Posted 27 March 2005 - 08:17 PM
The long history of the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (X-COM) stretches over more than a century - a century of bitter, drawn-out war of attrition with the alien invaders. The story begins in the late 1940's, in the area of New Mexico known as the Nevada Desert...
The 509th Bomb Group regiment of the Army Air Corps were the first to officially report the crash of a "flying disk" in the desert near Roswell, deep within New Mexico. The original report explained that of the three occupants of what was termed a "UFO" (Unidentified Flying Object), one had survived the crash. Two had died. Before daybreak, however, government agencies had rapidly acted to retract this version of events, instead claiming that the "UFO" was in fact a weather balloon.
For the last fifty years, men and women (many of them American in nationality) have claimed to have been abducted by alien lifeforms. Many claim to have been abused, or impregnated, or tested upon, or questioned. Most of the world chose to ignore these "crackpots", focusing instead upon the more mundane everyday events that plague us all. However, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Roswell incident, UFO sightings across the world skyrocket. Whilst this is at first believed to be caused by tabloid hype of the anniversary, soon intellectuals, officials and the legitimate press join the ranks of "the believers". One of the most popular headlines at this time is "We Are Not Alone". Whilst this has been claimed and theorised by many, it has never been proved. Until, it seems, now.
Credible reports of human abductions steadily filter into government files and the press. These abductions all follow a similar pattern - the victims inhabited rural areas with a low population density. The governments of the world, worrying at what this might really mean, begin to bring their armed forces to a state of full combat readiness. Contact is attempted, but no results are forthcoming. As the abductions continue, military action is considered to defend the peoples of the world. Japan, taking the lead with it's stereotypical blind bravery and courage, forms the 'Kiryu-Kai' - the first anti-alien combat force. They are equipped with the very latest Japanese military equipment, and are manned by the country's finest, but after five months they are forced to disband, without downing a single UFO.
The United Nations was the next to take action. On the 11th of December, 1998, the Security Council gathered in Geneva to decide upon a course of action. It is eventually decided by the representatives of the world's nations that the only way to combat the aliens is to present a united front. Together, they agree to form a covert, multi-national military-based unit to investigate the alien threat and gauge it's depth. This organisation is known as X-INV. After just a few months, however, the aliens are finally decreed to be hostile, and are recognised as such by the new Council of Funding Nations. X-INV becomes X-COM - the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit.
X-COM is assembled from the finest soldiers, pilots, engineers, scientists and intelligence operatives from across the world. Together with the very latest military equipment, it is hoped that this will be capable of defeating the alien menace.
The First Alien War (AW - I)
January 1st: The First Alien War begins.
Construction on X-COM's first base is completed. The base is well-equipped with several powerful RADAR units, a complement of well-trained soldiers, engineers and scientists, two rapid-response 'Interceptor'-class aircraft, and one 'Skyranger'-class troop carrier. The scanning equipment detects the first UFO within weeks, and the Interceptors are scrambled...
Over the next few months it becomes clear that X-COM is severely outclassed, but the soldiers and pilots bravely fight on. The Interceptors down the unwieldy supply craft, and the lightly armoured scout craft, with conventional air-to-air guided missile systems. Sometimes the alien craft are shot down or destroyed. Sometimes they turn and attack the Interceptors with some form of powerful energy weapon. More often they simply outrun their pursuers.
On the ground, X-COM meets even stiffer resistance. Soldiers protected only by thin kevlar vests and armed with little more than standard assault rifles are pitted against aliens with superior numbers, weaponry and armour. However, despite horrendous losses, the X-COM soldier's tactics win them through time after time. Dozens of alien craft - each a treasure-trove of advanced technology - are recovered. The research complement of the base immediately goes to work. Work begins on weapons incorporating LASER technology, as well as research into the bizarre alien weaponry, tentatively described as 'plasma'.
UFO activity increases across the world, and X-COM is forced to set up more and more bases across the world, in order to provide a greater scanning range, and shorter times to the interception of an alien craft. The funding provided every month by the Council of Funding Nations fluctuates severely as some countries gratefully increase their rates, whilst others lower them to indicate dissatisfaction with X-COM performance. Despite an overall increase in funding, X-COM soon needs to discover an alternative method of financing it's growth. The Commander strikes upon the idea of selling off excess alien technology, and even selling corpses to private researchers.
Meanwhile, the aliens similarly step-up their operations. Several cities come under attack from fearsome alien warriors. The initial 'grey' aliens are complemented by others, as the aliens begin to terrorise human cities, perhaps hoping to disrupt X-COM funding.
X-COM continues to grow in size. experience and efficiency. Most countries are now content with the defence provided, although several countries do withdraw from the Council altogether. It is feared by X-COM intelligence that they are effectively controlled by the menacing alien invaders.
