• Published 3rd Feb 2013
  • 12,176 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?

  • ...
58
 976
 12,176

01:16, 19th February, 2016

“That,” began the first member of Strike 1 to speak since returning to base, “was appalling.”

The four other soldiers in the armoury glanced towards him, each in various states of undress. “Sorry, what?” William Walker replied, already stripped of his stealth suit down to the waist, leaving him in little more than a white undershirt that prevented chaffing.

“Especially you,” the instigator pointed at Viking, “and you,” he pointed at Guseva. “You both left a potentially dangerous and unknown hostile without guard while you went to have some mother’s meeting with your psion.”

A noticeable tension overcame Viking, his fists clenching. He remained silent, however, letting someone else speak – reason wasn’t his forte. “Deadeye, she was in distress,” Crash spoke up as he pulled a regular military jacket onto his broad shoulders, the X-COM logo emblazoned on the left pocket, “Viking and Werewolf were making sure she was still operational.”

“That isn’t the problem. The problem is that they left that thing unguarded,” Deadeye countered, still fully suited up in his black Archangel armour, complete with skull mask. “And as it so happens, we’re lucky that one of us isn’t dead because of it.”

“Not just luck,” Bishop countered, “Viking’s quick thinking is ultimately what brought us through the mission alive.” The medic’s words caused his brother’s clenched hands to loosen slightly. “And besides, I believe concern for one’s squad to be paramount to a successful operation, Colonel.”

“Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, Captain,” Deadeye retorted, “but in this case it jeopardised the whole mission. There is no reason for any soldier to leave any enemy that hasn’t been confirmed inactive by our own weapons unobserved, even if the squad’s psion is having a headache because she’s too frail to walk up to an unconscious horse without her allergies playing up.”

Viking’s teeth gritted, hard. His fists clenched until his short nails dug into his palms. He brought his right fist back, and stepped forward with his left foot, as much as ramming his heel into the ground with anger. It didn’t matter that he was two ranks below Deadeye. It didn’t matter that he was taking his bare fist to a man in power armour. It didn’t matter that he would be disciplined, harshly. Right now this was about him, his squad, and Deadeye, and no force on earth was going to stop him teaching this arrogant, cocky prick a lesson.

“Colonel Henderson.” A woman’s voice, strict and unfeeling, stopped Viking mid-punch. He swiftly lowered his fist to his side and looked around, backing away from the sniper who had been spoken to.

The sniper himself looked around. His red visor remained impassive, but his shoulders drew up a little, tensing. “Colonel Lazarro,” he replied plainly.

A woman was stood in the doorway, short, with a Mediterranean tone to her skin. Her arms were crossed over a white tank top, decorated only with the usual X-COM logo on the left breast. A pair of khaki trousers hung from her slim waist down to the military-grade boots on her feet, and a red beret, also with an X-COM badge, sat on her head. “I would appreciate it, Colonel,” she continued, speaking to the neutral mask, “If you didn’t belittle my squad behind my back. We’ve talked about this; if you have an issue with them, you take it up with me.”

“Of course,” Deadeye agreed, “I merely felt that, since I’m acting as their commanding officer”-

“I especially don’t want to hear that you’ve been openly mocking one of my soldiers to her comrades,” Colonel Lazarro continued, fixing Deadeye with a cold glare of her piercing blue eyes. “And I especially don’t want to find you berating them for negligence when you yourself took the opportunity to perform a perimeter check when satellite coverage showed nothing for miles.” Her voice didn’t rise in volume, only in its force. It was a voice powerful enough for the five-and-a-half-foot tall woman to make even the tall, muscular Heavy of her own squad feel small.

“I”- Deadeye tried to get a word in.

“You’re dismissed,” his opposing number said in an appropriately dismissing tone. It didn’t matter that he was of equal rank to her – Deadeye left the room, though his purposeful gait reminded the remaining soldiers that he wasn’t done with this just yet.

“Captain Walker,” Lazarro began anew, looking at Viking, “I really don’t want to find you blunting your own limbs against another man’s head, no matter how much he deserves it. You should know better.” Her tone was, perhaps surprisingly, less malicious than it had been when addressing Deadeye – indeed, it took on more the edge of a scolding mother than an ice queen. “And Captain Walker the Second? I don’t want to hear that you’ve been letting someone else take command of the squad just because they’re a higher rank than you. There’s a good reason I let you handle all of the squad’s movements. When we’re in the field, you’re our commanding officer, remember, no matter what the paperwork says.”

Viking fidgeted uncomfortably while Bishop nodded his head in agreement. The latter didn’t whole-heartedly agree with his superior – she was certainly the commander of the team. He, however, was the moral support of the squad – he knew each of his teammates through and through, and how each of them preferred to operate, which was why the colonel left the tactics to him – he knew what made everyone tick, and could arrange them to play off of each other’s strengths based on that.

“With all due respect, Ma’am,” he hesitantly replied, “I don’t think Deadeye is the sort of man who appreciates the way our squad works.”

“Indeed not,” the colonel agreed, musing, “I’d best not spend much more time on medical leave. Hell, you’re down to four of six now, and that doesn’t bode well for anyone, especially since no other psion could work as well with the squad as Pimenova can. Considering that she’s been hospitalised for an undisclosed amount of time, and couple that with a loose cannon sniper like Henderson…” She thought for a few moments. “Screw it. I can walk. I’ll file for early return to active duty and use today as evidence of fault in Henderson’s handling of the squad. That ought to satisfy the brass.”

Crash smiled. “It’s good to have you back, Ma’am.”

***

Research Project: Subject X-014 “Sparkle.”

Date: 18th February 2016

Initial Assessment

This alien appears unlike any other previously encountered. It is mammalian, quadrupedal, and roughly equine in form, as opposed to the bipedal, roughly primate beings that we have previously encountered. Despite being a quadruped and being of a similar colouration, subject was also speculated to be unrelated to the slightly more similar X-004, “Chrysallid”, given the lack of a hard exoskeleton. Gene mapping confirms this – the specimen is far removed from any genome previously encountered.

Subject has displayed unrivalled psionic power in engagement with X-COM forces, possibly matching the level of an X-010, “Ethereal”, but used in a somewhat different manner. Specimen displayed the ability to redirect plasma fire, project its psionic energy as a physical force, and is speculated to have engaged in mental combat with the attending psion, all abilities shared with any given Ethereal. However, the reflected fire was dispersed harmlessly, and projected force was non-lethal in nature, wheras an Ethereal would aim to lethally eliminate human targets. It is speculated that this subject’s species may be pacifist engineers, designed to operate the larger ships in the alien fleet. Psionic communication would allow for quick relaying of movement orders, and would provide a measure of self-defense, enough to stall assailants until military forces could arrive to assist. Subject also possesses a pair of wings, which are mechanically incapable of supporting it, but which may be usable in other ways - Ethereals have been observed to use their psionic power to levitate and manoeuver themselves, and it has been suggested that this specimen utilises its wings to assist in similar applications - either to improve its speed or maneuverability, or to allow it to use more of its psionic power for other tasks.

The pacifism theory is supported by the subject’s physical structure – it seems ill suited to combat, being built skeletally sturdy yet agile, but lacking defining musculature or limbs with which to manipulate the aliens’ weapons. Subject is also decorated with lengthy hair around the head and hindquarters, which would be impractical to have trailing in a combat situation.

The specimen is roughly 3’10” tall at the head, and 2’6” tall at the shoulder. Head appears disproportionately large when compared to its body, contributing to nearly a quarter of the subject’s height and being at least twice the size of a human’s. Eyes are large, with purple irises. Teeth are entirely incisors and molars, suggesting a herbivorous diet. Brow bears a conical horn, which has a shallow, spiralling groove running up its length. Legs appear not to end in any sort of foot, though the joints and a firmness of the flesh around the leg’s end suggest an internal hoof-like structure, covered by a thin layer of skin. Body hair is mostly a shade of lilac, with its mane and tail being darker shades of violet and streaked with two dark purple and pink stripes, lengthwise. The subject possesses a wingspan of 5'8", and its wings are covered in lengthy feathers that match its body hair in colour. Otherwise of note is a pair of markings upon the sides of the specimen’s rump, portraying a small collection of white six-point stars overlaid with a larger, pink star. The image is mirrored on either side, as if to have a forward face in the direction of the subject’s body, and is theorised to serve as a visual identifier. It was this feature that earned X-014 a variety of shorthand name, such as “Sparkle,” “Stars” and “Tinker-Butt.” The former of these has been adopted as the species’ intelligence handle, for use in combat broadcasts. The specimen has not been identified as having a gender at this time.

