Shadow of the Condor
A long post, and I have a few screenshots to post after. I hope you enjoy the read.
The Ilyrian North coast…
The light appeared out to sea. Coastwatcher stations that were manned from the Ilyria-Patria tensions and the now worldwide threat were still manned. Of course, “manned” was something of a misnomer. Computer augmentation, of course, was everywhere in society, and especially in any aspect of the defense of the state. So in a sense, although computers ran contact data through their algorithms, they were the only thing that “manned” these sites anymore.
The radar reflection had just broken the detection range and, since this contact did not have a proper RFID signature that would have been filed and logged in, a contact alert was generated. Of course, the return was small enough that it could be something riding very low on the surface of the ocean.
It could also be something trying to stay hidden…
CAF Base Ilyria…0347…
Radar detection console…
Jim Boyd was the night operator for the base. All of the operators had their hands full here, as every contact that had been generated during the past ten days required a full integration and identification. Boyd touched the screen of the north coast contact (he was, in fact, integrating four other contacts now) and the contact was now a full screen display. Not much was known, other than it was headed south.
Boyd began his code sequences – each lasting milliseconds but enough to compare what was received with what was stored.
CAF Base Ilyria…0350…
Hangar one, onboard Raptor One…
Steve Patrick shifted in the pilot harness. He had manned his plane when the report first came in. The pilots and ground team were responded to alerts nearly twenty alerts in the past seven days. It was understandable – every unknown event in the world these days had potentially devastating consequences.
But Patrick was getting a bit miffed at the constant calls and then eventual stand down. It showed in his voice when he got on his comm link…
“Whaddya say, Boyd? Another spook??”
Boyd, for his part, was watching the contact develop as the computer transmitted code pattern after code pattern. He was about to re-run the sequences when the display changed.
…TARGET SPEED 955 kph…HEADING 165…classification pending…
Boyd typed a command and the display was forwarded to the pilots.
“Heads up, folks – it’s real…”
Something was coming toward them from across the ocean at a very high speed. In the hangars, the ground crews cleared their aircraft and both Raptors launched, followed by the Raider transport.
en route to target…0412…
onboard transport Red Raider…
Lisa Andrews followed the Raptors as best she could. She wasn’t in a hurry – yet. Her job was to orbit at a safe distance while the Raptors intercepted whatever was headed their way. She was monitoring the interceptors’ comm. link, and tried to stay calm as she listened to the Raptors engage the target…
“Raptor Two, Andy – on your display…”
“Raptor One, I see it Paddy. Getting close to detection range…”
“Raptor Two, aspect change to target. Target now bearing 270. Altitude decreasing rapidly.”
“One, I have missile tone…engaging…missile away…”
“Raptor Two, I have missile tone…target still losing altitude…”
“Raider, this is Raptor One…confirm one missile hit on target…target is down…say again…target is down…do you copy coordinates, Raider?”
Now Lisa knew she had a point to fly to. The navigation computer displayed the GPS coordinates of her location, the downed alien, and the heading and distance to the location.
“Raptor One, Raider en route. Confirm one missile hit.”
“Raider, confirmed. One, say again, one missile hit.”
Everyone in the air knew one missile hit wasn’t enough to destroy the alien. It didn’t crash. Once again, like last week, this alien landed.
Lisa keyed the intercom, and spoke with Eva.
“Eva, it’s down. My files show another mine at that location. It wasn’t destroyed, it landed. Guess it’s looking for another hole.”
The ground team was in the mine. Like last time, Daniels and his AFV would scout ahead while the others would cover. Unlike last time, however, the team had traded their rifles for shotguns. All were carrying at least 8 grenades each, and everyone had at least three stimpaks.
Also unlike last time, was Skufal’s replacement, Robert Stanton. Stanton was carrying a hand held rocket launcher. Similar to the rocket launcher on the AFV, it was portable, and Stanton had four spare rockets in addition to the one in his weapon. Daniels had welded a rack onto the back of his AFV and twelve additional rockets were carried there. They were too small for the AFV’s launcher, but Stanton had access to seventeen rockets should he need them.
