Friday, September 16, 2011

"UFO-2" (XCOM Friday)

Part I: “Live or Die” 


I had just got to sleep when the alarm blared. Flashing red lights poked at my closed-eye vision, I groaned, and a friendly female computer voice intoned: “Warning, warning: UFO detected.” Some peppy music started playing, and that was the last straw. I leapt out of the cot--the prison bed had been more comfortable!--and shouted at the first figure my sleep-deprived eyes made out.

“Whoa, Lester,” the man said. It was Robert Reynolds. I ran a hand across my eyes, and saw my erstwhile cell mate raising his hands in mock surrender.

“Rise and shine,” said Armand, his cheerful Gallic accent clashing with his kicking the giant Russian out of bed. “Vladimir, we’ve got things to kill.”

“We do?” I said over my shoulder. I’d spotted Masanori yelling in his Asian gibberish at the rest of the guys. “What’s going on?” I asked. One of these hours I was going to get an answer to that question.

But not this hour. The lights went out and the door to the cramped room opened, and we ran toward the light and into a long corridor. The doors leading off were sealed, so we were herded out into a hanger. A craft waited for us, the entry ramp open for us.

“Looks like a C-150, smaller,” said Robert.

“No,” shouted Masanori, sounding oddly angry. “That a Skylane’jah.”

“What the fu--”

“Skyranger, you dumbass,” I said, figuring it out. “Prototype. Supersonic.”

“UFO Detected,” intoned the computer lady. “If you would--” here an angry male voice took over, growling “--get in the damn ship, you sons of bitch assho--” the computer lady came back “--please.” We piled in, finding uncomfortable seats along the hull.

“We get weapons now?” Vladimir shouted at the ceiling.

“Have a nice flight,” said the computer lady, as the door closed and the ship took off.

“I guess not,” said Armand, buckling himself in, then it was too loud to talk for a couple minutes while the transport got up to speed.

“Wonder where we’re going?” I asked as the plane hit cruising speed, and for once I got an answer.

“You’re intercepting a UFO, gentlemen. UFO-2, to be precise.” It was the asshole from the video, but this one was live, albeit on a screen at the front of the plane. Some in-flight movie. “One of our fighters was shadowing it and we were lucky enough to spot where it set down. You are to go secure the area and the enemy craft itself.”

“Enemy? Aliens?” scoffed Armand. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Yes,” said the man evenly, steepling his fingers. “It’s night. They’ll know you’re coming once you land, so move in fast before they can get back to their craft. Capture that craft, gentlemen.”

“Is that all?” I asked, sarcastic in my terror.

He favored me with a sardonic look. “Bring an alien back alive. That part of the mission should take priority over your own lives. You’ll be landing in 5. Arm yourselves.” The screen blanked, and we heard the click of the overhead lockers unlocking. We scrambled to open them as the plane slowed, drawing out some M16s and, to Vladimir’s delight, a massive belt-fed auto-cannon.

“That mine,” he said, picking it up and slapping one of the heavy clips in. I noted the red warning: High Explosive, but his nod of satisfaction told me that he’d seen it already. He grinned a toothy grin as the plane set down.

“Yes, you ‘strong like bear’,” said Armand, making a fair mockery of the Russian’s accent. The man growled, but Armand only smiled, reaching up to grab a Beretta pistol out of a locker. “Bring it, tough guy,” he said, slipping a spare clip in the pocket of his jumpsuit.

The bay door opened, and the front guys rolled out into the dark forest. I spotted an unopened locker and put my rifle down to pop it open. “Stun rods here,” I shouted, and tossed one each of the long sticks to Armand and Robert, then slipped it across my back, out of the way.

We must have looked ridiculous, hustling out of the ship with the tall blue poles poking above our heads, but before I could think on that, the damp night was blasted apart by rifle fire. One of the guys was hit, his arm seared off at the shoulder, and a green fire licking up from the wound and into his face as he staggered away to fall into a clump of bushes. Then I heard a horrible groan somewhere in the forest to the right. “Stop fie’,” shouted Masanori, motioning me and Armand to investigate. It was as good an order as any, so Vladimir set himself up to cover us while Masanori yelled and pushed the rest of the guys into a search pattern.

