DISCLAIMER: "X-COM" and all aspects of the trademark, together with the computer 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: aadlg@rocketmail.com

"X-COM: Eulogy" is a short story that takes place after the author's "X-COM: The Unknown Menace" and is set upon events of the X-COM official timeline.

X-COM: Eulogy

Late 2009

Mars, Solar System

The planet was a dead world, frozen in time after it had lost its atmosphere to space and its temperature dropped to glacial levels a long time ago. Over the surface cratered by meteors and torn by long dead volcanoes few things moved other than the occasional sand whirlwinds that like small tornadoes formed and quickly vanished under the blue and pinkish sky. There was still water and in the mornings the frost that formed on the rocks would quickly sublimate as the Sun rose on the red horizon but any other physical changes on the landscape came after years, as the aeons of time took its toll.

Hang by the delicate threads of gravity mechanics on the Solar System between Earth and the Asteroid Belt, Mars was seen by visionaries and scientists as one of the   stepping stones for mankind's expansion to the universe. But since Percival Lowell had looked at the planet through a telescope at the beginning of 20th century and his vision and mind tricked him to see what he thought were artificial channels, other scientists had made claims that the planet had some very interesting characteristics of its own when compared to the rest of the solar system planets. 

Underneath the rocks and sheltered from the deadly radiation microscopic life had developed, most scientists now agreed on that, after having examined the few rocks that had been brought back to its surface on the advent of the X-COM mission to Cydonia seven years back. Of course, back then Mars had other life forms walking on its surface they were both intelligent and hostile, although they had not originally evolved on the planet. While the microbes found could be called correctly as 'Martians' these creatures were both aliens to Earth and Mars. They had gone here to the planet to monitor Earth and the development of human society and to use it as a forward base on the later war. The Greeks had been the first associating Mars, or Ares on its Greek name, to the god of War due to its red color. Unknowingly to them, three thousands years later a small force of human soldiers had been sent to the planet to fight the decisive battle for Earth's victory against enslavement by the aliens. For three years the planet had been under attack and manipulation by the Starspawn, an alien empire bent on bringing humankind over its domination, much like the Persians had tried to do with the Greek city-states. But like Alexander had done, after years of fighting X-COM had decided to strike down at the heart of the empire and remove the binding factor of all the races the X-Com was facing. Like the death of the Persian emperor had brought an end to his empire so had the killing of the alien King that controlled UFOs and monsters using mental powers at his underground chamber on the now battle scarred plains of Cydonia Mensae stopped the war. The human soldiers destroyed the vast monuments and buildings that were the ancient base on the planet and the alien's ranks were devastated until there was no more threat left. And the same way as the mausoleums and palaces left behind by the dead conquerors of the ancient world, the Sun rose and went down. But this time its flaming disk traveled under a pink and red horizon of the sunset and dawn of the Martian day several times, the planet appropriated itself of the remains of the great battle. Dust slowly covered the dead bodies and the pyramids that once had been occupied by the aliens until one day they would be nothing but a memory on human minds, like Alexander had also faded into the annals of history.

But not just yet for now it was still a period of passing and like all transitions both old and new live together, none suspecting of its role since guessing would be like reading the stars in seeking advice.

Anyone looking at the small creature could see that something had happened to put it into his state of nervous excitation. It traced the bright dot of light that had appeared unexpected on the Martian night sky with his large black eyes, a new body that seemed to have joined Phobos and Deimos, Mars's natural satellites. His gray skin had taken a dirty yellow tone from the thin layer of dust that refused to be cleaned off, no matter the number of times he had done it in order to be able to feed itself by absorbing nutrients through its epidermal cells. As its thin legs took large hops over the dark landscape it kept racing and following the path of the beacon that he had seen on the sky.

Although it was still too high for him to be able to classify what sort of craft his vision had still been able to identify it as artificial as it crossed the planet's dark side. His eyes had originally evolved to suit an underwater environment with deadly accuracy with the entire optical globe being used to capture a vast visual range that was a nanosecond later reconstructed in fine detail on his brain. As it paddled through the sand covered plain the thick and flat plants of his feet helped him to gain an easy stead on the unstable surface, with only a short amount of dust being dislocated at each step. But as he moved and avoided the occasional rock his rational thoughts were still locked thousands of kilometers away in orbit, mixed with what some wrongly classify as a strange mixture of relief and apprehension.

