Three years. It had taken three years for the Extraterrestrial Combat unit, or XCOM, to find out where the aliens had been planning their invasion. Even now, as Lieutenant Gabriel "Mutt" Hopkins sat in the Skyranger, the young human soldier reflected on just how badly this mission was likely going to go. But to be fair, he had some of the best soldiers at his side.
There were the assorted rookies and squaddies taking up the back end of the covert drop ship, but nearer to the ramp was where the real heroes of XCOM sat. Or at least, all the ones who outranked Mutt and were still alive.
Across from him sat Annette Durand, checking her plasma rifle. She had been a former captive of the aliens and the rogue human faction EXALT, and well, it showed with her slightly blood-crazy tendancies on the field. If Mutt had been a couple of years older, then he might have had a chance of convincing her to bat for the heterosexual team. As it was, he knew he was out of his league with his fellow psionic.
Sitting next to her was Shaojie. The older, white haired Chinese man didn't talk much of what he did before XCOM, and Mutt never pressed him, unlike several other rookies on base. Though to be fair, the heavy did teach him Cantonese, so it all evened out in Mutt's eyes.
On Mutt's left was the walking tank of the team, Marion. After a Muton had gotten lucky with a grenade and crippled her, Marion had been the first volunteer for Dr. Shen's MEC Program, and it certainly showed with the many plasma scuff marks, dents from Berzerker hits, and the occasional scratch from a Chryssalid claw. She was currently sleeping, her massive robotic shoulders rising and falling in time to her breathes.
To his right was Alphonse. If Mutt had to describe him with just one word, it would arguably be insane. The shotgun toting soldier had, to Mutt's knowledge, been injured in over three quarters of all his missions, sometimes gravely, and he still hadn't died. The young soldier smiled at some of the wild stories a lot of the rookies told each other in the mess hall about how Dr. Vahlen was trying to find a way to turn Alphonse's ridiculous toughness into a gene mod for them.
And finally, closest to the ramp, was the legend among XCOM: Colonel Perez. He alone had survived Devil's Moon, and virtually every operation since then without so much as a scratch. Which in a war like this one, was impressive as hell. Finally, Mutt closed his eyes and focused inward, trying to calm his roiling psionics.
Of the four psychics on the Skyranger, technically Annette was the strongest. Hell, to be very fair, until roughly two months ago, Mutt was certain that he had no psychic talent whatsoever. But unlike Annette, Mutt was much more calm about his place in the war… and aware of everyone else's emotional state. Even now, he could feel the sheer, spiky wave of apprehension coming off of the rookies in the back, and less so from the soldiers sitting around him, but he could still feel it.
Mutt turned his head to look at Perez. "Terrified actually," the young man said, chuckling. "I'm glad I used the head before I boarded." Perez chuckled as well as he rubbed the top of his heavy plasma gun, the gun's green glow dimmed at the moment.
"Don't worry Mutt, we'll be just fine," the massive Argentine said, his latent psychic field emenating calm. "It'll be just like the other missions. I promise."
Annette snorted. "Really? I doubt that," the fierce Frenchwoman declared. "The new kids in the back aren't going to be of much help, and Mutt there jumped the gun with the Device." The tips of Mutt's ears burned in embarrassment as he recalled just what he had done.
He walked down the hallway, Jenkins and Harris flanking behind him. Mutt was clad in the Psi Armor that Dr. Vahlen had developed, and as he came to the door to the Gollop Chamber, he distantly noted that the suit was riding up his ass.
The door opened. He walked inside, and immediately in front of him was the Ethereal Device, filling the room with an otherworldly indigo hue. He took a deep breath, and walked over to the device. A few steps later, he was there. Even now, he could hear it beckoning, calling out for him to join it….
"Be as it may, we are going to perform our duty with the highest honor," Shaojie said, silencing the near argument between Mutt and Annette before it started. "We cannot argue amongst ourselves, for it gives our foe that much greater an advantage."
