CHAPTER 6

Descent

Gambit sat patiently just outside the evolution cocoon before him, gently bringing a cup of warm tea to his lips and taking a sip. Steam rose from the cup, ascending slowly into the starry sky above. The sound of metal crunching and gears grinding in the distance no longer scared him, neither did the threat of death. He'd been played for a fool, used as an object of amusement by the one person he thought to be a true friend. He had almost looked up to Crow as a father figure, someone who would always protect and teach him.

The metallic noises got closer and closer, causing Gambit's pulse to quicken. The faint light of the moon was suddenly eclipsed, a shrill shadow falling over the boy's fire. He rested his free hand over the belt he wore around his waist, grasping the hilt of the pistol that rested there as the sound of a cockpit opening hissed in his ears. Footsteps approached him from behind, coming ever closer with each passing second. His fingers twitched at the want to draw the weapon, but he resisted the urge as best he could. Maybe it was Crow, coming to save him once again. He felt a hand slide up his back and come to rest on his shoulder. He took a deep breath before slightly turning his head to see if he recognized the hand.

Rotten, putrid flesh squeezed his shoulder roughly, and a faint cackle was heard from above him. Gambit whirled around, drawing his pistol and aiming it at the new arrival. The Spawn was Jack, the pilot from before, his blood red eyes shining brightly in the shadow of a squad of Zoids standing behind him. A horrible, cracked voice emerged from his cursed lips. "I told you I would have my revenge," the Spawn said, "meet the Nightstrike unit."

Gambit looked over the Zoids that stood behind him and his foe. A pair of heavily modified Guysacks flanked a stolen Royal Zaber Fang. The Guysacks were both pitch black in color, with dark blue cockpits and distinct symbols consisting of a sword stuck in a star painted on their claws. They were each equipped with a massive cannon on their backs, supported on either side by a pair of high performance boosters. Gambit knew the cannons to be the Spawn-bred Z-Breakers, roughly AZ230mm in caliber and built to be fired from underground, on top of the ground or underwater.

The Zaber Fang was a dark purple, with a lime green cockpit and the same sword in star symbol that seemed to mark them as the same unit. It was equipped with a pair of twin heavy 100mm laser repeaters, as well as a CP-02 Flight Pack and the standard weapons found on any normal Zaber. Gambit kept his gun aimed steadily at the head of his rival, not even flinching at the overwhelming show of firepower from the Nightstrike unit.

"Brave one, aren't you?" Jack cackled. Gambit's face remained serious. "We're here for the evolved Gun Sniper, to replace my Spiner that you decimated."

"Well you can't have it" Gambit said solemnly. Another hideous laugh came from the Spawn.

"You're not in any position to negotiate, the Sniper and the organoid belong to me now," Jack said, placing his hand over the barrel of Gambit's pistol. "Besides, you know that silly weapon won't damage me." The sound of a gun shot erupted through the night and Gambit winced in the after effects of pulling the trigger. The hole blown open in Jack's hand was quickly covered with a whole new layer of undead flesh. Jack pulled Gambit by the barrel of the pistol and slammed his fist into the boy's face roughly.

Gambit fell to his knees, clenching an open cut in his forehead in agony. "Take him away," Jack ordered, "and prepare to capture the Sniper when it emerges."

o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

The Thunder Islands were perhaps the most beautiful places left on Zi, virtually untouched by the influence of the Spawn and their insidious leaders. Waves crashed against white sand shores, breaking and receding back into the sea at a moments notice. Crow gazed out at the deep blue ocean, watching as the wind controlled each and every wave, curling them to fit its needs. Nature was more powerful than any Zoid in the world, and today, he and the Resistance would have to fight it to uncover the Great One in all its glory.

Beyond the churning waves, a few miles outside of the island Crow stood on, the Navy worked tirelessly, searching for any sign of the Mad Thunder. At the head of the pack was Nicholas, in his Hammerhead. The shark-like Zoid moved with a choreographed elegance through the deep sea, its tail propelling it forward with each wave from side to side. A voice crackled onto his intercom, one he knew very well. "Report status" Crow ordered.

"No luck yet Vengeance, unit 32 picked up some odd aquatic sound waves from their sector but it turned out to be an underwater volcano" Nicholas said.

"Any signs of the enemy?" Crow asked.

"All clear down here, how's it looking up there Juliet?" Nicholas asked.

Far above, in the skies, the ocean blue Raynos flew circles around the main perimeter of the search squad. "Nothing yet, but I'll keep you updated" she said. Behind the Raynos, an entire guard unit of Storm Sworders kept a watchful eye over her as she transmitted data to them.

Back underwater, a new voice clicked onto Nicholas's intercom. "Sir, this is Corporal Douglas Ingram of the Sea Dogs Unit" the voice said.

"Report" Nicholas commanded.

"Sir, we've discovered a large rock formation in sector 5-MT," the Corporal explained, "maybe you should take a look sir."

"Roger that, heading your way" Nicholas said. The Hammerhead shifted its course, flanked by a pair of Warsharks on either side, heading toward the aforementioned sector. A unit of Sinkers met up with the Paladin, quickly taking up the main guard position.

"It's just over this reef formation here sir" Douglas said. Nicholas peered over the bed of reefs and looked down into the massive valley beyond them. Far below, a single, oddly shaped hill of rocks rested. "Our radars are picking up a faint source of heat in the middle of the hill sir, is it the Thunder?"

