Monday, March 28, 2016

The Long War, Part X - Terror in Nigeria


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At approximately 6 am local time on 7 April 2016 a medium-sized UFO touched down in the Nigerian city of Ogbomosho. Its arrival grounded nearby air traffic, and prompted a swift response from Nigerian security forces, who surrounded the UFO with a cordon to keep away the growing throng of interested onlookers on their way to work that Thursday morning. This was the first time a UFO had been seen in such close quarters by most people, and its arrival touched off a media frenzy as more and more people arrived and pressed in to take photographs and video footage of the historic event. Several attempts were made to communicate with the crew of the vessel, all to no avail, and eventually President Muhammadu Bahari gave the authority for the armed forces to go in and secure the UFO. Elements of the 2nd Division of the Nigerian army either drove or were airlifted from the divisional headquarters in Ibadan, some 100 km to the south, and took charge of the perimeter from local police.
 
The floater was first sighted in Ogbomosho.
 
At 9 am elements of the Nigerian 72nd Special Forces Battalion assaulted the UFO. Upon breach a dozen or so unidentified flying aliens egressed from the craft, and began firing and hurling grenades into the crowd. The aliens employed plasma weapons already seen by X-Com, and the grenades used by the aliens were particularly destructive, more akin to anti-armour satchel charges in their explosive power than conventional human grenades. Most were eventually shot down and killed, but a few escaped into the city, sowing terror and confusion wherever they went. Some of these "floaters" were heavily armoured and exceptionally difficult to kill. Their speed and manoeuvrability made them difficult targets. Glancing hits by small arms usually ricocheted off their armour, and even the impact of direct hits only served to knock them backwards or spin them around rather than put them down. The floaters also avoided exchanging with large groups of soldiers, preferring instead to use their superior mobility to move to undefended locations. It seemed to all observers that the floaters' sole aim was to kill as many people as possible. They did not try to escape or return to their craft, but instead shot unarmed civilians who posed no threat to them. Such wanton cruelty enraged the Nigerians, and the floaters were aggressively pursued all over the city. Most were eventually cornered and killed, but one or two would remain a deadly nuisance for days after the crisis.
 
The heavy version of the floater. It was more durable and heavily-armoured than its regular counterpart.

In the confusion the status of the breaching team was momentarily forgotten. Given the order to continue the breaching team proceeded inside the craft, where they encountered the lifeforms now designated by X-Com as "chryssalids". The Special Force soldiers put up fierce resistance, but were hampered by the inefficacy of their weapons and the cramped confines of the UFO. Several soldiers were badly wounded and mauled by the creatures while the rest of the squad fell back in disarray. The surviving chryssalids pursued them out of the UFO, and ran amok among the already panicked crowds outside. Out in the open the chryssalids were easier targets, and were eventually put down, but not before they had maimed, injured and killed dozens of bystanders.

Outbreak

What the Nigerians did not know at the time was that the chryssalids impregnated their victims with an embryo that attached itself to the host's central nervous system. Once the embryo was attached it assumed control of the host until at some point a transformation was triggered in which the host organism was devoured from within to fuel a horrific metamorphosis that turned it into a chryssalid. Unaware of the ticking time bombs on their hands, the critically wounded were immediately placed in ambulances and rushed to hospital, while the injured were treated onsite in makeshift medical tents hastily erected by the soldiers. Some of the impregnated victims struggled and fought but were subdued, in some cases being forcibly strapped to gurneys. Other victims appeared dead or unconscious. About 5 to 10 minutes after the last chryssalid had died the Nigerians surrounding the UFO were privy to the horrific sight of seeing the dead and wounded transforming into chryssalids before their eyes. The spectacle caused wide spread panic and terror, but in spite of this the Nigerian soldiers were able to rally and put down the newly hatched organisms. In the process, however, several more people were wounded and impregnated, which began the cycle anew. The only way to stop the transformation was to kill the embryo, which was usually implanted in the abdomen of the victim and attached itself to the victim's spinal column. The embryo grew quickly to the size of a grapefruit, and acted as the new brain of the creature. Destroying this embryo-brain halted the process, but the Nigerians had no way of knowing this at the time. Furthermore while destroying the embryo was the rational answer to the problem, most people found it difficult to mutilate the remains of their former friends, family and comrades-in-arms. The price they usually paid for their humanity and empathy was death at the hands of the newly hatched chryssalid.
 
The chryssalid was also first sighted in Ogbomosho, but they would become horrifyingly familiar in the months ahead.
  
