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ZCOM: Ghosts and Shadows

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Chapter 1: Bloodied, Bruised. Alive.

The extraction had been messy.  A tangled blur of adrenaline, clattering gunfire, Yelling, and frantic shoving against the relentless press of decaying corpses clawing at their flesh and armour.

On the way up the cable, Judy had very nearly been plucked off her cable by a giraffe that looked several years into a dirt nap and Grizzoli was covered in nearly a dozen small Lost gnawing, empty-eyed, on his ballistic armour and exposed flesh.

 

It was a miracle everyone had made it through the Horde that came crashing down on them, Outrider most of all.

 

How the fox untouched by time had even managed to move after that eight-story free fall with the Assassin was a mystery. His trench coat was sliced into ribbons and drenched in purple and red blood, revealing sparse glimpses of his custom body armour and russet fur.

 

The Reaper was near delirious from pain and blood loss. He could barely stand, let alone fight off a swarm of Lost. He made it though, just barely grabbing onto the jungle penetrator platform before Firebrand reeled them up to the Skyranger.

 

The surviving ZCOM operatives collapsed onto the floor gasping, bleeding, trembling and crying.

 

Grizzoli was still wrestling with a couple of persistent undead passengers gnawing on his shoulder plates. Finally fed up with struggling to pull the creatures off, the bear threw himself against the Skyranger’s interior, squashing the small Lost with his large mass; making their ashen green bodies burst like grotesque dust filled balloons.

 

Adriana stumbled off the platform and crumpled to the floor, curled tightly in a ball around her smoking shotgun, Alistair’s bloody dog tags tangled in her fingers as she cradled them and finally let go of her control, her shoulders jerking as she let out a helpless sob.

 

Mox limped over, falling into one of the troop seats lining the hull and ripping his helmet off as he greedily sucked in unfiltered air like a sponge in water. His yellow robotic eyes fluttered open and closed almost as if he was trying to reboot himself after just barely surviving the ordeal.

When Judy’s platform slammed home it practically launched her onto the floor. The gray rabbit stumbled a few trembling steps before collapsing onto the ground in an ungraceful tail and ear twitching heap. Everything hurt. her muscles throbbed something fierce and only grew more painful with every rapid beat of her little bunny heart.

I’m just gonna… gonna lay here for a while.

Mind made up Judy bit back a scream as she forced her body to uncurl from her fetal position and flop to her back with a numb sense of finality. She didn’t feel a thing, emotionally speaking. She was too tired. Logically the doe knew she was angry, confused, and devastated from losing Alistair and learning who Outrider was.

 

Right now though her brain was just refusing to work, her body reverting to a primal sort of survival mode.

 

Gasping in short breaths of air and fighting back the urge to dry heave from the intense stress she had just faced, Judy dragged her rifle close and settled for staring up at the Skyranger’s red-tinted interior lights.

Whatever, I can deal with everything later.   

The thud of another body landing on the floor next to her caused Judy to involuntarily jerk away from the sound. With no small amount of reluctance, and knowing that her insatiable curiosity would eventually get the better of her, the doe rolled her head around and found herself muzzle to muzzle with a red fox sprawled on the floor next to her.

 

Nicholas Wilde’s eyes were closed and his mouth open as he sucked in lungfuls of air just like Judy was doing. Looking closer the rabbit saw a pink ribbon of muscle lolled out of one side of his mouth as he panted in a very uncontrolled and undignified manner.

 

Thinking back to the impression she first got from the Reaper, and how she had told him she hated him Judy now found she was conflicted. When she had said those things to him she had been spitting those words at a cold robotic mask.

 

At the time he wasn’t a person, he was a faceless, soulless creature that let two of her fellow operatives die in New Providence and was perfectly willing to leave her and John Wolford to die over a silly deal.

 

He was the enemy, one of many.

 

Now though… now that she had a face and a name to put to that enemy, especially a name and face belonging to someone like Nick Wilde… she wasn’t so sure, and it scared the pellets out of her.

