Chapter 38: Operation Robot Wars

Captain Eleanor Rychik was feeling pretty good after their last mission. Menace 1-5 had been tasked with clearing a ruined district in the former city of Cairo. Their objective was to retrieve a researcher who had entered the city looking to retrieve research data from those studying the alien's biology at the university during the initial invasion.

Overcoming the waves of Lost, the strike team not only retrieved the data and the researcher they had met an unexpected ally. Sergeant Rufus McBride, a veteran of the original XCOM project and one of the first MEC soldiers XCOM ever created. The MEC project had been one of the two areas of research XCOM had begun investigating prior to the attack which ultimately doomed the project.

McBride, along the rest of the original Strike One, had been on a mission when the aliens had invaded the XCOM base. After the confirmed destruction of XCOM headquarters those few who remained swiftly dispersed. Some found their place amongst the resistance cells which formed across the world to resist the ADVENT occupation. Others turned away from war, seeking to protect themselves and those closest to them. Some did not survive long enough to make such choices.

McBride was the former, finding ample work as a resistance guard for those daring to explore the remains of the cities now overtaken by the Lost. Despite joining XCOM as a young man from the British army the past twenty years had proved hard for him. His red hair had grown longer, his close-cropped regulation stubble emerging into a thick beard across his chin. Still, it was hard to overstate how valuable the support of veterans like him would be in bringing back the fledgling XCOM project.

In thanks, Rychik insisted that she be the one to provide a tour of the AVENGER to their newest member. Having been introduced to the Operations, Crew Quarters and the Research Laboratory they were approaching the end of the tour.

"And finally, we have our Engineering Bay" Rychik explained as they stepped into the AVENGERs Engineering facility. "Chief Engineer Shen will be happy to assist with any technical or maintenance requirements you may have"

Lily Shen peeked up from a partially disassembled collection of parts and circuitry spread across the workbench.

"Chief Engineer Lily Shen" Rychik introduced her. "Sergeant Rufus McBride, former XCOM Strike One"

Shen raised herself up from her work, holding her hand out for shaking. "Nice to meet you"

"Likewise" McBride accepted Shen's offered hand. It was only then that Shen took note of the cold metal hand in place of human flesh and bone.

"I didn't realise you were, augmented" Shen admitted. "I'm, sorry. For what happened to you"

"Don't be" McBride assured her. "If it wasn't for your father's work, I might not have survived this long"

"Thank you" Shen replied. "I just wish I could have known more about what he was working on, while he was still…"

"I'm sure he'd be proud to see you now" McBride assured her. "Proud to see you continuing his work"

A hint of blush rose across Shens cheeks. "Why don't you have a seat and I'll do a survey of your augmentations"

McBride sat down on one of the heavy crates laid out next to Shen's workbench. Without the specialist facilities of the XCOM project the MEC's augmentations had fallen into a severe state of disrepair. It was a testament to the engineering skills of Dr Shen and his team that they had survived this long without proper maintenance.

For her part, Shen was more than eager to have the opportunity to work on something her father had created. Shen set about her work like an overexcited kid with a new toy. Every circuit, every actuator was a new discovery of how the design functioned. Her mind was ablaze with ideas and theories, of ways they could integrate this into their current tech or perhaps even-

"What the hell is this?"

Shen was snapped from her focus by McBrides sudden outburst. Looking up she followed his gaze across the engineering lab, noticing as one of the strike teams SPARK units stepped into the Engineering Bay.

"Oh, that's one of the SPARK prototypes" Shen explained, ever eager to talk shop about yet another of her father's creations. "My Dad built it"

"You mean I had my arms and legs cut off and all the while you had one of these knocking about!" McBride forced himself to his feet, crossing the distance of the Engineering Bay in a few steps to square himself up opposite the taller robot.

"Rufus" Rychik tried to interject. "I really don't think-"

"Do not be alarmed" the SPARK unit replied to Rychik in an unnerving recreation of the AI Julian. The SPARK turned its attention back to staring down at McBride. "It is normal for humans to feel inadequate in the presence of, superior lifeforms"

"Oh, superior lifeforms?" McBride challenged. "How's this for superior lifeforms!"

The sharp impact of McBrides robotic fist across the SPARK's 'head' sent it reeling back several steps before balance could be restored.

"Calculating response" SPARK replied.

The momentary lapse in the confrontation soon erupted anew as the SPARK threw a retaliatory punch. It was only McBrides quick reflexes which allowed him to continue having a face. The trooper dug his metallic feet into the deck as he shoulder charged the larger robot, grappling his arms around the robot's midsection as they stumbled back into a workbench in a flurry of displaced parts and tools. What had started as an exchange of blows swiftly descended into a mess of flailing metallic limbs and displaced technical equipment.

Over the chaos Rychik continued to plead for calm, with limited success. "Leave him Rufus, he's not worth it!"

XCOM Rule 267: Fights between SPARKs and MEC enhanced soldiers are not to be a regular occurrence marketed under the tagline 'Battle of the Bots'.

Thanks to user Firestar001 for the suggestion.