XCOM: Ranger

by Wanderer D

Chapter 80: Contentment


Chapter 80: Contentment

By Wanderer D

Only his armor had saved him from being completely immobilized when the ground collapsed under them and they fell several meters underground. A nearby chryssalid had landed on the floor below him first, breaking the fall a little when he crashed into it, but even though he hadn't hit the rock directly, he felt at least one rib crack from the impact.

He didn't have time to spare, however. Mox rolled out of the way just as a boulder crashed in the exact spot where he had been seconds ago, pulverizing the chryssalid completely. Rolling out of the way had cost him the ledge, however, and he fell deeper into the ravine.

Mox crashed chest-first onto a ledge, making the injury worse and feeling more bones crack. Still, he held on desperately as rocks rained around him, trying to make himself as small a target as he could. Around him, rocks and chryssalids crashed with deadly force. Despite their resilience to firepower, chryssalids were not designed to survive violent falls like this one.

In a haze of adrenaline, he saw Sunset. She tried to stop her fall, using her grappling hook to swing onto the edge of the ravine, which wasn't too bad of an idea... but her line was snagged by a large boulder, and he watched in growing horror how his friend was whip-lashed unexpectedly.


Sunset was smashed brutally onto the wall and another rock crashed on top of her forearm. The grappling hook's cable snapped free and she rolled down to a partial stop before she sort of slid off the edge and fell backwards.

Before he knew what he was doing, he had pushed off the ledge, falling after his friend.


Slowly the world returned around her.

Outrider knelt next to her, her hand on Sunset's shoulder, shaking her gently. "Sunset."

"Elena…" Sunset whispered. Her eyes widened and she turned, violently, on her side, startling the Reaper. "Mox!"

He was there, where she had last seen him, sitting down, exact same position. "Mox…"

"I checked him," Elena said, pushing Sunset down, so her back was lying straight again. "Most of his ribs are broken… shattered even... he bandaged himself tight, but it wasn't enough… at first I didn't notice, due to the light and his armor being red, but it was soaked in blood. It's a miracle that he—" She started shaking, letting go of Sunset and grabbing her own arms as if trying to force herself to stop. "I'm sorry… I don't—"

Sunset pushed herself up to a sitting position, staring at the floor. Her arm was still sore, but thanks to Mox setting the bone and her magic… she bit her lip, hard. What good was her magic if she couldn't use it to save her friends?

"How… how did you find me?"

Slowly, Elena lifted a small device. "It's a small transmitter… it has a short reach and a very specific frequency… Reapers use it sometimes, during some missions, where we're in unknown territory. We don't have a Skyranger, after all…"

Mox had seen her splash into a running river below. It was thankfully deep—the rocks that also splashed into it, went all the way down. Sunset had fallen on her back, and had probably knocked all the air out of her body.

He just hoped he could make it in time.

His body hurt when he dove into the cold water, and he screamed under his helmet, he felt darkness enveloping him, but he fought it off, shaking his head and forcing himself to look for Sunset.

She saw her body being dragged by the current and getting snagged by what was left of the cable on a rock. Fighting the pain, he dove deeper and activated his blades, taking hold of the cable with one hand and using them to slice through the rest before he pulled Sunset to himself and pushed up into the surface.

The current carried them both, and he struggled to keep kicking with his legs to keep them both afloat. Sunset wasn't struggling or conscious… in fact, she wasn't even breathing.

She had to survive! He searched, trying to make sense of his surroundings in the dark waters, his masks providing very little light to see. It was enough however, to illuminate an upcoming rock, sticking out of the water.

Without the strength or time to swim against the current, Mox turned, smacking his back against it, but protecting Sunset from more damage. They turned with the impact and another, low hanging stalactite hit him straight in the face, almost ripping his helmet off.

He almost blacked out again, and it was only the feeling of Sunset slipping away from his grasp that gave him enough motivation to remain conscious.

