DISCLAIMER: This fan fiction story is based on elements from the X-Com computer games series, which is a trademark belonging to 2K Firaxis. Please do not change the text in any way without the author's permission or use any of the elements and characters contained in the text.
CONTACT: I can be reached through the following email: aadlg . Please feel free to contact me regarding any comments on the story. Either being positive or negative, they'll be much appreciated and they're the only reward I'm getting out of all this work.
THANKS: To all the people that have supported me while I was writing this book and to the readers that emailed me their comments. And also Julian and Nick Gollop and the rest of the team that designed games like Rebelstar, Laser Squad and X-Com, because of all the enjoyment I received over the years by playing them. And please keep up the good work. :)
X-Com: The Unknown Menace
December 17th, 1946
USS Philippine Sea, South Atlantic
Although it was summer on the southern hemisphere, the United States Army Air Force officer that was near one of the elevators on the flight deck of the Essex class aircraft carrier had chosen to wear his flight jacket since the temperatures had been dropping as the fleet moved south towards its destination.
The man, who seemed to be in his early thirties, had a smooth face and light eyes, with his nose and ears starting to turn reddish from the cold air outside. The weather was a bit cloudy and it was the first sign to the fleet of gray ships that things were about to get rougher in their mission. The Philippine Sea was the largest ship of the sixteen vessels that made up the task force. Besides the combat escorts it included tenders for seaplanes and tankers, together with a Coast Guard icebreaker that had been rushed from California to be included in the force.
Looking at the deck of the carrier and seeing his own plane, he shook his head in frustration. He couldn't understand the reasoning behind the Navy's decision to send a dedicated task force of nearly five thousand men to such an extreme place. And it annoyed him even more that his superior officers hadn't deemed him to be important enough for him to know the reasons of the mission. He had fought a number of operations in the war as a part of the OSS, the more general name for the Office of Strategic Services that had been retired last year. But now that the war was over it seemed as if the politicians were bent on getting rid of all things military. The inter-military branch agency that had been responsible for espionage and secret military missions through the war had been dismantled last year and he had barely managed to stay attached to what remained of it. However nowadays the Army seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of every soldier and officer in its ranks.
He wore golden seven-sided leaves on the collars of his shirt that had almost disappeared completely into the inside of his thick flying jacket. Normally, he'd be considered a bit too young for the rank of major but the war had given him several chances for promotion. However he hadn't missed any of the action since the Battle of Britain in 1940 where he had volunteered to fight for the Royal Air Force. By the time of the United States' entry into the war at the end of 1941 he was one of the top US fighter pilots. And the Pentagon had been really quick about assigning him to the newly formed OSS, which badly needed veteran combat pilots. To his surprise he had found out that the other half of his work there, which was related to intelligence, started to be the one which attracted him the most. The information, that had been revealed to him, gave him a view of how military decisions where made based upon intelligence along with his realization of just how fallible the system could be also.
And in the case of operation High Jump, he was still wondering what the people at the Pentagon and the White House were thinking about when they called the mission. They were had been ordered to conduct a survey of Antarctica and perform military exercises to provide information about combat in those conditions. It simply didn't make any sense to him to be here.
His attention turned to one of the planes parked at one of the ends of the deck, which was completely clear of personnel and stood attached by cables to the floor. The converted DC-3 cargo planes hadn't been originally designed to be flown off carriers but from long runways on land. However since the Navy's seaplanes didn't have the necessary range to reach the inner areas of the pole safely, the DC-3s had been equipped with rocket pods strapped to their wings in addition to their engines, in order to allow taking-off from the short deck. And they were also equipped with large skis to land on the airstrip that would be built on the land by the Navy Seabee construction crews that had been brought for the mission. Underneath the flight deck there were six brand new 'helicopters' or whatever the new rotating flying machines were called, together with a small force of Navy fighters and dive-bombers.
The officer suspected that there were unofficial reasons for the inclusion of combat aircraft and vessels in the force. At the end of the war in Europe strange reports had started coming in from the South Atlantic concerning large movements of German submarines heading for an unknown destination. And after Germany's surrender further support for the sightings had been found in the Kriegsmarine's logs that failed to report a number of U-Boats. Also there were rumors in the OSS that a number of high-ranking Nazi officers had evaded capture by the Allies at the end of the war and were still at large. He tried enquiring the personnel of the Office of Naval Intelligence that was present at the task force, but to no avail. The officers had simply refused to answer any of his questions and had refused to further comment on the matter citing secrecy laws. But the worst part had been the arrogance and pettiness in their tone of voice. Although both the ONI and the OSS had worked together during the war it hadn't been without points of conflict between the two organizations, with much jealousy and egoism present on both sides. And now the Navy officers were simply ignoring him and the dead OSS, in no doubt getting revenge for old grudges.
