Cannibal

[][][]

Personal Log, Staff Sergeant Hopkins, G, 77th HVG

Restricted Access, Limited

[][][]

Our first combat operation as the Seventy-seventh HVG was a target extraction mission. The target, a Viper officer by the name of Raynais Klise Ternes. From what I've learned from talking to Val, the length of her name should have been a very good indicator of how tough this op was going to be. This 'Raynais' snake had been in multiple units, and was at least a mid ranked ADVENT officer. So, when she went rogue, the Administration stripped her of her name and gave her a new one.

For some reason, Raynais had destroyed the ammo dump of the base she was stationed at and was in the process of escaping when she ran into another member of her species. She… apparently killed, and ate her battle-sister and went underground in the wilds of Florida, primarily the Everglades and swamps around Tampa and Orlando. Since then, she would strike at any unsuspecting ADVENT patrols and eat any human soldiers among them.

But never civilians or other Vipers, not since her escape anyway.

The only reason I could think of for us to go after her ourselves (and later confirmed by the Lost Elric Brother) was that as an officer, she had dirt on the inner workings of ADVENT and they didn't want it getting into the wrong hands. That, and anything to deal a blow to XCOM, as broken and scattered as it was, was a bonus to the Administration.

I'm sorry Zero. I have to do this.

End Log

[][][]

Sergeant Gabriel Hopkins sat as calmly as he could in the dropship as Major Harrington yelled over the radio for additional support from the local base commander in Tampa. Clad in standard issue ADVENT armor and painted maroon, Hopkins felt like he was going to get shot the moment he hit dirt, Major Harrington's thoughts on unit recognition be damned.

"Yes… Good to hear, thank you,… ETA three minutes… right, we'll pick them up on the tarmac. 77th HVG out," Harrington finished before sighing and gazing out of the open hatch of the aircraft, the local ADVENT base fast approaching. "Okay, listen up! This will the first op we will conduct with another species. I expect you all to be professional and respectful to them, understood?" he asked sternly. The Privates all nodded while Hopkins gave the kid a casual thumbs up as he attached his night vision scope up onto his helmet. Granted, he hated the helmet, but for now, well, he was going to suffer with it. Within a minute, the ship landed on the tarmac and Harrington went to collect their new mission specialists. Glancing out, Hopkins was surprised to see a pair of Hounds coming in, both of them armed with light plasma turrets.

The dire-wolf like aliens were apparently the second most recent race brought into the ADVENT Administration, and like their terrestrial cousins, had excellent hearing and smell. Also, like Earth wolves, they utilized a pack structure, with an Alpha and Beta, and with a great distrust at best of other packs. Looking at their body language, Hopkins could tell that they didn't trust Harrington quite yet, even as they got onto the ship with the rest of the team still inside.

The craft lifted off, and while they were performing equipment checks, Hopkins half listened as Harrington briefed the two Hounds on their mission. However, the Sergeant did pay attention when names were brought up. However, before he could introduce himself, he felt the craft slow down and bank, which could only mean one thing.

"We're about to drop! Everyone heads on a swivel, I don't want any of you dying on me during the first op!" Harrington shouted as the dropship came down to a hover over a clearing. Wasting no time, Hopkins jumped out nearly a second after Harrington did, absorbing the impact of landing in swampy ground. Standing back up, Hopkins watched as the ship closed its doors and flew off to its predetermined holding pattern until they called for exfil.

Looking around, Hopkins tensed as he saw the thick layer of fog over the ground, the sounds of crickets and other wildlife soothing his tension only slightly as he scanned the area with his heavily modified M39 EMR. "Clear," he reported as the team checked in. Behind him, the female Hound, Wolf 2 or Nishda, pointed her head to the north-west.

"I smell fire and smoke, three miles out, there," she reported, her head barely out of the dank water. Harrington nodded.

"Then that's probably our target. All right everyone stay alert and keep quiet. I don't want to alert them of our presence until absolutely necessary," he ordered before turning to Hopkins. "Sergeant Hopkins, take point with Wolf 2."

"Copy," Hopkins replied as he moved to the front, the Hound following close behind him. Keeping the safety on his rifle on, the human slowly waded forward, the Sergeant gesturing for Wolf 2 to lead. She seemed surprised for a moment before he gestured to his nose, and then pointed at her, and flashed her a thumbs up. Taking the hint, and the praise, she then quickly took the lead with the old soldier covering her.

