= Prologue: 'Amalie's Story' =

(Aboard the Avenger, Interrogation Room, Amalie's PoV)

"So… 'Central' was it?" She hissed politely, sitting in the cold Cargo Bay room in the lowest level of the ship.

She was fully prepared for the fact that she was going to be interrogated, and it was no surprise that, despite having just forged an alliance between her Vipers, and the Human Resistance just minutes ago, he was still very suspicious of her motives. He was so distrustful of her that he had four members of a group called 'Gamma Raptors' with weapons trained on her, and dozens of cameras watching her every moment.

She didn't mind though, as she knew 'he' was watching her as well through those cameras.

"Yes, now, tell me what you know about Advent." He said bluntly, glaring at her from across the table.

She chuckled at that, amused at how serious he was being with this 'interrogation'. "If I were to do that… we'd be here for days, talking non-stop." She hissed. "I believe the better question though… 'Central'… is 'how do I know your Commander so well'? And even more importantly, 'how long have I been helping you behind the scenes'?"

"Your saying you've been helping us the entire time?" He asked.

"There is human phrase… that says… 'You took words right out of my throat' correct?"

"It's mouth…" He corrected her.

"Whatever… but yes, I have been helping you for very long time…" She said with a smile. "From the moment I first came to this world… many, many years ago…"

She closed her eyes and smiled fondly, remembering those memories, those seven weeks she spent in her friend's hometown, pretending to be a little human girl among the humans she landed near.

"I had been genetically altered, so that my physical appearance resembled a young ten-year-old girl. Of course, by your earth years… I was really seven, though young by your standards I was considered a… 'teenager'. Yes, teenager sounds right. Any case, I had been tasked to learn all I could, and sent in a small one-man ship, with hundreds of my other sisters on the same task. I just so happened to have crash landed during a time you humans called, 'Fourth of July'. When I landed, I quickly hid my ship, and was beginning to figure out how best to hide among the humans… when I was spotted by 'him'."

She opened her eyes and smirked, recalling her first encounter with her friend.

"He was such a naïve young boy, easily fooled… his parents weren't home, out celebrating, and he believed my story when I said I was… 'not of this place'. He figured I meant 'out of town' and I just agreed. Of course, he was also very innocent and naïve, because he did not realize at the time… that I was naked. He just assumed that my body scales, which weren't completely hidden by genetic modification, were just clothes."

"Still, I managed to gain his trust… and stole some clothes from a neighbor's home, and pretended to be a human girl who moved into neighborhood. I was given a memory altering device, and I used it to confuse his parents, making them believe my every word."

"You manipulated him?" Central asked quietly, but she heard the trace sound of distrust from him.

"Not entirely…" She hissed apologetically. "You see, it was designed for 'fully developed' minds… my friend's mind was… not fully developed yet. I believe the age is… twenty-five, before a human brain is fully developed. He was only ten at the time, so my device did not work on him. But he was very trusting, and he accepted me as I was. Funny, even at such an age, he had an advantage over me…"

She remembered those days, being very careful to not tell the secrets of the Elders, what their plans were, what she was 'really' doing on Earth, and everything else to keep her mission a secret.

"It went on like that for several days, with him and I exploring his home. Each day I asked him to show me round. Each day we explored, and each day I learned more and more about how to be 'human'. At one point, we were watching 'movie'… Power Rangers I believe it was called… and as I watched it… I forgot I was alien. I forgot I was 'Viper'… I felt… 'human' for that brief moment in time."

"Of course, I was young Viper as well… maturing in my mind… and as I spent time with him during what he called 'summer'… I began to see him as more than just 'boy'. He was a dear friend of mine… he was very special to me… the town I hid in, the places I went to, all of it were special to me. So, after three weeks, I stopped pretending to be human and chose to live as 'human' for as long as I could."

She sighed sadly, remembering those next four weeks. Each day they played games, watched television, sometimes eating pizza and fries or whatever food his mother cooked. She acted like a 'foreign exchange' student, speaking in strange language to them. They even created their own 'language' that only they could read. It was a strange way of speaking between them when they wrote silent messages to each other late at night. Their code was also incomprehensible to anyone else but them.

One of them would write something like 'I ND A SA DWNRS', and the other would reply 'ATR TE CMIAL NDS'.

Essentially they were saying 'I need a soda downstairs', and 'After the commercials'. Their messages could never hope to be decoded by anyone who was trying to understand their 'secret spy talk' as they liked to call it. It was random, it was odd, and it was one of their favorite games to play when he happened to be grounded, and she was free to be whatever she wanted thanks to her mind-altering device still working.

