The XCOM Saga, part 36

March 20th, 2016 (afternoon)…

  • The Sky Ranger flies over the temple ship, the vessel stretching out as far as the passengers can see in every direction.
  • Adam guides the pilot to a particular landing point.  When the Ranger descends, it doesn’t seem to be landing in a ship so much as the middle of a city.  Structures surround the landing pad, filled with countless windows that glow in eerie shades of purple and orange.
  • Almost immediately, Adam hears the High Priest’s voice.  It doesn’t seem to intrude his mind, so much as speak to him by some shared mechanism, much like two people holding a phone conversation.  It welcomes him aboard the ship, expressing eagerness to see such a marriage of physical and mental perfection.
  • A long corridor stretches out before the team, with pits, catwalks, and blind spots everywhere.  Tex orders a slow advance down the middle as a single unit.  Adam will lead the way.
  • Ryan confirms a signal is getting back to C3.  He also suggests Adam repeat aloud anything the High Priest says, as it may give insight into what the aliens are planning.
  • Tex asks if Dan is in the room.  Ryan replies that he disappeared from the base several hours ago.
  • Trying to get the focus back on the mission, Ryan notes they’ll face exposure to enemy fire from either side, so they should be prepared to cross-cover their squadmates.
  • As the first barrier opens, the walkway ahead can be seen dipping down into a larger room.  Two regular grays and a psychic commander are clustered there.
  • Adam can feel the psychic’s mind in the gestalt, though it seems strangely weak.
  • He opens a hand and tosses out a ball of energy toward the aliens.  On impact, it unfolds into a maelstrom that kills one gray and tears up the mind of the commander.
  • Adam reports that the High Priest is congratulating him.  “It’s exactly what he was hoping to see.”
  • The whole scene is baffling, but Ryan focuses himself of the task.  Noting a clean line of fire, he tells Jimmy to advance a short distance and down the surviving gray.  His heavy cannon does the job with ease.
  • Several levels below the team, more grays can be seen scurrying about.  The High Priest informs Adam that they were the earliest effort, but the results were disappointing.  The species was too frail and cowardly to succeed.
  • Our scientists noted that each alien race we’ve encountered has been genetically or cybernetically modified.  “But why give us the history lesson?” Tex ponders.
  • Chris drops down to the lower level, killing one of the newly-spotted grays.
  • Several levels above the team, two discs appear, each with their drone escorts, sitting atop structures that almost look like pedestals.
  • The High Priest tells Adam that these were an attempt to create symbiosis between two forms, but doing so left them devoid of any useful intelligence.  Is that to mean they were once organic and have now been reduced to pure machines?  Or were they encountered as advanced machine races and then reduced to this slave role?
  • As the discs are simply parked above us, the heavy gunners bring them down with ease.  The machines never even had the chance to fire.  While the aliens we encounter seem at least willing to fight back, their atrocious positioning and small numbers makes the hall feel more like a museum than a combat exercise.
  • Tex asks Adam why the priest is playing the role of disappointed curator instead of aggressor.  Adam just gives a shrug.  He can hear its ramblings but not sense the thoughts beneath them.
  • The next chamber is an intricate maze of walkways, pits, and energy lifts.  It’s almost impossible to tell how they’re even meant to fit together.  Ryan warns the team to stay highly vigilant, as aliens could come from anywhere.
  • Cyborgs.  Only four or five of them, but this terrain is what they were meant to dominate.
  • Reaching through the gestalt, Adam and Chris each manage to take control of one.  The High Priest is either unable or unwilling to stop them from subverting the aliens against each other.
  • John takes up a firing position and kills one.  When Jimmy advances, his movements seem to spook another into jumping out of cover.  Tex quickly brings it down.
  • The only surviving cyborg shoots and kills one of our mind-control subjects.
  • All at once, a group of bugs are teleported into the area, spread out below us as easy targets.
  • The High Priest tells Adam that these were barely sapient insects when their “uplifting” began.  But by the time the process was complete, they were nothing more than predators, fit only to breed and die.
  • John notes that the priest is judging each of these races so harshly, but none of them did the re-engineering.  It sounds like the pinnacle aliens are in denial of their own, shoddy work.
  • Chris manages to snipe off the last cyborg with his pistol.  The rest of the team opens up on the bugs, tearing them apart.
  • Unsure what to do with our last mind-control victim, Chris has it drop its grenade at its own “feet”.  The bomb doesn’t kill the cyborg, but  at least it can’t throw the bomb at us anymore.
  • Tex asks Adam if the priest has said anything about the cyborgs.  Adam replies that he hasn’t.  All he’s done in the past few seconds is congratulate us for defeating the bugs.  If it wasn’t for the whole global invasion thing, this guy would seem like humanity’s biggest fan.
  • The next chamber uses a much simpler layout.  Two barfers are waiting for us.  To even call the fight “trivial” would be an overstatement.
  • The priest informs Adam that this race showed more promise.  They were malleable and loyal.  However, they lacked the ability to accept “the gift”.  Given the importance placed on psychic powers at the top of the alien hierarchy — and the lack of psychic barfers — the team presumes that to be what the High Priest is referring to.
  • The team opens the energy barrier to the next chamber.
  • In front of us is a balcony.  Down below is a sunken pit.  There are four hulks and a bully waiting.
  • The priest informs Adam that now we’re facing a powerful race, with unmatched brutality.  But they lack any strength of will, making them useful only to fight and die as foot soldiers.
  • Happy to oblige the latter half of their appointed purpose, Adam throws out another psychic rift that tears apart the bodies of two of them.
  • The other troops follow after him, taking cover and pouring down plasma.  One hulk dies immediately.  The other hides for a moment, then steps out and dies as well.
