X-Com – Destined Alliance

Prologue

"In the mid-2050's mankind started to see a new glimpse of hope in the exploration of nearby space as a way of lessen Earth's problems with lack of natural resources and overpopulation. The Second Alien War, fought on undersea and costal locations had brought immense devastation on ships and cities right by the sea. To deal with the aliens the Earth's nations had to reactivate the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit, known as X-Com, created in 1999 to deal with the ever-increasing alien activity being reported on the planet. Its scientists managed to understand the origins of the new alien threat. 65 millions of years ago the aliens had sent a massive space ship destined to colonize Earth, then going through the Jurassic Period, the age of the reptiles. But upon arrival some freak accident caused it to plummet into the Earth's oceans and cause an ecological catastrophe, which lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs, paving the way for the dominance of the mammals and ultimately Man. But, in spite of the accident the aliens kept an interest on Earth, watching us ever since and carefully manipulating our genetic code as we went into our evolution path until Homo Sapiens Sapiens, Man's current species. While that happened, the crashed alien ship, containing an even more powerful version of the alien Brain found on Cydonia at the end of the First Alien War, started to repair itself and adapt to its new aquatic environment. It performed its own genetic experiments and developed new alien species while at the surface mankind stayed unaware of the dormant threat at the bottom of the seas.

As the X-Com troops destroyed the alien Brain on Cydonia at 2002 and were evacuating the area, the aliens played their final trump card. As they were being defeated, a massive tachyon beam was detected leaving the alien facility towards Earth. We assumed that it was a call from the master Brain for reinforcements, but by then the remaining alien forces on the planet had been easily defeated as the death of the Brain threw them into a state of chaos as it was controlling all the aliens.

But the transmission activated the underwater city and it prepared itself to activate the ultimate alien, T'leth. Meanwhile we considered that all the aliens had been defeated and the need to rebuilt the cities destroyed in the war lead into the dismantlement of X-Com. But by 2039 the sightings of Unidentified Submersible Objects and the attacks started to quickly increase, as the spaceship released its minions of genetically engineered troops to expand their presence and activate the molecular control network, which had been established by the aliens to help them take control of Earth. Mankind had no other alternative than to reactivate X-Com on 2040, which by them had been bought by millionaire F. Denman Williams and had restricted their operations to the investigation and recovery of UFOs that had crashed underwater. The war waged by the reborn X-Com was brutal, with the technologies gained from the previous conflict proving almost useless when fighting undersea against the aliens.

But humans did what they do best. They learned and they adapted the alien's weapons to be able to use them. And as the source of all the alien activity was found to be the alien city an expedition was mounted to destroy it, using the Leviathan class sub especially developed to reach very deep areas of the oceans. No quarter was given on that fight but the X-Com troopers managed to reach the Ultimate Alien's inner chamber and destroy the power conducts that fed it. T'leth in desperation ordered his spaceship to move into the atmosphere but when he finally died, the city self-destructed itself, causing the defeat of the alien forces in 2046.

While mourning the comrades who still where inside the city and died in the explosion, X-Com and Earth celebrated their victory, but not for long. The aerial destruction of the T'leth undersea alien city had created an ecological catastrophe to the environment, already stressed by overpopulation and pollution. The Earth's climate became gravely disturbed by the release of massive amounts of particles from T'leth that had covered sunlight, further increasing the global warming and doing huge damage to the agricultural crop. Furthermore the Midwest and other areas of North America had to be evacuated due to the fallout of toxic particles deriving from the alien city's destruction over the Gulf of Mexico.

Civil unrest all over the globe followed further weakening the several Earth states and threatening to bring down civilization. The situation was similar to the one faced after the First War, but much worse at the same time. And after all the Elerium stockpiled during the First Alien War was used in a failed attempt to scientifically develop fast than light space flight the prospects of colonizing other planets to escape Earth's situation seemed even more bleak than ever. The aquatic equivalent of Elerium used by the aliens to power their technology, a mineral called Zrbite, was found to have lost its power upon the death of T'leth and the destruction of the molecular control network, rendering it useless.

