CHAPTER ONE:

The Boy Who Escaped

Twelve miles east of Exeter, Devon, UK

Saturday, October 3rd 2007, 1515 hours

It's been over a month now; a month since he had escaped what had become a prison; a prison under the sadistic rule of a traitor. He had tried to keep a low profile, but in the end, he couldn't stand it. He decided to try and escape, and, by several strokes of luck, he had. And now, here he was, on a road, littered by the debris and the markings of war.

The sixteen-year-old boy still could not understand what was happening. First there was this nonsense about wormholes being reported in the papers, then sightings of these huge spacecraft landing in areas across the world, Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. But he first took notice when these ships opened and, like something out of an H.G. Wells novel, came this huge, man-like, walking machine, which started shooting everything that moved with lasers, missiles, cannons and various energy weapons.

As more of the ships landed, more machines of various shapes and sizes appeared, and operating in groups across the globe. Almost every military force that was sent against them was wiped out, with little or no loss to the invaders. Eventually, cities across the world began falling to the invaders.

It was during this chaos that one of the invading armies came to the place he had called home, led by a huge silver man-like machine with a skull-like head and a blue trim. Very soon, the place was under their control and everything changed. Some fought the changes, and were quickly silenced. Those who embraced them became willing tools of the occupying force, and the boy and his friends were powerless to stop them.

But now, he was free, free from that place, from the tyranny, the evil and the darkness. And, after his escape, he had found himself wandering around in a world of darkness, desperation and strife. Everywhere he had gone; he had seen devastation, death, fire and anguish. He hoped that this would not be visited upon his home before he had a chance to return home with the help he had promised them.

So far, he had found no one and nothing at all that could help him, just wrecks of military vehicles, ruined villages, towns and cities. He even came across dead bodies, torn and twisted like rag dolls. These reminded him of the human tragedy that was being suffered all across the world, wherever the machines and their armies were.

As the boy walked along the road, he saw over the trees the upper torso of one of the walking machines that now stalked the Earth. He froze as he watched this metal monstrosity stomp its way toward the north, the direction from which he had come from. As the machine disappeared from view, he heard the sound of rockets whooshing from overheard.

He looked up and saw two streams of missiles fly through the sky in the direction of the machine. There was a quick succession of loud explosions from where the machine was, signifying that it had been hit by the missiles.

The boy looked round to the hills behind him to see a tall spherical machine with two huge missile launchers protruding out of each side of the head. The thing was walking down the hillside on two bird-like legs that stomped along the ground, generating a booming sound with every footstep. Before the boy could move to the trees behind him, he heard the sound of cannon fire emanate from the other machine's direction, and the ground exploded by the legs of the attacking machine.

This occurrence of the invading war machines fighting each other was nothing new. During the invasion, for what seemed like strange reasons at the time, up to three groups of machines and escorting vehicles attacked each other with brutal abandon. It was this type of event that caused the destruction of London, Newcastle, Glasgow, as well as dozens of other cities and towns throughout the world. The reason why they did was not known to the boy at that time.

As soon as the boy finished collecting his thoughts, he dived off the road and dashed through the undergrowth. Behind him, the sounds of a battle started to roar out. He looked round and saw that the spherical machine was now attacking its opponent with lasers, before following with another missile salvo.

As soon as the missiles left the launchers, one of them was blown by a cannon blast, before its main body was hit by missiles from the opposing machine. The bird-legged titan machine started walking backwards along the road, firing its lasers as it went. The boy watched with muted fascination as the opponent appeared from his right, allowing him to see the thing clearly.

That machine was about half-a-metre taller than the bird-legged spherical machine, standing on man-like legs, its torso not unlike a man's chest, with what looked like the bridge of a warship's sitting on its left shoulder and a hexagonal missile launcher on the right. It also had to arms which reached down to the machine's waist before bending forwards, aiming straight ahead.

The boy could see that the man-like machine was the much better armed as it continued firing at it's attacker with lasers, machine guns, cannons and missiles, which reduced the bird-walking sphere to a smashed hulk, from which something shot from the top of it, leaving a trail of fire and smoke that reached high into the sky. He watched it continue to streak into the sky until there was a burst of sparks and out popped three small parachutes and what was evidently an escape pod began to float gently toward the ground. However, as it did, a red laser beam permeated the air, striking the pod, which shattered into tiny fragments of metal and whom or whatever was piloting the machine, which now toppled over onto the undergrowth to it's left with a metallic 'boom' and the sound of metal and glass breaking.

