A/N: Thanks to Dan, Amir, and Nabz for the feedback and help. Also, for those not up-to-speed on Macrossverse or military organization terminology – Macross is known for having "variable fighters," which are basically fighter jets that transform into a humanoid "Battroid" mode and an intermediate "Gerwalk" mode (looks like a jet with arms and chicken-walker legs). Also, two planes make up a section, two sections make up a flight, several flights make a squadron, and multiple squadrons make an air wing.
Chapter 2: Descent of Angels
"He who controls the flow of information, controls the flow of battle."
~Soundwave, Decepticon Intelligence Director
"Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions."
~Sun Tzu, human (Chinese) strategist
Soundwave floated towards the NUNS satellite, his scanners and transformation cog working furiously to match his body to the machine. Soon, the Decepticon commander had gotten close enough for wires and cables to snake out from his body and inject themselves into the satellite. There were several layers of security, but it was nothing that his hundreds of millennia of experience could not get past. Soon, he was downloading protocols, tech specs, maps, deployment plans, every amount of information he could get his hands on. No one detected him; Blackout's disruptor bomb, boosted by Astrotrain's raw power, had knocked out every sensor and communications array within a hundred-kilometer radius for several minutes, which was more than enough time for him to work.
Once as the download was complete, Soundwave rent the machine to pieces with his tendrils and used his newly acquired information to patch himself into the NUNS network. Even if someone was to come back and check, all they would find is a strangely intact satellite surrounded by debris – certainly not an alien robotic imposter. Soundwave then closed his optics to contemplate and process the information he had received.
In a flash, Soundwave understood much about these creatures, these "humans" his forces were fighting. Their weapons of war amused him with their pale imitation of the transformation technology that was the Cybertronians' defining feature. Yet the humans had also alarmed him, demonstrating unexpected power despite their lack of technological sophistication.
"Astrotrain, report status. What are casualties?" Soundwave asked.
"Three Dreadwing drones lost, Director. Moderate damage to Laserbeak. Blitzwing is scratched. I still function," Astrotrain replied.
Yes, these humans were dangerous indeed if they could harm Cybertronians. And given what pieces of human history and culture Soundwave understood from those few seconds of contemplation, it was almost certain that these humans would side if the Autobots should the Cybertronian Civil War reach this world.
Stealth must be of the essence, Soundwave thought as he broadcast a message to his forces.
"Assume Protoforms for planetside drop. I will give you further instructions upon landing."
"We've lost Delta and Bravo Squadrons, sir," Heinkel reported from his station. Montgomery closed his eyes and sighed.
"No word on enemy casualties?" The captain asked. If enough enemy fighters had been killed, then committing Alpha and Charlie Squadrons would have been his next move. If not, then doing so would just result in twenty-four dead pilots and a carrier defended only by her point defense guns.
"No, sir. The alien ship is firing some kind of projectile weapon that is interfering with our sensors," Kaminska replied, her words being accentuated by many red warning lights and blaring sirens. "The technicians are working on the problem, but no solution has been found. It comes and goes in waves, I think. The pattern was irregular before, and so we were able to receive the warnings from Bravo and Delta, but now they appear to have perfected their timing. At this point, we can only send outbound communications."
Ordinarily, a blackout of this extent would have been more than sufficient grounds for the entire ship to devolve into a general state of panic. But Captain Montgomery did not allow panic on his vessel, and so while the techs worked frantically behind the scenes to get the sensors online again, the only show of emotion he displayed was a short sigh. "Have any of our sister ships responded to our hails?"
"The last time we had our sensors working, the Glendale and the Sussex were approaching our position," Kaminska said as she looked at a stopwatch. "Bridge, close your eyes," she announced. Another flash lit up the screen, followed by echoes of curses from tech crews all over the ship.
"I see," Montgomery said, nodding. Glendale was a Northampton-class stealth frigate that carried a similar number of variable fighters as the Belleau Wood, and the Sussex was a stealth cruiser that, while it did not carry as many variable fighters, it made up for the deficiency by being packed with guns and missile batteries. "Deploy Alpha and Charlie as a Battroid screen," he ordered. "Have Alpha-Lead's flight do a fly-by as soon as friendly ships arrive, then engage the alien ship when we have their attention." There. That should be sufficient. All NUNS ships came with the ability to allow the crew to see outside with the naked eye, although that was generally a last-ditch option. Even if the Glendale and the Sussex could not communicate with the Belleau Wood, they could see well enough to follow the Belleau Wood's lead.
Montgomery prayed that was enough. He had a sneaking suspicion that shredding a few squadrons of fighters was not all their new enemies were capable of.
"Blackout, report status," Soundwave called out from his vantage point in orbit. "How are you holding up?"
