The Ballad of Cairo

Part One: Birth of a Nemesis

Los Alamos,

The Periphery,

Spinward of the Federated Commonwealth

It was a cold night on the periphery world of Los Alamos. Two lances of planetary militia were out looking for a Mech that had been reported in the area. The first lance consisted of four Pegasus scout tanks, while the second consisted of four Mech's: two Stingers, a Commando and a Locust. The light tanks acted as scouts while the Mech's moved across the rolling grassland that sustained the farms that had reported the strange mech.

Lt. Steve Clark moved his Commando past a small line of trees and caught sight of what had once been a farm. All the buildings had been flattened and the cattle slaughtered. Of the farmers and their families there was no sign.

He keyed in his mike, "Rolling Thunder One, this is Walk Tall One, head down the road and see if there's any sign of survivors".

"Roger that Walk Tall One, Rolling Thunder One confirms. Rolling Thunder lance, move out!"

The four tanks headed off down the dirt track that headed to the nearest town. Clark's Commando and the two Stingers started to move some of the wreckage out of the way while the Locust reported in to control.

Clark was lifting part of a barn when the Pegasus tanks reported in. "Walk Tall one, this is Rolling Thunder two, the Sarge is down. The Mech is here - it's tearing the town apart! It's a…" The radio went dead.

"Rolling Thunder lance report! Rolling Thunder lance respond! Walk Tall lance, make best speed for the town…move it!" Clark screamed his orders. The town the tanks were reporting from was his hometown…Cairo.

The Locust shot off down the track towards the town. The Stingers formed up on either side of Clark. As they rounded the last bend, they caught sight of the town. Flames reached high into the night, framing the pirate Mech like some sort of demonic beast raised from the very depth of hell its self. The four Pegasus tanks were now burning hulks at the side of the road. Clark hit the War-Book command on his Mech's computer.

"Ok people it's a Champion. She's a 60-ton heavy, but we out-weigh her by 20 tons -combined weight. #2 and #3 go in from the right; #4 come with me from the left." The two Stingers moved off to the right while the Locust followed his Commando to the left.

The pirate Champion was tearing the town apart, firing it's lasers at buildings and watching them explode. As Clark got closer he could make out more details. The Mech was jet-black all over. He could just make out skulls painted on the knees in the flickering firelight. He locked on his SRM's and fired a spread at the back of the Mech. The Champion shuddered as most of the missiles struck.

The heavy Mech turned and fired a stream of AC10 rounds into the Locust. The light Mech staggered backwards as the depleted-uranium slugs tore into its armour. The right leg was almost severed and the right arm torn off at the shoulder. Clark let rip with another swarm of missiles, this time backed up with his lasers. The Champion replied with its own SRM's and lasers. Armour fell to the ground in shards as his Mech was ripped apart. The two Stingers rounded the corner at the end of the street and fired their lasers at the pirate. The twin medium lasers struck the heavy Mech on the left arm. The Champion fired more SRM's at Clark's Mech, this time snapping both legs off at the knees.

Clark hit his head on the control panel as the remains of his Mech hit the ground. Half conscious, he watched as the black Champion tore the two Stingers apart, one by one. He blacked out as the pirate Mech finished its work on the town.

The following day, while Clark was sitting in his hospital room, he looked at the list of casualties. Of the two lances, he was the only survivor. Over three hundred civilians had been killed, including his entire family. As he read the list of names, Clark made a vow on his honour as an officer and a gentleman, on the souls of his family and his dead comrades, to hunt down the pirate…or die trying.

To Be Continued