Prologue: Operation Flaming Arrow

Considering the amount of preparation that went into this whole thing, it was surprising just how quickly things progressed, once they were in motion.

The whole operation had apparently been planned for quite some time; it would be the first of many, many more with the purpose of eradicating certain threats that plagued mankind.

For that reason I had been trained, together with other volunteers, to fight parahumans and their creations.

The program and our group itself had a lot in common with the Parahuman Response Teams, if you thought about it. Both were armed forces specializing in combat against parahumans, their creations, and affiliates.

Unlike the PRT however, the organization I was part of operated globally and mostly in secret.

We were a specialized group, founded and supported by a mysterious council or group of some kind – of which we didn't even know a single person – that was supposed to quickly respond to threats and execute long-term operations in already established hostile territory.

Considering the fact that this was the first mission of its kind for the entire program, and we would be deep inside hostile territory, everyone aboard was understandably nervous.

The inside of the Skyranger was barely lit, only a few lamps overhead and the screen with the summed up mission briefing shedding light onto our faces.

These faces showed uncertainty, anxiousness, fear...

Considering our enemy, that was understandable.

"Alright, people. This will go down smooth and easy, just stick to the plan. Scans of the AO indicate low hostile activity. Most of the creatures are distracted by some... surprises we've delivered earlier. Your job is to get to the objective and plant the charges, then immediately evacuate", Central's voice sounded over the speakers.

Central officer Bradford was an interesting man. Apparently, he had been a successful PRT officer before but left the organization for unknown reasons. When the program was formed and he was invited, he immediately accepted.

He was the Commander's voice of reasoning, always assisting in various ways.

Looking at each of my comrades in arms again, I saw steely resolve. We were ready, we had practised and we would succeed.

The Skyranger slowed down and finally landed with a heavy thunk; the ramp opened and we stood up, ready to move out as soon as the signal came.

Our pilots voice rang out. "This is Big Sky, we've reached the AO, Strike One is ready to engage"

"Roger Big Sky. Operation Flaming Arrow will now commence"

And with that, we moved out.

[VIGILO CONFIDO]

As soon as we stepped out of the Skyranger, the voice of the commander was transmitted over the speakers in our helmets. "Alright, the objective is about 500 metres east of you, near a river. If there are any street signs left, it should say 'Joslyn Road'"

That was good to know. I looked over to my squad mates and nodded towards the direction the objective was at.

"Be careful. To get to the objective, you'll have to cross the Main Road, and the enemy's main base is only about one kilometre south of the objective. I recommend positioning two guards near the main road, as soon as you reach Joslyn Road, depending on the amount of hostiles you face"

My teammates and I each pressed our 'Acknowledged' buttons on our helmets; they were an easy and fast method to convey that we had received the transmission and understood our orders, much simpler than four people shouting 'understood' all at once.

We moved onward and it was quiet. Too quiet.

This might sound like a cliché, but I, for one, hadn't caught a glimpse of a hostile creature.

So, without any complications, we reached the main road.

"Hostile spotted! 10 o'clock", came the first shout.

"Enemies sighted! 2 o'clock", came the second.

And then I saw them.

Abominations, fleshy constructs, a mockery of mankind.

The commander gave the go ahead. "Take cover and open fire! Gray, go flank the single one; he hasn't noticed us yet"

Indeed, the abomination I was going to target seemed to have no means of hearing, but it possessed a gigantic nose.

I sprinted forward and dove behind a trash container. Hearing my comrades open fire, their bullets tearing into the flesh of the thin and worm-like abominations south of me, I took aim.

The wounded creatures let out terrifying sounds and emitted green and poisonous-looking clouds.

The rest of my squad was far enough away so they wouldn't get hit... hopefully.

I was just about to pull the trigger when the nose of my target twitched and it roared, charging in the direction of my team, a single, giant eye opening during its charge.

"Shit, I missed!"

"They have eyes, blind them!", Sprout called into the comm.

As usual, she liked to stay back a bit and take aim carefully; she'd probably make a good sniper with that attitude.

I quickly reached for my side and grabbed the flashbang I had with me. Pulling the pin, I pulled my arm back and threw the grenade.

It exploded in a blinding flash of light, confusing the monsters and allowing my team, thanks to the protection our helmet's visors offered us, to fall back and reload.

Sadly, we were only able to get off a few shots while they were blinded since they recovered quite fast; a lot of these actually missed.

Still, one of the abominations fell with a loud gurgling sound, some of its innards splattering on the floor.

The large one opened it's mouth wide – maybe it wanted to roar, maybe it was trying to puke poison or some strange shit; we could have neither, both were dangerous in this situation – and Connaught took the opportunity to throw a frag inside its mouth. A rather bold move, actually.

The large mutant swallowed the thing, making cough-like noises and motions. Soon enough, after the Commander directed our attention to the last enemy, who was trying to flee, the beast exploded and the street transformed into an even gorier scene.

I took aim, praying to god that I wouldn't miss, and fired my rifle.

It hit the shoulder.

Not a particularly great shot, but considering the beasts current style of movement – namely: running on four legs – it was still effectively robbing it of it's fastest possible way of movement.

Next to me, having rushed up from behind cover, Sprout took aim with her scoped rifle; she had added said scope herself, preferring accuracy over large amounts of bullets. Her shots exploded from the guns' barrel, hitting the mutants left hind legs.

The beast sprawled on the ground, only having a functioning left forearm and right hind legs remaining.

"If I may speak up, Commander, the research team would benefit heavily from a life specimen of this sort. It might help us figure out how Nilbog issues commands which, in turn, would help us defeat him easier, a lot easier", Dr. Vahlen spoke up.

