Monday, March 13, 2017

The Long War, Part XXIX - The French Connection

Previous (in story arc): The Long War, Part XVII - Resistance

Syl forced herself to relax as the ADVENT soldiers pulled her further and further back into the police lines. Three of the black clad troopers were holding her - one on each arm, and a third dragging her backwards in a head lock that was fast turning into a choke. She turned her head towards the crook of the trooper's elbow, giving her windpipe some space to suck in some air, and enough wind to speak.

"Okay," she gasped. "You win. Let me go."

The troopers ignored her.

"Did you hear me? I'll come along quietly."

The troopers did not respond, and a wave of panic struck her. She forced it down, and focused on her jujitsu training. Jujitsu is the art of ground fighting, strangulation and joint locks, and one of the fundamentals is keeping calm while your partner attempted to cut off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. She willed her heart beat down, and subdued the fear rising from the depths of the prehensile parts of her brain. She had enough air, as long as she stayed calm and did not struggle. Now it was a matter of making her body believe it.

All of the sudden all the pressure was released and she was free. Sweet air flooded into her lungs, and she took several deep breaths. She still had her weapon tucked in her belt. The fact that they had not searched her, or taken any of the normal precautions regular police do when subduing suspects only increased her contempt for these ADVENT goons. They seemed simple and dim-witted, and she would have written off the whole force as a bunch of simpletons except for the fact that one of her former comrades, Girard, was in ADVENT uniform. He was now staring at her without expression, and there was not a trace of recognition in his eyes. This was a man whom she'd spoken to numerous times. They'd even engaged in some harmless flirting during one of the countless parties in Tanegashima. At the outset of the X-Com project no one had taken it seriously, and the policy of gender parity, the eclectic mix of nationalities, and the UN's inability to organize quickly and effectively meant that there were a lot of young men and women mingling together on a small island with a lot of time on their hands. Parties, carousing and fraternization was the result, much to chagrin of the Japanese locals and their national commands. Girard was one of the rowdier womanizers on the base, but he had always shown courtesy and respect even when rebuffed. This earned him a great deal of good will in her eyes.

Looking at him now there was no trace of the ebullient young man she had met in Tanegashima. He had recognized her, and said her name, but that was as far as it went - he might as well been a robot. Another disconcerting observation struck her. The ADVENT soldiers did not talk among themselves, but waited impassively and silently like sphinxes, and when they did move they did so abruptly and in unison. She wondered if they were receiving instructions via radio, and she looked vainly for wires or ear pieces.

"Girard," she said. "What happened to you?"

He ignored her completely. The three ADVENT soldiers appeared to be waiting for something, and stood stock still with their batons at the ready. Looking around her Syl realized that she was in an underground parking garage filled with ADVENT soldiers and vehicles. She looked around in vain for the national police or the gendarmerie, and cursed under her breath when she realized that there were only ADVENT troops around. There were civilians and protesters being dragged screaming and protesting to this place, and she was shocked at the brutality which the black shirts utilized to put down resistance. Protesters spitting their defiance were smashed repeatedly by clubs, batons, fists and feet in shockingly dispassionate displays until the victim begged for mercy, or were beaten unconscious. Those who had the fight beaten out of them joined a line of similarly bloodied and beaten civilians waiting in a queue. The prone were left on the concrete floors, and only attracted attention if they began to stir, at which point they would be rendered senseless once again by a clinical boot to the head. She realized that the parking lot was an ideal place for such acts of callous, calculated violence, shielded from the prying eyes of other civilians and the press. The queue of protesters resembled a bloodied snake, a serpentine line punctuated by wide, shocked eyes peering fearfully from crimson masks of blood. It terminated in a sinister line of black, reinforced vans which regularly loaded throngs of people at regular intervals then sped off, only to be replaced by another.

Syl wondered why she hadn't been thrown into the queue along with the others. She tried to stand, but was forcefully sat back down by Girard's hand on her shoulder. Despite her peril she felt a cold fury grow within her. This fury was replaced by something deeper, however, when one of the vans loading people disgorged several floating silvery objects from its interior. With a chill she recognized the metallic floating spheres as drones. She'd seen them before, in an assault on a downed UFO in Japan. They flew through the air, driven by some unknown means of propulsion, and according to Dr. Vahlen were the mechanics and engineers of the invaders, responsible for maintenance and upkeep the enemy vessels. These ones were smaller in size than the ones she had seen, but there was no mistaking them - she had shot a few of those machines out of the sky herself. Their appearance also caused some mild consternation among the protesters, but for the most part those people were more preoccupied with their injuries and the silent, menacing ADVENT troops guarding them. One man pulled out his cellphone and began filming, and for his troubles received a vicious baton blow on his forearm which broke it and shattered the cellphone at the same time.

The drone's presence changed Syl's perspective in an instant. All of the sudden the schizophrenia in French politics - the grim, silent ADVENT troopers - the increased activity of UFOs in the skies - the missing civilians - all suddenly seemed comprehensible to her. Without fully comprehending the details, it seemed to her that she was suddenly privy to a vast, malignant and overarching conspiracy. The anger gave way to a growing panic as she sensed the magnitude of the threat, and she had to force herself to calm down, to look at the situation dispassionately, and try to formulate a plan of action.

She had to get out of here.

She had just collected herself when she saw dark figure coming towards her from the corner of her eye. Turning, she found herself staring at a tall, thin man clad in a black suit. He was impossibly thin and rangy, and on his neck line, barely concealed by the high collar, she could see the smooth white skin giving way to reddish pock marks. Burns? she wondered. His tailored suit gave off a burnished sheen, suggesting that it was horribly expensive, and she could see her own reflection in the polished leather of his shoes. The man wore a pair of sunglasses perched impossibly on his nose, and when his suit moved she could see the outline of a holstered weapon.