Like before, the AFV encountered an alien as it crept into a main passage. Unlike last time, this alien didn’t fire at the AFV. But this alien wasn’t armored, nor did it float.
Daniels whispered into his mike, as if fearing his coded transmission to the other members of the team would be heard.
“Target – two seven zero. Can’t lock on it…”
West keyed his mike.
“Negative,” Daniels replied. “System five by five. Target is too….big.”
“Too big??? How big?”
“At least as big as the tank, Eva. Computer is trying to lock onto four separate points, and keeps recycling. It thinks there’s four targets instead of one.”
Young and the others looked at each other. They knew there would be more than one alien in the passages, and if they were all this big…
“Switching to manual. Warning! Target approaching…”
Simpson, who had moved along the wall toward the alien, was still unable to see anything down the passage. But all of the sudden, he had the feeling that he couldn’t move. He shook his head, and refocused.
In front of him, about thirty feet away was a large grey alien with oversized appendages that were probably its arms. Each was wickedly curved like a scythe. It was, indeed, as big as Daniels AFV – probably bigger. When it opened its mouth, it screamed and advanced on Simpson. Simpson fired his shotgun without even aiming it. There was no way he could miss. The shell exploded into the creature, and the creature paused when a shell from West’s shotgun hit it as well. Simpson took the momentary pause to run away from the creature and those arms. The creature followed, moving surprisingly easy for its size. West had pulled the pin on a grenade and tossed it toward the creature. It exploded, and the creature was knocked backwards onto the ground. It didn’t move.
West and Simpson were joined by Young. No one said a word, but none needed to be said.
Young looked at Stanton and pointed down a second passage.
Stanton kneeled and aimed. He squeezed the trigger and the rocket shot out a bit and the main engine fired. It sped out of sight and an explosion announced it ran into something.
Young was about to set the advance for the third passage. Young was reloading. Daniels turned the AFV toward the third passage and found himself staring into a second of the giant aliens.
“There’s another one!!” he yelled as he twisted his throttle in reverse.
As Daniels was backing away, Young and West opened fire. Young got two shots off, but both were wild. West hit the creature, and Simpson had already two grenades in the air. Both went off, and the creature went down hard.
Stanton's voice was a bit shaky when he said, “Big bastards, and quiet." He tried to sound more hopeful. "Still, they seem to die easy enough.”
Young turned and looked at Stanton. “So do we. Stay sharp. Pay attention and we’ll all…”
Young seemed to forget what she was going to say. West looked intently at her.
“...we’ll all get…”
Stanton saw it first and had the launcher shouldered. A third giant alien followed out from where the second one lay. Simpson watched Stanton and jumped for him, trying to stop the rocket from being launched.
“NO!!! Not here!!!”
Stanton fired, but his shot went wild to the side of the creature, and exploded off of the side wall. The heat blast rocked the team, and Young was back in control of herself. The creature was hurt, as the explosion ripped into its back. It howled in pain and rage and kept coming.
Simpson and West both had grenades in the air. Before they exploded, Daniels came through their headsets.
“Floater!! Behind it!”
The grenades exploded, but the giant alien was still coming. Young had leveled her shotgun but saw the floater aim at them.
The team backed away and got behind whatever they could. The floating alien fired, and hit the ground by the tank. Immediately, the green acidic cloud formed. Daniels AFV was taking damage. The computer announced it had lost 9 percent of its armor. Unfortunately for the giant alien, it was about to attack the tank and had no special protection from the acid. It howled again and dropped, dead.
West looked up and saw the floater through the green mist. He threw a grenade that bounced against the walls and landed near enough to kill the floater when it exploded.
Everyone stopped for a minute to gather themselves. Young spoke first.
“Simpson, you and Stanton stay here and cover the rear. West, you, me and Daniels move forward. Daniels, you okay in there?”
“We’re okay. Armor at 91%. Weapons are fine. Moving forward.”
Daniels moved ahead slowly, and Young and West advanced with him.
Stanton watched them as they rounded a corner and were gone. The rumble from the AFV’s engine got fainter.
