April 29, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 81: 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.

Partially concealed by the base of an upthrust fault and aligned with a crack in a boulder resting at the base of the cliff, the man in the marsbug had a clear view of the second largest city on Mars. Burroughs Dome glittered at the center of the crater it called home. Thirty-five kilometers across, it was still dwarfed by the crater – as it was dwarfed in reputation by every other Dome on Mars. It had a bit of the reputation of an ancient Earth city called Calcutta…

It was home to one of the most notorious Humans ever to live on Mars.

Paolo Marcillon sat watching the empty air over the console. Natan Wallach, The Hero of the Faith Wars, was a powerful, charismatic man. His speech had been memorized by thousands of Martians, quoted in uncounted speeches, and made into hundreds of plaques, drinking vessels, and architectural epigraphs. It was a mesmerizing speech, powerful, and despite the fact that its spokesperson had vanished – assumed murdered by some religious zealot – was widely claimed to be the foundation of Martian civilization.

The truth was that it hadn’t been. Some underground believers – and antirevisionist historians – whispered that it had been written by Wallach’s father, a manipulative man whose embezzlement from the database of a small Dome had caused its financial collapse and eventual abandonment. The Ghost Dome was rarely visited, though the tale was often told…

Paolo’s 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 and he hadn’t talked to Natan for years. Not blood-brothers, they’d been raised together from birth; Paolo’s parents had died the Blue Fever years. They’d been friends with the Wallach family and they’d taken the orphan four-year-old in. Their adolescence together had been very rocky.

Paolo took a deep breath. His brother looked to be barely twenty-five; though he was forty-six. Paolo was a year younger…and looked like he was in his late fifties. “Genetics,” he muttered. His parents hadn’t believed in gene-meddling. The mods were fine, eliminating cystic fibrosis, heart disease, near-sightedness, and the most common cancers – he’d been modified. But where that was all he’d had, Natan had had muscular enhancements, perception enhancements, and had a biological neural connect for digital data downloading, grown. A source of sore rivalry when they were kids; now a source of sadness.

 Paolo pursed his lips. He wasn’t getting any younger; his brother’s life wasn’t getting any less strange as far as he’d heard. His friends in Burroughs talked about a man calling himself Stepan…

With a sigh, Paolo suited up. He’d catch the inbound commuter lev-train from the outposts ranging along the heights of the crater ring, then try and discreetly snoop around to see what his big brother was really up to. He found himself hoping that the conversion was true.

He also found himself hoping that Natan – or Stepan, or whomever! – would also help him avoid their father…

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