A Liberty Alliance soldier named Ash was travelling at a high speed when his Rayblade Impulse was caught on something and brought to an abrupt halt.
Surprised that the sudden stop did not throw him from the machine, Ash looked up to notice several metal wires had been stretched out horizontally across the ground.
This must be the rapid deceleration KARMA warned me about, Ash thought to himself, when he was suddenly struck from the side.
The force of the attack knocked Ash against the wall, and even his armor did not protect him as the repeated blows knocked the breath out of him.
Lying on his side, Ash watched the Voltrex that had been pursuing him slowly retract its tail blade. Several Sentinels gathered around the Rayblade Impulse, which was caught up in the wires.
One of the Sentinels tried to touch the Rayblade’s console, initiating lockdown mode. The sound of the Rayblade’s HEXA G-R.A.M drive sounded like a sigh as the device shut down rapidly. Ash heard the sound of footsteps as a Sentinel dismounted from the Voltrex and approached him.
After some time, Ash came to in a dark room, finding himself bound and locked up in what seemed to be an abandoned warehouse. Ash’s armor had been stripped from him while he was unconscious, leaving only the inner suit.
A dull pain echoed through the soldier’s body, and he could see his breath in the cold room.
The abandoned warehouse was located in a region once known as Northern Europe, and there was still snow on the ground outside. Ash had no way of knowing the time, but he felt chilled to the bone despite the cold protection of his suit. Ash’s cybernetic arm had shut down from the cold, and the chill drained the warmth from his body.
Ash heard the sound of an iron door opening somewhere, followed by the distinctive sound of heavy, metallic footsteps approaching.
Suddenly, the combat helm from an Armor Type fell in front of him. The sound of the helmet clattering to the floor rang unpleasantly in Ash’s ears as it rolled towards him, coming to a stop with the badly dented visor looking him in the eye.
Ash instinctively took a sharp breath.
I’ve seen this paint job before. It’s not from my armor.
The helmet belonged to one of the Governors that had been with Ash until the end, as their team dispersed in order to avoid being followed after departing from the Earthcline Biomechanics facility.
The Sentinel looked down at Ash. He could tell from machine-like movement of its sensors that the Sentinel was a non-human Para-Pawn. Forgetting the pain and the cold, Ash stared back at the AI. The movement of Ash’s ocular prosthetic was exactly the same as the Para-Pawn’s sensors.
“…In order to ensure the continuation of humanity, I joined Project Re-Genesis. You too will become one with us…” the Para-Pawn recited in an unnatural sounding electronically generated voice. Even at a low volume, it echoed loudly through the dark, empty room.
“Is there anyone who remembers you? Do you even remember your own name?” Ash questioned the Para-Pawn, his voice shaking.
“I am ID j27ddffe673 Line Bailaw. I am the squad leader of the special operations unit of the 2nd Hexa Gear battalion for the MSG Valiant Force. Several of my former compatriots have transferred to the generator shaft. Even now, we are all connected through the generator shaft.”
“…do you think those are your real memories?” Ash asked the Para-Pawn, when he suddenly remembered the nameless captain who was in contact with a group of armed insurgents known as the Roughnecks. “You’re just using the data from human personalities and skills to expand your features. I have a hard time believing that this falsified aggregation of data was ever a real human being.”
A small object dropped from the Sentinel’s hand and bounced across the floor, and Ash realized the Sentinel had been fiddling with something in its hands. The objects were the standard storage devices Ash had seen a number of times in the Earthcline facilities. The Sentinel shuffled the storage devices around in its dexterous mechanical hands, stacking the units up and rearranging them.
“Hey, what is that?” Ash said, standing up and looking at the device that had fallen to the ground.
“It’s true that my memories and personality have all been converted into data. It does not matter whether or not I ever had a human body. I wonder what you would think about the people who are stored inside of here…” the Sentinel said, scattering the memories devices across the floor. “I was asked to capture you alive per direct request from SANAT. With that prosthetic arm and eye, you would be very strong as a machine,” the Sentinel Line Bailaw said, pulling out its hand axe.
