RP XCOM2: Liberation of Earth


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The fallowing is a colaberation between Dhalexpert & Zombiesplitter 53
Were nothing like the enemy

On board the Avenger
Gym C

Luke is doing dead lifts, Luke is thinking about his latest fight with Atka. "Hum, only I can find out how much i'm worth huh? I think I have something better then a rank, the question is how do I go about doing it?"

Luke put the bar back on the bench, Luke sit's down and is trying to figure out how his plan will work. Luke turns around and sees Morrgian, and Brigid in the corner. Morrgian is doing push ups, while Brigid is chairing her on.

"Just ten more, mom," Brigid said, pumping her fists.

"You... said that... ten push-ups ago," Morrigan returned, her arms shaking as she moved up and down.

"No talking, mom, you're wasting oxygen you should be using on your muscles." Brigid crouched in front of her. "Eight more."

While Brigid was looking at Morrgian, Luke came behind her and lifted her up.

"Now now, Brigid you can't just torture your mother. Hay Morrgian it's been a while."

"Hey... Luke..." Morrigan paused with four more to go, sweat rolling down her face.

"I'm not torturing her, I'm pushing her," Brigid insisted. "You know, like a good coach."

"Yes and your a good coach, but we can't have her do to much. I meanshe has other workouts to do right?"

Brigid scrunched her nose in annoyance. "Oh, okay. That's good mom. And take a five minute break."

Morrigan rolled on to her back, letting out a sigh of relief. "You got it, boss. Thanks, Luke."

"No problem." Luke put Brigid down and patted her head, he then sat next to Morrgian and gave her a bottle of water. "So Morrgian, what's up how you been lately. I mean I have been missing my best buddy." Luke brought Brigid close to him, and hugged her.

Brigid chuckled. "Missed you too."

Morrigan took a swig of her water. "A few things I guess. You know about me and Red Hawk, right?"

"Not really, let me guess. Your getting married to?"

"What?!" Morrigan shouted in surprise.

"You two are getting married?!" Brigid's face lit up.

"No! No, no, nononono... no." Morrigan shot Luke an evil look. "I was just going to say we're gotten a lot closer... ass."

"Ou, so you two did the deed. Well it's about time you had some fun, great to hear that." Luke looked at Brigid, and sees that she's still wearing the bracelet and dog tags he gave her." Aww you're still wearing what I gave you for your birthday."

"Well, of course." Brigid lifted the dog tags up to look at them. "I only take them off to shower and sleep."

Morrigan chuckled. "Brigid is the kind of person to take a gift from a friend incredibly serious. She once got a T-shirt from her best friend that she insisted be washed constantly so she could wear it every other day, and was heartbroken when she grew out of it."

"Heh remind me to make this bigger for you, but since there metal you could keep them forever. But I still think I could make it bigger when your older, if were still around each other then." Luke thinks about after the war, and how more then likely Morrgian and Brigid will leave the avenger and go some were else.

"Thank you." Brigid clapped her hands together. "Oh! Did you hear about my mom's new super power?"

"What power?" Luke looked at Morrgian."What did you become a psion or something?"

Morrigan shook her head. "Nah, but I did steal a psion's power. That Overseer we killed in South America? I got his Reflection."

"You got a reflection, well that's interesting. So a reflection, well that's nice to hear and it's a alien to talk about a slap in the face."

Morrigan nudged him. "I'm catching up to you. Someday soon, I'll be able to fight you and not be immediately destroyed your superior strength, experience, stamina, and powers."

"Ou now I got you to worry about now to, Lets see. There's My soon to be wife, Gwen Leon and now you. I have a lot of people I need to fight before this war is over, but i'm training Alexis though so fight her. She's gotten stronger you know, heh she's become a great solder now, but I still can't wait for this to be over." Luke looks at Brigid and padds her head. "Heh pretty soon Brigid you will no longer be the youngest one on this ship, once this is all over any way."

Brigid smiled at that. "Already expecting a little one, Luke?"

"No not yet, we still have a war to win. But we did think about getting her pregnant now, but if that happen and she died then I would lose two people that I love. But that's not going to happen, then way I train her and Yakone trains her i'm sure Alexis will be fine."

"Well, don't neglect your own training," Brigid insisted. "I know a lot of people who would be upset to lose you too, you know?"

Luke hugged Brigid. "Aw I know you'll miss me, that's why I train heavily everyday. I'm even using heavy armor to train with so I can use that in battle. I'm even getting better with my power and more tactical."

"Always improving. Always getting better. The Van Dam way, I take it." Morrigan laid back, and got to work on some sit ups. "So what about your kids? You gonna train them to be tough warriors like you and Lilith?"

"Well that depends, there's no real need for that once this is over. And I defiantly want my kids to live a way better life then I did,I could teach them how to fight and such. But mostly they can do what then want, hell even be a musician if they want."

"Like me?" Brigid asked with a big grin.

"Yes like you little one, I would love to have a kid like you I could raise."

"And I can't wait to meet them." Brigid held up her head proudly. "I'll be auntie Brigid, and I'll love them, and you'll always be annoyed when I come over because you know I'm going to spoil the heck out of them."

"Heh yea, your going to be there proud Aunt. teaching them how to play the flute and all other things, heh I have a good life now it's amazing how things change in a few years."

"Any regrets?" Morrigan asked. "Anything you would change since joining XCOM?"

"Heh my entire childhood, every horrible thing I did for my own enjoyment. There are so many things I wish I could take back, but can't." Luke shakes his head. But I'm here now, and when we get t Texas there are somethings I need to settle."

Morrigan waved her hand dismissively. "We all have things we want to change from way back when. But I mean now, in the last year. You said things have been going so well, but is there anything you would have changed?"

"In the past year, I would change nothing. I met Alexis joined an organization that fights the Aliens, had many woman care for me in ways I didn't think about, i'm surounded by people that care for me.I'm getting married and I KO an elder, I would change nothing." Luke says with a bright smile


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Part 2

Morrigan stopped her sit ups and slapped him on the back. "Good to hear. Always nice to hear that you have no regrets."

"What about you Morrgian, anything you regret?"

"Oh, sure." Morrigan sighed. "I regret not being friendlier in the beginning. I regret being so trapped in the past, which slowed me opening up to Red. And I regret not trying to get closer to the Commander early on."

"Well nice to hear that there are things you got over. It's amazing, isn't it? We're almost done with this war. The Elders are running out of places to hide. Very soon we'll find their High Commander and end this. It's almost hard to believe."

"But... what if that doesn't end it?" Brigid asked. "Will beating their leader really get them to stop fighting?"

"Well, we cut the head off the snake, so it should, but if it doesn't then they will be severely weakened. Just like we were at the start. Only this time, we will have plasma weapons and strong armor to finish them off." Luke patted Brigid's head to reassure her. "Don't worry love, their reign on our home won't last much longer."

"Okay, but... uh..." Brigid's eyes darted about. "Then what? What happens to the ones we don't kill?"

"Oh, that's the question huh? We don't know. Guess they just get off the planet. Not sure how that works. Anyway..." Luke lifted Brigid and put her on his lap. "You're asking a lot of questions. What's up hun?"

Brigid shrugged. "I've just been thinking... thinking things people might get upset about if they knew I was thinking."

"Well, I'm sure they're good questions. I don't think anyone would get upset about them." Luke looked at Morrigan, but before he said anything to her he closed Brigid's ears. "Hey Morrigan, out of curiosity, are you planning on having more kids once this is over?"

Morrigan blinked a few times. "Um... well, I'm gonna try. Hopefully the tech the aliens leave behind will help, and if not, there is always adoption."

"Heh, trust me, there are plenty of kids in the waist lands that could use a good parent, but if you have trouble giving birth or if there is something wrong, my friend Alice could make you an augmented womb. She would love the challenge of making a robotic womb that acts like an actual womb."

Morrigan raised an eyebrow. "Uuuuuh... I'll think about it."

Brigid pushed Luke's hands away. "You know I hate it when you do that, right? I swear, I'm going to learn how to read lips just so I can know what the big secret always is."

"Yeah, well, I don't care. You're still not old enough to hear what we have to say. Even if you are thirteen." Luke hugged her and held her tightly. "Besides, it's grown up talk, it's nothing special. It gets boring. You don't want to hear all that."

Brigid rolled her eye. "Anyway... I was wondering if the Elder, Dec... uh, what does the Commander call them? Declahedrions? Anyway, I wonder if they have kids... and what will happen to them when this is all over. They're all sick, right? Does that mean... they'll all die?"

If I had it my way, they should die along with there parents, just so they don't become a problem later.Luke took a deep breath and exhaled.But that would make me no different then them, huh?"Well Brigid, it might be we don't understand the full nature of there sickness. I'm guessing it's not curable since they need our bodies, but if it's just killing them and making there lifespan a bit shorter, then they will be fine. As for there kids, well, we'll will just figure that out later."

Brigid frowned, rubbing her arm. "I just... can't help but wonder, you know? The fact that they think it is okay to kill us to save themselves is bad. But... what if they don't all think that? What if some of them are doing it... because they're scared? Scared of their race dying? What if some of them are mothers... who are afraid their disease will get so bad that their children don't live long enough to grow up. That is still bad... and they still need to be stopped... but..."

Morrigan slowly nodded. "You're wondering if the shoe was on the other foot, and it was humans who were the advanced but dying species, would we do the same thing? Would we be willing to let ourselves die off if we could save ourselves at the cost of another race." She let out a slow sigh. "I don't know, honey. I wish I could say we would never do it. We could never be like them. But I can't say that for certain. All I can say is, if that happened,wewould be the bad guys. Murder is still murder, even to save another. I just hope if we ever reach that point, someone will be there to stop us, just like we are stopping our own oppressors."

"It's definitely something to think about. I'm not sure what we would do, Brigid, if humanity was on the other end of this. I'm not sure what we might do. But that is a 'what-if' scenario. If they have kids, then we will help them out if we can."

Brigid smiled at him. "Thanks. I hope I don't sound silly or anything. I still want us to win. It... it makes my stomach turn when I think of all the poor people who died for their goals."

"Don't worry," her mother said. "I'm sure we're already put a stop with that by making them focus on fighting, and it is only a matter of time until we get them away from humanity entirely. Just trust people like me and Luke here to kick butt in the name of justice, just like in your comic books."

"Heh, yep, just trust the two of us to bring justice to the aliens and save the world."

Brigid nodded. "Alright." She jumped to her feet, and placed her hands on her hips. "Break time is up, mom. Time to hit the leg machine." Morrigan groaned and Brigid wagged her finger. "No whining or you do double reps."

"Yes, Master Brigid," Morrigan muttered, climbing to her feet. "Going to join us, Luke?"

Luke looked at Brigid then back at Morrigan. "Sure, why not? I can't let you suffer by yourself. Besides, I would love to see how Brigid trains you."

"Nuh-uh." The blonde teen wagged her finger at Luke this time. "You ain't just seeing anything. You come with, you're part of Brigid's training session too, got it?"

Luke looked at Brigid and jokingly rolled hiseyes. "Heh, alright, alright, I'll join. It's not like I have anything better to do anyway."

"Good." Brigid pointed to the machines and said, "And since you have so much time and energy, I want to see thirty reps of your usual weight plus... fifteen. Double time!"

Morrigan grinned at Luke as she walked towards the exercise machine. "You asked for it."

Luke chuckled at Morrgian. "Heh, if my kids are like this, then I welcome it. I could get used to this. Alright Brigid, let's get this started."


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I Will Haunt You, Part 1

Lester jumped when the hand clasped his shoulder, gripping it firmly. “Lester, buddy! Pal. Friend. Acquaintance. Sir.” Samuel coughed awkwardly. “... wanna hang out for a bit?”

The look the Specialist gave him was one of the most incredulous Samuel had ever seen. “Hang out? With me?” His eyes narrowed. “I wasn’t the first person you asked, was I?”

“Well no, but-”

“It doesn’t matter anyway. I’m also not going to be the first to say ‘no’. I have an appointment.”

The Russian blinked. “... an appointment?”

Lester rolled his eyes. “Fine. A date, if you must know.”

“A da-” Samuel took a moment. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but… who the fuck?”

“Matthew! Sorry I’m late, had to personally issue a stern warning to some of my people. The idiots won’t stop raiding-” Chloe stopped in her tracks. “Oh. H-hey, Sam.”

He stared at her for few silent seconds. “... you can’t be serious.”

The Overseer gave her date an apologetic look. “Do you mind if we talk alone for a bit?” When Lester had left to secure a booth, she directed her attention back to Samuel. “I thought you said you didn’t care.”

“I don’t.”

“Then what’s your problem?”

“Him? Really?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

The Russian brought up his hand, ready to list points. “Lets see. He’s an insufferable asshole at times, he’s got no heart-”

“No heart?” Chloe questioned, her tone dangerous. “Then what was that crying into my shoulder about losing one squad member about?”

Samuel paled. “... you serious?”

“He might seem like he’s got no heart to you, because you show none to him. To me, he’s talked about everything he’s been building up since the start of the war. It doesn’t stop with Ho-” She stopped. “... with her. Do you have any idea how guilty he feels over those people in the blacksite?”

Samuel glanced over to where the Specialist in question had disappeared, his expression difficult to read. “So he is human after all?”

Chloe rolled her eyes. “Mon dieu, yes. A bit of patience is all you need to see that.”

“Well, my first introduction to him did involve a gun being pointed at my head. Might’ve biased me a bit.”

“Then overcome your bias, and treat him like a human being. Maybe you’ll get some respect back.” The vampire shook her head. “That said, the inner workings of that man’s mind are still a mystery to me. I doubt I’ll ever see the full picture. It’s not in his nature to share everything.”

“Is it in anyone’s?”

Chloe’s eyes bored into him then, successfully making the Russian uncomfortable in her gaze. “... no, it isn’t,” she said. “Some people don’t even admit such things to themselves.”

Samuel chuckled nervously. “Well, I won’t keep you any longer. Clearly you want to get on with it, and I can’t say I disapprove without being a massive hypocrite. Enjoy your date.” He left without waiting for a response, feeling his ex-girlfriend’s eyes watching him as he did so.

A few minutes later, he flopped onto his bunk. Lester had, truth be told, been his last attempt at finding something social to do. Everyone else was busy. Even Stacie had refused him, though she’d probably show up for their daily… meeting. But that was several hours away. Samuel didn’t feel like training, either, though if all else failed he probably would.

For all the excitement of progress, of finally getting to the part where they threw the aliens off the planet, these past few weeks had been actually rather dull.

He exhaled. There was one thing he could do. Umbra hadn’t deemed it necessary to manifest at any point since the last mission, and Samuel had for once given it its space. It’d told him all it could about the Inquisition, after all. There was, however, now another question to pose. One Samuel already suspected part of the answer to.

What was that other form?

There was nothing for it. Fate had conspired to make his day empty, it seemed. Time to fill it with something productive.

He closed his eyes, musing on the topic as he calmed himself. It was time to revisit the corner of his mind inhabited by Umbra.


When he entered his dreamscape, the first thing he noticed was that it had filled out considerably.

Opening his eyes in the mental plane, he discovered that the area previously occupied by nothing but blackness and the Inquisition’s pillars had become an actual room. The room was, however, in disarray - the type of area one would expect to stumble into in an ancient ruin. The pillars previously occupied by Aquatef, Aervouba, and Ordero had crumbled into rubble, and the one now occupied by Albina was wrapped in chains. Terrash towered atop his, replacing the silhouette that had been there last time.

Around him were stone walls, the features of which were reminiscent both of Egyptian and Roman architecture. There was a single exit, leading into a massive corridor constructed in much the same way. Samuel couldn’t shake the feeling he was standing in a temple of some description.

At least, that was the feeling he was getting before the gunshot rang out.

