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X-COM Chronicle – Entry 15: Freaking Lasers

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

08 May 2015 / Granite Peak

Holy shit, we have laser guns.

Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Chen made the announcement today during the morning briefing. I was still pretty wiped from the week’s missions. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired in my life. I slept through most of the lecture, but was jostled awake by a sudden shift on the bench as every soldier sat up straighter. 

One of the techs, Marcela or something like that, carried a silver and red rifle over one should and set up on one end of the room. They raised a plywood target against the far wall and hung fireproof blankets all around just in case. I noticed a strange hum filling the air. 

“This weapon works by focusing energy along a chamber of crystals. When the charge reaches critical mass, it unleashes absolute hell against the target. Observe.”

Marcela pointed the rifle and balanced it against a foam stand. She squeezed the trigger, and a beam of bright red light briefly connected between the barrel and the target. In an instant, the wood burst into flames and exploded into pieces. The sound was deafening in the enclosed space, but no one flinched. We stood as one and applauded. 

Dr. Chen waved his hands to get us to calm down. “These weapons should give us a fighting chance against the more formidable opponents out there. That edge will be necessary as we move forward with a rather bold directive.” His last remark seemed directed specifically at Dr. Vahlen. She took the cue to come to the center of the room. At the same time, I noticed the Commander appear in the background to watch the ordeal. 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she said. “We have reached the pinnacle of what we can learn from the dead. My science team has looked over the bodies you’ve retrieved on your missions, and we have learned much. But there is still something more to gain, some new intel we could use. So, with that in mind, we are updating the priorities for the Strike Teams.”

She gestured to the big board we had in the briefing room. It was an electronic display noting the three prime mission objectives. 

– Halt enemy abductions

– Disrupt enemy scouting missions

– Destroy enemy outposts

A new line appeared at the top, glowing yellow. Our jaws all dropped when we read the sentence. 

– Capture Sectoid for interrogation

Dr. Vahlen pointed at me and I realized I had raised my hand. “Doc, how are we supposed to bring one of them back alive? Anytime we’ve been in close quarters, they fight to the death.”

She nodded to Marcela and suddenly a large silver box was brought onto the stage. “This is an Arc Thrower, something of Dr. Chen’s design. It fires a powerful blast of electricity capable of knocking out pretty much anything. We are confident that, with rare exception, it will put down any of the known species of X-Ray we’ve come across.”

Corey laughed nervously. “What are the chances it doesn’t work?”

Dr. Vahlen hesitated before answering. “It has a 70% capture rate.”

The room exploded. Everyone started shouting about one thing or another. Sam, Chris, Scott and I kept our heads down and let the ruckus commence. I couldn’t take my eyes off the Arc Thrower. It was such a small device, no bigger than a toaster. How was that collection of wires and metal supposed to drop some of the bigger baddies we’d come across?

Everyone started to settle down after the Commander took center stage. He was wearing his dress uniform–that meant he’d been talking to the Council. He never needed to pretty up for us. I was mesmerized by the array of ribbons and medals on his chest. It looked like he had seen action in every theater possible on the planet. And all that was before the alien invasion. He held up his hands and we all took our seats, waiting to hear his directive.

“I know that you are all concerned about this course of action,” he said. “The risk posed in trying to take an alien alive is great. I’m asking you to put yourselves in harm’s way, and I cannot guarantee what will happen next. We don’t know what we’ll find when we interrogate these creatures. Maybe we can discern their plans for the future. Maybe we can find their leadership. Or maybe this will end with a few more dead Sectoids and nothing to show. 

“What I do know for sure, and what I can tell you, is that our current course is not sustainable. We can continue to fight one battle at a time, but we are a limited resource. There are only so many soldiers left standing, only so many trips we can take given our limited resources and funding. We’ve already lost a country to the alien war machine, and more are starting to trend that way. If we surrender too much, then our time on Earth will come to an end. 

“We are losing this war, people. You might not feel it, but I do. I read the reports from the countries we fail to support. I watch the videos of bombing runs we weren’t able to prevent. I’ve watched our butcher’s bill grow into the billions, and we are no closer to understanding how to end this fight.

“So yes, you are going to capture an alien. And we are going to find out something useful. And then, by God, we are going to rain holy hell down upon those bastards until they learn to fear us the way we once feared them.”

If this had been a movie, we would have broken into applause, but the mood did not allow for such excitement. The Commander left the room and Dr. Vahlen took the stage for the last time. 

“Any other questions?”

Scott’s hand went up this time. “How exactly are you going to communicate with these things? Do we think they can understand English?”

Dr. Vahlen thought for a moment. “I plan to use a more universal language.”

Scott laughed. “Math?” We all had a good chuckle. 

Dr. Vahlen’s eyes lit up, and her smile was more sinister than reassuring.