|The Interstell Chronicles
Episode 1 - War from Above
The whirring hum of the slide projector announced the appearance of the next of Matthew’s pictures. The slide was of a human chest, barely recognizable through charred flesh.
"This individual died instantly. As you can see, the weapon penetrated the chest with considerable force, and there is a corresponding exit wound on the back." Hitting the small button in his hand, the slide changed. "There is several inches worth of heat damage surrounding the wound in all directions, implying that the weapons emit significant amounts of heat on the victim."
"Mr. Hunter?" Matthew stared up at one of the senators sitting along the curved wooded bench that filled most of the end of the room.
"Mr. Hunter, why are you here?"
The question caught Matthew by surprise, but he fought it down and quickly assembled his thoughts. "To report on the effect of the Alien weapons on human targets."
"That is the official reason. I want to know the real reason. It says in your file that you are a qualified nurse, but I expected a doctor to give this report. No offense!"
"None taken senator. The truth is, so did I."
"Then why are you here?"
Pausing for a second, he thought about it. But only two answers came to mind. One, the reason he had been given, and had rejected, the other, well. "Honestly, I don’t know."
The senator looked at his colleagues up and down the bench before returning his attention to the front. "In that case why don’t I tell you?" Without waiting for a response, he continued. "We were after an unbiased report. All of the information we have had so far has been presented and compiled by members of the military, and they have a tendency to, over stress certain points. Do you mind if we leave your report and ask some questions?"
"I will answer all that I can senator."
Seemingly satisfied, he nodded once and glanced down the bench to the only woman.
"Mr. Hunter, you have seen the aliens close up. We have had physical descriptions from the military, but what are your impressions?"
Pausing to gather his thoughts again, he tried to direct his attention away from physical detail. "They don’t appear to be physically threatening, but there is something about them that just seems, well wrong."
"Could you elaborate?"
"They have a presence. It is subtle, but unsettling."
"Do you think they really represent a grave threat to this planet?"
"That is a short answer Mr. Hunter."
Matthew stared defiantly at the senator. Why ask me this? I don’t have the necessary information! "Not used to receiving a straight answer senator?"
She smiled slightly before shaking her head. "No Mr. Hunter, I am not. Remember I AM a politician!"
Another senator spoke up from down the other end. "Referring back to your report for a moment, how effective was body armor at protecting our troops?"
Turning to face the voice, Matthew stared at a gray haired man. "It wasn’t. It cut through combat grade kevlar like a knife through the air. I have been reliably informed by one of the engineers that works on my home base, that it takes two inches of Titanium to stop the power of a pistol. Eight inches to stop a rifle, and sixteen inches to stop the heavy weapon we found at the scene."
"How do you rate the effectiveness of the organization?" That was yet another senator, sitting just to the left of the chair.
Slightly puzzled at why he was being asked this question, he frowned. "How do you mean?"
"So far, this government has given fifty million dollars to the organization over three years. To date, that has resulted in the loss of eight operatives, and the capture of a UFO."
"I believe I am not the best person to answer that question senator."
He smiled with an almost predatory look. "Try."
Matthew nodded. "It was the first recorded action by XCOM troops, and…"
The senator interrupted. "XCOM?"
Frowning again, Matthew leant forward on the table. "It is the name that European Command has decided to adopt. I believe it was included in the operations report."
"Indeed it was Mr. Hunter. I just wanted to ask why it was your name that was picked without any reference to the American government, who have supported half of the finances?"
"The agents in Europe like the name, so we adopted it…."
Suddenly, an aide burst through the double doors at the front of the room and moved at a fast walking pace towards the senator sitting in the middle of the bench. All eyes in the room followed the man, as he reached the bench and talked quietly to the senator.
Unable to hear the conversation, Matthew studied the facial expressions on the senators face, and became disturbed when a look of horror passed briefly over his features.
"It appears that the Aliens have landed a probe in Washington."
The other senators seemed totally taken aback by the news, and the levels of tension seemed to spike into the near panic range.
At least half of the senators asked where in the city simultaneously, and the man that had barged in said that they had landed in part of the city currently experiencing lawlessness and armed gang riots.