The sight of the bird-legged machine's overthrow created a feeling of hope in the boy's heart. It was not the first time he had seen one of those towering metal giants brought down by another giant. He had heard other such occurrences, as he journeyed south from where he had escaped from.

He continued to watch as the victorious machine turned and headed back the way it had come during the fight, and moved away toward the north. As soon as it was out of sight, the boy emerged from his hiding place in the trees and crept out onto what had become a battlefield. He stepped gingerly toward the defeated machine, curious to see what was inside the hole left behind by the escape pod's ejection. As he crept closer to it, the sound of machines' feet came booming from the west. The boy turned and saw that two machines were approaching the site.

He didn't have time to have a long look at the newcomers. Instead, he rushed to the overthrown metal monster and dived into the hole. Inside, he found himself in what looked like some sort of futuristic cockpit, with blank television screens, various buttons and controls, all of which he was unfamiliar with. He also noticed that the front of the cockpit was dominated by a huge windscreen, not unlike that on the cockpit of an aircraft.

"Well, I could have picked a better hiding place." The boy said to himself, before returning his attention to the approaching machines, unsure as to their identity.


First Lieutenant James Hatton first heard of the 'Mech battle as he was patrolling the area near Exeter, a city held by House Davion, one of three invading armies that had taken over the planet and were now battling each other for dominance. Upon hearing the report from a recon squad about a 'Mech battle in progress, he, and his patrol partner, Corporal Lisa Gold, deviated from their patrol route to investigate.

James, or Jim as he was known to his friends, was twenty three years old, and had joined the British Army following his escape from London during the collapse of what had become called 'The Old World'. He was part of the unit which led a raid on a camp belonging to another of the invading armies, House Steiner. This resulted not only in the capture of several of their machines called Battlemechs, but the acquisition of valuable intelligence of their invaders.

As a result of that raid, Hatton's unit, the Royal 'Mech Force was formed and he wound up being the pilot of a Bushwhacker, a captured medium-sized Battlemech which stood at a grand height of nine metres. It was a somewhat ugly machine, with the main body not unlike that of a modern attack helicopter. The 'Mech had two arms which protruded from the side; the left arm reached outward then dipped down diagonally into a bulky weapons pod, whilst the other arm was fully horizontal, but had a cannon casing, which, too, was bulky.

It wasn't ideal, but it was the best the Royal 'Mech Force had at that time. And now, Jim piloted the 'Mech across the fields toward the battlefield, the bird-like legs underneath the machine propelled it through the long grass toward what was the A382 heading south towards the village of Easton, which was long deserted and long devastated. As he surveyed the scene, his eyes came across the wreck of a Catapult, a heavy support 'Mech with twin LRM launchers with pulse lasers and a large beam laser for weapons. This type of 'Mech belonged to House Liao, the third of the three invading armies that had conquered Earth. He could tell by the green triangle with a samurai sword on the machine's hull.

"Whoever took that thing down, picked it apart, Paladin." Gold called in over the radio, calling Jim by his call-sign.

"Copy, Echo-2" Jim replied, looking over at her 'Mech, a Hunchback, a medium a man-shaped metal monster armed with a cannon, an SRM launcher and an assortment of lasers. "Stay alert, whoever did this might be close by."

"Copy," Gold responded over the radio.

Jim returned his attention to the sensor screen in front of him to see whether the Catapult's destroyer was still in the area, and he found that he was, and he was heading right for them.

"Uh-oh!" he said, reaching for his helmet mike. "Echo-2, light 'em up! We've got an incoming bogey!"

"Got him! Man, he's fast! He must be doing 80!"

"Probably a light! You know how fast they can…" He paused as the enemy smashing out of the trees. He immediately recognised it from the intelligence they captured on that raid. "Thor! Davion Thor!"

"Engaging!" Gold responded, as she opened up with her Hunchback's cannon, quickly followed by red laser beams.

Jim pushed forward on the throttle and turned the torso on his Bushwhacker to face the Thor. Immediately, he pressed the missile fire button on his joystick and two streams of missiles shot out from the launcher above and to the left of his machine's cockpit. He quickly followed by a shot from his autocannon, which impacted on the enemy 'Mech's leg.

The Thor returned fire by firing its dual cannons, both shot hitting Jim's machine in the torso. Sparks flew inside his cockpit, some hitting him in the face, causing him a little burning sensation. A quick look to the damage monitor to the right of the joystick showed that the left half of the torso had received 50% damage.

