X-COM: Abyssal

by Hobbes
X-Com: Abyssal
Chapter Two ? Swift Tide

"First Alien War, The

(Short version ? please check for separate entries within the UFOPedia for more detailed information or go here if your viewer doesn't have Hop language installed and you would like a list of topics related to this subject).

The first conflict on which mankind saw itself involved against extraterrestrial forces started on the waning years of the twentieth century until its conclusion on March 9th, 2002 after the defeat of the aliens on Mars. Although the general population and the world governments had dismissed until 1998 the growing reports of alien activity and UFOs, on that year a series of aggressive incidents performed by the aliens prompted Earth's nations to start organizing an effective defense against the intruders.
After a number of failed attempts to determine the identity and intentions of the aliens were undertaken, it was decided under the aegis of the United Nations to form the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit, or X-Com, as the name was taken both inside and outside the force. It was to be composed of elite personnel drawn from the military forces of the countries that had signed the X-Com Charter and its mission was to investigate and stop the alien attacks on Earth with the help of the regular military forces.
By the beginning of 1999, X-Com had started to perform combat operations, although limited in coverage of the world. The first contacts with the invaders were successful for the most part, resulting in the capture of crashed vessels and equipment. Earth's technological disadvantage forced the troops to rely on superior tactics to defeat the aliens they encountered. However, the scientists that composed the force managed to understand the alien technology and reproduce it, allowing the strike teams to fight more evenly. X-Com's teams soon boasted the latest armor and new laser and plasma weaponry, together with craft designed and built using the secrets learned from the retrieved UFOs and powered by Elerium.
But they soon made a startling discovery: the aliens seemed to have a vast pool of resources from which to drawn, rendering useless all efforts made by Earth to stop them unless they could stop the flow of alien troops and ships. And the original extraterrestrials, or Sectoids were soon followed by other species such as the Floaters, Snakemen, Mutons and Ethereals. X-Com found itself finding a coalition of alien species whose propose was clear: taking control of Earth and reducing humans to slavery or even worse.
By 2001 the situation was beginning to get desperate for the humans. Not only the aliens were still expanding their activities but also some of Earth's nations had decided to establish peace treaties with them and stopped funding X-Com. And worse, the aliens had started to establish forward bases on the planet, which was interpreted as the prelude for a mass invasion by the alien fleet that had been detected on the far side of the Moon.
However, the interrogation of captured alien officers soon revealed the necessary information for the survival of Earth. It was discovered that the aliens operate in a hive society with a Queen, or in this case King, controlling the races that had been encountered so far from a hidden location on Mars. And after an raid performed on an alien base on Antarctica, the final piece of data was finally extracted from the aliens: the exact location of the Brain on the plains of Cydonia, an area of Mars that possessed a number of anomalous surface features that were discovered to be an alien base on that planet.
By then it had became obvious to X-Com's military leadership that Earth's only hope was to mount a strike that could penetrate the alien defenses on Cydonia and kill the Brain, leaving the invasion without its leader. For months the entire force prepared itself for the mission, building craft and weapons while enduring alien strikes on their bases and hoping that they had the sufficient time before the alien juggernaut started.
After months of waiting the force finally left Mars at the beginning of 2002 and arrived at Mars on March, using advanced Avenger class craft to make the interplanetary travel in weeks instead of the months required by Earth's technology. More than a dozen ships and two hundred combat soldiers were used on the attack, which succeeded in breaking through the defenses and killing the Brain, although the majority of the troops and ships never made it back to Earth.
The victory achieved on Mars dictated the result of the war. The aliens stopped fighting on Earth and the Moon, showing complete disorientation and panic after their Queen had been killed. Within months the remaining forces on the planet had been defeated and Earth could now start rebuilding what had been lost in the destruction of the fighting.

