Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
12 December 2015 / Granite Peak / X-COM
They kept me under for just about two weeks. Before it all began, I was warned there could be side-effects. I guess that was their way of saying “horrific fucking nightmares.”
I can’t remember it all, but I see flashes. My parents. My old life. My fucking dog. All of it splattered across the past year in a bloody Pollack painting.
We ran the entire way, skipping the elevator in favor of stairs. Chris led the pack, leaping over crates and leftover rubble from last month’s firefight. Scott trotted in the back, his face beet red. He’d been in the middle of lunch when we’d taken off, and was probably not going to keep it all down.
The day had started like any other. Wake up, physical fitness training, and a few drills to keep fresh on our tactics. Sam led the exercises (he’d really taken to cross-fit, and loved making the new recruits puke before breakfast), and I took point on tactical training. We were planning on fielding Strike 3 whenever the next mission came up, and they needed to understand how to make power armor work in their favor.
Then the entire bunker started shaking.
Every floor, every room, EVERYTHING rocked like it was the end of the world. At first we all thought the same thing: Attack. But no alarms sounded, outside of a few fire suppressors that were tricked into spraying down the halls. A minute later, a single message was broadcast from CO Brandon.
“Strike One, report to the chamber immediately.”
I’d been briefed about my role beforehand, just after Adam stepped into the chamber. It didn’t make me feel any better as we sprinted toward the psionic testing room. I felt the weight of my concealed pistol in the holster under my shirt. There were explicit instructions about what to do if…if needed.
The entire science division had beat us to the gate, but they parted to let the muscle-bound soldiers through. We climbed to the observation deck and looked down on the operating floor. Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Chen fussed at their computers, shouting out results to their assistants and impatiently talking over each other. I didn’t really pay them any attention. All of my focus was on the lone pod at the center of the room.
Clouds of CO2 blasted out of the casing, dissipating into the chilled air of the chamber. This increased in frequency until the sound drowned out all communication. Finally, and quite suddenly, everything stopped.
“Pressurization complete,” a technician said over the loudspeaker. “We’re ready to release.”
I gripped the handle of my pistol and tensed for anything. This was entirely new ground, and it didn’t feel stable at all.
“Locks aren’t functioning, doctor. We’re going to need to open it manually.”
Dr. Vahlen looked up at the control room and scowled. “Fine.” She pointed to two men in scrubs and gestured toward the pod. “It’s on the back. Pull the clamps off.”
The men had just started toward the case when it began to vibrate. Everyone froze.
Purple light spilled from the small openings, casting haunting shadows around the room. Something inside squirmed, pounding against the unyeilding metal.
“Come on, get him out of there.” Sam and Chris were very agitated. It made me squeeze the pistol harder. I was one trusted with the awful task, the one who would make the tough choice if it came to it.
Dr. Vahlen had been very clear on that.
“This test,” she had said. “We are awakening something that was not meant to be roused. This could put humanity through its next evolution a few thousands years early, or it could remove the humanity from the Colonel entirely. In any case, we want to be sure we don’t arm a bomb without the means to diffuse it.” That’s when she’d handed me the pistol.
Inside the operating room, the walls began to flex inward, as though drawn by some unseen force. I tried to swallow, but couldn’t make saliva.
“Dr. Vahlen,” the technician shouted. “Pressure just jumped 200 percent. I don’t know what’s happening.”
The doc didn’t have a chance to answer. One second it sounded like a tornado had formed inside the room. And then the outer door of the pod exploded off, flying to the far wall so hard it left an imprint. The purple glow consumed the entire chamber, until we could barely see inside.
“Oh my god.”
Adam fell out, landing on his hands and knees. His veins bulged and his chest heaved. He looked like he had just been through hell.
I turned toward the others and saw the same look on all their faces. I bet I was wearing it as well. Our friend, our leader, had gone into that pod. What had just come out.
“Colonel?” Dr. Vahlen approached Adam the way she might approach a wounded Muton. “Colonel, can you hear me?”
He looked up, and I almost drew my gun. His eyes…they were completely purple. Not just changed in color, but glowing fucking purple. Like it wasn’t an eyeball, but purple fire inside his head. Then, suddenly, the light faded. Adam stood up, shaking his head.
She had her “I knew I was right all along” face on.
“Colonel, how do you feel?”
Adam looked around the room, as though seeing it for the first time. “Different. Lighter.” He held out his right hand and turned it over. Palm up. Palm down. Again and again. When he had it palm up the last time, his eyes flashed. A wisp of purple smoke filled his hand, swirling into a controlled sphere. “Heavier too.”
Dr. Vahlen placed a hand on Adam’s shoulder and the wisp disappeared. She look up at us, beaming. “I think we’ll be all right down here. Thank you all for coming to welcome Colonel Korenman back to us. Now please, give me a few hours to check him over, and I’ll return him to you tonight.”
We shuffled out with the crowd, too stunned to speak. Sam, Chris and Scott didn’t say a word until we reached the barracks, and then they wouldn’t stop talking. Before we got on the elevator to head up, when we were all still in shock, I overheard one of the technicians gabbing. His words stuck with me the rest of the day.
“Those aliens won’t know what hit them.”
“What do you mean?” a security guard asked.
“They came down here expecting a fight. They knew they’d be up against some pretty tough soldiers. Bet they never expected to face a god.”