RP XCOM: The Story of Defiance.

MarineAvenger

Operator 21O
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Dec 9, 2013
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“From a Void of Dark to a Heart of Gold” Part Three

As he walked in the snow alone, Asher stopped as he realized the flurry had passed, looking up and seeing the broad range of stars and the near half moon. Asher took a deep breath and closed his eyes, for the first time in his short life really being unsure of what he was doing. Reaching into his trench coat, he pulled out the pistol and looked down at it, rubbing his thumb across it. Wondering what he should do, Asher just shook his head, holding the gun to his side as he turned around and began to walk back down the street from where he had been dropped off.

A familiar face rounded the corner, a certain green-haired scientist interested in looking around and sampling some Russian cuisine her boyfriend had introduced her to while she still had the excuse to eat as much as she wanted. As she neared Asher, she was too bundled up to see clearly, not noticing his face at first, though her eyes were drawn to his side. She slowly stopped, and took a step back.

Asher noticed the green hair within the bundle, stopping where he was and looking at her with a stoic look, still holding the gun at his side. I was not expecting to see you tonight. Asher stated with his mind, a slight breeze blowing his coat and hair to the side, the operative looking unintentionally menacing.

“I… I-I…” Jessica took another step back before realizing it was Asher. She smiled, though the smile half faded when she realized certain implications, and she shifted her position slightly. “That… goes double for me, Asher…”

Enjoying your night out? He asked, blinking slightly and looking behind him. Alone I assume?

What… is he doing out here?

Dumbass! He’s gone rouge! Probably killed his escort, and you’re next if you don’t run! Haven’t you ever seen a single… solitary… slasher flick?

Y-you know I… don’t… like…

Jessica swallowed hard. “I… yes… I-I mean, no… I… Modya is… j-just around the corner… w-with… guards… going… gun shopping…”

Asher rose an eyebrow. You are a horrible liar. The operative took a step forward towards Jessica, his expression still the same, unchanging.

Jessica dropped the bags she was carrying, taking several more steps back. “Please… Asher, I… I always… tried to help you… I’m sorry I was annoying…” She wrapped her hands around her stomach. “Please, I can’t…”

Asher tilted his head, looking down at the ground and bending over. He picked up the bags Jessica had dropped, putting back a few of the closed items back inside and walking towards Jessica, handing them out to her.

Jessica smiled nervously. “Does, uh… does this mean you aren’t going to… you know…”

The operative raised an eyebrow. What are you talking about? Asher looked at Jessica and shook his head. You are definitely a weird one. He reached forward, awkwardly hugging Jessica lightly. Yes, you are annoying and all the things under the sun...but I do realize you were just trying to help me so...as much as it pains me...thank...you?

Jessica chuckled. “Oh… wow, I… y-you’re welcome. I… I’m sorry I… I’m glad to see you made it after all.” She looked around. “So, uh… what are you doing out here? You… playing hooky?”

Hm? No...the person who was tasked to guard me for my excursion out...let...me...go. I walked for a while but I realized that even with the money he gave me...I have no idea how to live on the outside. Plus it is cold out here and I was getting tired.

Jessica giggled. “Like when I ran away from home when I was six because I was mad at my mom. I got a whole block away before I realized I was cold and hungry, and had to go home. So embarrassing.”

Well, unfortunately my mother is dead. However I have a nagging feeling even if I left, the flower girl would hunt me down with a vengeance and drag me back by the ear...much more embarrassing than your story I believe that would be.

“Good point. Besides…” Jessica blushed a bit. “I… I bet she’d be a bit more then mad if you were to disappear on her.”

True. Asher scratched his arm, looking down and realizing he still had the gun in plain sight. Oh yeah...you are...probably wanting an explanation, huh?

Jessica slowly nodded. “It did look odd when I first approached you. I was afraid you… stole it… maybe used it…”

To kill my escort and hunt you down for the annoying devil you are? Eh, the thought crossed my mind in my earlier days but I am done with that train of thought. I just thought it better to approach with the weapon out in the open rather than concealed. Might get in slightly less trouble that way. Asher took the gun and put it back in his jacket to put Jessica more at ease. Before...you grabbed your stomach...did you think I was going to kill you? Am I really portrayed as that much of a monster still? He asked, for once his voice sounding hurt.

Jessica expression fell. “No, Asher… I… well… I mean, you did approach me alone, holding a gun, asking me if I was by myself. I-it wasn’t personal, really! Please… don’t take it that way… a girl… a mother… has to be careful…”

Asher nodded, closing his eyes and shaking his head. I am sorry. It seemed I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And if you are truly not lying...well...you have my thanks for the vote of confidence.

“No problem, Asher.” Jessica shrugged. “I mean… you haven’t been around too long. You just need to adjust to certain… social norms, is all. Just… be patient. Your allies will be, too.”

Asher nodded. I...guess I should consider you an ally already then, my first. The operative opened his eyes and he nodded to Jessica. Now if you excuse me, I have a top secret facility to break back into. Wish me luck. Asher bolted down the street, back down the way he had first come down, kicking up snow behind him and his coat flapping behind him. Jessica chuckled as she watched him go, silently wishing him luck as she continued on her way.

As Asher ran, the snow began to pick up again, this time the snow coming harder and faster than the flurry before. The operative had to constantly wipe his face of the snow, hoping to make good time back to the base. He went over plan after plan of how he would sneak in, but each time his plan fell apart when he realized that there was always a flaw. Finally, he came upon the familiar spot where Bull had dropped him off and continued to run, feeling very little fatigue due to his enhanced body. Asher had to stop though, at first almost not noticing but slowing to a walk as on the other side of the street he noticed the familiar looking car.

When Asher finally stopped, the car lights came on and it made an illegal U-turn, though no one was around to see, and it stopped next to Asher. He got in, closing the door and thankful for the warmth.

“You took longer than I expected.” Bull noted, waiting as Asher buckled himself back in, taking the pistol Asher had relinquished but refused the money. “You keep it. I have no use for it.”

Asher nodded, putting it in his coat pocket. How did you know?

“I didn’t. I had just hoped our conversation was enough to bring you back.” Bull put the car in drive and started forward down the road. “Did you enjoy your night out?”

You could say that...it is definitely not the worse day I have ever had.

Bull nodded. “Good. I want you to remember this night. You are in control of your own path Asher. Whether it is good, bad, or some ambiguous one in between, your choices will shape the man you become. Tonight, you took a step on the right path.”

Asher smirked and shook his head How could you possibly know that?

“I don’t, but the fact I made you fully smirk shows it.” Bull laughed, briefly glancing at Asher as the neared the headquarters and returned his gaze to the road.

Asher shook his head again, the smirk disappearing. He rest his forehead in his hand as he supported it against the window, not long smiling himself and silently laughing along with the big man.
 

ZombieSplitter53

Game Master
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May 27, 2013
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Dahlexpert & ZombieSplitter53
Old Frienemies


XSDF HQ, Moscow Russia
Office of Morrigan O’Brien
Jan. 15th, 2019

Ashley went to Morrigan office, something she wass used to by now. When she saw Peggy, Ashley asked, “Hey Peggy, is Morrigan still on base? Or did she leave?”

Peggy looked up from her desk, smaller than the one she had before, but if this affected her at all, it didn’t show it. “No, she plans to stick around for a while longer. She’s inside, if you’d like to speak with her.”

“Great.” Ashley turned around and talked to her family. “Now, can you guys manage without me for just a little bit longer?”

“Ash, we lasted without you for nine months. What’s a few minutes?” Ashley’s brother said.

“Very well, come on Cassia.” Ashley opened the door and saw Morrigan still working on paperwork. “Wow, I would think after this war was over, you would have burned most of your paperwork.”

“No such luck, I’m afraid. But if it is any consolation, there is far less of it then before.” Morrigan pushed her papers to the side, and smiled, “What can I do for you, Ashley?”

“Well, I would like to put in my two weeks notice. Though I’m sure you're not surprised by that.”

Morrigan shook her head. “No, I’m not.” She smiled down at Cassia. “You have your family to take care of, don’t you?”

“Yeah, and I’m glad you understand. and there’s some people I want to introduce you to Morrigan. If you promise not to lose your mind.”

Morrigan chuckled. “I… think I can handle myself, Ashley, after everything I’ve seen. Go ahead.”

“Very well then, Cassia would you mind bringing them in.” Cassia nodded her head and asked her family to come in. Three woman and two men entered the room. “Morrigan, meet my family. Well, my inner council if you would.”

Morrigan nodded. “It is nice to meet you all. I’m sure you’ve been busy.”

“You have no idea.” A short haired man stepped forward to Morrigan. “First and foremost, thank you for taking care of my sister and my niece for this long. By the my name is Axton, it’s a privilege to meet you, Ma’am.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” Morrigan responded. “And she took care of us just as much.”

Axton looked back. “Now, instead of everyone introducing themselves. let me just introduce everyone. The man with the black hair and soldier’s posture is John Mustang, he’s more military than the rest of us. The blond woman next to me is my wife, Amy, and the red headed chick is Mustangs wife Carian.” The people that Axton introduced, the woman bowed their heads and Mustang gave Morrigan a salute.

Morrigan bowed her head. “It is nice to meet you all… especially under much more peaceful circumstances.”

“Well, that worked out better than I expected.” Ashley looked back at the door . “Oh boy. Cassia bring the other one,” Ashley said with concerned.”Morrigan, do you have a gun on you right now?”

Morrigan’s eyes widened a bit, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. “Aye. That I do…”

“Well then, this should be interesting.”Ashley looked at Cassia. “Cass, when you get her, wait outside.” Cassia brought in a white haired woman with red eyes, giving Morrigan a evil-wicked smile. “What’s up red? It’s been a while.” Scarlet said, looking at Morrigan.

The former Commander tensed up a bit. “That, uh… that serum wore off, huh?” Her hand slowly moved under her desk. “And I… see you’re still alive and kicking.”

“Indeed. You should know, the crazy ones always seem to survive in these kinds of situations.” Scarlet sees Morrigan moving her hand. “Alright, before you bring out that gun, relax. I’m just here to talk to you nothing more.”

Morrigan gave her a frank look. “If your memory is truly back, I hope you’ll recall that, in our last ‘talk’, you threatened to kill me, my guards, and as many people as possible before we could take you down. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit… concerned.”

“I also remember you drugging me first, before I made that threat. But that’s in the past. Look, I came here, not to kill you or anyone here. I came here to apologize to you, for my behavior during my time here.”

Morrigan gave Ashley a skeptical look, and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, and reached into one of her drawers, pulling out a bottle of whiskey and a set of glasses. “Come. Have a drink with me.”

“I’m fine with that.” Scarlet said. Ashley's family grabbed some chairs, and grabbed some of the drinks “So, back to what I was saying Red, I’m sorry for my behavior for my first time here. I’m pretty sure I took years off of your life for my 2 month here.” Scarlet looked at the drink “Yeah, you couldn't have drugged this, you didn't have the time or know I was coming.”

Morrigan chuckled. “Well… who knows. You could have spooked me so bad, I could have had this waiting the whole time. Or maybe someone read the future. Have a lot of psychics running around now.” She took a quick shot to show she was only kidding.

Scarlet also downed the drink. “Nah, after our last encounter, I’m sure everybody thinks you killed me. And with the white hair that would only confirm it.”

Mustang looks at Scarlet. “Honestly Scar, can you control your blood lust for the safety of the earth?”

“Mustang, you’ve seen me on normal bounty missions, what makes you think I would start here? Though, after what Ashley’s been telling us with the Council, they probably brought me in hoping I would drive Morrigan insane and she’d either kill me or I’d kill her.”

“Well, I’d hope they hadn’t turned on me that early,” Morrigan muttered into her drink. She smiled at Scarlet, and said, “Well… believe it or not, I am glad to see you’re alive. Honestly, I always figured you’d be gunned down in some crazy attack against the aliens.”

Ashley smiled at Morrigan “Well, you’ll be happy to hear that Scarlet has taken less risks. Hell, ever since she joined this program, even for a short time, she’s actually been using her limited training to good use.”

Scarlet’s face started to turn red in embarrassment, a sight Morrigan was surprised to see. “Shut up Ash. I’m an explosives expert, and I enjoy blowing stuff up. And with the first wave of aliens that was a good plan. But when they got bigger, things became complicated.”

“I’ll say,” Morrigan said. “Hulking brutes, psychic psychos, walking death machines, zombie making bugs… a nightmare.” Morrigan downed the rest of her drink. “But it is over now. This is the time for healing, to get back what was taken from us. To push for the future.”

Ashley downed her drink. “Yeah, that’s going to be painful. I mean the atmosphere alone has more damage with all the fires. Sigh, that’s going to be a pain.” Ashley looked at Morrigan. “Sigh, well Morrigan I want to say to you... since X-COM will still be around, I want to say I will not be coming back, though the rest of my family is different story.”

Axton downed his drink “Yeah, we want to tell stories about this for the next few generations of our family. Hell, Ashley alone has inspired all our current family members to join your program.”

Morrigan nodded. “That is good to hear. As soon as the XSDF gets off the ground, we plan to open a branch in the U.S. I look forward to…” She paused for a moment. “Well, the organization will look forward to seeing you there. I, on the other hand… will likely be gone by then.”

Ashley gives Morrigan a smile. “Yeah, I figured you’d leave. Hell, if the XSDF is made ten years from now, Brigid can join it, and of course, her bodyguard Cassia.” Ashley looks at her family “Guy’s it’s about time you guys left we have a lot of things to do after this.”

Axton takes one last shot of the whiskey. “Yeah, we need to be sober to get back home. Goodbye Morrigan. It was an honor.”

Mustang got up and headed to the door. “Yeah, take care of yourself, Commander.”

Scarlet also got up and looked back at Morrigan. “Nice job with the place red, it actually looks more like a base instead of some underground bunker. But you take care of yourself, Morrigan and next time, I’m paying for drinks, got it?” Scarlet said with a smile.

“I’ll hold you to that, Scarlet,” Morrigan answered. “Good luck.”

“Back to you red.” Ashley look back at Morrigan and smiled. “Well, nice to see you and Scarlet got along. You know, without killing each other.”

Morrigan grinned. “I'm not one to hold a grudge.”

“It wasn't you I was worried about, Scarlet holds grudges. but shockingly she was fine with you.”

Morrigan nodded. “Yeah…” She sighed, leaning back and closing her eyes. “I’ll be glad when this all over. Peace seems a pipe dream… but one I long for.”

“Yeah, no kidding, sigh. Hey Morrigan, you going back to Ireland?”

Morrigan shrugged. “Maybe… probably. I miss it. Even if I lived in America for a large chunk of my life, nothing beats the Emerald Isle in my eyes.”

“Yeah, I was planing on going back to Alaska, even though it’s a frozen wasteland, it’s still home. Though I need to change some things with the tribe, get a new power source, fuel, weapons, and transport. Sigh I have a lot of work to do.”

“We both do. But the worse of it is over.” Morrigan raised her glass. “To our families. May we both strive to give them what they deserve, and make the best damn world we can for them out of the ashes of this war.”