"Send in a Marine detachment! Well show the President that we don’t need a fancy international force to deal with aliens!"
Matthew grimaced at the senators claims. He knew only too well who was likely to be shown. Moving out the building, he headed for the nearest exit.
Ten minutes later, Matthew sat in the back of a Washington cab en route to where the Aliens had supposedly landed. Pulling up next to the kerb, the driver turned in his seat. "Sorry mate, this is as far as we can go. The police have cordoned off the area."
Matthew leaned around the driver and stared out the front window. Indeed, the police, apparently in full body armor and armed with automatic weapons had set up a road block. But just as many police faced in from the road block as out to the open road. Just visible beyond a police van, the camouflaged paint work of an army lorry was visible.
Handing over the cab fare without saying anything, Matthew began walking towards the roadblock. A police officer noticed his approach, and subtly shifted his weapon to provide some degree of cover.
"I’m sorry sir, the road is closed!"
Matthew stopped just short of the barrier and pulled reached up to pull out the government ID card he had been issued with. The police officer raised his weapon as Matthew’s hand went into his leather jacket, but he Matthew slowed down the action and slowly pulled out the card, before handing it over to the officer.
The officer reached out and plucked the card from Matthew’s hand, and looked at it, then glanced back up. "Stay here!"
The officer moved back from the line and headed towards the commanding police officer, who was in talks with a marine captain. Part of his attention focused on the inaudible conversation between the three men, he also noticed that three police officers had covered him with their weapons.
They’re nervous as hell. Matthew began wondering if they had been told what they were dealing with. Probably not. The government would have too much explaining to do.
The marine captain approached with the police officer and stared defiantly at Matthew. Shifting his gaze around, Matthew looked up into his face. He was a good deal taller than himself, and that was saying much as he was six foot.
Matthew nodded at the name he had been given as an alias, and smiled slightly as the captain issued an order to the police officer to let his through. Having read the intelligence reports of the rising gang trouble in Washington, and the fact that the military had been sent in to rectify the situation, he knew that the police were somewhat hostile to the army.
The captain glanced at Matthew as they walked into the ranks of military personnel gearing, and the two soon entered the command tent.
As soon as the flap had fallen down behind them, the captain spun round and faced down with Matthew. "What are you doing here?"
Matthew, refusing to be intimidated by a person nearly seven feet tall and bristling with muscles glanced casually up to the mans face and smiled slightly. "My job."
That seemed to rankle the man, and his face began to turn red. "Your services are not needed here, but as you have a government pass at top level, I assume you know what the situation is?"
Matthew nodded and lowered his voice. "You have had a hostile landing during daylight in your capital. You need all the help you can get."
"I don’t care what level of clearance you have. I am not letting you into a combat area while my troops are in there. You are more likely to get yourself shot than shoot the hostiles."
Matthew searched the mans face to determine it that statement was for show, or if he meant it. Deciding he meant it, he offered an alternative. "Do you mind if I observe from here, listen into the radio chatter?"
The captain turned away and stared up at the corner of the tent. Come on, i’ve given in to not going out there, now you give in and let me watch. You know it’s as good as you’ll get!
Seemingly satisfied with that, he led his round to the map of the area, and left him there with the command staff, while he went to acquire his weapon.
Five minutes later, Matthew watched the images being relayed to the command tent from the cameras mounted on the sides of some of the helmets. The Marines had begun a door to door search of the neighborhood, collecting civilians and ushering them out to the street and back to the safety of the guard posts surrounding the area.
One trooper, part of a three man squad burst into a home, startling a family sitting down to eat their dinner. At the exact same time, something large and green with a purple face burst in through the door at the other end of the room. The troopers and the alien faced each other down for the briefest of seconds.
The marine with the camera fired first. His M15 spitting bullets across the room. They impacted on the chest of the green alien. Though the image was relatively poor, Matthew could see the sparks as the bullets struck off the aliens hide and ricocheted off into the room. The alien raised the big double barreled gun in his hands and leveled it towards the camera. The image tilted sideways as the marines dived for cover. One of them was shouting into his microphone about the encounter, as the family cowered in the corner of the room.
