X-COM: Abyssal

by Hobbes
North Pacific

The alien attack on Kodiak Island had been raging for hours while the Triton from Madhouse Rock was traveling towards the location as the base had been immediately alerted.
Petty Mellow was standing by the flight console on the cargo area and holding a heavy Gauss rifle instead of his usual torpedo launcher. Markovitch had never seen one of those so far. The weapon seemed cumbersome but he seemed to have to problem carrying it although the scowl on his face showed that he was worried and so was Markovitch. Gutierrez had explained to her that the harpoon weapons like her rifle would still work over water but she still felt unsure about using it on a conventional fight. Plus they were using their water suits and their light blue color completely dismissed any thoughts of camouflage plus the lack of their helmets meant that their heads were completely unprotected.
"Like fish on dry land hum?" Kern stood next to her as always but instead of the jet harpoon cannon he had switched like the others to a gas cannon whose shells were propelled by a long burst of the charge on housed on their bottom.
"These clam heads back at base have no notion of reality. We could fight better if we had conventional weapons and flak jackets".
"Yeah, file a complaint Watkins. Who knows, maybe they will listen to ya. And while you're at it ask also for world peace". Kern stood at his feet like the rest of the others and holding one of the several leather straps that hung from the ceiling. A sudden hop made him stagger and she had to move and grab him on the shoulder to help him steady. The tip of the barrel of his weapon also poked at Ensign Costa's face, who glazed in annoyance at them. The Colaecanth tank was completely useless, except for the Aquatoids to have some target practice, since its torpedo launchers were designed to work inside water. So Mellow had to press the entire squad into service, including the helpless officer who was supposed to be the deputy commander of the entire unit.
But both Markovitch and Kern quickly ignored the officer as everyone inside the Triton was suddenly projected sideways as the flying craft made a quick change of course. "Ensign, where the hell are you taking us?" Mellow was angry enough and looked at the wall on the direction of the cockpit, although he couldn't access it since it was sealed from the main body of the Triton. "Turn back to that LZ! Now"
The reply came soon afterwards as the pilot finally steadied the flying sub. "No can do petty. The Militia's commander ordered us off by the radio". He spoke in a casual manner but Mellow's answer was more emphatic as his head started turning red, something that didn't went unnoticed by many of the soldiers as they eavesdropped in the conversation to try to find out what was going on. "Tell the Militia to go screw themselves! This is our jurisdiction" Mellow apparently had forgotten that Books had command of the mission until he dropped them off, after which they weren't any of his concern anymore, only the craft.
"Petty, hold on your pants". Quite a few soldiers felt the urge to laugh at the officer's comment since but by now they had all activated the tactical radios that they used on the low-depth missions where they breathed oxygen instead of the liquid fluorocarbon mix. No one dared although a couple of grins were passed through as Mellow addressed the squad inside the flying sub as it turned to a different heading.  
"We just got reassigned. The remaining aliens broke through the Militia cordon that was keeping them pinned to the storage areas. They're moving back into the port facilities and the Militia wants us to stop them until they can reorganize". That seemed to make things clear for Mellow who signaled everyone to lock and load their weapons.
"Shit" Gutierrez comment was low but still audible to the rest of his team's members as he flipped a clip into his Gauss rifle. They were the first team to deploy, meaning that they had to cover the side of the Triton's door and bring down any aliens that might interference with the landing.
"Hey, no big problem right? We'll just have to hold them back?" Both Kern and Markovitch looked at Vantauskas. The Lithuanian rookie was looking in anticipation for his third mission, having survived his first two without a scratch. She was a little expectful that he would make it past the five mission limit but she couldn't have much hope. Most of the rookies she had known during her months here were dead and several had been sent back to shore with something missing from their bodies, usually the limbs. One of the casualties had half his bowels dissolved by a sonic round but he had been stabilized quickly enough and had made it back to a hospital where a series of long surgeries had fixed whatever remained of his intestines.
"Almost kid". She was at least fifteen years older than him. "We'll have to hold them back...at any cost if this fight is going to end". As he considered that thought the radio from the cockpit buzzed again with the voice of Books. "Petty, we're right on the LZ. See that building on the right at two o'clock? The space between it and the tower? I can bring you right down there. It seems clear of any aliens".
Without waiting for a reply the Triton dropped down, its boxy shape shaking as the atmospheric engines turned into vertical landing mode. The vibration made all the aquanauts inside to grab the leather straps even tighter and Markovitch muttered to herself that even the Skyrangers were a smoother ride than the half-breed sub/plane that they were using.
