I do not own XCOM that is the property of Firaxis Games and 2K Games. I only own my own original characters and the ideas behind some locations. Also, the picture was made by Luke Thompson you can find him on Instagram dramaticyeti thanks again for the amazing work.

"Hello"- Italics is someone thinking

"Hello"- Bold is projecting one's voice via psionic

"Hello"- regular font for normal speech

Chapter 9: Discoveries and Promotions

The shuffling of paper, the occasional scribble Tyler's pen made, and the low melody of Mozart was the only sounds that could be heard within Tyler's office as the Commander went through a stack of reports he insisted be delivered to him on paper rather than digitally. He honestly found the act of writing and reading on paper to be quite relaxing, and the reports wouldn't clog his PDA's inbox; even if some of the reports and requests were repetitive or ridiculous.

Tyler sighed as he tabled yet again another request for alcohol to be allowed on base and within the barracks, most of the requests coming from the enlisted men. The trouble was that if he allowed enlisted men to drink within the barracks, it could lead to more problems than he was comfortable with, and so Tyler was attempting to meet his men halfway and build a bar/club outside the base in the fledgling community around the Viper nest. Tyler pulled the next paper over to him from his desk regarding the 77th's progress over the last two months.

The new wave of recruits that had arrived at the same time as Shal and her pack were progressing well through their training and in another month or two would be ready for combat and folded into existing squads to replace the casualties of Tokyo. Another group of fifty had even arrived a couple weeks ago that Tyler planned to make an entirely new company primarily for defensive missions. During the battle of Tokyo, Tyler had seen the results of what happened to his forces when they were pinned down with enemies with a superior position and he hoped this new unit with specialized training could fill that role with the help of their new Captain Finch.

Finch was a twenty-three-year-old man from London whose parents were both bureaucrats with the ADVENT administration. This had allowed Finch to study at some of the more premiere schools, and eventually into a multispecies military academy. During his study there, Finch had shown an impressive aptitude for combat strategy and engineering, making many wonder which field he was going to eventually apply for. Tyler had gotten to him first by offering him a position to pursue both as a combat engineer. Finch had jumped at the opportunity, and now was teaching his engineering skills to the other members of his company while also working with the Experimental Warfare wing to rig up some new equipment they could take into the field.

Speaking of the Experimental Warfare wing, Tyler's promotion to Commander had given them access to research notes and technologies that they had previously been in the dark about, like the soon to be publically announced Shield-Bearer troopers. Tyler had requested the specs for the unit's armor, but it would take a while for them to be sent over and for the techs to go over them. In the meantime, Finch and the Experimental Warfare Wing had churned out a deployable turret system that was similar to the old world's Trophy system. The turret would identify incoming ordinance like rockets or grenades before destroying them with high-intensity laser fire. Finch was planning on bringing these turrets with his men so they could be used to defend the trooper's position from explosives. The Laser Trophy System, or LTS, was however bulky and thus had to be only used by engineers as assault forces couldn't afford to carry the system into battle.

The other major projects that the group was working on was alternate armor systems for Shal and her pack as well as the Vipers that worked at the nearby nest. Tyler had also told them that they might have to make something for Soleirus to wear to battle, but they were waiting on Dr. Hissa to clear her for combat, something the Viper was not doing for some reason that Tyler planned to talk to her about later today. The last major development was that the SIM room had been finished that allowed the soldiers of the 77th to practice combat in a simulator without endangering their lives. The room itself had previously housed the power systems for the battleships plasma cannons, which had been removed along with the non-functioning guns themselves and taken to a secure location.

Outside of the Experimental War Wing and the recruits, not much had changed for the 77th itself other than training and integrating the new personnel into their squads. In a couple of weeks the unit would be back to pre-Tokyo strength and in another two weeks would even have an additional company to field. However, Tyler didn't plan to stop there, the battleship that housed the 77th could fit a total of eight companies with support staff if he wished, and Tyler did indeed plan to expand his total forces to six companies. The remaining room on the ship would be left open for additional facilities that may come about in the future.

Tyler rose from behind his desk and looked out the window at the large dome structure that was the Viper nest and the buildings around it. The Viper nest itself was completed and now housed around fifty or so young mothers that had arrived to foster their young from either the wrecked nest in Vietnam or from the nest in Egypt. Tyler had asked Dr. Hissa about the Viper nest in Egypt and was told that the few males of the species were housed there under heavy security, so any viper that wanted to produce an offspring would have to travel there before moving to another nest to foster their young.

