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



Sunset Shimmer escapes Equestria... with unforeseen consequences.

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Chapter 2: Pursuit

Ranger

Chapter 2: Pursuit

By Wanderer D

A beam of sunlight made it through the makeshift curtains just at the right angle to hit Sunset's face. She groaned and mumbled, frowning and turning away. Slowly, consciousness came back to her, fighting the grogginess and immediate attempt to sleep longer... and slowly, she remembered.

She sat up slowly, pushing herself up with her new, still unfamiliar appendages. The room, in the growing sunlight, emphasized that the change she had brought upon herself went further than her own form. She had abandoned everything she had.

A deep sense of regret built inside of her as the sun rose outside and illuminated more and more of the office and the world outside. It brought not only light, but also memories of warm nights laying on a pillow, drinking hot cocoa and discussing her magical discoveries with the closest thing she'd had to a mother. It brought back memories of the mornings after, where the glow of the sun was not uncaring.

Sunset closed her eyes and forced herself to remember. She forced herself to think of her obvious destiny being denied. Being told that she was not to be what she longed for—what she had been groomed for!

"Where did I fail?" she muttered, looking down at the floor and her now-meager possessions.

But then she felt angry. 'I did everything, she thought angrily. Everything! I had the best scores in school. The most precise magic! Compliments from all the corners of the world when ambassadors and emissaries visited Canterlot! she fumed, fists shaking.

'Others lauded me as the most powerful magic user in my generation, comparable only to legendary mages of the past!'

And not only that, she had the willpower to put the hoofwork necessary to not be stagnated like so many before! She had learned politics and studied texts of war and diplomacy both! She was hailed as a genius and a scholar, a quick study in arts and physical endeavors.

She was all a princess should be and more! Certainly more deserving of the title than some pegasus that had stumbled onto a talent that was unique to her! If Cadance had received a horn for that, why had Sunset not received her wings?

She stood up slowly. No. Even if this world had monsters, there had to be civilization somewhere. And she would get there and make things work for herself. She'd build her army. She'd take them back to Equestria and show Princess Celestia that not only was she worthy of being a princess, but that Celestia herself had made a grave mistake in denying her her due rewards.

As soon as she was standing fully, her stomach grumbled, reminding her of a more immediate problem: she had no food. At all. Her mind drifted back to the monsters from the previous night, and how the sound from the explosion had made them react violently and rush towards it.

If she broke the machine downstairs, she had to make sure not to make too much noise or she might find herself under attack and most likely dead soon after. Still, smashing the glass was not her only recourse, just the one that wouldn't drain on her reserves.

Sunset pondered her options as she packed her things away. The bottom line was that as bad as the magical field was in this world, it wasn't non-existent, so even if she used her own energy, it would replenish. She needed to figure out how long that would take anyway, and the best thing would be to do something of relative ease.

Getting her backpack on and holding on to her bat, she made her way out of the office, and jumped down from the lower stairs to the floor below. She looked around, warily expecting one of the creatures to still linger around, ready to pounce on her, but the explosion seemed to have drawn them all away. Grabbing an abandoned backpack that remained in relatively good condition and emptying it on the floor, she took a deep breath and looked around once more. The little noise she had made so far didn't elicit any wailing screams or the sound of desperate, scrambling feet.

A bit more confident, she made her way to one of the humming, still working machines and considered it for a moment, looking around and quickly finding the lock on the side.

Sunset closed her eyes, feeling the magic flowing within her. She didn't have a horn now, but she could feel the focus point on her forehead pulse lightly regardless, with an echoing feeling on the tips of her claw-like appendages. Without a horn, her body had naturally adapted other parts of it to release the magic.

She opened her eyes and touched the lock, sending the spell straight into it. Immediately the latch gave way to her will and soon the glass door was swinging open. Sunset grinned. She had certainly felt the drain, even for a small spell like this one, but the fact that she still could do it!

She chuckled.

Something groaned behind her.

Eyes wide, and feeling like her blood was frozen solid, Sunset whipped around, looking in horror at the crouched creature she had missed… she had assumed it was dead, so still had it been, huddled into a little fetal ball on the side of the hallway, but now it slowly stood, stretching up and turning its head towards her.

For the first time she got a good look at one of the creatures she had spied the night before. It looked much like her, with some rags for clothes, but where its body wasn't covered, she could see gray skin with slightly glowing green veins and boils. Its eyes glowed a dull green as well, and its mouth drooled dark, blood-like goo.

Faster than she could have anticipated, the creature was already in front of her and swinging its claws at her face. Sunset yelped, falling back and dropping her bat on the floor, where it clattered loudly.

The sound made the creature hiss and resume its attack.

Desperately, Sunset kicked around, slamming the glass door onto the creature, but even with the glass breaking and piercing its skin, it swung wildly at her. Its claws managed to scratch at her, but thankfully the leather jacket held and she only felt the stinging pain of the impact.

Reacting on instinct, she summoned her magic, swiping her arm out and leaving behind a fiery trail in its wake. "Leave me alone!"

The creature howled as the flames seemed to spread onto its body quicker than they should have. She hadn't been even trying to set it alight, but the flames covered it in a few seconds and drove it away, screeching.