The bay door closed, shrouding the bunny in cold and painful darkness. A darkness that was reflected by the twisting thoughts that tormented her.

I don’t know what to think. Not anymore.

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A booster seat.

Of all the ways to end a mission, of all the carrot-picking things they could have pulled on her, this was by far the most humiliating.

They strapped her into a booster seat.

Bloodied, bruised, and exhausted; physically, mentally, and emotionally and right after wading through a literal horde of undead monsters, they put her in a fluffing Cub-sized BOOSTER SEAT.

Judy didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The poor bun felt like an armed toddler, still wearing her armour and with her rifle tucked against her chest even as she was tucked and strapped into the moulded booster seat with her big rabbit feet comically dangling several feet off the floor.

When the onboard medics, Bucky and Pronk, had helped Judy to her seat and she found herself being tucked into that damnable device, Grizzoli had nearly tumbled back out of the Skyranger in a fit of laughter. Judy felt nearly all the blood leave her tiny body and rush up to the inside of her ears in embarrassment.

 

She had tried to convince Bucky and Pronk to let her find a real seat but she was firmly denied, and when she began to struggle her laughably pathetic efforts to free herself from the Kudu and Oryx were easily brushed off and Judy resigned herself to death by humiliation.

 

Doing her level best to avoid making eye contact with any of the other operators and firmly ignoring Grizzoli’s scratchy chuckles every time he looked in her direction; Judy rested her exhausted head against the back of the seat.

 

Her still burning muscles left her small body wracked by wave after wave of throbbing pain so deep even her bones ached, but at least she didn’t feel like her stomach was trying to climb up her throat anymore.

Three hours. Just three more hours until we get back to the Avenger and I can finally lay down and sleep for like a week.

With that comforting thought beating back the doubts and guilt from the forefront of her mind, Judy rested her head against the back of her seat and let the muffled roar of the Skyranger’s engine lull her to some semblance of sleep.

“Don’t touch me.”

No such luck. An unfamiliar voice with a smooth tenor that felt as frigid as steel cut through the engine’s roar like a hot knife through butter.

 

Judy’s eyes flew open and flicked to her left towards the voice. Nicholas Wilde was in the seat right next to her looking just about how she felt. Beat up, bloodied, and exhausted. Standing over him was Pronk the oryx medic holding an odd red and white device shaped a bit like a cordless power drill with a nozzle.

 

Pronk had a hoof out in a calming manner while the other held the device away from the fox staring down at him.

 

“Look, mam, I’m just tryin’ to do my job. This is just a Med-kit. I need to seal those wounds an’ anesthetize ya so we can stitch you up-“ as the Oryx spoke he slowly aimed the Med-Kit at the reaper’s still bleeding chest.

 

Pronk froze in his tracks, a tiny squeak of terror squeezing from his throat when he suddenly found himself staring down the business end of a massive revolver with a pair of savage green eyes staring down the sights.

 

Nick spoke slowly, his smoothly masculine tenor, a voice so unlike the garbled static Judy had gotten used to hearing, sent chills up the little bunny’s spine.

 

“I said. Don’t. Rutting. Touch. Me.” Nick growled.

 

The slim vulpine’s chest jerked as he sucked in a painful rattling breath and shoved the trembling

Oryx’s head away with his revolver’s barrel. Pronk awkwardly squawked and fell on his tail, making the entire room go dead silent.

 

“Outriderrr.”

 

Nick never moved the revolver’s barrel away from the medic sprawled on the floor, though he did flick his eyes questioningly towards the Skirmisher seated next to him and quirking a brow. Pratal Mox held an armoured paw out soothingly towards the irritated vulpine while keeping a respectable distance.

 

“He isss only tryinggg to help.” Mox gestured at Pronk’s scared wide-eyed expression.

 

“No drugs.” The Reaper affirmed, his voice smoothing back from his harsh growl to a smokey tenor. “No needles. No thank you.”