The scientists of X-COM persevere, and an understanding of the surprisingly simple principles behind the alien weaponry is reached. Results of tests and research summaries are recorded in the Commander's "UFOpedia" resource. Newly discovered weaponry is placed in the eager hands of X-COM agents, and they begin training with the new laser and plasma weapons. This, coupled with new armour based on alien alloy technology, makes X-COM ground forces the close equivalent of their enemies.
The invaders begin to set up covert bases around the world. It is not long before X-COM chances upon one of these, and action is rapidly taken to eliminate it. The base is heavily defended, but the X-COM soldiers fight like fanatics, and the alien stronghold falls. As fast as they are destroyed, however, a new one is discovered. As more and more UFOs appear in the skies, X-COM intensifies research into more ways to fight back and resist.
It is determined with great sadness by the top brass of X-COM that they are fighting an unwinnable war. They have intercepted hundreds of alien craft, and the ground forces have killed and captured nearly a thousand aliens, and a dozen alien bases have been annihilated, but the alien invasion is barely slowed. Scientists, interrogating captured aliens, confirm what is already suspected - the alien command is not based on Earth. It is decided that the new priority is to locate whatever is directing the alien war effort.
X-COM funding continues to plunge as more nations withdraw from what they have begun to see as a 'wasted effort'. Some nations, notably the richest such as the USA, increase funding to compensate. X-COM quartermasters continue to sell excess equipment. These two methods of financing operations are sufficient to keep X-COM alive, but they are no closer to defeating the aliens.
Then, X-COM ground forces successfully pull off an unparalleled victory. Alien commanders are captured, and the subsequent interrogations reveal the location of the alien command structure - at Cydonia, on the nearby planet of Mars.
Work progresses furiously on a new interplanetary craft, dubbed the 'Avenger'. The 'Avenger' is an X-COM gunship, capable not only of travelling through the depths of space, but also of going toe-to-toe with the largest alien battleships, and returning home victorious. As soon as an 'Avenger' is completed, and the very best X-COM soldiers assembled, the team is launched to attempt to destroy the alien leaders at Cydonia.
A short but intense battle ensues. The 'Avenger' evades weapons fire from alien defence batteries and combat aircraft long enough to land on the surface of Mars, within the alien base. X-COM soldiers pour from the transport, and immediately meet resistance from alien warriors. They fight their way to the largest nearby structure - an elevator, which transports the desperate survivors into the interior of Mars itself.
Grim tunnel fighting follows, and despite horrendous casualties in X-COM's forces, balanced against barely a dent in the innumerable alien hordes, a few armoured soldiers manage to struggle their way to the antechamber of the alien brain. The bizarre creature had apparently been single-handedly orchestrating the invasion effort. No more; X-COM shows no mercy, and the creature is vaporised. Without it's leadership, the alien hordes crumble before the armed forces of Earth, and are easily destroyed.
As the last of the aliens at the Cydonia base are being hunted down by the X-COM strike team, an automated distress beacon is activated. The last dying scream of the alien brain stretches across the void, penetrating Earth's atmosphere with ease. It is cut off within seconds, and scientists decide that it must have been a request for reinforcements from bases on Earth. These bases are either in ruins or are in the process of being captured by X-COM soldiers, so little more thought is given to it.
Once victory has been affirmed, X-COM's covert status is revoked, and information about their operations is released to the general public. The fact that a military unit had been battling the aliens for so long came as little surprise to many; grim-visaged soldiers had been seen in many major metropolitan areas over the last few years, fending off the alien invaders.
The first alien war officially comes to a conclusion.
With the war concluded, X-COM's future is uncertain. In an attempt to prove that the organisation is too valuable to shut down, X-COM command establish undersea bases. These bases act as primary staging areas for the recovery of UFOs downed over the oceans. The element elerium-115 is the most valuable salvage from these wrecks; it is the source of power for all equipment based on alien technology and as such is considered indispensable. Humankind now relies heavily on elerium, which has proven impossible to synthesise.
It is agreed by the dissolving Council of Funding Nations that all remaining elerium stocks should be funnelled into developing a method of interstellar travel. Not only would this unlock the stars to humanity, it might also lead to greater supplies of elerium-115.
An alarming discovery is made as X-COM operations to recover lost alien craft continue. Elerium-115 becomes inert during a reaction with H2O - water. Most of the elerium recovered thus proves useless, but the search continues in blind hope that somewhere, a stock will have survived.
Social problems across the world increase, as petty crime increases across the globe. Severe overpopulation and pollution becomes prominent in the more developed countries, which some blame for the increasing crime levels. These problems draw attention away from the now defunct X-COM and funding is cut. Most bases are decommissioned. Soldiers and scientists are dissolved into the general populace, although some disappear altogether.
Research based around elerium continues to reduce government stockpiles of the element, which leads to the placement of a restriction upon the use of elerium; only for military purposes. Terrorist groups, smuggling rings and other criminal organisations suddenly find the small stashes of elerium they have hidden away extremely sought-after. They arrange shady deals with governments, selling the elerium back at a horrifically inflated price. The government, rather than draw further attention to their problem, agree with no questions asked.
