The Let's Play Archive

X-Com: Enemy Within

by Speedball

Part 50: And Nothing But The Truth

XCOM Part 50: And Nothing but the Truth

But… you’re not evil, right?
Of course not. I was born on this planet. I’m a creature of the mind, and my mind has been heavily influenced by the human cultures of Earth. I may not look it, but as far as I’m concerned I’m an Earthling like you. Y’know… like Superman.
You’re an energy being in a tube, I think you’re more like Zordon…
HEY! Anyway, let me finish the story.

I didn’t know what the hell was going on. The other ethereal, “Shamash,” didn’t have a lot of insightful answers either. Bullet points: We were mental beings, it was rare for ethereals to bump into each other like this, and Origin was still alive.
You nuked him!
It was a distributed network, and Origin distributed his consciousness into a large ship to act as a secondary server for Mosaic just before he blew up. Shamash was far more worried about something else.

Shamash was terrified of the technology that the Zudjari had, to be able to enslave ethereals, and now that humans knew a little bit about it too, she figured we’d never be safe unless everything on the planet was purged.
Oh, no…

Well, I refused, of course, and was right in the process of talking some sense into Shamash, but that was when Carter had heard enough.

Carter grabbed a gun and blew Shamash away right in the middle of our conversation. Weakened and without a body it only took a few bullets to disrupt and destroy Shamash. She exploded, knocking us out.

In the depths of our subconscious, I became flooded with hate. Carter’s hate, for me. He said, “Only one of us is getting out of this alive.”
How much of his mind had you been controlling?
Not “controlling” exactly. Guiding. Stabilizing. I may have steered us there but only ever towards his goals. Like a blind man being led by a seeing-eye dog. Remember how I said Carter was a grieving widower, a drunk, a violent man? Except none of that had ever been apparent during his time with XCOM. Without even realizing it, I’d been acting as a mood stabilizer for him, keeping him from going out of control or doing stupid, self-destructive things. Now, try to imagine being that seeing-eye dog and suddenly your human begins beating you. That’s how I felt.
If your thoughts were really linked, and what you say is true, he had to have known you didn’t mean to hurt him.
You don’t know what kind of world he grew up in.

Racism and bigotry are far from dead today but they were way, WAY worse back then.
Oh, boy… I know where this is going…
In World War II they had motivational posters urging Americans to “slap a Jap.” In many states it was illegal to marry outside your race, for whites and blacks to even use the same goddamn drinking fountain. Queer or trans people weren’t even allowed to admit they existed. Throughout the fifties and sixties rampant paranoia about communist spies had everyone on edge, constantly searching out phantom threats. And Carter was in the profession of combatting those threats, imagined or otherwise. He grew up in a world and a job training him to think that everything “different” was wrong and a threat.
And combined with his natural asshole nature, he just saw another invading alien.
Well, if his mind rubbed off on yours, why aren’t you as big an asshole?
I noticed things he didn’t.

I noticed a man fight off mind control and sacrifice his life to save the man he loved. I noticed a female soldier treated with far less respect than her skills deserved. I noticed a pilot so good he could fly a UFO, who wasn’t allowed to be a NASA astronaut because he was black. Plus, I merged with a few minds since and that watered down the assholishness. Mostly.
Get back to the story. What happened after the other Ethereal exploded?
Our base got attacked. Our own fault, really.

Without any other leads, we connected the infiltrator back to the Mosaic network. He was worried his mind would be overridden by Mosaic’s commands, and he was right, but he also downloaded the location of the command ship. And then he saw Carter. And me. “The Prisoner has been located!”

He broke loose and started attacking everyone, and notified the rest of the Zudjari of where our base was. Dozens of alien troops began beaming down into our base, with the mission to kill everyone and capture me, to plug me into Mosaic. I’m sad to say that we were a lot worse at base defense than you guys were.

It was a lot harder to get anything done with Carter openly resisting me. Director Faulke was all, “That Ethereal has been a valuable tool in this fight, we cannot afford to lose it now,” and Carter grumbled at me, “You’ve even got Faulke fooled. But not me!” In the middle of all that chaos he somehow managed to catch up to the fleeing Infiltrator and plug him.

Poor guy. He spent his entire life going around the galaxy, and he was a slave during all of it. Then… then Carter fucking lost it.

He kept fighting back, harder and harder. If he’d been paying attention I could have pointed out that he needed me just as much as I needed him, that I had helped him heal no less than five plasma burns in the last firefight alone, but all he saw was a parasite, no different from a Sleepwalker virus. He grabbed an Elerium bomb from the armory and stumbled over to a big tank of it.

He slapped that bomb right to the tank and ordered me out of his head, or he was going to blow up the entire base and everyone in XCOM.
Whoah! Seriously?
Yup. He hated me so much he’d rather kill humanity’s last hope of survival than have me in his head for one second longer.
That’s fucking crazy!
I knew he was probably going to plug me the moment I was out of him, but I was out of options, so I disengaged. I called out for help telepathically and got three volunteers.

Director Faulke saw me as a valuable asset, too valuable to lose. He had a disciplined, pragmatic mind. But I would have rather protected him than BE him.

Angela Weaver thought of me as a fellow soldier; even called me “the real hero.” She hardly needed any of my powers to help her blast her way through a small army of aliens, though.

And Dr. Weir… he was fascinated by me, seemed to “get” me a lot better than any of the others. He was a soldier too, and of the three he seemed least likely to go nuts and blow me up out of spite, so I chose him.

So Alan saved me from being shot by whapping Carter on the back of the head and became my new host.
Heh. Long ago you told me that “waking up in a new body” was something you had experience with. I didn’t know this is what you meant.
Heh. Good eye, Cam.