Simpson punched Stanton in the shoulder.
“Hey buddy, they’re okay. Look sharp, k?”
Stanton smiled weakly and looked down the opposite passage, where he and Simpson waited for any aliens looping behind them.
Simpson heard it first. A rumble, but from in front of them. Not behind them where the AFV had gone.
“They couldn’t have made it that fast.”
He thought a moment.
“I don’t like it. Stanton…get ready.”
Simpson leveled his shotgun and glanced at Stanton. Stanton had his head cocked to one side and was staring towards the rumble ahead of them. More importantly, his rocket launcher was pointing down.
Simpson was about to shake Stanton when the giant alien rounded the corner ahead of them. Simpson wheeled and faced the giant. The alien rose up and howled. Simpson fired twice – both hits, but the alien swung its arm and hit the still immobile Stanton. Stanton’s body was knocked through the air and flew back about twenty feet. Simpson watched with fascination as blood fountained from the body, spraying the passage walls, the light stanchion, and began to pool as Stanton’s crumpled body lay against the wall of the passage.
Simpson backed toward Stanton and pulled a grenade from his belt. He suddenly felt the feeling he did earlier…that he wouldn’t be able to move.
“Not this time,” he breathed and rolled the grenade forward. He ducked as it exploded. When he looked up, the giant was on the ground. It didn’t move.
Simpson tore his stimpaks and began to try and stop the bleeding.
When the grenade exploded, Young, West, and Daniels were about halfway down the passage. They immediately turned around. Since Daniels was ahead of them, West and Young were able to run to the corner and see Simpson trying to save Stanton. Daniels rounded the corner and stopped. He saw the three crewmembers ahead of him so he turned his AFV back towards the passage they were exploring.
And he immediately saw another giant alien. This time, the alien didn’t howl at all. Instead, it swiped and hit Daniels’ AFV. The claw rocked the AFV when it hit, and made a weird “clanging” noise as well. The three members looked up and Young pulled a grenade while West fired twice. The alien looked over the AFV and Young tossed the grenade over the AFV. It killed the alien, but also damaged the AFV. Daniels reported he was down to 58% armor.
Leaving Simpson (and extra stimpaks) with Stanton, West, Young, and Daniels resumed their move into the passage. Daniels pulled ahead. Young and West trailed about fifty feet behind him. Daniels, turned into a room when his AFV was hit in the side. He immediately turned but didn’t see anything. The computer reported he still had his 58% armor, so he continued into the room.
This time, another shot hit his side, but this time the acid cloud formed around the AFV. Daniels backed out of the cloud with 32% of his armor left. He saw the floater, but wasn’t able to lock onto it because there was debris in his sight line. Until he could lock onto the creature, the weapons could not be activated.
“Floater – on me!” Daniels was hoping West and Young could flush the creature into the open.
Simpson heard Daniels call but ignored it. He was getting the bleeding under control, but Stanton’s chest was caved in. He wasn’t going on any more missions any time soon.
West and Young advanced around a corner and headed toward Daniels, when they saw a floater. West dispatched it with a shotgun blast. At the sound of the blast, the floater that had fired on Daniels moved out from behind the debris.
Inside the AFV, the computer displayed TARGET LOCKED and a small tone sang out. Daniels fired a rocket at the floater and immolated the last alien.
onboard Red Raider…0811…
en route to CAF Base Ilyria…
Stanton was stabilized, and that was about as good as it would get until they returned to base. Lisa watched the team come onboard, closed the ramp and took off. She saw Stanton’s crushed body, the melted armor on Daniels’ AFV, and the vacant looks on the others as the adrenaline in their bodies began to subside. She had a job to do, and she had to concentrate on getting the team back as soon as possible. The two Raptors were still on station, and escorted her home.
Lisa Andrews wondered, however, when the day would come that she wouldn’t have to concentrate on her job after seeing what she just did.
She hoped it would take a long time for that to happen.
She knew it wouldn’t.
"Shouldn't we be leading the shark back to shore, instead of him leading us out to sea?"