Armand had sprinted ahead. Man, that guy could move. “Shot a kid, looks like,” he said, and I hustled on up to shine my rifle-light on the tiny grey corpse. The giant eyes stared back at me out of a big round head, and I saw the alien chest expanding and contracting, sucking at what looked like it had been a rebreather before it was shattered by the gunfire that gutshot the creature. “Huh,” said Armand. “I was mistaken.” Then he put his pistol to the thing’s head and pulled the trigger.

“Aren’t we supposed to take one alive?”

“Not that one,” shrugged Armand as Vladimir came up. I abruptly realized that the deep background thrumming couldn’t be the Skyranger’s engines, and was just starting to try to figure out where it was coming from when a new eruption of gunfire pretty much gave me the answer. “Shall we join them?”

“Da,” said Vladimir, breaking into a hustle after Armand. I followed, hearing two simultaneous screams as we approached. Two more guys down. Then we ran across Masanori, crouched behind a tree, a burned corpse--that plasma was like contained napalm--smoking next to him, and the small Asian himself spraying fire as fast the three-round burst setting would allow. The man was laughing his ass off, and not aiming for shit.

“You’re drawing their fi--”

And so he was, as a hail of plasma sent me diving for the dirt. “There’s only one!” I heard Armand shout, then I heard the click as Masanori’s rifle ran out of ammunition.

“Back ship!” he shouted, scrambling back. “Mo’ ammo!” We ignored him.

Armand dropped his pistol next to me, and I saw he was holding his stun rod. I arched an eyebrow, and he nodded, grinning. He seemed to be having a wonderful time. “Got it. We’ll cover you, Armand,” I shouted over the renewed hail of plasma. He was off like a shot into the dark, and I laid down suppressing fire. Vladimir was about to pop off an explosive shot when we both saw a blue spark and then Armand whooped a French curse of triumph.

I heard Robert shouting in the distance. “Found a ship, guys! Get the hell over here!” We passed Armand kneeling over another of the big-head child aliens and I returned his pistol, then me and Vladimir could see the grey metal of the ship ahead, and there was Robert Reynolds and another guy. “Here’s a door.”

“Open, shoot in?” offered Vladimir.

“No. We’ve got to take the thing intact,” I said. “The door opens. Stack up,” I shouted at the other two, and we pressed ourselves on the side while Vladimir covered the surroundings. I ran my rifle-light along the smooth surface until it illuminated a projection. I reached out my hand out: “Ready? One, two--” I popped it open and the curved panel slid down. “Go go go.”

Oh, the first guy was splattered six ways to beyond, but me and Robert didn’t take time to grieve, we just rolled in and sprayed the interior of that ship down with bullets. The other two aliens didn’t stand a chance. “You guys captured one back there, right?” said Robert. He sounded so concerned that I cracked up, putting my rifle down and staggering back outside and laughing out loud. Vladimir joined in, slapping me on the back.

That’s how the Army clean-up guys found us.
“Congratulations, gentlemen,” that bastard on the screen had said to us happy five on the flight back. “We didn’t have to nuke you.” I’m really beginning to hate that guy, I thought to myself. The Army, which had apparently been on perimeter to see if we sucked and died before they called in the nukes, had taken our weapons away.

Once we’d landed, some lab coats had got me and Vladimir to drag the captured alien to a containment facility on base, at which point Armand had been taken aside by another set of lab coats for a private debriefing and Vladimir had wandered off somewhere to do whatever it was that giant Russians do when stuck in an undisclosed location.

That left me staring at the alien, sans rebreather, floating in a reinforced glass tank full of some kind of jelly. I could see it breathing, and I could see it watching me. What was it thinking? Kill all humans, aliens rule, blow up their shit, Earth Sucks. I put a hand on the glass, and the thought popped into my head: ‘sucks to be me. I’m stuck in a tank.’

“You and me both, pal,” I muttered. Then: “Sucks to be us.”

Next Friday -- I-3 "UFO-3"

These works of X-COM fiction are purely for my own amusement. X-COM is an intellectual property of Take Two Interactive Software, Inc. (Trademark source). If same (or your representatives) wants to yell at me, sue me, or hire me to write legitimate works of X-COM fiction at market rates, please contact me at davidalbarron [at] gmail [dot] com first. We'll work it out to your satisfaction, I promise.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tisroc Spring

Presenting the newest release by David Barron and H2NH, the first novel in the ongoing Tisroc series...

