• As night engulfed the ruined skyscrapers of New York City, a column of CX-1 Combat Tanks progressed slowly through the barren streets. Their heavy plasma cannon turrets swiveled from side to side as they scanned the adjacent streets for hostile targets. Suddenly, several high-speed missiles screamed out of the nearby buildings and hit the rear of the tank line, making them disappear into a ball of fire and debris. The remaining vehicles frantically returned fire, reducing many buildings to empty lots, but their efforts were in vain. Seconds later, only impact craters remained where the tank column once was.

    Sergeant Wayne Johnson, leader of the Vortex Division of the BladeHawk Clan Army, emerged from his concealed position inside a burned-out shopping mall, his 75A Arrowhead rocket launcher smoking. “Vortex One to Base Alpha: enemy opposition eliminated. Area Four secure, over.”

    “Rodger, Vortex One.” Came the reply, “Proceed to next area and await further orders, over.”

    “Will do, Base Alpha.” Wayne replied as he slid another missile into his launcher, “Over and out.”

    The year was 2123 and the world has been ravaged by a nuclear war sparked by the outcome of the Cold War. Nearly one hundred years after the nukes started falling, five groups of survivors began to form clans and re-colonize the globe. The BladeHawk Clan occupying much of what used to be the United States of America, the EagleTalon Clan colonizing all of Canada and the northern regions, the SnakeSkin Clan who took up residence in South America, the NewBlood Clan occupying Europe, and the evil NightStalker Clan who have conquered India, the Middle East, and China. For many years, the Clans have been at war with one another in their attempts to colonize more land.

    After their stunning defeat in the former territory of France at the hands of the NewBlood Clan, the NightStalker Clan had set their sights on conquering North America in the belief that attacking the slightly weakened BladeHawk Clan will yield more favorable results. Their dark forces landed on the sandy beaches of New York under the cover of darkness, overwhelming the moderate BladeHawk Clan defenses of New York City. In response to this disturbing move, the BladeHawk Clan Army sent a good portion of their forces to take the city out of the NightStalker’s hands in a massive counterstrike code named: Operation Blackhawk.

    Wayne glanced at the surrounding skyscrapers and keyed his head-mounted radio mike to his division’s frequency. “Vortex Division, this is Vortex One. You can come out now. The boogieman tanks are gone.”

    “Very funny Wayne.” Wayne’s friend, Private John O’Brian, said in a sarcastic voice as he emerged from behind a burned-out car, “ It wasn’t like we were hiding in fear, you know.”

    Wayne grinned, “Yeah, I know. However, with your reputation, who knows.”

    “So, what did the HQ say?” John asked, ignoring Wayne’s comment.

    “We need to proceed to Area Five and wait for further orders.” Wayne answered as he unholstered his XCR Assault Rifle from its holster on his back. “Alright guys!” he called to his division, “Let’s move out!”

    The division moved silently and carefully through the rubble-filled streets and alleyways in a tight circle formation. Occasionally, the distant sounds of gunfire and explosions echoed through the city, indicating that the other divisions were having less luck than Vortex was. Wayne’s wrist-mounted scanner suddenly beeped insistently and Wayne held up a gloved fist, causing the rest of his division to come to a halt. “What is it Wayne?” John asked, tension filling his voice.

    Before Wayne could respond, the line of skyscrapers ahead of them burst into a shower of debris and chunks of concrete, causing Wayne and his division to shield their eyes from the dust. However, they didn’t need their eyes to determine what had caused to explosion. The heavy thump of massive metal feet cut through the ensuing silence like a hot knife through butter. Suddenly, a twenty-foot tall battle machine stepped out of the dust cloud, its twin heavy laser cannons sweeping over the area in search of its next target. Wayne’s eyes went wide with horror, “Take cover!”

    Seconds later, the machine whirled around and its laser cannons opened fire on Wayne’s division with disturbing precision. Wayne ducked as a laser bolt blazed by overhead, turning the pavement behind him into molten rock. “John!” Wayne yelled to his friend who had taken cover just a few feet away, “Got any more rockets left? I lost mine.”

    John shook his head, “No, sir. However, I do have a pack of C-12 with me.”

