XCOM: Enemy Advanced

by Swordomatic

Interlude One: Building Muscle

Interlude: Building Muscle

Location: The Rust, Herakles
Date: 1st Junebug, 1006 PDE
Time: 08:32:14 (Canterlot Standard Time)

The Golden Bull of Herakles, Yurgen the Exalted was many things. He was old. He was loud. He was boisterous. He had a thick skull. He would make his presence known anywhere he went so loudly the phrase ‘subtle minotaur’ became an oxymoron.

However, nowhere was it ever stated that he was dumb. If nothing else, the Golden Bull was brilliant. War. Strategy. Martial Combat. Pottery, in his spare time. But of them, War was foremost. Though he is now known as a joyous, loud Head of State, in ages past he was a bloodthirsty warlord whose feats rivalled the atrocities committed by King Sombra. Chief among them was the sacking of what was now known as the Rust.

The Rust, where an entire city and thousands of lives were completely destroyed in a show of necromantic prowess that has never been seen before or since. Where all stone and wood and flesh turned to steel and rusted within a day, its inhabitants dying slow excruciating deaths as nature ate away at their transformed bodies.

The Rust, where even hundreds of years later it remains a scar on the minotaur psyche, a shameful memory that the Golden Bull never wants to revisit ever again. That he would undo, if he had the power to do so.

The Rust, where the XCOM Base of Pump Iron hid under, with the public or the aliens being none the wiser.

The base itself was like something out of a novel. The walls were sheet metal, welded together and resembling the hull of a ship. Most of the furniture was metal or plastic, and though advanced technology was at work the general aesthetic was rustic, with the sound of gears constantly thrumming in the background. All in all, it was acceptable.

Commander Jochim had to admit. He did not think the Bull would suggest hiding his greatest hope beneath his greatest shame. It’s interesting how war changes people. Other examples include his old friend/rival Blueblood taking on the mantle of Commander-in-Chief of XCOM, despite previously despising the organisation.

Or, to his surprise, a former motivational speaker being his Field Commander.

“Captain Iron Will,” he said aloud in the middle of the command deck, letting the words settle in his mouth. “Why are you here?”

The Captain smiled and explained himself proudly. “I was once a Tiger Warrior in service to the Golden Bull, Commander! With the aliens attacking, I decided to return to service and serve our world!” He bowed slightly. “I was retired for many years, but rest assured! My skills have been brought back up to speed, and my years of experience can only be helpful!”

The Commander nodded in quiet approval, observing the minotaur with the mohawk in silent judgement. Not the obvious leadership material that Blueblood found in Shining Armor, but he was a renown speaker. This could work. “Admirable qualities, Captain. I look forward to punching aliens in the face with you.”

Iron Will grinned widely. “You flatter me, Commander, but rest assured I will fulfill your expectations!”

“Good. Now,” he carried on, turning to the griffon on his left. “Abigale Silverwing?”

She saluted with a talon. “Major Abigale Silverwing, sir. I’ll be your Central Officer. If you wish to note my credentials, I had oversight on the previous UFO mission before you arrived, sir.”

“With mission data from First Light we were able to adapt our tactics,” Captain Will added helpfully. “We had no deaths and only one injury. He shall recover in mere weeks.”

Oho? One who obeys military tradition and observes respect before superior officers, but is still able to take initiative? And did not mess up? He liked this one. “Excellent. I shall leave the daily operation of this base to you. I would like to see the mission reports on my desk in two hours.” He glanced at his watch. “Three hours. It’s time for lunch.”

“Lunch!” All the minotaurs chorused. It was an old tradition to declare the time of midday meal in Herakles. It was dishonorable to miss lunch, no matter the occasion. Farming or fighting, it was unseemly to work on an empty stomach!

Out the corner of his eye Jochim saw Abigale clench her eyes. Oh well. She would have to adapt. Minotaurs were a proud people. Not a dumb people, but traditions such as these were to be followed. They existed for a reason, by steel.

