June 16, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 83: Stepan of Burroughs, On the Rim

https://static.pexels.com/photos/7717/pexels-photo.jpgOn 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. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (60,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

QuinnAH, the blue Artificial Human boy who refused to leave Stepan Izmaylova’s side  said, “I bet this is where your prayer gets answered and I go flyin’ up ona disk first, huh?” The boy apparently didn’t notice he was gripping Stepan’s shirtsleeve.

“Probably,” Stepan replied looking down at his charge, scowling, then nodding decisively.

“What?” the boy exclaimed. He yanked his hand free and stopped walking alongside Stepan. “You gotta be craze!”
Stepan slapped him on the back, took the disk, and said, “Just kidding, kid. Besides, it’s tuned to me. I’ll go up then drop you a rope.” He looked up, said a brief, silent prayer, then activated the gMod disk.

“That thing’s gonna stop halfway up!”

With a coil of rope over his shoulder, he stepped on the metal disk. It immediately activated, a virtual control screen projected from it into the air before his face. He lifted his chin a fraction, and the gMod disk lifted slowly, dropped a few centimeters, then continued to rise up. Clenching his jaw, holding his jaw a the precise angle that allowed him to rise slowly, Stepan pretended indifference until he exited the huge hole in the warehouse ceiling. He stepped off and fighting incipient vertigo, he lowered the rope through to the waiting boy below. He called down, “Now don’t be afraid, just keep your eye…”

Quinn’s head popped up and he pulled himself up on his elbows. Standing, he slugged Stepan in the shoulder and said, “No offense intended, Preach, but if you can do it, I can do it.”

“No offense taken,” Stepan replied, then looked around for a place to secure the rope.

Quinn said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll tie it up after I pull it up a couple hundred. Then I’ll break the lock on that door and find out how far down the stairs go.”

“What stairs?”

Quinn laughed, “You…” he used incredibly vulgar street slang for Naturals.

Stepan couldn’t help it, he smacked the boy up back the head. “You will not use that phrase again around me.”

Quinn laughed again, but raised his hands in surrender. “OK! OK! No need to shake the brain up! Around your freakiness I’ll keep the words squeak!”

Stepan wasn’t exactly sure what the boy meant, but he figured that a few more reminders might be necessary, but he was trainable. He sighed and set off across the roof. Quinn grabbed his sleeve again. Stepan turned, opening his mouth to rebuke him until he shoved a long metal pole into his hand and said, “I’d tap the roof before walking on it, Mr. Hero of the Faith Wars.” Stepan made a face. He’d hoped that part of the adventure in the HOD had gone over the boy’s head. “The hole we came up through ain’t likely to be the only one around here. Best be careful.”

Stepan took the pole, nodded and said, “Then I put my life in your hands, young Mr. Friend of the Faith Wars.”

Quinn snorted. “I ain’t got no beliefs in nothing by myself.” He looked up at Stepan, “Mind, I don’t hold nothin’ against you. You seem like a good type. At least you’re here to do something other than arrest us, enslave us, or hunt us.”

“Hunt you?”

“Yeah. Not many know on account of the people who could prove it is the ones whose dead. But the…” he managed the first consonant of the vulgarity, stopped himself, “But some of the really, really rich of your kind like to go deep down into the tunnels and hunt my kind.”

“Animals!” Stepan exclaimed.

“Sure we act like animals, but…”

Stepan looked down at Quinn, put his head on the ebony haired head and said, “You aren’t the animals, son. We’re the animals.”

Neither one was paying attention to the roof until a booming roar echoed from the filthy wall of a formerly transparent Dome rim…

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