The dwindling forces of X-COM organise a manned mission to Cydonia, on Mars. Scientists, protected by the few remaining soldiers within the organisation, scan the area around the old alien base thoroughly in search of life. The last Avenger in active service also assumes an orbit of the planet, remaining there for fourteen hours as still more extensive scans are run. Nothing is found. Satisfied, or perhaps dissatisfied, the X-COM team returns to Earth.
The restrictions on elerium are tightened even further. All use of elerium is reserved for use with weapons only. The very last of the X-COM Avengers; that which had just returned from Mars, is decommissioned and donated to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.
World-wide, stocks of elerium-115 are exhausted. All research into interstellar travel is aborted as the sole potential source of power is depleted. The research teams focus instead on simpler interplanetary spacecraft, hoping to build colonies within the solar system to ease population problems and perhaps discover sources of elerium-115 within the Sol system.
Despite the previous failed attempts, several scientific institutes around the world begin to independently develop a synthetic substitute for elerium-115. From the beginning, a deep pessimism pervades the project, as funding is at an all-time low.
The alien war nearly nine years past, the world's economic status continues its downward spiral. X-COM is officially disbanded, although the centralised War Room in the Pentagon remains active. The War Room is placed on automatic, with periodic checks scheduled.
A wealthy software tycoon, F. Denman Williams, purchases one of X-COM's aquatic stations. Fearing that the alien crisis is not yet concluded, he also hires the base's full complement of staff, both military and scientific. Dubbed S.O.R.E.S.O (Sub-Oceanic Reconnaissance and Extraterrestrial Salvage Operation), the organisation resumes X-COM's old duties, cataloguing UFO crash sites beneath the seas - and hunting down elerium-115 stockpiles.
Global unemployment rises to an all-time high. Overpopulation continues to increase dramatically, with extensive deforestation and rapid, over-extending urban growth proving the only solution. In a vain attempt to cut down pollution, many countries ban the use of private vehicles within cities.
In 2015, administrative problems within the world's governments come to a head. Larger nations annex their smaller or poorer neighbours, whose own economies are falling. Large political conglomerates become the norm, and for the most part the switch progresses smoothly. The only smaller nation established was in 2026, when Alaska seceded from the USA forming the People's Republic of Alaska. By 2027, there are only sixteen widely-recognised world governments.
As always occurs when science fails, a more spiritual outlook was adopted by many. Most notable amongst the new religions springing up at this time is the Cult of Sirius, a powerful group believing in the deification of the aliens. They believed that the alien occupation of 1999 was the planet's sole chance for survival, and that chance was repelled. They launch deep-space probes projecting wide-band messages requesting their 'alien friends' to return.
As the Cult gathers power, wealth and members, a counter-religion developed. A malevolent and brutal group known as the Inquisitors dedicates it's existence to hunting down and destroying everything relating to the aliens - technology and people included. X-COM veterans are suspected of being amongst the founding members of the organisation.
The inevitable clashes between the two opposing religions came to a head in 2036, when all-out religious war, Jihad, was declared. The larger and more powerful Cult of Sirius eventually crushed the Inquisitors, but afterwards became far more subdued in preaching their pro-alien rhetoric.
Across the world, surface vessels, aircraft, and submersibles begin to vanish without trace. These events steadily increase in regularity, and in response to increased public hysteria scientists release theories based on natural-magnetic anomalies, freak storms and more being responsible for the the disappearances, ignoring reports of unusual submersible vessels at the problem sites. Tabloids once again take the lead in declaring that aliens are responsible, and the resultant public outcry calls for X-COM to be reinstated. The governments of the world ignore these calls to arms. S.O.R.E.S.O., still active after many years, steps up it's readiness to an all-time high. Many underwater crash sites still remain to be searched, but occasional missions are despatched to investigate disappearances. No signs of alien activity are discovered, although the response time of S.O.R.E.S.O.'s craft is over two hours.
The S.O.R.E.S.O. craft 'Khimtar' is lost whilst investigating UFO crash site 137 near the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic. It implodes and sinks under mysterious circumstances. The last words of the vessel's skipper are discovered nearly two months later, in the form of a distress call to the Pentagon. The message concludes with the prophetic words "I think they're back."
Establishing relations with the British Hydrospace and Sub-Am corporations, S.O.R.E.S.O initiates testing of the newly developed 'Barracuda'- and 'Triton'-class submersibles. Despite a high initial failure rate - some faults resulting in the death of personnel - the bugs are eventually ironed out. Several of the craft are leased out. At the same time, the governments finally action, recruiting soldiers and training them in aquatic combat. Several of the few surviving X-COM personnel are also recruited to train and organise the new soldiers. With startling ease, the government assumes command of S.O.R.E.S.O , utilising their main base as X-COM's new base of operations.
