In no way do I own, or pretend to own X-COM or any of its names, subsidiaries etc. I just wanted to write something cool about an experience I had on an awesome game.
Written by Will Barnard
“Red alert! All staff report to their posts. All staff – …“ came an unfamiliar wounded voice over the base’s intercom system before disappearing into static. As gunfire barked somewhere close by, echoed by the concrete and metal plating that made up the walls of the underground base, Ben raised his rifle and instinctively started sprinting towards the command centre. He could hear the cries of men and the shouting of orders from what sounded like every direction but his focus was centred on making sure the base’s main operation room was online, without it the base would be lost.
Sprinting as fast as he could whilst checking his corners, he was making steady progress until the lights turned out. As the corridor plunged into pitch darkness, the faint red glow of his laser rifle became the only source of light.
“Not good, not good,” he muttered to no one in particular as he stopped running and spun on the spot, aiming his rifle down the each of the corridors that met at the cross junction he found himself at. Happy he was safe for this particular moment, he went to activate the flash light on his rifle as the metallic crash of the blast doors closing surrounded him. Knowing he was now cut off he emitted an exasperated sigh and relaxed his tense body before turning his flashlight on, giving himself a better view of the empty corridors and the closed blast doors that now blocked his route in three directions.
Turning to head down the only available route, Ben picked up the pace and headed away from the muffled sounds of the other staff and towards the research lab. Arriving to find the main door closed, Ben knocked on the glass of the first airlock door.
“Soldier, what’s happening out there?” came a feminine Russian accent from the intercom box.
“I’m not sure, how’s everything in there?” Ben replied, holding down the talk button on the touch-screen panel.
“Everything is fine in here, we’re trying to get in contact with the Operation Centre with no luck.”
“The power’s down and the base has gone into lockdown. I was on my way to get there when I got trapped out here, any chance I can come in?”
“Of course, you’ll have to go through the correct procedures when heading through the airlock.”
“It still works?”
“Yes, we run on a separate power source for the life support we use. Please, step into the decontamination area.” She said as a green light lit up on the door and the lock clicked open.
Pushing the door open, a bright light spilled out of the small room and into the pitch dark corridor as Ben tentatively stepped into the decontamination room. As the door closed behind him the lock snapped shut and the lights turned off, being replaced by a black light, highlighting the contamination on his armour and weapons – lighting him up like a badly decorated Christmas tree.
“Think I’m going to need a good scrubbing doc.”
“Don’t worry, we have technology that can clean a body down to the bone, some rogue molecules are nothing to them. That said,” she started as the laberatory on the other side of the glass walls lit up, revealing a group of scientists in white coats, some worried and in the background whilst a few were stood around the window intently looking at Ben. “How do we know that you’re not one of the infiltrators that have attacked the base?”
“What? Are you crazy, do I look like an x-ray?”
“It was not the aliens that infiltrated the base, humans under mind control were the ones responsible,” said Dr Vahlen who, now that he was used to the lights, Ben could identify. She was the lead scientist for the X-COM base and despite her accent making her sound like a mad scientist, her teams work had accelerated the technology they had to hand by decades in just a few short months. Most of the armour and weapons Ben was currently sporting were probably all drawn up by the group of scared scientists now huddled behind the airlock door.
“How do you know that?” he asked after a moments pause.
“Like I said, we’re on a separate power supply; we managed to get in contact with Bradford just before you showed up. How do we know you’re on our side?”
Taken aback by the sudden interrogation and assumption, Ben kept his anger from fuelling his reaction. Him, a spy! He’d been on 12 missions for X-COM and killed a dozen x-rays… but it made sense, better the research team be precautious and alive than reckless and dead.
“I’m really not sure how you want me to prove that doc?”
As though the scientists were already thinking this, Ben could see them start to intently speak to one another, their voices muffled without the comms active on their side of the door. Trying to think of what he could say that would prove his innocence, another scientist with a familiar face appeared from another room at the back. Ben could see him showing Dr Vahlen some information on his tablet before realising what was going on. Glancing round to see their quarantined prisoner, he immediately started to appeal to Dr Vahlen with a welcomed look of recognition on his face.