“What is SANAT’s end goal?” Ash questioned the Sentinel.
The Sentinel slowly raised the hand axe. The black stains on the blade seemed to fade into the shadows of the dark room.
“What are you doing?”
The Sentinel kicked the fallen storage devices across the floor as it lowered the axe.
Suddenly, the Sentinel came to an abrupt stop.
Ash heard a distant rumbling sound as fragments of the ceiling began to rain down. The Para-Pawn moved its head as if receiving a message.
Suddenly, the wall exploded. The blast from the explosion sent the Para Pawn reeling, and knocked Ash back to the floor. The Biting Scissors of a white Motor Punisher thrust through the opening in the wall, shoving the Sentinel to the side. The Motor Punisher continued to use the Grapple Blades on its forearms to break down the wall and entered the room. A Sentinel disembarked from the Motor Punisher’s back, pulling out its shotgun and firing a rain of bullets at Bailaw.
“Hey, looks like I got here just in time. I’m a member of the Roughnecks. My boss Eliza was talking with your captain, but it looks like we were too late for him.” The Roughneck Sentinel tossed aside his empty shotgun and walked over to Ash, cutting open his restraints.
“Thanks for saving me. Are we going to be able to make it out of here?”
“Of course! Your machine is being stored in this garage. Let’s go take it back and get out of here.”
Ash looked at the Sentinel. He could tell from the placement of the joints and the way his chest moved as he breathed that the mysterious Sentinel was not a Para-Pawn, but a human in an Armor Type. Having boarded back on the Motor Punisher, the Sentinel held out his hand to Ash, who took the Sentinel’s hand with his prosthetic hand and boarded the Motor Punisher.
The two approached the garage, breaking open an entry in the side of the wall with a rain of bullets. The hypersonic energy of the high-velocity armor piercing bullets tore through the deteriorating walls of the garage, creating a large hole.
The Motor Punisher charged through smoking rubble and into the garage. The temporary facility was once the interior courtyard of a building. Inside, a number of Sentinels were attempting to board their Voltrex units. Having equipped an Armor Type, Ash moved his eyes quickly across the room, searching for his Rayblade Impulse. After finding the machine, Ash immediately launched himself towards it, without waiting for the Motor Punisher to stop moving. The Pawn A1 armor that he had gathered just moments before was missing some parts, and the impact as he hit the ground rang through his body painfully.
As Ash ran forward without looking back, the Motor Punisher behind Ash hovered in mid-air and shot a continuous fire of bullets from its grenade launcher. The Sentinels that had scattered around the garage picking up their weapons started to gather around the Motor Punisher, pointing their weapons at the Hexa Gear and rapidly transmitting signals.
Ash ran through the parked Voltrex units to get to his Rayblade Impulse. As soon as he reached the machine and leaned against it to catch his breath, he realized something was wrong. The unit’s powerful Rayblade weapons had been removed.
But that didn’t matter to Ash in the moment.
“Get up, it’s time to get out of here!” Ash told his Rayblade companion.
[Voice recognition deactivated. Failed to authenticate Armor Type registration. …Is that you, Dr. Heinlein?!]
The Motor Punisher was in the middle of the garage, its Biting Scissors firmly clamped around a Voltrex unit. The turrets of the Voltrex’s Plasma Cannons were charged with a purple light, and the Motor Punisher was brandishing the captured Voltrex as a threat to fend off the enemies. The Voltrex’s Sentinel pilot was thrown out of the unit, causing it to shoot an untargeted plasma beam that hit the wall of the garage at a diagonal, ricocheting around the room and into the open sky.
“It’s me, Ash.”
[For you of all people to come and get me! I thought your registration ID was already destroyed.]
The human soldier and the machine’s AI voice were drowned out by the surrounding chaos.