**********

"Orbital insertion complete. Altitude seventy thousand kilometres, speed six thousand and fifty kilometres per hour. Radar receivers and hyperwave decoder show no electronic noise in the area".

"Hold her steady and keep scanning, major". Looking through the cockpit canopy in front of him and through the electronic signals projected in front from him, Colonel Ronald E. Clark wondered what he was doing back there on Mars together with Seymour and at the controls of the last flying Avenger craft. It had been seven years since he had taken part on the X-COM mission that had struck at the alien base on Cydonia and killed the Brain that was coordinating Earth's invasion. Back then he had flown the leadship of the class, the Avenger, although now he was at the controls of the Valiant, which had also taken part on the Cydonia assault although it hadn't been a part of his group of ships.

"Aye, Spectre". The mention of his former call sign on X-COM almost made Clark wince at the reminder of his old callsign, back from the days where he had been strapped to the chair of an F-22 Lighting II stealth fighter blasting UFOs out of the skies. He had left the force more than four years ago and had rejoined the U.S. Air Force as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California. People now simply called him 'Colonel' and he didn't find it important to correct that since his top dog days where way over. He could easily be leading one of the Air Force's F-22 wings at the moment if he wished since he was in the top ranks of fighter aces after the Alien War but he had decided that he would never shoot at a human again.

And unlike X-COM, which was slowly being dismantled after the alien menace had vanished, he had found a lot of work flying prototypes at Edwards Air Force Base, California, that were based upon alien technology. It also meant him closer to home, where he could raise his two daughters in a nicer place than the deserts of Arizona, where his former base was located. He hadn't been called that in years since the name had been given to him by the crews after the Cydonia operation to reflect his attitude after the war. Probably the only one left in X-COM that still knew it was Seymour, since the had flown hundreds of missions with the other officer, including the Avenger.

Clark nodded to him from his seat as he prepared to go to the cargo area of the craft to notify Commander Boronin and authorize Dr. Johannes to start her preliminary analysis of the surface. Not that it was likely that she would be able to pick any indication of Elerium down on the planet. Seymour already had covered the surface on their orbit to slowdown using Mars' own gravity as a celestial pole to perform a skidding maneuver. Seymour and the threat computer had already checked the scanners to see if there was any active Elerium energy sources on the planet. She now would be combing the data to try to determine any passive ones, which greatly amplified the hardness of the task.

Still what mattered Clark more was that to get his part done and hand the rest to her   as quickly as possible before getting back to the cabin for him and Seymour to take the ship on the descent. They were the only crew of Tiger flight that had survived the operation since the Majestic had been blown out in the sky by an alien Battleship as it tried to stop the extraterrestrials from bombarding the ground troops while the Challenger had crashed landed after taking a number of critical hits and its crew had suffocated on the deadly Mars atmosphere when the cockpit was breached. Him and Seymour had been lucky to leave the planet alive since the Avenger had also crash-landed after they had bombed the infamous 'Face' formation that had been built by the aliens. He had spent the weeks of the return trip without saying a word and during all that time he had hardly left his bunk onboard the craft, trying to put away the faces of the people he knew that had been killed on Mars.

Until now.

Almost half a year ago Commander Boronin had paid him a visit after he had presided the decommissioning of Area 51, the major X-COM US base, and had told him that the Council had finally approved one last mission for the Avenger craft and that he needed an experienced crew for it: to go back to Cydonia to look for Elerium, the transuranic element that powered the ship's anti-gravity drive and that wasn't natural to the Solar System. Clark had wanted to refuse the offer since there were still a couple of good Avenger pilots back on X-COM. Not that he didn't knew the necessity of finding Elerium since Earth's stockpile had been nearly depleted by scientific experiments that tried to built a faster than light engine that would allow humans to leave their home and by a number of wars fought meanwhile. He had simply come because he had decided that he wanted to see Cydonia again before he died. Hell, in his opinion this would most likely be the last manned mission for the planet in a long time and it was a chance that he couldn't miss.