“Turns out there is a silver lining to being admitted to the medical ward with severe injuries Sergeant Hale,” she said eventually, as the other scientists seemed to relax and hurriedly go back to their duties. “I’d apologise for the caution but I’m sure you understand. We’ll let you through momentarily.”
Ben dropped his head as he breathed a sigh of relief. Looking at his body, he could see the highlighted and contaminated glow slowly disappearing.
“Nano technology, great isn’t it!” came an Australian voice over the intercom. Looking up, Ben could see that it was the man who had vouched for him stood at the panel, Dr Vahlen disappearing through the door at the back. “Lucky I showed up when I did, if I hadn’t patched you up a few months ago they were gonna let them eat through more than just the contaminated cells.”
“Right… cheers for the assist.”
“Alright, you’re all clean. Come on in Sergeant,“ he said as the second door’s lock clicked open, accompanied by a green light by the handle.”
“Call me Ben,” he replied, as he stepped into the clean room, the air reminding him of his time in the infirmary, breathing through a respirator of clean oxygen. The memory made the old battle wound in his side tense up. ”Sorry if I’ve forgotten your name.”
“No worries mate, name’s Jack. You were pretty well under whilst I was fixing you up so I won’t hold it against ya. Now I’m not one to chat and run but we’re a little busy at the moment trying to save this base, don’t suppose you want to take door duty?”
“Not a lot else here I understand. Any chance I can speak to command?”
“Sure thing,” Jack replied as he moved to one side, allowing Ben to get to the terminal. “Shout if you need me.”
Nodding in thanks Ben manned the terminal and hailed for anyone in the Operations Centre.
“Sergeant Hale! Good, we need someone to buy the research team some more time and we can’t get anyone to you. The power’s been cut and we’re prioritising any reinforcements to the main doors.”
“I don’t understand, what’s gone on?”
“No time to explain, the bases’ main defences and power are out, there’s a big Open Day sign out front for the aliens and now they’re coming in through the main door and a whole bunch of vents and access tunnels we didn’t know we had.”
“And what’s the research team got that’s so important?”
“Keep’em alive for ten minutes and you’ll find out. Command out.”
A mixture of emotions washed over Ben but like a granite rock, his training got the better of it. “What weapons have you got in here?” he asked Jack who was fiddling with a control panel on the wall.
“In term of guns, pretty damn limited. That and no one who really knows use them.”
“And what is it we’re protecting?”
“Something better than a gun.” He shouted as he ran off further through the lab, hurriedly conversing with other scientists and tinkering with dials.
Annoyed no one was giving him a straight answer, Ben stuck to what he knew best. Grabbing a few empty tables, he lined them up as a barricade by the airlock door whilst setting up a few remotely detonated explosives inside the airlock itself. Taking a moment to look over his botched barricades a nearby explosion shook the room. A few of the scientists cried out in panic and looked to Ben for comfort who returned their glances with a positive nod before setting himself up in the middle of his barricades and trained his gun on the airlock.
Luckily, the clean room had no vents or external access. It was sealed tight and the only way in or out was out of the one door. Grabbing the control panel with his free hand, Ben altered the glass so that it was one way, allowing him to see out but anyone outside wouldn’t be able to see in. For extra effect he activated the black lights in the airlock itself before double checking the doors were locked.
Happy with the setup of the defences, Ben took a moment to look around the room at its other occupants. Most of the scientists had now moved into the backroom, hopefully prepping whatever it was they were working on. Taking a deep breath another explosion, this one closer, erupted in the corridors outside. This one causing the motion sensor on the control panel to go offline.
“Unless you need to be in this room, I’d suggest you all move into that back room NOW!” Ben shouted, flicking the safety off on his rifle, the red energy core within humming into life, his eyes never leaving the airlock.
He could hear the scientists shouting and moving around behind him but the high pitched screech of an x-ray from outside the room caused all of his muscles to tense up.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said to no one in particular as his hands started to shake.
