Author’s note: This short story was submitted to the 365 Tomorrows site. But was rejected due to the content not meeting the editor’s requirements. This was a particularly challenging piece, as I had a severe word limit on the submission. This is the final product of hours of painstaking editing. Enjoy.
A Science Fiction short for 365 Tomorrows by Dorian Pula
“You are no position to negotiate”. I speak into my headset’s microphone. I sit alone in the cockpit of my long-range starfighter, the Retribution. Outside the canopy, reflected sunlight from the cold red Martian desert below blots out the distant stars. My small fleet of the Retribution and a few Hunter drones drift in high orbit over the United Sons of Mars occupied colony of Mariner’s Retreat. The starfighter’s control console acts as an interactive map showing tactical data and sending commands to my assault force on the surface.
A video feed from a Griffin heavy assault walker drone on the surface floats on the HUD, hiding the view outside. The delegation of USM minister-experts and Black Guardsmen soldiers on-screen stare at the imposing four meter tall six-legged Griffin. My voice thunders from the drone, rings through the ruined USM bunker, and echoes off the twisted steel, broken concrete and shattered glass. The soldiers form a circle around the Griffin, pointing plasma rifles and rocket launchers at the drone. I smirk at their vain efforts.
Their efforts could not stop a few drones breaking through their defenses. Nor could they stop their subverted factories from manufacturing ever larger swarms of drones. Now their fortified positions fall as endless waves of drones crawl over the burnt shells of their predecessors and overwhelm the enemy with sheer numbers.
In the background a series of screams signal the silencing of yet another bunker. Unseen drones pull overwhelmed soldiers out of their entrenched positions and subdue them. I capture the conscripted soldiers rather than kill them. And my drones ignore the panicked civilians. My quarrel is with the USM experts and their Black Guardsmen.
Three years ago the USM invaded Mariner’s Retreat promising a scientific utopia based on equality and fairness. I tried to leave Mariner’s Retreat with my fiancee Anna and her parents but the invasion cut us off from the starport. We watched as the last transport full of refugees lifted off under heavy fire. Upon capturing the city the USM experts imposed their “utopia” on us. Black Guardsmen hunted down the resistance, murdered them and dumped their bodies in some remote Martian canyon. Everyone else got conscripted into the army or slave labour in the mines. I slipped out one night with an ancient plasma rifle, spacesuit and a small bar of platinum. Anna stayed behind to care for her aging parents, waiting until I returned with rescue. She later died in the mines, broken by the endless labour before I could save her.
I slide three fingers across the console. Three green glowing triangles follow my fingers and stop as I lift my hand before a cluster of red blinking dots. Three Hunters coast over the ruins and stop over the bunker. Their presence cloaked by active camouflage and masked by the chaos of battle.
“I will ask again. Do you unconditionally surrender?”, I ask firmly.
One of the experts pushes forward, his bearded face red in anger and his body shaking in rage. I recognize him as the Minister of Labour who sentenced hundreds to death in the mines. The expert roars, “The United Sons of Mars will never surrender to a mercenary scumbag!”
“This is your last chance. Do you surrender?”
A single tap commands the Hunter drones to launch their missiles at the target. The screen turns to static as the explosion rips apart the bunker and everything inside. The sporadic pop of rifle fire becomes less and less frequent. A few moments later a dead silence falls over Mariner’s Retreat.