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



Sunset Shimmer escapes Equestria... with unforeseen consequences.

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Chapter 121: Farewell

Ranger

Chapter 121: Farewell

By Wanderer D

It hadn't taken much time to get Sunset up to date. "I'm going."

Bradford made as if to say something, but Chrysalis stopped him. "The discussion right now is about whether you think it's possible to do what we want to do."

Sunset bit her lip. "You want to bring the statue into the Avenger."

Chrysalis nodded.

"There are several factors at play here, as I'm sure Twilight already told you," Sunset said, glancing at her fellow Equestrian. "Ley Lines might be overrated, but the actual fact is that sometimes there's more to a location than simply a place to put something. Especially with magical artifacts...

"You have to ask yourself several questions when you consider this… such as why is the device a mirror that can be moved on the other side, but over here is a several-ton statue of solid stone? Whether we would have to somehow figure out how to re-calibrate the magical signal if it is indeed tied to the location… and why in the name of all that's stupid would you want to bring it into the ship?!"

Chrysalis' eyes narrowed. "I put up with a LOT of crap, Captain, and I try to let most of it go. This isn't Earth twenty years ago." She leaned down, placing her hands on the table and glared at Sunset.

"And you might look, and sound, and maybe even bear the same soul as my dead friend. But if you ever insult me again, not only will I make sure you get kicked out of XCOM, I will also make sure you never return to this world. I don't care if you have an excellent history of service, I will personally shove you through the statue, whether it is active or not, and then I will destroy it. Are we clear?"

Sunset had cringed more and more the whole time, and she couldn't meet Chrysalis' eyes. "I'm sorry, Commander."

"Are we clear?"

"Crystal."

"Good. Now, calmly, explain why you don't want it here."

Sunset shuffled in place before taking a deep breath and looking up again. "The last time it activated… it sent Laetitia into a coma. She was the only psionic in the area. We are still finding out how it affected her several months later… we believe it had something to do with what happened in the last mission. If you bring the statue here… and it activates… it could kill her or Annette… or any other possible psi-op you might have here."

She pulled out the report on the emissions from the Element of Harmony during her mission. "You said that some people had headaches when the Element of Magic reacted to what's happening in Equestria? They might be slightly psionic. Imagine what a real psi-op would have felt?"

"I did some satellite scans of the area," Twilight said, "but I couldn't find any dimensional fluctuations, no magical discrepancies… it's like any other place on Earth. The magical signature is just slightly higher than in the immediacy, it's about the same as your diary a—"

"You haven't analyzed that when it activates!" Sunset interrupted. "I almost killed Laetitia when I went in by accident. We were all there when Tygan said that there was a literal wave of energy that covered the field. How is this going to be any different?"

"Sunset."

She looked up to Bradford, who dipped his head slightly. Sighing, she forced her body to relax and leaned back a little. "I'm sorry everyone… I saw what it did to Laetitia…"

"We understand," Tygan said, pushing up his glasses. "But it is a serious factor to consider the security of, and the possible risk of it falling into ADVENT hands. While I doubt the… initial effectiveness of an invasion through the statue itself, we must also remember that the aliens have displayed an actual proficiency in dimensional experimentation before."

Sunset grimaced as his words sank in.

"We'll have to measure the mirror's magical output when I cross through," Twilight said. "If it is… containable, it might be possible to bring it into the Avenger. I already have given Tygan my notes on magic containment and annulment. With the right materials and the correct application of my magical circuitry, we could limit the exposure almost completely."

Sighing, Sunset sagged and sat down, hand on her forehead. "I guess… I guess if the energy is minimal… Laetitia was right next to it when I went through… it might be possible to move it. We'll have to scan as well if the magic comes from the statue itself or something else under it perhaps."

"Good," Chrysalis nodded at the others. "Sunset, gear up, the rest of Menace is staying behind for now. Dragon has already secured the immediate area, and we've sent Wolf ahead of us as well for backup."

Sunset gulped. "I guess… the cat's going to be out of the bag now."

"Can't risk keeping it canned. We need the science and engineering teams down there too," Chrysalis said, "We have our best people on the job, we have to keep them protected."

"Lily and I will be overseeing our teams ourselves on location," Tygan added, smiling at Sunset. "We'll make sure that every possible measure we can take to ascertain the nature of the mirror's emissions is considered—we have the means to contain most known known forms of radiation and the magical energies are certainly known to us now."

Tygan blinked in surprise when Twilight latched on to him, giving him a tight hug. "I'm so proud of you, Richard! You used the M word!"

"Yes," Tygan sighed, looking down uncomfortably at the young woman. "I suppose that the constant exposure to the inadequate term finally fulfilled its expected cycle and I finally broke."

"Aww, it's not that bad."

"In any case," Chrysalis spoke up, interrupting the banter, "I assume that will be adequate enough, Captain?"

Sunset gave her back a firm nod. "Yes, Commander."

"Good, then let's pick up Twilight's team, First Lieutenant Dash should be back by now."

As everyone started walking out the door, Sunset slowed down and frowned. Then she turned to look at Chrysalis and shook her head slightly in confusion. "Wait… did you just call me Captain?"

