X-COM: Abyssal

by Hobbes
X-COM: Abyssal
Chapter Five ? Borderline

October 10th, 2044
Madhouse Rock, Pacific

The officers meeting room was located on one of the central modules that composed the floating base and it was next to the double hull, with the circular viewport allowing for some natural light to supplement the neon cylinders built into the ceiling. Like most of the base it had been designed in a naval fashion where unused space was considered a luxury and therefore the six men that were seated couldn't stretch their elbows sideways without hitting the officers on their sides. There were only seven seats on the room, all made of   metal and synthetic rubber and they bolted to the floor to prevent them from being tossed around in case the sea conditions would get rough. Besides being used for meetings the   room was also used as the officer's dining hall and the walls were filled with cabinets were the silverware and plates were stored, together with personal visisets and other forms of entertainment.
The six officers and the single NCO inside were all wearing field jumpsuits of khaki or sea blue color with gold and silver pins on their lapels. The color of the uniforms reflected their position inside X-COM's organization: the non-combat officers used khaki suits while the blue fatigues were assigned to the combat personnel. They had all of their service caps removed and placed on shelves above the chairs and those also reflected the differences with black for the latter and blue assigned to the former. At the top of the table and directly facing the door that led into the corridor outside the base's commanding officer was seated. His sleek facial features and slanted eyes told of his Asian origin and his hair was completely black not revealing a sign of his fifty years, although most of the officers knew that he dyed his hair. Lt. Braddock, which was seated on his right at the middle of the table with Sublieutenant Rashid separating him from the captain, knew it for a fact since he had noticed that the collar of Captain Pak seemed to turn dark from time to time. And as the base's procurement officer he also had noticed the monthly request for hair dye that was logged into the computers. He wondered how it would be if the captain used instead the stuff on the useless dye grenades that were a part of the general combat equipment: they had been developed to cover soldiers in combat and the substance was as sticky as the natural dye used by octopuses. However the substance didn't spread too much and it was useless to make blocking screens unless the soldiers used an awful amount of the grenades. Like the ink on squids it was only useful if an alien moved close to a soldier but in that case the trooper would be more worried to either flee from the extraterrestrial's deadly hand-to-hand weapons or to fire at it.
The table was filled with the officers' small noteputers with the visiscreens shinning over the small rectangular keyboards. The only ones that didn't have one were Captain Pak, whose aide, Sublieutenant Rashid, carried and took care of all paperwork for him and Chief Agnello who relied on his impressive memory to either quote from the bible or report on each squad's condition. Agnello was also different because he was the only one in the room that had reached the top of the ladder inside X-COM. If a soldier reached Chief Petty Officer rank it meant that he would didn't had the appropriate connections to be transferred to officer school while he was a non-commissioned officer. He was seated in a relaxed manner on this side of the table, the only blue figure to do so in the blue side of the table. Rashid and Braddock both wore khaki, meaning that they had managed to get out of combat operations by being assigned to the support branch. Agnello wasn't completely out of the frying pan since he still had a combat status but it would be easier to see Lt. Commander Parkenson, the commanding officer of all combat forces in the base in action than the senior NCO.
As Braddock's eyes swept through the other side of the table that was filled with sea blue it gave him satisfaction because he had been on their boots while he was stationed at the North Sea floating base. The Alaskan councilman had promised him to make everything possible for him to be reassigned to a non-combat role but it had taken Delacroix and that woman Markovitch for it to actually happen. He caught Parkenson looking at him but the Icelandic man diverted his gaze the next minute and he kept listening to report made by Ensign Costa, the combat section's commanding officer.
"Even with the two replacements that arrived from land a week ago we are still undermanned. Third squad is less than seventy percent strength: right now they can't even fill all of the spots on a Triton. First and second squads are slightly better but if we start only using them losses will soon grow higher and we'll have to merge squads if we want to keep assaulting the USOs".