“And also to our friends that we made in this war, may the all live happier lives. Lives that, hopefully, they will enjoy and bring humanity even more hope the we already did.” Ashley downed the drink. “Thank you, Morrigan, for the last 10 months. It was enjoyable. Felt good to use my trigger finger again. I wish you and Brigid the best wishes, and if you want to you can come visit us. You will always be welcomed in the Van Dam family.”

Morrigan nodded. She stood up and offered Ashley her hand. “Of course I’ll visit. It was a pleasure, Ashley. Good luck.”
 

ZombieSplitter53

Game Master
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May 27, 2013
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MarineAvenger & ZombieSplitter53
"This isn't Goodbye..."


XSDF HQ, Moscow Russia
Outside the Medical Facility
Jan. 16th, 2019

Elizabeth walked outside, pulling her coat over herself tightly and trudging down the path and shivering and blowing out her mouth, watching her frozen breath rise in the air. Her time in Sweden had not adjusted her to the cold but she enjoyed winter none the less. As she neared the entrance of the base, Elizabeth stopped and smiled as she saw a familiar looking green-haired girl walked past the guards. Hiding behind a tree, Ellie took a handful of snow and compacted it into a ball, checking to see if her target was still there before throwing the snowball and hitting Jessica on the side of the neck.

“Hey!” The tone in her voice said it was actually Alexia as she reached down to pack a snowball of her own. “Who’s asking for it? I’m gonna nail you right in the face!”

Elizabeth reached down in her hiding spot, packing some more snow together and waiting for Alex’s back to face her before she threw it again and hid. As the scientist turned around, the snowball hit her directly in the face.

“Ey!” Alexia stomped over to the hiding spot, packing even more snow between her hands. “Kogda ya tebya, ya idu , chtoby pokhoronit' svoyu golovu v snegu!” (When I get you, I'm going to bury your head in the snow!)

There was snickering from behind the tree, restrained like the person was trying their best not to laugh. “I didn’t know you learned Russian that fast.” Elizabeth stepped up, smiling wide. “Hi Alex!”

Alexia grinned. “Oh… Ellie. Thank God, I’m glad it’s you. You know why?”

Ellie’s smile dropped and a determined grin took her smile away. Squinting her eyes, she warned, “You know I grew up in snow, right? You really want to do this?”

Alex narrowed her own eyes, and finally dropped the snow ball, shrugging. “Prekrasno. YA prosto pribit' vas, kogda vasha spina okazalos'.” She walked over to Ellie, and wrapped her arms around her, the size of her own belly making it awkward to wrap her arms around the young doctor, despite her small size. “I… I was afraid I wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye… I wasn’t sure if one of us would leave first.”

“Well, as luck has it I was called down to help with some of the accommodating of some of the doctors. Might as well since I will be leaving soon. But uh...Alex, I have something to tell you.” She said, her tone sad and serious.

Alex stepped back, tightly holding Elizabeth’s shoulders. “What… what is it? Is something wrong?”

Elizabeth nodded. Pulling Alex close in a strong embrace, she began to cry a little. “Are you sure you want to know?”

Alexia slowly nodded. “Please, Ellie. You… you’re scaring me a little.”

Ellie nodded, laying her head on the side of Alex’s and whispering, “Got...you…” Elizabeth shoved a handful of snow down the back of her friend’s coat, pulling away from Alex and running in the opposite direction, laughing to herself as she ran for her life.

Alex pulled at her coat to let the snow fall out, and glared at Elizabeth as she stomped her foot. “That… that wasn’t funny, Ellie! I was… I was worried you were in trouble one something!” She turned back, and started stomping back towards the HQ.

“Oh, don’t be like that...Alex!” Ellie turned around and ran after her friend, stopping as she looked around and lost sight of the scientist, scratching her head and wondering where her friend had gone. “Damn it…”

Jumping out of an alleyway and using all over her strength, Alexia hefted a large discarded trash can lid and dumped enough snow to turn Ellie’s hair white. She fell back into the snow, laughing uncontrollably. “Hehehehe… I… I told you… I’d… nail you… when you back was turned… gotta learn Russian, my… hehehehe… short snowwoman friend…”

Elizabeth shivered, brushing the snow from her black hair and shaking her head of any remaining. “Grr….damn it Alex, if you weren’t holding two people inside of yourself I would so jump on you!” A small amount of frost trickling down her back, Ellie danced in place, slapping her back trying to get the annoyance out. “And this was my only pair of clothes! Now I am damp all over…” Grabbing the trash lid herself, she scooped a large amount of snow from a shoveled snowbank and over turned it over her friend’s face when she wasn’t looking on the ground. “Ha!”

Alexia only giggled, wiping away a tear before it could freeze to her cheek. She slowly pushed herself up, and smiled at Ellie. “I… never had a snowball fight before. But I… could think of a better person… to…” Her expression fell, and was obviously forcing herself to kept the smile on her face. “I’m glad I could… h-have one with my… my best friend…”

Elizabeth shook her head, dropping in the snow beside Alex and wrapping her arms around the scientist and having to wipe her eyes to stop crying. “I...I loved our time together. I loved the memories we have, I love your sister, I love you! So...so much…”

Alex squeezed her back, slowly nodding her head. “This… this isn’t… goodbye, right? O-only… until next time? We’ll… see each other again… won’t we?”

“Of course this isn’t goodbye! I could never live without my sister…”

Alexia sniffed, shuddering slightly. “And… and you’re going to be Mikhail’s godmother, right? A-and… and how can you be a proper godmother if your aren’t there to to spoil him? You… you’re going to be there for every big point in their lives, even if I have to pay for your plane tickets myself.”

“I will do my best Alex...I promise. And if you and Modya ever get tired of the cold, you can always come to the warm beach. We are going to get a big house so be sure to bring everyone.”

Alexia nodded. “Of course.” She finally pulled away from Elizabeth, wiping her eyes. “You… you were the first person to… to treat me like an individual… even though you found out about it before you really knew me. I… I’ll never forget you, you know. No matter how far we’re apart… no matter how long…”

The doctor squeezed as hard as she could, crying even harder as she smiled widely. “Alex...there really is something I need to tell you...both of you…”

Alexia nodded, and chuckled a bit. “Alright… but if this is another joke…”

Elizabeth shook her head and chuckled along with Alex. “No, this is serious this time. I thought both you and Jess would like to hear...before I left.”

Alexia closed her eyes for a few moments. When she opened her eyes, she nodded and said, “Alright, she’s awake. Go ahead.”

“I wanted to wait...I really did but…” Elizabeth cried even harder. “I know...I know what my baby is!”

Alexia’s eyes widened a bit, and wrapped her hands around Ellie’s. “Are you kidding? That just means you can make earlier plans! Clothes, toys, books.” She raised a finger. “None of that gender-qualifying crap though. So… boy? Girl? And does Desmond know?”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yeah, he was there when it happened. It was...sort of by accident but we found out...it is a boy! His name is going to be Cayden!”

Alexia laughed excitedly, clapping her hands together. “That… that’s wonderful! I… wait… by accident? What do you mean? Did you… peek at the wrong file?”

“No, we went in for a scan and the doctor accidently said the word ‘boy’. It was spoiled for us but in all honesty, it was killing me not knowing. I am actually relieved.”

Alexia nodded. “I’m so…” She paused, then said, “We are so happy for you. And I’m sure Desmond is excited to have a little boy to look up to him.”

“The poor man nearly had a heart attack I think….I swear the look on his face...it was priceless.” Ellie squeezed her friend’s hands and began to cry again.

Alexia wiped Ellie’s eyes, though she started to cry herself. “Please, Ellie… you should be happy! P-please… don’t cry…”

“I-I know...but this snow is so damn co-old...and I am damp, and can I please stay with you tonight! I want one last sleepover…”

Alexia giggled lightly. “Of course.” She stood up, and helped Elizabeth stand. She wrapped an arm around her, guiding her towards the headquarters and rubbing her arms. “We’ll tell ghost stories, and share secrets, and talk about all our plans for the kids. That way, we’ll have plenty of time to talk about our time apart when next we meet.”

‘Y-Yeah...do you have some clothes I could wear…? I m-mean...you lost your pants last time so…”

Alexia laughed, and nodded. “Of course. I have several you can squeeze into… tomorrow morning, of course. For now… two girls, in a warm room with some hot cocoa… some pants… it is gonna be great.”
 
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DarkGemini24601

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Sep 25, 2014
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Texas, United States
MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601: “Goodbye, South Munster”

XCOM Headquarters Aboard the ‘Arkbird’
1:00 P.M., January 9th, 2019
Main Hangar

As Desmond and Elizabeth entered the hangar, the ex-soldier couldn’t help but look back from where he came from, wondering if he was really doing the right thing moving on so quickly. He quickly shook his head, kneeling down and looking through his bag in case he had left anything behind. I made up my mind a long time ago. No sense in saying goodbye to Elene and all of them. It wouldn’t be goodbye. Ellie called out for him to come on and he just waved his hand for a moment. His eyes fell on the bone figurine laying on top of his things before he closed the zipper of the duffel. “She won’t miss me that much.” He threw the bag over his shoulder and began to walk to the shuttle that would take them down.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to assume,” the scout Colonel said from nearby, walking up with Modya. “Were you planning on leaving without saying farewell?”

“Would it be a bad thing if I said yes?” Desmond turned around and looked at the two, shrugging his shoulders. “Wasn’t really looking forward to this after all.” He put the bag down and looked between Atka and Modya. “A lot of people wanted to say goodbye, I saw as many as I could and it was hell I must say. I pictured leaving being easier.”

Modya chuckled. “Then just focus on the important ones, my friend. We’ve been through enough to at least say goodbye.”

Atka nodded. “And we’re two of a kind, you know. Alpha wolves of red and blue.”

“Good things always come in pairs I guess. I guess you can agree with that statement now, can’t you my Russian friend?”

The rocketeer shook his head. “I’m not quite sure if you mean Jessica and Alexia, or Mikhail and Sasha, you know.”

“Does it matter either way, I say you look pretty lucky. Though I must say both Ellie and Alexia would kill the two of us if we didn’t have a play date every so often so I will be sure to visit often.”

Modya and Atka both raised an eyebrow, exchanging glances. “Whatever might you mean by that, Desmond?” the Inuit woman asked.

“I do not believe he means Elizabeth and Alexia directly,” Modya surmised.

Desmond tilted his head. “Neither of you know? I thought you would have heard at least Modya, Jessica and Alex already know. Elizabeth is pregnant.”

“Must have been something they forgot to mention…” Modya observed, shaking his head. “If you say twins, I am going to wake up in a cold sweat most likely. That, or the aliens will have caused some strange mutation that makes all children come in pairs.”

Desmond chuckled, shaking his head. “No, it is only one. We had wanted to wait to find the gender and she was doing so well but Ellie finally cracked and we know the gender as well.”

Atka’s eyes lit up. “Well, what is it? A boy or a girl?”

“I could tell you…” Desmond crossed his arms with a smug smirk. “But why should I ruin the surprise for you?”

Modya sighed. “I’m not looking forward to the expense of a flight from St. Petersburg to California… you have it easy, Atka.”

Atka smiled. “And no, before people start wondering, I’m not on the pregnant bandwagon. Not really something I want to worry about until the three girls are old enough to function on their own.”

“Oh I have no doubt, but at least you will have the luxury of experience. Me and Modya here have to fly in blind after all.” Desmond flashed his friend a worried look and took a deep breath. “I am halfway from worried to excited and back. Not really sure how much of a parent I will be.”

Modya shrugged. “I had the same worry earlier on, but I think I can handle it. And besides, you had to put up with that energetic blond girl… that counts, right?”

“You had to put up with an energetic green girl and her other half, I think you know the answer there.” Desmond walked forward to Modya, putting a hand on his shoulder and holding out his hand. “We didn’t hang out much but I did enjoy our friendship Modya, I hope you know that.”

The Russian smiled, shaking the former engineer’s hand. “As did I. I’m a bit jealous of Atka; she gets to go home with her entire family and some friends from XCOM. Me, I’m going to be all in Russia with just the family… though I may pay Nika a visit or two.”

“I will be sure to at least call.” He affirmed, turning to Atka and looking at her, holding out his arms. “Does a handshake really do us justice?”

The scout shook her head. “Not at all,” Atka agreed, hugging him. “Good luck with Elizabeth and everything.”

“And good luck with the clean up and your family.” Desmond squeezed her tightly and let go. “Now I am going to have to miss you.” He said with a faint smile.

“Well, you feel our pain, what can I say?” the Inuit scout explained, stepping back and offering a brief salute, Modya following suit. “Farewell, Desmond,” Atka said simply.

“At least for now,” Modya added.

He returned the gesture. “Goodbye my friends. Hopefully we will never have to meet for similar circumstances again.” Desmond reached down, grabbing his duffel bag and throwing over his shoulder. As he stepped onto the loading ramp, he turned around. “It is a boy. His name is going to be Cayden!” He shouted, waving a final time before turning around and disappearing into the craft.
 

Adrammalech

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DarkGemini24601 and Adrammalech: “Bygones”
Novyy Meditsina Klinika
Moscow, Russian Federation
January 16, 2019 - 1:15 PM

Emma walked along the hallway of the hospital, giving a sidelong glance down a story to the snow-covered terrain below. Outside and inside, it was peacefully quiet, save for the slight squeaking of an empty medical bed as it was rolled past her to the elevator. The shadow operative paused at the door to the room she had come to, wondering how to approach this particular subject.

For about three minutes she contemplated a plan, but only came up with the conclusion that no plan would seem appropriate. Perhaps cautious honesty then, Emma decided, doing her best (and failing) to ignore the contradiction in that course of action. Sighing at length, Elene’s doppelganger knocked lightly on the door, waiting for a response.

Emily looked up at the door, surprised to have a visitor rather than a doctor. “Come in,” she said loudly, clicking a button on the bed control to put her into a more upright position.

With a slight creak, the door opened, and Emma stepped in a few paces. “Hello, Ms. Fi-” the shadow operative bit her lip. “...Emily.”

“Oh, hey,” Emily replied, her tone not betraying her surprise. “Are you…lost?”

The clone involuntarily raised an eyebrow. “No… I came to, well, thank you formally for saving my life in the battle with Phobos’s psionic manifestation,” Emma stated.

“Oh, I see. Well, I appreciate that, but I don’t need any formalities. I’m sure you would’ve done the same for me in that situation…or I hope so, at least,” Emily chuckled nervously.

Emma opened her mouth to reply, but paused for a moment before saying anything. “Of course,” the shadow operative decided on, knowing that was a better course than ‘most likely’ or ‘possibly’. “How is your recovery coming along?”

“The doctors say very quickly, but getting out of bed is never fast enough for me,” she mused, looking down at some of the monitoring equipment. “I can stay out of the room for two or three hours now though, so maybe release is coming soon.”

