X-COM: Abyssal

by Hobbes
X-COM: Abyssal
Chapter Seven ? The Devil's Disciple

"Inquisitors, The

The origin of the Inquisitor movement is very much related to the appearance of the Cult of Sirius pro-alien religion. But, unlike them, the Inquisitors never made a point of publicly defending their anti-alien views. Instead, they chose to take direct action against anything or anyone related to the aliens. It is believed that the pro-alien propaganda of the Cult was one of the key factors related to the appearance of the Inquisitor movement, which capitalized in the extraterrestrial resentment following the First Alien War. Some reports claim that former X-COM veterans instigated the reply to the Cult, although the organization wasn't implicated in any way in the creation of the group.
No matter what the original founders were, the Inquisitor movement started in North America and soon extended throughout the globe. Its actions were motivated by an extreme xenophobia and the desire to lash out at any alien remains on the planet or any use of their technology, but the group effectively lacked any coherent leadership or coordination. Several interest groups, ranging from environmental fanatics to former veterans of the war, composed the Inquisitors, each one its own agenda .Their activities ranged from peaceful boycotts to any products derived from alien technology to the bombing of the Gauss Tower in the 2020's, a corporate headquarters responsible for several consumer products based on the aliens.
As the Inquisitors ideas begun to spread, it was obvious that they where heading for a frontal collision with the Cult of Sirius, who was going through its own expansion during this period. The initial uncontested assaults upon the Cult's members and the burning of their facilities by angry mobs soon escalated into open warfare between both groups, as the governments watched helplessly. The near civil war only ended in 2036 with the defeat of the Inquisitors. In that year the Cult launched a well-organized offensive to break the stalemate and disabled their few physical and electronic installations, killing the majority of their leaders and supporters. As public opinion roared against their criminal actions, the hard-pressed governments managed to regain control of the situation by imposing a crack-down on all Inquisitor-Cult violence. In years, the Inquisitor movement soon sunk into oblivion, with its few remaining members hiding from view. Although their disappearance is still much debated nowadays with the renewal of hostilities with the aliens, their existence as an organized movement belongs now to history."

- X-COM's UFOPedia

October 24th, 2044
Madhouse Rock, Western Pacific

One could say that Lieutenant Commander Parkenson was mad but Markovitch knew otherwise as she waited stiffly in attention at the officers' mess while Parkenson blinked her eyes to try to compose himself. Seated next to him, Chief Petty Agnello was silent, his attention apparently out of the room, but occasionally he would tap his left jacket pocket, where Markovitch knew that he had a rosary there. He had been at the sub pen when the Triton carrying the remains of third squad had docked and as the members of other squads took away the bodies of Mellow, Gutierrez and all the others he had taken out the marble rosary from that pocket and made the aquanauts stop as he made the sign of the cross over while blessing them.
The ride back from Kodiak Island to Madhouse had been tough with few sentences spoken between the remaining members of her squad. Half of them had been killed, most of it by the alien grenades that had went off on the landing zone. The fighting on the First Alien War had been brutal and there had been cases of entire squads or platoons being wiped out but not under Markovitch's command. As the soldiers sat and waited for Books to bring them back home she had contemplated the body bags on the back of the cargo bay of the craft in silence, wondering if that particular catastrophe could have been avoided.
Due to the losses suffered 3rd Squad had been pulled out of the active roster since there were only now five members still ready for combat with Kern still on the medical bay recovering from the sonic round that had injured him.
"Seaman Anne Watkins". Parkenson's voice seemed to falter. "You've been already promoted to Able Seaman rank as you know. However and due to necessity I've requested that you'll be further bumped into Leading Seaman as soon as we get replacements for the losses your squad contained". That was a surprise for her but she kept her face locked. "Understood, sir". Then she added. "May I ask why? There are other senior enlisted aquanauts still available"
Parkenson nodded. "You will serve on an acting basis Watkins: you'll get the grade but your paycheck remains the same until you prove you're fit for the position".
"Petty Renton asked for you to lead one of the fireteams". Agnello interrupted. "Marsden and Kern will be in charge of the other two but he considered that, despite the fact that Able Seaman Teller had seniority over you, it would be wiser to have someone else in charge. Lt. Commander Parkenson and myself agreed with his assessment since the other squads can't spare any experienced NCOs". Markovitch nodded: no one really wanted to see Crazy T in charge of anything other than his weapon. The man was borderline psycho while in combat. "Teller agreed with the recommendation although he asked to be placed under your command".
That nearly made Markovitch sigh since she wasn't too fan of having a soldier with his characteristics in combat: things could get really out of hand and having someone that unreliable could really backfire on the entire team. Parkenson scowled at her question but Agnello gave her a rock face. "They have all declined. Teller says that you'll make a better job at keeping your team alive...but the others say exactly the opposite".
A smug run through Parkenson's mouth at Agnello's description as he remembered her official records. Markovitch wasn't too surprised with the assessment: she had heard it before a number of times, even before joining X-COM. Although Agnello knew nothing of her real identity his expression didn't reveal what was his real opinion about which category she fitted. He simply gazed at her until Parkenson dismissed her.  