And the sixteen world governments that had emerged from the first AW and had financed X-Com on the second conflict seemed even more powerless to deal with the urban grown and pollution problems.

In 2051, following widespread ecological collapse and overpopulation, the North American Alliance was formed, consisting of the former states of the US, Canada, the People's Republic of Alaska and the New Mexico Cooperative as the world governments engaged in a process of political mergers to effectively deal with global problems. And on 2052 the Transtellar Corporation is given access by X-Com to its interplanetary travel research data to try to develop a way of intersolar space flight that is not dependent on Elerium or alien technology.

Earth's last hope materializes as in 2054 Transtellar's efforts are shown the public in the form of the new Mk 1 Conversion Drive, which generates power through a carbon-helium fusion contained in a inert Zrbite shell. The engine was quickly bought by several corporations that equip interplanetary colony ships with it and by the end of the year there were several human settlements on the Moon.

Meanwhile F. Denman Williams had bought back X-Com after the Second AW, in the condition that the unit would be placed again under official control in case the aliens showed up again. His financial management proved vital to maintain X-Com's operations and not the organization dwindle like after the first conflict. The millionaire immediately rented the trained men as mercenaries to countries and corporations. Moreover, the research done on alien technology is used to develop highly advanced weapons by X-Com's factories, which are sold to the highest bidder, effectively resolving the unit's financial situation. And in 2056, the expansion to Moon had brought X-Com with a contract to defend the lunar colonies and the consequent establishment of its first off world base in the Luna Three colony.

But, no matter how great the achievements of those years were, the leaders of Mankind knew that the materials coming from mining the Moon and asteroids only had bought them more time. Unless faster than light travel was developed, Earth's problems were still threatening to defeat the human race and everyone knew that their only hope was on the stars".

January 5th, 2062

Luna Three Colony, Moon

X-Com's first facility in space had been deployed to protect the Moon mining colonies of any attacks. Strategically placed on a ridge overlooking the Luna Three colony, the X-Com base was equipped with the latest military material coming from X-Com's factories. Armored laser turrets guarded the space over the mining city and sitting on launch pads there were also Patton-class military combat vessels equipped with laser cannons and missile launchers ready to intercept any hostile craft approaching the base. The facility also sported housing for ground troops and lunar aerial and ground transporters for quick deployment.

One of the regular patrols to check the colony's perimeter was on their way back using one of the aerial vehicles and on the inside what looked to be a flying coffin with legs attached, Captain Alexander Kerr was wearing his spacesuit and wondering of the reasons why High Command would immediately order him to report to the base. The message carried no explanation of to why and that made Kerr wondering. While technically they were mercenaries, since they didn't belong to any of Earth's military, X-Com was the only available force in the area capable of defending the colonies from the pirate attacks that had been the bane of Earth's mining outposts. He discarded the possibility of a pirate raid. Even without the corporations' own pitiful security forces, the X-Com personnel stationed on the Moon was more than equipped to deal with any incursion.

As the lunar vehicle approached one of the smaller vehicle bays, Kerr noticed that there was a new addition to the line of Patton-class cruisers and smaller vessels stationed on the larger runways. And looking at the number and name imprinted on the front of the spaceship, he noticed that it was no else than the flagship of the class, the UGS Patton itself. But what was it doing here, Kerr wondered as he moved closer to one of the windows to have a better look. When he had left two days ago, the Patton was reported to be on security patrol in the space between the Moon and the several asteroids that were being mined close to Earth. And the gray hull of the ship showed no signs that it had been through a military confrontation with pirates.

The moon flyer finally came to a halt over the entry hatch and slowly started to descent, after it had deployed its landing pads. Making sure that his safety harnesses were in place and securing him to his seat, Kerr realized that something big was going on and that his early return had something to do about it.

