898: X-COM: Resurrection – Chapter TwoPosted: December 4, 2014
Title: X-COM: Resurrection
Media: Video Game
URL: X-COM: Resurrection: Chapter 2
Critiqued by Herr Wozzeck
Hello children, and welcome back to X-COM: Resurrection! Today, we go on to the only other published chapter of X-COM: Resurrection! And thank God: while it’s not horrible, it’s still not that good. It’s just… still moderately stupid in its premise, you know what I’m saying?
Anyway, let’s move on, shall we? If we’re gonna get this out of the way, we need to get it out of the way!
So we begin this second chapter with this:
Jeanne studied the shotgun on the table in front of her.
Until today, she had never seen such a weapon before. But when she held the weapon in her hands it felt natural. Running the assault course with it had been exhilarating. It had felt like she had done this a hundred times before. She’d even been able to disassemble and reassemble the weapon, despite having no mechanical skill herself.
Okay… so why is this happening?
She knew why.
Okay, why don’t you tell me why?
While she and the other “warriors”, as they were being called, had been recruited for their innate combat skills, they also came from earlier times.
You know, because their “innate combat skills” included using weapons that wouldn’t appear in the forms we know them by for several centuries in most cases!
But just as Pope Francis had said to her, the X-COM scientists had grafted the knowledge of others onto the warriors. Jeanne was intimately familiar with the use of modern firearms, despite having no memory of using them before.
Well, that wasn’t quite accurate. The knowledge had been taken from people – modern soldiers. Jeanne occasionally caught flashes, fragments of memory. She had been assured that the soldiers had willingly undergone the brain scans. But to have direct access to the experiences of others… it was unsettling.
So the XCOM scientists did graft knowledge into their brains, using the memories of previous soldiers.
Okay, author, let me ask you something: have you ever, ever heard of Occam’s Razor? ‘Cause if you knew about it, this plot just wouldn’t exist.
I mean… you realize that you have a way to implant other people’s memories into another person’s mind, right? Why not, I don’t know, just use it on random people who volunteer? I mean, if you can implant another person’s combat experience into someone else’s mind, it would make far more sense to just give it to a guy who’s already alive rather than just giving it to a dead guy! I mean, seriously, you’ve found a way to completely eliminate combat training! Wouldn’t it be faster to just get volunteers and implant the knowledge in their head so they can get to going at this stuff?
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
Dear Jesus, that just makes the whole resurrection thing dumber!
There had been other information that the scientists had given her. That English had become the world’s leading language put a foul taste in her mouth. She had been called to fight the English, and they had burned her at the stake. Pope Francis had been kind enough to speak French with her, but everyone else spoke only English. The only silver lining was that in addition to teaching her to speak English, they’d also taught her how to read it. Being able to open up a Bible and read the words herself had been a beautiful experience. And as she had soon learned, if she could read English, she could read French as well.
Wait a minute… is that…?
The scientists had also given her some familiarity with modern technology. One of the nurses had made a bad joke about it being witchcraft, but she had already known that in their substance, guns, computers, and planes were no different from crossbows, looms, or trebuchets. They were just tools, made by skilled artisans. And if she’d had any question about whether or not they had improved the world, the Wikipedia article on the history of agriculture had quashed those.
Oh my God, it is…
When Jeanne had been eleven, a summer drought had produced a poor harvest in much of France. That winter had been hard, and many had not survived. Her uncle Eduard had lost his infant son. And Jeanne’s friend Marie had lost two of her brothers, and her mother. But had they lived in modern France, they would all have lived. In fact, they wouldn’t have noticed anything beyond higher prices at the market.
Author, what the fuck? I mean, come on: these are all interesting reactions for her to have towards the modern day! I imagine she would love to read the Bible for the first time, and I do imagine she would show great disgust at her knowing that English has taken over as the main language of the World, and I can imagine her resentment towards that! And I can see her marveling over the wonders of modern medicine, and making sense of how technology in the modern day works, and dealing with jokes about witchcraft, and even knowing about Wikipedia! All that is admittedly really interesting stuff, and it could’ve been really fun to see her adjust to that!
We’re not being SHOWN this shit!
Here is all this interesting reactional stuff, and you’re not willing to show this to us? No, it’s just summarized! Seriously, you had almost an entire chapter’s worth of material that was just summarized in the space of a few paragraphs! I just… are you even…?
No, you know what? I’m going to hold off on asking that until a later scene, because I think there’s a huge question this author needs to ask himself at some point about what he was thinking about this fic.
The door to the armory opened, and a short, stocky man with a weathered face stepped through, carrying a sniper rifle. He nodded to her, set the rifle down on the table next to her, and began cleaning it, just as she had done with her shotgun. Jeanne’s mouth twitched with humor.