XCOM was totally overrun with alien troops, more than we could handle. Weir, Weaver, Faulke, a couple other guys, our pilot and I all hustled to the Avenger UFO as fast as we could and got out of there. We carried Carter with us… Dunno why, maybe we thought once he cooled down he could be reasoned with. But that was it. There was no more XCOM besides us.

XCOM consisted of nothing but a handful of humans in a single UFO, on the run from an alien armada?
Geez. I’d hate to be those guys.
A handful of humans, and one young Ethereal. We still had a plan. A Hail Mary pass, but one that could work.

Origin’s Mosaic was being controlled from his mothership, but it was designed to be controlled by an Ethereal, and he didn’t have a body anymore, he was just software. I could plug myself into it and order every single Zudjari to surrender. One command and the war would end.

We had to split up into three groups to disable a forcefield surrounding the central hub, simultaneously. We’d totally concealed ourselves from the aliens right until a certain violent asshole decided to be a hero.
Oh, no… Carter.
Yup. Good ol’ Billy. He was still raving about how they needed to destroy me before I wiped out humanity.

He shot our pilot (in the leg, thank goodness) and came after us. He radioed me, warning us that one of us had been infected with the eeeeevil Ethereal. I asked him if he had any other bright ideas for what to do about the Zudjari or all the Sleepwalkers I intended to cure. He said, “Just kill them all! Everyone who’s been infected or compromised! They all have to die!”
Aww, man.
Yeah. See? It wasn’t just ME he was being suddenly xenophobic about. Without my telepathic glue holding him together he just fucking snapped.

So he totally fucked our perfect stealth mission by getting to some control tower and bashing a bunch of buttons until a general alarm went out. I asked him what he thought he was accomplishing. “STOPPING YOU!” he growled. All the Zudjari that had deployed to Earth beamed back up to the station and the whole place became a bloodbath.

Thanks to Carter our squads were separated and pinned down. I was a pretty tough guy back then, but even I could only be in one place at a time. I chose to back up Director Faulke first, since Weaver was a human murder machine and she wanted me to save the director anyway. Carter was all, “Don’t worry, Angela, I’ll save you!”

Some fucking hero he was. Weaver didn’t make it. First woman in space, you know? There should be a giant statue of her somewhere. *sigh*

Carter was still all bluster, figured I’d take over the Mosaic network and install myself as emperor or something, and acted like nothing could stop him from finding a way to stop me. He couldn’t be reasoned with at all.
What did you do with him?
He’d endangered the mission multiple times, very nearly killed everyone at XCOM at least twice, put the whole Earth at risk with his vendetta, and personally tried to blow me away three times. Angela was dead because of him. The other guys, including Faulke, said they’d have no problem if I shot him right there. But I didn’t. Weir was kind of a softie, I guess, and he was really rubbing off on me. I settled for kicking Carter in the balls and cuffing him so we wouldn’t have to worry about him again.

After that was the hardest goddamn fight I’ve ever been in. I’ll spare you the details.
I can imagine.
Well, we deleted Origin’s mind from existence, and ordered every last Zudjari to drop their weapons, all across the earth.
Just like that?
Just like that. If you want proof I’m not evil, the mere fact that I’m not already an alien overlord should be proof, ‘cause I was in command of an army capable of destroying the earth. After that it was just a painful mop-up session.

I ordered the Zudjari to help us dismantle or destroy all their structures across Earth, and Dr. Weir and I managed to cure the sleepwalker virus, leaving everyone with amnesia. That’s why there’s almost no proof today of what happened back then.
You didn’t keep the technology?
Only trinkets. Zudjari technology was too dangerous, it consumes resources around it to build itself. Their entire world was destroyed because they just built and built until there was no environment left. My final command to them was to get their butts off our planet in peace, then I left Dr. Weir.

I disappeared for a while after that, had a few adventures in the seventies and eighties… I was contacted in the 1990s by some very resourceful people. We made a deal. If the Earth was ever to be threatened again by aliens, I’d help defend it. I signed a very big contract and one of the stipulations was that I remain in plain sight, here, in this jar, so they’d know I wasn’t controlling people or doing underhanded things.
That’s it? Kind of a waste of your powers, sir.
Not at all. I’m a telepath. I can root out spies easily. I am your security system. Still not sure how Hogan managed to slip through the net… but I can guess who helped him shield his mind from me.

Yeah. He disappeared long ago. Not a stretch to imagine he started EXALT. But even though I can read minds, I’m not a miracle worker. EXALT Director’s mind was so twisted I didn’t recognize it at all. If he was Carter, he’s so nuts and evil he’s beyond the pale by now. We may not ever know for sure, sadly.

But that’s all in the past. These other, new Ethereals. What do they want? Why are they here?
Bodies. They want bodies. That shell you fought was an artificial creation, something they whipped up.
They can’t just possess people?
Sure, but there’s a downside. Their minds become one with the host. They don’t have exclusive call of all the shots. With an artificial body, there’d be no original mind to compete with them… but also no original mind to sustain them. That’s why they eat thoughts.
How horrible…
I might have screwed up by sending the Zudjari back out into space. Maybe the other Ethereals got them, and came here looking for me.

And I’ve got a bad feeling that what you saw was the result of what we found in the Alien Base. Remember all those meat tubes, the thousands of humans that were melted down? They were making something with that biomass. Fresh, artificial bodies made of mulched humans.
And now they aren’t kidding around anymore. They’ve sent their mothership to our planet. If we don’t come up with another Hail Mary pass, we’re all screwed.

To Be Continued!