RP XCOM2: Liberation of Earth


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MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601: “Back in Business, Part 1”

Base of Mount Cook, New Zealand
1342 Hours, March 7th, 2039 A.D.
Onboard the Jupiter-class Battleship,
The G.S.S. ‘Horizon of Tomorrow’
Backup Command Center

His feet clanging against the metallic surface of the floor in time with his second by his side, the Genesis Commander looked around the halls of his new vessel with both an inquisitive eye and a slightly wary one. Commanding the ‘Mandragon’ was one thing but this new present from their brethren over at XCOM had the soldier a bit on edge. It was something he hid fairly well from the common eye.

“You can always say no if you really are that apprehensive about this.” Desmond’s second -dressed in white and looking even more fitting with her navy like uniform- chastised. “I am sure Atka could just find someone else to do it.”

“Never been one to back down from a challenge Elise.” the older gentleman said gruffly as he made an attempt to harden up and save face.

“I’d think your other half would have a few choice words about that fact with your past record.” When she received a glare from the corner of her CO’s eye Elise looked away with a coy grin. “Things’ll be fine. Thom is already hard at work examining the new meat, and when he is done I am sure he will have no problem being a bridge liaison.”

“Where does that leave you on the hierarchy? I surely hope you aren’t trying to shrug duties now that we have quite a bit more armor.” Desmond warned, now flashing a slight grin of his own.

Elise’s green cheeks turned violet for a few moments and she put her fist to her lips as she cleared her throat. “W-What I meant to say was of course I could as your bridge liaison. It would be quite an honor.”

The Genesis Commander patted the girl on the back comfortingly. “That’ll do Ven. That’ll do.” A few moments passed by before they reached the double doors of the secondary bridge that had been scraped together and the two entered in one after the other.

Within, Desmond encountered a multitude of faces familiar to him. Atka was in the center of the room - with Bradford at her side - behind a holographic console. The setup was a display that showed a multitude of status indicators and command inputs - most of which were in English, but a few were still being translated. That process was being conducted by Dr. Vahlen. Lily was rerouting what machinery had yet to be connected to this room in the underbelly of the alien battleship. A few members of the original crew were helping about, and a trio of soldiers - Yakone, Kevin, and Qamut - oversaw their activities.

“This certainly is a hub of activity, isn’t it?” Desmond commented as he moved close to the center console. “Things coming along smoothly?”

Atka nodded. “They are. It’d be ideal if we could get the ship’s navigation systems back online within the next few days. I’ve visited the two Ethereal captives on the Avenger to get information one last time, and I know where their High Commander is.” The Inuit woman rapped her fingers against the holo-display, bringing up a 3-D map of the Earth’s natural satellite. “The Moon, or Luna as they prefer to call it.”

“That… certainly presents some unique obstacles I suppose. Fortunate we have this ship now then instead of having to scrape together a proper shuttle.” Elise said, placing her arms behind her back.

“Don’t count out the Avenger’s capabilities. With Shen’s mind, getting into space wouldn’t have been much of a problem. Getting there without being bombarded is another thing. Now we have a chance to even out the playing field a bit.” XCOM’s Central Officer noted besides Atka.

“Granted, one battleship against several is a fight we won’t be able to win alone. But between the high orbit interceptor craft Genesis has access to, and that huge planetary defense railgun you guys took from the aliens in Iceland, we’ve got a fighting chance,” An-Yi remarked from under a console.

“Having fun down there?” Desmond asked playfully to the now-grown woman, remembering a time when she was merely a child as if it wasn’t so long ago.

“It’s certainly a challenge… the systems this ship is using are up-to-date. Makes the Avenger look like some sort of clunker in comparison. It’s a good thing we don’t need to completely refit it and solve some unresolved issues with the design like the ones our flagship came with.”

“Genesis has its own engineers as well. If it is really a problem, we could lend them to you if your ship needs it,” the hybrid captain remarked, trying to be at least a bit helpful.

“Have ‘em try to make some of your other aircraft spaceworthy,” Lily responded. “My crew can handle these two ships.”

Yakone leaned against the main console. “We invented high-frequency weapons, after all. At this point most of our civilian staff have just been lounging about in comparison to all the work we’d been doing. The difficulty is welcome.”

“I see.” Desmond shrugged and looked to his daughter. “In the meantime, most of our available fleet and our forces are still on red alert in all the city centers. The alien assault has been… taxing, to put it mildly. People are scared, even if we try our best to help them.”

“Yeah. All the more reason to finish this as quickly as possible, right? That’s the best we can do right now,” Yakone reasoned.
“I believe that is something we can all agree on.” Desmond nodded his head and cast his gaze over the globe, going over some thoughts in his head. “Good job on… killing Zemsis. Wish I could have been there for some payback.”

“We managed it without any casualties on our end, at the very least,” Kevin remarked, walking over next to Yakone. “I didn’t get a crack at the bastard either, but knowing he didn’t take any of us down with him is good enough for me.”

“All things considered… I suppose it is for me too.” Nodding his head, Desmond slowly cleared his throat. “Mind if we go for a walk Kevin?”

The Ranger gave him a bit of a questioning, wary look, but nodded. “Alright.”

Turning around, the Genesis Commander left with the XCOM operative and for a time that they walked, silence and tension filled the air. Tapping each of his fingers against his thumb, Desmond finally got the courage to say something. “It never used to be so hard to get a conversation going between us.”

“No. It didn’t,” Kevin replied. “Things changed. We all changed.”

“Perhaps. Though nothing truly changes in entirety. Atka has proven that to me. I’m hoping that perhaps you are that way too.”

“I’ve stayed loyal to the cause I believed in all this time,” Kevin answered. “So no, I haven’t changed fundamentally.”

“Now you and I both know that isn’t what I meant. There was a time you were my best friend. One of my only ones. I want to know whether or not it is possible to return to that. Or to at least start once more,” Desmond explained with seriousness.

Kevin sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I guess it is. I didn’t hold as much of a grudge as Atka did. Didn’t have as much of a reason to feel betrayed. There’s just that… nagging feeling that this is all wrong. It shouldn’t have ended up like this in the first place.”

“That feeling of yours is right. It shouldn’t have, but unfortunately it did. I made one of the biggest mistakes that anyone could ever even make, and it cost me my humanity. But now, with time, I am reclaiming what I lost. Learning things… I never thought I could learn. I fear the state things would have turned into if Atka had never been pregnant with Yakone. I do love that woman, but it was all her that made my change possible. Could have only been her.”

“Love is a powerful thing,” Kevin acknowledged, a distant expression overtaking his features. “Can make someone do a lot of things.”

Desmond looked sidelong at his old friend, letting out a sad sigh. “Yeah… I can only imagine. Try it sometime. Find it.” he demanded, as if giving an order.

“I did, once. You knew that, even if I pretended like it wasn’t the case,” Kevin responded, shuffling his shoes a bit. “That’s why I’m glad Zemsis is dead, more than the rest of you can even know. Atka didn’t want it to be about revenge, but I certainly feel satisfied knowing he paid for what he did.”

“Bastard certainly had it coming. You two… you went well together, but we also know that she wouldn’t want you being a hermit after the war is over. And if your roles were reversed, you would never allow her to keep torturing herself.”


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MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601: "Back in Business, Part 2"

“Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s the cliche. Mother watched enough romance movies that I’m familiar with the idea,” the Ranger replied with an exasperated sigh. “Doesn’t make it any less hard. And, you know, Qamut and I are two of the oldest guys on the ship. Most of our crew’s women are too young for a coot like me,” the middle-aged man stated.

“You’re looking in the wrong place. Do you really want to just replace Madelyine with another copy of herself? Honestly, I think that would cause you more pain then you need. Look after the fighting is done. There are a lot of grieving widows, and who else to know your pain than a woman who has lost as well? Besides, you will be a savoir. Will make things better. If things don’t work out like that, I will always have an open ear to be a confidant.” The leader said with certain assurance.

Kevin allowed himself to chuckle. “What, you have the phone number of a MILF in need or something?”

“Are you asking me to get one? Don’t doubt the power I have in this position.” Desmond replied back, slapping Kevin on the shoulder.

“I guess I’m on my own for that then,” the New Yorker grumbled.

“Would be no fun in the chase otherwise. Come on, I can’t stand sitting around waiting for something to happen. You and me, let’s get some drinks, get some guns, and just have a good time like we used to.” The Genesis Commander suggested with a wry smile.

Kevin shrugged. “Sure. That’d be fine by me.”

“The boys are back.” Desmond held out his hand to Kevin, looking like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.


By the time the end of the day rolled around, Ms. Moreau was ready to tear her hair out. Hours spent in briefings, looking over more reports on her own, barely getting a meal in edgewise had made the departure of her commanding officer to the Elders knew where all the more infuriating. By the time the half-snake hybrid planted herself head first onto her new bed station in the ship, sleep was an unwilling companion. So, she spent her time more adequately with the discovery of holographic view screens. Venom was never far from a good movie, and after fiddling and fiddling, alien tech was come to bear to her will and her guilty pleasure ensued with a variety of films that made curling up in her little hovel in an alien warship slightly less depressing.

A knock came on the door in-between one film and the next. A familiar voice questioned, “Can I come in?”

The voice caused Elise’s skin to prickle a bit, the girl grabbing a blanket and pulling it over her shoulders. “No one’s here!” Afterwards, she facepalmed with a sigh, “It’s open…”

Jezebel cautiously pushed the door open, offering a faint, cautious smile. “Hey, Elise…”

“Hallo.” Elise greeted back in her German accent. “I… I didn’t know you were here. You weren’t in the command room with the others.”

“Not like I’d be of any use to them,” Bombay responded with a shake of her head. She slowly stepped into the room. “That sorta crap isn’t what I’m good at.”

“Still… it’s a surprise.” Elise swallowed a bit hard and tried avoiding Jezebel’s gaze. “I-I’ve just been watching some flicks. Damn thing was giving me trouble but I managed to get it to work somehow. Aliens seemed to have wanted to make things complicated for the sole fact to make people angry if they ever took over the ship.”

“Sounds like them.” The Banshee sighed, leaning against the wall. “You afraid of me now?” she asked forwardly.

A small groan escaped Venom’s mouth as she huddled down with blushing cheeks and nodded. “M-Maybe a bit…”

Jezebel ran her hands through her hair. “Dammit. I’m sorry, Elise… I should have been able to better resist that motherfucker’s control.”

“It isn’t your fault… too much anyways. I heard Avyssos even swayed the XCOM Commander’s mind so I shouldn’t expect more from you. I’m just… more scared of what would have happened if you had been successful. I know we both know that Ember when reprogramed was… evil, and sadistic, and she liked it. Its scares me that you would have liked killing me. And… I don’t exactly know entirely why. Did I ever do anything to put deep thoughts of hate like that in your head that he could exploit like that?”

Bombay shook her head. “Not hate. A little fear and anxiety, yeah - you made me think harder about a relationship than I’ve ever wanted to - but nothing incredibly exploitable.”

Blinking a few times, Elise looked over towards Jezebel slowly. Her features turned a bit guilt-ridden, and Elise quickly scooted aside. “You should come sit down. It isn’t fair if you have to stand like that the entire time.”

“Just as long as being near you isn’t going to give you a heart attack or something,” Jezebel noted, walking over.

“Why does everyone assume I have a weak constitution?” The support grumbled under her breath, though she couldn’t deny her heart rate did quicken a bit when Bombay sat down. Shifting the blanket, she threw one end over the other girl to be generous.

“So… what’ve you been watching?” Jezebel asked after a few moments.

“I just got done watching a really old film noire. And I mean… old. Like… black and white, no dialogue even. Was all subtitle. Now if you want to talk the hardest to-pull-off movie, it is one that is entirely supported on expressiveness.” Elise began, her geek side causing her anxiety to drop off a bit.

Bombay smirked. “That does sound pretty cool. Ever consider being a filmmaker yourself when this is all over?”

“O-Oh I could never. I wouldn’t know the first thing, or where to start, or who to cast, or what the story would be. It’s very sophisticated stuff. Um… any sort of film you’ve been itching to see? I mean, I know you never really expressed any interest when we were in the task force, but I wonder if maybe you have anything you’d…. You know, like to see?”

Bombay shrugged. “I’d be fine with whatever you’re interested in. I’m not sure I know my own interests when it comes to this sorta thing.”

“Well, judging by your nature I think you’d be more interested in the action sort of genre. Maybe an old western. Afterwards… I don’t know, a romantic comedy?” Elise suggested with a bit of apprehension at the latter suggestion.

Jezebel nodded. “Sure,” she answered, not seeming tense herself.

Getting up, the hybrid snake woman moved across the room to begin playing a specific flick that was very action heavy and not so focused on dialogue. A third passed by before the woman with the green skin’s head was on Bombay’s shoulder, lightly sleeping to a slow and steady pace, not being one to snore.The Banshee chuckled softly as to keep from waking up her comrade, and made no move to remove her. Instead, she continued watching, content with the warm feeling of Elise being close to her for now.

Frostlich1228 (Alt)

Well-Known Member
Frostlich1228 - "A Crack in Stone."
(Takes place one day after Operation Gigantus.)

Marx walked down the hall slowly, unaware of the people around him as he approached the medical bay. It was the day after the mission, the mission to eliminate Zemsis, the mission where all of his fears came true. Where he hurt Keloe...

He couldn't stop himself from doing it... He couldn't fight off the Elder's control fast enough... He sent her here. As Marx stepped past the front desk, he reached the room Keloe was staying in. Thankfully her injuries weren't too serious, Nouja had been able to respond fast enough to save the Enforcer's arm... but still...

As the Ranger stepped into the room, he was met with Cathy, sitting next to a still sleeping Keloe. The young chef seemed down, more down than she usually was, but didn't seem to be devastated.

The quintuplet turned her head towards Marx as the door shut behind him, giving him a faint smile. "H-Hey Marx..."

The Russian said nothing, only stepping up to the bed. Keloe was the same as she was yesterday when they escorted her to the hospital with him at her side. It wasn't easy to sleep knowing that she was here, but the doctors had convinced him he needed rest as well.

The silence of the room was broken by Cathy once again, "Don't worry Marx, the doctor's said she'd make a full recovery, that Nouja is certainly something, huh?"

"Right." He replied simply.

"Look." Catherine spoke up, "I know you are beating yourself up inside, but it's really not your fault. How were you supposed to resist against someone like that?"

"You don't understand..." Marx responded, "I watched the mission... My fighting didn't do anything. The only time I was able to stop myself was after... I was trapped in a black void and all that fighting did nothing."

The Chef stood up, putting a hand on his shoulder, "That's not true."

This caused the farmer to look up as Cathy continued talking, "You know how I know that? Because I watched it too. I've seen you fight on all these missions, I've seen to take on things much bigger than yourself, you don't hesitate when you attack... But yet... You went for her arm instead of trying to... kill her... If that's not a sign you were fighting with everything you could in there, then I don't know what was."

Marx nodded, but quickly put his head in his hands. "How do you know I didn't just miss?"

"Because you're really good at this Marx." Cathy reassured, "Do I need to remind you of all the times you beat Ayame and Yakone? You held back during that last moment. Your fighting inside did so much more than you think..."

Marx looked over to her, "But I still hurt her."'

"No..." Cathy stopped him, looking him in the eyes. "You saved her life and she will be fine..."

"And I think I know why you fought so hard. How you could stop him from controlling you fully." She stated.

"Do you?"

"I do." Cathy answered. "It's because you love her, don't you?"

Marx chuckled lowly, "And how would you know something like that?"

"Duh... Come on, Marx, I'm a people person. I've seen the way you look at each other... And so has Krys, but that's a different story, that girl is just a little jealous." She explained, grinning.

Marx looked back over to her. "Maybe I do..."

"I knew it..." She said, pulling her chair over to him. "And I think she knows it too... And I know she'll forgive you... Even if she had lost her arm, I guarantee she wouldn't have held it against you, she's not that kind of person."

Marx sighed, "I just wish it could've gone differently, regardless."

"Can't argue with that." Cathy admitted, "I just... I just wish the Elders would just throw in the towel already, this has... This has gone too far, there doesn't need to be any more death, but they're just so stubborn..."

"They'll get what they deserve one way or another..." Marx looked up at Catherine, "Whether they quit now or not."

