In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, on the 5th of November, 2015 — a scant nine months after the first strike that heralded the alien invasion — a team of six of the world’s most elite soldiers successfully infiltrated the massive alien craft designated the ‘Temple Ship’. These soldiers fought their way to the ship’s command bridge, and assaulted and killed the ‘Uber Ethereal’, an alien entity that seemed to be on the top of the aliens’ command hierarchy, and its bodyguards.
The defeat of the Uber Ethereal provoked an immediate reaction from the ship, triggering what is now believed to be a final defense mechanism in case of total command failure: an attempt to collapse the ship’s entire mass in on itself, aiming to create a microscopic black hole. Had this process been allowed to run its course, the black hole, while relatively small, would nevertheless have been strong enough to cause irreparable structural damage to the planet Earth, likely extinguishing all planetary life in the process.
It was only through the heroic actions of Colonel Komrade ‘Devil Dog’ Krellen, the acting squad leader and only remaining human psionic, that this fate was averted: after psychically shunting his colleagues from the bridge, Colonel Krellen used his vast psionic power and unique connection to the alien hive mind — a connection established during the experimental Gollop Chamber procedure — to take command of the Temple Ship. He steered the ship into space, away from the Earth, and — once at a safe distance from the planet — initiated some form of self-destruction. The resulting explosion halted the Temple Ship’s gravitational collapse and ripped the ship into millions of chunks of various debris, most of which subsequently harmlessly burned up during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Colonel Krellen is believed to have died sometime during the course of these events.
In the weeks following the Temple Ship’s destruction, humanity waited with baited breath. The aliens had allowed temporary lulls before, after all… and so far, they had replied to all of our strikes with bigger, better countermeasures. If they were to continue that trend after this…
They didn’t. The destruction of the Temple Ship broke the back of the alien invasion. Whether this is because we killed all of them — remember that the Temple Ship was the size of a decent country — or because whatever alien force is still out there has decided to back off is inconsequential. It’s been nearly a month since the last confirmed alien sighting, the skies are clear, and the Hyperwave Array is completely silent. We’ve won.
All soldiers involved in the XCOM Project were awarded the highest honours available in their countries of residence; posthumously if necessary. It hasn’t been made public exactly why, of course: remember that XCOM is a highly classified project, and nobody outside the Council countries’ highest echelons of government is even supposed to know exist. But if you were to dig — if you were the type of person to start digging for these things — you would find a lot of fairly unspecified ‘bravery in the face of the extraterrestrial threat’ awards here and there. You might even find a few people whose accolades seem to cross country borders, if you knew where to look.
During the alien invasion (some people have started jokingly referring to it as Space War One) humanity was almost truly united for a while. Of course, politics were still an issue — remember my various Council-related complaints — but for maybe the first time in our history, ideologies and various imagined divisors were put aside in favour of a common goal. I suspect nobody really expected it to last long after the war ended, but to be fair, we’re still doing pretty okay. Key word pretty: certain of the more stubborn tensions have started warming up again. The issues of rebuilding priorities and responsibilities are cropping up, the Middle East’s centuries of warfare and dogmatic difference are not that easily forgotten, and questions are starting to circulate about certain war-time behaviours. Argentinian president de Kirchner is under particular international stress: not everyone may know exactly how she chose to endanger the XCOM Project, but Argentina’s inward shift was obvious to all. Her second term is almost over, so the pressure itself is likely inconsequential; I take some small pleasure, however, in the realization that any hopes she may have had for re-running later are as good as certainly dashed.
But maybe I’m being overly pessimistic. The world did change, after all: as much as I think the Council would’ve loved to keep the alien technology as much under wraps as the XCOM Project itself, it was simply impossible from the start. Both through the aliens’ wide-spread plan of attack and through my own Gray Market dealings, extraterrestrial materials and artifacts are now wide-spread. Tell you the truth, I’m curious to see how the world at large will deal with this. I’ve already received some snippets of news: Argentina has put the Alien Alloys I sold them to good use in crafting new ultra-light armored vehicles, Mexican doctors are using findings based on the Chryssalids’ unique nervous systems to develop a radical new treatment for epilepsy, and there’s scattered reports of Australian engineers repurposing Sectopod wrecks for both defensive and construction purposes.
I don’t even know how the Australians were able to take down a Sectopod without XCOM interference. Must’ve been the wildlife.