Going through the hatch he saw the tall figure of Boronin looking at him with an anxious face. All of the faces staring at him of the small group of men onboard the Valiant's cargo area were relieved when he nodded to them and announced that they had safely entered Mars' orbit. But now the hardest work of their mission was ahead of them, to locate any remaining Elerium deposits left by the aliens on Mars. While it was relatively easy to track any machine that used the exotic fuel due to the tachyon transmissions it was a completely different matter when trying to locate unused catches of E-115. Most of the Elerium isotopes, which differed only on the number of neutrons at the nucleus of the atom, had short half-lives and they would decay into a more stable element by slipping and emitting radiation that could be detected but those were less than 0,1 percent of the fuel used by the aliens due to its purity. The underwater salvage operations run by X-COM usually took months to detect crash sites that still contained active Elerium and those were rare since the material become inert on saltwater.

However the underwater missions had something they didn't have on this mission: time. Due to fuel restrictions the fuel supply onboard the craft would only allow them a week on Mars before they had to lift off back to Earth with a very thin safety margin in case something wrong happened on the flight.

The small group of individuals onboard the craft was composed of Boronin plus a eight-man security squad, with his own wife, Eva leading the other two scientists which would conduct the scans of the Cydonia Mensae area. The soldiers on board were all old time vets from the war and Clark had even flown with some of them on the mission to the planet seven years ago. Any aliens that had survived their attack were supposed to be dead by now since Mars was a dead world and the X-COM soldiers had destroyed all alien facilities on the region. But there was still the possibility that a small outpost lost in the planet could have survived and would track their descent. The worst case scenario involved them being under attack by the aliens and the sixteen persons onboard the Valiant could have a rough time completing its mission or even getting back to Earth. But so far the planet was silent with no traces of any transmission.

"Are we in place?" Boronin's face showed both tiredness and determination.

"Yes, commander. We have a drop window into Cydonia in a couple of hours and we can be on the surface of the planet shortly afterwards".

The commander nodded to him and then turned to Clark's wife. "Dr. Johannes? What do you think?"

Clark already knew what his wife wanted and wondered, no was almost sure of what would happen next. "I would like to go through the data first before we drop down". She had said it again. "You can analyze the data on the ground doctor". Boronin's reply was short and before she had a chance to argue back he turned to Clark. "Drop us in Colonel". He nodded in acknowledgement but when his eyes crossed his wife's Clark detected a flash of anger hidden underneath them. Let's hope she doesn't take it too hard. She had objected to the idea that what could be mankind's possible last mission to Mars to land on Cydonia, since the area had been devastated and instead had argued for a landing on a place with a bigger scientific value. But Commander Boronin had struck down her complaints and Clark understood why: time was short on this mission and there was only one goal: get Elerium. During the briefings it had bothered him that apparently nobody had thought or wanted to discuss what would happen if they didn't find it on the planet. Clark didn't knew what would happen then but he thought that things couldn't get any worse from what mankind was before the aliens arrived.

"Commander…." Opps. "Chances of finding Elerium are better if we remain in orbit while I examine the first scan. Then we will be able to center the sensors on specific areas of the planet that show any promise". Oh boy, I hope she's ready to ride that long horn! For a moment Colonel Boronin simply stared at her while the rest of the crewmembers had all listened to their words very careful from their rest bunks or seated on the chairs that littered the cargo area of the Valiant. Clark hoped that Boronin wouldn't be too hard on at affirming his authority in front of everybody. Generals don't get contradicted by junior officers and sure as hell not by civilians under their command.

