11 March 1999:

Sumie breathed hard, forcing her body's gulps for air to slow down to deliberate inhalation and exhalation. Her armor was starting to get heavy, and pressed awkwardly into her shoulder as she leaned forward against the tree providing her cover. The all too familiar green pulses flew past her, blew up clumps of soil, and began rapidly turning her tree into toothpicks. She waved to Son behind her, pointed right, then held up three fingers. He nodded and brought his Autocannon to bear. He had it on full auto, and began sending short bursts of suppressing fire down range. After the third burst, Sumie broke cover and dashed through the densely packed forest, working her way around the soldiers taking cover behind a fallen tree.

As Sumie ran, sharp reports sounded from the direction of the Skyranger, and a high-pitched scream told her one of her snipers had hit his mark. Sliding behind another tree, she stopped to catch her breath again, hoping she hadn't been seen. Creeping slowly to her right to get behind some bushes for a little more concealment, she heard two more three-round bursts from Son's rifle. The soldiers responded by blowing the tree Sumie had been behind into toothpicks, getting another one of them hit by the sniper. Mikhail, she thought. He always shoots twice.

Pulling out one of the new grenades, Sumie peeked around the tree to make sure she had a clear throw. She could make out the tops of two of the grey, hairless scalps in the dappled sunlight below the trees. Deciding they were within range, and the branches were high enough, she ducked back behind the tree and set the alien explosive to what the nerds said was about 3 seconds. Mentally crossing her fingers, releasing the safe, Sumie stepped back and to the side just long enough to heave the grenade twenty-five meters, landing it right behind the fallen tree. Ducking back behind her cover, Sumie started counting, and got ready to sprint again.

Hearing a sharp "Oh shit!" over her headset, Sumie glanced back to her left saw Son drop at the sight of her grenade. Three seconds later, a maelström of ignited gas blew branches, roots, dirt, and best of all, grey body parts and green blood past her. Peeking around her now smoldering cover, Sumie saw her throw had been a little long, leaving a few pieces of the defenders scattered where the fallen trees had been. Not bad at all. Son started spewing curses on the radio, drawing a quick "Can it." from Lt. White. Sumie allowed herself a smile as she shifted her attention to the scout ship's door, only two dozen meters away.

XCOM: Agents

Chapter 1: College

2 March 1999

I walked slowly across the coffee shop toward the pretty brunette sitting near the front window. She looked up and smiled, giving me the courage to sit next to her and say "Hi, my name's Ian." She shook my offered hand, "Nice to meet you, I'm Jennifer." I smiled hopelessly at her, and suddenly found myself in front of a fireplace with Jennifer Love Hewitt taking off her shirt...

*BANG BANG BANG* An impatient fist pounded on a door somewhere. "Wake up dude! We've got some ass to kick!" I try desperately to hold on, but find the fireplace, and the nearby couch quickly fading away. "You always suck when you don't eat breakfast! Let's do dis!" Just as she begins to undo her bra, Jennifer leaves me as well, and I find myself lying in my bed with not a trace of a fireplace or bearskin rug to be found. I grumpily look over at my clock, which reads 0803. Pressing my palms against my eyes, I try to savor one last moment with my dear, sweet Jennifer, but fail miserably. Grumbling, I roll out of bed and head down to the kitchen for some food.

"About time you woke up." Justin scolds me from behind his Chinese takeout box. "I thought I was going to have to play all by myself."

"How can you eat that stuff first thing in the morning?" I ask. Justin has no correlation with food and time, he just eats whatever he can find whenever he finds it. He's also insufferably energetic at almost all hours of the day.

"What? It's food right? It was good last night, why shouldn't it be good now?"

"You're weird."


We eat the rest of our meal relatively quietly. Justin is too absorbed in his food to talk, and I'm still stewing about my missed encounter in dreamland. After breakfast, we climb into my old Celica and headed off to the Gym on campus for the racquetball tournament.

Later, after the tournament, I storm out to my car and toss my bag in the back seat, then wait while Justin hustles to catch up. As he sits in the passenger seat, I tell him "Whatever bro, we would have had Zach and Dave if your eyes had been somewhere in the court and not on Cherie's butt."

Justin at least has the decency to look reproachful. "But it's sooo niiiiiice..." I shake my head. At least Justin promised he'd buy me lunch since he made sure we lost in the semi-finals at the racquetball tournament.

Approaching our house, I notice a gold Altima parked in front. We pull into the driveway, and as we get out of the car, the front doors of the Altima open up and two men step out. The driver is a middle-aged white guy, brown hair, and a grey suit that has seen too many trips to the dry cleaner. The passenger is about my height, slender, serious looking, and wears a scowl that would make any samurai proud. They walk up to us, and the older man tosses the cigarette he is smoking on the ground, then steps it out.

"You Ian Yamada?" He asks me. Justin and I glance at each other, unsure how to react. I mean, we never really partied THAT hard. I decided best to just take the plunge.

"Yeah, that's me, what's up?" I stand with my arms crossed, trying to look professional and competent. All it does is draw a small smirk from the man in the grey suit.

"My name's Reginald, and this is my associate Mr. White." I notice Justin slowly edging his way over toward White. "I'm here in response to your application for an internship with our agency." I had filled out no application, and stated as much. "Sure you did." said Reginald. " the job fair this fall." Justin has begun slowly trying to touch White with an outstretched index finger, apparently fascinated by the man's gravitas. White brushes Justin's finger away. Reginald seems not to notice, and hands me a business card he pulled from inside his jacket. "When you remember, give this number a call." Glancing at Justin, his face turns up into a kind of disgusted sneer, like he's smelled something bad. "Idiot here isn't invited." Justin didn't seem to take offense, if he noticed at all, as he is still trying to poke White with an index finger, White deftly deflecting each attempt. Reginald and White turn away and get back in the Altima, then drive away.

Justin still holds the look of fascination on his face. "Dude, what the fuck was that?"

"I have no idea." I look down at the card in my hand. It's white with three lines of black courier print. The first is Reginald's name, apparently his last name is Yves, the second says only 'Recruiting' and the third is a local phone number.