The buildings around the nest itself were mostly composed of housing for the doctors working at the nest and military structures for the 312th Viper Legion Detachment that guarded the nest. However, Tyler had convinced the 312th's leader to allow the construction of some shops as well that the 77th's soldiers could use to purchase items. These stores were run by Vipers that were either too young for military service or had been wounded to the point of retirement i.e., missing a limb. Recently Tyler had approved the construction of living quarters for the 77th's support personnel and their families outside the base to improve morale and increase business in the area. This decision was turning the small cluster of buildings into a fledging community including small parks, more businesses catering in many different areas of interest, restaurants, and facilities to provide things like power, water, and waste disposal. Altogether, the area was turning into a rather impressive small town helped by the supplies brought in by the 3rd Viper Core.

When Tyler had proposed the idea to Commander Vissta, she had, of course, questioned him on why she should provide him the supplies and personnel to build civilian structures near his base of operations. Tyler had responded that an increase in the appeal of the area would not only provide more incentive for Vipers to foster their young there, but also provide a better area for them to live more long term. Tyler had explained that instead of the mother returning to her place of work either as a researcher or a military member and having to bring their child with them, they could instead settle down in the town and start or work for a business or join the 312th, either way they could stay in one area and focus on raising their daughter. Living in the town both helped in raising the young Vipers, but also provided more non-military jobs for them and provided much better security as the town was safely nestled within the battleships anti-air net and ground access were heavily restricted and strictly monitored. After that, Vissta was more than happy to provide aid and between the two Commanders, construction was being completed briskly with eight new buildings each week. Vissta herself was actually going to be arriving later that day to inspect the town herself and see the improvements.

Tyler retrieved his PDA from the corner of his desk and glanced at his itinerary for the day. First was to go down and visit Shal and her pack to make sure there were no issues with the Hounds and their integration into the 77th, next was a meeting with Dr. Hissa to discuss the procedure he would undergo for his S-level gene mods, and finally he was going to meet with Commander Hissa around three in the afternoon for an inspection of the town.

Deciding to get a head start Tyler switched off the music in his office before departing and making his way to the genetics lab. On his way, he passed a few of his men and exchanged salutes and even had a short conversation with Private Arc. Private Arc and his three remaining squadmates, Private Belladonna, Private Nikos, and Sergeant Fall had all been taken off the active unit roster as their entire squad had been lost in the opening moments of the Tokyo battle. As a result, they hadn't been deployed with the exception of the trip to DC, and the four were now awaiting reassignment and from what Tyler could tell were anxious to find out their future.

Tyler left eventually to see Dr. Hissa, but not before telling Private Arc to meet him in his office around twelve with his squad. Once out of sight at the fire team, he sighed. If only Hopkins hadn't gone rogue, then the four of them would have already been reassigned. It was strange, he reflected, how much Hopkins had meant to the inner operations of the 77th prior to leaving. While he admittedly was a bit… oh who was Tyler kidding, a major ass, Hopkins made sure to get his shit done, and he always had the interests of the enlisted personnel in mind.

In a way, he was the glue that had kept the unit together, and the news that he had seemingly abandoned them was a blow to their morale that Tyler wasn't all too certain that they'd recover from. But still, there was truly no reason for him to provide Tyler with his own, admittedly less powerful judging from what little data remained, set of Reflex Armor. Shaking his head, Tyler decided to pursue that line of thought at another time as he approached the labs.

Finally, Tyler reached the gene-labs and after walking through the doors, soon spotted Dr. Hissa in the corner, intently analyzing a screen with Soleirus sitting awkwardly in a chair before her. "Dr. Hissa, Soleirus, am I interrupting anything?" Tyler asked as he walked toward the pair.

"No Commander/No Commander," the pair stated simultaneously before Soleirus levitated up to leave, only to be stopped by Hissa's pointed finger. "Sssit down right there Missss Sssecrecy!" Hissa hissed sharply to the Ethereal, making her return to her seat slowly in resignation.

Tyler raised a curious brow before sitting down in a chair between the two. "Is there something I should know about?" he asked.

"No/Yesss." The two contradicted before Hissa stared the Ethereal down with a glare before addressing Tyler. "During Soleirus'sss medical examination, I found that ssshe was sssuffering a gradual case of tissssue degeneration. When I confronted her about it, ssshe sssaid it was normal and refusssed to discussss it with me, ssstating it'sss a taboo to ssspeak about in the Ethereal sssociety." Hissa explained as she once again regarded the Ethereal who shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "In a way, ssshe'sss worssse than Hopkinsss ever wasss in regardsss to medical history."