"Doctor…" His tone was uncertain and that made Clark worried. "…we'll drop down to the surface at once. Now if you find anything interesting report me at once". He looked at Clark with little more sternness and the officer knew that he should have been already gone by now. Still, he noticed Eva's concerned look at the officer as he left. Anyone who knew her would attribute it to her attitude towards the military since she considered them to be a necessary evil, even though she had been working for X-COM for years. He had had a fair amount of fights over the issue dating back from the days where they had meet at Area 51, the former X-COM US base. However, Clark knew that it had nothing to do with her reservations. According to her Boronin had become increasingly erratic and angry in the past months preceding the launch of the mission and rumors were going along on Mother One about the X-COM commander's mental stability. Apparently the Council of Funding Nations that supported X-COM thought otherwise since they had assigned him to the mission but Johannes had told him that she was worried of what might happen on Mars and her pleas had made him accept the invitation forwarded by him by Boronin. "Seymour, notify Mother One of our arrival and our intent to descend into the planet". Arrival transmission to base, check. He still had a long checklist to perform.

Half an hour later the Valiant was cruising through Mars's atmosphere at more than twenty thousand kilometers per hour of speed. The planet's very low atmospheric pressure avoided the burn and fierce reentry common on Earth landings but it also had meant that they would have to take a very long descent to Cydonia in order to decelerate the craft. Their approach vector to the region took them over Vallis Marineris, the huge set of canyons that were cut into Mars surface millions of years ago as the result of immense tectonic forces applied on the planet. As the Valiant over flew the system of gorges that was in some places several hundred meters tall most of its passengers that were looking through the view ports built on the craft looked in nostalgia at the natural formation.

But while the scientists looking at the orange and brown landscape were marveled and thrilled by the prospect of stepping into another planet, the soldier's feelings were of a different nature. On the back of the Avenger, sergeants Jeremiah Jones and Juan Rodriguez were also wondering about what they would find in the surface of Mars. As the rest of the eight man squad brought along to provide security they were all clad into thick white suits of metal powered by small Elerium engines that provided energy to the armored turtle shell. The suit's helmets were removed and rested at their feet revealing the black and slim features of Jones' skin and wide open eyes as he gazed through the window. Seated up straight next to the turned figure of Jones, Rodriguez had by now his eyes closed and was stroking the thin mustache he had allowed to grow as he made his mind relax. "Man, how did we get ourselves back to this shit hole?" The comment made Rodriguez turn his head that was sticking out of his power suit towards Jones, who was seated behind him. "You volunteered for it you plasma fried brain". The jab brought smiles to the other members of the squad as Jones shook his head and Rodriguez continued. "Besides, you're the pinche who have been bitching the rest of us all this time complaining about the lack of extraterrestrial butt to kick".

"No… no I mean yeah. Shit, how come we only brought lasers for protection? I'd think that for this one they would have allowed us some heavy plasmas. If a Muton shows up we'll be better off using this lasers to bang them in their heads". He looked at the metal butt of his rifle: most likely it would bend against the armored skin of a Muton.

Rodriguez grimaced. "If we come to use these things I doubt even the plasmas would help us Jonesy".

Jones' face showed concern and after a while he shook his head. "You know, I still have bad dreams about this planet".

"Yeah, I'm not particularly found of going back to that hellish underground chamber myself and seeing the place where Captain Jerrel and all the other guys lost their lives…." He left the sentence unfinished and Rodriguez knew why since he had also been there right at the end. "I know. Why did we made out and they didn't? That's what's on your mind".

"Shit, Rodriguez, didn't knew you had become a mind reader". That brought a scowl from the Hispanic trooper who was about to reply when another soldier snapped him on the shoulder.

"Hey! I think I can see the camp!" Corporal Lazarus Sharkey's voice cut through their conversation and as the eight soldiers seated on the starboard side of the Avenger immediately turned to attention the scientists wondered what all the fuss was about but the only thing they could see was the breath taking canyons of Vallis Marineris.

 The only person who had not bothered to look at the location of mankind's first settlement on Mars was commander Boronin. Mars City One. I wonder whose idea it was to give that name to our base camp. He didn't bother looking because he knew it was impossible to spot the remains of the first human settlement on Mars at this altitude. Instead he gripped his red laser rifle and mentally went through a sequence. Operating procedure for the type XV laser rifle. Check weapons' power level. Select rate of fire by moving the lever. Remove protective cover from the barrel of the weapon. Release safety. Avoid looking directly at the beam and remember there's no recoil. But as his hands automatically went through the motion his thoughts soon started to drift in other directions. Unlike the others onboard the flying war machine who were either looking in awe at their first time on the planet or remembered the last time they've been there, Boronin was unconsciously searching on the red landscape for the white figure of commander Illyuschenko looking at him.