When the craft finally touched on the ground the bump was felt over the entire hull, as the Triton lacked either wheels or landing skis and rested on its bottom. "Kern, Watkins, right side. Me and Vantauskas will take left". Right after Gutierrez's words the door slid to the side and her fireteam immediately stepped out into the harbor.
A light drizzle and mist hung upon the air, with the Sun partially blocked by the clouds, already forming small puddles of water on the concrete. To her right Markovitch saw a empty checkpoint, with the vehicle yellow and black barrier still down while a figure moved inside.
"Aquatoid! Two o'clock" She immediately called and Kern turned his bulky Gas cannon firing a round that broke through the glass window of the small hut, shattering it before the entire guardhouse burst into flame. Looking around she saw that Ensign Books had landed close to the bank of the harbor, with a high metal fence separating their position from the blue waters. That area was full of wood containers, oil barrels and a number of low metal walled buildings and a humanoid figure suddenly jumped into sight ten meters away from them.
First Markovitch confused it to be one of the dock workers but quickly the circular metal helmet and the brown uniform it wore told her otherwise. "Calcinite! Shit" A trooper from behind her gave the warning as her jet harpoon was already turning to aim on the alien terrorist.
Pressing the trigger the weapon shot a three-round burst but all missed the alien, instead hitting the crates and the metal wall behind the creature as it charged towards their location. Other aquanauts took a number of potshots as they rushed past her position, hitting it with at least one Gauss round that sent the creature spinning sideways.
But before she could take another shot, amidst the cracking noise of Sonic rounds and the lesser pitch of the sounds made by human weapons she heard something that made her turn towards the tail of the sub.
A small blue and red globe rolled as it fell on the ground, on the area nearby Gutierrez before a flash filled her vision and all battle sounds suddenly ceased to be heard. The blast wave of the sonic pulser threw Vankauskas towards her, pushing her to the ground with his body, as the side of the Triton was engulfed in a wave of flame as the sonic pulse from the alien grenade detonated the oil inside the barrels, setting off secondary blasts amidst the sound of another pulser explosion to the back of the Triton.
The explosions hit several X-COM aquanauts, most of them simply vaporized as the powerful blast hit their unprotected bodies. Petty Mellow was thrown into the metal fence but apparently his aqua-plastic armor protected him as he got up from the ground and started shouting orders as soon as he got up, while ensign Costa finally decided to step out of the Triton, looking in horror at the scene of mayhem and destruction before and freezing at the door, Vantauskas body was limp and as she started to push him away from him she noticed that blood was oozing out of his ears. Checking his pulse Markovitch discovered that he was dead.
"Jesus! Watkins, are you alright?" Kern approached her, still dazzled by the explosion as his face showed burn marks on his temples and forehead.
She didn't bother to answer and scrambled to get up after finding her jet harpoon rifle. "Where's Gutierrez?" As she looked to the area where their fireteam leader was standing less than a minute ago she only saw the mangled remains of his Gauss rifle, all blackened by the explosion. "Dead and Vantauskas also. Let's get out of here before more grenades start raining on us".
A cry of pain caught both soldiers' attention as Petty Mellow stumbled back into their sight, its dark blue aquaplastic armor scorched and twisted all over his torso and the white bone of his left shoulder socket barely visible between the black remains of what used to be his left arm. Costa froze at the sight of the crippled NCO as Mellow gathered its strength and approached him, his still intact right arm grabbing the ensign's back of his neck while his mouth was clenched and his white teeth cringed in pain. Then Markovitch and Kern watched as his eyes turned upwards and he collapsed.
"Oh Jesus" Costa stood petrified for a moment before he panicked and started on a run towards the metal fence. As he dashed Markovitch got up to his feet, while Kern rushed to the NCO's aid but quickly discovered that he was dead.
"Anyone out there? What is going on?" The voice of Books, who was on the cockpit of the Triton, came to her ears as she saw Costa jumping from the pier to the water and decided that the officer had actually taken a wise decision since it would be better if the junior officer stood out of this one.
"This is Watkins. Mellow is dead and Costa just turned chicken". Curses came over the line as the surviving squad members heard her grim announcement. Burton and Crazy T came from their position at the aft of the craft with the taller assistant seaman shoving Burton with his Gas cannon. "Ass wipe! You should have gotten that Aquatoid"
"What happened?" Markovitch demanded as it looked that the LZ was finally clear but at a grievous cost.