"Bridget Roche." The thin man looked at her impassively. "French national, born and raised in Toulouse. You joined the Gendarmerie Nationale in 2008, and served with distinction, attaining the rank of Lieutenant. In February 2016 you were deployed along with two gendarmerie companies as part of France's contribution to the X-Com initiative. While in X-Com you applied and was accepted to the X-Com strike force, and subsequently given the call sign 'Syl'. You took part in two missions before France recalled her companies in March 2016, but unlike your compatriots, you did not return with the rest of your unit."

"You have me at a disadvantage, monsieur," Syl regarded the man warily. His urbane manner and speech contrasted starkly with the mute silence of the ADVENT troopers. "Do I know you?"

"We know you." The thin man scrutinized her. "Why didn't you return with your unit when the gendarmerie was recalled from Japan? Are you still acting under instructions from X-Com?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Freed from the grasp of the ADVENT soldiers, she was coming back into her own, and she was furious at the treatment she had suffered at their hands. "If you know who I am then you know I am an officer of the gendarmerie. Release me at once. Or take me to the Directorate. They'll know who I am."

"That is not possible."

"Am I under arrest, monsieur? Because if not, I intend to walk out of here."

The thin man cocked his head. "You will not succeed." He stepped aside. "But you are free to try."

Syl tried to stand, but was once again shoved down forcefully by Girard. She slapped his hand away forcefully, but seemingly unperturbed he placed his hand back on her shoulder. This pantomime was repeated several times until Syl conceded defeat - Girard seemed oblivious to her growing anger and frustration, and did not so much as bat an eyelid at having had his hand slapped away, replacing it calmly and methodically every time. She considered dropping Girard - the way he was standing it would have been easy to land a decisive blow to the face, groin or solar plexus - but looking at the two other ADVENT soldiers nearby as well as the dozens milling about in close vicinity dissuaded her. She did not want to become one of the still bodies lying on the concrete in pools of their own blood.

"What did you people do to Girard?"

The thin man considered the ADVENT soldier briefly. "He has been augmented. Enhanced. Connected to the network."

"Enhanced? You've lobotomized him."

"Our interfaces are still in the early testing phases and are far from optimal. The conscious mind fights the control, leading to sub-par reflexes and reaction times. Initiative and advanced problem solving are not possible with this prototype. Nonetheless the subjects retain the ability to comply with simple commands and imperatives. Strength and stamina are enhanced by direct control over the adrenal gland, and by overriding the pain centres of the brain. Future iterations should solve this problem."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Her remark expressed bewilderment and confusion, but a dawning horror and suspicion was growing behind her eyes. "Who are you?"

"You know what I am. You have seen the drones. You suspect the truth."

"You're colluding with the aliens."

"No. I am not human."

"You're one of them?"


"Are you humans? Humanoids?"

"No. This form has been engineered to blend in with the human population. My native form is...different."

"You lead the sectoids? What are you - some kind of leadership caste?"

"No. I, too, am a servant. But independent thinking, creativity, and advanced problem solving are required for my mission. We are given freedom and latitude to achieve our objectives."

"By whom?"

"By our superiors."

"Are your superiors the same as you?"

"No. They are as different from me as I am from you."

"You're infiltrating our government. Taking us over from within."

"That is correct."

"Why are you telling me all this? Aren't you afraid that I'll expose you?"

"There's no reason not to tell you. We are awaiting a special transport for you. Once you are processed you will be part of the ADVENT network, and you will no longer pose a security threat."

The matter of fact way it was said chilled Syl. "I won't give you anything."

"Your consent is irrelevant. What you know, we will soon know."

"Over my dead body."

"That won't be necessary."

"Why are you here? What do you want?"

The thin man looked at her dispassionately. "We want you."

Next: TBC

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Long War, Part XXVIII - Shanghai Nights


Affidavit of Shaojie Zhang

My name is Shaojie Zhang. I am 45 years old, and currently reside in Tanegashima, Japan. I am a Chinese national applying for asylum under Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). I am also an officer of the People's Liberation Army of China, holding the rank of Colonel. I worked as an attache and special forces adviser to Admiral Shengli Wu, the Commander of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

1. I am applying for asylum on the grounds that my superiors have been co-opted and taken over by alien invaders. These invaders are aware that I know of their existence and methodology and have been systematically trying to capture or kill me since 29 June 2016. 

2. On 19 October 2015 I attended a briefing with Admiral Wu conducted by the People's Liberation Army Air Foice (PLAAF). During this briefing we were informed by Chinese High Command that our strategic radar systems had picked up contacts of unknown origin in various locations over China. This was the first time I heard about the possibility of alien life present on Earth. The PLAAF report was later confirmed by world wide reports of the same nature, and we were instructed to draft contingency plans to deal with the unknown capabilities of the invaders.

3. On 27 January 2016 China ratified the UN General Resolution which called for the creation of an investigative and reactionary task force known as X-Com. China, as per the resolution's recommendations, sent two PLA companies to Tanegashima, Japan.

4. In the meantime Chinese High Command continued to make their own contingency plans to deal with the alien threat. In the absence of any formal overture from the aliens we were directed by Chairman Jinping Xi to create our own reaction force, as well as to probe for weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I attended many such meetings, and was tasked with training the Chinese reaction force in recovering downed alien craft.

5. On 17 April 2016 the PLAAF managed to shoot down an alien contact near the Vietnamese border. Our reaction force was inserted into the crash site, and quickly secured the fallen UFO. During the operation our reaction force was attacked by what initially appeared to be humans wielding alien plasma weapons. Later autopsies revealed that these "humans" were actually alien beings that looked superficially like people. The After Action Report dated 17 April 2016 (Exhibit A) and Autopsy Report dated 22 April 2016 (Exhibit B) are attached.

