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.
The marsbug stopped after pulling behind a massive boulder. Idling and screened from the highway, it waited.
DaneelAH played the message again then said, “I think our first decision needs to be whether we use the code and go home or follow this Human’s lead.” He turned to HanAH, expecting immediate rejection.
Their vat mate swallowed hard and said in a meek voice, “Sorry about the outburst. It’s what I do when I’m frustrated.”
“That’s for sure,” said AzAH. If any one of the others had commented, HanAH would have exploded in anger. But he and his vat sister had a unique relationship – she was the only one on Mars who could rebuke him with impunity. He’d once said she was his external conscience. She reached out and patted his knee. “But we love you anyway.”
MishAH said, “Speak for yourself!”
DaneelAH remained silent. They had to decide to go forward together or not at all. He also knew that if he tried to push HanAH, his vat brother would do the opposite of he SHOULD do just to spite DaneelAH. Finally HanAH said, “Fine then. This Conciliação character seems to have a relatively coherent plan –and I’ve always loathed Torgerson. It’ll be a pleasure bringing him down.”
DaneelAH turned to AzAH who nodded immediately. MishAH paused and said, “It sounds like I’ve got the most lines in this Human’s script.” She paused, grinned then said, “I love it!”
DaneelAH nodded and said to the computer screen, “We’ll work with you Mr. Conciliação.”
The image flickered and smiled, “Actually, it’s Citizen Conciliação. Both of my parents came to Mars as free employees and were awarded a large piece of land outside of Bradbury as well as voting rights and a retirement apartment in the main dome. I think you’re familiar with my mother.” He paused, smiling faintly. “Thank you all. I will see you eventually, but I have no idea when. The whole political system is agitated right now. Something’s going on in Opportunity as well as in your own Malacandra. We don’t know what it is yet, but I might add that there’s something of an entirely different nature happening up on the Cydonia plateau.”
MishAH said, “At the Face On Mars?”
The image froze for a moment then continued talking, “Finally, there’s word from Earth that the bid for Martian Independence has been suspended in the Earth Government Rules Committee.”
“What?” HanAH exclaimed. “That’s ridiculous! Earth granted the Moon’s independence after only thirty years of occupation! We’ve had colonies for twice that!”
“True, but the Moon had an array of mass drivers that that would have required very little retooling to be made into weapons of mass destruction instead of workshops of mass profit.”
MishAH shook her head, “And we don’t have a D19-C to give its life up to make the transition to independence bloodless.”
Paolo hummed. “My points exactly.” His image vanished.
DaneelAH said, “Nice of him to make an interactive recording.”
HanAH shook his head. “The end of the transmission wasn’t recorded. We were talking to the Human.” The other three exclaimed, but HanAH cut them off, “If we’d made the wrong decision, he could have blown this ‘bug to kingdom come.”
“Isn’t that a colony in the Kuiper Belt?” MishAH said.
“That’s what I mean!”
DaneelAH said, “I don’t think he’d have brought us this far just to blow us up.”
“Oh, so you’re a security expert now?”
DaneelAH grunted then said, “Decision?” He glanced to each of his vat mates. Each one nodded. He said out loud, “We’ll go.”
The marsbug started to move again into the wild, off-road world the original settlers knew. The ‘bug bounced and juttered for hours until it began to slow down.
“Where are we?”
“I never heard of it,” said HanAH.
“You don’t know everything,” AzAH said.
He paused then said, “I can find out…”
“That’s not the point! The marsbug is slowing down and we’re in the middle of nowhere!”
DaneelAH leaned forward, looking at the digital view screen. He switched it off so that he could see a real-time image, through an aluminum oxynitride window of what they were coming up on. He stood up and pointed out the window, saying, “You’re not going to believe this, but there’s an outpost there that didn’t appear on the view screen…”