The Third XCOM Saga, part 15, RP Interlude 29
As written by Ryan Fraedrich…
Sent: March–13–2084 05:17 AM
Subject: VR Training
Sometimes life decides to sucker punch me when I’m not looking. I wish that just meant acid burns covering my chest. A few days ago, Ray and his wife brought in a set of learning pods to improve our training doctrine here at XCOM. Truth be told, I’ve been using everything — budget planning, paperwork, to combat tactics — to not touch the things. Now that I’m sitting in the med bay and find I’m burdened with an excess of free time I can no longer bullshit myself into avoiding the learning pods.
Most people don’t know what psychic push can do to a person. After the second temple ship went kaboom, I went back to being a counselor. Being repeatedly violated by every Ethereal I met left a need to rework trauma into something positive. I played a part in most research where thoughts were transmitted or memories transplanted from one person to another. If humans were psi positive then why could we push thoughts from one mind to another? If Ethereals used psionics for harm then why couldn’t we use the same technology for good? Then in the third war during the 2040s everything went to hell.
I was serving alongside my husband off the east coast. Sarine and other countless injuries took away my uniform and made me unfit for combat. I served as a civilian contractor as the base’s counselor. Part of my duties, the classified part, was training all the ground troops in my charge how to defend against psionic invasion.
Becoming the monster is a horrific nightmare well beyond any task in my military training. Having an Ethereal make me a passenger in my own body is a level of violation few experiences can compare. These soldiers had no idea what they would be up against when an alien mind would reach in and make them its plaything. My job was to be ruthless and merciless in preparing them to survive and recover from psychic violence. Once they were out in the field I couldn’t protect them, so I had to make my soldiers as strong and resilient as possible before sending them into harm’s way.
Why did it always feel like I was “turning the tables?” I have no psi ability to speak of, so I had our resident psi positive soldiers do the mental pushing. The soldiers in attendance were my students, and none of them were the ones who hurt me. So why did it feel like I was getting revenge when I was in the power position and my soldiers were the ones getting pushed?
I never gave myself an inch of slack. Visits to other counselors every other day, frequent medical evaluations, practicing what I preached when it came to self-care and cooling down from defense classes. I followed the mantra, “Do no harm.” If a training plan wasn’t 100% as safe as possible then I didn’t do it. I didn’t care about budget or time constraints. Instead, I just lost more sleep until I had some plan for keeping my soldiers safe. Failure meant a human being having to live with the guilt of gunning down their squad mates while an alien mind smiled and pulled the trigger.
Why do I feel so guilty?
The war cost me everything. Near the end of the war, James was killed in a raid on our home base. Thump. Pop. Splat. A few seconds later, I lost a good percentage of my body to enemy fire. A widower and a cripple within the span of a minute. When T’leth poisoned the planet, I’d even lost the country I’d served. No more US of A or land of the free. Now there are just several thousand miles of meld infused alien landscape.
I still miss James. I still have the ring. I would wear it on a chain with my dog tags. Heh, be thankful for the small things, right? At least when my arms were ripped off, I didn’t lose the ring too.
Now the psychic projection pods come rolling back into my life. I can’t ignore that in the proper hands they could accelerate unit combat readiness. The existing programs are going to be deleted wholesale and new training programs developed from scratch. I won’t trust a single line of code unless I’ve written it myself. What Sensovision doesn’t publicize is just how vulnerable a human mind is. If Duncan and Conner were kids in this war then Life Tree would be brainwashing them with “moral education” and god knows what else they sneak into their lesson plan. I wish the xenos would sneak into Primus schools and break every learning pod and server. Smash it all to base atoms so it can never hurt anyone ever again.
I can’t become the monster I was in the third war. I worked for Sensovision after T’leth and built similar projects, but now I don’t know. I couldn’t be a ruthless drill Sergeant again. Maybe old wounds got exposed or I’m just a different person now. I’ll just have to figure something out Beth. Thanks for listening.