DISCLAIMER: "X-COM" and all aspects of the trademark, together with the computers games "X-COM: UFO Defense" and "X-COM: Terror From The Deep" are copyrighted material of Infogames/Firaxis. This story is fan fiction and can be reproduced as long as the author's rights are respected. Please do not make any unauthorized chances into the text or take the author's name out of it. Any comments and enquiries are more than welcome through the following email: [email protected]
"X-Com – Abyssal" is the sequel to the author's "X-Com – The Unknown Menace" and is set upon the events of the computer game: "X-Com – Terror From The Deep".
"On the significance of the Alien War
For later historians the beginning of the twenty-first century will probably be marked as the period where humankind stepped into a new era.
Although we know that the Aliens first arrived at Earth at the dawn of human civilization and had always kept a keen interest on the planet since then, it was until the end of the twenty-century that their existence was generally recognized.
Until then we had either clung to a religious creed that humans were the only sentient beings in the entire universe or to the scientific "fact" that extraterrestrial civilizations, if they existed, were too far away for contact to be established.
Those misguided conceptions of man's position in the universe were to become shattered as the aliens started to increase their hostile activities on the Solar System at the beginning of the new millennium. The real truth started to be noticed by those who had eyes to look up to the skies.
Although their presence had been announced a couple of years before, it wasn't until 2002 that general information started to be released about the aliens. Unknowingly for the majority of the world's population, a war had been fought with the aliens for the past three years. To that purpose the major countries in the world had formed a special combat force called Extraterrestrial Command to research and fight the aliens.
Their decision to establish a worldwide effort was proven correct as X-Com, as the force became known, was successful in stopping the aliens before they took over the planet. But in the midst of the victory celebrations that followed, only a few persons, and especially the X-Com's scientists, could be aware of the impact the war would have over human civilization.
Their discoveries posed challenges to organized religions and scientific theories alike. Strong evidence now pointed towards the fact the Homo species would remain irrational primates if the aliens hadn't interfered with man's ancestors. And the aliens looked at the planet as something that they were about to reclaim for their own purposes, namely for food and breeding. In short, we were not God's chosen species or the result of millions of years of evolution anymore.
But, in the aftermath of human victory we became filled with pride and hope and chose not to think on how "alien" we truly are. Such questions were better left unanswered since the answers were to daunting to face.
Instead, we turned to unrealistic dreams as the retrieved alien technology revived the dreams of interstellar travel and colonization. And the short unity felt between all humans right after the war lead to a confidence that we would be able to resolve all of the world's problems. Ironically, those were the same hopes placed by a part of the population upon the aliens before their true intentions were known.
But what we chose to forget quickly caught up with us again. Our old divisions re-emerged, as the result of old greeds and wars.
The promised advances in space travel had to be buried as the Elerium fuel necessary to power such craft was found not to be natural to the Solar System. And the existing stockpiles recovered from crashed UFOs soon dwindled as it was used in conflicts to power the weapons retrieved from the aliens. Until finally there wasn't any Elerium left on Earth for either research or wars. The quickly growing population soon led us into more problems. Crime rates increased and worldwide pollution caused climate changes, making the still intact natural resources to be the center of fierce disputes.
There are two events that mark this dark period. First, the final disbandment of X-Com, whose remaining assets were sold as the world economic crisis aggravated. Second, the Antarctic wars that were fought between several nations to ensure their claims to what had been the last unexplored continent on Earth.
For me, as the final commander of X-Com I see them as the most symbolic events that took place after the war. While I truly wish that the aliens never return to our system again, X-Com represented what we can do if we try to work together and understand our fellow man. And in Antarctica we soiled the last place on Earth that was free of greed and hate. I hope that one day our children are able to understand us and forgive us for both shameful actions.
There are those that claim that the world's present state of affairs was caused by the alien influence upon Earth. They claim that the aliens are dead since no further contacts have been reported for more than three decades. Humankind is now alone again and that it's necessary to erase all traces of the aliens in order for us to become pure again.
Others defend that we need the aliens, or at least that we need the Elerium in order to overcome our species' problems. In the case of the newly born Cult of Sirius their leaders even claim that the aliens are nothing more than gods and that we have fallen from heaven because we rejected them. The need for purity is probably the only aspect were both philosophies can agree. Neither the aliens nor we are gods that can act without impunity.
