Part 43: Lights in the Sky
Chapter 43: Lights in the Sky
: I had once again been asked by Commander Ulysses and Dr. Markus to conduct the psionic interrogation of the Muton we captured. No sooner had I finished than Lily contacted me, and asked me to meet her in the large radar room.
Lily Takakumi: Hi, Otto, thanks for coming to see me.
Otto Zander: No problem. So, what's this about?
Lily Takakumi: You're the highest ranking person on this base I can trust. Frankly, I don't want to read another watered down report that's been edited by Dr. Markus. I want to hear the story straight from your mouth.
Otto Zander: Yeah, I've noticed how Markus has been leaving certain things out of the reports lately. The terror mission in Washington and its oddities were never really explained to us very well.
Lily Takakumi: Right. And now I've heard rumors about the interrogation and autopsy of the Muton we captured. I want to hear what happened straight from you.
Otto Zander: Sure, Lily. I still owe a couple favors for saving me back in Japan. Well, since the Muton had so little psionic defenses, getting information out of its mind was trivially easy. Once we drained it dry of anything we could learn from it, it was stunned repeatedly, then we tried to kill it and the autopsy began.
Lily Takakumi: Tried to kill it? Did you do the autopsy while it was still alive?
Otto Zander: No, no, no. We tried a couple different methods of killing it without causing tissue damage - suffocation, severe electric shock, that sort of thing. Damn thing either wouldn't die or just went into a state of hibernation. What finally did it was the Mind Shield on base. We used it to completely block out any psionic waves in the containment room when it dropped dead. After that it wasn't even easy starting the autopsy. The green skin of the Muton was an incredibly strong material that was too hard to cut through. It took a concrete saw to get through it!
Lily Takakumi: I've already seen this report from my computer. It's obvious the Mutons evolved on a high-G world, but I expected aliens of this hardy stock to be clones. Instead of one super-soldier, the entire race of Mutons must be like this, which is a little unsettling.
Otto Zander: Of course the important information came from the examination and interrogation.
Lily Takakumi: Ethereals? A fifth alien species? What do we know of them?
Otto Zander: During the interrogation I asked the Muton about that. It told me of a story of their species' first encounter with these Ethereals.
Otto Zander: Millions of years ago, it's hard to tell exactly when, the Muton's homeworld was harsh, high gravity environment. Mutons, while intelligent, had barely begun using tools, when they saw a star fall from the sky - turned out to be an Ethereal UFO crashing.
Otto Zander: The Ethereals asked the Mutons for help, in exchange they would grant the Muton species the honor of serving their God, the High One. The Mutons agreed, and were relocated to the Hive Ship.
Lily Takakumi: The Ethereal Hive Ship?
Otto Zander: It's got to be. The rest of what the Muton could tell me consisted of stories about their training and greatest military accomplishments. Their first major war was also their first contact with the Snakeman species, which was basically a Snakeman slaughter. Snakemen had no technology, only sheer numbers on their side.
Lily Takakumi: Wait, Mutons and Ethereals were originally at war with Snakemen? Then how did Snakemen end up on the aliens' side?
Otto Zander: The tactics the aliens used in their wars was to send Mutons to eliminate the largest areas of resistance until the Hive Ship arrived in orbit around the target planet. Then the war was simply over, the remaining population of the planet turning to serve the Ethereals. Same deal with the alien's war against Floaters. The Mutons have a lot of stories about their war against them. Until the Mutons came to Earth, the Floaters were the most advanced species they battled with.
Lily Takakumi: And that war ended the same way as the Snakeman war did correct? The Hive Ship arrived, and the planet simply surrendered?
Otto Zander: Correct. It wasn't exactly clear how.
Lily Takakumi: Actually, I think I know, but I'll get to that in a second. What about our friends the Sectoids?
Otto Zander: They were around before the Mutons were, so we don't know.
Lily Takakumi: What do we know of these Ethereals?
Otto Zander: Not much.
Otto Zander: They always wear large orange cloaks to cover themselves, and rarely go into battles themselves. It's probably safe to say that the Ethereals are the main alien species behind everything.
Lily Takakumi: Otto, as I told you before, you're one of the few people on this base I trust. I want to show you something I just discovered.
