• Published 25th Jan 2018
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XCOM: Ranger - Wanderer D



Sunset Shimmer escapes Equestria... with unforeseen consequences.

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Chapter 103: Retrospect

Ranger

Chapter 103: Retrospect

By Wanderer D

The next room had some sort of sarcophagus-like containers, organized into small batches in several rows of pallet racks. The things were completely solid, without any screens or hint of their contents, and sealed shut, leaving no way to investigate their contents, but their shape was creepy enough.

Sunset ran to the far left, taking cover behind some of the containers, looking around a corner and noticing a single MEC in her field of vision. She quickly hand-signed its position to the others.

"Now, now, Blood Witch," Aria's voice echoed in the comms, and they could almost hear the smile, "Since you're here, you have forced my hand. I had hoped to keep battling you in the field, instead of my own home… some transgressions cannot be forgiven."

Angel quickly slithered up into the racks above, and Elena swiftly and silently went down further, indicating the location of another MEC, nearby.

Annette and Jane followed after Elena, while Laetitia and Angel stayed by Sunset. Token security to be sure, but no less dangerous if handled incorrectly. They still had—mostly—the element of surprise, and she was damned if she wasn't going to make the most of it.

The MECs red armor was of the heavier variety, so it was imperative that they took them down quickly, before they had a chance to shower them with explosives, and taking them down would immediately reveal their location in the base.

However, it was the only exit.

Sunset looked over to Annette, giving her a thumbs up, then indicating a count to three,

Elena, Jane and Annette shot in perfect synchronization, their fire mowing down the MEC on their side quickly and efficiently. The other MEC turned around, analyzing the scene and hunched over, preparing to shoot, just as Angel's plasma shot got it in the head mere seconds before Sunset and Laetitia's rushing melee attack finished it off.

An alarm blared and Aria's voice hissed into the comms again. "So there you are, Blood Witch… I can feel you, getting closer. Tell me, did you bring all the traitors with you? Annette? Pratal Mox? It will be my pleasure to rip their hearts out!"

The doors at the end of the room opened and a trio of ADVENT troopers ran in, headed by a Captain.

Just as they took stock of the situation, a single shot echoed in the room, followed by a metallic sound, like a small rock hitting a can… then hissing. The ADVENT Captain turned around to look at the Purifier next to him for a moment of baffled incomprehension.

Then it clicked in.

"GRAT TI—"

The explosion took down the trooper, and sent the injured captain flying to land in a heap right at Sunset's feet. He spat some blood as he tried to sit up, reaching for his rifle, but Sunset's shard gun was suddenly in his face. "May you rest free, brother."

Laetitia and Elena trotted over to the door and peeked outside.

"Looks clear for now," Elena spoke up.

"Alright, Laetitia, you're with me first, Annette, Angel, covering fire after us—"

A bright, red flash in her mind's eye.

Sunset stood once more in another place. This time, it wasn't a hub of activity, but a room, with only two occupants. A computer with several monitors showed satellite pictures of the world, including, Sunset noticed, one of the forest-covered mountain where XCOM's original base had been located.

In addition, several other locations of interest were marked, including a location marked "destroyed by XCOM", in the middle of the desert in the African continent. As much as Sunset wanted to see more, she was distracted by Aria's voice.

"What's your name?" Aria asked the young woman who was with her. "You've been assigned to me for months, now. I feel I should at least know that."

"Rarity."

Sunset grimaced. So it had been her. Even though she now worked for ADVENT, Sunset had never expected one of her counterpart's friends to work for EXALT… not to mention that Applejack and Rainbow Dash had been her friend. Had Rainbow Dash known?

"Hm," Aria gave her a glance, "You've been… uplifted, have you?"

Rarity looked at her, slitted eyes passive, before nodding.

"How many modifications?"

"F-five. Bones, skin… eyes, heart and… mental blocks."

"Heh. They did a good job, you can almost pass for human still, unlike many of the other… first tries."

Rarity hugged herself and looked away. Clearly uncomfortable.

"Did you ask for it?" Aria gave her a considering look, almost condescending, but it lessened as Rarity hesitated. "You can tell me. We're allies."

Rarity seemed to consider her options, before her shoulders sagged. "N-no. I did not ask for it. None of it."

"Then you're not so different, you and her…" Aria mused. "You know what they did to them, correct?"