“I’m your Governor,” Ash told the Rayblade Impulse. “Work with me to get us out of here. If we stay here and get captured by SANAT, we won’t be able to go after Heinlein. I can’t find your Rayblade, but I need your legs.” Ash was at a loss for words. In the back of his mind, he remembered the dented Combat Helm and the scattered memory devices, his rage spilling over. “Almost everyone I’ve known has gone over to the other side. I won’t let another person that came to save me die in vain!” After a short pause, a familiar gleam returned to the machine’s beastlike eyes.
Meanwhile, the Roughneck Sentinel and Motor Punisher were struggling to hold off the enemy Voltrex units and Sentinels. “Eliza, we can’t hold this place anymore! I’m leaving the boy behind and evacuating”
The Motor Punisher used its Air Floaters to move upwards. The ends of its right grapple blade had been broken off. From an adjacent area, a machine with a long cannon appeared amongst upper levels of the towering buildings. The machine was a Blockbuster piloted by Roughnecks leader Eliza Fox, who kept an eye on the smoke-filled garage while creating a diversion for the Voltrex units below.
“Don’t worry about the kid! We just need to get our hands on that machine!” The information projected on the Blockbuster’s windshield disappeared as the Motor Punisher flew out of its range. “Repairing this Motor Punisher is already going to put us in the red! I can’t believe Earthcline entrusted their secrets to this kid…”
[Warning. Enemy attack incoming.] The Blockbuster’s KARMA AI announced. Before the announcement finished, the thrusters activated their emergency protocol and began to move the machine upwards.”
“Ah, it looks like I got a little too close.”
[You weren’t able to reach a firing position. The enemy anticipated this and chose their position.]
Eliza forced the machine into a sharp nosedive, the beams of the attack grazing the outside of the machine as it shot downwards. As she tried to level off the machine’s flight, rubble from the surrounding skyscrapers rained down, and a large mass of concrete with protruding beams broke off one of the thrusters, throwing off the Blockbuster’s balance.
[Warning. Enemy attack incoming.]
“Stabilize with full power to the thrusters!”
The Voltrex units on the ground looked up towards the sky, their turrets following the movement above them. The units charged their Plasma Cannons as they followed the shadow of the machine that took flight from a particularly tall ruin on the opposite end of the destroyed district.
Suddenly, a white beast jumped out from behind the Voltrex units, destroying all of the surrounding machines in an instant. An ominous wave of energy filled the air as the beast silently destroyed Voltrex and Sentinel units one after the other. A moment passed, and the thick cloud of smoke that had gathered in the area cleared.
[Gravity Controller leg units fully operational. Gravity field restored] Rayblade Impulse’s KARMA announced as the unit leaped in the air, scattering the surrounding remains of the Voltrex units and swiftly moving from the wall to the roof of a nearby building.
[Remaining ammunition: Chain Gun, 326. Grenades, 8. Weapon Unit Impact Edge loading.]
Ash removed his hand from the console and re-attached the glove from his Armor Type.
[Special Weapon Units: Rayblade not detected.]
“First we need to get out of here and reconvene with the Roughnecks. Then we can search for your Rayblades,” Ash told the Hexa Gear.
[Can we trust them?]
“I’m not sure, but at least we’re together.”
[If you’re here we should have no trouble. Just make sure not to get thrown off this time.]
“You’re fast,” Bailaw shouted, addressing Ash and Ray. “I saw a machine that looked like a white beast appear from a building full of cracks and exposed wires. I thought it was beautiful, I almost forgot that it was a machine. That agility, that intelligence, that valiance. There is no end to the words I could use to describe this machine.”
“Is this what SANAT is after?” Bailaw asked himself. The Para-Pawn’s body had been damaged by the shower of bullets, its paint peeling away and one of its arms missing. The armor plate from the Para-Pawn’s right knee was missing, and its joints were warped and could not move normally.
Rayblade Impulse turned around with a fluid movement.
[Activating Zoatex Mode.]
The white beast leaped out of Bailaw’s line of site. Dragging his injured leg, Bailaw’s foot bumped against a broken piece of green armor. Only the silver blade stuck in the armor stood unbent and unbroken.