Confession: When I'm writing Saga of Soul (...also see here if the website is down), I often have X-COM somewhere on my mind - be it the original UFO Defense game, or more recently the Firaxis one. And then I thought..."Why not?" This isn't meant to be a full story or anything. Just a blurb I wanted to get written down. XD ENEMY UNNATURAL From the journal of X-COM Commander Ikari: November the 29th, 2015: It's been precisely one week since the destruction of the alien Temple Ship. The worldwide celebration is finally dying down. I still maintain it's foolishly early to celebrate. When we raided the alien ground base and caught its commander, everyone assumed we had captured Bin Laden. It turned out we only captured Friedrich Paulus. The war kept going, with bigger guns. Now? With the Temple Ship destroyed, we have eliminated what alien presence we are AWARE of in the Solar System. I find it irrationally optimistic to believe it's over. For that matter, I have trouble seeing that battle as a victory. The Temple Ship's self-destruct would have taken the Earth with it if not for the regretted colonel's quick-thinking. Foolish of me - I should have planned better. Gathered more intel. I was in too much of a hurry to achieve a checkmate. We cannot lower our guard. I have spent the past week lobbying our patron nations, and I will continue to do so - it is vital that humanity takes full advantage of its momentum. We have to gather all the debris from the Temple Ship. We have to develop and mass-produce psionic technology. We have to figure out how to create our own alien alloys and elerium. We have to use Firestorm technology to expand into outer space, quickly - by the time the aliens return, I don't want to risk them taking all of humanity out from orbit. Thankfully, X-COM's many victories in the face of overwhelming odds have earned it (and me) a lot of credit in the Council. For now, at least, they seem to be listening. March the 8th, 2016: The Mars landing has broken all audience records. Good. X-COM's operations during the war needed to be low-key for security reasons, but having such civilian operations in the public eye now plays in our favor - the public will push for further research and exploration, and it is important to keep the whole thing fresh in the human consciousness. We NEED to install hyperwave relays across the Solar System - the next alien incursion must not take us by surprise. That they have underestimated us once doesn't mean they'll do so again. Another positive development of the Mars landing is that it will make it so much easier to research alien alloys and elerium: Both the public and corporate lobbyists will now eagerly back the investments of tens, hundreds of billions of dollars into such projects. May the 12th, 2016: The new alien attack came differently than I had expected. Neither our satellites nor the psionic sensors were able to detect anything. Additionally, we seem to be dealing with a different tactic than before: Instead of a squad of well-armed enemies, this time, one single creature showed up in the middle of Berlin and started killing everything. It was carrying no weapons; how it could projects those plasma blasts remains a mystery. A form of psionics we have not studied yet? Despite the lack of visible armor, the creature suffered no harm when shot at by conventional weaponry. When the battlefield was searched afterwards, several bullets were found that had seemingly been stopped mid-air, or struck their target with greatly minimized speed. Clearly, this creature is somehow able to slow down the bullets. This is not too surprising - we have seen that Ethereals could use their psionic powers to achieve this too, albeit not to the same extent. What worries me the most is how the battle ended. In previous engagements, X-COM was able to engage the aliens on the ground. This time, the alien, after some time spent exterminating the local police and civilians, retreated once the German military brought laser weapons to bear. Opened some kind of wormhole and disappeared. X-COM was still over an hour away from the destination. In a rather short amount of time, a lone enemy was able to kill at least twelve thousand civilians (at a very conservative early estimate), and escape as soon as a minor threat showed up. If the aliens can adapt their tactics so well, then we will need a different approach to deal with them. May the 14th, 2016: Another attack already, this time in Los Angeles. Same type of creature. Wormhole in, set buildings on fire with plasma blasts, wormhole out a few miles away to another part of the city. Rinse, repeat nine times, before finally disappearing into one last wormhole. Once again, there was nothing we could do. The local authorities managed to actually use an ARC thrower. It didn't seem to even faze the creature. Casualties and property damage in this incident alone eclipse all those of the former phase of the war put together. A new approach has to be found, and fast, otherwise the alien counterattack may well spell the end of human civilization. Interesting how, despite the extreme efficiency of this tactic, the aliens haven't used it before. Because the Ethereals wanted us able to fight back to SOME degree, to test our development? Or because this creature, or the wormholes, are too expensive to be used in other situations? Then again, if the aliens wanted to wipe us out, why not simply rely on the wormholes to send in a nuke? No, they still want something from us... May the 15th, 2016: This is bad. An attack on Mexico City. Same creature. Wormholed in and out fifteen times, setting substantial parts of the city on fire before retreating. Less than 24 hours since last strike. If they're capable of such a rate of assault, then a single enemy soldier can potentially win the war. The Mexicans managed to get a plasma rifle on the scene. Surprisingly, less effective than laser weaponry. The plasma blast didn't even reach the hostile through that force-field. Vahlen theorizes that the kinetic field protecting the creature only works on projectiles made of actual matter, like plasma and bullets, whereas pure energy can still get through. I will equip our troops with heavy lasers for the next engagement. Multiple witnesses claim the creature was howling in English throughout its rampage. Another respect in which it is unlike every other alien encountered so far. None had the vocal cords required for human speech. Why bother giving the ability, and language lessons, to what seems to be operating as a terror unit? Shen's people have jury-rigged modified ARC throwers, with much stronger voltage. We MUST capture this being alive - lack of information is too big a handicap considering the enemy's tactics this time. But we need to actually GET to the enemy before it retreats, and it seems to prefer causing as much harm as possible to the civilian centers and running away before serious military force arrives. Wormholes make retreat far too easy. We're adapting a troop transport module for the Firestorms, based on the one we used for Mars. Maybe multiple launch bases to optimize response time? One way or another, when we actually confront this alien, I want our best psionics on the team. We don't know how resistant to them it is, and on the off-chance that it is vulnerable, that will allow us to get close enough for capture. It's a long shot, but the best we have. May the 16th, 2016: Two more attacks today, separated by nine hours. Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Immense damage. The alien shrugs off rifles and light explosives. Heavy explosives and laser weapons only cause light injuries. The alien bears no scars from previous fights - does it mean it's a different one each time, or that it heals between battles? Panic is rising, stock markets are falling. Meeting with with Council tomorrow. What's the aliens' angle? Destroying our civilization? Nukes could accomplish that quicker. Vahlen has some interesting conclusions regarding wormholes. The alien has been observed using wormholes to arrive in lightly-populated areas and then open a new wormhole to leave immediately while on its way toward terror missions. It's apparently using multiple intermediary wormholes when crossing distances of more than a few dozens of kilometers. Additionally, when using such long-range wormholes, witnesses report strong gusts of winds. Vahlen theorizes that both ends of a wormhole are immobile compared to each other; since the Earth is round and revolving around itself, there is a strong velocity differential when the portals cross significant geographic distances. The alien might actually be capable of opening wormholes over longer distances, and refraining from doing so because of the supersonic winds that could ensue. May the 17th, 2016: Successive attacks on London and Paris today. Laser weapons injured creature early in Paris, causing it to retreat - casualties might end up ranking "only" four digits. Situation untenable. Explained situation to Council. Got panic funds - significantly more than during first phase of the war - but with worldwide panic, money will be worth a lot less by next week, unless we get a genuine victory. Media report worldwide suicide waves. Still less than the alien's victims. May the 18th, 2016: Warsaw and Moscow this time. No luck getting advanced weaponry to the creature - it was more careful this time, and waited less than a minute between successive wormholes. Over 1,500 reported suicides in the last 24 hours, probably many more unreported. Multiple cases of people murdering their own families before killing themselves. May the 19th, 2016: The alien struck at Beijing today. We got our lucky break. The Firestorm was able to reach the location before it all ended. With the alien's superior mobility, we couldn't simply have the troops disembark from a landed Firestorm. Instead, the ship followed police reports on the latest wormhole. After enough tries, it got in view of the alien, and opened the troop bay. Three soldiers, all of them equipped with psi-armors. Three Lightning-SHIVs, acting as flying mounts for the human soldiers. The optimal way of getting in range before the creature escaped. To my relief, the creature's psionic defenses were not as extreme as those of the high-ranking Ethereals - Major "Omega" was able to take control of the creature's mind long enough for Captain "Hunter" to get in range with the modified ARC-thrower. Even then, it took two shots to knock the creature out. Our psionics have been busy full-time, keeping the creature sedated - chemical cocktails seem ineffective. Vahlen is already at work, getting information from the enemy's mind. What worries me is that, according to our men, the creature WASN'T USING PSIONICS. Its abilities seem to be of a completely different nature. May the 20th, 2016: No new attack today. This does suggest that all the attacks were the work of a single creature. Vahlen is making progress, though it's still muddled - one thing she HAS confirmed is that the creature has human-level intelligence. Also, that it's seething with genocidal hatred. Our psionics are on rotation, but they're getting tired. If the creature ever wakes up... the interrogation chamber is programmed to fry it with multiple ship-to-ship lasers the moment it opens a portal. I'm never allowing it to escape. The suicide wave seems to have slowed down. That's encouraging. One thing, though. The creature seemed to have been aiming for genocide. Between its abilities and everything else the aliens have proven capable off, that ought to have been trivial. This suggests that this creature had no access to the other resources displayed by the Ethereals. No planet-ripping singularity. No WMDs. Furthermore, why create a supersoldier with abilities that make psionics look like a toy in comparison... and then fail to provide it with any defense against psionics? I'm starting to think this creature comes from an altogether different faction than the Ethereals. May the 21st, 2016: A demon. It thinks of itself as a demon. At least, that's what Vahlen's interrogation shows. As I suspected, this thing isn't working for the Ethereals. It comes from another dimension, not another planet. It thinks of its abilities as "magic", and as reported, they have nothing in common with psionics. The force-field, the wormholes, the plasma blasts, the superhuman resilience... all of it, part of its "magical" abilities. It hates us. It wants mankind to die - or rather, it wants us to die SCREAMING. The reasons are unclear, but the term "Righteous Vengeance" keeps popping up. Need to find out what that means. The bad news are, there are more of its kind coming. The good news are, travel between dimensions is apparently extremely difficult, and there will be multiple weeks between the arrival of each new demon. The better news are, its mind has revealed to us that human beings can use these so-called magical powers. It has also revealed to us how. We're not out of the woods yet. Even with magic, wormholes make offence much easier than defense. We will hurry up to train magical soldiers, but fighting the demons back will still prove costly. Hopefully, further interrogations will show us how to beat them for keeps. One question Vhalen's interrogation has yet to answer: Have these demons had contacts with the aliens? Have they been aware of each other all along? Were the Ethereals motivated by fear of demons? Is it a COINCIDENCE that their attacks came right on the heel of each other? Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, we have a war to win.