Rarity shuddered, but nodded.

"I think… the aliens want more… but I don't think they should have them."

Aria kept her eyes on Rarity, as the EXALT member realized quickly what she meant. "But that would be…"

"Good for me and my sister and those that are part of our change. EXALT is doomed Rarity. It's full of people that don't want anything but simple power… power they want now. They don't look to the future. They don't consider what will come next."

Rarity was wary. "And why we would want the aliens to lose the psychics?"

"The aliens?" Aria rose an eyebrow, "Not, 'our saviours'?" she grinned. "Yes, I think I had read you right from the beginning. Why are you really here?"

Rarity bit her lip.

"Who are they threatening?"

"My mother… my father… my little sister."

Sunset's fists shook. She remembered Sweetie's words now… from when they had stayed with her in what felt so long ago; 'They kidnapped people and did experiments on them. Most of them were killed off by the aliens once they were in power, others…'

At the time, she had assumed Sweetie had just come across that information in ADVENT's network but now…

"Ah, family." Aria shook her head. "Strength and weakness all in one bundle." She glanced at Rarity. "I'm rescuing Annette… and I guess some of the others will also be useful. I've sent a group to bring her back… I want you to meet the caravan in Lyon, France. It'll be your responsibility to bring her and the other psychics alive and in one piece once they reach you. I will give you my full authority for equipment and requisitions."

"But if I betray EXALT—"

"EXALT is doomed, Rarity," Aria repeated. "Sooner or later XCOM will come to HQ and kill them all. Except for me, Sonata…" she snorted, "I guess he would survive… Annette and you." Aria looked at her steadily. "If your worry is for your family… don't. Regardless of what happens, they'll be out of EXALT and the Alien's radar. I give you my word."

Rarity sighed. "They wanted to send me to fight… right before I was assigned to you, they were about to send me to weapons training."

"And now you're administration," Aria said. "Congratulations. Go. We both have people to save."

"You really care abou—"

"That'll be all, Rarity."

"Right."

Rarity left and Sunset had just one second to look at the regret in Aria's face before she took her gem and concentrated on it.

"—nset?"

"I'm… I'm back…" Sunset shook her head. "I had another vision…" she gulped, "It revealed a lot of things I did not expect."

"What do you think is causing these?" Annette asked, glancing at her. "I can't share the experiences, lest my head explodes."

Sunset frowned. "Empathic resonance… I felt something similar once… when I met the Assassin face to face, my magic and… her gem…" Sunset's eyes widened. "The gems are empathic! That's why that guy was able to somehow calm Aria down when you were being taken away!"

Annette's eyes narrowed. "What?"

"When you and the other psychics were taken by the Aliens, or rather given to them by EXALT, Aria was besides herself… some man that was with her used one of the gems, somehow, to calm her… and then later on, when she planned your rescue—"

"She what?!"

Sunset sighed. "If the vision was real… then she was the one that sent the EXALT operatives to rescue you and the other psychics from the Aliens. You were supposed to meet with another EXALT agent named Rarity in Lyons."

"Rarity?" Jane spoke up, eyes wide, "As in—"

"Yes, Sweetie's sister. Rainbow Dash's friend."

Laetitia started coughing as if she'd choked on something, waving her hand at them dismissively when they looked her way.

"I mean, we knew she works for ADVENT… but then that means she's been at it longer than we ever thought."

"It's not as easy as that," Sunset said.

"It doesn't matter," Annette spoke up. "In the end, we are where we are right now, and that thing is not the Aria I knew. Let's go finish the job."

"Right," Sunset nodded.

"Do you want me to take lead?" Jane offered, "If you have one of those while on the attack…"

"I don't know why these bursts are happening right now, but it might be tied not only to the gem, but also whatever it is that keeps the Chosen alive even after we 'kill' them," Sunset said, shaking her head, "but if this happens when I'm supposed to be covering someone else, it would be worse than if it happens right after I attack."

"Fine," Annette said, "but if i does happen, we'll rethink our strategy."

"With our luck, it'll happen once per room," Elena said dryly. "At least it only lasts a few seconds."

"Well, we still need to find the Assassin," Sunset said, "So let's go do that and worry about magical resonance and gems later."

o.0.o End Chapter 103 o.0.o

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