Neither Red nor Dead

Gunshots over Mars never ceased. Fire always blazed in the sky, towards other celestial bodies and on the ground. Mars was meant to be the next frontier, it wasn't. It was just another exploitation of workers, labour rights was damned from the original departure of colonists in the mid-21st Century. From Ultor's original plan to drain the planet dry came a cry for redemption, for a 'New Earth' or a 'Free Mars' as it were. Ultor's vast legacy of technology only provided the Earth Defence Force with the means to take over from that company, embarking on similarly brutal tactics to make its workers, do just that, work. The EDF were powerful, concentrating on mining ore from Mars' rich, untapped resources. The red planet was a wasteland, a reflection of life in the Solar System and there was barely enough people to maintain contact with, let alone populate the desert of dry dirt with.

Hezekiah Cooper was a young miner from Earth, the year he arrived was 2176, a year of steady progress for workers rights, the EDF was keen to avoid uprising, especially after the Second Red Faction Revolution earlier that century. By 2194, Hezekiah was a changed man, he hadn't known of war before, let alone war on a planet thousands of miles away. His life had been one long struggle ever since he arrived and now he lay in his bed, in retirement. Hezekiah had seen the vast uprising of the Parker and Dust merger, the two towns lay in ruins after a battle with the EDF over separation of work and home came into furore. The workers had all heard the legends of the Red Faction and saw it as an option against a superior enemy. All they craved was a home life a town away from Dust, its uncompromisingly unfair checkpoints and EDF morale injuring. Hezekiah was there, watching as the EDF rounded up the rebels and the civilians. They shot the miners dead; Hezekiah had told the soldiers where the rebels were hiding in return for his life. He knew that it was selfish, seventeen families were erased that day in 2178, he would never forget and he would never forgive himself. The EDF had offered him a job that day as an officer; he took it because it would give him a privileged life, one he didn't deserve but one that would keep his sorry self alive and earn him a state pension in the future.

Hezekiah got up, his greying hair swept back and unkempt, he ran his fingers through it before standing up. Sunlight was beaming through his window, his wife Mary opened one and got a t-shirt out for him. Hezekiah put it on as his wife spoke.

"Hezekiah, you had that nightmare again," her voice was soft, "You hit me in the face..."

"Mary! You should have woke me up, I'm so sorry."

"I'm used to it, don't worry."

Hezekiah loved her, but she'd seemed distant ever since he found out about her affair with one of the miners in a nearby town. It was almost eight years prior, but she had been alive during it. Secretly, Hezekiah wished she was still sleeping with that miner, he was twenty years her junior and twenty three his. He made her confident, happy and sensual; she brought back all the positive energy to his depressed state. He also wished that the miner had been alive. The nightmares didn't stop at the Parker/Dust merger, for Hezekiah had told his unit that the miner was the leader of a new uprising. The miner wasn't though, he was never involved in war or conflict and Hezekiah had taken the miner's own sledgehammer and caved his face in. His unit had to stop him; he was in the house for twenty minutes smashing his body into ground meat and bone.

Mary sat next to him, stroking his beard and kissing him on the cheek. She noticed his rough skin, contrasting her soft hands. Hezekiah could only think of the miner being touched in the same way, how he wished she loved him like that now. He had met her at the EDF Office Complex, in the centre of Eos; she had ash blonde hair, so perfect in the light. Mary always flirted with him on his days there, they got on so well, then he asked her out and they embarked on a beautiful relationship where feelings weren't hidden, where life was easy, where they could make love anywhere with such passion and crucially, where he could forget his sins past. Mary's green eyes absorbed his black eyes, hearing the door knock and a couple of EDF trucks pull towards their drive in Oasis. They were used to EDF officers arriving to take their data during retirement; they would process their state pension. Mary answered, as the usual officer arrived with a clipboard, Mary greeted him with pink lips arching into a smile.

"Good morning Officer Branning."

Officer Branning stared at her through his sunglasses, empty.

"Good morning Mrs. Cooper."

"Pension day already? I thought it was tomorrow..."

The guard cut her off.

"We are here to arrest you Mrs. Cooper, under the EDF Treachery Act of 2141."

"I'm sorry?!" Mary's startled reply alerted Hezekiah.

"You have been fraternising with the rebel group known collectively as the Red Faction."

"They're not around anymore, they were liquidated!"

"According to our surveillance footage, they are not. Are you familiar with the town of Parker?"

Mary's heart skipped a beat.

"Yes..."

"Then I'm afraid past relations have sullied our professional relationship Mrs. Cooper, it's a shame."

Hezekiah went to the door.

"If I may Officer, are you referring to her past relationship with a miner?"

"I am Sir."

"Why are you coming here to talk about something that happened nearly a decade ago? Mary has atoned for her mistake through me and I told the EDF Executive of Criminality that it was not going to affect the organisation."

"It seems Sir that the particular ruling you made, issued in 2170, has been overruled. Information she gave to that particular individual, Stephen Phelps ID #05667, before his death allowed him to pass information to his son via holodrive giving the newly reformed Red Faction confidential information about our files and locations of eyes only missions. To be blunt, Sir, your wife is entirely the reason for the reformed Red Faction."

Hezekiah looked at his wife in bewilderment; she had renewed a rebel outfit he had fought off for them to have a quiet life. Despite his complex emotions for her over the last near-decade, he loved her deeply.

"Listen, you know us Benjamin, let her off. I'll get the information from her myself and give you it. The EDF can kill them and she can stay here for us to die quietly and alone."

"EDF protocol, you know that. As much as I would like to help you, I cannot. She needs to be detained."

Mary was led out by two armed men, handcuffed and put in an EDF convoy vehicle. Branning took out his card, putting it on Hezekiah's table.

"I would love to let her go Sir, I would, but I can't let her go. We may let her go in the future, visiting times vary of course."

"Ben, you can't do this, I basically raised your career to where it is today!"

"Sir, I have to leave now. I shall contact you in the near future. Goodbye until then. "

Hezekiah stood stunned as his wife was trapped in the armour plated vehicle. Mary glanced up at him, saddened by the inevitable interrogation that lay in front of her. Hezekiah shouted to her, 'No,' over and over. Officer Branning held his advancing footsteps.

"Sir...you must...stay...back..." Despite Branning's training and youth, he was overpowered by this strong man in his fifties. Hezekiah took his right arm and wrapped it around Branning's neck, reluctantly breaking it in the process.

No...What have I done? Hezekiah thought to himself.

The other guards heard the crack, turning swiftly before they heard Mary open the car door.

"Hezekiah! No!"

Mary's cry led to the grunts spinning on the spot, shooting her with their plasma rifles. Shots echoed across Oasis, leading to people viewing the actions outside their windows. Mary's body slumped to the Martian soil, covered in holes and blood. Her wedding ring gleamed as Hezekiah kneed one of the men in the back, his strength prevalent as the guard's back broke as easily as Branning's did. The other enemy didn't have a chance to turn as Hezekiah punched him the side of the skull, denting it before the veteran stomped on it.

He crouched to the ground, taking Mary's hand before carrying her into the house. As he laid her body on the bed, he took his leather coat and bandana. Hezekiah opened the safe under the same bed; it contained a pistol with four clips of ammunition and his ID card. His hand trembled before the sound of gunships shook the small town of Oasis. Hezekiah moved a metal cupboard which hid a tunnel; it led to Parker and wasn't used since the assault on the miner.

Hezekiah had to find Stephen Phelps. He had to get to the route of the problem, eliminate it and then destroy the EDF.