Within days, Ocean Base 1 receives a distress call from the British passenger lined 'Hyperion'. One of the new 'Barracuda' subs is sent to investigate. Upon arrival, only a broken wreck is discovered. The pilot, Jake Burton, steps from the sub to investigate, and within seconds contact is lost. A second team sent in later determines that the craft was sunk by an unknown weapon. No trace of Burton is ever found.
The Second Alien War (AW - II)
January 1st: The Second Alien War begins
Sightings of the strange new submersibles continue, and it rapidly becomes apparent that alien forces are once again at work. Alien activity escalates as the aliens once again seek to terrorise major metropolitan areas, this time focusing on coastal regions. Some species, such as the Aquatoids, are reminiscent of the previous alien invaders, whilst others are entirely new and utterly strange.
The 'Barracuda' submersibles prove highly effective at intercepting the smallest alien craft. However, the ground (or sea-bed) X-COM forces are sorely lacking in equipment with which to combat the aliens. Without elerium-115 to power plasma technology, and with the discovery that the laser weapons cannot be adapted for undersea use, the first aquanoughts are forced to rely on archaic and primitive harpoon weapons. Research into the weaponry used by the aliens is rapidly initiated.
The war continues, furious and unabated. Still more alien classes are discovered, and one that remains within every X-COM soldier's mind is the "Lobster Man", an almost indestructible alien warrior.
An alien substance known as "Zrbite" is discovered to be virtually analogous to elerium-115 in it's uses. It powers most alien equipment and weapons. It is also discovered to be dangerously reactive and unstable, but deemed within acceptable safety margins considering it's uses in replicating alien technology.
A boom in technology occurs as a result of the recovery of equipment and aliens (dead and alive) from downed alien craft. Sonic weaponry, rotating titanium weapons known as "vibro-blades", and water-tight armour are amongst the key advances made by X-COM scientists as a result of investigating alien technology.
Five years of bitter warfare finally seems to be coming to a dramatic conclusion when X-COM interrogators reveal the location of the alien's hidden primary base; T'Leth, a vast alien colony ship that squats at the bottom of Sigsbee Deep in the Gulf of Mexico.
The newly developed 'Leviathan'-class submersibles is the only vessel which can withstand the pressure at these depths. A team assembled from X-COM's finest soldiery is despatched aboard the vessel to penetrate the alien citadel. A fierce battle ensues, culminating in the discovery of the alien controlling force - a vast, hideous behemoth lying within a reanimation chamber. Fortunately for humanity, X-COM's team arrives before the beast awakes, and they destroy the power nodes to the alien's coffin. This sets off a mighty chain reaction that annihilates the colony ship, which has now risen almost above sea level. All of X-COM's forces are slain as the colony ship erupts, but the colony ship proves a fitting pyre to those who died to save Earth. The remaining aliens are confused and leaderless and prove no problem to eradicate, much as the survivors of the first alien war had been.
In a matter of days, Earth's top scientists discover that the damage of the alien wars is not yet done. As was the case after the first war, much of Earth is in ruins. However, this time more insidious damage has been dealt. The explosion of the alien colony ship T'Leth in the Gulf of Mexico has released vast quantities of hazardous materials and toxic gas. Within hours of the explosion dying away, hundreds of thousands have already died, and millions more across the globe suffer some form of toxic infection. The Gulf Coast is entirely evacuated as cleanup begins.
In addition to this, the explosion of T'Leth increases the rate of global warming. World agricultural output suffers, and coupled with the world-wide overpopulation problem, serious starvation and famine are added to the problems of the weeping Earth.
It was hoped that the new alien substance, Zrbite, might revive the failed interstellar travel program. However, these hopes are dashed as it is discovered that across the entire globe, every single piece of Zrbite has become inert, it's reactive properties lost. It is rumoured that this is linked to the destruction of the alien molecular control network that encompassed the world. The revived X-COM, fearing what may become of them as it did before, steps up its own research efforts. Despite initial successes, many scientists abandon the organisation, seeking higher salaries offered by private corporations. Once again, X-COM funding is cut.
Representatives of X-COM's main funding bodies meet to discuss the future of the organisation. It is recognised that the alien threat may not yet be entirely gone, and that X-COM should maintain operative status, but private financial interests are the order of the day and X-COM barely receives the funding it requires to keep it alive. In despair, F. Denman Williams again agrees to fund X-COM from his own reserves. In an attempt to boost income, X-COM adopts a corporate outlook. Planning ahead, Williams includes a clause in the organisation's business strategy that decrees that in the case of world-wide emergency, the government may again take control of X-COM.
X-COM engineers, possibly the finest in the world, use their experiences with alien technology to begin to produce advanced weaponry that is sold to the highest bidder. X-COM veterans are hired for peacetime operations as mercenaries. These two activities ensure a constant supply of finance for the organisation, and X-COM becomes one of the world's most successful corporations
In contrast with this, sociological, economical and ecological problems in the world reach their zenith. To more effectively share resources, consolidation again occurs as merger nations appear. The first and largest is made up of the United States of America, Canada, the People's Republic of Alaska, and the New Mexico Co-operative, becoming known as the North American Alliance. The NAA establishes a new ruling body headed by the "Premier-President", possibly the most powerful official in the world. Alexandra Scott is elected as the first Premier-President and serves three two-year terms of office.