"This idiot can't shoot straight! He failed to get that alien that was lobbing those grenades at us! Barnby and Milinic are dead because of him" Then he looked at the corpses nearby and nearly threw himself at Burton but Markovitch stepped between both of them. "Shut up T! We got bigger problems now"
Then the tactical radio crackled with Renton's voice. "All teams! We're being pinned by aliens on the building to the bow of the Triton! We could use some help around here"
Looking around, she counted more two fallen bodies that Mellow had just checked and left alone. Of the fourteen aquanauts at least five, including their squad leader, were dead while Costa was out of the fight, leaving only her and the three soldiers around to deal with the aliens present on this section of the oil facility.
"Watkins, you better move your lovely ass to Renton and give him some help. I can't do much from here"
Get moving or no one will make it back. Immediately she jumped into action, shouting to the three soldiers."Follow me"
Oil mixed with the water on the wet floor turning it into a rainbow of colors as she and Kern rushed forward, with Crazy T and Burton on tow, past the cockpit of the Triton where Books was furiously trying to get the Triton back airborne. A sonic round whizzed above their heads before hitting the ground and making a smoking hole.
She saw Renton and Marsden taking cover on the metal pillars of the tower nearby the Triton and firing their weapons at the second floor of a white building whose walls were becoming pocketed with blast marks. Joining him below the flight of stairs that led into the upper level she asked. "How are we doing?"
"Bad". Renton stepped out of his cover and fired an auto shot at the building before hiding again. "Ballard and Ewing are dead. What happened back there? Where's Gutierrez?"
She shook her head. "We're the only ones left and that puts you in charge". Renton grimaced as he counted them and tried to decide on what to do.
"Watch out" The large head of an Aquatoid appeared on one of the windows and fired his Sonic Cannon at their direction, barely missing Marsden, who afterwards rushed from her position to the cover of one of the large low metal buildings that littered the area. She fired her rifle in response but the alien went back to cover.
"Any ideas Watkins?" The surviving aquanauts standing underneath the tower were trying to bring down the alien snipers on the building, along with the other team.
"We need to rush their position".
"Ballard already tried. A Calcinite on the ground floor ripped him into pieces as he stepped inside". Looking at Kern, who was trying to find a target for his Gas Cannon, her sight dropped to a orange painted clip on his belt. "Kern! Load up the phosphorous and lit the place up" First he looked at her in confusion but then he stepped back to the safety of a pillar as she called upon Crazy T to do the same with his weapon.
Turning toward her, Marsden asked defiantly. "Watkins, who the fuck put you into charge?" Mellow's angry voice came in reply.
Ignoring the female aquanaut and putting all her strength and determination on her voice she ordered. "Crazy T: switch to the ground floor afterwards. Burn the fuckers now"
For a second nothing happened then two rounds came flying towards the second floor and through the windows, with two short explosions afterwards that sent flames to the outside. Renton's voice came next, as both Crazy T and Kern switched fire to fill the inside of the building with fire: "Everyone, do as she says. Geady for them as they leave"
A loud shriek was heard and through the metal door on the floor the Calcinite came first, its brown diving suit filled with flame. Instantly the alien was fired upon and dropped by all X-COM soldiers, before it had even covered half the distance to the other team. One of the Aquatoids also rushed forwards a few moments later holding a Sonic Rifle and firing furiously at its human tormentors but the creature took shot from Markovitch's jet harpoon on its chest that rocked him backwards and it fell dead on the ground a couple of moments later.
"Let's move out" Renton's voice came next as the remaining Aquatoid came to one of the windows, its body on fire and trying in anguish to escape the smoke and fire hell that the second floor had turned into and jumped to the outside, landing on its head after a ten meter fall.
After going through the building and finding the burnt remains of another Aquatoid inside, Renton and Markovitch stopped inside the building and while they recharged their weapons he asked her. "OK, now what?"
"We hang out until the Alaskans get here. Find a strong position and fortify it". A crashing sound was heard from the above levels and both of them looked upwards. The other four aquanauts had spread around the room and were keeping an eye outside. "This place is coming down". At Renton's warning she rushed to an inner door, she kicked it open, finding only an empty office, with papers spread over the floor and pavement.
"Come here Renton" When the leading seaman got inside the office she pointed towards a long and low brick building that was close to the administration building, whose upper windows were still intact, with a metal tower standing behind it. "Sounds like home to me".
