Blue sparks exploded in the skies above the Ant horde. An immense wave of energy tore through the very fabric of space, connecting two locations for a split second. Through that very split second, the UHC Destroyer finished the jump.
In a sense, it never moved.
Tens of thousands of Ants were covered by the shade of the ship. A few of them looked up in mild confusion, but most just kept their heads low and advanced toward the nearest smell of human flesh.
General Kenneth was standing on the bridge. Out of the windows, he could see what was happening down below. He sent the starship here as quickly as possible, but from loading the crew members to doing the final safety checks before lifting off to preparing for jump...it just took too long.
By the time the ship arrived, it was too late. Three full Armored Divisions were wiped out. They fought till the last trooper, and this sacrifice wasn’t in vain. Through the twenty precious minutes they bought, thousands were relocated to safety. The brunt of UHC forces was assembled and started their march to the front.
As for now, the general wanted to honor the fallen with the screams of their killers.
“All weapons, fire at will.”
Countless plasma batteries popped their heads out of the belly of the Destroyer. Inside the hulls of the ship, gas particles underwent a process where the electrons were scattered out into the open, forming extremely heated plasma bolts, which were immediately fired out of the batteries and at the Ants below.
Even from the ship’s bridge, Caity could see crowds and crowds of Ants on the ground being turned into glaring balls of flame. She couldn’t hear the screeches inside the sealed ship, but judging from the way the Ant torches shook violently, she could definitely tell they were in excruciating pain.
For some reason, that made her feel oddly satisfied.
As many of their kind were set on fire, the rest simply ignored the Destroyer in the air and turned their attention to the front. There, lines of UHC forces have formed a defensive position. Fleets of Arbiter X moved in from the air. Tanks and APCs rolled in from the ground. Infantry gathered behind the cover of armor.
Out of the hangar of the Destroyer, two types of aircraft flew out into the open.
The first type was the Assassin XII Starfighters. Light, agile entities with a satisfying metallic look to them, these starfighters gathered up before preparing to dive down on the Mutants below.
The second type was the Slaughter III Bombers. Giant moving fortresses carrying entire arsenals, these ships were as fortified as they were slow. Several machine gun turrets provided some firepower, but they were nothing compared to the sea of shells they could drop on the Ants.
On the ground, the Ants growled and stormed the lines.
And the brutal fighting continued.
”General! The 14th Armored Division is down. Colonel Dashwood is killed in action.”
General Kenneth gripped onto a guardrail tightly. Colonel Dashwood was one of the officers who were with him from the very beginning. He has always been a reliable leader. When General Kenneth thought about who to keep in the Capital, he was his first choice.
Now he was dead, and the general didn't even have time to mourn.
“Tell the 23rd Armored Division to move in and fill the gap.”
The Destroyer and the fleet of Arbiter X kept on wreaking havoc on the Ants. Slaughter III Bombers, specifically designed for situations like this, turned entire sectors of the battlefield into a sea of flames.
Thousands of Ants died by their hands alone every minute. But at the same time, the casualties among the ground forces have grown to an unbearable degree. The tanks and APCs that were destroyed could be easily replaced, but the elite troopers killed in the process...now that was painful.
General Kenneth would’ve just pulled the ground forces back and let the starship, gunships, and bombers do the fighting. Except the Ants would’ve just gone after the closest smell of humans, which would be countless refugees the UHC tried so hard to evacuate. Men, women, and children. The UHC ground forces were required to buy time.
Trade human lives for mere minutes.
A roar covered the battlefield, one louder than any of the Ant growls combined. Caity watched as a group emerged from behind the UHC forces. There were only hundreds of them, but their impact to the battle was greater than an entire Armored Division. Why? They were all Mutants. Every single one of them.
In New Sara, a single Tier 1 Mutant could rule a dozen streets. Here, they were just the basic foot soldiers. That was the power of the United Human Confederation.
With Project Salvation and sheer human lives, the UEC generated an army of supersoldiers.
Without the dirty tricks, the Phasewalker Corps could never beat the Confederation. Caity noted darkly. Thankfully, aside from all the Mutants and weapons and starships, the UHC had something else the Phasewalkers didn't. They had ethics. They had a conscience. They had a line they refused to cross, and unlike everything else, this alone would lead to their downfall.
To be a lone hero in a world of villains was to dig one’s own grave.
The addition of the Mutants into the battlefield gave the UHC forces a huge boost. The shaking lines were reinforced once again. Caity glanced at the general in the bridge, who showed no sign of excitement. The Mutants have arrived at the battlefield a while ago, but General Kenneth kept them back as reserves. Project Salvation was far from perfect and the manmade Mutants were damn precious. But in the end, the general decided they weren’t any more precious than the tens of thousands of men and women fighting on the ground.
Lines and lines of Ants were lit up by the Mutant powers. Strength-based Mutants charged into the Ants like walking tanks, literally ripping open anything in its path in melee. Speed based Mutants were right behind. Caity could see they were holding onto some sort of melee weapon, a specially designed sword, that could cut Tier 0 Ants in two with a single strike.
For a moment, the lines were solid. Airstrikes cut off Ant reinforcements while Mutants and armor alike cleared the Ants in the front. For a moment, everything seemed to be going perfectly.
But as many UHC soldiers on the ground cheered, General Kenneth wasn’t as confident. Scanners on the Destroyer told him a painful truth: the Ants were still pouring in, and their numbers weren’t about to be depleted anytime soon. No matter how many Ants died under the plasma batteries or the Judicator missile-pods or the Mutant blades, more were always ready to take their place.
Without fear, without doubt, the Mutated Ants fought more viciously than any human fighting force. They didn't need bullets. They didn't need rest. As long as their limbs were still attached, they could keep on pouring into the fight.