Come mid-2052, full access to X-COM's UFOpedia databank is allowed to Transtellar Corporation for research purposes. Transtellar plan to develop a practical means of interplanetary space travel independent of alien technology.
Ecologists predict that Earth will be run dry of most natural resources within the next two decades. As a result, Transtellars efforts are recognised as, quite possibly, mankind's last hope for survival. Supporting Transtellar, many of the world's largest corporations begin research into similar fields, risking their own futures for mankind's overall.
On New Years Day, 2054, the Mark I Conversion Drive is revealed by Transtellar. The ion propulsion system generates power through helium-carbon fusion - the key of which is a fusion reaction containment chamber with a shell composed of inert, and almost indestructible, Zrbite. Transtellar almost immediately are showered with money, and are officially appointed with exclusive rights to operate all Earth-based spaceports until the turn of the century. The Mark I goes into mass production, and the first generation of colony ships are prepared. Within a year, several lunar colonies are established.
Freighters carrying ores from the lunar mining colonies arrive on Earth. This helps alleviate Earth's problems with shortages of raw materials, but still more is required. In June, Solmine Corporation begins work on a major spaceport and shipyard facility. Within six months, the first three Solmine vessels depart in search of mining prospects in the asteroid belt beyond Mars.
Solmine lease out space in the shipyards on Tranquillity Colony to Transtellar, who begin construction of a series of military transport vessels. With state-of-the-art equipment and weaponry, the new 'Patton'-class military transport is ready to serve in military and civilian roles for the next two decades.
X-COM's profits soar as governments the world over negotiate exclusive weapons, equipment and manpower deals. X-COM establishes its first offworld base on the third lunar colony. An X-COM mercenary team is maintained on-site to provide security for existing and future lunar colonies.
A group known as the Kabron Pirates discreetly begin sporadic raids on freighters running between Earth and Luna.For the most part, they utilise antiquated X-COM Avengers, with conventional drives that do not rely on elerium-115. The pirates are informed enough to know which freighters are hauling precious metals, and focus their attacks on these. Based upon this, and also the fact that no stolen materials reappear on the black market, X-COM believes that the Kabron pirates are in the pay of one of Earth's mega-corporations.
In 2057, one Harvey Wayne replaces Scott as the Premier-President of the NAA, going on to serve three consecutive two-year terms, the maximum permitted. One month later, in February, the first of Transtellar's military spacecraft, the UGS Patton, is commissioned at Tranquillity Base on Lunar. X-COM snaps up the vessel, and is immediately sent on patrol duties in pirate-troubled areas. Within two years, there are eight such vessels in active service, and pirate activity has greatly slackened off.
The fleet of mining craft despatched from Tranquillity base several years before has by now established three mining colonies in the mineral-rich asteroid belts. Unfortunately, the vast distances between the belt and Earth mean a 10-month round journey for the freighters, even with the latest Mark III drive from Transtellar.
Unmanned probes are despatched to Mars to seek out potential mineral-rich sites. However, much of the vast surface area of the planet remains unscanned. In the October of 2061, the probes send back reports of what might be a vast elerium stockpile some distance from Cydonia. Plans are immediately formulated to send a manned expedition to Mars.
The UGS Patton is withdrawn from her patrol duties. It is intended that she provide transport and protection for the Mars expedition, and as a result is stripped of weaponry. Delicate sensor arrays and more scientific equipment replace it. She is manned with scores of top scientists and engineers, with only a tiny complement of X-COM mercenaries remaining to pilot the vessel and fulfil other mundane tasks. On April 23rd, she departs.
Four months later, the vessel reaches Mars. A stable orbit is achieved and detailed scans of the surface are initiated. To test and calibrate the equipment, they begin by scanning the Cydonia base with their new hyperwave pulse sensors. Shortly after the scans, sensors show a tremendous power surge from the base. On Earth, technicians are shocked as contact is lost. Three days later, with still no communication, a high-speed probe is launched. After a three month journey, the probe relays reports back to Earth - there is no sign whatsoever of the missing vessel.
The probe's sensor arrays turn to Mars itself, and evidence of a vast explosion over the Cydonia base leads Earth to believe that the Patton's drive systems must have failed and she crashed. The board of inquiry responsible for this decision rapidly close the case.
Earth's major corporations finally recognise that Earth is a slowly dying world. The Earthbound corporations, together with many with colonial presence, unite to devise a solution to Earth's problems aside from fleeing into space. Designers and architects couple with the greatest minds of the worlds and draw up a striking and elaborate plan for vast, self-contained cities. Each 'Megalopolis' would house huge units of the world's population, with everything the city could need for survival within the same city.
