• Published 3rd Feb 2013
  • 12,178 Views, 976 Comments

Research Project: Sparkle - Axquirix



Crossover between XCOM: Enemy Unknown and MLP. Twilight appears on Earth, shortly after the alien war. How will she cope with being taken prisoner? How will XCOM cope with the single most powerful psion they've ever encountered?

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Operation: Rising Star, Part Two

Twilight stumbled as she stood up, trying to balance with her wings, her body still stiff and tired. She couldn’t afford to let that stop her, though. The short, sudden battle within her own skull had cleared her thoughts, at least. Enough to realise something fairly daunting:

She was outnumbered.

There were some… creatures in front of her. Most of them were red, and looked exoskeletal. There was another, a different colour and much softer looking. If it came to it, that one would be the easiest target.

That said, it was also the only one who wasn’t pointing a bright green glowing thing at her, and was, in fact, carefully stepping backwards and away from her.

It still wasn’t easy to think straight, especially when the creatures were being extremely loud, and she was still having difficulty staying on her hooves. This was bad. This was very, very bad.

There were four, no, three of them. Three, and the one she’d knocked to the ground earlier. And the discoloured one. She couldn’t let this turn into a fight – she didn’t think she could win if it did.

“Whatever you are,” Twilight spoke, her voice hoarse from her sore throat, but backed with determination, “I don’t want to have to hurt you.”

***

“Going silent,” Viking whispered over comms, activating his stealth suit’s active camouflage at the first chance he got, making him nigh invisible.

“Sir, get out of here! Go!” Bishop shouted at Jan, while keeping between the woodsman and the newly-awakened xeno, bringing his rifle to bear on it. Guseva and Crash quickly followed suit, aiming their weapons against the hostile before it could do the same back.

“Everyone, hold your fire!” Deadeye barked, “Viking, get close enough to use that Arc Thrower!”

At that moment, its mouth opened. The creature let out a series of short, sharp growls, its voice coarse and angry, to match its furrowed eyes and narrowed pupils. The glow surrounding its horn intensified as it did so, becoming almost blindingly bright.

“This thing isn’t playing around anymore!” Crash shouted over the radio.

“Crash, keep your head on! Viking, you’d better be moving in!” Deadeye shouted again, as the beast glanced between the troops before it, fixing each of them with a glare.

Guseva tried to swallow her fright, but her mouth was dry. Her gun was held with a white-knuckle grip, and her finger curled around the trigger.

And then it turned its glare on her.

She pulled the trigger, in three quick shots, two aimed for the chest, one for the head. Three searing bolts of plasma burned the air around them as they shot towards their target with blinding speed.

The beast didn’t so much as blink as one after another, the plasma shots closed to less than a foot’s distance of it, before turning ninety degrees in the air and slamming into the ground by its feet, scorching the forest floor.

“Sh-shot wide!” Guseva stammered, panic gripping her further. She wanted to run, wanted to hide. This wasn’t a fight she could win! That thing was dangerous! “That isn’t meant to happen!” she shrieked, before turning to run.

“Guseva, hold steady! Don’t-!” Deadeye began, before a streak of dark purple light shot forward from the creature’s glowing horn, striking the Russian in the back, knocking her over forwards to the ground. The woodsman took this opportunity to run himself, bolting into the woods at a breakneck pace.

“Covering fire!” Crash shouted, liberally spraying plasma fire at the hostile before him. Most sailed past it. Those aimed to hit deflected like light off of a mirror, slamming into trees and causing Bishop and Viking to duck into cover. The X-ray wasn’t even facing him, instead frowning at Guseva’s downed form, its mouth slightly agape.

Guseva tried to pick herself up again, flailing her arms in the hope of finding something to garb on to to expediate her escape. The xeno took this as its cue to turn on Crash, aiming a second bolt at his chest. He neatly sidestepped the blow, and opened fire with his heavy weapon again, sending more plasma fire scattering away from the target’s invisible shield.

“Crash, cease fire!” Deadeye ordered, “You’re only drawing attention to yourself!”

“Then what do we do?” Bishop shouted, peeping out from behind a sturdy fir to keep and eye on the hostile.

Deadeye thought for a moment. “Flypaper.”

“Flypaper!?” Bishop asked, astounded, “What the hell does that mean?”

“Tell you later. Viking, get ready to move in,” Deadeye replied, zeroing in his next shot at the blinding light atop his target’s head.

He readjusted himself, bracing his rifle over his left elbow.

He took up the trigger’s slack.

He drew one last breath.

He fired.

***

Pain lanced across Twilight’s scalp, a searing, burning pain. She dropped with surprise, instinctively throwing a hoof over her head to cover herself. Where had that come from?

Ignoring the stench of burnt mane, Twilight anxiously checked her horn. It hadn’t been hit. The blast had gone wide. She could keep deflecting them!

…If she could spot them coming, at least.