While the Nigerian soldiers at the landing site were able to offer organized resistance to the chryssalids, unarmed civilians in other parts of the city fared much more poorly. Some of the ambulances carrying the stricken made it to the hospital, while some crashed en route as their erstwhile patients transformed inside the vehicles and attacked the paramedics trying to treat them. The fastest ambulances only succeeded in bringing the impregnated victims into an environment where the newly hatched chryssalids could run rampant. Patients, doctors, nurses and visitors were helpless fodder to such a creature. Security personnel armed with handguns were no match for a single chryssalid, whose armoured carapace could shake off small calibre fire. Hospitals became the unwitting vectors for the spread of the chryssalids, and one private hospital, Bowen University Teaching Hospital, was completely decimated after throwing open their doors to the wounded and dying.

By noon, three hours after the breach, analysts had concluded that there were more than a few hundred chryssalids roaming the city, and that their numbers were growing at an exponential rate. If a single chryssalid could double its number every hour then in 28 hours there would be more chryssalids than the entire population of Nigeria, which numbered over 173 million people. Fortunately for Africa, the spread of the chryssalids was limited by geography and the availability of hosts. This number was still significant - Ogbomosho had an estimated population of over one and a half million, and the worst case scenario envisioned over a million chryssalids spreading out from the city into the rest of the continent. The heroic actions of the Nigerian army fighting desperate and scattered actions throughout the city kept their numbers in check, as did organized police units who were able to arm themselves with rifles and shotguns. Everywhere else the chryssalids spread like wildfire. At the landing site nervous tank commanders, unnerved by the sight of more chryssalids emerging from both inside and outside the perimeter, decided unilaterally to destroy what they thought was the source of the infestation. They pounded the UFO with armour-piercing rounds from their 125 mm guns, until one shell hit the UFO's power source and triggered a cataclysmic explosion which destroyed the UFO, levelled the surrounding area, and started a number of fires in the city. The explosion severely crippled the Nigerian command element, most of whom were present at the landing site. Reinforcing units from the 2nd Division arriving from Ibadan found themselves arriving in a city in chaos and being attacked by seemingly endless horde of nightmarish creatures bereft of any effective leadership and without any knowledge of the capabilities of their foe.

Arrival of the UN

It was at this point that the lead elements of the UN brigade led by Major-General Peter van Doorn arrived in Ogbomosho from the northeast. Originally earmarked for deployment in the Central African Republic (CAR), their transports had landed in Ilorin Airport as a precaution when the UFO entered Nigerian airspace. When notified of the unfolding crisis the UN Secretary-General ordered the blue helmets to intervene and render whatever humanitarian assistance they could, despite technically not having the authority to do so. UN resolutions created very specific task forces from scratch on a per resolution basis, each with their own clearly defined mandate and rules of engagement (ROE). Forces earmarked for peacekeeping operations for one region were not readily transferable to another. In spite of this, the Secretary-General decided to act after an impassioned plea from President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. According to President Buhari the crisis in Ogbomosho coincided with a massive push by the Islamic Jihadist group Boko Haram in Nigeria's Borno State. The offensive, which was unprecedented in scale, diverted much of Nigeria's armed forces assets to the northeast, leaving precious little to allocate to the growing crisis in Ogbomosho.

After intense discussions with the Secretary-General, Doorn decided to commit his brigade and worry about the possible ramifications under international law later. His troops arrived in Ogbomosho in dribs and drabs, having had to plead, persuade and cajole Nigerian authorities into providing them with motorized transport. Most of the UN's heavy equipment had preceded them to the CAR, leaving the soldiers with nothing but their rifles and grenades. Nonetheless Doorn was a resourceful and stubborn man, and his advance units drove down Ogbomosho Road in commandeered trucks and jeeps to find a city in convulsion as civilians tried to flee the city. Three companies - one third of the UN's total strength - were able to make it to the city while the remainder either waited at Ilorin Airport for more transport, or started the long 40 km march on foot.
 
The interior of the city during the early hours of the crisis.
 