Oh my… I guess now is when we meet another of Jean’s friends who got resurrected, huh?
“Another perfect score?” she asked.
Simo Häyha shrugged. “I have been shooting guns all my life,” he replied. “It is important to practice.”
Simo Häyha? Motherfucking Simo Häyha!?
Really? I mean, I could’ve understood this premise if you had kept it to people that lived before the dawn of the 21st Century. But you guys just brought back a guy who died in motherfucking 2002! His corpse has only been cold for thirteen fucking years at the time this fic is set, guys! I mean, I know he was the deadliest goddamn sniper in history and that he was one of history’s biggest badasses (and also probably one of the only people you could’ve gotten who you wouldn’t need to implant with that unexplained memory implant), but still! Come on! You’re defeating your own premise here!
And watch, this is going to segue into more telling about how things are, isn’t it?
Jeanne liked Simo. He was very humble, even – especially – when it came to his marksmanship. She had recalled an archer – Oscar d’Avignon – who was constantly bragging about his skills, and would frequently shoot birds out of the sky just to show that he could. Simo didn’t seem to care, despite the fact that had Finland been a monarchy, he would probably have been given a lordship in recognition of his achievements.
And we’re not shown this in the way they interact with each other because…?
Oh, wait, sorry, I forgot: this fic isn’t actually interested in showing anything that’s even remotely interesting! Never mind!
Jeanne’s reverie was broken by the wail of a siren, followed by a female voice over the intercom:
“Attention: all senior personnel, report to the briefing room.”
Both Jeanne and Simo shot to their feet. Jeanne had no personal experience with these announcements, but she’d been imprinted with it. They dashed out of the armory, and headed to the briefing room.
Huh, so she was given that specific announcement via the unexplained memory implants, and not from suddenly knowing how to speak English and thus familiarizing herself with modern-day lingo? Huh, it’s almost like this is starting to fall apart at the seams!
Anyway, we get a scene change, and we cut to this:
The briefing room wasn’t all that different from a medieval war council. The room itself was the size of a large tent, and there was a long table in the middle. The difference was that instead of looking at a map in the middle, everyone was focused on one of the TV screens built into the wall.
Um, I’m pretty sure that the briefing room was mainly holographic, not with TV screens in the sense we would know them by. Also… that’s one goddamn huge tent they must’ve had. What, did they hold their war room meetings in the Ringling Brothers Circus?
As they waited for everyone to arrive, Jeanne looked at the other occupants of the room. Out of all the strange things about this new world, the strangest of all were Jeanne’s new comrades.
Oh my… Well, let’s see who else got thrown into this mess, yeah?
The first X-COM squad had been drawn from the best soldiers the world had to offer. All four had years of service, exemplary combat records, and numerous decorations. Four had walked into that building in Stuttgart. One had been carried out on a stretcher. The other three had been carried out in body bags. It would be up to the warriors to do the fighting from now on. So far, five, including Jeanne herself, had been released from medical.
Oooor, we’ll see who else got thrown into this mess, after this fic is done with this completely out of place narrative aside that could’ve been placed elsewhere.
Simo Häyha had been the first. Of all of them, he’d had the easiest time adjusting to the modern world. That was probably because he’d died just thirteen years earlier. He knew about guns and cars and computers. In fact, he’d even discovered that the e-mail account he’d set up two years before his death was still active. And when he’d woken up, he’d been greeted by his own children. Also, when X-COM had compiled its list of historical warriors to resurrect, he’d been the first to be chosen. No one had argued about putting the greatest sniper of all time into their squad. He and Jeanne had gotten along quite well.
Aaaaaaand, this fic forgot that Simo died of old age and stuff, and that it’s generally a terrible idea to put old people on the front lines, didn’t it? So really, Simo’s resurrection makes even less sense than it did before!
Well… assuming that Simo was resurrected in his previous state, anyway. Though that’s called into question, considering that they somehow managed to resurrect someone who had been burned completely to ashes. Except that it’s not really mentioned the physical age at which they resurrected Simo. So really, we can assume just about anything and it’ll be just as accurate as the author’s vision of stuff.
Okay, then. So who’s next?
The same could not be said for Genghis Khan.
He was a bear of a man, with broad shoulders, powerful limbs, and a long beard of straight red hair. Jeanne might not have had much in the way of formal schooling, but even she had heard of the ferocious Mongol hordes that had still threatened the edges of Europe. When she’d first met him in person, Genghis had looked at her the way men often looked at women. And he showed no sign of regret for the atrocities he’d committed – indeed, he seemed proud of them. He was certainly eager to get into the fight against the aliens. Jeanne didn’t trust him at all.