His first response, knowing he was unarmed, was to dive behind a pillar. Ignium’s, he noted passingly. His second response was to analyze the direction in which the gunshot had come from. This was where he noticed that the sound had echoed off the walls.

Cautiously peeking out, another gunshot, this one confirming it. They weren’t even in this room, let alone aiming at him. With some trepidation, Samuel left his cover and the room, searching for the source.

He found it a few rooms later, sitting on a fallen block of yellow stone and aiming at a line of rocks on the other side of the courtyard. A gunshot, and one of them exploded into pebbles. She grunted in satisfaction, and discarded the box of ammo stuck to the underside of her gun for one that actually contained bullets.

Samuel shook his head. “Why am I not surprised?” he asked no one in particular, causing the woman to turn. Her expression, though partially hidden behind a pair of aviators, noticeably lit up.

“Samuel!” Holly practically screamed, now discarding her sniper rifle entirely and almost tackling him to the ground. “Where the hell have you been?” she asked, releasing him. “I’ve been sitting here doing fuck all for… I dunno, ages. Hard to keep track of time without a watch or anything.”

The Russian analyzed his dead friend for a moment. She was wearing the same outfit she’d worn back in the days before XCOM had Predator armor, a simple kevlar vest over the top of a purple T-shirt that served as her only arm protection, minus the gloves. Baggy trousers, heavy boots. A headband. The bandana that covered her face hanging at the hip, currently unused.

“Oh, sorry, bit rude to be keeping these on.” The Sharpshooter removed her aviators, revealing a nasty bruise around her left eye. Samuel immediately recognized it as the place where her helmet had been penetrated.

You shouldn’t even have the top half of your hea- He swallowed, putting an end to that train of thought. “Do you have any idea where you are?” he asked, his tone gentle.

Holly shrugged. “I dunno. It’s all a bit foggy. Last thing I really remember was being on an op with you guys on a dam in China somewhere.”

“And the last thing you remember about that?”

“There was a sniper I was competing with. After that… well, I couldn’t tell you if I tried.” She looked at him quizzically. “Why?”

Samuel hesitated. No, better to get this out of the way now. “Holly, you’re… you’re dead.”

Her expression was one of total confusion. “Don’t be stupid,” she said, making a motion as if to wave the idea away. “I’m right here.”

“And where’s here?”

“I-” Holly frowned. “I told you I didn’t know. For all I know I could have had a massive night, and just wound up here.”

Samuel raised an eyebrow. “With a bullet weapon?” he pointed out. “You wouldn’t go out with anything less than a mag weapon these days. You know that.”

“I… did wonder about that,” she admitted. “But it doesn’t matter now, right? You clearly know where everyone is, you can just bring me back, right?”

“Not without learning how to project illusions,” the Russian noted. “This place is in my head, Holly. This is my dreamscape. Maybe you exist in here, but… not outside.”

Holly scoffed, clearly still not believing him. “How did I die then?” she questioned.

“You were shot in the head by another sniper, one I think was being assisted by Ordero.”

“First of all that’s bullshit, no ADVENT or Protectorate mook could trump my aim, and second of all what the fuck is ‘Ordero’?”

“You remember that Elder on the dam with the Muton football squad?”

A pause. “Oh, her.”

Samuel nodded. “I was in the same room as her at the time. She said she’d had to take care of an annoyance, right after Azrael informed me one of us had fallen.”


“Nono, Azrael. A reflection. Basically the grim reaper himself, from what I understand. Or... one of them.” The Russian sighed. “He… felt you pass on.”

Holly was clearly disquieted by the level of detail Samuel was going into. “... alright, you can cut the crap now,” she said. “You’re a good bullshitter, I’ll give you that, but that’s enough.”

“Bonnie was shattered,” Samuel continued. “Honestly, I think that note you left for us just made it worse. It was selfless of you to tell us not to mourn you for too long, but-”

“How the fuck do you know about that note?!”

The Aerotrooper merely looked at her, his expression sad. “How do you think?”


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I Will Haunt You, Part 2

The dead Sharpshooter was silent for some time. “... I need to sit down,” she mumbled at last, almost collapsing on an upturned boulder of sandstone. “You… this isn’t an elaborate prank, is it?”

He followed suite. “Would I do that to you?”

Holly sighed. “No,” she admitted. “So… I lost to that sniper? Me?”

Samuel nodded. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “No idea where they went afterwards, either. Disappeared, like the remaining Inquisitors.”

“What? He ran?”


“Fucking coward.”


Harbinger shook her head. “So… if you’re right, and I’m dead… what the fuck am I? A ghost?”

I believe I may be of some service here, a voice declared from behind them. Samuel stood a little slower than Holly, who had whipped around with a revolver already in hand. She fired twice, though the bullets merely buried themselves in a sheet of ice. Don’t insult me like that, Azazel replied gruffly, dismissing the barrier.

“How long have you been there?” the Russian asked, considerably more comfortable with the Elder’s presence.

Not long. I would say I was passing through, but this place has a habit of directing me to wherever it wishes. Coatl chuckled, switching to a more vocal method of speaking. “I will admit it took me some time to work out why I was here too. But since my intention that day was to die regardless, I figured I had succeeded.”

“But you did work it out?” Samuel asked.


The Russian shrugged. “Well, you’ve clearly got a better idea than me then.”

“We’ve met again outside of here. You know this much. And we have disagreed. This is indicative of two separate minds, rather than a single combined entity.”

The two humans folded their arms. “You speaking a different language?” Holly asked dryly.

Azazel sighed in irritation. “I am not a part of you,” he explained. “I am something separate. An echo, a ghost, or something similar, carried unto you by Umbra. I thought that was where it would end, but it would seem just as he has affected you, so too have you affected him.” The Elder turned his head to Holly. “Tell me, has there been a time where you have dreamed of a place that wasn’t here?”

The Sharpshooter shifted her weight. “While I’ve been here? Only once. I remember there was a bunch of steps, and I wanted to throw something right over the top.”

Samuel looked at her, realization on his face. “That was when Umbra changed,” he said. “Our last mission at the Sydney Opera House. Bunch of enemies lined up in a row, like bowling pins.”

Holly shared the look. “Yeah!”

“And what were you doing at the time?” Azazel asked.

The Sharpshooter immediately grew defensive. “Uh… n-nothing, really. Just sitting around, passing time.”

“Doing what?”

“None of your business!”

“... but you were thinking of Samuel at the time, yes?”

“W-well, I…” Holly rubbed the back of her neck. “... yeah. Let’s just… leave it that, hey?”

Samuel shrugged. “Why? It’s not like you were touching yourself to the thought, right?”

The Sharpshooter’s face flushed, and she didn’t answer.

“... you’re kidding.”

Azazel shook his head. “You’re both getting offtrack-”

“How could you not have noticed?” Holly blurted, lashing out in her embarrassment. “I followed you practically everywhere. Even when Stacie beat me to you. My plan was to meet you in the showers one day as usual and then… join you.” She coughed, looking away. “That’s why I kept asking if you two had broken up yet. I honestly didn’t think you would, but it was still possible-”

Samuel looked at the Elder watching the procedure. “What the hell are you two?” he asked abruptly. “How do I know my mind isn’t just concocting the both of you?”

“I… wasn’t sure until Holly arrived,” Azazel admitted. “I have my own memories to prove I am me, but Umbra could easily have transferred those too. However, he has no connection to Holly. Her memories, her personality, all of that is foreign here. You just had a glimpse of something about her you were not aware of, which indicates that we are not just mental constructs. The only way of knowing for certain, however…”

The Russian was already a step ahead. “Holly,” he said, turning back to her. “What’s something you discussed with someone else without me? Or did? Anything, doesn’t matter what. So long as I don’t know the details yet.”

Harbinger considered. “... about a week before our last mission together, me and Bonnie were talking about postwar stuff. What we thought we’d end up doing after we w-” She stopped. “... after you guys win. I said I’d probably either be a celebrity veteran, or failing that help keep the peace. Bonnie was saying she’d probably retire for good, likely somewhere close to a good bar.”

Samuel nodded slowly. “Alright. Thanks.”


“Well, there’s only one way to be sure I’m not just constructing all of this.”


Bonnie nearly floored him when his hand clasped her shoulder. “Ah! Jesus, Sam, ye fuckin’ madman. Nearly took your head off. Can’t ye see I’m busy?”

Samuel examined the Grenadier, noting the gloves on her hands and the large bag swinging from a chain before her. “This won’t take long,” he assured her. “Did you and Holly ever talk about what you were going to do after the war?”

Lass’ expression fell. “... aye,” she said. “Why’re you bringing her up?”

“What did you decide?”

“I said I was done. Last adventure for me. Gettin’ old, after all.” Hesitation. “And she… she wanted to bask in the glory a bit. Live off that for the rest of her life if possible, maybe do a bit of peacekeeping on the side.”

The Russian’s head was already swimming. They’re real, he realized. I’m not going insane, they’re real. But… why? How? “Thanks, Bonnie. All I needed to know.” He stalked off without saying anything further, leaving the Scotswoman to her punching bag.

Briefly, he wished Arthur wasn’t doing psionic training. I’ll have to do without his wisdom, was the decision as he stalked through the halls of the ship, no real destination in mind. This isn’t normal, obviously. The dead don’t sit around in the living’s heads having a grand old time. And dad isn’t there, either. Why not? What was missing there that was present for Holly and Azazel?

He stopped. Umbra. Umbra was the only difference, the only thing that might possibly explain all of this. And now that he thought about it, the Reflection’s change in form on their last mission was rather reminiscent of a sniper.

Arthur had once said that Umbra could change Samuel as a person. But he’d prefaced that with the idea that Samuel could also change Umbra. Probably didn’t mean it like this, but…

Considering the issue only cemented this theory. The shadowy titan hadn’t seemed quite so tactically malleable in the possession of Azazel, yet now in following Samuel’s lead, it acted… differently. Less commitment, more adaption. Every day, it was acting more and more in sync with him. Was this all his doing, unintentionally?

Nemesis gave up. He was a soldier, a fighter. Not a philosopher. And to a soldier, this was just another tool in the box. Another gun in the holster.

He couldn’t help but wonder how many holsters he’d fill before this was over, however.


Game Master
Staff member
Dahlexpert & ZombieSplitter53
A New Look for a New Man
Part One

On board the Avenger
Soldiers Barracks

Luke was in his bed sleeping. After training for most of the night, he decided to just sleep in. While sleeping, Luke still wore his family dog tags, and the watch that Alexis gave him.

After an overnight shift, Alexis stepped into the room. She let out a soft yawn, carefully making as little noise as she could as she got out of her work clothes and slipped into the bed with her lover turned fiance.

Luke eyes slowly opened, and he let out a soft yawn. "Morning baby. Coming home from work?"

"Mhmm." She slipped between the sheets, facing him. "Didn't mean to wake you. You can go back to sleep if you want."

"Oh, I intend to, but before I go back to sleep..." Luke took off his watch and grabbed Alexis, and brought her on top of him. Luke then put his hand under Alexis' underwear, groping her butt. "I need my daily dose of Alexis before I go to sleep."

"Oh?" Alex laid her chest against his, smiling. "Surprisingly frisky for a man who trained all night. Do you ever run out of energy?"

"Oh, I do, but this is just me having fun." Luke started to rub Alexis butt, and gently kissed her." I'm going to need your help honey, but worry about it when you're not tired."

Alexis shook her head. "I'm not that tired. It was pretty slow tonight and I slept in yesterday. Nothing a cup of coffee can't fix. What did you need?"

Luke let go of Alexis' butt and took off his shirt. "I'm going to regret saying this, but... honey, I need a makeover. And part one of that, is getting rid of my old scars. If you can of course."

Alexis let out a small, surprised laugh, caught a bit off guard. "Um... okay. Well, it isn't my specialty, but I'd been work with Chandra a lot, so I'm sure I can." She slipped off him, and motioned for him to sit up. "Why, uh... why the sudden concern with appearance?"

Luke sat on the edge of the bed, and thought about the question. "Hmm, well, it's more of a change of appearance for a new me. I'm not the same person that I was a few years ago, so might as well get a new look."

Alex nodded. "I get it. You don't want a bunch of scars from the past reminding you of person you left behind." She placed hands over one of the scars, a low green glow forming from them.

Luke groaned a little." Yeah, that's the main reason for that. They leave bad memories to them. And since I conquered my demons, best get rid of those last threads you know?"

"Well, like I said, I should be able to get them," Alexis said. "It is all about going down to the base DNA and causing the cells to regenerate and multiply in the way they are supposed to be without the scared tissue."

"Oh, of course, all that medical stuff, right?"

Alexis giggled as she moved to the net scar. "Exactly. Now, this will be a process. The scars will only fade at first while scar tissue is gradually replaced with fresh tissue. We'll have to do this several times to fully get rid of them. Shouldn't take more the three or four times though, depending on how deep they are."

"They should be pretty deep, considering I was smacked with a whip. Yeah, they're nice and deep, kinda like I am with your womb." Luke chuckled at the jab.

Alex's cheeks turned bright red. "I'm glad you save the real dirty talk for when my parents aren't around, perv."

"Hey, you're marrying this perv, and he's made you a perv. And loves every bit of it. There is one... well, two more things I need you to do for me. Which I'm probably gonna regret."

"Well that doesn't sound good." Alexis moved to the last group of scars. "What did you need?"

"No, you're gonna love it. Me, I might regret it depending on how it goes." Luke took a deep breath and exhaled. "I want you, darling, to not only cut my hair, but also dye it. But not all of it though."

"Really?" Alexis asked excitedly. "You really are going for a new look. I would love to hep you with that."

"You are way too excited for this, but I appreciate it. Just know I'm letting you free ball my hair cut, and the dye. So I'm counting on you. Also there is one more scar I need you to heal once you're done back there."

Alexis patted his back. "Done for now. We'll do this again tomorrow. Already looking better. What other scar?"

Luke turned around and there was a scar on his stomach. It was a large burn scar that looked like it was meant to heal. "This on is from, when I was branded. I cut it off and used my fire to heal the wound."

"Geez, Luke. I didn't know that was how..." She placed her hands over into, using a bit more energy then before. "I hope you did that before you met me."

"Alexis, this was years before I went to my first megacity. This was when I was in the outlands. See, I was captured by the leader of all bandits were I lived. She captured me and tortured the hell out of me for a year. That's where most of the scars you’re healing came from."

Alexis sighed. "I love you Luke, and I want to know everything about you. But the more I learn about your past, the more depressing it gets."

"Yeah, no kidding. I lived through it, but that's why I'm so happy now. I have you, Jenn, Gwen, Leon, Yakone, and everyone else making me happy, even though I get on most of their nerves. But I'm happy now, and I have a woman that cares for me and who I can depend on for the rest of my life. I really do appreciate you helping me erase some of these scars from a brutal past".

"Of course." Alex rubbed his chest as she healed it. "And you're right. You can depend on me. Forever and ever and ever. And don't worry if you bug others. It is a sign that they care about you if you annoy them and they still want to be you friend."

"Heh, yeah, I can't wait to get to Texas if we ever get there. There is a friend of mine, well friends, that I want you to meet. If they see you and hear that I'm marrying you, they might die of shock."

Alexis nodded. "I'd love to meet your friends. I just love to hear that you had friends. What were they like?"

"Well, my best friend Jesse, he's a... how do a put this? A dreamer. He would always want more, he would want the best of life, and try to help others even when we were in a gang. I think you will like him."

"Sounds like it." She laughed. "How did such a optimistic dreamer end up being your best friend? Or should I say, best friends with dark, angry Luke?"

"Well, we were both six years old at the time. He was being beaten down by some kids that wanted the things he scavenged, I came in and beat the crap out of those kids. After helping him, he just keep hanging around me like a leech, 'til I eventual caved in and started to talk to him. And in the bleak world, he was the only one that just looked at his situation and smiled at it. Heh, he loved life no matter how dreadful it was. If t wasn't for him I would not be here today."