“But Commander,” the Central Officer said, voice slightly raised, “After lunch, General Blueblood would like a conference.”

“Very well,” he replied. “Settle the arrangements. For now, we shall have lunch.”

“Lunch!” the minotaurs chorused again. And Jochim saw Abigale bite back a sigh.

She would learn, he mused. She would learn.

“So,” the elder Blueblood said, smiling lightly. “How’s the job?”

“It is adequate,” the minotaur shrugged. “I do like the budget.”

“The budget is very nice,” he agreed. “Also the freedom. Not having to worry about PR is amazing.” He blinked. “Oh. Right. Herakles does not need to worry about that.”

Jochim grinned. “I will never understand why you ponies make such a fuss about deaths and injuries. Dead is dead, cripple is cripple. Now, if it were an unnecessary injury…”

Blueblood raised a hoof. “Let’s not start. We’ve gone over this discussion before.”

“Would it not be prudent to remind ourselves?”

“I would prefer talking about killing aliens.”

“I disagree, but that is also an acceptable topic.” Jochim smiled. “While I was on the way, Pump Iron had its first operation.”

“I see,” the General said, rubbing his chin. “We lost nine out of eighteen that day, and six more were crippled, five beyond recovery. How did it go?”

“One cripple with expectations of recovery.” He waited a moment, soaking in the face of utter disbelief the General was making right now.  “From what I understand, my teams were very liberal with explosives.”

Jochim-1, Blueblood-0.

“That explains it,” he sighed. “On the other hoof, that means your research teams have done nothing while my teams are making revolutionary discoveries every other day.”

“Now that’s not…” Jochim sighed. “...Okay maybe it is true.”

Jochim-1, Blueblood-1.

His friend and current boss grinned smugly.  Oh it was on. “Is progress really worth the deaths of so many though, Blueblood?”

“You tell me,” he replied, still grinning and still smug. “Your society is the one that excuses deaths and injuries if they are ‘necessary’.”

Jochim-1, Blueblood-2.

Jochim made a note to get some burn ointment later.  This outcome was dishonorable. “This verbal jousting can continue later, Blueblood. You called for another reason.”

“Yes, yes,” Blueblood sighed, almost disappointed that it was over. “As agreed, I shall be sending over some of the materials we have recovered to jump start your own research operations, along with our research data thus far. These will be coming at the same time as your second squadron of Thunderclouds. Rain Squadron, if I remember correctly.”

“I’ve met them. They seem nice.”

“Now, in exchange First Light will be receiving a squad of Tiger Warriors as operatives, along with a currently-undecided favor to be cashed in at a later time. Within reason, of course.”

Jochim nodded. “Acceptable. I expect this favor will be important?”

The unicorn snorted. “They always are, Jochim.”

“And not a request for several industrial crates of the local coffee?”

Jochim-2, Blueblood-2.

“That was one time and not for official business,” the General scoffed. “Regardless, is this clear?”

“Very. Am I to believe that outside of exceptional circumstances and the monthly census, our bases and all future installations will be independently autonomous?”


“I see,” he nodded. “Now, is that all the business we have for today?”

“It appears so,” Blueblood said. “Of course, the same cannot be said for your mother.”

Jochim grinned wolfishly. “Low blow, Blueblood, low blow. Much like what your princess gave my King this morning.”

Blueblood laughed. “This is going to end in fire, I’m sure of it.”

“Yes, but it will be a glorious blaze.”

“Very glorious. Unlike your Bull. He’s more of a tarnished brass.”

“And your Princess is more of a dim candle.”

“Oh? A dim candle is still brighter than your…”

And so the joust began, a contest of wit and wordplay that would shake the foundations of Mundus. Such moments of mirth were to be appreciated by all involved parties in the days to come, for such moments were usually the calm before the storm. Unicorn or minotaur, both men knew.

A storm was coming. And it was coming straight at them.