“One can hope, I suppose.” Emma tapped her foot for a moment. “I should hope we do not part on terms of utter animosity. The incident with Jimenez is in the past. Nick has moved on, and we…” Emma hesitated. “...I… should as well.”

“I’m glad, my frustration has dulled as well, and it doesn’t make much sense to keep it going when we were fighting side by side,” Emily smiled, reaching her hand out. “So…let bygones be bygones?”

With a curt nod, Emma walked over, shaking Emily’s hand gently. “Indeed. There is much to do now, and the Exalts need to be looking to the future.”

“Sticking with the XSDF, or some other plan?” Emily asked.

“Ah… we had not shared the plan with you.” In a stately manner, Emma responded, “Elene plans to establish a company using the funds currently in Lusett’s accounts. Exalt Enterprises will have initial headquarters in Australia, Canada, and Switzerland, and we plan to make it thrive on many of the new technologies we now have access to. We’ll be supporting the XSDF in the process, of course.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Emily smiled, “I’m glad we’re continuing to work together…or, both groups, that is. We certainly got a lot done.”

“Indeed… humbling a race with a god-complex, beating back an invading force with technological superiority over us, adapting said technology… killing Viktor.” The shadow operative smirked briefly at the last mention. “I am happy to take on a role that does not involve risking my life constantly. Though the others are lucky in that they do not have a competitor like Cross… I have yet to surpass my tutor.”

“You and I both on not risking our lives, although I imagine you’ll be working with more dangerous chemicals than me,” Emily smirked. “If you spend a lot of time with Cross, who knows, we might cross paths again with Sunny working there.”

“We’ll see…” Emma said. “But regardless, I wish you luck with… what was his name? Jack Stewart?” The clone shook her head. “That is one part of being human I have yet to experience, though all things come in due time.”

“Indeed, there’s someone for everyone,” she replied. “And thank you.”

Emma spun on her heels, turning back to the door and glancing over her shoulder. “Just try to avoid frying your brain further by trying to control the engines of a country-sized starship. Even with my implants and Avanix, I am not that foolish.” With a smile that was half lighthearted and half mocking, the shadow operative disappeared around the corner.

Emily smiled and shook her head. “You stay safe too,” she mumbled, grabbing the remote and lowering herself back into a recline.
 

ZombieSplitter53

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Frostlich1228 & ZombieSplitter53
“Final Farewells and Future Ideas: Part One”


X-COM Headquarters, The Arkbird
Room of Ammelia Cross
Jan. 16th, 2018

Ammelia sat quietly in a small metal chair, looking out at the beautiful blue ball that was planet Earth as it rotated ever so slowly. She had seen the sight when she went to her room the first time she came back from surgery, but the view had never stopped being nothing short of breathtaking.

“Not bad, huh?” Asked a voice behind her. “You’re seeing a sight that… that few other did before now. One that many could only dream of seeing.”

Ammelia recognized the voice as Jessica’s and quickly turned around, “I never even knew the earth was so many different colors… Science always made me picture it as a… big dull rock…”

“Yeah…” Jessica stepped next to Ammelia, looking down at the big, blue planet beneath them. “It… it might sound petty… or like a waste of resources, but I lied about leaving some important documents up here, ones only I could access. There were two things I couldn’t leave for St. Petersburg without seeing one last time. This view was one of them.”

“And the other one was me?” Ammy put together, standing up slowly and holding her hands together.

Jessica slowly nodded. “I… Alex… and myself too, in a manor of speaking… just said goodbye to Elizabeth. It was hard… Alexia cried more then I’ve ever known her to cry. It… makes me wonder if I have any tears left for this… because the thought of saying goodbye to you rips at the chest like a knife.”

Ammelia quickly walked up and wrapped her arms around Jessie, obviously having enough tears to cry herself. “I’m going to miss you more than anything...”

Jessica sobbed softly, running her hands through Ammy’s hair. “I… I’m sorry if I… wasn’t always there for you when… when you needed me. Because… because you were always there for me…”

“But… You were always there for me too… If not in person, then in spirit…” Ammy replied, “Oh… Why do you have to live so far away… Couldn’t you and Modya just live in America?”

Jessica shook her head. “I… wish we could. But Modya has a lot of work to do here, and I… I couldn’t leave him. But I… I promise you, I’ll come visit you. This isn’t the end, Ammy. I won’t allow it.” She chuckled a bit. “A-after all… when we first met, I was just some… weirdo that idolized you, but you gave me a chance. You’d be crazy to think I won’t keep this friendship alive.”

“W-Where are you planning to work after you move? Do you have an idea?” Ammelia asked slowly.

Jessica thought about the samples Eva had given her, and nodded. “Yeah. As soon as I’m comfortable leaving Sasha and Mikhail, I have work to do with what we learned about genetics, and medical breakthroughs. What about you?”

“I plan on going back to Cross tech with Buniq, I’ll probably join some kind of reserve program just in case XSDF needs my help again.” Ammelia answered.

Jessica nodded. “I… I’m happy for you and Buniq. I mean it when I say that… that you two work great together. And I’m glad your father was so accepting. You… you deserve to be happy, after all you’ve been through.”

“I am happy… I’m happy this war is finally over… Even if you have to leave, it certainly won’t be goodbye.” Ammy replied, looking Jessica in the eyes, “How would you feel if my dad expanded Cross Tech to Russia? We could really use your knowledge of genetics.”

Jessica nodded, and smiled broadly. “Of course! I… I-I would love that! And… who knows? If that happened, I would get to come and visit the American location… and you… all the time!”

Ammelia smiled with her, “Really!? I’m going to make sure to visit the new location all the time! I can’t wait to see your little babies too! I wonder if they’ll have your lovely green hair?”

Jessica laughed nervously. “Yeah, um… sorry to say, but my… hair color isn’t natural. No one’s hair… is…” She blushed slightly, remembering Ammelia’s unfamiliarity with colors.

“Oh… I never knew you dyed your hair…” Ammelia replied a little awkwardly, “Wait… What do you mean no one’s is? No one’s hair is natural? That doesn’t sound right…”

Jessica giggled. “No, no… I mean… shades of black, grey, white, brown, blond, and red are the only natural ones. I’m afraid no one normally has green, blue, orange, yellow, or purple… at least outside of television and movies.”

“Huh… That seems a little… Boring.” Ammy giggled.

“Yeah… it is.” Jessica shrugged. “Maybe we’ll meet some aliens that aren’t as boring.” She wrapped an arm around Ammelia’s shoulder. “Come on. I have a while until I have to leave. Let’s go have lunch together one last time… until we see each other again, of course.”

“Of course,” The ex-sniper responded cheerfully, “Let’s see if we can get something special, not that gross cafeteria food they normally give us.”
 

ZombieSplitter53

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“Final Farewells and Future Ideas: Part Two”

“Arkbird”, Primary Gym (modified for human use)

Ayame stormed into the gym, fists clenched in anger. “Mary!” she yelled before she even found her. “You just had, like… half of your bones fixed! MELD or not, why aren’t you in bed!?”

“‘Cause eh’m ‘etter now. An’ ‘member ‘ast ‘ime when ye’ ‘alled meh ‘ubby? Wouldn’t ‘ant ‘at te’ ‘appen ‘gain, right?”(Because I’m better now. And remember last time when you called me chubby? Wouldn’t want that to happy again, right?) Mary replied, turning from a cushioned black mat on the floor.

Ayame sigh. “Don’t you… turn this…” She shook her head, and sat down next to Mary. “I… I already feel bad enough about… how useless I was during that fight. Please, I… if you hurt yourself again, I…”

Mary’s face turned a little more serious, “Ye’ ‘id plenty in ‘at ‘ight… ‘specially ‘sidering ‘at yer’ ‘ot eh’ ‘ion… Dun’t ‘eat ye’self up o’er it...”(You did plenty in that fight… Especially considering that you’re not a psion… Don’t beat yourself up over it…)

Ayame let out another long sigh. “I… yeah… I guess. At least you were only half crushed, right? Desmond was only half fried… Atka only had to replace one lung…” She smiled. “I… I’m just sounding the same, aren’t I?”

“Yeh’, no point en’ mopin’ ‘bout ‘et. We won, in’nt we? Weh’ ‘owed ‘at wrinkly bastard not te’ fuck with X-Com!” (Yeah, no point in moping about it. We won, didn’t we? We showed that wrinkly bastard not to fuck with X-Com!) Mary answered, trying to cheer her up.

It seemed to work, Ayame’s smile widening. It faltered just a bit, and she nervously scratched her chin. “So, uh… w… w-what… did you… plan to do… now, Mary?”

“Hmm… Eh’ ‘on’t ‘eally know… Dun’t ‘xactly ‘ave te’ go back te’ th’ army ‘ow ‘at eh’ ‘ot my paycheck… ‘ould buy eh’ house… Maybe start eh’ ‘fessional ‘ooker ‘ollege… You?”(Hmm… I don’t really know… Don’t exactly have to go back to the army now that I got my paycheck… Could buy a house… Maybe start a professional hooker college… You?) Mary replied, making a little hard to tell if she was being sarcastic or not.

Ayame’s eyes widened a bit. “Oh… I… was planning to… move back to America. I… promised to help Sunny with bodyguard duty, and Atka with rebuilding in Canada, so… probably New York. Always… wanted to… t-to try moving there…”

“New ‘ork, huh? ‘ell ‘en, eh ‘ight ‘ave te’ ‘ove my plans ‘round je’ eh’ tad… Prob’ly put off ‘arting ‘at ‘ollege… Enly’ if ye’ ‘ant me ‘ere, eh’ ‘ourse.” (New York, huh? Well then, I might have to move my plans around just a tad… Probably put off starting that college… Only if you want me there, of course.) Mary replied, smirking slightly.

Ayame chuckled nervously. “Well, I… I-I… I don’t know, I…” She rubbed the back of her neck. “I mean, we… we make a… pretty good team. And… and we… make each other happy… r-right?”

“‘Ell, ye’ ‘ertainly ‘ake me ‘appy… An’ ‘sides, wit’ Vee mov’in ‘own to ‘tralia, eh’ ‘an’t ‘ave my en’ire ‘arem ‘all ‘part ‘ow ‘an I?” (Well, you certainly make me happy… And besides, with Vee moving down to Australia, I can’t have my entire harem fall apart now can I?) The gunner’s smirk widened further.

“Yeah…” Ayame rubbed her arms together. “A… actually, I… I have a bit of a confession to make, Mary…”

“Hmm… ‘at’s ‘at?”(Hmm… What’s that?) She asked, stretching a little.

“I… I’m glad you said you’d like to come with me, because I… I was going to ask you to do so, anyway.” Ayame slouched her shoulders a bit. “It might… upset you to hear this…. and it might sound selfish of me, but… but I, um…” Ayame sighed, struggling to put it into words.

Mary simply gave her a ‘go on’ face, but kept a neutral expression.

Ayame placed her hands on Mary’s shoulders. “I… I don’t want you going back to that life! There… there is nothing for you back there, and… and you’ll be happy with me! I… I promise you, you don’t… need it! Please, I… I… I love you, Mary, I can’t… let you…”

“Eh’ dun’t ‘ow… London ‘es pretty great… et’s’ ot… Smog.. an’...” (I don’t know…. London is pretty great… It’s got… Smog… and…) Mary couldn’t hold it in any longer and simply bust out laughing, “‘Id ye’ ‘eally ‘ink eh’d e’er ‘oose London o’er you!? Eh’ ‘mean, ‘et isn’t ‘xactly eh’ ‘aradise!” (Did you really think I’d ever choose London over you!? I mean, it isn’t exactly paradise!)

Ayame took a deep breath, nodding her head. “Good, but… but it isn’t only the country. I… like your flirtatious side, I do. It is a part of who you are. But, I… I want you to move away from the place that forced you into prostitution, and… maybe lead you to be more… I… can’t put it any other way. More… mine…”

“‘ot ‘oing te’ lie, ye’ ‘ound eh’ ‘ittle ‘sessive ‘ight ‘bout now, an’ ‘if ye’ ‘ad ‘old me ‘at when eh’ ‘irst met ye’... Eh’ prob’ly ‘ould’ve je ‘alled ye’ nuts an’ ‘eft… But… Eh’ ‘ove ye’ too.. But eh’ ‘dun’t ‘ant te’ ‘op being… casual-ish…” (Not going to lie, you sound a little possessive right about now, and if you had told me than when I first met you… I probably would’ve just called you nuts and left… But… I love you too... But I don’t want to stop being… casual-ish…) Mary explained.

Ayame sighed, but nodded. “I… I know, Mary. And I have faith that… if we spend time together, one day, you might…” She shook her head. “But… but one thing at a time.” She wrapped an arm around Mary, and leaned her head against Mary’s. “Just… come with me to America. We’ll be together, you’ll get to see Ammy whenever you want, and will be close to most of our other friends. You’ll love it.”

“Eh’ ‘ink eh’ ‘ill…”(I think I will…) She smiled kissing her gently, before speaking up, “But if ye’ ‘ask me te’ ‘ave eh ‘id wit’ ye’ an’ buy an’ SUV eh’m drawing th’ ‘ine!” (But if you ask me to have a kid with you and buy an SUV I’m drawing the line!)

Ayame laughed. “Nah, I think I’d like to hold off on kids, at least for now. How about… a puppy and a Hummer?”

“Make ‘at eh’ ‘izard and eh’ Jeep, an’ you’ve got yer’elf eh’ deal…”(Make that a Lizard and a Jeep, and you’ve got yourself a deal…) She replied, putting her arms on her hips exaggeratedly.

“Heh… deal.” Ayame shrugged. “With those lizard men in human clothing, I bet we can get one pretty cheap.”

Mary giggled a little, “We’ll ‘ame ‘im Bubbles, ye’ ‘ow, ‘or irony’s sake.” (We’ll name him Bubbles, you know, for irony’s sake.)
 

Frostlich1228

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Frostlich1228 and DarkGemini24601: “Radiance of Dawn”

New York City, United States of America
0700 Hours, January 16th, 2019
Atop the roof of the Cross Technologies Tower

Dimly illuminated by small lights along the railing of the rooftop, Ammelia and Buniq sat near the center of the cool, flat metal roof. Buniq had a coat wrapped around her shoulders, the early morning temperatures not exactly ideal. The morning was still dark, though the sun would rise soon.

Ammelia smiled softly as she sat beside her, wearing the same long bright dress and scarf she wore to the zoo with Emily. “It’s breathtaking isn’t it? I used to come up here with my dad, but I could never see far enough to get the full experience…”

Buniq glanced off into the horizon as well. “I don’t think I’ve really seen it all that much either, outside of simulations… it’s nice to see the real thing.”

“Well… We’re going to be able to see it a lot more after today…” Ammy replied, “Although… Now that I can see straight to the bottom… It kind of makes my heart skip a beat…”

The chryssalid hybrid glanced over at the fencing. “I-I’m not so sure I w-want to look down...t-that far…”

Ammy giggled cautiously, “I do hope that feeling goes away… Might make living here a bit of a challenge…”

“I-I don’t mind being high up…” Buniq protested indignantly. “I j-just worry when people are leaning over the edge… i-it’s a good way to fall off…”

“Maybe… Maybe we should install a net or something.” Ammelia suggested lightheartedly.

