One hundred years after the Hell Wars, Earth found itself in a period not entirely unlike the Dark Ages of long ago. To be sure, there were dissimilarities. While the original Dark Ages were a time of little technological growth, this new era gave life to several advancements... although all were in the name of military conquest.
Rather, Earth was in a Dark Ages as far as the human psyche was concerned. Man's spirit had been battered, bruised, and flat-out beaten to a pulp. Mankind returned just as strong as ever (as mankind often has), but it was changed. Had a twentieth-century person met a twenty-second-century person, they would feel as if they were meeting someone who would eventually become a notorious serial killer. A more educated observer would point out the visible signs: tired, angry expression; constantly clenched muscles; quick darting glances in all directions; and a posture that suggested violence could spring forth from this person at any second.
If you were alive, it was for one reason: The UAC needed you. The purpose of your life, from that day until the day you ceased to be, was to serve God, the UAC, and the Corps. If you did not find a purpose for yourself, one would be found for you, whether it was "playtime" partner for the guard dogs training or lab guinea pig for the latest round of UAC experimentations.
Many a valiant but beaten soldier found it far better to grab a shotgun and head out into the Wasteland, to go toe-to-toe with the Mindless--insane, violent creatures who took a vacation from humanity and never returned. Most of the Mindless were savage descendants of Hell War survivors who went too long without human contact; a few were all that was left of those who set out on the "final hunt." None were worth meeting without backup.
All of this training, stockpiling, and preparing served two reasons. The more subtle reason was to give people something to do... to occupy humanity's idle time while it attempted to rebuild itself. The other reason, however, was both the most obvious and the least often mentioned. The UAC had never found out who or what was responsible for the Hell Wars, and it never knew why the attack finally ceased. For all they knew, the enemy could attack again at any moment. Thus, the world had to be ready in case it happened again.
When it did happen again, however, the UAC was less prepared than it could ever imagine.
A gruff female voice shouted orders that could be heard clear through Slipgate Central.
The major stood patiently while her sergeant counted the newest batch of PFCs. As she did, she felt a collective stare as dozens of marines stared out the corner of their eyes. Her custom uniform--skull-cap helmet, chain-mail shoulder pads, lightweight thigh pads and high combat boots pulled over standard UAC garb--showed off far more than the marines' heavy, box-shaped armor, and they took it all in. She knew full well they had heard the rumors about her. It was her job to inform that what they had heard was nothing compared to the truth.
"Major Jaeger!" the sergeant cried. "Everyone checks in. We're ready for you to start."
"Thank you, Sergeant," Jaeger replied. "Now, most of you have heard of me. I am Major Arlene Garrison. You can call me Arlene." She paused, as she always did at this part of the speech. "I repeat, you CAN call me Arlene. However, I guarantee you will not want to. You can also call me Major Thompson, but I will probably not answer. Most people call me Major Jaeger. It means 'hunter.' I guarantee, if you call me anything but Major Jaeger and SIR, you will find out why. Is that clear?"
"SIR! Yes, SIR!" came the collective reply.
"Good." Jaeger began pacing in front of her command. "You may have also heard of my great-grandmother, who was also named Arlene Garrison... Arlene Sanders before she was married. You may have heard of her exploits: her bravery, her cunning, her resourcefulness, but most of all, her compassion and mercy." Jaeger walked directly into the face of the marine in front of her. "Understand that I am not my great-grandmother. I will demonstrate the same amount of compassion and mercy to you that I will demonstrate to a pack of Mindless that ambushes me, and that amount is less than none. Is that understood?"
"SIR! Yes, SIR!"
"Good." Jaeger turned to walk back to her former position. As she did, her ear pricked at the sound of a small whisper several rows back. She stopped.
"Private Montoya." She turned to stare at a stark-faced marine who froze instantly at the sound of his name. "Could you repeat that for the rest of us?"
"I... I... I..." PFC Montoya stammered.
"Private, you will repeat what you said if you care to leave this room in one piece."
"Sir!" Montoya's face turned beet red. "Noticed Sir's attitude, and was curious as to whether it was a bad time of the month... SIR!"
Jaeger's eyes flashed with anger, but the rest of her face remained still. Soon, she smiled. "Take a spot right up here with me, Private Montoya."
With a twinge of embarassment and a great deal of fear, Montoya took a place by Jaeger's side.
"Hand me your axe." Reluctantly, Montoya removed his standard-issue battleaxe from his back strapping, and handed it to the major. "Now, privates, your lesson for the day was going to be on the more subtle talents of combat... stealth, cunning, resourcefulness, and above all, precision. Since Private Montoya here demonstrated little stealth or cunning and zero resourcefulness, I feel a demonstration is in order." She turned to Montoya as she lifted the axe. "Private, if you know what is best for you, you will not move in the next five seconds."
Montoya froze. "But... but..." As Jaeger brought the axe into swinging position, he clenched his eyes and teeth, and began an ever-so-slight whimper.