Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
10 January 2016 / Granite Peak / X-COM
“And what happens after that?”
“We will know how to board their mother ship.” Dr. Vahlen crossed her arms and scowled at CO Brandon. “We’ve been over this again and again. Do you still not understand?”
The intel officer rolled his eyes. “This isn’t just a soldier we’re talking about. It’s a person. And it happens to be one of the best that we’ve got in this fight. Colonel Korenman has been through more than any other operative, and that includes those spooks from the 40’s.”
“All the more reason to have him in the chamber. If anyone can speak to this thing, it’s him.”
Brandon sighed. “It seems cruel. Asking him to do all this, all while we’re…keeping things from him.”
“It’s better this way, at least for now. If he knew she had been found…”
I heard it all from my bedroom, my heart pounding faster and harder by the minute. I knew they were talking about the Ethereal’s Beacon–that glowing sphere from the Overseer–but I didn’t know what it all meant. The science team had been working on that device since we brought it home, with no word from any of the techs.
Then I felt it. C . She was alive. Somewhere out there, in the middle of all this hell, she was still breathing and fighting and surviving. I knew she would be; she was always the stronger one in the relationship. But where? I had to find her.
It’s hard to concentrate anymore. After the last mission…
We went to a scout crash site, like we’ve done a hundred time before. I checked the beacon before we left so I could see what we were up against. Another Ethereal. No problem, I thought. My long gun can take them out before they get too busy. But we ended up in close quarters, fighting our way hallway to hallway inside the ship. The Ethereal caught me by surprise, and suddenly I felt its fingers inside my head.
You are playing in the realm of gods, young Harkun. Let me show you what real power is.
My limbs stopped responding. I felt like a puppet having his strings pulled. The others managed to kill the Ethereal before it made me do anything, but that sensation…that invasion…was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.
And since then, I have been able to control peoples’ minds.
When we got back after the mission, I was in line at the mess. The private serving my food only had two scoops of mashed potatoes left. I didn’t mean to make anything happen. I just thought to myself: Man, I really want both scoops. The private’s eyes glazed over and he served me both.
I thought that might be a fluke, so I tried something else. I started a fight. Between Corey and Victor.
I made sure Victor was out of his suit (which is super creepy, by the way. His mechanical body looks like an erector set). Corey and Victor have been friends since we got here, but I had them at each other’s throats with just a thought. I was able to stop it right after.
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really feel human anymore.
* * * * *
Jason and Jillian Gollop are two of the most talented engineers on the planet. That’s not hyperbole, there are so few survivors with their particular field of expertise, I think they may be the subject matter experts. And they figured out the Ethereal Device.
It is a “Psi-Link,” a tap into the collective consciousness of the invaders. They operate like insects, controlled by a Hive Mind. That massive ship over the Atlantic, the one that appeared when we started playing around with the Hyperwave Beacon, all signs point to it being the home of the mother of all aliens.
The Gollop siblings built a chamber to house the Psi-Link, and now they need me to go and test it out. If I can tap into the network, maybe I can find out how to board that ship. Maybe I can find their leader. Maybe I can end this once and for all.
CO Brandon wasn’t so convinced.
“Adam, you’ve given enough of yourself to this project. I think we can find another way.” He seemed sincere, but I could read between the words. There is no other way, but I can’t ask you to sacrifice any more for humanity. If this is how we end, so be it, but I will die knowing I didn’t condemn good men to become monsters.
Dr. Vahlen wore her thoughts a little more openly. “Merging with the Hive Mind should direct us to the host, which we can hunt and kill.” Come on, Colonel. We’ve put so much into you, now it’s time for you to show us what we’ve created.
The Commander, however, played the trump card. “Corinne is alive, Adam. We found her, along with most of her family, tucked away in an Israeli bunker. X-COM Africa picked them up and has them safely housed in their facility.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “If you want, I will transfer you there. You can be with them, be with her, and I won’t ask you to go out again. You have given us hope, Adam. We can take it from here.” It moved me, that he would risk the mission to take care of a soldier. But then I read deeper. There’s no telling how much longer we can keep this storm at bay. When it comes, it will take the planet. Maybe Adam can have a moment of happiness before this all goes away.
There really was no choice. I had to enter the chamber.
* * * * *
The walkway to the Psi-link was flanked by water. The entire room was built in the deepest, darkest crevice of the facility, away from any prying eyes or wandering feet. I received the summons in the morning, on February 5th. We’d been at war for over a year. It was time to end this.
I left my room and walked the halls, nodding to my friends as I passed. Would I recognize them when this was over? Would I still be me?
I passed the Memorial Wall and stopped to read the names. Row after row of dedicated soldiers and green recruits, all killed fighting an implacable enemy. Hundreds of lives lost for the cause, and it didn’t even touch the billions left to die in the streets.
Sam, Corey, Scott, and Chris all accompanied me, walking me to the edge of the room. They were not allowed to cross the threshold, for their own safety as well as mine. I didn’t need to read their minds; I could see how worried they wore. Sam gave me a hug and whispered in my ear: Don’t fucking die. I’ll be pissed.
I walked the long path alone. The room was silent, save the steady rush of water flowing from unseen pipes into the fountain. As I approached the Psi-Link, I felt it reach out to me. The glowing purple sphere seemed translucent, and tendrils of blue energy coursed over the surface. I reached out with both hands, and…
At last…YOU have succeeded…where WE have failed!
A monster. An Ethereal, but somehow bigger and stronger. It’s robes are deep and dark, like old blood. It’s helm is carved from the skull of a conquered king.
I stared into its eyes, and I knew what it wanted.
Good, I thought. I’ll see you soon.