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X-Com Enemy Unknown: The Rookie

Xcom: Enemy Unknown by Firaxis

Neuro-Recording: Murray, DeMarco. Corporal, Strike Force One.
The date is June 17, 2015.

Just what the hell did I sign up for?!

Three years in the Marine Corps, one year on loan to British SAS, two tours in Afghanistan, and it wasn’t enough. Not even close. You know I got mad as hell when they told me I was gonna have to go back through Officer Training School? Now I’m wishing I’d paid better attention.

You can’t help it, you know? They’re up there showing vids of shit you only see in the movies. Trying to tell you exactly how to kill E.T. It can’t be real, right?

But no, lemme tell you; it’s real. It’s so real that the guy I replaced was torn into so many pieces that there wasn’t anything to bring back, and suddenly they’re callin’ up the reserves cause the X-Ray’s are getting bolder, actually attacking cities. That’s where we’re headed now; Paris. The brass says that France is about to pull out of the whole thing. Brass says we can’t let that happen. Brass says we head into the meat grinder to save their asses for ignoring I-don’t-wanna-know how many UFO’s in the name of some damn “bigger picture”.

“Hey, kid!” The big black dude next to me doesn’t gimme enough time to acknowledge him. He punches my shoulder so hard that I almost fall off the bench. Everyone gets a good laugh out of that. Hazing the new guy, I get it.

Man looks like he benches semi’s for fun. Even under all that armor I can tell that the man worships the gym and prays regularly. He’s leaning the dangerous end of a cannon that’s bigger than both my legs. “You the new guy, right?” He asks me, smiling. The Skyranger banks; the engines are quiet. You could hear a cockroach piss in the cabin if it weren’t sterilized. “Yeah.” I reply, “Corporal Murray.”

He bumps my fist and says; “Stow that ‘corporal’ shit, son. We’re all equals here. We all answer to the commander. They call me Mack.”

Mack frowns, looks me up and down, and says; “Where’s your plasma, son?”

I look at my assault rifle and say; “Armory’s depleted, Mack. Said they didn’t have any more plasmas or lasers.”

Mack exchanges a look with the woman seated on his other side. It’s the kinda look that says they’ve already picked out a spot for my name on the memorial wall. 

Mack turns back at me and unfastens something from the back of his armor. It’s a rifle. “Take mine.” He says. “You’re gonna need it. Leave that shit in the cabin.”

“Yes, sir.” I reply. I take the gun from him and notice it’s way lighter than my assault rifle. It takes me a minute to get used to the weapon. I know where the trigger is but the rest of it looks like they took it off one of those things you see in the Predator movies. “You ain’t never fired one of those before?”

I shake my head.

They look at each other again. Damn, ya’ll. I’m not dead yet.

“Not yet.” The voice comes from the man who’s seated across from us. Scrawny guy, wearing sunglasses and got this big-mutha sniper rifle affixed to his armor. “Keep your head down, stick to cover, do what we tell you, you stay alive.”

Then he goes all quiet, lowering his head like I was never there. “Who’s that?” I ask Mack.

“That’s Priest.” Mack replies. “Our resident sniper and psychic.”

“Why do we need a psychic?”

The woman leans over like she’s gonna tear my head off and snaps, “Damn, kid, didn’t they tell you anything?”

“Yeah.” I feel like I’m back in high school. “They told me to suit up and be on the flight deck in thirty.”

She smirks, and it’s cold. “Kids got jokes. We’ll be sure to put that on your gravestone.”

“Take it easy, Lockdown.” Mack tells her, “Kids just new. So were you, so was I.”

“Yeah, but when I was new, they weren’t throwing us into goddamn terrorist attacks—“
“Watch your mouth, Lockdown.” Priest speaks, and everyone listens.  He’s just got that aura about him.
“Sorry, Priest.” Lockdown concedes. She sits back and looks at Mac and says, “Watch out for him. I don’t wanna lose any more rookies.”

The cabin lights begin to flash red and the alarm goes off. We’ve started our descent.

The area gets loud with mechanical clicking sounds as everyone starts checking weapons. “Listen to me, Murray.” Mack leans in, “Stay by me, okay? I tell you to shoot, you shoot. I tell you to run, you run. Stay in cover, stay close to me and I’ll get you home alive.”

I feel green but I’m glad for the assist. We’re so low that I can see the city burning and hear people screaming. I ain’t never seen destruction like this. “Thanks, Mac.”

The skyranger bounces; we’re on the ground.
The hangar door opens.
There’s this bright white light and everyone is screaming and OH MY GOD IT BURNS IT BURNS

I ain’t sure how much time has passed when I wake up. People are still screaming. The skyranger’s empty. 

My head feels like it’s gonna bust open. Mack is on top of me but he ain’t movin. I try to rouse him but he’s lighter than he should be. Then I see why; he got blown in half. Only his torso is on me.

I gently push him off and grab his rocket launcher. I can still hear people screaming, so I do my job. I leave the skyranger and search for any of my team, but I can’t find them.

Then I see it.

It’s big and green and mad as hell. It’s eyes are empty. It spots me, pounds its chest and comes for me. I raise and ready my weapon.

Just what the hell did I sign up for…?


John Wiswell said…
Idle Thumbs did a stream of XCOM a few weeks ago that attracted some hilarious commenters. One fellow in the chat roleplayed a scientist who didn't realize he was fighting an alien invasion, pretending, I guessed, to be the second-banana scientist in their game's bunker. This brought that back to mind. But I'm sure the rookie will be fine! Just stay in cover.
Avery K. Tingle said…
That's AWESOME. I'm gonna need to look that up. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Craig Smith said…
The original XCOM is pretty much my favourite game and I remember early in the game when you're researching things you didn't always have the resources to equip everyone with plasmas and lasers. Brought back some good memories. Also liked how the rookie got into the thick of the action straight away.
Avery K. Tingle said…
Mine too, and I'm not even a fan of the genre. But the meticulousness of X-Com was so appealing. I lost all but one of my soldiers on the final push to Cydonia, such high drama. I used to keep all my plasma troops up front and my laser troops in the rear. I remember when mutons arrived and lasers didn't mean jack anymore (bring out the blaster launchers). Thanks for reading, commenting and RT'ing on twitter.
Katherine Hajer said…
Speaking of being the rookie, apparently I'm the only person here who hasn't played XCOM... but the narrative voice here rocks, and I liked the bracketing repeat of the phrase at the beginning and end.

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