Disclaimer: Definitely not promoting Nazism here...keep in mind this is just a fictional world with fictional characters.
The once-proud city burned under the afternoon sun.
At the same time as the Destroyer was crippled by the timing charges and the Arbiter X departed from the scorched airfield, the Phasewalker forces in the Capital have finished most of their work. It took them a lot longer to retreat, but then again, no one was there to stop them.
The 1st Armored Battalion marched into the Armory, which actually put up a decent defense. Unfortunately, there was rarely anything a few rounds of artillery fire and a charge of enough Predator IIs couldn’t stop. Before long, the 1st Armored Battalion came back out again, now at three times its former size.
Most of these vehicles in the Battalion only had a skeleton crew, but they were still moving, and that was all that mattered.
Aside from the newly acquired tanks and APCs, there was still a line of trucks, carrying munitions that the UHC spent months piling up. What the trucks could carry was just a small portion of the total arsenal. As for those that couldn’t fit into the trucks...nothing a few explosives couldn’t deal with.
At the same time, Eric and squads of Stasis Troopers walked out of the research center for Project Salvation. Their boots were stained with blood. Some of them were wounded. Their strike into the underground facility was neither unnoticed nor unopposed. Yet, in the end, everything was settled.
When they left, they left a floor of bodies, and they took away several bags of Salvation Serums and paper notes of the researchers. That was all they could find.
As the main objectives were achieved one by one, the Support Battalions had no need of providing cover either. After all, the plan was never to seize and occupy the Capital. It was simply to get in, get what was needed and burn the rest, and get out.
Finally, every Phasewalker personnel departed from the war-torn Capital, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.
Right after they left, officers of the 6th Armored Division left their underground bunkers. Some of them weren’t made aware of the seriousness of the situation. In their heads, they were still modeling what they should report to their higher-ups.
Should they tell them how they bravely stood against the intruders, and that after hours of gruesome battle, finally drove them off?
What they failed to realize was that none of that mattered, and not just because the higher-ups they reported to were all dead. None of that mattered because soon, the UHC would cease to exist. Why?
In the heat of the moment, everyone seemed to have forgotten about the real battle that mattered. The battle at the northern end of the UHC territory, where tens of thousands of UHC soldiers were holding their ground against ten times their numbers of Mutated Ants.
When the Destroyer first left, the commanders were confident. They told the soldiers, and the soldiers were confident. In fact, many of the soldiers had their hopes up. As long as General Kenneth could take out the hivemind, then the UHC forces could finally end this senseless slaughter and go home to their loving family.
When the commanders of all the units lost contact with the general’s starship altogether, everyone was less confident. They had no idea what was going on. Never in the world could they realize that this so-called Ant hivemind was just a facade Caity used to bring her forces into the hulls of the Destroyer so they could execute a deadly betrayal.
Bad news arrived one after the other. First, the commanders lost contact with everyone, including with the gunship and fighter pilots and each other. If that could be classified as some issue with the cell tower, then the fact that there were distinct explosions and gunshots coming from the direction of the Capital couldn’t.
Finally, the squad of 100 Arbiter X gunships that was supposed to arrive a while ago never did.
When the other gunships, fighters, and bombers finally exhausted all their ammo and the Destroyer was still nowhere in sight, chaos ensued. The lack of communication crippled whatever attempt to re-establish a battle plan. As armies were isolated, the results were devastating.
The UHC forces were absolutely wrecked. Seas of Warrior Ants devoured the armors and infantry. Mutants exhausted their powers and fell one by one. Titan V tanks were cornered and slowly had their armors chew through. Perhaps at some point there was a chance to retreat, but as Ants broke through certain units and circled around behind the defenders, that chance disappeared.
When it was all over, nearly 70,000 UHC soldiers were slain. Their bodies feasted on by the Mutated Ants. Only a handful of survivors made it out in time, mostly pilots, but they would never be enough to make a difference.
With a single battle, the spine of the United Human Confederacy was broken. The life of the establishment that took General Kenneth so long to forge was rapidly approaching its end.
But that wasn’t the end of the Ants’ journey. As the bodies of the valiant defenders were stripped down to the bones, the unsatisfied beasts turned their attention toward the South. There, stood a line of settlements that eventually led directly to the packed city of the Capital. There, more carnage awaited.
And this time, no one would be there to stop them.
As the Ant horde moved on, the only thing left on the battlefield were the torn wreckage of tanks and APCs, the broken pieces of Defender rifles, and bits of torn Guardian Armors, stained with blood and flesh. These were the only mark of the martyrs who gave their lives valiantly, though ultimately, meaninglessly.
Caity stood silently in front of where the Portal used to be. Now, the place where there once stood a solid black screen that connected worlds was only occupied by several clouds of black mist that seemed to be growing larger and larger as time passed. Caity estimated it could be anywhere from a few days to two weeks until the black screen was returned to its former size.
For a moment, she was silent. The Portal. She really didn't know what she should feel about the Portal. It was thanks to the Portal that turned her from a nobody to a Colonel who had the fate of the world at her fingertips. At the same time, it was the Portal that forced her to murder good people, people who she respected and even admired.
She could never forget how free she felt in the UHC after the Portal and the burden it carried disappeared. No more sacrifices. No more fighting for humanity. Without the Portal, she was just a young woman who was free to do whatever she wanted, whether that be friendship, leisure...or even love.
But now, the Portal had returned, along with her obligations to do what was best for the Phasewalker Corps and Earth.
Letting out one last sigh, Caity turned around and left the room. She had other things to attend to, but she had ordered the sentries to find her as soon as the Portal was back.
