Chapter 2: A New Resistance
The helm of the Ptolemaios shook as Sumeragi quickly seated herself and buckled her belt. "We're under attack," warned Feldt. "Coordinates of origin are still unclear."
"I'm way ahead of you, little Miss Grace," responded an eager Lasse. "Ready the guns for a counterattack against those bastards!"
"Status?" requested Sumeragi calmly.
"A fleet of A-Laws is pursuing us, deploying a large land and air force," confirmed Feldt. "They'll be within our range in exactly five minutes and thirty nine seconds. A massive cannon from one of the ships is about to recharge. It could have been what caused that explosion earlier."
"Trust them to catch us while we're trying to rendezvous with Katharon in Cairo," snarled Lockon Stratos from the cockpit of Cherudim. "And what's worse is they have that damned maroon Mobile Suit with them. I'll be the one to take it out, you wait and see."
Setsuna's eyes widened as his hands tightened on his controls, although he did not speak. Ali al-Saachez…! Could he be leading that A-Laws division? He clenched his teeth. He's relentless, that monster. I have to shoot him down. Here and now, before he destroys anyone else on his rampage.
"Let's begin the mission," said Sumeragi, staring straight ahead at the massive screen that displayed the coordinates of the approaching A-Laws. "We need to defeat their ground forces as well as their air armada. We'll skirmish as planned and leave the ground army to you… is that agreeable, Optimus?"
The voice of the Autobot leader suddenly echoed throughout the command room, surprising all within except for Sumeragi. "Just give the word, and we'll move according to your directions."
"Ma'am Sumeragi – you gave him access to our private communications?" cried Mileina.
"Nice," admitted Lasse, looking up to his right briefly.
Sumeragi allowed herself a small smile, before returning to a poker-faced, slightly grim expression. "All Mobile Suits – launch!" she cried.
"00 Gundam – Setsuna F. Seiei. Heading out!" said Setsuna tersely. He activated his accelerator, and the Twin Drives of the legendary 00 Gundam began to hum. Green, luminous particles spilled from two gargantuan solar furnaces, and with a smooth spin, Setsuna's Mobile Suit hurtled from its launch strip, leaving the interior of the Ptolemaios and shooting out into the cloudless blue empyrean.
"Cherudim Gundam – Lockon Stratos. Aim and fire!" Roaring to life, the army-green and white mechanoid screamed forth from its port and followed Setsuna's lead. Lockon licked his lips, looking down at Haro. "Cooperate with the Autobots, old friend. Let's impress them with a little sharpshooting today."
"Roger that! Roger that!" chirped Haro cheerily.
"Arios Gundam – Allelujah Haptism. Launching!" came the voice of the super soldier. Almost immediately, the orange, slim Gundam transformed into its jet mode, passing by 00 and Cherudim and shooting like a flaming comet towards the A-Laws fleet, which was composed of three large motherships and at least forty eight GNX-704T Aheads.
"Seravee Gundam – Tieria Erde. Let's do this." The cold voice of the mysterious Meister was quickly drowned out by the scream of his GN Drive, and within moments, the four Gundams had began to ready their varied weapons, in preparation for the coming storm.
"Looks like it's our turn, sir," came Bumblebee's voice.
"We still haven't managed to find Arcee and Jetfire yet," growled Ironhide's gruff voice. "You know that we rely heavily on Jetfire's strength, Optimus."
"I'm aware of that. But for now, I believe in Celestial Being's strategy."
Prime slowly opened his optical sensors. He stood in the hangar bay patiently as a humongous hatch opened in front of him, giving him a full glimpse of the windy sky and the distant sands below. The hatch itself was at least thirty feet wide, giving him more than enough room to leave the ship through. He had devised the scheme of an aerial ambush against the A-Laws on the ground with Sumeragi, and as this was the first joint operation between the Autobots and Celestial Being, the success of their strategy would determine the level of trust between the Cybertronians and the Meisters.
Failure was not an option.
After his unusually tender dialogue with the tactical forecaster, Prime had reverted to his Earthen form, encasing himself in red and blue over his silver body once again. The disguise he had assimilated since his arrival on Earth was that of an A-Laws Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, or HEMTT. Like his comrades, he had scanned a vehicle the moment one had come under his sensors. The semi-trailer truck he had used three centuries ago no longer existed, but his new troop crawler disguise would certainly be useful in later sorties against the monolithic military organization, especially when engaging in guerrilla and infiltration operations.
Earth had changed so much.
"Bumblebee, Ironhide, Ratchet – are you all ready?" he asked quietly.
"Say the words, Optimus," sounded Ratchet's tuner.
"Autobots, please initiate Phase Two," prompted Mileina, her voice over the intercom noticeably more serious than usual.