 

“But-“ Pronk started to protest.

 

Until Nick flicked the hammer back with an ominous click .

 

A dangerous aura rolled off the small red fox, setting even Mox’s fur on edge.

 

“If you so much as point a needle in my direction I will give your forehead a new ear hole, that way what I’m saying might actually get into that thick skull of yours. Do I make myself clear?” Pronk and his fellow medic Bucky, who had been tending to Adriana, seemed to shrink in on themselves.

 

“Y-yes, sir!” Pronk squeaked.

 

Satisfied with his answer Nick lowered the revolver’s hammer and flicked the weapon back into the folds of his ruined trench coat so fast it seemed as though he had simply made the massive pistol vanish in thin air. Everyone in the room relaxed and Judy exhaled a breath she hadn’t even been aware she had been holding.

 

“You’rre still hurrrt,” Mox pointed out after a beat of silence. “You’rre going to need ssstitchess eventually.”

 

“Don’t you worry about little ol’ me,” Nick drawled lightly as if he hadn’t just pressed a gun to a mammal’s head. A coal-black paw slid into a belt pouch hidden underneath his trench coat. “I’ll just take care of it myself.”

 

A disgruntled snort drew the Reaper’s gaze to Grizzoli seated across from him, the grizzly staring back at him with a sour measure of disgust and disbelief.

 

“Is there a problem Gregor?” Outrider asked as he produced a small vial of cleaning alcohol and a pawful of bandages, the ghost of a sly grin pulling at the fringe of his muzzle. “Or is your old age finally catching up to you?”

“You’re supposed to be dead,” Grizzoli snarled, though Judy caught the slightest tinge of fear at the edge of his voice.

 

“Thank you for reminding me. I had forgotten.” It was Outrider’s turn to snort as his paws flittered over the nasty gash down the middle of his chest with practiced ease.

Judy blanched as the fox had to peel his sheered armour from his bloodstained fur. Some of the blood had begun to coagulate, sealing his armour against his fur like a grotesque glue, leaving much of his already red fur matted and foul. Even Bucky and Pronk looked a bit nauseous at the grizzly sight.

T-that looks really bad.

Judy felt honest concern and a tiny tinge of guilt tug at her chest. Scraping together her courage, the little rabbit leaned forward in her booster seat and coughed to gain the fox’s attention. When Nick turned his haunting emerald gaze to her Judy felt her bravery scatter to the wind, leaving her staring into his eyes with her mouth hanging open like an idiot.

“It’s rude to stare at someone like they’re a snack you know,” Nick husked around a sly smirk. “The way you’re checking me out… one might think you want to just eat me up .”

 

And just like that, any concern for the wounded fox went up in smoke. Judy’s mouth snapped shut into a frown. That only seemed to amuse the infuriating vulpine further, his sly grin spreading to crinkle his brow.

 

A grin that never reached his eyes. The emerald hell-fire Judy had seen in those glowing orbs had died now that the Reaper’s rage had been exhausted.

Now… now Nick’s eyes were hollow, like those of a corpse.

Judy turned from that haunting gaze. She couldn’t look him in the face anymore. She suddenly understood. Those were the eyes of a broken mammal, a mammal that had lost everything. No. more than everything. She understood because…

 

His eyes… his eyes are like mine.



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A/N: ZCOM’s Back baby! Hell yeah!

Welcome to the long-awaited sequel to ZCOM: Rise of the Resistance! I’m stoked to continue this adventure with all of you!

An adventure y’all can be a part of!

I, of course, am referring to ZCOM’s Character Dossier! A Dossier built by readers like you!

For those that have played X-COM or X-COM 2, this is a familiar concept. Every soldier you command is unique and just like in ZCOM once they die they stay dead. It’s intense, brutal, and exhilarating to witness a team you have built an emotional attachment to beat the odds against the relentless Alien threat or die trying.

 

Want to join the world of ZCOM and witness a small piece of yourself in X-COM’s fight against Earth’s Alien overlords?

