Thursday, August 4, 2016

Shattered Apollo (XCOM Files)

PFC Tom Shaw, March 1st
They told us we were the first humans to kill a creature from outer space. They told us we were heroes. They told us we were the best humanity has to offer to fight off this invasion. I'm going to be honest with you here and tell you, I don't really think any of that is true. These guys knew the aliens were coming. They must have known for a while. The XCOM project had been dormant for years before they came and picked us up and told us we were chosen to protect humanity. It's possible no one had seen or fought an alien before us, but then how did they know what to expect? How did they know when to expect it? We certainly weren't heroes. Most of us were just dumb kids who knew how to shoot. Yeah, we were trained to kill each other, but not one among us had been trained to repel alien invaders with death rays. Hell, I don't even really know what plasma is and I've been covered in the stuff.

You're here to talk about that night, right? I relive that night a lot in my nightmares. It's difficult to talk about for a lot of reasons, but as the squad leader of the first human beings to engage and defeat an alien threat - well I'm getting used to being asked about it. Well, here goes.

We were flown from the Cheyenne Mountain complex to Vancouver late on the night of March 1st. Aliens had touched down at a shipping warehouse and were in the process of abducting any humans unfortunate enough to be out that late. None of this junk sounded real to me, by the way. Here I was leading this team and I wasn't even convinced we were going to be fighting what they said we'd be fighting. I'd never seen an alien or a UFO. This was the stuff of TV shows and silly documentaries on conspiracy theories. How could this crap be real? It felt like a dream flying out to Vancouver that night. It felt like a dream until our boots hit the ground.

The Landing Zone
We dropped down on the street outside the parking lot of the warehouse. The lot itself was fenced in with a stone wall creating a bit of a fortress for these aliens to hide in. We could hear some damn strange noises coming from beyond that wall. That's when most of us knew that this was really happening. You can be dropped into a foreign country where you don't speak a word of the local language, but you know those sounds coming from the other side of the wall are human voices speaking human words that you just don't understand. This was not like that. No, sir. I can't even begin to describe these sounds to you. They were like nothing I'd ever heard on Earth. This was really happening.

First Contact
Grace was the first to lay eyes on an alien - Private Grace Russell, my fellow American that night. As she took up a position against the wall and moved forward to the entrance of the lot, she spotted three little greys working on one of their abduction pods. I guess they store humans inside these things for transportation. The science team understood more about that than I ever did, but we just called them abduction pods. Anyway, these aliens saw Grace and took up defensive positions behind the pod and some nearby cars. My Brazilian brother, Julio "Burrito" Brito, took up a position across from Russell at the entrance to the lot.

The Great Kobayashi Grenade
I couldn't see a damn thing from where I was pressed up against the wall, but the next thing I know I'm hearing the bizarre sizzling sounds of these plasma pistols firing on my team. Russell and Brito open fire, but they're basically exchanging rounds with the aliens shooting their green ooze back at us. That's when Shinji Kobayashi - no one even knew this dude until that night. This guy really kept to himself at the base. He barely spoke a word of English to anyone. He was definitely a loner. So this guy, Kobayashi, decided to sneak up along the outside of the wall and toss a grenade over the top on to the aliens' positions. The crack of his anti-personnel grenade marked a stop to the plasma pistols sizzling shots, but Russell could see two were wounded, but none were killed. Burrito and I slipped into the parking lot in this short window of opportunity.

Man, the first time I saw a grey - hunkered down behind that abduction pod, staring down at the shrapnel out of its body - I just fired on the thing. I ended its life. That thing didn't even see me sweep in from around the corner. Yeah, as far as anyone can tell me, I'm the first guy on Earth to take one down. I barely even got a good look at the thing before putting a hail of bullets into its small grey body. There was a certain exhilaration among the team knowing that our simple ballistic weapons had defeated these technologically superior beings with futuristic, space rayguns. Sadly this small moment of victory was diminished by the sounds of heavy plasma fire coming from further down the street.

