November 10th 2140, Earth
Connor moaned and gasped. His eyes opened to be blinded by the sun rising over distant mountains outside of his pod. The pod itself had landed the way it was intended to, with the nose buried in to the ground and the rear hatch elevated slightly upward. He brought one hand up to shield his visor, but instantly let his arm drop as soon as he tried.
"Gah!" he groaned. The crash had left his arm twisted in a bad position for hours on end. He had no serious injuries other than sore muscles in his arm. Using his other arm, he took the hurt arm and brought it in front of him, cradling it snugly to his body. The pod was dead quiet. Connor looked around and noticed a flashing yellow button at his side with the label 'exit'. He elbowed the button and his hatch slowly shifted open. With another groan, he leaned forward and carefully stepped out of the pod.
Connor had landed on a gigantic hill that could almost classify as a mountain. Behind him the hill rose steeply. A gentle, gradual decline to a vast open prairie below spread out in front of him. On the other side of the prairie was the mountain range with the sun rising from behind it. Both sides of the mountain range had an elevated highway stretching behind the mountain, and all the way out of sight the other way. Red tinted dirt and dying grass as far as the eye could see. The sky had an amber color to it. In the distance to his left, a storm was pouring down rain. In the distance to his right, a lone alien spaceship slowly glided across the sky. Connor frowned in hatred at the sight of the spaceship.
His loathing was interrupted by the sound of metal shifting behind him. He whipped around and pulled his marksman rifle off of his back. A pain shot through his arm but he didn't care. He stepped cautiously around the side of his pod to find a second pod's hatch opening up. Connor instantly sighed in relief and holstered his rifle again, then returned to cradling his aching arm. He was overjoyed to see Margaret hop out of the pod and land strongly on her feet. She dusted off her shoulder and leg armor, failing to notice him yet.
"Hey, Dust," Connor took off his helmet and smiled.
Margaret looked forward and perked up, exclaiming, "Smoke!" She ran to him and hugged him tightly.
"Ow!" Connor grimaced.
Margaret jumped back in slight shock, "what did I just do?"
"Nothing, I was just unconscious, laying on my arm wrong for a few hours. It's really sore." Margaret paused for a second.
"Big baby," she teased. Connor shot her a glare before turning around and staring at the prairie. He heard Margaret take off her helmet next. "My sister..." her voice was soft and nearly choked. Connor turned around to see a two tears running down, one on each of her cheeks. She had an inward posture and was clutching her helmet against her belly. Her head and eyes were looking down at the dirt.
"She could still be alright," Connor tried to comfort her. "She may yet have survived the crashdown."
"You think so?" Margaret looked up with hope.
"I don't know," Connor shrugged. "But let's make finding the other four among our top priorities."
"They could have landed anywhere," Margaret slouched even more.
"Doesn't matter," Connor gave her a reassuring smirk. "If they're out there, we'll find 'em."
"Okay," Margaret nodded. Connor put his helmet back on and froze in surprise.
"Speak of the devil!" he exclaimed.
"Haze's suit's homing beacon! She activated it!"
Margaret quickly put her helmet back on too. She gasped and said, "you're right!" Both of their helmets had a flashing indicator of a nearby suit homing beacon activation. In orange text was the identification 'VT07'. Vapor Team's military squad designation had always been Victor Tango for the ease of using the same acronym.
"Victor Tango Zero Seven," Connor rolled his arm out to stretch away the aching it had. "GPS coordinates place it approximately, maybe several miles on the other side of that small mountain range." Connor pointed to the mountains directly in front of them across the prairie.
"Let's go!" Margaret zoomed by him, already sprinting down the hill.
"Hey, Dust! Wait up!" Connor chased after her.
Arden waited impatiently in his pod. He had landed dead center in the middle of a six lane main street in the center of a moderately sized city. Debris from the Roman I had unfortunately blocked the exit to his pod. The city he landed in hadn't been attacked yet by the alien invaders, and a local rescue team was extracting the debris with construction vehicles, cranes and steel burning equipment. They finally made enough progress to allow some light in from the outside. A mustached man poked his head in to view, then turned around and waved behind him. He left Arden's sight as the rest of the debris was pulled away from the hatch.
"About damn time," Arden muttered as he punched the yellow hatch release button. He stepped out of the pod to see a motley band of people right in front of him who all had helped to get him out. Construction workers, welders, and others. Behind them were local police, cops from a separate organization than the Freedom Knight Police Department, meant to be viewed as the classic city police and conduct day to day affairs on a community-friendly level rather than outright strict law enforcement like the FKPD. Behind the police, were hundreds upon hundreds of civilians staring at Arden and his pod with curiosity.
"Alright, good work gentlemen," the police marshal addressed the crew that dug Arden out. He stepped forward to greet Arden, putting his hands on his hips. "I wasn't expecting to find a soldier of the famous Vapor Team buried inside that thing, but thank God it is. Citywide communications just went down. Landlines still seem to function, but that's it. The last transmission we know of that we received from FKPD command was nothing more than orders to protect the city from an imminent unknown alien threat. We've got all of our city's technicians working for hours to try and get the coms up and running but all they've been able to tell us is that all radio waves are being jammed by an unknown nearby anomaly. That gigantic space station was just blown to bits a few hours ago, not like you didn't know already. You got any information to share with us so that we can get out of the dark a little bit?"