As the lunar transport finally touched down the bay doors hermetically sealed themselves and the repressurization of the hangar begun. The red light inside the crew compartment went off and all the X-Com mercenaries inside started to take off their helmets and get up. Kerr did the same and moved a hand through his short brown hair in relief. He wanted nothing more than a really long, hot shower to scrub away all the sweat that his skin had been accumulating after two days inside his armored spacesuit. However the water restrictions placed upon the lunar colonies made that thought impossible to realize. Scrubbing his head while he was descending the steps of the small steel stairs at the vehicle's entrance by the ground crew, he dismissed his twelve-men squad on his way out. Looking around he saw the men and women servicing the craft, together with armed X-Com space troopers that were heading towards the barracks. He also moved into that direction.

After a quick shower back on his quarter he donned his dress uniform and headed out for the Briefing Room Nº1. As he knocked and walk inside he suddenly knew that something was up as he saw the two uniformed men in the room, with a third figure coming closely behind. He immediately recognized the men in the front as Colonel Mulligan, the base commander at Luna Three and Commodore Lafarge, the chief of naval operations in the Luna sector. But as he snapped into attention to salute both men, he suddenly realized who was the third man. In fact the Man itself, the owner of the X-Com corporation, F. Denman Williams. He looked a little older than how he was usually seen in the news broadcasts, but he still kept the same playboy look that had characterized him since he had first gained notoriosity as the developer of a new computer operating system based on the research made by X-Com's scientists in the First Alien War. And while he was already almost on his eighties, his body was still lean and the only thing that showed his ages was his totally white hair and the wrinkles on his fore brow and around his eyes. In fact, the impression Kerr got out of him had nothing to do with the stories going around in the tabloid holovids, of an old man that was more interested in 20 year old sculptural blondes and life-prolonging treatments. In spite of his advanced age, the boss was still the boss it seemed, even after having seen two wars with the aliens, keeping an air of overconfidence that annoyed Kerr.

He kept his hand in salute even after the two uniformed officers had dropped theirs, until the millionaire joined them and nodded to him in acknowledgement. Colonel Mulligan then extended his hand and said: "Captain Kerr, welcome back. I'm sure you are wondering why such an early recall from your mission, but it will be soon explained to you". The man then turned to the other two and presented them. "This is Commodore Lafarge, I'm sure that you have also met him before". Both officers shook hands, keeping a strict posture, as they always had. Kerr wouldn't consider the Swiss as one of the best officers he had even seen, due to the man's occasional lack of decision but he had no particular misgivings about him.

Mulligan then turned to the third man and continued: "And this is…." Kerr completed the sentence. "F. Denman Williams, the current owner of the X-Com Corporation. It is a pleasure to meet you sir". The hell it is, Kerr told to himself.

As they were shaking hands, the millionaire replied: "Is it really a pleasure Captain?" Kerr looked back at him, unsure of why he had said that phrase, wondering if he had picked up the annoyance upon seeing him. But he had no time to think about it, since Colonel Mulligan asked everyone to seat and start the meeting.

The three other men sat down facing Kerr's seat and he got into the impression that they were about to scrutinize him in every possible way. They wanted something from him, and something big enough that they needed to be sure he was the man for the job. But Mulligan kept an even face and asked: "What do you know about Elerium Captain?"

Kerr reminded the stuff he had learned back at the Academy. "I know what everyone knows. That it is essential for faster than light speed and that there's none left on the Solar System after we used all that we captured on the First War".

"Exactly. But there's something you don't know. In fact few people outside this room know about it yet". He handed him a noteputer about the size of a cigar box. Kerr grabbed it and after some minutes examining the information displayed he raised his head in disbelief. "If I'm reading this sensor data correctly, it shows the presence of a huge deposit of Elerium on Earth, but that's not possible".

