The alien attack at Vancouver had resulted in increased preparedness at every military facility on the planet. Every member of the United Nations Security Council had turned their surveillance and intelligence gathering assets outward, while still keeping a close over watch of current hot zones across the rest of the planet. There had been some whispered rumors among many in the various militaries about potential increases in training and contingency planning. Whether these hostiles that attacked Vancouver were the exception or the rule, it was the jobs of the various military and intelligence agencies to be ready. A few of the Halo fanatics had started wondering if and when they’d be able to sign up for the United Nations Space Command.
However, just because the majority of the industrialized world was now going over every prior report of Alien Encounters on television ad infinitum didn’t mean there wasn’t a current conflict to resolve. That was why Captain John Drake was leading his small team through some God Forsaken wasteland in the middle of Afghanistan searching for Taliban loyalists that had bombed a civilian school the other day.
The patrol was a standard recon, with over watch being provided by UAV Predator drones. Sheridan was keeping his eyes out as his NCO drove the HUMVEE. He couldn’t help but wonder what the revelation of alien life meant for the planet as a whole. Maybe they would finally come together, end these stupid wars and finally be able to live in peace. Even saying it in his head made him certain it wouldn’t. It would frankly probably mean things would get worse.
“Any word on when we’re going out bug hunting, Captain?” Corporal Steven Craig asked amusedly.
“It at least be more interesting than this place,” Private Yancy Willis responded.
“No, we aren’t going bug hunting, no we aren’t going to be offered spots in the UNSC, and no we aren’t going to nuke the entire site from orbit as the only way to be sure,” Drake said in an exasperated tone. It hadn’t been the first time someone had made a comment on the subject.
“A buddy of mine at Nellis mentioned that a bunch of people were all camping out where they say Area 51 is supposed to be. Hell if I know what they are doing out there though,” Steven mentioned.
Yancy just shook his head, “I suppose more protesting of how First Contact went. They probably think the Hockey players should have been more understanding of the giant bugs shooting at everything around them. We should have been ‘Understanding of the enlightenment they offered.’ Or some crystal hugging hippie crap like that.”
John shook his head. He had heard a lot of soldiers, officers and enlisted, discuss these events over and over. At twenty-five years old he had spent most of his adult life as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. Life as a soldier wasn’t some glorious existence, dedicated perfecting the Arts of War and skills needed to kill all comers for King and Country. A lot of it was dull paper work and other administrative tasks. The further up the chain of command, the more time was spent riding a desk then a HUMVEE. Still, he had done a lot of specialized training over the years to include Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training, or SERE for short. He was a tall man at just over six feet with dark hair cut short. His blue eyes hidden under polarized lenses due to the bright light of the Afghan desert took everything in, as his skin felt dry and gritty due to the long drives on patrol. His body having taken on a darker tone due to sunlight on his white flesh.
They were hunting guerrillas today. He wouldn’t know that the discussion the two enlisted men were having was about to become a lot less theoretical.
“Alright listen up, we’re about to make planet fall!” Hshrif shouted to the men going down with him to pick up specimens for Granth. The possibility for 10% per had made him get a bit greedy and he had called in some help to get as many specimens as possible. His ship, the Bladed Claw, was the lead of a small five vessel strike force he had hastily cobbled together. They didn’t have much time to get in, grab what they could, and get out before they were locked in this system forever.
“I want everyone ready to do their part. We need to grab as many Humans as we can and they have got to fit a specific criteria. Our employer is wanting Warriors. So let’s get him as many as we can, it’s an extra 10% per head. I figure we’ll snatch Granth a good cross-section of this worlds various warrior castes and be on our way.”
And so they did, kidnapping an NYPD Detective here, an amateur kickboxer there, and when they got around to the Mid-East they did everything they could to stay under the radar and get anyone they could. They managed to kidnap another ten people of various military and terrorist cells across the entire region. They made sure every one of them ended up in separate containment cages all knocked out with the strongest sedative gas they could get. It would be the last pickup in Afghanistan that would cause them problems on their trip home.
It was due to several factors that this would be a problem. First, the mercenary’s ship had been caught on visual satellite reconnaissance. Before such craft had been disregarded or has simply not been noticed. Now with the Vancouver Raid everything that looked strange was being analyzed completely. An image taken on a High Altitude UAV and other Recon Aircraft, combined with the disturbance to radio communication tripped flags across the entire United States Defense Intelligence Network.
This lead to fighters on patrol over the Persian Gulf and in support of Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to be on alert as the Bladed Claw entered their Area of Responsibility. Fighters were launched along the projected trajectory of the craft, to either track it or hopefully bring it down, intact or salvageable.
They also didn’t entirely expect their sedative agent to burn through the Humans in their hold so quickly. Hshrif was at his heart a cheap bastard, and that would come back to haunt him and his crew. But not yet. They came up to a spot over a large area of the planet that their sensors indicated a hot zone of conflict right under them. He looked over the humans fighting with their weapons. Projectile weapons that could maim any of his crew if they even used it.
He looked over, and there was one person, wearing a sand Capt.ored uniform and seemingly directing the others in similar clothing. Hshrif licked his scaled lips and pressed on the display to select his next target.
It was going to be a good paycheck from Granth.
The HUMVEE ahead of them had gone up in a blast of fire and death suddenly, now the entire patrol had targeted the Taliban insurgent assaulting them. Seemed they had found their guerrillas. The problem was they were pinned down.
Capt. Drake turned to SSgt Gregson, “Call in some air support.”
Gregson was already on the radio when he said, “Negative sir, according the Command we have an incoming bogie on us. They are wanting up to paint it as soon as we see it over head.”
“What? Did you tell them we are under fire here?”
“They said this took priority, Sir.”
Capt. Drake just shook his head in disgust. “Did they at least say what to look for?”
Gregson was about to answer when a shadow fell over the battlefield. He could only say, “I think we’ll know it when we see it sir.”
Drake turns the where his Sargent was looking, his eyes widening as he took in the site. A vessel of clearly alien origin was hovering overhead. The Taliban fighters had seen it and were firing their weapons at the ship. Capt. Drake pulled out a laser designator and pointed it right at the craft as the roar of several F-22 engines sounded on the horizon.
In that moment Capt. Drake felt gravity lose its grip on him. He could hear the voices of his men as he was sucked up into the alien craft. He couldn’t do anything but drop the laser designator to one of his men. SSgt. Gregson grabbed it and kept the target painted. It wouldn’t do much good as the vessel sped off into the distance. Two F-22 raptors roaring overhead only a moment later.
On the bridge the tactical officer notified Hshrif, “Captain, we have two Human fighter craft in pursuit.”
Hshrif blew it off, “So what, they may be able to do things no one else can in physical bodies but they are an uncontacted species. They couldn’t possibly have tech that could keep up with us. Now set course and get us out of this system.”
Disregarding them would prove to be a mistake however. As the ship tried to speed out into space, activating it’s FTL Drive in Earth’s Atmosphere, one of the fighters managed to get a shot off. The missiles detonated in the same instant the Bladed Claw escaped into FTL. Unfortunately for the ship, the missile hit.