When Caity and Jason got out of the Command Center, she was shaken to the core.
She has never seen someone so determined. So selfless. General Kenneth was willing to take a loss, to potentially fund the enemy, just so more human beings could live. This was a day and age where some would kill their family for a Gauss Rifle, yet he just gave away all these priceless assets for free.
It suddenly struck her that the general was not that different from the Phasewalkers. They were all fighting for a cause, and that was what made them unbreakable. The only difference was that the people the Phasewalkers were fighting for were in another world.
Some might call people like them fools, because they didn't know to look after and fight for themselves. But anyone could put their self-interest in mind. Willing to make sacrifices, willing to be struck down, for a greater good...now that was difficult.
Jason was ordered to select the wargear that would be handed to Fortress Alpha. Before he went to work on that, he led Caity and her Security Troopers to a large guest house designed for emissaries and their security detail. It was more than enough for everyone.
As soon as they got in, the Phasewalkers moved to search the entire house, doing their best to root out the potential hidden cameras or other spyware. This was what they did to Ford. It would be painfully ironic if the same method was used against them…
Surprisingly and unsurprisingly at the same time, the UHC made no attempt to spy on the Phasewalkers. When the room was fully cleared, Caity gave Ryan a call.
“Yes. Access code?”
The Phasewalkers thought about the possibility of the UHC taking the envoy prisoner and forcing Caity to issue certain orders. At this point, it felt almost foolish, but before she left Caity decided this was a real possibility.
If Caity said “AZ3” in response, it would mean everything was fine and she was truly herself. If she said “AB3”, it would mean she has been taken prisoner. If she said “AC3”, it would mean this call was surveillance and compromised. In that case, a rescue mission might be in order. Or a termination one.
After her authenticity was verified, Caity gave a brief explanation to Ryan of what happened.
“So...they are offering us wargears of an entire Armored Division? For free? We only have to give them a promise in return?” Ryan was truly impressed. Just like Caity, he didn't believe someone could be that generous. Caity didn't explain General Kenneth’s intentions to him. She simply nodded.
“Put together a convoy and an escort.”
“Yes sir.” Ryan replied. “Colonel, what’s your plan? Are you coming back?”
After all, Caity was the head of the Phasewalker Corps. She could be absent for a few days, but if she was to remain in the UHC, some changes had to be made.
“I…” Caity frowned. She thought about it seriously before suddenly making up her mind. “I will stay here. I want to see if the UHC is who they claim to be. With my own eyes.”
“Then who will command the Regiment in your absence?”
“There shouldn’t be anything significant while I’m away. Contact me if that changes. In the meantime, I hope I can entrust you to handle the everyday affair?”
Ryan nodded. “Of course.”
As the call came to an end, Caity sighed.
“United Human Confederation...please don’t disappoint me…”
The Phasewalker convoy arrived the next day. It was composed of the 1st Armored Battalion and the 2nd Airborne Battalion and led by Major Nelson. Caity was on the scene as Lieutenant Kenneth handed the gears to the Phasewalkers.
Across the field, lines and lines of Predator II tanks stood tall. They were all of fine quality, with their giant main cannons pointing at the front, staring down at Caity. The tanks themselves contained enough ammo to fight a short campaign. Behind the tanks were a line of trucks, also serving the purpose of carrying ammo.
Steps behind the trucks were two lines of Leopard APCs. After that was a line of grounded Arbiter X gunships.
Finally, there was another line of trucks, all of them filled with standard UEC Trooper gears. Black Guardian IV Armors. Defender series Gauss Rifles. Even High Explosive and Shrapnel grenades.
The UHC didn't play any tricks at all.
An UEC armored battalion held 8,000 troops, along with 50 Predator II, 50 Leopard APCs, and 30 Arbiter X gunships. The UHC gave the Phasewalkers everything but the soldiers themselves.
“Are you sure this is fine?” Caity couldn’t help but ask as some of the Phasewalkers dismounted from their rides here and jumped onto the new vehicles. Pilots of the 2nd Airborne climbed into the brand new Arbiter X and brought them into the air. Tanks, trucks, and APCs alike started rolling.
But Caity couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty, especially since she knew if the tables were turned, she would have General Kenneth killed or imprisoned and his forces conscripted without a second thought.
Lieutenant Kenneth reassured her.
“Honestly, the Mutants are more likely to go after the soldiers than the guns they’re holding onto. During the waves of Mutations, we lost more men than we lost weapons, so we ended with a ton of weapons and no one to use them…” He sighed. “might as well give them to you and put them to use. As for the ammo...we have a set of forges dedicated to making rounds for our weapons.”
“At this point, the worst has passed. We survived the initial outburst of Mutations. When millions of our own were turned into monsters, we survived. When hordes of Mutated Animals overran our lines, we survived. Now, we are more prepared than ever. We have the troops. We have weapons and gears. We have unity. It may take ten years, it may take a hundred, but sooner or later, we will be the masters of this planet once again.”
The man turned to Caity. His meaning was obvious. Except this time, instead of feeling offended that she was pressured to join, Caity actually felt touched. She quietly looked away.
The Phasewalker convoy has gotten everything they needed. Major Nelson came over, reported to Caity, saluted, and then left. The convoy would bring everything they received back to Phasewalker territory. There, the tanks and gunships would be added into the existing units. The armors and rifles would be used to expand the support battalions.
Caity turned to Jason. “Can you show me around more? I mean...do you have missions of your own?”
