• Published 3rd Feb 2013
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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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18:48, 18th Febuary, 2016

Deep below the ground, many pairs of eyes watched the screens before them. Many voices spread rumours in low murmurs. Most sounded concerned, a few mildly frightened. All were awaiting some instruction from the three individuals who were front and centre in the room.

One had his arms crossed over his chest, the backs of his hands wrinkling with the onset of age. He surveyed the scene before him from beneath his white eyebrows, both set into a troubled frown.

Another had her arms separate, one hand holding a data slate to her side, the other held upwards in front of the green collar of her otherwise white coat, absently twirling a pen between her slender fingers as she pondered.

The last had his hands clasped behind his back, level with his hips but not resting upon them. His feet were shoulder-width apart, and the shoes adorning them carried a military shine. He studied the situation presented with a stern face, which betrayed no signs of what he was feeling.

The screen before them was one of the few within the room to not be holographic. A single, one-hundred-and-twenty-inch monitor built into the wall served as their information readout. Smaller displays were available to the other men and women working in Mission Control, beneath the large, projected globe floating in the air above them. A small green shape, that of Skyranger-1, had just begun moving across the spectral atlas’s surface, tracking the progress of the aircraft it represented.

“So,” the man in the green jumper eventually spoke, turning to face the other two, both stood to his right, “can we contain it?”

The woman in the middle showed no reaction for a moment, before also turning to her right. “Dr Shen?” she offered.

The aged man gave the other two a hapless look. “I doubt it,” he spoke, a hint of worry in his otherwise wizened voice, “Our current containment chambers suffer periodic damage under the stress of any housed psychic alien. An Ethereal, if left to its own devices for a few days, could break out. It’s only dues to rotating them between cells and maintaining the ones left unoccupied that we’re able to prevent them escaping.” He pointed back to the screen as its video looped, showing scenes of the battle from both a soldier’s-eye-view and from satellite cameras. As he gestured, it demonstrated a shot of the new contact easily deflecting a barrage of plasma fire away from itself, selectively repelling only the shots that would have landed a hit. “Any creature with the power and focus to pull a feat like that could escape from containment within hours, if not less.”

The officer sighed, “So the only way to be safe is to execute it on arrival.”

“Not necessarily,” The woman between the two men offered, beginning to tap around on the touchscreen of her PDA with her pen, “recently my team have been working on a device which would inhibit the capabilities of any psionic creatures it was correctly attached to, a ‘psionic dampener’, if you will.” A schematic for the device appeared on the screen in front of them, growing into view over the footage of the engagement. The main component of it appeared to be an abstract assembly of various components, most identifiable as the neural implants possessed by Ethereals. “We’ve developed a prototype which would effectively nullify all the abilities of a Sectoid Commander, allowing them to be safely contained. Similar designs for Ethereals are under testing, but so far can merely impede their powers, not seal them off completely.”

“I don’t see how that helps us, Doctor,” the officer spoke again, “that thing is far more powerful than”-

“But,” the scientist continued, “The main constraint on our current designs is portability – both prototypes are designed to be worn by the creatures they affect while being physically tamper-proof. A larger, immobile design could easily be created, scaled to block any attempt at psionics made by our new capture. We won’t be able to move or experiment with it for a while, until we create a better containment strategy, but we can keep it safely contained until such things are invented.”

“The scaling should be fairly linear,” the engineer said, now leaning forwards to analyse the blueprint, “It’ll take a little time, but we ought to be able to produce a sufficiently large device within the next twenty-four hours. It’ll need to be inside the chamber with the alien, but sturdy enough plating on it’s casing should prevent the alien from damaging it.”

“We can keep the subject safely sedated until the device is complete,” the researcher noted.

The officer frowned at the screen for a moment, before looking back to the woman before him. “Dr Vahlen, do you really think it’s worth creating a whole new containment strategy for a single alien, when we’re cleaning up remnants after their invasion failed? Can we justify the cost of that?”

Dr Vahlen looked almost insulted. “Officer Bradford, this alien represents a peak in power and manipulation of psionic energy, the likes of which have not previously been observed. The potential to be gained for harnessing this power, the benefits it would grant us… they’re unimaginable!”

Bradford shrugged, “If you say so. Begin fabrication of the device, then, and keep the alien unconscious until it’s safely secured. Dr Vahlen, Dr Shen, you are both dismissed.” He turned and left the room, walking casually as opposed to the military march one might have expected from him.

“I hope you have some ideas on how to build a more permanent solution,” Dr Shen noted aloud.

“It’s the logical next step.” Dr Vahlen pointed out in response.

***

The squad compartment of Skyranger-1 was nearly silent, save for the low rumble of the engines outside and the frantic, panicked muttering of its resident psion.

Pimenova had taken quite some time to regain conciousness, but hadn’t shown major injury from being thrown. She’d been strapped onto a stretcher for take-off. Bruising along her back was to be expected, but no broken bones or internal damage, from what Bishop could see. Scratch damage, in effect.

That wasn’t where she’d been attacked, though – mentally she was a semi-intact mess, if the snatches of English among her otherwise entirely Russian muttering where any indication. Mentions of “Waking Nightmares”, “Demons” and “Not like us” were common. From what Guseva had said, though, she was still sort-of there – the Russian parts of her babble involved her trying to remind herself what was real, and what wasn’t – separating the psionic trauma within her mind from the physical world around her. Based on that, she would come out alright, the squad reasoned. At least, once she uncurled herself from the foetal position and stopped shaking quite so much.
They didn’t blame her for staying as far away from the alien as possible, though. No-one in the jet wanted to be near it. Even paralyzed, incapacitated, it unnerved them. To all five of them, it was a blessing that the surprise attack had worked on the damned thing. Otherwise, the alien had demonstrated one thing; it was untouchable. The one thing that X-COM had always had, whether it was Chrysallids, Cyberdiscs, or Mutons, was the guarantee that they could, and usually would, hit and kill their enemy.

And now here they had one that they couldn’t.

God forbid more of them show up.

Author's Note:

Sorry this chapter took a while; I wasn't sure what to have happen next, and didn't want to release another short-ish update. That said, there's not a lot more I can add on to this chapter that would take place within twenty-four hours of the last scene, and would be worth writing about (Some minor exposition on how Pimenova is treated to back at base, maybe, but that would be another two hundred words tops, and wouldn't add much).

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