Buniq waved her hands in an ‘x’. “T-This isn’t why we came up here… t-talking about people falling is m-morbid.”

“I know.” the former sniper smiled, “Just got a little distracted is all.”

Buniq peered at the horizon, seeing the faintest of light beneath the buildings beyond. “S-Should be soon…”

Ammelia sighed slightly, “You know, I can’t help but think about that day you met me in the hospital… Just after I got my new spine I felt almost empty after being shot down by Jessica… Then you showed up, almost like fate… and I just knew you needed someone who cared about you…”

“Y-you were interested in Jessica?” Buniq asked. “I w-wondered why you were so down then…”

“And Desmond…” Ammy admitted, “I thought I was never going it get it right…”

Buniq grasped Ammelia’s hand lightly, smiling. “I’m glad things w-worked out.”

“I ran what I would say to you over and over in my head like I was studying for a test…” Ammelia gripped her hand as well, “But I guess I just had to be myself…”

Buniq tilted her head slightly. “A-and what did you decide on saying?”

“I decided on our first date to be forward with you. To let you know as fast as I could so nobody would take you from me…” Ammy smiled, “But then I thought you needed more time because you were so new… And then after you were rescued… I just couldn’t play games with you anymore… You deserved to know exactly how I felt.”

“I-I was kind of confused… but J-Jessica gave me really good advice… and here I am,” the Inuit clone responded happily.

“I guess I’ll have to thank Jess the next time I see her… She helped me be with the most wonderful person I know…” Ammelia said, nuzzling Buniq’s arm.

Buniq lifted a finger to the horizon, the faint glow starting to expand, yellow-orange contrasting with the dark blue-violet of the night sky. “It’s starting,” she whispered.

The heir to Cross Tech looked in awe at the swirling colors as the hues mixed, the bright solar star radiating an aura of majesty and grandiosity as it lit up the darkness around it and signalling the start of a new day. Ammelia could only release a hushed “Wow…” as the star continued to rise. Buniq gazed up at the sun, basking in its light for a moment, enjoying the warmth that began to spread as it climbed higher into the horizon.

“I’m so glad to be able to see this with you…” Ammelia spoke softly, “Maybe we could make this a yearly tradition… To celebrate our coming together…”

“I wouldn’t m-mind that,” Buniq decided, closing her eyes for a moment as the sun was almost in full view.

“Maybe we could show this to our kids if we ever decide to have them…” Ammy suggested lovingly, “Maybe in a few years… But until then… I’m perfectly happy with just the two of us…”

“And everyone else… Mary and Ayame, your dad and R-Red… even if she’s a b-bit scary…and Dorian,” Buniq listed off.

“I really do see a bright future for all of us Buniq…” The blonde sniper replied as she took another look at the end of the sunrise, “This is a wonderful new beginning, for all of us.” The hybrid nodded, as the door to the roof opened, and a black-haired woman with reddish-brown eyes peered out.

“I don’t mean to interrupt… but Mr. Cross was wondering if you two wanted to eat dinner with the rest of us,” Scarlet said at length.

Ammelia smiled at her childhood friend, “Of course. We were just… Enjoying the sunrise…” she replied as she planted a kiss of the tip of Bunny’s nose.

The former rocketeer raised an eyebrow. “Just as long as you don’t violate any public indecency laws.”

Buniq reddened slightly. “H-hey…”

“I don’t think that’ll happen until after my sister comes to visit.” Ammy giggled, standing up and offering Buniq her hand. With a sheepish smile, Buniq took it, and got up with Ammy as the sun shined fully, bathing the two in light.
 

Adrammalech

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Adrammalech and ZombieSplitter53: “Hello, Goodbye, I Love You”
Skyranger Landing Pad
Moscow, Russian Federation
February 16, 2019 – 11:00 AM

Emily walked carefully up to the Skyranger, looking up at the giant metallic dropship sadly. She prodded the ramp with her cane, making a metal thump on the walkway into the passenger area. Jack walked up beside her with a few bags and a clipboard, smiling towards her.

“Ready?” he asked.

“I…I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve seen everyone. We should go back,” Emily shook her head. “Sven was pretty busy last I talked to him, and I never saw Desmond before he–”

“I’ve got everyone’s phone numbers and then some,” Jack smiled, “you won’t miss a soul that was on that base.”

“It’s just…it was like home…”

Jack set down his bags and hugged her tightly for a moment. “We’re going to have a new home, and you know it’ll be just as good.”

Emily frowned for a moment, then sighed and nodded. She looked back around the landing pad, waiting for their plus two.

“We can’t take everything, you know,” Alice was saying as they walked up to the Skyranger.

“But… but I put so much work… can’t I take one…” Sunny frowned as she looked back.

“You’ll make another when you start at Cross Tech. Do you really think Emily and Jack want a mini-tank ruining their carpet?” Alice smiled up at the other pair as she stepped into the ship, dropping several heavy bags on the side. “We all set?”

“We’re ready if you are,” Jack nodded.

“Great.” Sunny sighed. “It will be nice to take a little break.” She looked Emily up and down. “You… you’re okay to travel a bit, right?”

“I’m fine, so long as I keep the cane,” Emily replied.

“I made sure her file was transferred to the U.S., but she’s alright to stay out of the hospital now,” Jack continued, “she’ll just have to visit every month. Which she will…”

“Yes, I will,” Emily rolled her eyes.

“Until you are all better, and can jump around and do cartwheels and… so on.” Alice smiled. “I’ll help you work everything out until you’re back to 100%, if you want.”

“You’ll have enough to do with making Sunny’s plane so she can go to NYC,” Emily replied, raising her hand a little. She glanced back at the Skyranger. “You think it’ll look anything like this?”

Alice looked around. “Um… probably a lot smaller. I have limitations to how big I can make it.”

Sunny giggled a bit. “You should have seen her original plans. We talked about something to carry three or four people, and she came back with something that looked like it could bring two dozen people to the moon. We had to scale down quite a bit.”

“Can it still go to the moon at least?” Emily smirked. “That’d be quite a family vacation…”

Alice shrugged. “Still going to make sure it can go beyond the atmosphere. And if we do eventually start making of planet colonies like they want to, the moon would probably be the first place.”

“Alright,” Jack clapped, “we’ve got a long ride ahead, so let’s get rolling.”

Jack pulled Emily’s and his own bags up onto his back and started moving them onto the ship, and Emily stepped up to the foot of the ramp, looking back and offering her free hand to Sunny with a smile. Sunny gladly took, trying to make sure she didn’t put too much burden on Emily. “So… where to first?”

“Straight to New Hampshire,” Jack said, “we should be there before sunset, if everything goes according to plan.”

He made sure everyone was buckled into the seats and then signaled the pilot, who came over on the PA of the craft.

“Beginning takeoff to Concord, New Hampshire, ETA 3 hours, 30 minutes.”

“Concord?” Emily looked over at him. “That’s like a two hour drive away.”

“Trust the coordinator,” Jack said with a flourish.

“If you have to stop in Europe and ask for directions, I’m taking over,” Emily shook her head.

Alice folded her arms and pouted. “Stupid flight regulations. Why can’t we just go straight to where we need to go.”

Sunny laughed. “Because there are rules.” She sat back. “Besides… a nice relaxing car ride sounds nice…”

“True, it has been a while since I had one of those…” Emily thought back. “A year at least, when they brought me to the base.”

The Skyranger rumbled a bit as it lifted off the ground, rising high into the air and reaching its cruising speed in a matter of minutes.

“Kind of weird being in here without all the gear, and the tension,” Emily chuckled, holding onto the straps of her harness.

“Yeah… without all the apprehension.” Sunny looked down. “Without… the worry that you… might not make it back…”

“You never have to worry about that again,” Emily smiled a bit. “At least, not unless there’s another alien invasion…”

“I think they’ll make it without us,” Jack replied. “It’s about time we enjoyed some of our life without worrying about whatever the next struggle is.”

Emily gave a brief nod, but didn’t reply. Alice gave her a worried look, and asked, “Its… It’s been awhile since you had a stable… non-military home… hasn’t it?”

“Quite a while,” Emily nodded. “A few years, at least. I spent a lot of time in a couple bases before XCOM, but I wouldn’t call them home, and yeah, military.”

Sunny rubbed the back of her neck. “Because you… couldn’t get along with your parents, right? I… I wish that wasn’t the case. If… if they treated you like you treat me, I… I bet you would have been able to stay with them.”

“It was complicated,” she replied, “wasn’t really how they treated me, just…the circumstances of the time. I did make a promise to visit them, but I have no idea how I’d go around about that…I’ll get to it when I get to it, I guess.”

Alice tilted her head slightly. “Well… how about now? We’ll be near them… right?”

“Nah,” Emily shook her head. “It’s not the right time.”

Alice scratched her head. “Oh… well, when is the right time?”

Sunny placed a hand on Alice’s shoulder. “This is something personal for Emily. You can’t rush it.”

“Thanks,” Emily nodded. “I’ll get to it eventually…maybe a few months, when I know exactly what to say.”
 

ZombieSplitter53

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Adrammalech and ZombieSplitter53: “Hello, Goodbye, I Love You” - Part Two

The Skyranger rumbled on as they chatted for most of the ride, Jack providing a plethora of Russian vending machine loot and cheap handheld games when things got quieter. After the three hour ride, the Skyranger quickly descended into a private airport in the New Hampshire capital, hitting the ground with a relieving thump. The doors opened and the pilot came over on the PA again, an almost wistful tone in his scratchy declaration.

“Drop successful.”

As Jack began retrieving some of the luggage, Emily tried to manage holding one bag with her cane in the other, but found it threw off her balance too much.

“I’ve got it,” he smiled, grunting as he packed a third bag onto his back.

“Yeah,” Emily sighed. “So…do we have a fancy car waiting for us?”

“If by fancy you mean rental, then yeah,” he chuckled.

After a brief walk across the airport’s walkways, they got to a blue passenger sedan waiting for them, with just enough space in the trunk for most of the luggage. Emily got into the passenger seat and Sunny and Alice into the back, and Jack looked over the meters as he started the car.

“Comfortable back there?” Jack asked, looking into the rear view mirror.

Sunny laughed as she looked at Alice. “I am, but Alice is a bit… fidgety.”

“Well… I’ve never driven in a car before.” She looked around. “Kinda cramped in here. For some reason, I thought it would be bigger.”

“We could get a bigger car ourselves, if it would make you feel better,” Jack offered. “We’ll have to buy a car pretty soon...I’ve never actually driven a civilian truck, now that I think about it.”

Sunny laughed again. “I guess we all have a lot to get used to. I know I will. Never had a solid home for more than a week or two…”

“We’ll figure it out together,” Emily smiled widely, fastening her seatbelt.

Sunny nodded, and Alice leaned back, looking up at the roof of the car. “I can’t wait, personally. Obviously, I’ve never had anything remotely like this. I bet it’ll be fun.”

“Of course it will. Road trip!” Emily shouted excitedly, slapping the dashboard.

Jack pulled out of the airport and weaved through the city streets, the traffic somewhat congested by cars returning home in the wake of the war. Concord was mostly undamaged, but there were some blocks that look like they had been attacked. After a few minutes of following Jack’s meticulously planned and secretive route, they were on I-93, rolling across New Hampshire at 80 mph.

“So, Sunny,” Emily said, looking behind her seat, “what kind of pet do you think we should get?”

“I… I can get a pet?” Sunny asked excitedly.

“Of course, I’ve never had one either, so you can be sure we’re getting one now...or several,” Emily smirked.

“Just…no snakes or anything, please,” Jack added on.

“What about a dog?” Alice asked.

Sunny eyes widened a bit, and she shuddered. “Maybe… a small one. Though, I… I um, always…” She blushed a bit, and looked down at the floor.

“What is it? No need to be nervous,” Emily said.

Sunny looked up a bit. “Well, I… I’ve only ever seen pictures of them, but I’ve always wanted a… a bu… a rabbit.”

“Of course, that’s an easy pet to take care of,” Emily replied. “I was worried you were going to say a Chryssalid or something there…”

“Don’t even joke,” Jack shuddered.

“And we can get a dog too. We almost have to, with the yard we have…”

“No spoilers!” Jack interrupted.

“Oh, fine. But yes to doggies. The question is how many…and what kinds…”

Sunny chuckled nervously. “How… h-how about one at first, and… maybe a… poodle…”

Alice smiled at Sunny. “You liked Atka’s dog. How about one like him. They’re well behaved, and make good guard dogs.”

“That sounds good,” Emily agreed, “it was a husky, right?”

Alice nodded. “Yeah. They’re smart animals. Maybe you could even talk to it, like Atka can.”

“I could try, not sure I’m as…attuned as her, though.”

Sunny tilted her head slightly. “So, uh… you… said something about a yard? A… big one?”

“It’s huge,” Emily grinned.

Sunny grinned back. “Lots of room to move about. Maybe we can build a pool for the summer.”

“Maybe, the winters are going to be a little on the cold side though, since we’re so far north,” Emily noted.

Alice laughed. “Guess that just means we get to… cuddle by the fireplace together. And drink, um…”

“Hot cocoa?” Sunny offered, and Alice nodded.

As they considered the possibilities, Jack pulled through a smaller town and through a variety of suburban streets. As Emily looked back forward, she noticed some of the streets looking familiar.

“We shouldn’t be here already, unless you were really speeding,” Emily scowled. “Is this…”

“I thought we could take a detour,” Jack smirked.

Emily looked around worriedly as Jack turned onto another street, which she now immediately recognized.

“I said it’s not the time,” she said angrily.

“It’s never a good time, but it’s on the way, and you should bury the hatchet.”

“It’s 30 minutes out of the way, I know where our house is.”

“Just…trust me, everything will work out fine.”

Stratham was hardly damaged at all, Avaritia not really having enough time in power to damage any town so small. As Jack stopped the car in front of Emily’s childhood home, it looked again as though it had never changed while she was gone. Emily crossed her arms and glared at him.

“I’m not going over there.”

“You traded letters, didn’t you? You have nothing to be afraid of,” he offered.

Sunny leaned forward. “But, she… she wasn’t expecting to come here, and they aren’t expecting her either. She…”

Alice pushed forward herself. “But what if Emily is never ready? We’re here, right? Why not… go ahead?”

“I…I don’t want to,” Emily said, looking down at her feet. “What if they don’t want me here…”

“They will, they’ll be happy to see you,” Jack replied, taking off his seatbelt and grabbing the door handle. “Come on.”

Emily shook her head. “We shouldn’t.”

Jack got out of the car and looked back in, Emily watching him but not trying to stop him. He walked around the car and through the yard, quickly knocking on the door and waiting.

Sunny frowned. She slipped out of the car, and stepped next to Emily’s door. “I… maybe you should. You’ve come so far. You… you’re braver than this.”

Emily grabbed her cane and opened the door, but only swiveled in place, looking towards Jack and the door with worry in her eyes.

