June 26, 2014
MARTIAN HOLIDAY 56: Aster of Opportunity
On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified 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 Theilen’s father, Abedne Halle-Theilen, accepted the peck on the cheek with a smile and said, “I will, Sweetie.”
She headed out of his apartment, scowling. What was so important to him that he’d felt moved to bring up that silly Old Testament story about one of Xerxes’ queens of Persia? She just wanted to survive her ‘relationship’ with Mayor Etaraxis and hold out long enough for him to lose interest in her. She’d no intent on going on a crusade for better rights for those still clinging to the Old Religions, especially the Gang of Three. Mars had enough contemporary problems. It didn’t need to fight ancient battles again.
Unfortunately, there were those who still felt it their bound business and calling to root out anyone with private feelings about Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Hence the occasional believer being shoved out through an airlock or murdered outright. Martian law didn’t hold with such violence, but typically sentences were likened to those whose drinking and driving murdered someone back on Earth – a few months of hard labor or community service, and their penalty was considered served.
She was so occupied, she didn’t notice a shadow detach itself from a corridor vending alcove and pad silently after her. Aster didn't see the shadow pause at her father's door and touch the edge of the game then move on. She made her way to Opportunity's Core. The city was mostly underground. Except for the agriculture domes on the surface, people "lived like groundhogs". She had no idea what that was. Her father would know.
"Your father knows a great many things, Consort Thiesen," said Hanam vo'Maddux as she appeared abruptly alongside Aster.
Though Aster didn't flinch, her blood pressure shot up. She said, "He's my mentor as well, Chief vo'Maddux. He's almost one hundred years old. He's seen quite a few things. Certainly more than you or I have."
"At least more than you have," the voice of the Mayor's Chief of Security was pitched so that her words rang with authority that accepted no dissent.
Aster begged to differ, she said conversationally. "You were born on Mars, too, weren't you?"
Silence. After a moment, Hanam said, "I was. It's in my records."
"Oh, that's right. Now I remember. My father was born on Earth. He came here when he was forty-eight. Sort of a birthday present. He and Mom rode the first High Boost Direct ship. Mom died after I was born." Aster paused. "I saw that your mother is hale and hearty. It's wonderful when a person can grow up with both parents." Aster stole a glance at Hanam.
She'd expected anger but unexpectedly saw despair.
The Chief of Security said, "You would think."
The two women walked side-by-side until they reached the lifts that would take them up to the agriculture level or down to the detention center. They stopped. The Security Chief pursed her lips, bowed, and said, "Good day, Consort Thiesen."
Aster mirrored the bow. "Good day, Chief of Security vo'Maddux." Hanam walked away, leaving Aster to study the back of the woman she was certain was her enemy but might have been an ally.