This didn't really sit well with Cathy, but she didn't counter his argument, she knew she was in the minority when it came to how to treat the Elders, and after Chandra's... They would be even more unlikely to hear her out. Instead, Cathy decided to change the subject. "Marx, what do you plan to do after all this?"

Marx looked ahead, then back down at Keloe, "You know... I actually haven't given it much thought... I wanted to go home with my family but, I think we all know that won't happen."

"Right..." The Chef shifted slightly, "I'm sorry Marx..."

"Not your fault, it's theirs, the Ethereals, the Elders, Declensions, whatever you want to call them... It's their fault." He stated, "Now I don't know what to do, like I said, I haven't thought about it much. With Anna just showing up and... My feelings for Keloe... I don't know what I want after this, all I want is to see the Elder's pay, then... I guess my life will sort itself out after that."

Cathy nodded, "Well, you have two family members now, one new, one old, who both still love you. Whatever you do, you should do it with them."

The Farmer sat back, crossing his arms, "You're right. You are right."

He them stood up slowly, the chair sliding a little, as he stepped over to be next to Keloe. Cathy meanwhile, gave him a pleasant look, "Maybe... Maybe you should kiss her..."

"Excuse me?" He asked incredulously.

"Well, you know those stories about a brave prince, whose kiss is the only thing that can wake a sleeping princess. I'm just saying, maybe you should just give it a try." The brunette suggested.

Marx suddenly began to chuckle, catching Catherine a little off guard, "That's what I expected, you give a little bit of good advice, before going right back to being yourself."

She just shrugged, "What can I say, there's got to be a little truth to the story, right?"

The Russian shook his head, "Maybe, but certainly not that part."

Catherine stood up as well, making a moving towards the door, "I have to get going, but what's the worst that could happen? You both clearly love each other."

Marx was silent as he heard the door open, Cathy speaking once more. "I'm happy you two have found one another, I really do think that you two will have a wonderful life."

The Ranger was still just a silent as the door closed, leaving them alone as he stood over her. Suddenly, Marx leaned down and pressed his lips against hers, holding it for a second before pulling back. After waiting a few moments to see what would happen, Marx just shook his head, laughing lowly, "I can't believe I let her convince me to do that...

He turned around to leave the room, but stopped at the door, looking at his friend and love once more, "Get well soon... hon..."

After a moment Marx was gone, the room silent other than the machines beeping next to her, everything was still.

Until Keloe's eyes fluttered open sleepily, her mouth turning up into a smile.


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Who need rank when you can inspire those around you.

Luke is sitting on his bed, thinking about the final battle and what he can do to not only protect Alexis but everyone else. The door knocked and Lilith peeked into his room. “Um Look, can I come in for a minute?”

“Ou hay aunty,is there anything I can do for you or is this just a casual visit?”

“Heh just wanted to check in on you, so what are you doing you getting nervous over the final battle?”

“A little bit, it’s a little hard to come to terms with is all. Were so close to winning it’s a little overwhelming, I lived my whole life fighting and now i’m about to have peace. I can live with Alexis in our apartment and have kids of my own.”

“Heh you really are looking forward to this huh, I don’t think I've seen you this happy. I’m proud of you Luke you came a long way from when you were young. Even if you are a squaddy, you're not still hanged up about that are?”

“Heh you know, I've been thinking about that and who need a ranking.”

“What do you mean?”

“See the entire world knows who I am now, most people see me as a destroyer and see me as room clearer. When people see me they think to themselves. Hay Lukes here, we now have a chance to win. People see me and they get some hope in their eyes, the hope that they will be able to see tomorrow I’ve become an inspiration to those people Now if they new my past then the people in the wasteland will be inspired by my story. I think I like this more then a ranking.”

Lilith claps her hands and looks at Luke.”Wow, a very impressive speech. So you would rathe be an inspiration then a corporal or a Sargent?”

“Yep, who need a ranking anyway. Besides if I was a higher ranked officer I wouldn't be able to do half of the things I do anyway, so i’m good where I am now.”

Lilith clapped her hands and hugged Luke.”Wow i’m so proud of you, you become so mature. I would have thought that you would be upset more than you are now, I mean you mentioned it before but you seem to be taking it well.”

I think me inspiring others beats a rank anyday, me inspiring others and rallying them that’s something I thought I could never do.”

“Indeed, and I also see you keep some of your ancestral roots. I do love your collection it’s quite the marvel, your mom would be proud. Hell I’m willing to bet if it was possible you would have gotten the tooth of that giant three headed monster back during the seige.”

“Ou yea but something of that size won’t fit on the ship, but if Shen’s want’s to add it to his musum that’s fine to. My kids will be able to see what there dear daddy fought in the day.”

“Hum, you know Luke I can’t wait for you to have kids. I think you will make a great father Luke, I know for a fact that you will not let your kids go down the same road you did.”

“You damn right I won’t, I’ll be god damed if my kids go the same road I did. Heh listen to me i’m already sounding like an aged father.”

“Hum I think that’s a good thing, it proves you're a natural protector and are willing to defend those around you.”

“Heh yea I guess so, anyway I need to go over some equipment for the final battle.”

“Yea I understand, son I don’t say this often but i’m proud of you you've come a very long way for that boy in the wasteland.”

“Heh thanks Aunty, I very much appreciate it I will see you around.”


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"Facing Forward"

Yakone sat next to the window in the living quarters, gazing down upon the holographic library built by the invaders in Alexandria. The Megacity below was a collection of shimmering lights not unlike the capital city of the Asian continental region, but here the desert air made the glow stand out even more than the mountain peaks. There was a time when being near one of those gigantic metropolises was incredibly dangerous. Now, the progress of the Resistance made such proximity commonplace.

A hand was laid on her shoulder, causing her to turn. “Reflecting on the past?” Atka questioned with a knowing smile.

“Hey, anticipating people’s thoughts is my thing. Shtick thief,” Yakone muttered with feigned irritation. More seriously, she replied, “Yeah. We’ve come a long way since the days we hid in the darkness, lurking and waiting for a chance to step into the light. XCOM’s on the verge of completing its mission objective. Sure, I always strived to see that happen, but I think a part of me never expected us to succeed - and certainly not this quickly. It’s been about ten months since Gatecrasher, and here we are… about to challenge the High Commander himself.”

“Indeed. I’m proud of everyone’s hard work. If not for the stubborn persistence of the human spirit that manifests itself in a paragon-fashion within our troops and staff members…. I doubt we’d have made it this far.” Atka chuckled softly. “Though that’s not the only thing worth reflecting on. This past year,” the mother began, taking ahold of one of her daughter’s hands, “I’ve managed to rebuild the bridge I burned so long ago. Being able to have a proper place in my daughter’s heart, to be able to connect with you… that’s made me happier than anything else in my life.”

“You know flattery just swells my ego, mom,” Yakone responded, flushing slightly in embarrassment.

“I’m not exaggerating, though,” Atka clarified sincerely. She closed her eyes, reminiscing. “For so long, I suffered. I lived in the past, and couldn’t take joy in anything. I was dead inside - as much of a walking corpse as one of those zombie puppets the Sectoids make. But the people I’ve met and come to know on this journey - Morrigan, Ayame, Alexis, Leon, Gwen, the Mavericks, hell even Luke - have allowed me to start living again. Your friends breathed new conviction into my blackened heart, and made it beat again. But it would have been a folly that tragedies along the way and the challenges of leadership would have torn away, if not for the amends I made with you.”

Yakone rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, you had just as positive of an effect on me,” she matched Atka’s accolades with some of her own. “Even when we were starting to get along again, you didn’t let me give into my pride, or let my anger consume me. You held me to the same standards as anyone else. Leon did too. Tough love from my family and my boyfriend helped put me along the right path. My time in captivity, as difficult as it was, gave me time to face myself and ensure that I wouldn’t be the bitch I’d been again. Even the time I spent as Ember… I gotta believe there’s a purpose in that. It’s certainly taught me the terrible power my psionics can be if misused.”

Atka nodded gravely. “I suppose that’s something that’ll have to be addressed when this is all over… psionics and Reflections and all this advanced tech aren’t going to go away. Earth will still need protectors. I’ve been thinking on that… and I came to something of a conclusion on the solution.”

Yakone raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”

“XCOM will still have a purpose after this is all over. The organization won’t stay the same, but the planet still needs protection from threats both external and internal. An international defense force - one that’s actually competent, as we are - equipped with the best humanity has to offer in terms of abilities and genius. I haven’t thought of a name yet though,” Atka mused, a bit crestfallen by that fact.

Yakone chuckled. “Leave that to me. I’m better with cool names.”

“You mean corny ones.”

The Ranger laughed. “I can’t deny that.” She fell silent for awhile. “I have been thinking about the future too, and I suppose that’ll factor into what I do after the war’s over.” Seeing Atka’s expression become a bit grave, Yakone held her hands up. “Hey, I don’t plan on doing a hell of a lot more fighting. Definitely no more soldiering, at least. A lot of it depends on when Leon wants to have kids of our own… but I will pursue a career when it’s safe to so without neglecting any kid of mine, including Konny. Science work in that future organization of yours is an option, or maybe police work. I doubt that fire in me to protect people will ever die, after all.”

Atka shrugged. “Police officer I can see. I doubt any simple criminal with a gun would be able to hurt you. You’re free to make your own decisions - you are plenty old enough. But I’m glad that you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with me.” She sat down next to Yakone, leaning against her taller daughter. “I love you, Yakone. I look forward to seeing you continue to grow, and live out your life.”

“Love you too, mom. I promise I won’t disappoint,” Yakone insisted with a smile.

“As if that’s even a remote possibility,” Atka scoffed. The two women of Inuit descent shared a laugh, and gazed out onto the terrain below - their thoughts turning to the battle ahead, and the fight for the future that was nearly upon them.


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“Coming Coda” - Part 1

March 20th - the Vernal Equinox - 2039 A.D.

As one, the G.S.S. Horizon of Tomorrow and the X.S.S. Avenger ascended. The clouds streamed past and were forgotten below as the two starships climbed higher and higher, until they departed from the Earth’s atmosphere entirely. Below them, the blue planet seemed calmer. And things there certainly were beginning to even out. The seven Overseers that had once ruled the seven continents of Terra were on their thrones no longer. And what Ethereal Protectorate forces remained on Earth were being routed by the combined strength of Genesis and the Resistance. The liberation was nearly complete. But one more step remained. The leader of the enemy still loomed, holding onto Earth’s natural satellite as his stronghold. The Horizon and Avenger glided through the stellar void towards the shining silver orb that accompanied the homeworld they sought to protect.

On the bridge of the Avenger, Atka gave one final speech. For the last time, she roused the troops. And this time, it wasn’t just her own. Instead, she spoke to every different faction that had come together to bring an end to this conflict. The freedom fighters and former Advent soldiers aboard the larger ship, and her own troops and Exalt operatives that had come aboard her flagship. “It’s been a long fight. For some of us, this was two decades in the making. For others, you’ve been fighting for years. Our most recent recruits have only been here for a couple of months, but even they know the weariness of the strife that has permeated our daily lives ever since the aliens set foot on Earth. Today, it ends.”

Atka crossed her arms. “Today, we’re going to the Moon - not for sightseeing, mind you,” she added for a little levity. Pressing onward, XCOM’s Commander continued, “Today, we’re going to blow through all the defenses the Ethereals throw up to try and stop us from finishing this. Today, we’re going to finish what we started all that time ago.” Getting down to business, Atka informed the troops, “There are three stages to this assault. The first is largely going to be up to our pilots and gunners, and the starfighters that we’ve managed to cobble together for this assault. We’ve got to fight through the stellar blockade the Protectorate will put between us and the Moon.”

“Then,” Atka went on, “we’ll make moonfall. Our ultimate enemy is located in a city built for the Ethereals, nestled out of view of anyone with a telescope behind hills and some clever camouflaging. We know precisely where it is, though, and we’re going to hit that place hard. There won’t be any Peacekeepers in our way this time. Only Heavy Honor Guard and Psi Corps soldiers. But we’ll manage. We always do. Some of our forces - particularly Genesis and Exalt - are going to remain in the area surrounding Vekinte’s inner sanctum to keep reinforcements from bearing down on the team that meets him in combat.”

“And that,” the Inuit guardian spirit finished, “is the third phase. I’ll be leading a fighting force into the nexus of the Protectorate capital, and together we’re going to win this. Everyone has gotten their individual assignment by now, so you know exactly where you need to go. And we all know what to do. We’re going to fight for everything we believe in, everything we hold dear. This is the final round. The last battle before Earth is truly liberated. I’m counting on all of you. I believe in all of you. There’s nothing more to say.” Atka took a deep breath, and then stood tall and proud. “Let’s do this.”


The opposition in space was nothing to scoff at, although it was not the full might of the Protectorate fleet. Many of its number had been destroyed in the fall of Aetherum, and many of those that remained were patrolling the outer edges of the solar system or beyond, wrapped up in minor wars and armed conflicts with the remnants of the race that had destroyed the Ethereal homeworld, and eternally pursued them like a swarm of angry locusts. The collection of fighter craft deployed from alien carrier ships also resembled that collection of insects - and so too did the barrage of laser fire from the assortment of battleships average and large that stood in the way of the human-controlled spaceships. Alone, the Horizon and Avenger would have been lost against such a force. But they were not alone.

One of the larger battleships was felled in a single blow, as a massive rail-accelerated projectile impaled its power core and blew it to smithereens. The source was the gigantic planetary defense cannon installed on Earth by the extraterrestrials, ironically meant to protect from other invaders. To make matters worse, Genesis fighter craft soared into view, surrounding a pair of salvaged class-one battleships that the Resistance had taken from the fallen Overseers,. This already-formidable force was accompanied by a battleship under the command of Shen’lutusus. The combined arms of this Terran fleet was able to challenge the might of the Ethereal spacecraft directly.

Gunfire lit up the black abyss in which the ships floated. Plasma explosions that required no oxygen to burn accompanied the cannonfire. Starships fought and died on both sides in a great tumult, debris scattering into Earth orbit as if the heavens themselves were weeping tears of lead. And with the destruction of craft after craft, sentient beings perished. The remnants of their vessels served as their pall, and the furious thunder of the cannons that still fired replaced the bugles meant to sound their pitiful ends. The shrapnel that began to fill the stellar battlefield drifted off as it progressed, fading out of view into the blackness that surround Earth, forgotten. The eternal void in time claimed all, and today it took man and ship alike into its inscrutable cloak’s folds.

And then, as soon as the deadly ballad had begun, it was over. Although battered and down to one broken-down Resistance battleship, Shen’lutusus’ battered vessel, and the Genesis and XCOM battleship and supply ship duo, the allies had emerged victorious. There was no time to spare to reflect on the great tragedy of the conflict. All that the combatants desired was to see it brought to as swift of an end as possible. And thus, they speeded on towards the Moon, the hopes and dreams of humanity riding with them through the vast blanket of stars and space.


Atka looked down. Through the durable windows of the Avenger’s upper-deck bridge she could see the lunar surface. Gray terrain - mostly cratered plains and dusty hills - stretched out across her field of view. Despite how obvious the geological deadness of the Moon was to her at this distance, the Commander couldn’t help but be awed. This was a site that only one group of people had ever seen. As if reflexively summoned, Blue World faded into view at Atka’s side. The astronaut thoughtform peered over the Earth’s longtime companion alongside her.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Robert remarked, walking up to the glass with his hands clasped behind his back. They didn’t stay in that professional position for long, his palms soon pressed against the viewport like an excited child. “I always dreamed of visiting the Moon myself. My team at NASA was hoping to send another ship here before the aliens disbanded it. I suppose part of the reason I joined ADVENT was the hope that they’d send me here someday.”

“None of us could have known that the Ethereals had made this place their living abode - though it explains why they didn’t allow anyone into space,” Lily assessed cooly. “Or perhaps I should call this their tomb, judging by the readings I’m getting - to be more specific, the lack thereof.”

All eyes turned to the lone Megacity that blended in with the soft silver geography. There were no lights on its skyscrapers or even the smaller buildings. The pristine city appeared abandoned. But the extraterrestrials were there. “I’m getting a lot of lifesigns on the surface, but the troops there aren’t giving off Elder psionic readings. I tried scanning the underground, but there was interference.”