6. On 24 April 2016 I attended another briefing with Admiral Wu and Chairman Xi to discuss the team's findings. The possibility of alien infiltrators masquerading as humans was raised, but the actual threat was underestimated due to the poor quality of the simulacrums we captured. The "thin men" our reaction force recovered were only barely passable as human due to their extreme proportions, yellow snake-like eyes, and skin defects. They could only pass as human if they were heavily disguised and viewed under poor light. See the attached photographs (Exhibit C).

7. We failed to appreciate the ability of the aliens to iterate and improve their simulacrums, however, and on 29 June 2016 the aliens were able to penetrate the Chinese High Command. The account of this is as follows.

8. On 29 June 2016 Admiral Wu and I went to an exclusive gentleman's club in Shanghai called Kuangxi along with several other high ranking members of PLAN to celebrate the 65th birthday of Admiral Dong Fang. Admiral Wu does not frequent such gatherings, but in this case was convinced by Admiral Fang to make an exception on this occasion. My friend and colleague, Colonel Tien Tzo, was also present.

9. During our time at the club Admiral Wu was approached by a woman who identified herself as Mei Ling, and the two of them retreated to a private booth. Several other high ranking officials were similarly approached, and they, too, retired to booths set aside for privacy within the premises.

10. I was also approached by a woman who identified herself as Jia, and was led to a private booth where I spent the bulk of my time this evening drinking, conversing and flirting.

11. I would classify my behavior on this night as completely uncharacteristic. I have been married for 20 years, and have never had extra-marital relations until this evening. I can only attribute my infidelity to the physical attractiveness of my companion, the amount of alcohol consumed, and also some type of chemical drug either in our food or drink, or even perhaps in the air, which lowered inhibitions and fueled libido. Nonetheless I take full responsibility for my actions. I was not a helpless victim, but also a willing participant. The blame is mine.

12. Many of the high ranking officers of PLAN were similarly affected. Admiral Wu was a devout husband and father, and almost 75 years old, yet on this evening he appeared to be intoxicated and full of drive. Admiral Fang was similarly affected, as were the vast majority of officers present that evening, including Colonel Tzo. There were a few notable exceptions, officers who chose to leave early rather than debase themselves and dishonor their families, and one of my enduring regrets is that I was not one of them.

13. At approximately 1.45 am I was led outside by Jia, who suggested that we leave the club for more intimate surroundings. The other officers were similarly leaving with their female companions, and our group dispersed on or around this time. The last time I saw Admiral Wu and Admiral Fang on this evening was when they entered a black limousine along with their female consorts on or around 2 am.

14. I originally intended to take Jia to a hotel to have sexual intercourse with her, but she suggested that we go to her home instead, which she said was close by. I agreed, and she led me to her residence which was located on 95 Yong An Road, Shanghai. The residence was an old warehouse converted into apartment blocks, and it was located in a deserted part of the docks area.

15. I was surprised to see Colonel Tzo and his female companion in front of the same address. Tzo was heavily intoxicated, but he recognized me and spoke to me briefly before being led inside by his companion. I cannot recall the name of his companion, but I recognized her from the club.

16. At approximately 2.30 am Jia led me to her apartment which was on the top floor of the building. Jia and I both went into the bedroom where we began to have sexual intercourse. In the process of undressing my concealed firearm was revealed, and Jia took great interest in it, asking me for details about it before putting it on the bedside table and resuming intercourse.

17. At this point the doors to the bedroom opened, and I was assaulted by a pair of tall thin men wearing black suits. I was able to shrug off the first attack, but was brought to a halt by Jia who was aiming my own gun at me.

18. I was escorted by Jia and the thin men to the ground floor of the warehouse, where I found Colonel Tzo similarly restrained between two more thin men wearing dark suits and glasses. His companion was also there. Both Jia and Tzo's companion were naked. They did not seem to be concerned with modesty and showed no signs of being self-conscious.

19. Jia placed my weapon on a table, and began retching violently. After a few moments she regurgitated what appeared to be some kind of pulsing egg into her hands. She regurgitated another egg about a minute later, and placed both eggs on the table. Another thin man approached Tzo with an injection of some kind, and the sight of this drove Tzo to a frenzy. He struggled wildly, and one of the thin men guarding me left my side to assist the two restraining Tzo.

20. The three thin men were able to subdue Tzo, and injected the needle to the side of Tzo's neck. The drug appeared to paralyze the muscles of Tzo's face, and his mouth was pried open by the thin men. Jia took one of the eggs and began to peel it open with her hands. Inside the egg was some kind of small, snake-like organism, which Jia deposited down the Admiral's throat. Tzo appeared lucid and fully cognizant of what was happening. His eyes were moving wildly during the procedure, but the muscles around his jaw and larynx appeared to be frozen inanimate.

21. The sight of this drove me to desperation. I did not want to suffer the same fate. I was able to stand up and shove the remaining thin man holding me down, and made a wild dash for the gun on the table. I secured the gun, and was also able to take Jia hostage. I told the thin men that I would shoot her unless they put down their weapons. The thin men appeared to hold Jia in high regard, and immediately complied.

22. Jia did not appear alarmed, and asked me calmly put my weapon down. Jia also began rubbing her hips against me in a sexually provocative manner. Despite my situation I found myself getting aroused. I found the fragrance of her perfume to be intoxicating, and it is my belief that the infiltrators wear some kind of perfume or scent which affects the libido and clouds judgement.

