Third Incursion to the Gate to Hell
Based on the StarCraft II mod Doomed Earth. Revised by [UDEA]NukedaWhales, original by Yoz.
On the night of May 20th, 1994 Chuck Horner lay in his barracks bunk bed in Cordoba. He was a 19 year old private in the US army with blue eyes and brown hair with a hairline that was already receding a little despite his young age. He was reading a book on 20th century history called The Race for Dominance which covered the time from 1945 until 1974, when the old book had been published. He was close to finished with it, and was getting close to the last few pages. He had gotten the book from the postal exchange a week before, and had read it whenever he could, and found it fascinating to learn what events had lead up to the massive incursion to the north he would soon be taking part in. He recalled the events in the book that he had already read about.
The wave of anarchy, religious fanaticism and revivals, and genocides that followed World War II had hit everywhere, but when it came to Balkanization, there were four areas hit particularly hard - Australia, the United States, Russia, and the Balkans themselves, which became a bubbling caldron of violence and anarchy following World War II, with no Balkan state growing larger than the American state of Vermont. The two decades following World War II saw the United States shrink to roughly a quarter of its prewar size, and by 1957 almost no city to the west of the Appalachian Mountains followed the laws set forth in Washington, D.C. Conversely, that same period had been very good to the nation of Mexico. Mexico had not lost a single sliver of its northern border, and in fact that border had grown to the south. The militaristic Mexican government had successfully and peacefully annexed Cuba, before taking every nation from Mexico to Panama either through peaceful annexation or force of arms. Only at the Columbian border had their expansion stopped, and Mexico and Columbia fortified their borders in an uneasy ceasefire. Though the Mexican army was brutal in its suppression of criminals and insurgents, it also provided a degree of security to their territory almost unmatched anywhere else in the world. In the same period, Canadian people flocked to the Northwest Territories along with refugee Americans to get away from the violence of the Second American Civil War, and Fort Good Hope, previously with a population in the hundreds, ballooned to a population in the tens of thousands, and the same could be said of Holman and Cambridge Bay. Defenses and military fortifications were set up there as well, and Canada readied its armies for battle around the same time as the United States. Also, in 1956 the American government switched the official measurement system from United States customary units to metric units, partially in response to citizens that wanted to "Spread democracy, not miles and pounds" and partially against the wishes of other citizens that found the metric units strange and annoying. Either way, total metrification was finished within the year, and people got used to the new units.
Such it was that when 1957 came around and the United States had the resources and will to retake its lost cities. The president of the United States asked the Mexican government for assistance, and Mexico gladly assented with the agreement that they would be allowed to take and keep the west coast of the former United States, in exchange for their assistance in the war between the United States and Canada. And indeed, that war saw none of the latent animosity of the Mexican-American War over a century before, and the Mexicans proved to be polite and agreeable allies. They easily took the areas immediately west and east of the Rocky Mountains, did not push past the halfway line of the continent, and destroyed contingents of Canadian troops in Alberta. Also, an asymmetrical but equal force of Mexican and Canadian soldiers met at Anchorage, Alaska. The Canadian army had more soldiers and trucks equipped with machine guns, but the Mexican army had more tanks. When they engaged, the Mexican force was annihilated, but not before destroying 80% of the Canadian force. The US had made a fast, mechanized tank force, which engaged a large force of Canadian foot soldiers east of Great Bear Lake in 1960, annihilating the whole force and bringing an end to mobile Canadian resistance. But when they reached Fort Good Hope, the commander of the tank force got impatient, and his impatience was mirrored by those in command. Canada was finished, but with the knowledge that any delay would mean more of the North American continent would be controlled by Mexico rather than the US, he sent his entire tank force north to attack Fort Good Hope from the north, which would provide easy access to destroying the static defenses. The plan was sound, were it not for a small force of destroyers due north of the Canadian capital. Their long-ranged deck guns combined with the powerful static defenses around the capital, creating a killing field. The tank force was almost entirely destroyed, and there was still a tank graveyard north of the city. The broken force retreated, and it took another year for a force large enough to finish the job to be formed. When companies of foot soldiers, many equipped with flamethrowers, advanced on those same fortifications, their losses to artillery were not great, and tanks helped them suppress and destroy machine gun bunkers. A new tank force engaged the destroyers, who stayed close to the shore to engage the tanks. All ships were sunk, and the survivors surrendered. Due to the delay, the US begrudgingly allowed Mexican troops to invade and capture Alaska. In the end of 1962, US forces took Holman and Cambridge Bay.