Luke rubbed his head. "See, I was at a point were I wanted to die. To just be done with the pain I caused. But he knew I wasn't me. he knew there was good in me, the same good that helped him and others. So instead of killing myself, he told me to leave that settlement, and from that day forward I tried to be the good man he saw all those years ago. He was the only ray of sunshine in my pit of anger."

"Well, in that case, we have to absolutely see him." Alex looked over her work, the scar certainly healed though would need a lot more work. "I have to thank him for setting you on the path of redemption, and meet the man that made you so happy. We should look for him as soon as we get a chance. Only a matter of time until we win, right?"

"Yeah, can't wait to see him again. Now for the part I dread. I'm not looking forward to this." Luke looked at Alexis and exhaled. "Alright honey, I'm giving you free range with my hair here, so do whatever. I'm trusting you with this. Please don't make me regret this."

"Hmm..." Alex slipped off the bed and looked him over. "Your hair has gotten quite long. I can think of a good style for you." She chuckled. "I'm tempted to color it orange so it will go along with Jenn and me with all three secondary colors. Though I should probably start simple. Don't want to abuse that trust."

"Yeah, I'm putting you on a bit of a leash here. Now I don't have a hat, so please be good."

"Sure thing. Hold on." Alex quickly slipped her clothes back on. "I'm going to get some hair cutting stuff and the hair dye. Don't chicken out on me and run away, okay?"

"Ugh... huh, yeah, sure." As Alexis left the room, Luke thought about what he said. "What have I done? I'm allowing Alexis to do my hair. I think I've finally lost my mind. I think I could get out of it, but what would be the fun in that?" Luke took a deep breath. "But what can go wrong... he said for his final words."

Alexis peaked in a few minutes later. "Oh, good. You're still here." She placed a bunch of supplies on the bed and pulled out a chair for Luke to sit in. "Come along. I know what I'm doing. Trust me."

"Right, you know what you're doing with your sister and your hair, but I'm not you or Jenn. So excuse me for being a bit nervous."

"I don't blame you." Alex wrapped a sheet around him. "It might surprise you, but I do actually know what I'm doing. You think dad or Jennifer knew anything about looking good and stylish? I wanted to be sure when I took down my first enemies, they remembered dying to a beauty. I'm the one who colored Jenn's hair, and kept my dad's hair from being neglected."

"Oh are you now? Well that's good to know. So you're the reason for Joe's hair huh? Well thanks for that. Thanks for calming my nerves darling."

Alexis flicked his ear. "That sounded a bit like sarcasm, bub."

"Heh, oh, I’m still gonna smack talk no matter what. You doing my hair is not going to stop me."


Game Master
Staff member
Dahlexpert & ZombieSplitter53
A New Look for a New Man
Part Two

"Yeah, well, just remember that I'm holding some sharp objects." Alexis misted his hair and started snipping the ends. "Not to mention the fact that pissing me off could land you with a rainbow colored Mohawk. Though... that might not be all that bad of a look for you..."

"Hum, Alright alright, I get it. I won't make fun of you while you're cutting my hair, and please don't give me some rainbow mohawk. I would rather not get laughed at by the aliens."

"Hey, for all you know, that might be a distinguished look for some of them." She sighed as she snipped off larger clumps. "It really has gotten long. It was much shorter when we met. It... all makes you think about the passage of time and how quick it can be. I guess... it is all the more reason to live life to the fullest, huh?"

"Yeah, I have a bucket list once this is all over. I feel like after all this, we can relax for a few years, maybe travel around, see some more of the planet, get married and have a crap ton of children."

"That would be ideal. Though I do have to wonder when 'over' will be the case." Alexis carefully snipped around his ears. "We have to beat the Overseers and then their king or High Commander or whatever he calls himself. Then any other Elders that stand against us. Then the other aliens and ADVENT or the Peacekeepers. Again, whatever they're calling themselves now. We'll have Island nations to repopulate. Australia is nothing but alien territory. So much to do." She sighed. "I hope we at least get a vacation when this is all over."

"Not to mention there's the out lands and the many bandits that rule them. They won't just sit down and surrender when order comes back to the world." Luke sighed. "But as for repopulating, I expect that should be no problem for us. Humans can make a lot of kids in a short amount of time. And believe me, we will have plenty of mini Lukes and Alexis roaming around. We'll get our vacation darling. Count on it."

Alexis laughed, working on the back of Luke's head. "The apartment is nice and all, but I think it'll be too small for the amount of kids you sound like you want. How many you thinking? Fifteen? Twenty? Get ourselves a ranch and just have them running around as our own personal army?"

"Hehe hehe, Well, you did say you did want to help me repopulate my family blood line. So I would like a bunch of kids, but in all honestly darling, I would probably like four. Two for you and two for me to take care of. But that personal army thing sounds great. Heh, twenty little psions roaming around a farm. That sounds like fun."

"Psions, huh?" Alexis paused for a moment to think. "I didn't really think about that. We both have strong, usable psionics. Will our kids have them? Are psionics genetic? And if they do, when will those powers surface? Will we be able to handle it? Not like kids with powers was a thing most parents had to worry about before the aliens showed up..."

"Hum, well, I'm not sure about psi powers being transferred. But it could be, and if so we're gonna have a lot on our table."

"How old were you when you first got your powers again?" Alex asked

"I was thirteen, probably the worst birthday of my life. Remember, I used to be scared of my fire, so not a good birthday."

"I was around the same age," Alexis noted. "Hopefully, if our kids do gain powers, we'll have until then to prepare." She brushed off some loose hair and grabbed some gloves. "Ready for some color?"

"Ugh boy, you're just gitty right now, aren't you?"

"This was your idea, so hush or I'll make your hair violet like mine but with pink tips." Alex poured some of the due she was using into her hands and slowly messaged it into his hair. "You're going to love it. I promise."

"Alright, damn. But I am glad you’re enjoying this. Me doing this truly means I’m accepting the new me and I love it."

"That's good. And don't you forget it." Alexis's fingers slowly moved through his hair and across his scalp, turning it into as much of a head message as a dying. "I’ll always be here to remind you of the good man you have become. It is the least I can do for everything you have done for me."

"Heh, I appreciate it, and I'm glad that I found someone that will support me like you. And you do much more for me then just remind me of what a good person I've become.. You push me to be stronger. You being my fiance, I want to get strong to the point where we can end this and live normally like we did in our apartment for a week. That one week, to me at least, was something I will always fight for and have to have every day with you."

"You sure you won't get bored with such a life?" Alexis asked playfully

"Hey, I lived a life of conflict, I think I earned a rest. Heh, you know it felt weird, being in that apartment. No training, no guns, no explosions. If that's what true peace is, I kinda like it."

"Well, good. Because I've been on the run all my life. Peace is all I want." As she worked on the ends of his hair, she leaned down and asked, "Sure you won't get tired of me and move on to a better model? Behind that gruff exterior is a ladies man that could find anyone else he wants."

Luke chuckled at Alexis thought."Yes, I could get whatever woman I want and sleep around and do what I want again. But come on baby, if I would have done that, I would have left when we had that fight about my past. But I didn't, and I wanted to fix our relationship, so I'm not going anywhere... to most women's dismay."

Alexis nodded. "Good answer." She stepped around Luke, leaning forward to work on the front, giving him a face full of cleavage to admire. "Looks pretty damn good if I can toot my own horn, though he'll need to wash out the excess to know for sure."

"Heh, yeah. Can't wait to see it, but first and foremost..." Luke grabbed Alexis' butt, bringing her close to him and smothering her cleavage in his face. "But I could never get tired of doing this to you, which is another reason I love you. You put up with my teasing more then anyone," Luke said with a big smile.

Alexis laughed. "Just know that you're the only one. Any other man ever touches me like this, I expect you to kick his ass. Got it?”

"Oh, but of course. Anyone that messes with you the way I do, you can expect a broken nose from them. Anyway, you got a mirror so I can see your handy work?"

"Hold on, let's... wash out the excess. Otherwise, you'll look all greasy." She pulled on his arm and led him to their small bathroom, having him lean over the sink to quickly rinse his hair. Drying it off, she sat him down and styled his hair a bit before finally letting him have a mirror.

While much shorter then before, she had left it longer then when they first met. It was a bit shaggy and spiked up in the center. Most of his hair was a similar brown then it had been before, though a bit lighter. Moving up though, it faded into a more brown-orange, though a darker one that didn't make him look silly. Instead, it give the subtle look of raising flames, and allowed for maximum attention to his face with a lack of bangs or sideburns.

"Oh wow, darling, this is nice very nice. Not as short as when we met. It's a nice middle ground. And I have to admit, the dark orange definitely reminds me of my pyrokinesis. I think you've outdone yourself."

"Are you sure?" Alexis's confidence quickly gave way to apprehension. "You're not just trying to be nice, right? Because... because I could color it something else, o-or cut it differently.

"Hun, it's great. It's an awesome middle ground and I do love the orange. Plus you made my hair a bit spiky and it looks nice. Quit worrying about things darling."

Alexis laughed and clapped her hands together. "Thank you. Because you look amazing! And you're so handsome without the hair in your eyes. You... look... hot!"

Luke's face went bright red." Heh, thanks baby. Now you just have to keep the rookies off me. I'm sure most of the young girls will see me and think to themselves, 'Oh look at this guy. He's big strong and extremely handsome.' They might want a piece of me."

Alexis scrunched her nose and rubbed her chin. "You're right. Maybe I should have gone with the rainbow mohawk after all..."

"Do that, and I will not have sex with you. And I will constantly tease you without letting you orgasm."

Alex scoffed. "You... n-no you wouldn't. You'd want me just as much as I'd want you."

"Yeah, but to constantly tease you? To never let you finish? Well, I wonder what will happen?"

Alex pouted, fidgeting a little. "Okay, fine, you win. I wouldn't want to mess with the art I performed today anyway. Just don't tell anyone you won because of my lust. They'd never let me hear the end of it."

Luke burst into laughter. "I truly made you a perverted woman. A cook, a soldier and a perverted woman. I really picked a winner with you, huh?"

Alexis blushed and stomped her foot. "You... g... go take a shower while I clean up before I box your ears, you jerk."

Luke hugged Alexis and held her waist. “Wait, wait, I’m sorry. But it's just so fun to annoy you." Luke slowly started to lift Alex's shirt. "Come on, take a shower with me. The water will cool your head and make you relax."

Alexis slowly smiled. "Yeah... alright. A shower together sounds like fun."

Luke lifted Alexis shirt over her head, and hugged her again. "That's my girl. I do appreciate the new look and I do love it." Luke kissed the top of Alexis head to calm her nerves.

Alexis nodded, and pulled his arm along. "Come on. Why don't you show me exactly how much you appreciate it."

Luke grinned at Alexis. "Oh, I fully intend to show you how much I love this new look." Luke went along with Alexis to the showers.


Well-Known Member
DarkGemini24601 and ZombieSplitter53: “Inflamed Impressions, Part 1”

Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean
1633 Hours, January 6th, 2039
Onboard the X.S.S. Avenger
Floor 2, Port Wing
Ayame’s Room

One day before Operation Industrius Rhea.

Tomislav waited until the other occupant of the room had departed to go train. Once Olivia was gone, the room was empty save for the woman that Tom desired to talk to. It once had contained four soldiers, but now, after one of them now slept eternally and the other had moved in with her boyfriend, it was just Brown and Kasagi. This was fortuitous for the Serbian that now approached the door. The feelings he wished to confess were unlike anything he had felt before, and it would be embarrassing for him to to let them be known in public. Intaking a deep breath, Tomislav knocked on the door.

After a minute, Ayame opened the door, and look surprised to see who it was. “Tomislav! I… is everything okay? How are you feeling?”

“In a word, better.” Tomislav rubbed the back of his neck. “Mind if I come in?”

“Uh, yeah! Of course, um…” Ayame stepped aside, letting the man step inside. She quickly moved over to her bed, shoving some dirty laundry to the side and some garbage in the bin. “S-sorry. You’d think, after all this time, I wouldn’t be so messy.”

“It’s alright.” Tomislav leaned against the wall next to the doorway, having come in but not completely opening up just yet. The door closed behind him with a faint click. “I’m sorry that I’ve avoided you for the past two weeks. I’ve… needed time to think. About a lot of things,” he began slowly.

Ayame held up a hand. “That’s okay, completely okay. I… I-I’m not used to it, but I’m patient. I just… just hope you… followed your heart, as cliche as that might sound.”

“I did.” Letting out a sigh of frustration - directly only at himself - Tomislav ran a hand over his buzz-cut head. “I’ve been working up the courage to test myself. Put a flame in front of my eyes, and tried my damn hardest to look away. I didn’t think I could do it, but I was able to, even if it took an exhausting amount of effort. I…” Out with it, dammit. “I found a center. Something that mattered more to me that my obsession. It… took me by surprise, but that ended up being you. You - everything about you - held such an important place in my mind as to supercede my mania,” Tomislav told her. “That’s when I realized that I really do love you. I may not have been sure before, but I am now.”

Ayame was completely caught off guard, her mouth opening and closing a few times. She wiped a tear rolling her cheek, and laughed softly. “No one has… ever said something like that to me before. Tom… I-I… I love you too. If I wasn’t sure before, you just cemented it.”

A relieved smile crossed Tom’s features, the man letting out a sigh as his body decompressed from the tension that had built up in it. “That’s good to hear. You don’t know how hard that was to say.”

“I have some idea. Not like I’ve always been the most open person. But considering what you’ve gone through…” Ayame walked up to him and took his hand. “This… is probably the best thing I could have hoped for.”

Tomislav clasped the Asian woman’s hand in return. “I don’t know how you’ve done it, but you’ve healed me more than any other woman could ever have hoped to.”

“And you’ve made me happier then I have been in a long, long, long time.” Ayame scratched her chin. “So… where should we go from here, love?”

The Harrier shrugged in response. “You have time for a date?”

Honshu, the central island of Japan
1035 Hours, January 14th, 2039
Derelict city of Osaka

Two days before Operation Humilibus Neptune.

While the Commander was in Kochi, speaking with the leaders of the Japanese Resistance, Ayame had taken Tomislav to a shrine in the abandoned ancient capital of the eastern island. It was cold enough for coats, and the Serbian man stood in one as he and his girlfriend approached their destination. “When was the last time you visited here?” Tom asked curiously.

“When was the last time? That is a good question…” Ayame stroked her chin in thought. “Man… it must have been at least twenty-five years. I used to come here all the time, once a year even. Then once every other year… then every five. Next thing I knew, it was only when I had to come to Japan anyway, and suddenly, my ability to come here freely was gone. Sucks when a giant alien bomb takes out a major metropolitan area and invaders force us to abandon all our island nations.”

Tomislav nodded. “Even in Eastern Europe we’d heard about how rough Japan had it. Island kinda became an intercontinental symbol of how brutal the aliens could be.” The Serbian paused for a moment, snapping his fingers to get Magarac to leave a trash can alone and continue following. “So are you expecting to get a personal deity like the one you mentioned our medical chief has?”

Ayame shook her head. “Not a deity. But something from the gods. This shrine used to be on my father’s family property. Even after that property changed hands, I still visited it and prayed the the gods would bless me with a guardian spirit of my very own. Never happened though.”

“Well, there was never a dire threat to the entire planet before.” Tomislav shrugged. “You might get lucky this time.”

Ayame nodded. “Something about XCOM makes me think that is possible. The Commander… that woman just seems to expel good luck on those around her. I can only hope she gets more of it for herself.”

“I’d count having that Reflection of hers as pretty damn lucky,” Tom retorted with an amused chuckle.