Captain Pak wasn't pleased and he turned to Parkenson. "That is completely unacceptable! What do you propose to do about this?" The commander started to speak but Rashid cut him off. "We should request more soldiers from land. Alien activity has stepped up in the past month around the base, sir. If we keep intercepting them at this rate they might decide we're becoming too much of nuisance to them and act like they did before".
Agnello shifted on his chair, uncomfortably, already knowing the end result of the discussion. "Sir, we need more aqua-plastic armor and gauss rifles for the troops. We need to use the funding for those otherwise losses will continue to be the same". He had been the only one wearing his service cap and now he removed it, showing the baldness on the top of his head. Rashid simply waved him off with his hand. "Chief Petty, you like all others here present in the room know the financial considerations. And each gauss weapon or armor we order is one less replacement soldier that this base is going to get".  
Braddock simply nodded to confirm Rashid's assessment. He knew very well the tactical value of both items but as the base's procurement officer he was even more aware of their cost. The SORESO scientists had developed aqua-plastic armor after they had discovered the composition of the extremely light and strong material the aliens used on their submarines. It consisted of several layers of natural metals bound together in a crystalline structure by a high-energy process that made it stronger than the regular Kevlar armor worn by the aquanauts. It was assumed that the aliens used the Zrbite mineral to power the process but X-COM's scientists had managed to replicate it using nuclear power. But it still made the process very costly: the factory price tag of an armor set was at twenty thousand neodollars to manufacture, not counting the additional cost of producing the aqua-plastics in case there wasn't enough aqua-plastics recovered from USO crash sites. To fully equip a soldier with advanced armor and gauss weaponry could cost more fifty thousand neodollars and with that money it was possible to hire up to three additional soldiers. And not to mention to sell the armor and the weapon at the open market at a price that was the double of the production cost, turning in a huge profit into X-COM's financial accounts. "Aqua-plastic and gauss are expensive to buy at this moment". Braddock knew pretty well the mathematics and so did everybody else in the room. Chief Agnello started to fight back the argument but Braddock wasn't finished.  "And we shouldn't forget that just to replace the SWS that your troops lost in the previous month will severely cut into this month's budget. We already had to pay India base for the replacements we received in the previous week and right now our situation isn't too solid". While watching Mellow and Parkenson digest the comment his mind drifted to the small changes he had made on the base's paperwork. They had received two of the underwater tanks but there was only enough ammunition to arm one of them although the balance sheet showed that money had been used to equip both of them. The missing funds had been split between him and another officer at the Indian base and he had immediately applied them into buying X-COM's stock. Braddock's secret retirement fund had now more than one hundred thousand neodollars, all from the weapons deals and other more secret sources, and all of was it invested in the force's shares. Since I reinvest the money on X-COM, it can't be that bad.

October 14th, 2044
Madhouse Rock, Pacific

Hurt. Small trickles of pain had been bothering her for the past hour and Markovitch was starting to feel exhausted as the medical technician continued to perform the tissue graft on her leg. He had only given her a local anesthesia whose effect seemed to last less than ten minutes before her leg started to inch, with the feeling slowly increasing. Seated on a chair while the white doctor continued with the procedure she had complained but he simply had told her that the pain was a signal that her nerve system was still working and had ignored her afterwards.
For a minute she had considered hitting the guy on the head with one of the metal basins that were on the table at his side but she had wisely decided that it would probably only make him to restart the whole procedure.
She felt the sweat starting to accumulate on her armpits and back and wished that the doctor would either open some sort of window or increase the air conditioning of the room but the man's occasional sneezing told her that it wouldn't be a good idea. Especially if the person who seemed to have a cold was at the moment using a scalpel on your leg. Her eyes drifted to the ceiling and the white lights there present, reminding her of the months she had spent at the hospital bed after she had been awaken from the deep cryogenic freeze.