Norfolk, Virginia, US

"Subject of this recording: analysis of specimens' #479/3 and 479/6, namely two corpses, of a Deep One and a Gillman recovered last month. Scientists present: Dr.   Camay and Dr. Elliquist". As she finished speaking to the tape recorders built into the examination's room wall she removed the plastic cover off the first examination table, revealing a green figure of a Deep One, first revealing its muscular legs.
"Gosh, what a stench" Elliquist flinched backwards as the upper body of the alien was uncovered, as a foul smell started to spread around the room. It also brought a feeling of nausea to Camay even after her considerable time examining these biological monstrosities. Deep Ones were notorious for the smell of their entrails, even after they had been into cold storage for months. It was something rotten but familiar at the same time since they had once been human beings before serving as baby food for an alien larva that had been impregnated to the body while the person was still alive. The rest of the cover came off, showing a humanoid figure whose flesh and skin had a greenish tone from the by products released by the larvae as it grew. On its upper arm and close to the shoulder there were still the traces of a tattoo, another proof of the human origin of the hybrid. Its neck was barely gone, with the head hiding between hunched shoulders and having instead of a nose a pink trunk like an elephant's that hung limply over its neck.
"Get used to it Doctor, if you want to keep researching the aliens. Haven't you ever been on an autopsy before?" Camay wondered if Elliquist was going to throw up over the examination table since his face seemed to be turning of the same color of the alien.
"Yes, well I mean we saw it from a distance and through a window". So far Elliquist had been a nuisance: the young scientist was usually late for the meetings, didn't seem to care much about his personal appearance, as his unshaved chin showed and made all hypothetical conjectures, without caring to support them with facts. But he had been the one that had first made her think about the possibility that the Gillmen weren't tailor made by the Aquatoids and she gave him credit. Plus it would be a way to satisfy his curiosity into finally seeing the object of his studies in person, since he had flooded her office with requests, which if polite in manner were distracting and starting to become annoying.
Grabbing a surgical mask from a metal table nearby she gave it to him as she decided to wear one herself. "Well, it's well dead. It won't bite you now. Now grab please give me that scalpel to cut those stitches". After receiving the surgical instrument she used it to unseal the openings cut into the body by a previous examiner. The front of the creature showed the remains of a grid-like covered built into the flesh, another evidence of the alien's manipulation.
Hesitantly, Elliquist poked at the hard skin with a gloved finger. "What is that? Some sort of garment?"
"It's actually grown into the body. The alien embryo somehow manages to metabolize a structure similar to the aqua-plastic construction materials used by the aliens on their subs. The aqua-plastic armor developed by the SORESO teams and used by the troops is actually based on it".
"How come this corpse is all mangled? Don't they have a better specimen for us to examine?"
She tried not to give the tone of lecturing them but his face told her that she wasn't completely successfully. "The corpses in better condition are all sold by the Council to universities or private research facilities. I'm afraid both these specimens are all we have available at the moment". With a determined motion she cut the stitches and used her hands to open the chest of the creature. "As you can see, most of their inner organs have suffered major transformations and are nearly beyond recognition: the lungs seemed to have collapsed while the digestive tract is gone and the swollen liver seems to have taken all metabolic functions. Also there are new organs that allow the creature to generate a strong electric current, like an electric eel, which they use as their main attack weapon. Also the brain cortex has been heavily modified with implementation of alien technology".
"This creature is a hellish jigsaw puzzle, Dr. Camay".
"Yes". She moved her hands to the head and pulled open the eyelids revealing a pair of dead human brown colored eyes. "They pretty much change everything to their own design. The eyes they left untouched for some reason though".
"What are those for? They seem to wired to all these organs". Elliquist pointed at a small gold and black device attached to one of the creatures' inner belly. Camay tried to keep her voice neutral. "We are not sure".
"Not sure? What do you think they are?"