Right. Of course. They resurrected Genghis Khan. ‘Cause it is incredibly easy to resurrect someone when we haven’t even found their fucking grave! You know, ‘cause he intentionally set his burial up so nobody could find his grave! Yeah, nice job, dudes, I’m sure he’s real glad you brought him back eight hundred years after the fact.
And I know that the logic behind this is “hey, you’re a great and brutal leader”. He was also a king, and if he was prideful enough to think of that, I’m pretty sure he won’t take kindly to that sort of thing. But again, why linger on anything really interesting when you can just sum it up in narration, am I right?
So who’s next?
The hardest to figure out was Ragnar Lothbrok.
Ragnar Lothbrok… As in the legendary Norse ruler? You know, the one whose historicity is doubtful?
Ragnar wasn’t as big as Genghis, but no man would call him small or weak. He had a sturdy frame, short blond hair, and icy blue eyes. Like Genghis, he was eager for battle. Like Genghis, he was a pagan. And while Genghis had mostly slaughtered other pagans and Muslims, Ragnar had fought and killed Christians. But where Genghis had been initially skeptical of Jeanne’s worth as a fighter, Ragnar had called her “a Christian shieldmaiden”. He’d even become her sparring partner, and never once had he disrespected her. He, too, had thrown her a few glances, but most men did. The odd thing about Ragnar was that he generally only looked at her that way after their sparring matches.
You know, author, if you were going to stay with historical figures, the least you could’ve done was go with a historical figure we know existed! We know that Genghis Khan and Jeanne d’Arc existed! So then why the fuck would they resurrect someone who probably only exists in legend?
And once again, I find myself saying: show me this shit, dude! Show me! Don’t tell me!
So who’s the last guy?
And finally, there was Tesla.
So it’s Nikola Tesla, huh?
He wasn’t a warrior, at least not in the sense of possessing any modicum of fighting skill. He’d been resurrected for his mind. According to his profile, Nikola Tesla had been a great scientist and artisan, devising numerous technologies. Tesla was almost as tall as Genghis, but he was much thinner, with dark hair, grey eyes, and a well-groomed mustache. Where the warriors wore combat fatigues, Tesla wore a modern suit. He seemed remarkably composed at the moment.
You know, I’m all for telling people about the kinds of awesomeness that Nikola Tesla did, but I really doubt that this is the fic I would do that with, I really do. And wait, does this mean Dr. Vahlen is out of a job? ‘Cause if Nikola Tesla’s brilliant mind is here, then that means that—guess what—the awesome female doctor suddenly has no role in XCOM. So thanks, XCOM, for demoting the importance of diversity in the work force!
All of them hailed from different time periods and nations. All had vastly different worldviews and experiences. But they shared the common ground of being out of time. Even Simo had to adapt to this new world. It set them apart from the others – the “modern” members of X-COM.
Thank you for spelling that out, author. Because clearly, as we all know, the only people who would find this premise even halfway intelligently written at this point is if they were all lobotomized goldfish who don’t remember history!
I just… this premise is so ridiculous! The bad logic of XCOM is bad enough. The fact that major facets of how the premise works are never explained is bad enough. But the fact that the premise itself is just so ludicrous as to be inherently unworkable just keeps driving nails into the coffin of this fic! This fic is about historical figures being brought back to life to fight aliens! How ludicrous is that?
I mean, this is seriously like what you’d get if you had a story about two idiot teenagers who somehow gained access to a time machine, and then they decided “hey, let’s take people from random time periods, bring them here, have them be a part of our history presentation, and we’ll use that to avoid flunking History”!
I mean, what kind of crazy people would make something like that?
Oh, right, the guys who realized how ridiculous their premise was and ran with it.
‘Cause see, author, here’s the biggest sin of all in this fic: your premise, for as silly as it is, could actually have potential to be interesting if you handled it the right way. The problem is, I don’t think even you know what story you want to tell, and trust me, it shows. It can’t be a meditation on being a fish out of water because there isn’t nearly enough time spent on Jeanne’s reactions (and when there is time spent on it, it’s summed up and not shown to us), but it can’t be a silly action-adventure fic either because it takes itself too seriously for that and we haven’t seen any action yet. For me, I think this fic is trying to play to the middle by writing a regular XCOM campaign with historical figures thrown in because it’s not sure what it wants to do with this premise.
I say: pick a side. It’s fucking Jeanne d’Arc fighting aliens alongside the likes of Genghis Khan and other historical badasses! You can’t play safe with a premise like that, you just can’t!
Okay, so are we going to talk about the main XCOM crew?