"Captain?" The voice was almost too low to be unheard, a faint whisper that she paid no attention as fogginess entered her conscious mind. Somebody had just walked into her field of vision on her side, but she couldn't see who it was with her eyelids half-shut and feeling that she was looking through a glass tube.
"She's gone now sir". A new presence moved into the opposite side, taller than the first but still obscured in darkness. He sounded familiar to her but the voice was groggy as if the person had just gotten out of bed. "I know. We'll soon be together". She immediately recognized the new voice and her head jacked backwards, hitting the rest on the chair and sending a crashing pain down her head and neck. "Erwin" As her eyes opened and focused on the person in front of her, she had the startled technician looking at her.
"Jesus! You just scared the hell of me. Just be quiet and lie still there. I'm almost done here" Then he went back to his work on her leg, as she looked around, still dazzled about the whole situation. Why can't I simply forget about him? She knew that the question was rhetorical but she still chewed upon it as the doctor finished up patching up and started to apply bandages on her leg. After it was done he gave her a plastic tube of cream. "Put this three times a day. I will quicken the scarring process. It's going to leave an ugly scar but it's nothing a good plastic surgeon can't fix back on shore if you want so. And start using that leg also".
A short time after, she was standing on one crutch as she left the base's small infirmary, Markovitch was closing the metal hatch door when a familiar voice coming from the corridor made her turn. "Hey Watkins, how did it go?" Turning around she saw  Kern wearing a red and blue Hawaiian shirt with a pair of sunglasses standing on his head and bearing military swimming shorts. "Good. He told me that I'm almost recovered". She gave a look at his clothes. "Are you going on leave or something?"
He opened his arms. "You don't know yet about the 'steel beach' party?"
"Steel beach party?" She decided it should another of the strange costumes that went along with all navies. "What's that?"
"A party at the top of the base. The captain asked for authorization for it a couple of days ago and they just announced it. Come on! I'll show you". Kern started heading down the corridor towards the base's central airlock with Markovitch limping on his side.
"It's an old Navy tradition". He started explaining. "Whenever an aircraft carrier was more than a certain period of time at sea, the captain could request to high command to hold a 'steel beach party' on its flight deck. Since leaves here are now practically non existent since we have been on full alert for months the Chief Petty asked the captain for it".
"But where are you going to house a party here? There's hardly any place left on the mess hall during meals time?" They had reached the central entrance area at the end of the corridor, right before the sub pens. "Right above". Kern went for a ladder that lead into the top of the base and started climbing it. "You need any help climbing up?" Using only her good leg and her hands she started going upwards behind him. "I'll be fine, thanks".
As Kern reached the top of the metal ladder he grabbed a metal bar that was attached to the hatch and turned it. Using both his hands he then pushed it upwards and as it opened the small tunnel were both were was filled with sunlight. When they both stepped out of the hatch, Markovitch looked at the clear blue sky, which only had a couple of clouds.
The top of the floating base was completely flat besides the radar and radio antennas that were standing on one corner. Around them, seamen were carrying crates filled with food and beverages to an area filled with tables and chairs brought from the mess hall. The base's cooks had a barbecue going on in the middle of the deck with a long line of waiting sailors that were holding plastic plates. On another section a game of basketball was taking place while jumping boards had been set at one side of the deck for the seamen who wanted to take a swim on the ocean. Music was being played on speakers while men and women sunbathed or otherwise relaxed under the noon sun.
Looking at Petty Mellow and Gutierrez, who passed nearby them wearing diving trunks, Markovitch commented. "I never expected this. Even the petty looks relaxed for a change".
"Yeah, well even they have to relax a little bit in the middle of this war. That even applies to you, Watkins".
"Meaning?" She stopped as he kept walking towards a pile of ice containers. "You know what I mean Watkins. You're one of the most uptight people around this place". Renton was standing next to the blue and white portable freezers wearing an open short sleeve shirt, shorts and slippers. As Kern approached him, he smiled to him. "How's it going Kermie?"