“So that’s where they are. Merenu fought with all her might to prevent me from discerning the location of Vekinte from her mind. All I could tell was that it was somewhere hidden, and the capital building had a way to get there,” Atka echoed. “We’re certainly going to have a hell of a fight on our hands. But I believe we can make it to Vekinte. Prep Libertas. Let’s do this.”
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Well-Known Member
“Coming Coda” - Part 2

Only minutes before the operation was to be launched, Atka stopped by in front of a squad of eight soldiers, including a SPARK. She addressed Judgement Squad directly:

“You all have a separate objective from the main body of XCOM troops. There is a foe that you all are familiar with that needs dealing with. Arbiter Carolus.” Atka folded her hands behind her back. “She’s mostly likely to succeed Vekinte should he fall. For that reason, Judgement must take her out - her and her Inquisitors alike. I know this will be no easy task, but it must be done. Vekinte must die, and the Ethereal Protectorate must be forced to surrender. There can be no agitators remaining. Yakone says that the Honored Overseer is likely to be protected by the High Commander due to their familial relation, but he’d be closeby. We’ll apprehend or terminate him after Vekinte is beaten. Your job is crucial because Carolus will not be in the same location as the High Commander.”

The Commander smiled grimly. “And I know many of you - Nemesis in particular - have a score to settle with her. I’ll allow it. Two birds with one stone, as they say. Just do your damnedest to come home in one piece. Revenge can only be enjoyed by the living. God gets onto you if you try to take glee in it in his domain.” The Inuit woman placed her hands into her pockets. “Good luck, Judgement Squad. Do what you need to, and come home bearing the pride of victory and resolution of Carolus’s defeat.”


Silver skyscrapers and gray dome-capped towers rose up all around the advancing forces led by XCOM. At first, all was silent. The city felt like an unearthed crypt - a disturbed burial site brooding and plotting vengeance upon those who would run roughshod over its sacred grounds. The interconnecting tunnels that linked airtight buildings together were the bony fingers of the skeletal undead who had risen to curse and collect the souls of the trespassing defilers. Blinking electronic lights were the eyes in the darkness - the only visible indicators that specters lurked, haunting that unholy place.

But other revenants were present in the alien city, as the allied Terran intruders soon discovered. A square-shaped courtyard with tall buildings all around its massive, park-sized area was where Earth’s defenders encountered their opposition. Airlocks opened up on all sides save behind, as if daring the army to run away. They did not. Instead, plasma weapons spat green lasers back at the Deadshot snipers in the opened windows, and high-frequency guns speared the Black Mambas and Destroyers that revealed themselves in doorways. Alien forces began pouring out en-mass, their vanguard being perhaps two dozen or more Infantry Mechtoids.

It was at about this time that the human warriors realized only elite alien soldiers stalked this city. This truly was the nexus of all their troubles. Against such a dreadful enemy, plenty of the soldiers there felt fear. But XCOM in particular washed away their trepidations. The cadre of freedom fighters inspired.

Be it the heroic charge of Yakone Ipiktok into enemy lines, the thunder of Tomislav Kasun’s superheavy augerrifle ripping apart infantry cover, the psionic support of Alexis Chambers, the whirling blade of Ayame Kasagi, the speed and strength of Morrigan and Fides, the angelic sword of Leon Sinclair’s Fortis, the indomitable bulwark that was Gwendoline de Saint Pierre, the reckless ruthlessness of Luke Lilith and Scarlet Van Dam, the agility and deadly accuracy of Emile Alcatraz, the brutal efficiency of the cousins Marx Tvarnov and Anna Stone, the inseparable duo Red Hawk and Charon - or the assured, confident, and calm leadership of Atka Ipiktok, it did not matter.

Every man and woman there saw someone to rekindle their righteous fire, and embolden them to fight on. Through technological parity, effective commanders, and inflamed spirits, an initial victory was achieved. The front doors of the capital building were blown away. The human army swept into the structure, fighting falling-back foes as they went. While the main bulk secured the building and held their ground, the majority of XCOM’s forces located the way to go underground - where their final opponent waited.


Operation Primus Libertas

Objective: Defeat the Fourth Ethereal High Commander, Vekinte’ecformin’cettnint

Menace 1-5

Alpha Squad
CMDR Ipiktok, Atka [Ambusher]
MAJ Nash, Kevin [Ranger]
CAPT Van Dam, Lilith [Sharpshooter]
LT Likuga, Qamut [Enforcer]
CPL Alcatraz, Emile [Aerotrooper]
CPL De Saint Pierre, Gwendoline [Juggernaut]
SQ Van Dam, Luke [Grenadier]
GC Walker, Desmond [Assault]

Beta Squad
COL Sinclair, Leon [Grenadier]
LT O’Brien, Morrigan [Specialist]
SGT Ipiktok, Yakone [Ranger]
SGT Tvarnov, Marx [Ranger]

CPL Kasagi, Ayame [Phantom]
CPL Chambers, Alexis [Aerotrooper]
CPL Manamea, Keloe [Enforcer]
SQ Stone, Anna [Ambusher]

Delta Squad
MAJ Kasun, Tomislav [Harrier]
CAPT Strand, Christoffer [Paramedic]
LT Brown, Olivia [Ambusher]
SGT Belle, Stacie [Gunslinger]
CPL Lagunouv, Zoya [Sharpshooter]
CPL Bauer, Heinrich [Grenadier]
SQ Cauthon, Nick [Gunslinger]
SQ Lopez, Jorge [Specialist]

Gamma Squad
SGT Armbrüster, Ludwiga [Paramedic]
SQ Jaime, Knight [Gunslinger]
SQ Gunnarsson, Ingrid [Gunslinger]

SQ Xanthopoulos, Kiki [Ranger]
SQ Tylers, Willow [Phantom]
SQ Wakefield, Harvey [Specialist]
SQ Geiszler, Wendelin [Aerotrooper]
SQ Saan, Cleopatra [Harrier]
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Well-Known Member
Operation Mortem Ostium, Part 1

The mood was sombre. Nobody spoke, no lighthearted jabs, no playful banter. Merely the sound of weapons clicking as they were checked, rechecked and rechecked again. There could be no room for error. No mistakes. There was only one course that was acceptable.

Samuel stared at the rifle resting neatly inside his arms, the stock tucked into his elbow, the hand grip sitting in his right palm. A sleek weapon, keen and deadly. A fitting tool for the task ahead.

He glanced around. They all were, in a sense. Applying numbers, soldiers, to a given task in an attempt to complete it. Everyone knew that. He could see it in their body language. A formality that was usually not present, except in Lester and occasionally Arthur. All except…

“What’s wrong?” he asked abruptly, forcing everyone to turn around from their preparations. The person he was addressing shook her head.

“I don’t know if I can do it,” Bonnie muttered. Her helmet sat in her lap. “This is the first time…”

The Aerotrooper watched her for a moment before understanding. Lester had deemed her mentally unfit for duty for all previous missions. Only now had he been willing to allow her back onto the field, though clearly even now some sorrow lingered. Seated on an empty bench, Holly sighed. “I told you all not to mope,” she berated, knowing full well only Samuel could hear her.

“She told us all not to mope,” he conveyed, his voice quiet. “Get up.”

Bonnie blinked. “... what?”

“I said get up!” the Russian snapped, waving his hand upwards in a rising motion. “That’s an order, damn it!”

Shaken, the Grenadier stood, her stance wobbly. Lester looked between her and Samuel, his expression concerned behind his glass visor. “Samuel, be car-”

“Shut up,” he interrupted, adding afterwards a more respectful “Sir.” After approaching Bonnie in the silent armory, he gripped her shoulders. “What are you saying, here? Think about it for a second. You want to sit this one out? You want to stay back and cry over a dead friend while the rest of us finish this war?”

“N-no,” Bonnie stammered.

“Then what do you think you’re doing? Get a grip, get your equipment ready, and get ready. Holly would want you out there with us, avenging her. Not sitting around mourning.” With a scowl, he turned away, began pacing the floor. “That’s the case for everyone that’s lost their lives to kick the aliens off our planet. Holly isn’t the only life those bastards took. Chandra. Christine. Adam. Grant. Maxwell. And that’s just some of the people on our memorial wall. What about those that aren’t on the wall? All the civilians boiled down into soup, all the resistance fighters that died trying to do what we’re doing today?”

He stopped. “If we were to stop and take the cost into account - not the numbers, not the figures, but the people, the individuals - we’d grind to a halt. Immobilized by grief. Pacified by misery.” Samuel exhaled. “But then more would die. More would join the ranks of the dead, an army that would never stop marching. To fight an army like that, we have to keep marching too.”

Nemesis paused for a moment, noting he had everyone’s full attention. “So we turn that grief into anger,” he continued. “Turn our sorrow into rage. We use that to fuel us, not drag us down. On the shoulders of those who have lost their lives in this conflict, fighting against it or simply claimed as collateral damage, we will ride against the Elders. With the memories we have of them, they will drive us forward. In our minds, they will live on. And they will fight alongside us, adding their strength to ours.”

“Getting a bit too literal there, buddy,” Holly noted dryly.

Samuel ignored her. “We shouldn’t mourn,” he said. “Because to mourn is to accept they’re gone for good. It is to accept that they hold no sway in this world anymore. And that isn’t true, is it? If it was, we wouldn’t be fighting this war.”

A finger, pointed in Lester’s direction. “Why did you join XCOM?”

“To hurt ADVENT, and to bring back the old world,” was the response.

The finger swiveled to Alan. “You?”

The Ambusher swallowed. “Same.”

Samuel nodded. “Did anyone here not join XCOM to do this?” Silence. Which shocked everyone when Samuel himself raised a hand. “I didn’t,” he said. “I came here to save my father, and to kill one alien in particular. That’s since changed, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed. Court-martial or no, I would have run.”

He chuckled. “But if you boil it down, why are we here? Why did I come here? What is all this for? Fun? No. This is revenge. Revenge for the invasion. Revenge for the abductions. Revenge for those close to us who have died as a result of the intervention of the Elders, the Declensions. Revenge.”

The Russian’s fist impacted the palm of his other hand, emitting an audible smack. “This is a war of retribution. And our retribution is almost complete. We’re on the enemy’s doorstep, we’ve kicked the front door down, and they’re there. Right there.

“So do we mourn the dead? Or do we stomp those that killed them into dust?”

Silence. Until…

“... aye.” Quiet at first, but then repeated again, louder. “Aye!” Bonnie thundered, her face hardening. “You’re right. I’m not missin’ out on wringing this neck.”

Samson whooped. “Fuck yeah, that’s the shit right there! Let’s fuck ‘em up!”

Alan grinned. “Carolus isn’t going to know what hit her!”

Samara punched the air with an enclosed fist, her expression determined. Arthur was more reserved. “For every death they have caused, we will exact retribution,” he said, tapping the ground with the tip of his blade.

Lester inclined his head. “With great prejudice, I imagine.”

“Is there any other kind?” Samuel asked. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are Judgement Squad. I say it’s time we live up to our name.”


They arrived in an area that did not look like it belonged in a secret lunar base. The room was massive, rimmed by viewing balconies on the side. In the center was a large garden, a wealth of plants of vary varieties - some recognisable, others completely alien. The mass of flora alternated vibrant green and deep purple, interrupted by the occasional red or yellow flower. Above the garden, the roof was replaced by glass, providing a view into the stellar cosmos above. Though Lester was apprehensive, there was no way to avoid trudging through the cluster of plants - the side balconies were accessible only from lifting platforms which were inactive and without any access point for Lucifer to get into.

Boots impacted dirt, scuffing the grass beneath. The garden was idyllic and still - no breeze ran through the leaves here. Yet as they approached the central part of the garden - a large clearing rimmed by three pillars in three of the cardinal directions - scents began assaulting the squad’s noses. Overrunning the smell of the flowers was something else, a cacophony of scent containing several different sources.

Samuel held up a clenched fist. He’d begun to feel warm. “Anyone else feel that?”

Take another step, and we’ll destroy you where you stand!
a psionic voice screeched.

The squad raised their heads, immediately training their weapons upward. On top of each of the three pillars were three Avatars, one armored in green, one dark grey, and one a familiar molten orange. I think that’s far enough, Ignium agreed. So what’s your plan here, a squad away from the main group? Do you people have a death wish?

I don’t know how you all got in here, but you’re going straight back out! That much is certain.

“How about fuck you?” Bonnie snapped, glancing sideways at Lester.

The green one, who by the large hammer across his back was likely Terrash, shook his head. Look, the High Commander wanted you all to face him. I am willing to respect his command and allow you to redirect yourselves to him.

Samuel laughed. “No,” was his simple response.

“We can do this the easy way,” Ignium stated. “Or the hard way. The end result will be the exact same. The question is-”

“We will not retreat,” Arthur interrupted. “Not a single step back.”

“And we’ve got a date with your boss,” Bonnie continued, her tone murderous. “Lot of crimes she has to answer for. Lot of deaths. As a start!”

“The only question here is which one of you pious asshats wants to die first,” Lester said boredly. “Work it out between yourselves. You have twenty seconds.”

Terrash raised a hand as if to attempt to calm the situation, but was overridden by Chaoalki. “Yeah? Well you have fifteen seconds to turn around and scuttle out of here like the insects you are. I’d rather not have to answer to the Arbiter as to why I’m covered in human entrails.”

A brief silence. “I revoke my offer,” Lester said, pointing his Radioblaster in the Inquisitor of Chaos’ direction. “You die first. Ten.”

“Five!” Chaoalki snapped. “Don’t make me get to zero!”

There was a quiet beep from beneath each of the three pillars. “It’s a bit late to be counting I’m afraid,” Alan said smugly from the bushes as his RC drones detonated their payloads. The Inquisitors all fell with their platforms, dropping them to the ground where they were easy targets for the squad of humans. Gunfire lit up the clearing, a few rounds puncturing their armor before Terrash walled them off.


Well-Known Member
Operation Mortem Ostium, Part 2

Lester made a few gestures. “Spread out,” he instructed. “You don’t want to be hit by an attack meant for someone else.”

That will not save you, Ignium broadcast. For this is our chosen battlefield. We determined the place of combat. And now you will abide our rules.

The wall of rock lowered, revealing only the Inquisitor of Chaos remained. A telekinetic field blocked the torrent of bullets hurled his way, though Tumulis reported to the squad that the bullets were slowed prior to striking the barrier. Chaoalki giggled as he spread his arms outwards, as if invoking a god. “Even Luna will prove your foe today!”

His meaning was not immediately apparent. A tremor in the ground made Samuel stop his suppression, however. “Uh, guys-”

The earth beneath him cracked, a small flurry of explosions running down in a line originating from the Inquisitor of Chaos. The crack widened and became a split, then a crevice, then began forming a full chasm. The Aerotrooper was able to jet away before his legs found themselves on opposite sides of the forming ravine, which was yawning ever wider like the maw of some ravenous beast. Terrash almost flew out of the jagged hole himself, landing close to Samara and smashing into her shield with his hammer with a gleeful laugh.

But the new arena hazard wasn’t yet complete. A red-orange light glowed from beneath the lips, heat pouring forth in a haze. And floating in the midst of the glow was Ignium, his hands glowing an intense red. “If there is a holier fire in which to purge invaders,” the Inquisitor of Fire muttered. “I know not of it!” He lifted his arms, clearly exerted by the effort.

And lunar magma spewed forth like blood from the wound in the Moon.

The accompanying shockwave was significant enough to knock everyone but Samara and Samson off their feet, those two being kept rooted by their Superheavy armor suits. This left them open to both the Inquisitors and the falling lava, which would no doubt eat through armor and flesh in a matter of seconds.

Samuel was forced to defend himself with Umbra, being essentially in the path of the eruption. Molten rock barraged the Reflection’s form, and the residual heat assaulted the human protected inside. Eventually it subsided, and the Aerotrooper was able to see the aftermath below.

Lester had blinked away, and Lucifer had rapidly retreated to escape the blast. Samara had been forced to use her shield like an umbrella to protect herself and Bonnie, the side effect of which was that the metal barrier was being chewed through like melting butter. Samson’s armor had taken a direct hit from a globule of the orange slurry, which had left part of it sloughing off. Arthur had managed to escape easily, despite being one of the furthest within the area of impact, thanks to a rush of physical enhancement.