"Well..: the SORESO team suspected them to be control units to monitor and manipulate the creature using their...molecular control powers". That was only half-truth but it would be enough to satisfy Elliquist' curiosity, she considered, as she took a power cord from a drawer and connected it to a socket on the wall. "Watch". She took the white cord loose end were two plugs were out and connected it to a device standing on the Deep One dissected leg. The green hip started trembling and the whole leg stiffened until she removed the cord. "Very interesting". Elliquist commented but before he could make any more questions she pulled back the cover over the creature and moved to the next examination table saying to get his attention: "But here's what you wanted to see for so long".  
A two meter tall Gillman, whose helmet shaped head still showed the entry wound of a harpoon, was laying on the table, with his mouth clenched as if he had died painfully. "This specimen is well-built like most of their race, impossible to determine his age but he is a fully sexually matured Gillmen" Elliquist managed to make a curious look in spite of his repulsion towards the dead alien body. "How do you know that?"
She cocked an eyebrow. She cocked an eyebrow. "Well, some physical male characteristics are quite recognizable, especially since they get swollen out of water". Pulling the rest of the plastic sheet off the Gillman's body the look on the xenophologist eyes' told her that he had seen exactly what she meant, which didn't was also something that didn't please her very much. As she pulled back the cover over the aliens' body he caught his breath and tried to compose his scientific posture.
"I had seen references to their differentiated sexes but they speak in a way that some of the other xenophologist classify as more platonic than physical, although I always thought otherwise. Do you think they still could generate offspring?"
"We have detected common gene markers on their DNA that show the existence of particular genetic lines. However, so far every new specimen has proved itself to have a genetic copy elsewhere on the planet so we're assuming that all of them have been cloned. Thus we never saw a Gillmen child and most likely we never will".  
"That would definitely mark them as different for some people, doctor. Unlike Sectoids and Aquatoids these aliens would be more familiar to us".
"Until we find proof of such offspring or that a Gillwoman show unequivocal marks of having given birth that is all speculation, Dr. Elliquist".
"How do you explain that then". He pointed towards the groin area of the covered dead body.
"It's not enough to have it unless you can prove that he was going to use it for that purpose. Who knows? Maybe they thought better than the Aquatoids before tossing out sex and the pleasure derived from it completely. Or it could be something as our wisdom teeth or coccyx bone: leftovers from evolution".  
"OK, I can agree with that Dr. Camay. But the Aquatoids could also have engineered their dismissal of sexual reproduction after their conquest of the Gillmen".
"You're speaking of conjectures, Mr. Elliquist. That's not science. If you have an hypothesis you need facts to prove your theory, at least that how it works in pure sciences".
"Yes, but what about the control devices that you showed me on the Deep One? Are they still present on the Gillmen?" Again Camay was uncomfortable but she responded. "Yes. But again what is their relevance? All other species we encountered show them. Like I said we suspect that they are used to connect each individual alien to their network although we never understood how it worked".
"Well, what I do not understand is this: the Gillmen are native to this planet but they have been conquered by the Aquatoids, sometime in the past. The Aquatoids are also an older branch of the Sectoid species. You told me that humans and Gillmen have close genetic similarities and we know that our own evolution was influenced by the Sectoids but why didn't the same happened to the Gillmen when they were conquered by the Aquatoids as the present theory says? Why weren't they changed even more?"
She considered his words for a few minutes, gesturing him to stop talking. The younger scientist ideas had given her a lot to think of lately. Everyone had assumed first that the new aquatic aliens were remains of the first invasion that had adapted to living underwater and had created new species to serve them such as the Calcinites and Deep Ones. No one had bothered to explain several features of the Gillmen that didn't fit this picture until now and it had simply been assumed that they had came also from space or that they were the result of more of the aliens' genetic manipulations.  
"They have lived on Earth for a very long time, probably even developed here and were conquered by the Aquatoids/Sectoids, they weren't brought in from outer space millions of years ago. The aliens didn't make any attempt to change our culture".