However, the question can hardly be taken upon such simple terms. The alien's legacy will always be present upon us, hidden into the depths of our souls. By its own existence it helps us to define what is to be human. And the war's truly significance was that, even now, we are able to choose in freedom which path we must tread on the future."
- Boronin, Gennadi, Speeches and Essays, 2033, Moscow
October 4th, 2040
The red and black submarine was slowly moving over the sandy bottom of the North Atlantic Mid-Ocean Cannon, located between Newfoundland and Greenland. The body of the 44 meters long vessel had been painted in black, but the waters around it seemed even darker since it was at a depth of nearly four kilometers, where no sunlight would ever come down. The red turret of the substance contrasted more with the actual temperature, placing the waters near the craft at below zero figures.
Although the bright color of the sub was quite flashy at the distance when at surface, a careful examination showed that its hull was already showing signs of the toll collected by the sea on its decades of existence. Its official designation was the SORESO Zero-One, but the base personal called it the Khimtar.
SORESO was the acronym for Sub-Oceanic Reconnaissance and Extraterrestrial Salvage Operation, a corporate enterprise set after the disbandment of X-Com to investigate UFO crash sites underwater with the purpose of retrieving the Elerium fuel they used on its propulsion. The element had been essential in the last war to power plasma weapons and interplanetary craft. However, it didn't exist on Earth and all of the supplies taken from the aliens had been used, making it an extremely rare substance.
And the seven men and women inside the Khimtar were eagerly waiting for their arrival to one of the marked UFO crash sites underwater because of the possibility of a hefty bonus.
First Pilot Silva was just betting on the possibility that the might find an intact Elerium engine as he kept his hand to the stick that controlled the small sub and watched the outside. About a week ago a commercial vessel had by chance passed over the crash site and had detected a strong magnetic disturbance close to crash site 137.
Although the UFO had been marked as if it had exploded right before hitting the surface of the water and never had been fully investigated now. However, now there seemed to be that it the Elerium from the alien' craft engine was still active and had hadn't been consumed by the blast. Which would only mean an operation possible more lucrative than the investigation they had been done for most of the year.
But the crash area extended over nearly hundreds of square kilometers of the ocean floor, due to the dispersion of the debris. And moving at a low four knots velocity the search would certainly take some time. The world navies had subs that could move faster at those depths but in this case they needed the time to analyze the various signals that arrived from the ocean.
Although the Khimtar had external lights that allowed the pilot to see the area outside of the craft their penetration into the darkness was limited to less than ten meters. But they were off since Silva was using infrared light to see the bottom of the ocean in a blue image. In front of him a blue rectangle floated on the air, with the darker blue representing the ocean floor and the lighter the space in front of him. The image was also linked to data from the ship's acoustic sensors. Sound moves very fast through water and it bounces off like radar waves as it hits obstacles that are inside the ocean. The Khimtar' active sonar was constantly pinging the background and detecting the ocean floor's topography and any other objects that might be laying at the bottom of the ocean.
"I'm picking the wreck of the Titanic again". The voice came from his right where his sensor operator and co-pilot, Second Pilot Timms was seated. The officer was constantly scanning the bottom of the ocean through acoustic and magnetic sensors to detect signs of the UFO's wreckage. When a metal boat is in contact with the salty waters it turns itself into a huge magnet provoking an anomaly in the Earth's magnetic field that can be detected at close ranges. As they looked for the alien alloys of the hull of the wreck they had detected the remains of the sunken passenger liner that had sunk in 1911. Over the past days they had gotten used to the presence of the sunken ships and had stopped to pay any attention to it. And now this was their last day of the mission and would have to head back to SORESO in six hours bringing a climax to the rest of the search. Below the bridge of the sub, which was mounted on the sail the other five sailors that composed the crew were also waiting. Two were qualified divers and stood ready to deploy outside in their heavy suits, designed to withstand the pressure of the water around the Khimtar. The other three were the ship's mechanic and two assistants.