Alan himself had not been struck, but the growth in which he had concealed himself had begun to burn away. Cursing, the Ambusher exited the mass of plants, firing a lance of electricity at Terrash to keep him from attacking Samara unmolested.

Having ascertained his squad was all alive, a mentally reeling Samuel began analyzing what had just occurred. I think I see, he mused, a little dazed. Chaos uses destructokinesis to crack open the ground. Earth uses terrakinesis to widen the gap. But… the Moon isn’t geologically active, is it? Certainly shouldn’t have lava this close to the surface. That must be Ignium’s doing.

He frowned, laying fire at Chaoalki and cursing when he evaded the shots from above. But… how? Rock has a high melting point, certainly doesn’t catch fire easily. There’s no way he was torching it until it melted, that’d take far longer than he had. So how-

Thermokinesis, the Inquisitor of Fire interrupted, turning his masked visage in Nemesis’ direction. I control heat itself, now. Which means your Reflection cannot protect you from me any longer.

A hastily given instruction from Arthur to Bonnie stopped the Inquisitor of Fire from acting on this, however. Trying to ignore the cackling Terrash, she loaded her grenade launcher. “Chew on this ye hothead!”

Ignium sent a reflexive shockwave at the small object, knocking it off course and causing the grenade to detonate harmlessly in the burning garden. “If you would-”

From behind him, there was a slight whoosh and then the cocking of a weapon. The Inquisitor of Fire dodged sideways as Lester fired, the Radiopulser blast dispersing harmlessly into the air.

Arthur sliced forward with Excalibur, the blade leaving a gash in Ignium’s bodysuit. We have this,the Phantom told Samuel. Target the others.

Abruptly, a single voice cut through all the noise of battle. Eight. And then silence.

Azrael?! When the angel didn’t respond, Samuel gritted his teeth. Had to deal with this first. He flew down and landed near Chaoalki, who had just launched a blackout onto Samson.

“Motherfucker!” the Harrier swore, firing blindly in the direction he’d last seen the Inquisitor of Chaos. “Bitch, get the fuck back here! Fuckin’ coward-ass motherfucker…”

“I wouldn’t describe it as cowardice,” Chaoalki said smugly as he approached his foe, hand pulsing a violent violet. “Merely using the tools I have at my dispo-”

Umbra smacked him away like an irritating pebble, sending the Inquisitor rolling backwards across the dirt. “Tool? Oh, I’m looking right at one,” Samuel spat. “You alright there Samson?”

King shook his head, the affliction clearing thanks to an interruption to Chaoalki’s concentration. “Never fuckin’ better,” he said, turning with shredstorm cannon at the ready.

The blast caught the recovering Avatar off-guard, the few plasma-coated shards that got through the hastily erected magnetic barrier burying themselves in his new body. The Inquisitor shrieked. “You dare!”

He swiped sideways, and an explosion directly in the center of the two humans knocked Samuel sideways. With the other hand, he lanced out a psi panic, temporarily causing Samson to succumb to a paralyzing fear of his dead father returning, drunk or high as usual, with a taste for blood on his lips. “I’ll vaporize you!” Chaoalki predicted, launching himself forward. “You, who have the blood of my sister on your hands-”

Umbra’s range was just far enough, it seemed. A massive shadowy hand, outstretched as far as it could go without fading into nothingness, blocked the Inquisitor’s route. “We didn’t do anything to you,” Samuel snapped, firing a reflexive blast from his shotgun.

The pellets bounced harmlessly off the magnetic barrier. “You killed Ordero,” Chaoalki seethed. “I’ll see you all pay for that.”

“Orde-” Nemesis paled a little. “... you two were siblings?”

“When she still breathed!”

Hesitation. “... I killed her.”

“You all did.”

“No. Just me.” Samuel adjusted the grip he had on his shotgun. “Leave everyone else out of this. I pummeled her to death myself.”

Chaoalki was silent. “... pummeled?” he whispered. “You…”

“If any of us deserve your ire for her death, it’s me.”

The Inquisitor of Chaos couldn’t agree more, it seemed. In rapid succession he unleashed a rift to destabilize his foe, followed by two psi lances. He then launched himself forward, cackling maniacally. “Then I will grind you into dust!”

Samuel merely flew up. “Try again.”

Chaoalki growled. “Don’t test me,” he warned, reaching forward and clutching his foe in a magnetic grip. “You may find you push me too far!” He slammed his hand downward, causing Samuel too to fall, impacting the dirt with a pained grunt.

The Aerotrooper barely had time to stand before a null lance was fired at him, the psionic energy screaming through the burning greenery behind him. “This is a fight to the death, for fucks sake,” he muttered, a burst from his rifle ending up off in a bush somewhere.

Abruptly, Chaoalki turned away, exposing his back to the Russian. “Then watch as I take one from you!” He reached out, a red pulse exiting his palm and moving across the chasm towards Bonnie.

The Grenadier saw it coming, however. “Oh, no you don’t,” she growled, immediately discarding her explosive munitions and diving away. The resulting blast was more damaging to Samara than to Lass herself, the former having been standing rather close. “You thought I’d fall for that one again?” she asked, spinning up her minigun and sending a wave of bullets in Chaoalki’s direction.

The Inquisitor rather easily repelled the inaccurate spray, but found it more difficult to stop Umbra crashing a fist into his spine. The Avatar rolled away, unable to block but able to dodge. “Try again,” he taunted.

“Ok,” Samson said, unleashing a metal storm in his direction. Faced with such a rapid barrage of attacks, the Inquisitor of Chaos found himself unable to defend. Metal shredding his body, Chaoalki howled in pain.

A sound which attracted Terrash’s attention. Abruptly appearing next to them, the Inquisitor of Earth swung his hammer horizontally, knocking both aggressors away. “Are you alright?” he asked the grounded Avatar, extending a hand.


Well-Known Member
Operation Mortem Ostium, Part 3

Chaoalki wheezed. Heal me, he snapped psionically. And then blink me over to the armored one.

“Understood,” Terrash stated, choosing to ignore the fact that his subordinate was ordering him around. Lifting the ground around them to enclose the two, he began healing the Inquisitor of Chaos.

He never finished, however. It only took Umbra a few seconds to claw through the wall of rock, then reaching in and tearing Terrash out like a predator removing a small creature from its burrow. “Wish you people would learn that shit doesn’t work on me,” Samuel noted dryly as the Inquisitor of Earth rolled to a stop.

Chaoalki had gotten what he needed, however. Blowing a section of the rock wall apart, and using a shockwave to propel himself forward, he reached out for Samson. “You’re mine!” he cried gleefully, as his hands finally clasped the Harrier’s armor.

There was a short delay before pure destructive force ripped through Samson’s armor, bursting it in several places and vaporizing it completely in others. Such was the state of the armor that no ejection was necessary - the occupant merely fell out the back, the integrity of the suit unable to maintain itself. “Holy fuckin’ shit!” King swore, scrambling away. “The fuck was that?!”

“He’s a destructokinetic, what do you think that was?” Bonnie snapped, approaching with Samara. “Stay away from him!”

Chaoalki seemed surprised his opponent had survived at all, let alone that he seemed to be without injury aside from a few odd indents in his exo suit. But he didn’t let that stop him. Pushing the remnants of the Harrier’s larger armor at the two approaching soldiers, he lunged forward yet again. “There is no escape!” he insisted. “From dust we are all made… and to dust again you will go!”

Samson’s attempt to stop the encroaching Avatar only resulted in a few bullets lodging themselves in his shoulder. Chaoalki had decided that taking damage such as that was worth the payoff of gripping his foe by the shoulder, which is exactly what he did.

Again, there was a brief moment of nothing, before energy tore forth from the Inquisitor’s palm. And this time, there was no thick plating to top him. Samson’s exo suit was first vaporized, then the flesh beneath. King cried in agony as his body disintegrated around him, until only the echoes of his voice were all that remained of the Harrier.

And as the squad looked on in shock and anger, Azrael’s voice once again thundered through their minds. Nine.

He’s… counting deaths, Samuel realised with horror. Our deaths. Samson… son of a- His expression hardened. “Alright, you’re fucking dead!” he bellowed, Umbra pushing Terrash out of the way as the Aerotrooper rocketed forward.

Even as he flew, Umbra began morphing. Taking into itself a new source of inspiration, it’s form became simple clouds of shadow before settling into a new shape. Smaller, about the same size as a standard human, though the four arms made unfit that comparison. The gauntlets on its hands, previously fingerless and without much armor to them, gained plating that was clearly meant to damage rather than protect. Spikes protruded from the knuckles, and from the back of the hands came a pipe that ran all the way to the thoughtform’s back, channeling back into the Reflection’s body just above the two pairs of shoulders. Dimly, Samuel recalled that this was previously a spot where ribbons of shadowy energy had once billowed like streamers in the wind.

Chaoalki had expended much of his energy in vaporizing first Samson’s armor then Samson himself, and thus was a little too slow to defend himself from the rapidly approaching Russian. The barrier he tried to erect was shattered by a rapid flurry of punches from the changed Umbra, attacking at a speed Samuel hadn’t previously thought possible from the being.

A few punches jabbed the Inquisitor of Chaos in the chest before he managed to escape, violet blood dripping from the new holes. “What is this?!” he demanded. “Umbra shouldn’t… this isn’t possible!”

“Surprise, bitch,” said a voice from over Samuel’s shoulder, one he recognized well. “Gotta say man, this is real fuckin’ disorienting.”

“Take it up with Holly,” Nemesis said grimly. “You wanna help me fuck this guy up?”

“Oh hell yeah!”

Without another word, Umbra surged forward, closing the gap between it and and the Inquisitor of Chaos. It’s diminished size was misleading - previously, one could have considered themselves safe from the Reflection’s attacks so long as they kept out of range of it’s arms. Now, the range was exactly the same - but being smaller meant Umbra could leave its master briefly to attack. A lesson Chaoalki was about to learn the hard way.

A flurry of punches, punctuated by black puffs of smoke exiting the joint of the pipes on its shoulders, slammed into the Avatar. No specific target was in mind. Right now, Samuel merely wanted to cause as much damage to this foe as quickly as possible.

“You know,” Samson said thoughtfully, swaggering out from behind Samuel. “I never really got Rothchild. All the pomp and military circumstance, all that shit. Felt unnecessary. We just glorified thugs with a cause in the end, right?”

He smirked, the sunglasses across his eyes glinting as Ignium threw a fireball across the chasm. “But I get that it brought people together. A slogan, a chant. A fuckin’ purpose, you know.” He turned to Samuel. “You get where I’m goin’?”

“I get you.”

Umbra ceased its pummeling, leaving the reeling Chaoalki punctured all across his body, pockmarked with holes more numerous than the craters on the Moon. As the Avatar stumbled backward, the shadowy Boxer drew back one final fist. “So when he did any of that shit… I joined in anyway. And there’s one thing that brought us brothers and sisters together more than anythin’ else. One word. One cheer.”

The Reflection threw its clenched hand forward, this one aiming directly for Chaoalki’s head.

Both Samuel and Samson drew in a breath. “Oo-rah!”

Chaoalki’s mask was shattered by the blow, and judging from the cracking sound heard afterwards so too was his face. The Avatar fell backwards, dazed and mostly limp. But his ordeal wasn’t ended just yet, it seemed. Umbra blurred, then reformed as the form belonging to Holly, lenses flipping over the Shadowmark’s mask. Reaching down, it picked up the Inquisitor of Chaos, and lined up the throw.

This seemed to bring him back to his senses. Wha… what are you doing? he demanded. Put me down!

Samuel shook his head, a movement echoed by the ghostly Sharpshooter now standing at his side. “If you’re going to melt one of us down into nothing,” he spat. “Then I’m going to do that to you too!” With that, Umbra launched Chaoalki skywards, sending him careening in an arc into the pit of magma he himself had opened. The Inquisitor screamed as the walls of rock rose above him, and lava licked at his back.

Then he too was silent, the matter that made up the Inquisitor of Chaos swallowed by the maw of the Moon.


Well-Known Member
Operation Mortem Ostium, Part 4

Ignium was visibly stunned by the spectacle, having not been present for the deaths of any of his other comrades. “... enough,” he said darkly, deftly parrying Arthur’s swipe and launching a retaliatory fireball in the Phantom’s direction to prevent him attacking again for a moment. “This has gone on long enough!”

Ignoring Lucifer’s attempt to overwhelm him with firepower, the Inquisitor of Fire launched a shockwave at his own feet, propelling him across the chasm to land close to Samuel. “I will have your head,” he scowled, readying his signature cleaver.

Samuel merely glared at him. “What, going to make this an eye for an eye?” he asked. “Then someone will kill you. Terrash might kill them, but then he’ll be destroyed as well. Then where are you left? Blind. Without anyone to defend your precious Arbiter.”

“What would you suggest we do?” Ignium demanded. “Surrender? And leave you to kill the Arbiter? No. As an Inquisitor, I cannot do that. My station decrees that I give my life for the Path, for the defense of the Path!”

“You want to give your life?” Nemesis snarled. “Alright then. I’ll oblige.”


Terrash seemed uncertain. Ignium, are you sure you can handle-

I’ll be fine, the Inquisitor of Fire snapped. Take the others. Overwhelm them. The only notable psion among them is the silver armored one with the ridiculous horn. Should be simple for you, Hammer.

The Inquisitor of Earth roared, and charged towards Bonnie and Samara, once again resulting in a situation where the former unleashed bullets at him while the latter blocked each hammer strike and boulder throw with her shield. “A shame you did not bring that terrakinetic with you this time!” he thundered. “I would have enjoyed the challenge!”

This time, however, Alan was nearby. A lance of electricity, made more potent thanks to the psi amp clutched awkwardly under his rifle, struck Terrash from behind. “Coward!” the Avatar bellowed, swinging wildly and clipping the edge of Samara’s shield in the process. “Fight me or surrender, but do not skulk in the shadows like a weakling!”

The Juggernaut reeled, the blow hitting her off-balance. “I can’t keep this up,” she warned Bonnie, backing away slightly. “This guy hits like a truck.”

“Fucked up plenty of trucks in the past,” the Scotswoman reassured her companion. “And he’ll run out of juice eventually.”

The Inquisitor of Earth abruptly found his hammer swings interrupted, a large metal hand clasping onto the hilt as he swung back. “Please cease and desist,” Lucifer instructed pleasantly. “Or we will be forced to - gun you down like the swine -”

Terrash blinked to the other side of Samara, leaving the SPARK holding empty air. A repelling magnetic force was inflicted on the robot, toppling it, before the Avatar launched a null lance through all three of those before him. The nature of their positions meant that the lance was a glancing blow on Bonnie and Lucifer, but it dug quite significantly into Samara’s armor.

Warning lights flashed inside. “Hold together,” the Juggernaut pleaded, firing a few shots in Terrash’s direction. He dodged sideways, directly into the waiting Arthur’s path. Decloaking with an excited whoop from Tumulis, he drove his blade towards the Inquisitor of Earth’s torso.

But Terrash was already focusing on defense. Excalibur dug in at first, then skidded away, hitting imbued armor. Rolling sideways, the Avatar retaliated by smacking the Phantom with his hammer, sending him careening some distance away. This was followed by a renewed attack on the Juggernaut and her charge. Bubble shield was deployed too late to lock him out, instead trapping the two inside with him.

Cursing, Samara made to deactivate the module. This stopped her from defending against the Inquisitor’s incoming blow, an attack that smashed the chestplate of her armor to near nonfunctionality. Her decision to eject a moment later turned out to be wise - Bonnie’s reactionary fire only landed a couple of bullets into the Avatar’s imbued armor before he crushed the Pavise armor’s head.

Bonnie saw Samara stumble out of the suit before the hammer came for her. Armor already degraded from the null lance, it crumpled from the force of the blow. She was flung to the side, landing in a bush that had been included in the bubble. Attempting to get up proved futile - a sharp pain in her ribs rather rudely alerted her that she’d probably broken something. “Samara!”

The Juggernaut raised her infantry shield in a vain attempt to stave off the Inquisitor’s attack - once, twice, three times he smacked the shield with his hammer, and on the third the shock was great enough to ripple up her arm. Samara cried out in pain, left arm seizing up as pinpricks ran through it. Stumbling back, it was all she could do to fire two last shots with her sidearm.

Still not enough.

