December 22, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 93: 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 (70,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

OrcAH, the local librarian blinked, then in a softer voice said, “The name ‘Ghost Dome’ is rarely used, Sir. What possible connection might the Hero of the Faith have with the manufacture of satellites?”

Paolo shrugged, scratched his chin, 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.”

“The Hero…”

“Yeah, I know the story – the Hero was an orphan, whose parents had been murdered by a psychotic Muslim who thought he was serving Allah by killing them. He was later taken to a Christian orphanage where he was sexually abused by a nun. After he was adopted by a Hindu family, he was forced to watch by a Buddhist…” said Paolo, waving a hand in irritation. He’d heard the recitation a thousand times. He’d been at the kitchen table when his parents concocted it.

The Librarian held up its hand. “I know the Catechism of the Faith in Humanity as well as you do, son: All life is individually autonomous; do no harm; work tirelessly to do good; act fairly. Additions come from various other works of Humanity, but if we strive to keep these four guides. What could that possibly…”

“The Ghost Dome wasn’t destroyed as an act of terrorism. It was aimed at stopping the incipient United Faith in Humanity from forcing all other competing faiths underground. Now, as to the satellite manufacture and design. I was wondering if there was any way we could match this design to something in your archives.” He held up his hand, his pocket computer projecting a three-dimensional image of the thing he’d found wedged under his marsbug out in the Depression: There was nothing that made it look like it could have landed, though one end was slightly wider than the other and there were four tapered bumps that had been placed equilaterally around it. It had also had markings under a strong green light – at 550 nanometers. They’d been incomprehensible but clearly intelligently shaped.

“Where…where did you find this?”

“North of the Grand Island Dust Sink,” said Paolo, scratching his side, a ferocious itch growing there.

“In the desert? What were you doing so far from civilization?”

Paolo sniffed, “Not so far from civilization as you’d think.”

OrcAH looked up at him, scowling, but didn’t ask the obvious question. Instead, he said, “Follow.” The little man didn’t wait for Paolo, but set off with long strides – for him – and deeper into information stored on everything from rice paper to quantum bubbles. The library itself seemed to be arranged by information storage method rather than by subject. They kept going and as they did, the light grew dimmer. The man said, “The EM spectrum in the Human visible range causes the deterioration of certain of these artifacts and books. You’ve already noticed that the humidity in the library is substantially lower than in typical Human habitation.”

“I did notice,” he said, scratching at an elbow. The light dimmed further. “Where are we going?” he asked. Abruptly the librarian stopped in front of a blank wall. It glowed faintly blue.

“This is a special archive we maintain here. It contains certain artifacts discovered on the surface of Mars.” He passed his hand over a section of the wall and it became transparent. “The atmosphere mimics the natural atmosphere on the planet, though the pressure is Earth-normal. The lights are tuned to natural Martian light and varies seasonally as well. We do not mimic the winds on the surface.”

“Why…” Paolo said. Then he saw them. On a long stone table stood three squarish, smooth slabs of Martian stone. On each, he could see some sort of pattern. Nothing that would suggest letters or images or hash marks. But there had been marked.

“We have studied these three – we call them the Stele – by exposing them to the entire length of the EM spectrum. But there is only one kind of energy that reveals what are admittedly ancient marking. Even under this energy, they are barely discernible…”

“Ultrasound,” Paolo whispered.

Without missing a beat, OrcAH whispered, “Ultrasound.”

No comments: