The year is 2015. Perhaps you are at work, or enjoying time off, or woken up in the middle of the night. A corner of your mind is asking a nagging question. You turn it over like a puzzle, distracted beyond words, consumed by it.
The year is 2040. You have awoken into a world that has been at war for 25 years, a world scarred by inexplicable forces beyond human understanding. In the devastating first strike your homes were the first to be destroyed - no, transformed. Their people unrecognizable, the very earth and rock and metal of modern civilization twisted in the arrival. Except, seemingly, for you and a few others. There was a tiny spark of vitality still in you and somehow, the transformation has been reversed - 25 years later. Adrift in this unknown future, there is only one course forward.
Welcome to the future. Get in the robot.
The origin of the invaders is not known with any certainty. What is known is that they are not simply of extrasolar origin, but appear to extrauniversal - they come from a universe not of our own. They have abilities inexplicable by modern understanding of physics, chemistry and biology. Beyond that, little is known. Fragments of their technology (or technology-equivalent, the lines are blurry) have been recovered and repurposed but even so, little is known of the invaders' psychology and even less of their motives.
In 2040, the invaders have taken over all of sub-Saharan Africa, Siberia and arctic North America, much of the Amazon basin, Antarctica and Australia. Refugees from these and other, lesser conflict zones have fled to more populous and defensible locations. Of those unable to escape, only the worst can be assumed.
One disturbing aspect to the invaders is that they appear to be evolving. Not just in terms of improving their weapons and their troops, but in their tactics and strategies as well.
The Sousa College
In the immediate aftermath of the invader's arrival, nations across the world began to put together teams to investigate, understand and if possible, reverse-engineer what they could. The primary EU effort was headed by Doctor Sousa and headquartered in the portugese city of Sines. Here they broke ground in several disciplines and became well known for their leadership in understanding the. In particular, they were instrumental in developing the first-generation Active Control Systems - the family of technologies that allows for control of humanoid frames.
The EU nations were quick to embrace the fruits of Dr Sousa’s work; traditional weapons were hardly ideal to deal with many of the invaders. While a 140mm sabot round or 2000lb bomb would often be quite lethal, more often than not they’d find their target had agilely dodged or had raised a massively durable shield. Against these enemies, a new weapon was needed. That weapon was the Humanoid Combat Frame.
In Britain and Europe, 'frames are colloquially known as Axes, after the English acronym for their control system - ACS. The name stuck and was translated into many other European languages. As their official name implies, Axes are humanoid in body plan – a stark limitation of the same control system that gives them their speed and agility. ACS systems operate best when built into a machine with very humanlike proportions and utterly fail to operate at all when not built into anything at least reasonably humanoid. This has vexed many, many engineers and an ACS that could be used in a tank or jet fighter is the holy grail of more than one research project.
Most frames are between 12 and 16 meters tall and mass between 30 and 100 tons; heavier models have commensurately more powerful weapons and (much) thicker armor. Weapons tend to be conceptually designed like vastly scaled-up infantry weapons. 35mm ‘submachine’ autocannons have become one of the EU’s standardized calibers, while larger sniper-style weapons use modified 120mm tank ammunition. Of course a great many other weapons exist from missiles to mortars – an exhaustive list would fill a small volume of Janes.
The Sousa College has led the EU in development of ACS and their latest achievement is the second-generation Active Control System. This is a giant leap forward in ability but requires more than just any conscript. It requires an Aleph - one who was recovered from transmogrification. It is only these individuals who can synchronize with a 2GACS. Just how this was accomplished remains deeply classified and apparently very difficult.