What has happened, Dmitri Stepanovitch? Did you knew it all along what was going to happen with us when you decided to stay behind on this forsaken planet to die? Was all of this inevitable? Boronin had always wondered why the X-COM commander had decided to stay behind on the planet after the success of the assault on Cydonia. He had taken command of X-COM following the return to Earth and had easily destroyed the remaining alien forces. There was no possibility that Illyuschenko had managed to survive for seven years on the planet and Boronin knew that it wasn't the commander's wish in any case.

Their approach to Cydonia, taking them over the flat plains of the Acidalia Planitia region was much less intense so far than their assault although Boronin still feared that there might be any alien survivors left on the planet. They had killed all aliens near the facility that were a threat after the death of the Brain and razed all facilities that could support the aliens on this cold planet. Like Earth, Mars had been sterilized from the alien menace for good, it seemed as Clark's voice on the suit's intercom told him that they were starting to approach the highlands of Cydonia Mensae and less than eighty miles from their target.

For a while all of the killings he had seen and done seemed justified but then everyone seemed just to forget the entire war. If things keep getting as bad as they have it will be only a number of years before the Council decides to shut the door on X-COM, even if we managed to find more of that damned Elerium here to supply all of those fools who only think of squandering it. To Boronin the hardest part of his job was dealing with the Council of Funding Nations, the UN body composed of representatives from the nations that controlled the force's budget. He wondered if he had conceded too much from them on the planning of this mission. The Moon base should have been completed and fully operational by now. If we had been able to launch from there we could add an additional week or two on the ground because of the fuel savings. We should have assumed that there are still alien survivors and brought plasma weaponry and a larger force. And we are risking the few assets still remaining for nothing and will have to find Elerium or leave before we risk depleting our fuel reserves too much.

Or should we remain here for as long as it lasts since the more time we spend the higher the chances are of finding the damn Elerium? The question had been on his mind the whole time during the flight but now he couldn't ignore it anymore. The verbal orders given to him at the Council had been quite simple: discovery of E-115 had the highest priority even regarding the lives of crewmembers. Boronin had thought the entire situation pathetic as they reminded him of the severe energy crisis ahead of them or even the argument that Earth's defenses couldn't be left underpowered in case the aliens returned. Yet, no matter how much greed disguised amongst the desperation he had seen with repulsion he also realized the vital need of their mission. We need to find Elerium! What will happen if the aliens return and we have no means to power our weapons and ships? The worldwide E-115 scarce supply still remaining had been restricted to military uses but it still wasn't enough to cover the demand. Most of the research made to develop faster than light spacecraft had stopped due to the lack of it and the scientists had instead turned their few resources into creating artificial Elerium, although it would take years or even decades to achieve any results.

With the cuts on its budget increasing every year Boronin had problems finding its own Elerium supply. The Valiant was the only spacecraft of his fleet that was still operating with all the others having being mothballed and put into storage. Most of the combat teams and scientists were also gone having only received a small pension fund and a handshake after having been on the force since it's beginning because there weren't funding anymore.

As the craft kept on its course and approached their landing area Boronin simply disconnected any conscious thoughts and looked at his troops. The eight X-COM soldiers were all veterans from the first war that somehow had stuck around for all this time after the end of the war. For nearly all of them they had no place else to go, Boronin knew since like them his family was the force. Many of those who had left hadn't either settled down having found work back to the armed forces of their countries or even as mercenaries or even illegal careers. And what about us? The words of the council kept ringing on his ears: all personnel are to be considered expandable while pursing the mission's goal of finding an Elerium source. He had been ordered to take any necessary measures to increase the chances of finding the precious material. What am I doing? He couldn't answer that question and it was starting to trouble him more even more than the prospect of not finding any of the Elerium. Both Illyuschenko and the Council had managed to keep one another in tight leashes, with each side fighting to get his own way but now that he and the aliens were gone Boronin had found that dealing with the representatives was worse than tackling with a Chryssalid: both would try to infect you and turn you into one of them. He had been ordered to take his best remaining troops to a nearly suicidal mission and had only complied at that order by demanding to be allowed on the expedition. The Council had been more than happy to oblige his request: even if he got back to Earth his absence wouldn't be missed by them. Only those two men who had come to talk to him on the eve of the expedition to give him a very special briefing and unauthorized proposal had shown more care than anyone else back on Earth. I have a task at hand. I will make sure that the job is completed. The answer didn't satisfy him but for now it would have to suffice while they were on Mars.

