Chapter 1- Beneath her Violet Flame

"Big Sky you are cleared to touch down in Hanger One" X-COM Air Traffic Control remained a welcoming relief to the pilot of the X-COM Skyranger dropship responsible for transporting humanity's most elite soldiers anywhere in the world in defence of humanity against the alien threat currently besieging the planet. "Welcome home"

The large bulkhead doors covering the hanger bay retracted in anticipation of the inbound aircraft, allowing the Skyranger to touch down within the vast interior of the main landing area of X-COM Headquarters concealed deep beneath continental Europe.

The large aircraft touched down on its heavy landing gear with a mechanical groan of stressed metal, the afterburners scorching the surface of the landing pad as the engines slowed to a gentle halt. The X-COM assault squad was finally back at base after their latest operation to investigate a crashed UFO in the Russian countryside, the thin layer of frost still clinging to the hull of the Skyranger.

The heavy loading ramp struck the hanger with an echoing clunk of metal striking metal. The assault squad disembarked from the craft with heavy shoulders burdened by the weight of their armour and the fatigue of battle. Once the squad was clear of the dropship the army of technicians and engineers responsible for maintaining the aircraft stepped forward to begin maintenance on the aircraft as well as unloading the materials and alien weaponry retrieved in the field.

Lieutenant Kiara Hunter led at the rear of the pack. She served as both the team Sniper and the highest ranking field operative currently leading with the best kill record within the division, once striking a Muton between the eyes at over a klick away as it prepared to bring its armoured fists down on a hapless rookie who hadn't thought to watch his corners. As she stepped off of the ramp she felt the wash of cold air across her bare face, a refreshing feeling after hours of endless conflict and several hours of confinement in a Skyranger. Much like the rest of her squad her only objective at this point was to return to the barracks for some much needed rest and-

"Lieutenant Hunter requested to report to Dr. Vahlen in the Laboratory. Lieutenant hunter to the laboratory" but inevitably not.

"Lieutenant Hunter reporting, Doctor" Kiara snapped a sharp salute practiced through years of rigid military service. Although the doctor was not technically an officer saluting anyone deemed of higher rank than you was a habit that was difficult to overcome.

Dr. Vahlen loomed over the main computer console dominating the centre of her vast laboratory seemingly oblivious to the vast army of technicians and researchers seemingly running an ordered rampancy across her laboratory , remaining entranced by her work. Kiara lingered in her place, waiting to be addressed as a proper soldier should.

Dr. Vahlen finally glanced up from her terminal to briefly acknowledge her visitor, delivering the final keystroke to end her work before standing from her desk, finally turning to acknowledge her guest. "It is good to see you Lieutenant; my name is Dr. Adrianna Vahlen Head Researcher of the X-COM project "

"Oh, can i call you 'Adri'?" Kiara asked with a mischievous glint in her eye. Despite her position as the Head Scientist of the XCOM project she remained a civilian consultant, holding no official rank within the military division of the operation. Despite that technicality, the fact remained that she appeared unimpressed by the quip.

"Aha" a smile cracked across the German woman's lips. "You British and your sense of humour, very good. Please, follow me" Dr. Vahlen urged her forward with a wave of her hand. Kiara followed in her step, deciding for now that she would hold off on an impromptu rendition of one of her countries favourite tune regarding two world wars and one world cup.

"Here in the laboratory some of the greatest scientific minds of our time have gathered to research alien technology. Our goal is to develop the most advanced technology humanity has ever envisioned" Vahlen lead her guest through the vast network of corridors flanked by laboratories and test chambers which honeycombed the interior of X-COM headquarters "Here we have created technological advances such as your Carapace armour, Laser Rifles and Dr. Shens personal pet project the Firestorm strike fighter"

Dr. Vahlen came to a halt in front of the observation window looking into another of the high technology laboratories which housed all the very best experimentation, research and testing equipment the Councils governments could provide to assist in combating the alien threat. It seemed that an all out attack by extra terrestrials across the globe tended to cut through the red tape and loosen government's wallets. "Here we are currently testing some of our latest creations such as the Plasma Rifle, EMP Cannon and Titan Armour"

"Big toys" Kiara remarked. "When do we get to play with them?"

"Before the schematics are released to Engineering for fabrication they must be rigorously researched and prototyped by my staff" Vahlen bit her lip in anticipation of the coming admission. "However there have been some, complications, once we attempted to conduct the live testing phase. The numbers of PhD students I've had shoot themselves in the foot with a laser pistol or smash their heads into a gantry while testing the rappel lines; the infirmary was starting to complain"

"Maybe you forgot to carry the one when you did your calculations" Kiara joked.

"I assure you our designs are absolutely thorough. The uncomfortable truth is that despite a few dozen PhDs, Masters Degrees and Noble Prize winners spreading across the entire spectrum of the academic world when it comes to the physical application of their creations my staff appear unable to understand the most basic concept of military combat"

"So you decided to seek some 'Professional Consultancy' to save your research"

Dr Vahlen was beginning to become exasperated by this tiresome woman, but still her expression remained professional. "Indeed. That being the case, the Commander has seen fit to transfer you to the scientific team for the next few weeks. You will no longer be assigned to go on operations and shall instead report to the laboratory and assist my team in scientific experimentations-"

"Wait" Kiara interrupted. "What you mean 'You will not go on operations'?"

Dr Vahlens face remained unchanged despite the interruption. "I can think of no words which better describe the situation than those you have just used"

"But what about fighting the aliens, what about my guys in the field? Those green squaddies wouldn't be able to hold a candle without me-"

"The Commander is confident that the soldiers will be capable of operating with or without your guidance" Dr Vahlen could see Kiaras genuine concern for her soldiers where others would merely see a young gung-ho soldier seeking only to add kills to their tally. After the sudden and devastating loss of Delta squad during their first contact with the aliens Vahlen had redoubled her efforts into researching the alien technology to improve X-COM's military capabilities in the idealistic hope that her work would be sufficient to ensure such a tragic loss would not befall their operation again. She suspected that in her own way Kiara sought much the same thing. "Our research is paramount to your success in the field, you go out there now and in a few months time you will be fighting the alien leadership with little more than sharpened sticks. But if you assist our research I promise you that the next time you face them your soldiers will be armed to the teeth with the most advanced military hardware mankind has ever envisioned ready to blast these alien arschloch's back to the hellish world they spawned from" Kiara remained silent in the face of the sudden revelation. "Then we are in agreement" Dr Vahlen accepted silence as an answer of acceptance and did not linger for a response. "We begin in the morning"