Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Calm Before the Storm (01 MAR 2016)

Central Officer Bradford rubbed at his eyes. The Skyranger was wheels up, and it would be a little while before it touched down. He looked around the shiny new Control room, with the Hologlobe dominating from the air in the center, and at each of the bright-eyed technicians clustered around the equipment. These were the best intel analysts, planners and operations personnel that the world had to offer. Each one of them had set aside their nationalism and their distrust for former adversaries and had come together as part of the XCOM initiative. Just a few corridors over, troops from the various nations of the world were just arriving, being issues their gear, and assigned their billeting. The first arrivals would have to wait for their room assignments, as the first mission had come in just as the first of the unmarked buses was pulling in. They'd barely had time to grab equipment before they were loaded on the Skyranger.

Bradford allowed himself a moment to be tired. It had been a difficult few days getting things up and running. He glanced upward, tracking the progress of Strike 1 toward the objective, then closed his eyes. In just a little while, he'd be communicating with the newly assigned Commander and helping to direct the operation on the ground, but for now, he let his eyes drift closed for just a moment.

The facility had been operational for less than a week, and the engineers were still working full-time to bring all of the systems online. Dr. Shen had been by an hour ago with a progress report, detailing how many systems were still not fully operational. Bradford wasn't worried, though. Dr. Shen ran his people like a machine, and he was sure that it wouldn't be long before XCOM HQ was functioning at full capacity. Dr. Vahlen had come up too, with the survey reports that some of her geological experts had run on the ground beneath them, where they would eventually need to expand. There were some promising areas that he'd have to be sure to highlight for the Commander.

Bradford heard footsteps rapidly approaching, and opened his eyes to see one of the tactical air controllers approaching him, a clipboard tucked under his arm. Young, with an outwardly cocky air, he could tell the man was nervous. Though these techs wore no indicators of their former positions or nations of origin, Bradford was pretty sure he was a former U.S. Air Force JTAC.

"What is it?" he asked as the technician reached him.

"Sir, the flight officers have just arrived, and the Interceptors are being taxied into their bays." The air controller shoved the clipboard at him, and Bradford took it, glancing at the manifests for a second before looking back up.

"Thanks for the report," he replied crisply. "Inform me when they've been assigned to their billeting, and then have them assemble with the troops for their initial inbrief."

"Of course, sir," the air controller snapped back, coming to attention before turning away. As Bradford turned back to the Hologlobe, he found one of the freshly arrived troops standing at parade rest behind him.

"Yes, Soldier?" he asked, lifting an eyebrow.

"Sir," she replied, coming to attention, "I was sent to inform you that all of the newly arrived Soldiers are assembled in the chow hall, awaiting your inbrief. Bradford glanced at the Hologlobe again, estimating how much time he had before the Skyranger arrived at its destination. Enough time, he decided, and nodded at the Soldier.

"Excellent. Go on back, and I'll be in shortly." The trooper executed a crisp about-face, and marched off smartly, and Bradford felt a pang. He hadn't even caught her name, though her accent said she was from somewhere in Eastern Europe. He wondered if she'd die in the coming days or weeks, never to see her home again.

He shook his head, glanced one last time at the Hologlobe, then squared his shoulders and went after the young Soldier. There was work to be done, and he had a feeling it was going to be a long war.