By now having decelerated to a speed less than Mach One, the Valiant glided over the thin Martian atmosphere at a safe altitude from the mesas that littered the area. From his cockpit Clark immediately recognized to the southeast the ruined pentagonal pyramid that once had housed a massive alien base on his inside. And to the north he could see the remains of the City where he had dropped the strike team that had killed the Brain. The mission orders called for a flyby of the entire area before setting down to see if there was any indication of recent artificial activity on the area. On his side Seymour was keeping both a close watch on the known locations that the aliens had formerly occupied plus the visual display unit that showed 360-degree view of the area around the Avenger. If there was any radar, infrared or tachyon transmission for more than one hundred kilometers around them Seymour and Clark would immediately be alerted by the threat detection computer but so far the area looked as dead as the rest of the planet.

Mimicking the gesture of grabbing a thrust lever with his left hand Clark slowed down even further the speed of the Valiant as the craft reached the flat area between the Pyramid and the infamous Face on Mars, which now was nothing more than a pile of broken rocks. A string of alphanumeric text scrolled down on the air in front of his eyes as they approached the navigational waypoint where they would make a long turn to overflow the Face before finally setting down on the planet. Unlike the attack mission the Martian sky was clear of the dust clouds that had bathed the area on a red and dark penumbra where the Avengers were desperately fighting a cloud of UFOs that were bent on bombarding the X-COM troops on the ground.

"Avenger! Where are you? I can't shake them off!" Back then the voice had been abruptly cut on the communications channel back then as Clark and Seymour tried to reach the Challenger as it as being hunt down by three alien battleships. But Clark would occasionally recall it, the fear and desperation of Sykes as the pilot realized that he was running out of options to shake off the UFOs that were hunting him like a hungry pack of wolves.

The Challenger's pilot had tried to gain altitude and hide on the maelstrom of the dust currents that were being carried throughout the planet's atmosphere but he had never made it. Still entrapped in a deadly aerial ballet with another battleship, Clark and Seymour had barely time to notice the explosion above as the Avenger's engines had gone hypercritical and the safety restrainers had failed due to the plasma fire of the UFOs, consuming the craft on a Elerium explosion that had lightened the red sky with an orange fireball. The third Avenger, the Majestic, had already crashed into the ground leaving Clark and Seymour as the only friendly craft in the vicinity of the city but they had been unable to provide any cover to the troops below. They had run away from the area, hoping that the UFOs wouldn't give chase, knowing that if the mission failed someone would have to report back to headquarters that Earth was doomed. But at the last minute before they headed towards the planet's atmosphere they had finally been informed that the ground teams had been successful in defeating the aliens. However the casualties had been too high. Clark had later checked on the wreckage of the Challenger and had found that the crew had survived the crash only to choke to death on the Martian atmosphere as the hull was breached and all life-support functions had failed. The pilots had tried to get their individual breathing systems but the door to the main body of the craft was jammed and their injured bodies had been found out close of the hatch with their helmets tossed to the side and their faces covered in blood from the decompression. Even the Avenger was more of a flying wreck than a combat spaceship and the travel back had been plagued with system failures. Due to financial reasons it had never been completely repaired and it had been mothballed with the majority of its systems still damaged. 

Clark leisurely brought the Valiant on a slow turn over the Face looking in satisfaction that it was still pretty much the same after he had blasted it with the plasma cannons onboard the Avenger. The massive construction had once represented a humanoid face but now the eye socks had collapsed inwards and the mouth and nose areas showed the effect of a large inner explosion that had sent large boulders of rock and metal to the area surrounding the Face. "That was some fine shooting, Spectre". His lips tightened as he heard the comment but instead of answering started the landing procedures. Yeah. Hurrah, we made it back.

