November 17, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 91: Stepan of 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. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (70,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

QuinnAH, a young blue Artificial Human, looked up at Stepan Izmaylova, squinting and finally said, “You really are that guy who got all the religions kicked off Mars, ain’t you?” Stepan thought to deny it at first. Quinn didn’t need to know that much about his past – only what kinds of plans he had for the future. Plans that were bigger than growing a few tomatoes and giving them away. He wanted to do something to change how artificial Humans were not perceived, not governed – but how they were defined. He wanted to see them defined as Human. All Human, without qualification. They would simply be Human; the way that Quinn blithely defended the hunt as something that simply was. Everyone on Mars would simply be Humans. “You gonna make us all Human, ain’t ya?”

“You already are Human, kid. I’m not going to make you anything.” He paused, pursing his lips and looking at the Dome as if he could see through the gritty haze of dust that always settled on its surface. He added, “I’m going to make THEM see YOU.”

“They didn’t have no problem seeing me when we were in the HOD. They was gonna kill me if they could.”

Stepan actually smirked for the first time in decades then said, “That’s not the kind of seeing I had in mind, son. Not the kind of seeing I was thinking of at all.”

“You’re talking weird, Mr…”

“Call me Stepan.”

“I can call you that, but you’re really Natan Wallach and except for that old guy in the HOD, everyone knows who you are. How come he don’t?” He paused, looking up at Stepan. He waited. As far as Stepan was concerned, he could stare until the Dome itself crumbled to dust. He stared back. After a few moments, Quinn snickered, then said, “They’ll hunt you like they hunt us. You were supposed to ‘a’ got rid of all religion and stuff, and here you are doin’ it.”

“Doing what?”

“Religion. You’re here on the Rim to help us all, isn’t that what the old religion was supposed to be about?”

Stepan sat back on his heels, staring at Quinn. Finally, he nodded, “‘From the mouth of babes’,” he muttered.

“What’s that mean?”

“In one of my holy books, it’s written, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes you have established strength, because of Your adversaries, that You might silence the enemy and make the revengeful cease.’”

“So you’re gonna help us get rid of the people in the HOD?”

Natan shook his head, “Nothing that exciting. Just that you’ve spoken a truth and you gave me a shot of strength. I wasn’t sure what I was doing here.”

Quinn patted him on the shoulder again. “You want me to keep going?”

Neither one was paying attention to the roof until a booming roar echoed from the filthy wall of a formerly transparent Dome rim until a high-pitched whistle drowned out Stepan’s. A moment later, it was followed by the hooting of a Dome breach siren.

Stepan looked down at Quinn, set to run to the nearest Seal Shelter, but Quinn had started walked, poking the roof with a steel rod. Stepan said, “Aren’t you going to find shelter?”

Quinn looked over his shoulder, scowling, “Where’d we go?”

“There aren’t any Shelters on the Rim?”

He shrugged and turned back to probing the roof. “Shelters is for Humans. I ain’t Human.”

Stepan stared after the boy, find a literal growl rumbling in his throat. This whole thing – everything he himself had set in motion – sending waves of nausea from the pit of his stomach burning up his throat. He had to change it, no matter what. His God had sacrificed his only son for the lives of those who had then slaughtered him in order to bring men, women, and children whose lives had missed the mark; who had not won the prize; like the artificial creations of Humanity. They and the ones who had been branded as undesirable by the United Faith in Humanity; they were the ones he had condemned by his angry, selfish pursuit of free will.

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