Matthew flinched as lightening erupted from the aliens gun and the image dissolved into static The screen next to it then fell forwards into the gutter, splattered with blood and the lens cracked. A third image dissolved into static, and the frantic screams of soldiers burst from the speakers mounted in the room.
Within thirty seconds, half the images, six in total, were wither filled with static, or were still, showing the ground or the sky.
Turning from the room, grimly determined to do what he could, Matthew took off his leather jacket, and pulled on an armored vest. Opening a metal crate nearby, he pulled out a gun belt, and strapped it around his waist. Grabbing another pistol from the case, he tucked it into the pouch on the side of the belt opposite the holster for the other pistol. Then, throwing his leather jacket back on, he grabbed an M60, slung in over his back on it’s strap, and picked up two M15s and spare ammunition for each, depositing it in pouches on his belt.
Picking out a half dozen grenades, he tucked them into pockets of his jacket, and strapped a knife around his left thigh. Finally pulling out and putting on his shades to stop the glare from the setting sun he turned round, he sprinted up the street ignoring the guards shouting at his to stop.
Moments later, Matthew was crouching behind a low wall besides what would have been a nice block of apartments once, but was now covered in graffiti, and run down.
Glancing up over the wall, Matthew watched a marine fly backwards out of a doorway, chest smoking, a little further down the street.
Cursing the marines for putting him in this situation, he vaulted over the wall, across the steps they ran besides, and dropped off the wall on the other side, pulling up besides the set of steps belonging to the next house. He repeated the move twice more, till he has crouching with his back against the set of steps, looking at the hand of the dead marine poking out past the wall.
Sliding along the wall, Matthew glanced around the edge and up the steps into the lobby of the building. Inside, he could see the feet of another member of the three man team. Cursing once more, Matthew walked up the steps, an M15 in each hand.
One of the tall green aliens stepped out the side room on the left, kicking the marines body as it went. Fueled by a burst of anger, Matthew finished moving up the steps in two bounds, and skidded through the doors onto the polished floor of the lobby on his knees, turning part way through, and bringing his weapons to bear on the alien’s back.
Obviously hearing Matthew move, the alien had begun to spin round, just as both M15 Matthew was carrying spat bullets at point blank range.
Catching the lower side of the aliens stomach, the bullets punctured the green skin, spraying gore across the room, as the aliens spin was continued while it fell to the ground.
Leaping up to his feet, Matthew kicked the aliens big weapon away from the body now lying prone on the ground, and he fired again into the middle of it’s back. More gore splashed up to spray his jeans, but he was already moving on.
Stepping thorough the door the alien had come through, the third member of the marine team was lying over by a fire, and by a lurid lime green arm chair. The man had been cleaved in two just above the pelvis.
The analytical part of Matthew’s mind noticed and identified some of the organs half out of the torso, and the jagged edge, probably created by a very sharp serrated blade. The emotional side, wanted him to turn away, do anything but be where he was.
An old man, sitting in front of a blown out TV set, was slumped back in his chair, a scorch mark dead center of his chest, still smoking. Moving back out the room, Matthew saw four of he aliens moving towards the building from across the way.
Moving back into the lobby, Matthew hugged the wall towards the door. Putting his two M15s down on a table to the left of the door, he reached into his inside pockets and both hands came away with a grenade. Hooking his thumbs into the rings, he flicked them out, and began counting. His training in weapons back in England told him what type of grenade he was holding, and the fact that they had a ten second timer. Reaching seven, he threw the grenades down the steps. They both bounced off the footpath and up into the cluster of aliens, just as they reached the ten second mark.
The explosion tossed one of the aliens straight up, causing it to land across the retaining wall to the right of the steps. Falling back first, Matthew heard the crunch as something inside it’s body gave way, and it rolled down the wall into an untidy heap on the footpath.
Two of the aliens, caught between the blasts were compacted together by the explosions, and bled black blood from dozens of wounds created by shrapnel from the grenade casing. The fourth alien had been thrown backwards into the street, hitting headfirst, and ending up doing an uncontrolled flip as the rest of his body continued to fly.