He looked unsure to the building and pointed towards the metal door on its front. "There's got to be another one on the other side".
"Fine. I'll circle it and take Kern with me. You and Crazy T rush the front. Marsden and Burton can cover us in case any alien shows up while we are approaching it".
"We got a plan. Good luck" Calling Kern, she stepped outside the administration building as the ceiling started to release smoke. The aquanaut's expression was less than thrilled but he readied his Gas cannon and moved behind her, each pair of soldiers rushing five meters before kneeling down while the other run to reach his position. Then they would repeat the process, taking cover on the metal containers spread around the dock. It took them less than thirty seconds to cover the distance and  meanwhile Books had informed them that the Alaskans were closing from that direction to link with the X-COM squad. He also said that Costa had apparently cooled off from the swim he had taken and had came back to the craft but since he was fearful that the ensign would panic again he had ordered the officer to remain inside the Triton.
When the four soldiers finally reached the eastern brown brick wall, Markovitch moved over to the back of the building but as she finally stepped into the other side a sonic round crackled from above and she hear a cry of pain behind her.
Her eyes scanned upwards and she saw an Aquatoid standing on the tower above them: apparently the alien must have waited for them to approached and his shot had hit Kern, who now retreated backwards, his hand gripping his stomach tightly. Pointing her harpoon rifle upwards she tracked the alien as it started to move back towards the small room on top of the tower and pressed the trigger.
But instead of the whizzing sound that she was expecting a small clank she heard briefly a small clank as the jet harpoon got stuck into something inside the yellow barrel and the compressed propellant discharged most of its power still inside the tube before the growing pressure finally forced the harpoon out of the barrel but not without the recoil kicking the weapon out of her hands.
Shit. The misfire on the barrel of the jet harpoon snapped the lightweight composite tube like a broken twig of a tree as she looked desperately at the weapon. A small dent near the ruined section told her what had happened: she must have inadvertently hit something on that location of the rifle's barrel and when she had discharged the weapon the jet-propelled round it had simply got stuck inside and the propellant had detonated there. She had never considered that the weapon's resistance would be lesser in the surface than in the war and therefore had never thought of taking extra care when holding the harpoon rifle on land. Why couldn't they just give us some old-fashion lasers! She immediately dropped the weapon and jumped to the direction of a wooden crate, since she was standing on open ground and the Aquatoid would easily pick her like shooting fish on a barrel.
A cracking sound and a small explosion to the top of the crate where she had just   taken cover told her that the Aquatoid hadn't forgotten about her. Throwing the useless weapon aside she crawled to the left and peaked.
The alien was still inside the cabin on top of the metal structure and seemed to have noticed that she wasn't firing back since he was right at the door and tracking for her. She immediately removed her head and a second later a small explosion carved a hole in the ground as the wailing sonic round barely missed her hair. "Fuck" She looked around to see where the positions of Kern or any other aquanauts were but found none. An explosion on the inside of the brick building on her back told her that there were aliens inside and that they might be stepping out of the metal door very quickly.
Her hands went to the hooks attached to her shoulder and to the small backpack. From one hook she removed a red and white can-shaped particle disturbance grenade and from her back she took a yellow and red stun rod that she quickly extended to its full size. A full automatic round of Gauss fire was heard on the inside of the warehouse and a window exploded into a million pieces. Apparently Renton and Crazy T were also having problems inside the building.
She was trapped if the aliens decided to escape the building: she couldn't get out of her position since the Aquatoid would gun her down from its advantage position if she tried to move. And any alien that stepped out of the door could easily shoot her before she had a chance of use any of her weapons. Act! Even if the chance is one to a million you can make it!
She could use the particle disturbance grenade to cover the door and make a run for the tower. If she could reach the underneath of the platform the alien wouldn't be able to fire at her. Tricky but it just might work, she considered as she got to her knees and reached for the harpoon rifle. Activating the white and red colored grenade she called loud to warn any soldier that might come out of the door.
"Prox at the back door" She called on the radio threw the grenade towards the door and it hit its surface before it landed on the ground and stood quiet. Will it work over water? She couldn't afford the thinking and threw the rifle to the left a second before she had also thrust to the other side, holding the red and yellow barrel of the thermal tazer on her hand. A double cracking sound caused the side of the crate next to her to burst into splinters and a sharp pain on her arm told her that something sharp had hit it. The alien apparently hadn't been fooled by the distraction but his shots had missed and she was already halfway and taking random turns of direction to make the Aquatoid's aim more difficult.
