XCOM: Ranger

by Wanderer D

Chapter 47: Fury


Chapter 47: Fury

By Wanderer D

"So," Jane whispered. "Should we shoot it?"

Sunset groaned. "At ease, soldier," she said loud enough to be heard. She turned to face the Thin Man. "I'll be honest, your initial welcome wasn't that nice. One of your seekers almost strangled me to death."

"Ah, a most unfortunate event," Vikass said, although he didn't sound apologetic at all. "When we realized energy was being diverted to the upper levels, the guards we had left behind… ah… had already activated. It took some doing before we were able to override their initial protocols remotely."

As he talked, Sunset reactivated her spell, glancing around the large room. Jane, next to her, immediately noticed she had cast the spell, but Vikass continued speaking. Sunset took note of that. It appeared that it wasn't a physical change… maybe her blood had managed to do something unexpected.

"As you can see now, we don't want violence…" Vikass said, drawing her attention back to her surroundings.

"We're not going to attack," Sunset spoke up. "Why don't you tell your two friends to come down from above the pipes?"

"I…" Vikass stammered, visibly surprised. "I apologize, we assumed that since you were XCOM we would need more time to… ensure our safety." He seemed to be listening to something, tilting his head slightly. "If no agressions are to come, we would be happy to talk more."

Sunset grimaced. Vikass appeared outwardly calm, as did the two other beings above, but their cardiovascular activity was accelerated. They were nervous. Scared even. She could see faint silhouettes of blood vessels further in, presumably there were several aliens around, but they were hiding, not trying to surround them.

'They really are more afraid of us than us of them,' she thought. She slowly put her shotgun in its harness. "You wouldn't be the first former… enemies… I've dealt with."

Jane gritted her teeth, clearly struggling with herself, but finally put her own weapon again. The glare she directed at Sunset was a clear "If we die, I'm going to kill you all over again."

Sunset's confidence seemed to unnerve the Thin Man even more, but eventually he nodded, and soon was joined by two more, who jumped down from above them with the same unnatural grace as Vikass to land at either side of him. "Thank you, XCOM… this is... unexpected," he said.

"We should take their weapons," the one to the right said.

"Not happening," Sunset declared, crossing her arms. "We're giving you the benefit of the doubt… I know what ADVENT, or the Elders do to other species to have them comply, but you shouldn't push this trust further than is reasonable."

"We have you surrounded," the same thin man spoke up.

"Do you?" Sunset smirked.

The thin man snarled, but the other recent arrival raised his hand. "Peace, Sashssa. XCOM is right. We can't invite trust without trusting."

"Look," Sunset spoke up, drawing their attention back to her. "I know that none of us really expected to be in this situation, but we'll have to make the most of it and the sooner the better. The Commander knows where we are and we haven't reported back. They'll be sending teams here to extract us, and if there's peace to be had, we would rather it be that way."

"She lies," Sashssa said, body language becoming tense. "The Commander was taken. We saw it."

Sunset snorted. "We got her back."

The three thin men shared a look behind their sunglasses. "Come," Vikass said eventually, motioning for Sunset and Jane to follow.

The small group made their way around the generator. The back wall had been taken down and excavated. An abandoned, giant mech had been used for that purpose, if its damaged metallic hands were any hint.

Vikass noticed her staring and nodded. "We used the mechtoids to dig through. Between its mechanical strength and lasers, we were able to carve out a larger cavern behind the generator. We tapped into the natural gases from the earth."

As they spoke, the cavern opened up into an even larger one, covered from bottom to ceiling with alien flora. None of the plants were taller than  Sunset's chest, but their unique coloring and even some bioluminescence gave the cavern a unique, fantastic feel.

"Reminds you of home?" Jane asked. She sounded impressed.

"Nah… never seen anything like it." Sunset shook her head, giving Jane a warning look.

The comment seemed to not have been overheard by the thin men, but they had, they didn't acknowledge it.

Beyond the unexpected world under the mountain, there were even more surprises in the cavern, such as actual dwellings carved into the mountainside itself, and a workshop that was at complete odds in its level of technology with the general look of the place had three short Sectoids working on it.

For a moment it looked too odd, but then Sunset remembered that sectoids used to be a lot shorter than they were now. As they approached, the sectoids turned, observing them warily, but not reaching for any weapons.

They stopped in the center of the tiny alien village, as most of the other residents approached. There were two more sectoids, and yet another thin man, this one walking slowly, with a limp. A few Seekers floated high above, and one of the flying saucers was doing a round over what looked like crops, dropping a neon-blue spray on them.

Far, far behind them, another faded tell-tale light of cardiovascular activity pulsed ever so slightly.

"We have survived here, hunting above ground for game, and staying away from the Elder's attention," Vikass said.

"Is this all of you?" Jane asked.

"There's more," Sunset said, turning her head to look at one of the dwellings. "Come on out, big guy."

It looked like a muton, but not the ones they were familiar with. This one was bulkier, more primal in its appearance. It walked towards them confidently, despite not having any weapons and it was easy to see why. It certainly had the appearance of being able to take them on without issue.

Vikass was frowning at her.

"What?" Sunset asked, blinking innocently.

Vikass shook his head, looking down at the sectoids, who all looked back at him at the same time. He turned back to Sunset. "You are very perceptive to have noticed Uwaallu without psychic scans."

Jane snorted.

"It's a gift," Sunset replied. "So why don't you tell me… how is it that you are all still here?"

Vikass looked at the others and nodded. The group separated, going back to their projects. The sectoids went back to their workshop, full of computer equipment and advanced mechatronics, the thin men dispersed, except for Vikass, who remained with them, and the lone muton gave Sunset and Jane a careful, ponderous, look of evaluation before slowly walking away.