"I don't know, but we're not going to stand here and wait around," Nicholas answered, "bring in the excavation team."

Crow watched as hundreds of massive transport Zoids, resembling giant crawfish, charged past him, descending into the sea. The Dragoon Nests were each equipped with special drilling parts or lasers over their claws, made especially for digging through even the toughest of rock. The man beamed in admiration of his plan, but one thing poked and prodded at his mind. Where were Craven and the Spawn?

o0o0o0o0o0o0

Gambit moaned as he was thrown into the wall of his containment cell, blood pouring from his head wound as it was opened up once again upon impact. Jack let loose a final villainous cackle before he turned and left Gambit alone in the cell, or so he thought.

"What're you in for?" a voice asked, piercing the silent darkness and cutting into Gambit's ears. Gambit looked around in frustration, unable to see anything but the faint light coming from outside his cell. The shadows all around him seemed to move even closer, pinning him in a corner of despair and sorrow.

"Being too good a pilot I guess" Gambit answered. "Who and where are you?" he asked suspiciously.

"Who I am is unimportant, and I'm about five feet to your left on the top bunk of a bed" the voice answered. The voice was old, and torn. It sounded like that of a very battle-hardened elder. Gambit felt around in the darkness, finding the bottom bunk of the bed and slowly crawling onto it.

"Why are you here?" Gambit asked the darkness. A sigh found his ears.

"My life is one of shame and disgrace, I failed my family and was left for dead by my friends," the voice said. "I ran, unable to bare the burden I carried on my shoulders. Until they caught me. I've been here ever since, for nearly ten years now I've sat in the darkness and pondered my own existence. Glad to have some company finally."

"Can I at least ask where you're from?" asked Gambit.

"Guygalos, before the Chaos Saurer turned it to rubble and killed the Emperor" came the answer.

"Did you fight the Spawn?" Gambit probed.

"I was always more of a scientist than a warrior, but yes, I have seen battle against the evil that reigns over this land" the voice said. Gambit grabbed his chin and thought hard. Why did this man's past sound so damn familiar?

o0o0o0o0o0o

"Vengeance, my radar's picking up a pair of transport Zoids heading right for us!" Juliet exclaimed. "Did you call for a pair of Hammer Kaizers?"

"No, fire at will Juliet, and good luck" Crow said. Juliet smiled and the Raynos swooped around, heading for a pair of humongous shadows descending from the clouds. The Storm Sworders followed suit, quickly coming up alongside the Raynos and preparing for combat.

"What are your orders ma'am?" a young voice asked.

"Destroy those Kaizers by any means necessary Sergeant" Juliet ordered.

"Yes ma'am, men, attack!" The Storm Sworders boosted past the Raynos, charging through the air at full speed. The pterosaur-like Zoids activated their blades, the weapons emerging from concealment inside the wings of the Sworders. Golden energy began coursing through the blades, cutting through the air effortlessly. The first Hammer Kaizer came fully into view just as the Sworders closed in on it.

The enormous, whale-like transport Zoid let loose a low groan as it broke the safety of the cloud cover. It looked more like a bloated Hammerhead than a transport Zoid, with a pair of hammers adorning its head. Small latches opened all along it, with random Zoids standing, waiting to fire upon the approaching Storm Sworders. Juliet opened fire with her tri 30mm laser cannons, the shots slamming into a Rev Raptor and blowing off its leg.

The saurian type Zoid fell forward, off its platform and into the unforgiving sea below as first blood was shed. The Storm Sworders boosted along either side of the aerial tyrant, their blades cutting through the Zoid's thick armor and its defenders alike. The Kaizer groaned once again as a trail of explosions followed in the wake of the Sworders and the transport Zoid began plummeting instead of descending toward the ocean. "Target neutralized, heading for the remaining bogie" the Sergeant's voice reported.

"Good work boys, I've got your backs" Juliet said. The Sworders cut through the skies and toward the remaining Hammer, twin stream lines left in their wake. The Raynos climbed to full speed, just barely managing to keep pace with its allies. The last Kaizer performed the same maneuver of its fallen friend, opening up hundreds of latches in an effort to defend itself. The Sworders danced through a hail of gunfire from the transport's defense units. A stray shot slammed into one of their wings and the other cried in vengeance as the pilot ejected and the Sworder burst into flame.

Juliet rocketed past the ejected pilot and toward the Kaizer, opening fire once again. Small streams of explosions erupted where her shots tore into the enormous Zoid, causing minimal amounts of damage. Using the same strategy as before, the Storm Sworders broke formation to either side of the Kaizer and charged their blades. In the blink of an eye, the second Hammer Kaizer began its fall to the sea.

"Both targets destroyed sir" Juliet said over the intercom. Crow watched from the shore as the first Hammer Kaizer hit the water, a massive circle of waves thrown in the air in the impact. He could swear he saw the Zoid opening its mouth before it disappeared under the water.

"Don't be to sure about that just yet" Crow said, pulling out a pair of binoculars. His worst fears were realized as he watched the second hit the ocean. The Kaizer's mouth opened and in a flash, hundreds of aquatic Zoids began pouring out. Crow pulled off his binoculars and ran toward the Stealth Dragon behind him, pulling his walkie-talkie to his lips. "Nicholas, prepare for combat!"

o0o0o0o0o

A/N: There you go, a new chapter and man did I work hard to get this one out. I've been stuck in writer's block for quite a while now, but I'll try to get the next chapter out soon.