- X-Com's UFOPedia

September 9th, 2044
Baltimore, Maryland, US

The cab started to move away from the concrete surface of the sidewalk as Markovitch took her first step towards the green single level house in front of her. The windows were open but she could see no shapes moving inside as she walked past the metal mailbox on her way to the entrance porch. Just go to the door and ring the bell. It's as easy as that. She felt very weary of what she might face in the next moments, as she was about to finally meet her daughter. My biological daughter. And she's also Erwin's by that matter.
Camay had suggested in Norfolk that she'd make the first contact and explain how Markovitch had been healed and had been reawaken by X-Com. It would be better if her daughter knew the truth first from the physician since it would make the whole situation more plausible to accept. If she's a bit like me she would have either accepted it silently or make a ruckus out of it. According to Camay, the reaction she had seen on the woman's face on the visiphone had been neither. Linda had been shocked first but then had simply listened carefully to her explanations and while at first had balked at such a meeting she had finally accepted it. After all, Camay had helped her sister to conceive her daughter.
She tried to forget the absurdity of the whole situation as she pasted by the garage's door and stepped on the stone floor of the porch. A welcome mat was at the front of the metal door but she didn't step on it as she pressed the bell button. While waiting she saw a small camera placed over the button. For a few seconds there was no answer until the almost whisper of a voice was heard. "Yes?"
Looking at the plastic lens she gathered her strength and replied. "Hello. Linda?" She tried for her voice not to falter. "I'm Sheila, Caroline's sister. Dr. Camay called you two days ago to explain who I am". She refrained from speaking more. For a number of seconds there was no answer and Markovitch thought if she should ring the bell again until the door started to open.
The woman that stood by the door inside the house appeared to be the same age as Markovitch. Anyone passing by would probably have mistaken both as sisters. Their hair was of the same color, although Linda's was longer than Markovitch. They also shared the same perky chin and thin lips but the nose and deep eyes immediately reminded Markovitch of Johnson's facial expressions, especially in the moments where he stood silent and thinking before taking a decision.
Still looking at Markovitch in doubt and surprise, the young woman took the first step. "Hello". Her right arm was still holding the door as if she was unsure to let her in.
"Hi". Markovitch felt also uncomfortable, as she looked at the person that was her biological daughter.
"You're here". Linda's intonation told Markovitch that it wasn't a question but recognition of her existence. "I wasn't sure if I should do this also. But Dr. Camay convinced me otherwise in the last days".
"You were dead. She told me years ago that you and him were dead".
"Sometimes I wish I had remained that way. But it seems there are some things that we can't control". Her words made Linda jerk back and Markovitch wondered why she had reacted that way. But a moment later, she dropped her arm from the door and said. "I'm sorry for making you wait there. Would you like to come in?"
Five minutes afterwards they were seated in Linda's living room around a wooden table with cups of steaming coffee in front of them. Looking around in appreciation, Markovitch tried to make causal conversation. "Nice place you have here".
"Yeah, but I've worked hard to make every penny to pay for it. Still, it's a good place even tough Alex sometimes makes a point of making a fine mess around".
"Your son". Her grandson.
"He's out there playing. I didn't want for him to be here when he'll arrive. I haven't told him anything about this because I don't think he's able to understand. Hell, even I'm having a tough time".
"I understand". Markovitch knew that she wanted to see him but refrained from saying it for the time being. "Where's his father?"
That made Linda frown. "His father is dead. Alex never really met him since he was only a couple of months old". A painful memory crossed Linda's green eyes, making them shutter for a moment before she closed them.
To Markovitch it was apparent that, although a number of years had passed, the younger woman hadn't yet put the memories to rest. "I'm sorry. It must have been hard".
Linda shrugged her shoulders. "Nothing that no one can't get used to". So much like Erwin. The false bravado remembered Markovitch of one of his attitudes when he didn't want to admit that he had been hurt.
"I understand how you feel". She wished that she could hide the loss of him under a small white lie like Linda had done but everything was still too close. Camay had told her as a doctor that the best thing for her was to face the fact that Johnson was dead and go along with her life. But as a friend she had also told her that she would need time. Looking at Linda and her hidden fragility she wondered how much years it would require her.
"You mean....". Linda struggled with the word before it came out of her mouth. "...father".
"Yes. I'd wish that he could see you now".
"Colonel Johnson, the hero". A hint of sarcasm tainted Linda's voice. "That's how Tom called him. He and the rest of the Inquisitors at the office thought all of you to be heroes".
She had heard the expression before but hadn't paid attention to it. "Inquisitors? What are they?"
"You don't know? You sure have been out of this world, haven't you? Well, Tom believed that all evils on Earth came from the aliens. He and a number of others decided to do something about the Cult when it first appeared. At first they staged protests but things quickly got out of control and they turned into firebombing the Cult's offices and harass their members. At the time I also believed that they were right. Mom," She stopped for a moment then corrected herself. "I mean Caroline, had told me all about you and X-Com. How you and dad had fought on the war and had died on Mars to save us all from the aliens.
Most of the Inquisitors looked at X-Com with awe and respect also. You were martyrs for the most part and Tom even knew a soldier that had fought in the war. They all shared the same hate towards the aliens and things kept going worse, with more violence as each month passed. They would stalk known Cult members and give them a beating or even something worse. Until finally the Cult got tired and struck back at one of the meetings Tom used to attend at their office. He and most of his friends were killed and everyone knew who had done it but no one was ever able to prove the identity of the attackers. I just moved from Atlanta to here afterwards in case the Cult wasn't satisfied and wanted more revenge".