She glanced up at Central and saw his confused expression. "To you it seems weird… why would 'I' want to be human. But truth is… in those seven weeks I spent, pretending to be human… I was 'happy'." She hissed warmly. "I felt sun on my face, wind in my 'fake hair', felt burning sensation as my skin felt the heat of your world. By time I came to your planet in disguise, my species was subservient to Elders, 'uplifted' as they called it. My previous Hierarch Mother and Father… my 'parents' as you would call them, believed in their will."

"While I was with them, I was not 'me', I was merely another 'Viper', another daughter or son, another servant of the Elders, our 'god' as we were told they were. All actions we did were in their service, I was in complete belief in their will… until I came here. When I was free, for those seven weeks… I felt 'alive', more alive and free than in my lifetime of serving the Elders. When I saw your world, I felt… 'home'."

"Alright… so what happened when you had to return?"

She sighed as she remembered that day, all too well. She received the signal to return, and knew she had to return, lest the Elders 'pull' her out by force. But she also knew that she couldn't just abandon her new friend, and let whatever the Elders had planned for Earth go awry.

So, during her few weeks while she was still pretending to be human, she had begun 'leaking' images of the other Vipers, of the other crafts to the media. Tabloids as they were called, as well as to various governments by way of the 'internet' as humans called it. It was a brilliant plan she came up with, by using Tabloids humans thought the images and stories were hoaxes and fake, but the governments took silent actions behind the scenes. Her sisters were captured or killed off, vehicles destroyed or taken away.

Everything was going according to her plan, until she realized that if nobody returned when the signal was sent out, the Elders might send 'another' group to learn and hide among humans. So with a heavy heart, she resigned to returning to the Elders, but not before she left a few items behind, and made her promise to her friend.

"When I was forced to return, most of my sisters were gone. Humans did not believe in 'aliens', some did, many discredited, but only I was alive from those sent to learn. I had left a special capsule, designed to contain and keep an item inside of it, locked away… until the required genetic codes were inserted. I convinced my friend to lock away one of his toys inside of it, and he gave me the other as a 'goodbye' present."

"However, before I left I took his DNA and implanted it into the Plasma Card, and gave it to him, telling him to 'never' let another touch or see it. I did the same, and we made a promise that day, that when I returned from my 'trip back home', I would open it with him and we would reunite our two favorite toys together, in the front yard of his home."

"Naturally though… I was the only one who returned to the Elders, the others 'mysteriously' died in fatal crashes and… being exposed to humans… and the intel I provided them was instrumental to their plans. However, the information I gave them was 'misinformed' and 'greatly exaggerated'. By the time we returned in force, they had an incorrect version of what humans looked like. And while at distance they were decent disguise, the 'thin men' used to hide themselves were obviously alien close up."

"So you fooled the Elders, and lied to them about how to impersonate their soldiers so they can infiltrate us?" Central asked skeptically.

"Of course, was not easy though, I had to 'think' very hard about how to get around their genetic tamperings with my species' bodies. Still, as I was the only survivor, I convinced them of a template that would fool them, but their knowledge was very flawed."

"Though, it would be many, many years before I ever saw 'Earth' again… and the planet I found myself… missing dearly. All I had left of that planet…" She sighed sadly, remembering her lonely days, staring into the void of space, wishing she were back on Earth. "Was the stuffed toy my 'friend' gave to me as a gift… all I had was 'Sharkette' to remind me of what I had."

She remembered those years, to many years from when she finally returned from her 'mission', to when the invasion began openly. Every day she spent hiding that one, single piece of her newfound home, her love for the new planet that she had found. With it were the ties to her first true 'friend', who treated her like a real friend, not in any way trying to manipulate her or use her for some reason.

Over the many years that stuffed shark was stashed, hidden, shoved and thrown in so many places that eventually it broke and tore to pieces. She used pieces of her human clothing that she kept and 'stitched' the shark together many times, learning on the fly while keeping it secret. There were dozens of times where she almost was discovered, but each time she 'silenced' anyone who discovered her with the toy.

To her, that toy was more important than anything in the universe, and with each day she spent treasuring it and breaking free of the Elders' influence, she found herself hating her 'saviors' more and more. Eventually, her pure hatred at them grew to the point that her only thought… was freeing herself of them in some way.

"Alright, so you lied to the alien leaders, and now you want to help us…" Said Central, not caring for her words but listening to them anyway. "So when the war began, what happened then?"