"Don't call me that, Rennie". The seaman scuffled at the diminutive of his name. "Otherwise people might discover our relationship and start becoming jealous".
Slapping him Kern on his shoulder with his hand, Renton replied. "Yeah, right, you'd wish! Save your ass to the aliens, you fuck" The verbal jabs between both of them made Markovitch a small grin and Renton removed his dark glasses as he noticed. "She smiles! Well, I guess this might be my lucky day. Here, have one of those and chill out". He passed green beer cans to both of them and then walked away towards a group of soldiers that were resting on their towels on the metal floor several feet away. "Catch you all later". As Renton moved away while shaking his hips in some sort of dance and humming a tone, Markovitch opened her can and took a drag of the beer. "Sometimes I can't figure out which of you is worse in being completely brainless".
"Hey! You've just hurt my ego! I take pride on being the number one jerk around here" Waving him off she gazed at the distance and remembered the old days back on Area 51. The atmosphere of the party was equal to the occasional celebrations that had taken place on the hangars of the secret base during the first war. People would still try to relax and forget that there was a conflict raging all over them and that it might be the last time that they could have some fun on their lives before a plasma shot fired from the aliens took their lives. Some of his fondest memories with Johnson came from those moments, where they could simply enjoy the moment and forget about what the future might bring with the rest of the troops. Men and women would die later and they would be remembered on the next occasion, sometimes with tears but for that moment they all felt glad to be alive. Is that how you are feeling now?
"Did you say something?" Kern's voice brought her back to the steel deck of the base. "No, nothing, just thinking out loud".
"One day, you've got to tell me what you think so much about, Watkins". Looking at him in suspicion, she asked. "Why would I do that?"
"Maybe I can help you. Psychology is one of my specialties". She pouted at his claim. "Yeah, right, in that case doctor, how come they haven't assigned you to military intelligence if you're so smart?"
"Are you kidding?" He puffed his chest. "They did but decided against it. Too much work and no play".  While Kern spoke Markovitch saw Ensign Books approaching them, having overheard the conversation. The Triton pilot's jumpsuit was all smeared with grease and some of it seemed to have found its way into Books' arms and neck. Markovitch wondered if he ever bothered to take a shower. "Don't listen to him, sweetie. I still remember his arrival trip at Madhouse. His gibberish made me wonder if I shouldn't simply dump in on the Pacific". Looking at the way his hair stuck to his skull and forehead, Markovitch decided that the man's nickname should be 'sticky'. "So how's it going sweetie? I'm happy that you've survived. From the first look at ya, I thought you'd bought it on the first missions and that would be a shame for both of us".
"For both of us, ensign Books?"
"Yeah, I know just this place on storage area C that is comfortable enough..." Books intention only increased her disgust at his figure. "No way" Looking as if he had heard the answer a number of times he rubbed his hand on his temple and examined it afterwards. "I think I'm too clean. Don't worry once you tried it you'll never want anything else".  Yeah, right, she thought as he moved away until a singing voice made her turn.
"The aliens threw a party in the human jail.
The calcinite was there and it began to wail
The squad was jumpin' and the base began to swing.
You should've heard those knocked out waterbirds sing".
". Looking at the direction of the music she saw that most of her squad had gathered at one side of the deck and that Renton was on the middle seated on a beach chair with his fingers on the strings of a guitar.
"Let's rock, everybody, let's rock.
Everybody in the sub pen block
Was dancin' on Madhouse Rock."
"What is that song?" Markovitch asked as Renton now got up and held the guitar on a pose.
"Trooper Murphy played the gauss-o-phone,
Little Joe was scared to the bone.
The Triton from land went crash, boom, bang,
The whole third section was the doomed gang.
"You never heard of Elvis? The singer from the twentieth that got abducted by the aliens?"
She turned to face Kern with her mouth twisted in disbelief. "Abducted by aliens? Kern, your brain sometimes is nothing more than sushi. I heard of Elvis Presley. But have only heard 'Jailhouse Rock on its original version. Did Renton make up that version?"
