July 25, 2014

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 57: Paolo Enroute

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  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 (40,000 words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

He passed his hand over the surface of the satellite – if it was a satellite. It wasn’t exactly an eclectic collection of slapped together components the Councils sometimes blew out of orbit and claimed were signs of Cartel activity on Mars. No other entity could raise more hackles than the Cartel. Even the UFIH’s crusade faded into the background when the boogeyman of the Cartel came up in conversation. Wild-eyed terror to the contrary, it didn’t look like the images he’d seen of their technology; fifty years behind outer Solar System technology as it was.

The more he studied it, the more...alien it looked. Subtle things about it he couldn’t attribute to simple cheapness. He pursed his lips and tried to pick it up – and nearly threw his back out. It hadn’t seemed that heavy when it was under the ‘bug.

Dropping to his knees, he slapped the underside of his wrist, activating the medmind of the space suit. Simple treatment for minor wounds or pains, it popped him a pain reliever which he chewed. Targeted for muscle pain, it took effect shortly and he remained kneeling, studying the satellite. On closer examination, he could see pitting and long scratches on the surface. Prepared this time for higher mass than the object looked like it possessed, he poked it. He felt a faint tingling through his gloves.

It rolled easily.

Pursing his lips, he rolled it to his knees and bracing himself, reached down to pick it up. Fingers tingling oddly, he was so startled, he nearly threw it over his shoulder before managing to control the toss. He put it back down. It weighed less than a fat cat – under Lunar gravity. He placed both hands on it this time. The tingling effect started immediately on his hands then move slowly up his arms, stopping at his elbows. He removed on hand – the sensation stopped immediately – and touched the side of his helmet in a pattern. A moment later, what he saw changed as the faceplate cycled through sensitivities to different EM wavelengths. There was nothing odd in the IR part of the spectrum, but flickered when he looked at it with a translated microwave image. Ripples passed over its surface, almost as if it was tweaking itself. Nothing like the typical images the faceplate delivered from Human devices. He looked up at the marsbug for a comparison.

All he saw there was a nimbus around the comm dish. Normal, because he wasn’t sending or receiving any signals. He waited a moment as the faceplate cycled through to the radio spectrum. At first there was nothing, then a flare at the “public” frequencies anyone on Mars could use – his was 102.54 MHz. There was nothing on that frequency, but it flared briefly whenever he “saw” frequencies active in the area. He tapped the repeat cycle, looked down to examine the satellite and was disappointed to see no activity after the brief microwave pulses.

The scan bumped back up to visual light then set of to look at higher frequencies. UV was sharply wild – daytime on Mars with its faint atmosphere, and despite the long-established Terraforming Project’s efforts – still resulted in high levels of UV on the surface. There were flickers of higher frequencies, but when the scan finished, the satellite still remained as uninteresting as before.

He ran through magnetic scans and while there was curious blip over the surface at 9 Tesla, the level typically used for MRIs in hospitals, but that was all. There wasn’t anything else he could do, though possibly...He tried a sonar pulse and fell backward, stunned, blind, and deaf.

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