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Fanfic / Sympathy for the Devil

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She wanted to be able to help who she could from the Elders. If she was able to escape, why shouldn't they?

An XCOM 2 Fan Fic by Big Demoband, Sympathy for the Devil revolves around the Commander, Elizabeth O'Leary, deciding to not eliminate the Chosen Hunter, Ref-Il Mordenna, but to capture him alive after destroying his Sarcophagus. It goes on to explain the why of that decision, and how it turns the world of the game upside-down in several aspects.

As of August 2021, the story is completed on Archive of Our Own, with sixty nine chapters published. It can also be found on FanFiction.Net. It has also spawned The Devil's Footnotes, a complementary collection of snippets focusing on characters' backstory and intermissions between chapters or before the start of the main story.

The story has an official blog where questions can be asked about the characters and the story, and where snippets of stories that didn't make it into the bigger picture rest.


This Fan Fic provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The Elders. They demand much of their Chosen, but give no non-material support in return, and punish them for their own mistakes. False love doesn't begin to describe their attitude.
  • Achilles' Heel: The Chosen have specific weaknesses, as per the game.
    • Mordenna, The Hunter, is Brittle - weak to close-range attacks including melee strikes such as SPARK punches.
    • Fal-Mai, The Assassin, is Shellshocked - extremely weak to explosives. In-story, it's justified by how her acute hearing impairs her to the loud sounds of explosions.
    • Jax-Rai, The Warlock, is Bewildered - weak to multiple attacks at once. The explanation given is that he's unable to focus on several different things simultaneously, and gets overwhelmed as a result.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Much of the fic's backstory revolves around the Commander not being purely a Wetware CPU for ADVENT. Her interactions with the Chosen, most notably the Hunter, and her awareness of how the Elders mistreated them, are what motivates her to pull them to her side.
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    • There are entire chapters dedicated to the viewpoints of all the Chosen, and their inner thoughts on the whole context. They're not simply two-dimensional psychopaths.
  • A Father to His Men: The Warlock genuinely cares for his coterie of Priests to the point that he stops deploying them in battle and orders them to run or hide if XCOM come for him. They love him in turn, comforting him and trying to heal him after the Elders punish him for the Assassin's capture. When he's sure XCOM is coming for him after the Assassin is captured, he sends them all away to a safe location outside the Stronghold; after XCOM takes him in, the congregation responds in turn by going along them.
  • Agony Beam: The Elders' preferred method to punish the Chosen. If applied strongly, it can leave lasting scars that Chosen regeneration cannot heal.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The Hunter's preferred method of navigating the Avenger is through its ventilation system. Justified in that it doubles as a maintenance crawlspace for quick access to critical areas on the ship, and it's noted that it's large enough to fit even the towering Chosen.
  • Broken Pedestal: As early as Chapter Three, the perfect view of the Elders that the Assassin and the Warlock harbor is shattered when they're punished because the Hunter was kidnapped, when they themselves did nothing worthy of reprimand.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: Limb loss is a kind of injury that the natural Healing Factor of a Chosen can't make up for. When Fal-Mai loses her arm in Chapter 39 and they don't retrieve it in time, it's gone for good.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jax's Priests and Archbishop come close to being his Morality Pets with the care and outright affection he shows for them, even going as far as to hug them when he's not feeling the best. They very much return this.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Elders do not seem to understand human emotions (in fact they actively despise them), and so cannot empathize with the minions that they mistreat and abuse. Nor can they understand just why the Commander captured one of their Chosen at the start of the story, for the same reason.
  • Explosive Leash: Mordenna makes a joke about having one early on, when the offer to join XCOM is extended to him. Cronus ends up putting one on Jax, presenting it as a countermeasure to the shackles XCOM used to capture Fal-Mai. During the raid on his Stronghold, the other Chosen realize what it is and manage to get it off Jax in time.
  • Gut Feeling: Samhien, a Skirmisher on XCOM's side, has an uncanny ability to interact with people based on their emotions, even if they're not showing. The Assassin postulates that he's an empath, a low level psion that can feel the emotions in others, after she captures him.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Beyond the Chosen themselves a number of other aliens end up defecting to XCOM as the separation of the Commander and Chosen from the alien command & control network causes it to break down. The current roster includes a Codex, a Sectoid, a Specter, and an Andromedon.
  • Heroic RRoD: Clint, the Psi Operative, overloads his psi-amp so much it glows like a star while he's attempting to subdue the Hunter. It works, but the effort cracks the psi-amp and leaves him in a coma.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Much of Mordenna's motivation for joining XCOM is to get back at the Elders for putting his nose to the grinder like they did. Fal-Mai has a similar reasoning, without the revenge subtext, sparked by the undeserved psionic lashing from the Elders after Mordenna's capture, something she and Jax-Rai didn't have any control over. Though he is still largely conflicted, it ends up being Jax's reason for joining XCOM as well—while he still tries to justify the Elders' actions, the severity of them leaves him questioning.
  • Never My Fault: One of the faults of the Elders is pettily refusing to take responsibility for their own mess-ups. When Jax-Rai is questioned and says to them that his "father," Cronus, ordered him to not help Fal-Mai, Cronus goes mental on him for "defacing" him.
  • Non-Entity General: Averted. The Commander is a full-fledged character with an explained backstory from even before the 2015 invasion, and her characterization is a cornerstone of the plot.
