This is also July 5th and the #5 story in the 31 stories in 31 days of July challenge!
The enormous armored vehicles sped across the desert, sand thrown up by their treads raised a cloud behind them. Each of the Beasts was forty feet tall, two hundred and fifty feet long and thirty feet wide controlled by a crew of thirty and carrying a hundred armed dragoons.
“What does it matter whether we win or not?” Corporal Wexler complained, ignored by the soldiers in the hold with him “They'll just bombard us from space until we're all dead. Then they'll say we were killed by aliens and only keeping them in power can save Earth.”
The lie had kept them in power for almost a century now. The alien menace was only held at bay, everyone was taught from childhood, by a big strong and authoritarian central government led by the Czar. Wexler knew that everyone around him already knew this, but he was the type to talk and speak the obvious.
In fact all of them had been drafted into service for the benefit of mankind against this galactic threat and sent to protect this planet. Then half of them were forced to work the mines of this dirt ball called Cochrane while the other half played prison guard. The Viceroy was just doing his job and didn't want to be nuked from space by the forces of the Czar any more than any one else.
A race was on to find and destroy any of the remaining forces loyal to the Viceroy, or his henchmen, and then force the Viceroy to report an “all fine” message to the Imperial Fleet. Anything else, even silence and the fleet would destroy everything on this empty world.
Wexler didn't know if Commander Marco was up to the task, he was still pretty young for the guy who launched the revolt and took over these Beasts. He even managed to turn entire Beast crews against the Viceroy's goons when it looked like the last battle was lost.
Corporal Wexler closed his eyes. That battle had been a nightmare. Beasts on both sides launching salvo after salvo of missiles, knocking most of them out of the sky, then the belchers made it impossible to see your hand in front of your face.
Even radar and sensors couldn't penetrate the smoke from the belchers. That led to hand to hand combat. Lieutenant Avers had been run over by a Beast, and his friend Maxwell had been blown up by a mine dropped by one of the Beasts in the darkness. Even Marc had been thrown out of a gouge in the lead Beast when it struck a mine.
It had been impossible to tell one side from the other, even the soldiers wore the same uniforms! It had been a nightmare from the get-go. Somehow though, Commander Marco Rubin had pulled it off and come out with a victory for the rebels. The Viceroys goons only had a couple of the Beasts left, their own crews forced to fight with a gun at their back.
We got this, Wexler said, if it wasn't for the likelihood of being nuked from orbit for the trouble. At least we'll die as free men and women, although nobody would ever know. Instead their deaths would be blamed on an alien menace that doesn't exist, propaganda to keep the same tyrants in power for another generation.
Mack Dillon, the Viceroy, had been no-where near the mining-prison camp when the revolt took place of course. He was probably on the other side of the world studying the plants and creatures of this planet instead of doing his job. Finding him would be a big problem, he no doubt knew about the revolt by now and would be running away of whatever rebels were sent to catch him.
He had to be captured alive of course. Viceroy Mack Dillon knew the codes, he knew what to tell the fleet when it came through. Only the Viceroy could keep them alive, as strange as it sounded.
If anyone could figure out how to make this work its Commander Marco Rubin and his new second-in-command Stacie Marsh. Those two were quite a pair. Glad I'm on their side, Wexler thought to himself.
The overall plan was to survive and then somehow get a ship and bring down the Czar. This, of course, was not going to be that simple. Corporal Wexler day dreamed about plowing through Capitol City with a dozen Beasts and bringing down the system. A glorious but impossible dream. A more realistic dream... following Commander Marco Rubin and helping to make it happen.
Alarms sounded. Red alert. Corporal Wexler stood up and grabbed the combat helmet and addressed his squad “Okay, grunts, on your feet, check your neighbors combat suits!”.
They had located and were closing in on the enemy Beasts, he could feel the vehicle moving faster, he could feel the vibration in his feet. Missiles were probably already in the air, anti-missile missiles would soon be launching. They would close on each other, start the belchers and then soon enough, the big hatches will open to a black world and he would lead his squad into battle.
“Let's try not to shoot each other out there” he told them “I want you all to live long enough to pay a visit to the Earth Czar!”
They all lifted up their battle rifles and growled in agreement.
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