Chrysalis tilted her head innocently. "Didn't anyone tell you?"

The Avenger landed a few miles away from the location of Canterlot High to reduce the chances of drawing attention from ADVENT, and the group had crammed into the Skyranger with several engineers and scientists, including a well armed Lily Shen and a less-than-happy-to-be-on-the-field Tygan.

Twilight had noticed that Tala kept as far away from Sunset as possible, the latter stealing slightly hurt glances at her fellow Skirmisher. She wasn't sure what was happening there, but she aimed to find out when she had time to make friends with Tala… once she was the Princess of Friendship again.

It didn't take long for them to arrive at their destination, and Rainbow Dash lowered the Skyranger into a cleared area, where if she remembered correctly, there used to be abandoned cars and bodies.

It was thankfully clean now, and she did not envy the work of the crew that had undoubtedly worked for hours to make the place workable.

Even though they hadn't been literally on top of each other, the moment the crew started to emerge from the Skyranger, Twilight felt a lightness and freedom that she hadn't realized she was missing during the flight.

The ship definitely wasn't designed to be that kind of transport and the hoped Rainbow Dash was willing to make more trips or they could bring the Avenger over if it would save everyone from feeling like canned fish.

"This is a lot more people than I anticipated," Tala said, standing next to Twilight. "I assumed with it only being three of us, it be a lot more secretive."

"Where we're going we don't need to worry too much about being secretive," Twilight responded, starting to walk down the ramp. Tala and Alejandra both followed her out, looking around curiously. "And once we get there… we'll want to hurry."

"What is it exactly that we need to do?" Tala asked.

"I'm under orders to not disclose all of it yet," Twilight said, remembering Chrysalis' evil plan. She felt guilty about it… in a good way. "But I can tell you that we're travelling to another world."

Tala's eyes went wide, but when she noticed that both Twilight and Alejandra had kept moving, she hurried to catch up with them. "Another world? Are we invading the Elder's world?"

Twilight giggled. "No, no, we're going to my world… it's in another dimension."

Tala gave her an odd look. "Are you saying you're not human?"

"Not… exactly, no," Twilight responded, "Anyway, let's catch up with Sunset."

Tala grimaced. "Must we? She's just staring at that ugly statue." She frowned. "Come to think of it, why are all those scientists and engineers crowding around it?"

Twilight and Alejandra exchanged glances.

"That's because that's the portal," Twilight said, "We cross through the base of the statue to get there."

Tala found herself being left behind once again. Twilight for her part, headed straight for the statue, there was no point in delaying the obvious. She shuffled her backpack a little. It contained several pads, official documents for Celestia from Chrysalis, the Element of Magic... and her weapons.

It was odd. Before she would have balked at the thought of bringing firearms to Equestria, but now… it just felt weird. Even though she'd be much more empowered once she was back home, it still left her feeling naked to consider leaving them behind. They were part of her now… and something she would need a long time to think about once it was all said and done.

"Make sure that mag—thaumic actuators are placed correctly, and I want two of those oscillators placed firmly, one at the top of the statue, the other at the base. Make sure you place more further afield towards the Avenger. Ember already communicated that the whole area has been cleansed and they are keeping watch, so don't worry, anything comes, we'll know it…. but the more data we get about the ma-thaumic dispersal in the area the better."

"So…" Twilight ventured as Sunset turned around from ordering the scientists.

She didn't miss their looks until Tygan motioned for them to do as instructed. It seems that most of them didn't know Sunset was as much an authority on the field as Twilight herself.

"So?"

Twilight smiled nervously. "Um… are you ready to go?"

Sunset's face crumbled. She looked from her to the statue and back, her expression one of utter defeat and regret. "I'm… not going."

"What? But—" Twilight was interrupted by Sunset putting a hand on her shoulder.

"I can't," she said, swallowing hard. "Twilight… I can't. I want to… I want to see everyone there. I want to see mom and I want to punch Discord for what he did last time… and… I want to go with you…" She licked her lips, pressing her eyes closed. "But if I go I'll break. I'll go on a high again, I'll hurt people."

"But without you—"

"You'll be fine. You'll be perfect," Sunset interrupted, looking at Twilight straight in the eye with slightly misty eyes of her own. "I don't know what happened before… and we never got the chance to talk it over, but you mean the world to me Twilight, and I know how strong and dependable you are… I couldn't place Equestria and everyone I care for in better hooves."

"I…" Twilight shook her head, taking Sunset's hand and dragging her over to an old stone bench, currently empty of people. "There's too much to discuss to sort what happened… what's happening right now out in a way that clears all the air, but… I need to know, Sunset… why do you look at me like… like you do? Why were you so happy when I spoke to you after being so bitchy for so long?"

Sunset blinked and chuckled, shaking her head.

"It's not funny!"

"Haven't you figured it out, you silly princess?" Sunset asked, sitting down and looking up at her with a sad smile on her face. "It's a stupid thing, I know but… since I met you, you've done nothing but impress me, and you've made me feel proud to be Equestrian again with your kindness, your mind, your valor… Twilight, you're the sister I never had… the one that—if I had met before I went away in spite—would have changed my life for the better.

