January 14, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 77: Paolo At Burroughs

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. ?zZ

Paolo Marcillon scowled for a long time, then accessed the satellite owned by an underground church and railroad – a shadow organization of the Cydonia Fellowship of Free Martians that the congregation just called “the fellowship” – and reprogrammed their ‘bug’s destination for 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 the   four vatmates in Cydonia. Until then, they had a long journey, probably fraught, probably dangerous, certainly not direct.

He might die.

One or all of them might die as well. He could program their ‘bug; he could program his own; but he could not program events. They would have to play out – or unravel – as they would. Most likely there would be no miraculous God interventions here on the surface of Mars.

With a sigh, he settled back and closed his eyes; not to sleep, but to pray for wisdom and guidance. As an afterthought, he programmed the ‘bug to follow the least third-least-probable path to a distance greater than four kilometers from Burroughs and stop at a place he could scope out the lay of the land and monitor internal. Sighing, he lay back and started with a confession…


When he woke finally, the marsbug had come to a stop. Partially concealed by the base of an upthrust fault and aligned with a crack in a boulder resting at the base of the cliff, he had a clear view of the second largest city on Mars. He tapped his database through the ‘bug’s console rather than through his link. He’d jiggered the console to route any external activity through three or four different nets and satellites. He was traceable, no doubt to people in Mars Authority – but only if they knew enough about him to deduce his trail.

There weren’t many people like that.

One of them lived in Burroughs, though Paolo wasn’t certain it would be safe to see him. Still, the vine had it that he’d not only converted, he was serving the community. He studied the Dome. Going in to speak to Natan Wallach, the ostensible Hero of the Faith Wars wasn’t his idea of a safe trip. The man had single-handedly led dozens of purges. He’d personally overseen the Martyrdom of the Six hundred and Sixty-Six. He’d deliberately chosen each and every one of the group. Certainly there’d been a convicted child molester, no rapists or murderers that he knew of, a gene thief, and a garden variety air thief, a pair of embezzlers caught, sentenced, escaped, and caught at least twice more. The Domes figured that was about enough repeating and sentenced them to death by exposure. The other six hundred and sixty-one had been a mixed bag of ninety-four Jews captured in a kibbutz in the shadow of Olympus, fifty-three Buddhists from a deep-desert underground seitch, another even hundred Muslims and Hindu men, women, and children detained and accused of religious terrorism, forty-nine Artificial Humans. The other three hundred and sixty-five were an Earth-significant number of Christians.

All of them were herded into an industrial airlock. After some debate, the Five Councils had decided that explosive decompression would be more humane than slow suffocation.

Wallach had not only led the assault on the kibbutz and the ashram where Hindu monks had been sheltering Muslim refugees at Lewis Outpost, but had held pitched battle with a secret colony of Artificial Humans at the South Pole. Paolo paused and pulled up the file. Natan’s image leaped into high definition three dimensions over the console. Paolo held his breath – if he was going to look for the man, he needed to know what he looked like. At least what he’d looked like a decade ago. He tapped the play key and listened: “Humanity has stood divided for millennia, probably since our first prehistoric ancestors. At first, those divisions were necessary, driving Homo sapiens to evolve, to dominate, and to eventually win a spot on this world using their brain as the most flexible and powerful weapon. Once that had happened, Humanity discovered ways to not only grow food, but to grow a society. There were thousands of experiments with structures – both physical and sociological.

“I will be the first to admit that among the constructs created by Humanity, religion had a place – it took the place of science, before our primitive, stupid forebears were able to comprehend the world around them, it was necessary to assign unstoppable powers to unseen forces – to create gods. Certainly organized religions allowed the movement of material and capital and people. Certainly, there was a time when religions served a purpose. But Humans outgrew the need for religions as science began to understand and quantify the unseen. Once it was quantified, Humans learned to manipulate the unknown. They became, in a sense gods – though no more divine than you or I.” The gathered crowd, standing silent until this time laughed and then cheered.

“However, the time came when not only did we not need gods or goddesses or religions, but the useful construct began to fight back. Rather than fade peacefully into the same closet as other antiquated social constructs like race, gender, and law, religions chose to stay, maintaining their sway over Humanity, turning their gentle leadings into iron-fisted dominance. They waged war against intelligence, against racial harmony, against sexual freedom, and the exercise of free will! They pretended to hold superior views to those who did not agree with them. When the rest of Humanity cowered under their brutal control, they began to war against each other. That war still rages on Earth.

“Mars is Humanity’s last, best hope to shake off the chains of religion’s inherent superiority ideology. These religious ideologies have not only led to the slaughter of millions of innocents, but to the unchecked reversion of scientific knowledge, the cessation of the free growth of the individual, and the stagnation of Human society on all of the planets and moons of this Solar System. The people of Mars have chosen to stand in the gap and deny these people the freedom to chain Humanity to its dismal and dark past.” The crowd roared its approval. Wallach thundered, in the best tradition of evangelical street preachers he raised his hands, “We will not go down again under the yoke of bondage!” He slammed them down on the emergency evacuation plunger, blowing the doors off the airlock and ending the lives of the six hundred and sixty-six martyrs.

Paolo sat watching the empty air over the console. His pulse pounded in his ears. He had spent months in prayer. He had spent days in prayer. He had spent every moment he was awake on his way to this place in prayer. But the answer – the compulsion – had not lessened. He had to talk to Natan Wallach.

He had to talk to the Hero of the Faith Wars; a man who was a close to him as a brother. Because they WERE brothers...

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