A man in a casual suit with salt-and-pepper hair opened the door, looking at the unfamiliar man with neutrality.

“Mr. Fischer?” Jack asked.

“Yes, that’s me. How can I help you?” he replied.

“My name’s Jack, and…well, I’m engaged to your daughter,” Dallas stated, giving an awkward chuckle as he pulled out one of his XCOM patches from his pocket. “We just finished the greater part of the war against the aliens, and having fought and stood beside her, I can say she is a one-of-a-kind woman.”

Emily’s father looked at him oddly, unsure what his purpose was, or how to take the news that he was dropping on him.

“So I know you had your…setbacks, and your arguments with her. But she’s in that car over there, scared to take the first step,” he gestured behind him, “so I wanted to know if you wanted to see her again, or if we should just get on our way…”
 

Adrammalech

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Dec 9, 2013
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talesoflaranea.com
Adrammalech and ZombieSplitter53: “Hello, Goodbye, I Love You” - Part Three

Robert and Susan silently walked out of their home, looking towards the car and into the passenger seat, an uncharacteristically shy Emily looking back at them inside. Emily’s mother began to cry, and they both tried to beckon her as years of held-back emotions hit them all at once. Emily moved out of the car on her own, weakly jogging forward with her cane, her own eyes tearing up as she did. Her heart swelled with excitement as they wrapped their arms around her, feeling a warmth she had done almost a decade without.

“I’m so sorry,” Emily said meekly.

“It doesn’t matter now, none of it does,” Robert replied.

“We’re just happy you’re okay,” Susan assured, “we were so worried…”

“Wh-why? Why didn’t you just forget me?” Emily asked.

“You are always our daughter, no matter why or how long you’re away.”

“T-thank you…”

Emily pulled away a little and wiped her eyes, trying to compose herself. She turned towards the car and beckoned Sunny and Alice to come over.

The pair stepped forward, Sunny’s shy side showing a bit, as she stood partially behind Alice. They both bowed their heads slightly. “Nice to meet you,” they said in unison.

“This is Sunny, and her friend Alice,” Emily introduced a little shakily. “They’re moving in with us at our new house.”

“We’re moving to Jefferson, a couple hours north of here,” Jack offered.

Emily’s parents looked rapidly between Jack, Sunny, Alice, Emily’s cane, and their car full of luggage, unsure where to even start. They traded glances and Robert gestured towards the house.

“I think we have a lot of questions, but we shouldn’t just stand outside,” he said. “Why don’t we have a dinner together, all of us?”

“I believe we could eat, couldn’t we?” Jack asked Emily.

She nodded vigorously and looked towards Sunny, silently asking the same.

“Y-yeah, I… I’m a little hungry, if… if you’ll have us, Mr. and Mrs. Fischer.” She bowed her head again, avoiding eye contact.

“Of course,” he smiled, “anything for Emily and her friends.”

Susan rushed inside to start cooking a giant dinner for their guests, Robert getting to work on clearing the clutter on the large dinner room table they had. After a half hour of casual chatting and table setting, they all sat down and began collecting their food onto their plates, allowing Susan to say a brief prayer before they started eating away. Robert tried to do small talk for as long as possible, but he couldn’t keep up that for long.

In between bites, every question Emily’s parents could think of was asked. Where she went, what she had been doing, what XCOM was, how many aliens she had seen, why she had a cane. Emily answered them as truthfully as she could, her openness bringing a smile to their faces. She told the story of how Jack and her flirted and fell in love, the time she ran past the aliens to protect Sunny and decided that they would be sisters, and the first time she met Alice and how she grew up before her eyes. And as the meal finished, they all took a minute to appreciate this family for what it was, flawed and mismatched, but more caring and warm than any they had known.

As they stood up from the dinner table, Jack mentioned that they had to get back on the road, wanting to see the house before nightfall. Emily’s parents walked them back outside, already starting to tear up again at their daughter leaving again, despite the far better circumstances.

“So, Jefferson?” Robert asked.

“That’s right, I’ll send you the full address once we get there. You can visit whenever you want, and I’m sure we’ll do the same,” Jack explained.

“You’ll always be welcome here, all of you,” he smiled, moving towards Emily and hugging her again. “Especially you.”

“Thank you. I will see you both again, I promise,” Emily said

“Of course you will, you have a wedding to prepare,” he replied excitedly. “We have a lot more questions to ask to this young man here.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Jack chuckled.

“And it was lovely to meet you, Sunny,” Robert continued. “I’m glad Emily finally has the sister she always wanted.”

Sunny nodded, having lighten up over dinner. “Thank you. I… I’m as happy to have her. I’ve always wanted a sister myself.”

“You have a long ride ahead of you, so drive safe,” Susan said.

“We will,” Jack assured.

“I’ll see you soon,” Emily said, hugging both of her parents again. “I love you.”

“We love you too,” they both nodded.

Emily and Jack went back towards the car with Sunny and Alice following along, getting back into the car and preparing to back away. Emily quickly waved as the car pulled away and her house faded away from view again, Jack headed back towards the highway and going the appropriate north now.

“Thank you, all of you,” Emily said quietly. “For pushing me.”

“Of course,” Alice said. “I just… hope it wasn’t too hard. I know you weren’t up for it at first, but… you looked so happy, as did they.”

“It was, but I needed it,” she admitted, “I don’t know why I was so scared…”

“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it would help,” Jack said. “But I am sorry if I pushed too hard.”

“It’s okay,” she said, leaning over to kiss his cheek. “How long until we get there?”

“From here, a little over two hours if I go fast,” he replied. “And I am, because we gotta beat that sun. I don’t want the reveal of our new home to be in pitch black.”

“Always the romantic,” Emily chuckled.

“I’m all for it.” Sunny smiled, and leaned back.

“Punch it!” Alice said, and glanced at Sunny. “That’s… the right term, right?” Sunny shrugged.

“It is,” Jack affirmed, driving back onto the highway and speeding up quickly.

“I think it’s naptime,” Emily said, leaning on the armrest.

“Agreed,” Sunny said, the flight, drive, and ordeal trying on her weak constitution. She closed her eyes, and quickly drifted off.

It was a long and nearly straight shot once they passed back near Concord, going straight north towards their new house. The further they went, the more hilly and forested the surroundings got, until they finally got off the highway. There were few houses around most of the roads, the area popular with hikers and nature-lovers more than city dwellers. Finally, the car began to slow, and Jack pulled into a large highway just before the sun escaped from the horizon.

In front of them was a large white Colonial-style house with two stories and several rooms each, a good seven large windows with blue shutters on each level. The yard was bright green and slightly grown, only decorated with a large sign reading “sold.” Jack unbuckled his seatbelt and shook Emily’s shoulder, jolting her awake.

“Are we there yet?” she said, wiping her eyes irritably.

“Yep, we’re home,” he smiled, reaching back and doing the same to Sunny.

Sunny slowly opened her eyes, and looked out the window. Any sleepiness she had instantly went away, and she jumped out, laughing like the giddy child she was for one of the few times in her life as she ran up to the house, examining its windows, running back and forth as if testing how long it was, and rolling in the grass. Alice chuckled as she watched it, and mumbled, “I think she likes it.”

“And she hasn’t even seen the backyard yet,” Emily smiled, getting out and running up to look around the facade as Jack brought over the keys.

“She better save some for that,” Jack chuckled, walking to the front door.

As the lock clicked open, he opened the door and switched on the first light, looking around the interior. Emily joined him quickly, walking through a couple of the rooms and looking at the kitchen and the living room, most of the furniture in a rich, dark wood that matched the abundance of trees around them. Jack walked through the main hallway of the ground floor and unlocked the back door, swinging the doors open.

Behind the house laid a massive field that went on for well over four acres, overgrown grass throughout cascading in the breeze, painted gold by the retreating sun behind it all. Jack smiled and looked back.

“Sunny, Emily, you ought to see this,” he called loudly.

Sunny stepped out, and simply stared at the lush field before her. A few tears fell down her cheeks. “I… is this really… real?”

“It’s real, and it’s all ours,” Jack smiled, “we can build something new, host a giant party, or just stare at it forever. Or all three, anything works, really.”

“It’s amazing,” Emily said, smiling broadly and putting her arm around Sunny. “I know the first thing we need to do, too.”

Sunny’s lips quivered a bit. “What… w-what is that, E-Emily?”

“Race to the end, of course,” Emily grinned, walking quickly down the stairs and trying to ignore her balance problems for as long as possible, rushing into the tall grass.

Sunny stomped her foot. “Hey, no head starts!” She ran after Emily, her own short legs making her speed about the same as Emily’s with her injury. A smile was plastered on her face, never being so happy in her life.
 

ZombieSplitter53

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May 27, 2013
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R'lyeh, Pacific Ocean, 47°9′S, 126°43′W
XSDF HQ, Moscow, Russia
Primary Mess Hall

"So... this is it," Ayame muttered, a sad tone in her voice. "I ship out tomorrow. Thanks... thanks for the second chance, Commander."

Morrigan shook her head. "I'm not your Commander anymore, and you don't... "

"But I do," Ayame insisted. "I... owe everything to you and Atka seeing something in me I didn't see myself. Maybe someday, I'll find a way to pay you back. For now, though, I..."

Morrigan nodded. "Your welcome, Ms. Kasagi. And... good luck."

Eva heard the former Commander was in the mess hall. Once there, she smiled at Ayame. "Hey Ayame. You're leaving, huh?"

Ayame smiled. "Yup." She pointed at Eva's hair. "Dig the new look."

"Aw, thanks. You can thank my medicine for that. Long story." Eva hugged Ayame. "Good luck, Ayame, and quit doubting yourself, will you."

A little surprised, Ayame hugged her back. "Y... yeah, I will. Thank you. And good luck to you, Eva. Try not to get yourself killed out there. If I find out you do, I'll find a way to the other side so I can slap you one."

"Don't do that. If I die, I was meant to. Hell, I should be dead on two occasions, so don't be following me to the after life, got it?"

Ayame nodded. "Yeah, yeah."

Morrigan chuckled. "Are you heading out to, Eva?'"

"Yeah, I've been here too long. Besides, I've got plenty of shit to do once I leave. Get married, meet Jean's family, take care of the baby."

Morrigan raised an eyebrow. "You pregnant, Eva?"

Eva grinned at Morrigan. "Well, when go at it like me and Jean did for a week, that tends to happen."

Morrigan laughed loudly, leaning back. "Aw... young love. I envy you, and your resolve, both in the bedroom, and on the field."

"Yeah, I'm going to hate getting old . Not much sex or fighting. Well not fighting any more sounds good, but the sex? Not looking forward to it. I mean, to not have as much sex as I do know sounds like a crime."

Morrigan leaned forward a bit. "I... hope you aren't making any assumptions about me there, Eva."

Eva shook her head. "Oh, no Morrigan, I wasn't making any comments about you. I was just thinking out loud. Sorry if you got the wrong idea."

Morrigan shook her head. "Just messing with you. I... I'm glad you had a chance to prove yourself while you were here. You made a fine officer."

"Heh, yeah, never thought I would be an officer. Let alone a good one. Hell, I thought I was going to lead people to their deaths. But the complete opposite happened, and I was a good squad leader. So thank you, Morrigan, for the opportunity."

"You're welcome." Morrigan leaned back again. "So... you going to miss it?"

"Yeah, I've been in the military for a decade. Then I died, and I joined XCOM, so to not fight any more will take some getting used to."

Ayame nodded. "Yeah. But I'm sure you'll get used to it. All about attitude, right. As long as you let yourself be happy, you will be."

"Huh, yeah, I guess, but to stop being a soldier is something I wanted my whole life. It's going to be tough, but I have to do it." Eva held her stomach, "for there sake." Eva looked at Morrigan. "Hey, Morrigan, what's it like having kids? And giving birth?"

Morrigan laughed. "Giving birth? Kinda not fun. Lots of pain, cramps, mood swings. Brigid seemed to just... have random urges to kick me." She smiled gently, looking up at the ceiling. "But... when you see their beautiful face for the first time, it makes it all worth it. Being a mother is, by far, the most rewarding thing in the world."

Eva shook her head and sighed. "Oh man. I took grenades, plasma shots, your second-in-command giving me third degree burns on my neck. Got all ribs broken, and my body was in so much pain that I couldn't move for a week. I think giving birth would be no problem. But still... to be a mother, I'm kinda nervous."

Morrigan shrugged. "I think you'll be just fine, Eva." She scratched her chin. "Actually... I think Aya was hoping to see you. You should go see her before you leave."

"Yeah." Eva got up and saluted Morrigan. "Thank you, Commander, for every thing, and for bringing me into this project. If it weren't for this project, I would have never met Jean or become the person I am now. So thank you, Morrigan, and I wish you luck for what ever you do after this."

"You are welcome, Eva." Morrigan saluted her back. "And thank you for your service."

Eva chuckled. "Any time Commander. And Ayame, I wish you luck as well. However, can you deliver a message to Mary for me?"

Ayame nodded. "Yeah, sure. What is it?"

"Tell Mary to dump Vee, but do it in a way that's nice. So Vee doesn't kill her. And if she doesn't dump Vee, tell her I'll wring her by the neck until it snaps." Eva grinned. "But if she already dumped Vee, then don't worry about it."

Ayame laughed. "I, uh... I think Vee's happy with Tom, so..." She shrugged. "You got it."

"Vee has a boyfriend... interesting... well thanks Ayame, and good luck to you as well. And if you doubt yourself again, I will find you and beat the hell out of you."

Ayame nodded. "And I'll except it."

"Whelp, good luck, you two. I'm gonna go and talk to your former second-in-command."

Eva found Aya in her new office, practically devouring a pencil as she chewed on it, looking over the pile off paperwork. "How... how did she deal with all this? Where does it even come from?"

"Yo, Aya, it's Eva. Do you have a minute?"

Aya looked up. "Oh, Eva, I... yes, please, come in. I was hoping to see you again before you left."

"Yeah, I was hoping to see you too. So about the temple ship.... and the incident that happened..."

Aya sighed. "I... I have no excuse. If I wasn't so weak minded, that thing would have never have been able to control me. I... I'm sorry, Eva."

"Sorry for what, I loved it. That was the first time I actually got a chance to go all out. I thought I would never get that chance. And thanks to you, I might be stronger then I've ever been."

Aya chuckled. "Well, uh... I'm glad you aren't bitter. But that doesn't change the fact that I tried to kill you. Seems to me like I owe you a favor or two."

"Oh, don't worry about it, you're not the first person that tried to kill me. Like I said, it was fun for me. Though it's a shame that you were taken over by the alien. I'm glad you snapped you out of it."

Me too, though..." Aya run a hand through her hair. "I... I can't take the risk that I'll become that thing again without learning control. I... can't keep running away like this. I need to face my... inner demon. Literally."

"Well, if you need help with that, I can help you. I mean, hell, you were shocked when I didn't die instantly."

Aya laughed a bit. "No... I'm okay. I think I have a few ideas of what to do. Besides, you have a life to live, and I won't stop that."

Eva smiled. "Yeah, I got family to take care of, and soon, kids. Jean said he wanted nine, but I talked him down to three, maybe four."

Aya snorted a bit. "I, uh... I hope he was kidding." She leaned back a bit. "But... you seemed to handle the news of your fully grown children well. I'm sure you'll do a fine job with little ones."

"Well, Vee, Ellen, Emma, and Lily are grown. A small kid running around, crying and other things?" Eva sighed. "I think I'd rather face aliens."

"Wish I could help you, but I have the same experience as you." Aya shrugged. "When I got Eve, she was already about ten. We... have more in common then I realized."

"I didn't realize you had a kid, or something like it, but I never asked." Eva sighed again. "I can't wait to see the little ones, once I pop them out. And, I can't wait to take care of them. I'm looking forward to being a mother. Though I do wish you luck with your life, Aya. Try to get control of your other half. That way, I will come see you and we can have a rematch."

Aya nodded. "And just because you're going to live peacefully doesn't mean you shouldn't stay fit and on your toes. Because, if I ever figure out that control, you'll be the first I call for a sparring match."

"Great. Hell, I feel stronger then ever since I fought you. I can't wait to see what new ability's I have. And I look forward to facing you again. And thanks for teaching me when Morrigan introduced us, it felt nice putting that training to good use."

Aya stood up, walked up to Eva, and gave a salute. She extended her hand, and smiled. "It was a pleasure, Eva. Good luck, and take care."

Eva shook her hand. "Good luck to you too. It was an honor to face you. And thanks for every thing."
 
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DarkGemini24601

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Sep 25, 2014
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MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601: “Humanity is Exalted, I am at Peace”
Part 1

Sydney, Australia
3:00 P.M., January 20th, 2019
Sydney Opera House

The ‘sails’ of the structure sitting on the waters of the Pacific shifted colors in varying patterns, from vibrant reds to mild purples to deep blues, spinning in vortexes, or shifting as squares. Elene Exalt admired the patterns of the lightshow, though she did her best to not consider how exactly they were done, knowing it would ruin the fun of it.

It was a little too late for Lily, who sat there considering the various projectors and reflectors, figuring out the way the patterns were created in her head. Vee, however, was safe from such considerations, soothed for once by the lights. Being that her expertise was more in weapons, she didn’t worry about the setup of the performance. “Well, obviously the part with the red cubes is the best here…”

This sentiment was shared by Poinsettia, who was better at blocking out unimportant technical details than her ‘twin’ Lily. “Well, of course red is the best color.” She nudged Asher. “Riiight?”

Any other answer than yes would most likely result with a slap upside the head, so I will go with the safe and obvious answer of yes. Asher explained, smirking a bit as he looked back at the show.

The former MEC Trooper patted him on the shoulder with a synthetic arm that, for all intents and purposes, appeared like an organic one. “Good for you,” she declared with a mockingly inquisitive look, mirroring the one Lily currently had on her expression. The clone of Lusett was too busy watching and pondering to notice, though.

“I’m glad you brought us here,” Elene told Markus, reclining slightly in her fold-out chair as other people in the audience were. “I’m going to miss having half the family when Emma, Lily, and Poinsettia go to Canada… but such is necessary for Exalt Enterprises to prosper. And to assist Atka’s family, since I still owe her a debt of sorts.”

“Well since you were coming, might as well show you what makes Sydney, Sydney. But we will power on. Phones were invented for a good reason and we always could come together on the holidays. Gives us something to look forward to.” The scientist said, smiling as he enjoyed the show and the company.

Elene nodded slightly, seeming to be lost in thought for a moment. “On the matter of family… there is a consideration I have been thinking over ever since the destruction of the Siberian base. I know most of the details were kept to the higher-ups, but you remember that Jessica received a message from the future, correct?”

“Yeah, that sure was something. What consideration did you have?” Markus asked, taking his gaze off the show and looking at Elene.

“The messenger added something to her warning that struck me as odd… she said, ‘Vindicta wishes to live’.” Elene frowned. “To confess, I had a project buried in the event that XCOM betrayed me and myself and my sisters perished. If that were to happen, Avanix was instructed to create another clone to carry on my work. That clone… was to be named Vindicta.”

The heiress folded her hands together with a serious expression. “I can only assume in that future, we all did perish, and Vindicta was born. If she wished to live even after history was rewritten… then I feel obligated to create her. Ideally, before the XSDF actually put sanctions onto human cloning as they likely will.”

“So what you are saying is, you have this clone just waiting to go? Why are you telling me thi-” Markus thought for a moment and scratched his head. “Wait...does this mean...she would be our...daughter per say?”

Elene smiled softly, and gave a nod of her head. “In a sense, yes. She isn’t ‘waiting to go’, exactly, as I just had the DNA sequences ready for cloning on Avanix’s command. I won’t tamper with them, as that would create a different being entirely, but I will not accelerate her growth. She’ll grow up, have a proper childhood that my sisters and I never got the chance to experience.”

Markus gripped her hand in his and smirked. “If you're asking me ‘should we do this’, then of course. Nothing would make me happier. I have a feeling you are going to be a better mother than you may think. You have that ‘head of the family’ thing pretty much down in my opinion.” He stated, looking down at the others who were in attendance with them.

The heiress held out her other hand with the palm open, shrugging. “Well, that is how a proper Exalt matriarch should be. I am glad you agree with this, though. I’ll instruct Avanix to begin gestation on my order… and perhaps speak with Commander Brea about allowing cloning for specific circumstances. Ammelia will likely want a child, after all… though I shudder at the thought of her sister’s progeny.”

Markus nodded, chuckling lightly. “Yes, but don’t forget about that crazy destroyer we have. I fear for that lawyer she is seeing, mercy on his soul.” Looking back at the show, Markus pushed his eyebrows together and asked, “Are you guys still coming over to the apartment later?”

“Of course!” Vee was quick to respond. “Gotta introduce Emma and Lily to this ‘Chelsea’ before they head off to the far northwest.”

Lily perked up at that. “Correct, I did want to meet your sister..”

Markus looked at the eager group and shook his head. “Good thing I told mom to expect a lot of company.” Glancing at the show as it began to come to an end, Markus looked at the watch on his hand. “Huh...time sure flew by.”

“It tends to when one is enjoying oneself,” Elene observed, stretching for a moment like a lazy cat before getting up and dusting off her orange jacket, which was today’s labcoat substitute.

Markus let out a drawn out yawn and stood up, leading the group as they exited the theatre, looking up at it with a curious look. “If I am not mistaken, either XCOM or Legion did a mission here, am I right? Amazes me how some places are already trying to forget the war.”

“Well, there was the incident in the laboratory outside of one of the coastal cities that Miss Anderson apparently used to work at, an abduction attempt thwarted by XCOM in the outback, and the battle with Invidia within the Uluru formation…” Elene raised an eyebrow, looking at her three listing fingers. “To be honest, you have just as much reason to thank Atka as I do. protected your home country twice, after all.” With a grin, Elene added, “That woman is noble to a fault.”

“We all have our faults. Mine, I fell in love and got mixed up with all of this craziness. But I guess some faults are what make a person the best they can be.” Holding Elene’s hand, Markus walked to the cars and everyone piled into two separate ones, driving for awhile away from the theatre, going farther into the city until Markus finally stopped them outside an apartment building, unstrapping and climbing out. “Fingers crossed this goes well.”

Buzzing up to the apartment, they were quickly let in to the building and Markus opened the door, the smell of turkey filling the room as they entered. From the kitchen, sounds of running around and pots slamming into pans coming as a big crash sounded. Shaking his head, Markus rubbed his eyes. “Welcome to my home.” He stated, calling out to his family that they had arrived.
 

MarineAvenger

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MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601: “Humanity is Exalted, I am at Peace”
Part 2


A tiny head poked out from around the corner into the kitchen, a small girl sucking on her thumb with blonde pigtails. “Dad! Uncle Markus is here! And he has a bunch of people with him…” She stared at the large group with caution, eyeing Lily in particular.

A man walked around the corner, a slight golden stubble on his chin and hair combed in a nice fashion. “Markus!” The man said, walking up and wrapping his arms around the scientist.

Markus laughed, patting the man on the back. “Hello Will. You look good.”

“Well...don’t I always?” William asked, scratching his chin.

“Daddy is scruffy!” The little girl stated, running up behind her father and wrapping her arms around Will’s legs.

“You never told me you had a daughter.” Markus said, eyeing his brother.

“You can blame me for that one Markus. I forced him not to tell you it keep it a surprise.” A brunette woman informed them, rubbing her hands on an apron.

“Nice to see you Valerie. I heard you two got married. Is that true?” The scientist asked.

Valerie nodded, smiling warmly. “That we did. I was wondering if Will would ever pop the question.” Looking over at the others in the group, Valerie smiled. “So this is the company you were bringing? Sorry for the lack of introductions. My name is Valerie, Will’s wife. And this is our daughter, Annabeth.” She said, walking over to the small girl and rubbing her head.

“My name is Anna! I hate being called Annabeth.” The small girl pouted. Running up to Lily she held up three fingers. “I am four!” Looking at her fingers and counting again, she raised her hand again, this time with four fingers raised.

The direct clone of Lusett raised an eyebrow. “Well… it’s nice to meet you, Anna..”

“You are pretty!” The little girl said innocently.

As Lily paused in silence, Elene shook her head, sighing. “Forgive my sister, she isn’t the best with social interaction. She is Lily, this is Vee, Emma, Poinsettia, and I am Elene Exalt.”

“It is nice to meet you all.” Will said with a smile. “Markus has said a lot about you guys.”

There was another loud crash with a woman yelling and telling someone to get out, muttering something unable to be made out. A blonde girl walked out, scratching her head as she came out of the kitchen. Stopping as she eyed the large group, her eyes set on Markus and she strode over, wrapping her arms around him lightly. “Hey Mark.”

“Uh...hi Chels.” He said, a little embarrassed.

“You look good.” Chelsea looked over at Elene and smirked. “I hope you have been taking good care of my little brother?”

“Of course,” Elene replied, smirking slightly.

“And by that, of course, she means she’s been-” Vee started, before a hand was placed over her mouth in the form of Emma’s black glove.

“Be silent, heathen,” the shadow operative said quietly.

Chelsea eyed Emma and Vee and she smirked. “Ahem...well…” Shaking her head, Chelsea took a deep breath. “Well it is great to have you all here. Ma is slaving away in the kitchen and dad still hasn’t returned from the store so...make yourselves at home.” As she turned, Chelsea stopped and said to Poinsettia, “Rocking hair by the way. I used to have mine red when I was in high school.” Turning back, she strode down the hall and entered a room off to the side.

“Told Asher I was right…” the cyborg muttered to herself as the others found somewhere to sit.

A couple of minutes passed before the door opened up and a man in his mid 50’s walked in, his sandy blonde hair sported with grey as he set the keys down. He looked at the company in his house and nodded. “Good, you are all here. I hope you are enjoying the city.” He said, picking up the groceries and bringing them into the kitchen, walking back out with a woman by his side.

Markus sighed and said to the Exalts, “Guys...meet my parents.”

The man nodded his head. “I am Anton, nice to meet you all.”

The woman gave a slight curtsy and added, “Hi, I am Hilary. Markus’s mom. I must say, you all look lovely tonight.”

Elene smiled slightly. “Thank you, although I’m more used to work clothing than I am casual attire. That was more my mother’s style.” Well, one of them, Elene added silently, resting her hand on the ruby necklace for a moment.

“Well then, I hope you all are hungry. Dinner is almost done and I have made more than enough for all of you. If you excuse me, I should go attend said food before it burns.” Hilary quickly spun around and went back into the kitchen.

Anton shook his head, looking at all the girls. “So...what is it you all do anyways?”

Honesty or duplicity...honesty or duplicity… “Well, provided we succeed in establishing the company we have in mind, my sisters and I will be working in pioneering new fields in technology,” Elene explained. “Assisting the XSDF, if you’ve heard about them. My specialty lies in genetic engineering.”

“I’ll be working on medical technology,” Lily furthered. “Emma will be working with robotics.”

The silver-haired shadow operative nodded with approval, and Poinsettia added, “I’m just around to help, as is Vee. Think the grunt workers or bodyguards of the family.”

“You’re the grunt worker,” Vee said indignantly. “I’m Elene’s personal bodyguard, I’ll have you know.”

Anton nodded. “I’m not really much for all that science stuff. I was more in the line of cop work. Detective stuff and the sorts. Me and my wife are retired now though, so we have just been enjoying life now.”

“Some of the technology we are developing may extend that life,” Lily chimed in. “Though we’ll need more staff than we have now to develop the Aeternam Solution.”

Anton shrugged. “We won’t hold our breaths. Extended life would be great and all but I can only take my wife for so long.”

“I heard that!” Hilary remarked. Anton chuckled and scratched his head.

“Well to let you guys know, I actually own my own business. Me and my wife bought that old coffee shop we used to hang out at Markus.” Will said with a grin.

“No way! You really got it!” Markus said like an excited little kid.

Will nodded. “Yep. But you still have to pay for your coffee.”

“Damn it…”

“That leaves one last place I need to go before I leave for Canada…” Emma observed eagerly.

Markus looked over at Elene. “Looks like we can have a real date at that coffee house. I hope you still remember that day.”

Elene smiled gently. “How could I forget?”
 
Last edited:

DarkGemini24601

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MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601:Humanity is Exalted, I am at Peace”
Part 3

Chelsea walked out of her room wearing a simple orange dress, brushing her hair. “Yeah, well. I am the only one to actually follow my dream career. Will and Markus wanted to be soccer stars but you know...you can see how that ended up. Meanwhile, I make my living in my dream job.” Looking over the crowd she stated, “I help design video games. Mostly programming and code. Haven’t made an official game yet but before the whole invasion thing, we were working on a turn based sci-fi game involving aliens. Though I doubt with a few of the staff dead and the recent alien invasion, would probably be best not to pursue it any further. Besides, I don’t think that game would gain any fanbase. Too bad too. I would have loved to play a game like that.”

Vee grinned. “Well technically, we did in real life… though the reality leaves something to be desired afterwards.”


Chelsea nodded. “Maybe we will dedicate a game just for you guys then.” She stated with a grin of her own. “I hope you like the dress by the way. I thought orange would be overdoing it but…” She eyed Elene and chuckled.

“It is a pleasant color, even if I am mocked sometimes for it,” the heiress said indignantly.

“Nah, not often I get to wear my more flashy colors. I like to keep things casual for the most part but I do enjoy being formal sometimes. Makes me feel...hm...not sure how to describe it. Girly?” Chelsea asked. “I liked fashion when I was younger, but I never really had those really girl friends to help with stuff like that.”

“Well, you’ve got two that will actually be here now,” Vee offered. “Emma, Lily, and Set are going to Canada though. Business stuff.”

“Oh really? I guess we better make the most of this visit then.” There was a call from the kitchen, signalling that dinner was almost done and for the group to sit down at the dinner table. As everyone proceeded to the table, Markus looked at Poinsettia. “Sad Asher couldn’t be here?”

“A little, but I don’t think we need to have the question posed of why Markus suddenly has a twin,” the red-haired clone of Lily remarked. “Me and Lily, Elene and Emma looking so similar is already weird enough.”

“We will most likely have leftovers. Though I am sure he is probably terrorizing half the city by now. I swear get him alone and he can be almost as intimidating as you sometimes.”
***

As the dinner came to a close and Markus’s mother began to take dishes off the table with some help. Annabeth was bugging Lily, asking her a bunch of questions that was typical of a little girl, her mother and father watching as the nervous scientist tried to deal with the girl.

Chelsea was idly chatting with Emma and Vee, ranging from anywhere from clothes to games.

This left Markus and Elene sitting at the end of the table, watching all the carnage unfold of the post dinner and Markus sighed. “Well my parents seem to love you, as do my siblings. And it seems your siblings get along well with everyone.” Markus glanced at Lily. “Well...maybe we should get Lily a paper bag. She looks like she is about to pass out.” He joked, scratching his nose.

“Or we could just get a tranquilizer for your niece,” Elene said casually, taking a sip of her wine.

“Hey, she is curious. Besides...Lily will have to deal with another little girl soon enough I would say.” Smiling, he looked at Elene and laughed. “I wonder what the look on her face will be like.”

“She’ll at least have the distance of the entire Pacific Ocean to cope with that… or the length of the Atlantic,” Elene responded.

“Well either way I couldn’t see a better outcome to all of this. Makes all the pain we went through...worth it. I know I sound like a broken record but you are by far the best thing to happen to me. And I hope you know that no matter what, I will follow you to the ends of the universe and further. Sound dumb but hey, not the best romantic out there.”

“Neither is the synthetic human,” Elene replied with a smile. “But it worked out… somehow.”

Sydney, Australia
6:00 A.M., October 7th, 2019
Headquarters of Exalt Enterprises


A chilly wind blew across Sydney, a bit unusual for its usually warm disposition. The breaths of the clouds send ripples through the flag of the XSDF and the flag of Australia, side by side beneath the steps of a large complex stationed in the heart of the city. Built upon the ruins of an abandoned district of the city, damaged by time and the war, it was perhaps one of the greatest edifices in the capital of Australia.

Its purpose was to house the company known as Exalt Enterprises. Partnered with the XSDF and operating within the borders of Australia, Canada, and Switzerland at the moment, it was built upon the technology gained in the war. To only the XSDF did the most advanced weaponry and armor go, but beam lasers and limited gauss gradually made their way into the hands of the governments of the world.

What the company really prospered on was corrective cybernetics, genetic modification (to a limited extent on humans), and other civilian technologies like miracle cures for blindness, cancer, and other aliements that had troubled humanity for centuries. At the head of it all (and the building itself, at the moment) was Elene Exalt. The heiress to the ancient, illustrious family stood on the roof of her building, looking from a safe distance beyond the railing and upon the city, not yet illuminated by the sun’s rays.

“Do you see that, Vindicta?” Elene spoke softly to a small, recently born child in her arms, its caretaker an android standing further along at the railing, observing the city analytically. “The lights of dawn are soon to arrive, and with them, the founding of a company that would make your grandmother proud.” She knew the infant could not understand the words yet, but she said them anyway, feeling there was a meaning in doing so.

From behind Elene, arms wrapped around her waist as Markus laid his chin on Elene’s shoulder, looking down at the baby in her arms. “I bet Lusett couldn’t be prouder.” He whispered assuringly, stepping beside the heiress and taking in the air. “This is an amazing thing you built you know. You are the talk of Sydney and around.”

Elene smiled softly, standing up carefully and rocking Vindicta, the baby seeming placid, peaceful. “Lily is working on a way to increase the human lifespan… Emma couldn’t be happy with her friendly rivalry with David… Vee and Tom seem happy, Poinsettia and Asher the same… I’m nineteen… things are certainly looking up.”

The heiress laid a hand across her heart and the ruby between the hand and her chest. “I’m not sure what your vision would have been if you had lived to see all of this, mother… but I know that you’d be happy, no matter what. You wanted me to live, to advance the world to the next stage… and I’m doing both of those things, and so much more.” With a familiar fire in her eyes, Elene concluded, “The future is humanity’s to seize. We reign with those that share the stars with us, seeking knowledge and facing whatever obstacles may come to pass in our way head on.”

Casting her smile upon Markus as the sun rose, she added, “And I am truly happy, thanks to you, to everyone that fought alongside my family in XCOM. Just as the future is humanity’s to seize...so is it mine.”

Markus nodded his head in agreement, walking next to Elene and wrapping an arm around her, placing a hand on their daughter’s head and looking out at the sun. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
 

ZombieSplitter53

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ZombieSplitter53 and DarkGemini24601: “Zhizn' Prekrasna, Life is Beautiful: Part One”

St. Petersburg, Russia
5:30 P.M., January 22nd, 2019
Home of Modya and Jessica


Jessica took a deep breath, breathing in the aroma from the pot before her. She had never pictured herself as a homemaker, and was eager to get back to work when able, but for now, the impressive, noticeable bulge of her stomach meant she had to stay at home. She was nervous leaving anyway, both because of the cold, and because of the unfamiliar city with unfamiliar people. Now out of the confines of a base, she was reminded of how shy she could be around new people. So, for now, she was happy sticking to her nice, decent sized apartment with the love of her life, learning new Russian dishes to practice her rusty cooking skills.

Jessica gripped her stomach a little, squeezing it in pain. “Jeez… no… kicking in there.” She glanced over at a few nearby pictures of her friends, and smiled. “Just another month or so, guys. Then, everyone get to see pictures of your smiling OW!” She gripped herself a little tighter, dropping to one knee and taking several deep breaths. She quickly jumped back to her feet as the door opened, brushing a loose strand to the side, and going back to her cooking. “Welcome home, Modya.”

The Russian raised an eyebrow, catching the tail end of the rapid movement. “Something wrong?” he asked with a hint of worry.

“What? Wrong? No, nothing, I… just a little… crampy, you know.” She laughed nervously. “I… I hope they don’t kick around and fight as much as this when they get out.”

“Well, they are going to be siblings… and although I don’t know from personal experience, I think I have an idea of how that will go from you and Alex,” Modya decided lightly, sitting down at a chair.

Jessica chuckled. “Yeah, though… not exactly the same, for obvious reasons…” She lifted the pot lid, sniffing a bit and grabbing some pepper. “How was work? Getting used to going to a job where you don’t have to worry about being shot yet?”

“It’s definitely less stressful, though more than a little weird to go back to putting together beam lasers and gauss weaponry,” the former rocketeer explained. “Mostly the former, since we don’t have a lot of alien alloys to work with yet. It all depends on if the XSDF figures out how to manufacture them… I remember them saying something about…” Modya shook his head. “Using noble gases bonded to other elements, or something crazy.”

Jessica nodded. “Yeah… complicated, even for me. That kinda of chemistry stuff is more Elene’s field.” She shrugged. “I bet she’ll figure it out. And if not… who knows, maybe we can find some for ourselves.”

Modya shrugged. “Perhaps. Speaking of finding things… vaguely… I got a call from my parents. They wanted to meet you in person, if you’re alright with that.”

Jessica jumped a bit, dropping her ladle into the pot. “I, uh… y-yeah, I… do you… do you think it’s… well, I… I am going to have… y-yeah, that sounds… great.”

“...not really…” Modya said slowly. “Jessica, you can be honest with me, you know.”

Jessica’s eyes darted back and forth. “I… well… to be honest, I… I’m not as… good with people as I might have let on. Before I came to XCOM, I… hardly talked to people. I’m… afraid I’m going to say or do something stupid… and embarrass you.”

Modya shook his head. “You’re not going to embarrass me… and don’t think just because you left XCOM, that means you’re going to go straight back to how you were. You have changed in more ways than one, there is no reversing that.”

Jessica smiled. “I… I hope that is for the better. I know you have, at least. So brave, so honest. I… I want to meet your parents. Because I know, as long as you are there, I’ll be fine.”

Modya rubbed the back of his neck. “I think you’re playing me up a bit too much and downplaying yourself.”

Jessica poured Modya a bowl of stew, placing it in front of him and kissing him. “And that’s why we work so well together. We work off each other, and help keep one another on top of our game.”

The Russian smiled. “That I can agree with.”
 

DarkGemini24601

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ZombieSplitter53 and DarkGemini24601: “Zhizn' Prekrasna, Life is Beautiful”
Part 2

3:15 P.M., January 23rd, 2019
Home of Modya and Jessica


As Modya had the day off, his parents could arrive earlier than the later evening in which he had come home the prior day. A firm knock on the door heralded Stanimov’s arrival, despite Katya’s protests that he should be a little more gentle with the door.

Jessica took several deep breaths. “Alright… breath… everything will be fine…” She quickly opened the door, and bowed her head. “Good… good morn… good… afternoon.” Her voice squeaked a bit as she spoke.

Stanimov and Katya smiled warmly, the former speaking first. “It is nice to meet you at last,” he said more gently than he had knocked. Shifting his ushanka a bit, he introduced himself and his wife. “I am Stanimov, and this is my wife, Katya.”

“Which should mean I can control him, but…” Katya shrugged. “Still working on how to establish 100% control. Think I’m at ninety so far…”

Modya chuckled. “You sound like Elene, mother…”

The Russian woman raised an eyebrow. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Maybe a little bit of both,” her son replied.

Jessica relaxed a bit, their casual attitude helping a bit. “Well… it is nice to meet you too. I… I’m sorry it took so long. You know… war tends to… d-delay things.”

“I cannot complain,” Stanimov noted, glancing over at Jessica. “I managed to get grandchildren out of it, after all. I was beginning to wonder if I would…”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Modya mumbled.

Jessica giggled a bit. “Well. Modya could have gotten anyone he wanted. He just needed to find his confidence. I’m… glad I was the one who could help him along.”

Katya smiled. “Well, I’m sure there are many good reasons he chose you in particular… one being readily apparent,” she remarked teasingly.

Jessica’s eyes widened a bit, her face turning a bit red. “Ow, I… he… th-they’re not usually this… you know, pregnancy and all. Though, he… he was always a gentleman about it.”

“I’m sure he was,” Katya responded, scratching her head a bit. “So there are…” She struggled for a way to put it. “Two of you in there?” she asked, looking at Jessica’s head.

Jessica’s head dipped a bit. “Y… yeah, there are. My… my sister’s name is Alexia. She… she’s a little… headstrong, but she… she isn’t, like, an evil twin or anything.”

“I have a feeling that trope hasn’t helped anyone over the years…” Katya said quietly. “Do you mind if we… meet her as well?”

Jessica slowly, nervously nodded. She closed her eyes.

A moment later, Alexia looked between the two, her usual cocky attitude leading to a smile, though a slight shake in her voice betrayed her confidence. “Uh… h-hey, what’s going on?”

Katya’s smile didn’t waver. “It is nice to meet you as well.” Trying to think of something else to say, she added, “I… didn’t really think of what to do beyond this point.”

Alexia laughed. “Yeah, I guess this isn’t something people are used to.” She cracked her neck, stood up, and offered her hand. “My name is Alexia Lockheart, and… and I love your son. I…” She laughed, patting her stomach. “This might be a little late, but do you mind if I have his children?”

Stanimov laughed. “Just a little late… but I think there’s good genes for both parents, so I think it’ll be fine.”

Katya shrugged. “I never did get specifics… how long have you been pregnant?”

Alexia thought for a moment, remembering the extra two months. “Seven and a half. Almost time. Be honest, though.” She did a small twirl. “Does this pregnant belly make me look fat?”

“Considering the rest of you is fairly thin, not really,” Katya replied with a sparkle in her green eyes.

“Seeing as you’re the more confident one, I figured I’d ask you…” Stanimov began, and after a moment Modya shook his head.

“Don’t you dare… it was not funny the first time!”

“How are the muscular enhancements he has working out for-” Stanimov managed to say before his son reached him, putting both his hands over his father’s mouth to shut him up.

Alexia laughed. “What? Come on, don’t quiet him now while we are getting to know each other,” she said with an evil grin. “I’m really starting to like your dad.”

“You’re both evil…” Modya muttered, taking a step back.

“Well, I only missed the ‘you’ part,” Stanimov added helpfully, earning him a glare from Modya.

Alexia shook her head. “You two are… this is going so much better than Jessie and I were afraid it would be. You guys are really cool, you know?”

Katya smiled wistfully. “Comes with age, I suppose… though having grandchildren makes me feel a little too old.”

Alexia raised an eyebrow. “What? What are you… thirty-three, thirty-four.”

“Off by about a dozen, but I appreciate the sentiment,” the Russian woman said with a chuckle.

“So, uh…” Alexia rubbed her hands together. “Who’s hungry? I can… well, I can’t, but Jessica is a pretty good cook. And we’ve been learning a lot of Russian dishes.”

“I’d love to take you up on that,” Stanimov stated.
 

ZombieSplitter53

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ZombieSplitter53 and DarkGemini24601: “Zhizn' Prekrasna, Life is Beautiful: Part Three”

St. Petersburg, Russia
Midnight before March 1st, 2019
Bayfront Hospital


Modya wrung his hands a bit as he walked back and forth outside the door, wracked with worry. Why did this have to be in the middle of the night… he thought with frustration, checking his watch. Just before midnight, and the start of March 1st. The date brought back a tide of memories, from the attacks on Germany to meeting Thomas Burrick and joining XCOM. Relaxing slightly, he put a hand in his pocket, satisfied that it was empty. No need for cigarettes tonight… it’ll all work out.

A doctor stepped out of the room, looking a bit rushed. He waved his hand and whispered something to the nurse that came over. When he was done, he almost seemed to shove the nurse away to hurry him, and wiped his brow, grabbing a bottle of water and chugging it.

“How’s it going?” Modya asked as calmly as he could muster.

The doctor let out a deep breath. “It, um… it’s going… p-poorly…” He sighed. “There is something off…”

Modya had to restrain himself from grabbing the man’s coat. “What?! What’s wrong?”

“Her… her system is all…” The doctor searched for the right words, but couldn’t come up with anything. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. Something about her nervous system is unusual. She’s… in so much pain, and we can’t give her anything strong enough to get rid of it. Something about the birthing process… super-charged her nervous system, and I have no idea why? It… she was in that… secret alien thing, right?”

The former rocketeer paled. “She was exposed to the Tz6… to help regrow someone’s… that has to be why!”

“Doctor!” And nurse came running out, her gloves a distinctive red tint. “We… we’ve pushed it back as much as possible. They’re coming, whether… whether she’s ready or not.”

The doctor nodded, slipping his mask back on. He nodded to Modya. “We… we’ll do what we can. Just… we’ll do what we can.”

Holding his hands in his pockets tightly, Modya just nodded grimly.

The doctor rushed back in. Another twenty minutes passed. A few people rushed out, a few people rushed in, including the male nurse from before carrying a large, solid bottle. After a while, Modya could hear a distinctive ringing in his ears, and the feeling that someone familiar was calling out to him.

Pushing himself off the wall, Modya slowly walked towards the door, peering inside.

Modya! Please! Where… where are you?!


Surprised by what the voice ringing in his head, the Russian pushed open the door, rushing inside to Jessica’s side. “Jess?”

One of the nurses moved to intercept him. “Sir, you can’t be in here. We need to…”

“Please!” Jessica cried out, extending a shaking hand. “Please, Modya! I need you!”

Clenching a fist, Modya pushed past the nurse reaching out and clasping his hand with Jessica’s. “I’m here,” he said softly.

“It… i-it hurts Modya.” Tears streamed down Jessica’s cheeks. “I… I need… I need.. I need you… to… to promise…”

“We’ll take care of them together, you’re not going to…” Modya whispered, his voice breaking. “Please, don’t leave me…”

Jessica nodded shakily. Her eyes went blank for a moment, and it was obvious Alexia had taken over when her expression said it was pain renewed for her. She tried to talk, but her words came out silence as the sound of a baby crying range out. “That’s one,” the doctor mumbled.

“Just one more,” Modya said quietly. “You can do this, Alex…”

“I… I can’t… I’m sorry, Modya, I…” Alexia cried out, every muscle in her body tensing as waves a pain shot through her. “I… I love… I love…. I’m sorry, Modya… I… always… in the way… Jessica… always… deserved you… deserved you… m-more…”

Modya squeezed her hand more tightly. “Alex, I long ago forgave you for what you did… and I promised you I’d be there for Jessica… that includes you as well. D-Don’t… don’t die now… you can’t… I won’t… won’t let you…”

“I… don’t… I don’t want to die… but it…” Alexia’s eyes started to get droopy. “It doesn’t… hurt as… much now, I… can’t… feel…”

Modya placed his other hand on hers, resting his head on her shoulder, tears forming in his eyes. “Please...don’t…try….try to live...you-you have to…”

“I… will… Modya… can’t… die… yet…” Alexia slowly closed her eyes. A few moments later, they sound of a flatline made everyone’s heads dart up.

The nurse whispered to the doctor, and he muttered back. “We… can’t. Not until the boy is out…”

Modya fell to his knees, feeling the life give out from his legs. “Please...not… after everything we’ve been through,” he whispered, to Jessica, to Alex, to God, to the doctors, anyone that would listen.

One of the nurses gasped as the sound of a second baby crying rang out. Modya slowly looked up, just in time to see a faint green glow dissipate from him. A similar glow appeared within his mother’s tummy, then slowly moved up to her chest. A few moments later, the EKG started beeping again, and the fallen mother’s eyes slowly opened. “M… M-Modya…”

Modya carefully but heartfully embraced her, letting the tears flow with a mixture of released tension and relief. “Oh, thank God…” he said quietly, glancing between her and the twins.

Her tone denoting Jessica, she asked, “Where… are my… b-babies…”

Modya gave a look to the doctors, and they brought the twins up to Jessica. “Right here…” he said, smiling faintly. “Both of them safe and sound.”

Modya helped Jessica hold them, as she was too weak to do it herself. She smiled gently at them, a few tears falling down her cheeks. “They… they’re gorgeous…” She looked over to Modya. “I… did I…”

“I...I thought you…” Modya replied, his voice nearly breaking down again. “D-Don’t ever do that again…”

Jessica shook her head. “I… I promise, I won’t.” She leaned over, kissing him gently, and smiled down at the to babies again.

One of the nurses walked over to them as the others cleaned up. “What are their names?” She asked gently.

“Sasha and Mikhail Dragomirov,” Modya answered proudly, a relaxed smile touching his face. People and life are strange indeed… even through all the sorrow, they have resulted in this. And it was worth every second of pain, to be with her now, and see my children. And I’ll be right there with them as they grow, no matter what they face.
 

Adrammalech

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talesoflaranea.com
// FIN //
Chancellor Luxuria Acrasia
Outside Grand Council Hall
Renastre Safe Zone, Aethereum
July 1, 2019 - 6:30 AM


Ugh, waking up at dawn for this foolishness. Thantos had his faults, sure. The Ethereal shook his head. But he knew best, and he had the will to make it so.

Will to make it so? The female Ethereal beside him let out a shrill laugh. Luxuria lasted months in captivity and came out more driven than she was before. That’s willpower.

She took the humans form, their naming style, their ideas. She is not even Ethereal anymore, she simply lucked out that she could return after a point she would be tried for treason.

And to say nothing that she is curing our homeworld, of course. What an incredibly un-Ethereal thing to do.

Luxuria did not cure anything, it is Thantos’ daughter who made it, or did you forget?

That he tried to murder, or did you forget? Without those humans you sneer at, it never would’ve been delivered here.

Luxuria walked onto the podium, not unlike the one she once used in the Gobi Desert, and sent out a mental wave to announce her presence. The Ethereals in the small audience hushed, watching with equal numbers of reverence and disdain.

Good morning, my brothers and sisters. I appreciate those of you that have awoken early to come to this unveiling. It’s been some time since the attack that crippled our world, and thanks to Jan’tiala, we can confidently say that around 15% of our homeworld has been cured enough for re-settlement. Over 7,000 of us have been able to relocate back to our world, but many of our brothers and sisters are still on the ship, wandering the nearby systems and waiting to return home. It is only a matter of time until we are united again, of course. Each day we continue to cure, to build, to settle, is an important day in our history, the start of a new beginning for our society. It started here three months ago with the Grand Council Hall, and what it symbolizes. It is a real, unmovable structure. Just like our home. Just like our people.

The attack that forced us to hide, carried out by the galaxy’s rogues that banded together against us, was a despicable and cowardly action. It was inexcusable, and the perpetrators paid with their lives. But there is also something we can learn, that the wretched people who did that attack represent the rage of several races we trampled in the name of our Path, including the peaceful and the innocent. We all have amends to make, from the simplest civilian to the most loyal soldier. We will use our unbreakable will for a new purpose, to heal and to inspire ourselves and those that have been harmed.

I know there are many of you who are concerned with my presence in the Council. This quick rise, my unique body, and decentralization; they are all new things amongst our people, and many of you have been quietly skulking around with this caution. This will not stand. Luxuria leaned forward and slammed the podium, causing a few flinches in the audience. You will organize. You will make your voice heard. You will oppose me, civilized but loud, as our people always should have.

This new addition to our hall’s façade reflects these changes. Our new way of life, our new way of thinking. Without further ado, it is time for the unveiling of our centerpiece.

A thin metal case pulled away from a massive stone basin behind her, a shallow reflecting pool with a series of fountains that activated as the sheath got clear. At its head and just behind Luxuria, a tall statue remained under a cloth, which Luxuria excitedly pulled off. The statue of a familiar Ethereal stood tall, watching over her and the others. Every curve, trim, and notch on his mask and robe were perfectly sculpted. She smiled as she looked upon his face again, revered and immortal. As part of her perfect timing, a brilliant prism of rays spilled out of the sun, basking it in the warm scarlet glow of their native star.

And with this, the Shen’lutusus Plaza of Reflection is open to the public. Relax and enjoy our renewed natural beauty, and celebrate the new dawn of our beloved home.

Luxuria walked away to the crowd voicing support over those not impressed, heading back towards the hall. As the crowd dispersed, a harried young Ethereal holding a small holographic tablet ran up beside her.

Hello, Decentia.

G-good morning, your grace. I have compiled a small spreadsheet for you from your speech. I also received a message on the relay in your office, madam. It is from Earth.

A message? Well, let’s hear it.

Of course, my lady.

The young woman focused on her employer and relayed the message uploaded to her brain, a very limited view of Emily and her dreamscape manifesting in Luxuria’s head. She gave a nervous smile and waved towards her with uncanny life and emotion, as was often the case with the relays.

Hey, Luxxy! I hope you’re doing well, settled back home. Sorry it’s been a while, the wedding and everything has been so hectic, much less the awkwardness of going to the XSDF outpost in the cities and saying ‘hey, can I use your intergalactic crystal phone?’ Emily chuckled to herself. Almost as weird, talking to your secretary like an answering machine, and it’s still about to get weirder. I want to share some of my memories of the wedding, since you couldn’t be there. I think I can do that, right? Here…we…

Emily’s almost-current image distorted and she began seeing images of some kind of gigantic yard, rife with white banners and verdant arches. Jack smiled towards her happily, then she looked at herself in the mirror, her red hair bundled up fancily but still draping just over her shoulders, a perfectly-fit white dress of equal parts fluff and lace hugging her figure tightly. She said her I do and recited her vow, tearing up quickly as she tried to keep the paper in her hand dry. Then she looked over the people at the reception, several familiar faces from the Siberian base as well as some others she knew from Emily’s other memories.

The reception memories lingered the longest, sipping wine and eating cake, dancing to 20-year-old songs with the suited-up love of her life and her sun-dressed de facto daughter, glowing with relief, bliss, and excitement all rolled into one. Feeling Emily’s imprint on those memories wasn’t unlike using an entertainment disc, it was the essence of pure joy. The feeling began to fade and was replaced by mischievous excitement as she and Jack jumped into an elongated car together, taking off for their honeymoon, kissing and hugging in the backseat. The image zipped back towards the present Emily quickly.

I’m sure you want to know all about what happened after that. Let’s just say there wasn’t a lot of sleeping but a whole lot of fun. There is something about that I wanted to tell you, but I’ll wait until I can in person… Emily looked down and smiled nervously, then back up. Let’s just say that everything’s a new adventure with him and I, like I always said. Emily paused for a few moments, looking away and then smiling back more sincerely. Anyway, the officer here wants to make some real diplomatic calls, so I have to go. Hopefully I’ll be able to spend some quality time with a relay soon and you can tell me all about how things are going there. See you soon!

Luxuria smiled widely at the message as the image faded, trying to look through Decentia and across space towards Emily. Although the idea of marriage was barely existent in Ethereal society, seeing Emily’s almost made her want to have one of her own, despite not being the marrying type. Decentia wavered a bit, recovering from delivering the message.

Oh, forgive me…it’s hard to keep those memories so ready and composed…

Thank you, Decentia. It was good of you to receive this for me, as taxing as it might be.

Anything for you, madam. She bowed.

Luxuria’s smile faded and she resumed her professional composure, wiping her eyes and walking towards the Council building, trusting Decentia to follow along. Ahem, back to business now, we have a full day ahead of us. Did you get a good sampling of the crowd?

O-oh, yes, madam! There is much discussion, but with plenty of support for you, of course. There are some that are concerned with your style of free speech, although others have been quick to point out the irony of it to them. There are also some that do not like your human body, while others find it refreshing if not…attractive.

Is that so? A broad smile worked its way across Luxuria’s lips. How do they find me attractive?

Oh, well…many believe your eyes are beautiful, of course. There are those that find your taste in clothing alluring. Your skin is also very smooth and supple…humans are very attractive aliens…um, to some.

Luxuria reached the entrance to the hall and motioned for her secretary to enter, putting her green-glowing hand onto her back. Good work, Decentia, very thorough. Let’s find a way to reward you.
 

Frostlich1228

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May 26, 2013
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Frostlich1228 & ZombieSplitter53: "History Repeating Itself."

XSDF HQ, Moscow, Russia
Main Hanger
January, 28th, 2019

Eve pushed past several people, sending a series of apologetic looks as she went. She had heard that a certain someone’s departure had been delayed, even after his recovery, so he could supervise several items going home with him to Cross Tech. She let out a sigh of relief at the sight of the Dropship, still being loaded, and approached in the hopes of finding her target.

The Cross Tech assault stood quietly near the entrance to the Skyranger, emotionlessly checking crates, boxes, and containers while occasionally helping to move them into the far back of the dropship.

Eve smiled when she found him, and tapped him on the arm. “Hey, Dorian. Do you… remember me?”

He turned around slowly, his expression noticeably perking up as he saw the familiar woman, “Eve? It’s good to see you again.”

Eve nodded. “You two. You doing okay? You, uh… you got messed up pretty bad. Everything still ticking?”

Dorian looked away from a second, unsure of exactly how to respond, “Rook… I haven’t heard from him since my injury… and I am unsure why…”

“What… what could…” Eve thought for a moment, and looked around. Finding a nice place to sit down, she did so, and quickly jumped out of her body. She floated over to Dorian, but couldn’t see anything. She slowly reached into Dorian, as if she was going to possess him, and raised an ethereal eyebrow. Returning to her body, she stood up, and walked back to Dorian. “I… I couldn’t see him. But… you aren’t alone. I can feel something attached to you, something I can’t see on the surface. It… it might be your own psionic energy. But it might also be him.”

“Perhaps I has something to do with what happened during that fight… That Psionic disabling drug and that bolt of psionic energy hitting me might’ve been at least part of the cause of this.” Dorian replied, closing his eyes for a second.

Eve ducked her head down. “I… I could… see if I could find him. If you want him back. I can’t… promise…” She rubbed her arms nervously, remembering what it was like the first time. After a moment, she put on a determined face, and said, “Let me look for him. If he can be found, I’ll find him.”

“You don’t have to put yourself through something you don’t comfortable doing for me…” Dorian explained, noticing her nervous gesture.

Eve shook her head. “No, you… you’re my friend, right? And as unusual as it might seem, Rook is both our friend. If I can help, I want to.”

“Then… Please be careful…” He replied with a hint of concern.

Eve nodded. Returning to her seat, she jumped out, steeled herself, and dove into Dorian, diving into his subconscious. The strange world materialized before her once again, but something was noticeably different. Large cracks in the ground and sky could be seen along with a strange white fog seeping out of them, hiding whatever might be behind. Swords and shields littered the once clean pathway from memory to memory, appearing cracked and rusted as they led to a mysterious tower looming in the distance.

Eve took several deep breaths. “Alright… where are you, Rook?” She examined several cracks, and shook her head. “Damn… his psyche is torn to pieces. And the only one who know enough about him to fix this is missing. Stupid… Muton, getting a laugh in after his death…” She gave the tower an apprehensive look. “Well… without a guide, I only have one clear place to check.” She took another deep breath, and headed for the tower.

The weapons on the ground became increasingly less rusty the closer she got to the large tower. As she approached, a strange gate not too different from the one she left through the first time formed around it, but this one appeared to be hopelessly stuck open. Eve thought for a moment, trying to remember the few bits of research she had found since the first time. Nothing was real, but her mind might make it so. She knew it wasn’t real, but the memories didn’t know that. Expect the unexpected, like walking through a dream. With a determined nod, she approached the gate. “Hello? Dorian? Rook? Anyone home?”

“It’s not supposed to be here…” Spoke a voice behind her. When Eve turned around to see who it was, she was greeted by the man that gave her the watch during her last trip, looking up at the tower. The man spoke again, “Not this solid…”

“The… the tower, you mean?” Eve looked up. “What is this?” She looked at the man. “Um… I’m looking for someone. Someone who… might not seem to belong here. Have you seen him?”