"Hey Timms, focus instead on the engine that's here someplace". The data from the commercial cargo ship about the location of the anomaly was partial since the ship was passing through a major storm on the surface that seemed to affect the guidance systems.
The other officer's voice was tired. "I've told you that there's nothing here for the past two days. We haven't picked any single trace of remains from the UFO".
Turning his complete body towards the other officer he made a hard face but his voice's tone was sarcastic. "I'll make it an order then!" Timms shrugged his shoulders in defeat and turned towards the above display of the ocean around them. "That's strange. I'm picking a noise signal from the Titanic".
"So what? Maybe something is loose inside the hull. We're pretty close to Artic current". Since noise was so easily transported over water, a submarine or a ship can be easily detected as they move on the surface or below.
The next comment from Timms was excited. "I got a possible contact!" After a second on which Silva look at him in anger he started giving away the data. "Bearing 137 degrees, speed six knots and increasing, distance twelve nautical miles".
Now that claim was something impossible Silva realized as the words reached him. There were no other submarines known to be routinely operating in the area. However, this could be another survey ship. As he checked his display he saw that Timms was correct but it didn't hardly matter. "Probably it's the anniversary of the sinking of the ship or something. Let's carry on".
"The regulations tell us to report this to base". Under his breath Silva wished that the other pilot hadn't brought it up. A lot of strange events had been reported lately coming from all sources around the world. Ships and submarines had detected strange craft on their sonar devices. And some of them had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The formation of strange storms over the seas and natural magnetic disturbances had been also reported.
Until now Silva and his crew had been engaged into investigating of dozens of locations where ships and airplanes had disappeared without a trace. But they never had been able to detect anything since they only arrived several hours later to the area. "It's pointless. We'll report it when we get back". At that depth they could only communicate with the base through the use of an emergency low-frequency radio. It had been installed just months ago in case the craft ever detected any 'Unidentified Submersible Object' or USO as the orders put it. So far it had never been used.
"It's too close to the Titanic anyway! We have picked false echoes before!"
"It has been keeping its position. It looks as if it's trailing us!" When Silva checked on the coordinates his heart stopped cold. He had dismissed the claims made in the rumors that went around SORESO base. He had been hired to recover as much Elerium as he could because in the present days there weren't much well paid jobs. He knew the story of X-Com and how SORESO was all that remained from the combat force that had won the Alien War for Earth.
But until know he had never imagined that he would one day encounter any alien. The next tense report from Timms shattered that idea. "Holy God! The craft is heading towards us! Bearing still 137, speed… two hundred knots per hour???" Silva knew that it was impossible for any operational submarine to reach that speed. He made a mental calculation as the co-pilot spoke the distance. One knot was one nautical mile per hour. At the unknown craft's speed it was going to reach the position of the Khimtar in a matter of minutes.
Activating a control on the screen in front of him with his right index finger he spoke into the ship's intercom. "All hands, we have an emergency status!" He didn't knew what else to do. The sub was at its maximum speed and he could try to get to surface but the USO would catch with him anyways. "Silva get that message going! Now!" Timms voice had more panic but he didn't check to see what it was. Activating the low frequency radio, he gave the message an emergency status and started typing it. The low frequency had been used since the previous century to transmit instructions to submarines deeply submerged. However, for a number of technical reasons it couldn't transmit long messages.
"The thing had started to make strange acoustic noises! I think I'm picking a transistent!" The term meant that the submerged craft had made a noise that automatically classified it as artificial, such as propeller blades moving or torpedo tubes being opened. Silva quickly wrote the message, paying no attention to the formal ways to presenting a report. "I THINK THEY ARE BACK!" As he finished it, he saw that below the SORESO icon, a pentagonal symbol had appeared with the legend "War Room – Pentagon". He choose it instead and pressed the transmit button.
The computer accepted his request with a notice saying that the transmission had been sent. But as he was about to repeat the procedure to SORESO a strange vibrating sound started to be heard over the hull of the submarine. Both officers looked at the direction of the noise but suddenly the whole of the bridge burst with water as the Khimtar' hull suddenly collapsed inwards, killing the whole crew.
A couple of minutes later of the submarine's demise and more than a thousand miles away, inside a room on the Pentagon building in Washington, a red light started to burn in red.
