Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
23 October 2015 / Granite Peak / X-COM
“Engines are showing 85% output with no loss of integrity.”
“Increase power to 95%.”
The entire hangar thrummed with a constant vibration. It started in your feet and steadily rose until your innards felt like a washing machine. The entire base had assembled on the deck and watched as the new ship began pre-flight procedures. I stood in the center of the formation, my dress uniform weighed down by a chestful of medals. CO Brandon walked over and crossed his arms, viewing the spectacle with unrestrained anxiety.
“You don’t think it’ll work?” I asked.
Brandon shook his head. “It has to.”
We stared in silence for a few minutes. The floor at the center of the hangar opened like a flower, and the Firestorm rose from beneath.
There were a few audible gasps. It was no wonder, the ship looked eerily like a small alien scout. Twin plasma cannons rested on the front, just forward of the reinforced cockpit. Glowing blue shielding lit up the hangar like a second sun. Sam and Corey appeared alongside me, their mouths gaping open. Chris and Scott, a few feet behind, laughed manically.
The Firestorm rose a few feet off the ground, then a few more. With a sound like ripping metal, the craft shot out of the launch tunnel and into the sky. The air seemed electrified, and the entire room burst into shouts and cheers. I turned to Brandon and clapped him on the back. His stoic expression broke, just for a moment, into a huge grin.
“I think we just evened the odds.”
We walked away from the christening of Demon 1 feeling pretty sure of ourselves. The base attack was still fresh on our minds, but we knew the end was coming. And for the first time since the beginning of the war, I was pretty sure we weren’t on the losing end. Strike One led the way into the briefing area, pausing only to collect $20 from Sam (he’d bet Dr. Chen would never get that thing off the ground). Dr. Vahlen and her team was waiting inside.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure you enjoyed the show in there. We have certainly made some amazing discoveries since we started peeling apart the alien ships. We are confident that our pilots can now take down even their strongest ships. Of course, that is only the first part of the battle. In order to ensure that you are all properly protected when going into battle, we need to address the limitations of the human body.”
Technicians brought in a mannequin on a roller gurney and set it up at the front of the room. My eyes popped out of my head. Damn, it was big. With all the added armor and gear, the suit was almost seven-feet-tall.
“Behold our Titan Armor, the strongest suit we have ever made. Designed using the Elerium substance we’ve harvested from aliens, as well as many of their technological advances. This hermetically sealed power armor will protect you from the elements, disperse even the most powerful weapons, and enable you to survive against incredible odds.” Dr. Vahlen’s face darkened. “Sadly, that may still not be enough.
“As many of you know, we have been looking into the Meld substance recovered on many of your missions. We believe that, with careful application, this substance could alter a soldier’s genetic make-up, allowing them to become…more than they were before.”
Dr. Chen coughed loudly and stepped to the podium. “Of course, there are other options besides genetic manipulation. We can use the Meld to create cybernetic enhancements that would make soldiers into war machines, capable of taking on the enemy without fear.” The crowd moaned in horror. “I understand how this sounds, but we need to stop thinking as we did before the war. The world is changed, and the future of our species may be in the balance.”
For a few minutes, nothing could be heard over the roar of the collected soldiers. There were curses, pleas, and even a few prayers. Finally I stood up from my seat and turned to face my brothers and sisters. They quieted down at once.
“X-COM was founded with a singular purpose: the defense of our planet from any extra-terrestrial threat. We failed that first mission. Then X-COM changed its purpose to repel the alien invasion and take back our planet. Well, look around. We aren’t exactly checking countries off our list. We are finally in the position to take the offensive in this war, but it hangs on a knife’s edge. We slip one way, and humanity is erased from the galaxy. We go another, and this becomes the moment when we took control of our own fates.
“I’m not giving up this fight. Not until my last breath. This is our planet. Our home. And we will make them pay for everything they’ve done.”