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



Sunset Shimmer escapes Equestria... with unforeseen consequences.

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Chapter 246: Recollections

XCOM: Ranger

Chapter 246: Recollections

By Wanderer D

Adagio shifted in place, looking at herself in the mirror. Being in an XCOM jumper suit was not something she had ever anticipated happening, and with the slightly-phased state she found herself in occasionally, she thought she looked kind of weird. But, having said that, watching the reactions of having "a codex" in XCOM uniform walking around an XCOM base was just too funny to ignore.

She sighed, looking down at the locker right next to the one she had been assigned. Captain Sunset Shimmer it read. She knew it wasn't her Sunset exactly, but she had been watching. And it still hit her with nostalgia. No wonder Chrysalis was so stressed.

She stood and walked out of the barracks, pad in hand, and followed the arrows down to Engineering. When she got there, she stopped, blinking in surprise at the nano-mechanical pony with the red ribbon.

"Okay. Now I know I'm still trapped in the Ethereal Network. There's no way you're real."

She heard a giggle and turned slightly to the left to see Sweetie Belle—who was currently editing several strands of video (presumably for her social media campaign)—smiling at her. "Apparently Apple Bloom was inspired to modify her body to resemble the ponies from Sunset's world."

"Ah still need to figure out how to store a canon twice my size inside of my body."

"It's… surprisingly accurate," Adagio muttered, crossing her arms. She looked at Sweetie Belle, then swallowed. "Have you… heard anything from Rarity?"

Sweetie glanced at her, her expression neutral. "She's safe."

Adagio cringed a little, not meeting her eyes. "Good to know."

"So," Apple Bloom asked, her nanites reorganizing themselves to turn her into her humanoid form. "What brings you here?"

"Ah, I was hoping to look into the archives to catch up on recent XCOM history, I have some information from the Network, but that was obviously limited to what the Elders had on you, which was thankfully little." She cleared her throat. "So I need… a summary of events, if you will."

"Sure thing," Apple Bloom said, motioning for Adagio to come over. "You can use this computer to look through it."

Sweetie Belle walked up to them. "I'm also kind of curious about… well, all of it. I haven't had time to really look into the recent history of XCOM." She shrugged. "Might as well learn now, since I can probably use that for my campaign."

Adagio nodded, turning to the computer. "Well then, let's bring up what I know first, and we can go up from there."

The screen lit up with several pictures, including Sunset Shimmer, Chrysalis and a younger Bradford. Other, smaller pictures appeared on the side. "Back in the early two thousands, Chrysalis took ownership of XCOM, based under a mountain near the city of what today is known as New Appaloosa with Dr. Vahlen and Charles Shen as Chiefs of Science and Engineering respectively," Adagio said, bringing over the pictures to the forefront. "Charle's daughter, Lilly was also on base due to the demands of the job."

"It was at this time that our school was destroyed," Sweetie Belle said, "and Rarity was blackmailed by EXALT to join their ranks."

"After the attack, XCOM became officially active. At the time, there were several strike teams, but it was clear that the one that took point was Sunset Shimmer's team, Stardust," Adagio said, "I—in my temporally-displaced guise as Ghost—was already in contact with Sunset, and I assisted wherever I could, but my connection through space and time was not ideal by then and my power-boosts for her were… low." She sighed.

"Stardust consisted of former Triad member, Shaojie Zhang, Irvine Phineas, Elaine Pelleas, and Lionel and Bors Gaunnes," she continued, brining several pictures on the screen up.

"Ember is Zhang's daughter, by the way," Sweetie quipped.

Adagio studied the pictures, feeling the weight of years as if for the first time, before speaking up again. "From the beginning XCOM had forces acting against them in the form of cults that would later become EXALT…" She brought up pictures of Tirek, Sombra, Sonata Aria and herself, "EXALT manipulated governments to cut funding for the project as part of their initial bid to gain the favor of the alien invaders."

"My sister, Applejack and our friend Rainbow Dash joined XCOM shortly after that," Apple Bloom said. "Rainbow Dash knew Captain Spitfire, and Captain Soarin'. Soarin' and Applejack died early on during different missions."

Sweetie put a comforting hand on her friend's shoulder, and Apple Bloom patted it with her own.