Lily Takakumi: I've been using the on-base radars and telescopes, and I detected something very weird.
Otto Zander: Um, Lily, whatever strange thing you detected, it might have something to do with Ms Cuddles over there interfering with the radar.
Lily Takakumi: Oh no, she just got up there a minute ago. I took these scans before that. Look at this.
Lily Takakumi: Top left quadrant, you see that bright yellow star up and to the right of that blue star?
Otto Zander: Sure, I guess.
Lily Takakumi: Not a star.
Otto Zander: What?
Lily Takakumi: It's not a star. It has the same frequency distribution of an alien power source.
Otto Zander: I'm sorry, you lost me.
Lily Takakumi: *sigh* Okay...so you know how alien power sources emit infrared radiation peaking at two point six micrometers right? Of course you do, everyone knows that...
Otto Zander: Um...
Lily Takakumi: And this "star" emits the same spectrum as a power source, only it peaks at six hundred nanometers.
Otto Zander: I have no idea where you're going with this.
Lily Takakumi: Okay, how can I say this....you've heard of the Doppler shift, right? Red-shifting of stars?
Otto Zander: Oh yeah, that has something to do with galaxies moving away from us. Expansion of the universe and all that.
Lily Takakumi: Right! As something moves away from us, the light it emits it redshifted to longer wavelengths. This "star" we're seeing is the radiation emitted from an alien power source, only it's blueshifted into the visual range.
Otto Zander: Meaning...it's moving towards us?
Lily Takakumi: Yes! And fast too, about ninety percent of the speed of light. The worrying part is that the blueshift is starting to go away, implying that this object is decelerating. Otto, do you know what this "star" is?
Otto Zander: ...
Lily Takakumi: I took a scan at a different frequency - the same frequency we use psionics at.
Lily Takakumi: At psionic frequencies this is the brightest observable object in the universe to us. Otto, it's the Hive Ship. You said Mutons were sent as the final attack force to eliminate the last resistance of a planet. After that the Hive Ship arrives and the target populace simply surrenders - that sounds to me like mass psionic brainwashing. No other explanation makes sense. I think we've been going about this wrong. I don't believe the alien's High One is a supernatural God like everyone thought it was. I think the High One is an actual living being, stationed on that Hive Ship.
And it'll arrive here in a month.
SELECTED FAN ENTRY
Janitor Log, "Blowupologist"
I heard the scientists complaining about how hard that Muton was to kill. I recall the soldiers saying the same thing while I was mopping blood out of the Skyranger. What neither of them realize is that killing a Muton is NOTHING compared to getting rid of what's left! While the internal gubbins are apparently easily turned off like a lightswitch, the actual Muton hardware is damn near impervious to everything.
The problem is that my job as janitor does not just involve cleaning up the base. Everybody pitches in, and for the most part I'm supposed to work on specialty tasks (like that godforsaken Reaper poo). One of my other duties involves prepping the various alien remains we have for general disbursement and sale. Our administration, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that every possibility of revenue must be pursued.
This includes selling alien corpses.
Now we can't expect to make any money just by dropping the corpse off at the local Wal*Mart and hoping somebody would buy it. Nope, we (and by "we" I mean "I") have to cut up the various bits and pieces and prep them for sale. This mean shaving the Reapers so we can sell the hair to fashion houses in Milan, extracting snakemen eggs so we can sell them to sushi shops in Tokyo, and dismembering Chryssalids so we can sell the meat for school lunches in the United States. The $20,000 price tag per corpse may seem like a lot, but when you consider the amount of work that goes into prepping each body it's actually quite a bargain.
The Muton is particularly valuable. Most of the cybernetic components go directly back into XCOM stores to be melted down for alien alloys or saved for the eggheads when they have spare time. But the skin is pretty valuable, and we try to keep it all in one piece. I was able to get one of the first Muton leather jackets that an XCOM subcontractor had developed. It's really nice. The greenish color is kind of odd, but I like it. Unfortunately cutting the Muton skin is really difficult, so we go through a lot of scissors.
Well that's the end of my break. Those Reapers aren't going to shave themselves.
-Janitor First Class Blowupologist