As they went further into the swamp, Hopkins kept his head on a swivel, looking for anything hostile. While the black market traders were the primary concern of this mission, Hopkins was… less than worried about the enemies he was going to see versus the enemies he couldn't. After all, it was no secret among the 77th, and the Administration in general, that he had something of a dim view of the current government and its policies. So, really, it wouldn't have surprised Hopkins if this was actually some sort of elaborate Uriah Gambit that the powers on high cooked up to get rid of a potential threat. Three hours of silent thinking and walking later, and they finally heard voices and saw the faint hazy glimmer of firelight. Leapfrogging from cover to cover, Hopkins and Nishda eventually got them close enough to see the encampment, and the marketers.

It was on a raised strip of dirt, with about twenty tents of varying sizes arranged in a rough circle. The fires, while providing warmth for the sharp Florida chill, had the benefit of at least deterring the alligators and occasional boa. To top it all off, only two pairs of guards were patrolling their perimeter. Inside the encampment, crates and boxes of supplies and contraband were laid about haphazardly, open to the air.

That pissed him off. No, correction. That really pissed him the fuck off.

But the way these hooligans treated their equipment was nothing compared to how they were treating the two individuals stuck in a pair of cages in the center of camp. In one was their VIP, Raynais, bruised, cut, and ornery enough to make even the fiercest Australian croc think twice about crossing paths with her. The other was a Viper like their target, but had her species' seemingly standard coloration, along with a heavily tattered lab coat and was cowering from everything outside.

"Command, this is Major Harrington, be advised we have located our objective, but we have eyes on a second Viper POW. She is wearing a lab coat with typical Viper coloration. What are our orders, over?" Harrington asked over the radio. Curious, Hopkins hopped onto the frequency to hear the answer, and got it a few moments later.

"Designate the target for airstrike Major. Strike inbound, ETA ten minutes," the raspy, uncaring voice of their HIGHCOM controller answered.

Hopkins grimaced as a bottle struck their mystery Viper as Harrington snarled. "Affirmative Command, designating now," he replied as he activated the designator on the side of his gun. Now whoever had those coordinates locked on was going to unleash high holy hell on this place, VIPs and civilians be damned, and that was certainly something that Hopkins knew would have never happened back when things made sense. Before ADVENT. Before the aliens.

Before Rene.

"Coordinates locked in Major, air strike inbound, Command out," their handler reported before signing off. Clicking back to the squad channel, Hopkins noted the glare Harrington was giving him and grunted, knowing exactly what he was being dared to do.

"I'd say it, but I'm not," he told the Major before focusing back on the camp. "All the same sir, I say fuck their orders and grab them anyway." What he did not mention was the fact that he could see a few guns that the 77th could use, and that frankly, despite many of the perceived (and sometimes true) faults of the Old Earth governments, at least most of them had the sense not to bomb a place with civilians in it.

"Agreed, and for once, you held your tongue," Harrington commented before turning to the rest of the squad. "So, new plan. I'm not going to leave that Viper out there to die in a friendly fire airstrike, so that means we have less than ten minutes to get her out of there along with the Cannibal if we can."

"And how do you suppose we do that?" Hopkins asked, relieved. While he didn't quite respect the kid just yet, the old soldier had a feeling he was going in the right direction… for someone raised on alien propaganda and bullshit. Harrington glanced around the area before settling his gaze on the various fires.

"Alright, here's the plan. Sergeant Hopkins, stay here with Privates Sam, Anthony, and Jim. In five minutes I want you laying down suppressive fire and riddle this side of the camp with as much fire as you can. Wolf One, stay here with them and use that plasma cannon, take care of the tents. Whatever you do, do not fire towards the back or the cages," Harrington explained quickly. "Private Timothy, I want you and Wolf Two with me. We're going to sneak around to the other side and wait for Sergeant Hopkins to open fire. Once they do, we're going to use the chaos to sneak in and grab the VIPs. Private Tim, you still have that stun lance?"

"Yes sir, never leave home without it," Private Timothy Blake affirmed, pulling the lance out from its back mounted holster. While Hopkins understood Harrington's reasoning for capturing Raynais alive, he was not exactly eager to get that close to a crazed Viper. Unfortunately, the shipment of Tazers he had ordered from some friends in Old L.A. hadn't quite arrived in time, so, for the time being, the glorified cattle prod was going to have to do for this op.