“Good point.” She led Tomislav past some debris, careful not to disturb in too much and cause the dilapidated house they had to walk through to collapse on top of them. The made it to a small, open garden in the center of the structure. It was likely once beautiful, but the grass was overgrown, the flower patch was overrun with weeds, and what little water was in the koi pond was stagnant and dirty. They stopped in front of a shine about as big as Ayame herself. Dusting off some moss, she said, “Still in pretty decent shape considering it hasn’t been cared for. Who knows? Maybe a guardian deity has been caring for it from on high.”

Tomislav sat down towards the edge of the yard, Magarac dutifully curling up next to him. “I’ll leave that to you to determine. The occult is way, way beyond my expertise.”

“It isn’t the occult,” Ayame said with a roll of the eyes. “Trust me, I know. I’ve met some wickins. They are weird… but they always had the most interesting stories.” She knelt down in front of the shrine and pressed her hands together. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Want to pray with me?”

“Not sure I’d know how,” the Serbian responded uncertainly. “Is it anything like western prayers?”

“Mhmm. You simply close your eyes, and share your wishes with whoever might be listening. Might be a little more complicated because there is more than one god.” Ayame grinned. “At least it isn’t Chinese. Do have how many Chinese Hells there are? Short answer, a lot.”

Tomislav got up, moving closer to Ayame. “Alright. I’ll give it a shot.”

The two sat in silence for several minutes. Ayame’s breathing slowed quite a bit, relaxing as she let her mind devote itself to her prayers. She noted that she did have a boyfriend there, however. After a while, she said, “Want to know a secret about young me?”

“You’ve certainly aroused my curiosity, yes,” Tomislav returned with a smile.

“When I was a child, my mother and father used to tell us of mischievous spirit animals like kitsune and tanuki. Being that played tricks on people and disguised themselves to fool others. I was supposed to learn a lesson about not trusting something just because it was cute or attractive… but I couldn’t help but wish I had a tanuki of my own. It was the first thing I ever prayed for at a shrine.”

“Never been much of a pet person myself. But I can appreciate the sentiment at least. I’m the odd one out when it comes to people appreciating things that they find cute.”

“I get that… but tanuki’s are sooooo cute.” Ayame peeked over to him. “Have you ever seen a raccoon dog? Adorable.”

“I haven’t, actually,” Tomislav replied, returning her glance.

Ayame smirked, and returned her attention to the shrine. Impressed with Tom’s patience, she prayed for another twenty minutes before slowly climbing to her feet. “Alright. I think I’m ready to…” She fell silent, and looked around. “Did you hear that?”


Well-Known Member
DarkGemini24601 and ZombieSplitter53: “Inflamed Impressions, Part 2”

“No,” the Serbian Harrier responded. “What did you hear?”

“A… kinda of barking. You… maybe I was…” She turned back towards the shrine. “I heard it again!” She knelt down in front of it again. “I… can it be I’m…”

Tomislav shrugged helplessly. “Don’t ask me.”

The shrine let off a gentle glow, and Ayame’s eyes lit up like a child’s on Christmas morning, at least when it was regularly practiced. The glow turned into an orb of light that floated gently above the shrine. Ayame nodded and whispered, “I will. I will treasure your gift for all time.” She watched as the orb slowly descended, and passed into her chest.

Raising an eyebrow, Tom asked, “what was that?”

Ayame giggled, and closed her eyes, concentrating. The light emerged from her chest again and floated to the ground. It burst in a flash, and sitting on the ground, looking up at Tomislav, was an ethereal tanuki wearing a round hat, its ears poking out of the top. “I got my wish!” Ayame said excitedly. “Gonna name him… Tatsu.”

“That mean anything?” Tomislav wondered as he looked over the ghostly animal. He glanced over to Maga, and - seeing his confusion - grinned. “Right… you can’t see it, can you?” Magarac merely tilted his head in confusion, having no idea why his master was staring at what was, to him, a blank patch of ground.

“It means ‘sign of the dragon’. It was also a friend I had a long time ago. This is my own Bake-danuki, a tanuki yokai.” Ayame leaned down next to it. “Can you… you know?” The spirit nodded, and Ayame let out a cheerful yell. She whispered into the creature’s ear and stood back up. “Wanna see something cool, Tomislav?”

You know, it’d be nice if I knew what a Yokai is, Tomislav mentally grumbled.

It is something between a ghost and a natural spirit, Phobos offered in layman’s terms.

For once, thanks. Tomislav shrugged. “Sure. Show me.”

Ayame nodded to her tanuki, and he nodded back. Removing his hat, he placed a leaf on his head. In a flash and puff of smoke, he temporarily took on physical form, with said form looking an awful like Tomislav was looking in a mirror. To hammer the reflection home, it even copied his stance.

“That’s certainly useful,” Tomislav remarked, chuckling but feeling a bit unnerved by how identical the Bake-danuki looked to him.

Tatsu chuckled in an identical manner before reverting back to its original form, placing its hat back on. Ayame jumped up and down, excited as can be. “This is so awesome! Who needs fireballs or shields when you have your own yokai companion to confuse the hell out of your enemies with illusions.” She practically jumped into Tom’s arms, giving him a long kiss. “Thank you for coming with me. I just know it was your extra prayers that helped make this happen.”

Although Tomislav might not necessarily have agreed with that assessment, he didn’t see any point in arguing. “I’m glad I could help,” he responded, running a hand through Ayame’s hair. “Only fitting you get some sort of spooky companion when I already have one."

Magarac gave him a hurt look, as if to say ‘what am I, chopped liver?’

Ayame smiled down at Magarac, blowing a kiss. “Come on. Let’s head back. I want to give you a special reward for being so patient today.”

Tomislav’s eyes lit up at that. “Oh really? I’m curious to see what specifically you have in mind.”

Ayame giggled and seductively walked away, saying, “Let’s just say something that we’ll want the pets not watching us do.”


Game Master
Staff member
Part One

The Battleship Pera'lemis
High Orbit over the planet Terra
1700 Hours (Local Time)

With the day's training sessions and drills done, three members of the Protectorate Peacekeepers in service to Zemsis'Jiputer sat around a table in the human section of the dining hall, chatting softly about the day's events. One subject seemed to be of particular focus. "He just sat there for over an hour," Hitomi stated, taking a bite of her simple meal. "It was like he was frozen or something."

Rei reached up to push up her non-existent glasses, unneeded since joining ADVENT and getting her nearsightedness corrected, but a tough habit to break. "His meeting with the other Elders must have been quite lengthy. XCOM and Genesis are moving with what feels like exponentially increasing speed and efficiency."

Hitomi nodded. "The weird thing is, after that, he went into the training room."

Finally chiming in, having been awfully quiet since her recent promotion, Sora said, "The training room? Like... to train? I never knew he even trained."

Hitomi shook her head. "He doesn't. At least, not since coming here. He has only been in there to address others. But he's in there alone now, and has been in there for hours."

"The reason no has ever seen him train is because he never has had a need," Rei stated. "He is an Overseer, one with incredible strength. I doubt any of them have ever had to train."

"You don't think... he's scared of XCOM, do you?" Hitomi asked softly.

Rei shrugged. "I doubt it. Fear doesn't seem to sit well with him. Of course, there are other reasons to train."

"Like to blow off steam?" Sora lowered her eyes. "Maybe the rumors are true..."

"What rumors?" Hitomi nudged Sora. "You can't just say something like that and not share."

Sora looked around to make sure that no one was listening in. "You know that failed mission in South America to take out the UCFF? I heard that the two Watchers we lost... were named Eosa'Jiputer and Helioso'Jiputer..."

Hitomi and Rei exchanged a nervous glance, the former stating, "That would explain all of the explosions we've heard coming from that room."

Rei looked like she was about to say something more, but turned her attention to her food, as did Hitomi. When Sora turned to see why, one of the Elder's attendants, a Mimic, finished his approach. "Master Zemsis wishes to speak with you, Captain."

"With... with me?" Sora felt a chill run down her spine. "Why?"

The Mimic narrowed his eyes. "I don't know. Shall I go back and ask him for clarification?"

"Hey man, she was just asking," Hitomi said in response. "No need to be such a c..."

"That won't be necessary," Rei cut in, giving Hitomi a look to shut her up. "Captain Yoshida, please enjoy your meeting with the Elder."

Sora nodded, trying to hide her reluctance as she walked along with the attendant. They entered the training room, and the air was heavy with the aura of the Elder's power. Much of the room's walls were scorched and dented. There was the smell of destruction itself in the air. Zemsis faced away from the entrance, some plasma energy floating before him, moving slowly forwards, much slower then it should have been at the rate it would have been fired. Noting the others, Zemsis turned to face them as the plasma shot forward and melted into a turret.

So glad you could join me, Captain, he stated telepathically. Why he was doing so when he usually spoke verbally to humans was unknown to Sora, but she was sure it wasn't a good reason. I have something important to discuss with you. Fear not, for I will not take much of your time. Though I do have a question first. Tell me... do you have any family?

Sora's eyes widened a bit as she felt a sinking feeling in her stomach, brought on for more then one reason. "N-no, sir. I lost my parents... when I was very young. The closest I have to family is two teammates here on the ship."

How nice. Family, even friends who feel like family, can be such a source of inspiration. They can ground you, and remind you that there is something out there worth fighting for. This is true even among the Elders.
The air grew heavier with the Elder's power. I sense that you are already aware of what has happened to my family. What you might not be aware of is how pointless it was. How much it could have been avoided if not for the human's failings.

Sora slowly nodded. "It is... tragic that groups like... l-like XCOM and the UCFF..."

Those are not the failings I speak of. Zemsis beckoned Sora to come closer. Tell me, my dear, with all of the incredible power we Elders wield, why do you think we did not step in right away to quell this uprising ourselves?
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Game Master
Staff member
Part Two

Sora's eyes darted about. "I... I-I would never presume to... to think I could comprehend the thoughts of beings so much higher then myself."

The mimic let out a gruff scoff. "That much is obvious. But the Elder does not ask questions he does not expect you to ans-" He dropped to his knees, feeling like an invisible fist had just punched him in the gut.

Thank you, but I can speak for myself if you don't mind. Zemsis glared over at him for a few more moments before looking down at Sora once more. Just a guess. Humor me.

Sora swallow, and tried to think quickly, knowing she needed both the right answer and a way of wording it correctly. "I-I... suppose it is because the Elders did not think it would be necessary." Again, an imposing weight filled the room, and Sora assumed she had guessed wrong as she struggled to stay on her feet.

You are close, Captain, but the answer is because it shouldn't have been necessary. The true failing came, not from groups like XCOM, but from ADVENT. We gave them so much. We gave them power. We gave them freedom to act as the wished. We gave them the tools to fight. It would seem the Elders, including myself, were so busy trying not to underestimate XCOM, we didn't realize we were overestimating the humans who were supposed to protect their own world.

Sora took several deep breaths and said, "B-but... the alien troops... that you had fight with us... they also failed to...

More tools to assist the humans!
Zemsis mentally shouted, losing his cool for a brief moment before returning to his calm explanation. It was always believed there would be fights the humans could not handle on their own. But it was believed... it was hoped that they would at least be able to deal enough damage so any of our remaining forces could finish the job. But you humans are far more weak and incompetent then I had ever imagined.

Sora wiped some sweat from her brow. "I... I-I am sorry, Master Zemsis. I... b-but it was XCOM and the UCFF that... that killed them, not..."

Which brings me to what I brought you here for now, the Elder interrupted. I am giving you another promotion. You are now in charge of every member of the Protectorate Peacekeepers on this ship. Congratulations.

Sora's eyes darted about in utmost confusion. "I... I-I understand the first promotion to... to an extent, but... but after what I did, and how I... what happened, I... I don't understand."

It is quite simple. It is because you were going to betray me to Genesis but proved your loyalty that I do this. It tells me that you are loyal enough to follow my orders while still ever so concerned for your fellow humans. How touching.

Sora suddenly felt a tight grip around her throat as she was lifted in the air. "M-master," she choked out. "Please... I..."

XCOM is targeting Australia. Zemsis continued. With the attack on the Watcher, that much is obvious. Soon they will come for me. Should they, by some miracle, not die to the Overseer of Australia, then they will die here. But will they die to the Overseer of Africa... or to you?

"Master... p-please... don't..." Sora shook ever so slightly, believing her death was close.

Do not cower. I will not kill you, I am simply proving a point. That point is you can not stand up to me. Now, listen carefully.
The Elder loosened his mental grip ever so much so Sora could listen a bit better. When XCOM comes, I do not want to fight them. I do not want to see them. It is not our job to police this world, simply to oversee it. You will engage them, and your troops will kill them. If they fail, and I see a single member of XCOM enter my sight, as soon as I have dealt with them, I am coming for any of the Peacekeepers who survived. He dropped Sora to the ground, and point a wrinkled shrived finger at her. Except you. You'll live. You'll bare witness to the price for your failure. I will kill them all, starting with one of your friends and ending with the other, and you will live with the knowledge that it was your fault.

Sora coughed and wheezed, trying and failing to hold back tears. "Master... please, I... be reasonable..."

"He is being reasonable." The mimic walked over, his smile one that showed he was enjoying her suffering. "Try not to fail him, and you have nothing to worry about. Or, alternatively, you can make sure all you humans give your lives in the fight. Either die to XCOM, or die to Master Zemsis. Which will you choose?"

Sora looked up at him, then over to Zemsis, noting he was staring at the Mimic. Yes... that is indeed your choice. Of course, if I am the one to kill them, it will be painful. He pointed a finger at the mimic, and a tiny violet-red orb floated from his finger and into the Mimic's body. A few moments later, the unaware alien screamed out in pain, a scream that only lasted a few moments but was the most horrifying thing Sora had ever heard. The mimic crumpled to the floor, the way its limbs twitched even in death making Sora want to throw up. Choose well, young human. I will go inform everyone of the change of leadership. Take some time to compose yourself, then I suggest you start scheduling extra drills.

With that, the Overseer floated out of the room, leaving the mess he had made to be cleaned by someone else.
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"Sacrifices" - Vekinte'ecformin'cettint

"How has it come to this?" the High Commander wondered aloud. The holographic depiction of the Overseer of Australia across from him did not answer. "I wouldn't expect you to know. I am unsure myself. After all the gifts we have given humanity, and all we have done to turn their eyes away from the necessarily evils we subjected them to, it was not enough." Vekinte paced quietly, thinking to himself. "Was I wrong, Cordiam? Should I have been more forceful?"

The silver-robed Ethereal slowly shook her head. "I don't know," she answered honestly. "We tried to be as merciful as possible. All our actions were intended to ease the suffering of humanity until they no longer had to worry themselves at all."

"And yet, had we been more ironhanded in our methodology, perhaps we could have quelled an uprising before one even began," Vekinte postulated. "Though..." he glanced over at Cordiam again, chuckling sadly. "I know what you're going to say. 'The clock cannot be turned back. What is done is done. We must work with what we have.' Right?"

"You know me well, my love," Cordiam admitted with a faint smile. "The deaths of four Overseers and a number of Watchers is unfortunate, but we must persevere. At the very least, there are small victories. The longevity of our people is almost assuredly now. The Resistance groups in Africa have been overwhelmingly held back, and the stronghold Genesis had in Ethiopia Summit has been taken over. Zemsis is holding strong, despite..." Cordiam trailed off, becoming solemn in contemplation.

"What if the same happens to Patrem?" Vekinte whispered. "He has already suffered so much... to lose his life to these damned humans..."

"His strength has always been commanding our forces at large where you cannot. As long as we keep him where he is, XCOM cannot come for him," Cordiam responded confidently.

"But they can come for you. They captured your Watcher, Cordiam... and we both know that Quella's soft. Under interrogation she will have broken by know. They almost assuredly know where you are, and despite the difficulty they'd have in getting there... they'll come for you." Vekinte rested his upper hands against his ornate mask. "I should deploy as many troops as possible to defend your fortress. Damn it, I should come there myself. Together, we'd be unstoppable."

