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.
Svetlana Kurchenko, Micah Ruffin, and Alayc To’xay armed themselves.
Paolo Marcillon, Chumani Minnesota and Chen Li stepped back, though Paolo first started for the airlock.
Svetlana waved him angrily back, saying, “This isn’t one of your bloody agape feasts, Christian man! We’re all wanted and they think our religion is a crazy one. No knowing who’s found us here.”
Paolo said, “We found you.”
She waved it away, “That was an accident.”
“I don’t believe in accidents.”
Svetlana snorted, opened her mouth to reply just as someone knocked on the sealed lock again. She motioned to Micah. “Open it. We’ll cover you.” Other people in the Fellowship had come into the main room. All of them were armed, though some with ancient projectile weapons good only in an oxygen atmosphere.
Micah moved to the airlock and slapped the cycle plate. Air hissed once the light turned red then morphed to yellow then glowed green. He spun the handle and opened the lock, stepping back to cover the door with his high powered laser. An orange space suit came in slowly, arms raised. Slowly it put its hands to its head, twisted the helmet and raised it up.
The face of a young man appeared. He’d been injured, an angry gash under his right eye had been hastily sealed with rumpled sterile stitch tape and was still swollen and red. Smears of blood remained under his eye and on the bridge of his nose as well as remaining trapped under the seal. His sandy brown hair stuck out wildly in all directions. He turned, studying each face intently until he looked directly at Paolo and said, “Paolo Conciliação?”
Everyone looked Paolo. Nearby Svetlana leaned toward him and whispered, “I thought you said your last name was Marcillon?”
He shrugged and he whispered back, “I would venture to guess your typical name isn’t Svetlana. That’s too...obvious.”
Svetlana grunted, lifting an eyebrow and tipping her head slightly to one side – an Opportunity-specific gesture that meant that he’d scored a point off her. The gesture was also popular on Earth among the gravity game, Jump aficionados.
Paolo stepped forward, saying, “I’m Paolo.” The young man stepped forward, staggering. Paulo caught him under the armpit and lifted him up. Svetlana motioned to one of the other Fellowship. A stool appeared a moment later and Paolo settled him down. “What’s going on, son?”
The young man looked up and for a moment, he stared at Paolo. The older man looked away uncomfortably as the youngster said, “I’m Lewis Purvis from Bradbury. There’s something wrong; something terrible is going to happen. People in the Fellowship are disappearing.”
Chumani snorted. Paolo shot him a quelling look as Lewis continued, “Nobody knows what’s happening. There will be weeks and weeks when we worship in peace, then someone comes to the Fellowship and they’ve been beat up or they lost their job or they’ve been harassed by security.”
Paolo patted Lewis’ shoulder. “That doesn’t seem unusual. Bradbury’s not exactly the most...accommodating place for those who have different mindsets.”
Svetlana, Micah and several others of the Free Martians laughed outright. Paolo looked at her. Svetlana said, “We’ve been run out of Bradbury more times than I can count! We’ve all been tagged as ‘undesirables’.”
Paolo nodded as Lewis said, “We’ve been monitored for years, but no one ever really paid that much attention to us.” He paused and shook his head, “Until now.”
Paolo pursed his lips and squatted so that he was level with Lewis’ face. He said, “What’s happened, Lewis?”
The young man looked away then looked back at him. His eyes misted over and he blinked rapidly as he said, “I just barely made it here on an antigrav board. Bradbury security outright killed our pastor and his family – they made it a public execution. They executed a Muslim imam and a Buddhist nun as well. They’re holding an artificial Human and are threatening to execute it as well.”
Even the hardened Svetlana gasped and the rest of the Free Martians pulled together. After a long silence, Paolo said softly, “What do you need from me?”
The look in Lewis’ eyes became frankly adoring as he said, “We know you’re really tight with the Savior – we want you to come and pray against the Bradburians and stop the murders!”