Tyler shot a concerned look to Soleirus before addressing Hissa. "Is it lethal or contagious?"

"No, it's not contagiousss, but it will kill her eventually, though ssshe ssstill hasss a couple hundred more yearsss becaussse of itsss ssslow ssspeed and her ssspeciesss long life-ssspan," Hissa answered.

Tyler nodded before addressing Soleirus. "Why did your mother not inform me you had this condition? I would think that she would tell me about something as important as this since it would keep you from being deployed on combat missions," Tyler asked pointedly, much to Soleirus' horror at not being able to fight.

Soleirus seemed to debate with herself before sighing. "Because it's not important for us Ethereals. All Ethereals have this condition, so it's not really helpful talking about your own species' death, thus making the topic taboo," she admitted to her commanding officer.

Tyler nodded slowly trying to wrap his mind around the idea that the entire Ethereal race was slowly dying. Dismissing a faint memory of Hopkins, he looked over at Hissa and saw she was staring open-mouthed and wide-eyed at Soleirus. "The Elders are… dying?" she whispered in stunned disbelief.

"Well, yes and no," Soleirus responded. "The Elder's condition has reached a point that they have put their bodies into stasis while they work on a cure, this is why they communicate with their psionic projections," Soleirus explained.

"Why all the secrecy then?" Tyler asked while glancing at Hissa to see her slowly coming to grips with what they were told.

"Could you imagine the pandemonium that would occur if it was revealed that the Elders and the Ethereal species as a whole were dying? Many think of us as gods and their guiding force in the chaos of the universe, if they were to hear that we would soon perish, it would cause widespread panic and hysteria, as well as embolden our enemies," Soleirus explained as she attempted to convey how important keeping this new information secret was.

Tyler could indeed see how that information could be taken negatively by the more religious members of ADVENT. "Have the Elders found any possible cure?"

Soleirus nodded slowly. "Yes, they have hinted to finding a possible solution but they are being very quiet about what it is in case it doesn't work. Though they have stated it will be a while before anything could be said for certain," She conveyed sadly. "In the meantime, the rest of us continue our lives, waiting and hoping for a cure to come before our condition claims us like it has so many of our predecessors." Tyler could only imagine living your life knowing that you and your entire species was dying and desperately hoping for a cure that may not come.

"B-but that makesss no sssenssse!" Hissa shouted in disbelief and confusion. "I've been ssstudying the tissssue degeneration for the passst week and have already found a cure for it! I wanted Tyler here ssso that I could talk it over with the both of you!" Hissa stated in confusion and disbelief.

Soleirus and Tyler now were staring at Hissa in disbelief. "…How have you found a cure for an illness that the Elders with all their resources couldn't find?" Tyler asked slowly.

"That'sss whatsss so confusssing!" Hissa declared before explaining "The answer was so easssy to find that there isss no way the Eldersss don't know about it!"

Tyler quickly understood that there was likely more going on here than he was supposed to know and so quickly leaped into action. "Glitch, secure the room," Tyler stated, which was quickly followed by the door locking and all non-essential equipment shutting down.

"Secured Sir," came the voice of Glitch from the speakers.

Tyler turned to the pair sitting before him and looking at him, wondering what he just did and who he was speaking to. "I'll tell you later, Hissa what's this cure you've found."

Hissa slowly nodded before looking back to Soleirus who was regarding the Viper intently. "Well the anssswer wasss rather sssimple, by integrating human DNA into an Ethereal, one can eliminate the tissssue degeneration and also ssstrangthen the body."

Tyler and Soleirus both regarded the Viper in disbelief that the solution was so simple. "Are there any drawbacks to this procedure?"

"Yesss quite a few actually," the Viper stated. "The procedure will require changing over thirty percent of the recipient'sss DNA ssstructure, resssulting in large physical differencesss. Sssome of which include growing a human mouth, hair, nossse, increasssed mussscle densssity by 110%, increasssed bone ssstrength by 50% , ssskeletal changesss, organ changesss," Hissa paused and glanced at the Ethereal before continuing, "Reproductive changesss, and finally a lossss of over eighty percent of the recipient'sss psionic ability. Becaussse of the sssheer amount of changesss, the sssubject would have to be put asssleep for over a month for the procedure to work while organsss are grown and implanted sssurgically in, followed by weeksss of rehabilitation. Thisss kind of rewrite isss even worssse than Hopkinsss' procedure becaussse of the sssheer about of changesss to the body."

