July 04, 2104

Nevada. Outside the ruins of Las Vegas.

The harsh Nevada sun shone down upon the hard cracked earth, devoid of water for almost fifty years. Holes and craters pockmarked it surface, evidence of the fierce battles that had taken place in the past. In the middle of the void stumbled a pitiful excuse for a man, much less a human. He was frail from lack of food, his bones showing and in some places even poking through his skin, but he didn't care, he had long since stopped caring for himself once he had lost his mind. His skin was green and rotting, maggots crawling over his skin. He was burning, not only from the sun, but from the uncountable amounts of radiation that was polluting the world.

He stared out into the vast emptiness with his one remaining eye, seeing a black shape coming towards him from the nothingness. A horse groan crawled up his throat as he began to shamble towards the thing, he was hungry, so hungry anything would do.

Then the thing suddenly leaped out of the distance and before he could do as much as scream he was crushed and splattered across the ground under the treads of a T21 Light Tank.

The tank grounded to halt then rotated its turret to look at the bloody smear left on the ground.

"I think I hit something." It said over its radio.

"Yeah no shit." Its companion, a Chaffee Light Tank, replied rolling up beside it. "Now let's go. Command is going to be pissed if we're late again."

After one last glance, the T21 rotated back to the front and speed away, the Chaffee following behind.

The miles slowly melted away as the two drove across the desolate sand. They could have taken the highway, but that was a ripe place for bandits and mutants. The mutants weren't so bad you could run over them easily enough but the bandits were the real threat. Large, hijacked Tank Destroyers that would hold you in their sights while others tore out your ammo, then they'd shoot you anyway. As light tanks they weren't risking it.

"Hold up." The Chaffee said suddenly, slowing to a stop. Confused, the T21 did the same, it's turret scanning the area.

"What is it?"

"Got something on the radio." The Chaffee replied, it turret shifting nervously. "And it ain't one of us."

"Bandits?"

"Possibly."

"Shit." On a hunch, the T21 rotated it's turret to face behind them. There, about half a mile away a rising cloud of dust was approaching. Leading the cloud were three tanks bearing the black and red colors of a local gang, the name of which escaped them. An M46 Patton, a T69 and a large M6 heavy tank, each one straining their engines to try and reach the two scouts.

"All right you found us, good job." The two heard a voice say over the radio. "Now if you please just stand still we might let you go. If not, we could use the target practice."

The Chaffee and T21 looked at each other in silent agreement, then they gunned their engines and sped away toward their HQ. Behind came thundering noises as the tanks behind them fired at them, straining to match their speed.

"This is crazy!" The Chaffee shouted as it swerved, dodging a shell that hit the ground directly in front of it.

"How much further?" The T21 shouted back. So long as they were out on this plain they were sitting ducks.

He needn't even have asked. In the distance rose up the crumbling ruins of Las Vegas, otherwise known as home.

"Sorry I asked." Said the T21, dodging another shell that streaked past his turret. They could have returned fire, but with their ammo reserves at an all time low it was out of the question. They only had five shots each, it was pointless firing back when they were sure to miss. And anyway, they far to focused on dodging to worry about aiming.

The incoming shots were going wider and wider as their pursuers fell further behind, until they stopped all together.

After making sure the path in front of him was clear, the T21 rotated its turret to look back. The three tanks had turned, heading back off towards the hills and canyons of the Nevada land scape to wait for other unsuspecting prey. They would have to report this to command as well. Gangs in the area were getting even more aggressive and bandit attacks had never been higher.

As they drew near the outskirts of the city, the T21 could practically feel the gaze of the multiple Tank Destroyers that stood guard outside the main entrances, waiting to take down anything that approached. He turn on his radio. "This is T21 Corporal Michael Smith and Chaffee Corporal Travis Bret, reporting from scout duty."

"We read you Corporal Smith, you are clear to proceed. Nice moves by they way." Came the reply from the radio.

"You bastards!" Travis exploded. "You saw us getting shot and did nothing?!"

"Hey, remember we can't leave our posts? And anyway, how do you think we can see you through walls?"

"You have a port hole through said walls!"

"Good point. But I don't care. Your alive, and that's all that matters. Also the big boss would like to see you ASAP."

"Acknowledged." Michael cut in before Travis could say anything else.

Soon buildings began to surround the pair as they continued deeper into the ruins of Las Vegas. It was depressing. Houses burned, cracked roads and in the distance they saw the remnant of the Strip, its great casinos crumbling and most of them fallen already. But if you looked closely, you could the watchmen posted on the roofs of the aging buildings. Powerful Tank Destroyers, best of their class for sniping enemy targets, and not scared of heights.

Unexpectedly they hit a wall of piled cars and other wreckage filling the road reaching almost twenty feet high. They could have climbed over it easily enough, and become a target for every TD and SPG out there. They turned right, heading along a makeshift track through the ruined buildings along the wall to the west gate.

They reached the gate in good time, a simple breach in the wall of wreckage, and turned in. Instantly four TDs and Heavies swiveled to target them, shells sliding into chambers ready to fire. But they stood down when they saw who it was.