As he started walking down the flight deck and heading towards the mess hall, the officer looked at the setting Sun that was giving mixed color tones to the white clouds overhead. The Moon was also starting to appear on the horizon, glowing white. A mix of excitement and fear passed through him. Well, soon we'll all discover what's the real reason behind all of this.
February 25th, 1947
Ross Sea, Antarctica
Leisurely cruising at 250 knots per hour the converted cargo plane was flying over the Antarctic coastline at a height of four thousand feet. The ski-equipped DC-3 had been painted in a new white and gray artic camouflage and was now standing over the packs of icebergs that littered the waters close to the massive white and blue glaciers. Its cargo section, forming the main body of the plane, had been adapted to carry photographic and other survey equipment, leaving just enough room left for a number of technicians to operate the machines.
The Major and the co-pilot completed the rest of the crew for this mission. They had taken off from the improvised landing strip at first light and now were following the coastline until the point at which they would turn inland into inner Antarctica. Both men were seated inside the cockpit of the craft, still dressed into winter parkas since the plane wasn't pressurized.
So far operation 'High Jump' had been a success. The naval task force was able to enter the Ross Sea and land a party at the continent that had later established a provisional base. Then the DC-3s had successfully taken off from the deck of the carrier and land there on the airstrip without incidents. Both them and the seaplanes had now been operating for more than three weeks conducting photographic and weather surveys. And while it was summer, the cold Antarctic weather still took its toil on men and equipment but that was what they had come here for. However there were still some questions that the major hadn't been able to find answers for.
A number of incidents had taken place since the task force had arrived: Strange lights in the skies that had at first been attributed to boreal auroras. But more unexplainable events had occurred in the past week as one of the destroyer escorts detected the sound of an unidentified submersible object in the proximity of one of the groups. No official explanation had been advanced to explain the contact, which had disappeared as the destroyer was moving to engage it. And whatever is happening no one at the top seems to have an idea about what it is or how to deal with it!
It was more than obvious to him that someone was keeping a keen eye on the task force's actions without revealing their identity. The obvious choice would be to give credit to the rumors that a number of Nazi officers had fled from the crumbling German empire at the last stages of the war and had taken refuge on the ice-covered continent. But another alternative was possible: the Soviets.
There were already a number of disturbing reports about Stalin's intentions about the countries that had been liberated from the Axis powers. Unlike the US Russia wasn't demobilizing its war machine and instead had left its armies in Eastern Europe. And there were reports that the Soviets had used the war to put a network of intelligence officers in the western countries and that Stalin was desperately seeking to develop atomic weapons by every means necessary, including spying on their allies during the war. The dropping of the bombs on the Japanese towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the previous year had destroyed the cities and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, but it had brought Japan to its knees and forced its unconditional surrender. Another effect of their use had been to reveal to the stunned world that it was possible to built atomic weapons and although the US now had the monopoly there was a high possibility that other nations would be able to replicate its effort. But why would Stalin also be interested in an operation to Antarctica? No, there's something missing here that all of us involved aren't able to discover. He wished that he could talk to some of the people that he knew at the former Research and Analysis branch of the OSS but most of them had either left the intelligence field or now worked in the State Department. However, he doubted that even they had an idea of what was going on.
As the Major shook his head to try to clear it, his co-pilot looked to him from his chair at the right of the cockpit. "Tired Major?"
He let go of a breath of frustration before replying. "Yeah. You got any smokes there?" As the co-pilot fished a pack out of his flying jacket the Major took the controls of the DC-3, keeping it on a straight course towards the south, which was hard since they had to use a sun compass to determine their bearing. Magnetic compasses were nearly useless this close to the south pole and the landscape didn't help much either, since most of it was composed out of endless plains of white that stretched into the horizon.
The co-pilot dug out two cigarettes along with a Zippo lighter and was about to light them up when his eyebrows fringed for a moment as he was looking at the Major's direction. "What's the problem?"
Taking out the cigarettes from his mouth with one of his hands, the co-pilot pointed across the Major's face in a puzzled voice. "Is that a reflection?"
When the Major looked through the plexiglass window on his left side in response to the co-pilot's query his own eyes grew wide as he picked it up.