The governments of the worlds recognise that this plan might be the world's last hope as far as humanity is concerned, but are hesitant to commit to funding the hugely expensive project. In 2063, however, the New World Council is finally persuaded to fund a single Megalopolis as a test. If the experiment proves successful, the governments will fund further cities. The first city, dubbed 'MegaPrimus', is begun upon the ruins of Toronto in the NAA.
In February, Harvey Wayne retires from his Premier-Presidency of the NAA. J. Scott Cameron succeeds him, rapidly becoming one of the most popular world leaders in history, before he is assassinated in 2069.
The Earth Science Corps finally confirm the presence of the huge elerium deposit the UGS Patton was sent to investigate so long ago. Despite the loss of the Patton, the wealth is too great to ignore, and a fleet of fifteen Solmine freighters is rapidly organised. Three Patton-class X-COM cruisers provide an escort. They arrive in June, with no serious problems impeding their progress. Full scale mining operations are rapidly begun.
Transtellar snap up the rights to all research in interstellar space travel as news of the elerium deposit reaches Earth. Within months, scientists have developed a prototype drive system that could propel spacecraft to the stars, faster than light.
The first shipments of elerium-115 from Mars are split evenly amongst the governments of the world. The NAA and the Eurasian Hegemony grant 50% of their allotments to Transtellar for the testing of the new FTL drive. The test is a success, and several governments commission Transtellar to construct an undisclosed number of small engines. The corporation is given top priority for elerium-115 supply.
The success of Mars Mine 1 initiates a 22nd century 'gold rush'. More than a dozen corporations launch missions to Mars, and within a year there are fifteen distinct colonies on Mars. With government attention still focused on Earth itself, the Mars colonies are left to their own devices, and skirmishes between the corporations occur. X-COM establish a base on the red planet in an attempt to keep the peace.
In May, the Earth Science Corps launch thirty-seven trans-light scientific probes towards regions of space that promise the prospect of colonisation. Several probes are lost immediately as they initiate their FTL drives. Many others report nothing of significant value.
On October the 27th, the probe 'Tombstone 1' returns reports to Earth. It's data show that the globular star cluster where it rests, one hundred light-years from Earth, contains many life-supporting planets. Many of the planet's within the probe's scanning range also apparently possess great mineral wealth, including trace veins of elerium-115. Once this news is released publicly, every single major Earth corporation begins construction of deep space colony vessels.
The media liken this turn of events to the expansion of Americans into the western territories centuries before, and as a result the star cluster becomes known as "The Frontier".
Come March, the three largest corporations have already launched their colony vessels, heading for the Frontier. Scores of other programs are nearing completion. Despite the vast wealth promised, many corporate leaders are cautious, fearing a third encounter with aliens. But these fears are not enough to stem the tide of eager colonists flocking to the stars. As a result, government heads and corporate representatives meet. They decide that a defensive force should be established to defend the colonies from possible alien incursion - and, it is surreptitiously noted after the Mars incidents, from each other.
F. Denman Williams the Second, son and successor of the corporate X-COM's former leader, turns command of X-COM over to the governments to a limited degree, in order that Frontier bases be established. To avoid stretching resources too thinly, the X-COM bases on Mars and Luna are sold to a private security firm known as MarSec (Mars Security). MarSec rapidly gains renown for it's ability to keep the peace with minimal casualties and disruption. Also, with the support of Denman Dynamics, a manufacturing firm maintained by the man of the same name, becomes a major player in the sale of weapons and equipment.
The first corporate outposts are established within the Frontier. Fleets of the latest freighters support the outposts and ferry raw materials and more between Earth and the outposts. As the vast majority of Earth-based organisations turn their attention to the stars, the Earth Science Corps officially becomes the Galactic Science Corps (GSC).
On January the 1st, 2067, the first X-COM squadrons begin patrolling the Frontier. A very first X-COM base is established and manned with the best pilots available, drawn from every corporation, all piloting the latest Transtellar X-1A Lightning II-class fighter-interceptors. The base itself is not crewed with scientific personnel, but is fitted with a data downlink system that allows the latest science advances from Earth to be downloaded from GSC computers.
The nearby corporate outposts provide financial and material support for the X-COM base, in exchange for protection from the fleets. The corporate outposts also volunteer their services as manufacturing centres, supply depots and staging points for new pilots. X-COM's presence in the Frontier is firmly established.
The Third Alien War (AW - III)
Mere days after the base is raised to operational status, several unregistered contacts appear in scanning range, passing through the Frontier. The unknowns are intercepted by an X-COM craft, which is fired on. A full X-COM squadron then launches, intercepting and destroying the UFOs. The materials are taken back to base, where Earth science teams confirm that they correspond to alien materials from the first war.
Over the following weeks, a number of outposts throughout the Frontier are assaulted by the alien forces. X-COM successfully defends many of the outposts, and begins to despatch probes to investigate the Frontier. Several alien bases are discovered within the Frontier, and are rapidly destroyed. Alien technology has not progressed much since the first war, so despite their superior numbers X-COM wins many battles.
