Mission 7

OPERATION PATIENT HEAT
UFO RECOVERY
JAPAN

“Attention to award!”

The small group of soldiers snapped to attention as Sergeant Hudson joined Lieutenant Medusa at the front of the formation. The order had gone out for formal dress, which Thomas Strawberry couldn’t stand. His neck was scratchy from the high collar, and he could already feel sweat start to run down onto his chest. His eyes followed Hudson up until he was in front of Medusa and gave a salute, holding it until Medusa returned it. Both men dropped the salute simultaneously, and Hudson turned to face the formation.

“Sergeant Benjamin Hudson, also known as ‘Werewolf’, is being awarded the Urban Operations Pin, after completing the urban combat course in our, ah, basement. After achieving the highest score we have seen so far and demonstrating superior expertise in urban operations, we are awarding him with this pin. He will, from this point on, also function as the instructor for the course, teaching all future trainees in urban operations.”

Medusa stepped in front of him, pinning the award to his dress shirt, and Thomas gave a wry grin when he realized Medusa was struggling with the thick material. After a few moments of muttering to himself, Medusa finally gave up and stood up, saying, “Congratulations, Sergeant,” before shaking hands with him. They exchanged salutes once more and Hudson turned sharply, moving back into his position in the formation. Medusa remained in the front and clapped his hands together. “Congratulations once more to Sergeant Medusa. If anyone thinks you can beat his score on the course, feel free to challenge him. If you win, the pin will be yours.”

Medusa fell silent, and slowly paced back and forth in front of the soldiers. Strawberry could feel sweat forming under the thick wool of the uniform and roll into uncomfortable places, and he started to wonder what Medusa was waiting for. After a few more moments he finally spoke.

“While everyone is gathered here, I want to take a moment to address Achus’s… passing. I know the news of his death came as a shock to everyone, and God knows I wish I could’ve been there. He was a great soldier and an outstanding medic. But he died in the service of Earth, and humanity. I sincerely hope that Corporal Achus is the first and last casualty during the invasion, but even if he isn’t, never forget: No one’s life is wasted while the aliens remain.”

Strawberry saw that Medusa looked uncomfortable, and as the lieutenant looked around the soldiers he said, “Always remember that. We’ve established a memorial outside of the barracks so you can pay respects to the fallen. You’re dismissed,” before turning sharply and exiting the room. The soldiers slowly drifted out of formation, and Strawberry approached Sans Leon.

“Well, that was a big waste of time, wasn’t it? Here’s a shiny pin for someone, even though the rest of you haven’t even been allowed outside for the past 6 weeks,” muttered Leon.

“Giving you all the more time to work on your marksmanship scores,” replied Strawberry, enjoying the indignant look that crossed over his face.

“My marksmanship scores are fine, thank you very much.”

“Not according to, well, your scores,” continued Strawberry, and saw that his friend was starting to pout. He gave a dramatic sigh and said, “Come on, loosen up. Besides you’re still pool champ within the barracks. Somehow.”

At this, Leon brightened up and said, “You’re damned right I am! Want to get beaten again, Strawberry? We’ll do doubles! Let me grab a couple of guys.”

Before he could say anything else, Leon took off, trying to round up 2 more soldiers. Glancing around the room, he saw Corporal Mendiola standing off to the side on his own, his augmentations hidden well by the dress uniform. As Leon was trying to talk another rookie, Zoey Winters, into playing, Strawberry approached Mendiola.

“Hey, Corporal! Corporal Mendiola!”

He looked a little startled being addressed directly, but quickly regained his composure and said, “Hey. What’s up?”

“Do you play pool? Leon and I are trying to find partners, and he always kicks my ♥♥♥.”

Mendiola grinned and said, “Yea, I’m pretty good. Well, I was. I think I have time for one game before Dr Shen needs me for more testing or maintenance or whatever.”

Before he could reply, Leon shouted across the room, “Winters is playing! I’ll meet you downstairs, Strawberry. Hope you’re ready to lose.”