23. I ignored Jia, and told the thin men to release Tzo. They complied, and Fang put his fingers down his mouth to induce a vomiting fit. He vomited copiously on the ground, but was unable to bring up the organism he swallowed moments earlier. He appeared cogent and sober, however, and he assisted me in our efforts to escape from our captors. He found it difficult to speak thanks to the drug he had been injected with, so we communicated through gestures. I instructed one of the thin men to bring our clothes from the apartments above. Fang attempted to pick up one of the silver pistols but as soon as he touched it he received some kind of mild shock which made him drop the weapon. The weapon then disintegrated into a heap of metallic shards. I told him to pick one of the weapons up with a cloth, and he was able to secure one this way. Our studies have shown that the alien weapons will not fire unless it reads a positive match on the wielder's genetic profile. Negative matches will cause the weapon to disintegrate, but it is possible to carry the weapon by not touching the surface directly. See attached Laboratory Report dated 3 May 2016 (Exhibit D).

24. Jia, Tzo and I got dressed and prepared to leave the premises. My cell phone was returned to me, and I immediately called police services at approximately 4.30 am in the morning. Before calling I gave my weapon to Fang so that he could cover the four thin men and his companion while I spoke to the police. I took one of the thin men's briefcases, and secured the alien pistol and the remaining alien egg within. The suitcase also contained several unknown pieces of alien tech which I could not identify. I brought all these artifacts with me and turned them over to X-Com when I arrived in Tanegashima on 2 September 2016 (see Exhibits E, F and G).

25. When I finished the call to the authorities I was surprised to see Tzo shaking, and seemingly trying to point my weapon at me. I asked him, "What are you doing?" He replied with words to the effect of "I don't know what's happening. I'm finding it hard to make my body do what I want it to do."

26. The four thin men started approaching me. Tzo immediately shot one of them, and the man exploded into a ball of green, noxious gas. The three remaining thin men retreated, but showed no other emotion at the death of their compatriot. Tzo then turned to me, and said with some difficulty, "Run. Get out of here. I'll cover you as long as I can. But hurry. I'm losing myself, Zhang."

27. I said, "Give me the gun", and he shook his head. He said, "If you come close I might kill you. But if you run I can keep this thing at bay. Just go."

28. He suddenly seemed to have some kind of fit. He straightened up with a mighty effort, and kept the weapon pointed at the thin men. He gestured for me to leave, and I immediately made my way to the entrance. As I was leaving the building I suddenly heard him call out in a completely normal voice, "Zhang. Come back. It's OK. I'm fine now." 

29. I ignored him. The contrast between the strained, urgent pleas of my former comrade, and the chilling normality of that last sentence shook me, and I wasted no time fleeing down the street. Fearing pursuit, I hid the briefcase containing the alien egg and weapon inside one of the deserted warehouses. I then resumed my flight, using cover to conceal myself from the thin men searching for me.

30. At about 5.30 am I saw several police vehicles coming down the street. I immediately accosted them, identified myself and led them back to the warehouse.

31. The police found Jia, Tzo and his companion fully clothed when we returned to the premises at 6 am. There was no sign of the thin men, except for some tell tale burn marks on the floor where Tzo had shot one earlier. Jia accused me of attempted rape, and her version of the night's events was corroborated by Tzo and his female companion. About 15 minutes later Admiral Fang arrived at the premises, and he made a statement to the police that I had been harassing the women at the club. Despite my protests, the police took me into custody, and I was detained for several hours but later released. Upon my release I was told by the police that Jia had refused to undertake a medical examination and had withdrawn her allegations.

32. I was released from custody on 30 June 2016. My first action was to call my superior Admiral Wu, and we had a brief conversation. Wu ordered me to report to his private home, and I asked him whether it would be more appropriate to meet at headquarters instead. He insisted on me coming to his home, and I told him that I would be over shortly.

33. I had no intentions of reporting to Wu, and I made preparations to gather all the evidence I had and make a direct report to Chairman Xi. I returned to Jia's address in Shanghai and recovered the briefcase with the egg and the alien weapon. I intended to return to headquarters and speak with party officials in person, but was interrupted by a call from my wife Huan, who left a message that she was in distress.

34. I immediately rushed home. Fearing an ambush, I parked my vehicle some distance from my home, and walked the rest of the distance on foot. Upon arrival I found my wife being held in custody by two thin men in my living room. She was wearing a plain shirt. The bottom part of the shirt was covered in dry blood. When she saw me she immediately embraced me and began kissing me passionately.

35. I pulled away from her, and she began to laugh. She said, "What's the matter, Zhang? Don't you recognize me?" I asked her what had happened. She motioned to the shirt, and lifted it up, revealing a closed wound in her abdomen. "I'm too big to fit through her mouth now. Had to come in through here."

36. My wife then identified herself as the organism I'd known as Jia, and claimed that she was using my wife Huan as her host. She told me that Huan was privy to everything that was happening to her but was unable to do anything, making her a prisoner in her own body. My wife also added that the parasite had access to my wife's memories, and vice versa. She said my wife Huan now had first-hand knowledge of my infidelity through Jia's own memories. She said my wife was hurt by my actions, and said, "I can feel her pain. Her sadness. Her anger. She loves you still, and still wishes she could have given you a son or daughter. Carried the inadequacy and shame all her life. And now this, confirming every deeply held fear and insecurity. She can remember you fucking Jia, as if she had been there herself. Every thrust. Every groan of pleasure. Every little cut of the knife."

37. I was deeply ashamed. I told Jia that she was being wantonly cruel, and she agreed. She stated that their kind often took on some of the traits of their hosts, and surmised that the viciousness was from one of her previous hosts, perhaps from a low level Triad enforcer she occupied during the alien takeover of the Shanghai club. She added that the parasite acquired not only the host's memories, but also their skills and abilities. She demonstrated this by taking my gun and cocking and locking it.

38. The parasite known as Jia then demanded to know the whereabouts of the briefcase, and threatened to inflict harm upon my wife's body if I did not comply. I told her the briefcase was in my car parked a block away, and she bade me to retrieve it. She warned me that she would shoot herself if I did not return in 15 minutes.