The alien still managed to release another shot before she reached the safety of the underneath of the tower but the shot went way over her head.
As soon as she only saw metal above her head she suddenly stopped although the sudden change of motion made her stumble while turning back towards the door. To her horror she saw that it was open and the red eyes on the small bulbous head of a Aquatoid were locked into her direction while the alien moved its green thin arms to point something that looked like a big water pistol at her that had a barrel a couple of centimeters wide. Stun launcher! That was the term for it during the first war and she had been already informed of its existence and equal effects on this war. It had been surprising to know how much the alien's weapons hadn't changed in terms of configuration from one war to the other but it was also frightening to think that the aliens had a weapon like the blaster launchers available on the first war.
She started moving towards one of the metal pillars for protection but as the alien lurched forward and fired the thermal shock launcher, the grenade detected its movement and detonated as the stun bomb was still gathering speed in the barrel at the section where the two circles that composed the weapon joined. The shot went completely off and hit one of the girders on the tower to her opposite direction but the blast as the round set itself off rushed past her on a feeling of heat bathing her immediately followed by a glacial cold sensation. The difference in temperature made her to feel as if she had just stepped into a cold shower after a very hot sauna and the pain on her arm increased enough for her to clench her teeth. As confusion and nausea overtook her for a second and during that time she saw that the blast had failed to take out the alien although it had been injured.
It wouldn't miss a second shot and she was too dazzled to move before the alien fired. The humming sound and a sudden crack made the alien face cringe with pain however and it dropped its weapon before falling dead to the ground. Thanks a lot whomever you are! Glancing upwards she remembered the upstairs alien. "Watch out" The white boots of the aqua-plastic armored soldier were the first thing she saw moving towards the door before the air between her and the trooper seemed to wave as a sonic round hit the chest of the leading seaman. The whipping crack jumped her into full alertness and she started moving towards the stairs that lead to the above cabin. More humming told her that the NCO was replying to the alien's fire. "Watkins! Stop right there" A voice called from the building making her stop as she had cleared the first flight of stairs.
They needed to root out the alien out of the cabin, she knew that and looked again at the next flight of metal stairs. The whole of her left arm felt wet and her hand was covered with warm moisture. I can deal with this later. As she begun moving forward again Renton's voice came back. "Stop dammit! Crazy T, get that fucker"
From a broken window on the side of the building she saw a brief vision of a yellow muzzle as it fired a gas propelled projectile that flew towards the cabin and through its open front door before hitting a metal wall and bursting the inside of the room. The explosion shook the flight of stairs and she lost her balance. As her feet tried to stay steady one of them sidestepped the metal of the stairs and she raced down towards the ground, with her arms trying to get a grip on the stairs. Her good arm managed to a grip solid enough for her to control the fall but as she felt her hand loosing the hold she had no choice but to drop into a hard landing on her feet. Still she immediately rolled over to deflect the momentum of the fall. When she finally stopped she was reminded again of the piece of metal slashed into her arm. Shit. I had forgotten that officers bleed like everyone else. Looking at the arm she saw a twisted fragment of metal standing out of a torn section just underneath the shoulder of her suit covered with blood. Guess I'll have to be back to the butcher shop.
With her right arm she reached for the shrapnel and in a brusque notion pull it off from the injury. The rawness and anger of her yell as the pain overtook her body surprised her and she quickly opened her eyes to see Renton moving to towards her. Over the bent section where he had been hit by the sonic weapon his eyes were scanning at her in bewilderment. "Gezz, Watkins. Who do you think you are? Trying to win a medal or something?"
Looking at the shard of the metal at her hand for a second before tossing it aside she replied. "Give me a hand here. My ankle is hurting also". Crazy T had also by now stepped out of the warehouse and was looking at her with surprise as Renton gripped her extended hand and pulled her up to her feet.
As she steadied up he ejected the empty clip of ammo from his silver Gauss rifle and replaced it with a new one slamming it into the opening on the barrel of the weapon. "You know it's easier to get a full case medal here than the ones they pin at your chest don't you?" His face was half-amused, half speechless at her.
"Full case medal?" Her weapon was useless and she didn't bother to check it again. "Yeah, for some reason they ship the bodies back to shore on metal coffins".