He pulled her back tight, and held on, forcing his protesting body to keep them both afloat. He wouldn't let go.

Sunset slowly made her way next to Mox, touching the side of his helmet, which he had set down next to him, where the metal and paint had been scratched by something hard and porous. That was new. She studied the Skirmisher, noticing now all the scratches and dents on his armor that weren't there before.

She fell to her knees next to him, taking in his expression.

Mox's face was calm, a small smile still playing on his lips, even if a little blood had dried from the edge of his mouth. She recalled him coughing away from her, no doubt hiding his condition at the time… he looked so calm. And happy. Content even, as if he had achieved exactly what he wanted.

She touched the side of his face. It was cold. She leaned in resting her forehead against his. "Oh, Mox. What will we do without you?"

She slid back, looking down at his hands. She frowned. A small piece of paper was clasped in his right fist.

Gently, reverently, she carefully slid the paper out of his hand.

Straight ahead, he could see it. A light… and what seemed to be a sudden drop. There was no time—he grabbed onto the metal of her armor, and braced himself, he would have to be quick.

The pair flew out of the cavern, the river pushing them into the air and almost clear of the water, still clutching Sunset, Mox kept as alert as he could, and the moment he noticed the first rock that look sturdy enough, he shot his grappling hook at it.

Their fall was turned into an arch as they flew straight back into the base of the waterfall. Preparing himself for impact, Mox extended his feet first, to absorb as much of it as possible, but they went through the waterfall with enough force and angle to dislodge the grappling hook.

The pair flew through the air and landed rather painfully on the rock bottom of a cave behind the waterfall.

Mox's body didn't want to give more, so he braced himself, pulling out an old ADVENT emergency syringe and injecting himself with steroids. The troops had called it 'The Suicide Shot'. How appropriate.

He had no illusion of what would happen to him.

But he only had one mission right now. He forced himself up and checked Sunset, gasping when he saw her chest rise and fall. By some miracle, or magic, she was alive! But she wouldn't be long, magic or not, if he didn't do something.

He pulled out emergency items from her backpack, making her as comfortable as he could as he worked, setting the bone—and being glad she was not awake for that—and then fashioning the splint with the relatively thin (but sturdy) spikes they used on the tents.

Once Sunset was set, he covered her as best as he could before forcing himself out to get wood.

By the time he had started a fire with the creative use of lighter fluid, he was delirious. He knew his body was past beyond its limits. At one point he had stepped outside and he had lost track of things, blinking in surprise and bafflement at the small bunch of fruits he had gathered.

He stumbled back, but he blanked out again. When he shook himself out of his torpor, he noticed he had dropped the fruit. If Sunset wasn't awake… who would guard her?

A small pool of blood was forming under him. He had collapsed. Who knew how long… he chuckled in his head. No. He wouldn't have been out for long. He pulled himself up to his knees, struggling to make sense of where he was supposed to go.

He felt himself giving away, and he knew, he needed to do something. Anything.

Swallowing hard, he slid a shaky hand into one of his pockets, pulling out a small notepad he had taken a fancy to when teaching Twilight and the other rookies that one time. He spat blood and cursed.

No pen.

He then looked down at the pool of blood.

Sunset slid the paper out of Mox's hand.

Slowly, she opened it. It was a message of some sort, but it was hard to understand, scribbled in blood and obviously with his finger… she leaned back a little, so that the light from the campfire would help her read the words...

Sunset choked, covering her mouth when the message made sense. She held it close to her heart and let out a high, desperate wail that got Angel slithering into the cavern with alarm.

Elena was next to her in an instant, holding her as she sobbed. She looked up at Viper, almost at a loss about what to do, but noticing the alien's anxiety on behalf of Sunset. She nodded at the viper, and allowed her to encircle them, the pair doing their best to comfort their friend, and each feeling their own loss.

In her hand, Sunset held Mox's note to himself, clutching it almost as if it were a lifeline.

Protect your Commander.

o.0.o End Chapter 80 o.0.o