Central Officer Bradford chimed in. "If that beast could really be so valuable, we should really consider taking one alive"

The Commander spoke up. "Shen, if you have appropriate means of containment, do you think it would be safe?"

"I'd do my best to properly contain it, Commander. However, the construction of such a facility might take a while and we would have to improvise. Please, remove the rest of its legs and take it to the extraction zone; a separate vehicle would be best suited for transport"

"Alright, if you say so. Strike One, confirmation of the order?"

We pressed our acknowledged buttons.

They were so handy.

"Alright then, two of you take the beast to the extraction zone, the others scout ahead"

We decided that Sprout and I would scout ahead. Mostly because she had the best eyes out of our group, and needed support from a more experienced rookie. I was the one for the job.

Connaught and Hahn moved to separate the beasts remaining limbs to take it to the extraction zone.

[VIGILO CONFIDO]

Sprout and I were moving toward the objective, slowly and carefully. If we were to be noticed by the monsters no doubt guarding the water storage – the objective was a large tank of clean water resting on wooden pillars, sometimes seen in old westerns – we were fucked. No backup and deep inside enemy territory? While trying to sabotage the only clean water supply, something crucial for Nilbog? Yeah, they would never let us go.

I looked around, the objective already in sight, and saw nothing. That was strange.

"Alright people, we've got a clear view of the objective, move in and set the charges", Central commented.

"On our way, the subject has been delivered to the extraction zone", Hahn spoke up.

"Good job, team, this specimen will surely prove valuable to our cause", Vahlen congratulated.

The built-in radar inside our helmets indicated that the rest of our team was nearby.

I looked over to Sprout, honestly expecting her to look back; she was busy scanning the area with her scope.

"Four hostiles near the objective. I've got a clear shot at them, requesting orders", Sprout spoke, very quietly as to not make the enemy aware of our teams presence.

The only thing that wondered me was why they hadn't noticed all that ruckus from before.

As if on cue, one of the abominations swirled around and looked directly at us.

Did we have tailwind? Oh... me and my big mouth, sometimes.

The gangly monstrosity moved toward us, it's allies alerted to our presence by its obvious hostility.

"They noticed us, prepare to engage!", I almost screamed into the helmets built-in microphone.

"Sprout, Gray, lure them away. Connaught and Hahn, move to flank the enemy"

Two swift, automated 'acknowledged''s could be heard.

I turned around and sprinted for cover, Sprout following me. She was moving toward an old fire-escape ladder while I dove for cover behind a trash can.

A smoke grenade was thrown over to us, the mist hiding us from plain view and, hopefully, making it harder for the enemy to hit us.

I activated the helmets heat sensors; these sensors weren't exactly top notch, but they would suffice for this situation.

Apparently, Sprout had arrived at the rooftop because soon a salvo shot rang out and hit the monstrosity straight before me in the head. It staggered back and I took aim for its legs, pulled the trigger and badly damaged its ability to move.

The other three hostiles were not quite as fast as the first but apparently had other abilities.

When Connaught came closer to our location and was about to put some well-deserved shotgun shells into the back of a rather bulky abomination, the creature simply rotated it's torso and hit my fellow rookie, smacking him so hard he flew a few metres before laying there, unconscious.

While Sprout fired freely at the remaining enemies from her high-ground above, I took aim at the enemy that had just smacked my comrade around like a doll.

The bullets flew but the creature was already moving toward Hahn, Connaught lay there forgotten for now.

Hahn took the opportunity and slid between the creatures broad legs while firing into it's... well, where its crotch would be, was it human.

Both remaining creatures screeched in anger as the big one fell to Sprouts shots after it had flinched and staggered at the abuse of its nether regions.

Only two were left and I knew that this might be dumb, but when the smaller of the remaining ones moved nearer and charged at me, I rolled to the side and tried to kick it's legs out from under its body.

'Tried' being the key word here.

As it was, I simply kicked the air, having underestimated the enemies speed.

Thankfully it slid into the wall near the ladder Sprout had used to climb onto the roof, so I was able to take aim while it was dazed and deliver a decisive salvo of shots to its head.

The creature was dead.

The last one, having moved in behind me after the whole ordeal with the smaller one, was just about to attack when the sound of fired rifles filled the air and it was hit from two sides.

It fell to the ground, barely missing me, with a gurgling sound, its – if it had one – soul leaving the realm of the living.

Each of us paused.

The Central officer Bradford spoke. "The AO is clear, great job team. Now plant the charges and move back"

We obliged, Hahn lifting Connaught over her shoulder after taking his piece of explosives and carrying him back to the extraction zone after throwing me and Hahn one piece of the Explosives each, her piece and Connaught's.

I nodded at Sprout and we moved to plant the charges at the pillars of the tower before returning to the Skyranger.

The vehicle lifted off after everyone was secured and the formerly unconscious soldier was slowly waking up.

Just as the ramp closed, the charges detonated and smoke filled the air, the water supplies storage now spilled uselessly over the floor and a feeling of victory overcame us.

"Great job, Strike One, Operation Flaming Arrow was a success"

Our group smiled at each other.

A/N: So, how was that? It took me a while, but I think it was worth it. The operation was just awesome to write. Anyway, thank you very much for reading this, criticism in the form of reviews is very much welcome and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

-Azralan

[VIGILO CONFIDO]

Central Officer Bradford was there to greet us after we returned, wearing his trademark green sweater.

Next to him stood the Commander, her brown hair flowing down the back of her black sweater, the tall and bespectacled girl smiled. "Great job team. Go and rest up, and ask for a warm meal in the cafeteria, you've earned it.

Overall, it was another successful day and another enemy of mankind was dealt a serious blow.

It was clear that, as the councilwoman would say, we would be watching.

Because we were Xcom.

And my last thought in mission gear was:

Vigilo Confido, bitches...