With a triumphant roar, the hammer was brought down, seeking to pass judgement on the guerilla from Africa. Even as those outside the bubble cried out in fear, her heart was calm. Fate was accepted. As the weight of her responsibilities and mistakes crushed her, Samara Vermaak was at peace.


A plasma shot tore through Alan’s shoulder, causing the Ambusher’s shot to miss Ignium entirely and instead zap the roof. “Agh! What the fuck?!”

Arthur stood, shakily. “Sniper,” he muttered darkly. “Hold them off. I’ll take this one.” Without another word, his mind focused, he disappeared.

Ignium blasted a shockwave in Samuel’s direction, stumbling the wroth Aerotrooper. “I thought we agreed to keep this between us!” he shouted to the sky.

We did. And I altered the plan, was the response.

Lucifer rose, a check of his armor being accompanied by an odd jitter of his head. “Coward,” he sneered, though it was unclear who he was referring to. “Master, orders?” Lester, however, was shaking his head, his mind overcome with panic. “... useless fleshbag. Why do I follow you around?” he asked rhetorically, deciding his best course of action was to attempt to save Bonnie, who was still trapped in the bubble with Terrash.

From the Grenadier’s mad laughter, however, it didn’t seem like she wanted to be saved. “What are you waiting for?” she demanded of the Inquisitor of Earth. “I’m right here. Always wanted to get hammered in this armor.”

Terrash looked at her sadly, but did not raise his weapon. “You… aren’t surrendering, are you?”

“I asked you to kill me, didn’t I?”



“You are a warrior. Warriors do not give up. Stand.”

“Sta-” Bonnie coughed. “You broke me fuckin’ ribs, you idiot! I can’t fight back!”

“That is no excuse to give in! What do you have to lose by fighting back?” Terrash adjusted the grip on his hammer. “Stand, damn you!”

“Make me.” The Inquisitor of Earth was still for a moment, then began striding towards her. “Aye, that’s the way. Come on, then! End it!”

Wordlessly, Terrash bent forward, outstretching one palm and pointing it at her chest. Green psionic energy flowed forth, and Bonnie could feel the bone beneath her skin shifting back into position. Not a total heal, but enough to render her able to defend herself again. When he was done, he stood back. “Now, rise.”

The Grenadier, unsure what to do, followed instructions. “... why?” she asked quietly, clearly befuddled.

“I will not strike down a helpless foe,” the Inquisitor said, moving back a few paces to give her room. “Pick up your weapon. We will resume-”

The bubble shield finally failed, unable to stand up to a constant barrage from Lucifer and Alan. Turning to face his greater threats, Terrash used the earth beneath him to defend himself. Though tempted to shoot him in the back, Bonnie instead simply retrieved her minigun and backed away. “You’re an honorable son of a bitch, I’ll give you that,” she murmured.

On the other side of the room, on one of the balconies watching over the garden, a lone individual crouched against the railing. A sniper rifle rested against the railing, plasma variant, moving around gently as the owner maneuvered it to find an easy target. The Deadshot couldn’t help but recall its last operation - against these very humans, at that. They were just as difficult to hit now. Only one had stayed still enough for a good shot.

The alien’s neck prickled, and it whipped around, firing once. Arthur revealed himself, crouched to avoid such a reaction, and quickly overpowered the unfortunate alien. “I was going to drain your energy and then kill you,” the Phantom said, his palm leaving a burning imprint on the Deadshot’s helmet. “But then you thought of some truly interesting things. Now, I have a far better plan for you. The original plan can wait.”

It struggled, but was unable to stop the violet thread from spearing its mind.


Well-Known Member
Operation Mortem Ostium, Part 5

Below, Ignium struck again, Umbra deflecting the blade. He scowled. Had they engaged in battle at the beginning like he’d intended, he might have been able to cook Samuel using thermokinesis and be done with it. But now he was weakened. Using thermokinesis now would drain him far too much, leaving him at the mercy of the remainder. No, he’d have to do this the old fashioned way.

Samuel had ceased talking with the death of Samara. Any forays into the Russian’s mind returned the same thing for Ignium - anger, determination, and no thought beyond how to most crushingly defeat the foe before him. A lesser being might have been intimidated by such a single-minded desire to destroy him. But Ignium held fast - I am the Inquisitor of Fire, he told himself in a mantra. I burn all in my path. I will not be defeated by a demon and a heretic’s shadow!

Abruptly, Samuel retreated, lowering his shotgun and swapping to his rifle. His visor watched Ignium for a response, impassive.

What is he-

A beam of plasma seared through the air, striking Ignium in the thigh. The Inquisitor stumbled, his balance thrown off by the sudden lack of support in his muscles. “Samuel, you-”

Umbra, back in its normal form, gripped him, tossing him in the general direction of the chasm. The throw was short a few meters - “Should've let me swap in,” Holly muttered in the recesses of his mind - but that hardly mattered. The Inquisitor tried to stand again, but found his wounded leg difficult to stand on.

“Terrash! I need help!”

The Inquisitor of Earth propelled Lucifer into his master, temporarily removing the two of them from play, before blinking across the chasm to assist his ally. One hand was held outwards, biokinetic waves pulsing out from it and into Ignium’s wound, while the other held the hammer menacingly before him. “You will need to go through me first, Nemesis,” Terrash warned.

“Then I will,” was the simple response. Samuel fired a volley of bullets at the standing Avatar as he approached, bringing Umbra within range of the two Inquisitors. Two hands clove the two apart, while the other two reached for Ignium. Grasping him by the legs, the shadowy titan began flailing him about like a child swinging a favorite toy around. A retaliatory spear of rock knocked the Reflection enough to drop the Inquisitor of Fire, but the damage was already done. He lay limp on the floor, mask cracked and unmoving.

Terrash swallowed. “... and another,” he said sadly. “At least they fell honorably. And so shall I!” With a roar, he slammed his hammer forward, striking Umbra with a motive to kill.

Samuel rocketed backwards using his jetpack to give himself some room, and then instructed Umbra to change once again. This time, the shadowy thoughtform grew larger - previously bare arms, chest, and legs were covered in heavy armor plating, a reflective onyx black. A thick neckguard rimmed the appropriate bodypart, and on the being’s forearms were widened plates, serving the purpose of miniature shields. All of this was now a totally opaque shadow-black, where before the Reflection had had some degree of transparency. And seen only to the user, a woman with an eyepatch shook her head groggily.

“What…?” Samara asked, looking around, confused.

Terrash wasn’t intimidated by the spectacle, it seemed. He whipped his hammer forward, intending to break through the Reflection’s new defenses.

“Oh shit!” In reflex, Cobra brought her arms together, holding them horizontally in an attempt to block the attack. Umbra mirrored her movement, the four individual guards on its forearms slotting together and forming one large shield in the process. Hammer struck the defenses multiple times, the sound of metal on darkened metal ringing through the garden like the sound of a bell.

“Hold steady,” Samuel instructed, aiming his rifle. He didn’t fire yet, though - he wanted the Inquisitor stay or die, not retreat.

“What the hell is going on?!” Samara demanded, flinching as Terrash unleashed a number of large boulders, torn from the earth, directly at Umbra. These impacts shook the thoughtform enough to break its guard, and it parted its shield in an attempt to block the larger spread of attacks. The dead Juggernaut stumbled backwards, and Terrash surged forward.

Hammer impacted chestplate, though only succeeded in denting it. “This durability…” the last Inquisitor murmured, before seemingly regaining control of his senses and dodging away from Umbra’s attempt to snatch him, a move that carried him to the edge of the chasm. The volley of bullets from Samuel thus missed, causing him to scowl in anger.

In one last attempt to overwhelm this opponent, Terrash unleashed an ability conferred unto him via his now body - the pulsar core, augmented by magnetic qualities. The orb manifested its full strength close to the Paladin’s body, and a strong pull began drawing the Reflection in. That armor is magnetic? the Avatar mused, surprised.

This left Samuel and his Reflection fighting the magnetic pull Terrash was applying to them, but also left the Inquisitor of Earth in the open. I need to figure out a plan, he thought. Else I will perish to some coward like-

His eyes widening beneath his facemask, the Inquisitor quickly raised a wall of rock between himself and the surrounding balcony, in time to stop the mind-controlled Deadshot assassinating him. But it didn’t save him from its controller - Arthur appeared from behind him, blade at the ready. And this time, there was no imbuing to save him.

Terrash gagged as the blade punctured his chest, pushing flesh and bone out of the way or lancing through it. The tip of Excalibur, an Ethereal blade made human, shone violet with his blood as it poked through his chest. “You fought a good fight,” Arthur said grimly, withdrawing the blade. “But you were outnumbered.”

The Inquisitor of Earth remained standing for a moment. “No,” he whispered. “Not outnumbered. Never outnumbered. Merely outfought.” And there he collapsed, the breath leaving him as his body fell into the same chasm he’d created, leaving his killer standing at the brink.


There was no way Bonnie could continue on with them. That much was clear.

“I’ll be fine,” the Grenadier insisted, though she struggled to lift her minigun without the assistance of her armor and with her chest aching as it was. “Come on, we have one more Elder to kill.”

“Terrash healed you enough to stabilize you, but you are hardly fit for further combat,” Arthur stated, shaking his head. “Stay here.”

“You’re not the boss of me.” She turned to Samuel and Lester. “Tell him I can come.”

The two looked at each other. “You’re staying,” was the combined response.

“Oh, for fucks-”

“I’m not losing another!” Lester snapped. “... lost too many already. Don’t need you adding on to it.”

She glanced between them. Samuel couldn’t meet her gaze, unusually quiet. “... Samuel?”

The Aerotrooper didn’t respond at first. “... please, stay,” he mumbled, barely audible. “Please.”

“... ok.” She nodded. “Ok, fine. Sure. I’ll just sit on me fuckin’ arse while you four-”

“Five,” Lucifer corrected, his tone oddly irritable.

“... five, then. - risk your lives fighting an enemy we know nothing about!”

“I know Carolus and what she’s capable of,” Samuel noted. “We’ll be fine. If she’s too much, we’ll back off. Regroup. Try again. You aren’t in any shape to fight someone of her caliber.”

“The last time you left me behind, someone died!” Bonnie said, her voice cracking. “I… don’t leave me in here. Not with the bodies. Please.”

There was silence. “... you’re not coming with us, and that’s final,” Samuel said, turning to go. After a moment of hesitation, the others followed, moving towards the large door at the end of the garden.

Naturally, the door required a passcode. Lucifer’s Gremlin form began working on that while the remaining soldiers attempted to recollect themselves. “Can we still do this?” Alan asked abruptly, his voice tremoring. “This is a powerful Elder we’re talking about.”

“We’ll find a way,” Samuel said automatically.

“But… after losing-”

“Don’t talk about it.”

“... eh?”

Nemesis swallowed. “I said don’t talk about it.”

The door hissed, and began sliding open. “We have larger concerns,” Lester agreed, before taking a few steps forward.

They were stopped by Bonnie’s shriek. Whipping around with weapons up, the remaining XCOM soldiers saw Ignium, battered but alive, standing at the edge of the garden, cleaver in hand. Bonnie was backing away from him, though the Inquisitor barely seemed to notice. His attention was focused on those directly in front of him.

“Face me,” he commanded.

“We’ve wasted enough time already,” Lester said uneasily. “The more we delay, the more likely it is Carolus could get away. We need to go.”

“What, and leave Bonnie to this wolf?” Samuel demanded. He primed his shotgun. “No. If you must, go yourselves. I’ll stay back, beat this -”

He was stopped as a silver gauntlet pressed on his chest, the owner stepping past. “No,” said Arthur, drawing his blade. “I will stay back.”

Nemesis blinked his eyes. “I have a much better chance of winning one on one than you do,” he hissed.

“That goes doubly for Carolus,” the Phantom pointed out. “I can fight Ignium on relatively equal terms. Against the Arbiter, though…” He lifted his head slightly. “Go. I will defend Bonnie.”

Silence. Hesitation. Then a hand on Chariot’s shoulder. “We won’t forget this,” Samuel said quietly, before heading through the door, closely followed by Alan, Lucifer, and Lester.

Arthur smiled grimly as the door hissed shut behind him. “See to it that you don’t.” He turned the blade in his hands. “Tumulis… ready?”

“I was programmed ready,” the AI responded. “For Joy.”


Well-Known Member
Operation Mortem Ostium, Part 6 (intermission)

The journey forth was muted. No-one spoke. They were not attacked, either - wherever this darkened staircase down led, it was not somewhere worth guarding it seemed. Or no one had ever expected them to get this far.

Some way down, Lester stopped. “Stop,” he commanded.

The other three turned, obediently ceasing their route downward. “What?” Samuel asked, his tone weary.

“Bonnie was right,” he said. “We can’t do this.”

The response was immediately hostile. “We can’t-” Nemesis had to force himself not to grab Lester by the collar and shake him like a doll. “We don’t have a fucking choice! Not if we want Samson’s death to be worth something! Not if we want Samara’s death to be worth something!”

“We don’t have the numbers to finish this,” Lester snapped. “Four against an Elder? No powerful psions, and only one Reflection among us? A Reflection that, might I add, has weaknesses Carolus probably already knows?”

“So what?” Alan said irritably. “We retreat? Go back and help Arthur, then piss off?”

“That’s what I’m suggesting, yes!”

Samuel glared at him for a moment. “... how long have you been controlling him?” he asked suddenly.

The other three looked at him like he was mad. “What the hell are you on ab-” Alan began, before Lester blasted him in the face with his Radiopulser. The Ambusher fell sideways, limp, before his body caught on the stairs and stopped his inelegant descent.


Umbra drew back again, too slow in it’s Paladin form to stop the murder. “What is the meaning of this?!” Lucifer screeched, pointing his cannon at Lester.

The Specialist had, however, already input a code into the control pad under his forearm’s armor. “Remarkable,” he said dryly as the SPARK seized up and shut down, and the Gremlin unit engaged a sleep mode. “Even after all this time, you people still have a kill switch for these AI. I thought you trusted them more than that.”

Samuel was silent. Then, he started chuckling. A chuckled that turned into a full-blown laugh.

Lester frowned, though his expression was hidden by the helmet. “Oh, dear. Didn’t you like that one?” he asked, gesturing at Alan’s body.

Nemesis continued to chuckle. “Of course I did,” he responded. “It’s just… it’s funny. You still don’t get it, do you?”

“Get what?”

Umbra’s helmet formed over the top of its master, and wispy darkness began coalescing around the Russian’s form. “The more you take from me, the more you destroy, the more you kill…”

The shadows became absolute, then faded, taking with them the image of Samuel.

“... the stronger I become.”

Lester/Carolus looked around, eyebrow raised. “Curious tactic,” he/she mused, cocking the Radiopulser and shooting down the steps, where Nemesis had previously been. Unsurprisingly, the pellets merely impacted walls further down. “Not simple cloaking, either. Else I’d be able to see you. What is this, a new ability?”

“One you just gave me.” Samuel’s voice was disembodied, everywhere and nowhere.

“Hmm.” Lester shrugged. “Well, it can’t be helped. I wanted to fight you myself anyway.” With that, he brought the Radiopulser up to his head. “I’ll see you soon, Samuel.”

Before he could pull the trigger, however, four shadowy hands - appearing out of the air - seized his limbs. He was lifted, quickly, and spread out into a pose not dissimilar to the Vitruvian man. Samuel walked out from behind him, turning to face the aloft vessel. He glanced at his wrist, as if checking a watch. “Couple of seconds classifies as soon, doesn’t it?”

The Specialist grinned. “How can you laugh at a time like this?” he wondered. “So many of your friends dead. If you went back, it's entirely possible you’d find two more corpses.”

“I laugh, Carolus,” Nemesis responded. “Because I need to. I’m not going to be able to finish this otherwise. The moment I focus on what you’ve taken from me, I won’t be able to go any further.” He clenched his fist. “So I’m not going to. You can taunt me all you like. Insults, potentials, I’ll have none of it. I’m going to walk down there, I’m going to kill you, and then I’m going to go back to the ship. And I’m going to cry.”

“... I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me. Not that you’d understand. You were willing to send anyone even remotely close to you to their deaths without batting an eye, weren’t you? You left Ordero to die.”