"I'm sorry...."
Linda stared back at her. "Well I'm not. I've stopped being sorry for a long time. When I grew up and Caroline explained to me who my biological mother was, I felt really proud of you had done in Mars. I guess that's why Tom and I got hooked up together. But when he died I decided that I just didn't want to care anymore". Her voice took an accusatorial tone "You can just take all your wars away for all I care and leave me and Alex alone".
"Linda, I didn't want all of this to happen". In fact she had never imagined that what happened could be possible, including talking to a daughter that had the same biological age as her.
She raised her hand. "Don't apologize, please. From what Dr. Camay and you told me I know that you're not to blame for all of this, at least directly. But I prefer if me and my son aren't involved into more of his either".
Markovitch recognized the passion inside of Linda. "If it helps I think Erwin would have been proud of you and what you've accomplished to be here today. I am".
The words made Linda froze in her chair. Then she dismissed then. "Yeah, well, I guess both grandparents made sure to tell us that a lot of times, especially grandpa Markovitch. They told me about both of you, but I had never expected to meet you in person". She shook her head. "I need to do some stuff now. Do you want something else?"
Her eyes looked up to Markovitch. "Oh, and I think I still have your personal belongings stored on the garage if you're interested on them. Mom gave them to me before she passed away". What else can I say? She didn't know so she simply nodded as the conversation ended.
Fifteen minutes later Markovitch was busy cutting the tape that sealed a cartoon box on the garage after Linda had dug the package from a pile of similar containers. She had them excused herself and gone into the house while Markovitch looked at the remains of her past life. The door that led into the parkway had been open and the late afternoon sun filled the inside of the room still gave enough light for her to see the inside of the box.
The first thing she saw was her old X-Com's dress uniform, with the dark gray fabric showing the signs of age, as some of the rims were worn out and the color was a little lighter than she remembered it. The jumpsuit still had the triple bar's insignia on the lapel to mark her former position as a captain and at the left breast her nametag was still attached. Taking it out she removed them a set of black combat boots. Searching through the inside she noticed that her black beret seemed to be missing and wondered where it could be but decided that the thing had plenty of time to be lost in forty years. However, she did find a package wrapped in red clothing that made her curious, all tied with a belt whose metal buckle had X-Com's X on a circle. When she removed it out of the box, the weight and the apparent shape told her immediately of what it was. Untying the knot, she carefully removed the clothing until a brown and red plasma pistol was revealed.
Markovitch was both surprised and contemplative as she remembered seeing the same type of weapon being used by both humans and aliens on the First War. The pistol was a relic from the conflict and she removed the cartridge still attached to it and confirmed that it was really dead. There was no Elerium left on Earth to power the weapon but it still made her wonder why X-Com had allowed that a piece of alien technology had been sent in the middle of her personal belongings. Until as she felt the weight of the pistol on her hand she noticed the chromed plaque attached to the side of the barrel. Moving towards the entrance of the garage to read it better she finally managed to read the small words written there.
"In the memory of Colonel Erwin D. Johnson, commander X-Com North American team ? KIA 3/9/02".
She nearly dropped the inactive weapon as she realized that it was Erwin's sidearm, the same that he had used to kill the Brain on Cydonia after he had seen her dying. The thing suddenly seemed to weight a ton on her hand and her arm started shaking. "What is that?" The child's voice made her raise her head and she saw her grandson Alex standing on the parkway and looking at her and holding a basketball on his hands.
"Nothing. Just an old toy". She started to wrap again the clothing over the weapon as he moved into the garage, still looking in curiosity at the package on her hands.
"I saw one of those on holovision before. The skinny little people use them on the films to fight the soldiers?".
Was is he talking about?" The child nodded. "Mom doesn't want me to see them but sometimes I sneak out. Do you fight them?" The question made her stare at the kid in front of her. "One of what?"
"The Littl'Alien Story" He added a moment later realizing her confusion. "Poid the Sectoid who has been isolated from his family from the bad human soldiers and is trying to get back to his ship?"
She just couldn't believe what she had just heard. She looked at him in puzzlement and he started to innocently explain. "They are in the holovision also besides the toys the other kids have. Captain Fury is my favorite. On the last episode she used her powers to control one of the aliens..."As the kid continued to describe what seemed to be an episode of a cartoon series depicting how the soldiers had made the UFO ran away and leaving Poid stranded on Earth she decided that she had heard enough. Markovitch shook her head as she finished putting back her gear in the box and sealing it. "That's funny Alex but now go back to playing with your ball". She finally said, making her grandson to look at her with a hurt face.
She sighed. Things keep going great don't they, Sheila? Do you really expect him to be able to understand why you are so stressed? The answer to her first question was not easy to accept but for the second one she decided that her grandson didn't have to put up with more than he already must have. "I'm sorry Alex. I didn't want to hurt you there". She smiled at him hoping that it would help but he simply lowered his head and walked to the outside. Her head also dropped to the box she was holding and realized that it had been the pistol that had made him so excited. She wondered how Linda would react if she knew that her son was seeing the Littl'Alien Story.
I can't take them along with me to wherever I'm going. All of this belongs to a past that is dead but that will always be present upon us. She placed the box back on the floor and covered it with all of the junk that had been hiding it before. Maybe she'll find more use to this. I don't need this stuff anymore.