OPERATION DEMON DRUID
ALIEN ABDUCTIONS
LYONS, FRANCE

Hudson ran alongside the brick wall, slowing down as he approached the intersection that held the Meld canister. He approached the building corner and poked his head out, scanning the street for any enemies. Seeing no signs of movement, Hudson turned towards Medusa, who gave him the thumbs up. He checked the safety of his shotgun for the umpteenth time, took a deep breath, and sprinted towards the Meld canister. His earpiece started to crackle the closer he got to the canister, when he heard Medusa shout from behind him, “Contact on the roof!” followed by the sounds of plasma fire.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hudson saw a green flash, and looked up to see 2 Sectoids on a nearby rooftop firing down on him. He instinctively dove for cover, hitting the asphalt hard as plasma peppered the ground behind him. He could hear LMG and rifle fire from the squad’s position, and looked up to see the head of one of the Sectoids disappear in a spray of green blood. The fire drove the other’s head down, and Hudson took the reprieve to get back up and take cover behind the canister. As he got closer, the crackling got louder in his earpiece, and once he was leaning against it was unbearable. He ripped it out of his ear, and nervously leaned out of cover to look up at the rooftop. Not seeing the Sectoid, he quickly slung his shotgun over his shoulder and drew his pistol, aiming it up at the rooftop. After a few more moments of stillness, the Sectoid’s head suddenly popped back up and the squad opened fire, eliminating it instantly.

“You OK?” called out Medusa.

“Yea, I’m fine,” replied Hudson, holstering his pistol and searching around for the switch on the Meld canister. He finally found one that looked similar to the one on the first canister, and hit it. Instantly, the canister cooled, and a yellow crystalline structure emerged from the top. Carefully, he brought his earpiece back up to his ear, and was relieved that the crackling had become bearable.

“Mendiola, Achus, cross the street,” called out Hudson, and immediately both soldiers sprinted towards Hudson. He kept his shotgun pointed down the street, suspecting that the gunfire would draw reinforcements, but as the soldiers crossed behind him he saw no signs of movement.

“Move!” shouted Achus, and Medusa started to cross the street. As he crossed behind Hudson, there was the clatter of a door banging open, and 2 Sectoids spilled into the street.

“CONTACT!” shouted Hudson, instinctively firing a blast from his shotgun. It was a lucky hit, blowing off its lower limbs and sending the other scrambling for cover behind a dumpster. Mendiola fired his rifle at it before it slipped away, but it was too late. Hudson saw a skinny limb blindly reach out and fire, sending plasma sailing overhead. He kept his shotgun trained on the Sectoid’s, but the steel was too thick to penetrate.

To his left, he heard Medusa cry out, “Going to the roof!” and Hudson glanced over to see him clambering up a drainpipe. Hudson kept his shotgun pointed down the road, but when the Sectoid fired once more, he was forced to duck behind the canister. He unhooked a frag grenade from his belt and primed it, lobbing it towards the dumpster. It hit the ground and rolled barely past the edge of the dumpster, spraying green blood all over the wall when it detonated. He glanced up to the roof and saw Medusa aiming his LMG downwards as Mendiola pulled himself up over the lip of the roof.

While his shotgun was still trained on the dumpster, Medusa said over the radio, “You can relax, Chariot 4, that Sectoid can’t hurt you anymore.”

“Oh Thank God,” muttered Hudson, leaning against the canister. He loaded fresh shells into his shotgun, while Medusa continued to talk. “I can see most of the block from up here, and it looks clear. We’ll move to the other side if you guys want to wrap around.”

“Roger that Chariot 3. We’ll wrap around.”

Hudson crossed the street to join Achus, and both men started to move along the wall. The crackling from the canister started to fade, but was quickly replaced by more, signalling a nearby canister.

“I think there’s some more Meld nearby,” muttered Achus.

“No kidding,” replied Hudson. He ripped out his earpiece once more, and in front of him Achus suddenly crouched. Hudson followed suit, and watched Achus slowly poke his head up and look through the window, and then gestured that he spotted 2 more enemies. The two soldiers slowly crept forward, doing their best to stay under the windows, when there was a sudden burst of automatic fire. Achus and Hudson started to move a little quicker when a Sectoid suddenly ran a few feet directly in front of them. Both men shouted in surprise and Achus fired a rifle burst in reflex, killing the Sectoid.

“Jesus,” muttered Achus, while Hudson stood wide eyed behind him. After a few minutes of silence, they continued to move forward until Achus reached the corner of the building and peered around. As soon as he did, Medusa’s voice immediately came down from the roof. “Hey! Don’t you guys know how to use a radio?”

Hudson looked up and saw the squad’s gunner leaning over the rootop and shouted back, “Meld is nearby, can’t hear anything.”

“Well, it’s all clear. No more contacts in the area. Meld’s around the corner to go and grab.”

Achus and Hudson stood up and moved around the corner, and was immediately greeted with the sight of the Meld canister a little further down the road. There was a dead Sectoid nearby, and Achus jogged over to it and hit the switch, converting it into its crystalline form.

“Why do you think this thing jams up the comms so much?” asked Achus.

“Dunno,” shrugged Hudson, putting his earpiece in, “We should probably talk to engineering about it, though.”