"You guys need to take shelter," Arden said grimly. "Or run. If you don't move to a safer location everyone here is going to die."
"Oh I'm sure everything will be fine," the police marshal raised his voice a little. He stepped much closer to Arden and suddenly lowered his voice. "Look, you got several thousand citizens crowded all around this city. The last thing we need them doing is panicking."
"I understand," Arden muttered in a low voice that only the marshal could hear. "But that doesn't change facts. At any moment, this city could be attacked by both ground and air. Alien creatures that wield neon green blades that look like they're made of pure energy that can cut through anything, and I really mean anything, effortlessly. Rifles that that fire needle rounds almost the size of your arm. Jaws that latch on to your head and puncture it while snapping your spine. Claws that can spill your guts out. Most importantly, their resilience to weapon-fire is very high. That little pistol on your hip will only piss it off if you don't use it on its head or its limbs, but with the speed these things have as well, good luck getting your aim right before you're cut in two."
The marshal's face turned more and more pale as Arden kept talking.
"They have fighter aircraft that can outmaneuver anything we could put in the air, and they fire needle bullets as well that will sic you against a wall like a skewer. Even more deadly than their needle bullets are the torpedoes they fire. Green orbs that explode on impact with extreme force. The alien's have an overall body size that is essentially double ours. They stand at full height probably close to nine feet tall. Don't underestimate their use of swords as their primary weapons either, because these things take strength in numbers to be their greatest strategy."
The marshal gulped and spoke, "what do you suggest we do then?"
"First things first," Arden pulled out his shotgun and held it in front of him to show the marshal. "I need some ammo, and a lot of it."
"There's an FKPD base just four blocks down this street. My men will take you there while I inform the rest of the city's defenses what you just told me."
"Get a system of alarm going that doesn't require radio communications," Arden suggested. "Men on every single rooftop keeping watch for incoming alien creatures. Shout from rooftop to rooftop to transfer information if it's the only way, but above all else, keep the citizens safe. You said a panic is a bad idea, but we're going to have to shake them up a little bit."
"What do you mean?"
"Get everyone in to the subway tunnels and barricade the entrances."
Arden paused for a second to think about the gravity of all the possible lives lost. He continued, "on second thought, the men under your command, leave only the ones willing to do whatever it takes to protect humanity and defend this city on the surface. Everyone else who values their own lives, take them down in to the subway tunnels too. When the aliens come, and they will eventually come, very few defenders in the city will be able to stay alive without a full FKPD defense stationing."
"You're not kidding around are you?" the marshal's face was grim. Arden simply shook his head. The marshal pointed to two of his men. "You two, take this soldier to the FKPD armory, on the double!"
"Copy that boss!" one acknowledged.
"Follow us sir," the other spoke to Arden. They walked past him to lead him to the armory.
"Marshal," Arden addressed him one more time before following.
"Hmm?" the marshal turned to listen while rubbing the back of his neck in worry.
"If they end up coming too soon, you let me know as soon as possible."
The marshal nodded and walked away to address his men. Arden turned to follow the two policemen. He passed his pod and continued down the street. The mass of civilians crowded all around the streets stared at him with mixed faces of worry and hopelessness, yearning for help. They already looked defeated. This is hopeless, Arden thought. If we can't get coordinated and free up the communications all over Earth, then this alien race that would otherwise be crushed within a few days of coordinated counterattacks, just might succeed in destroying our way of life entirely. Given extreme circumstances, they might even destroy humanity entire... no. Arden pushed the thought out of his head. He knew that kind of thinking was too destructive. We're going to survive, and we're going to drive these monsters away. Earth is our home, and they won't take our lives, or our planet. The crowd started to thin out around him as he got closer to the FKPD base.
"Fog, sir!" a crisp voice called out from behind him. Arden stopped and turned around to see a handful of young, fit men pushing their way out of the crowds to get to him. They rushed up to him and saluted. Arden smirked and saluted back. One by one they started to introduce themselves.
"Captain Henry, head of the Lima Sierra regiment."
"Private Yalk, Lima Sierra Two Five."
"Private Milo, Lima Sierra One Niner."
"Private Weston, Lima Sierra One Two."
"Private first class Pinlow, Lima Sierra One One." Arden smiled and stood up straighter and stiff.
"Specialist Classified, Victor Tango Zero Three," Arden answered them with his own identification. The other five laughed at his reference to his last name being classified.
The captain finished the salute and continued, "we were part of the western assault on Moscow during the Great Civil War. What you guys did to help cripple the city's defenses was legendary."
"Hey, you guys were the ones that punched them right in the face," Arden said. "We just sneaked around their backs and kicked them in the heels."
"It's good to see you're still alive and serving. Me and half of my regiment retired from service soon after the war. Now that we're facing a new kind of threat, we were thinking of getting right back in."
"We need all the help we can get," Arden nodded.