The Colonel was waiting for the answer. He simply replied: "Not on Earth or the Moon". Confusion came to Kerr's mind until he recalled the latitude and longitude coordinates of where the data was taken, displayed on one of the corners of the screen. "Mars", he spoke, while his jaw dropped wide-open right afterwards. Elerium was the most valuable material on Earth due to its rarity or better, the complete lack of it. There were rumors of huge transactions being made on the black market for tiny remains of the element. And if one was to believe everything said about those sales, the values involved were bigger than the national budget of many countries or corporations. "This sounds to me like one of those 'golden pot at the end of the rainbow stories'. Are you sure about this?" One of the reasons why Kerr was skeptical was the amount of rumors and half-concocted stories involving secret stockpiles of gold or platinum in some remote asteroid that periodically went through the colonists.

The other officer nodded: "Earth Science Corps probes have been probing the planet for weeks to locate possible mineral deposits. They have performed several additional scans to check the initial discovery and they check out".

"But if I remember right, the 2009 mission didn't discover any traces of Elerium back at Cydonia. How come they missed this?"

"It's not at the old alien base. In fact it's located hundreds of kilometers away from it. And that mission only the destroyed alien facilities and the area nearby were scanned".

Realization of what was about to come hit Kerr's mind. "And you are going to send the Patton on a mission to investigate. And you want me to go also". That phrase drew a dry smile on Williams. The old CEO finally spoke. "One of the reasons why we picked up, Captain. You're intelligent and I must say I was quite impressed with your combat record".

Kerr looked down at his hands, still unsure of the whole thing and feeling something starting to burn inside him. "Mr. Williams, why would I be needed to go to Cydonia? There are no aliens back there. Or why would I want to go in the first place?" The man shook its head and rolled his eyes up, as if he knew exactly the answer and that frightened Kerr.

"Captain, you are right that the possibility of fighting is zero in the first place. After all we haven't detected any alien activity outside Earth since some sixty years ago. Still, one thing I have learned is that it is always better to be prepared. And as for why you would want to go, well, I could say that such an assignment would make you rich, taking into account the supplementary bonus you will receive. But I've seen your personal file and I know why you would want to go to Mars". He smiled after speaking the last sentence.

Kerr started to feel uncomfortable at what he felt might be becoming. He gave Williams a hard look and asked: "And what may that be?" The CEO looked down, his gaze lost in his memories and replied: "Back when I first took over the organization I was deeply impressed by the spirit of the men and women that were former X-Com veterans. They called the unit the X-Lady, the ultimate ideal for which they willing to die for, the preservation of mankind. During the Second Alien War I saw it rising again and decided that those were the type of people that we would be needing in the future".

Kerr just shook his head. "Sir, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I've heard that crap before. And I must say that looking at mankind nowadays it's pretty hard to believe in it. We have turned the whole Earth into a mess and some of us, like the pirates and the major cooperations are nothing more than feeding themselves over a rotting corpse. Even this mission won't change a single thing about it. Nowadays you either have to be an idealistic fool or trying to save yourself. Money is the reason why I've signed up with X-Com".

Slowly closing his eyes, Williams let out a small laugh for some seconds, making Kerr wonder what was on the old man's mind. He opened his eyes in a flash and replied: "Captain, you're damn right about it. The reason why X-Com is on this is the money that we will get from our contract to provide the ESC with security and transportation on their ride to Mars. And we will be turning out a pretty large profit if the mission turns out as they expect, since we have a clause that secures us a percentage of the Elerium they dig out of there".

"All that money won't do any good if you're not alive to spend it. I got all I need right now and that Mars stunt doesn't appeal to me at all. I chose to join X-Com because of the stability it gives you, since I'm neither an idealist or a gung-ho looking for action".

Williams spread his arms opened and then joined the palms of his hands together in the air. "Really Captain? I take it than that your maternal grandparents didn't had anything to do with your choice?" Kerr had been unconsciously waiting for that mention. Both his maternal grandmother and grandfather had been X-Com troopers that had met and felt in love back in the First Alien War. And they had both died in the assault on Cydonia but before leaving Earth they had frozen ova and sperm just in case something happened to one of them. Upon news of their demise, one of his great-aunts had volunteered to carry their seed into her womb, thus his mother was born and thus he was here present talking to the three men.