A shrug. “I’m not incapable of grief, Samuel,” Lester chided. “I merely don’t find it worth my effort to waste tears on those who were clearly so inept.” He tilted his head. “So what’s your plan now, then? You can’t release me, or I’ll attack you. Guess you’ll just have to kill this shell then, won’t you?”

Samuel gritted his teeth. “I won’t kill him,” he said. His tone left no room for debate.

Yet debate it Carolus did. “Then I will,” she said through her thrall, giggling. “To be honest, I’d rather face you myself, so I don’t really have any qualms about destroying this body over attacking you. Which means… what can you do? If you’d prefer this one to stay alive, you’d need to carry him all the way to me, and kill me without the help of your Reflection.”

“You’re using Override,” Nemesis pointed out. “Wouldn’t be too difficult.”

“Unless I rescinded it. And then I kill him myself.” Lester chuckled. “Not a good plan, is it? Why don’t you try again.”

Samuel hesitated. She was right, unfortunately. He wasn’t being left with any choices that were favourable. A moment’s thought, however, and he’d come to a decision. Lester… I’m sorry.

Abruptly, Umbra squeezed and pulled. Lester screamed in agony as his limbs were crushed and torn, becoming first useless tendrils of flesh and bone and then removed from the torso. Carolus did not abandon the body until it passed out from shock, however, forcing Samuel to continue the gruesome act to its conclusion. When it was done, the Specialist’s body hung limp, head lolling in forced sleep, kept from falling to the ground only by the grip Umbra had on the remaining stubs.

Nemesis averted his gaze. Don’t think about it. Don’t think… Jesus. Don’t think about it. His face forcibly emotionless, he reached down to examine the remains of Lester’s right arm, the fore of which was deliberately kept intact. I hope this works. Otherwise I just gave him a very painful death.

It did. The control pad still functioned, kept online by a small temporary battery between joints. It was a simple task to reboot Lucifer, provided Samuel didn’t look to his right.

The robot juddered as it came back online, briefly attempting to expel the sentence it had been in the middle of when Carolus had shut him off. Lucifer quickly realized that had been the case, however, and ceased the corrupted program. He wasn't ready for what he saw next, however. “... tell me this isn’t what it looks like.” He aimed his cannon at Samuel. “What have you done?!”

“What I had to to keep him alive!” Samuel barked back. “... look, you’re his best hope right now. I can’t turn back, not while Carolus is right ahead. But you…” He swallowed. “You can get him medical treatment. You can take him back to the ship. You can save him.”

Gingerly, the AI took his broken master from the grasp of Umbra. “... she controlled him, didn’t she?”

The Aerotrooper nodded. “It was that or kill him,” he said, though from his tone it was clear he wasn't sure himself it that justified what he’d done. “Go. Take him back. Sneak past any enemy you encounter, don’t try to fight. Just get him back before he bleeds out totally.”

A dispenser on the SPARK’s back opened up, and deployed a spurt of gas that enveloped Lester. “... hopefully that gives me more time,” Lucifer said, tone shaken.

Samuel didn’t respond. He couldn’t. Instead he turned, avoiding the corpse of Alan, and began trekking down the stairs alone.

“Mast-” Lucifer shook his head. “Samuel!”

Nemesis stopped. “Yeah?”

“... good luck.”

Silence. “... thanks.” And he kept walking. Down, down, into the depths. Where a monster lurked, waiting for him.


Well-Known Member
Dahlexpert, DarkGemini24601, Frostlich1228, MarineAvenger, and ZombieSplitter53 present: “Operation Primus Libertas - Prologue

In the hallway beyond, the rumble of a firefight echoed into Vekinte’s inner sanctum. He turned to his son.

Patrem, I want you to use the secret exit. Pull back.

B-but father! With my abilities I could assist you! Together we’d be even more unconquerable!

No! Vekinte thought sternly. His tone softened to a plea. Please, I don’t want to lose you too. Pull back, and - no matter what - do not come to my aid. I will face them, and I will defeat them - no matter what it takes. You must survive, Honored Overseer, so you can continue to assist me in the future. And - if the unthinkable were to happen - you must carry on my will. You must continue to uphold the Path by succeeding me. Carolus would aid you if that were to happen.

I… I understand, father. I will do as you wish, Patrem reluctantly acquiesced.

A pause.



Please, win.

I shall.

...good luck, then.

Patrem left Vekinte alone. He chuckled quietly. I don’t need luck. There is no fate. Only the will to succeed.


The last of the Muton Elites guarding the spiral-shaped door that led into Vekinte’s chambers fell, ending the clamor of battle abruptly with silence. The shooter - Lilith - lowered her DMR, while Gamma Squad’s Specialist sent his Gremlin towards the door to begin the process of unlocking it. Atka turned to face the assembled squads, lined up in the hallway and reloading their weapons where necessary. “Well… here we are,” the Commander stated. “Been a long road up until this point. Are you all ready?”

Morrigan took a deep breath. “I think we’ve been preparing for this from the beginning. We are as ready as we can be. Let’s go show that monster what happens when you use our people as playthings.”

“We all have something with protecting, that’s for sure.” Ayame grinned. “This is probably the part where I say ‘if I don’t make it’, but there isn’t a single person here I don’t trust to watch my back.”

“Agreed.” Marx said, taking in a breath, “We’ve all made it this far and nothing could stand in our way. This has been a long time coming for so many of us…”

Alexis nodded. “Over two decades. And yet, despite all the hardships, I realize I’ve been blessed with more freedom than most of the human race. More chances to find friends and family to love. I look forward to giving that to the rest of the world.”

Leon looked around, raising an eyebrow under his helmet. “What? I’m not giving a monologue. Save it for when we win,” the squad leader noted with a smirk.

Yakone shrugged. “Fair enough. But we will win. I’m not saying that because I’m overconfident. I have no doubt that Vekinte’s going to be a dangerous opponent. But we’ve always done what we had to. It’s too important that we win, for us to fail here.” Reaching back for a moment to straighten her blue cape, ruffling the XCOM emblem on the back for a moment, the Ranger turned to face the door. “Like Atka said before, there really isn’t much more to say. Let’s do this.”

The hacking process was complete. The spiral door-coil unwound itself from center to perimeter, unbarring the way into the High Commander’s inner sanctum. The chamber was cylindrical in shape, with a circular floor and roof. A second and third level, both taking the form of ring-like catwalks, rose up on either side. They surrounded an intricate chandelier, which depicted the spiraling arms of the Milky Way Galaxy with glowing crystalline ‘beams of light’ shining from each of the tiny stars. The curving wall around the room was supported by pillars of onyx alloys, but the majority of its structure was comprised of a clear but durable transparent material - perhaps metal as well, judging by the shiny flecks that mottled the glasslike windows.

All around the nexus were rows, columns, and towers of stasis sarcophagi. Although their interiors were darkened by their dark glass, the violet lamps above and the golden lights within revealed the shrivled silhouettes of Ethereals - thousands upon thousands of dying Elders. Turning towards the soldiers marching into the room, weapons raised and flashlights illuminating him, High Commander Vekinte’ecformin’cettnint briefly recalled a time fifteen years ago when spotlights had shone upon him in a similar manner: the day he had founded the ADVENT Coalition. How things have changed since then, he thought to himself dourly.

The Ethereal Protectorate’s prophet gazed down at those who had thus far entered - Atka, Yakone, Leon, Gwen, Morrigan, Alexis, Luke, Lilith, Marx, Anna - and made a declaration. “I provided humanity a chance to peacefully integrate into my ideal society. You were given opportunity after opportunity to turn back towards the light - towards the Path I set out for you. And yet, here you are. You have murdered my love, slaughtered my subordinates, and attempted to trample upon my dreams that - if achieved - would benefit all.”

As Desmond, Tomislav, Ayame, and Emile entered, Vekinte pointed an accusing finger at the twelve. “I will not offer you a chance to surrender. I’m going to make you pay for killing my disciples. My comrades. My friends. I will not rest until you’ve been immolated in the holy pyre of retribution, you damned bastards.”


Well-Known Member
“Operation Primus Libertas - Part 1

Atka met her counterpart's incendiary gaze with a fire of her own. “Is that so? If you have reason to hate us and seek vengeance, we have ten times the cause to do so.”

Yakone held her PDW tightly, Orca’s barrel staring down Vekinte. “For the sake of our loved ones that you and your armies have taken from us, and those that still live, we will strike you down.”

Vekinte unfolded his hands from his robes. “Then come, you twelve. I will not hesit-”

“Twelve?” Atka balked, lifting Direwolf. The walls on either side of the door exploded inward, revealing another twenty XCOM soldiers. Onimiki lifted the other members of Delta Squad up into the balcony to the right of Vekinte, while Gamma scrambled to the left platform before Vekinte had a chance to recover from his surprise. “I’ll spare no show of force, no amount of firepower to make sure you go down. This is the end for you, Vekinte.” With a gasp, the Ethereal Commander stepped back - seeming in shock. “You should have brought guards, or were you really so arrogant that you thought you’d be able to beat us alone?”

“We have this back and forth with each of your kind,” Ayame stated smugly. “But it always ends the same. Pray to your Path, or whatever god you worship for mercy, because none will come from us.”

Morrigan focused, fully linking with her A.I. partner. “You can’t escape this. One way or another, you pay for your crimes today.”

Alexis nodded in agreement. “As long as at least one of us draws breath, you’re finished. You’re not the only one who won’t offer a chance to surrender.”

XCOM’s ‘witch’ stepped up, gazing into the mask of the High Commander. “All of my life, I could see into other worlds through my dreams, Vekinte. Much like Cordiam, so I’m sure you are familiar. I have seen us win before, Phobos couldn’t stop us in the other world, and you can’t stop us now… We won’t lose to you this day, this is the day we break your hold.”

“Let he with sin cast the first stone…” Desmond said with a wolf-like grin on his face, forming a ball of fire in his hand. “Don’t mind if I do.” With that, the psionic attack flew upwards in an arc, growing in size as it approached Vekinte.

“Open fire! Light this motherfucker up!” Atka fittingly shouted, and a curtain of bullets rained down upon Vekinte from the other thirty-one soldiers in the room. The rolling thunderstorm of weapons firing in tandem deafened the room. At blistering speeds, hundreds of bullets flew towards Vekinte. The volley was upon him in an instant. Vekinte seemed to be in a panic moments before, but when the guns fired… the tension left his muscles and he relaxed.

You fell for it. The arrogance you accuse my people of…

Vekinte held his four hands palm-open like the Buddha, covering a 270-degree radius in front of him. From his hands, a psionic shield flared to life all around the Ethereal, made up of thousands of interlocked arrow-shapes. Every single round that impacted the barrier had its direction reversed, and a swarm of gunfire reflected upon the assembled XCOM troops - being funneled towards Gamma Squad’s position. They hit with more force than they’d been launched with. Rounds perforated Ingrid, impaled Kiki, headshotted Jaime, punctured Ludwiga’s throat, shot-up Harvey, detonated Jaime, riddled Wendelin, lanced Willow, shattered Cleopatra’s armor and the pilot within. In the span of a second, eight XCOM troopers were slain.

...you have been corrupted to embody.

“Son of a bitch!” Morrigan zoomed over to a nearby cover. Easily able to summon up enough anger, Fides manifested before her and rushed the single target. “Slice him in half!” she order, and her reflection lifted his giant sword, going for a flaming horizontal slice.

A Reflection of Vekinte’s own manifested in the way. The Ethereal Knight appeared in the way of the assailant thoughtform, and with blistering speeds slashed its four swords at Fides. The strikes clanked against the Reflection’s armor, battering it away from Vekinte. “To lead society to enlightenment, one must have the power to create and destroy,” the High Commander murmured.

Atka felt a pit in her stomach, but she could not look at the fallen now. There would be time to mourn later. “Blue World!” The Reflection coalesced into existence in front of Atka, and went over to assist an ailing Fides with its speed and strength - though it was quickly apparent to the XCOM Commander that Stairway to Heaven was far faster.

“Everyone, lay into him,” Alexis yelled. “Give them a chance by distracting him! Just keep to cover to avoid being reflected!” She let loose a round of inspiration, one that reached each off her allies, before taking off to try and circle around the being, phasing through cover to be unpredictable.

Going into the fight with her heart racing in her ears, Gwen raised her heavy weapon and fired a shot directly aimed at Vekinte, hoping to wear down that shielding anyway she could conceivably think how. Like the initial volley, that attack was repulsed, shooting back towards the Juggernaut and then being thrown back by Jan’tiala, slingshoted back and forth.

“You inherited Jupiter’s Reflection? Troublesome,” Vekinte remarked irritably. The Ethereal - not wanting to play ping pong with bullets - blinked to a different position, Stairway to Heaven vanishing and reappearing along with him. From his new position, the Elder instructed his knight to assault Desmond, Yakone, and Marx while he turned his attention onto other matters.

With sword in one hand and revolver in the other, Desmond kept constantly on the move in order to make sure the reflection would not be able to get to him to where his back was to the corner. Every time Vekinte’s mental projection got close, a flaming wing knocked away the blows seamlessly as Desmond’s own protected its master of its own will. “Yakone, you know what to do!”

The Ranger had already drawn her dual swords, and was meeting the strikes with some of her own as best as she could. Stairway’s swords shot forward as if thrust by shockwaves, and struck with the sharpness of psi lances. It was everything Yakone could do - even with Praclaritas synchronized with her and directing her reflexes to even greater heights - to keep from suffering more than a few glancing blows that tore open parts of her armor. “Doing all I can! This thing’s…” flecks of blood shot off a fresh wound, “a hellish opponent!”

Stairway to Heaven is borne from the greatest heights of my willpower! You have not the mettle to match that! She will assist my in achieving my dreams, no matter what obstacles you throw in my way, Vekinte intoned with an authoritative air to his words.

Marx, not willing to sit by as his friends were attacked, charged up power in his hands, slamming it into the ground and sending a shockwave crashing towards the Elder’s reflection. The knight, in return, created a shockwave of its own that counteracted the attack. The farmer quickly pulled up an alloy wall to block, but the blast still knocked him back.

As Yakone and Desmond did their best to just hold their own against the four armed monster, a slender object thrown so hard it caused a slight sonic boom stabbed squarely into the ‘being’s’ head, the orange form of Fortis blinking to it, kicking down and jumping into the air as its weapon shifted back into its hand. “I’d like to challenge that opinion!”

Stairway staggered backwards. “Is that so, Leon?” Vekinte echoed. One moment the Ethereral Knight was recovering, and the next it floated in front of Fortis, who now had several stab wounds in its armor. Additionally, Atka had moved forward to Leon’s side, and defended his Reflection from a series of follow-up attacks.

“It froze time!” Atka explained in warning. “Be careful!”

“Damn this monster.” Morrigan had Fides back off to recover while firing and using her speed to avoid the reflections. Her mind wondered for a split second as she wondered what it would have been like to face this beast any earlier, but she knew they could beat him now. They simply had to.
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Well-Known Member
“Operation Primus Libertas - Part 2

Alexis let a flow of healing energy go towards some of her wounded allies, all while trying to think of a way to do some actual damage. “I have an idea,” Ayame said next to her, making the aerotrooper jump at her sudden appearance.

“”I-if it is your usual tactic of sneak in and try and cut his head off…” Alexis started.

Ayame shook her head. “No, it involves you shooting him directly. But we’ll have to do it at the right position, when the timing is just right.” Alexis nervously nodded, and the two moved to find a better position.

Atka noted the pair’s movements, while trying to assess the battlefield as a whole. Bullets continued to rebound off of Vekinte’s shielding, no matter how many hit his defensive barrier. The only people he seemed to consider significant threats were Reflection-users, but Stairway was holding Atka and her ilk back. “We need to figure out what weaknesses that shield has,” Atka spoke over comms.

“Well, I have a stupid idea…” Desmond spoke up, pulling away from the Stairway fight. “Someone take my place so I can try something!”

“Covering you!” Yakone stepped forward, battering one her blades against one of the heavenly knight’s to get her attention. When the attacks began flying, Yakone parried, and then pushed back against the grinding blades with a force greater than what Stairway had been anticipating. One physically-enhanced shove threw open the thoughtform’s guard, allowing Yakone to deliver two imbued chops to its armor - leaving grooves in the plating and forcing Vekinte’s companion on the defensive.