It becomes apparent to X-COM that the Frontier is not the home space of the aliens after all; they too have only recently begun colonisation efforts. In September, a message is intercepted from the alien commanders - X-COM technicians decipher it to discover the horrifying news that the aliens are steadily constructing a vast battleship. The warship possesses a weapon that is capable of destroying Earth with a single blast. Extensive scanning of the Frontier, however, reveals no signs of construction on such a scale.
X-COM scanning reveals that large numbers of alien craft are apparently disappearing near the only "black hole" in the Frontier. It is theorised that they must be disposing of huge quantities of waste materials this way - or perhaps that they are capable of resisting the brutal gravitational forces of the black hole. One of the GSC's wilder theories is that black holes may lead into other dimensions, and X-COM command leaps on the idea, realising that the alien battleship might be under construction on the other side of the black hole.
Research into alien technologies reveal great secrets, but it is a human breakthrough by the GSC that astonishes most. Nuclear fusion weapons, hydrogen bombs and more - all pale into insignificance before the newly developed Nova bomb. The bomb forces a star to prematurely go supernova, a process that destroys everything within a huge radius. The weapon terrifies all who know about it, and it is kept heavily under wraps. The only reason the technology is not hidden away altogether or even destroyed is that it might present a way of defeating the aliens.
Further research into captured alien vessels leads to the development of a drive system capable of propelling a starship through a black hole, harnessing the gravitational forces. The UGS MacArthur is drawn away from patrol duties to be fitted with the new drive, and within hours five newly developed Avenger II's are docked aboard her. The tiny fleet departs, passing through the black hole.
One incredibly tense hour later the MacArthur returns, bringing with it tales of victory. The star around which the alien battleship was orbiting has been destroyed, and with it the alien commanders in the Frontier. The remaining alien forces are once again rounded up and destroyed.
The third alien war is declared officially terminated.
Resources continue to pour into Earth from the Frontier, helping to alleviate Earth's problems. Technologies are refined and the new MegaCorporations, among their ranks MarSec, Transtellar and Solmine, experience an economic boom. A corporation known as General Metro patents the first antigravity drive in 2071, and the Megalopolis project is adapted to include the magnetic strips beneath the roads that make the technology possible. Another new corporation develops and debuts SensoVision, the new form of entertainment. Television are radio forgotten, as SensoVision provides everything - sight, smell, sound, end even touch on the fully absorbing sets.
Concealed by these booms is the worrying news that increasing amounts of pollutants in the Earth's atmosphere will make the already toxic air completely unbreathable in a few decades. Many of Earth's richer citizens who are not tied down by the corporations leave for the Frontier or Mars and Luna, boarding Transtellar's new cruise liners.
Early in 2081, MegaPrimus, the first megalopolis, is completed. One million people, the selected test population, are moved into the city, as do many of the corporations, who employ most of the citizenry. X-COM, too, establish a covert presence.
Despite the immense success of the project, MegaPrimus brings new problems with it's creation. The undesirables of the world - criminals, hoodlums, gangsters, scum, outlawed cyborgs and hybrids, and more - all want a part of the glory of MegaPrimus. Despite protests by the governments, hundreds of thousands of people move into the slum buildings still around the edges of MegaPrimus - remnants of Toronto. Despite the minor problems these undesirables bring with them, life in the city is prosperous, and the pleased governments agree to fund a further three Mega-cities, over the ruins of New York, Sydney, and London.
The Fourth Alien War (AW - IV)
A serious threat to the city of Mega-Primus is discovered on the 7th of March, 2074. X-COM personnel, conducting a routine security sweep, discover a bizarre phenomena in the skies over the city. Almost instantly, the anomaly expands, and a craft of unknown origins appears within it. The UFO is trailed around the city by X-COM craft, unsure of whether or not to engage. The craft passes over several buildings but does little else. Finally, it returns to the anomaly, and disappears. This event is repeated several times as more small craft appear and move over the city, often at night.
Basing their studies upon research from the Frontier, an X-COM science team containing some of the GSC's best minds determines that the anomaly is a gateway to another dimension. On the 11th March, a MegaPol police officer reports that an unknown creature has been discovered, in the back alleys of a residential estate. The beast is considerably different to anything seen before. Acting quickly, an X-COM team is despatched. The soldiers clear the area near the sighting, killing several blue humanoids and a few small, orange aliens which leap from eggs. Thanks to the heavier armour X-COM is now equipped with, casualties are rare and injuries minor.
Once the aliens have been met on the ground, and found to be hostile, the next UFO that appears is attacked by X-COM's aerial forces. Several unmanned probes and scouts are downed, captured and researched. In response, larger alien craft appear, some terrorising the city with powerful beam weapons and missiles, others attempting to locate and destroy X-COM bases, and some teleporting alien infiltration squads into corporate buildings. Research quickly reveals the secrets of alien breeding habits, and it is discovered that left unchecked they breed like bacteria. Many city buildings are swept and cleared of all alien life, and in some vast colonies are found. Many X-COM agents lose their lives, but eventually the city is deemed clear - until the next UFOs appear, that is.