He had never understood what where the aliens trying to do when they had activated whatever was lying underneath the Face. Later some people from Intelligence had asked him a number of questions but when Clark had tried to get some answers out of curiosity he had discovered by their nervous attitude that they didn't had a clue either. The call on the tachyon frequency had baffled him since it had come at a time where everything on the aerial dogfight he was engaged had turned into non-sense. He had already accepted that he was going to die as two Battleships had finally caught up with the Avenger and several others were waiting to get their shot at the human ship. Then the aliens had by magic broke off the pursuit momentarily while the other UFOs had started flying erratically on the Martian sky as if the alien pilots had turned mad in less than a second. First he had thought that the voice was another of the mind tricks that the aliens used to distract the pilots but Seymour's reaction to it. Finally free of the UFOs he had raced across the Cydonia plain and had hit the Face's lit features with the plasma cannons still mounted on the wings of his spaceship until the formation had crumbed and exploded. Only afterwards he had been informed of the bloodbath that had taken place also on the ground.

**********

At the same as Clark was taking the Avenger down to Cydonia, the small figure had almost reached its destination. Swiftly moving across the Martian landscape, the orange covered Sectoid already knew that the newcomers weren't from the Hierarchy as he approached the side of the hill were his hideout was located. He had been a major officer on the aliens' service, being responsible for a full fighting ship and crew, having being cloned and bred specifically for that role. To maintain control the alien had also been given something that most members of its race didn't possess: psionic powers. Originally the Sectoid race's mental capabilities were restricted to their own species since they had all lived as part of large communal societies on their homeworld. Two Sectoids could maintain a mental link several kilometers even separated by several kilometers. But as the Ethereals were created from their own DNA and other races were brought into the Starspawn, the over ruling entity of the alien empire compressed of all aliens, a specific superior caste of Sectoids capable of using psionics on other races had been created since the Ethereal population was too small to handle all command tasks. He could sense that the craft that seemed to be heading towards the now destroyed main base was crewed by one specific race: humans.

His trek had been filled with what would be called by humans as a mixture of thought and emotion, both classifications invented by mankind philosophers that simply didn't apply to his race. He was the last survivor of its race on the planet and had considered committing suicide, something very rare amongst Sectoids since their hive conscience detected immediately any individual errors and the individual member would be punished before he could even consider that course of action. The loss of the Brain had affected all aliens and the remaining Sectoids had managed to retain a partial and  difuse conscience.

That had came up as a survival measure with then going back to their ancestral ways, learned millions of years ago during their evolution and that their scientists had been wise to leave on their DNA code as a safe back measure in case anything went wrong with the Starspawn. But it hadn't been enough.

After the human crafts had left the planet the scattered survivors who had escaped the onslaught of the X-COM soldiers had simply run into another disaster. The few Ethereals still alive had managed to regain control of the Mutons just in time to contain the rummaging hordes of Chryssalids that had been freed of any control. Already they had impregnated hundreds of dazzled aliens when the other races had come up with some impromptu organization to hold back and eradicate what seemed a black locust plague. But soon right afterwards the surviving aliens had simply turned their weapons into one another as disagreements between the Ethereals and the other races immediately boiled in several deadly engagements over the planet's surface. In less than a month the thousands of aliens that had survived X-COM's attack due to their far positions from Cydonia had been vastly reduced due to the fighting. The loss of the support facilities at the base had merely doomed the remaining aliens to a slow death, trapped on Mars. The Sectoid had refused to believe it and that was the reasons why he was still alive, the only one of his species left, although he suspected (and feared) that there where still other aliens around.

The Sectoid had already circled the entrance to see if he had been followed before moving to a location on the middle of the hill that was flat covered with orange dust with a large boulder standing and facing the sky. With a last look in both directions the alien grabbed the rock with both arms and pulled it away, revealing a dark hole on the ground. He quickly jumped inside and his thin hands briskly moved back the brown boulder, leaving only no trace of his presence or his hideout on the barren hills.

*********

André Galvão, 2003