The Spoils Of War

by scg
The Spoils of War

Spittle flecked the man's lips as he muttered deep, dark secrets to himself, unheard save by his own soul and spirit. And, perhaps, by the eponymous X Lady, the spirit of X-COM that somehow united a thousand madmen to struggle against alien invaders in the name of humanity.

He was a soldier; that much was plain to see. His was a huge frame, burly muscle rippling beneath coveralls as he rocked back and forth, squatting on the cold floor of the barracks. Powerful fists that could snap an arm were knotted together, resting on his lap. The man radiated an aura of power, but was restful, seemingly benign... and yet there were signs of tension, of internal strife, of troubles unseen.

The door to the barracks shrieked open, metal dragging on metal. The noise intruded on the squatting man, and his eyes flicked open, their shrinking irises focusing on the entrance--through which stepped another soldier.

This second man was slimmer, perhaps marginally taller: but doubtless every bit as lethal. The newcomer's eyes were those of a neurotic; they flicked from side to side as though he expected an attack at any time. He focused on the squatting man as he entered, however, for he had been seeking the X-COM officer.

"Jack," rumbled the seated man, phlegm and an arid throat making his voice stumble, the consonants tripping clumsily over one another. "What are you doing here?" The bulky man blinked uncomfortable eyes and rolled his shoulders as he spoke; bringing himself back to life after a period of relative dormancy.

The nervous man slowly closed the barrack door. "I came for you, Gregory. You know this." He paused in his speech, taking a few careful steps towards the seated behemoth. "The base is to begin the decommissioning procedure within forty-eight hours. Orders were for us to report to the briefing room at oh-one hundred hours. I knew you wouldn't come. I know why, too."

Jack spoke in a curious stop-start fashion, marked by a faint Slavic accent. Coupled with a habit of speaking rapidly, this often left him breathless at the completion of a sentence.

"And why," replied the one called Gregory, slowly and quietly, "Is that?"

His comrade's knee twitched; the man was nervous.

"Come, Jack, tell me." The hint of a grin passed over Gregory Ilyich's face as he spoke. He had not missed the other man's brief display of weakness. "I must know why I would not attend a briefing as ordered."

"I'm not accusing you of disloyalty. Gregory. I just know... that you don't agree. With what they are doing. You aren't alone-"

His dialogue was halted abruptly, interrupted by Ilyich's movement. The bear-like man rocked forwards onto his knees, and rose slowly. He turned to face Jack and, with one massive stride, had covered the distance between the two. Ilyich's eyes glared into his companion's, and with a growing horror Jack realised that something worse than a burst blood vessel had flooded his captain's eyes. The soldier saw a fanatical madness beneath that fierce visage.

"They are raping us, Jack! The bastards have taken everything that we hold dear and have fought the spawn for, and they are abusing us with it." Ilyich waved an arm expressively, sweeping it across the barrack's sparse contents. "Can't you see what they are doing? The suits, the corporations, they are taking our pain and suffering and they are selling it"

By the end of his rant, Ilyich had closed an iron grip on Jack's shoulders, and had begun to hiss angry words between clenched teeth. The other was plainly terrified of Ilyich's sudden incensed rage, but a wariness was in his eyes, and his body was tense: he, too, was a warrior.

"I see it, Gregory. I see it. So do others. No-one likes what is being done."

Ilyich released his vice-like grip and began to pace back and forth. "I know that, Jack. You're right, no-one does... and no-one could like this situation! But no-one else will act"

Jack risked shrugging. "What else can we do? Nothing. We must just accept this, move on. Others may be interesting in us. Hiring our services. Mercenaries."

Eyes snapping back to the slim soldier, Ilyich roared a response. "Mercenary?" He stormed back to the other man and, before he could act, swung a left hook that knocked his comrade straight to the floor. "I should sooner die," snarled Ilyich, the Slavic giant seeming more and more like the bear moniker he had been bestowed with. "You are no better than the corporations... demeaning X-COM."

Towering over the fallen man, still prone on the concrete floor, Ilyich raged. Jack remained beneath him, dabbing a bleeding face with a filthy handkerchief, not standing for risk of provoking the unhinged captain.

"No, no! Captain! You have me wrong"

His protests fell on deaf ears. Already, Ilyich had begun to pace back and forth once more, contemplating what he would do next. "Have to do something. Yes, we must act: action! For the "com" He stopped again, and glanced over at the fallen squaddie, anger replaced by an appealing honesty. "You'll help me, Jack. I know I can trust you, of all the X'ers."

"What do you intend, Gregory?" The man stared fearfully at Ilyich as he spoke. His eyes flickered about no more. Ilyich had been identified as a threat; this warranted Jack's full attention.

"We're going to put a stop to this, soldier. We will put a stop to their capitalistic irreverence! Yes, we will assault the enemy where they are most vulnerable: their corporate headquarters"

The fear in his subordinate's eyes had become horror as Ilyich spoke. "Gregory! Captain! You cannot be serious! What you intend is murder... worse, a terrorist action"

"If you aren't with me, you're against me, Jack. And if you are not with me, I advise that you do not stand against me..."

Jack stood carefully. "I cannot allow you to attempt this, captain. You are mad! There is insanity in your eyes. Unpredictability in your actions! Your judgement cannot be trusted" By this time, he had placed himself directly between Ilyich and the door.

Ilyich's eyes narrowed. "Idiot," he snarled. "I'm going to find some real men... some real "com soldiers" Ilyich lunged forwards, knocking Jack to the floor, and seconds later the squaddie was cursing as he tried to gather his senses. The bear of X-COM stepped over him as though he were nothing, and strode from the room.

The injured man he had left behind slowly and carefully drew his battered body up into a sitting position. Crossing his legs beneath him he began to gently rock back and forth. He closed his eyes, and through clenched teeth and extreme pain began to mutter: "He won't do it. He can't do it."

* * *

Note: before anyone comments on how "out of character" Ilyich seems - remember that this directly precludes the Goss tower incident. After that, the "Slavic-looking giant" has nearly twenty years to simmer down, to calm somewhat (before Manley's Deposition) : to contain his more dangerous edge, hmm?
Other criticisms, of course, are both inevitable and welcome.