Central Officer Jeremy Bradford wore a green T-shirt with the X-COM insignia sewn over his breast.
There we are! Now I’m going to assume that it’s going to be nothing but a ton of narration about stuff, hm?
His hair was thinning slightly, and he had a microphone headset on. He seemed rather uncomfortable at the moment, probably because two weeks ago, he’d been in charge. He’d overseen the first mission into Stuttgart, and his poor tactics had resulted in disaster. To his credit, Bradford hadn’t tried to deflect any blame. And it had been the first encounter with the aliens. Rather than dismissing him entirely, Bradford had been demoted. He was in charge of administration, which nearly everyone agreed was his strong suit. Still, he would never escape the shame of having gotten men killed.
Okay, so essentially, we get lobbed a ton of boring narration that just sums up these characters.
You know what? I’m skipping the rest of these guys, because—
Dr. Angela Vahlen wore a green-white labcoat over her dark green turtleneck.
Oh, so Dr. Vahlen is still in there? Huh. Never mind, I was wrong about Nikola Tesla taking over her role, then.
Anyway, after that, we get blurbs about Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Shen as well. I’m going to skip over those ‘cause they’re just boring rather than outright full of wrongness and all that. And of course, we get our commander of XCOM…
The last to enter the room was Captain Victoria Silver, the new commander of X-COM.
…who’s a woman.
Silver was a veteran of the Australian Special Air Service regiment, having served with distinction in Afghanistan. More importantly, she was the sole survivor of the Stuttgart operation… and the only living human being to have faced aliens in battle. Her left leg had been burnt off by an alien plasma pistol, so she used a motorized wheelchair to get around. The way she carried herself, it might as well have been a throne.
…and also evidently a badass.
Huh, so evidently it is possible to write good female characters even if they haven’t really done that much.
And no, I mean that: really think about Jeanne d’Arc and the way that the author has written her so far. Apart from passing implications that Genghis Khan and Ragnar Lothbrok gave her possibly lewd looks or something, I don’t think the writing for her has actually been too bad. I mean, really think about it: most of her narration has been all about “oh my, let’s get used to the modern world”. It’s a very gender neutral way of looking at things, though the fact that the story currently seems committed to telling her point of view means that Jeanne is implicitly the protagonist to some degree.
So see, her gender isn’t really the biggest focus of the female characters in this fic. Oh, sure, Genghis might call attention to Jeanne’s gender, but on a narrative level, the gender doesn’t matter.
Suck on that, EclipsePheniox!
Anyway, after that, we get this:
“What do we have?” she asked curtly, after returning everyone’s salutes.
Bradford manipulated the controls for the main screen. It was currently showing a map of Africa. The X-COM insignia marked their headquarters in the Ethiopian mountains. A flashing red dot was centered on a city on the southern coast of West Africa.
“We’ve received reports of alien abductions in Lagos, Nigeria,” he said. “The Nigerian government has declared a state of emergency and has ordered an evacuation of much of the city. They’ve formally requested our assistance to deal with the situation.”
Silver nodded. “Do we have any intelligence on the enemy?” she asked. “Numbers? Composition?”
Bradford shrugged. “Nothing solid. Apart from media accounts, the only reports we have are from the police. They’ve confirmed that at least three devices similar to the one from Stuttgart have landed in downtown Lagos, and they believe there are aliens moving around, but no direct sightings. Best guess is that this is a smaller incursion.”
Silver inhaled deeply, and turned to the warriors. “Suit up. I want you to hit Lagos, find out what’s happening, and kill every damn alien in the city.”
Jeanne stood, and saluted Captain Silver. “Yes, ma’am!”
And there we go, into the land of shots randomly missing and everyone having a crazy day at XCOM. ‘Cause that’s XCOM, baby.
Or… it would have gone there, if this fic had been continued. Which it wasn’t, and it’s currently sitting here as deadfic in every iteration I could find. Though, I find it odd that there was an iteration of this fic on Space Battles that was actually received well: it strikes me as odd that the otherwise quite critical (and, in most cases, intelligent) forumgoers at Space Battles thought this fic worked at all.
‘Cause trust me, it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read. But to me, the premise and the tone of the fic as it goes along this premise just tears the whole fic apart before it can ever really get started. And when you’re seeing that in a fic, that is a bad, bad sign. The fact that the author himself set up a TVTropes page for the fic doesn’t bode terribly well at all, either, and I can only wonder what he would’ve done if he had continued on in this fic.
But hey, it at least wasn’t completely god-awful. So you know what? I’ll go ahead and take that.
And that’s where I’ll leave it off, patrons. I’m Herr Wozzeck, and I’ll see you all next week with more XCOM-related goodness.