"Genesis has taken over the skies in many parts of the world, and by extension they've allowed the Resistance to tap into some of our satellites," the Overseer reminded him. "They'll know if you send last-minute dispatches to my facility, Vekinte. And if you come yourself... who knows what they'll do? You must stay your hand... you've never been wrong to hold back in the past. If you die, the Protectorate will lose the greatest mind ever to grace it. We will be lost without you."

"And I will be lost without you!" the High Commander insisted.

"We have discussed this contingency before," Cordiam replied coolly. "Even if they were to capture me, and hold my life in their hands... the Path comes first. I am willing to sacrifice my life to render 'heaven' possible. I don't wish to die, nor will XCOM find it easy to kill me... but I am prepared to face whatever trials are thrown at me."

"I wish that you did not have to at all," Vekinte spoke in a defeated tone. "But I understand your wisdom here. I must be more rational about this, even if it pains me. Yes, I will remain where I am. Making myself vulnerable as Ipiktok does would carry too much of a risk." Suppressing his emotions to look at the big picture, the Ethereal High Commander squared his shoulders. "I believe it is time to acknowledge the damage Genesis has done. I will inform the remaining soldiers in the other continents to pull back to secure locations. The surviving Watchers will remain where they are, gathering their troops to defend what strongholds they can. The rest of those soldiers will spread out to reinforce what lands the Protectorate can assuredly hold. Africa in particular must be defended at all costs. If we lose that central continent and Australia, it will mean the fall of Terra to the insurgency."

"Wise counsel. I shall spread those orders amongst my own soldiers so they might prepare to accommodate reinforcements," Cordiam acknowledged. "We can still do this, Vekinte. All is not lost yet. The sacrifices that Tien'lyssigan, Merenu'beurmas, Qiasun'zeinin, and Avyssos'straiga made will not be in vain."

"They shall not, indeed." Vekinte nodded solemnly. "I assume that when XCOM makes it to your base, you will try to reason with them?"

"I shall do my best to enlighten them," Cordiam responded. "I do not know if I will succeed, but I must try. It is the right thing to do."

"I understand. But Cordiam..." Vekinte folded his hands together. "Should they be unresponsive, show them no mercy. These are the butchers that have slain your comrades. They will not be lenient with you, and they deserve no kindness beyond what you would show anyone. Do you understand?"

"I understand." Cordiam took a step forward, making a slight bow with her four arms crossed over her heart. "I shall serve the Protectorate and the Path to my final breath, and I will do so with no force held back." The form of a Reflection took shape behind her. Its head was like the compressed front section of a sports car, with a set of eyes that shone light blue like headlights, and a streamlined helmet with a design between the hood of a Coalition luxury vehicle and a power armor helm. A wetsuit covered the thoughtform's neck, traveling down to a black torso covering with a deep navy blue chestplate designed like that of an Avatar. Over its upper arms and legs was lightweight, sleek ebon armor. Below were trapezoidal-prism arm and leg guards, navy blue with three lines that ticked forward with a light blue color.

When they did, the heavy gauntlets and jetboots around the Reflection's hands flickered, and then the whole thoughtform blurred, moving at an accelerated speed due to temporal tampering. "With my strength and that of Abyss Diver in tandem, XCOM will face retribution should they raise a hand against me. Should they pick that fight, they will regret it."

Vekinte'ecformin'cettint nodded. "I suspect they shall make that dire mistake. You will show them the error of your ways. Let me make it clear, though... fight smartly. Do not sacrifice yourself just to take down a few. Retreat if you absolutely have to. I don't want you to die, Cordiam. I love you too much for that to transpire." The Ethereal removed his mask, revealing a pair of golden-hued eyes.

Cordiam did the same in a show of mutual intimacy, uncovering her cornflower blue orbs. "I promise," she answered quietly. "It would shatter my heart equally to leave you to face them alone."

"And..." Vekinte added, looking down at his mask - the symbol of his authority. "If I lose you, my merciful laʒir... I will lose the mercy in my own heart. Right now this is about saving both our race and theirs. Should they take you away from me... my focus will be only on my own people. For their own sake, it would be better if they gave in to you."

The Overseer of Australia bowed her head in silence. After awhile, she said, "I hope they do. It would be easier on all of us should this conflict come to an end." She paused. "Considering the progress we have made, have you ever wondered...?"

"I have. But while we can save our own people, strife will continue to rip at the cosmos without the Path's completion. We cannot surrender to them. We cannot give in. We can not stop now, after all the blood that has been spilled... red, yellow, and violet in the name of ascension. I will achieve the utopia I've dreamed about... because eternal prosperity for every living being in the galaxy is worth any cost." Vekinte placed his mask back on his face. "Good luck, Cordiam."

"With how timelines fragment at every turn into a thousand possibilities, I do not trust fate." Cordiam smiled softly before returning her own mask to its proper place. "I shall not need luck." With that, her hologram vanished, and the two Ethereals refocused themselves on the tasks ahead of them.


Well-Known Member
DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “The Abyss Calls, Part 1”

Menace 1-5

CMDR Ipiktok, Atka [Ambusher]
CAPT Lester, Matthew [Specialist]
LT Yokolov, Samuel [Aerotrooper]
SGT Belle, Stacie [Gunslinger]
SGT Ipiktok, Yakone [Ranger]
CPL Inverse, Lina [Sharpshooter]
CPL Wei, Arthur [Phantom]
CPL Kasagi, Ayame [Phantom]

CPL Chambers, Alexis [Aerotrooper]
CPL Vermaak, Samara [Juggernaut]
SQ Bandyopadhyay, Chandra [Paramedic]
SQ Lovikov, Randall [Enforcer]

Northeastern Coast of Australia
2200 Hours, February 25th, 2039
Great Barrier Reef Beachhead

Sandy dust drifted through the air, aloft on a summer breeze. The faint film of grainy material that had been kicked up by the landing procedure of the Avenger began to settle as twelve soldiers exited the ship, walking towards the edge of the beach. Atka scrutinized the shoreline, searching for the vessel she’d been promised. At first, nothing came into view, and the Commander questioned if something had come up. The answer her benefactor had given to the last call hadn’t exactly been detailed, after all. In response to her query about the status of the subnautical ship, Episcopo had merely said ‘it’ll be ready’.

Verona, you’d better not disappoint, Atka thought to herself. Luckily for the Commander - and the Director of Exalt - the submarine soon presented itself. Deactivating the cloaking field around itself - a device provided by XCOM - the X.S.S. Abyss Crusader came into view. The design was nothing flashy, but it wasn’t meant to be. The vessel was colored in simple blacks and grays that would blend into the two kilometer-deep sea that the submarine was made for. It had forward lamps, but they were meant to stay off - for the Abyss Crusader had scanning equipment akin to the Gremlins, and needed no light for guidance. Fitted with a basic robotic intelligence, it was capable of self-guidance as well, which was the means in which it located this breaching spot.

Atka nodded to the others, satisfied that the submarine was present and completed. “Get onboard. We’ve got an underwater base to invade.”

“Underwater, huh…” Lina laughed nervously, walking forward with clear hesitation.

“What’s wrong?” Ayame asked with a snide smile. “You’re not afraid of a little water, are you?”

Lina glared at her. “If by afraid of a little water, you mean uneasy about having millions and millions of gallons over me, then yes, I am.” She shuddered. “I knew I was going to drown miles below the water. My mom called it an irrational fear, but here we are…”

“To be fair, drowning is the least of your concerns. Being trapped in pressures such as-”

“Thanks, Mer. I don’t think she wants to know that stuff,” Stacie shut her A.I. up, flicking her fingers in the hologram’s direction and distorting his form.

“Just don’t think about it. I’m sure this clunker is sturdy,” Yakone spoke with a relaxed tone, climbing into the submarine. “And once we’re inside it’s not like the aliens are going to risk using explosives or anything like that. They’d die too if there was a breach.”

“You’re only this relaxed because your name for this sub was approved, aren’t you?” Stacie questioned knowingly.

Yakone rubbed the back of her neck, a smirk on her features. “Possibly.”

“Then it better be like you,” Alex commented. “”Strong, sturdy, and not easy to take down.” With a grin, she added, “Just hope it isn’t as loud and flashy.”

“It is designed completely for stealth. Wouldn’t be an XCOM vessel if it weren’t,” Atka spoke reassuringly, taking a seat in the chair facing the sub’s bow. She swiveled it around to face the other eleven as they took their seats. Chandra was the last in, the Indian doctor turning the door shut and then sitting down opposite from Atka. “We’ll be beginning our descent shortly. Over the course of our plummet to the depths at which Cordiam’s fortress is located, I’ll go over all information pertinent to this operation. Feel free to ask questions where you need to.”

The Commander clasped her hands together for a moment. Taking a breath - pausing for effect - she released her palms, resting her hands on the desk in front of her. “Our objective is clear and simple. As with the other Overseer operations, our task is to kill Cordiam’ecformin’cettint. That’s the primary goal anyway. If we can take her captive, that would be ideal, considering that she is apparently the equivalent of a wife to the High Commander himself. However… that’s not going to be easy. We’ll have to fight through a large number of aliens to get to her, which will expend much of our consumable equipment… and Cordiam herself is a difficult opponent.”

“People spoke a lot about her in ADVENT,” Lina commented. “She’s supposed to be one of the strongest. I always found it ironic that she ended up in the smallest continent. You’d think the High Commander’s wife would be puttin’ on the ritz or something.”

“Or maybe she just wanted some peace and quiet to build Protectorate forces up a bit,” Samuel grunted. “Country’s overrun by aliens now. Not a human in sight. Perfect place for someone who doesn’t want to deal with insurrectionists… if you can stand the summer heat.”

Atka nodded. “From everything Nouja has told me about her, it seems she is the sort to prefer a measure of solitude and contemplation. She’s a devout follower of the Path, but it also seems that she’s one of the more ‘merciful’ of the Elders.”

“She still knows full well what her kind has done to us, though, doesn’t she?” Yakone questioned.

“I’m certain she does, though that sort of information was kept from even ‘Major Blukersey’ to ensure her loyalty.” Atka shook her head. “Believe me, I don’t care if she’s nicer than the others. To willingly do what she did to your aunt… that takes a measure of coldness.”

A faint ‘woosh’ could be heard from the sides of the craft as it sunk beneath the waves, and started to descend into the ocean. The white coral of the Great Barrier Reef drifted by, illuminated by sunlight that diffused fainter and fainter as the Abyss Crusader went downwards.

“What’s she capable of?” Stacie eventually asked.


Well-Known Member
DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “The Abyss Calls, Part 2”

“Between the knowledge that Rhea had of her, and what the Australian Watcher knew, I’ve put together a pretty comprehensive profile.” Atka sighed. “Which is a good thing, because she’s going to be a lot to handle, even knowing her powers in advance. One of her major colors is blue. Like me, she’s skilled in cryokinetic manipulation and empathic abilities… though hers go beyond what I’m capable of.”

“Especially the latter kind,” Atka continued. “Colonel Walker encountered Chronus before, and he recalled a sort of ‘empathic pacification’ ability that was strong enough to affect even a strong psion like himself. She can alter the emotional state of those around her, which is going to make this difficult to say the least. Alexis and I should be able to dampen those effects, between my empathy and her inspiration… but we won’t be able to block them out completely. You all will have to keep your wits about you.”

“So, what exactly will she do?” Ayame asked. “Try and make us too… sad to fight?”

Alexis shook her head. “Don’t underestimate it. With your training, you should know how important being emotionally balanced is to a fight. Imagine trying to aim at her when you can’t stop crying, or you are so seething mad you can’t focus. I’m just glad I actually spent a decent amount of time practicing my inspiration.”

Atka met Samuel’s gaze. “It’ll be especially difficult for Reflection users. If she blots out the emotional state we require to summon our thoughtforms, that would confer her a massive advantage.”

“I don’t suppose someone insulting my mother or something would be enough to counter that, would it?” Samuel asked weakly.

“Well, you have different requirements, right?” Lina asked. “Surely she can’t make two different people lose two different emotions at the same time… right?”

Alex shrugged. “These guys live a long time. I’m sure she has had more than enough time to practice, so I’d err on the side of caution and assume yes. Though we might be able to help by distracting her so we can see a reflection or two.”

Lester nodded. “Our last mission was won because the Australian Watcher stretched herself too thin. I doubt Cordiam will fall to such a tactic easily, but it might be something to keep in mind.”

“Or we could… you know, just shoot her,” Samuel pointed out.

The Specialist met his gaze. “Non-lethally,” he reminded the Russian.

“... right.”

“As for her other major hue,” Atka brought the discussion back to its main subject, “it’s green. As you’d expect, her talents include inspiring herself for that monstrous mental strength we know she has, and several biokinetic abilities such as healing and reprogramming. She was able to rewrite Nouja’s mind herself. From what I understand, control of that level is a lengthy process, and a quicker version would still require close proximity… so I doubt she’ll attempt that. And her other green ability is Override, like what Yakone has. I’d expect she’d only use that in an emergency, considering that her main body would be far more useful than one of ours.” In addition, Atka amended, “she also has a minor in yellow for a psionic shield, and a violet minor. Doesn’t sound like she has anything specific in the latter.”

“Doesn’t sound like she’ll need to that much.” Ayame sat back. “Can she do anything… like, directly violent and flashy like the others, with the fire and the lances and what not?”

“Her ice is going to be her main offensive measure other than any weapons she’ll have on hand,” Atka specified. “But… the most dangerous ability she has is one that she shares with her Reflection. That power is the reason I had Lily give all twelve of us these wristwatches.” The Commander held up the clock on her right wrist, which - like that of all the others - was currently marked with dashes. “These counters are designed to detect a particular chronokinetic disturbance. When one occurs, they’ll begin counting upwards. This will help us keep track of Cordiam’s chronokinesis. She can accelerate herself using her thoughtform, which will make her about as fast as Morrigan can get…”

Atka took a deep breath. “But her most dangerous ability is that she can freeze time for up to four seconds.”

Samuel tilted his head. “What good is that?” he asked. “Unless she’s able to exclude herself from that -”

“I think that’s the point,” Arthur noted. “Which would mean four seconds where she is able to attack us without opposition… or retreat without pursuit. Might not seem like much, but it could well be enough.”

“Long enough to send a lance of ice into one of our heads,” Lina said grimly, sinking down a bit.

“Then maybe someone who can take more punishment than others should stay near the front to make for a more enticing offer,” Ayame suggested. “After all, she’d be a fool not to try it at least once.”

Yakone crossed her arms. “I imagine that’s why I’m here, along with Sam.” Noting the questioning glance from Vermaak and Yokolov, the Inuit-Caucasian specified, “both of you.”

“Correct. As for the rest of you,” Atka specified, “those who can’t take a beating need to be relying on their shadow tech. Keep out of sight, and don’t make yourselves targets. Our best bet is going to be surprising Cordiam. Once she uses her time-stop, she’ll have to wait double the amount of time she froze before she can do it again. If we make Chronus waste that ability, and then trap her with an unavoidable string of attacks, we’ll be able to take her down.”

“But that won’t be easy,” Chandra stated the obvious.

Alexis sighed. “Damn time powers. Um… no offense, Commander. Just… just the bad guys who use them, not… not you or Nouja of course.”

The hand of Blue World formed alongside Atka’s. “About that… I have to warn you all that I no longer can rewind time as I once could. My Reflection has evolved to a new form. We won’t be able to rely on a second chance like that any longer,” the Commander said grimly. “As for what it can do know…” the Inuit woman scanned the wristwatch. “I have a suspicion, but if it’s correct… I’ll only be able to use it once we encounter Cordiam’s ability.”