"Let's rock, everybody, let's rock.
Everybody in the sub pen block
Was dancin' on Madhouse Rock".
"Oh no. It was written by a soldier stationed here wrote after the destruction of the first base on this area by the aliens".
"The aquanaut was tied to a block of stone
Way over in the ocean standing all alone.
The trooper said, "Hey, buddy, don't you be no square.
If you die fighting an alien no one cares". On the last part Renton looked upwards as if howling.
"People got really shocked and he decided to write something to cheer the spirits up so he changed the lyrics, made a recording and dumped it on the net". Looking towards the small crowd of listeners he found Markovitch's face and smiled at her.
"Let's rock, everybody, let's rock.
Everybody in the sub pen block
Was dancin' to the Madhouse Rock".
"That's how this place got its name. It's still officially known as Sixth Fleet HQ but nobody uses it anymore. Madhouse Rock sounds better since this place and this war are both insane".
"Dancing to the Madhouse Rock". Now Renton had his hips moving as he repeated the chorus softer and softer. "Dancing to the Madhouse Rock".
"Cheer the spirits?" Renton's figure was nearly comical now as he dropped to his knees for the last part of the song. "Unless I'm wrong it's talking about the destruction of the base".
"You're right. Probably that soldier had....". He trailed for a second. "You know, that kind of powers".
"Psionics you mean". The mention to psis made Kern to freeze and grab her arm. "Watch out that word Watkins and I'm serious. Some folks around here are really itchy about it and just saying it is enough of a motive to pick up a heated argument or a fight. And whatever you do never mention it in front of Crazy T: I've seen him bashing a guy into unconsciousness after he said casually that it would be a great help on this war".
The sound of concern on his voice told her that at least the issue wasn't that important to Kern and that he wasn't simply making it up. "OK. But why have you mentioned that about the guy who wrote the song?"
Renton had finished singing and Kern had joined the half-hearted clapping of the rest of the squad members. Shrugging his shoulders in mockery, he simply replied. "Could it be that he died when this base was destroyed the second time by the aliens?"
"You gotta be kidding me. That story is just too unbelievable to be heard".
"What's easier to believe Watkins?" Kern took a long drawl from the beer can he was holding. "That this base is called Madhouse someone rewrote a song before its destruction or that this is just a floating loon house that is attached to a rock in the bottom of the ocean like some people prefer to call it?"
"Neither. I think you guys have spent too much time at sea".
"Definitely". Kern opened his arms and raised them to the air. "And you know what? We all love it and so will you until you die". His low chuckle was replaced by the sound of Renton's voice, which seemed to getting ready for the next theme. "Hey you guys are going to engage into private talk the whole time or do you want to hang around with the rest of the squad?"
They both looked at Renton who now had gotten up from the floor and was still holding the bright blue guitar as he playing some chords and starting singing in a low dragged voice to Markovitch: "....are you lonesome tonight....". Her own emotional reaction was of jumping in fear.  As the chorus of boos from the rest of the squad came another sharp noise was heard as if had pulled a string from the guitar with too much strength.
"Ouch" The sharp snapping sound jerked Renton's hand as the metal string broke and snapped with one of its end hitting his fingers. His expression of pain drew a few laughs from Marsden and some other members of the squad who were seated as comfortable as possible over several large plastic jerry cans that served as impromptu cushions. The female trooper already had quite a tan and Markovitch was distracted to why she had never thought of going to the deck before since it would a way to fight the claustrophobic environment of the base.
Renton licked the small wound and told them with his eyes to get lost.
Looking at the able seawoman Markovitch wondered what the hell was wrong with her and Renton since she preferred to stay out of being in the same fireteam as Marsden. The woman had now downed her sleek dark glasses and was looking towards her direction. But as several other soldiers also turned their attention the same way she knew that something else approaching them was the center of all that attention.
