s the deal with the sleeves? You look ridiculous.”

Lancaster looked away, red creeping into his cheeks, and said, “It wasn’t my idea. Apparently the alien genes messes with our metabolism, we generate a lot more heat. So Dr Vahlen lopped them off so we don’t, you know, die of heat stroke. Not like it matters, we won’t wear the body armor when we’re out on mission anyway. This is just for training.”

Volkov nodded, eyeing the leopard silhouette stencilled on Lancaster’s armor, when Lancaster continued. “Speaking of training, can you run some marksmanship drills with me? I’m getting spun up for a cell in Russia, and it’s been awhile since I handled a rifle. I’d like to be prepared before I go in.”

Volkov shook his head and said no, “No. No rifles, only pistols. You know the regulation.”

Lancaster had obviously prepared for the argument, and countered with, “But what if one of them drops a rifle during the exfil? At least that way-“

“No. Not your job. Your job is to make sure the data goes through, and then get the hell out. That’s it. The squad that comes to pick you up, fighting is their job. The data is yours.”

Lancaster sighed and said, “Dammit, I thought as much.”

Both soldiers remained silent for a few moments before Volkov said, “Let’s go pay our respects to Verdant.”

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