“I’m sure whatever it is, it’ll come in handy. We always pull through in the end.” Ayame gave her a confident smile.

Samuel shrugged. “Haven’t needed a second chance before,” he said, his tone unworried.

I can think of several times when you probably could have used a secon-

Shut up, Holly.

Yakone smiled. “It’s not going to be easy, but we always seem to pull through. I believe we can do this. We’ve come so far… while defeating Cordiam may be a bigger stepping stone than the ones beforehand… we’ve conquered plenty of obstacles already. What’s one more?”

Alex nodded in agreement. “Let’s take her down, and pave the way to evicting the aliens of this continent.”

“Off this world,” Ayame corrected.


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DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “Operation Leviathan, Part 1”

Soon enough, the Abyss Crusader was two kilometers below sea level. Only the alien alloy structure of the submarine kept the crushing pressures at bay. Coming up on the vessel’s sensors was another similarly-durable chassis, though it enclosed a building much larger than the sub that approached it. Wrapped in the inky darkness of the abyssal depths beside the deepest portion of the Great Barrier Reef, the fortress that housed Overseer Chronus appeared like some variation of Atlantis. Intricate windows made up most of the walls, crisscrossed by line art of unknown meaning that resembled stained glass. The interior wasn’t brightly lit, and only a faint, aqua-blue light drifted lazily out of the murky portholes.

The only distinct part that came into view from the Abyss Crusader’s windows was the entrance tunnels. They were tubes designed like elongated airlocks, with an energy membrane on either extremity. The traversable fields were the same sort found on UFOs. Gaining access via a code given up by Quella, the submarine was able to pass through one of the fields without an alarm being set off. The water within the tube began to drain back out into the ocean until the chamber was dry, and then a conveyor belt pulled the underwater ship into the hangar.

“Get ready,” Atka warned the others. “The minute they realize we’re not a Protectorate sub, they’re going to open fire.” She stood beside one of the doors, counting down with her fingers from three to one. When she clenched her fist, the doors unlatched and the XCOM soldiers poured out. To their surprise, they found the hangar empty. It was devoid of guardians. “Why…?”

It would not be wise to risk a firefight in this fragile chamber, a gentle voice echoed in the head of each squad member. I’d prefer if you didn’t damage my fortress too badly. It took a few years to construct, and I’d hate to go back to my predecessor’s base. It was designed with a dreadful atmosphere in mind. With a mental sigh, the Overseer stated, I realize full well that you have little intention of surrendering, soldiers of XCOM. From all that I have seen of your actions, you are quite stubborn when it comes to rendering your world independent of Ethereal control.

“Wonder why,” Samuel muttered.

The Avatar Project has cost humanity much, that is for certain. And in our quest to ensure compliance, we have taken the lives of even more humans, Cordiam readily admitted. But I ask you this: do you truly understand why? Are you certain you comprehend our motives?

Lina groaned softly. “This is all too creepy,” she complained. “Can’t we just shoot the windows from outside?”

Ayame rolled her eyes. “I doubt they’re made of easily breakable glass.” Looking up at nothing in particular, she said, “Look, we get it, okay? You guys are dying out. You’re desperate. You saw a chance to save yourselves by using humans. And I’m sure you intended to ‘make it up’ to those of us you didn’t shoot, melt down, or dissect by making everything nice and peaceful when you got what you wanted. Are you saying if the shoe was on the other foot, you wouldn’t fight back just like we have?”

If we were ignorant of the Path, and of the greater good as you are, then we would, Cordiam agreed. But you must understand that our intentions for your world were never hostile. Humanity is just as much a part of the Protectorate as any other species you have encountered. Cordiam was silent for a moment, as if shaking her head. You do not fully understand.

“We learned everything about your disease,” Atka retorted, walking towards one of the doors. “The Tabes Telum. You managed to create a bioweapon that tears apart the genetic structure of every living Ethereal. You did this to yourselves, didn’t you?”

There was once a civil war on Aetherum, our homeworld. The faction that lost - and no longer exists - created that horrific nanite solution as a last ditch effort to wipe out the rest of us. They failed to immediately do so, but without the steps we have taken, the doom of the Ethereal species would have been assured, Cordiam said resolutely.

But just as you would not blame Germans alive today for World War 2, you cannot say that it is the fault of Elders living today that we are afflicted with this illness. And that is not the only trial we have suffered. Twenty-one years ago, not long into our invasion of Earth… our homeworld was destroyed, the Australian Overseer informed them.

A species that had long ago been deemed irrelevant to the Path and thought eradicated - an action I never believed was the right course - returned. They brought with them a vengeful army, and ships equipped with mass drivers that they used to pummel Aetherum with asteroids until it was rendered uninhabitable. The reason we took over your world so completely is because we had lost our own. Samuel Yokolov, your Reflection can confirm that I speak the truth.

“... was that meant to be an excuse?” Arthur asked, his tone oddly angry.

Samuel waved a hand in Chariot’s direction. Images were already slipping past his mind’s eye, and while the actual content was vague, the fear and dismay was very clear. “She’s not lying,” he admitted finally. “But that’s beside the point. There’s no justification for anything the Elders have done here. Having a rough time doesn’t mean you can give others a rough time too.”

“I think I get it, though,” Ayame stated, folding her arms. “The thing we don’t see. What we’re being accused of not understanding. You guys aren’t thinking about this from their perspective. We are all part of this Path of theirs. We all have our roles. And their roles are to lead others down the Path. And our role is to help them by being vessels.”

But that is not your only role. Misinterpreting us as callous overlords does not benefit anyone. Humans are meant to prosper in the utopia that we seek to create on this world, as surely as we will. I have not lied in the countless times I have said this to the masses. Whereas his predecessor saw the weaker races as being unworthy of the Path’s prosperity, Vekinte has goodwill for his own people and humanity. But in order to achieve the ‘heaven’ we strive for, we had to fight for it. The Avatar Project was a necessary step… and has been complete for several days now.

Yakone’s eyes widened. “What…? You’re saying that-”

We have all the genetic sequences needed to create bodies for the Ethereals that live today. It is a shame that we did not encounter you earlier, Yakone Ipitkok. A green major was one of the last pieces to the puzzle… and your time in our service allowed us to procure that genome from your DNA.


Well-Known Member
DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “Operation Leviathan, Part 2”

Alex turned to her friend and scoffed. “I think she expects you to be proud or something. After all, your DNA can help them continue the teachings of the Path. The one true teachings. You now… the ones that include dozens of species as part of them but are interpreted by only one of them without any input from the humans that died for this. Um… congrats?”

Misguided child. Do you not understand the significance of the Avatar Project completion? You fought us because of the horrors we were forced to visit upon you. No longer does humanity have to suffer! Cordiam declared passionately. We needn’t sacrifice any more of you for our survival. I am not proud of what we’ve done up until now. I hated every moment of it… the guilt that I felt when using the Aeternam Solution is such that would be incomprehensible to you. How cruelly ironic it is that the one who would understand my pain the best chose to betray us…

Cordiam fell silent for a few moments. But I beg of you to end this conflict. Humanity need no longer suffer in a quest for self-determination. We will trouble you no longer with experiments and murders. All that is left is to unite, and make this planet into a paradise. Bloodshed is entirely unnecessary now. The necessary evil has been visited; the gruesome task has reached its conclusion.

Ayame held her fists tightly, seething at this point. “So that’s it then?! You killed hundreds… thousands… maybe tens of thousands of people for your selfish interpretation of your religion that you insisted on us, silence our free will and torture those who stood against you… and now that you don’t have to do that anymore, we’re supposed to just let you get away with it?! Going back to your World War II example, I’m sure after the war was over, it was best to just let the SS members go free because they did horrible things, but it’s over now and they won’t do it again? You are out of your fucking mind if you think you can just use us like that and simply walk away by offering us your idea of paradise!”

“And that’s assuming we even trust you at this point,” Samuel added.

...you would never understand, as one who has the potential to live for eternity, Cordiam retorted. Commander Ipiktok, surely you can comprehend this feeling… that if your daughter was struck with a terminal illness, you would do anything to save her. Would you not?

Atka was taken aback. “I-”

“I would expect her to let me die with dignity!” Yakone spoke up, her eyes burning. “I’d sooner fall upon my own sword than allow my mother to kill innocents in my name!” The alien eyes on her shoulderplates opened wide. “And I know some things thanks to my time under your heel. We both know, don’t we, Overseer? You used my DNA for the Avatars… you didn’t have to kill me… nor did you have to kill all the others that died in the Blacksites.” The Marauding Crusader shook her head furiously. “It was just an expedient method, wasn’t it?!”

If it hadn’t been taken, we would have wasted more human lives to generate more of the Aeternam Solution! And the Avatar Project might have been completed too late. We did what we had to!

“You chose to live as monsters, instead of die with your honor intact. It’s despicable,” Yakone riposted. “You wanna to compare me to Patrem? If we’re talking children, think of all the families you’ve torn apart and slaughtered in this quest of yours. Was the lives of many worth the lives of a few, Cordiam?”

You speak of our actions as if they were easy! The choices we made were not taken lightly. It is with a heavy heart that we did what was necessary for the survival of our species. In our position, you would do the same. I do not mean to excuse our actions, however. You misunderstand, time and again. I merely wish for you to see the greater good in all of this. The Ethereal Protectorate has provided Terra with technology beyond what you possessed… be it to improve your daily lives, or extend your lifespans. Our intentions are pure.

“Alright… prove it.” Ayame pointed up. “You’ve done it. You’ve saved your species. Congratulations. But you admit that commit evils, regardless of how necessary and justified they are. So… let your species benefit from your actions while you lay down arms and pay for your crimes. If you really did this all for some greater good and hated it, you should have no problems surrendering and receiving justice, right?”

Not while the dream of utopia remains incomplete. Not while Project Aether remains unfinished. It is not impossible for a living being to achieve ascension, Cordiam insisted. In my mind’s eye, I can see more timelines than just this one. And in a few of them, the white psion has come to exist. I will serve the Path until that reality is achieved here. And when it is, when Vekinte becomes God… he will be able to safeguard all species of the Protectorate, and ensure eternal prosperity for all. To oppose that outcome is to madly embrace suffering. Ascension will eradicate pain entirely, and justifies every means we have used!

“As someone who’s suffered for two decades straight… I can tell you that I prefer being imperfect. I’d never have grown as a person if everything were handed to me on a silver platter,” Atka said calmly. “Even if your dream is feasible, it’s wrong. I don’t want to live in a utopia while my heart still beats. Heaven’s meant to be beyond Earth.” The Inuit woman shook her head, standing resolute herself. “Because we desire command of our own destinies, humanity will continue to oppose you, Cordiam. You won’t talk us down. We’re going to take back our world, whether you like it or not.”

Cordiam scanned the minds of the twelve soldiers. Finding the same sort of determined sentiment shared amongst them, the Overseer of Australia gave up. A long, drawn-out sigh echoed through the heads of the freedom fighters. Then I will do what I must, even if it pains me. Make your peace while you can. You shall not leave this place alive.

Lina swallowed deeply. “That is disheartening.”

“Don’t sweat it, kid. That’s what all the villains say before the good guys swoop in and kick their asses.” Ayame lifted her firearm and nodded to her Commander. “We’re all behind you one hundred percent.”

Atka smiled. “I had no doubt that you would be.” The commanding officer of XCOM had Lester work on getting the door open.

Yakone’s cape fluttered as air was sucked into the room beyond due to a pressure difference. “I’ve never felt more sure of this than now,” the Ranger spoke confidently. She withdrew her twin fusion blades from their sheathes. “Let’s do this.”


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DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “Operation Leviathan, Part 3”

On the other side of the submarine hangar was a small army of alien soldiers. Positioned on the far side of the room, a line of Mutons lowered their plasma rifles. Behind them lurked quite a few Sectoids, already charging up psionic attacks. To either side of the squad, a row of Vipers backed up by Mimics in guard posts - the Seripans prepared to fire as surely as the Balmadaar were. Having no time to waste, the XCOM soldiers immediately launched into action.

Green laser fire permeated the room, impacting a blue energy shield that Samara had thrown up around her allies. The defensive bulwark gave the others an opportunity to prepare themselves. The minute it fell, they shot back. Stacie and Lina unleashed a duo of area attacks, sending silver-streaked bullets both high and low caliber streaming into the enemies on either side of the squad. With hissing death cries, Vipers began to fall, and Mimics ducked for cover. The Mutons were able to endure the Sharpshooter and Gunslinger’s barrage, but they soon after found more shots headed their way.

His machine gun atop the shield in front of him, Randall unloaded a spray of bullets across the line of heavy alien shocktroopers. They reeled even further. It was time for the individual shooters to take cracks at their numbers. The boom of Direwolf sounded the death of one Muton, and the chorus of Samuel and Alexis’s rifles firing a at a rapid pace accompanied the end of several more. The few Mutons that remained had a good window to use grenades, but due to the fragile nature of the base they refrained. A deadly mistake.

The Mimics tried to prevent the incoming onslaught from the pair of Troopers and the squad’s Ambusher and CO. When they stepped out of cover, however, gunshots from the dual Phantoms forced them to take cover again. They were somewhat pinned, though they were at least safe. Or so they thought, until Lucifer got to work. Within his Gremlin body, the A.I. soared over to the right, releasing electricity through the nervous system of a trio of Mimics as he went. Their brains fried, and their hearts stopped. The thin men collapsed, unable to continue on.

The Sectoids barely got to contribute to the fight. Attempting to panic several members of the squad to bring the deadly situation under control, they were combated by an empathic sooth from Atka and hard-countered by a psi inspiration from Alexis. Unable to contribute much, they could not stop the tide of battle quickly turning in XCOM’s favor. While scarcely a minute had passed, by the time sixty seconds were up the several dozen alien soldiers in the room lay dead in smoking heaps. It was a testament to how far the squad had come, although they didn’t have much time to reflect on that fact. There was a job to do, and there was no time to waste.

Menace 1-5 advanced through the large set of double doors on the other side of the room. They entered a massive hallway, with giant pillars holding up the roof and holding back the deep sea pressure. On the walls were intricate murals, mainly concentrated closer to the ceiling. Lower down and lining the floors were large valves that coiled across the room. Towards the back they connected with large vats of genetic material; akin to the blacksite vial on a much larger scale. Curiously, the containers were partially emptied out - suggesting that much of the viable human DNA had been evacuated some time ago.

The Commander considered the possibility that the Overseer had guessed they were coming. Finding it to be likely, she redoubled her caution and urged the others to do so as they pushed forward. When they had arrived at the halfway point of the room, a set of panels on the roof opened up. Much like the alien blacksite in Antarctica, MEC Troopers dropped through passage tubes on the ceiling. They landed on the floor with a cacophony of metal clanks. The dozen mechanical troopers that had arrived to oppose XCOM were mostly Heavy MECs, although the pair at the forefront was the obsidian frame variant. They were all slightly more heavily armored than normal, gaining some armor padding at the cost of their signature micro missile launchers.

Still a deadly threat, they opened fire. The gigantic shield of superheavy-armored Samara was there to block a few of the opening shots, and her tractor beam redirected the rest to rip up the armor of one of the MEC Troopers. The others followed up with a brilliant barrage of attacks from their main guns. They were able to quickly take down the two frontal enemies, but it would take much more firepower output before the other ten fell. Not having the time to pull off such an attack, Menace 1-5 was momentarily given a predicament as their enemies prepared to attack again with incredible ferocity.

It was Lester who had the solution. Sending Lucifer forward, the Devil’s Advocate unleashed a hellstorm of an EMP pulse upon the mechanical soldiers. The capacitor discharge heavily damaged eight of the robotic soldiers, and momentarily stunned them. Scattering into cover with the opportunity this provided them, the rest of the squad had no problem finishing the job. Stacie held back however, worried about the two undamaged MECs. Her concerns proved to be founded when a group of five Codices made their entrance with a teleport each. They appeared amongst the squad proper, completely taking their attention off the pair of MEC Troopers still active - who both prepared to shoot some of the retreating freedom fighters in the back.