Tisroc Spring ; Amazon UK ; Amazon Germany
Update: Being Reformatted! Await the 2nd Edition. Hang on!
(You can purchase "Play-world", the first book in the Tisroc series, at Amazon USA)
Update 2: You can pick up your copy of the 2nd Edition at!
See announcement article for more details

A technological thriller with a double shot of humor and romance: Tisroc Spring, a science fiction novel by David Barron. This novel is a convenient collection of the first three Tisroc short books in a discounted package, representing the first third of the thrilling Tisroc series!

We're just babies, making up a game...


Controlling drones mapping the surface of a forgotten Earth is a pretty sweet gig, especially since Ernie Centrifuge can work from the comfort of his computer room on the floating city of Megalopolis...but when he takes a job to survey a mysterious island, he finds himself entangled in a deadly competition for a lost and priceless treasure! With the help of his sister (a psion), her husband (a pilot), and a sarcastic lady he meets in a car accident (a police inspector), Ernie races to find out who's who in a world where no one really knows what's what.

May you live forever...

To roll anyway

Ernie Centrifuge just wants to relax with his girlfriend (a police inspector) and play with his survey drones, but when a Senator is assassinated by laser, Ernie decides that the floating city isn’t as relaxing as he would have hoped. When his sister (a psion) brings in an orphan girl who found a tantalizing map, Ernie decides to descend to the surface of a forgotten Earth. But what has he left behind on Megalopolis?

What do you call soon?

The spell of it

The New Farms on the surface of a forgotten Earth promise to feed overcrowded Megalopolis, but when two workers are killed, Inspector Benji Prajactatorix has her suspicions. She takes her boyfriend (a tech) along to check out a mysterious organic spaceship, but that leaves his sister (a psion) and her intended (a politician) still on the floating city to contend with a food shortage on the eve of Election Day.

...and once you've enjoyed this novel, anticipate the fourth short book in the Tisroc series: A little astronomy.

A convenient collection of three science fiction short books (Play-world, To roll anyway, and The spell of it) and cheap (a mere $6.99), too! Buy it now, then come back. [time passes] OK, let’s move on...  

The spell of it has a great ending that’s a good cut-off for a novel, and the next two Tisroc short books are going to be more of a ‘back-to-back’ experience, so I feel they should stand alone as a novel. With the final three short books collected, there’s a trilogy, which may prove more convenient in print than eight short books. (More on that as H2NH ramps up to POD in 2012.)

You can find more info and release dates in the H2NH Publication Schedule, if you’re interested.

Right now Tisroc Spring is available "exclusively" at Amazon for Kindle (USA, UK, Germany), because Smashwords formatting hates books (see my open letter on that issue). I hope presently to make this, and the rest of my books, available on B&N and Kobo. (If you purchase the MOBI file from Amazon and would prefer the identically formatted EPUB file, e-mail me and we can probably work that out.)

Tisroc Spring took me seventy-five hours to write, edit, copy-edit, format, and upload. It will probably take you between six to eight hours to read. It being a book, you are even allowed to read it again! (This is known as a ‘special feature’) Indeed, I encourage you so to do, thus to enjoy my delicious prose and witty dialogue again after your first read, when you were undoubtedly too busy on the edge of your seat, flipping pages frantically to see what happens next in my engrossing plot. Yes, yes.

So, let’s call it twelve hours of solid entertainment total, which I’d say is fair for $6.99. I make a little under five bucks for each book I sell, so I need a little over fifteen hundred of you to buy this book so I can pay myself a living wage and buy some celebratory booze. My target audience being ‘all English readers with Kindles world-wide’ and my timeframe being five years, I’m confident I can manage (at least) that.

Note to the dedicated few who made it all the way down here: If you promise to read Tisroc Spring and do a couple-paragraph review on Amazon and/or another review site and/or a blog within a reasonable time frame, I’ll send you a review copy. Contact me at DavidalBarron [at] gmail [dot] com. I’ll link to it, but I can’t promise I’ll actually bother to read the review. No offense. I’m too busy writing new stuff to read reviews of old stuff (unless they’re funny).

Next up from H2NH Publishing is Jillian Nice’ Horror short book ed. (Release: early October)

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