Looking back to her discarded weapon she decided to pick it back up from where it stood on ground behind Crazy T and Renton. But instead her eyes went open wide as another door was slammed open and a brown figure with a metallic head stepped out and rushed forward towards Renton with its powerful metal claws ready to strike the leading seaman.
The Calcinite's first swab cut through his backpack like a razor on paper rocking him forwards as she started to move towards him with her stun rod. Crazy T also immediately jumped into action but as he pointed his gas cannon towards the helmet of the figure she realized in horror that the weapon was loaded with high-explosive shells and that the blast would take out both humans and alien.
Then suddenly the alien's suit exploded as a Gauss round found it, sending the alien crumpling down to the ground, where it stayed with a green goo coming out of several locations on its body. Still that didn't prevent Crazy T from racing towards the figure and kicking it in anger as now Markovitch helped Renton to get up. "Close call". He added as she turned to see who had saved their asses from the dead alien.
A group of soldiers slowly moved over the dock and towards them, but instead of the blue suits worn by X-COM's aquanauts they were gray and white urban camouflage battle uniforms and held silver Gauss rifles. One of the PRA soldiers approached the group looking in confusion at Crazy T, who by now was shouting all manner of obscenities at the dead alien. "Who's in charge of this circus!?"
Turning towards him Markovitch saw triple bars marked in black on his helmet, marking him as an officer.
"Put it down Crazy T" Renton had regained his composure and turned to the officer whose facial features marked him as a Native Alaskan. "That's me. How wants to know?"
Coming closer Markovitch read that the nametag on the officer's left chest said: "AULAK" and realized that Renton had just bitten too much to swallow. "The PRA corporal! We're taking control of this area. I want your ugly faces out of here" Renton's face brightened and Markovitch realized that the officer had just given him the reason he wanted to do something at his attitude. "Really? Gues what? You can..."
her quick words stopped whatever Renton was about to say.
She placed herself between Renton and Aulak, her elbow striking backwards and hitting the armor of the X-COM soldier and making him stop whatever he was about to say. "Ensign Costa must be over that area, sir! He's in charge of our unit".
Until now the PRA officer had ignored her but now he turn his attention from Renton, studying her for a second before his mouth relaxed. "Inform him that his presence here is no longer necessary". Without a dismissal he moved forwards following his men, who were busy securing the brick building.
Turning back towards Renton and Crazy T, who had just spitted on the Calcinite, she added. "You heard him. Let's get out of here".
"Watkins, who just died and put you in charge?" Renton's voice showed irritation at her interference but he let it go and the three aquanauts moved back to join their comrades at the other side of the harbor.  

October 22nd, 2044
The White House, Washington D.C., US

The windows on the circular room had been recently replaced from bullet-proof glass to aqua-plastic so that now they could withstand better any shots fired at the building that housed the president of the US. However, one of the two Secret Service agents that stood in attention still frowned as President Richard Ambergrist slightly moved one of the curtains aside to take a look at the anti-war rally that had been scheduled for the day. The protest was being sponsored from a major of anti-war movements and Ambergrist shook his head in frustration, wondering if there was ever a way to please all of their claims. Everybody who had a political position against the government had expressed their intention to join the rally and it made a very mismatched group of protesters. There was the Freedom of Succession, a movement that defended that all states had the right to separate from the union, to the association of veterans that had most of its support based on the northern states, from Washington through Dakota and Maine. Unlike the southern states that had experienced droughts and whose weather in some areas was closest now to a desert their upper latitude had kept them pretty amenable to live but their inhabitants were getting tired of the migrations of people from the south. Then there was also the National Association of Veterans, who demanded that all US forces to be pulled out of the demarcation line with Alaska and the Caribbean, so that the skirmishes would end on both areas. The Green Party was also present, which demanded that Congress would sign a treaty with the Alaska People's Republic so that both countries could agree on how to conduct a sustainable exploration of the resources on Western Pacific. And in an already plethora of movements Ambergrist could also see the purple pyramid signs carried by members of the Cult of Sirius, who demanded that all hostilities to be stopped against the aliens and that the US pulled out of X-COM. The report that he had been given by the FBI had also mentioned a number of other organizations, and the whole cocktail was potentially very dangerous since most of them had opposite and radical ideas meaning that the rally could well turn into a riot. The DC police had mobilized all of its agents and put them out on the street but if things got out of control the situation on the capital could turn very sour. There was a battalion of Marines ready to intervene in case any government building was threatened and the presidential VV-43 VTOL plane was ready to take-off at any minute but Ambergrist wasn't going to leave Washington soon. He had a very important meeting in fifteen minutes but for the time being he was talking to the Attorney General of the United States, which had been summoned for a previous talk before they would meet the American X-COM councilman.
