XCOM: Ranger

by Wanderer D

Chapter 202: Eerie


Chapter 202: Eerie

By Wanderer D

"So, what y'all are sayin', is that this lady here is not actually Laetitia, but actually a princess from another dimension, currently controlling her body through some sort of quantum entanglement?"

Shen blinked. "Well… yes."

"Huh." Applebloom shook her head. "Y'all are crazy on this ship. Ah knew Ah was signing up for some random things, but this takes the pie."

"You mean cake?" Shen ventured.

"No," Luna spoke up before Apple Bloom could, "Mechanical or not, it seems Apple Family will be Apple Family regardless of the dimension."

Apple Bloom nodded, and the others could tell that she would smile if she could. "There's Apples in your world too? Ah don't think Sunset ever mentioned that."

"I have only been able to meet them recently," Luna said, "But they are indeed Apples to the core."

"Haha," Shen said. "A funny. Anyway, Bloom, what are you working on right now?"

Apple Bloom stood up with a slight whirl of servos. "Dr. Borislov and Ah were tryin' to figure out the Specter nanites so Ah could have a real face, but that can wait."

"Thanks," Shen said, putting down the box of stuff she had with her. "These are all the electronics that were password protected or immediately inaccessible that Sunset Shimmer owns. I want Scootaloo to work on these."

"Sure." Apple Bloom said, shifting through the box. "Ah think she's somewhere around here… she should be done soon, unless Sunset was using some sort of magical seal on them... huh."

"Huh." Shen echoed, "Is that a cell phone?"

Apple Bloom nodded. "Yeah, it looks familiar too…"

"You must excuse me," Luna said, "but I do not understand what this… cell phone is."

"Oh! It's just a device we used back when Ah was a kid," Apple Bloom said as she carefully removed the casing. "They were the communicators of the day. Most kids had one, and they allowed you to call other people, record things, take pictures… but these haven't been used in two decades. Ah wonder how Sunset got her hands on one."

"Well, I'm sure you'll have time to find out," Shen said. "but that's not the only thing I'm here for."

Apple Bloom nodded, standing up and stretching. "Ah was gettin' bored only workin' on my own projects. What's next?"

"The commander said you and I were going to follow The Ghost," Shen said, shaking her head. "I'm not sure what she meant by that but—"

"Ah know."

Luna and Shen shared a look. "What?"

Apple Bloom's face was unreadable, but more than that, her body-language, which had been so expressive up to that point was completely still.

"The Ghost," she said eventually, "Ah know what the commander is talkin' about… once Ah became this and Ah was connected to the ADVENT Network to hack Julian." She turned, walking over to the computer. "The Ghost is… a voice. One of two. Or maybe just the one, just soundin' different. You can hear her shouting sometimes, other times pleading… sometimes… you can hear her singing."

"How appropriate," Luna said.

"You're thinking the last siren is the ghost?" Shen asked the princess.

Luna shrugged. "Why else would the commander want to suddenly hunt this so-called ghost? The fact that it sings, apparently, fits what a siren would do."

"It's a catchy song too… how did it go?" Apple Bloom said, humming a little. "Like a madman laughing in the rain…?" The cyborg shook her head. "Ah haven't heard her sing myself, tho. Ah heard a recording that Julian had made, and it was incomplete. When Ah connected ah could just hear her pleadin' and shoutin'... but was like, far away, and very… are you okay, Shen?"

Luna turned to face the engineer, who had gone deathly pale. "Shen?"

"I uh," she gulped. "I need to talk to Bradford." She turned around. "I'll let you know when we're ready to start, alright?"

"Sure as sugar," Apple Bloom called out as Luna followed the engineer. "Ah'll get Scoots workin' on these!"

Luna nodded over her shoulder, and was about to respond when she felt something, she staggered, holding on to the door to keep her balance, and looked around. People didn't seem to notice anything, but she still filed it away.

Either the ghost story had gotten to her… or there was a lot more going on than anyone knew.

Jane sat up violently on her bed, breathing heavily and covered in sweat. Her eyes looked around wildly, taking in the dark, but familiar surroundings of the barracks. She was currently the only one there, but she had sensed that something had woken her up.

It was a dull, almost echo-like sense. As if something had just screeched on the edge of her subconscious mind while she slept. Her heart was beating fast and hard, she could hear it—slowly calming down as she forced herself to control her breathing.

She rubbed her face and drew up her legs, sitting on top of her bed, hugging herself.

Get up. You've slept enough.

Her body refused to move. At least for that. Her arms simply tightened around her legs.

Come on. What are you? Six years old, too early to go to school, mom? Get up!

She slowly raised her head, looking around once more. Her breathing was calmer. Even. Her skin was cooling down now that the blankets were off. She felt groggy, dirty, sticky and detached.

Come on, Jane. Come on.

She buried her head on her knees again. She wished she could sink into her bed forever. There was no point. Nothing to do until she was sent out.

Get up. Get some shooting practice. Take a few laps around the training area. Don't let yourself get stuck here. Get. Up.

How pathetic was she, having to talk herself out of bed. This had never been an issue before.

Shit never hit the fan like this before.

People had died in front of her. Friends hadn't come back.

But you have. You've survived all of that. You'll survive this. Get up.

But could she? Really? She had never been…

Get. Up.

What was wrong with staying longer in bed, anyway?

It's two PM. You shouldn't be in bed feeling sorry for yourself!

"Then how am I supposed to be feeling!?" she snapped into the silent room. This time, the nagging voice in her head stayed quiet.

After a few moments, Jane let herself fall on her side onto the bed again, still curled up in a fetal position, and closed her eyes.

Estella pushed herself away from the machine holding the pendant, and over to her monitor. THEMIS, GRS, REM, PRS. All spectrometers were working as expected, but so far nothing showed up despite the fact that the damned thing they were 'monitoring' was actually glowing.

Estella growled, watching the gem slowly lose its glow, and took a moment to calm down.

If she was going to equalize the playing field with the aliens, she needed to keep her cool, and this… magic was definitely one way of achieving her objective. She had support of experts and an inter-dimensional team studying the subject. She was—arguably—the human authority on it as of this point in time, with everyone else she knew as an expert being aliens themselves. Tygan was versed but even he had acknowledged her as the go-to scientist.

Why, she should—Estella cut the line of thought, standing up and breathing slowly. She went over to the lavatory and splashed water on her face, drying it carefully and looking at herself in the mirror. "Chill, Starlight. Those days are long past."

She sighed, returning to the lab with a clearer mind. The gem was inert now, but for a moment, it had lit up. And her equipment had been recording everything it could. Maybe she had missed something.

It was time to double-check.

o.0.o End Chapter 202 o.0.o