Overwhelmingly busy week -- sorry this is SO late!
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.
“What do you mean you’ve been expecting us?” asked AzAH as the airlock swung closed behind them.
The man smiled and said, “I can’t actually say anything more than that until the leader of our outpost has had a chance to talk with you. Would you follow me, please?”
DaneelAH, MishAH and HanAH stepped up beside the Translator of the group.
MishAH said, “This doesn’t look very good.”
HanAH, formerly a detective in Bradbury Dome, glared at his sister and snapped, “What was your first clue, Nancy Drew?”
She shot him an equally deadly glare and said, “I may not be your criminological equal, but who exactly came up with the connection in the Felix-Kaya murder?”
“Just because you think you know plants...” he said, turning on her.
DaneelAH, a forensic xenoarchaeologist attached to the Mayor of Bradbury’s research team, was the most recognizable face of their Artificial Human plaque; said, “If they’re going to kill all of us, I’m relieved to know that we’ll go down in our natural state.” He followed the man deeper into the outpost.
HanAH shot a vulgar phrase after him but followed anyway. MishAH and AzAH glanced at each other, smiled sheepishly, then followed the other two after clasping hands.
They passed several reinforced seams. HanAH nodded to one and whispered, “They’ve connected at least ten Combined Forces surplus bivouac domes into one. Looks like they just found a set of lava tubes, smoothed the surfaces then used the dome material to line them.”
“Pretty ingenious if you ask me,” said AzAH.
“We didn’t,” HanAH said. Clearly irritated, he slapped the wall. From far away came a groan.
“What was that?” DaneelAH asked.
From the front of their line, the man said, “The standard issue material has been impregnated with nerve and epithelial cells.”
“Your dome is alive?” MishAH asked. She stopped and leaned closer to the walls, touching them.
She started to take off her glove when the man from the front said, “If you’ll be patient, The Leader will see you shortly. Please come.”
She scowled, tapped the wall and despite a sound that was suspiciously similar to a giggle, she followed the others. The tunnel grew wider and unexpectedly, MishAH heard the sound of birds singing. Lots of them.
“Do I smell pine trees?” muttered HanAH.
The tunnel opened into a huge area. The four Artificial Humans stopped, blinking into brilliant light, surrounded by manicured lawns, slight hillocks, slender trees reaching ten meters up. The man leading them had turned to face them, smiling. He said, “Take your time. It hits most people this way. The actual room is only twenty meters across.”
“It looks bigger,” HanAH said, scowling.
“We have very good artists who use both conventional media as well as digital and holographic. I think it looks good, too.”
“Welcome, travelers,” said a voice. From ahead of them, around a corner, strode an extremely tall, very young-looking man. “Welcome to Emei Shan.”
HanAH snorted and said, “That’s a mountain in China on Earth. This is Mars.”
The young man smiled down at him then said, “An aficionado of our faith? Delightful!”
“I’m not a Buddhist,” MishAH said, obviously irritated.
The young man shrugged and said, “Nobody’s perfect.” He gestured to all of them, “I have tea laid out and I think rather than draw out the pleasantries inherent in our meeting, we must lay out our plans for war.”
DaneelAH stared at him, then said, “War?”
The young man nodded solemnly and said, “Do you see the coming persecution going in any other direction than full scale war against all people who do not openly acknowledge the Unified Faith In Humanity?”
“Nothing wrong with that,” HanAH said.
“Certainly that is true – the problem comes when the adherents of that Faith insist we repudiate our own faiths. And force us to betray our friends.”