January 26, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 95: 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.

“I’m reading an old government document,” said MishAH. His experience with security made him the best doubter of their vat decantation. He cleared the map and enlarged the ancient government document. “The way this is phrased makes it clear that someone – likely a whole bunch of someones! – on Mars knew about these tunnels. It’s not clear if Humans made them or not, but we know about them. Knew about them even back then.”
DaneelAH pursed his lips then said, “Then that makes it even more important that we connect with this Paolo and the Hero of the Faith Wars. I think they must be working together.”

“Why do they want us?” AzAH said. MishAH, HanAH, and DaneelAH turned to her.

DaneelAH said, “When we find that out, they we’ll know where we’re going and why.” He turned to MishAH, “You said it before – you’ve seen things stirring on this rusty pinball and there’s something going on in Opportunity the Mayoral consort and her affiliation to dubious christianity.” He paused, “We’re in Burroughs and we know something’s going on here and Mayor Turin back home allowed us to be kidnapped from Malacandra.”

Under cover of the roar of noise in the Dome, his vat mates exclaimed loudly. Other blue Artificial Humans noted the exchange, two of them taking exception to the mention of a racist, sexist, and Human-hating ancient religion. Two others took note of the same mention. The first two passed them, glaring. The other two looked at each other and then split, making for the exits of the Thoroughfare.

HanAH, who had seen both exchanges ignored them and said, “What in Humanity’s name are you talking about?”

DaneelAH, who’d always and inexplicably been the tallest one of the mates, looked down at him and said, “You think this Paolo just kidnapped us on his own?”

MishAH, who was best at pattern recognition stared at him, open mouthed for several seconds. He finally reached over to push his jaw closed. She slapped his hand. “I knew that!”

He smiled. “You probably did, subconsciously. You just needed me to pry the logjam,” he emphasized the word, “that’s been blinding you from seeing the obvious.”

AzAH shook her head slowly. “Why would the Mayor of Malacandra be attempting to promote an ancient religion?”

“Maybe he’s not promoting a religion,” said HanAH abruptly. “Maybe he’s preparing for a revolution.”

“An insurrection, perhaps,” DaneelAH said.

“What’s the difference?”

“An insurrection leads to a refusal to be controlled and then freedom to arrange ourselves. Revolution’s aim is to replace one regime with another – which might be better or worse.”

“Somebody has to call the shots,” AzAH exclaimed.

DaneelAH scanned the slowly moving mass of Humans, both artificial and Natural, robots, carts, cars, and flyers as they seethed under the Dome. He said, “We need someplace to go…” Something tugged at his sleeve. He looked down.

A blue boy, somewhere on the verge of adolescence, craned his neck as he looked up at DaneelAH, and said, “I got someone wants to meet you, Sir.”

DaneelAH resisted the urge to yank his knee-length tunic free and said, “You must have me confused with someone else, boyAH.”

“Don’t think so, Sir. I was sent to lead you.”

“Where?” HanAH asked, looming and scowling his best Security Scowl. AzAH covered his mother to keep from laughing.

The boy looked up at him and said, “My friend Stepan’d like to talk to you. Says anyone new in town what talks like him needs to be shown to the Rim.”

“The Rim? Who would we want to meet in the most run down place in a Dome?”

The boyAH stepped back, looked HanAH over once, feet to face, then said, “Anyone what says the ‘c’ word is someone Stepan wants to talk to.”

“What ‘c’ word,” AzAH asked.

“The ‘christian’ word, a’ course.”

“Why would he want to talk to us when the word is illegal? What do you have to do with him – or even mentioning the word? Where did you come from? How long have you been spying on us?” MishAH fired questions at the boyAH.

Nonplussed, he shrugged and said, “Stepan said that if you didn’t wanna come with me, I was supposed to tell you that he’s some sort of hero in something he called the ‘faith wars’.” The boyAH shrugged. “I dunno know what it…” This time he did shrink away from the combined gaze of four adult Artificial Humans.

DaneelAH whispered, “Take us to him.”

The boyAH shrugged and said, “He don’t look like no hero I ever seen, but come on, follow me if you want to. Don’t matter to me.” When he saw they were ready, he set off, moving fast as a weasel and looking like an engine pulling a train of huge cars.

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