March 21st, 2044
Norfolk, Virginia, US
"Good morning Lieutenant". The voices made Markovitch stumble out of the mental stupor were she was immersed. Her whole body was feeling numb, as if all of the blood circulation had been cut off and stitches of pain traveled through her limbs as if something was poking her body with a sharp object. Opening her lips to answer, she found that her tongue seemed to be sticking to the bottom of her mouth. Moving it against the top it felt as if she had been licking raw stone. A crooked sound came from her lips and only afterwards did she realized that it was her own voice: "…. water".
She felt a straw being placed upon her lips and she gathered all of the strength she had to suck on it. Warm water started to flow to her mouth but when she tried to swallow it, she immediately went through a burst of coughing. Another different voice, this time showing concern came to her ears: "Go easy Lieutenant!"
She gave it another try and found that she could drink it but only in very small sips. It took her a long time before she heard the slurring noise telling her that the cup was empty. Feeling better she opened her eyes and discovered that she was blinded. She raised her hands to them but her motion was stopped by a grasp of human hands. "You'll have to keep the bandages on your eyes for a couple of days. It has been a long time since you have used your retinas and they need to get used to the light".
The reference to time started her mind to think about where she was. She found out that the last memory she had was of being inside the chamber that housed the alien Brain on Cydonia. She also remembered the mental battle against the alien that controlled the whole invasion. It had ended with it taking control over her and as for seconds had driven her into a frenzy of insanity and despair. Then she remembered nothing else.
But the human voices told her that she was back; probably back to Area 51, although they didn't sound familiar. We must have had won the war, otherwise she would be dead by now. Erwin must have killed the Brain…where is he?
"Erwin?" She wondered if he was standing by her bed and she hadn't noticed it. The first voice spoke in a confused tone: "Who?" Another voice replied. "She's talking about Colonel Johnson, the officer who was with her when the alien Brain disabled her on Mars".
A sense of urgency came through her as she heard the last words. "Where is he?" She asked. Silence only replied to her and a sense of dread started to creep.
"Where's Colonel Johnson? Is he alright?" She turned her head in the direction of the two voices, feeling that something was just not right. "I told you gentlemen that you shouldn't be here present when she first awoke from the cryogenic sleep!".
"Doctor, we understand your concerns but the Council has required that we should witness the result to see if the operation has been a success and report back to them personally. A lot is at stake here".
"And that includes her emotional balance". The physician's voice seemed outraged. "We are having trouble already into bringing her metabolic rate to a normal level that this won't help".
Markovitch listened to the exchange before she started to feel it was enough: "What is going on here", she tried to put as much stress to her voice as possible. "Where is Colonel Johnson and what are you talking about?!"
"Jesus!" The doctor's worried exclamation was her only reply. "Her pulse and alpha waves are starting to go over the limit again. This conversation has to end now. I'm going to have to sedate her".
The officer stopped the physician by grabbing his arm. "Before you do that, it's better if she knows what has happened. She will have to deal with it eventually".
She felt the voice coming closer. "Lieutenant Markovitch, to be brief, you're back on Earth. You have sustained massive injuries to your brain during the Cydonia assault and since they didn't had the technology to repair it, X-Com decided to place you in cryogenic sleep until we could heal you". As she heard him, things started to make some sense to her but she pressed for more. "And Johnson?"
"There's no other way to tell you this, Lieutenant so I'll just say it. Colonel Johnson died on Mars. He was hit by several plasma shots after killing the alien Brain. I'm sorry".
She felt like crying but no tears came out from her eyes that seemed too dry. He's dead? It would have been better if they had just let her die also, she told herself. All of the physical pain that she was suffering turned into nothing as a new hurt filled her inside.
"That's it! I'm going to sedate her now. She has taken too much". The words of the doctor came to her as a relief and she felt that she would never wake up. Slowly a chemical started to work its way inside her bloodstream and she felt blessed as her conscience was slowly taken away. However, one last thought came to her mind, a consolation for the sacrifice he had made. "We won the war, didn't we?"
