The armoured feet of a war machine hit the ground with a metallic thud, a stone giving something to hit other the soggy, sooty ground. Rain rattled against the broad curves of the frame’s shoulders and back. The machine dwarfed nearby houses, its head reaching halfway into the third stories of some. It had the shape and swagger of a burly rugby player, bronze plates making an imitation of a tan. Under the heavy-set forearms sat shining axe blades, notches on the sharpened edge telling a number of war stories.
“Tango, activate forward lights.” A small head set deep within armour plating regarded the weapons with silent admiration, floodlights illuminating the way through snowy mist.
The pilot, eyes locked dead ahead at the screen relaying dizzying amounts of information, rested deep within the machine. Around their arms and legs hung braces, a framework of rods and rings that approximated some sort of metal skeleton. They recorded everything the pilot did, down to finger twitches, and forced those motions on the machine. This was the invention dubbed the Motion Matrix.
Another Lordframe dropped onto the scene, splashing mud in all directions. The pair grew in time to be a heavily-armed trio waiting outside a smashed wall several metres higher still than their machines. The buildings ahead were the ribs of the city’s upturned carcass, the machines vulture ready to venture in.
“This is Major Nathaniel Tomkins reporting in,” the first pilot said into his mic. “Time is exactly twenty-three hundred Eastern European time. We’ve hit the Blank Zone’s border in upper Donetsk.
“Blank Zone, sir?” the operator asked. Major Tomkins grumbled. A radio operator not knowing crucial information this early in a mission was a great sign.
“You didn’t pay much attention in history class, did you?” another pilot jeered with a hint of a laugh.
“Don’t mock him, Simon,” Tomkins said with a cool yet ominous tone. “The Blank Zones are the places your mother told you not to go. The cities and towns claimed by Pre-Event weaponry, radiation and all manner of other disturbances, deemed too dangerous to venture into and almost always devoid of human life, those are the Blank Zones. We’ve received reports of ‘monsters’ coming out of Donetsk. Now these might be the results of mutagens being released on the population or they might be rogue Lordframes, I don’t know right now. What I do know is that we won’t have prepared for nearly a year and flown from Leeds to not do a proper job. I’ll report in when anything of substance occurs. Until then, Tomkins out.”
Simon nodded silently, wise enough not to irk Tomkins. A veteran of numerous such sorties, his achievements still paled in comparison to those of the major.
A light scar twitched on the major’s dark brow as he scowled, tired of waiting around. “Best get on with it. Let’s move.” The massive machines whirred back into life, their red-hot hearts melting the snow on their backs. Tomkins shoved the ruined chunks of steel to one side, breaking through what was left of Donetsk’s border wall. The two accompanying frames swiftly moved to flank Tomkins, their war machines smaller and lighter than their bulky frontline leader. One of them, that belonging to Simon, clutched a long, tube-like firearm in its hands, always aimed straight ahead as the gunman surveyed his surroundings. They could ill afford to be ambushed by an enemy they had only anecdotal information on.