Soleirus reeled her head back as the Viper listed all of the vast changes that would occur from this procedure. "Reproductive changes… eighty percent of my psionic power," Soleirus said in shock at what she would lose for having her future secured.

Hissa nodded. "I would bet that you wouldn't be able to have children with an Ethereal who hadn't undergone a similar procedure due to being incompatible both physssically and physssiologically. Alssso, the lossss of eighty percent of your psssionic power isss sssubstantial enough that I doubt you'll be able to float conssstantly all the time or form all but the sssimplesst of psssionic attacksss. Projecting your voice would alssso be impossssible without being in clossse proximity to sssomeone and the ssstrength of you psssionic abilitiesss you do retain will be much more depleted… alssso no more teleporting," Hissa explained, painfully knowing how much the Ethereals valued their psionic ability.

The three lapsed into silence for a bit while Soleirus thought over what she wanted to do finally she asked in a quivering voice "W-why would the Elders keep this from us?"

Tyler was the one who answered. "Because of the loss of their psionic ability." When the two looked to him questioningly Tyler straightened his shoulders before telling them what he had just worked out in his own head. "The Elders, above all others, value their psionic abilities more than any other members of the Ethereal race. Ethereal psionics gets stronger with age and the loss of so much psionic ability to the Elders is magnitudes stronger than yourself Soleirus. Also, the ADVENT coalition and the entire hierarchy the Elders have created relics on both the Elder's almost godlike status and their supreme psionic powers. Without their psionic powers being what they are now, the Elders will not be able to maintain control over those under them or keep tabs on the going on within their empire. It is likely that they view both of these scenarios as unacceptable, and on top of all the physical changes they would have to deal with, they ended up trashing the idea."

Soleirus seethed in anger. From what she knew of her own species and the Elders themselves, she agreed with the Commander's assessment of events but was still outraged by the Elders secrecy regarding such a breakthrough regardless of the drawbacks. Many Ethereals had died to their condition since the abdication of Earth to ADVENT, and it is likely many could have been saved by undertaking this procedure. If that weren't enough, birth rates among her species were abysmally low and even under a successful one, the birth was extremely painful and often resulted in the death of the parent. Soleirus's mother Junia had been one of the lucky ones to not perish thanks to her incredible will and slightly stronger body gifted to her thanks to months of physical conditioning her mother went through on her own to prepare for her birth. This procedure would allow females the option of giving birth to any male that had undergone the treatment as well, damn the loss of psionic abilities!

"I'll do it," Soleirus announced suddenly as she floated upward into a standing position.

Tyler and Vissta gazed at the Ethereal for a while before Tyler spoke up. "Not without consulting your mother first," getting Soleirus's attention "This is a big decision, and one the Elders and many other Ethereals will likely not approve of. If we want this to work we have to get the backing of your mother, otherwise, the Elders will rain down unholy rage against me and the 77th HVG. However, if we have the backing of a prominent Fleet Admiral and a member of the Ethereal Council, they will likely be unable to make any overt moves against us," Tyler explained to which both Soleirus and Hissa nodded.

"I'll need a week to prepare the procedure anyway, I want to ssstart growing the organsss ahead of time too ssso they'll ready to be implanted. I would want a next of kin'sss permissssion anyway for a procedure like thisss," Hissa agreed before turning to Soleirus. "If you could ssstay here for a bit, I need to go over what your preferencesss you want to implement on your new body."

Tyler stood up. "Well I'll leave you two too it, this is something that sounds strictly between patient and doctor. I'll discuss my own mods with you another day Hissa, focus your attention on this."

Hissa nodded and watched as Tyler walked out of her lab before turning to her newest patient. "Ssso, what color would you like your hair?" she asked excitedly as Soleirus had a sinking suspicion that she would be there for quite a bit.

XXX

Tyler made his way back to his office and was greeted by the site of Privates Ark, Nikos, Belladonna, and Sergeant Fall waiting anxiously outside of his office. At the site of their Commander walking toward them, the four quickly snapped to attention and saluted which Tyler returned before addressing them.

"Good to see you four up here so quickly, unfortunately, we have to make this brief today as Commander Vissta will be visiting shortly to inspect the Viper community outside. Please follow me into my office" Tyler instructed before making his way through the doors followed quietly by the four troopers behind him. As Tyler sat down behind his desk he regarded the four troopers standing behind him at attention.

