4/30/2012

Review - The Annotated AvP: The Story, part 4



It’s the end of the month, folks. Pour a stiff one and steel yourselves as we venture down memory lane and into the breach once more and plumb the depths of my preteen self’s attempt at fanfiction. This month, we tackle the sixth chapter of AvP: The Story, wherein we’re introduced to this novella’s United States Colonial Marine protagonist, Corporal Andrew Harrison. Be prepared for a 12-year-old’s embarrassing recreation of Marine lingo.


Corporal Andrew Harrison jolted from his bunk in fear. He thought he had heard a freight train rushing past his bed. He turned around only to see Private First Class Michael Duke, his best buddy, playing a stereo at full blast.
“What the Hell was that for?” Harrison groaned angrily.
“I’ve been trying to wake you up for the past fifteen minutes,” Duke chuckled. “C’mon, everybody’s ready but you.”
“Let me guess,” Harrison started, crawling out of bed, “Hall’s sent out a search party for me.”
“She was about to,” Duke grinned. “Let’s go. I’ve got your gear prepped and everything.”
“Good. Now I’ll know whose hide to pull out of the fire first when everything goes to Hell,” Harrison said.
As the film Aliens showed us, USCM missions are notoriously understaffed—a whopping 12 marines, plus an android and two civilians, are sent to Lv-426. But at least those poor bastards had some measure of discipline. In my take on the AvP universe, Marines are allowed to sleep in. Though the boombox bit is somewhat believable, if Jarhead is at all accurate.

The two made their way through the cryo-chambers to the hanger. In its center was a dropship, a Marine transport fighter that was used in every U.S.C.M. operation. Surrounding it were an APC (an Armored Personal Carrier, which was like a tank), a large robotic suit called a Power Loader, and the rest of the Marine squadron.
The first person they ran into was Private Steve Jones, a burly black man in his late forties. He walked up to Harrison and gave him a high-five.
“Hey, Frosty. Finally awake?” he asked Harrison, better known to his friends as Frosty. 
“Yeah, thanks to Duke. Is everything going to Hell without us here, Papa Bear?” Harrison questioned.
“Man, with you two out here it is Hell,” the private smirked. Jones was kind of a human paradox. He could be ferocious one moment, and docile the next. This was probably how he earned the name Papa Bear.

Oh God, did I actually nickname the big African-American marine ‘Papa Bear?’ I don’t know if that’s racist or not but regardless, ouch. My apologies.

Suddenly, a thin, black woman stepped up to them. It was Secondary Sergeant Christine Hall, the third commanding officer of the squadron. She was stricter than the Master Sergeant, Horatio Blackwell, and was the frequent target of Duke’s jokes.
“You three, quit flirting and get back to work,” she ordered. “Harrison, you’ve got Loader duty. I suggest you do it, unless you want to spend a mission up on the ship.”
Harrison scoffed, “Now why would I want to do that?” He walked away and climbed into the Power Loader. He started to look back at Hall and grumbled, “Damned ranks.” As he moved the crates, two Marines walked up to him. One was Master Sergeant Horatio Blackwell, a tough looking Mexican man. The other was Private Thomas Shugi an Oriental man.
Wait, Oriental? Like, I know I’d barely entered puberty at this point, let alone been able to form abstract thoughts, but you’d think I could have chosen nomenclature that might make me seem, I don’t know, less Jack London-ish. I sound like I’m a sentence away from mentioning the Yellow Peril.

Anyway, our veritable Burger King Kids Club of multicultural marines finally gets down to brass tacks.

As soon as Harrison finished moving the crates, Hall shouted, “Officer on deck!” They all got to their attention as Major McCain, the head officer of their squadron, walked into the hangar. McCain was one of the very few commanding officers that were an experienced Marine before leading a squadron. He had once been a soldier in the legendary black team, a Marine squadron. In the Obedenus Station incident, McCain had saved fifty lives by before the platform exploded by getting the personnel to a dropship.
Now it was different. Twenty years had gone by since those days, and he had retired from what he called the amateur ranks, which were the ones that fought. He hadn’t shot a pulse rifle in decades, and with his back weakening, he hoped he didn’t have to.
“At ease, gentlemen,” McCain said to the group. “I know that some of you are concerned about the enemies we might face on the planet, but don’t worry. The Company has made sure that the Aliens there are in the sub-levels of the colony, a place we will not be going. Duke, what are we looking at?”
“A suicide mission,” Duke explained. “Hell, we’re short eight soldiers and our synthetic after our last drop.” Harrison remembered that. The Grey Team dropship had accidentally landed on some overlooked landmines, blowing away the entire team. Only Red Team (Harrison’s squadron) and White Team were left.
“Harrison remembered that.” Jesus, he only saw a third of his platoon blown away. That’s not something you forget. Also, how thinly stretched is the USCM’s budget that they can’t deploy a new squad in between missions? Maybe there’s a marine equivalent of Weyland-Yutani’s own Corporal Bill crunching the numbers.