John S. Cameron was one of the youngest attorney generals in the entire US history. He had been only 35 when Ambergrist had named him to the position when he had been elected. The lawyer had quite a reputation before entering office as he climbed all the way until becoming North Carolina's top attorney general and when Ambergrist had known him during his election campaign he had became impressed with the young man and later had decided to invite him for his team after being advised so. Ambergrist knew that the man was on its way to an impressive political career: he had the ambition and the contacts inside Washington. "Things don't look so nice do they John?"
"Things can look the way we want them to be Mr. President".
"Yeah, if I had your age I'd think the same way. In two weeks we have reelections and the polls are too close to give me any comfort". He looked again at the crowd in the rally.
"You know there are people there who actually support an unilateral cease-fire with the aliens?"
"Cult members Mr. President. One of the characteristics of living in a democracy".
"It's not just that. I received calls from two senators this morning. One has stated the need to maintain current defense spending otherwise unemployment will grow on his state. The other has claimed exactly the opposite, that he has been bombarded by calls and mail from voters who have complained about the current war status. Now how should I reply to any of them? What should I tell to the people who are going to listen to my speech in Tennessee in a few hours?" Ambergrist already had an idea but he liked listening to Cameron's views on the subject.
"Sir, you were elected due to your promise to re-establish normal relations with the Alaskans and end the present situation. If the aliens hadn't reappeared you'd have reached that goal by now".
"Yeah and the other guy has just appropriated himself of my ideas! You heard him on the visiscreen the other day. He wishes to enter negotiations with the Alaskans to finish all affairs and a complete demilitarization of the area".
"That won't go every well with the diehards on Congress about the succession and the political action groups against it. It may backfire on him".
"For him and for me. The whole matter is too sensitive at the moment John. You've done a great job together with State department in resolving things silently and quickly with the trial of those Alaskan spies who tried to infiltrate through the Canadian border. It was only after they had been exchanged for some of our people who had been imprisoned by them".
"The whole matter only blew out to the press after the exchange was done. Otherwise we'd have people clamoring for their release while others would want them hanged after the trial".
"Yes and that's a good point. See, there's something else I want to tell you although you haven't been cleared for top secret access....yet". The last word brought a half-smile on Cameron's mouth. "I'm fully aware of my duties and responsibilities sir. I took an oath years ago".
"That will suffice for now although I'll ask for your security status to be upgraded later on. It's like this: I called councilman Williams to be fully informed of the situation regarding the aliens after the attack on their oil facility. It's a blessing the aliens didn't hit us instead since tempers are already running hot but he already gave me a preliminary report that will only be revealed after the election because of its potential for 'collateral' damage".
That made Cameron worried. "We are winning the war right?"
"Well, he says that we are not losing it, which can be either both as good and bad news. But what he told me was that there might be a division within the aliens that might help us. In other words, it seems that there might be a split between the Aquatoids and the Gillmen".
"That would be a major breakthrough, sir. You should go with this public".
"Oh?" That was a major surprise for Ambergrist, who had decided otherwise. "Why do you think it so?"
"This information is going to hit the public sooner or later sir. It would be better if you can use it to your own advantage. Right now there's a lot of criticism pointed towards X-COM and although it was not your decision to join it you have tied the US war effort to the organization. That news is a major confirmation of your policies sir. It also reminds people that the war has been long so far but that we are getting somewhere. It will also distract the public and the media enough from the Alaska question and make the other guy". He smiled at the mention of the contender from the other party. "To look bad: he also wants to try to reach an appeasement with the aliens. This information will only show that we'll have to keep fighting them because they're oppressors".
The President of the United States thought about that for a moment before a low buzzer went off on his desk telling him that Williams' limo had just cleared the back gate. "Let's see what our representative has to say about this". Cameron said but Ambergrist clearly had something else on his mind.
"Harry, I have an idea. What if I ask Mr. Williams to call councilman Roberts of the PRA and tell him to relay this message to the Alaskan Politburo: the US is deeply concerned about the current state of affairs at the area but our forces will not fire unless fired upon. And unofficially, we are willing to cooperate on the alien question, bypassing X-COM if necessary". That brought a surprised look from Cameron, who clearly was considering the idea. "That might be hard to sell, especially on an election year, plus can we trust the Alaskans?"