September 11th, 2044
Atlanta, Georgia, US

"Heya Boss". Every time Williams came down to the office of the chief of advanced projects department he didn't knew if he should laugh or wonder how Jake Landon could still live in the past nowadays. Then he remembered that the vast majority of humans kept themselves to that way and even more in the rough times.
He might have entered a visishow picturing the typical environment of the 1960's for all he cared as he passed the doors, although the devices weren't that good at reproducing the scent of burning incense. The person he was going to meet had simply waved at him when he had walked inside as the sixty year old man stood seated on chair that looked more like a big living furry animal and typing commands on the air. Landon's hair and beard had turned salt and pepper over the years and he had a sweaty bandanna over his forehead. Long strands of humid air came down his head and over a leather vest that he was wearing. The walls and floor were completely covered with handmade Moroccan and Afghani carpets that were authentic, some of it worth several millions of neodollars. Amongst other paraphernalia spread around the room he found lava lamps that blew milky cocoons into blue and green seas together with some pieces of hardware. Although most of the people who knew Jake Landon called him a hippie, Williams quite disagreed with them since he was one of the best-paid employees at Cyberweb. And he had no problems in spending his money in a big capitalistic way.
Landon had worked with the original team of scientists that had broken the UFO's ship systems on the First War at Area 51. Williams considered that 'worked' could actually not be the exact term, since X-Com had discovered that he had broken into a couple of networks while still in college and had offered him a chance: help to decipher alien code or spent the next decade or so in jail. The then young man had quickly agreed and had helped them to crack the transmissions being sent from the UFOs.
And his accomplishments in programming had quickly been picked up by Williams after the war, which also had taken computer science at the university. His older brother Terry had shown him some of Landon's and had quickly recognized the potential. Their partnership had created a new operating system and microprocessors that were light years away from anything at the market then. Cyberweb was now the prime computer company on the entire world and Williams and Landon were the head and the heart for it, literally.
As Williams approached Landon, he wished that the slightly fat man had opened a window because of the smoke all around. "Hey Jake. How was the rocket parachuting yesterday?"
"I was needing it. Finally know what you asked me about that new stuff but you had already left. I actually nearly made it to the Oklahoma this time". Rocket parachuting was considered the closest thing to flying for a human. It consisted of strapping a small rocket engine in the legs after leaving the plane and using it to go as much faster and away before you had to pull the cord for the chute. It had been developed originally by the military as a possible mean to infiltrate special operations teams without over flying hostile airspace. Although the Army had dropped the project because of the risks it involved, the technique had been quickly adopted as a recreation sport. However, like the military had discovered, it proved to be one of the most dangerous sports with several dozen people dying every year on accidents where the rocket would suffer a problem or they wouldn't be able to reduce their speed enough to safely deploy their parachute. Together with low-orbit free falling it had been the danger sport of the last decade and apparently of this one also. "And?" Landon had a tendency to either leave the sentences half finished or full of a technical jargon that sometimes even he had a difficulty to understand.
The other man put his hands down and the visipics around him ceased, allowing Williams to see him clear. "Boss, first pass me the towel where you have just seated yourself on please?" Opening his legs, Williams saw a dark blue towel against the colored sofa where he had just sat. He pulled it you and threw it towards Landon who grabbed it on the air and used it to clean his face. "Great nature, it's hot today".
Williams smeared. "You could try putting the air conditioner on or open some of the windows. What have you thought of the device I've brought you?"