So it was that in the summer of 1963 all of North America was under the command of the two allies, and the United States took a much more skinny than stout profile on the map. It also had a population roughly 70% of the population of Mexico, and despite efforts to resettle the Midwest, that disparity only grew in the following years. Mexico took Frobisher Bay, largely simply because they had the means and will to fly a token force to take the little city, and the United States took Greenland and Iceland, causing only the smallest increase in their nation's population. It also set up a small military base in northeastern Siberia which it used to send spies to Europe, Asia, and Africa, but the civilian settlement in the area remained small for a very long time. Meanwhile, Mexico had already restarted its war with Columbia when it was sending forces to Canada, and when it finished its assistance in taking North America, its armies grew and then turned to the South, crashing through the Columbian defenses and then taking all of South America without notable resistance. Once all of South America was under Mexican control, Mexico built a long ring of artillery fortifications all along the east coast of South America, and then largely disbanded its armed forces.
With spies in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the United States was able to get incomplete but reliable information on the state of world affairs, and found that there were several nations growing powerful in those areas. A dictatorship had formed in South Africa but collapsed under internal pressure within a few years. Despite its collapse, when Britain invaded South Africa with a large tank force, it had neglected to bring any mobile anti-air systems. Britain did not know South Africa had attack helicopters in Angola, which were piloted by forces of a local warlord, which harassed the British tank force and forced Britain to withdraw and postpone expansion until 1972. Britain, Russia, and Australia had all switched to Monarchies, and their people believed that their leaders were blessed by God. Britain had become extremely expansionist, and in 1963 a map of the British Empire largely mirrored a map of the greatest extent of the Roman Empire, but with farther expansion east and north. Australia had reunified and expanded to include New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Russia had not expanded greatly from its shrunken, fragmented state less than 1/4th the size it was in World War II, and Japanese expansion had been lackadaisical as well. So, the United States sent envoys to those countries to discuss alliances and peace, well aware that it didn't have anywhere near the manpower and resources to take on the world alone. Surprisingly, the Japanese Empire was receptive to the offer. Showing no malice for the atomic bombs dropped on the home islands in 1945, Japan readily accepted an offer of alliance, and immediately began sharing information with the United States. The United States built a heavy tank force in northeast Siberia, so that in November 1972 when King Maksimillian Balabanov of Russia died, creating an internal power struggle that lead to the collapse of the Russian government and a land grab of Russian territories, America had a force in the area to capitalize on the land grab. Tank forces took several Russian cities without any notable resistance, but were stopped south of Khantayskoye Lake, several hundred kilometers south of Norilsk, Russia.
At Khantayskoye Lake the tank force met a small force of a few hundred Australian infantry in the fall of 1974. However, when tanks came to destroy the infantry, the tanks were surprised by a phenomenon that could never be explained. Several men among the infantry, who called themselves "Prophets", but the word "wizards" may be more accurate, exhibited an unexplained power that could only be described as magical. These men were surrounded by a glow such that bullets bounced off them and didn't hurt them, and without any mechanical devices, and wearing nothing but robes, had the ability to shoot lightning bolts from their hands. So, with a flick of the wrist, they could stop a heavy tank dead in its tracks, and electrocute the tank crew within. They could not run faster than the average man, though they were more mobile as they didn't need to carry heavy equipment, so in retrospect, the logical reaction to such magic men would have been to turn the tank force around and flee until they could be better understood and a countermeasure could be devised against them. At the very least, retrofitting the tanks with protection from electricity would have been a simple stopgap measure. However, again the tank commanders got impatient, and again their impatience was mirrored by their superiors, who knew that, with history repeating itself, any delay in the land grab would mean fewer cities and population under United States control.
This is where he had picked up tonight and was reading. While still reading about it, he heard Sergeant Nathan Der Wales shout "lights out!" and turn out the lights. However, with so few pages left, he decided to risk a reprimand, and took out a small flashlight and finished the book, reading under his sheets.
The book continued, and described how the tank commander committed the entire tank force to destroy this force of Prophets. Indeed, a few were killed, as the Prophets were not so bulletproof that a tank round wouldn't kill them. But it was a battle that made no economic sense, as wizards took out tanks that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce with flicks of their wrists. Further, the wizards were agile, and could hide behind trees and below hills, and sneak up on the tanks to hit them from the back, such that within two days' time, the entire tank force was disabled, surviving crews surrendered, and there were no American forces less than a hundred kilometers from the area. Disaster compounded itself as the force of Prophets moved into China and Mongolia, and Japanese troops were equally unprepared to stop the assault. America's Japanese allies, so recently united after decades of minimal contact and a brutal war, quickly saw their land holdings disappear as well.
This is where the book stopped. It ended in 1974, with the line "And so, the future looks bleak for the United States of America, and, as with much of the 19th century, the last quarter of the 20th century will see America isolated and paranoid that larger, more powerful, and more populous nations will invade and impinge on its national sovereignty."
Chuck Horner took a moment to consider the mystery of Khantayskoye Lake, and how people seemingly carrying no tools could generate huge bursts of electricity. He then set the book down and turned off his flashlight, resolving to throw out the book in the morning. He had to walk thousands of kilometers, and every kilogram of weight would count against him in the long journey.