March 18, 2010
MARTIAN HOLIDAY 6: DaneelAH -- Malacandra
A Roman holiday was entertainment received at the expense of the suffering of others or a spectacle designed to do the same for the masses. In this future, Mars is a bad place to be if you’re an adherent of any organized religion – and if you’re an artificial human…If you want to read what went on before, go to the June 8, 2009 entry...
“You think she’ll do it?” MishAH asked. The whole thing had been DaneelAH’s plan, but he wasn’t entirely sure he would be able to pull it off. It had been obvious when they all lived in Bradbury and had access to the EarthBranch Library. But Malacandra was just a bunch of farmers and the closest thing they had to a library was Martian General University.
HanAH shook his head, “She’ll sell us off for sure.” He paused for effect, “For parts.”
MishAH gasped. AzAH elbowed HanAH. DaneelAH scowled and said, “No need to be gory and cruel.” He paused then continued, “If we are to remain together and serve God, we need a job.” AzAH opened his mouth, “A job that requires us to be together.”
They reached the desk and the human assistant lifted an eyebrow, saying, “You may see the Mayor now.” He went back to working on his virtual screen, smiling a cruel smile and humming, “Dum, dum, dah dum, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dum…”
DaneelAH, AzAH, MishAH and HanAH – the appended letters meant that all four were Artificial Humans and belonged to the Mayor and could not reproduce on their own nor claim any rights of any sort. They’d been captured during a riot in a nearby city and never returned. Under Martian law, they were tenuously defined as confiscated war materials property and could be dispensed with by purchasing the same permits a person might buy to get rid of old fluorescent bulbs. But that legal mess was tied up in the courts and would be for the next century or so…
Mayor Turin was sitting at her desk, glowering at the door when they walked in. Without preamble, she said, “You’ve been on the docket for thirty-six months and never bothered anyone about getting an earlier appointment. You never once tried to approach me at the Palace nor have you lobbied for special treatment. All four of your work records are spotless and to tell you the truth, you’re the only ones worth keeping since the Bradbury Disturbances a year and a half ago. The only reason I’ve agreed to see you is that I’m curious about your persistence.” She steepled her fingers and looked at them.
DaneelAH looked at the others. AzAH nudged him forward. He stepped up and said, “Your Eminence…”
“Don’t bother with the fancy stuff. I know who I am and I know who you are. What I don’t know is what you’ve waited so patiently for so long to tell me.”
DaneelAH nodded slowly, considered dancing around the issue, then cut to the chase instead. “Mister Mayor, we know what’s in the Martian Face Cavern.”
Mayor Turin stared at them all. The corner of her mouth twitched up into a smirk, but with effort, she pressed her lips together until the urge to laugh at them had passed. The amusement wasn’t entirely gone from her voice when she said, “If you belonged to anyone else, I’d have you hauled out and sold for parts. But since you’re mine, continue. What makes you so sure you know what’s in the Cavern?”
DaneelAH hooked a thumb at AzAH. “Some of our assurance…”
“You’re speaking as a group? What could a security guard, an agriculture coop secretary, an organic translating machine and a…a…” the Mayor stammered.
“I’ve settled on a designation of forensic xenoarchaeologist.”
“A what?” The Mayor asked. AzAH, HanAH and MishAH echoed her, words and tone.
“There was a crime under those vaulted ceilings and I think I know what it was. AzAH works in the Translation Project. She’s brought puzzling bytes to our conversations. MishAH’s observations of current grain growth patterns, transportation and storage show peculiar and unlikely patterns – maybe. Even HanAH’s observations of criminal activity and security concerns not only in Malacandra but all over Mars.”
Mayor Turin scowled at him, leaning back in her chair. Her chin settled into the cup of her right hand as his left hand cupped the elbow. She studied him for some time before she finally nodded. “I’ll grant you the title. I don’t want to know anything until you have solid evidence to support your theories.” She shifted, leaning forward. “I expect you know that I will not stand for any negative publicity falling on this office or on me personally?”
DaneelAH nodded slowly.
“Then it’s settled. The rest of you document information you send to DaneelAH under the seal of the Mayoral Office.” She turned to another computer screen, obviously dismissing them.
The three artificial humans left the office, passed through the antechamber and didn’t say a word until they were out of the Mayor’s Palace. Then they started talking at once, cutting each other – and any answer he tried to make – off. Finally he whistled, thumb and middle finger curled and inserted into the corners of his mouth. They all stopped talking.
DaneelAH said, “We’re going to be together. That was my goal. We’ve achieved it. Now let’s go home and see what we can put together to solve the mystery of why the Mars Face Cavern is empty – and what was in it before it was empty.”