"It's stupid, I know," she repeated with a self-deprecating chuckle, "but, when I saw you grow so much, so quickly… when I saw you understand so much, so deeply and your willingness to help… I was so proud! As silly as I am, when you… turned against me, it was like I had lost family. When you talked to me to welcome me back, it was like I had discovered you again."

Twilight couldn't think of what to say. Quietly, she walked over and sat next to Sunset, while the latter continued.

"If you hadn't come into my life through my stupid gambit to steal something that doesn't belong to me, I wouldn't have made up with Celestia, or met Luna or seen Cadance again. I wouldn't have remembered all the good things… or written so many letters or had someone to talk to about home… you exposed my secret to the commander, and I have since felt closer to Bradford and the others like never before… you've brought so much joy to my life and I—" Sunset looked away. "I only brought you blood and tears."

Twilight remembered. She remembered reading Sunset's diary. She remembered feeling jealous that Celestia would consider her a daughter. She remembered being sometimes even angry when Sunset got recognition, or had done something that Twilight herself felt was showing her up in some way. And she felt the guilt of all of that pushing down on her heart like a physical weight.

"I—"

"Time to get going!" Bradford called. "Twilight! Sunset!"

Sunset squeezed Twilight's hand reassuringly and stood up, walking over to the statue.

Forcing herself to stand up, Twilight followed after, soon finding herself in the midst of a small argument.

"You do not intend to test this… artifact to see if it works properly?" Tala was asking. "What assurance do we have that it's safe to cross?"

"It is," Sunset said walking over and sliding her hand on the side of the statue, causing it to ripple. "The portal is open for now, don't chicken out, Tala."

"I just want assurance that we're not going to crash into solid stone on the other side. This is a statue."

Chrysalis sighed. "Fine, we'll use a surefire way to measure it. Bradford?"

Central nodded and went over to one of the large containers, leaving the group blinking in confusion when he came back with a tissue box, which he then proceeded to unceremoniously toss through the portal.

There was an awkward silence.

"What was that supposed to achieve?" Tala asked finally.

"Wait for it…" Chrysalis ordered.

Soon enough the box was thrown back through the portal, with something scribbled on the side. Bradford picked it up and glancing at it, tossed it at Twilight, who blinked in confusion at the familiar writing. "Oh! It's from Spike! I'd recognize that writing anywhere! It says: Stop littering the castle, hoomans!"

"Good enough for me," Alejandra said with a grin. "See you on the other side!"

Before anything could be said, the young woman had run through the wobbly surface of the statue and disappeared. Tala growled, apparently annoyed that she had been shown up and, with a quick nod at the Commander and Central, and a much briefer look in Sunset's direction, she charged through with a defiant shout.

Twilight took a couple of steps towards the portal, then turned, rushing to give Sunset a tight hug. "I'm sorry. We have a lot to talk about," she whispered into her ear, "but I'm honored you'd think of me that way. Thank you… BSBFF."

"Bs...what?" Sunset mumbled as Twilight pushed back and faced everyone around them. "Thank you all… I'm… it's been an honor working with all of you. I hope I get to see you again and… if things work out, I hope you can visit my home as well!"'

Knowing that if she waited any longer she risked the portal closing, Twilight hurried through and jumped.

She landed on her back hooves and spread her wings instinctively to keep her balance. "Wow! Whoa!" She flailed around, the weight of her backpack shifting her balance around until she remembered and fell forward, landing firmly on her forehooves. "I uh, didn't expect to be so used to walking around on two legs…"

She glanced around as the mirror shimmered and then hummed before sparkling. She touched it with a hoof. Solid. They were stuck in Equestria for now.

"T-twilight?" the familiar voice was like a knife to the heart. She whirled around, eyes wide and focusing on the small purple dragon… who was being held against the wall by a female, armored griffon.

"Um… A-Alejandra?"

"Oh… you know him?" the griffon asked, slowly pulling away from the little dragon, who whimpered and ran over to give Twilight a hug.

Smiling, Twilight returned it, basking in the warmth of being with one of her most precious people again.

"Wow," Spike said, pulling back, "You've really added muscle. And I think you're taller than before. And look at that armor!"

Twilight chuckled. "Well… I did have to do a lot of training."

"I have to say, Twilight," Alejandra spoke up, walking up to them and struggling to keep her wings closed, "Once I get a handle on how to control these blasted things… I think I'm going to like this!" She grinned, in that unique way griffons do, and showed her claws. "I'm a griffon!"

Twilight laughed. "I can see that!" then she blinked. "Wait… where's Tala?"

"There's another of you?" Spike asked, confused, looking around.

Twilight nodded. "Yes… she was taller and more muscular than us on the other side… where is she? I thought she'd come out as a minotaur or even a dragon…"

It was then that she felt something tug on her mane, and suddenly something jumped from her forehead to her snout, making her cross her eyes so she could focus on the tiny breezie that had landed there and was motioning angrily.

A breezie wearing armor. And a hoof blade.

Twilight's irises became smaller. "Oh no."

o.0.o End Chapter 121 o.0.o

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