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.
Staring at the sonographic image of the strange satellite in the airlock, he was forced into two logical lines of thought.
One logical set of assumptions led to the conclusion that a faction from Earth, the Moon, Venus, or Mars had lost a spy satellite on the surface of Mars. A second assumption, based on the unsettling image of a delphinoid creature that looked for all the world as if it were intelligent; was the fantastic set irrational assumptions that led to the stunning conclusion that that Humanity was not alone in the universe.
The second set of questions also begged an answer to the question of “when did they watch?”
The ‘bug had been rolling for ten minutes before Paolo realized that there was another question that depended from that answer: were they still watching? He shivered and turned up the ‘bug’s heater. There’d always been mutterings, murmurings, legends, and eventually the tall tale of The Sands That Breathed and Whispered.
Mostly it had been told in order to help Martian children learn to keep their surface suits clean and the air packs charged. He shuddered again, the full strength of a story from The Cousin’s Grimmest Spirit Tales that ended with a poorly maintained suit giving out on the surface and the Sands That Breathe and Whisper seeping in through cracks and vents and eventually the faceplate thrown open in a desperate attempt to breathe Martian air as Ruby Marcillon had breathed air from a Lunar cave once long ago.
What if, though, the tales had their roots in fact? What if the legend was so much a part of the fabric of Mars that memories of the intelligent swimmers – the Watchers – that somehow the sense of them had been passed on to the original Human colonists? “Nothing psychic or spiritual about it,” Paolo muttered. If Mars had been the base of some intelligences other than Human – and evidence from the original SOLAREX mission gave strong evidence that there had been others Watching Humans – then maybe there were artifacts on Mars that had been able to subtly influence the colonization.
The ‘bug bumped along, heading north toward the equator. He stared through the forward port for a while, then reached for the computer. He’d programmed the ‘bug with the Artificial Human quartet from Malacandra to take them to Bradbury, where he’d meet them and see if he could lead them to Christ. Their intelligence data was mostly off the chart and they functioned like a well-oiled machine. If he could argue them into the Kingdom, he’d have powerful allies and open a whole new field for the good news.
But what if they’d been made for more? What if he was only a messenger to them and God was calling them for a greater mission? What if theirs was the main mission – to bring the gospel not just to Mars, but to intelligences beyond Mars?
He scowled for a long time, then reset the ‘bug’s destination to Cydonia and what the 20th Century had dubbed “The Face On Mars”. Nodding, he reprogrammed his own ‘bug for intercept, then settled back. He’d meet them in Cydonia. Until then, they had a long journey, probably fraught, probably dangerous. He might even die. They might. They all might. With a sigh, he settled back and closed his eyes; not to sleep, but to pray for wisdom and guidance.
Then he fell asleep...