39. I went back to my car and retrieved the briefcase. I was accompanied by one of the thin men. When we returned to the house, Jia took the briefcase and inspected the contents. I asked her why she wanted the egg back so badly, and she replied that it was not the egg that interested her. She said that I had inadvertently taken a copy of the aliens' code cipher (see Exhibit H), as well as a technical manual covering the use of an alien substance known as "meld" (see Exhibit I).

40. I then asked Jia if I was to become another host. She said that I was too stubborn to be a good host and added that Colonel Tzo had been liquidated for the very same reason. She said, "Tzo was too intractable to be controlled reliably. My offspring was locked in an endless battle with his mind for dominion over the body. Regardless we will construct a simulacrum that will be identical for all intents and purposes. The real prize is the mind, and the knowledge within. Now that one of us has melded with him, they can use that knowledge to pilot a simulacrum convincingly." She added that they had no further use for me. "What you know is redundant. We have the Admiral now - we don't need you."

41. She then pointed my gun at me. But then she frowned and froze, and her arm began shaking. She said, "She is fighting me. Her pain gives her strength." The thin men moved in to assist Huan, and she shot one through the head and killed it outright. The second thin man didn't appear to know what to do, seemingly unwilling to take any direct action against my wife. Huan was still convulsing, but managed to say, "Kill him" and motioned towards me.

42. The thin man drew his pistol, but my wife then shouted, "No!" and shot him as well. This time she shot the creature in the chest, and it exploded, spraying green acid everywhere. I was burned on my side and legs, and Huan was splattered with acid on her face and torso. She seemed oblivious to the pain, and she straightened up and approached me. She said, "You will obey me, human" through gritted teeth, and placed the handgun against my head.

43. I looked at my wife and said, "I'm sorry" and closed my eyes. There was no shot, and after several seconds I opened my eyes again. Huan was looking at me with tears in her eyes. I saw my wife looking at me, not some alien in a human suit, and her last words were, "Shaojie. Beloved. How could you do that to me?" With that she turned the gun upwards, and shot herself.

44. I immediately ran to Huan's side. She was dead. I began to weep, but was interrupted by a ripping, tearing sound coming from my wife's abdomen. A mewling, hissing parasite was emerging from the wound in her stomach. I grabbed the creature and crushed it in my fist until it stopped moving. Then I recovered the briefcase, placed the parasite inside, and made preparations to depart. The remains of the creature was turned over to X-Com upon my arrival at Tanegashima on 2 September 2016 (see Exhibit J).

45. Before departing I took my wife, placed her on our bed, and kissed her goodbye. I begged for forgiveness, and wept again for an indeterminable amount of time. I only left when I heard the sound of vehicles approaching the front of my home. Looking out the window I identified more thin men, as well as the figure of Admiral Fang. I was tempted to stay, and kill as many of them as I could before I died, but duty and the memory of my wife compelled me to escape. I was resolved that she would not have died for nothing.

46. I escaped by the back door, made my way to my car, and went straight to the airport. I left Shanghai for Taiwan and turned myself over to Taiwanese intelligence upon arrival. My status as attache to the Chinese High Command allowed me to carry items in diplomatic pouches which are exempt from scanning by airport security, and I was able to smuggle the biological samples out of China. After my request for asylum was denied in Taiwan I was deported to Hong Kong, where I attempted to secure passage out by ship. During this time I was contacted by Paoquao Liu, a former soldier who served under me and now an X-Com operative, and we made arrangements for my extraction to Japan. X-Com extracted me from Hong Kong on 2 September 2016, but not before we were attacked by thin men trying to prevent my escape.

47. There are multiple warrants out for my arrest in mainland China for the charges of treason, murder and rape. I did not betray my country. I did not kill my wife. I did not rape this woman known as Jia, although I did have intercourse with her, much to my eternal shame and sorrow. I am worthless man and a faithless husband, and I will have to live with my failure for the rest of my days.

48. It is my belief that Mei Ling, Jia, Tzo's companion and their thin men security detail are alien infiltrators hiding in human form. Some of them are simulacrums designed to look like human beings. Others are humans, subverted by some kind of alien parasite that is either ingested through the mouth or enters through the abdomen. This parasite has the capacity to seize control of their hosts and gain access to the hosts' memories and skills. It is my belief that the visitors are deliberately infiltrating the uppermost echelons of human command for their own malevolent purposes. I believe that every officer who attended the party on 26 June 2016 is now a host to some kind of alien parasite, or a carefully constructed simulacrum masquerading as a human. It is my belief that Admiral Wu's occupation of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands was a unilateral action done at the aliens' behest, with the ultimate purpose being to destabilize the region and provoke a shooting war between China and Japan.

I declare that everything attested to in this document is true to the best of my recollection and belief.

Shaojie Zhang
(signed and witnessed)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Long War, Part XXVII - The New York Address

Esteemed representatives of the great planet Earth. I come before you today as a visitor, and ask for your indulgence. I am the Speaker. I speak for my kind, and while we have names, our names have no easy equivalent in your speech. Suffice to say that I belong to a Council of Elders, and I can speak for them. We have traveled across time and unimaginable distances to come to your world.

Many of you are undoubtedly wondering what our purpose is, and why we have come. We are part of a galactic coalition of intelligent species, and mankind has ascended sufficiently to join our ranks. It is our intention to impart the secrets of faster than light travel to your species, in order that mankind can join our confederation and take its next step towards a larger universe. Before we take such a step, however, we are obligated to ensure that your kind is worthy of such an ascension. Our obligation is twofold - we have a duty to our members to ensure that a warmongering, destructive species does not join our ranks. What we have seen upon your world has given us grave reservations. We also have a duty to mankind not to provide you with gifts that you are not adequately prepared to receive.

