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?"

"Yes."

"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

5 comments:

  1. Good point in thinking of both the national police and the gendarmerie. Also you could have taken photos with French police violence, it's not something that's lacking from the internet, the cops in the pictures are clearly not French (and their links are pretty obvious).

    On the other hand the thin man is great, completely creepy!

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    1. Fixed! Swapped in some photos of the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité in action.

      My problem is that there are now three police forces working in France in my fan fiction - there's the CRS from the national police, the gendarmerie, and now ADVENT. I'm trying to find photos of riot police without any obvious insignias to represent them.

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    2. That's a very good point, I did not thought of that!

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  2. Keep up the good work. Glad to see you continuing this pretty frequently.

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  3. Poke poke poke!

    Will keep checking this blog for years Duke. Sooner or later you will write another one.

    ReplyDelete