Getting up to him, Williams spoke softer. "Captain, there's no shame in admitting that you might be trying to live up to their memory. I've never met your grandparents, besides reading their names on the inauguration of the memorial built for all X-Com troopers that died fighting the aliens. But I saw the battle records and they were of the best we had back then. You say you joined X-Com for other reasons. Well, what makes you think that we would have accepted you if you had a different background?"

Surprise came to Kerr's eyes and the old millionaire quickly caught it, simply adding: "Remember the X-Lady Captain. In days of uncertainty and despair that's what pulled our soldiers through both wars". The soldier ignored him. He had made already his decision to go on the mission.

After the discussion of several aspects concerning his role on the survey mission, the meeting was over and Kerr went back to his quarters. His orderly had already taken care of the dirty space underwear that he had thrown into the floor as he was changing to attend the reunion. But he paid no attention to it. Locking the door he then preceded to one of the closets built into the walls and opened it, removing a plastic casket that had an electronic keypad. Quickly digiting a combination of numbers, the storage box made a clicking sound and it opened itself.

Going through the assortment of objects inside he finally dug out a package wrapped on a cloth that had to be decades old since it used natural cotton and not the artificial type made nowadays with polymers. He went to his desk and placed it on its top, only then unwrapping the fabric. The brown butt was the first part of the pistol to emerge, followed by the half-feet brown and red barrel. There was also one separated clip, which he inserted into the pistol, although it was long empty of any Elerium ammunition.

Looking at the plasma pistol he remembered the words of his mother when he had graduated from West Point and decided to join X-Com. She had given them the pistol and explained that it belonged to his grandfather, who had died holding it while trying to holdout a group of Ethereals that had ambushed his squad in one of the chambers at Cydonia. The surviving troopers had retrieved his body and the pistol and had later given it to his mother, who had kept it stored until his graduation. Feeling the grip of it he pointed, wondering how it must had been. He pressed the trigger, but it was long dead, since there was no Elerium back on Earth to power it. For some time he had wondered what he should do with the alien plasma pistol. He could have sold it at the black market, where there were always individuals interested on pieces of alien technology, either for their own private collection or for some major corporation's research. That would have brought him with enough money to retire to some quiet life in the sunny beaches of Alaska or even Iceland, but he felt that it just wasn't right. Putting the pistol on his desk, he decided to get to work, so he moved to the noteputer and started to go through the files that had just been sent to him.

January 19th, 2062

Greater Seattle Metropolitan Area, North American Alliance

The temple had been installed in one of the old condo buildings dated from the turn of the millennium that dotted the urban area that once had been one of the most important cities of the old United States. But the attacks made by the aliens on the Second Alien War, which had devastated the harbor and the surrounding areas. The flooding brought by the climatic changes had almost dealt the city its death kneel, but the higher areas were still considered one of the remaining places on Earth pleasant enough for a comfortable life.

The set of apartment buildings had been built as social housing but nowadays there wasn't anything social about them, since they had long been deserted and were only used by fringe groups and people who wanted to live away from society. The area had been heavily flooded in the past, transforming it into a swamp, with the ground levels of the buildings immersed into putrid water and the air filled with fog. Some of the buildings had provisional catwalks connecting them, made of retrieved support beams and aqua plastics and one robed men were walking in one of them, carefully avoiding the holes on the makeshift floor, as he slowly moved to the direction of an blasted opening to where the catwalk lead into. As he was about to reach a platform attached to the side of the building, another gray robed figure stepped out and greeted him, performing a short bow.

"May you be touched by the Starspawn Brother Dominicus". The visitor stopped and returned the greeting. "And may we not be blind again and refuse that gift, Brother Xhin".

"Thank you brother". He waved him inside. "And may I ask what the Hierarchy demands of this humble servant and its congregation? Your message didn't have any mention to it, bringing all sort of speculations". He became immediately stiff as for expecting the worse.

