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.
Paolo Marcillon lowered his helmet over his head. He visually checked what seals he could, then blinked through a series of suit checks projected onto the inside of his helmet. He turned to the younger man suiting up beside him.
Jack Purvis had just finished battening his latches and did a similar suit survey. A moment later, he spoke over their radio link, “Request external suit check.”
“Ten four,” replied Paolo automatically. They quickly confirmed that both of them were ready for the airlock to partially evacuate and trade breathable air for the cold, carbon-dioxide of the surface of the Red Planet.
Paolo felt the suit stiffen as the air pressure dropped. For an instant, he couldn’t hear Jack’ breathing. Instead, Svetlana said, “We may believe differently, Mr. Marcillon, but I’d like you to know that if you ever need a real hand, we will be here for you.” She was off the circuit before he could draw a breath to thank her. The light over the airlock door glowed green. Jack spun the wheel and they were back out on the surface.
Paolo said, “How did you get here?”
“How are you going to get back into the air?”
“I crashed,” Jack replied. Paolo smile at the embarrassed tone that leaked through the radio.
“So you need a ride home?”
“Uh...” there was another embarrassed pause. “If you’re offering?”
“I think I’m going your way.” The other man stopped and turned his entire suit.
“Where’s your ‘bug?”
“In the center of the Grand Island Dust Sink.”
“How can we find it in this murk?”
Even though the dust storm had calmed, it was still difficult to see. The dust had settled some, hanging just above their heads, rolling as if it was mercury, sometimes dipping below his head. In those instants, he could see for kilometers. He pointed, “About three kilometers. You can just see the flag on the antenna.”
“And sometimes the top of the ‘bug,” Jack paused. “You came here in that?”
Paolo sniffed and headed for the ‘bug. “Not many choices when you’re an itinerant missionary.”
Jack followed, the pulled alongside him. “How did you end up with those crackpots?”
“They aren’t crackpots.”
“How else would you define them? They think aliens have been watching Humans on Mars.”
The walked in silence for a kilometer or so, then Paolo said, “Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that He took on our Human form in order to pay up for the sin Humans had committed in all time?”
“Of course I do! I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of...”
“I know the Creed of Nicaea – powerful confession. But if you adhere to the Creed, then most of the people on Mars and Earth would agree that you are a crackpot, too.”
They walked another kilometer. Jack said, “I guess.” The last kilometer they walked in silence, slowly approaching the marsbug. “Did you lock the door?”
“Of course.” They walked up to the marsbug and Paolo keyed in the security code. It opened. They clambered inside, pressurizing the ‘bug as he powered up. He said, “You can have a seat. I’ll tell you when you can change out.”
“I think I’ll stay in my suit.”
Paolo turned his body to look at the younger man. “Why?”
Long pause. “I’m scared.”
Longer pause, then Jack finally said, “This is a lot bigger than just you and me.”
The pressure reached normal level and Paolo started to take the suit off.
“Don’t do that.”
“Those two MA’s? How do you know they didn’t sabotage the ‘bug?”
“They’re fellow believers – seekers at least.”
“How do you know...”
“How do I know that you’re not here to kill me?”
Long, long, long pause. Paolo kept breaking the seals on his suit, slipping off the gloves first; then taking off his boots. He broke the seal on the chest plate then laid it on the floor. Finally Jack said, “You don’t.”
“All I have is my faith in God, Jack. Faith that God is in charge; and faith that even if you’re here to kill me, God is still in charge.” Jack stood up suddenly. Paolo waited, facing the younger man who was still in his environment suit. They faced each other. Jack raised his left hand, crossed it over his chest.
Tapped the release key; reached up. Waited. Grabbed the helmet and twisted. Lifting it off, he looked at Paolo and finally said, “I’m not here to kill you. It’s been a long time since I talked to real seekers.”
“Where do you live?”
“Jesus Is Lord.”
Paolo’s lips thinned, nodded. “I’m glad you came to find me.”
“We want you to live with us.”
Paolo shrugged, then sat down at the controls. Finally he said, “So you didn’t come to kill me. You came to kidnap me.”