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 and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (23,000 words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.
Stepan and QuinnAH – a blue, Artificial Human street urchin abandoned on the Rim – slid down a filthy metal tunnel that angled into the Martian crust. Before Stefan could protest, the boy twisted in the tunnel and grabbed Stepan’s wrist, dragging him headfirst into the hole.
Stepan refused to give rise to the wail of terror trying to force itself out of his mouth. Instead, he squirmed to keep from crushing his communicator. He breathed through his nose, but even so, the dust was so thick in the enclosed space, he was wondering if they’d suffocate before they reached the bottom.
The angle decreased until they rumbled to a rusty, dusty stop.
Quinn jumped to his feet, not bothering to brush himself off and said, “You done pretty good for a real guy.”
“Thanks,” Stepan said after hawking up a load of mud and spitting.
Quinn took him by the hand and Stepan noticed then that the dust had obscured a row of LEDs set into the ceiling. They didn’t exactly illuminate the corridor Quinn set off along, rather marking place to aim for.
“Best set a decent pace, ‘cuz it’s a long way.”
“I know Burroughs is thirty kilometers across and that it takes about five hours to walk across it.”
“When you walk on the surface in the streets.”
“How long does it take through the tunnels?”
“Between five hours and thirty minutes.”
Stepan frowned as he followed Quinn into a larger tunnel – larger but more poorly lit. In the distance he could hear a deep rumbling overlain with a static hum, like a cheap fluorescent lamp from the early 21st Century. “Where are we…”
Quinn lifted a hand that was deep purple in the light. The ground started to shake. “We’ll be in the HOD in thirty minutes.”
The ground shook like the million-year marsquake was about to let loose.
“To...” Quinn grabbed him by the wrist again, crouched and as a circular wall filled the tunnel, the boy backpedalled abruptly, dragging Stepan backward to the ground, screaming, “Don’t jump!” They fell in a heap as a noise like a violent rushing wind filled the whole tunnel where they’d fallen.
“What happened?” Stepan asked as the noise faded back to the static hum.
Quinn looked at him and said, “You didn’t fight me.”
“Why would I fight you?”
“Because I was trying to make you do something you didn’t know about.”
Stepan scowled. He opened his mouth then closed it. Finally he managed, “I went with you because I trust you.”
Quinn didn’t respond at all. He jumped to his feet, went to look up and down the tunnel and said, “Looks like it’s gonna take us five hours, too. Longer if we have to run to get out of the way of the stuffcaps.”
“Stuffcaps – enclosed capsules full of stuff for the HOD. Sometimes they’re open. If it had been, we’d have been able to hitch a ride. But it was closed. If I’d jumped and you’d followed, we’d have been a red smear for half a klick down. Then we’d a been washed off tomorrow morning when the bots clean the tunnels. Nobody’d have known we was gone.”
“Thanks, then,” said Stepan as he got to his feet.
“Saving my life. I owe you one.”
From across the tunnel, from another, dark one, a voice said, “Then I guess I’ll be collecting from you, Mister Izmaylova.”