Standing furthest on the left was Private Pyrrha Nikos, an athletic nineteen-year-old young woman with long red hair that she tied up into a bun when needing her helmet and striking emerald green eyes. She had graduated top of her combat class during the academy especially in regards to one on one combat. Tyler knew that she fancied herself a dualist and took great pride in her achievements and prowess. She was quite famous actually in Europe but despite her own fame, Tyler saw that she was a kind-hearted woman that always was trying to help her comrades and give advice when needed. She was the designated marksman of the four and was just as accurate at long range as she was in CQC.

Standing beside her on her left was Private Jaune Arc. Arc was an interesting individual in Tyler's own opinion. The young eighteen-year-old blond had come from a rather prestigious old war military family and applied to join the ADVENT peacekeepers without his father's consent, an act that Tyler understands created a lot of friction between Jaune and his father. Jaune himself was initially rather lackluster in physical ability but had been able to pass basic training thanks to sheer determination and will, pushing his body to its limit in order to prove himself. When he had arrived at the 77ths base Tyler had seen that behind the bumbling blue-eyed kid was a natural leader with keen instincts and a good grasp on tactics. Tyler also noted that despite the private having grown up with seven sisters he was rather clueless about women and lacked a lot of confidence in himself which combined with his rather poor physical abilities and awkward social skills made him a shoe-in for the unit clown. Tyler honestly hoped that some nice girl would see the young man's good qualities like his caring personality, loyalty, humble opinion, and when necessary confidence and authority Tyler had seen during Tokyo. Tyler had also noticed that since losing the majority of his squad during the battle of Tokyo, Arc had grown more serious often spending more time training and finding more time alone to think. Tyler had often seen him atop the ship watching the clouds in deep thought. Tyler would have been concerned if not for the fact that Arc had also dedicated himself to self-improvement and his remaining squadmates often trying to make things as easy for them as possible and being hyper-aware of anything that would threaten them. Tyler decided to wait and see how this situation would play out before making a decision to intervene or not.

Next to Arc was Private Blake Belladonna, the enigma of the team. Belladonna was the team's infiltration expert and was a striking raven black hair and pale skin with bright yellow eyes. She was often reading quietly to herself in a secluded corner somewhere and performed to keep to herself. Blake's background was highly suspect when she first arrived at the 77ths base but Tyler had managed to piece together her background thanks to tracking down her mother after a DNA test. Blake had apparently been born to Ghira Belladonna and Kali Belladonna seventeen years ago and after Ghira was killed accidentally by ADVENT forces during an insurrectionists attack had run away from home to join a resistance group called the White Fang based somewhere in the former Russia. She had been with the group for five years or so but left shortly after the group's methods became more violent and soon joined ADVENT with the sole intention of joining the 77th HVG after hearing about their defense of the Viper Nest in Vietnam. Blake hadn't spoken to anyone about her past and Tyler was able to see that the young woman was fighting with them as some sort of repentance for her former groups actions a fact that also explained why Blake had organized for ninety percent of her pay be donated to charities ranging from orphans, wounded soldiers, and alien civilian housing. Tyler had gone behind the woman's back and arranged for twenty of the ninety percent to be sent to her mother Kali who when Tyler found her was living near-destitute in the wilds of former Austria. Kali had apparently spent her families' fortune trying to track down Blake and eventually came to the conclusion she died sending the grieving widow into self-exile. She had been shocked when Tyler had shown up at her door and ecstatic to learn that her daughter was alive and currently a member of the 77th. She had decided to not confront Blake however as she was convinced that Blake was already far too ashamed of herself and if she saw her mother and the condition her departure had left her in would send her even deeper into her own despair. Tyler had reluctantly agreed but had kept in contact with the caring mother and did what he could to improve her situation and keep her updated on her daughter. Tyler had even recently organized for the thirty-four-year-old to move to Sydney Australia in order for her to be closer in case the day came when she could see her daughter again. As Tyler started to look away from Blake he honestly hoped that day would come sooner rather than later.

