February 21, 2013

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 39: Stepan Under The HOD

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 (26,000 words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

QuinnAH stepped in front of Stepan and said, “He ain’t a mark, he’s a Wilkerson.”

The speaker stayed in the dark, but a grim laugh rumbled out from his hidey hole. Then he said, “We’ve never seen a Wilkerson here, little Quitter. In fact, I didn’t think they let them off Earth – so what do you know about this one, Quitter?”

“I don’t know nothin’ but what I’m told, Sir.” He leaned back into Stepan and said, “He’s the Fagin for the HOD; keeps younger artificials like me from getting swept up by the cops or getting hunted by the boys and girls from the HOD – he calls ‘em ‘bogis from the HOD’.”

Stepan shook his head. “That would be funny if I didn’t know what it meant. Seems your Fagin is something of a reader, Quinn. Maybe even a refugee from the HOD. Worse, maybe he just likes being in control and this is the only place he could be.”

The voice roared from the darkness, “Now don’t you go putting traitorous ideas into my little boy’s head! I love him and his brothers and sisters like they was my own kids!”

Stepan scowled, saying, “They’re artificial life forms.” He put his hands on Quinn’s shoulders. “They were manufactured at this age and they’ll always be this age. You had nothing to do with them coming into existence. How can they be like your own kids? They’re not kids. They’re...”

“Stop it! I can feel however I want to feel about them!”

“Just like the real Fagin did in Dicken’s OLIVER?”

“Hey! You can’t say that to…”

“You remember what happened to that Fagin?”

There was a long, dark pause, then the voice said, “I do now, little man.” The ground trembled and from a distance, a low, moaning echoed plaintively from one of the wider tunnels.

“He’s a Wilkerson! You shouldn’t talk to him that way?” Quinn shouted.

“I can talk to him any way I want to. He’s under my turf.” There was a pause, then he added, “And according to every law in Burroughs, I own you, boy. So don’t get too snarky just because you’re with a holy man.” He laughed. “Technically, I could report him, too. For evangelizing one of the Prohibited Ideologies.”

Stepan felt suddenly uncomfortable. Up until this moment, the only person’s life he’d risked had been his own. He’d been planning on keeping the garden on the roof a secret. He’d had enough of people crowding around him – he’d had too much of it when he’d first come to Mars. After that whole fiasco, he’d had his name changed – and major plastic surgery so he could hide from his past. He was done with being a hero. Done forever. Unless God had a different plan for him. He shuddered then said, “You could do that. I could also contact my patrons and report your presence here.”

“You couldn’t do no such thing! Nobody cares about a Wilkerson! You’d be under arrest in a nano if you peeped a word!”

“If all I was were an illegal Wilkerson, you’d be right. But I’m not.”

The ground trembled. Quinn had grabbed his hand and tugged it forward slightly. The ground shook like the million-year marsquake was about to let loose.

“Get ready,” he spoke from the corner of his mouth.

From his hidey hole, Fagin said, “What are you talking about?”

“Well, Mr. Underground hater,” Stepan began. Quinn grabbed him by the wrist again, crouched and as a circular wall filled the tunnel, the boy ran forward abruptly. Holding hand, Stepan ran beside him.

Quinn stopped abruptly and screamed, “Jump!”

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