As more and more larger alien craft begin to appear in the skies over MegaPrimus, X-COM purchase unoccupied warehouses and slums, setting up bases in the underground areas. Research into captured aliens and salvaged technology continues - and it is rapidly determined that these are not related to the aliens previously encountered by X-COM.
The research reveals the chemical composition of the alien body, and a cheap synthetic toxin is found to be highly effective against alien lifeforms, killing them nearly instantly. Work begins on more advanced forms of the toxin. At the same time, research into alien technology reveals the secrets of disrupter technology. Not only does this give X-COM the sue of alien disrupter and devastator weapons, it also allows them to develop the ultimate in lightweight protection - disrupter armour and personal shields. The fight on the ground begins to turn in X-COM's favour, despite alien innovations like the dimension missile launcher and the horrifying entropy gun. The war in the skies is much tougher, and many X-COM craft are lost. Work begins on a new X-COM craft, beginning with research into UFO propulsion and navigation systems. This indirectly leads to the development of a drive system which will allow safe transit through the "dimension gates". A probe is retrofitted with one of the drives, and passes through the gate.
Later that day, the probe reappears, battered but intact. The data it carries with it reveals an astonishing thing about the aliens; everything about them is based on biological technology. It had already been seen that their spacecraft were almost entirely organic, as were their weapons, but it amazed many that the entire alien city was one vast organic entity. Every one of the grown alien buildings served a distinct purpose - and therein lay their weakness. X-COM decided that the destruction of certain buildings would impede alien efforts to assault humanity.
However, they have to act fast. Alien attack ships, bombers, even battleships and the terrifying motherships - itself as big as the largest building in MegaPrimus - have assaulted the city. Half of the city is razed to the ground, and despite construction crews repairing the worst of the damage fairly rapidly, MegaPrimus' economy was drawing closer and closer to the red line. X-COM retaliated, the latest Explorer, Retaliator and Biotrans vessels transporting heavily-armed assault crews into the alien dimension, where they successfully attacked, disabled and destroyed alien buildings. The fifth and sixth buildings to fall dealt the aliens a mortal blow; their ability to construct craft was lost. This was no consolation to the hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the scores of X-COM pilots and police officers, who has already lost their lives.
The X-COM fleets no longer have to perform surgical strikes on the alien buildings. The fleet masses, and swarms through the dimension gate. On the other side, the remnants of the alien fleet musters for a last feeble defence. They are utterly annihilated. However, unknown to the X-COM fleet, a suicide fleet of a pathetic few alien craft has already fled through the dimension gate, into MegaPrimus. There they have laid waste to several buildings, as MegaPol patrol cars attempt in vain to destroy them. The X-COM fleet, headed by the new Annihilator craft, returns in time to crush the alien ships as they move to threaten the Senate building. More names are added to the dead, but X-COM's resolve only hardens.
The final attack is planned. X-COM agents enter the final phases of their training as they prepare to assault the dimension gate generator which allows the aliens access to our dimension. Once that building is destroyed, the crippled alien civilisation will surely perish in the wastelands of their ruined world. The X-COM Annihilator vessel is equipped with transport modules to carry as many agents and as much equipment as is possible. The soldiers equip themselves with shield units, cloaking fields, teleporters, toxiguns, vortex grenades...
X-COM makes the final assault armed to the teeth. Despite heavy alien resistance around the gate itself - half a dozen of the towering megaspawn are found, as are several insidiously powerful psimorphs - X-COM crushes the last alien warriors in less than two hours of vicious combat. Each of the thirty generators projecting the gate into the sky fails and, unsupported, the gate slowly begins to fold in on itself.
The victorious X-COM prepares to depart. However, the last few aliens, cowering in the ruins of the generator, intend to ensure that their deaths are not in vain. They initiate the self-destruct of their building, and as the generator tears itself apart in a thermo-nuclear explosion, X-COM troops hurriedly board the Annihilator and flee. Several do not make it, and their bodies are never recovered as the Annihilator swings about and flees, riding the crest of the blast, heading for the collapsing dimension gate. But despite the incredible supersonic speed of the Annihilator, the shockwave is still faster, and it steadily gains on the craft. The Annihilator has almost reached the shrinking gate when the shockwave hits it.
Back in MegaPrimus, X-COM despondently survey the ruins of their once-great city. Buildings are in ruins, and those that still stand are scarred and burnt by the vicious firefights that have plagued the city. Derelict vehicles litter the streets; the construction vehicles are too busy to clear them away.
But hope has not yet died - something that X-COM remembers as the blackened and charred X-COM Annihilator bursts from the collapsing dimension gate, streaking to the ground on a trail of fire, skidding to a steady halt on a ruined highway. The assault teams had survived the toughest ordeal imaginable.
Humanity could too.
Erfworld - the finest comic about turn-based gaming ever.