The dark, cloudy night sky was ripped apart by a great chrome sliver, the sound of the veil of black tearing was greater than any natural thunder.  A loud, rolling rumble flowed across the ruins, echoing through the steel skeletons of the urban battlefield.  Private Three Smith had heard explosions before, loud ones, but this one came without light, without flash, and it just rumbled on and on, shaking the ground, she could feel it through her combat boots as she squatted there, safe she had thought but now she wasn't sure.

"Thunder or arty?" Smith whispered towards her CO, Jefferson, as they huddled there in the ruins looking for any sign of the Machines.

"Neither." Jefferson said solemnly as he leaned out from the ruins looking up at the star-less night.

Jefferson snicked down his scanner from his helmet and started searching the cloud laced heavens.  Thermal imaging coupled with the limited processor of the system was still enough to confirm what he had feared.  Motion tracking rapidly acquired the object and began to passively acquire data about it from its various emissions.   He zoomed in on the rapidly approaching silver object, the thermal readings from the engine pods of the machine put it at the top of the scale, in the heavy transport class.  He hit the record button and started a coded microburst back to the area HQ, getting what he could as the giant transport slowed gracefully, extended its landing claws, and began a calculated decent into an area of ruins some three klicks away.

"Then what was it?" Smith asked, looking and trying to see what her CO was looking for.

"Sonic boom."  Jefferson said, continuing to watch as the dust settled around the transport.

"What's that?"

"Shock wave in the air, something big moving really fast makes it."

"What's it mean?" Smith asked.

"It means we've got big trouble.  Clankers and they're being air delivered."

"Aww crap!" Smith said louder than she would have liked.

Smith began checking her plasma rifle and her gear before moving to lay flat on her stomach and try to peer out towards the ruins.  Smith was a good kid, Jefferson thought as he moved over to give Smith some space next to him.  Smith learned quick, and she was the kind who had a quiet curiosity, that meant that even though she asked questions, they weren't annoying and she didn't press for details.  Smith just seemed to figure things out on her own, a trait that Jefferson liked in the fourteen year old.

Jefferson adjusted the pickup and gain on his scanning visor.  The processor rapidly shifted through the digital imaging of the ruins, found the grounded transport, and zoomed in.  The filters began to slip over each other, resolving the image until it was as clear as it could be, given the distance of over three klicks.  The processor began searching around the landing claws of the grounded transport, and new shapes began to move there.  Machines.  Armed endoskeletons walking methodically from the cavernous belly of the transport, spreading out into the ruins on a search and destroy protocol. From what Jefferson knew, it appeared to be carrying a full load, which intel said would be about forty whiners, give or take. 

Looked like Jefferson and his team would be up most of the night smashing SKYNET's toys into junk.

Jefferson keyed up his communicator.

"Central this is Whiskey Five.  I have ears and eyes on a 'Nator 'Sport.  Get ready for company.  They aren't very far out..."

Another pair of sonic booms, one after the other, swept over the ruins and Jefferson mouthed a silent curse.  Three transports total, that would make for over a hundred and twenty Endos, not counting any supporting hardware the Machines might bring along.  It was going to be a long night.  Jefferson began to wonder if he would live to see morning.

"Central, make that three 'sports.  I repeat, three confirmed visuals on 'Nator transports.  Uplinking live feed now.  We will try to hold this position and relay tactical data as long as possible.  Requesting fire elements one, five and seven to move to this position for overwatch.  Over."

It looked like SKYNET wanted Major Evan's HQ in a bad way.

 

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TECHNICAL DATA

AERIAL - MODEL A8 TYPE 770c SERIES 500- TERMINATOR TRANSPORT

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The Model A8 was the largest Aerial class unit produced by SKYNET and could carry up to forty T600 or T800 series Terminators at a time.  The A8 was armored better than the A4, and had several rapid fatigue high energy weapon systems for use in pacifying a landing zone in a very short amount of time.  One favorite tactic used by SKYNET was to fly at low altitudes over human concentrations at supersonic speeds, generating powerful shockwaves.  Sometimes, the A8s would approach at supersonic speeds, then deploy their speed brakes just shy of the landing zone, letting their sonic boom pass them in flight and hit the landing zone just ahead of their touchdown.  SKYNET learned how to demoralize the Resistance using its air superiority fairly early in the War. 

