June 8, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 103: 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.

Stepan Izmaylova looked up at QuinnAH, the adolescent Artificial Human who had attached himself to rolled his eyes, and said, “You wouldn’t understand.”

The boy’s faced purpled – literally – and he shouted, “I thought you were…”

“It’s because I don’t think you know what the definition of propitiation is.”


Stepan grinned and said, “See, there’s stuff you don’t know!” He reached out tentatively and when Quinn didn’t flinch, tousled  his hair.

Then the boy slowly pulled away and said, “Let’s get below. There’s enough stuff up here to start your stupid garden.”

“It won’t be a stupid garden once it starts to feed people…”

“What kind of people?” Quinn asked as they reached the hole they’d come up through. The rope was still coiled to one side and the antigrav plate still leaned against the low wall that edged the roof of the entire warehouse.

“Anyone who has Human DNA will be considered Human.” He looked down at the boy and said, “You and I are Humans; together.” He paused, “I think that this is the message God has called me to proclaim.” Quinn snorted. Stepan put his hand on the boy’s head and pressed down hard. “Respect your elders!” He grinned an instant later.

Quinn shook his head and said, “Let’s go over here. I think it’s where the stairs got hidden.” Stepan turned to follow, bending to pick up the rope. For an instant, he lost his balance. Quinn grabbed his hand and pulled him upright, saying, “Maybe I better hold your hand, then, Preach.” He led Stepan across the roof, his hand firmly in the other man’s grasp. He didn’t pull away and neither did Stepan, feeling the implicit trust of the Human gesture. Quinn stopped, dropped his hand and pointed, “I think this is it.”

A thick coating up dust and debris was no different here than the rest of the garbage on the roof. But faintly raised up in the slanting light of the Martian sun as it began to slide toward setting, there was an outline. The boy stepped back as Stepan knelt. Conscious of the unstable roof and briefly wondering how they could possibly get the credits to renovate it to make it strong enough to support several metric tons of soil and several thousand liters of liquid, he dug with his bare hands. After a while, he’d cleared enough space to show that it was in fact, a sort of seal.

“My turn, Preach,” said Quinn, gently pushing him away.

“You can’t…”

“I was bred for hard work, Human. You were bred for intellect. You got me started, now let me do what I can do best.”

Stepan pursed his lips then slowly grinned. “Out of the mouth of babes,” he muttered.

Quinn had found a grip and was carefully cleaning around it. “You say something?”

“Nah. I’m only now beginning to realize how deeply my prejudice is rooted.”

“Huh?” the query grew to a groan, then a growl. Stepan saw muscle and sinew swell on the boy’s arms as the sound faded and he focused his energy on the seal. After several moments, something gave and a sigh escaped into the air, cutting through the cloud of dust they’d raised. The air smelled unlike the air around them – not bad. Different. Once the seal had been broken, the doorway opened easily and soon stood open.

“I’ll go down first,” said Stepan. Quinn was silent. Stepan looked down at him, grinned then said, “What, now that there’s mystery and real danger, you’re not going to rush on in?”

Quinn hadn’t taken his eyes off the doorway. His words were faint when he said, “I ain’t the one who believes in a powerful god. You is. No idea what’s down that hole and I don’t feel good ‘bout findin’ out.”

“Point taken.”


“You’re right. I’ll go down. You wait here.” Without waiting, Stepan sat on the edge and said, “I was a hero of the Faith Wars. There’s nothing down there that can harm me – not after all these decades.”

“Keep tellin’ yourself that, Preach. My only thought is that maybe they wasn’t tryin’ to seal us out. Maybe they was trying to keep something IN…”

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