Fighting a war of attrition against a force like that could only end in one way.
An attempt was made to combine all available forces and launch a counterattack against the Ants. For that, General Kenneth unleashed another weapon. A squad of 12 titans entered the field. Literally. Titan V heavy tanks, 15 meters tall in height, advanced to the frontline. The firepower they held was impressive, but what was more impressive was their size. When thousands of UHC soldiers saw the Titan Vs literally ramming into the Ant horde and crushing hundreds of those vicious beasts under their wheels every second, their cheers grew even louder.
Ants kept on trying to bite through the plating, but it was futile.
Yet, the Titan V soon encountered the same issue as the Mutants. Just like Mutants could see their powers exhausted, the Titan V realized even if they emptied all the ammo they carried, there would still be too many Ants to kill. Soon, even the treads of the vehicle stopped moving, congested by the sea of Ant corpses grinded inside. Immobile, the tanks could only empty their arsenal futilely into the endless sea of enemies.
Bombers continued to put in the work, but there was only a handful of them available to the UHC. Compared to the practically endless hordes of Ants, they were no more than a piece of pebble on a soccer field.
General Kenneth frowned as the counterattack was forced to a stop.
Suddenly, behind him, Caity put down her satellite phone and walked up to General Kenneth. A look of excitement on her face.
“General, I just got word from my forces. They are outside the gates of the Capital.”
“Good.” General Kenneth nodded. “Have them move on the front at once!”
“I don’t think they should, general.”
General Kenneth snapped to Caity. Before he could say anything else, Caity added.
“General, I sent a few gunships to the rear of the Ants. I thought an invasion like this, this level of coordination, can't be an accident. There must be a hivemind or something behind the Ants. If we don’t kill the hivemind, no matter how many of its minions we kill, it won’t matter. Kill the hivemind, and the rest of the Ants will either turn on each other or disperse.”
General Kenneth thought about it.
“Did you find it? The hivemind?”
“Yes. I just got a report of a suspicious among of Mutated Ants trailing 20 miles behind where their main forces are. If we can hit that location and terminate the hivemind...we put an end to all this slaughter.”
That was what moved General Kenneth. So many men and women have died this day. He would do anything to make sure they weren’t joined by more.
“What are the coordinates?” He asked. “We’ll bring the ship there now.” Nothing the Ants had could challenge the firepower of the Destroyer. He was sure about that.
“Here are the coordinates.” Caity gave a set of coordinates to the general. “But General, are you sure you want to only take the ship over? I don’t believe there are too many ground forces aboard the ship...”
A starship as big as the Destroyer had its place on the battlefield. Its size and altitude made it impervious to most attacks from the ground, and its batteries could easily bombard armies or defensive positions from safety. But at the same time, no one has ever credited the starship for being a precise instrument.
Fire in the general direction of a sea of Ants? Easy. But locating and exterminating a single high-value target? That was much more difficult. That was like trying to use a bazooka as a sniper rifle. That just wasn’t in the design.
The Destroyer could scatter the hivemind’s escorts, but the kill itself would likely involve hunting down the hivemind with ground forces.
But as of the moment, the only available ground combatants on the Destroyer were squads of the General’s bodyguards. Two hundred of them, to be precise. Chosen from the UEC Special Forces, they were definitely good at their jobs. But even with a Destroyer in the air, dropping two hundred men onto the ground behind hundreds of thousands of Ants still felt like a suicide mission…
In the past, the UEC stationed Marines on top of their starships for this type of mission. But the UHC didn't have the same luxury. In fact, all their available forces were tied up in the front.
Of course, that wasn’t including the 6th Armored Division back in the Capital, but Governor Hanson would never let his private army be exhausted fighting to protect anyone but himself.
Colonel Hunter took the opportunity and offered her help.
“General, my forces are at the Capital. 7,000 strong. If you can bring the ship back to the Capital, then they can be ferried to behind enemy lines. With my forces on the ground and this Destroyer in the air, we will hunt down the hivemind and put an end to this disaster.”
There was nothing but selflessness in her eyes.
General Kenneth glanced at the battle below. The exit of the Destroyer would certainly be a blow to the UHC forces, but as long as he told the commanders the plan, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
He turned back to Caity and nodded. There was no hesitation in his eyes, nor was there any doubt in his head. After all, Caity has proven herself to be a selfless leader from the intel the UHC gathered, and even if she wasn't already trusted...this was a war between mankind and the mutants. No one would benefit from a mutant victory. Even those as greedy as Governor Hanson simply sat this one out. Only a madman would try something now.
Five minutes later, after taking the time for some communication and coordination, the Destroyer jumped back to the Capital.
Outside the gates of the Capital, the best of the Phasewalker Corps was on the march.
This result of this operation would either ensure the Corps’s survival or seal its doom. That was why Ryan deployed every single elite unit in the Corps. The 1st Armored. The 2nd Airborne. The 3rd Artillery. The 4th Motorized. The entirety of the five Support Battalions was added to the expedition. At this point, the only forces enforcing order across the three Phasewalker settlements were the 5th Motorized Battalion and half the Regiment Security Platoon, along with a handful of militias.
Inside countless Predator II, Leopard APC, and Arbiter X, countless troopers readied their weapons. Before they left, all of them were made aware of what they were truly here to do.
They weren’t here to protect. On the contrary, they were here to destroy.
Did they have questions about why they were turning on a fellow human faction? When they were resisting against a horde of Mutated Ants, no less? Of course. But the orders were given, and it was the duty for the Phasewalkers to throw their individual thoughts aside for the greater goal.
They were Phasewalkers, and it was their duty to follow orders.