The two days we spent preparing for the upcoming war (as the soldiers had decided it would be) were tense and nerve-wracking. I knew how to kill another human in ten seconds flat, with no hesitation. But these weren't people. There were aliens. Creatures from outside of the solar system. None of us had a clue how to deal with them. A few of the soldiers had breakdowns, but they were assured by the scientists that we could pull through.

At midnight New Year's Eve the scientists were instructed to activate the sensors. The latest satellite technology, they could detect any flying body wider than a meter for a range of ten thousand miles. In short, they would have no trouble detecting an alien UFO before it landed, as long as it was on the same hemisphere. The weakness here was obvious, but the scientists assured us they were hard at work establishing a secondary base on the opposite hemisphere, in order to cover virtually the entire surface of the earth. With such a large range, it wasn't long before something entered the sights.

Three A.M., January 2nd. I was sleeping, when an alarm blasted through the quarters.

"X-COM SQUAD ONE, REPORT TO HANGER BAY ONE IMMEDIATELY."

Lucky me, I was the second-in-command for Squad One. There were eight of us. My superior was Colonel Henry Gautier, a high-ranking officer in the French military. He was a nice enough guy, but he didn't speak the best English - just enough to understand you and give good orders, but not enough to hold a real conversation. He was a good commander, with very strong leadership skills.

The others were just rookies in the X-Com ladder. The very top of us had been appointed ranks by the brass - Gautier was a sergeant, and I was but a squaddie. The rest in Squad One were lowly rookies. Matthias Gunkel, the German sniper - I saw him bull's eye a target from one end of the base to the other once. Damien Bradley, the English rifleman - a damn good shot, but reckless. Virgil Webb, the American assault soldier - foul-mouthed and with an attitude, but he could command a submachine gun like no other. Kenji Matsamura, the Japanese medic - quick on his feet and handy with a pistol, in additon to being one of the best field medics I've had the pleasure to know. Emile Cuvelier was a member of Gautier's old squad - apparently, he'd been specially requested. He didn't talk much, so I don't know what his official position was, but he was a fine soldier. The final member of the squad was the man I had the pleasure of not speaking to on the flight over - James Day.

When we arrived at the hangar bay, we saw the transport that I had witnessed on deck earlier. The Commander called it the Skyranger. It held a good fourteen men, but for now each squad was limited to eight due to the general shortage of soldiers that the head brass felt were good enough. We piled in and suited up. The scientists instructed us to capture the alien technology in as good a condition as we could. The craft we were to intercept had landed in a small town in Kansas, right in a farmer's field. We were to exterminate the aliens as quickly as possible and report back with the salvaged technology from the downed craft. We were armed with simple pea-shooters - I doubted we would make much of a resistance with normal ballistic weaponry, but it was all we had. No armor, either - the standard combat armor of the world's military would be torn through at the same rate as plain cloth, so why bother? This were not looking up for X-Com, but we were all determined not to let the human race be dominated.

...

We could see the UFO from a great deal away. It was dawn by the time we arrived. The shadows were long and the large craft stood out. There didn't seem to be any aliens scampering about, but we could never be sure. Scans showed five non-human life forms. With a jolt, we landed, and the doors of the Skyranger opened up for us.

"Fan out, slowly," commanded Sergeant Gautier. "Bradley, Webb - scout out that building over there. Gunkel, hang back behind the rest of us and keep yourself on overwatch. Matsamura, watch Bradley and Webb. Stick close but stay behind. Keep yourself in cover. Emile, Day, Parker - come with me. We're going to assault the enemy craft."

Everyone gave the acknowledgement that they'd heard his orders and began to follow through on them. The building Gautier had singled out for scouting by Bradley and Webb was a small, two-storey farmhouse. There was no sign of the farmer who had lived here previously.

Slowly, we advanced upon the UFO. Cuvelier and I put out shoulders against the walls of the craft, facing the door. Gautier approached it slowly. When he reached out to touch it, it slid open. The corridors were a dull, chrome grey - they matched the outside. Two corridors led to the left and the right. It seemed abandoned. The Sergeant moved inside and motioned for Cuvelier and myself to follow him. He instructed Day to keep watch. We peered down the long corridors, but no one seemed to be at home. Suddenly, the Sergeant's radio buzzed.

"Bradley here - activity in the second floor of the farmhouse. Possible tango. Should I proceed?"

The Sergeant grabbed the radio with his left hand, his right keeping his assault rifle pointed down the corridor.