In response, Jim pushed his throttle to half speed and moved forward, still facing the Thor. He began circling around the enemy, firing off his pulse lasers and cannon. His idea was to keep moving to avoid being hit by incoming fire from the Thor.

"Echo-2, circle around him, hit him with everything you've got." He called into his helmet mike.

"Roger, Lead." Gold replied, and she manoeuvred her Hunchback to begin circling the machine, whilst having her torso twisted toward their opponent so that she could keep shooting at the machine.

This tactic, as well as the combined firepower of both Jim and Gold's Battlemechs began to take its toll on the Thor, blasting its right arm off, followed by its missile launcher. The firing continued until a well-aimed shot hit its chest and it fell to the ground with bright white beams of light bursting from the torso. Jim recognised this as a sign that the 'Mech's reactor had been ruptured and it was going to explode.

"Echo-2, get clear, get clear!" He called out, hoping that his partner could get clear.

Gold spun her Hunchback around and engaged her jump jets, sending her 'Mech leaping into the sky on a train of fire and smoke, whilst Jim set his Bushwhacker in full reverse, trying to get as far away from the enemy machine, which ripped itself apart in a massive explosion, sending bits and piece of itself everywhere.

As shards of metal rained down all across the battlefield, Jim looked round for any sign of Echo-2. He was glad when he found her Hunchback standing tall in the undergrowth beside the wreck of the Catapult.

"Any sign of any more bad guys?" Jim asked his squad-mate

"None that I can see, Paladin. We're clear." Gold reported in over the radio.

"Acknowledged." Jim replied, before switching frequencies on the radio. "Command, this is Paladin, receiving?"

"Go ahead, Paladin," came the response over the radio.

"We're at the battle site now; it looks like it's over. I can confirm one Liao Catapult down. It looks pretty battered, but based on it's condition, I'd say the pilot ejected and left the machine more or less intact."

"Any sign of whatever took out the Catapult, Paladin?"

"Yes, sir, while we were investigating, a Davion Thor ambushed us. We took some damage, but we took it out."

"Is the Thor salvageable?" Control asked him.

"Negative, reactor exploded upon impact." Jim answered, "I reckon the Salvage Section can get a few weapons out of her, maybe a few bits of armour but not much else. The Catapult, though, looks more or less intact, looks like we might have another addition to our collection."

"Alright, we're despatching Salvage in there now to see what we could use, E.T.A. one-five minutes. Suggest you hold your position and await further orders."

"Roger, Command. Paladin out."

Jim closed the channel, before swivelling around his 'Mech's torso to face the downed Catapult. As he looked at the wreckage, something caught his eye inside the opening at the top of the 'Mech. He flipped a switch on the left hand console and a zoom-in window appeared on his forward cockpit window. Inside, he saw a shadow moving inside the machine. Jim switched the radio frequency to that his squadron.

"Gold, this is Paladin. There is someone in that thing."

"Are you sure?" His patrol partner replied.

"I saw something move in there." Jim replied, looking at the opening. "Form up on me, Echo-2. I'm powering down."

"Sir?"

"I'm taking a look in there." He said, as he started flipping the switches to power down his 'Mech's fusion reactor.


The boy watched as the machine powered down and bowed its head, the high-pitched sound of the reactor shutdown entered his ears. He saw the cockpit visor open up, which caused him to dive further inside the wreck of the machine he was in. He didn't know what to expect, and so reached into his right pocket and pulled out a small pocket knife, ready to strike whom or whatever was coming toward his hiding place.

He watched the opening with great fear, unsure of what was going to peek into the cockpit of the wrecked machine. Eventually, a shadow appeared by the opening, aiming what looked like a rifle of some sort dead at him. The boy immediately sprung into action, launching himself at the shadow, knocking the man over.

The boy tried to rush off, but the man grabbed and brought him to the ground. The two wrestled their way through the undergrowth until the man managed to pin the boy, only for him to receive a punch to the jaw, disorienting him momentarily. The boy struggle some more, but the man pinned him back to the ground and raised his fist, ready to strike…

As he brought his fist up ready to strike, Jim noticed a lightning-shaped scar on his attacker's forehead, almost covered up by the boy's messy black hair. He let go of the boy, saying "What the hell?" for the boy was someone he had heard so much about during his time at school. He was none other than the Boy Who Lived, the famous Harry Potter.