Perez nodded. "Chilong's got a point kids," he said, giving both of his main psychics a pointed glare. "Now Annette, whatever feelings you have about not being able to use the device, stow it. You can bitch about it post-op. Hopkins, buck up. You've survived a whole lot longer than most other psychics at this point, Annette and the Furies being the exception." Perez paused to check the GPS mounted next to the door. "ALRIGHT, LISTEN UP!"
Everyone onboard stirred awake, Marion included. Satisfied that he had their attention, Perez continued. "Alright, we're approaching the target area. Once inside, Operation AVENGER," Perez pointed to a newly made holographic board near the cockpit, "Will commence. Once inside, our primary objective will be to escort the Volunteer, Lieutenant Hopkins, to the control center. Once there, we eliminate any hostile leadership, blow the ship to hell, and come back home to get royally fucked and wasted with all the booze we can drink."
All the soldiers, Mutt included, chuckled at the declaration. Perez smiled before frowning intently. "That said, I expect that all of you do the best that you can. Everyone here, and groundside too, is depending on us. I know you're all scared. So am I. But I promise that today, this war ends! Now gear up! Two minutes until we reach the target area, forty seconds until contact with something solid! Vigilo confido!"
"VIGILO CONFIDO!" yelled back all the others, the motto of the XCOM Project steeling their nerves as they grabbed their weapons and gear.
I am watchful. I am necessary.
"NO! This is not the way! So much time, so many failures, and now? Our greatest success… our only success… We failed to grasp the consequences…" rasped the ornately clad Ethereal at the head of the Temple Ship. Mutt grit his teeth as the alien's psionic presence pushed into his mind, trying to overthrow him.
"Mutt! Keep fighting back kid!" shouted out Marion as she shot a Muton Elite with a ferromagnetic slug to the face. Everywhere else on the bridge, plasma bolts and laser beams crisscrossed the air, a majority of them hitting alien alloy plating, but some of them landed lucky hits on armor. Mutt himself grunted in acknowledgement as he grabbed a laser sniper rifle from a dead soldier and hefted it. Taking aim, he sighted the Uber Ethereal's head in the scope and pulled the trigger.
The lance of red-hot light smacked the alien right on the head, but it didn't kill it. But that wasn't quite the plan Mutt had in mind. "Colonel, blaster out!" he cried out.
"The search… the trials… this is how it ends… our question answered… but the New One and his kin… are doomed… without our guiding hand…"
"Then you should have let us guide ourselves," Perez growled as he loaded the last shot in his blaster launcher, aimed, and fired.
Time seemed to slow as the viridian orb of barely contained nuclear fury flew through the air, weaving around corners before it came into contact with the Uber Ethereal and exploded.
The alien screeched in fury as it's robes began burning away, it's psionic energy visibly fluctuating before exploding outward. Mutt shielded his eyes from the blast, and as the dust settled, looked around.
Every alien that was still in the room… was dead. No more plasma bolts… nothing.
"So… did we win?" asked a soldier from the rear. Perez chuckled.
"We… we did it," he said, grinning. In seconds, everyone was laughing in joy at the thought that the war was finally over. Suddenly, the ship began shaking as Mutt's mind flashed with images of destruction. He could dimly hear Perez call for everyone to evac to the Skyranger, but the young soldier stayed put.
"Mutt! Come on, we've got to go!" Perez shouted, waving him to the door.
Mutt looked up and shook his head. "Sorry sir. I… I need to be here," he said solemnly, walking to the Psi Link that the Uber had prayed to when they encountered it.
Perez looked back at the remaining soldiers under his command. "Willis, get the wounded and rookies out of here!" he ordered. "Chilong, Durand, Rosie, Nitro, Monroe, stay with me. We're going to make sure we end this, once and for all!"
The called on soldiers all nodded silently as they followed Perez back into the temple area. Mutt turned to look at them in shock. "What the hell are you doing?!" he called out. "You need to get out of here now!"
"And miss the party? Hell no! You're stuck with us pup!" Nitro called out, grinning as he slung his alloy cannon back into place. Annette stuck a finger at him.
"Payback," she said simply as she latched onto a low piece of cover. Mutt sighed as he realized that none of them were going to leave anytime soon, and frankly, with what the visions told him, he didn't really have the time to argue the point.