Doorn's first action was to try to link up with Nigerian forces near the UFO and ascertain their status. He sent one company to push towards the landing site, but their advance was hampered by the chryssalids and the fires burning out of control in the vicinity. They were soon recalled. With the Nigerian army scattered and leaderless Doorn took it upon himself to collect whatever elements he could and rally them together. He chose Ladoke Akintola University as a rallying point and ordered his soldiers to create a perimeter around the university grounds. He then sent out several aggressive patrols whose goal was to find and bring back civilians to the safe zone. These patrols were initially very successful, and soon the grounds of the university began to fill with frightened civilians. Ogbomosho's cellular network and emergency broadcasting system still functioned, and civilians were advised to either make their way to the university, or to barricade themselves within their homes. Civilian helicopters repeated the same message over loudspeakers overhead. Doorn's patrols were discontinued when they began to run into more and more of the chryssalids. Like the Nigerian army the UN's ignorance of the chryssalid's life cycle proved to be a massive liability, as they brought wounded and fallen members back into their perimeter with the same disastrous results. Doorn's initial scepticism of the stories being told by civilians and soldiers were quickly laid to rest when he witnessed a transformation first-hand. The wounded were hastily segregated outside and covered by shooters on all sides. Soldiers given this duty compared it to a ghastly game of whack-a-mole, in which squads of soldiers would converge on a luckless victim convulsing and writhing on the ground, and putting them down before the transformation could be completed. Even the dead were fair game to the chryssalids. An implanted cadaver would rise and walk around and try to attack people, much like how zombies are portrayed in popular culture, before finally transforming into a chryssalid. It was the wounded that suffered most. While it seemed that the chryssalid embryo could co-opt a dead person's central nervous system and use it to move the cadaver around, a living person suffered a state akin to that of paralysis, as the human and alien mind vied for control of the body. Only by killing the embryo brain stem, usually located lower down the abdomen, could this process be halted, and this procedure usually ended with the death or paralysis of the host as well. There was a famous story of a particularly strong-willed African man who struggled against and overcame the conflicting signals being sent by the parasite, and cut it out of himself with a knife. Whether the story was genuine or apocryphal is open to debate, but it did point to a genuine moral conundrum amongst those struggling to keep the wounded alive that day. Most people found it difficult to callously abandon the people they loved to the transformation, and went to great lengths to try and save them, even at the cost of their own.

UN forces are depicted in blue, Nigerian green. Doorn's pocket, consisting of three UN companies, two X-Com squads and numerous civilians, is the red spot in the centre. 
 
Doorn's problems were only just beginning. Two of his companies were spread out in a perimeter surrounding the university, while one was stationed inside keeping order and acting as a mobile reserve. They were fighting an enemy that was heavily armoured and required a lot of firepower to put down. Their numbers were increasing exponentially while UN reserves of ammunition were being depleted as time went on. The nature of their enemy also terrified and unnerved the soldiers. No one wanted to become one of these monsters, and this thought either galvanised the soldiers to greater efforts, or hollowed out their bravado and replaced it with will-sapping dread. The chryssalids were fast - not a large concern in open spaces with large fields of fire, but the stuff of nightmares in an urban environment where line of sight is usually measured in metres. The chryssalids possessed tremendous strength in their limbs, demonstrating the ability to jump one or two stories or to punch through plate steel with equal ease. Close quarters combat (CQC) against such a foe was tantamount to suicide. To add to Doorn's woes, the remaining two-thirds of his brigade (another 4,000 soldiers) were stalled outside Ogbomosho and strung out along the highway due to the congestion on the roads and the lack of available transport. One company entered the city on its own, was cut off by the chryssalids and completely wiped out. After that disaster the 2nd and 3rd battalions concentrated on creating a line northeast of the city to prevent a chryssalid breakout. In the meantime Nigerian troops from the 2nd Division coming up from the south made a similar line to the southwest of the stricken city, and worked on extending this line eastwards as more and more troops arrived. The eastern tip of the Nigerian line would eventually link up with the UN line in a U-shaped cordon around Ogbomosho. The only avenue for escape for the chryssalids would be at the top of the U, to the northwest.

9 comments:

  1. Man, what a tragedy. Seeing how everything went to shit so fast gives me the chills. Well done, sir.

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  2. This is great, I'm really enjoying this 'real world' interpretation of XCOM! Clicked on this as soon as the notification from RSS came through :)

    Plus this really deals with how something like Chrysalids would be handled, and I like the details of how regular armies are dealing with aliens.

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  3. I caught up on all the previous entries after reading Ogbamoshu - really enjoying this series. Such a great and scary description of the chrysalid exponential growth. I'very not played Xcom as I'M not patient enough for tactical games, but would totally read a book like this!

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  4. Thanks guys, will hopefully have a couple more posts by the weekend, just in the process of editing them now.

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  5. Loving the detail you pack into these. :)

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  6. Just got linked here, excellent job of transforming XCom into the real world.

    Right now if I'm the US President getting updates from the ground, though, I'd be retargeting a Trident SLBM onto Ogbomosho. Just in case.

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    Replies
    1. Yah, seriously.

      It would still be an option of very last resort though IMO. I think the novelty of the chryssalids, the ignorance about its life cycle, and the speed of the crisis would catch any contemporary leader flat footed. Plus dropping a nuke on a sovereign nation has only ever happened twice before in history, so it's never an easy decision. I don't think Obama would drop a nuke without President Bahari's consent, and IMO Bahari would have waited until it was too late. You don't want to be remembered as the guy who nuked your own country. Finally, it's Africa, and as awful as that sounds, so much bad stuff has happened in Africa that something like this might just become part of the list that the rest of the world ignores, along with the civil wars, genocides and famines. By the time the rest of the world understood the magnitude of the threat it would have been too late.

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