Jacob Ford shook off the cold and snow as he entered the front door of his apartment building. It was part of a pair, known as the Sister Towers, by which her twin stood brilliant and alight exactly four hundred feet south of her. After the invasion had started, the United Nations Armed Forces had commandeered both towers as bases of operations, this one was used mainly as housing and office space for it's tenants, whereas the other was converted to host a research and development firm dedicated to the study and replication of alien technology, as well as command centers. Jake waved to the receptionist and smiled at her, she smiled back and returned his wave before returning to the papers that she was filing. He made his way through the grand lobby, taking in the sights of brilliant chandeliers, live trees, chairs, tables, a waterfall, and a magnificent staircase. The lobby was mostly devoid of people, due to the late hour, giving him relief for not having to shoulder his way through a crowd, deal with protesters, or get corralled by some officer to be asked questions that he did not know the answers to. He breathed deep and let all of that go, it was late, no one would bother him, and the weekend started tomorrow. He cracked a smile as he continued toward the elevator, a transparent box that could fit roughly thirty people inside. He tapped the button, the doors opened, and he rode it to number 52 of the 70 floors.
As Jake approached the door to 6415, he fumbled for his keycard, dropping it on the floor. Bending down to pick it up, his blood froze. A noise echoed off of the walls, he snatched the keycard from the gray carpet and whipped around, seeing only a fully lit hallway. He shuddered and entered his apartment, the lights automatically came on as he stepped through the door. Turning, he quickly shut the door, locked it, and fell back against it full of relief. Paranoia Jake, you are just paranoid. It's true, he had become paranoid. Ever since the conference call he had taken two months ago. Officers from all branches were invited, including himself, newly appointed, granting him the penthouse he stood in now, a massive paycheck, and several other luxuries that he did not care about. The call was unexpected, his first week as a big shot, and the source being unknown.
Once everyone had joined the group on video feed, their host had finally shown himself. The infamous Captain Kale Enders, despite the ongoing invasion of Hiralti troops, Enders had become public enemy number one. "The traitor Kale Enders," as he was referred to. The Captain of the Paragon Order remained in full combat armor, the cuts, scrapes, and plasma burns of battle gleamed slightly in the light of the camera. Enders gave them a warning. A chilling warning that has haunted many of them since that day, made only worse by the delivery of his promises. "My wife was murdered. In cold blood. Each and every one of you had a hand in it, large or small. You will hear quite soon that the group of traitors that ended her life were all killed, so you will believe me when I say this: I will hunt you down. All of you. One by one, you will fall by my hand. Strangled, your throats cut, beaten to death, and shot. There is now a price on all of your heads, and that price is vengeance. Watch over your shoulders, grow eyes in the back of your heads, hide in your faulty sanctuaries, I will find you, and I will kill you."
Everyone did just that. Many officers hid themselves away, in high towers, deep bunkers, surrounded by a retinue of guards, all to be cut down, shot, or hanged in their homes and offices. The list of people involved in that conference had dwindled to a handful, and Jacob Ford was still on it. Any noise, any shadow that flitted by would send his nerves on edge. But now, now he was safe in his home fifty two stories above the street of Seattle, with the greatest guards the UNAF had to offer at each entryway. He removed himself from the door, hung up his coat, and made his way to the living room, where he turned on the news and cranked the volume up. He was grateful that the walls were thick, as to not disturb his neighbors. After watching the introductions on the tv, he continued on to the washroom.
Jake listened to the news as he got ready for bed, he showered, got dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and went to brush his teeth when he paused to listen to the news. "Colonel Zachery Danvers was found dead yesterday morning in the basement of his home in southeast Boston, police are saying that the cause of death was a bullet wound to the back of the head, killing him instantly." The young female anchor said nonchalantly before moving on to another topic involving cat videos on Youtube. So he has killed again. I wonder who is next on his sadistic rampage. He shook his head, and spat the toothpaste in the sink before rinsing his brush and his mouth. He spat again and set the brush aside and put the toothpaste back in the cabinet. As he closed the cabinet door the black and silver helmet of a fully armored Paragon soldier filled the mirror. "Son of a bit-" Jake turned as fast as he could and was interrupted with a right hook to his jaw. He spun back toward the cabinet, and the figure grabbed the back of his head, smashing his face into the mirror with incredible force. The glass shattered, throwing bottles of medication everywhere. He tumbled awkwardly into the side of the bathtub, cracking his ribs on the side. He gasped hard and strained to look up, his face bleeding from the glass and broken nose.