EXALT also captured or inducted Annette and Gheist, using them and others to use a psychic attack on XCOM, then betrayed them by sending them over to the Elders. They were rescued by Stardust after Aria used Rarity to leak the info."

"Tirek and Sombra betrayed me, taking my gem, and soon after, Aria and Sonata helped them to capture me and put me in stasis," Adagio growled, clenching her fists. The two crusaders glanced at each other before continuing.

"Soon after that, the Elders made their move and convinced several governments to betray XCOM," Apple Bloom said. "Stardust was deployed just as the XCOM base was attacked to destroy the Temple Ship the Elders had sent to Earth."

The screen brought up videos of people and aliens shooting at each other in a confined space, and a picture of a spaceship so big it looked like a whole city. The picture turned into a video of the spaceship suddenly lurching and heading up into space before exploding.

"Stardust completed the mission," Adagio said softly, "but the whole team died." She cleared her throat. "Having captured the Commander and Dr. Shen, and with the rest of XCOM on the run, EXALT turned on itself in order to gain the blessings of the Elders. Several members died, including Sombra, and Aria, Sonata and Tirek were selected to become the Elder's Chosen."

"During the next few years, the world's military was defeated, ADVENT was formed, and the Elders used the Commander's brain to run simulations and train their new troops as they were created," Adagio said. "During this time, I was trying to contact Chrysalis and wake her, but it never worked… and that's basically where I am right now."

"Then let me help you with the rest," a new voice said. The trio turned over to see Bradford at the entrance to the Engineering Bay. "I was wondering where you were," he said to Adagio, walking up to them and glancing at the screen. "Your appointment with counselor Luna is coming up soon."

"Right, right," Adagio sighed. "Just… help me catch up, alright?"

"It's a lot," Apple Bloom said, "so we'd better be quick and concise. "In the period during between XCOM's fall and Sunset's arrival, former members of XCOM, like Rainbow Dash, Gallahad, Shen and his daughter, Ember and others, kept gathering resources to launch a counterattack, and were using a submarine as a mobile base to avoid the Elders."

Bradford took a deep breath and reached over Apple Boom's shoulder to show pictures of Canterlot High. "While all of that was going on and I was on a walkabout, at some point in early 2032, Sunset Shimmer arrived on Earth through the portal which was located at Canterlot High," he said. "She left Equestria for personal reasons and brought with her a book on Blood Magic, which is illegal in her world… for patently obvious reasons now. Within the first forty eight hours of her being in this world, she met Pratal Mox and was inducted as a trainee by the Skirmishers."

"The Skirmishers is what former ADVENT hybrid troops call themselves, correct?" Adagio asked.

'That's right," Sweetie piped in. "Then there's the Reapers like Elena, who hunt and eat aliens, and the Templars, which are the psychic guys, like Laetitia."

"Right," Bradford said, "now, if I can continue? Sunset stayed with the Skirmishers for almost half a year before their leader, Betos, sent her off for undisclosed reasons to one of the human settlements outside of ADVENT territory, where she met me." He took a deep breath. "At first… I thought she was a ghost."

"So did, I," Adagio admitted, "when I saw her on network feeds later on."

He pulled up a world map, and marked their location at the New Haven settlement. "After a few months of working together, I got a message from Shen about their new base of operations in India. I offered Sunset a spot in XCOM—which she accepted—and we both took off across the continent and then on to the next one, stopping to speak briefly with Volk, leader of the Reapers, and Gheist, who had formed the Templars. Neither was willing to join in at the time, but they helped us get across the world regardless. It was at that time that Sunset befriended Elena at the Reaper camp and taught Gheist how to use psionics on her without exploding."

"Didn't any one of y'all really know she was an alien by then?" Apple Bloom asked. "Ah mean, it ain't normal-like to blow people's heads off if they use psionics on you."

"At this time, I think the only one aware of that was Gheist," Bradford said, giving Apple Bloom an irritated look. "In any case, it wouldn't prove relevant until later—"

"I'm just sayin'," Apple Bloom said, shrugging, "that if a secret organization that fights aliens can't spot the one with them… Ah mean, she has weird armor, strange powers, a thing on her arm out of Predator, and—"

"After making our way to India," Bradford continued, pointedly ignoring the cyborg's smug look, "we joined the XCOM crew there in procuring resources to finish rebuilding the Avenger. In that time, Sunset received additional training from Galahad and was properly inducted into XCOM-style fighting. The original staff from XCOM was informed that Sunset was not a clone, and we had no idea where she had come from, or why she was named and looked and sounded like our old friend. We decided to keep an eye on her, but Sunset quickly gained our trust.

