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X-COM Chronicle – Entry 20: Enemy Within

Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor


 

A few days later, and I’m sitting in a puddle of muddy water waiting for execution. Of course I volunteered. Who wouldn’t? I mean, with a glamorous speech like that? Got me out of that heavy armor for a minute, even if I’ve never felt more exposed in my life. The EXALT cells are mostly just men between 18-40, all juiced up on some disgusting brand of steroid. They talk about using alien junk to boost the effects of their bullshark testosterone…whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. 

I made my trip brief and effective, setting up a few virus-laden flashdrives in their computers. It wasn’t even all that hard, at least until the virus attacked a day early. 

You run faster without armor on, though that should come as no surprise. You run even faster when men with guns are chasing your unarmored ass. 

What I didn’t know was the layout to this stupid ghetto. My op had taken me to South Africa, deep in the slums, to where an EXALT group had been living for years. They weren’t the sneakiest crew, so I made the mistake of thinking they were dumb. Now, after getting lost for the umpteenth time, I regretted not planning ahead more. That’s when I ran headfirst into one of their heavy gunners. 

He was a monster, maybe 6’8”, and outweighed a truck. He put me on my knees and had me wait for his boss. A few minutes later, I had the whole gang getting ready to punch my ticket. They shouted a few questions and threw a few punches. Truck-man had a right hook that loosened a few teeth, but the rest were pushovers. I realized that genetic experimentation probably had a few nasty side-effects they weren’t expecting. 

Then the boss pulled out his pistol and pointed it at my head. I guess that was the signal my team had been waiting for, because they opened fire right then and there. The EXALT operatives dropped in bloody heaps under the withering barrage, freeing me to run full speed from that hellhole. I could hear the whine of the Skyranger’s engines not far from my position. I could also hear the sound of a dozen angry EXALT soldiers coming to investigate the sudden firefight. 

Durand was waiting at the foot of the Skyranger, directing the action on the ground. He handed me an icepack for my face and shoved me aboard, calling the all clear for the rest of the team. They filtered in quickly, and we were off before the cell had a chance to react. A few hours after that, we landed at Granite Peak to the sound of thunderous applause. 

The Commander took me aside, after the celebration and obligatory alcohol consumption. He led me to a small office near the science ward, where Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Chen were waiting. They looked remarkably serious, though that may have been due to my slight (heavy) inebriation. 

“Colonel, have you heard the term ‘Meld’ said around here?”

I nodded. It was a pretty poorly kept secret. Heck, it’s what we already called those big orange containers we collected on each mission. “Some alien goop, right?”

“Not quite,” Dr. Vahlen said. “Meld is a highly engineered micro-compound, capable of incredible genetic and mechanical properties. We believe that, with careful application, it could be used to augment our soldiers.”

“Excuse me?” I burped. “Sorry, I may be a little fuzzy right now. Can you put that in English?”

Dr. Chen stepped in. “We could modify your bodies to be more capable weapons against the alien–and now the transhuman–threat.”

That sobered me up. “You want to mutate us? Make us into monsters to fight monsters? Shit, I thought that’s what I just tried to stop.”

“Colonel,” the Commander said. “I know this isn’t a pleasant thought, but it is one we must consider. If we are going to win this war, we need to be willing to do anything. I’m not saying we will do all this, but we must think on it.”

That was the end of the conversation. The Commander escorted me back to the barracks, urged me to keep quiet until more research had been done, and bid me a goodnight. I walked into the darkened room in a stupor, unsure of how I would explain any of this to my friends, or how I could keep it from them. I was just going over a plan in my head when the lights snapped on. The entire unit was assembled, and wearing party hats. 

“SURPRISE!”

Oh…that’s right.

Happy Birthday to me. 

Author: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor

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