"Good, as soon as we reach them, hit that bitch with a full charge and knock her out. Wolf Two will carry her out of here while you and I escort our unknown guest. We have to be in and out in less than five minutes, so don't dilly-dally out there," Harrington ordered. Hopkins gave him a thumbs up and the others nodded. "Okay, let's go crash a party. Synchronize watches on my mark… three, two, one, mark!" A coordinated beep broke the air, thankfully not alerting the enemy to their presence as Harrington took Nishda and Blake with him to their objective.

Hopkins quickly assumed command. "Rawlins, Makarov, I want you two to focus fire on those mercs right there," he said quietly as he drew out a bayonet and attached it to his rifle. "Ortega, you see that guy with the gee-ell?"

Private Jim Ortega nodded, the young recruit gripping his MAG rifle tightly. Hopkins lightly tapped his shoulder, getting the kid's gaze focused on him. "I'm going to take him out, and while we and Sidolus keep their miserable heads down, you get in there and snatch that launcher. It looks like it's in pretty good condition, and you never know when shit'll hit the fan in the future," the Sergeant continued on. "And remember, watch your fire. Command's objective is kill, mine is capture if able. We have friendlies in our crossfire, so aim carefully. You two, take cover there, Ortega, by that stump. Wolf One, how low can you go without filling your nose with water?" he asked.

Sidolus responded simply by lowering himself until only the top of his head and the turret stuck out of the water. Hopkins chuckled at the dry, sardonic look the canine alien gave him. "Fair enough. Okay, all units, standby, on my mark," he ordered, taking position near an uprooted tree that gave him plenty of cover and a place to rest his rifle. Popping his neck, Hopkins settled into something of a half-crouch, leaning on the fallen tree somewhat as he looked down his rifle's sights and scope. The softly glowing green notch hovered just above the grenadier's gut, where the custom tooled 7.62x51mm, alloy coated hollow point rounds would literally shred the man's insides like a blender.

Minutes passed, until finally Hopkins took a deep breath. "Weapons hot, prepare to fire," he whispered, flicking the safety off his rifle. He gently applied pressure to the trigger, taking care to control his breath.

In. Aim at center of mass.

Hold. Apply the four pounds of pressure on the trigger, center aim on left side of ribcage.

Out. He pulled the trigger.

All hell broke loose as his team opened fire on the unsuspecting crew of thieves and liars, the magnetically accelerated bullets slamming into their targets and sending them stumbled back as Sidolus' plasma cannons hissed in a quickened drumbeat. Hopkins and most of the team quickly went to work with providing cover fire for Ortega to dash through cover and retrieve the grenade launcher. Hopkins saw something move from the corner of his eye and quickly pulled out his sidearm, and in a flash, fired three of his custom made revolver's five rounds into the mercenary trying to flank him. "Watch your flanks!" Hopkins called out as he holstered his pistol and resumed sniping.

Ortega quickly dashed back, the grenade launcher firmly attached to his back. Now with their fellow soldier back in the firing line, the ADVENT troopers began pouring down fire in earnest. For the next minute or so, the ADVENT troopers were busy suppressing and fending off the enemy force, with Wolf One moving about to try and provide the best cover fire as he could, and even biting a couple of mercs that came just too close to be considered safe from his jaws. Hopkins himself was busy picking off seemingly important soldiers when he spotted the mass of white in his night vision heading right towards them. Sliding into the cover the tree provided, Hopkins opened a channel to Harrington. "Hostiles inbound, recommend exfil ASAP!" he barked as he popped back out when he heard a splash near him. Without bothering to aim, he fired off the remaining five rounds in his current magazine before noting the weapon the recently dead merc had. "Private Rawlins, grab that rifle from the dead fucker on the stump, I want it before it gets blown to all hell!"

"We have less than a minute before strike, team, ignore the enemy and the rifle, and haul ass NOW!" Harrington swore over the radio. The team happily obeyed the order, rightly fearing the power of the airstrike about to happen.

But Hopkins wasn't going to leave that rifle laying there.

Charging forward the twenty yards to the corpse, he quickly snatched the gun out of the water and turned tail, the remaining black market dealers and their hired guns doing their level best to chase him down, and fill him full of bullets. Hopkins didn't stop as he eyed the timer, the edge of the swamp just reaching him….