Twilight turned and glanced around, spotting first the fresh plasma scoring on a nearby tree, then in the opposite direction. Sure enough, there was another creature over there, this one black, with a white face. It was a long way away, but if she didn’t stop it, she didn’t stand a chance against the rest of them. She started charging up another spell, this one to knock the weapon out of the creature’s claws. She couldn’t do a lot more than that and guarantee a hit in the time she had.

Over the nearby creatures’ shouting and the continuous chiming created by her own magic, Twilight didn’t hear the faint crackle of one other, invisible creature de-cloaking behind her. Pain lanced across her back and down her legs. Everything became painfully loud, threatening to shatter her eardrums, then suddenly distorted and quiet. Harsh colours in chaotic patterns flashed over her vision at an insane rate, and her head was struck with a numbing pain so terrible she thought it might burst, as one point two one gigawatts of nerve-wrecking electricity coursed through her body.

And all of the magic she’d been charging and holding exploded outwards.

***

A circular sheet of lilac light shot outwards at an alarming rate, expanding from the point of the hostile’s horn, knocking three veteran X-COM soldiers into the air and onto the ground before they could react, splintering the bark and flesh of the nearby trees it struck.

Viking scrabbled to get up, sitting upright as he searched for his dropped Arc Thrower. It was only a few feet away, and looked to be still intact. Then he glanced down himself, towards the shocked hostile.

It was limp, lying on the ground again. Bishop was already moving in, still on his feet thanks to the cover his tree had provided him. Crash was sat on his backside like Viking, and Guseva had been sprawled out on her front again.

Bishop kept his rifle trained on the target as he approached. It didn’t move. He took his left hand off of his weapon and snapped his fingers twice in front of the creature’s open eyes. No response. “Hostile successfully pacified,” he reported, to be met with sighs of relief from the rest of his squad.

“Good, now go check on Pimenova, see if she’s hurt,” Deadeye ordered, still keeping his rifle trained on the alien’s downed form. He’d been well away from the shockwave. “Crash, Viking, you two get that thing subjugated and into the Skyranger’s hold. Guseva, you still with us?”

“Y-yes,” Guseva responded nervously, “sorry for”-

“Don’t sweat it,” Deadeye interrupted, “that was going to happen anyway. We weren’t going to get a chance to talk this thing down.” He paused for a moment, before changing his addressee, “Big Sky, this is Strike One. Payload is secure, we’re beginning to load it now.”

The squad continued their work with little more said between them.

***

Twilight wanted to panic. She wanted to scream, wanted to run. She wanted to get out of here and just go home. But she couldn’t. The alicorn wasn’t exactly sure what they’d done to her, but she couldn’t move. She couldn’t talk, she couldn’t use magic. She could barely even breathe, except for the shallow breaths that were barely enough to keep her conscious.

Everything sounded muted and blurry, as if she were fifteen feet underwater. She could still see perfectly fine, but she wished that she couldn’t, that she could close her paralysed eyelids and just shut out the world. No such luck. She was forced to watch every second, as she was grabbed by her legs and hauled over one of the exoskeletal creatures’ shoulders. She was forced to watch the ground swaying below her, as it marched away from where she had woken up. She couldn’t help but stare downwards as fallen needles and twigs gave way to dull grass, as her captor walked into an open meadow, a dull, low roaring noise seeping into her ears. Her eyes began to sting with dryness as first the creature’s footsteps changed from a gentle thud to a metallic clunk, and a slanted metal floor slid into view beneath her.

Twilight’s panic hit new heights – what was this metal monstrosity? Why was it roaring? Where were these creatures taking her? What – Twilight would’ve gulped with dread had she been able – what were they going to do to her?

The creature carrying her grunted as it hefted her body off of its shoulder, dumping her limp form onto a flat, metal surface. A few straps were buckled together over her, tying her down like a crate on a ship, their edges biting into her skin beneath her coat. She was still staring backwards, unblinkingly looking at the open door through which she’d been transported, her eyes burning with dehydration. She wished she was back out there. She wished she hadn’t been immobilised. She wished she was back in Equestria, lying in her own bed or talking to her friends. She wished, hoped, and mentally pleaded with anything that could hear, for this to please be all just a horrifying dream.

The creature squatted down in front of her, staring her eye to reflective lense. Its head tilted sideways, and it moved one of its claws to her face, directly towards her violet irises. Its talons were drawn across her eyes, and the world went dark. Alone in her own mind, Twilight screamed in terror, such that no voice could ever match.

Author's Note:

XCOM Field Operatives; Squad Tactics; Flypaper:
- In which one member of the squad captures the enemies' attention and firepower, not by being vulnerable, but by being high-priority. Said soldier should ensure beforehand that they are well-defended, and proceed to eliminate vulnerable or valuable targets from among the enemie's ranks. The soldier's squadmates should then proceed to make use of the distraction to outflank and overpower the enemy, and ultimately neutralise them.

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