Kobayashi Comes Under Fire
Private Kobayashi's bold maneuver had left him alone and exposed. He was pinned against the wall farther up the road and barely holding back four greys who were trying to gain a strategic position behind our squad. Knowing this, Burrito rushed across the parking lot toward the warehouse hoping to end our conflict inside the compound swiftly. The aliens were wounded and distracted by the loss of one of their own. They didn't even see him get in close and mow down a second alien hiding behind a car in shock. Grace had only reported three aliens in the lot, so I felt confident that Private Brito and I could pincer the last one on our own. I sent Russell, Rojas and Marin to backup Kobayashi on the street. You know, I think about this moment often and wonder if splitting up the squad had been a mistake. That might have been where things went truly wrong for me and Marin, but if I hadn't sent them, then Kobayashi would probably have died in the streets of Vancouver that night.

Burrito Gets the Drop on This Alien
As Julio and I pushed forward in the parking lot searching for that final alien, Russell, Rojas and Marin made their way up the street toward Private Kobayashi. We heard Marin nscream out in pain from our position and it still sends chills down my spine. Julio and I thought she was dead. As far as we understood, no one had ever been hit by these death-rays so we expected the worst. Rojas came over the radio, though, saying she'd been hit but she was still alive. She even managed to take one of the aliens down before falling back behind a car to rest. Adriana Marin was tough.

As far as I understand, while the aliens were distracted by Private Marin, Kobayashi was able to take up a new position across the street - rushing away from the wall where he had been pinned down. From there he was able to take down an alien firing on Marin and Rojas with ease. Although Marin was hurt, it sounded to us like the firefight on the street was turning in our favor. We could hear the aliens shrieking their horrible sounds and scattering back to defensive positions further down the lot. Private Brito and I obviously wanted to pin the aliens down, but before we could rejoin Kobayashi we had to take care of our immediate enemy. We found the final alien of the initial squad hiding behind a yellow car. I took some shots that missed, which to this day still haunt me. That damn yellow car is one of the last things I remember that night. After that, things go dark.

Just Before Things Go Dark
The alien that Julio and I were tracking was leading us into an ambush. Julio told me later while I was in the med-bay that three aliens popped out of the warehouse itself right on top of my position. One of them fired several shots into my left side, nearly covering me in that burning green plasma. I went down hard and Julio thought I was dead right then and there. I don't have any memory of this, you know? The last thing I can remember is missing that damn bastard who led me into the trap. I guess after I fell, Brito rushed up taking shots on my attacker and killing it. He said I was bleeding out right there in the lot. He reported over the radio that if they couldn't get me on the skyranger soon, and rush me to medical attention I was a goner.

Kobayashi Coming in Hot
Now, from what I understand, once Burrito reported I'd been shot down, Kobayashi took charge of the team on his side of the wall. To this day, I never heard the guy speak, but if you hear Grace tell it, without Kobayashi's leadership I wouldn't be here today. She makes it sound like Shinji single-handedly killed the rest of the aliens in some kind of maddened rage, which makes Julio laugh every time we bring it up. All he would tell me is that Shinji led his sub-squad around the northern end of the wall and closed in behind the ambush in a pincer attack with Brito. Together, their counter-ambush wiped out the rest of the greys on site and we were able to be extracted soon afterward.

That's really all their is to tell. The six of us took out ten greys. Marin was wounded, and I was rendered unconscious. Technically, I was leading the mission and I got the first kill so some people think I'm a hero. Personally, I know it could have gone better. I'm still kicking myself for walking into that trap like a goddamn puppet on a string. It was my leadership that got Marin hurt, too. Kobayashi was the real hero that night as far as I'm concerned and I don't think I'm alone in that regard.

  • From an interview with Tom Shaw, US Special Forces, Leader on Operation Shattered Apollo

XCOM Report - March 1, 2015 - "Shattered Apollo" 

PFC Tom Shaw (USA) - Squad Leader
  • Confirmed Kills: 1 (Sectoid)
  • Condition:  Gravely Wounded
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Grace Russell (USA) 

  • Confirmed Kills: 1 (Sectoid)
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Roman Rojas (Guatemala)
  • Confirmed Kill: 2 (Sectoid)
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Adriana Marin (Moldova)
  • Confirmed Kill: 1 (Sectoid)
  • Condition:  Minor Wounds
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Shinji Kobayashi (Japan)
  • Confirmed Kill: 3 (Sectoid)
  • Earned Promotion 

PFC Julio Brito (Brazil)
  • Confirmed Kill: 2 (Sectoid)
  • Earned Promotion 

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