With the end of the Cold War, and with it the threat of a nuclear war, the term mutually assured destruction hadnt meant anything to anyone; doubtless no one could guess it would skyrocket back with a vengeance just a decade later.
The year 2001 had seen one worldwide scare after another. First, a highly potent virus, known as the X2 virus, was released. It quickly became apparent it targeted only females, and while there wasnt a 100% chance all females would contract it, once they did they had no hope of surviving. Most of the surviving women were herded into national quarantine zones to prevent the virus from spreading further. The virus burned out in the beginning of May, but by then over 95% of all women on Earth had succumbed to it.
In the aftermath of the virus, the male population, fearing for its survival, began forming gangs and tribes. Unlike gangs of old, these ones were tank-jockeys. In the first year, only three varieties were fielded; as the years passed, more and more tanks were developed, eventually seeing between 11-14 different tanks.
In the time between the fielding of these new tanks, many battles were fought. Some were just to survive for the day; some were to capture enemy-controlled QueenLords; and some were much larger, much more complex. Two such campaigns widely known in the years after the X2 virus were carried out by Griffin Spade: the first was a journey spanning the entirety of America, from a bombed-out New York City to San Francisco, California, to reclaim his wife; the second, five years later, took him back the way he came and farther, through Great Britain, France, and finally to Berlin, Germany to rescue his son.
While he was clearly the most famous of the BattleLords, he was not the only wanderer in these dark times.
Another explosion tore through what was left of one of the many buildings in Chicago. The ruined structure crumbled into charcoaled support beams and a mound of ash. A man, sitting where one wall of the structure had once been, lowered his head and sighed. Why do I bother taking cover? He jumped to his feet and ran behind another building. He placed two fingers on an earpiece in his left ear. Stone to Black Lead, do you copy?
Very little static was heard before his CO responded, very odd with the status of most of the equipment they had to work with. Black Lead here, whats your status?
Stone grunted. Ive been separated from Katana--
Its Tanaka, Stone. Weve been over this twice each day over the last week.
I know, I know
I keep forgetting in the middle of battle. Sides, Katana isnt too far off, is it? Being from Japan and all
Stone, you might want to shut up before he accuses you of racism.
Im not in my tank, either.
Well, get back in it! Youre the one responsible for our heavy firepower! If your tank is gone, were finished!
Stone cut off the transmission without acknowledging. He peeked around the corner, spotted a small red Moto Tank. It was facing the other way, giving Stone a good view of the Skull Riderz logo on the back. He dashed across the alley, static suddenly blasting into his ear. He placed his fingers on the earpiece again.
His other ally came through. Katana to Stone.
Stone let the confusion in his mind out. BuTa
Kana... Kona... Tana
what the hell is your name already!?
Tanaka laughed. I was just messing with you. Tanaka here, Im closing in on your tank. No hostiles spotted nearby, how about you?
Stone shook his head, trying to clear his mind. Ive spotted one Skull Rider. He knew that was enough to tell the whole story; the Skull Riderz were more or less the laughing stock of the American gangs, utilizing the pathetic Moto Tanks almost exclusively. Ill be there to get my tank shortly
I think. Where are you?
Tanaka took a few seconds to check the radar equipment in his M1 Abrams to find Stone. Youre about 7 blocks west of my position. Radar is only picking up that bike you saw, but no one ever said our radar is foolproof. Watch out.
Stone knew he wouldnt be able to get past the tank without it noticing him, but inspiration struck. He snuck up behind it. The flaming skull on the back of the tank stared him down; he had hoped it would be the only face that saw him until he got to the tank. Luck was with him; he was able to get right up next to the tank without the driver noticing him. He grinned, lowered himself, and jumped above the tank.
The Riderz must have been working on a budget even lower than their own: the very thin sheet of metal behind the tanks large visor couldnt hold Stones weight. Stone crashed down, on top of the pilot, knocking him out. He was about to kick the visor away, but realized that the front would still be secured, and in the pathetic tank he had hijacked he would need all the protection he could get. Climbing back up and tearing the top of the canopy off to give himself more room, he removed the tanks previous owner, and then sat himself in the lone seat. He contacted Tanaka to let him know, the Moto Tank with the fucked-up topside is me. He drove carefully, almost as though he were some 15-year-old with a permit. No hostiles. He drove as fast as the tank could take him east. He passed by another Riderz tank; it must have noticed the fucked-up topside as well, as it started tailing him. Shit shit shit. His mind raced, trying to think of a way to outwit the Rider when he caught up, but he calmed when he saw a familiar triangular tread from behind the corner of the next building.
He quickly turned down that street, jumping out of the tank as it coasted between his own Goliath and Tanaka in his M1 Abrams. He managed to jump down the hatch just as the second Skull Rider found itself facing every tank more powerful than his own.
Tanaka could hear the rider panicking; he might as well have pissed himself. I-I surrender! Please dont kill me! Tanaka glanced to his left, as though Stone could see him.
Stone shook his head. Theres no way his bikes in any better condition than the one I took for a joyride. We cant use im. Tanaka nodded, aimed at the Moto Tanks visor and fired one 120mm HEAT round.