The voice replied. "Yes. We won the first war". She felt something hidden inside those words. It hit her right next as the narcotic was disconnecting her higher brain functions and perception she went to a sleep. The first? Before her mind could grasp the implications, she dozed off into a state of unconsciousness.
Two of the three men who were standing besides her hospital bed excused themselves from the doctor who was attending to her and left. They where wearing dark blue jumpsuits made of one piece of clothing that had zippers built into the left side to allow the person to get inside the suit. One of them was red-haired, with a military cut that enhanced his receding temples. The other had a darker skin tone and a deep black hair that was starting to turn white. On their left breasts they carried a patch consisting of a black circle rimmed in gold and it the middle it had a capital X letter, also designed in gold.
The red-haired missed a step on their way towards the doors of the infirmary and after catching his pace he commented. "I hate being in land". The other man smiled back at him. "Get used to it Lieutenant. Until the reanimation process is concluded our orders are to stay at this facility to be ready to present the results to the Council…." He trailed off the last sentence.
The other man thought for a second. "Do you really think Commodore Paris will succeed in his attempt?" The darker man took a serious pose, making the lines on his forehead bigger and more accentuated. "I hope so. The failure to prevent the activation of the fifth device has got to open the Council's eyes. The old hag has to go: she was never prepared to deal with this war. Things have to take a change".
They had reached the doors of the elevators that would take then away for the hospital. "I know". The red-haired assented. "But I really wonder if it is necessary to reactivate her. Looking at her, I doubt that she will ever be in condition to help us out, Commander". He selected one button from a small panel and pressed it. The other officer turned to him in disbelief. "Braddock, haven't you read her file?"
"Hey, I was getting off my plastics when your orders came through to report here. And during the Triton flight to here I only had time to flip through it since we caught a nasty magnetic storm near the Bermudas. What's so special about her?"
"She was assigned to old Area 51". Braddock let go of a small laugh. "You mean X-Com's Theme Park in Nevada? My parents took me there once when I was a kid".
The other officer's eyes told him that he wasn't finding the reference amusing. "Yeah, that one. But forty years ago it was one of X-Com's top installations and she was in command of one of their top platoons there. They made it through the whole war, including the assaults on the alien bases at New Mexico and Antarctica, besides Cydonia".
Braddock didn't look much impressed. "Things were different back there. They had all those nice plasma toys to play around and they never had to get their feet wet. And from the looks of her she'll never get off a wheel chair".
"The doctors say otherwise. Her condition is bad but that was to be expected after spending forty years frozen up. We will need to train her".
"Great!" Braddock sneered. "Don't tell me you made me come here to be a maid".
The other man ignored his comment. "For the moment you are to keep a watch on her as long as she stays here. Keep me informed about her condition the whole time. And when I tell you get her ready to take a short trip".
"Sir….". The other officer raised his right index figure. "Braddock, keep your mouth shut. And I mean keep it really shut, unless you want to find yourself assigned to 'hazardous' duty really quick instead of being here at the beach". The blonde officer jerked back. "I get the picture don't worry". This voice showed fear.
The elevator doors opened and the other officer gave him a nasty look before they entered it. "I don't get one thing", Braddock started after he had chosen the level. "Why was she asking so much about this Johnson?"
The other officer unlocked his thumbs from his belt and shook his head. "Isn't it obvious? Jesus! With morons like yourself as Lieutenants here it's no doubt that things are going as bad as they are". The metal elevator doors closed without making a sound.
When they reached their level, the older officer dismissed Braddock and proceeded to his own office at the naval facilities. When he entered the room, he took out his personal communications device and activated it with a touch on the digital screen.
The air above mobile phone suddenly started to shimmer and a small rectangle appeared at the level of his eyes. His finger flipped through the visor and dialed a phone number in a virtual keypad displayed on the screen. The logo of the phone company was replaced by an indication that the call was being dialed.
After one second, the screen resolved itself into the face of a man who seemed to be on his forties. His face didn't show any trace of age yet and his hair was still a brightly blond. "Lieutenant Commander". After a pause he asked. "How did it go?"
"She's awake sir, but I a pitiful state. According to the doctors she has a fifty-fifty chance of surviving and fully recovering from the cryo awakening".