The Colonel made her way back to her office, a place where she hasn’t been at for weeks. The period of vacancy didn't seem to have left a mark in the room as it was cleaned every day by Phasewalker support personnel. Slowly, Caity sat back down in her seat and started working on affairs in the Regiment that were awaiting her decision.
One of these decisions was more important than the others.
“Captain Chelsea, you are accused of torturing an enemy combatant and executing a non-combatant on the battlefield. Do you have anything to say?”
In front of Caity was Captain Chelsea. Once upon a time, she was a Generation II Phasewalker recruit. A medic. Now, months later, she stood as the Captain to the 41st Company of the 4th Motorized Battalion. This lightning speed of ascension was due to no other than her zealotry and the meritocracy among the Phasewalker ranks.
Confronted with Caity’s accusations, the woman didn't flinch. She barely even bothered with defending herself.
“Sir, I have nothing to say. I did torture and kill an enemy combatant, alongside his wife.”
Caity sat back in her seat and crossed her fingers in front of her thoughtfully.
“Mind telling me why?”
“They were enemies.”
“Yes, they were enemies. Well, that sniper was an enemy.” Caity tapped a stack of files on her desk. “And if you killed him, even if he was already incapacitated, fine. I would’ve done the same thing. But you tortured him first, for no reason. And his wife. Was her death necessary?”
Chelsea paused. “Sir, if what I did was too cruel…”
Caity suddenly scoffed, cutting the Captain's sentence off.
“Too cruel? I just ordered the death of four hundred thousand innocent people. I didn't care about them, and I definitely don’t care about the lives of two random survivors. They would’ve died anyway. You gave them a quick way out.” She leaned forward intimidatingly.
“Let me rephrase myself, Captain. I want to know what motivated you for such needless cruelty. Did you do it because you simply liked the feeling of ending a life? Or is the pleasure of having the power over someone else?”
Before Chelsea answered, Caity issued a warning.
“Be very careful of your answer, Captain. It may impact your future more than you would expect.”
Chelsea stood there for a while, silent and deep in thought. Caity leaned back in her seat and gave the Phasewalker Captain both the space and the time to process it. Finally, Chelsea looked up at Caity again.
“Colonel, I don’t like the feeling of killing people. I don’t hate it either. But what makes a human, Major? Is it the physical features of a human? No. To me, it’s the brothers and sisters that fight side by side with me through hell and fire. They are human. Courage. Valor. Strength. Loyalty. A cause that is worth sacrificing everything for. That makes us human.”
“The pair of locals I killed back there weren’t human. They weren’t even from our world, and our world is the only one that matters. They were just rats. Leeches. Pests that only care about their own self-interest. Pests that are too weak to defend their own world from devastation. The only thing they have in common with us is their look. They mean nothing to me the way that they are, and the moment they picked up arms against us, they have become parasites. Parasites that must be exterminated with all haste.”
“So, you see, Major. My motivation was simple. Parasites must be eliminated. As for the cruelty...no one has ever been accused of being cruel to leeches, nor has anyone being charged with murder for killing a mosquito.”
With her reply given, the Captain stood tall and awaited Caity’s judgment.
The Colonel nodded slowly before speaking up, giving voice to her decree.
“Sometimes, the Corps needs a hammer. A unit of brute force that can crush through any and all opposition. For that, we have Major Nelson and the 1st Armored Battalion.”
“Sometimes, the Corps needs a dagger. A small but precise force that can find its way to the opponents’ throat without them even realizing it. A deadly instrument of mobility and stealth. For that, we have Major Riley and the 2nd Airborne Battalion.”
“Sometimes, the Corps needs sheer numbers. We have the Support Battalions for that.”
“But sometimes, neither strength nor speed is what we need. Sometimes, what we need is the ability to strike fear into the heart of the enemies. The ability to use unapologetic cruelty to subjugate the masses and break the morale of resistance. Sometimes, the Corps needs a whip. I hope you can fulfill that task.”
“Captain Chelsea, as the Colonel of the 1st Phasewalker Regiment, I give you the rank of Major and promote you to the commander of the 4th Motorized Battalion, replacing Major Lilywhite, who was injured in the Battle of the Capital.”
“Sir,” Chelsea was obviously surprised, but she quickly got a hold of herself and saluted. “sir, you will not be disappointed.”
As the newly made Major left the room, Caity sat back in her seat. She didn't know if what she did was right or wrong. The view that Chelsea just held closely resembled what the Nazis thought about Jews. It was the same belief that allowed the brutal torture and execution of countless of innocent during the Holocaust. And in the Corps, Chelsea wasn’t alone in her belief.
Many Phasewalkers would treat their comrades with respect and dignity. But when they turned to ordinary survivors, that respect would disappear without a trace. It was as if the locals and the Phasewalkers were two different species altogether. No Phasewalker has ever laid a finger on a local in the Phasewalker faction, but reports of brutality against hostile locals, like the one Chelsea did, were numberless.
This twisted view of the world shouldn’t be a surprise, considering most of the Phasewalkers were either teenagers or barely adults. Put them into the brutal World Alpha with little training and some psychopathic worldview was the least of the concerns.
The Colonel suddenly smirked. Then again, what right did she have to condemn what they thought or did? Cruelty? If there was a ranking of atrocities committed in the Phasewalker Corps, she would be on the very top.
They killed a man or two. She doomed an entire faction.
They killed with guns and knives. She unleashed flesh-devouring beasts.
She just hoped it was all worth it.
She just hoped the survival of Earth was worth selling her soul and the souls of the entire Corps to the devil for.
In the name of protection and security...how far is too far?