Something crashed against the door, heavily, with all of its weight. The outer door held. The crash returned and the door held again. With each crash Ben started to calm, confident that the outer airlock door would easily withstand the Chrysalid outside and eventually the creature stopped. Breathing for the first time in what seemed like an eternity Ben took a moment to sigh with relief…that was until he heard the sound of plasma round being fired. After a few salvos of fire, the external door, whilst reinforced, started giving out to the molten green liquid being fired at it. Once the hinges had been melted the Chrysalid renewed its attack and with one good charge, the outer door gave way revealing the four legged insect like monstrosity under the black lights.
Looking like something akin to the Bugs in the old Starship Trooper movies that Ben used to watch as a kid, the Chyraslid had four talons for legs but the torso of a humanoid, an ugly purple one mind. With claws at the end of its arms, spines down its arched back and glowing yellow eyes, it was a sight Ben had learned to hate. At least the rest of the aliens would kill you in a dignified, if unpleasant manner. The Chrysalid would use your corpse as a host for its young who, until they erupted from your body, could animate it like a zombie. One of Ben’s many x-ray kills had been a friend and, although he knew he was dead, it hadn’t made it any easier.
“To hell if you think you’re using me as an incubator!” Ben said as he triggered the explosives laid out in the airlock. Ducking behind his barricade to cushion him from the explosion, Ben was surprised when the explosion was muffled and almost entirely contained within the airlock. Looking up he saw that it had created a tunnel of flame that had lept down the corridor and roasted a queue of x-rays that had come to kill him.
Whilst it had mostly held against the blast, the internal door had been shifted ever so slightly off its hinges so that Ben could clearly hear the noises from outside, without the aid of the comms unit. He could hear the crackle of bodies burning, the cries of dying aliens and unfortunately, the roar of the angered ones as a huge brutish figure charged into the airlock and smashed against the internal door.
Holding steady under the weight of the Muton, the door moved mere millimetres as the six foot, armoured, hulk crashed into it. Now determined to knock the door down with its fists, the Muton started to pound on the door, its weakened state sacrificing every ounce of its reinforced construction to protecting the occupants of its room from the enraged alien.
With the door buying him time, Ben trained his rifle on the blacklit Muton’s head through the glass door, tracking its movement so as to predict its reaction when the door finally gave way.
Giving up with its pounding on the door, the Muton stepped back and grabbed the plasma rifle from its back and continued to unload its contents at the door. As the fizzing plasma melted the door to the Muton’s satisfaction, with a mighty kick he booted the door open, and was met instantly by the crack of red laser being pumped into its unarmoured pink head.
With the laser having scorched its way through the creature’s fleshy skull, the rest of its green armoured body collapse to the floor, signalling the attack for the rest of the reinforcements that were still hidden in shadow further down the corridor. With the enraged creature out of the way other aliens started slipping into the light that spilled down the corridor as Ben picked them off one by one. Without any cover to hide behind, the unarmoured forms of Sectoids and Thin Men were cut down by his accurate and well trained fire. Whilst his cover wouldn’t provide much protection from the incoming plasma fire, their accuracy into the bright room shook their aim. The wild returning fire merely causing instruments and panels behind him to explode, but Ben didn’t notice any of this.
Adrenaline pumping, the world was a blur, his only focus was on his breathing and his reactions against any figure that entered into the mixture of lights that flooded the airlock and the corridor leading away. Hearing the roar of another Muton, Ben instinctively pulled a fragmentation grenade from his belt and tossed it into the corridor, its explosion silencing the creature and buying him a moment to reload.
For what felt like hours Ben continued to hold the line. When his rifle had expended all of the ammunition he had he pulled out his pistol. Whilst not as powerful, it still burned though the advancing aliens with a couple of shots.
As the airlock filled with bodies, Ben had more time to breath, reload and slip back into the real world, just as he realised he was about to engage his last magazine into the pistol.
“Crap,” he muttered as he checked his belt to find he had used the last of his grenades. “Whatever you’re doing better make it quick!” he shouted over his shoulder as the wall of bodies were sent crashing into the room, causing Ben to duck as the short, grey skinned form of a Sectiod flew over his head.