Reaching out with his psionics, Mutt linked up with the device and almost flooded with new information that he didn't want; battle plans, genetic codes, and histories of the species. Finally, he grasped for the one thing he needed at the moment and refused to let go.
The massive ship rose, debris falling to the sea as a single craft fly away to escape it. Slowly at first, the Temple Ship flew higher into the clouds, explosions dotting the outside as it accelerated out of the planet's atmosphere.
In the bridge, six humans and a cyborg held on for dear life as the ship rose into orbit. And yet, in a flash of purple, the bridge was emptied moments before the ship exploded.
The result was not a black hole as the Ethereals had hoped, but a simple bomb that sent pieces falling to the planet to burn in re-entry.
At long last, the Great War was over.
Back at XCOM headquarters, Central Officer Bradford, Vahlen, and Shen stood in the situation room with the Commander, who had just finished talking with the Council Spokesman. "Thank you for coming," the Commander said, sitting down at the table. Bradford nodded.
"The least we could do Commander," Bradford replied. "What did the Council have to say?"
The Commander sighed. "We are to continue monitoring Earth for any remaining aliens and salvage from the Temple Ship, and once that is done, we will begin the process of returning to civilian life."
Vahlen looked appalled. "You mean, the project is being shut down?!" she burst out, her German accent almost making her words incomprehensible. The Commander nodded.
"War's over Doktor," the Commander said simply. "The Earth doesn't currently need us. But rest assured, we aren't going to just burn everything. I want all our laser weapons and what few remaining plasma weapons we have left put into storage in C Block after this is over. Actually, put everything in there. If anybody needs it, they will know where to look."
Shen stroked his chin in thought. "It will take some time, but the engineering team can certainly convert that section of the base into a storage bunker Commander," the elderly Chinese engineer stated. "I will begin overseeing the process immediately."
Bradford looked at his commanding officer. "Commander, why storage? Why not destroy everything? After all, the last thing the world needs right now is equipment and technology that makes a nuke look like a match."
The Commander stood up, sliding out of the chair. "Because David," the Commander said, looking into his eyes, "We are XCOM. We are watchful. We are necessary. And I will be damned if Earth and her people need us again, and we aren't there to help. It's what Gabriel would have done."
The mood grew sullen as the four of them thought of the Volunteer. Operation AVENGER had been over a week ago, and the loss of not only he, but of Perez, Durand, and several others was greatly felt across the base. Especially Gabe's. Even before he had become a psychic, the young soldier had gone out of his way to help everyone around base with whatever they needed. He was simply a good person.
"Commander, I believe that Lieutenant Hopkins would have agreed with that assessment, and then something stupid right after that," Bradford said with a small smile.
The Commander chuckled. "Indeed. Now, let's get going boys and Doctor. We have X-Rays to kill."
Operation AVENGER Debrief
Operational Objectives: Successful
Sq. Belov, Ivan - KIA
Sq. Vogel, Karin - WIA
Cpl. Webb, Virgil - KIA
Cpl. Wyatt, Thomas – KIA
Lt. Durand, Annette - MIA
Lt. Hopkins, Gabriel - MIA
Cpt. Thompson, Alphonse - MIA
Maj. Krause, Marion - MIA
Maj. Zhang, Shaojie - MIA
Col. Perez, Hector – MIA
XCOM Status: Operational
End-Op: March 1, 2018, 17: 36 Local
Well, this is my first foray into a Mass Effect x X-Com crossover. Sad to say, this actually isn't quite an original idea. This story was inspired largely by Primordial Soul's fic "The Volunteer," which I have to say is a very good read despite it being only a chapter long so far.
The X-Com operatives used are a mix of my own troops, DLC characters, original soldiers, and a fictional version of myself. Note that this will NOT be a self insert, for the simple reason that I have no idea how a laser sniper rifle operates.
I would also like to add that this will not feature Mutt romancing Shepherd. He and I know our chances. However, serious hilarity involving X-Com soldiers and alien crew will be explored and discussed in story.