Picking up his two guns, Matthew studied the body’s in turn to satisfy they were out of the fight.
More aliens were moving around out there. Looking around, he realized how much this was like the dream he had had on the plane trip over.
Of to his left, a knot of people ran screaming from a building further up the street, being trailed closely by one of the green aliens, holding a massive bladed weapon, and another gun like weapon slung over it’s back.
Matthew knew what was coming next, so he began to run up the street towards the scene, knowing all the while that he would never reach them in time, and that at this range, his M15s would not have the power to punch through the thickened hide of the alien.
Wielding the blade, it charged with amazing speed, hacking left and right through the fleeing people. The heavy blade cut through flesh like a hot knife through butter. Limbs fell bleeding to the ground. Heads rolled, and so did the blood. Making it’s way like molten lava down the steps from surrounding buildings, indication just how high the casualty count could be. The green alien turned to face Matthew, charging forward with his blade held high, Matthew wanted to duck, but the difference between this and the dream was that he was armed.
Stopping dead, he sank to his right knee and brought the M15’s up. Smiling with a feral grin, he pulled the trigger.
Nothing. He had used up the ammo on both. Ducking out to the right, he dropped the M15s and reached for the Magnums on his gunbelt. Coming back into his crouch a few feet from where he had started, caused the alien to slow down to correct it’s approach, giving Matthew enough time to aim the handguns.
The power of the pistols sent jolts down his arms, but meant that the bullets punched through the green skin, just above what appeared to be a knee.
As that leg came back to the ground in the aliens headlong rush, it gave way, causing it to fall sideways and forwards, bringing the head into Matthew’s line of fire. The bullets slashed through the purple skin, causing gray matter to splatter the pavement. The blade flew from the aliens hand along it’s original line of travel. Realizing his danger just in time, Matthew snapped his head down to his left shoulder and fell that way. The blade scored through the shoulder of the leather coat, and slued through the armored shoulder pad of the vest underneath, but did not mark flesh. Had he not moved, the blade would have gone through his head. The aliens would have accomplished by luck what it had failed to do by design.
Reloading his handguns, he re-holstered them and un-slung the M60 across his back as he stood. Taking a step up the street, he felt something disturb inside him, as though he had a gut feeling about something. On a matter of sudden impulse, he returned and picked up the dropped alien blade and tucked it inside his gunbelt across his left thigh.
Moving back up the street, he strode down the middle of the road. I’ve been lucky so far, but that can’t last. Realizing that he was now pushing it beyond all extremes, he felt the need to speed things up. So he picked up his pace to jog down the road. A bear second after picking up his pace, a hot blast passed across his back, noticeable even through the body armor.
Spinning around, he saw one of the small gray aliens he had killed back in England, holding one of their pistol weapons. Squeezing the trigger of the M60, it answered the aliens shot with a stream of bullets that tracked across the doorway that framed the alien. Splinters and brick dust rose around it, soon joined by flying pieces of alien flesh as the bullets chewed up the alien.
In the space of a few minutes, Matthew had exhausted the ammunition of his main weapons, and had just three clips for the Magnums, the knife he brought with him, and the scavenged alien blade. Throwing down the depleted M60, Matthew pulled out the blade and the Magnum on his left. Blade in right hand, gun in left, he continued to jog down the street.
Shouts behind him told him that the marines had regrouped and were storming the street in large numbers, clearing out the buildings he had passed.
Turning the corner, Matthew came face to face with the UFO. It was the same design that had been shot down over England last month. But standing beside the door, three more big green aliens stood guard. Both raised their energy weapons at him, and Matthew knew he was dead unless he tried something just plain stupid.
Pulling the trigger at the center most alien, it fell into it’s fellow on the right, causing it to shoot wide, and allowing Matthew to break into a run that side, and have the other shot pass wide on the other side. Having emptied the handgun, he dropped it, and took hold of the blade double handed. The center alien was just beginning to stand upright when Matthew swung the blade upwards.
