X-Com Chronicles: Gearhead

by Skonar
I once again blame FullAuto. It's all his fault that made me write this. You hear that FullAuto? YOUR FAULT!

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1. --- Somewhere in New York, street level, December 24th 2000, 23:20



The bugs had gotten desperate. This was made crystally clear by the explosion somewhere in the direction of Times Square. Somewhere out there was a bug commander who just didn't give a damn if the world knew exactly what was going on. Who wanted to shut down X-Com once and for all, by convincing the world's governments that X-Com was incapable of protecting their nations. Do that, and X-Com's funding would slowly bleed away as each government poured its funds into internal defence projects, and out of X-Com's budget.

The X-Com operation leader on the scene, a captain from the base up in Canada, took in the situation from a G.P.S. assisted tactical map.

Frankly this situation looked bad. Real bad. Millions of civilians packed into an urban area, with a horde of Chryssalids dumped in the middle? They'd be lucky to get out of this situation without detonating a tactical nuclear weapon in the middle of central park.

One of his bodyguards, a couple of squad-members he'd pinched from team two, glanced up alertly at the sound of an incoming aircraft. The operation leader glanced up too. There it was, a pair of skyrangers dipping down for a landing -- but neither were marked on his tactical map. That meant neither of them were registered on X-Com's GEOSCAPE command and control network.

"Who the hell is that?" The captain pulled up a pair of binoculars. The sigil on the landing aircraft wasn't one he recognised. Some kind of smiley-faced cog painted under the standard struck-through X of X-Com.

"Uhh. There's an incoming message for you sir. From James Trewitt, rank of Commander. His serial number lists him as XII..."

"Jesus Christ. Internal Intelligence? What's our 'Twelve' boy telling us?"

"He says he'd like you to welcome Project Gearhead and to maintain the perimeter cordon."

"Gearhead? Didn't they cancel that?"

The rear ramp on one of the skyrangers fell open. Something vaguely man-shaped and covered in what looked like enough armoured plating to wade through lava smoothly stepped out, fell. There was a hollow thud. A second iron man appeared at the rear ramp, steadied himself to leap out.

"Respectfully, sir, it seems not."



2. --- Somewhere in New York, A subway station, December 25th 2000, 01:45



Charles hated fighting in powered armour.

Mac's voice was tinny, almost robotic through the comms device jammed around his ear. "C'mon Chucky! We gonna save Christmas or what?"

His breathing felt difficult, like his lungs couldn't ever pull in a good deep breath through the three hundred pounds of armour plate he wore.

"Keep your friggin' pants on, corporal." The snakeman had kept him pinned for far too long. Charles checked his auto cannon. The ammo canister was still half full.

The problem with power armour was that you were always one step away from everything. Through the bulky gauntlets, it always felt like your gun was slipping through your fingers. Motion felt off balance. The whole thing made a mess out of combat.

He hauled the weapon back up, and manoeuvred the mass of alien metals he wore to step around the heavy bank of vending machines he'd taken cover behind. He stared through his focus lenses, across the unlit subway station. It was as dark as a sealed box at midnight on a moonless night. In fact, it was very nearly literally that. The hum of charging capacitors rang through his helmet. With a dull ping alien components built into his helmet painted the scene in front of him in lurid false colours.

A dull smear of colour was crouched down behind the ticket sales window. It popped up, resolving almost immediately as a snakeman with a plasma rifle in its hands. It sighted for just an instant and fired.

Charles leaned to one side reflexively, if he rolled aside, the top-heaviness of his armour would've pulled him over. The sound of the vending machine exploding, the contents flash-boiled into vapour, felt a little distant. Charles hardly felt the blastwave of the steam. The only 'real' part of the experience was the clap shrapnel of shrapnel against his armour, a high-pitched ringing.

If he hadn't been encased in three-hundred pounds of armour plate, he'd be dead. Either his skin would have burnt off or the chunks of the vending machine would have torn him apart. There were advantages to power armour.

The big one was that it made a mess out of combat. A real mess.

Charles pointed the long barrels of the auto cannon vaguely down the station hallway. The snakeman ducked, becoming once again a vague smear of colour behind the ticket counters. Charles hardly felt the auto cannon's recoil through the servomotors and actuators of the powered armour. He could barely hear the damn thing, either. A grin tugged at his face, one wide enough to hurt.

Pretty soon there weren't any ticket counters. The snakeman was still a smear of colour, just all over the station walls, now.

"You done with the subways yet Chucky? It's getting hairy up here. I don't think Santa Claus is gonna land his sleigh on this mess."

"Shut your trap, Corporal," Charles replied, stomping through the subway station. Standing in shambling masses on the boarding platforms was a crowd of what had once been people. Their bodies were bloated with alien parasites, jutting through flesh covered in the bruisey bitemarks of Chryssalids.

"Screw it." Jamming the heel of his hand at the 'eject' button on his auto cannon, Charles ignored the ammo canister that dropped out onto the ground. He pulled the spare, painted in fluorescent red, from the straps on his leg. He turned it over till the feed ramp of the ammo canister was aligned with the loader slot, then shoved it into the bulky, rotary barrelled auto cannon.

"What'd you say sarge?"

The damn powered armour transmitted everything you said.

"I said the station's clear of enemy presence," Charles said, shaking his head sadly. A black carapaced, almost insectile form began to creep up the stairs to the station. Charles lazily tilted the auto cannon down, then applied long pressure to the auto cannon's trigger switch, sweeping the weapon side to side.

The blasts of the explosive rounds skipped back and forth across the boarding platform. It only took a couple of seconds for the roof to cave in.

"Santa Claus is coming to town, Mac. Gimme some coordinates and I'll give the bad little girls and boys some coal."

"Map Grid AF-34 by CZ-36. You make up that line all by yourself, Chucky?"

"Yup."

"I'm impressed."



3. --- Data Canister 914, X-Com Archives. Transcript of personal report on internal investigations relating to black codenamed projects, James Dawson, 4368-3tp-XII, 23/03/2001



"The events at the turn of the year in New York border on treason. The leader on the scene was to receive backup from Gamma base within twelve hours. Despite the council of funding nations legitimising the black project 'Gearhead', this has proved without any doubt the fallacy of allowing the 'Black Projects' to continue.

"Members of the project 'Gearhead' willfully murdered no less than fifteen hundred civilians in under four hours. In spite of this the alien threat to New York was indeed removed, but with much of Manhattan destroyed, by the heavy weapons employed by project Gearhead.

"There is absolutely no way that the actions of the black projects within X-Com's structures can be explained any further. They operate without regard to X-Com central command, often without registering themselves on the Geoscape network. Reports of their 'success' have been vastly bloated out of proportion, and it is in my opinion that we can no longer allow funding to them, period.

"If not, what's going to happen next? Will some maniac have our soldiers playing with ESP cards and trying to bend spoons by restarting Project Mirage?"



--- Archival Note

Subject 4368-3tp-XII, AKA James Dawson, confirmed rogue agent. Was terminated 26/03/2003, after two years in hiding with the rogue government of Bolivia. Autopsy revealed extensive modifications to central nervous system in areas traditionally linked with Psionic capacities.

The preceding document was the last report made by Subject 4368-3tp-XII, AKA James Dawson, before his escape to the rogue government of Bolivia.