XCOM: Ranger

by Wanderer D

Chapter 28: Chosen


Chapter 28: Chosen

By Wanderer D

Dear Princess Celestia,

This week has been interesting. Although most people here have been nice and relatively welcoming, finding myself living in a completely different world has not been easy… and that's considering I have found myself a friend in Sunset and a mentor-of-sorts in Dr. Tygan. And I still don't know how Sunset managed… it must have been tough.

She told me a little about her first day, and then how she met Mox… he's… not exactly an alien, but a different species of human-hybrid that betrayed his old masters to join the fight for freedom. I know, not comprehensive, but I don't want to hog all of Sunset's diary. On that note, sorry for making the writing as tiny as possible.

As I was saying, people here have been welcoming for the most part, but it feels weird waking up without hooves… or even wings! Although I admit it's easier to lay in a bed without them. The Avenger is always on the move in one way or another. It's like an ant-hill, and in a way, I guess it is funny that the queen of bugs is the queen of soldiers here.

I'm sorry, I guess that wasn't nice. Chrysalis here has been… polite. Demanding. Efficient. She's handling a multitude of things at the same time, and I can always see that devious mind of hers, so similar to the one back home, where she's planning something else on top of that.

Sunset has gone out on several missions since I got here. It's tough seeing her and her team head out… I tried watching a live feed once (that's when we can watch what the soldiers are doing from all the way over here) and I couldn't really watch for long. The combat is scary, the encounters sudden and… let's say that Sunset's nickname, "Bloody Sunset" is well earned. I haven't seen her return from a fight without blood splattered all over her. I wonder if her blood magic has anything to do with that or if it is just a result of her approach?

My training with the new recruits is still ongoing. I'm not very good when it comes to endurance, but I've held up with a steady pace. Two of the ones I met during the first class have already left… one after a video that… anyway, the other one left after a day of training. Tactics are not too complicated, but listening to Chrysalis and Bradford, and reading some of the mission reports, it's slowly starting to really sink in. Unfortunately Galahad insists on making us watch old videos… remember when I arrived and we were attacked by some snake-like aliens? Well, at the time I didn't realize how dangerous they could be.

We watched a video this morning, where one of the other teams, not Sunset's… I think this happened before Bradford and her arrived… this team had a fight with several Vipers. It… didn't go well. Not only were their weapons not up-to par, but the Vipers were quick enough to read where the soldiers were aiming and dodge their shots!

The team was huddled together and one Viper spat venom at them… it wasn't like a cobra, however, the venom exploded into a cloud, choking and confusing them, then the other vipers came in. Some shot the soldiers, and a few others used their tongues like some sort of rope, capturing them and bringing them over to them.
They would then wrap themselves around the soldiers and crush them to death… Galahad called it a complete wipeout, then ran us through an hour or so of drills where we had to run behind cover, keep each other in sight, but not be too close just in case explosives or venom was sent our way.

I think we've been mostly lucky in Equestria. Our enemies are from our same world; they hold similar interests and even when bitter rivalries rise through the ages, and wars break out, and ponies and griffons and minotaurs and zebras die… we have always been able to find common ground in the end. Our enemies have never been truly merciless.

The only ray of hope is that there are some, very few, that break the mold… but those are desperately few. In any case, I should go back to the lab. I hope the girls are okay, tell them I miss them!


Chrysalis' table was stacked with pads containing everything from anticipated dates for attacks and retaliations, to recruit dossiers from allies, to lists of contacts to engage in different parts of the world, to lists of materials needed for projects.

She sat on the head seat, hands locked and placed in front of her mouth as she contemplated the information Volk had just forwarded to her. Around her, Bradford to her right and Tygan and Shen to her left, read copies of the report themselves.

"So we have a lead," Bradford said finally. "And Volk wants us to do this now, in order to reinforce our relationship with the factions."

"It won't be an easy mission," Tygan said slowly, lowering his pad. "While I might not be as versed in warfare as you and Central, Commander, I cannot imagine this going to one of our more fresh recruits."

"You would be correct, Doctor," Chrysalis said, frowning. "The issue is who to send…" she shook her head. "No, I've made up my mind but… rather who to send with her."

She leaned down to her pad and swiped the screen, bringing up Sunset's Bio.

Bradford raised an eyebrow.

"Her?" Shen looked from the pad up to the Commander. "But… if her prey even looked her way she'd be instantly recognized!"

Chrysalis shrugged. "She has a unique set of skills that would allow her to mingle. Her ability to not be perceived as a threat by most aliens and ADVENT troopers is useful, as she proved during my rescue mission." She hummed. "I would also consider giving her a promotion if she pulls this off."

"This will also pull Menace out of active duty for the duration of this mission," Bradford pointed out.

"We can spread them out with the other teams if necessary, or…" Chrysalis smiled. "We can have them train the rookies."

Bradford rubbed his chin, humming. "I think Galahad and I could plan some useful things if that were the case… but who will you send with her?"

Chrysalis smirked. "There's one person that has been snooping around where she shouldn't." She brought up another screen, with archived logs and downloads. "And given what she's about to find out, I think some time together would do them wonders."