 

To submit your very own character into the ZCOM dossier I need these few things:

  1.      Name, Age, Gender, Species
  2.      Brief history (i.e. lived in the woods since the invasion until being found by XCOM scouts)
  3.      Basic personality traits (i.e. Optimistic, Clumsy, Womanizer)
  4.      At least two positive traits (i.e. Good with a rifle, funny, fearless)
  5.      At least two flaws (i.e. Hates foxes, fear of fire, alcoholic)

Post your character into the comment section below!

One more thing. Thank you for your support. All of you. Readers like you make writing worth it. Y’all are awesome.

I hope to see you all very soon!

-Untraveled

---: Character Dossier :---

Creator: dethwulf_Zero (AO3)

Name: Alistair Stålvarg

Age: 25 Years Old

Deceased: Slain 10/17/2035 Operation War Banner

Gender: Male

Species: Red Wolf

Appearance: Tall for his species, Scars across the face and back, Heterochromatic eyes (Steel gray/Deep green), Likes dressing like his father’s favourite grunge bands (ripped jeans, Tee shirts, and flannels)

History: Before recruited by XCOM Alistair lived in relative peace out in a fringe settlement with his family. As the eldest of three brothers, Alistair often treats mammals smaller than himself as younger than himself, regardless of their actual age. A big family guy with a stubborn view of life that has caused problems when dealing with mammals from other walks of life and points of view. A heavy drinker off duty, he curbs his habit when on a mission, though he has been known to suffer from withdrawal when on longer scouting missions.

Basic Personality Traits: Outgoing, Athletic, Self-conscious and insecure

Positive Traits: Tough, Fearless, Kindhearted

Negative Traits: Chronic Alcoholic, Overbearing at times

Creator: Carbonrap45 (AO3)

Name: Adriana Whifur

Age: 35

Gender: Female

Species: Coyote

Appearance: Black fur and deep golden-brown eyes with a lean muscular physique. Dresses light in favour of mobility and stealth, often seen with a recon hood and half mask with a shemagh around her shoulders.

Brief History: Grew up on the streets of Zootopia before the invasion. After capture by an Advent raid early in their occupation of earth Adriana escaped from custody and has been on the run ever since with extensive experience in paw to paw combat.

Personality: Paranoid, determined, lets slip little about herself while willing to talk to others

Positive traits: Empathic to those that suffered under Advent, has knowledge of combatting most Advent trooper types.

Flaws: Has little faith in new recruits and often refers to them as “fresh meat”, paranoia tends to flare up at the worst of times.

Name: CommanderOps (AO3)

Name Gregor 'Brick' Grizzoli

Age: 40

Gender: Male

Species: Grizzly Bear

History: Gregor was a fresh face heavy weapons specialist when the XCOM Headquarters was assaulted by the Invaders. He and his comrades/squad buddies that also were freshly promoted to some specialist was tasked defending a maintenance tunnel. They bravely held it till the dreaded sound of skittering from above. He was the lone survivor of a squad of six that escaped with the other survivors of the base. He continued to dutifully serve what was left of XCOM, but as the years go by and the more comrades he lost he became slowly numb to the loss of the life that he regards any new rookie as just another number to the wall. He was denied the rank of Sergeant based upon the mixed review of his leadership, leading successful operations but at the cost of an injured/dead rookie.

Basic Personality Traits: Serious, Reserved

Positive Traits: Heavy Weapons Specialist, Strong, Prior War experience

Negative Traits: Chronic Alcoholic, Hates Robots of any form, PTSD with Chrysalids.

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Editor’s Note:

 

Phew, you could cut the tension with a knife there for a bit. Good thing our dear friend Nick probably has a bunch of them stuffed in that coat of his.

Knives truly are such important instruments, eh? You can go straight from spreading jam on a slice of bread to shanking an alien in the kidneys.

Wait, do the aliens in ZCOM even have kidneys worth stabbing? Hmm, I’ll have to ask Untraveled about that one…