"People of New Exodus, people of the world!" The man in front of me announced to the waiting crowd as he circled me a few times, light reflecting off of the red cape he dragged after himself blinded my blurred vision for each time he passed, forcing me to close my eyes for a few seconds until he had finally walked past me once more. "Today is a day of which shall be remembered in years to come, for it shall be marked by the death of rebel leader Ryder Lewin." Right, today was the day of my execution. The beating I had received about an hour before present events had probably knocked a few more screws loose. Funny how time flies by when you're having fun.
He stopped in front of me, and faced the masses once again, "For acts of high treason, for conspiracy and blasphemy towards your Emperor, and for countless murders of civilians and protectors of the people, I, Benedict the First, the Emperor of this world, hereby sentence you to death by firing squad." Now he turned towards me. I sat on my knees with the barrel of a rifle pointing at the back of my head. "Do you, Ryder Lewin, have any objections? Any last words before justice is made?" During my time on my knees in front of the entire population of New Exodus I had come to realize that it was even more fun to listen to him emphasize every other word in an attempt to make my 'crimes' sound even more horrible than they originally were, then being beat up with my hands and feet in chains. Sometimes I couldn't help but think that emphasizing crimes made the old man all warm and fuzzy inside.
I nodded my head a little, trying to clear my throat. It had been a while since I had spoken, and I had a lot on my mind, and there was no telling how much time he would give me. "People of New Exodus! Don't you see what this 'emperor' is doing to you, to this world? He has you by a chokehold, and you don't even-..!" My words were cut short as the butt of the rifle which had been pointed at me this whole time came crashing down on the back of my head. Pain shot through my weak body, and I collapsed, momentarily dazed by the strike. The man wearing a cape started speaking again; his voice was muffled this time. "Is this the kind of man you want in control? Is this," He pointed at me, "the kind of man you want standing in my shoes?" I had never wished for power and control, all I fought for was liberation of the people, to free them from the dictator known as 'Benedict the First, Emperor of the world'.
As soon as I regained my senses I scurried back up to my knees, shooting the man behind me a glare. My focus soon turned to something else though, something standing behind him again. The makeshift stage that had been made for my execution was surrounded by APUs. The acronym 'APU' was short for 'Armoured Personnel Unit'. They were two-legged walkers, nay, beasts made of metal. Through the tinted black glass of the cockpit I could barely, just barely make out the silhouette of a pilot, highlighted by the red glow from the APU's instruments. They were over two times the size of a full-grown man, capable of wielding rifles and other deadly weapons alike. The Steel Talons, the personal guard of Benedict the First, were heavily armoured, yet agile walkers. They were all white, giving them an angelic appearance. The few things contradicting this were the cockpit, and the light gauss rifle it carried.
Gauss technology was nothing new. It had been invented a few hundred years ago, but the British military had continued to develop the technology in secret, introducing the prototype on the battlefield in the great war of 2460, thus tilting the war in their favour. It gave them the upper hand even when they were vastly outnumbered by the opposing nations and it meant that there was no way I would be escaping on foot seeing as the projectiles could reach a speed of Mach 5 or greater. However, the normal gauss rifles didn't respond well to taking hits, and the recoil compensation system was prone to overheating, even with its own coolant circuit connected to a heat exchanger on the rear of the rifle.. This often resulted in a small but devastating explosion which often disabled the APU using the weapon, either because the explosion tore off at least an arm or two, or because of the electromagnetic radiation from the explosion. The latter is how the rebellion acquired most of its APUs. Since the APU would have no way of defending itself many of the times, it was an easy way of recapturing it. A missing arm or two, and some fried wires were easy to replace. The rebellion was resourceful, to say the least. The largest difference between the gauss rifle, and the light gauss rifle was the weight of the ammunition they used. The slugs used by the light gauss rifle were lighter than that of the standard gauss rifle, and could travel much faster than the slug from the standard gauss rifle, granted it packed a smaller punch. However, this was compensated for by the larger magazines, and the ability to bring along twice the amount of ammunition.
A pair of strong arms grabbed me and lifted me to my feet, snapping me out of my thoughts. "Move it, scum." I heard a voice snarl behind me, and I felt the barrel of a rifle poking me in my back. I knew my execution was drawing closer; I could see it in the emperor's eyes. His eyes, they were filled with fury, with evil, as well as a little relief, for he was about to cut off the head of the beast that had embodied what had become the rebel movement.
The crowd backed away an unknown amount of meters as three members of the Steel Talons, three shiny, white APUs, started making their way out from behind the little makeshift stage, towards what had now become a rather large opening in the crowd. I was being chained to a wall, with the crowd forming a half circle around me, and the APUs. Actually, they were all behind the APUs. For obvious reasons. "Now, people of New Exodus, the time has come." The emperor shouted to the crowd, while the shackles around my wrists were being nailed to the wall. "You shall all witness the death of the rebellion, the end to all those opposing my holy reign."
One of the APUs assumed a position roughly forty meters in front of me, feet thudding loudly against the ground for each step it took, and the two remaining APUs followed. In the end, they formed a triangle, with one of the edges pointing directly at me. I knew the procedure; the one in front would kneel down to one knee, and then they all would take aim. And fire upon receiving the order from the emperor. A loud sound, cra-crack, echoed throughout the town centre as the APU in the front of the trio pulled the bolt of the gauss rifle, which was positioned on the right side of the weapon, thus sliding a bullet into the chamber. The two others did the same. And all I did was staring at them, staring right into the cockpit of the leading APU, the one I assumed to be the leader, for its arms were decorated with stripes of gold, running from the shoulder plates, all the way down to the back of the armoured hands, and from what I could make out, it wore a white cape. There was no gold on that, from what I could see.
"You're making a mistake, Benedict!" I barked towards the emperor. "As soon as my body falls to the ground, at that very moment, all the rebellion will go to war! There will be shown no compassion, no remorse, for the rebellion will be nothing but fuelled by my death. If you value your life, the lives of your servants, your soldiers, you will not give them the order this day!" I saw him flinch, just barely, but he shook off my threats, my warnings. "Lies! You speak nothing but lies! You say you fight for the people, and yet you are starting a war here in this city? You are a hypocrite, that's what you are!" Benedict turned his focus towards the trio from The Steel Talons, and raised his arm. "Take aim, boys!" He said in triumph, ignorant of the fuse he was lighting.
The APUs followed their orders and raised their rifles, crosshairs fixed on me, their mechanical bodies hissing slightly as hydraulic fluid shot through its cords, causing them to stir to life once again. I had moments left to live, moments left until a war would break out between the rebellion my rebellion, and the holy emperor. My men had their orders; my second in command would take my place, and lead the rebellion to glory, to victory.
I closed my eyes, awaiting my impending doom.