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Operation Devil’s Law was an assault on a downed alien craft. The crashed up wreckage should have been easy pickings, even for the rookie team that I sent. After the last mission, rookies were all I had. Still, this was a scout ship, it had crashed, so the risk ought to have been minimal. All was quite at the perimeter, the team stack up against a breach in the hull, just as they had been trained to do and cleared the entry room without making contact. At this stage the ship was eerily quite. Not even the distant sound of movement.

The ship was laid out as a corridor ringed around a central room – presumably the control room. Save for the control room, the entire ship seemed empty. Once again they stacked up in preparation to entry the last room. As they began taking positions, two floaters emerged and took the team by surprise. The Italian went down first, then the Canadian. With half the team gone the mission was no longer about securing the ship intact. The two remaining agents concentrated fire on the floaters in turn, taking them out without further casualties.

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The mission objectives changed. The rookie team, on the verge of panic, ignored the pleas of the head scientist to refrain from using explosives, and lobbed their grenades into the final room. All salvageable equipment was destroyed in the assault, along with all remaining enemies. The loss of two more rookies was bad enough, but the loss of this equipment would delay all other aspects of the XCOM operation – weapons research, procurement and satellite deployment.

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It was a victory, the enemy was eliminated and half the team made it back alive, but it was a victory that lead nowhere. When XCOM Skyrander landed back at HQ, no one was there to greet the survivors. They’d all been called into the command centre.

Starred Photos

A new kind of threat had emerged. The cold war seemed to have just heated up some. For reasons unknown the enemy had ceased a more clandestine approached and openly attacked a major metropolitan area. Cities across the globe, from Washington DC, to Melbourne, to Munich were under direct attack. The purpose did not seem to be abduction anymore, but eradication.

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Save for the newly promoted sniper, Navarro, the team sent was fresh meat from the grunt factory. It was all I had to work with. Under these odds the best I could hope for was to minimise the slaughter of civilians and get at least one of the team out alive. The war wasn’t going to be won by minimal avoidance of failure.

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The team touched down at a freeway overpass. The landing zone was clear of aliens, but the team could see civilians – the primary objective – huddled behind cars and piles of rubble. It looked like a section of the overpass had collapsed, intentionally perhaps, meaning the team faced being flanked on both sides from elevated positions as they moved forward.

The first order of the day was to secure as many civilians as possible, as quickly as possible. The team could hear screams, screams of the dead and dying, and a large on going battle in the distance. Navarro moved to take an overwatch position while the rest of the team made a fast and risky advance.

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In the first few minutes of the battle a number of civilians were rescued without opposition, though the abandoned law enforcement vehicles showed that there had been an earlier encounter, an encounter that the humans did not win.

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As expected, the team was flanked from the left hand side of the collapsed overpass. Without decisive action the team would find themselves at a significant disadvantage over an already superior enemy. The Irish rookie, Pvt. Molly Doyle, slung her rifle over her shoulder and charged towards the enemy.

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She was counting on being able to knock out both floaters with a single grenade.

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The initial blast of the grenade failed to knock out either of the horrid levitating amalgams of flesh and metal, but it was enough to set a couple of cars on fire, which then exploded, finishing the enemy off. Her gamble had paid off for now. The downside was that she was out in the open. If anything came towards them now, she’d be a sitting duck.

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With the little experience he had, Navarro sensed Doyle’s vulnerability and shifted position, advancing so as to cover Doyle’s exposed right flank. In his advance he encountered his own enemy, another floater. From the safety of cover he popped rounds through a car and took the creature out of the game. Meanwhile, the rest of the team had advanced to occupy the collapsed junction between the two freeways. In the distance they heard screams, and groans, and an unfamiliar skittering sound.

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From behind an overturned tanker an insectoid creature emerged, it didn’t seem to carry any weapons other than two long bones, evidently used to pierce through the body of its prey. Which this time was the good people of Munich. Sutherland opened fire on the creature as it emerged, but missed the target.

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The rest of the team moved to protect Sutherland from the new threat, but they too missed. The creature moved too quickly for them, skittering towards them seemingly without regard for its own life.

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Navarro was able to get a shot off with his sniper rifle, wounding the creature but not taking it down.

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If nothing else it seemed to make the damn thing even angrier. It advanced onto the team before being taken down by last minute pistol fire, only a couple of metres from the team.

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The team took up defensive positions, hoping this was the only one of its kind. Any more than one at a time would surely overrun them. But for now, they were safe. In the minute or so they waited they noticed that the screaming had subsided. While the moaning, almost but not quite human, had increased. Then, out of the smoke and ashes, they saw something unimaginable. A human coming towards them, but it was but a husk, it moved slowly but intently towards them. Unsure of what to do they waited. They waited too long, because as the distance between them closed another unimaginable sight. The shambling human corpse stopped, and then tore open. Organs, flesh, blood burst out everywhere as one of the insectoid creatures clawed its way out from within the body and immediately rushed towards their prepared positions.

As the first came in, so did a second, and a third. What happened next happened so quickly that no footage could be taken. Three squad members were torn to pieces, two of the enemy were taken down, the third was unwounded. Sutherland was the only one alive.

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Behind him the Skyranger sat waiting to extract him. He could have fled, but instead he withdrew to a concealed position and then quietly made his way up towards a public bus from which he heard the cries for help of civilians. When he got there he found two, one huddled inside the bus and another hiding behind an overturned car. He directed them towards the Skyranger, knowing full well that they could be ambushed anytime.

Miraculously, they made it out alive. The mission wasn’t a success, almost half of the trapped civilians were killed and three quarters of the team were shredded to pieces, but Sutherland made it out alive with twelve survivors. Enough for the politicians to claim victory on the day, even though it had become clear that not even XCOM could field an effective defence against a significant alien attack.

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