"Let me rest you then, brother. We are not at danger. We still haven't seen any sign of the heretics from ever since the Jihad. Nor are the oppressive and vile nations of Earth trying to stop us from spreading the Word".

The oriental man stopped on the corridor that they were crossing and asked, in a deep awe. "There was a revelation? We have been contacted?" His eyes were wide open, as if he had been waiting his entire life to hear the answer. However the other man frowned and replied. "No. There are still no reports that the Starspawn has forgiven our sins again and came back to save us. However, a situation on Mars has appeared that we must exploit. The unbelievers have discovered a depot of Elerium on the planet. They must not be allowed to profane either the remains of the base or the Starspawn's gift".

The mention of the mineral made Xhin remember the micrograms that were kept in heavy guard some floors below. It was his temple's most precious relic, one of the most precious gifts the aliens had brought into Earth. He had personally leaded an assault into a mafia overlord in South America to retrieve it. "I see the wisdom on the Hierarchy's decision, stated in your words. However, I fail to see what I or my congregation can do about it".

It was Dominicus's turn to stop in the middle of their walk down the dark corridor. He approached one of the broken windows and pointed at a small pier attached to the building several floors below, where a myriad of plastic boats and streaming yachts could be seen, anchored. "Those. They have all come here to mourn the disaster of the Second Refusal, haven't they?"

"Yes. I've sent the reports to the Hierarchy. Membership has been increasing. And some of them are even starting to came from the upper classes".

"Now you have you answer of why I am here. Take me down to the temple. I want to meet them personally". He picked up his pace again, with Xhin quickly following him after a quick feeling of enlightement, although he would only discover the reason later on the day.

February 6th, 2062

Luna Three Colony, Moon

As Kerr entered the briefing room where his ground troopers had gathered he immediately knew that he would have trouble dealing with them. More than a dozen combat soldiers were standing in the small chamber, either clustering in groups and quietly talking or sitting solo, while observing the others or smoking cigarettes and looking at what seemed to be cheap porno epublications on their noteputers. Besides the fact that the majority of them were using off-regulation clothing or even hadn't bothered to change from their civilian clothing, what he found most disturbing was the way they had looked back at him, deliberately ignoring his entrance in the room but eyeing him carefully. He cleared his throat while still standing close to the door.

One of the non-commissioned officers who was with his back turned to him turned around and immediately jumped off his chair, shouting loudly: "Attention! Officer in the room!" Only then did the men and women in the room then rose themselves up but stood in a loose stand. He looked around and proceeded to the front. Reviewing what he was about to say, he got ready to start speaking. But the sound of the door being opened distracted his attention and he followed the gaze of the soldiers as they turned to see the incomer. A young man, wearing a lieutenant's stripes on the pads of his pressed X-Com jumpsuit just got in and started blubbering: "Sir, I'm sorry, but I've arrived yesterday and I'm still on Earth time, I…" Looking at his superior's fierce stare he shut his mouth.

Lieutenant Fitzgerald, Kerr reviewed on his mind. Zero at combat experience. And also a zero at leadership and being an officer, it seemed. He wondered at what had gone into High Command's minds when picking the troops for this operation. Nothing more than a bunch of lunatics, opportunists and rookies or men already down on their careers. But then he remembered those were exactly the type of people who volunteered to go into space. Being in the military off world brought a huge salary and supplementary bonus but it was considered also to be one of the most dangerous professions ever to exist. Not only there were the pirates to worry about but also the technology was just giving its first steps. And in the process of learning there was always error and it often lead into the loss of human lives. Usually the ones who volunteered for such service didn't have anything to loose and the employers also would be too hard-pressed to ask questions about their background as long as they could do the job.

And this mission to Mars was one of the most dangerous stunts ever pulled since the one that had destroyed that massive aquatic alien. If something happened to the ship there would be no help available for months and they would be stranded in a hostile planet with no means to survive.

André Galvão, 2001