Petty Mellow
"What's up petty?" Mellow's face told Markovitch that it wouldn't be good news as he turned to Kern. "Everybody get down and suit up! The sonar just picked a USO that has touched down near the coast! Third squad is still on detail and the captain just ordered us to assault it".
"I KNEW IT" Kern said in disgust and nearly threw down his bottle can. "Just when we were having some fun somebody had to spoil it" Mellow's eyes went wide open at the outburst which was followed by expressions of disgust from other soldiers until his thundering voice rose above all others. "Knock it off people! Kern and the rest of you get moving now before I stick a tazer up your asses! On the double! Watkins, how's the leg doing?"
Taking the top of the crutch off her armpit she raised it for the petty officer to see. "Well, the doctor said I could use some exercise to accelerate the recovery".
"Why the fuck are you still there then!? Move" She didn't need for the petty officer to repeat the order as she started racing towards the hatch on the deck. As third squad headed on a file towards the stairs some of the soldiers and personnel looked at them in curiosity while others tried to ignore them. A large dark-haired man seated on a beach chair simply lifted his beer can to them on a toast and called them something, although they were too far away to hear him. As she passed through the improvised kitchen area she saw the section commanding officer, Ensign Costa look at them in surprise while still holding a plastic plate on his hand and a soda can on the other. By the time the hamburger and fries fell on the floor and he was racing to catch the squad Markovitch had already reached the top metal hatch.

Close to the Demarcation Line, North Pacific

Moving his right arm on the water that filled the cargo section of the Triton, Petty Mellow was gesticulating with his gloved fingers to read the message that had just arrived from base. The Triton was already on its downward run towards the landing zone close to the detected USO and the screen was the only way to maintain communications with the base. It had been designed by Cyberweb based on the targeting and navigational computers that had equipped Earth's own advanced fighter craft. The lack of Elerium to power then had made them useless but Cyberweb had rescued the concept of the operator using its limbs to enter information instead of a keyboard or control stick. It was also impractical to use the tri-dimensional virtual reality helmets or visiscreen technology when the Triton was flooded so he was facing a thick plastic display with a slight inclination. As he finished he stopped to consider it but a bump on his shoulder from a figure also dressed on aqua-plastic armor momentarily distracted him.
Ensign Costa had also noticed that a message had arrived and had gotten up from his seat and moved close to Mellow to read it. The officer started knocking on the petty officer's shoulder but he ignored the tapping until it got too much. Shaking the ensign's hand off his armor he started to consider what he should do as he reread it.
SONAR HAS PICKED ANOMALOUS SIGNATURE CLOSE LZ. MEDIUM POSSIBILITY THERE'S A SECOND UFO TYPE UNKNOWN. DISPATCHING BARRACUDA ONE TO INVESTIGATE AND PROVIDE COVER. PROCEED ACCORDING TO PLAN. OVER.
The words on the message of Commander Parkenson didn't betray what Mellow knew. The mission of the fighter sub would be to shoot down any of the alien craft that tried to flee from the area. Even if none of the USOs threatened the Triton as it approached the location his squad would still have to fight the crews of two alien subs. And there were unofficial reports of mammoth USOs lurking on the oceans, some of them so powerful that all Barracudas that had tried to take a shot a them had been destroyed.
The motion sensors placed by Cyberweb to replicate the use of finger movement caught the movements of his hand and the software translated them into a command to call up a list of possible communication messages. A list scrolled on the screen until Mellow chose a signal to confirm acceptance of the message and another to enquiry for the possibility of reinforcements. The answer came a few seconds later.
WORKING ON THAT. GOOD LUCK. OUT.
Mellow wished he could tell Parkenson to stick his good luck into his own ass instead. The detection of the second contact must had finally put the base on alert and ended the deck party but it was too late for them to be able to send any help at the minute. Even the maintenance crews had taken a break and repairs were already behind schedule. The combat squads would also be lazy and tired after the deck party. Good luck meant that for now they were on their own.