She sighed as she remembered the war, stasis pods raining down from above, her 'daughters' at the time infiltrating Earth Cities and scouting for target zones. All through it, her ship that she commanded, having been named 'Hierarch Mother', watched and waited for their signal to begin a sweep.

"When the war began, my only thought was… my friend, and if he were alive." She hissed sadly. "I used my ship's scanners to scout the town where I landed and stayed, and made sure all assaults avoided that location. I was unsuccessful at one time, and feared he was dead… but the signal of my container was still transmitting, telling me that it was still safe. Finally, into the fourth month of the invasion, I could take no more… and secretly sent a transmission using your Earth Network, one that was undetectable by us but humans could see glaringly…"

"It was a code, one that we had always used in the past… if he were still alive, he would see it." She whispered sadly, remembering those forty-eight hours. "The two days I waited for that response… were the most painful of my life ever. Even more painful than watching as my mother, the previous Hierarch Mother… died after a failed genetic alteration to her body. It was even more painful than learning that my father died, 'donating' his genes and essence to aid the Elder's goals. When those happened, I only grew more angered toward the Elders… only the hope that my friend, my human friend still lived… gave me hope."

"Then… after two whole Earth days… I finally received a return message, and I knew he was alive. I learned that he oversaw 'XCOM', a military fighting the Aliens, but their task was hard. Despite the powerful advances in weapons and victories they had, they were losing ground across the world. I did all I could to aid him, leaking a signal to our underground base on the planet, and even tuning the signal of our Overseer vessel so XCOM could find it."

"But all my efforts were in vain… my attempts to aid him and you, failures. Eventually Earth surrendered, our ships landed, and I was tasked with eliminating resistances. I learned that XCOM's headquarters was overrun, their forces scattered and branded as 'traitors' by their home nations. Yet my calls, my pleas… my messages I sent for my friend… were never answered."

"For the first time… I had given up on my life, as I thought the last thing that gave me hope died… so I began to carry out my orders, deciding that the only thing I could do was obey the Elders, and believe that they did indeed 'care' about us all."

She unconsciously tapped the table, contemplating that period of time when the Elders began taking control of humanity, remembering how the world she had once infiltrated changed. The joys that she found were slowly being destroyed. Pleasures that had once given her life, lost to the world.

Eventually, the resistance against the Elders slowly dissolved into pockets of resistance across several continents. The divide between those who believed the Elders' lies, and those who did not believe them steadily changed.

And she knew which side she was on, having given up in ever truly being cared about by 'anyone'.

"Alright, so you pretty much gave up, how did you go from being their servant, to being a mole at the highest level of Advent?" Central asked.

She chuckled at that, knowing the story would catch his interest.

"It didn't happen until seven years after Earth had surrendered, and the Advent Coalition was founded." She said. "At that time, I and many others had 'psionic chip' implanted into us, mostly those who were to give orders to the Advent Troops, and then the Officers themselves. When I first felt the minds of the Ethereal, or 'Elders' as they are called, I only felt their orders, what they wanted of me. And I obeyed, knowing that my fate had been sealed now that they had direct access to my thoughts, my will, my very mind."

"At first though, I did not pay attention to the thoughts entering my mind, manipulating me… controlling me. All I knew was, with each battle I faced, every resistance I ended… I felt myself becoming more insightful. Strategies I began to anticipate that once eluded me, became crystal clear as the sun rises. As the years passed, I could predict the outcome of battles before they even began."

"All of this I soon learned, was because a being 'was' controlling me, guiding my actions, giving me insights with each battle I faced. I even had one battle in which I avoided a single casualty on either side, by simply threatening a historic sight of great importance to the humans, and allowing it to stand if they simply left the area."

She smiled at that thought, as she felt her actions being controlled by her friend, her mysterious 'puppeteer' as it were.

"Then… one day, I sought out the one controlling me, my only wish to thank them for watching over me. For every battle gave me courage and belief that someone cared about me, or at least cared in me succeeding in my tasks. But the answer I received from them, was not what I thought…" She hissed with a chuckle. "I learned that… they were speaking to me through my Psionic Chip. Yet, they were not the Elders, no they were linked to them but not 'of' them. This confused me, because only the Elders were higher than me, but there was another who was higher than 'I' but below 'them'."

"A human… captured and experimented on… with a psionic chip and put into stasis, linked not only to me but also to those below who are linked to me by 'their' psionic chips. Yet… as I spoke to them through my thoughts… I learned more and more about them, something with how… 'familiar' their thoughts were… how they were 'familiar' wit me… struck me as odd."

She looked up at Central and smiled at him.

