To those who survived it, the battle for Serenity Valley would always be the worst of the war.
It was worse for Erika than for some of the others. Not that there were many other survivors. But the planet Hera was where she had grown up, and to lose, ultimately, here of all places, was about a gallon of lemon juice in the wound. That Serenity Valley was nowhere near her childhood home, that her parents were alright, was--some comfort. Not enough.
They stuck everyone in prison camps, after, for underspecified "war crimes." (And what of the war crimes the Alliance committed? No matter, of course; history is written by the victors.)
(The others from her platoon were dead. She knew this. There hadn't been another living soul around, when the Alliance came for her, and she couldn't find anyone in her camp, and she had heard the whispers--)
(If the Serenity Valley had taught her anything, it was that hope was futile. If she had any to spare she might as well spend it on hoping that Anwar and Sargon got to see Cardea again in some kind of afterlife. That one, at least, she could never know the answer to be disappointed by it.)
She would almost have been grateful when the Alliance let them all go, not too long after they had mopped them up in the first place, if she had the capacity to be grateful to the Alliance for anything. Too much trouble to keep, she would have heard with some satisfaction, if she had been in any state to be actually making trouble, if it weren't just that the Alliance didn't want to bother feeding and trying them all.
The Dust Devils came recruiting not long after, and Erika felt less like a walking corpse than she had since the Independent High Command had ordered surrender. She could do something meaningful again, strike at the monsters in suits who played games with peoples' lives--
avenge her friends--
she could do something again.
Almost a year after the end of the war, she felt almost like a real person. Sitting in a bar with one's (not friends, not really, she hadn't had a friend since--) comrades attempting with futility to drown the cold and empty places inside, that was a human thing to do, right?