Meanwhile, Desmond willed Pheonix out into her entirety, the bird spreading its wings out to full span, flying high to the ceiling. Turning over, the bird did a divebomb straight for the Ethereal, however it lost its form before it got in too close and for a few moments nothing happened until the scalding heat of the bird’s Vulcan Wave rolled towards the alien being.

“Getting a bit more clever than volume of fire, I see,” Vekinte acknowledged. He recalled Stairway back over to himself, accepting that she took some damage from Yakone’s blades on the swift return trip. “To achieve a utopia, one must have the knowledge to command and structure their vision.” Stairway’s blades crossed and glowed red-hot, and then a thermokinetic suction-gust drew in all the heat from the attack, obliterating it and turning it into psionic power that Vekinte’s Reflection used to barrage the opponents around her master with psi lances. “This is really the best that those who slew my Overseers can do?” the High Commander cried out angrily.

Pathetic. Your determination is pathetic. Vekinte raised his four hands oncemore, and faint energy arrows shot outwards from his shield, creating a circumference that encompassed the whole room. The XCOM soldiers found themselves unable to move, restrained by the force that Vekinte had sent out.

Yakone struggled in vain, the impulses that her brain sent to her muscles yielding no locomotion at all. “What the hell… is that power? Can he really control the movement of anything?”

A voice crackled over comms. Tygan’s. “That’s it… vectors. He’s controlling vectors. Anything with a direction is a vector force, and that’s why he’s able to stop your bullets and prevent you from moving,” the scientist realized in amazement.

Good to know, but how the hell does that help us? We can’t- Yakone’s thoughts were interrupted as Vekinte teleported onto the rafters, running his Reflection’s swords through Jorge. “Goddammit! Enough with the killing!”

“None of you have the strength to challenge me. You were foolish to try… and I shall not rescind my policy of no mercy,” Vekinte responded grimly, gliding down to the most significant challengers and barely heeding Olivia and her Reflection at all. The lightning bolts the thunderbird duo sent were absorbed by Vekinte’s electrokinesis. “To echo the words one of you number said earlier, this is the end.”

It shall not be, an unfamiliar voice echoed in the minds of the XCOM squad as their minds were directed towards seeking a solution - any at all - to escaping their bindings. To achieve freedom, both in the moment and in the future. A woman in roman-style robes appeared behind Yakone, whose eyes shined with intense emerald power. holding a torch in her hands. The will of the human race is to achieve liberty. I shall free you from your constraints. Achieve your freedom. Libertas lifted the torch, and bathed the soldiers in a green light. They found themselves able to move again, and dodge the attacks of Vekinte and his Reflection - both having been expecting stationary targets.

“Finally.” Morrigan rolled her shoulders, and sent Fides forward again, this time with renewed vigor, willpower, and anger. If nothing else, the longer the fight went on, the more she was filled with rage. This time keeping his distance, Fides unleashed his strongest move. With a mighty slash of his giant sword, Fides sent a slashing rift directly at Vekinte, intent on ripping him to shreds.

Vekinte’s eyes widened beneath his mask. “Stairway!” His Reflection guarded him from the front, creating a shield made out of the swirling psychokinetic storm of a twisted rift. The two forces met with violent turbulence, sending buffets of air around the room and staggering any too close to the malestrom. “I suppose you do have some willpower in you after all,” he growled.

“Delta Squad,” Atka’s voice crackled through the radio. “Pull back. If Tygan’s right - and I trust he is - most of you aren’t going to be able to hurt Vekinte. He’s immune to firearms. Olivia, stay behind, but the rest of you fall back!” Although reluctant to leave the fight, the other six knew she was right and retreated.

“Great. His threat alone has us down another six people,” Ayame peeked out from her cover, eyeing the Elder. “Are you ready, Alexis?”

“Uh… maybe?” Alexis looked down at her weapon. “I’ve only got decent at this a few days ago. What if it doesn’t work?”

“Better it doesn’t work at all then it only partially works,” Ayame answered. “Unless his wife, or whatever she was, got the word out in the two minutes before she died, he doesn’t know you can do this. We’ll only get one chance to hit him completely off guard. So, uh… don’t miss.”

Alexis shook her head. “No pressure,” she muttered, taking aim and waiting for the perfect moment of vulnerability.

With the liabilities out of the way, Atka could focus on leading those that could actually act. Knowing that gunfire was useless, she got Yakone’s attention. Yakone, that Reflection of yours, explain to me how it works.

Libertas quickly imparted that knowledge upon her chosen champion. Right. She can remove any sort of impairment on allies, which is why Vekinte’s vectokinesis isn’t locking us in place right now.

If that applies to the movements of your limbs, he shouldn’t be able to redirect your swords then, right?

Yakone slowly grinned. “No. No, he can’t.”

“Kevin, Marx! Group up with me and Yakone!” Atka ordered. The four went after Stairway to Heaven, intent on consuming the knight’s attention. Yakone took up point, her twin fusion katanas dancing as they parried blows. Blue World was there to back her up, deflecting any hits that the Ranger didn’t have time for. The other two were left to encircle the thoughtform. Gwen, provide them with shielding so they can get past that rift shield and deal some damage. Yellow forcefields went up around the pair. Now!

Wrapping alloy armor around himself, Marx charged like a bull, the shield giving him much needed cover as he brought his twin blades together, swinging them horizontally with all his might in an attempt to make the reflection vulnerable. The magnokinetically-accelerated force brought down the high-frequency blades with enough power that the armor of the Etheral Knight was ripped open, and energy leaked out of Stairway as if blood.

Vekinte grimaced, momentarily distracted from his battle with the other soldiers. “Damn you… trying to overwhelm me.” He created an aura of psionic fear not unlike the one Jupiter had used, filling the room with a sense of awe that threatened to paralyze. “I will rule through fear of heaven’s unrivaled power,” he spoke as a mantra. However, those that succumbed to paralysis were immediately freed by Libertas, noticably so. Olivia was - in one moment - frozen, and then in the next sent a shockwave from Onimiki’s wings to buffet Vekinte.

Dammit all! Fortis thrust its sword towards the High Commander, forcing him to blink away - only to have to stop time in order to get away from a barrage of burning psi lances sent at him by Luke and Scarlet.


Well-Known Member
“Operation Primus Libertas” - Part 3

He’s used up both of his translocation abilities! Stairway is staggered!Alexis, do it! Atka instructed hurriedly.

“Got it!” Alexis finally stepped out of cover. She phased herself entirely, including her weapon. With extra effort, she even phased her bullets, and kept them phased as she fired. Much like she would do to extend her energy to inspire or heal, she concentrated on the high speed projectiles, making sure they would go straight through a barrier of any kind, but knowing that thanks to the limitations of her abilities, they wouldn’t phase through her target.

The HF rounds zipped straight through the vector shield that had blocked every gunshot sent its way thus far. They travelled through the great wall of arrows that redirected anything physical attack that came towards Vekinte, and tore open his robes. His power armor beneath held, but the hits scored deep holes in it, bending the metal inwards and rupturing some holes on Vekinte’s side. The High Commander’s eyes bulged, and he concentrated on biokinesis to stop the metal from driving any deeper and making the wounds severe. Alexis, she… she can use Corpokinesis to that precision? From the footage I saw of Cordiam’s fight she appeared to be a fledgling psionic master, and yet…

Hanging from the ceiling behind a pillar, Anna had been waiting for a similar opportunity, now that Alexis had taken action, the witch wouldn’t allow Vekinte to heal himself so easily. Pulling herself around the cover, Anna launched her grappling hook to get downwards, preparing to send Korelyive through his barrier with the queen’s own phasing ability and take a chunk out of him.

When Korelyive was upon him, Vekinte called upon another green ability to avert disaster. He phased himself out of the material plane, ghosting through the ground and out of sight of Anna - thus precluding her from targeting him properly with her Reflection. An uncomfortable silence fell upon the inner sanctum. Stairway to Heaven had disappeared along with her master, and there was no sign of the enemy. They had vanished from the world entirely.

Atka immediately ordered the other sixteen to form a circle in the center of the room, where Vekinte had been when they’d stepped into the sanctum - a chamber that was now torn up on the lower levels. The second level balcony where Gamma Squad had been had crumbled into a smoking heap on the floor. Shredded metal shared space in the pile with bodies too gruesome to look at. Those facing in that direction had to look without seeing, to focus their minds on being alert for anything that wasn’t already there - instead of thinking about the bodies that already lay in bloody rigor mortis on the ground. The doorway was almost completely gone. Coils of the spiral entrance hung down from a ruined arch, sparking incessantly. And the walls were riddled with bullet holes from deflected gunfire.

The Commander’s ESP allowed her to perceive a danger from Vekinte before he could act. The Ethereal rose up from the floor in the midst of the soldiers, but none of them saw him. A cloak of bended light - directed by the yellow psionic master’s teleimagery - allowed him to be unseen. But Atka’s ‘third eye’ allowed her to witness the Elder and his recovered Reflection before he had a chance to kill four of her allies with the strokes of Stairway to Heaven’s blades - and perhaps more with any psi attacks he himself could create.

With an outcry, Atka turned upon the Declension with Blue World’s fists bared. “I won’t allow you!” she shouted at her foe, sending a flurry of punches his way. Atka’s astronaut Reflection spoke up for the first time - perhaps due to the energy that was rising in his user. Indeed, the Inuit woman had fires of blue psionic energy starting to flare up around her determined eyes. Perhaps due to sharing that mental energy with Atka, or its kinship with the Moon, the Commander’s hope thoughtform lashed out with increased speed and vigor in its punches, and shouted as it did: ‘IPA IPA IPA IPA!’

The blows hit like blasts from an anti-tank cannon. The crossed blades of Stairway to Heaven - surrounded in vector fields to slow incoming attacks for good measure - allowed it to fend off the battering fusillade without being crumpled like a tin can. But to do so, it had to surround Vekinte directly. The pair shared the same spot - and thus the same durability - and endured the strikes… at the cost of being blow into the air. Vekinte flew backwards towards the back end of the room, stopping from striking the wall by a quick application of his golden ability. His backwards direction ceased to be, gravity stopped having an effect on him, and he was suspended in the air like a floating monk.

Vekinte’ecformin’cettnint folded his hands beneath his robes. His chest heaved more than it normally should due to exertion and the pain he’d endured from being hit again and again by attacks from all sides. “I’ve been foolish,” the Fourth High Commander confessed, seeming disappointed in himself. “I suppose I did underestimate you after all. In particular…” his mask tilted towards Yakone, who stood facing him with her irises shining, her swords drawn and ignited, and Libertas at her back - connected to Yakone by thorny icy helixes. “I didn’t anticipate something such as a foe developing a Reflection on the spot. Yakone…” he muttered. “I should have suspected you’d have the potential, like your mother and father before you.”

“You shouldn’t have undervalued our will to fight,” Yakone agreed, staring back at the Ethereal Commander with an ironclad gaze. “You’ve lost people you care about. Surely you understand that the more people you take away from us…” Yakone gestured towards the fallen, allowing herself to glance at the corpses. The sight was harrowing, and the Ranger paled - but she forced herself to take it in, if only for a moment. She had to accept that they were all gone - that all she could do was honor their memory and end this. “...the more you stroke our desire to win. Because we’re not only carrying our own hopes and dreams on our backs…”

The Crusader thrust a fist over her heart, and fluttered her cape with a motion of her other hand. “We’re fighting for all those that have fallen, too! Because we want to create a world that will allow the fallen to rest in peace. To know that their deaths meant something. You talked about giving us opportunities to turn back, but what about you? Have you ever considered that what you’re doing is wrong? That you’re merely making everyone you subjugate slaves to your idea of ‘heaven’?” Yakone challenged Vekinte. “Have you ever considered laying down your arms, and allowing a peace to ensue? If you surrendered now, goddammit… despite everything you’ve done, I know that the world would be a better place if I let you live. I’d spare your life! Do you really want to make Cordiam cry by fighting to the bitter end?”

Vekinte shook his head. “No, I would not want her to be disappointed in me. I fondly have kept a human expression in mind: ‘hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn’. I know that to die for nothing would be a shame that would not allow my spirit to rest. That’s why I refuse to lose. She entrusted me with the continuation of the Path, and I will not give up.” Golden energy flowed around Vekinte and his Reflection, surrounding them in a brilliant aura of light as if illuminated by the angels themselves. “You consider it to be some folly religion that’s used as an excuse to oppress others. That was Thantos’ vision. Not mine.”

The Fourth High Commander raised his voice. “Not mine! I want to see everyone life in peace, in safety, in bliss! My heart is unclouded, and my actions are pure - for they are just in the end. I will bring about happiness from everyone… and if it comes at the cost of the suffering of a relative few… then so be it!” he insisted. There was zealotry in his words, but, reflecting on them for a moment, Yakone realized that - despite its ‘ends justify the means’ shades - Vekinte’s speech was as impassioned as hers. That he believed in his own cause as much as she did. And she knew he would not surrender.

“All the people that died to complete the Avatar Project…” Yakone began, emerald energy crackling around her as she recharged her Overdrive field. “...all the people you killed to preserve your regime… they’ll never get to experience your freedomless utopia. We named our ship the Avenger for a reason. Because all the people you kill in the name of the ‘greater good’... we’ll pay you back for them. You can’t be convinced of your wrongdoing. Since the big Man’s not going to come down and smite you himself… I’ll be the blade of justice that’ll take you down instead."

Vekinte chuckled. “You have the audacity to compare your convictions to that of God? If there is anyone in this room close to that level of power…” the room crackled with energy, as Vekinte’s psychoresonance seemed to extend beyond him when he used his vectokinesis to its fullest, “...that would be me.” The Ethereal prophet had Stairway to Heaven unleashed her rift into the ceiling, ripping apart the Milky Way chandelier. I shall not be caught off-guard again. I know what you all are capable of now. Prepare to reap the whirlwind of retribution. The dozens of metal shards that fell were broken up by telekinesis, and shaped into a hundred spikes of metal that Vekinte launched at speeds exceeding that of railguns at his enemies.


Well-Known Member
“Operation Primus Libertas - Part 4

As the alloy shards rained down, looking to impale the XCOM forces, a salvo of explosions destroyed the makeshift bullets. “Whew, just in time. That was way too close. Hey, jackass! I think you’re letting vengeance cloud your mind. Must I remind you that forgetting about me is bad for your health? Besides, I need to pay you back for what you did to my clan!”

“I recall encouraging Thantos to give the order,” the levitating Ethereal stated, drawing upon his keen memory. “Unfortunate that two members of that troublesome group of tribal mercenaries did not pass with the rest of their people. It would have been better that way, for both you and I. You have the strength of Balmadaar, and the psionic prowess rivaling the greatest of the Psi Corps. A bedeviling fighting force indeed.” Stairway to Heaven began emitting a sonic drone - a noise that wasn’t quite earsplitting like Merenu’s sonokinesis could be, but it was enough to disrupt the concentration of psions and Reflection-users alike.

Yakone bit her lip, struggling for a moment to reestablish her Overdrive in the face of the concentration-impeding noise. “That’s five master powers he’s demonstrated now, what the hell…”

The path to complete mastery over the psionic wheel is the journey to ascendancy. Only full control of the violet hue remains out of my reach at the moment, and when you all are gone, I shall work towards climbing up to that height of power. An impossible color - blue alongside yellow - glowed around the Fourth High Commander’s intricate mask, and he launched a series of mindfray tendrils at the psionics before him to further damage their focus. Only moments afterwards, Stairway to Heaven picked two fresh targets: the surviving Van Dams. The points of her four swords glowed, and then two spear-like psionic lances shot down at each of the tribal soldiers.

Luke’s eyes started to glow red out of fear, and he raised his fists.”Stay away from me!” Luke slammed the ground sending a powerful shockwave to destroy the psi lances coming at him.” I will not die today, I’m gonna take that damned helmet of yours and mount it on my wall with the others!” Luke pulled out his Thorgun and fired it at the High Commander, using his halo targeting on him to make him an easier target for the others. In response, Vekinte raised a distortion field around himself to balance out the effect.

“He might know it’s coming now, but I have to try.” Alexis took aim once again, dashing to the side Even if the phased rounds did little damage, it might draw the Elder’s attention away from her loved ones. She fired once more, this time going for a head shot.