A small green dot of light could be seen in the vivid blue sky. First the Major dismissed it as a light effect of the Sun's rays on the window, but as he rocked his head from one side to the other he discovered that it wouldn't go away. Moreover it seemed to have a solid appearance, as he noticed that he seemed could make out the contours on the green ball as it slowly started to change its form.
"It's keeping formation with us! What is that thing?!" The co-pilot was now nearly all over the Major as he was bending his body to have a better look at it. Shoving him back to his seat the officer barked an order: "Get back there and have someone take a shot at it with a camera!" Whatever that is we'll need some sort of proof that it wasn't just the Antarctic sky playing light tricks with two pilots.
As the co-pilot unhooked himself from his chair, the Major checked the plane's altitude and speed to make sure that they were still on a steady course. He thought of radioing the carrier to report the contact, but as his fingers moved to the transmit button they stopped their motion and instead he gripped the control wheel tighter.
The ball had resolved itself into what seemed to be an inverted cup. He still couldn't tell how far away or how big it was but those aspects ceased to matter as it suddenly crossed the entire sky in front of him and placed itself on the other side of the plane. A foo fighter?
During the war there had been numerous reports of strange flying machines made by the crews of the Allied bombers and fighters on missions over Nazi occupied Europe that could perform impossible maneuvers and fly at unheard of speeds. It had been initially thought that they were advanced German planes, such as the jet fighters that they had deployed at the last stages of the war. However the "lights" had never taken any aggressive actions towards the Allied planes and the OSS and the other intelligence agencies didn't have time to spare in order to investigate what seemed to be weird natural effects.
"It was gone before we could take a picture!" The disappointment in the co-pilot's voice was obvious as he came back from the cargo section.
"You idiot! It's on the other side of the plane!" The major barked in reply, still keeping his eyes on the green form. He was now sure that it had to be an artificial object as he had watched it transverse the sky from one side of the cockpit to the other. It kept changing its flight path and performing impossible maneuvers. It must be watching us also. It was time that he reported the contact to the Philippine Sea. The carrier had a pair of Wildcat fighters on alert status and they could be launched in five minutes after the order was issued. However he doubted that the Navy fighters would be able to do much against the craft that he was seeing.
A sense of dread came to him as he pressed the transmit button. "Home, this is Seagull Four. I have an unidentified contact…" A loud cracking sound made him stop in the middle of the sentence and his eyes widened in horror as something suddenly flashed and bathed the inside of the plane in a burning light. As the DC-3 suddenly jerked to one side the co-pilot crashed against the hull of the plane, violently banging with his head on a container built into the wall. The Major's restrains kept him in his seat though and he tried to regain control of the plane but the stiffness of the controls told him that they had lost all hydraulic power and couldn't move any of the plane's control surfaces built into its wings and tail.
"Get the emergency hydraulics going!" The plane was falling in an uncontrolled spiral towards the surface and he watched as the altitude gauge kept dropping from eighteen thousand feet at which they had been flying, to sixteen thousand in a matter of seconds. When no response came from the other man he looked and saw that the co-pilot was lying on the floor, probably unconscious from hitting the wall of the plane. Another glance at the outside told him what had happened to the DC-3. One of its wings had been completely ripped off from whatever had hit them. The Major realized that there was no way they could make an emergency landing, the Major realized and they would hit the ground in less than a minute.
Unhooking himself from his seat he tried to stabilize himself as he raced to the co-pilot's and checked his condition. Crouched against the wall that separated the cockpit from the cargo area he saw that the man was dead. "What is happening? What hit us?" A voice asked in panic as one of the three technicians managed to reach the door.
"Get out of here fast!" He hoped that his parachute was still functional as he raced down the length of the cargo section towards the door at the end. As he entered the area holding the photographic equipment the stench of burned flesh briefly caught his attention but he ignored the badly burned cadaver that was against a mass of destroyed equipment near a large hole on where the now lost wing had been attached to the main body. Going over the gap he saw to his surprise that the metal edge of the hole wasn't carved like he had expected but instead it seemed melted instead. The metal was still incredibly hot as he grabbed the sides with both hands and it started burning through his thick gloves though he ignored it.
Lunging his body forward across the opening he hoped that he still had time to safely deploy his parachute.
The mangled inside of the plane was quickly replaced by the openness of free falling as he quickly got away from the falling craft. The white ground quickly approached as his hands tried to find the cord to deploy the chute and his mind raced in confusion. What was that thing?