“Happy to. Actually, I was ordered to attend to your needs. Here, follow me.” Jason answered with a small smile as he turned and led the way. Caity followed him. Four Security Troopers marched behind her.
The first stop Jason took was to the training camps. Passing two sentries who checked the ID of Lieutenant Kenneth, Caity and Jason walked into an open field. There, hundreds of men and women in shorts and/or sports bra were doing everything they could to forge themselves into warriors. Under the glaring sun, some were sparring with each other with wooden sticks. Others were standing in front of shooting targets with training rifles.
The two moved to the side, getting out of the way of two lines of recruits who were running around the camp in circles.
This scene felt oddly familiar. Caity suddenly realized it was almost identical to Eagle’s Nest where she, Ryan, Alex, Hemley, and the other Generation I recruits were first in training. Only several months passed, but it felt like an eternity.
Just several months later, some of the recruits became the Regiment Commissar. Most have become officers in the Regiment. Some were dead.
One of those mere recruits made her way to the Colonel in command of the entire Phasewalker Corps.
“Colonel,” Jason suddenly tilted his head in invitation. “mind if I challenge you to a spar?”
Caity suddenly smiled. It was a more honest smile than she has had in a long, long time. “Let’s do it!”
A few minutes later, Caity was standing face to face with Jason. She has taken off her Guardian IV armor, revealing a black sports bra and a pair of sports shorts. Jason was wearing a t-shirt. Both of them were holding onto a pair of batons.
Some of the recruits glanced at this direction curiously, but their training officers quickly put them back to work. As of now, their only audience was the four Phasewalker Security Troopers.
For a second, no one moved.
Suddenly, a gust of summer wind started blowing from behind Caity. The Colonel saw Jason squint his eye a bit. That was the opportunity she was waiting for. Without a moment of doubt, she leaped forward with her baton raised.
“Nice timing!” Jason cried out as he took a step back, buying himself a few seconds. But Caity was right after him, one of her batons crashing down, aiming right for his head. Jason raised both his batons, crossed them above his head, in an attempt to deflect it.
The single baton from Caity clashed with the two from Jason. Jason held his ground and pushed the strike back, but Caity expected that. Without a moment of pause, she lowered her body, raised her left baton, and hit Jason over his leg. Jason reacted swiftly, dodging to the side while bringing his two batons down in an attempt to assault.
Caity bought some time with her right baton and got herself to a safe distance.
“If I was holding a sword, you would’ve lost the arm.” She smirked. “You’ve got to keep your eyes open.”
Jason grinned and stretched his arm. “I didn't expect you to know melee. Military training?”
“Yeah, sort of.” More like Phasewalker training.
“Hmmm…” Jason looked like he was about to say something else when Caity suddenly felt a gust of wind blowing right into her eyes. Shit! She cursed. During the exchange, the two have swapped places! Jason was just buying time so he could do the same thing to her as she did to him.
But it was too late. Jason charged forward and landed multiple strikes on her before knocking her baton out of her hand.
“Caity, you’ve got to keep your eyes open!” The UHC lieutenant smiled warmly and returned Caity’s own advice. “Another round?”
“Nah…” Caity shook her head. She was tempted, but she wanted to go over more of the settlement. “now that we’ve seen the barracks, how about somewhere else?”
“Sure. That’s my mission, after all. But before that…” Jason glanced at the sweat on his t-shirt. “a shower?”
Caity tilted her head.
Later that day, Jason showed Caity to more parts of the Capital. First, they visited the forges. There, workers were put to work crafting weapons to those who could fight in the front. The machines the UHC had were highly advanced, having been directly taken from UEC armories themselves. They could assemble almost anything given the proper raw material and sufficient time, from a Predator II to a Defender-I. It was from here that an endless stream of weapons was pumped out, taken to the front, and used on the endless Mutants.
Then, they visited a hospital. The lack of medical treatment has killed countless survivors, but here, medication wasn’t that much of a problem. All the doctors have been selected out of the survivors, given the equipment, and put to work.
“Plagues have been known to follow wars. Sometimes, plagues kill more people than the wars themselves. General Kenneth paid a lot of attention to having us bury every dead body we come across, Mutant or otherwise. In case that’s not enough, he spent a lot of time building up a medical system. Anyone can come here and be treated.”
“Anyone?” Caity raised her eyebrows. “Free of charge?”
“Well, it’s not like people will get sick on purpose just so they can be healed.” Jason shrugged. “Yeah, everyone. It’ll be a shame if we save someone from the beasts, only for them to die here from a cold or something.”
Caity nodded in silence. It was funny how a military government in the apocalypse could achieve something the strongest countries back on Earth couldn’t. It said a lot about human nature.
Finally, the two went to one last place. A place Caity never expected to see in this world.
Through the window, Caity watched as dozens of children, ranging from 8 to 12, sat across a make-shift classroom. The room was obviously converted from some other purpose. The blackboard was a small one that the teacher had to hold up. Even the tables and chairs weren’t uniform. But all the students listened carefully.
Caity turned to Jason in inquiry.
“General Kenneth had these schools built so our next generation can read and write and remember what our world used to be. This way, our culture, our civilization, can be preserved. This way, when this is all over, even if all of us are gone, humanity will be returning to the civilization it once had, instead of stumbling across the darkness, with no idea of the glory it once had.”
Defeating the Mutants wasn’t the goal. It never was. The goal has always been restoring Humanity. After all, if Humanity perished along with the Mutants, then what would be the point?
Caity nodded slowly as she observed the classes.
“Your father...he is a great man.”
Lieutenant Kenneth shrugged.