The last individual was Sergeant Cinder Fall the squad's leader. Cinder Fall was considered by many to be one of the most attractive females on base with flowing black hair, flawless pale skin, glimmering amber eyes, and smooth slender legs the twenty-five-year-old Cinder could definitely turn more than a few heads in the hallway however it was the small things that made Cinder one of the most coveted females in the 77th. The way she moved as she walked showed purpose and confidence, the sway of her hips and slight smirk both enticed those around her and also brought forth a sense of awe-inspiring grace to her movements. However, the predatory gleam of penetrating perception and calculating intelligence behind her amber orbs is what struck Tyler first and what prompted him to investigate the woman's background. Cinder had grown up in the slums of LA during the ADVENT's rise and had survived as a street urchin with cunning and sometimes brutal efficiency. She had made a name for herself in the criminal underworld by age fifteen but had tired of having to deal with constantly watching her back and making sure she wasn't stabbed or worse every day. She had joined the academy through a contact with an into the ADVENT administration she called Salem. Whoever this Salem was they got Cinder into the academy by her sixteenth birthday where she excelled in tactics and strategy though she was definitely no slouch in combat either. She had graduated at nineteen and served five years between various units but kept getting transferred for questioning her commanding officers and insulting them. She was eventually transferred to the 77th and had immediately talked Tyler into a game of chess which Tyler would later discover was her usual trend when under a new commanding officer. The game had started rather typical with both sides probing the other's defenses and reactions before Cinder had started to make 'mistakes' here and there. It took a while but by the third 'mistake' Tyler had realized that Cinder's 'mistakes' were actually her setting up her pieces into the optimal position for an endgame move were she would launch an attack with her knight to force Tyler's queen out of position and at risk from her now optimally placed pieces. Tyler would have to scramble to counter them and lose precious pieces before Cinder's black queen would finish him off and topple his white king. Now aware of her strategy Tyler had thrown a wrench into her plans by purposely missing the openings she was giving him and instead using the move to advance his pawns forward. This continued with Cinder growing increasingly annoyed that Tyler didn't take the bait, it wasn't until his bishop took one of her few defending pieces that forced her to defend that she realized with shock at what Tyler had done. Tyler had made Cinder focus entirely on his important pieces as they were the keys to his king's defenses however while Cinder was busy corralling them to the perfect positions for her trap Tyler's pawns had pushed forward and isolated her pieces while breaking through into her backfield. Now with her king in jeopardy, she couldn't move any of her more mobile pieces back to defense without them being taken by Tyler's pawns. The end result was Tyler's pawns promoting and putting her king into check-mate her king. Tyler had thanked her for the amazing game and quietly left back to his office. When she confronted him later about the strategy he used he admitted that he saw that she only cared about the pieces with greater abilities like the knight and queen, she neglected if not outright ignored the lowly grunts like the pawn. However Tyler also told her that the pawns like the regular troopers on a battlefield were the true keys to the battlefield, they advanced the lines of battle, broke through or pinned down the enemy's forces where they could but like a normal soldier had the potential with time to be something great. "After all," Tyler had told her "Heroes are born on the battlefield." Tyler's words had left an impact on Cinder who after their chess game was notable more accepting of her comrades a feeling which only grew after the events of Tokyo.

The four now stood under Tyler's scrutinizing gaze anxiously awaiting their fate before finally, Tyler began to speak. "I'll start off by saying that I'm sorry it took me so long to come to a decision about what to do with the four of you but recent recruitment surges and other developments that have been cropping up have postponed my decision. Finally however I believe that I have just the assignment for the four of you given your skills that I have seen myself during the battle of Tokyo."

The four of them stood a little straighter before Cinder ask "I can assume sir then that we will not be part of our old squad?"

Tyler shook his head "No, instead the four of you will be assigned to Shadow 1" he explained to which he received four confused looks.

"Shadow 1 sir?" Private Blake asked not recognizing the designation.

Tyler nodded before reaching into his desk and pulling out a small stack of paper and sliding it over four the four to read. "Yes, officially Shadow 1 is the designation for my personal guard. If I go anywhere off base you four will accompany me." Tyler explained receiving surprised looks from the four before him.

"Sir" Cinder began "While I'm honored that you trust us enough to make us your personal guard, I'm hesitant to believe that the four of us will be sufficient to guarantee your protection."

Tyler nodded acknowledging the Sergeant's point "You would be correct however you will also be joined by three two other troopers eventually to bolster your number as well as receive advanced gene modifications and training."

Cinder nodded before narrowing her eyes in suspicion "Sir you said officially before, what about unofficially?"

Tyler locked eyes with the raven-haired woman and gave a pleased grin "Thought you would catch on to that, you're correct Sergeant you also have another role. Shadow 1 and other squads like her will also be assigned to infiltration missions and other similar black ops that will place you in deep behind enemy territory or enemy camps. The significance of these missions will help bolster 77th operations and provide critical intelligence to ADVENT high command and the Elders. However, these missions will also serve to prepare you for eventually taking on White ops."

"White ops?" Private Jaune asked in confusion.

Tyler nodded "Yes, I selected you four for this squad not only because I can trust you but also because you don't completely buy into the ADVENT propaganda and like me question the Elders goals."