"We rescued Dr. Tygan and added him to our troops, and made contact with several resistance movements in anticipation of our eventual deployment. Eventually, we got a tip about the Commander's location from the Council member that remained loyal to us, and after the Reapers confirmed it was real, we set out to pick her up."

He pulled up a couple of pictures of a humanoid container of some sort, as well as pictures of Jane and Sunset standing at attention. "That was my last mission in charge of Menace. Even though I had requests to add Sunset and Jane to Dragon and Wolf teams, I decided to put Sunset in charge of Menace. With her in charge, they completed missions including the recruitment of Elena and Mox, saving Angel's Point and befriending Rebel Leader Fluttershy and her Viper, Angel, as well several other missions.

"Sunset was almost killed during the recruitment mission when Aria attacked the team, and that seems to have been when Aria discovered Sunset was from somewhere else," Bradford said. "It was also the first time we discovered that Sunset was hiding something… up until then we had no idea that the Lost existed, or that she was a Skirmisher."

The others exchanged looks.

"The commander suspected something even beyond her obvious connection to our Sunset Shimmer was going on now and decided to monitor her more carefully." He smirked. "That's when she ended up in Equestria again."

"I've read this," Sweetie said, scooting over. "I thought it was amazing! So she came back from Equestria, and she brought Twilight Sparkle, who's a princess, with her."

"Ah heard that that's also when Laetitia and Princess Luna started workin' together?"

"Yes and no," Bradford said.

"Wait, Princess Luna?" Adagio asked. "The Princess Luna?!" The others gave her a look and she smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, sorry, I just… wow. Nostalgia bomb."

"Anyway," Bradford said. "We were unaware of Luna's involvement at that time," he said, playing a short video of pony Sunset breaking a baton on Princess Luna's face, which incidentally made Adagio start laughing.

"Sorry, sorry," she said, not even trying to hide her grin. "It's just something I've wanted to do for the longest time." She weathered their looks. "What? She was already around when we got exiled into this world."

"Right." Bradford cleared his throat. "Whatever the case, it made clear that Sunset was something entirely different than us. She was very clearly an alien, and the commander's first instinct was… not positive, but then..." he reached over and played an attached audio file. They could now clearly hear Sunset and Twilight speaking.

"Being a princess is the least of my worries right now… I live here now, with people that trust me and depend on me… who know nothing of who or what I am, or where I came from. They've saved my life and I've… tried to repay them as best as I can… I still want to lead, but I want to really earn that. I want them to look at me with respect born of admiration and hard work and sticking my neck out for them… not things I ever considered doing in Equestria. If it means… burning bridges with my old home to keep them safe, I will."

"You never told them?"

"No. They have good reason to distrust… aliens. I wouldn't even have gone back to Equestria in the first place, but we ended up here during a mission, and an explosion threw me through the portal."

"They must know now that there's something going on, then."

"Yeah."

"Don't you just… why don't you come back with me? You don't have to stay. You're an Equestrian Citizen, and I won't push charges."

"I can't just abandon them. Even if the Commander treats me like trash, I can't just… leave. Not when they need my help. Not when I can do something with my skills."

"What skills? I can't even use my spells. I tried!"

"Well, as you saw back there, I have a lot of skills now… and I know a different type of spells. With the right source of power, I can save lives, Twilight. A lot of them. Maybe… maybe they'll put me in confinement now. Maybe they'll arrest me or… or kick me out. I don't know, but I'm not turning my back on them."

Bradford had been smiling through the whole conversation. "I never felt so proud."

"Aww!"

His eyes widened and he coughed. "Of course, since Sunset was unaware that we were monitoring her when she said that, the Commander decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Twilight Sparkle and Sunset arrived at the base after Sunset managed to kill the Viper King, and received a thorough chew-out for keeping secrets like these from us."

"And with that, I have to go," Adagio said. "I have my meeting with non-princess Luna. Wish me luck."

"We'll be here if you want to revisit what happened later on," Apple Bloom said. "We're almost to the part where we come in!"

"Right, right. See you kids in a bit."

o.0.o End Chapter 246 o.0.o

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