We have watched you for untold aeons, and when it was judged that Earth had the potential to produce a space faring species a barrier was built around your solar system designed to keep your kind from perceiving the galaxy as it truly was - a place teeming with life. You were never alone. We apologize for the deception, but it was a necessary step. The barrier screened our greater civilization from yours, so that you had the opportunity to develop free from our influence. Believing yourselves alone and masters of your own fate what kind of world would you carve out for yourselves? This is a test that is incumbent upon all developing civilizations. The barrier also served to protect you and keep your kind hidden, free from interference. Despite our best efforts there are still predatory civilizations that prowl the fringes of the galaxies, looking for worlds to devour or subjugate. We have found that only together can we resist the darkness that threatens to consume us all.

I must apologize if what I say causes you alarm, but I am bound by necessity. The barrier shrouding your world dissolved a few years ago, when the satellite Voyager I left the heliosphere and passed into interstellar space. Earth lies naked and exposed, visible for all to see. When Voyager passed the ancient markers left behind in the Oort Cloud it triggered a signal for the barrier's dissolution and for a message to be sent to us that mankind was ready to make contact with the greater galaxy beyond its borders. When your astronomers look again into the night sky they will find the unmistakable signs of other civilizations. Like it or not you are part of something much larger, and it is time for humanity to grow up, and discard the petty tribalism that has plagued its short history. You have in your hands the means to eliminate most of the suffering on your world, yet you concentrate your wealth and resources into the hands of a miserly few. You slaughter each other over the most trivial of distinctions, and sow division and discord where there should be trust and amity. Our first sallies for peace were mercilessly rebuffed by representatives of the UN, by the paramilitary unit known as X-Com. Our pilots and navigators were slaughtered and killed, and even now their bodies are kept in secret labs beneath the earth, the subjects of cruel tests and experiments. This will no longer be tolerated. You have been warned.

To show that we come in good faith we present you with several tokens. We will give you the technology to scrub your atmosphere, to reverse the accumulation of carbon gases that will soon choke your world and turn it into a seething hothouse. We will give you the means to cure the vast majority of afflictions and illnesses plaguing your world, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and HIV. We will impart the secrets of gene therapy, so that everyone will have the chance to maximize their potential - to live beyond the limits imposed by the lottery of genetics. We will provide you with cleaner, renewable sources of energy, and free nations from the tyranny of oil and those who control its supply. The solar system and its riches lies waiting, yet mankind squabbles over the Earth's diminishing resources, unable to look beyond a few petty years of its lifetime. Even now the nations of China, Japan and the US arm themselves in anticipation of a conflict that could devastate the world.

We will not force you into joining our coalition. For those who do, we will lay down several prerequisites, the chief being an adherence to the tenets that all humans are deserving of respect, dignity and freedom. In return we will grant those nations who join us the greatest gift of all - the secret of interstellar flight. The Free Nation of Syria is the first nation-state to join our coalition, and we re-affirm our commitment to their cause. We ask President Al-Assad to sit with us and negotiate a peace, so that the slaughter may end, and that millions of Syrians may return to their homes to rebuild their nation. President Hollande of France and President Poroshenko of the Ukraine have also expressed their wishes to join our coalition, which we have named ADVENT in honor of this momentous occasion. This truly is the advent of a new age for mankind, and we ask you all to embrace it. For those who choose not to join us the only consequence will be a slow fade into historical obscurity. We will not impose ourselves upon you. Mankind must ascend willingly, or not at all. For those who join us, however, we offer the riches of the solar system and beyond. Humanity was never meant to stay bound to one planet. Its destiny lies in the stars.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Long War, Part XXVI - The Speaker

Previous: The Long War, Part XXV - Hearts and Minds


On 26 August 2016 a ceasefire between all the belligerents in Syria (excluding jihadist factions) came into effectPutin, the consummate politician, agreed to the ceasefire in order to give the Russian military time to mobilize more forces into Syria. Al-Assad also used the time to concentrate his troops into the vicinity of Aleppo, where the government coalition was planning a mighty offensive to destroy the city. Despite the aliens' vaunted air superiority the technological gap between the two civilizations was not insuperable. X-Com had demonstrated time and time again that the aliens were vulnerable to terrestrial weapons on the ground, and even the alien fighters could be shot down on occasion. Absorbing this lesson, planners on the Syrian, Russian and Iranian side planned to adopt the doctrine of using cheap, expendable units to attrite the alien defenders of Aleppo. For now, however, Putin used the breathing space afforded by the ceasefire to re-organize his forces, as well as to seek diplomatic allies against the aliens. It would not be known until much after the war that Putin had tried to approach the aliens with a peace deal through back channels, only to be definitively rebuffed. While it was believed that it was the aliens' solidarity with the embattled rebels that caused them to reject the sallies out of hand, a more cynical interpretation was that Putin, due to his actions in the early 21st century, was well-placed to be the villain against whom the aliens could rally the rest of the world against. While popular at home, Putin's expansion into the Ukraine and Syria  earned him the ire and suspicion of Europeans and several Middle East nations. America and Russia were historical antagonists, and China had its own ambitions as a rising power in the 21st century. Any fall in Russian prestige was celebrated, albeit quietly in private state rooms and in the corridors of power. The greatest irony of this was that Russia had only signed on to the X-Com initiative as an act of political opportunism, but would later become its greatest supporter and champion due to the aliens' intractability in their dealings with the Russians.