At their guides' motion, they started walking, as he took them towards the edge of the little settlement. "Our story, as it is relevant, starts about twenty human years ago. We were part of a large, confident, not-quite-devoted group of shock troops. Our mission was to storm this place, kill everyone that was not an ally or one of the identified targets, such as yourself, the Commander, the leader of the Scientists, the head Engineer or Annette Durand."

He paused at that name. "And that is where… things went wrong."
Sunset frowned, but didn't bother to correct Vikass about her identity. Not yet, at least.

"Our infiltration teams had managed to get in contact, abduct, mind-control, or even replace the highest offices of your governments." He chuckled. "You'll be happy to know most of them… resisted. Some, more naively than others, thought that they could fool our psychic operatives while pretending to work for us. The willpower required for such a feat… well, it was beyond politicians."

They stopped for a moment next to the "farming" fields, because there was no other way to describe it. Little drones, like the ones they had destroyed, roamed up and down well-lined rows of mysterious fruits.

The flying saucer they had seen earlier spraying something, had landed on a docking station of sorts, where it was immobile. Cables ran back to the other room, feeding electricity to large lamps positioned over the plants.

Once they had watched for a bit, how the drones collected fruit and dropped it in large vats, which were then transported into another large machine that was processing them, Vikass started walking again. "Even before you launched your glorious—if ultimately…"

Vikass stopped, trying to think of the correct word. "...not futile… but, certainly less impactful than we all would have expected—attack, the moment your base's location had been extracted from the mind of one of the resisting council members, the attack was ordered, just as you were ordered to stand down and surrender.

"Thus, while XCOM was prepared for the eventuality of our attack, you were not prepared for the suddenness of it. We blasted through the hangar area, dispersing immediately. We… and a few others, were under the command of a Sectoid Commander… his name is irrelevant now, as he and us, had the unfortunate fortune of encountering your Psi-ops, and a solid force of soldiers, who were helping Dr. Shen, one of our targets, escape."

He had guided him to another area, which was, surprisingly, a large, underwater lake. Two seekers hovered over it, seeming at attention, and here and there, Sunset and Jane could make out ripples of something swimming underwater.

"Our fish farm," Vikass explained. "Easier than… going shopping."

"If you say so…" Jane muttered.

Vikass smiled that disturbingly plyable smile that thin men could do, and continued the tour. "When we encountered your psi operatives, and the troops, a fight immediately broke out. We had the numeral superiority, but XCOM's training and, quite frankly the desperation to survive proved enough to hold us back."

The next area they visited was the workshop. It had been clearly built with parts from the XCOM one, which explained the state of it when they had walked past, and there were several pieces of different mechs of all sorts, including another mechtoid, although this one had been taken apart almost completely, only the 'skeleton' of sorts remained.

The sectoids barely paid them any heed after their initial contact, and although Sunset could sense faint brushes of psychic energy, none of it was directed at her or Jane. It was just… permeating the place.

"With our Mechtoids, Sectoid Commander, and Cyberdisks, we were slowly pushing XCOM back, Vikass said, guiding them to the other side of the settlement. "That is when Annette Durand stepped in. We were expecting determination and fear… but she was furious. It appeared as if something else had already enraged her before our arrival, and she was set on destroying anything that stood in her path."

Vikass led them to another, bigger structure, and turned out was nothing else than their storage unit, cold or otherwise. Outside was a kitchen-like setup, where a dead deer was currently being worked on by the thin man with the limp, who was efficiently cleaning the carcass and butchering it for future consumption.

'It's funny, Sunset thought, 'anyone from equestria would be horrified at that… it's just making me hungry'.

As Sashssa and the other unnamed thin man emerged from containment with some boxes, Vikass continued, guiding them past the dwellings, towards the back, where another small entrance was, several cables running into it, and alien vegetation growing splendidly, and carefully, around it."Uwaallu's work," Vikass explained, seeming to enjoy their reaction at the thought of a muton gardener.

"Annette Durand ordered everyone else to evacuate, then released… a blast. It burned through the minds of all of us, and only the Sectoid Commander, enhanced as he had been by the Elders for this precise purpose, fought back.

"XCOM retreated, shooting down the mechanical aid we had, but also with the incentive of Annette's mental commands to flee." They walked into the entrance, finding themselves in a tunnel only lit by the bioluminescence of the flowers and plants. "The commander used an explosive on Annette, who, unable to dodge, decided to fry the commander's mind in revenge."

They emerged from the tunnel into a small cavern. A lot of machinery was inside, and several lights and machines hummed and bleeped. "The blast didn't kill her… but her attempt to take him down had been inspired by the Sectoids' 'Mind Merge', and in doing that… she connected with all of us."

Standing to the side, he let them see what was at the end of the room, and both of them gasped in a mix of horrified fascination.

Sunset and Jane stepped forward slowly, stopping a few feet away from the machine that contained a large, central tube, much like the one that had contained the Commander. Inside, a woman floated in golden, glowing liquid. Her skin almost reptilian at parts, but looking otherwise in perfect state.

Sunset gulped. Her eyes allowed her to see the many redundant systems. Two hearts. Additional glands… and who knew what else. No wonder she had been able to see her all the way across from the other side of the bigger cavern despite the distance.

"Her body was damaged, almost eliminating her completely, but we were all freed… and interconnected," Vikass explained, walking up to the large machine at the end, and placing a hand, reverently on its surface. "And so… while all other aliens and XCOM fled or died… we picked her up and used the Sectoid's immense knowledge of medicine and meld to save her life… and start a new one of our own."

o.0.o End Chapter 47 o.0.o