The Texan Gunslinger had them covered. Alamo pulled out her blitz guns, laying down a quick stream of shredding fire. Having set the two Heavy MECs up, Stacie turned to blast one of the Codices away from Samuel as the pair of Phantoms followed up on her first attack. Ayame and Arthur each picked a MEC, and then struck them from the shadows. The unprepared robots were defenseless, and had their power cores ruptured by a sword each.

The Codex team that had appeared still posed a significant threat, however. A pair of them used their electron bombs to deactivate the weapons and power armor of eight members of the squad, rendering their movement slowed as the explosive spheres rapidly compressed in preparation for detonation. They’d missed one soldier, however, who had masked themselves with a chameleon suit. Atka took the opportunity to summon Blue World, and use the Reflection’s fists to pummel and then crush one of the offending lumenforms before it had a chance to clone itself. The other had a hole blown in it by Direwolf, and split up in an attempt to save itself.

This did not work out as intended. While their fusion portion couldn’t be activated, Yakone’s swords were still a viable weapon. Rushing one of the two Codex clones, the Ranger severed it in half with a scissorlike motion of her swords. The other found itself suffering a similar fate to its other bombarding counterpart. Having been saved the trouble of defending himself by his girlfriend, Samuel directed Umbra to ground-pound the other clone into oblivion. One crushing blow was all he needed.

The other three Codices tried a different approach. They intentionally shot one another with grazing hits, causing the trio to become six in one fell swoop. The enlarged squad then blinked to the other side of the room, setting themselves up in heavy cover and opening fire. Photon blasts punctuated the hallway with lines of yellow energy and the accompanying ‘bhloop’ sounds their weapons made when firing. Waylaid, the XCOM soldiers dug back into cover, searching for an opening. Pinned down as they were, however, one didn’t openly present itself. The guerrillas had to get clever.

Luckily, that was completely Yakone’s style. Given the chance to use her original ability - one that was often rendered subpar compared to the most direct approaches she could take - the Inuit-Cacuasian vacated her body. Praclaritas controlled the power armor suit as it came back online (the electron vortices having dissipated when their casters perished, thankfully) to keep up the illusion that nothing had changed, while Yakone’s psionic ‘ghost’ spirited across the roof. Picking a victim, the Ranger dived down into the middle Codex.

And unleashed an electron bomb of her own upon her unsuspecting ‘allies’. Their weapons disabled, the Codices could only desperately try to reposition themselves as the XCOM troopers charged. The hail of gunfire that came downrange took down two more of the synthetic soldiers, and the original three that had split themselves tried to slow down their enemies. Samara’s armor, Yakone’s armor, and Lucifer’s chassis froze up as technokinetic armor locks were put in place. The trio of lumenforms tried to turn their captive targets against their allies, but they didn’t have the time to do so. Close to the enemy, Ayame and Arthur were quickly upon them. Magnetic parkour with sword slashes interspersed in between jumps made short work of the remaining Codices, and the room was clear.


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DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “Operation Leviathan, Part 4”

Any other alien soldiers - be they Sectoids, Vipers, and Mutons or the elite variants of those unit types - that stood in XCOM’s way were far fewer in number, and were often trying to retreat to regroup rather than directly engage Menace 1-5. Running targets made for easy kills, and there wasn’t much more ‘resistance’ when it came to progressing through the enemy base. Soon, the squad found themselves at the far side of the base where the Ethereal’s quarters were located. A set of double doors too low for Samara’s battlesuit (forcing her to disembark from it) was the only barrier between the XCOM squad and the Overseer of Australia.

Knowing Cordiam was close, Atka took the opportunity to prepare. She had Lester kill any security cameras that might alert the Overseer to the soldiers’ proximity, and then had the squad set up with their backs to the wall. Atka stood in the middle, keeping back from the door. Her RCs set up breaching charges to knock down the doors without damaging the building’s structural integrity. Closest to the door on either side were the two Phantoms, Yakone, and Samuel (due to his Reflection having a short range). Then came Specialist and Paramedic opposite from one another. Samara and Randall moved up to plant their shields in front of Atka to provide her cover, and Alexis was able to make use of this makeshift barricade as well. Gunslinger and Sharpshooter found pillars towards the back of the hallway, lifting sniper rifle and dmr towards the door.

Menace 1-5 was just about prepared for a breach. “Get ready,” Atka warned the other eleven. “The minute this door goes down, we’re going to go in guns blazing. Time will be essential against a foe like this one. The quicker we take her down, the better.”

“Good thing these all-knowing Elders never think to join the fighting when we’re in the thick of it,” Lina muttered, gripping her weapon tightly. “Would have made that MEC situation a lot harder.”

“Don’t jinx us,” Ayame said with a smile. “We’re still not done once this is over. Wonder how she’d feel if she realized she’s just a stepping stone on our way to victory.”

Alexis sighed, hoping Ayame wasn’t getting overconfident. She looked to her side and smiled at Atka. “If something… should go wrong… I just want you to know what an honor it has been, and how happy I am that we could work things out.”

Atka smiled faintly. “Don’t say that as an excuse to get yourself killed. Your father would probably be waiting with an assault rifle in hand when I got back to base.”

Alex nodded. “Don’t worry. I have too many people I care about - and who care about me - to go down without a fight.”

Stacie chuckled. “Well, I for one don’t want to worry too much. I’d just lose my edge, and besides… I’ve already killed one of these Declensions before. So has Samuel, but then again the one he took out wanted to die.”

The Russian coughed. “I’ve killed two,” he corrected.

“Didn’t that one get left to die though? That’s pretty much the same thing.”

Yakone rolled her eyes. “Now you’re just trying to save your skin, Stacie.” The Ranger glanced over at the Paramedic beside her. “Haven’t had a chance to fight alongside you before, have I?”

Chandra shook her head. “Last couple of times I’ve hit the field occurred when you were still brainwashed. A shame, I could have shut down your biokinesis and kicked your ass myself,” the doctor stated matter-of-factly.

“You could’ve tried,” Yakone retorted, glancing back at the door. She took a deep breath - as did several other members of the squad. The soldiers steeled themselves. A second later, the breaching charges primed, prepared to explode with their designator lights rapidly blinking - and then everything halted to a complete stop.

A pair of black-armored hands pushed themselves in-between the doors - which had been set to manual just a heartbeat before. The two metal slabs slid open, and Abyss Diver stepped through. Hastily scanning the squad of twelve soldiers - frozen in time - the Ethereal Reflection searched for a priority target. She halted momentarily as her user did her best to identify the soldiers present, and determine which one was the closest and the most dangerous. Unfortunately, Cordiam’s first choice was too far away and shielded by the bulwark the Juggernaut and Enforcer had set up. Atka couldn’t be removed from the equation.

However, there were two other immediate threats that were within Abyss Diver’s range. A pair of biokinetics on the right side of the doors. Cordiam had just enough time to deal heavy damage to one and light damage to another. She determined that the frozen shimmer around Yakone indicated the Ranger’s signature overdrive was in place, and killing her would take too much of the precious time her thoughtform had to act. The decision was quickly made, and Abyss Diver surged forward through the air, flying as her fellow ghostly thoughtforms tended to do.

Cordiam’s Reflection pulled back her clenched, gauntleted fists for an instant, and then wordlessly barraged Chandra with a volley of punches. Each heavyweight blow compressed the Indian woman’s helmet in further and further with brief, somewhat muted crunching sounds. By the time Abyss Reaver had one second left, the Paramedic’s head had been smashed as flat as a pancake. A quick punch was delivered to stagger Yakone, but that spent the last combat time the Reflection had. As the gray overlay that had tainted the air began to fade away, Abyss Diver pulled herself back, closing the doors behind herself as she returned to her user.

In the next frame of time that the rest of the squad perceived, the door was blown open in the same instant that Chandra’s head was crushed inwards. Yakone was blown into the side of the wall as dust from the destroyed doors and shrapnel from Chandra’s ruined helmet flew through the air. Atka heard a beep on her wristwatch as the temporal distortion counter began ticking off. “S-She… she knew we were here! What did Cordiam-” the Commander uttered, then letting out a cry of anguish when she glanced over to discern the source of the crunching noise she’d heard a moment before.

Alexis stared at what had once been one of her oldest teammates. A woman she had known for decades was simply gone. She felt light-headed, and had she not been wearing a helmet, she would have thrown up. Her entire body shook. In grief. In anguish. In unmitigated fear for what they were about to face. In an instant, her confidence was gone, and all she could do was let out a psi inspiration to hopefully let the others fight the terror that now gripped her heart.

For once, Samuel was glad he tended to keep to himself. The rational part of his mind noted that had he known Chandra better, it was likely he’d be just as devastated as some of the others clearly were. One thought stove that panic away, however. Four seconds, huh? he thought. Doesn’t mean she can teleport. Even in that four seconds, Cordiam would need to close the gap to make any kind of attack. Which means…

With a snarl, he yelled “Fire! Now!” and unloaded his rifle through the doorway, hoping the others would still be thinking clearly enough to follow suite.

Crying out, Ayame let loose several shots from her souped-up shotgun, hoping like hell Samuel was onto something and they weren’t wasting time Cordiam could spend charging up for another go. Chandra’s death showed that, when that power was used, it more than likely meant at least one death. Lina, however, couldn’t exactly let loose like the others with a sniper rifle, especially with the dust still settling from the breach. Instead, she reached behind, activating and chucking a scanner into the room beyond in the hopes it would pinpoint the Elder and not be picked off by her teammates’ gunfire.

The device illuminated the room on the HUDs of the XCOM soldiers, giving them a look into the room even before the dust cleared. About a dozen feet away from the doorway was the all-too human form of an Avatar rather than the tall figure of an Ethereal. Cordiam created a pulsar core between her palms, using the power of the energy sphere to destroy the bullets coming at her from the front. “I gave you a chance. Now there will be no mercy,” the Overseer stipulated. Backing off further, and detonating her core to destroy the battlescanner and buy herself a little more time, Cordiam pondered something odd. “You did not rewind time to save your comrade. I felt no distortion. Why would you not bring her back?”


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DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “Operation Leviathan, Part 5”

“Vermaak, Lovikov, advance! Give me some covering fire, keep it up!” Atka barked. She darted forward through the left edge of the doorway, advancing quickly towards the Overseer.

As soon as Yakone got up, she did likewise. She only needed one look at Chandra to confirm what had happened, and she could practically feel her blood boiling. “You’re going to pay for that, goddammit!” Yakone assured the Avatar as she withdrew her swords, igniting them with aqua-colored, solar-grade plasma.

Atka fired off a shot, but was unable to score a direct hit on Cordiam. The hybrid let the bullet graze her armor as she rolled to the right, having felt the attack coming. “You’re as bad as a Prowler,” the Commander growled.

However, the shot had done something for Yakone. It’d pushed the Overseer closer to her. The Ranger sent a downward slash at her enemy with one blade, while the other came at Cordiam from the left. Abyss Diver proved faster, knocking the swords away with a thrust of its arms and then punching Yakone away from her master. “Barely… felt that,” Yakone spat, readying herself for another charge as the other ten poured into the room. “When you take the life of one of my friends… that’s just asking to die. No one liners today. I’m just going to kill you.”

“Although I empathize with your pain, you shall not acquire your revenge.” Cordiam had a counter of her own in her head, and she’d bought enough time for her chronokinesis to be active again. Abyss Diver moved to her side, Atka closing the distance this time and trying to stop her. Blue World manifested to go on the attack. A flurry of blows met a stream of hits, shockwaves billowing out from the impacts of the two Reflections. This time I will cut off the head of the snake.

“Abyss Diver, freeze time!” The world ground to a halt again. Atka stood across from Cordiam, her eyes burning with as much vengeful fury as Yakone. Although it was more contained, allowing her to think tactically, one could not think when time itself had stopped. “I’ll only need a second or two this time,” Cordiam reasoned. Abyss Diver pulled back its right fist, preparing to pummel Atka’s head in. “May you rest in peace, Atka Ipiktok.”

Suddenly, the wristwatch on Blue World glowed the same light blue as Abyss Diver’s armguards. The play button lit up, and released a bubble of chronokinetic energy that enveloped Atka and her Reflection. In the space that the glow had spread, time was forcibly resumed. Blue World’s right hand shot out, seizing one of Abyss Diver’s wrists and pushing it against the other to hold them in place. “It worked,” Atka breathed. She narrowed her eyes, staring down a surprised Cordiam. The Commander’s Reflection brought its other fist to bear, and barraged Abyss Diver, knocking it back into its user and slamming them both against the ground.

As Cordiam slid backwards and then came to a halt, the overall flow of time resumed its normal march. To the others, the Avatar had been squaring off against the Commander one moment, and was knocked down the next. “Blue World can negate her ability in a limited area!” Atka called out to the others over comms. “Stay close to me, or keep to the shadows!”

“I’ll go with the latter for now,” Ayame muttered. Leaving the others to take potshots at the fallen Elder, Ayame slipped away in the hopes of beating the time stopper her own way. Meanwhile, Alexis ran to Atka’s side, letting some energy flow into the Commander to help with any she had lost and firing at Cordiam, adrenaline the only thing keeping her going now.

Lester frowned, drawing his psi amp and holding it in his off hand. “Samuel, can I ask you a favour?”

The Aerotrooper glanced at him, briefly interrupting his burst to acquiesce the request. “Make it quick, I’m heading over there when this mag’s out.”

“Cover me.” Without saying anything more, the Specialist repositioned himself in the area behind Cordiam, far enough away that he was no immediate threat but close enough to pressure the Avatar.

“Is he insane?!” Samara asked, bolting past in an attempt to reach the ‘safety’ of the Commander’s surroundings.

His weapon now empty, Samuel followed her. “Probably.” His momentum forcing him to conduct a rolling stop, Nemesis stood, Umbra manifesting around him. “Alright, show’s over.”

Cordiam surrounded herself in a dome of ice - colored green due to being imbued for extra durability. “So that’s why… your Reflection developed the power to… negate mine.”

“I’m no longer living in the past. Only the present,” Atka declared, Blue World hovering protectively at her side. “And in this moment in time, we’re going to avenge Chandra. You’re about to regret everything you’ve done.”

“It seems I will be unable to fight you alone after all.” Six triangle-shaped panels opened up on the floor in the middle of the room, creating a circular hole through which an alien sphere rose. It had curving lines along its pristine white outer structure, the only anomaly in the otherwise tranquil orb being a central eye behind orange glass. “Gatekeeper, deal with the ones on the right, Yakone in particular.”

“What the fuck is that, an alien basketball?” Yakone questioned, taking a defensive stance.

“Yakone, I am detecting a massive energy buildup! It is the same as your swords!” Praclaritas warned, his holographic eyes going wide.

“Shit.” Yakone lowered herself slightly, and then a fusion blast screamed out from the Gatekeeper’s mechanical eye. A telekinetic burst got Yakone out of the way, but before the beam abated the alien sphere turned it on the squad’s Enforcer. Randall put up his shield, but that was melted away by the shot, and his armor integrity was weakened by the attack as well.

Cordiam used the distraction to break out of the back of her dome as high-frequency gunfire quickly withered it away. The Avatar had survived four seconds, and her chronokinesis was now active again. Rather than stop time again - when there was no specific target in range of a short freeze - Cordiam called upon the ability of Abyss Diver. She brought the Reflection around herself defensively, and then her thoughtform temporally accelerated them both. Now moving at a speed fast enough that she appeared to blur, the Avatar ran forwards Lester, lifting her psionic repeater and letting loose a stream of violet psi bullets.