"Ah, its you again. Give us a little warning next time, will yea." A T30 Tank Destroyer rolled up before them, an invisible smile on its face. "But besides that, how was it out there?"

"The usual." Michael replied, dryly. "Bandits, mutants and pot shots. Its a wonder how they haven't run out of ammo by now."

"Sounds like fun."

"Like you would know, Mike."

Mike, rolled back on his treads, pretending to be offended.

"Hey! Who can blow your ass up with a single shot?"

"He probably can." Michael rotated to look at a T34 Heavy. There was a burst of laughter over the radio.

"Ha ha. Very funny." Mike rolled back sightly, engines gunning and hydraulics hissing. Then tank was lifted up off the ground as its treads folded under it, becoming crude but powerful legs. As its body rose higher arms folded out from the main chassis as it stood tall. A small flap slid back on its front and a boxy head emerged, glowing blue eyes alight above a grill that represented a mouth that seemed to grin with glee.

Before Michael could pull back, the walking tank raised its foot and rested it on his turret and pressed. He could feel his suspension creek as Mike pressed down harder.

"And who..." Mike continued, invisibly grinning from ear to ear. "...can stomp you into the ground like a bug?"

"You." Michael groaned.

"I'm glad we understand each other."

Michael sighed in relief as Mike removed his foot and stood before him. You had to love future, with all its life saving gizmos like the Tanker class mech. But he could do without the cons that came with it too.

"Well, run along now." Said Mike, folding back into Tank form, his turret gesturing towards the HQ. "The boss is expecting you."

"Alright we're going. Come on Travis." Michael had only gone twenty meters when he realized Travis hadn't moved. "Everything alright, buddy?" He rolled back to where his friend sat motionless.

"Sor...ry." Came the garbled reply as Travis rolled a few meters then stopped suddenly. "I...'m lag...g...ing ag...ain."

"That sucks." The same T34 Heavy spoke up. "Connection issues?"

"Ye...ah."

"Well you better take him to Ratchet before you do anything." Said Mike, his earlier attitude gone. "Before it gets any worse, hopefully."

oOoOoOoOoOo

"Ah, its not that bad." Rumbled the metal hulk known as Ratchet. The gigantic T1 Heavy leaned down, looking deeper into Travis's insides. On the other side of examination table, Michael stood watching as the medic examined the internal connection couplings with extra care.

He wondered idly how the old man got his name. Probably some fans of those old Transformers movies and other stuff thought it would be funny. Well, the name certainly matched the grizzled war veteran.

Below his steady gaze, Travis tried not to squirm as his insides were examined. His armored chest plate had been removed and lay on the ground, he felt too vulnerable with out it. Michael under stood perfectly. The mental condition known as Iron Skin. He didn't know one person who didn't have it. They had lived so long in their mech bodies that they were scared to come out, even for a life or death situation. Though some had it worse then others.

"The couplings are all good." Said Ratchet as he picked up a thin, tank sized, screwdriver from a trolley beside him. "Its something in your core. Probably an implant out of alinement. I'm going to put you out for it, OK." Travis nodded, gratefully.

Grumbling something about courage in the face of surgery, Ratchet carefully inserted the screwdriver into a tiny and turned and turned. Travis's eyes slowly dimmed as power was cut off and forced his body into recharge.

Frowning in concentration, Ratchet began to undo the screws that held the thickest piece of armor in the Tanker mech, its core cover. Once the screws were gone he reached in and carefully pried off the heavy cover, setting it by the chest piece.

Michael couldn't help but look in at Travis's core and held back a frown of disgust. The real Travis, his human body, was lying in a metal coffin deep in the heart of the war machine. He was practically a skeleton, a ghost of the man from before the war. Tubes ran from the life support systems to inside his body, keeping him alive perpetually. His skin, or what was left of it, burned by radiation, was complete white from being stuck inside his mech for almost seventy years. His head was a mess of twisting wires and cables all connecting him to his mechanical body. Michael couldn't see anything out of place, but Ratchet could.

"Well, get going." Michael started as Ratchet growled at him. "Give him a little privacy. And as you recall the Commander wanted to see you."

Right, he had completely forgot about that.

"Oh right! Take care of him." Said Michael as he jogged away, his steps shaking the ground beneath him as Ratchet grumbled again about youngling forgetfulness.

The medical bay was in the remains of the MGM Grand casino, the only place large enough to hold the examination tables that they needed. It wasn't so bad, but to walk from there to the main HQ in the Luxor was a bit of an annoyance.

He stepped out into the harsh Nevada sun and for wished once again that he could feel the heat on his skin instead of hard metal. Transforming back into Tank form, he turned south down the Strip to the Luxor. Many other Tankers of different classes were wandering about, mingling with their friends or helping others load their internal ammo belts. He payed them little heed, except when someone got in his way, as he rumbled down the road.

The Luxor was one of the last casinos left standing, besides the Grand, and it shone like a beacon in the bright midday light.

He transformed again before the massive doorway to pyramid and walked by the deadly T110E4 Tank Destroyers guarding the entrance.