"Affirmative, soldier. Investigate possible enemy. Be careful."

The radio buzzed the affirmative and then went dead. Once more we proceeded slowly along the corridors. Cuvelier and Gautier went down the left and I took the right. I soon reached another door, like the one on the front of the craft.

"Sergeant," called on my radio, "there's another door here. Should I proceed?"

"Negative, soldier," came the response. "Wait for my signal - we'll enter at the same time and hopefully catch them by surprise."

"Tango spotted!" came the excited yelp from my radio. It was Gunkel - he must have seen one in the window of the farmhouse.

"Do you have the shot?" came the Sergeant's reply.

"Affirmative, Sergeant, but... I've never seen anything like it! It's grotesque!"

"Take the shot, soldier."

There was a moment of silence, before a colossal crack from a sniper rifle burst through the air.

"Tango down," came the crackle on the radio. "I hit him right between the eyes. His cranium burst into a thousand green sprinkles."

"Good work," said the Sergeant. "Bradley, do you have a visual on the body?"

"Affirmative, sir. We're about to investigate it."

My radio begin to crackle with a direct communication.

"It's almost time," said the Sergeant. "On my mark. Three... Two... One!"

The Sergeant and I burst through the doorway, coming face to face with the creatures we'd seen on the hologram. There were three of them, two facing me and one facing the Sergeant, who opened fire immediately. The Sectoid closest to him managed to dodge out of the way in time, and opened fire on him. The sound of an alien weapon was odd - something like you'd hear in Star Wars or another science-fiction film. A green bolt of energy shot out of it and into the wall beside Sergeant Gautier. The two Sectoids closest to me were distracted by this, and I opened fire. My assault rifle was set to fire in three-shot bursts, and the second shot connected with the nearest Sectoid, blowing his fragile skull to bits. The third merely dented the wall, and the remaining Sectoid was once more focused on myself. Before he could let off a shot of his weapon, I blew another burst fire at him and he went down.

"Good work, soldier," the Sergeant said to me from across the room. "Go assist Bradley and Webb in the farmhouse. Emile and I will try and salvage the equipment."

I nodded and turned to leave, when our radios burst into life once more.

"Enemy spotted!"

It was Bradley. He seemed shaken.

"They hit Webb - I repeat, Webb is down! Bradley requesting backup, immediately!"

The Sergeant took hold of his radio.

"All soldiers, drop everything and assist Bradley. Repeat, back up Bradley at once. Matsamura, get to Webb as soon as possible and provide immediate medical assistance."

I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. When I left the craft, I saw Day kicking open the door of the farmhouse and rushing in. There was a lot of gunfire. I motioned towards Gunkel, who was hesitantly hanging back at the Skyranger.

"Come on Gunkel, let's go kick some alien ass!"

Gunkel smiled grimly and rushed at the farmhouse by my side. We could hear Bradley's screams - whatever had gotten to Webb had taken Bradley as well. Day was running up the stairs, taking them three at a time. As soon as he got to the top he opened fire. Gunkel and I ran right behind him. When I got a glimpse at the creature that might have claimed the lives to two of my squad mates, I was surprised. It looked like a Sectoid - but its head was larger, bulging, with a red tint. It carried a large weapon with a red power unit in the middle, and took no time in shooting Day in the shoulder with it. Day toppled and fell to the bottom of the stairs, and I rushed forward to take his place. A few burst fires from my assault rifle impacted on the wooden walls of the farmhouse, but still managed to miss the Sectoid. I realized I was running low on ammunition, and ducked back to reload. Matsamura, meanwhile, was working feverishly trying to resuscitate Webb. Gunkel couldn't seem to get a clear shot at the Sectoid - the pressure was getting to him, and I couldn't really blame him. This was a new enemy from a planet mankind might not have even known existed, and it was beginning to wage war on us.

I snapped the new clip into place and jumped up just in time to see the Sectoid threatening Matsamura. He was frozen in place, apparently by some kind of mind powers that the Sectoid seemed to command. I realized I couldn't manage to squeeze my trigger either. Slowly, as if in a film, I saw Matsamura struggle against the alien's mind control, fumbling with the pistol on his belt. He brought it up slowly to the side of the Sectoid's head. The creature seemed puzzled.

"Welcome to Earth," said Matsamura, pulling the trigger and splattering the Sectoid's brain cavity all over the top floor of the farmhouse.