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.
Lewis Purvis, after entering the redoubt of the Free Martian Fellowship, struggled against the Free Martians holding him.
Svetlana’s nerve disruptor came up. “I wouldn’t get too violent, kid. Doesn’t look like it would take much to scramble your brain.”
Paolo held up a hand and looked to Svetlana, asking, “May I?”
“What if he tries to kill you?”
Paolo shrugged, “I don’t think that’s what he came here for, but if he does, then it’s one less Christian in the world to irritate Mars Authority.”
Chumani Minnesota exclaimed, “Hey! We’re Mars Authority and you haven’t irritated us.”
Paolo smiled and said, “Just give me time.”
Lewis said suddenly, “I have something I can give you,” he looked at Svetlana, “if you let Mr. Marcillon go free with me.”
Micah Ruffin cut her off, “What have you got, kid?”
Lewis’ eyes never left Svetlana. She said, “What have you got?” He looked at Micah and Alayc To’xay and she signaled to them to release him.
He leaned forward and opened a pocket on the leg of his surface suit. From it he pulled a box about ten centimeters long and held it out to her. “If you believe in the Watchers, then you’ll want this.”
Svetlana scowled and said, “Is it a bomb?”
Lewis said, “No. The Christian community I’m part of doesn’t hold with suicide bombing.”
Alayc said, “Too bad the Buddhists don’t hold with your beliefs.” He took the box and handed it to Svetlana.
“What’s in here.”
Scowling, she opened the box. Nothing exploded except the breath from her lungs. Wide-eyed she looked at him, “Where did you get these? Are they real?”
He nodded slowly, “One of our group is a Ares-paleontologist. She was at a northern excavation site near the Cydonian ‘face on Mars’. She figured we’d need to bribe some people in Bradbury to ignore our group and one of the Mayor’s aids is a fossil freak. So she brought this back. What is it?”
“A finger bone.”
Alayc and Micah dropped Lewis’ arms and strode to Svetlana’s side, staring into the box. She looked up again, “Are there more?”
“We don’t have any, but I assume there are others where this one came from.”
“Do you know where she found it?”
“Just somewhere near the ‘face on mars’. I’m a computer game programmer – I try and focus on the future, not the past.”
She closed the box and handed it back to him.
Micah exclaimed, “What are you doing?”
“We don’t need proof. We have faith.” She turned to Paolo, locking gazes and said, “I’ve always believed in the Watchers. And we haven’t been holding Paolo against his will – he’s never been our prisoner, so you don’t need to bribe us to release him.”
Lewis looked to Paolo, “Then you’ll come and pray for Bradbury?”
Paolo grimaced. “What makes you think my prayers are more powerful than yours?”
The youngster gestured to the Free Martians. “I heard they kill people who find them. I didn’t expect to live long enough to give them the bribe. But here you are – and they didn’t kill you and they don’t need my bribe.” He shrugged, “You must be a lot more powerful in your prayer life than we are.”
Paolo snorted. “Your namesake – CS Lewis – once wrote ‘Does God forsake just those who serve Him best? Little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage…If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.’” Paolo shook his head then said, “I’ll come with you not because I can pray better than you, but because you have things you can teach me.”
Chumani and Chen looked from Lewis to Paolo. Chen said, “I need to get back to Robinson.”
“I could go with you,” said Chumani to Paolo.
“Why would you do that?”
Paolo shook his head. “I’ll go back with Lewis here.” He stepped up to Chumani and Chen and said, “Thank you for following me, but I think your witness will be more important back in Bradbury. Go there, share the Good News. You’ll hear from the Underground soon. I guarantee it.”
The two men nodded, glancing at Svetlana. She said, “Be my guest. Good luck.” They headed for the airlock. Lewis started to snap up his suit. Svetlana said, “You could clean up before you leave...”
“Not while my friends are being shoved out the airlocks.”
She nodded slowly then said, “Lots of people laugh at us, but at least they haven’t started spacing any of us.”
The airlock cycled as Chen and Chumani left. Paolo closed his legs into the suit and started to snap the wrist seals. He looked at Svetlana. Lewis did, too then handed the box to her. “You respect this more than I do. And maybe you’ll remember this if we ever need help someday.”
Svetlana took it, nodded then turned to stride deeper into the Fellowship’s cavern.