The Specialist had time to erect a psionic barrier before he was torn to pieces by the psychic weapon, though it merely served as a delaying measure to allow him to dodge out of the way. “I presented myself as a target, but I thought she’d freeze time to take me instead of… whatever this is,” he admitted over comms.

“It’s called being a cheating bitch,” Ayame said from somewhere hidden. “Just keep her nice and distracted. Her speed won’t help her when I drive a sword through her back. I already know I can kill an Avatar that way.”

“Well, whatever you’re going to do, the sooner, the better.” From the end of the room, Lina took aim at the floating enemy, trying to shoot it through its only apparent weak point.

The sniper round didn’t make it all the way to the Gatekeeper’s eye. A telekinetic omnishield flared up, indicating another layer of defense for the already-durable alien. The shield was outright shattered by the dead-on hit, however, which drew the spherical enemy’s attention. The shell around it opened, up, revealing that within was a grotesque ball of flesh not unlike a gigantic brain. Tentacles coiled outwards, and cut open a physical portal. The Gatekeeper thrust itself through, moving on telekinesis alone, and came out behind Lina. Two of its tendrils formed spearlike void lances, and tossed them straight for her.

“Not another!” Yakone rushed in the way of the attack, taking the hits herself. The red-black psionic bullets ripped into her armor, rupturing it open and darkening the metal. Praclaritas, cannibalize the alloys on the ground.

I… I cannot. This damage has completely destroyed the connections, the psionic nature prevents the armor from being repaired, Praclaritas thought frustratedly.

Yakone clenched her fists, the gauntlets of her Justice Regalia being intact at least. “Oh, you bastards are really pissing me off.” The death-dealing eye of the Gatekeeper charged up again. “Lina, move!”

“R-right. Thanks.” Lina quickly darted out of the immediate area, looking to get some distance and hopefully take a more effective shot.


Well-Known Member
DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “Operation Leviathan, Part 6”

Yakone knew she would not survive the direct hit, so instead she charged forward with seemingly reckless abandon. The Ranger dived underneath the Gatekeeper, rising up behind it. Yakone’s swords glowed an emerald green, and she cut two deep rents into the shell armor of the alien magus. The Gatekeeper turned around to face the Marauding Crusader, which was what she had been hoping for. “Fuck it in the ass with your AMR!”

“Got it!” Lina took aim, hesitating just long enough to make sure she didn’t hit Yakone. She let loose, muttering, “Die, you mechanical tentacle brain… thing…”

The anti-material bullet drilled into the backside of the Gatekeeper, breaking open its outer shell completely. What remained behind broke off, leaving the alien in its thinnest third and final protective coating. However, it had a few more attacks up its ‘sleeves’. One of its tentacles glowed green, doing something inscrutable. The others formed a raging orange sphere that it tossed down upon Yakone, Lina, Randall, and Stacie. The ‘Gateway’ rift it unleashed had tremendous power, and contained energies that applied blackout and psi panic to all those caught within the storm.

Without any psionic protection, all but Yakone were immediately rendered blind and afraid. Yakone herself was battered the most by the physical psychokinetic force, having been made the epicenter of the rift. Seeing the bad shape Randall was in, she focusing most of her biokinetic healing efforts on keeping the Enforcer alive. “This… fucker’s… strong…!”

From my analysis of its tissue, I’m fairly certain… it isn’t even one being. I believe it is many, many Lutumax fused into a collective entity.

“Tell your cousin to cool his fucking jets then!” Yakone trudged towards Randall. She put away her swords, holding her throbbing head with one hand. While she warded off the mental effects of the Gateway, the Ranger physically-enhanced her hands and shoved Randall out of the storm. Merlux did the same for Lina and Stacie. He took control of her armor while she was incapacitated by fear and blindness, and tackled the nearby Sharpshooter to safety. Yakone was still left in the thick of it, however, but she could now focus her healing energies on keeping herself alive. Where her armor was compromised, her flesh was torn open one moment, only to be pulled back together the next.

The Ranger cried out in agony, all her willpower being focused towards keeping herself from passing out from the pain. So focused on survival, the blackout took effect on her and she lost sight of the Gatekeeper.

Matters were no less difficult for those fighting Cordiam. The Avatar narrowed her eyes at Lester as he was forced to blink away from her to prevent being thrown into the ground by Abyss Diver. “You cannot run forever.” Raising a palm, Cordiam quickly charged violet energy into a sphere similar to her pulsar core, and then unleashed a null lance beam at the Specialist.

“Worked for me so far!” Lester snapped, attempting to dive out of the way of the beam. The energies clipped the back of his armor in the process, damaging it but not piercing through. “Oh, for- I cleaned that this morning.”

Cordiam stopped two meters away from Lester. The blur around her ceased to be, and the Reflection’s ‘headlights’ glowed brightly for an instant. Cordiam’s icy hand wrapped around the hands of the clock, bringing them to a standstill. The Overseer lunged for the immobilized Specialist, getting within range of him as Atka expanded her resume bubble quickly to include her pair of Aerotroopers.

Abyss Diver ripped off Lester’s chestplate, but before it could go to cave in his internal organs, Samuel made good on his earlier promise. Having kept the Specialist within his sight the entire time, he was able to resight and almost immediately fire on the attacking foe. High-frequency bullets scored the side of the Reflection, breaking open the armor on its right arm and leg. Cordiam grimaced, being forced to turn and face the other foes. She could only land a glancing hit on Lester, tossing him away - the Specialist stopping halfway through an arc towards the wall he’d impact when time resumed fully.

“Damn you… invading my world of frozen time like this,” Cordiam growled at Atka.

“Deal with it. I’d call it ‘karma’,” Atka retorted, lifting Direwolf and letting out a shot that shattered the armor Samuel had damaged. Cordiam grimaced, momentarily distracted by the shared mental pain of her Reflection being wounded. Time began to flow again. Lester careened into the wall near Cordiam’s left with a loud thud and indignant yelp. Samara opened fire again with her pistol from the right, the shots being deflected by a wall of imbued ice between her and her target. We’ve got about three seconds! She’s backed into a literal corner here! Someone land a direct hit on her, now! Atka urged.

Alexis opened up, grief covered by rage in that moment as she let loose on the Reflection, not wanting it to interfere so the others could take out the main target. Crossing its arms protectively, Abyss Diver was battered as it protected the Overseer’s left side. Her chance finally arriving, Ayame lunged out of the shadows, having spent most of the time as close to Cordiam as possible for this very opportunity. With a malicious grin, she charged Cordiam’s right side and went for a fatal stab.

Cordiam’s eyes widened, and she brought up her rifle’s bayonet for a parry. While she blocked the attack partially, the swords still managed to swerve upwards and impale her through the shoulder. Crying out in pain, Chronus was pinned to the wall corner behind her. A sitting target for the remaining Phantom, who only now was revealing himself from a holographic cloaking field. Arthur lanced his sword forward, not wishing to waste the opportunity being provided. This blade was not deflected, driving itself straight through Cordiam’s eye.

The Avatar went limp. Atka lowered her ATR, letting out a sigh of relief. “Well done, Chariot. And the rest of you. That’ll… what?”

Before the eyes of the nearby psionic soldiers, a blue-colored wraith akin to Yakone’s overdrive spirit exited Cordiam’s fallen body. The psionic ghost dived into the nearby wall, which opened up to reveal a narrow hallway. Within it were several vats, containing the bodies of more Avatars. One of them opened its blue eyes, and broke out of the tank. Cordiam brushed silver hair out of her eyes, which burned with angry flames of deep blue psionic energy. “I did not wish to waste more of these vessels, but you force my hand!”


At last, the storm dissipated, and Yakone fell to her knees, panting heavily. Pull… it together… Yakone struggled to form coherent thoughts as the Gatekeeper floated ever-closer to her, charging up another attack from its fusion giga-ray. Come… on! Yakone forced biokinetic energy through her veins, fighting away the fatigue in her muscles from her neural strain. The Ranger telekinetically hurled herself to the side of the Gatekeeper, avoiding its deadly solar gunfire. The orange beam sailed into the wall, blowing a hole in it. Water began to jet into the room from the outside. “Oh, come on!” Yakone groaned. She didn’t have any time to attempt to patch the hole - her alien opponent seemed content to just let it happen. Your cousin just wants to watch the world burn, doesn’t he?

Another - albeit weaker - fusion shot forced Yakone to dash to the side to dodge. As she did, she caught other movement out of the corner of her eye. The others haven’t recovered yet… what- i-impossible!

Despite not having a functional head, Chandra stood across from Randall. The psionic zombie raised her carbine, and blew a hole in the Enforcer’s chest. Showing no concern for the corpse at all, she turned towards the other two nearby XCOM soldiers, preparing to inflict the same fate upon them. Yakone stood frozen in shock and uncertainty, but Merlux acted. He utilized his sonic modulator to create a soundwave attack that blew the walking corpse back with enough force that her bones and neck snapped.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Yakone cried out.

“She’s gone!” Stacie managed, her vision starting to return and the images that had rendered her in a panic fading away from her mind. “Focus on the puppeteer, don’t dwell on her body! There’s nothing we can do about it!”


Well-Known Member
DarkGemini24601, Taxor_the_First, and ZombieSplitter53: “Operation Leviathan, Part 7”

Yakone clenched her fists in frustration and grief, and reached down to pull out her blades again. “Alright… alright… you’re gonna get it,” she murmured at the offending Gatekeeper. Yakone ran forward, Praclaritas assisting her in her reflexes. The dynamic duo worked together to weave out of the way of fusion blasts, seeing their paths before they even fired. Yakone quickly closed the distance between herself and the alien orb, and shoved one of her palms into its thinned chassis. Bioelectric lightning passed through the Gatekeeper, and it collapsed onto the ground - its telekinesis momentarily malfunctioning as the compressed slugs within tried to adjust to the new psionic frequency.

The Gatekeeper’s biokinesis in particular remained active, and it tried to bring Chandra’s mangled corpse to angle a shot at Yakone. This was a mistake. Seeing the psi zombie rise again, the Ranger felt as if her blood was lit on fire. “Stop desecrating her corpse, you son of a bitch!” Yakone brought her imbued fusion blades down on the Gatekeeper, striking it again and again until they cut open the shell and fried the ‘brain’ inside with a hot sizzle. Yakone struck it a few more times for good measure until the fleshy parts of the Gatekeeper were mere mush, and then drew back, breathing heavily. “Don’t… fuck with my friends, you piece of shit.” She kicked the lifeless shell, and turned back to Stacie and Lina. “Let’s go help the others.”

Lina took a moment to catch her breath, then looked to the side and froze for a moment. “I, uh… there seems to be another Avatar…”

“...what the fuck.” Yakone broke into a sprint, running over towards the others. When she got halfway, Atka and Cordiam suddenly swapped positions. When they did, Atka’s mechanical arm had been torn off, and she had staggered backwards. Cordiam had been knocked into a wall, but she used her telekinesis to force herself to stand again and dodge the incoming gunfire from the others. “What’s going on?” Yakone questioned breathlessly.

“She’s got backup bodies!” Atka brought her daughter up to speed. “As if killing her once wasn’t difficult enough.”

“How are we supposed to take her on if she can just jumped to a new body until we run out of steam?” Ayame asked in frustration.

Over the comms, Alexis said, “I think we should try and destroy those bodies. One at a time if need be.”

“Keep up the attacks on her. I’ll go over there and chop them up,” Yakone told the others.

As the remaining nine members of the squad poured heat on Cordiam, she started relying more on her cryokinesis. Pillars of ice knocked the pair of Aerotroopers away to get rid of their rapid fire rate, and walls of ice served as cover to take the brunt of the heat poured against the Avatar. She caught Yakone moving towards the secret doorway out of the corner of her eye. “I will not allow that!” A pulsar core formed in Cordiam’s hand, and she launched it into the doorway - creating a deadly barrier.

Yakone clenched her fists. We could try and pass through that.

It will almost assuredly kill you! Praclaritas insisted. Think, Yakone… there has to be another way. Doesn’t one of our teammates have blink?

He also got knocked into a wall. Yakone watched as Cordiam began to counterattack, racking her brain. I could… I could override over there. Take over one of the bodies myself.

They have two major colors. I’m not sure you could handle the strain.

This isn’t really the time to worry about self-preservation! Keep my body safe. Yakone closed her eyes, and then vacated her form - ghosting into the room where Cordiam’s spare bodies were kept. She took a deep mental breath, and then lowered her spiritual form into one of them. The Inuit-Caucasian woman was immediately met with a wave of nausea, followed by pulsating pain as her psionic resonance couldn’t adapt to the body. She found herself unable to back out. Goddammit… I didn’t realize it would… trap me like this… I guess I should have realized… it would act like a permanent new form. Shaking, the thought of defeat entered Yakone’s mind. This would be a really shitty way to die…

Let’s avert that outcome, then, a familiar voice echoed in Yakone’s mind.

The Avatar’s eyes widened. Oh… oh that could work. Let’s hope enough of you is left over for this to work, Margaret… Yakone and the psionic imprint left behind from her possession of an ADVENT Officer pooled their energies - green and blue - and stabilized the connection with the Avatar body. Yakone broke out of the glass suspension tube encasing her, and created a pulsar core in her hand. “Oh… oh that’s cool,” she spoke, her voice having an ‘echo’ of sorts that mimicked Margaret’s. With the attack she was able to identify as a Reflection weapon, the hybrid destroyed the other tubes with extreme prejudice. She won’t be coming back if we kill her again! Yakone psied to the others.

“Good,” Alexis said vindictively, never so glad to hear defenseless forms were dead. She redoubled her attack, wanting to end Chandra’s killer in the most violent way possible. She fired at the Avatar with one hand while pulling out, arming, and tossing a grenade with the other. Cordiam put up a wall of ice between herself and the grenade, attempting to stop it in its tracks. However, drawing upon her tumultuous emotions, Alexis’s psionic abilities evolved. In this moment of turmoil and hatred, she reached the level of a green master. Her grenade became intangible through the power of Corpokinesis, and phased into Cordiam.

“Wha-” the Avatar got out before being battered by an explosion. Staggering backwards, she began trying to heal herself with biokinesis. “She can use that ability?” Cordiam breathed.

Barely a moment later, massive shadowy hands began tearing the ice wall apart. Samuel fired his shotgun blindly through the tiny gap his Reflection had managed to make, though doubted he’d actually get a hit. “Here’s Sammy!” he cried, trying to spot his target.

Atka’s eyes widened as she saw the Overseer take a step forward, backing off from the opponent nearest her. The Commander was out of range of the pair of Aerotroopers. “Alexis, if you can use that on yourself, do it n-”

“Abyss Diver!” Time ground to a halt, and Cordiam had her Reflection surge forward towards Alexis. “She’s dangerous. I have to…” A flurry of punches passed through Alexis. “No… I can’t…” Cordiam took a step back, feeling the noose tightening around her neck. Time began to flow again, and as it did, a device clicked underneath her feet. Glancing down, Cordiam caught sight of a wavepit trap beneath her. “You-!” she cried out at Atka.

The RC’s explosive went off, tearing rents through Cordiam’s legs and blasting her onto her back. Yakone stepped out of the hallway, marching towards Cordiam. Avatar faced down Avatar. “It’s over,” the XCOM-controlled hybrid spoke. “Surrender.” The other soldiers regrouped, nursing their wounds as best they could. To their relief, Chandra’s drone was still active, and had plenty medkit charges to repair their armor. Looking up, Cordiam stared down ten XCOM soldiers. Avatar-Yakone shook her head. “Don’t get me wrong. You killed my mentor. I’m really, really pissed. But I’ll let you live in the name of the greater good that you talk a lot about. You’d be more use to us alive. Maybe we can even get that husband of yours to surrender if you’re a captive.”