December 24, 2015

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 76: 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.

FardusAH, assistant to Mayor-for-Life of Burroughs Dome, Etaraxis Ginunga-Gap, said, “We’re going to mix classes; mix orphans and natural-borns; rich and poor; management and service...”

Aster Theil, former general secretary and assistant for the City of Opportunity, now Consort of the very same Mayor-for-Life, laughed loud and long, shaking her head. “A paradigm shift I don’t know if this stodgy city of ours can possibly survive.”

“It will survive. But I don’t know if we will,” she said.

Aster paused, pursed her lips then replied, “Change is natural, Madame Assistant.”

“True, but change is movement, and movement always means there’s the potential for an accident.”

Passing through the office from the Mayor’s desk, a little Human’s eyes grew wide. FardusAH could see his face on the monitor she surreptitiously glanced at. His name was Shafter. He’d just delivered a pile of encrypted, “Physical Transfer Only” chips to the Mayor’s desk. FardusAH always nodded to him, trying for friendly. All he ever did was glower at him. She got the distinct impression, he thought her haughty and better than him.

He was Human and she’d heard from the Mayor that he lived on the Rim. That matter of geography made him a valuable source of information about what was happening there. He’d slowed his stride, listening until he couldn’t linger any longer without arousing their suspicions. FardusAH widened her eyes at Aster, tilting her head fractionally after him. The Mayor’s Consort closed her mouth slowly, ostensibly checking the front of her formal Dome suit – gray pants, a gray tunic worked with silver threads into a complex pattern mimicking the ripple marks found in parts of Melas Chasma. It was a sort of promise that someday, Mars might run again with surface water – if Humans could ever get their act together enough to begin true Geoforming.

The door slid closed behind him. When she was certain he wasn’t listening outside, FardusAH said, “That man is a fursnake with the ears of a bat! Credits to beignets he’s headed one place.”

Aster sighed then said, “Most likely on his way to see how much this little bit of intel will buy him with Security Director vo’Maddux.”

“Not much, if I’m any judge. She’s more mad at his Honor than at you.”

“I can’t imagine that’s true! Vo’Maddux hates me.”

FardusAH shook her head, sitting back down and turning to the virtual computer screen floating over her desk. She placed her hand in the field and after making a series of complex finger movements leaned forward to study the screen. The computer’s focus on her retinas made a clear image impossible for anyone by her to see. A moment later, she said, “Vo’Maddux may hate you, but based on a my quick assessment of the Mayor’s three biggest backers, your ideas going to be a hit for the season.”

“You have direct links to Patwary, Tremblay, and Sūn (Bangladesh, Canadiens français, Chinese)?”

“Hardly, but I do have direct contact with all of the assistants of the Mayor’s major supporters. It’s part of my job to maintain his network.” She grinned sunnily.

Aster narrowed her gaze, saying, “If I was stupid, I’d think that was an entirely logical and innocent statement.”

Mock surprise. “Your Honor! You place a slur upon my character!” But the look she gave Aster was defiant and entirely unrepentant.

“So we can count on some support from important people?”

“Absolutely.” After a moment, she held up one finger, “However, your Honor, you can expect to face some strong opposition from other important people. The first of them is vo’Maddux. She is important and powerful in Burroughs. She knows many people and has made it her practice neve to owe anyone anything. But a great many people owe her. If you wanted to identify the real power in this Dome, you’d have to include her on your list.”

Aster nodded slowly, “I’d be inclined to place her as the number one power.” She paused, studying the wall behind FardusAH, then looking directly down at her. “But I should point out that there is one power that is so far above the others that we usually discount it.”

FardusAH made a face then said, “I mean no disrespect your Honor, but your god has a serious challenger in vo’Maddux.”

Aster nodded, “No doubt. But my God has been around a few more years than vo’Maddux has. My God has some serious connections as well.”

FardusAH leaned back in her chair, studying the Mayoral Consort for some time before finally saying, “Dependent on the outcome of your party, I may have some questions about your God.”

“If you do, I will be happy to answer them.” She bowed slightly. “I’ll see you later.”

As Aster strode from the office, FardusAH touched her mauve lips with a navy blue finger, nails done in complimentary yellow. She said softly, “You most certainly will, your Honor. You most certainly will.” She turned to her screen and got back to work.

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