"But that assumes that an intelligent species was living on this planet for thousands of years without any records from it on human history. In fact, they probably have an earlier claim to Earth than us, if you would believe on that". Camay winced at Elliquist's words. Despite the fact that the genetic research now showed very likely that the Gillmen dated millions of years ago still found it hard to believe.
"And Gillmen can live on land: it would be natural that they would go to land since they're intelligent and battlefield reports shown them to have curiosity. There had to be some interaction before....so why would they only come out now? Because of the aliens? Why didn't we have reports of them from before?"
"This is all circumstantial again, Dr. Elliquist". She was feeling frustrated with the differences between both their methods, considering that the younger man was more given to conjectures and speculations than pure scientific work. "It is unlikely that another civilization could be living on this planet for millions of years, but it isn't impossible, if you consider that for thousands of years the aliens visited this planet and only on the last century did we become aware of that there were other intelligent species on this universe. I'm starting to think that either they kept themselves out of human sight until now. It would make sense, given our own aggressive nature. Until the past thirty years mankind has kept itself mostly out of the oceans. If you feel threatened you react: that's a basic survival instinct".
"Yes, but there are a number of conclusions that can be taken: one, the talk about a division between the Aquatoids and the Gillmen is puff. If their molecular network functions as the way the Brain did on the First War, even if there's friction between both races, the fact that they're all connected into what you call their 'molecular network' makes it highly unlikely that they would have either the will or the means to shake off their enslavement. Second, even if that is possible, then most likely we would have to face them in war as well, since we're moving into their territory and I don't believe any of us would be willing to share resources, especially taking into account what the world situation is. Third, this take-over of the aliens could have happened on the past centuries, something I find improbable, but not impossible since no sightings of both Aquatoids/Gillmen and their technology were recorded for forty years after the end of the first war or before that".
Camay still didn't want to believe what she was hearing but by now she had to realize that what the young man was saying made sense for the first time. "The take-over happened on the past, millions of years ago? But how?"
"The DNA shows that the Gillmen are millions of years old. Most likely the Aquatoids are also the Sectoids antecessors and have been visiting Earth for longer than anyone of us have ever expected. For some reason they have kept dormant until so far or out of sight, probably only decided to come out after the Brain on Cydonia was destroyed".  
But Camay had remembered something else, although she didn't speak it to Elliquist. The last alive alien on the Brain's chamber at Cydonia.
Her memory went back to that day. They were standing on the large metal chamber, trying to get close to the mass of organic tissue and machinery that dominated the end of the room. The last alien had shot Colonel Johnson a second time but instead of running or taking cover it had run towards a control panel and activated a beacon that had been transmitted to Earth before the antennas on the Face had been destroyed by the remaining Avengers. What was it doing? A cold feeling came down her spine.
Her last phrase had made her stop in shock. An underwater army waiting to be activated!? But why only after the defeat at Cydonia? Why hadn't the aliens used them before to fight during the first war? It didn't made sense other for the fact that the aliens had acted conspicuously and it fit that pattern. But it also meant...
A migraine started to come to Camay's head and she hoped she wasn't getting senile. The younger scientist looked more like a bulldozer in all she and X-COM had believed so far over the aliens. She still found it unbelievable of how the SORESO scientists had missed it but it also made sense because the previous theory was more plausible. Until now.  "You know what that means?"
"Yes, I know what it means". Elliquist smiled. "Good luck: I wouldn't want to be the one explaining to the Inspector General or to the Council that their salvation theory of the Gillmen becoming our allies has just been thrown out the window. Also they wouldn't be too happy when they realized that the threat is much bigger than they ever dared to imagine".
I wonder if you're aware of the truth on your last observation. Camay sometimes deeply disliked the younger scientist's opinions and attitude, not to mention his appearance but she was also deeply concerned that her reaction was simply anger for not having thought of it before. Covering the Gillmen she hurried Elliquist out of the storage room and went to her office. She needed to talk to Williams as soon as possible.