On 8 September 2016 Emilia Amat Al-Maseeh, the new president of the Syrian National Council, addressed a special meeting of the United Nations at its headquarters in New York. The new leader of the Syrian opposition was accompanied by the alien emissary introduced by Al-Maseeh as the Speaker. The Speaker's presence generated tremendous international interest, momentarily dwarfing the unfolding crisis in the East China Sea. While Japan and China stared each other down across the straits dividing their nations, the rest of the world watched with awe and trepidation as a small UFO landed in the grounds of the UN headquarters. This was a historic moment, and it was covered in exquisite detail by the international press. X-Com was in attendance, and represented by General Bradford, Dr. Moira Vahlen and Chief Engineer Raymond Shen. Three Skyrangers full of X-Com troops were also on stand-by, ready to intervene on a moment's notice. They were an addendum to the already unprecedented level of security surrounding the arrival of the Speaker.

These security precautions proved to be unnecessary, however, as no incidents marred the event. The Speaker was a tall humanoid looking creature wearing an ornate metallic headdress and garbed in red, flowing robes. The alien had four atrophied limbs instead of two, but otherwise it looked very much like a tall, spindly human in appearance. The Speaker was supported by Al-Maseeh, and its fragile, decrepit walk towards the UN assembly hall gave the impression of great age and vulnerability. This was belied by the ceremonial honor guard accompanying the Speaker, which consisted of four gold armored floating humanoids. The archons, as they would later be known, were impressive specimens. They were superficially similar to the floaters in that they used some kind of anti-gravity mechanism to hover and fly, but unlike the floaters, who were a bizarre amalgamation of metal and biological flesh, these archons were elegant beings which inspired awe and wonder. They also appeared human, much to the surprise to all those present. They had human faces and torsos, and the honor guard appeared to consist of two male and two female archons. The archons were naked apart from their augmentations, and the sight of the bared breasts of the female archons caused a minor scandal. Human genitalia were either not present, or were covered by augmentations, much to the relief of those overly concerned with propriety. Nonetheless the human faces of the invaders served to disconcert and confuse observers. The most common comment heard when perceiving the archons for the first time was that "they look like angels." Certainly the physical attractiveness of the archons did much to give this impression, but many of those who were in close proximity attested to a feeling of reverence in the presence of these beings.

The honor guard remained outside while Al-Maseeh and the Speaker entered the UN headquarters. The archons were bombarded by photos, and a few of the more daring reporters reached out tentatively to touch them. The archons responded with graceful equanimity, and returned the gestures, even smiling gently at the awestruck faces crowded before them. "It felt like the sun on my face," gushed one reporter. "My God, he was beautiful." Inside the assembly hall Al-Maseeh was the first to address the UN, and her speech re-affirmed the Syrian rebellion's determination to oust Al-Assad from power. She cited the numerous human rights violations perpetrated by the regime as the rationale for the rebellion, and once again called upon the UN for assistance in their plight. The most remarkable part of her speech was her plea to the Syrian refugees who had fled the country, calling upon them to return:

"Thanks to the steadfast support of the Speaker and his kind we will finally see the dream of a free, democratic and peace-loving Syria. Everywhere we see nations turning a blind eye to to our suffering - nation after nation has closed their borders to us, and we have become a displaced people, with no place to call our home. Thousands of us live in squalor in camps and ghettos all over Europe and the Middle East, and everywhere we go we are met with fear and suspicion, accused of harboring terrorists in our midst. My dear brothers and sisters, it is time for us to return - to rebuild - to make Syria great again. The Speaker has guaranteed our freedom and liberty, and they have proven to be true allies in our time of need. They gave us food, medicine and weapons to fight our enemy. They cured us and helped us, and stood with us in harm's way when everyone else abandoned us. What a twist of irony it is that the most humane of all turned out not to be our human brothers and sisters, but visitors from beyond."

Al-Maseeh's address provoked a bitter response from the Syrian government diplomat, and harsh words were exchanged which required the intervention of UN security. After order was restored the Speaker ascended the podium with obvious difficulty, and had to be assisted by the Syrian opposition leader and the UN Secretary-General. The Speaker spoke in English, and indicated that alien technology could translate their speech into any language found on Earth, and vice versa. The Speaker spoke with the slightly metallic modulated voice of an elderly male, and the speech he would give would mark a paradigm shift in how humanity viewed the universe and its place within it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Long War, Part XXV - Hearts and Minds

Previous: The Long War, Part XXIV - Enter Chilong

Reversal in Syria

Al-Assad's stunning defeat by on the outskirts of Aleppo marked a stunning reversal of the fortunes of the Syrian rebels. Prior to the alien intervention Syrian government forces, aided by their Russian and Iranian allies, were slowly closing the noose around Aleppo. The rebels, abandoned by their American and Gulf nation allies, were doomed to inevitable defeat - the only question remaining was how long the collapse would take. Pounded by Russian air strikes and surrounded on all sides by Syrian and Iranian ground forces, the only strategy left to the rebels was to hold their ground, dig in, and hope for international intervention that would not be forthcoming.

The destruction of Aleppo was widely reported on international news, and garnered much public sympathy.

No one expected the aliens to intervene, and when they did they did so in a series of slashing and incisive counteroffensives that cut off Syrian troops and seized air superiority over the skies of Aleppo. By the end of July the Syrian offensive had all but stalled, once again opening a window for dialogues and a ceasefire. Furious at the loss of Russian prestige, Putin decided to redouble Russian efforts to crush the rebellion, and immediately gave the order for the deployment of further air and armor assets. Russian military analysts credited much of the aliens' success to their air superiority, but as X-Com and other nations had already demonstrated, the aliens were beatable on the ground. Even the new mechanical units deployed by the aliens around Aleppo were not invulnerable to conventional weapons. Guided weapons were still horribly vulnerable to alien countermeasures, but simple, brute force weapons like artillery, mortars and anti-tank guns could and did take a toll on alien mechanical units. Human forces also had the advantage of numbers - the alien deployment around Aleppo was the most significant demonstration of strength to date, but in terms of size they were no more than a single battalion - about 1000 mechanical units, both large and small, in total. The Russians alone had four to five times that number already in Syria, and could deploy a hundred times that number given time. In addition the Syrian government, along with their Iranian allies, also had the capacity to mobilize large reserves of men and equipment. Assad's four corner strategy in Syria - dispersing his forces across the country to forestall any kind of partition plan from the UN - required him to scatter his units all over the map. Given the symbolic significance Aleppo was gaining, Assad decided to temporarily abandon this strategy in favor of concentrating on the outskirts of Aleppo. For better or worse Aleppo was now a rallying point for the Syrian resistance, and the place where they would be making their last stand.