General Phillips: “WY reports in excess of 50 xenomorphs ravaging the colony. Now, according to our records of the Lv-426 incident, our 12-man squad was easily overpowered in numbers. I suggest three platoons, plus air support.”

General Steve: *clicks his tongue* “I dunno’, man. We’re coming up short on the allocation budget. We can send in the Verloc’s crew.”

Phillips: “That’s two thirds of a platoon. Eight of them were killed in an accident last month. The survivors are still in mourning.”

Steve: “Well, they’re soldiers, right? Can’t they just, y’know, soldier on?”

Phillips: “……just tell me how in God’s name we’re so underfunded.”

Steve: “Oh, yeah, about that. Well, that pizza party we threw for Chuck? Didn’t come cheap.”

“Johnson, what’s our flight plan?” McCain asked. He turned to Corporal Nadia Johnson, an English woman with short, flaming red hair. She was Red Team’s dropship pilot.
“Not much to work with, sir,” Johnson said. “I can’t get any data about the landing terrain. The weather down there is pretty nasty.”
“I vote for an air-strike, sir,” suggested Shugi.
“Negative. The Company executives want the site intact, survivors or not,” the major objected. “That means no air-strike and no Alice. Sorry, Harrison.” Harrison groaned. He looked solemnly over in one corner, where Alice was. Alice was the nickname of the squad’s Exosuit, a Power Loader armed to the teeth with guns, incinerators and rockets. Harrison was so used to going with Alice, he worried about how they would survive if they were ambushed.

In the future, we will become so dependent on our heavily-armed mech suits that we won’t know what to do without them. Truly, this is a harrowing cautionary tale.

The dropship descended beneath the dark storm clouds. A lot of them wondered why the weather was this horrible only around the POC. It was a minor question but nonetheless interesting. However, it made no difference about what type of weather you were in on this planet. The only types of climate there was Bad and Worse.
It was Hell inside the dropship. Everything was shaking and the cockpit view port kept fogging up, which was scaring the Hell out of Johnson and her co-pilot, Private Cody Decker. The winds were very hostile, sometimes blowing the ship off course about a metre or so.
“Where’s the goddamn landing beacon?” she asked angrily.
“Maybe we passed it,” Decker suggested.
“That was a hypothetical question,” she groaned. She once again rubbed her sleeve on the view port, but this time, her eyes widened.
They were heading for a huge outcrop of rock, only fifty metres away. She quickly jerked the wheel ninety degrees to the left. Too late. The right side of the ship scratched the side of the mesa, knocking off one of the rear missile pods. The ship started to head downward.
Remember, kids: when you slash the defense budget, the military can’t even afford windshield wipers for its own aircraft. Nevertheless, Red Team survives this emergency landing and, with all the wisdom possessed by an underfunded marine corps, the nine-man squad splits up. Let’s follow their progress, shall we?

In fifteen minutes, Blackwell’s team was at the Southeast bunker. It was simply a door built into a cliff wall, which lead a corridor right through the POC wall. It was the only escape route for the colony personnel if there was a problem. Though, it didn’t look like it had been used. 
Blackwell walked up to the door and turned toward Harrison. “We’re going to need your hacking kit, Frosty,” he said to the corporal. Harrison took the device out of his pouch and touched the two wires to the door keypad. After seven seconds of fooling around with some knobs, the door opened.
“I’ve got movement,” Shugi said.
“It’s the door,” Harrison objected. “Seriously, you actually call yourself a Marine?”
Blackwell snickered at Harrison’s remark. “Harrison, scout ahead, we’ll cover you,” he ordered.
“Watch your back, Frosty,” Shugi said.
“Don’t I always?” Harrison casually asked. He pulled out his pulse rifle and slowly walked in. As he turned a corner, he heard a loud explosion. He spun around and saw that the door threshold had caved in.
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE.

The next few paragraphs consist almost entirely of boring description, so I’ll just skip right ahead to what we’ve all been waiting for: SPACE WARS.


Finally, a man-sized hole burst open in the door. Two eyeless and rib-cranium heads poked through the breach into Operations. They were Warrior Aliens, the meanest and smartest of the smaller Alien minions. One stepped in, in a velociraptor stance. That is was these things were: the raptors of outer space, It looked from right to left, and cocked its head to one side, listening. It growled at its impatient partner, and then sniffed the air. That’s when Harrison started to freak; they could sniff him out.
He quickly pointed his pulse rifle at the foremost Alien, and fired. As the bullets entered its body, the Alien exploded in a rain of acid blood. Its companion stepped out of the rain and looked angrily at Harrison. Again, Harrison shot the pulse rifle, killing the Alien.
Well, that was anticlimactic. Join us again next month for the continued adventures of Red Team: The Hopelessly Underfunded Colonial Marines.