Upon landing, two methods were used to either embark or disembark SKYNET units.  A large cargo ramp could be hydraulically lowered from the rear of the modular cargo pod, exposing the almost cavernous interior where Endoskeletons were neatly stacked or two heavy doors mounted in the floor could be swung open and the Endoskeletons could either be lowered in powered racks or individually lowered by a pair of magnetic clamps attached to two polysteel cables with their own individual winches.  In this manner, the A8 could rapidly release its carried cargo then become airborne again to return to base to ferry in more Endoskeletons or it could remain on station indefinitely, loitering and providing close air support.  Several batteries of independently movable, ultra-powerful white and infra-red spectrum spotlights (mounted in armored housings along the airframe) would activate just before touchdown, flooding the immediate area in both the visible and IR spectrums, giving any emerging combat units full visual advantage as well as illuminating areas in infra-red energy that the low light and HRIR sensors of the Machines could fully utilize.  An added benefit of this tactic was that it tended to blind humans in the landing zone, especially those who were operating night vision or low light enhancement visual aids.

Terminator units were stored in individual 'niches' within the cargo pod, in four rows of ten slots each, secured against any sudden maneuvers by a series of magnetic locks and interfaced with the system of the transport so that battlefield and tactical information could be accessed and uploaded on the fly.  The entire cargo pod could also be jettisoned, landing on its own four integral landing claws (which extended from the sides of the pod) if required.   One combat operational protocol called for the A8 to approach at low altitude, slow to a hover, drop the cargo pod, and then climb to a loiter orbit around the landing zone in order to provide close air support and to be protected by A5 and A4 units loitering on station.  Once the cargo-pod had grounded and either landed successfully or slid to a halt, the Terminator units would deploy normally through several large security locks.  Later, the Terminator units would return to the cargo pod, the A8 would descend in VTOL mode and pick up the cargo pod for the return trip back to its staging base.  Some references to the sport of "bowling" exist among Resistance units in regard to this tactic.

Another variant of the A8 allowed for the carrying of heavy equipment and the cargo pod was set up for the transportation of larger HK units such as the tracked and walker  models.  This version could not transport bipedal combat units in a secure manner though it could carry them for short distances if the units used the integrated holds mounted in the pod.

The Resistance often referred to the A8 as the "Gar" due to its unique shape.  Its massive length, almost seventy-five meters from nose to tip of tail, was another advantage it had in the psychological department.

SKYNET built many other models of Endoskeleton and Terminator transports during the War, both ground and aerial variations but the A8 was the largest that the supercomputer ever produced or fielded.   At least three A8s were reconfigured to super-gunships between 02:27:2027AD and 07:03:2028AD, their internal transport bays being modified to hold a variety of look-down, rapid fatigue, autonomous weapon systems and dedicated target acquisition / tracking electronics.  One such modified A8 was lost during the Cheyenne offensive to coordinated ground fire from highly trained and very specialized Resistance anti-air units while another was captured still in its armored hanger.  The third A8 super-gunship was discovered three years after the battle of Cheyenne Mountain, partially disassembled in an abandoned hanger in the North West Pacification Zone.  SKYNET was apparently using the third A8SG as a test bed for even more powerful weapons and offensive systems but this 'super-super gunship' would have still been months away, even if the Resistance hadn't defeated SKYNET.  Its partially completed reinforced airframe and the heavy mounts for its much improved engines (found in yet another nearby facility) proved the SKYNET was still willing to expend massive amounts of its rapidly dwindling resources on projects that had little or no chance of being completed in time to slow or halt the human campaign.

A8 Terminator Transport with high capacity electric turbofan engine in place|
and rotated for sustained Mach Four plus supersonic flight.

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RETURN