Welcome to Live Love Play and this highlight from XCOM 2. In this highlight I respond to an Advent retaliation strike with an under-strength squad and am greeted by the terrifyingly dangerous Gatekeeper. Keep reading for a short fiction based on the clip.
I don’t remember the old world, I was an infant when The Elders came and swept it all away. I was raised in Advent’s new world, was educated in their schools, walked the streets with their patrols, saw the changes they made to this world, and never questioned their intentions. Then I grew up.
I lived in suburban areas for much of my life, my parents never liked the cities. They would call them crowded, dirty, and dangerous. Advent promoted the immigration to the cities of course but it was never mandatory. I got used to it, in fact I prefer rural community over the dense press of a city center. It was this preference that drove me away from Advent. Their insistence in the cities improved quality of life seemed too forced. So I walked away.
I roamed for a time and eventually found myself in a rural settlement. It wasn’t a pretty sight, classically speaking. The structures were little more than scrap metal huts with one or two old world trailers staggered among them. Small generators supplied electricity, a hand pump provided fresh water, anbd food was cultivated in a rough looking greenhouse. It was a beautiful sight to me.
I was not unwelcome but people were suspicious of me at first. Den Mother introduced herself, the settlement’s defacto leader and matron, and gave a billet in one of the huts. I settled in well, working around the camp repairing structures, pipes, and infrastructure. I really liked it there.
It was a year before I found out about the Resistance. Most people here were simply content to live out thir lives away from Advent’s control, like me. But there were others who actively resisted their regime, ambushing convoys, sabotaging trains, and stealing supplies. A group of them came into the settlement looking like they’s been though hell. Three of them were limping and one was carrying an unconscious one over her shoulder.
Den Mother greeted them and quickly hid them away. I stayed away from them at first but eventually I warmed up to the newcomers. One night over drinks, moonshine fresh from the still, I talked with one of them. She said her name is Miranda. She told me about the things she has seen, people gone missing, abducted by Advent and shipped in cylinders like cargo to remote location for god-knows-what.
Worst of all, she showed me what Advent soldiers looked like under their helmets. There used to be us, humans, people who wanted to make the world a better place. But they’ve been…changed. Miranda gave me a photo of a soldier, her nose and mouth looked normal but she was hairless and her eyes were enormous, set too high and too wide on her face. Then I noticed the blood, a bright ocher instead of a deep red.
The squad left about a week later once their wounds were healed. I gave Miranda a kiss goodbye and she left me her shoulder patch as a memento. I’m glad could spend time with her and brighter her world, if only for a short time. Hers is a dangerous life and I doubt I could live it like she does. I resumed my routine and things seems like normal.
There was no warning. Only the deep resonant thrum of impellers as a trio of drops ships fell upon us. Den Mother’s trailer went up in flames first, a great cloud of smoke rising from the wreck. They landed and soldiers spilled from the hatches firing indiscriminately. I nearly fell to their fire but I was far enough away to duck into cover before they opened fire. Two of my friends were not so lucky.
I’ve never been in a battle before. Terror gripped my heart so tight I thought it would give out. I ran as fast as I could between the shacks, making for the garage where I keep my tools. Somehow I made it and I barricaded the door behind me. Were had few weapons in the camp, mostly hunting rifles and a revolver. I picked up my nail gun and held it out like a shield. If anything came though that door I would not go down unarmed.
There was another hum then, different from the drop ships from before. I heard new voices shouting over the din of the massacre, Human voices. I crept over to a window so get a look, hoping beyond hope that they were here to help. Unlike Miranda’s squad, these people were uniformed and well equipped. Their weapons looked like a copy of Advent’s and just as effective it seemed.
I pulled away the barricade and opened the door in an attempt to join the fight as best I could. On the other side of the door was a horror. It leaned forward in four wicked legs like spikes, its torso covered in chitinous armor. Two long arms ending in scythe like fingers were held in front of it as if in prayer. It looked at me then, black eyes devoid of intellect, compassion or understanding beyond a bestial nature. Mandibles clicked together in a sound like a cricket. It was a monster and I was its food…or worse.
A shot rang out, a deep whine and snap, taking the monster in the thorax and passing though leaving a large gaping hole in its chest. I stood frozen for a long moment, stunned by how close I had come to a terrible death, when one of the soldiers ran to me and leaned into the wall for cover. He shouted something at me I didn’t understand at first. He repeated himself twice before striking my cheek. I snapped out of my haze and finally saw him.
He was older, grey hair cropped at his temples and scarred across the right side. His armor was painted bright red accented by blue lines across his chest. The thing that stood out most about him was his weapon, a shotgun I think, painted a very bright pink. He spun on his heel as a pale spindly alien rounded the corner. Its eyes fixed on the solder and it let out a loud shriek.
The pink shotgun kicked in the soldiers hands as he fired. The weapon spat a spray of narrow shards in what looked like an electric discharge, judging by the odor of ozone coming from the weapon. The alien stood no chance as the shards ripped though its flack, taking a large chunk of skin and muscle with it. It fell in a heap and didn’t move again. The soldier turned back to me and pointed towards the far end of the camp. I turned and saw their drops ship, back gate open and flanked by armed soldiers.
I didn’t acknowledge him or thank him, I just ran. I’ve never run so fast before but fear of death is one hell of a motivator. I reached the aircraft quickly and ducked inside. Once my eyes adjusted to the dim interior I looked around and saw familiar faces. Den Mother was there gripping an old pistol tight in her white knuckled hands. She nodded to me and I nodded back. Six others huddles inside the bay looking no worse for wear, all things considered.
We stayed aboard the ship as it took off and returned to its home base. Den Mother taking charge as she always does and seeing to our injuries. She spoke with someone over the radio and arranged to find new homes for all of us. But I hardly listened. Miranda told me that she envied the life I was leading, free of care beyond the day to day. But those days were at an end, just as she warned me they would.
We’re all part of the resistance now.
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