June 8, 2009

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 3: DaneelAH -- Malacandra

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I've been exploring Biblical history by projecting it into the future. This piece is the first part of a story inspired by the Book of Daniel. I've also looked at Stepan On Mars ( http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2009/05/slice-of-pie-stepan-on-mars.html) and Paolo On Mars (http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2009/02/possibly-irritating-essay-paulo-on-mars.html ) and if things continue as they have, I'll probably look at Esther on Mars, maybe Ruth on Mars and a few others...shoot, this is FUN!

They’d been under arrest for two years when the mayor of Malacandra finally agreed to see them. DaneelAH had decided that if the meeting went badly, he’d kill himself.

He tugged his new gray tunic down more tightly, smoothing it over his flat belly. The other three – HanAH, AzAH, and MishAH had their own rooms at least. When they’d first been grabbed by Malacandra’s mayor during the Great Riot in the Martian capitol, Bradbury City, Mayor Turin had placed them in protective custody in a heavily guarded barracks deep in the city. He’d taken almost fifty Artificial Humans, mostly young adult men and women, though there’d been five little kids. He’d fed them all the best food and let them have the best virtual games. They’d been meticulously groomed…for something.

“There’s an awful lot more to groom now,” DaneelAH muttered. Except for the four of them, the rest of the prisoners were pudgy projections of their former selves. He ran his hand over his smooth head. Sometimes he wished he could grow head hair. But all Artificial Humans were DNA edited to be bald. “OK, that’s it!” He took a deep breath, held it then turned away from the mirror and crossed the tiny room. The door slid open and he squinted in the bright morning light of Malacandra’s enhanced Sun. As an agricultural dome, it rated a Solar concentration coating which was his concern. He frowned. The dome was getting dusty because hourly cleaning had been reduced to daily cleaning – because the bottom had fallen out of the Martian soybean market, which was NOT his concern. Exactly.

“Daneel! You look great!” MishAH flounced out of her room in a stunning yellow sundress. It was only just city government regulation.

He smiled anyway, “No wonder people are lining up to move into Malacandra!” he exclaimed. HanAH stepped out from his room right then, dressed in the charcoal gray uniform of Security, scowling as usual. A long-time muscle-head, his uniform barely contained his biceps. DaneelAH laughed and added, “You look mean enough to bust up the pot smugglers all alone.”

HanAH held on to his suspicious frown for a moment longer then broke into a grin. Smiling, he looked like a bald, tame grizzly bear.

AzAH was the last to come out. At the moment, she was distracted, her fingers making complex motions in the air.

HanAH said, “She’s working? I thought we were supposed to have the morning off to meet with the mayor?”

MishAH laughed. “With the Translation Project in full swing? AzAH’s practically one of the program directors.”

HanAH’s smile lapsed into a scowl again. “She’s an artificial human – she can’t hold a director’s position. Article Sixteen of the Martian Constitution.” He shot her a pained look. “You should go back and review your Civics lessons.”

MishAH bristled but DaneelAH intervened. “We should leave now. It’s fifteen minutes by slidewalk to the mayor’s mansion.” AzAH’s fingers stopped moving and she looked at DaneelAH and walked up to HahAH, taking his arm.

For a moment, he kept his scowl, but patting AzAH’s hand, jerked his chin up a bit and turned toward down the corridor to the main thoroughfare.

“You have to cut that out,” DaneelAH said to MishAH.

“He wasn’t this stuffy in Bradbury,” she said.

“He’s got responsibility now,” said DaneelAH, taking her elbow and steering her after the other two.

She sniffed, adding, “That's not responsibility -- that's just following orders. Like he said – he’ll always be a detective. ”

DaneelAH smirked. “We’ll see about that.”

She shot him a look, but they reached the slidewalk and they all had to concentrate on stepping from the outer, slower ‘walks to the faster ones. Once they reached the highest speed, the crowds were too heavy to let them talk. They were also standing in a sea of head hair – in Malacandra, it belonged mostly to people descended from either Scandinavia or West Africa. There were some fascinating colors and textures. DaneelAH ran his hand over his head. MishAH noticed and nodded.

Once they reached the Mansion Sector, they stepped back to the slower ‘walks until they were moving on their own again. By then, Security had marked their progress and a pair of Human officers met them. One nodded and said, “Come with us, please. Mayor Turin is expecting you.”

They followed in silence. It was the first time they’d seen him since their capture at Bradbury. Since then – except for the fact that they’d been under arrest – he’d treated with them through his assistants and given them everything they needed to be happy, including an education in the broader history of Malacandra and the rest of the Solar States of Earth. They’d all chosen a specialty under his orders and studied and were apprenticed to someone in their field.

They stopped in front of the Mayor’s Mansion and Malacandra Security handed them over to the Mayor’s personal security. None of them spoke much, either. They entered the Mansion, were scanned them and passed off to the Mansion staff. Standing in immense lobby at the desk of the Mayor’s human personal assistant, the four artificial humans waited while she looked over their dossiers on her wide hardscreen. Suddenly, a pair of carved, Martian stone doors opened.

Three men and three women hurried out and swept past the assistant’s desk, DaneelAH, AzAH, MishAH and HanAH.

A small crystal vase flew out of the room and shattered on the floor. From inside, a voice shouted, “Come back when you can speak in plain English!” The doors started to close, but not fast enough for them to block muttered curses and imprecations.

The assistant looked up at them, offered a pained smile and said, “The Mayor hasn’t been sleeping well lately.”

To be continued...

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