But Ambergrist dismissed Cameron objections and the Attorney General now realized how the US President had already decided on what to do concerning the whole situation. The previous talk they had was simply a way to ask a second opinion without revealing his thoughts. It made sense to Cameron, who saw the Alaska affair as more of a political nuisance than anything else.
"The attack on Kodiak must have hurt them. This way we can make a good will gesture in the hope that later we can solve this whole situation and concentrate on the war. They only have to win with this". Considering his words Cameron nodded. The proposal would be kept quiet until some measure of success could be achieved against the aliens, something easier if the US and PRA navies weren't engaged into pissing contests against one another. Then the whole story would be revealed later on, probably the week before the election day to give a little extra boast to the President's party on the upcoming congressional elections, something not to be overlooked on the middle of an administration first term. "We might have a problem selling it to Defense though".
"Leave Gilligan to me. You'll be in charge of coordinating things with State and Williams".
"As you wish Mr. President". Cameron smiled but his lips didn't move.

October 26th, 2044
Norfolk, Virginia, US

"Doctor Camay, there's a matter to discuss about your research concerning the question of the alien races we've encountered so far". She acknowledged the Inspector General's words but waited for him to continue before revealing anything. After her talk with Elliquist she had made a throughout examination of their DNA plus her own interrogations on a captured Gillwoman. The evidence now pointed towards the fact that the Gillmen were native to this planet and that their biological data could date back from millions of years ago, something she considered unbelievable until she could check it with other data.
It meant that probably the human race hadn't been the aliens' only attempt to provide an intelligent species to a planet that already had one. Humans wouldn't even be able to claim anymore that they were the only intelligent species on the planet. Gillmen were here before us, on the time were reptiles dominated the world and from the remains still present on them once had a rich culture and a society. The aliens had taken nearly all from them and had left only brief remains of individuality. Most likely the Gillmen still had those remains of their former culture as an unconscious need although they had forgotten the original reasons behind it. The discussions of the subject with other scientists had brought the terrible conclusion that it would be the end of result of human society and culture in the case of alien conquest. Still, what gave her hope was that from her experience with the captured gillwoman, there was a lingering need of individuality and curiosity behind their eyes and thoughts. Apparently the Aquatoids hadn't been able to erase all of the species' intelligence and ability to rationalize their present situation. In other words, they weren't totally subjective to the Aquatoids.
However, she assumed that all of that evidence wasn't enough to bring it forward to the council's attention. Following that logic it also dictated another thing that was a really hard question: if the Aquatoids also showed proof of being another branch of the Sectoid family that had split away from the main branch millions of years ago. In other words the Aquatoids could be established on the planet since that time and in that case, where were their settlements and bases located? She had discussed this all with the scientists, so that even if the Inspector General decided to shut down her work the idea would still be around for a while. But apparently Alkeviades had had enough of all her speculation.
"I first only authorized this program because I had considered it to be of a low priority and because I expected the results to give us something more practical on the field. However, from your latest reports I've noticed that the guidelines under which this subject had been researched were completely different from the ones I've just mentioned. Of course, considering your previous association with Councilman Williams I actually should have been expecting this". Which you didn't, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.
"Councilman Williams never pressed me into this subject or others". She knew it not to be completely true but decided against revealing it. "I have been wondering into the possibility of calling for a motion of censure upon him on the next council meeting". He said flatly.
Looking away from him, she asked: "Will you include me on that motion?" Not that she really mattered since all it meant was an official reprimand. The only penalty highest for that that the Council could attribute was death by firing squad in case a soldier deserted while on combat or shoot a fellow officer on propose.
"I wish but it seems I won't. Instead I'm going to order you to continue your research and to prepare to present a report to the Council by the next meeting".
"Less than a week? It will be impossible, Inspector". Frustration came to his face but he nodded to her. "Make it a short summary of the hypothesis and your estimate of its plausibility. The Council needs something to keep them occupied. But by the end of the year I expect to have a full brief to present them".  
"I'll need to given authorization regarding further confirmation research during that time". She decided to see how much of a leash he was giving her. "Just pass them properly marked to my secretary and they will be reviewed and be given a reply immediately. I'm sure the Council will provide all authorization necessary when they meet at the end of the month".
"I'll need further resources".
"You'll get them. Just pass your request to Commodore Paris' office". Then Alkeviades left her office making her to wonder who things were changing and if it meant that they were about to finally make some progress on the whole war.