The only thing the Council did manage to keep completely under wraps was the existence of the human psionic potential. With Conor Devlin and Asimech Jones dead, and Komrade Krellen presumed dead, there simple were no human psionics left for the news to break out. And XCOM’s base personnel is under strict Non-Disclosure Agreements. Of course, rumours of ‘secret goverment telepathy labs’ have already started circulating, and it’s not impossible that some other research team stumbles upon a Sectoid Commander or Ethereal corpse and replicates our findings. Still, for the moment, the few and the proud here at XCOM HQ are the only ones who know what humans are really capable of.
Speaking of science and of the few and the proud: after it became clear the invasion was over and the XCOM Project was set to wind down, dr. Claudia Vahlen graciously departed from the project. She has returned to her home university since — Humboldt, I believe — with the full support of the Council, and is currently leading an exploratory study into the alien Hyperwave communiciation system and its properties. Last we spoke, she used the phrase ‘revolutionizing everything about ICT as we know it‘. From anyone else, it’d come off as braggartly.
Dr. Shen… I’ve gone over the documents five times now, and I still can’t figure out if that’s his first name, or his last name, or both, or neither. Anyway, Dr. Shen just simply disappeared at one point. He retired to his quarters for the night, didn’t come out the next morning, and we found no trace of him inside. The quarters are unmonitored, because really, where would someone go? XCOM HQ is miles underground. Interestingly, some of XCOM HQ’s more esoteric sensors did start picking up unusual readings at around midnight, a short while after dr. Shen entered his quarters… only to completely glitch out for a few minutes and return to normal soon after. Some people suspect an alien hand in all this, but I’m inclined to disagree: if anyone was capable of completely jamming the base’s entire sensor suite, it would have been the engineering genius who built them.
Actually, ‘no trace‘ is a lie: we did find a small, hand-written note on his desk. It simply read “”The League needs me.“. We haven’t been able to figure out what it means, yet. But whatever called dr. Shen away, it must have been incredibly important to separate him from working on his beloved Firestorm. His engineering protégés will keep up the work in the meantime.
Steven ‘Steve’ Bradford has moved on to run communications for… some secret operation or the other. Unlike the two doctors, Steve was an official Council employee from the start; as such, he goes where they tell him to go. He seems okay with it, though.
It’s somewhat hard to express how major Steve’s contributions to the XCOM Project have been. People look at Claudia and (dr?) Shen and say “Yes, they led the research and the engineering, it’s obvious.” But Steve? Steve has basically been the public face of the XCOM Project throughout. He’s the one that ensured flawless, uninterrupted battlefield communication all the time, with a literal zero percent failure rate. He organized the money streams coming in from the Council countries, and he made the connections that were at the heart of the Gray Market. He interviewed and hired the rookies, he handled the paperwork necessary for their promotions, and he put together the Officer School training program. Without his expert guidance, the XCOM Project could probably have continued running… but it wouldn’t have been a project I would have wanted to a be a part of.
Speaking of me…
With the defeat of the alien threat, the XCOM Project slowly lost its immediacy. As days turned to weeks turned to the current month of total peace, more and more countries are hesitant to send money our way. And to be honest, I can’t blame them. The Project was set up to monitor extraterrestrial activity, and activated to fight it. And now that that fight is over…
Of course, the XCOM Project won’t simply be abandoned. Rather, we’re returning to our deactivated state: while we are no longer required to be combat-ready at any time, we’re still keeping our eyes on the sky. I’d liken it to extended hibernation. Ideally, if the aliens never return, the Project will slowly fade back into the obscurity in which it belongs: a final line of defense against the once-unthinkable. If the world can once more return to a state where high-level politicians debate our usefulness, I will be content.
Of course, if another alien threat does emerge…
(Present Jarenth’s Note: And with that, Jarenth Plays XCOM comes to an end. As before, thank you all for reading, commenting, Tweeting, and basically keeping me going throughout these three-and-a-half months. It’s been fun on my end; hope it was fun on yours as well.
As with Warlock, I’ll be taking a break inbetween this Let’s Play and the next that will suspiciously be of equal length to the time it will take me to find a good new game to play. If you have any suggestions to the latter, or if you just want to tell me how great I am, the comment box should be just below the next paragraph.
Hope to see you all next time!
- Past, Present and Future Jarenth.)