A flash of light banished the shadows of the night as a lance of 'cold' plasma struck the camp, obliterating it in a heartbeat. The resulting shockwave sent everything tumbling to the ground as five foot high waves emanated from the impact point. A few seconds later, Hopkins stood up from where he had been flung into the water, shaking his new rifle dry as he listened in to the TEAMCOMM.

"Damn, didn't think that ADVENT HIGHCOM would use a goddamn orbital strike on the camp," Harrington stated, panting in what was probably just the adrenaline wearing off. Hopkins grunted in disbelief as waded over to where his little team was, visually inspecting them for injuries.

"Seems a bit like overkill sir," Private Muniz added, drawing a chuckle from the Sergeant as his troops all gave him a thumbs up, or in Sidolus' case, a carefree wag of the tail.

"Sergeant, report," Harrington ordered. Looking around, Hopkins saw the crimson clad figure of his commanding officer sitting there in the water, with the rest of the team and the VIPs in tow.

"Pretty peachy here sir," Hopkins replied, shrugging. "Minus the whole, you know, Hammer of Dawn lightshow back there. No casualties, and we have assets for home base. Pity we couldn't grab whatever intel they had though, we could have used it. And Private Muniz, what's rule number thirty-seven?" he asked, getting Ortega, Rawlins, and Makarov to chuckle at the rookie troopers very minor infraction. His levity and attention to what Harrington and Muniz were saying was quickly broken however when something fluttered down in front of his face, landing in the water below. Curious, Hopkins bent over and picked it up, only to swallow in sadness.

It was a photo, formerly a two by three, showing a man with what Hopkins was his wife and two children, a boy and a girl. Together, they had looked happy to be together. Hopkins had to wonder if he had killed either or both of the parents tonight for the ADVENT Administration as he tucked the slightly charred photo into a chest pocket. Hell, the little girl looked to be about the same age as….

Hopkins shook his head. He couldn't afford to go down that path of memory, not right now. "Alright, Makarov, Rawlins, link up with Major Harrington and the rescue team, check for injuries and apply treatment for the VIPs if you can," he ordered, pointing. "Ortega, get on the line with our bird, tell them mission success and we need extraction. Wolf One, a word please." The humans quickly went to perform their assigned tasks as Sidolus meandered over to Hopkins.

"Yes?" the Hound asked, his posture low and getting tense. Hopkins smiled and shook his hand dismissively.

"Just wanted to tell you that you did good out there," he said, surprising the alien. "Couple of times those kids were about to get flanked, you saved them. I appreciate that." Closing the distance between the two, Hopkins extended a hand, but stopped just short of Sidolus' shoulders. "May I?"

Sidolus, confused, nodded and flinched when the human's gloved hand went to rest on his shoulder. That tension quickly bled away when Hopkins rubbed the area in a small circle, ruffling the fur. "How-?" Sidolus tried to ask, the pleasure of such treatment getting to him. Hopkins chuckled as their ride home appeared, its running lights just now beginning to blink.

"I'm a dog person," he replied simply as the teams began to head together. "Besides, they don't call me 'Old Dog' for nothing." With that, he took his hand away and shouldered his weapons.

Mission accomplished.

Now for the paperwork.

[][][]

Hello everybody, I'd like to say a few words before you guys all up and boo me off real quick! Firstly, this is a joint fanfic of sorts with Vantage77's 'XCOM – Humanity Rising.' However, unlike his story, this one will predominantly feature a minor submitted OC in his, namely, Sergeant Gabriel Hopkins (who is, in a not quite a coincidence, a semi-self insert) of the 77th HVG. Romance will be involved at some point in the story. I just don't know when.

Secondly, while our stories are technically the same, they can, and likely will, contain different plot points and dramas, which frankly, does a lot to spice up a setting's universe.

Finally, just like Vantage, I am accepting OCs for the various soldiers and others that Hopkins can interact with; send them in either through your reviews or through the private message button located on the top left corner of my profile page. No possible romantic leads though, I will cover those when I get to them.

Anyhow, just wanted to get that out of the way for you all! Read and review if you please, and please, for the love of God, PLEASE be civil about it. I would much like to not have a flame war in the reviews section.