The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

X-COM Chronicle – Entry 17: Butchers Block

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

01 June 2015 / Granite Peak

Up close, a living Sectoid is something to behold. Their skin is taught and thin, wrinkling around their joints like an old man’s. Despite everything you may have read, or the grainy pictures you’ve seen, they aren’t uniformly gray. They’re colored more like a shark, with a dark back and light bellies. Their eyes are compound, like a fly’s, and plug into their enormous heads at odd angles. They look…artificial. 

Dr. Vahlen let me see the prisoner for a brief moment before she began her interrogation. I didn’t stick around for whatever that horror show would be. The chamber we’d built wasn’t exactly made for comfort, and her ominous idea of using pain as a communication device still spooked me. After satisfying my curiosity, I beat a hasty retreat to the mess. 

Corey and his team were still celebrating from their victory, albeit with fewer alcoholic beverages than before. Sam and Scott were joking with Chris about a shot he’d missed, but it was all in good fun. Everyone was in the best mood I’d ever seen. It made me a little uncomfortable. I had been feeling a little run down since my morning workout, and didn’t want to be surrounded by a group of revelers. 

No one really took my opinion to heart, though. The second I sat down at an empty table, the party moved to join me. Corey offered me a large glass of beer (where we had this unending stash I can hardly fathom) and took the seat beside me. 

I pulled at my left hand, pinching my ring finger idly. 

“What’s with the mope?” Corey asked. 

I shrugged. “Long war,” I said passively. He tried a few more times to get me to engage, but gave up after a short while. Sam, Scott and Chris stayed behind. They were quiet for a long time before someone finally spoke. 

“I’m sorry, man.” Sam put his hand on my shoulder and I lost it. Everything that had been boiling up inside me, all the different pots of anger and regret and grief, all came boiling up at once. I buried my head in my hands and let it out in huge sobs. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard. The mood of the mess hall dropped immediately. Soldiers gathered around, patting my back and saying their kind words. 

“It’s not fair,” I said. At least I think that’s what I said. It seems so childish, but it’s all I could manage. Honestly, it seemed like the whole world had just up and collapsed on my back, and I simply couldn’t take it anymore. My friends stayed with me until I was calm enough to head back to my room. While we walked, I heard Scott deflecting questions away from me. Corey came up and asked him what was wrong. 

“Don’t spread it around,” Scott said. “His wedding date was last week.”

The hurt spread from my chest to the rest of my body until I didn’t want to move at all. By that time, Sam and Chris had set me down on my bed and closed the door. They left me with more words of encouragement and said they’d be right outside if I needed them. I figured they were going to get the doc, but before they could leave the room one of the intel techs burst in. 

“Major Korenman,” he said. 

I sat up, rubbing my red eyes. “What?”

“CO Brandon wanted me to report to you. Argentina is no longer with the Council.”

Anger rose inside me like a geyser. “What? Are they fucking insane? We need their support.”

“No sir,” he stammered. “I mean, yes sir. But you don’t understand. They didn’t pull out voluntarily. Argentina was wiped out. The aliens destroyed the X-COM infrastructure completely.”

“Jesus,” Chris exclaimed. 

The ground pitched, trying to throw me off. “So what now?”

The tech shifted from foot to foot. “They need you for an emergency briefing. The Commander is stepping up the timeline. We’re taking the fight to them.”