Lowering the towel to the back of his neck and holding it with two hands, Landon thought for one second before replying. "The good news: it might crackable".
As Landon reached down and grabbed a bottle Williams asked. "Might". He considered it for a moment before making the obvious follow up question. "And the bad?"
"I have no idea how long it will take. And there are portions of it that we don't have any idea of what they are for. Plus we are going to need some better than Ruuvi on icon semantics. He's good to cleat out the details but he has failed to get some sort of a general picture about what we are seeing. When I get somebody who can start recognizing patterns on the code we can have an idea of the work in front of us".
Williams thought of it for a minute then asked. "How much are the differences between the alien navigation system that they used on the first war and this one I've brought you?"
"Better if I simply show you". His hand started flickering on the air and the motion detectors built into the hidden electronic systems around him activated one holovision screen on the air. The excited air particles showed a symbol that seemed a mixture of Arabic and geometrical patterns. "For instance, this is the representation of the command used to define the altitude constant on the UFOs. And this" Another movement of his hand and a similar character appeared but only the curvy lines remained, although a bit blurred. "Is the equivalent of it on the navigation system used by the alien subs. Try to pick the differences if you feel up to. There's only about a hundred or so".
"An upgrade of the system they used?"
"Upgrade my ass. The stuff every human uses when a computer is turned on is the upgraded version. We designed it using the system that the aliens used to run their UFOs. Now this". He made the blurred thing to vanish on the air. "This is useless until we can figure out how it works. I'm actually not sure if I should call this another version or simply a completely different thing. There are portions of it which are common but in some cases I've seen code that is completely 'alien' if you don't mind the expression".
"And so, can you estimate how long it will take? We are going to need this Jake and the sooner the better".
"I know but those Council fascists should have allowed us access to this technology sooner. The guys at SORESO didn't even bothered with it and in my opinion they were right because they would have no idea where to start. How come you managed to get this stuff anyway? Or this one of the things I shouldn't ask?"
He shut off the rest of the visiprojection and Williams smiled. "Actually we're not breaking the law here. The Council decided to subcontract a company on the private sector to perform a preliminary analysis on the new systems since they decided that it would reduce costs. I simply made sure that Cyberweb was the one selected".
Landon shook his head in mock reproval. "You're the one Davis should have busted years ago and sent for long term in a federal penitentiary". And the former FBI Subdirector would most likely do so if he knew about it but he had passed away for more than ten years now, Williams considered. Landon eyes opened in horror as he remembered something. "I hope that doesn't mean that I'm going to have Council supervision here...."
His tone was menacing but Williams made him easy. "Don't worry. This thing has top priority, at least on my opinion. If Alkeviades gets down here just have Ruuvi to make a presentation to him of how things are going. A tutorial on icon semantics should wave him off. And that reminds me, be sure to hide the physical integration and implementation away from him until it's ready".
"That will be easy since we're not going to make any for the present being. A lot of the problems we're having also come from the fact that this code is meant to use with the magnetic propulsion they use. And I we won't be able to help much on that department. This is something completely new Boss, to use magnetic waves to run a system. It won't be easy to figure it out".
"Jake, just give it a look OK?" The other man grimaced and held the towel with his hands again.
"Don't tell me you're hoping that we might get lucky and find out that the only difference is the fact that one used Elerium and this one uses Zrbite?". His tone was ironical. "Do I look like a rocket doctor Boss? You'll have to find someone else to do that" Slowly closing his eyes Williams grinned at the other man's disbelief. "I was just trying to cut some of the overhead expenses".