OPERATION CRYSTAL SCEPTER
ALIEN ABDUCTIONS
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Sorain Ravenshaw groaned and said, “It had to be a graveyard, didn’t it?”

Mr. Medusa gave a noncommittal grunt, but privately agreed with her. He anxiously squeezed the grip of his rifle, not appreciating the silence and darkness enveloping the area. He leaned against the cold granite of a tombstone, casting another glance around the cemetery, and in a low voice said, “See anything?”

“Negative.”

Over the radio, Medusa asked, “Chariot 2, see anything?”

“Nothing yet,” replied Achus, “How about you guys?”

“No. Guess we’ll continue our sweep.”

Medusa glanced over at Ravenshaw, who gestured for Medusa to move up. He moved from behind the giant stone and rushed towards a small wall that cut through the cemetery, sliding into cover and immediately peering over the brick. Amongst the endless rows of headstones, he could see yellow light spilling out from behind a particularly large Celtic cross. Over the radio, he said, “Hey, I’ve got visual on… something. Some sort of light source deeper in, eastern side.”

“Roger that. Chariot 4 and I will link up with you guys,” Achus replied. As Medusa kept a wary eye out, he heard the sound of running footsteps as Ravenshaw sprinted the gap, taking a position next to him.

“Oh yea, I see that. What do you think it is?” asked Ravenshaw.

“Dunno,” replied Medusa. His eyes were focused on the silhouette of a dog, barely outside the illumination of the light source. It seemed to be pacing back and forth with an awkward trot, waiting for something, when it suddenly darted towards the source. As light fell over it, Medusa felt his stomach tie itself into a knot as adrenaline flooded his body.

“Oh God, oh my God. It’s an alien,” muttered Ravenshaw.

With thin extremities, a distended abdomen and oversized head, the creature looked like something out of a bad sci fi flick. As it stood on its hind legs to interact with the out of sight light source, 2 more creatures that looked exactly the same came out of the darkness. Medusa levelled his rifle, aiming it at the nearest creature and said, “Do we fire?”

There was a small click as Ravenshaw flipped her safety off and shouldered her rifle. The two soldiers remained in place, carefully watching the aliens, when they seemed to finally finish their business and started dispersing. As the aliens scattered, Medusa gently squeezed the trigger of his rifle and fired a burst into the nearest one. The rounds hit the alien squarely in the torso, lifting it off the ground and spraying green blood over the graves. Ravenshaw fired a burst at another alien, dropping it instantly, while the third returned fire. There were flashes of green as orbs of energy soared towards Medusa, forcing his head head down while Achus shouted over the radio, “What’s going on? Do you have contact?”

“A couple!” shouted Ravenshaw, poking her back up over the wall to fire again. There was another volley of alien fire that splashed against the wall in front of her, demolishing and showering both soldiers with molten shrapnel. There was green flash as the orbs hit Ravenshaw directly, spraying blood and heat over Medusa as she fell to the ground.

“Chariot 1 is down!” shouted Medusa, swearing as he grabbed Ravenshaw’s arms and dragged her backwards behind the remaining wall. He could hear the rifle fire from Achus and Hudson as they joined the battle. Medusa knelt over Ravenshaw, keeping his head low as he looked over her wounds. The alien weapons had burned straight through her flimsy body armor, and most of her torso and left arm had turned black. A grenade detonated on the other side of the wall, spraying dirt over Medusa and Ravenshaw as he felt for a pulse. He could feel it under his fingertips, and satisfied she was still alive, he looked back over the wall. Several tombstones were demolished and alien bodies were scattered about, and the only remaining alien was cowering from Achus and Hudson behind a large stone. Medusa aimed quickly and fired, hitting the alien in the side and throwing it lifelessly out from cover.

He saw movement out of the corner of his eye and aimed his rifle towards it, but saw that it was only Achus and Hudson. He took a deep breath, trying to steady himself, and said, “Anyone have any more visual?”

“Looks clear to me, didn’t see any run off,” replied Achus, “and it looks like your light source is some sort of capsule. We’ll move up to check it out

“We need to get Ravenshaw out of here,” said Medusa, “she’s burned pretty bad and fading fast.”

“Just wait, we need to make sure this thing isn’t lethal.”

Medusa swore, and looked down at Ravenshaw. Placing his fingers on her neck, he could still feel a pulse that was rapidly weakening. He glanced up over the wall and saw Achus and Hudson in the circle of light, manipulating an out of sight object. After a few moments, both soldiers jumped backwards, still staring at whatever it was, before turning and running towards Medusa.

“What the hell is going on?” asked Medusa.

“No idea,” replied Achus, “Some sort of crystal came out of the capsule. Let’s get her back to Skyranger.”