She passed the tablet over to Tygan, who had looked at her with some curiosity.

"These are very specific dates and videos… saved from the old XCOM hard drives, no less."

"That's right," Chrysalis said, her brow darkening. "And those videos don't bring back fond memories. Whatever she's looking for there is going to reveal a lot more about her team than she probably expects."

She glanced around. "Shen, make sure to have ready the equipment they'll need. Bradford, I'll leave debriefing to you. Tygan, you'll be receiving a good amount of encrypted data if everything goes according to plan, so take the necessary steps to ensure correct transmission, storage and decryption."

"Yes, Commander."

"Now," Chrysalis said, pulling up the next pad. "About the Viper King's autopsy…"

The city skyscrapers seemed to curve around above her, like some sort of tunnel. Broken windows, overgrown plants, and shadows running just outside her vision when she turned around.

The wind howled through the street, stirring the dense, greenish fog and carrying the groans and whimpers of the Lost. Abandoned vehicles littered the street in various states of disrepair, from the parked-but-rusty, to the overturned and burnt-off husks of those that had been blasted or partially destroyed.

The street stretched behind her and in front of her, far beyond what she could see, fading into palpable, threatening darkness. She could hear hisses and chittering, moaning and growls... as she moved slowly, her shotgun at the ready, she searched in vain for her enemies.

She forced herself not to look down, even as she stepped carefully. Because she knew what she would find. She felt tears and fear and darkness creeping around her. Rivers of blood ran down the street, red and orange, glittering with power and hidden horrors… but as the current grew stronger and the blood slowly flooded the street, that which she didn't want to look at floated on it.


Humans, pegasi, ADVENT, earth ponies… mouths open and eyes vacant as dark, smoky tentacles played on the edges behind the orbs or within their gaping maws. Twilight, in her human form, with magnificent purple wings floated slowly past her, and Sunset had to look away.

But then she felt it. Turning in shock, she saw the blood-soaked, shadow-tentacle-filled body of her friend grasping her leg just below her knee, as the river of blood dragged more bodies around her. A blue pegasus with crazy, rainbow mane and wearing an XCOM uniform wrapped both her forelegs around her midriff and bit down.

Sunset cried out in shock as she felt another body, the Viper King, pale and missing half its face wrap around her, dragging her down into the blood, as more and more hands and claws and pincers and hooves and teeth latched onto every inch of her body, trying to submerge her under the surface of the water. Jane, missing her lower jaw clawed at Sunset's armor and Mox's body tried to wrestle her shotgun out of her hand, while Elena, gray-skinned and covered in glowing greenish-red pustules groaned and tried to rip her other arm out of her socket.

"You'll never escape me…" a voice whispered from somewhere as Sunset struggled and fought. "I will always find you!"

The Assassin was suddenly standing in front of her.

"Now you join them, Sunset Shimmer."

Sunset looked down, to see the Chosen's wicked blade running her through. She tried to struggle as the assassin laughed and dragged her sword through her body, spilling blood and guts out.

Just as her undead attackers reached into her innards, a white light seemed to bathe the world around her. Slowly, the world around faded into darkness, followed by the undead grappling with her. Her wounds disappeared and she stepped back, staring in shock at the Assassin, who remained in place, her smile twisting a grimace of hate even as it was motionless. Soon, it was just the two of them, the darkness and the light from way above.

"Truly, when her kind was expelled, we never foresaw such a transformation, and never was she an ally, but alas, to lose her song to such monsters; to see her pride stripped and her skin flailed and her mind and body reshaped to such an extent… this we have never—in our wildest dreams, in our most secret moments of hate—wished upon any being."

The voice echoed in the darkness as the Assassin finally was blown away into nothingness, like smoke in a breeze. Sunset turned, trying to find the origin of the voice…

Sunset stirred, flailing around when she felt a hand on her shoulder, shaking her. "Sunset!"
She sat up suddenly, breathing hard, and looking around wildly, she immediately recognized the worried woman next to her. "L-Laetitia?"

"Bradford asked me to come get you… I'm sorry I woke you up, you were turning and moaning…"

"I—" Sunset brought a hand up to her head, rubbing her temples with her fingers. "I'm… I—I'm sorry, what? I just needed a nap and…"

"It's okay, we're all exhausted, it's been a long week," Laetitia said, smiling. "But as I said, Bradford wanted you to meet him in the conference room."

Sunset licked her lips and reached to the side, grabbing the bottle of water she kept next to her bed and taking a long drink, before nodding. "Yeah, yeah… I'll uh, I'll be right there."

Laetitia gave her a look. "Do you need some coffee?"

"Nah," Sunset shook her head, turning so that she her legs were off the bed. "I'll be okay, please… just let him know I'll be there in a minute."

"Alright," Laetitia said, turning to walk towards the door. "He said to bring a pad."

"Oh great… that can only mean a new mission."

Sunset watched her friend walk out of the room before pushing herself off the bed and making her way to the faucet. She splashed cold water on her face and dried it clean, giving herself a look in the mirror.

"What the hell was that?"

o.0.o End Chapter 28 o.0.o