If not for the clairvoyant reflexes of his Reflection, Vekinte wouldn’t have seen the attack coming. Instead, he blinked to the side, allowing the bullets to pass through the glass and out into the dark void of the massive chamber surrounding this one. You’re one of the most significant threats here, the prophet recognized. “Allow me to show you something Mars taught me.” Vekinte/Stairway lifted his/her hand, and - like a machinegun - a barrage of small psi lances started streaming out.

A large domed barrier of honeycomb shaped glass formed up in front of Alexis with the reinforcement of several layers of additional lenses behind it. The psi lances broke into the surface but did not get past the first layer of the protection, safely keeping their important team member alive.

Recognizing that two dire threats to his abilities were in proximity to each other, Vekinte saw an opportunity. Stairway to Heaven seized ahold of the clock, and brought time to a standstill. Using telekinesis to propel himself and his Reflection forward faster, the Ethereal’s Knight brought her swords together like scissors intent on decapitating both of the women in front of her. However, there was a third to foil Vekinte’s attempt to eliminate two of his foes. Atka - with Yakone accompanying her in Blue World’s resume bubble - closed the distance and countered. A crystaline outgrowth of ice blocked the blades momentarily. Vekinte forced it to retract, using cryokinesis of its own.

But by the time he had done so, Yakone was upon him. Her fusion blades scored burning lines along Stairway’s armor, and the force of her enhanced strikes caused him to stumble backwards. When time resumed, Alex and Gwen were unharmed, and Vekinte was regaining his balance only two or three meters away from them.

“Dodge this.” Alexis grinned and opened fire, giving a full auto spray.

The frictionless phasing rounds impacted with the side of Vekinte’s armor when they came back into a material form, passing through his vector shield as they had before. This time - at this range - they did far more damage. The bullets broke apart the Ethereal’s ebon flesh, and smashed the ribs underneath. He barely had time to become intangible and allow the bullets to fly into the wall, and if he’d acted any later they would have gone through vital organs.

“Y-You…” he breathed, phasing back in and trying to heal himself. A pair of metabolic slashes from the nearby Ranger caused him to have even more wounds to heal, and attacks from the other soldiers in the room forced him to put his vectokinetic barrier back up alongside a telekinetic shield. His ability to concentrate seemed impeccable, but hints of strain were starting to show. “You have not won yet!” Vekinte cried out, igniting Stairway’s blades with thermokinetic fire and sending out an all-encompassing pulse of plasma-hot flames. He visibly shuddered - confirming Atka’s suspicion that using two master powers at once was incredibly taxing.

The fire was moved away from Yakone and the others, as Luke took control of the fire he sent it back to the Elder. “You will not hurt my new family. Aunty, lay into him.”

“That I can do.” Lilith fired at the High Commander aiming at his legs, hoping it would at least do something to the powerful Elder. The high-frequency rounds had no effect on Vekinte, and Lilith had to dodge their rebounds. “Scar, gonna need your help here.” A blond-haired woman appeared, in her hand was a M16 rifle.

Hey, asshat! I’ve been waiting a long time to pay your kind back for killing me! Scarlet fired her ghostly M16 at Vekinte’s the bullets going past his shield, hitting the high commander directly.

Already preoccupied with defending against sword strikes from the three Rangers, using mental strikes to keep the Russian ‘witch’ and her companion away (likewise for Olivia and her Reflection partner), holding back the flames that Luke had redirected - and trying to quench them - and shielding from an assortment of other attacks, Vekinte could not respond properly to Scarlet’s shots. The ethereal bullets impacted with Stairway’s form, shattering the armor over her chest and opening her up to further attack.

As if not to allow Stairway a moment’s reprieve, the golden visage of Fortis -with his user still inside- charged the willful construct. Daggers flashed in both hands and went spinning forth and their images crackled as if getting ready for the singularity attack, but instead the two weapons curved around the target. As they did, the pull of the mimic magnetism was used to off-balance the Reflection.

Yakone didn’t waste the opportunity. “Thanks for the opening,” she told her fiance, before thrusting a palm forward into the exposed chest of Stairway. The crackling emerald lightning of Yakone’s bioelectric overwrite lanced through the psionic Reflection, causing its red psionics to completely shut down, its orange psionics to be significantly weakened, and its blue psionics to suffer minor impediment.

Vekinte was left dangerously weakened by this attack - some of the electricity even finding its way into him and dampening his abilities ever so slightly. He blinked backwards, froze time - using the second he had to heal his wounds - and found himself facing a small army of super-powered soldiers with many of his psionic abilities disabled.


Well-Known Member
“Operation Primus Libertas - Part 5

“This is our chance!” Atka stated confidently. “Everyone, hit him with everything you’ve got!”

Luke looked at Alexis.” Hey, honey, you remember what we did to Ember? I need you to give me a ton of that oxygen power - you got lots of it.” Luke pulled out his psi amp and amped up his firecracker.

“On it.” Alexis held a hand forward, and surrounded the Ethereal overlord with a thick layer of pure oxygen. With the other hand, she held it towards her allies for a round of inspiration to strengthen their resolve.

“Heh heh get ready everyone, if this doesn’t weaken him I don’t know what will.” Luke fired his firecracker into the oxygen around the Elder. The explosion was massive - much larger then what happened to Ember with a single grenade. The detonation destroyed what everground was around the Elder, as well as everything behind him. In the center of that sphere of death was the High Commander.” I think I just dropped a mini nuke on him.”

“Don’t let up! Burn him to ash!” Morrigan poured all her rage into her Reflection, and Fides charged up to the strongest attack he could, sending a powerful rift towards the target. It was accompanied by waves of metabolic energy launched off Yakone’s swords, a powerful Vulcan Wave sent by Phoenix - now unworried about the attack being blocked - and a hailstorm of ice spikes from Atka, which Alexis was able to imbue. The volley of psionic assaults kept the cloud of dust kicked up by Luke’s initial massive attack in the air for longer.

When it finally cleared, Vekinte was still standing - albeit barely. Stairway to Heaven’s armor was a wreck. Her plating lay in tattered scraps, hanging off in many places and providing no protection whatsoever. The onyx ‘flesh’ underneath was burnt and scarred by the massive hits she had taken. And there were plenty of holes, underneath which Vekinte had severe wounds causing violet blood to stream down his body. Trembling, on the verge of collapse, the Fourth High Commander found himself in a state of disbelief.

I-I… how can this be! I am the Prophet of the Path! The greatest warrior the Ethereal Protectorate has to offer! And yet… I feel… I-I feel exertion, nausea, weakness. Me, Vekinte’ecformin’cettnint, feeling sick? A-Absurd…

Atka strided towards Vekinte, the other soldiers following suit. Blue World balled his hands up into fists. “Beneath that veneer of humility, you aren’t too different from the others, are you? And like the others, we’re going to take you down. Yakone gave you a chance to surrender. You didn’t take it. What was it you said before? ‘Reap the whirlwind?’”

Vekinte paled. He was forced into a realization. I cannot beat them. Especially not like this. If this continues, I will perish here. “S-Stairway!” he called upon his beaten-down Reflection. Pushing his chronokinesis to the maximum it could reach at this moment, he had one brief second. He pushed himself over to a hidden panel on the floor with telekinesis, and used that same basic psionic tug to open up the escape hatch.

Atka ran towards him. “I won’t let you escape!” However, she wasn’t close enough to stop him. Vekinte went down the chute, and the panel closed behind him - causing Blue World’s fists to dent the secret door. When time began flowing again, the others saw Vekinte vanish, and Atka ‘teleport’ over to a circle on the ground. “He… the bastard ran away.”

Luke’s eyes started to glow and his eyes started to twitch.”No..no NO. I will not let you run away!” Fired a psi lance at the chute were Veknite went. “We going after him or not!?”

Yakone nodded. “Right! If he’s running away, then he must be certain he can’t beat us alone! We’ll blow past whatever guards he puts in our way and finish him off.”

“Agreed. Let’s move people!” Atka had Blue World peel open the panel that Luke had punched a hole in. “Leon, Lilith, Morrigan, Olivia, Yakone, Marx, Alexis, Gwen, Luke, Anna, Desmond, come with me. The rest of you will help take out his remaining guards on the way, but you don’t have abilities that you can use in the face of vectokinesis, so you’ll remain behind when the twelve of us confront Vekinte.”

With that, the XCOM soldiers ran off in hot pursuit - the chosen squad of twelve leading the charge.


His wounds gradually healing via a desperate application of biokinesis, Vekinte stumbled into a meditation room a distance from the place he had first challenged the XCOM soldiers. In the center was the statue of an Ethereal, four hands outstretched and allowing blue waters to flow into four pools surrounding the central pillar. The lights on the bottom of those recesses made the liquid appear a deep violet. Lamps containing golden-glowing crystals hung from the ceiling on all sides of the expansive room - meant for multiple occupants at once. Vekinte was the only one here, though. He staggered towards the statue, trailing drops of violet blood as he went.

“I can’t… beat them… like this… as unbelievable as it is, they’ve grown…” Vekinte coughed. “They’ve grown too powerful. Even if I have time to recover my wits in addition to healing my wounds…” Sounds of gunfire not far-off suggested he would not. “...they’ll still win.” The Fourth High Commander pressed a hand against the statue, steadying himself and opening up a storage compartment. With his lower right palm, he grasped a violet-hued vial, bringing it in front of his eyes. Held in his hand was the Avatar Solution - the serum that made it possible for human bodies to stabilize a second major psionic color without being overwhelmed or rejecting the Ethereal DNA meant to be infused into them.

Merenu’beurmas theorized that this treatment could be applied to an Ethereal. If successful, it would grant them an additional master color. IF it works. If it fails… I will die a horrible death. But Vekinte knew that to fight XCOM as he was, he’d suffer an equally painful demise. For our dreams, Cordiam… I must take this risk. If it fails, well… you’ll judge me plenty, I’m sure. But I have to try, For you sake. For the sake of all living beings that I wish to grant utopia to. Left with no other choice, the Ethereal prophet brought the needle to the side of one of his arms. He closed his eyes, and thrust it into himself.


Well-Known Member
Operation Mortem Ostium, Part 7

The sanctum wasn’t locked off. No door stood in his way, no barrier. But when he approached the entrance, two large spears crossed before him. The owners, two Muton Elites with plating even more ornate than previous specimens, leered at him. They didn’t attack, however.

As such, Samuel was content to watch them for a moment. The two sides analyzed the other - noting evident strengths and weaknesses, postulating those that were less evident. But Carolus put a stop to that.

Let him in, she instructed.

With a guttural snarl, the spears were retracted, the path through now clear. Nemesis watched them carefully as he moved through, but the hulking aliens made no move to attack. They instead replanted the hilts of their weapons on the ground, and waited, still as statues.

They’re not for you, the Arbiter explained. They’re for anyone else. Wouldn’t want to be interrupted now, would we?

Samuel didn’t respond.

Crossing what seemed to be a bridge - though over what, the Russian couldn’t fathom - he reached a large, cavernous room plated in purple alloys and lit dimly by blue lights. The edges disappeared into fog - though in the distance, pinpricks of blue and orange were visible. “How large is this place?” he asked, directing his attention forward once again.

Carolus chuckled. Quite large, by your standards. A function of its purpose.

“That purpose being…?”

She didn’t have to answer. He soon saw for himself.

Pods, far more aesthetically pleasing and decorated than the industrial green ones that once filled blacksites around the globe, lined the edges of this platform. This was where the orange light came from - each glowing dully, but enough to silhouette the tall, thin occupants. These shades were motionless. Trapped in stasis, Samuel assumed.

Everywhere he looked, more sarcophagi lay. “How many?”

One million, three hundred and four thousand in this chamber alone. The Arbiter sighed. Too many for you to smash, in case that’s what you were thinking. Besides which, these ones are already dead. Succumbed to the Tabes Telum. The remaining four million are out of your reach… or actively fighting you.

Nemesis scowled. “I wasn’t going to…” He shook his head. “Ah, what the hell. You think I’m some monster that’d gun down every civilian I came across, don’t you? Smash every coffin.”

Nothing so repulsive, Carolus assured him. I just think you’re a heretic.

“To a fanatic like yourself, might as well be the same thing.”

I prefer to say ‘devout’.

“A thin line at best.” Taking his gaze off the frozen, he resumed his trek forth. “Where are you?”

The Arbiter chuckled. Honestly. Humanity is so blind. If you were to pay me the reverence I deserve, perhaps your path would be clear.

“You don’t deserve any reverence from me.”

Seek your god, and you will find her. But I can’t show you the way unless you do so.

Seek my god? I’m an atheist for fucks- He stopped, thought for a moment. … it's a riddle. Seek my god… And so Nemesis looked up. In the misty air above he saw the beacon, a beam of orange light piercing through the gloom. It was not so bright as to have been obvious - had he not looked up, he would never have spotted it.

“... subtle.”

Carolus laughed lightly, but otherwise did not respond.

With no other path to follow, Samuel obediently drew himself closer to the light. A moth hypnotized by a lamp. “Why a graveyard?” he asked, not really expecting an answer. “I would have expected you to face me somewhere less… gloomy.”

I’d rather not have to repair my courtroom after I destroy you, the Arbiter said dismissively. Here, only the dead care. And for their opinions, I… what’s that human saying? ‘Couldn’t care less’?

If she wanted a response, she didn’t get it. Samuel just kept moving.

… no? Not going to disagree with me there?

“You’re just trying to aggravate me,” the Russian noted. “And I already know all about your disrespect for the dead. I don’t even need Umbra’s memories for that. Your treatment of the Inquisition, a group of people devoted to you and your will, is proof enough.”

If they were strong enough to be worth my notice, they’d still be alive, the Arbiter contested.

“Technology?” Samuel asked. “Weapons? This war is fought using the brainchildren of dead people. What about your religion? The Path? Is the originator of that so irrelevant to you too?”

While Vekinte continues to lead us, yes.
Carolus paused for a moment. Although I had my doubts, I will admit. Purge aside, he was too forgiving. Too merciful. Cordiam’s influence corrupted him, I believe. Stopped him from realizing his potential. But with her gone, my faith in him has been renewed. He is the living, breathing embodiment of the will of the Path.

She respects nothing but strength, Nemesis understood. Power. Only those stronger than her are worthy of attention. Oddly, this made him smile. Which means she’s scared of me. Why else would she focus solely on me?

Moving through the pews of those claimed by disease, Samuel finally reached what seemed to be the center of this platform of the mausoleum. A few walls, arranged in a square shape but with large gaps in the middle of each side, rimmed the outside of an interior courtyard. These walls were evidently for show only, for they didn’t reach the cavern’s roof. Within the courtyard were several indented depressions in the floor that led deeper the closer to the middle one went - the lowest level of which seemed to be essentially an ordered puddle, filled with water only a few centimeters deep.

The absolute center of this courtyard contained a large statue, similar to many found within the Megacities on Earth back when ADVENT was still in control. A depiction of an Elder, all arms stretched outwards as if praising some unknown deity. Similar statues adorned the four diagonals and four cardinal directions, raised on sturdy alloyed pillars, each depicting a different species with their knee bent. There were the Balmadaar, the Sectoids (far smaller than their counterparts today), a reptilian species Samuel could only assume were the original Vipers… even the seldom-seen Keepers had a podium to themselves. And of course, another depicting a human. Strewn around with an evident pattern were a few more sarcophagi, covered in a kind of plating that swaddled them to the walls on which they loomed. Only the head area was left uncovered.

Before the central statue, sitting at the base like some kind of offering, was a human sized claw-like structure emitting the beam of orange light that had drawn Samuel here in the first place. It whirred, indicating its status as a machine of some description, and the residual light it emitted shone orange on the plaque stapled to the glorified effigy.

Names, in case you were wondering, Carolus said. Just the ones in this chamber, hence why it is so small. I assure you there are much, much larger lists elsewhere. Those who fell before the Tabes Telum, and elsewhere still those who fell with Aethereum.

Samuel adjusted the grip he had on his rifle. “And that thing in the middle?”

Ordero’s personal Hyperwave Relay. I will admit she was onto something with this - the extra range afforded by it is extraordinary. I’ve been down here the whole time, after all, and yet I could watch as my last three Inquisitors failed me.

A glance around. “You say you’re here, but I don’t see you.”

Because I don’t want you to. A pause, followed by a chuckle. Oh, did you think I was going to play fair? Sorry to disappoint.