Prime nodded and approached the opened hatch. The wind screamed up at him, battering harmlessly at his metal body. He slowly spread his arms, and allowed himself to fall through, and within moments his Cybertronian body was instantly careening past the stratosphere, towards the desert sands that awaited fifty kilometres below.
"Autobots… roll out!"
Kati Mannequin wrinkled her nose in disgust as Ali al-Saachez's slimy, despicable voice echoed throughout her flagship's command hall. "Leave the Meisters to me. Just sit back and watch the fireworks."
"You just do your job and get out of my sight," snapped Kati, glaring at the screen displaying al-Saachez's wild-eyed face. "I can't believe we were forced to play host to you. What on Earth is the Federation thinking, hiring bloodthirsty maniacs like you?"
"Oh, but I'm not working for them," laughed al-Saachez. "I have nothing to do with them!"
"What? Then leave this place at once!" barked the Colonel.
"My sincerest apologies. But I can't do that either. My client wants me here, and here I'll stay," cackled the Saudi Arabian mercenary. Disconnecting their line of communications, his GNW-20000 Arche Gundam shot past Kati's mothership and towards the four approaching lights. Not bothering to conceal her ire, the elegant and stern female commander slammed a fist onto her armrest loudly.
"Damn him. He's a wild keg of destruction. I didn't know we kept goons like him under our wing…"
"Ma'am! We have approached the Ptolemaios II. Shall we engage?"
"Yes," said Kati, adjusting her glasses. "We'll let that lowlife deal with the Mobile suits until he's destroyed. Then we'll mop up the survivors. In the meantime, flank Celestial Being's ship with our air and ground forces."
"Copy that, Colonel. Engaging the Gundams now." A force of two dozen Aheads surged from the ships, and the large screen now displayed an imploding sky, filled with separate, smaller explosions and the residue of missiles and lasers.
A crackling voice suddenly came through on the communications link. "Help… help! Colonel Mannequin – split the forces! We need reinforcements down here!"
"What? Impossible," denied Kati automatically. "We need our Mobile Suits to deal with the Gundams here!"
"We – we're getting torn apart!" shrieked the injured soldier at the other end of the network. The buzz in the background grew louder. "These guys aren't from Celestial Being – we never heard anything about these crazy – "
A scream echoed from the channel, and as perturbed murmurs sprang up all over the command room, Kati barked out another command, determined to maintain some semblance on control. "Come in! Give me something to work with. What are they? Exactly what is attacking you?"
She would never be prepared for the answer she received.
"They're – they're – they're unmanned robots!!"
"I never thought I'd be hurting the creatures we once promised to protect," said Ratchet heavily, as he fired a round of gattling lasers into the hull of a massive tank, hurling it into the air and sending it crashing atop an advancing platoon of A-Laws panzers. He turned to Ironhide, who was firing round after round of particle fireballs into the scattering infantry. Whilst the A-Laws troops possessed weaponry far more advanced than what was once the United States military, they remained powerless against the spinning barrels of Cybertron's weapon's specialist, who had configured his weapons to carry an infinite payload of quantum, particle, ion and flame-based projectiles. "You're enjoying this too much," rebuked Ratchet quietly, as Ironhide spun his megacompact fission cannons and released another firestorm into the human army.
"Make no mistake," growled Ironhide. "I fight to defend the Autobots. I don't fight to protect the humans. Long ago, our interests were once mutual. That's all there is." He smirked, looking up at the Aheads. "They think to hunt us down with those? Those Mobile Suits… we may be outsized, but not by a large margin. They still couldn't hold a candle to the strongest Decepticons."
Prime and Bumblebee charged, leaping above the throng of charging panzers. They aimed their barrels upwards and fired, but Bumblebee was far too agile, leaping from tank to tank, grabbing their turrets and wrenching them upwards with the informality of a Cybertronian youngling. His fist descended upon an armoured car, crumpling it into sputtering wreckage. He didn't even bother to draw his proton field gun, for Prime had revealed his own weapons: two broadswords of Cybertronian metallurgy that cut apart anything that they touched. They slid out from compartments built into his forearms, and their intricate blades were glowing with white-hot intensity. With several powerful but frugal strokes, five tanks exploded, split apart in two by his dual swords. He blocked a blast from a mortar with one sword and spun, slicing off the attacking turret. A platoon of humans from below opened fire on him, and he felt thousands of bullets spraying against him, several laser rays smashing into his Cybertronian body, and even a missile from an RPG launcher. With a heavy heart, he lifted his sword and swung, bashing away thirty or so men with the flat of his blade. They hurtled into the air, screaming and bawling as they sprawled painfully along the ground beside their destroyed vehicles.