Further Research

Apart from its unique biology, the psionic abilities of the subject demand further examination – it is capable of several of the powers available to the Ethereals, but not to our own troops. Having access to a potentially pacifist alien would allow us to train soldiers to achieve the same effects, namely a more direct attack, and more precise shielding against enemy fire, would be useful. To this end, the subject must be held in custody and studied regularly, monitoring psionic strength and physical health in order to determine any factor that may affect its abilities.

***

Twilight Sparkle slowly came around. Very, very slowly. Her limbs felt tired and sore, and her back was stiff. Again. What was it with her and waking up recently? She never used to-

Twilight’s eyes snapped open as she remembered what had happened last time she had woken up. It came back to her in a rush, the intrusion into her head, the brief battle against the armoured… things, being carried into their cart-chariot thing, and being jabbed with a needle immediately upon its door opening again.

And then, here. Given that she was still alive, the librarian guessed that the syringe had contained a sedative, nothing harmful. That was good, she hoped. Though her body was raw, her head was a lot clearer this time around, and she didn’t feel anything abnormal about her magic. Actually… she didn’t feel very much of her magic at all. It was there, a tiny, muted presence at the back of her mind, if she concentrated on it hard enough, but not enough to cast any spells with. That was… unnerving, to say the least. Not having magic was, for her, like waking up and finding out one was missing their wings, or their back legs, or the like. Maybe this had something to do with the injection, a toxin to cut her off from her magic?

She tried to move, and gradually, her aching, stiff limbs slowly complied. One hoof moved to be flush against the cold floor. Another, and then the last two. She uneasily and slowly raised herself, inch by painful inch, to full height. She took a deep breath in, through the mouth. She gradually released it, out through the nose. Calm. Relaxed. Totally not freaking out because she was in a metal box and was being held captive by bright red arachnids that threw green fire everywhere when angry.

A small part of Twilight Sparkle’s mind berated her: this wasn’t a box, boxes were square. Or, technically, cuboid prisms. At any rate, this wasn’t one: this was a cylinder in shape, and thus would be better fit by a different word… a tank, maybe? The walls were an odd shape and design, one side of the room was a smooth, curved panel, and the other side was a pair of smooth, curved panels that met halfway up the wall at a long fissure. The two halves of the room were separated by a slanting divide, where the single smooth wall merely stopped and the room grew wider by a few inches. The smooth wall also had a door set into it, and a pair of large circular window shutters directly opposite one another.

Twilight trotted over to the smooth wall and placed a hoof on it. Metal. Not iron, by its shine, and not copper or brass, by its colour. Neither gold, silver, bronze… Twilight supposed that it could be mithral, but mithral was rare and highly valued for its strength – why make an entire wall out of it? She ran her hoof along the wall. It was eerily smooth. Twilight doubted that even Rarity could buff a silver tea tray to this level of-

Twilight’s stomach dropped. Rarity. Rainbow Dash. Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. Spike. Her friends. Her brother. Her mother and father. Everypony she had ever known. Did they know what had happened to her? Had any of them been captured too?

Suddenly, Twilight Sparkle felt very small, and very, very alone.

Author's Note:

IT LIVES!

This chapter has been a long time coming, because University exams, then finding out I'd failed them, emergency escape on the pre-leased property, moving back home, finding a job, having surgery for an unimportant but annoying condition, and the return of my arch-nemesis, Procrastination.

At any rate, I feel like I can get back into the saddle with this, so now, onwards!

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!