The inside of the casino had over gone a complete renovation over the twenty five years they'd been here. The elevated second level had been completely removed leaving the whole floor accessible to the transforming Tankers. Though he probably wouldn't have had any trouble. His T21 Light Tank frame in humanoid form was less than fifteen feet tall. But some, like the commander and his T57 Heavy Tank frame reached twenty, if not twenty five feet tall. Sometimes power had its downfalls.

As he stepped in he immediately noticed his commander and his second in command standing around a large metal table in the center of the building. But other than them the place was empty. He frowned, hearing three voices quite clearly.

Putting his worries aside, he stepped up and saluted. The commander turned, his joints creaking with age.

"Ah, Corporal." He said, motioning with a single massive hand. "Come here. Your report is the turning point for this discussion."

Confused, Michael walked up to the table. A giant map of the surrounding area was painted on its surface with little markers representing the multiple threats around Vegas.

Sweeping his eyes over the map again, he froze as one of the pieces moved. No... it wasn't a piece, it was a human. A real, breathing human outside of a Tanker. If it was possible, his mechanical eyes would have widened in surprise, but all they could do was stare impassively. Granted, the man was still covered by a thick armored radiation/pilot suit, but still, it had been almost thirty years since he had seen one. Were they always that small?

"Well, continuing on." The man had to shout up at the Commander. "That's the situation up in the north. Everything is ready to go. We're just waiting on everyone to show up."

"Who's everyone?" The SIC asked.

"The Russian, Germans, British, you name them. We're not to sure about the Chinese or Japanese, we haven't gotten any word back from them."

"So." The commander rumbled. "You're planing to get everyone off?"

"Yes sir. We found a great new place to set up shop."

"And you'll wait for us before you leave?"

"Trust me, we won't leave the majority of our population behind."

"That's comforting." Said the Commander, his gaze now focused on the map. "Scout, how is the Highway 15 route looking."

"Um... clear, sir." Michael reported, his eyes still on the tiny man standing on the table. "We heard it's clear all the way to the ruins of Bunkerville."

"And beyond?"

"Not too sure, sir. But we met a group from the 44th from Salt Lake City. They say that Highway 15 is clear all the way to Lethbridge."

The Commander rumbled, his uncertainty showing in his voice. "Well thank you, scout. In the meantime, would you carry Sargent Trever back to the airfield.

In one swift motion, Michael transformed and felt the pilot jump on his back. Then he took off out the doorway.

"So, what's it like to be a Tanker?" Michael heard the pilot ask over the radio.

"I don't know. It's good I guess." He replied, driving past the guards at the front and into the road. "What's it like to be out of one?"

"Its freezing. But other than that, not so bad." The pilot laughed. "You got to eat, sleep and piss daily. You know, low maintenance stuff. You Tankers high maintenance?"

"Oh you have no idea." Michael groaned, turning through a gap in the fence to the airway. "One thing goes out of aline your a goner. So what was that all about in there?"

"Project Exodus." The pilot replied with pride. "But I can't tell you anything but the name."

"Ah, come on. Please."

"Doing nothing."

Grumbling, Michael stopped beside the F-18 Hornet sitting along on the runway. But something didn't make sense. The runway was wrecked, potholes from hundreds of SPG shots littered the ground. There was no way the guy could have landed through all that, much less take off.

"Thanks." The pilot jumped off his back and climbed in his aircraft.

Michael transformed and watched as the hatch sealed over the pilot. Engines powered up and he watched with amazement as the fighter began floating off the ground before flying off at incredible speeds into the sky.

Michael blinked, the multiple scanners in the Tanker's frame had been going crazy about some unknown element being used to power the craft.

Shaking his head, he transformed and drove off back to the medical center.

oOoOoOoOoOo

Codex.

The Last Great War.

In 2029 relations between the West Conglomerate and the United East finally shattered. Terrorist groups financed by both sides caused endless panic to feed the growing propaganda. Until the dam finally burst, nations rallied and the war began. The war lasted for exactly five days. On the sixth, came the end of the world. Nuclear weapons were unleashed by both sides, and in one hour everything on earth was burning.

The few survivors of that day call it, Armageddon.

After Armageddon, the survivors banded together in a truce to try and rebuild their shattered world. Race and culture mean nothing, if you are human, and still sane, then you are welcome anywhere.

Tanker Class Mech.

Developed in 2025, the Tanker was the newest generation of war machine. Some even said it would replace men as infantry on the battle field. Giving men destructive fire power and mobility on the field. Before Armageddon, over three hundred thousand of these transforming mechs were created around the world, though few saw action in those last days.

After the war, the survivors saw the Tanker as the key to their salvation. Improving on the original design, life support systems were added to keep to pilot's body in stasis for indefinite periods. However, most of those remaining suffer from radiation poisoning and other problems without cures, and will remain in the Tankers for the rest of their lives, however long that might be.

Though while the Tanker plans in general survived, few if none of the original three hundred thousand Tankers remain, as well as their tank styles and designs. As well most of the blueprints for the newer models were ether destroyed or never found. As a result, older tank blueprints were pulled out of storage and modified. These 'new' frames now house what is left of the earths population.


My brain had an idea. Tell me what you think.