Special thanks to Cetacean for beta reading it. Now it all actually makes sense!
Note that this is not a one-shot, but it'll definetely take me ages to update.
Chapter 1: Glimpse of the Future
February 27th, 2084
With a flash of light, the silver Transtellar space liner disengaged its FTL drive. Switching back to standard propulsion, it appeared right on the edge of Sol system.
Space travel did not take tedious amounts of time like in the 50's, when a two-way trip between Mars and Earth would take almost a year.
The liner's engines effortlessly propelled it across the system, carefully fitting the enormous ship into the primary space routes.
Days went by as the liner made its way to the lush green-and-blue world that could be barely recognized as Mars now – it was the new homeworld of humanity. Massive terraforming efforts turned the lifeless red rock into a habitable world in but a few decades, and not a moment too soon.
However, the liner didn't land, stopping instead at one of the orbital docks to offload part of its passengers and cargo, before leaving the bustling lanes to proceed deeper into the system.
Again, days went by as the space liner proceeded to its destination. Instead of hundreds of freighters and space liners, only an occasional Marsec Valkyrie interceptor could be encountered on this route.
Still, the liner's destination was not forgotten nor abandoned. It was Earth.
A mention of that name could make one both sorrowful and proud. In but a century, the birthplace of mankind was reduced to a toxic, polluted world – almost incapable of sustaining life.
The alien invasions that took place in 1999 and 2040 supplied humanity with technology it needed to leave the overpopulated, depleted Earth and reach for the stars – but it came at a terrible price. The destruction of the alien colony ship in 2040 was a pyrrhic victory, releasing incredible amount of toxins and radioactive materials into the atmosphere. Within a few years, the entire American continent became almost uninhabitable. Within a decade – the whole Earth was polluted.
Still, man was not going to give up his hard-earned right to live that easily. Massive interstellar colonization efforts evacuated most of the doomed planet's population, spreading it across the Solar system and the Frontier star cluster.
With humanity's future secured and the alien threat defeated for the third time in 2067, the reclaiming of Earth once again came into the question.
The solution was a costly, but solid long-term investment into a network of walled, self-contained cities – Megalopolises. Each of these would be equipped with the finest technology known to man in order to ensure complete self-sufficiency. Massive atmospheric regulators, radiation shields, hydro-farms and highly efficient recycling facilities would safeguard the inhabitants of such a city from every threat their world had in store for them – and in time, the cities would restore Earth's atmosphere and ozone layer.
The first of these Megalopolises, built on the ruins of Toronto and named Mega-Primus quickly silenced the few skeptics the project had. In but a year after its construction was completed, the city turned into a powerful industrial powerhouse, producing high-quality goods in exchange for a steady supply of resources.
Of course, the city was with its share of problems. After the selected test population of one million moved in and results started to show, a lot of people wanted to make their way to the city… and a lot more wanted to capitalize on it.
And so, the abandoned slums around the city came to life as they became populated by gangsters, hoodlums, rejected mutants and outlawed androids…
But soon these would become the least of Mega-Primus' worries.
Monday, 6th March, 2084 - 18:56
The liner slowed down as it approached the shadowed side of Earth, with the lights of Mega-Primus being but a dot on the darkened continent.
Inside its passenger cabins were city's residents returning from vacations, businessmen on trips, government couriers from Mars, noisy tourists – a typical bunch.
But the strangest group was currently in cabin B25, sitting around a small table that was looked ready to be crushed by the weight of paper on it.
"Our finest", "Best of today's technology", "Every precaution made to handle this quietly…What a bunch of bullshit!"
Gaston Gautier shuddered at hearing one of his new commander's outbursts again.
"Will there EVER be at least one damn X-COM operation where I'm not given a couple of green rookies with peashooters and told to go counter the alien threat?!"
"Sir, for the last time, all of our operatives are currently tied down in the Frontier." The impassive, young black-haired woman sitting next to Gaston answered.
The person she was referring to - an old, battle-scarred, mustached man was still fuming. Section Commander Armand Buchard was known and feared for his fiery temper, but also respected and revered for being one of the few X-COM operatives that survived the last phase of the Second Alien War.