Catching the alien on the neck, it severed the head with ease, causing the body to fall back down, and the head to roll past the feet of the alien on the left.
With the speed he had gathered from the run, hitting the hull of the UFO was now certain, so as he approached, he flung his legs upwards, and ended up with them walking up the wall, and causing him to flip over backwards in mid air.
Landing hard, he swung the blade one handed out to his right, catching the alien standing there in the lower chest, and slicing it open and spilling organs over the tarmac road.
Spinning out to follow his blade Matthew leapt up over the body, and ended up facing the alien that had been knocked over by the now decapitated one.
It had leveled its pistol, but pulled what Matthew took to be a look of disgust. Throwing down the pistol, it drew the blade from its right waist and brought it out between them.
Matthew sank into a mirror position and stared up at the nearly eight foot giant. It was at this point, that Matthew got to study one, and really notice the details.
Standing seven and a half feet tall, it had a standard human shape. Rippling with muscles, it was green all over, except for the area around the face. The face was purple, and quite wrinkled. It had silver eyes that Matthew could see his own reflection in. A human sized mouth, split slightly to show human style teeth, but with over sized incisors, and they were silver, matching the eyes. It had no real nose, just a small lump with four slits running away from the middle of the lump.
Facing down this hulk, Matthew knew that he could not rely on luck anymore. He was squaring off with an alien weapon, against something that had probably been trained to use it.
The time to think was then over. The alien lunged forward, swinging his blade up and around with a blow designed to remove Matthew’s head the hard way. Swinging his own blade up to intercept the blow, he ducked beneath the swing, just in case, and brought his leg around to swipe at his opponents torso.
The clang of metal rang out, and the power of the blow cause Matthew’s blade to wrench his grip desperately trying to hold onto the blade. Matthew lost his balance with only one foot on the floor due to the power.
Stumbling forward, Matthew head-butted the alien in the stomach, and found it to be an immovable object. Pain on the back of his neck, due to a downward chop of an elbow, forced him to the ground as the alien swung around to bring his three foot blade above his head.
Rolling out to the side, the blade sank into the road surface, and for a brief moment, seemed to get stuck. This provided Matthew with enough time to clamber back to his feet, and set himself with his blade, just as the alien freed it’s own.
Again, the alien went for a head severing blow, but having learnt from his experience, Matthew lowered his blade, and again ducked below the shot, feeling the disturbance of the air as the aliens blade missed his neck by a mere inch.
Finding himself on one knee in-front of the alien, who’s powerful swing had carried his blade too far to recover in time, Matthew stabbed up with his blade, straight through the center of the chest. Black blood oozed out the wound as the alien slid off the blade, with a look of what he took to be sheer surprise on its face.
A sound, reminiscent of hydraulics came from Matthew’s right. Pulling the Magnum from his belt, he aimed it at the door to the UFO. As soon as he saw the gray head of one of the smaller aliens, he pulled the trigger, sending two bullets to penetrate the overlarge head, straight between the overlarge black eyes.
Sounds from behind him, and he realized that the marines had now reached him. Keeping his magnum trained on the now open UFO hatch, he sank to his knees and dropped the blade in his left hand. The adrenaline rush he had had for the past ten minutes, now wearing thin, left him unbelievably weak, with legs that felt like jelly, and his head spinning.
Despite the weakness, he smiled. Twice he had been into combat against the Aliens. Twice he had survived, with less than half the training that had been provided to the actual soldiers in XCOM. He had done what came naturally to him, almost like a hunters instinct.
Picking the blade lying in front of him up, he used it to lever himself from the ground and walked, slowly, back to the command tent.
Stepping under the flap of the command tent a few minutes later, he reached out for the nearest chair and sank down, thankful for its solidity under him.
The fact that twenty four marines were now dead, along with fifty civilians, Matthew could not help but feel more weary than at any other point in his life, but strangely buoyant at the same time. He knew that it would take more effort and resources than XCOM currently had at it’s disposal, and the fact that for every alien dead so far, they had lost four of their own, he had defeated a superior foe.
NOW OUTCHAPTER 7