October 20, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 89: Paolo at Burroughs Dome

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. 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.

Paolo Marcillon, recent visitor to Burroughs Dome, could have accessed the Dome’s main information database from his tablet. That would have left a traceable signature however.

After hiking a bit over a kilometer, riding a slidewalk along the edge of a cluster of ancient, Earth-like homes, then hopping on an AI moving disk, he reached a library far from him point of entry. Made in the old-style of Martian brick, curving architecture, and glass faintly tinted by iron oxide, the library was a massive structure. From his history lessons as a kid, he knew that the building had been constructed to not only survive a catastrophic decompression, but to keep the people inside safe as well.

At the moment, however, the doorway, built from some sort of dark, veined wood, stood open. The walkway was poured concrete – a combination of molten sulfur and aggregate from the surface outside – and tinted nearly purple. The rectangular doors were set in a massive arch. Passing through, he stopped inside. Overhead rose another dome, this one allowing light to stream through. Obviously, someone had aimed a lens at the library in order to bend a beam of light into the building.

There were few – if any – paper books on Mars. Recording was done on plastic created from organic waste or in electronic bubble memories and projected on screens…
However, a large sign indicating a room of some sort to his left proclaimed, “Largest Paper Book Collection On Mars! See Librarian for Registration and Permissions.”

He sighed. He didn’t want anyone to know her was here – but it was tempting. Depending on how old the archive was, it might contain information about the satellite that he’d run over. After he’d examined it and knocked himself unconscious twice after shooting it with high frequency sound waves. Roughly spherical, it had no markings on it whatsoever and didn’t appear to be manufactured on Mars. The technology base for satellite manufacture on planet wasn’t as high as Earth’s. They regularly constructed them for solar and interstellar exploration.

Even so, it didn’t look like anything he’d ever seen. He looked around. A group of Human children were seated on pillows in an alcove opposite the Paper books. A circular desk stood in the center, directly beneath the apex of the dome. This station was state-of-the-art, transparent and home for multiple screens and keyboards. He approached and at first he thought the station spoke to him, saying, “How may we help you, Sir?”

“I was interested in looking into the history of…” Something tugged his pant leg and he looked down. He jumped backwards as the small, blue Artificial Human looking up at him smiled. “Excuse me,” Paolo said, “Did I almost step on you?”

“Hardly, Sir. I am the lead Librarian here. As visits from adult Humans are rare here, I thought I’d greet you personally and offer my services.” Paolo bowed. While he’d seen and worked with artificial Humans many times, they’d all been standard-sized. This small individual… “There’s no need to bow, Sir! I am at your service. My diminutive size is helpful in dealing with both the mostly Human children who visit us and finding paper books on lower-level shelving. Also, I don’t eat nearly as much as my larger vat-mates and so my upkeep is substantially less.”

“You don’t have a home?” Paolo said before he could stop himself.

“My home is here, Sir. I love the Library.” He paused, “How may I help you today, Sir?”

“My name is Paolo Marcillon,” he said, holding out his hand.

The small man hesitated, then took his hand and said, “I am called OrcAH.”

“Thank you.” He paused, “I’ve got a couple of problems I’d like to solve. The easiest is that I’d like to access information about satellite manufacture and use.”

OrcAH nodded, “Straight-forward.” He stood straight, hands held behind his back. The shade of his blue skin complemented the color of the Library floor tiles.

For an instant, Paolo admired it, then halted himself when he thought of how the little man had been designed for his job – as if he was a piece of furniture. He nodded, adding, “I’m also looking for information regarding Natan Wallach, Hero of the Faith Wars.”

OrcAH’s face seemed to flatten, the sharpness that had been in his eyes a moment ago fading from passion into professional and business-like. He bowed. “Ah. Of course. Right this way. We have, of course, a complete selection of everything that has ever been published about him – script, audio, video, interactive, historical, and conjectural. If you have any particular needs…”

Paolo pursed his lips, then said abruptly, “I want to know what happened to the Hero after the war.”

OrcAH had turned to lead the way to whatever section contained the History – doubtless sanitized ad mythologized beyond all recognition. Unless someone who’d actually been there wanted to experience them. Then older and more detailed volumes might be brought forth. But what Paolo wanted might not even exit.

The little blue man stopped and turned to face Paolo, saying, “I have no idea what you mean. It’s clearly recorded that he died when the combined terrorist operatives of the Buddhist and Muslim Brethren blew up the Lewis Dome.”

“The Ghost Dome.”

OrcAH blinked, then in a softer voice said, “That name is rarely used, Sir. What possible connection might the Hero of the Faith have with the manufacture of satellites?”

Paolo shrugged and said, “That’s what I want to know.” He paused then added, “I happen to know that the Hero is not dead.” OrcAH’s eyes went wide and his mouth opened but no sound came out. The look on his face changed as well – he was no longer indifferent but stunned. Paolo lowered his voice and leaned down, whispering, “I know this because he is my brother.”

Image: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_x2tsYqz5q3c/TFpRAD3RNyI/AAAAAAAAC70/ASN65Y_L4lQ/s1600/Astronauta+Marcos+C%C3%A9sar+Pontes.bmp

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