Bumblebee activated his internal transmitter. "The ground forces are pretty much trounced. How's your end, Setsuna?"
"The other Meisters and I have engaged the Mobile Suits," said Setsuna, thirty thousand feet above the Autobots. He coolly activated 00's primary weapons systems, the upgraded GN-Swords. With a burst of GN particles, 00 sliced apart an Ahead and kicked away another. "Lockon. Allelujah. Tieria. Destroy the Aheads. I'm going to take out the Arche."
"Oi, oi. Leave me a piece of that, will you?" came Lockon's transmission.
"Then hurry and get rid of the riffraff. I can't guarantee I won't tear that Mobile Suit apart." Spinning in the azure sky, Setsuna quickly directed 00 to force itself past two more Aheads, his GN Swords carving them into four pieces of scrap metal. He hurtled towards the maroon, sinister mechanoid that had detached itself from the main fleet, rising slowly to meet 00. They lunged, and the thundering collision of metal resounded throughout the sky.
"So," sighed Lockon, aiming Cherudim's GN Sniper Rifle II at the frontal A-Laws mothership. The massive ordnance deliverer was completely steady in the hands of the Gundam. "Haro? Let's get down to business."
"Target acquired! Target acquired!" cried Haro dutifully. The grid screen beeped, and a circle of red focused around the centre of the mothership. Without delay, Lockon pressed the trigger, and a powerful blast from Cherudim's primary weapon smashed into several Aheads and into the hull of the airborne dreadnought.
"He shoots… and he scores!" He smiled, watching the flagship slowly split into two pieces and plummet thirty thousand feet to the desert earth. "Two more to go, unless they're planning to retreat… and shoot me dead, they are," he quipped, switching on his comlink system. "Yo, Tieria, Allelujah. I think they got the message of our little shock and awe theme. Maybe it's time to do some mopping up."
Arios and Seravee responded by flanking the embattled fleet, blasting away several more Aheads and aiming their main weapons at the second mothership. Allelujah's beam rifles and Tieria's double bazookas were enough to shatter its frame, and surrounded by its falling A-Laws suits, the host craft followed them into oblivion.
Within her command hall, Kati Mannequin gritted her teeth, her mouth dry with rage. "You expect me to fight a good fight, but all I get are expendable forces and a loose dog," she growled. "Just what the hell are the higher ups smoking?" She raised a hand. "I'm not letting this degenerate into a rout. Retreat!"
"Yes, Colonel! All hands, turn this thing around!"
The third and last flagship began to slowly manoeuvre away, and the several dozen remaining Aheads surged forth to delay the Meisters. "That's good enough," said Allelujah, aiming his beam rifle at the remnants. "We're done once we defeat these ones. They've learnt their lesson for today."
Meanwhile, Setsuna's transparent screen crackled inside 00 Gundam and presented a communications monitor with the linked pilot. Garbed in a deep red helmet and suit, his eyes were aflame with perverse bloodlust as he stared into Setsuna's cockpit. "Yo, brat. I see you've let loose those new toys down below."
"They are not toys," snapped Setsuna almost defensively. He smiled inwardly. No. They are the closest things to gods, like Gundam. But they are sentient. They have self-awareness, just like we humans. And they have joined hands with the Gundams.
Gundam… and Autobots. We're working together this day. And…
"And we'll defeat you!" roared Setsuna, his eyes widening in renewed strength as 00 pressed its colossal blades against al-Saachez's GN-Buster Sword. Arche shot back, parrying the angry blows from 00 as its pilot guffawed gleefully.
"Just like old times, eh? Blast him, Fangs!"
Setsuna's eyes widened. "GN-Fangs," he gritted, turning 00 to the right and dodging to intersecting beams of red light. Two more capsules shot out from Arche. Several more crimson lasers criss-crossed around 00's body, threatening to pierce into the Gundam's metal in more places than one. Sweat pouring down his face, Setsuna struggled to keep 00 in flight and struggled harder to keep it in pursuit of al-Saachez. "You're not getting away," he snarled, pressing two buttons on his right and activating Rifle mode. His beam gun shot down a Fang with effortless marksmanship, and 00 turned through the air, destroying another two and forcing al-Saachez to withdraw his last pod. Breathing heavily, Setsuna hurtled towards Arche Gundam, converting to Sword mode. They exchanged several wild, angry swipes, and while al-Saachez's brutality would have once easily overcome Setsuna's relative inexperience, 00 Gundam was now more than a mere Mobile Suit – it was a channel of power in itself. A diagonal swipe from Arche's beam sword narrowly missed Setsuna's head, and he spun, slicing horizontally and cleaving a massive gash across Arche's torso. Exposed circuits sputtered, deprived of their protective armour, and blue, dangerous-looking sparks danced amidst the ruined metal.