    “That’ll work for now.” Wayne agreed, “Gather all the C-12 from the men as you can.”

    John nodded and ran among the ranks of the Vortex Division, harvesting any C-12 explosives that the men handed to him. A few minutes later, John returned with several C-12 packs bundled up into a small cube. “Our best bet will be to go for the legs.” John said, “That’s more than likely its weak spot.”

    “Maybe.” Wayne replied as he glanced out from behind his cover, “Unfortunately, we’ve got roughly forty yards of open ground between us and that walker. Whoever goes won’t be able to run to cover by the time the C-12 goes off.”

    “Which is why I’ll be the one to go.” John stated.

    Wayne looked at his friend as if the man had suddenly turned into a crazed suicidal madman. “There’s no way on what’s left of this earth that I’m going to let you take a one-way trip to your death.”

    “You and I both know that I’m the fastest runner in the division.” John argued, “I’ll be able to get in and out of there in time. As Peter Pan used to say, ‘Death would be an awfully big adventure.’”

    “Since when have you seen Peter Pan?” Wayne questioned.

    John shrugged, “It’s a long story.”

    Wayne glanced past his cover at the enemy battle machine that loomed before them, “If you’re doing this, you’d better do it now.”

    “It’s been an honor serving with you, Sergeant Johnson.” John said, holding out his gloved hand.

    Wayne took the offered hand and shook it, “Same here, Private O’Brian. Good luck and Godspeed.” He then turned to his division and yelled, “Covering fire!”

    What remained of the Vortex Division suddenly popped out from behind boulders and wrecked cars and opened fire on the battle machine. Even though the bullets harmlessly pinged off of it’s thick armor, they proved effective in keeping the machine occupied. “Go now!” Wayne yelled to John over the thunderous rat-a-tat of machine gun fire.

    With a savage cry, John broke from his cover and sprinted towards the massive leg of the walker, the bundle of C-12 in his hand. A few seconds later, he reached the leg and began to tie the explosive bundle onto its surface. As soon as he was done, John set the timer for ten seconds, then made a break for the nearest cover.


    The walker’s leg disappeared in a brilliant flash of fire and light. The explosion was so intense, Wayne had to shield his eyes from its glare. Suddenly finding that it no longer had a leg, the battle machine fell onto its side with a mechanical groan. Wayne gazed at the downed machine for a few moments before waving the ‘all clear’ signal to his men. “Secure the area.” He ordered.

    “Yes, sir.”

    Wayne slowly made his way to the disabled walker, keeping his rifle aimed towards it just in case it decided to come back to life. “Private O’Brian!” Wayne called, hoping beyond hope that his friend had survived the explosion, “If you can hear me, please respond!”

    Just then, one of Wayne’s squad commanders trotted up, “The area’s secure, sir. Awaiting further orders.”

    “Help the wounded onto stretchers.” Wayne replied, “Bury the dead.”

    The soldier nodded, “Yes, sir.”

    Wayne continued to search the surrounding rubble for any sign that John was still alive. “Sir.” A nearby soldier suddenly yelled, “I found something.”

    Wayne jogged over, “What is it, Private?”

    The soldier glanced at him with sadness in his eyes and slowly held up a pair of military dog tags. “I think these belonged to O’Brian, sir.” He told Wayne, “The explosion must have incinerated him.”

    Wayne took the tags, tears welling up in his eyes. He was too young to die, he thought, I should have forced him not to go.

    “Private O’Brian was a brave man, sir.” The soldier who had found the tags said in a reassuring voice, “He gave his life to protect this division and the BladeHawk Clan.”

    “I know.” Wayne replied.

    “I’ll see that you’re left alone for awhile.” The Private stated as he walked away.

    Wayne stood silently for several minutes, still stunned by John’s death. His mind refusing to come to terms with what had just happened. That Private is right, Wayne thought, I can’t let John’s sacrifice be in vain.

    Wayne’s mind finally recovered itself and, after shoving John’s dog tags into his vest pocket, rejoined his division. “Come on, guys.” He told them, “We’ve still got a long way to go before we take this city. Let’s hunt some NightStalkers.”

    With a cheer, the Vortex Division reformed and continued on their way through the city streets, melting into the ever-growing shadows, and on the hunt once again.