Cinder nodded "Yes while we were at the Commander's meeting it was clear the there was a division between those Commanders that were part of the Specials branch and those that were not. Also, the Specials Commanders seemed to be privy to orders and operations that the rest of us were not."

Tyler nodded "Yes I also believe that the ambush that befell Bravo 2 was planned and orchestrated by either the Elders or the ADVENT council despite their assurances it wasn't the facts and evidence point to an attempt to assassinate myself and whoever else had accompanied me if I had gone on the mission as I usually did."

"However Command Sergeant Major Hopkins went instead." Cinder stated in relation.

Tyler nodded "Yes I don't think whoever planned the ambush expected me to send someone else to a mission delivered by ADVENT high command. It would also suggest that my own promotion to commander was also an attempt to dissuade me from believing that the whole thing wasn't a blatant assassination attempt, however in light of the other evidence I have it would appear that the Elders and ADVENT have other as of yet unknown goals for earth that don't match up with their front as benevolent peacekeepers. More is explained in the files I just gave you."

The four looked through the stack of papers with visible growing frowns and narrowed eyes, finally, Cinder looked up at Tyler and stated her mind "I'm assuming then that these 'White Ops' are missions that go against the Elders or at least are missions you don't want them to know about?"

Tyler nodded his head "Yes, while I already have a group doing such missions they can be hard to reach and are limited in number with no real way to replace them. Shadow 1 will be used to either complete mission in their stead or help reinforce their operations. It also serves as a way to familiarize troopers with the 77th with these commandos." Tyler then turned to the four and regarded them with a piercing look "I cannot stress the secrecy involved with these operations enough as any leak that may reach the ears of ADVENT or the Elders will be enough grounds for them to declare myself and likely the rest of the 77th HVG as traitors and order our execution. Simply put you cannot talk about these activities to anyone or at all if you're not in a secured area like my office, don't even discuss it while on base if outside this room."

The four nodded in understanding, feeling the weight their new positions held "Good" Tyler stated seeing their resolve and understanding before he grabbed a small box from his desk drawer and stood up and causing the four to snap to attention. "Than as a result of your four actions and character during the battle of Tokyo, I think you all deserve a promotion."

Tyler made his way over to Pyrrha Nikos and opened the box "Pyrrha Nikos for courageous actions during combat that exemplify the values of a member of the 77th Human Volunteer Group I hereby promote you to the Rank of Sergeant with all of the benefits and responsibilities the rank entails. Congratulations Sergeant Nikos, I hope you will continue to serve the 77th with distinction." Tyler stated while pinning the new rank onto the red-haired woman's uniform collar.

Pyrrha gave a grateful smile before shaking her Commanders hand and saluting him "I'll strive to exceed your expectations, sir."

Tyler nodded and gave the young woman a nod "I look forward to it than Nikos." Tyler than steeped to the right before Jaune Arc and pulled a different pin out of the box. "Jaune Arc for exceptional conduct in the face of overwhelming odds, I hereby promote you to the rank of Sergeant Major and give you the position of second in command of all future shadow company operations. Congratulations Sergeant Major Arc." Tyler stated to the shocked Arc while shaking his hand.

"T-thankyou sir, but are you sure I'm the one you want?" Jaune asked not quite believing that his commanding officer thought he was a good choice for such an important role.

Tyler nodded after finishing putting the man's new rank on his collar and gave the blond a firm stare "I believe you have the makings of a fine leader Arc, work on your confidence and keep up your training and you'll be a force to be reckoned with." Tyler stated before giving the young man a nod and moving to the next in line.

"Private Blake Belladonna for your unwavering resolve and devotion to protecting your teammates I hereby promote you to the rank of Sergeant with all the benefits and responsibilities the rank entails," Tyler stated while pinning the rank on the girl's collar and shaking her hand.

"Thank you, sir" the quite girl stated not quite sure she deserved the rank given her past.

"You deserve it, Blake, you've bled and fought next to us and with us against overwhelming opposition. No matter what doubts you may have, you have earned a place here with the 77th HVG and as a member of Shadow Company." Tyler stated with a gentle smile.

Blake's eyes widened marginally in shock wondering at the implications of her commanding officer seeming to understand her hesitance of accepting her place in the 77th before the man's words registered and Blake was touched by the message behind them. "No matter your life before you belong here." The message Tyler had given her obviously meant he was at least partially aware of her past allegiances or at the least suspected them but despite that was telling her he accepted her regardless. "Thank you, sir, I'll keep that in mind." She replied gratefully with a small smile to which Tyler returned before moving to the last person in line.