Aleppo - before and after the civil war that would devastate the nation and send its population fleeing into Europe.

The size of the alien deployment was deceptive, however, as their numbers were being bolstered by more and more EXALT troops. Each EXALT trooper exhibited signs of alien modification that went beyond the cosmetic. EXALT troopers never seemed to tire, could see in the dark, and were fearless in the face of the enemy. Some were documented in videos performing superhuman feats of strength and agility which strained credulity. As the situation in Aleppo became more and more desperate, more and more rebels and freshly radicalized Syrians began to join EXALT. Abandoned by their American allies, the rebels were faced with an impossible choice, and for most of them, the most rational one was to embrace EXALT. The most important aspect of EXALT was their ability to communicate and coordinate effectively with their compatriots across the map, along with their ability to coordinate with the aliens' air forces. The most senior members of EXALT seemed to have a direct line to the alien command, and requests for air support were promptly and decisively answered. More importantly, it was the aliens that kept the supply corridors open and allowed food, water, medicine and ammunition into the city. With the aliens keeping Russian fighters and bombers at bay, the resistance finally had a glimpse of something which they had lacked for a long time - the hope of victory.

The alien intervention in Syria also did much to alter the public's perception. Long feared and reviled in the public eye, the alien intervention garnered much goodwill among those who sympathized with the plight of the Syrian rebels. World opinion on Syria seemed to concur that something had to be done, but no nation or world organization had the political backing, will or capability to mount any kind of effective intervention. The UN once again displayed its ineffectiveness as a policing organization, being scuppered time and time again by Russian vetoes in the Security Council. Obama had once ordered American planes to intervene in Libya in 2011, but in the case of Syria in 2016 he assessed the public mood and the threat of getting into a shooting war with Russia as factors too large to ignore. NATO, Europe's foremost security organization, was paralyzed without the US, and could only watch impotently as Russia propped up Al-Assad's regime under the guise of attacking Islamic extremists. For months on end the world watched as Syria collapsed into a failed state, precipitating the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. It appeared that all the world could do was watch and offer its condolences until the aliens appeared. The alien intervention brought Putin's adventure in Syria to a temporary halt, and grateful Europeans, wary of Russian intentions on their doorsteps, reveled in Putin's discomfiture.

It was not only those that held anti-Russian sentiments that rejoiced. Human rights groups could not help but be impressed by EXALT's conduct in the refugee camps in Syria. Demonstrating a more secular and tolerant bent EXALT camps were becoming havens against the constant strife and turmoil, and international aid organizations as well as media were given free access in and out of the safe zones. The video footage that came back from the camps were a public relations victory for EXALT. This was in stark contrast to the disorganized chaos of the UN relief effort, which was dogged by accusations of incompetence and favoritism towards Al-Assad's forces. The biggest supporters of the aliens were the resistance fighters who directly benefited from the alien intervention. Initial misgivings about the aliens' mysterious conduct soon gave way to shrugged acceptance, even friendly camaraderie, at least on the part of the Syrians. Embracing wholeheartedly the adage that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", the rebels ignored the grotesque appearance of the floaters, and soon took to scrawling messages and graffiti on alien mechanical units which took their defacement with placid equanimity. Soon there was a plethora of photos and videos of rebel soldiers posing with mechanical units, some of which were adorned with hats, shemaghs, and other similar paraphernalia.

EXALT camps were clean, well-ordered and most importantly of all, safe.

This makeshift alliance soon gave way to real solidarity when alien forces saved rebel lives time and time again. EXALT camps provided the necessities of life and advanced medical care beyond anything previously seen on Earth. Wounds that were previously life-threatening or fatal became routine, and were treated as simply as one would apply a band-aid to a paper cut. The world watched with amazement and gratitude as several children amputees had their limbs regrown over a matter of days. Such life saving and life altering interventions had a profound effect on the rebels and their outlook towards the aliens, not to mention on corporations, governments and global cartels all hungry for the technology the aliens could offer. In late July 2016 a stronghold of Syrian rebels was subjected to numerous air strikes from Russian S-34s using conventional bombs. The garrison would have almost certainly be wiped out had an alien fighter not intervened and shot down two of the Russian jets. In the process the alien fighter went down in the sands outside Aleppo, and the grateful survivors from the rebel garrison immediately launched a rescue mission. Footage of rebel fighters carefully and gently carrying out the fallen sectoids from the wreck was circulated widely on news and social media. The sectoids were the size of small children, and their limp, dead bodies invoked a pathos that was undeniable. One sectoid, clearly stricken and near death, was cradled as tenderly as a baby by a rugged Syrian resistance fighter who had tears streaming down his beard. Another wounded sectoid was carried on piggyback out of the wreck, its oversized cranium resting on the back of another resistance fighter. The survivors were brought to Aleppo, where the sectoids became another public relations hit for the visitors. The sectoids could not speak, but they seemed to understand everything that was said around them, and resorted to communicating in a form of crude sign language. Footage of the sectoid interacting with several Syrian children also went viral, prompting questions about alien intentions and whether the UN had acted appropriately in forming X-Com earlier in the year.