Triumph overcame Setsuna. "You're done!" he shouted, smashing his entire Mobile Suit against al-Saachez. "Pull back – or I swear I won't blink an eye whilst I stab this sword into your cockpit!"
"Damn you," said al-Saachez coldly. That brat can sure whip himself out of a spot quickly. "I wouldn't be so sure about dying at your hands. But I suppose your little Transformers really are what the boss said they were…"
"What?" snarled Setsuna. His GN-Buster Sword severed the enemy Gundam's right arm, and it fell from the sky. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, my tongue slipped. My bad. Business-related chitchat. Can't let the kiddies be listening in." The mercenary grinned. "I'll say this much. You're good. We wouldn't have it any other way. But my client wants your new friends. He has a use for them, so I can't kill you all today. But when you've outlived your utility, rest assured… I'll enjoy stabbing my knife into your thick little head."
Deprived of its arm, Arche Gundam suddenly launched a knee into 00's torso, hurling it back through the skies over Egypt. Setsuna gritted his teeth, holding onto his controls tightly as he watched al-Saachez beating back a hasty escape. He stared at the retreating Gundam's shrinking form as it followed the fleeing A-Laws fleet. His clammy hands trembled slightly even as the computer screens of his allies appeared on his own monitor.
"Setsuna. Setsuna! Are you alright?" came Allelujah's voice. "You defeated him. I'm glad for that. We've dealt with the rest. Let's head back to the ship and prepare for any new attacks that might come."
"But Ali al-Saachez is just a cog in the machine of the A-Laws… or…" muttered Setsuna. "Could he be working towards an objective beyond that of destroying Celestial Being?"
I'd never thought about that before. His reference to the Transformers… it's too obvious to be a passing insult.
"Just what did that murderer mean?" he mumbled. "Tieria Erde – is there something you're not telling us about the Innovators you mentioned some weeks ago?"
"No," came Tieria's voice over the comlink. "What I told you was everything Regene Regetta had revealed to me. Whatever you heard from that mercenary would be news to me, too."
Phase One: To unify the world through Celestial Being's armed interventions.
Phase Two: to unite mankind's will through the A-Laws.
And finally, Phase Three: to project humanity's existence to outer space, equipped as evolved Innovators for alien interactions.
Already, the first two stages had been achieved, although the first phase had suffered from a discrepancy due to Celestial Being's continued existence. But what of Phase Three? Had Aoelia Schenberg somehow known of the autonomous robots from Cybertron two centuries ago? Could they have inspired him to set into motion a plan to reach such magnificent creatures through mankind's own volition? Did he even predict their return? No, the Innovators were developed in the first place for pushing humanity into space and meet intelligent life. Did the Autobots' homecoming mean little more than a cosmic coincidence? Or did it entail something more?
These and more reflections, both sensible and outrageous, ran through his head as Tieria lifted his helmet from his face. He glanced up as Sumeragi's thrilled words interrupted his train of thought. "Well done, everybody. This was a major success. We would have been flanked and surrounded again were it not for the Autobots. I'm only curious about one thing, however," she added, "and that was the relative ease with which we drove off the A-Laws. Do you think they were testing us?"
"I don't know," sighed Lockon, "but I do know that there's something fishy about that Arche Gundam. I've never seen it operating alongside the A-Laws."
"Setsuna. Did he say something to you that prompted your question to me?" asked Tieria.
"We'll talk about that later. I'm tired," said the 00 pilot honestly. He turned to exit the control antechamber of Ptolemaios, but paused just as the doors slid shut behind him. "Don't forget that we weren't the only ones who defeated the A-Laws today."
Lockon smiled as Setsuna disappeared off to his room. "We're way ahead of you. Allelujah, Marie, Mileina, and Feldt have already left for the docking bay. Don't you want to go, too? Sumeragi." He rested his arm on top of the backrest, and she peered up at him as he winked. "You're getting reasonably cosy with their top robot, aren't you? I don't think the A-Laws will be coming back for a while. You should take a break, Lasse can take over."
She looked away bashfully. "Oh, don't say that. Although…"
She smiled up into the ship's display, which was presenting a wide, panoramic view of the Great Pyramids. "We've finally arrived at the destination Optimus suggested. I'd like to thank him. I'll take him straight to Giza. Lockon, I'd appreciate it if you could help me contact the Katharon forces in Cairo. I think it's about time Klaus Grado and Shirin Bakhtiar were acquainted with our new allies."
Lockon grinned. "A sound idea. I'm on it, Ma'am."