On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official United Faith in Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters, Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story.
DaneelAH shook his head slowly and said, “This sounds like the plot for an insane 3V drama.”
HanAH shook his head in disgust. “Are we there yet?”
AzAH snapped, “We don’t even know where ‘there’ is, you idiot!”
He snorted, “I was expressing my disbelief that our leader let us get captured. Most likely this terrorist…”
“I don’t think that this Paolo Conciliação is the terrorist we should be afraid of,” said DaneelAH.
“Oh?” said MishAH, “Which terrorist are we supposed to be afraid of?”
“There are more terrorists than one here,” he said as the marsbug sped up, having reached the trans-Martian highway. It was a fused strip of Martian glass that ran in a nearly straight line from the southern-most colony of Malacandra to the northern-most edge of Human settlement, the Ares station, a short distance east of Outpost Cydonia which had once had the mission of teasing as much information out of the rock formations that had once been called the Face On Mars. Cursory scans had shown that the “face” was a boulder piled with sand. Nothing more, nothing less. Once the marsatic fringe had been chased out, few people went there any more.
HanAH leaned as far forward as he could in his harness and said, “Oh, do tell! I wouldn’t trade this story time for anything!”
DaneelAH frowned at his vatmate and shook his head, “How many years have we worked together?”
“Too many,” HanAH snapped. He sat up too straight, too fast and the marsbug swerved at that moment so he slammed his head against the slightly cushioned headrest. Cursing, he squirmed in his seat until he finally snarled, “I should have left this idiotic group the day we were decanted! I’ve never had a moment of sane peace! You’re all wild-eyed, fanciful dreamers! I’m the only one with a lick of sense in this stupid mate group!” His hands went to the straps as the marsbug veered suddenly from the highway, cutting across the rough wilderness. He instinctively gripped the straps.
DaneelAH shouted, AzAH’s jaw clenched as she held on tight and MishAH closed her eyes and said, “We’re all gonna die.”
The ‘bug slowed but kept moving forward. The screen at the front came to life with the image of Paolo Conciliação. He said, “By now HanAH will have informed you that he believes me to be a terrorist of the First Water, easily named with bin Laden, Washington and Fawkes. To you HanAH, I’ll say that a terrorist is a terrorist only in the eye of his target. Otherwise, he is a hero. I’ve programmed the marsbug to take you to an enclave of scientists at the Outpost of Vogel.”
“The what?” AzAH said.
“There you’ll meet a small group of researchers who have discovered that Humanity may not be the only intelligence in the Milky Way. There’s a good chance we might not even have been the first intelligences in the Solar System. None of this group however will have the database that was downloaded into DaneelAH. They’re going to need help.” He paused, “And HanAH, they’re going to need protection. Ex-Interim Mayor Fortune Torgerson’s alive and well and plotting against Mayor Turin and one of the research team has already been murdered…at least we’re mostly sure Torgerson’s behind it.” He paused, “The Translation Project has also unearthed some documents from the initial settlements but they’re written in some sort of code we’ve never encountered – that’s why we’ll need your help, AzAH.”
“What kind of documents? The TP is a publicly funded, carefully transparent work – who would have been keeping secret notes?” she glanced at HanAH. His scowl deepened, his previous anger forgotten. The quartet had been built together, cultured together and trained together. They were designed to be a team.
Paolo was saying, “MishAH, we’d like you to discover who’s funding this subversive activity. We also need to know if there’s an unlisted colony somewhere on Mars that is harboring Torgerson and his cronies. Clearly they need to eat – so there will be a trail of food that leads to them. Food or money or air…” Paolo shrugged. “We don’t know what else they might not have been paying attention to that we can follow to get them nailed.”
He paused then said, “I cannot stress how important this investigation is. I also can’t stress enough that your participation in this is voluntary.” He made a gesture off screen. A code flashed. “The code you see will override the marsbug’s programing right now if you don’t want to help us.”
“‘Us?’” DaneelAH said.
“If you choose to join us, I’ll give you more information.” He bowed his head. “We look forward to meeting you – you won’t see me for a long time still. But others at Vogel will let you know what we’re planning.”