"I had a feeling that was the case," the captain stepped closer. "So give it to me straight soldier. Just how bad of an 'alien' invasion is this?"
"It's pretty bad," Arden lowered his voice. "Can I count on you for something?"
"What would that be, Fog?"
"Before you guys get reinstated, I need you to help get the citizens of this city in to the subway tunnels when the marshal gives the order."
"Yes sir," Arden nodded. "The aliens that have landed here are vicious. They could be hitting this city at any moment. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, maybe even next month, or it could be in the next hour."
"I understand," the captain said.
"I'm going to help defend this city until reinforcements come, like the marshal says is going to happen."
"If anyone can do it, it's you," one of the privates punched his fist to his other hand with a grin.
"Let's hope you're right," Arden said with a chuckle. "Listen, these people are scared. While you're helping out the marshal, do what you can lift their spirits. We can't be giving in to despair when these monsters only just arrived."
"Understood, Fog," the captain acknowledged.
"I gotta go resupply," Arden jerked his head behind him. "Good luck out there, and keep the people safe. I'll be seeing you on the battlefield again soon, sir?"
"Affirmative," the captain nodded. "Good luck to you too. Let's hope the city stays quiet until those reinforcements come." He noticed Arden wasn't looking at them anymore, and instead appeared to be looking behind them.
"Something tells me that's not going to happen," Arden remarked. The street they were on had a clear line of sight to the edge of the city, where the street continued before rising in to a highway further away. The five ex-soldiers turned around to see one of the alien spaceships hovering over the crest of the horizon in the distance. They could barely tell that it was slowly coming their way.
"Damn, that is a big airship," one of the privates commented. They turned back around to see Arden briskly walking away to follow the two cops again. "Come on, let's go help the marshal."
Arden caught up with the policemen and continued all the way down the street to the base. The cops left his side and started back toward the crash site of the pod. Arden stood in front of a moderately sized metal gate, blocking off the base from the rest of the city.
"Open the gate," a soldier called out. The gate was instantly unlatched and started to open. A handful of FKPD soldiers greeted Arden with relief. They knew that with him in the city, their chances of survival just skyrocketed. Arden wasted no time. He entered the armory and immediately started to refill his supply of shotgun shells, pistol magazines, grenades and more. He picked up an extra pistol and holstered it as well, one on each hip. He filled the shotgun shell docks on his forearms completely. Finally, he tightly wrapped and taped a knife to the side of his shotgun for a bayonet. When he exited the armory, all of the soldiers in the base were in a semicircle surrounding him.
"You were on that station before it blew weren't you?" one of them asked.
"Yeah," Arden answered.
"You already fought them then, right? What should we do?"
"How many of you are there?" Arden returned.
"Forty-two, sir," another soldier responded.
"If you're not comfortable using a sniper rifle, too bad, get comfortable," Arden told them. "Because we can't stave off a large attack with just barely over forty-two defenders if we don't go about this tactically. I'm going to lead the aliens through the city on a wild chase through the streets. I need all of you to cover my back, make sure they don't flank me, and to thin their numbers nearby me as I engage them."
"You're going to be down there fighting them all by yourself?" another soldier asked.
"That's right," Arden nodded. "I can handle their strength and I can run faster than them. None of you could do the same. So I'll be the one to face the thick of it, but with your support, I'll be alright... I hope."
"You're one crazy soldier," another voice spoke.
Arden chuckled and continued, "alright listen up. Before we get started, let me give you the rundown on the alien tech, fighting style, and capabilities."
Victoria rolled her neck painfully. "Does anyone hear me?" she tried to use her helmet com, but it wasn't working. Her pod was slammed directly in to the dirt with the hatch facing directly up at the sky. She was on her back staring at a severely cracked rear hatch window. Just by chance, she hit the flashing yellow hatch release button for the hundredth time, but nothing happened. Dirt and debris was piled on top of the hatch as well, making it nearly impossible to see outside. Whatever she could see was warped in figure and mainly hidden by the rubbish that settled above her.
"Well this is just great," Victoria moaned. "Why didn't I just hold on to one of those alien blades for a little while longer?" She punched the button again. Nothing happened. She punched it again so hard that the button jammed. "Worthless." The inside of her pod was misshapen and jagged. The debris from the Roman I really did a number on its structural integrity. She could hear the pressure difference that she had lost after being struck in space slowly equalizing through a puncture somewhere on the pod.
"I guess I'll just sit and wai..." she was interrupted by a sudden bang on the hatch in front of her. A figure landed on top of her hatch but she couldn't make out what it was. It looked like a bipedal form.
"Hey!" Victoria shouted at the figure. "Dust, Shadow, Steam, Fog, Smoke, is that you!?"
Only a second later her question was answered by the sudden thrust of a neon green blade through the top of her hatch.
"Shit!" Victoria wiggled to retrieve a weapon, but the tight space made it too hard. The blade sliced all around the pod. "Shit! No! NO!"
Dale was lying unconscious in his pod. A familiar voice in front of him started to wake him up. He heard a tapping on his visor from someone's knuckle.
"Wake up sleepy head," the voice spoke harshly from right in front of him. "Let's go, get your lazy ass moving."