  • With the bully now out of sight, our team holds position on the balcony.  Predictably, it rushes up the ramp and into our waiting firing line.
  • Scott ponders if that’s part of the purpose of this display.  It’s not just showing us the history of these races, but why each one of them fails to live up to what the priest wants.  Once we learned how they operate, sending them off has become more of a procedure than evolving conflict.
  • The path terminates in an overlook.  The only way forward is to go down to catwalks on the right and left.  Ryan recommends scouting the overlook.  If it reveals nothing interesting, the team should pick only one catwalk and stay together.
  • Upon reaching the edge, we can see that the catwalks flank an arena-like area below.  Sitting in wait are two locusts.  Did this really have to be part of the history lesson?
  • As the team focuses on a rapid response to these behemoths, the priest keeps on talking.  Apparently these machines were built — not found — and their purpose is just to supplement the combat abilities of the weaker slaves.  Yeah, we got that part down without the exposition.  Jerk.
  • The first locust goes down easily enough to our heavy gunners.  The rest of the team tears up its buddy but fails to drop it.
  • Seconds later, the much-feared beam cannon emerges.  The first volley blows apart the front of the ledge.  The second volley tears across Chris, Jimmy, and Scott.  None are killed, but all are seriously wounded.
  • Seeing the locust is in bad shape, Tex orders the team to hold their ground and kill it.  There’s no other decent cover nearby, anyway.
  • As our team opens fire, the High Priest tells Adam that it’s concerned by the injuries we just received, seeing it as a sign that we may not be as “worthy” as he had thought.
  • Ignoring him for now, we blast apart the final locust.
  • “Now what?” Tex asks Adam.  His brother-in-law replies that the priest is happy we won, since apparently it validates their faith in us.  More disturbingly, the priest said that our victory brought it one step closer to redemption.  “Redemption” implies a third party to which one must be redeemed.  Is the priest not the top of their hierarchy?
  • Adam and John heal up the injured soldiers.  Unfortunately, it leaves them almost completely out of medical supplies.
  • The team drops down from the ledge, into the arena below.
  • An elite hulk charges into the room.  Combined fire from Jimmy and Tex cut up its armor and kill the alien inside.
  • Those are the preferred guardians of the prophets.  Is this a sign we’re getting close to the priest?
  • A second one appears.  Chris takes control of its mind.  Time to explore the craft a little more safely.
  • Watching through the hulk’s eyes, Chris describes the next chamber.  A long hallway leads into a spherical room.  In the middle of the room is a ledge, almost like a pulpit.  Below, the craft seems to simply open up, and he can see the coastal waters of Brazil.  It looks like we’ve found the heart of the temple.
  • As the hulk enters the room, Chris says he sees the high priest.  It’s standing atop the podium, with a circle behind it, filled with energy like that from the Gollop chamber.
  • Adam says it’s speaking again, describing the prophets — and even itself — as the greatest failure, as they failed to ascend.  Instead, they were left behind to feed on the “gifts” of lesser creatures while seeking a race to prepare for ascension.  It’s unclear if they’re describing themselves as the failure of another alien race or simply more adept members of their own race.
  • Several elite guards rush to the defense of the priest.  Knowing the hulk won’t last long, Chris has it toss a grenade onto the pulpit.  While it does little damage to the priest, it blows apart the walls around it, stripping it of its cover.
  • Back in the human team, Tex looks to Jimmy and Scott.  “Now that we know where it is, prep your launchers.”
  • With the psychics keeping close watch, the heavy gunners unshoulder their fusion launchers.  Chris points to a spot ahead.  They take aim, and the projectiles streak down the corridor and explode.  The High Priest stumbles from the blast, crippled and dying.  It tumbles to the floor, its shockwaves of mental energy killing the other aliens in the room.  But it sends Adam a final message.
  • “Without us,” it says,” without our guidance, what are you?  You are nothing.” And then the ship begins to violently shake.
  • The team flees the room.  With the High Priest gone from the gestalt, Adam suddenly feels the ship as if it were a living organism, its every machine explaining their final instructions.  The ship will soon implode with sufficient force to destroy the Earth.
  • Adam stops.  He prays.  He blocks out the images of a dying Earth, picturing only his family.
  • Realizing Adam has stopped, Tex turns to call for him.  But with no time to argue, Adam does something he has never even tried before: he uses his psionic gift to force Tex from the room and command the other soldiers to run for the Sky Ranger.  Then Adam tells the ship to close and seal the door.
  • As the Ranger lifts off, Adam ascends to the pulpit once occupied by the High Priest.  The priest had told Adam we were nothing, but Adam refuses to believe that.  His wife, his kids, his family, his friends…they’re a lot more than nothing.
  • He reaches out and takes control of the High Priest’s device.  Now with every system under his control, he tries to stop the implosion, but the process are too far along to reverse.  So instead he moves the ship into a climb, taking it higher and higher above the Earth.
  • When the ship destroys itself, its death triggers a series of minor earthquakes, but the planet is spared.  And once the implosion event passes, the parts begin to expand again, showering the Earth in a brilliant display.
  • On board the Sky Ranger, any sense of celebration is dampened by Adam’s loss.  As Tex looks out the window and sees the remains of the alien warship burning up in the atmosphere, he thinks back to Dan’s last words to Adam.  “His compassion really did overcome their evil,” he says aloud.  And then he returns to silence.

Comments (2)

Rob A.November 18th, 2012 at 9:36 am

Grand applause!

PedroDecember 1st, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Dan knew…he knew in advance. Dan knew and had to let him go…HOLY SHEEPDIP!

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