"Today is your lucky day," the armored figure spoke, his filtered voice reverberating off the walls. Gathering some of his wits, Jake focused and spoke, "Kale?" He was answered by another right hook, this time causing his head to bounce off of the side of the bathtub, cracking the porcelain. Kale shook out his hand and studied Jake, "I just happened to be in the neighborhood and thought I would stop in to visit my old friend." His voice was full of anger. Jake looked up into visor while the room spun. "I- I didn't do anything!" He shouted hysterically at Kale, his voice cracking. His eyes fluttered as blood ran down his face, suddenly feeling a gloved hand close around his throat. He was yanked to his feet and abruptly slammed into the wall next to him, pinned. "Did you not? You were the one who gave away our troop movements, you sold us out, my wife is dead, and now my home is besieged! You had just as much to do with it as the bastards who pulled the trigger." Kale's words made the air around him vibrate. He squeezed Jake's throat tighter before flinging him through the doorway leading to the bedroom.
Jake landed roughly on the hardwood floor. He summoned up the strength to roll over, and was met with another fist to his face, breaking the skin of his cheek. He screamed as all of the pain in his body finally sunk in, the adrenaline quickly wearing off, panic and shock setting in. "Are you not even going to try and fight back?" Kale asked, sounding disappointed as he lifted Jake by the collar of his t-shirt. He was limp in the air, reeling from the concussion he surely had, and broken ribs. His breathing was becoming labored and blood ran out across his lips. Kale waited for a response, when none came he threw Jake into the large wooden bed frame, cracking it and leaving him in a mock sitting position at the side of his king sized bed.
Kale approached him slowly, he glanced around the room taking it all in. "So, this is what treachery buys you. I suppose that is the thing about ill-gotten gains, you get a big payoff, but don't get to enjoy it for very long." He shrugged and focused back on Ford, who was fading in and out of consciousness. Enders spied a glass of water on the night stand, half spilled due to the rough housing. He snatched it and flung the water in Ford's face, startling him, making him wince in pain once more.
"Oh I'm sorry, am I boring you?" He asked before slapping Jake in the face a few times. "Don't go to sleep now, I'm not nearly finished with you yet." These words came out as a malevolent hiss. Jake groaned, lowering his head and attempting to raise his hands in protest. Enders shook his head and slapped Ford's hands down before gently hooking two fingers under his quivering, bleeding jaw, and lifting it so that he was looking directly into Kale's visor. His voice was calm and smooth this time, "Why did you do it? You were a friend to us. A personal friend. You came to our holiday parties, she-" His voice cracked slightly. He cleared his throat and continued, "She even made sure to always get you a gift."
Jake looked away, shame covering his ravaged face. Kale growled and gripped his throat once more, forcing him to look back into his visor, "Look at me! You tell me that you honestly thought she was a traitor!" He screamed to the point of causing static feedback. Ford's eyes went wide and he started to shake, "They convinced me. Kale, you don't understand how persuasive they can be!"
"With credits, not facts." Enders replied and shook his head.
"I didn't want to do it. I was just following orders."
"Orders do not override morals."
Jake gasped, "They promised me tons of money and a promotion, the penthouse, command of my own ship. That was only after they convinced me that she had turned. That she was anti-human." Kale released his throat and stood.
"Wrong answer." He said in an icy voice. He pulled his pistol from his hip holster and swung the barrel up in line with Jacob Ford's head before squeezing the trigger. The muzzle flashed light across his mirrored visor, and in an instant the man lay lifeless, slumped against his broken bed. "Don't worry, there was no right answer." He holstered the pistol and left, the sound of his departing footsteps being the last sounds heard in the desolate apartment.