Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vigilo Confido (01 MAR 2016)

Private Spencer Donohue looked at the soldiers strapped in around him. He was still kind of stunned by the turn of events that brought them all together on this contraption they called the Skyranger.

It didn't seem like it was only three hours ago that he'd arrived at Denver International Airport on a civilian flight from North Carolina. They'd told him to bring nothing but a small bag of personal effects, and that all of his gear would be provided when he arrived at his new assignment. As soon as he'd stepped off the plane, a woman in neutral professional attire approached him, confirmed his name and told him to follow her. The only identifying mark she'd had was the small diamond-shaped badge with the motto "Vigilo Confido" that he'd seen on his acceptance letter.

His escort had led him to a conference room where several others were already waiting, some of them obviously soldiers, despite their casual garb. She explained that the buses were running late, but that a van for some of the technicians would be leaving shortly, if anyone wanted to get going sooner. He and five others volunteered, and were packed into the van with a bunch of engineers and intel geeks for the next couple of hours. When Donohue asked their escort where they were going all she did was smile and give a murmured, "You'll see."

Donohue's first impression of the base was underwhelming. Tucked into the back of a small box canyon were a few small, unmarked buildings and a guard post. The guard at the gate, wearing blue Kevlar and a ballcap emblazoned with the increasingly-familiar "Vigilo Confido" badge, waved them in with barely any pleasantries. At the back of the canyon, they entered a cave only a little larger than the van. Several minutes passed with nothing to see but rough-hewn rock. Donohue heard the others talking quietly, but he kept his attention on the rock wall barely a foot from the window. Occasionally a dim overhead light would swim out of the darkness ahead, but for the most part, only the headlights of the van showed anything at all.

Eventually, just when Donohue began to wonder if he was claustrophobic after all, the tunnel widened out and the ceiling rose into a sizable, well-lit cavern. Steel support beams crisscrossed the ceiling, and asphalt lined the ground, where rows of cones were laid out. Donohue had been on enough deployments to know what a staging area for buses looked like. Ahead, looming out of the wall of the cavern was part of a building, all in sterile white. Emblazoned on the building, above the large set of double doors, was that same sigil with 16 flags arranged in an arc underneath. Beneath that, in black block letters: Welcome to XCOM.

The van pulled to a stop a little ways back from the double doors, and Donohue and his comrades gathered their personal bags. Before the geeks had even piled out of the van, yellow lights began flashing, and alarm claxons started to echo through the cavern. Donohue found himself reaching for the weapon he wasn't carrying While the technicians milled around in confusion. He noticed the five other soldiers drifting into a loose cordon around the van, each one of them unconsciously ready for action. Donohue smiled tightly, approving of his new comrades already.

Just then, the first uniform they'd seen appeared as a man rushed out through the double doors. It wasn't any uniform Donohue recognized, but it was definitely a uniform, in olive drab green and blue, with no nametape or rank insignia, just the familiar badge. He glanced around hurriedly, until his eyes lit upon Donohue and his companions.

"Oh thank goodness," he exclaimed, his accent marking him as an Aussie. "They said that some troops had arrived with the techs. Come with me, quickly!"

Donohue shot a look at the nearest of the other soldiers, and fell into place behind the hurrying Australian.

"What's up?" he asked as they moved through the corridors. The man glanced back at him, then behind him at the rest.

"You're not going to have time for a proper briefing, I guess," he replied, not slowing his pace. "I am Intelligence Officer Pidgeon. The X-Rays have hit Vancouver, with reports indicating that it's an abduction operation. Central Officer Bradford will give you more information en route, but for now, we've got to get you kitted up."

"X-Rays?" Donohue asked, but before the other man could answer, they arrived in what was definitely an armory.

"Drop your bags and strip out of your civvies," he said, pulling open several racks containing rifles, carbines, body armor and various other implements of war. "Get into uniform and strap on your gear. Grab what you can carry, and make sure you bring plenty of ammo. When you're done, follow that corridor to the hangar." With one final glance to ensure that everyone seemed to understand, he turned and hurried out of the room. Around him, the rest of the soldiers were already complying, so Donohue dropped his bag to do the same.

The crackle of the intercom brought Private Donohue back from his reverie. The voice of Central Officer Bradford filled the bay of the Skyranger.

"The drop site for this mission is in Canada."