Tyler locked eyes with the amber stare of Cinder Fall and held them for a good ten seconds before beginning "Cinder Fall for exceptional skill, resolve, and tactics during combat operations as an NCO and in the face of severe casualties as a result of enemy actions I hereby promote you to the rank of Captain and give you command of Shadow company. Due to the nature of your new position close interaction between the two of us is required along with an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the 77th HVG is required and so I also give you the position as my aid. Congratulations Captain Fall, I expect great things from you."

Cinder's eyes had widened at the huge promotion before narrowing in thought as she tried to discern her new role. Harrington had put her in charge of a still building unit that was going to be conducting operations for and against the ADVENT administration. Obviously, the Commander was aware of her rather dubious background so why was he putting her in a position that she could exploit for her own benefit. On one hand she owed Harrington for taking a bullet for her in Tokyo but on the other hand, old habits die hard and Cinder couldn't help but think of all the different ways she could use her newfound power to influence events to her own liking, a possibility that seemed obvious given her background… wait.

Cinders eyes narrowed in both respect and grudging acceptance and gave a small smirk "Thank you for the position sir and very clever."

Tyler for his part nodded "You're the best candidate for the job Captain Fall report to my office tomorrow at 1030 hours for a debriefing of 77th operations and again Congratulations. For now, the four of you are dismissed to pack your belongings and move into your new barracks, speak to Abrams for the new room assignments." Tyler stated before the four walked out of his office.

As Cinder left the room she couldn't help but marvel at what the Commander had done. By promoting her to the position as commanding the 77th's black ops Tyler had effectively given her access to information of 77th HVG operations that only Hopkins had been privy too before he left. However, by doing so, Tyler had also made it so that should Cinder ever try and blackmail the commander he could point out her own criminal history and accuse her of using her new position and resources to help the resistance. Tyler could have her arrested and executed on the spot and ADVENT high command wouldn't fault him if not even praise him for acting so decisively. This would normally have pissed Cinder off if not for the fact that Tyler was also still giving her the green light to using that same information and resources however she wished so long as she did it to help the 77th. With her being backed by someone like Tyler who had the Commander rank she could have almost unrestricted control of what will eventually be an entire company of highly trained commandoes with large resources and little to no oversight outside of Tyler himself. Hell, she could walk into any ADVENT supply depo and take whatever she wanted without repercussions merely by stating it was under orders from Commander Harrington. It was a level of power and influence that Cinder had never had before in her life and put her in a higher position than even the units second in command Captain Abrams.

Cinder had to use all her self-control to repress the excited shiver that crawled down her spine at the thought of her new role. "Oh, Harrington you have no idea how happy you just made me. I'll be sure to return the favor~" Cinder thought as she glided out the door and down the hallway.

Tyler felt an odd tickle of foreboding suddenly at the back of his head as Shadow 1 left the room. "Why do I feel that I just made my life more difficult?" Tyler thought before a call suddenly came from the room's speakers "Commander Harrington, just notifying you that Commander Vissta's dropship is on approach" the CIC's communications officer announced before hanging up.

Tyler nodded and gathered himself to see one of the most influential and one of his most favorite snakes on the planet. "Well let's hope this goes well," he thought before making his way out of the office.

Aaaannnndddd Chapter!

Man its good to be working on this fic again. Between my new job, and balancing my other fics I finally reached a breaking point and had to reconsider what I could actually work on. So, in the end, XCOM: Humanity Rising and The Virus Tamer: Swords of the League were the only two I could continue writing while Guardians of Lylat, and Awake and Alive: Adaptation are going to be rewritten because of time constraints and me wanting to change key aspects of the plot.

Anyway for those that may be confused about the role of Shadow Company in the 77th vs that of Price's group wait till Cinder gets debriefed for more information on that.

Anyway, about the pairing for this fic I can confirm some individuals for you all

Tyler: Vissta, Dr. Hissa, Ethera, Cinder Fall, Shal, Edith, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN

Jaune Arc: Pyrrha Nikos, Blake Belladonna (I like Blake/Jaune)

As for the two unknowns one is a given and will be revealed later but the other I'm actually leaving up to you guys in a poll on my account.

The options are: Chrysalid Queen, Junia, or Soleirus. You'll be allowed two votes were you can pick one or you two most favorite or you can pick the All Three option and your most favorite as a backup.

Anyway until next time remember to stay frosty and don't forget to review!