Gaston mused quietly about the almost-legendary story of Buchard's escape from the submerged colony ship of T'leth, his squad's crippled submarine barely getting far away to survive the blast from the self-destructing city. He was also the only survivor – the rest either fell to the aliens, or succumbed to radiation poisoning and wounds a few hours later. Buchard still bore the cross-shaped scar across his face, a reminder of a near-fatal encounter with a Deep One.
And right now Gaston, a twenty-year old rookie recently recruited into Extraterrestrial Combat Unit - the organization responsible for the all three victories against the alien threat - was sitting at the same table with a living legend. And listening to his seemingly endless rant.
Commander Buchard had his reasons to be angry, however. Reports of new Alien activity in Mega-Primus were alarming. It seemed that this time the invaders were a different species altogether, with advanced technology once again beyond man's reach. Not to mention that their motives were completely unclear.
To make matters worse, X-COM activity in Mega-Primus was mostly observational. A base with bare necessities was completed under one of government-owned warehouses and staffed with a skeleton crew, but that was it. Supreme Commander Steinbach had to pull a lot of strings to get some combat vehicles and weaponry for the base, but the results of his efforts were already described as unsatisfactory by Buchard – described using a rich collection of most insulting profanity in existence.
Buchard finally sat back, exhaled, and leaned towards the files on the table again.
"Sorry about that outburst, people."
"No offense taken, sir." Andrea Jonlan, Buchard's second-in-command, was his direct opposite, always keeping a cool head. That's why the two always made a great team.
"Alright now. Shuji, do you have anything to tell us about those… pyramids? At least that's what they look like…"
The question was directed at the fourth and final person in the room, a short, thin Japanese man in his thirties that looked like the very essence of a science geek. Regardless of his appearance, however, Shuji Iwahara was a brilliant scientist who quickly made a name for himself in the Galactic Science Corps.
"Strange objects indeed. I've contacted the research crew on our new base already. Their conclusion is that these are either teleporters or dimensional gates."
"Have they tried investigating it?"
"Yes, they did. The gates are apparently composed of antimatter, and everything that comes in contact with it – save for air – explodes in a rather violent fashion."
"Damn it. Looks like we'll have to salvage us some UFOs to figure out how they pass through the gate. Gaston, did you find anything on alien sightings in the city?"
"Umm… yes sir. Megapol, Marsec and our own agents sent us reports of several alien craft appearing every few days from the gate and passing over the city."
"And… nothing, sir. They don't land or take any offensive action… unless provoked."
"Yes… apparently, an unidentified Diablo hovercar attacked one of the UFOs when it was passing over their turf. It was destroyed in a few shots by a strange energy weapon. After that, the UFO proceeded on its normal route and eventually left through the gate."
"It won't get so lucky next time…" Buchard sneered to himself, rubbing his palms in anticipation.
"There's also another problem…" Andrea frowned while reading another file.
"The Cult of Sirius. They're making a lot of fuss over this, and unfortunately aliens are only helping them by not being aggressive."
Buchard looked out into the window, thinking for a few seconds. "This is a problem indeed. They're no longer as powerful as they were a few decades ago, but who knows what these psychos are up to… no matter. If they get in the way, we'll find a way to persuade them to leave us alone."
"Knowing your methods, I think most of them won't survive the message, sir." Andrea replied, and Gaston let out a quick laugh.
"What are you laughing about, rookie? You're going to be one of our chief persuaders." Buchard said with a hint of a smile.
"I'll do my best, sir."
"Sure you will… I'll make sure you get a missile launcher to convey our point clearly."
This time everyone laughed. The commanding trio had a sort of pity for the poor rookie, who was going to be one of X-COM's field agents on the spot - a job with not much to say about life expectancy.
"Alright, people, the liner arrives tomorrow at 5 AM, so everyone off to sleep. I want you all ready for disembark at four thirty. Especially you, Gautier."
The X-COM agents went to their respective rooms for a last night of undisturbed sleep they'd have for a long, long while…