That would be the last attempt to resolve that crisis before they arrived. Of course, they would come and unleash their terrifying destructive power on the colony. Although it had been him to send the distress signal, Captain Idris Layeni still felt that he needed to disarm the situation. Give it one last, desperate, try.
Others would have believed the situation to be beyond the point of salvaging, with dead and injured on both sides, but that would be nothing compared to what would happen once the MAVs arrived.
“You sure about this, sir?” First-sergeant Esther Taiwo asked him. She eyed him with concern, sweat trickling down her ebony features.
“I need to try, sergeant,” Idris replied.
For a moment, the other soldiers manning the barricade turned their eyes from their sights to glance at the captain.
“Don’t go, sir,” Corporal Agboola whispered softly, unwilling to be heard by the people they had been shooting at for the last few days. “They killed Rotimi and Oladele.”
“And Alabi,” someone else said.
“Yeah! Let the MAVs burn the bastards.”
There was sincere hatred in those words, and Idris couldn’t really admonish the men for that. Most of them were little more than kids. Recruits summarily trained and then sent to Europa to attempt to pacify a world going insane.
Only Idris, Esther, and a few others had any experience, but nothing that allowed them to deal with off-world deployments. They were all learning there and their school had been one hell of a crucible thus far.
The mining colony of Buellt, in the Dyfed Regio plateau, had seen several demonstrations against the government in the past months. One week ago, a few local cops and demonstrators died during an especially violent riot and Idris’ company was sent in to bring some order.
It was supposed to be a relatively easy mission, hence why they had no MAV support. The big war machines were needed elsewhere, in colonies where the miners had actually engaged in organized warfare.
Nevertheless, the arrival of the troops seemed to be final straw that made the entire town revolt. Few would be expecting the fury of the firefights that followed. In the end, the soldiers managed to barricade themselves in the access to the industrial district, assuming the control of the power plants and the fabricators. The revolting population had everything else, but were dependent on Idris’ generosity in not turning off the fusion reactors.
Three of Idris’ men had died, and more than thirty were injured. It was impossible to know how many rioters had perished, but if the reports from the squad leaders were correct, then there could be dozens of casualties on the other side. Given that those people were little more than armed civilians, the fact gave Idris little satisfaction.
“I need to try,” he told his men.
The barricade in front of him had been made in a hurry, using every item available. Empty ammo crates, tables, metal plating taken from the flooring, among other things he didn’t even care to ask about. Most of those materials weren’t bullet-proof and were ridden with holes. But they had at least provided some cover for his people to hide from the rebels’ sights.
Idris was standing behind cover, peeking through one the openings in the barricade to see what was happening on the opposite side of the corridor.
“I’m coming out!” he yelled.
“All right,” replied a voice from the other side of the tunnel. “We won’t shoot, as we promised.”
The captain inhaled deeply.
“Be careful,” Esther whispered, so low only Idris could understand her. He nodded, and then went over the barricade.
The rebels had built their own barrier, a smaller version of what the soldiers had put together on the other side of the corridor. Some of them were now in the open, observing Idris coming by with his arms in the air.
In the middle of the rebels was a stout man with a thick beard and suspicious eyes. That would be Bernard MacRath, the leader of the local rebels. A few other men and women stood beside him, defiance patent in their faces.
Looking beyond the troupe, Idris noticed the blast doors leading outside were open, providing a clear view of the wastelands. The town should be to the right, out of sight.
“What do you want?” MacRath asked, his thick Scottish accent seeping into his words.
“Just want to talk,” Idris replied.
“You haven’t gotten our message, yet?”
The captain looked over his shoulder, to the bullet-ridden hall he’d just walked through.
“Look, MacRath, you cannot win this fight. You should surrender while you have the time.”
“Surrender?” The miner laughed. “I thought you were the ones sticking the tails between your legs!”
Realizing that conversation wouldn’t be any easier in person than it had been through the radio, Idris lowered his arms, exasperated.
“What is this, MacRath? What are you even doing? You came from Earth like all of us here! Don’t you remember how it was? The hunger, the storms, the despair? Things may not be what you were expecting here, but it’s not better back on Earth. The sacrifices we are making here are for sake of all of those people back home.”
The look in the rebel leader’s eyes hardened. He came one step closer to the Nigerian officer.
“What would you know about it, soldier? We were sent here because we were the easiest targets. We were already poor back home and they promised us a better life. That didn’t happen! Do you know how many men I lost in ‘75 alone? Thirty. Thirty men. And they told me they wouldn’t be paying their families due to some technicality. We were sent here to die. You and I both know it.”
MacRath started walking around Idris, his eyes roving over the walls while he collected his thoughts.
“All of that because someone wanted a bigger share. You say people are starving back home, captain? Well, the families of my dead miners have probably starved by now. We aren’t asking for much, only what we are due.”
What an arrogance! Did that man really thought himself to be so important as to neglect the billions left on Earth? Idris shook his head in disbelief.
“Are you really reducing this to mere economy?”
“It is always about economy, captain,” one of the men in the rebel barricade said. “We simply cannot accept that we were lied to and sent here to die while someone is making a big buck from that.”
“Go back to your men, Layeni,” MacRath added. “We have nothing to talk about. The time for negotiations is over.”
While he spoke, Idris looked once again through the open gates. Something had changed. A cloud of dust rose in the distance, caused by something coming in at high speed. The MAVs had arrived.
Slowly, almost instinctively, Idris started to back up.
“It’s over, all right.”