The roar of another Muton filled the room and Ben stood up. He raised his pistol and fired at a larger than usual Muton. Raising an arm to place an armoured gauntlet in front of its unguarded face, it slowly started to advance towards Ben. Altering his aim he started to fire at the least armoured pointed on the alien but his aim was faltering, somewhere in the firefight some plasma had grazed his arm, melting the skin away and causing the muscle to spasm when tensed. The overheating light on his pistol lit up as Ben ignored it and started to walk backwards away from the creature and his barricade, firing even faster. As the Muton reached his barricade he knocked it flying with an effortless swing of its arm, just as Ben’s pistol stopped firing.
Knowing there was nothing else to do, Ben dropped the pistol, drew his knife and charged at the creature, hopefully before it could react. Using a bench to launch himself at the creatures head, Ben found time moving slowly as he soared through the air, the knife raised in his hand.
The Muton had lowered his gauntlet to see why the laser fire had stopped.
Ben drew the knife back further for a stronger swing.
The Muton identified Ben flying through the air towards him.
Ben started to bring the knife forwards shouting something incoherent as a battle cry as he flew through the air.
The Mutton’s eyes widened at his assailant closing in on him.
Ben started to smile as he grew closer, the knife closing in on its target as he felt something close round his neck. He was moving away from the Muton, the swing of his knife cut short and scraping off the armoured shoulder pad.
Effortlessly the Mutton had caught Ben in the air with his free hand, its pink fingers now coiled round his neck. Ben struggled as he felt his windpipes being closed. He knew the Muton could crush him easily but it was going to enjoy this, play with him. Ben could see a smile forming underneath the rebreather the wrinkled pink face needed to live. He tried to use the knife to cut the hand that was holding him but the Muton grabbed the knife from him, crushing his hand as it did so. Reduced to punching the Muton’s long arms with his unbroken hand, Ben’s vision was starting to blur at the edges as he ran out of ideas and succumbed to the fact that this was how his life would end.
They say you see your life flash before you when you’re dying…they were wrong. All Ben could see was the smug look on the face of a creature that was enjoying his death, a creature that was going to do the same thing to all the scientists in the room behind him. Scientists who were looking to Ben to save them, and he had failed – then the Muton’s head spun through 90 degrees, accompanied by the sound of bone snapping as its neck broke.
Instantly dropped to the floor, Ben inhaile the well needed oxygen his body craved before looking up and around the room, it was empty save for the a collection of smaller green Sectiods that had followed the Muton in. Looking around in confusion with the aliens, Ben was surprised when a knife appeared through the back of one of the Sectiods and the rest erupted into panic. The familiar sound of sizzling laser erupted from behind him as the other Sectiods were executed.
Ben started to relax a little, doing what he could to shuffle to one side of the room as a group of humans stepped into view from the back room.
They were armed and armoured to the teeth. Using equipment that made Ben’s brand new equipment look old fashioned, a mixture of men and women, all tall and perfectly built charged into the room. Ben watched one of them, a blonde haired woman in blood red armour charge at the airlock wielding only a knife. She was a blur to watch and the way that she grappled with and killed another Muton showed she was far stronger than Ben.
Stepping out of the way others in different coloured armour stepped in to take her place. Some of them had weapons, whilst others used knifes to halt the incoming aliens. In a blur of speed the conflict dissipated and the group pushed on through, out into the corridor and the base beyond.
Catching his breath for a moment, Ben was caught off guard when a figure appeared in front of him from out of nowhere. Having been caught out by a Seeker before, a floating squid like alien that could turn invisible and strangle its victims if not quickly removed, Ben raised his arms in front of his face in self-defence and closed his eyes.
“Don’t worry Sergeant, we’re on your side,” came a deep Kenyan accent.
Opening his eyes, Ben was greeted by a huge, dark skinned figure. Clad in shiny new, dark green armour, the giant was holding a hand out to Ben. Taking it gratefully with his, the figure hauled Ben onto his feet with a strength similar to that of the Muton.
“I hope one day, I’ll be as deadly as you are,” he continued, motioning to the corpses in the airlock. ”Get some rest, we’ve got this covered.”
Ben tried to ask something but his bruised throat quickly felt like someone was pouring fire down it.
After putting a hand on the Sergeants shoulder, the solider turned and followed his comrades out of the room, turning invisible just before disappearing out of the door but before Ben could process any of this a host of doctors appeared by his side, just managing to catch him as he passed out.