The ensign was still at his side and looking down at the screen. When he finally looked towards Mellow the petty erased the message with his left hand and raised his right index finger to the location on his helmet in front of his nose telling Costa to be quiet about it. There wasn't much that both of them could do otherwise since it would be too complicate to explain the situation to the troopers and it also meant that they wouldn't be too nervous right before going into battle. Mellow knew that it mattered especially in the case of rookies. He had already missed by a scratch being killed twice from the shots of a green soldier that had panicked when fighting the aliens and went into bezerking. In one case the petty officer leading the squad before him had died from the shots while on the other two soldiers had been seriously injured. When he looked at the thirteen other troopers inside the craft he was both confident on his experienced soldiers and fearful of the rookies and of ensign Mellow if the officer tried to take charge of the mission and countermand the petty's orders. Still there wasn't much that Costa could do in any case: all of the fireteam leaders   knew who really was in charge and they would comply with his gestures, not the officer.
The rookies worried him the most. There were four rookies on the three fireteams plus the big tall idiot brought along from 1st squad to haul extra rounds for his torpedo launcher. Looking at that rookie he wondered just what he had done to the idiot woman leading that squad to be assigned to this mission. Filing up an empty spot meant that the soldier usually was assigned next to the leading NCO instead of just cannon fodder since he was being 'loaned' and was expected to go back to his own squad.
His gaze went back to the other soldiers. Marsden and Renton had too much rookies now and were fighting between themselves to see who would lead the squad. She already had enough missions to get promoted to leading seaman rank. The problem was that there were no vacancies for that position in the entire platoon and she wanted the promotion. Still they were trustworthy enough in case things went out of control, more than Barnby's squad since both Renton and Crazy T acted too much independently at times. Gutierrez team was the best of the three. Markovitch seemed to have been completely integrated and she was a tough fighter although with a serious attitude problem. Sometimes her words were more akin of the officers' tone. The woman clearly had some ambition for leadership that given time might even jeopardize his own chances for promotion. She had even been talking to the rookie that had been assigned to them and he had heard her giving him advice about the aliens and the battlefield. That was strange to Mellow but he decided that it wouldn't bring any harm in case the rookie gave a better fight before getting hit with a sonic projectile.
At the end it didn't matter. He looked again at the screen to see if they had received any further messages. Seeing none he then waited as the Triton swam towards its target.

Madhouse Rock, Pacific

As Lieutenant Braddock walked into the small commanding center onboard the base he took a brief look at the screen displaying the position of the Triton and saw to his satisfaction that the second USO had disappeared from the board. When he had walked in before to deliver to Captain Pak some papers for the officer to sign he had noticed the appearance of the second craft. As he approached Pak his eyes were wired into everything that was being presented on the computerized display of the Pacific Northwest. "What is it now Lieutenant?"
"The seamen have finished cleaning up the party".
"About time". This base should have been gone completely operational an hour ago. Anything else?" Avoid looking at his eyes, Braddock gave a small nudge towards the screen and tried to sound casual. "How's it going?"
That seemed to please Pak who replied. "The USO disappeared. We think we might be picking a false echo on the sonar".
"Sir, both Alaska's Militia and the US's naval command at San Diego reports that they haven't picked no signal of a second USO on their sonar arrays on the area. But they confirm that the initial craft is still landed at the same location". The seaman managing communications called. "Well, that's it then". Captain Pak concluded for all officers present on the control room of Madhouse to hear and the matter of the second contact was dropped. X-COM's sonars were once considered state of the art when the first bases had been established throughout the globe but after four years they were not state of the art anymore. Both the US and the PRA had upgraded their sensor arrays on the area a number of times and they were assumed to have better listening capabilities plus a closer location to the demarcation line.
Braddock excused himself then and while he left the room he felt relieved. The whole matter had been a surprise although it had been successfully dealt with. The team would be on its way by now and they would find nothing. Going back to his office he started to relax since the whole matter had started that morning.