  • Offing the Offspring: Cronus himself reveals after the fact that the "punishment" Jax went under was actually intended to kill him. It was only through Argus's intervention that Jax lives at all.
  • Psychic Link: According to Fal-Mai, the Chosen all share a low link with each other. When one Chosen experiences an extreme emotion, the others get ghosts of it, too. It's the reason Fal-Mai knows early on that Jax was punished when she was taken. The link continues to be a factor throughout the story, letting the Chosen know when one of their siblings is suffering—and with their growing fondness for each other, it allows them to seek them out and comfort them.
  • Scars are Forever: The Warlock receives a brand of burnt skin on his back when he's punished for the Assassin's capture. Maria, his personal Priest, thinks it won't heal even with the regeneration provided by the Sarcophagus or his own innate Healing Factor. Later on the Chosen talk on the topic and figure that they all have psionic scarring on their backs, with Mordenna likely having it the worst with how many times he's gotten the "belt."
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The Hunter adopted a sailor's book on profanity after being disconnected from the ADVENT network. According to him, he didn't do it before because the Elders don't appreciate swearing.
  • The Sleepless: None of the Chosen have a true need for sleep. The Warlock can, but only when he's fully relaxed, though he states to the Commander that he enjoys it; the Assassin is unsure she's able to, but ponders whether she may have nodded off during meditation a few times when she was so tired she felt she could; and the Hunter outright states that he's physically unable to sleep because of how the Elders wired his brain up.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: The sessions of back-and-forth between the Hunter and the Commander can be resumed as this, even if they're on different sides.
  • Sour Supporter: Mordenna is very snarky and cynical about most things, and if pushed, he tends to become abrasive and even violent. He does this to masquerade his own doubts, insecurities and fears about things, and even behaves like this towards himself.
  • Super Senses: The Hunter has extremely acute sight, while the Assassin has unnaturally refined hearing. This is part of the reason why she's so vulnerable to explosions.
  • Tailor-Made Prison:
    • The Commander's plans involve containment chambers tailored exactly to neuter the abilities of the Chosen. Notably, building the Warlock's cell to a degree that blocks his substantial psionic power proves to be a bigger challenge for Shen and her crew, as mentioned when she talks to the Commander.
    • Later on, the Engineering team comes up with a set of shackles designed to completely bind the Assassin and also counter her Vanishing Wind power. It turns out to not be totally necessary.
  • Tears of Fear: Jax-Rai, the Warlock, is piss-terrified of the Elders, the power they wield, and of being subjected to their "attentions." After Fal-Mai's capture, when he's called to the Meeting Hall alone, he's so scared that he starts crying. Cronus, to put it lightly, sees it as weakness.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted. While no official therapists lurk on the Avenger, Eliza has taken it upon herself to hear out the Chosen and try to help them with the trauma they face from the Elders' "parenting". The main problem with that is that there's nobody acting as a therapist for the therapist herself.
  • Thinking Out Loud: Mordenna suffers from a chronic case, constantly either narrating his thoughts or replying to them verbally whenever he's alone. It's highly implied he got this behavior from Eliza, who also habitually talks to herself. Mordenna muses that he got more than Eliza's tactical prowess during the six months that she was imprinted on him.
  • Throwing the Fight: Non-sports example. When XCOM assaults the Assassin's Stronghold, Fal-Mai puts up a fight but makes several uncharacteristic tactical mistakes. By the time her Sarcophagus is busted, she barely bothers pretending to put up a fight. Foreshadowed by the Double Speak in her banter before Menace reaches the Ascension Chamber.
  • Trauma Conga Line:
    • One data stream hacked by XCOM from the Hunter's Cradle, the location where Mordenna was created, reveal that through six months he had the Commander's entire tactical archive shoved into his mind. The following six months entailed continuous field tests so taxing that the Hunter often died while going through them, just from the strain of it all. As a result, Mordenna is physically unable to sleep.
    • The Warlock is subjected to one psionic lashing after the Hunter's capture, so when he's called after feeling the Assassin die twice, he already goes in feeling scared. When he asks a perfectly valid question about why he didn't assist his sister when her Stronghold was invaded by XCOM, he's punished for "defacing" the image of the Elder that created him, made worse when he can't contain his Tears of Fear. The lashing is even worse than the first time, to the point where it warps his alloy armor, and leaves him with a permanent brand-like scar. Afterwards, he's left lost as to what to do.
  • Unexpectedly Abandoned: When Menace invades the Warlock's stronghold, they're surprised to find it empty aside from the Warlock himself talking to them through the comms. Jax-Rai sent all of his contingent away to a safe location before XCOM arrived, as to not waste their lives on a futile battle. Only two Priests are found, and they're non-combatants and they're allowed to go away by Menace.
  • Void Between the Worlds: The Void is further fleshed out from the source material—it is a plane of existence where the Elders bide their time and the Warlock draws some of his powers from.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: The Warlock, to a degree that after being viciously lashed by Cronus, the Elder responsible for his creation, he's quick to assure himself and his Priests that it was his fault for speaking out against him. His reasoning is that if he hadn't spoke up, Cronus wouldn't have had cause to punish him.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Defied. When the Assassin destroys SYN-CLARE during the assault on her Stronghold, morale on XCOM's side drops considerably. Yes, he was just a SPARK, but he was still a member of Menace 1-5. Even the Hunter says he liked the bucket of bolts. Only one thing cushions the blow, and that is Shen saying that there's hope to restore him from a backup data core. With the help of the Hunter, Shen manages to do it, and SYN is restored to his self pre-stronghold incursion.