The voice on the communicator seemed disappointed. "Fifty-fifty? That doesn't sound too promising. Don't tell me that you've sent her to one of the lowest medical centers so that you could pocket yourself some more neodollars from the funds available for the operation".
The commander made an expression of wounded innocence but he followed it by a crooked smile. "No thank you sir. I know better than not to step on your toes in something so big as this. The doctors taking care of her are the best that money can buy. The problem seems more to be that this is the first attempt of reawakening a person after so long. She has been frozen for forty years".
"I know commander. I was the one who ordered it… as a reassurance for a future that the majority thought to be impossible. Oh well. But there's no point in complaining about the past now. What's your impression of her? "
"I hardly spoke to her sir. I've told her about what happened to Johnson and the end of the war. She sounded devastated by his death but at the same time the news from the killing of the Brain on Mars seemed to have relieved it a bit. But I thought it better not to mention the present situation".
"Do you think she will be ready for it?"
The officer thought for a second then replied. "If she survived this far then I'd guess that it might take some time but if she has the will she will be back on her feet".
"She will". The man on the visor spoke matter of fact. "She will only have to believe that she's still fighting for something. And we'll give her just what she needs. Forty years is a long time: she will be wanting to find her place in this world and getting back on X-Com will seem to her the best way, doing the same thing as the past".
Nodding his approval, the officer continued. "I'm going to place Braddock in charge of her and later he will train her. The man is a bit of a jerk but he's loyal to me. And when she has attained a sufficient combat proficiency I'll assign her to Fourth Fleet to see if she can adapt".
The man in the visor cocked an eyebrow at him. "Commander, if I recall correctly, the Fourth hasn't seen action in more than six months. That it, besides the regular engagements it has been having with the Argentinean Navy near the Falklands' base. I don't want her to sit idle".
"Sir, I can't just assign her here to Norfolk. Too many questions would be asked. If she was assigned to the combat personnel roster she would have the right to command a company. That would overstep a lot of officers and the commodore would sure notice it".
"I wasn't thinking of Norfolk, Commander. What about Sixth Fleet?"
"Madhouse?" The officer wondered if the man was talking seriously. "Sir, that fleet has the highest attrition rate on the force".
"Precisely". Realization came to him after I second later. "I think I see what are you trying to prove, sir.
"Things are different from the time when she was shooting Sectoids with laser rifles. And if she survives the Sixth then we will know if we have what we wanted. Also, assign her as an apprentice seaman recruit in a temporary status, Commander. Later we will explain to her that it will be her own combat qualification trial if she wants to regain her position at X-Com".
"Very well. Sir, and what about the Council? The Commodore here is making a lot of questions about my leaves. If he reports what's going on back here the Council will sure order an investigation".
"Leave those details to Commodore Paris and me, Commander. Just remember the whole propose of this operation: things here have to change a bit and she's a very important part of those plans. Worry about her and your other tasks".
The officer nodded his approval. However, he didn't turn off the transmitter. "Sir, there's also something I noticed in her file". The blonde man waited for him to continue.
Taking a deep breath, the officer simply spoke out afterwards. "In her old X-Com records there's a reference to her…" The word didn't come out easy to him. "Psionic levels. Was she one of the psis?"
The man's reply came flat. "Don't discuss the matter with anyone Commander. What you saw is correct but as far as we know she never experienced any of the mental disorders related to such individuals".
The matter still caused the officer's stomach to stir. "Sir, but you know how I feel. Psionics is an obscenity, much like the aliens' molecular control…" A dreadful thought came to his mind as he remembered rumors of forbidden scientific experiment. "Don't tell me you have awaken her for…"
"Commander," Calm and determination came on the voice of the man. "I won't engage in that old argument now. I'll just tell you this: we need to understand the enemy. That was how the original X-Com defeated the invasion. Otherwise we are stabbing blindly into the darkness, occasionally inflicting a bruise but never really managing to do any damage. However you'll either have to trust me or leave. And I need to know now".
The officer closed his eyes as an inner struggle raged inside him. "Well?"
"Your brother has saved my life before and, no matter how I despise this I'll still trust you". The man smiled warmly. After they discussed other subjects, he finished the call and placed the communicator back into his belt.André Galvão, 2002