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.
Aster Thiel gathered her bag and left Mayor Etaraxis’ offices a moment later, wondering how she would tell the Mayor she would be going back to the office pool below.
She took the drop tube from the ninetieth floor, the uppermost level actually poked into real Martian atmosphere, offering a sweeping view of Opportunity City from the highest point of the rim of Tyrrhena Mons Crater. Down on the street, she dodged a phalanx of twenty self-balancing two-wheeled scooters as she scurried across the street. She glanced up at the Dome and the pucker around it where the Mayor’s Pylon breached it. Then she turned back and walked down the block until she took a sharp left, following a narrower, older path barely wide enough of a pair of the scooter.
The Qalipu Qoffee shop was marked by single caribou horn imported at great expense from Earth. It stuck out of the wall over the door. She turned in and the scent of strong Martian coffee rolled over her. Bushes grown on the slopes of Mount Olympus produced a bean that had a strong iron flavor. Steeped in hot water, the brew was strong, almost brittle; Earthers disdained it as tasting “wrong”. Martians sucked it down like it was going to go extinct after half a Martian year. She sometimes thought real coffee addicts took on a rusty glow. Smiling, she pushed to her dad’s table.
“Hey, sweetie,” he said, looking up from his tablet computer – his T-comp – and said, “Have a seat.”
Shaking her head, she sat and said, “Dad, why do you insist on reading your Bible here?”
He grinned and jerked his head toward the barista’s station. “They’re all Christians here.”
“Dad! I don’t want you to get arrested!”
“Honey, we can’t be ashamed of our faith.”
“I’m not ashamed – I’m practical.”
“Practical is all right, but when push comes to shove, what will you say?”
Aster sighed. She said, “I’m leaving my position as the Mayor’s escort.”
“You can’t,” he said, eyes flashing. He glanced at the entrance leaned forward, then repeated, “You can’t, sweetheart.”
“What? I thought you hated the idea of me being the Mayor’s Escort?”
“There are things you can do there. You have the Mayor’s ear and you can make changes on Mars.”
“What kind of changes?”
“You can make faiths other than the official one legal again.”
“Dad!” Aster exclaimed. “That’s sedition!”
He opened his mouth to reply as silence dropped over the coffee house like vacuum and everyone turned to face the door.
A figure stood there. A woman in a uniform. Behind her, though outside, were shadows. She stepped into the light of the main seating area, spied Aster and broke into a wide grin, calling, “Ms. Thiel! We’ve been looking for you!” Hanam vo’Maddux stopped at the table, bending slightly at the waist, “I am Mayor Etaraxis’ personal assistant. You must be Aster’s father, Jerome Thiel.”
He stood up, offered his hand, shook it and said, “I am. Won’t you please join us, Honorable vo’Maddux?”
She grinned, and though Aster saw now joy in the eyes and certainly no peace, the woman said, “I’d be delighted to join you.”