"It was my friend… by all the strange possibilities that could have happened… the Elders had captured my 'friend', implanted him with a psionic chip, and experimented on him. I learned from his 'sub consciousness' that he was imprisoned..." She declared. "While his conscious mind slept, being subjected to endless war games and tactical scenarios, growing his mind… his subconscious mind was struggling to fight back… and it found a way through me. He used years and years of controlling me to determine if I could help him… and when he asked me to free him… I took the chance immediately."

There was a moment of silence before Central nodded and thought for a moment, before moving onto his next question.

"So you chose to help us out, how did you manage that, I doubt Advent was going to just let you stroll through and release the Commander?"

She chuckled heartily at that.

"Oh no, they weren't going to help me at all. But I did not care, I would find a way… the first way though, was finding out how to disable the psionic chip implanted into me." She said. "It was not easy… it was very painful actually… but after a few tries, I found a method that allowed me to disable the chip without Advent realizing it was done on purpose! I just simply had to electrocute myself… with several hundred or so volts of electricity in order to temporarily disable my chip."

"Once I managed to find the method, I used the few hours I had while I was free of the Elders' influence and insight into my mind, to communicate with my few daughters that did not have chips implanted into them. From there, they investigated, infiltrated, and searched for my friend's location… once that had been done… and I 'confirmed it myself… I 'leaked' the information to the resistance."

"I had to be careful about when I leaked it though, for if I mistimed it, the resistance would not rescue my friend, and all of our effort would have been in vain. So, I used the knowledge he gave me, and planned the operation perfectly… down to the smallest detail." She said with a grin. "I arranged the patrols so that there wouldn't be many surrounding the clinic where he was kept in stasis. I had the leak planned so that the timing would put it close to 'Unification Day', when the crowds of city centers would be flooded, and Advent forces were at their busiest… I leaked floor plans, codes, patrol routes and gate locations, everything XCOM and the Resistance needed to free my friend!"

"The rest… you know how it went. Unification Day happened, you created a diversion with an explosion that drew the attention of many patrols, and sprung him free." She said with a smile. "After his chip was removed… I felt his presence in my mind vanish… and all his knowledge with him. I still retained his knowledge, pieces though were missing from it, but I still retained enough to be of value to Advent. Enough to gain great military power over a vast portion of Advent's military."

"So then you began contacting him… and working with him to undermine Advent from within?" Central asked.

"Precisely, through various communications we planned our 'rebellions'… and worked together to destroy Advent from within. I forewarned him about various 'events' that would undermine XCOM and the Resistance, and I 'occasionally' leaked targets of interest to the resistance for XCOM to target. I even occasionally sent him messages about tasks I need him to do in order for me to 'cover my tracks' and keep Advent in the dark as much as possible."

She yawned slightly and shifted her tail from side to side, sitting still for hours while tired was not her favorite activity, especially after surgery.

"I see, very well that's all the info I can stand for now… and no doubt your tired like me." Central said, scratching his eyes. "Tomorrow I'll interrogate you about what you 'really' know about Advent. I want to know about any military installations, secret projects, how far along the Avatar Project was before it was 'temporarily shut down' as you put it…"

"I will answer all I can, though I will be honest, there were 'some' secrets even 'I' could not gather." She said warmly. "Now then… may I have permission to speak to my friend?"

"I believe the Commander is in his room, no unauthorized personnel are allowed in there though." He declared instantly.

"Central, I just spent the last twenty years fighting for Earth, even now I have openly rebelled with all that remains of my daughters and species' hope to survive… the 'least' you can do… as you humans say… is let me spend some time with my 'friend'." She hissed back.

With that, she got up, and began to make her way upstairs towards her friend's room, wanting to spend her first night of freedom with her beloved human.

She had three duties as the Hierarch Mother of her species… the first was to be a representation of all that her species should strive to be. The second was to guide her species growth and insure the continuation of her kind. And the third, was to breed the next 'Hierarch Mother' of her species, using the genes of the best male sample she could find.

"I doubt 'my' Hierarch Mother ever imagined me planning to use an 'alien male's' genes to breed the next generation of my bloodline…" She hissed quietly to herself, her long term plans already well underway. "All I need do now… is help eliminate the Elders… and free my species at last. Then…"

She gently began caressing her stomach region, still covered by her outfit, where her offspring's eggs would rest only a short while until she gave birth.

If all went according to plan… she would have the 'family' she once stayed with while 'pretending' to be a human child.

"Together my friend… we will free our future… and together… we will build 'our' future…" She hissed warmly.