October 25th, 2044
Vladivostok, Eurasia

"There live the unconverted, the lost souls who are living under the oppression of their human condition and faithless leaders". Xhin kept quiet at Vassilev's words with a silent nod being his only answer as his eyes skimmed through the cold Pacific waters around the hovercraft. The Russian was a good brother, although sometimes he would get too idealistic on his ideas. He had of course raised some objections to this meeting until Vassilev had assented to its realization.
Cult of Sirius had tried previously to contact the aquatic aliens but their attempts had been frustrated first by a lack of response then later by a clear disregard by the aliens who had shown no restrains on attacking Cult facilities and members in case they were on the line of fire.
The defection of Australasia, the nation that compassed Australia, New Zealand and most of the Pacific islands nearby along with New Guinea, however had opened a window of opportunity to finally establish contact with the aliens. Eurasia was one of the few countries that still maintained diplomatic relations with Australasia due to the large number of Cult followers amongst its population and after months the ambassador had finally brought a positive reply to Xhin and Vassilev's requests for parlays with the aliens. Of course, neither the Eurasian government had been informed nor would they have allowed it in their territory so Xhin and Vassilev had taken a commercial flight to the Vladivostok on the Kamkatcha peninsula where they had boarded a large hovercraft that was being manned completely by Cult personnel.
The Unidentified Submersible Object lifted out of the water as if pulled up by an invisible divine hand. Unlike a VTOL craft it made no sound save for the cascade of water raining down its sides as it felt back into the ocean. Roughly arrow shaped, the craft hang on the air close to the open cargo area of the hovercraft and the entire crew stopped on their tracks and was looking silently at the sight of the USO as it started circling them while keeping its bow pointed at the larger craft. Xhin barked an order for everyone to resume their duties and stay out of sight while Vassilev looked weary at the sight of the alien craft keeping a close watch at them with its weapons as it went around.
When it completed its turn the commander of the craft must have decided by then that the humans had been warned enough already as it turned on its axis to present its stern and the doors located there. "Impressive". Xhin commented as it started coming down to land at the steel platform in front of them.
"Indeed". Vassilev wasn't thrilled. "Who do you think it's flying it? The so called Gillmen?"
"That's the whole question isn't it? If there's really a split amongst them as X-COM believes then we will be facing either the Aquatoids or the Gillmen. If it's the first it's possible that we can reach an understanding with them, if they are indeed the antecessors of the Sectoids".
"They are liars. We already know that".
"Both of us know that we can't grasp their reasons. For such is their divine nature".
"Brother, for once I had mistaken you for a mystic". As the door opened the exchange ceased as both of them either expected a short Aquatoid or a tall Gillman, according the information available about both races. What they found waiting for them inside surprised both of them as two armored figures moved towards them.