XCOM: Equis War

by Nova_Eclipse

First Interlude

12:43 PM, 12/19/15, XCOM HQ

The Commander sighed as another notification from the HQ's comm system appeared on his P.D.A. Tapping the icon on the screen twice, a window opened up to show another fourteen messages from various senders. He briefly skimmed through each message's contents before opening up the next email, finally closing the window once he found nothing of importance in the notifications. Commander Ashton could already tell that it was going to be yet another tedious day.

After the Ethereal War had ended, the Council had hesitantly decided to let the rest of the world know about XCOM and what it had done for mankind. The public's reaction was overwhelming, to say the least. For almost three days straight, news outlets and other media groups made reports and articles solely about XCOM. The United Nations requested XCOM's help in restoring order and rebuilding the countries that had been devastated by the alien invasion.

The damage reports that Ashton had received from the Council soon after were devastating. Over 237 million people had been killed worldwide, and even more were either missing or had been abducted. Although roughly one-quarter of a billion people would seem like a low number compared to the billions of people around the world, the fact that so many people had died despite XCOM's assistance was what made it devastating to the Commander. On top of that, the total damage caused by the aliens would take, at minimum, one year to fix. He couldn't even begin to imagine what the cost of repairs would be, let alone what would happen to the global economy.

A small window on the tablet-computer's screen popped up, showing camera feed of a brown-haired man wearing a green uniform standing in front of his office door. "You can come in, you know. You won't be interrupting anything, Bradford," the Commander raised his voice without so much as a glance upwards. A few seconds passed until Officer Bradford walked into Ashton's office, coming to a halt a few feet away from his superior's desk.

The Central Officer of XCOM gave his boss a crisp salute before he began, "Commander Ashton, the Engineering team has finished construction on our third and fourth Firestorms. All remaining EXALT stragglers following their base's destruction have been eliminated. Lastly, our satellites haven't picked up any more alien activity since the Temple Ship's destruction, so it's safe to say that the invaders have been wiped out, for the time being."

"Good to hear, Bradford. What's the status of Council funding?" Ashton inquired as he read yet another notification that had appeared on the screen of his P.D.A. The Commander had been worried that since the alien threat was gone, the Council would cut off XCOM's funding and shut everything down.

"The Council is still sending us more than enough funding to keep us going, sir. In fact, some of the reports I've heard say that the public have started to give their own support for XCOM. We won't be scraping by like we used to when the invasion began," Bradford replied with a small nod to his superior, who let out a short sigh of relief.

Although that was one more concern laid to rest, there were more issues that Ashton needed to have addressed. "How are the Strike teams doing? I'd imagine that most of them have recovered by now, but some of them must still be mourning our losses," the Commander asked as he shut off his tablet to give Bradford his undivided attention.

"Strike One is the only team that is still actively coping with the loss of Colonel Powell and the others. They're currently planning to hold a memorial service with the other teams for him and the other operatives listed on the Memorial Wall," the Central Officer reported without missing a beat, his hands still clasped together behind his back. The subtle look that Bradford was giving Ashton wordlessly questioned whether he'd permit it. For as long as he had known the Commander, Bradford had never seen nor heard his boss allow any form of sentimental event at the base. This lack of empathy, however, was mainly born of the constant necessity for everyone at XCOM to be on their toes and unburdened by their losses.

A long, somewhat-tense pause filled the room, and for a few moments, Bradford believed that Ashton was going to refuse just like he usually did. His fear was lifted when the Commodore let out an aggravated breath and shook his head, "So long as the service doesn't interfere with the work of the other base personnel, and as long as they don't take too long, then I'll give them my authorization to go through with it. If any other personnel also want to join in, then I can't really do anything to stop them. They all deserve at least that much, after everything they've gone through."

Bradford quickly found his voice again and nodded, "Understood, sir. I'll notify our soldiers right away. Is there anything else that you need a report on?"

"No, that will be all, Bradford. You're dismissed," Ashton replied as he turned his tablet back on and was instantly barraged with dozens upon dozens of notifications. A flicker of amusement briefly passed over the Central Officer's face as Ashton, in a rare loss of composure, let out a frustrated yell and slammed a fist against his desk. Deciding that it would be best to leave while he could, Bradford slipped out of the room just as the Commander's tablet was flung against the closing door.