Heart beating a hundred miles an hour, Sunset sprung to her feet. Without even looking at what she was grabbing, she shoved everything she could into her empty backpack, snacks, bottles of liquid, anything she could grab—and once it was full—slung it over one shoulder, grabbed her bat, and ran as quick as she could.

Even after a few solid minutes, when she started feeling her legs tire, she didn't stop. She needed to get away... away from the increasingly distant screeches that had followed in her wake.

As the vehicle approached the drop zone, it slowed down, allowing all passengers a view of the city below. Much like other infested areas, the whole place had a slight, greenish glow to it, even where the terror devices had not landed. It appeared empty for now, but they all knew it was deceiving: the Drak-ten, the Lost, would be waiting. But their mission was not to avoid them. It was to destroy them.

When they were just a few feet above the ground, Pratal Mox stood up and looked at his troops. Ten ADVENT Purifiers should be enough to take control of a few blocks and retake them from all Lost hostiles in the area, and if his sources were correct, they might even see some hints of the Reapers, who were rumored to be stationed nearby.

He signaled the others, and they all jumped down to the street below, spreading out to cover all angles as they landed. Pratal himself landed firmly on his feet and took a slow, analytic look of the buildings around them. He looked up as the vehicle rose up a little, remaining out of immediate reach, but hovering protectively over them.

Several wheezing sounds warned him that the Purifiers had activated their flamethrowers and were now ready to start the process of destroying any sign of the Lost. But now the issue became a matter of making the most effective time in getting rid of the infected.

His eyes settled on an old, fossil fuel vehicle from before the Elders had embraced this world. Useless vehicles for the most part, but there was one effective way of getting the Lost's attention, after all…

His first shot resonated through the seemingly abandoned building, and his aim was true: it didn't take long for the vehicle itself to catch fire… he aimed again, and his second shot did the trick.

The explosion rocked the street, bathing him in a warm, buffeting wind for a second. The flames and burning fuel and plastic created a solid black plume of smoke, and almost immediately, a reaction.

A shrill, unnerving screech rose from the city, echoing in the mostly empty streets. Soon after, several bestial howls emanated from all around them in response, and before there was even a chance to brace themselves, grey humanoids—which used to be human—shot out of the alleys with amazing speeds, one of them managing to tackle one of his Purifiers and denting their armor before it was encased in fire from another trooper.

Pratal shot an incoming hostile in the head, blowing its brains out and immediately took another shot at another approaching creature. The swarm was much bigger than they had anticipated, and he wondered if the troops that had come in the night prior had only managed to gather them together rather than wiping their area out. Perhaps it would be better to retreat and bombard them all from some safety.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a Lost jump onto the back of one of his troopers, its claws ripping into the hose that connected the flamethrower to the gas tank. Time seemed to slow as the purifier turned and shifted, trying to dislodge his attacker… and presenting it as a perfect target to another trooper.

His eyes widened when he saw the other purifier swinging his flamethrower to destroy the creature. There was no point in shouting a warning. Pratal was already on the way down and rolling around a corner when the whole street was enveloped in explosions as tanks blew up one after the other, tearing through his troop's armor as if it were made of aluminum foil and practically disintegrating all the Lost in the street as well. Even around the corner, and lying on the floor, the heat wave and displaced air shook his body and rolled him to a sudden, painful stop against a wall. Broken glass rained around him as every window in a couple of blocks exploded into fragments, the whole experience leaving him dazed for some time, trying but unable to muster the strength and balance to get up.

It took a few minutes for his head to stop ringing, and for the world to settle down around him. The fumes had cleared for the most part by then, and the only thing that remained was the smell of charred flesh. He pushed up slowly, grunting in pain and looking down at his leg, which was bleeding from several cuts, no doubt due to the raining glass. His hand went up to activate his communicator, but he immediately felt the crack where the antenna would be. He would only have short-range communications now, and there was no way the signal would reach any ADVENT location.

Cursing softly—in case more Lost were in the area—he leaned on the wall and made his way back to the street, looking around the corner as soon as he reached it. The street was smoldering still, and the explosions had also taken down his airship. It was no wonder the final explosion had been so powerful.

He had heard of swarms that big before, had even fought them successfully. It should have been a controllable situation, and yet fate had taken the glory of a flawless success out of his hands. At least the streets were bereft of Lost for now, but without his troops to secure the area, it would soon become infested again.

Pratal started shambling away. There would be no help here. He needed to get to the edge of the city, to one of the predetermined rallying points set up for agents that got separated or if retreat was needed. Once there, he could use a communicator.

Things would be easier, however, if he didn't have a gaping wound on his leg. He leaned against the wall and slid down, taking out an emergency kit and wiping away orange blood as he methodically picked out pieces of glass from his wound. He sprayed disinfectant in the area and immediately felt the numbing sensation of the anesthetic spreading through the gash in his leg. Slowly, he bandaged his leg tightly, grunting at the few—thankfully bearable—shots of pain that made him grit his teeth despite the anesthetic, before securing the armor around it for additional stability.

Still bracing against the wall, he pushed up and started stumbling away, there would be no rest after this, as distant howls slowly sounded closer.

o.0.o End Chapter 2 o.0.o

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