"I have ten more minutes," Blackout replied. Soundwave detected significant amounts of strain in his subordinate's voice. Such was the limit of the PowerLink technology that all Voyager-class Cybertronians carried – it allowed them to link up to their passengers' Power Chip Rectifiers, allowing the Voyager to use any special technology its passenger may have. However, maintaining the link placed an incredible amount of strain on both Cybertronians, and there have been cases where the smaller Cybertronian actually went offline due to having its processors burnt out from the effort.
"Hang in there," Soundwave said. Not out of any sense of concern, of course; the Decepticon commander was above such petty emotions. Rather, it was simply because Soundwave did not believe in wasting the sparks of his subordinates needlessly. Over the years, it had been proven countless times that not treating one's underlings like cannon fodder tended to achieve much better results than doing so. He then switched his comm to Astrotrain. "Are our forces prepared for launch?"
"They are, Director," Astrotrain replied, opening his bay door.
"Good. Bonecrusher, come in," Soundwave called out. "Acknowledge receipt of drop coordinates."
"Coordinates received," Bonecrusher replied, adding a grunt of anger. "By the Pit, I hate flying Protoform."
"You hate everything," Astrotrain snarked back. "Now get out of my launch bay."
"I hate Pit-blasted smart-vox Voyagers," Bonecrusher grumbled as he shifted into his Protoform mode, his frame twisting and turning until it became a ball-like shape. Several hooks attached themselves to various parts of his body and shot him out of Astrotrain's body, while booster engines fired to continue the motion.
"Bonecrusher is clear, Director," Astrotrain reported.
"Visual confirmed," Soundwave replied. "Brawl, come in. Acknowledge receipt of drop coordinates."
Captain Veer Pratap Singh scanned the depths of space, looking for any further developments. A flight of variable fighters had already flown towards what he presumed to be the Glendale. Singh chuckled as he imagined how Rahman Hayaat Khan, the Glendale's straight-laced communications officer and his cousin by marriage, would react to the sight of four Battroids moving up to actual touching distance. Soon enough, the flight leader had managed to get the Glendale's attention and was now trying to relay Montogomery's orders via International Sign Language.
Suddenly, a gleam caught Singh's eye, and the air captain turned to get a better view. The gleam got bigger and bigger, until Singh saw that it was actually some kind of metallic meteor headed directly for the Belleau Wood. As the meteor got closer, Singh thought he could see anatomical features on the thing, as if it were a robot curled up into a ball.
"Charlie Squadron, shoot it down!" Singh yelled through his comm, not caring that no one could hear him. He fired several bursts from his mecha's gunpod, then unleashed a swarm of MDE missiles. Others in his squadron got the same idea and unloaded their own ordnance on Singh's target. Yet others noticed another meteor coming in behind it, and fired on that one as well. Waves and waves of missiles streaked towards the incoming giants, as if the intent was to conduct a massacre of non-fleshy life forms. However, due to a lack of organization, the missile salvos ended up more as a series of uncoordinated and miscellaneous shots instead of staggered waves of destruction. There were more than a couple of holes in the killing field, and Singh maneuvered his mecha over to plug those holes with his gunpod.
He was definitely not prepared to see the leading meteor deploy two gargantuan claws that crackled with energy and swipe at the incoming missiles, intent on swatting them out of the air. Upon contact, instead of exploding normally, the missiles seemed to disintegrate. Singh and his wingmen fired more shots, and the Belleau Wood's point defense did likewise, all to no avail; though the pinpoint barrier system surrounding the meteor was dropping, the attacks were not enough to stop its approach. As the giant clawed projectile passed by, Singh thought he could almost see a head somewhere in there, and that the thing flashed a malicious gleam in what might have been its eyes as it blew past him and slammed through the hull of the Belleau Wood. Seconds later, an impact from a second similarly-sized projectile tore the carrier in two.
"Good hunting, little brother," Astrotrain called out as Blitzwing's Protoform took off and slammed through a triangular vessel that according to Soundwave was the Glendale. The other ship, a smaller one named the Sussex, had met a similar fate, torn apart by Barricade's Protoform. Escape pods were being dropped, but Soundwave had sent out more of his personal minions to mop up, and every so often there would be a brilliant explosion as yet another group of survivors were stripped of their status as such. Meanwhile, Blackout unlinked himself, changed to Protoform, and shot out of Astrotrain's launch bay, aiming to finish off the wounded Glendale.
As Blackout sped forth on his mission, Astrotrain prepared to disengage and hide among the stars, as was his usual procedure on stealth missions – after all, there were very few disguises suitable for hundred-meter robots. Suddenly, he picked up a transmission from Soundwave. Astrotrain's optics lit up upon comprehending the contents.
"So, there is a place where a Cybertronian of my size can blend in? This is my kind of war," Astrotrain replied, rearranging his many components into an infrequently used Protoform and blasting off. "Orders received, Director. Let the land called 'New Gallia' beware my coming."