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.
Paolo Marcillon looked over the small crowd gathered around him on the floating stone disk Burroughs Dome called the Court of Eleusinian Mysteries . He continued his discourse, “I’m here to say that the soul belongs to the Water God – who, like a pot of snow on a hot stove is solid, liquid and gas yet water all the same, the God of Heaven is Father forever, Son crucified and alive again and Spirit of unimaginable power yet all the same. That’s who we belong to.”
There was laughter, angry mutters and words that sounded like “slavery” and “haters” and “terrorists”. Rather than shouting over them though, Paulo’s voice lowered as he said, “God wants us to turn away from evil and come to Him.” He stood abruptly, ending his session.
People drifted away, but some stayed. A man with two children approached him and lowering his voice said, “Get moving, young man. Some have gone to fetch the mind police.” He snorted softly. “You know, even your Christian forebears had friends in high places who believed that people should be able to choose for themselves what they believe. Some of them never became Christians themselves.” He turned and hurried away.
Farther on, another man watched, standing and lifting his arm as if he were stretching. He was with two small children who were tussling on the turf. Paolo had started to look away when he saw the man’s first two fingers together, pointing up; the other three clenched his palm. The signal vanished in stretching fingers and a flat-handed twitch 45 degrees to Paolo’s left.
Paolo dipped his chin and set off across the floating platform, an additional 45 degrees off of the indicated direction. The other man set off at a tangent a moment later, bisecting the two trajectories. Not long later, they passed each other in front of a service passageway. The man was alone and paused, knelt and adjusted his boot straps. Paolo sneezed then turned to the service hatch, pushing it. It was identical to every other hatch door on Mars. Maintenance, while sloppy on Earth, had to be precise on Mars. The lives of the entire population of the planet depended on it. Paolo kept walking.
He turned a corner and stopped. A few moments later, someone else entered the passage. He heard the tread of booted feet. A moment later, the man came around the corner. Paolo said, “You could be about to kill me, using a easily discoverable sign of the prehistoric Christian church.”
“I could kill you for even saying that, but your slaughter isn’t my business. You took a huge risk out there – and you’ve put us at risk.”
Paulo shrugged slightly, “No different that the Twelve three thousand years ago.”
The man nodded. “Trudat,” he said. Paolo couldn’t help but smile. “What?” the man said.
“The rituals are three millennia old; how we speak is purely Martian.”
“Probably – the Christ spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. We’re speaking Spandaringlish.” They looked at each other for several minutes. The man said, “I’m Judas.”
“The connotation isn’t significant.”
Judas smiled. “All right. I can connect you with the underground here, but I need to know why we should risk talking to you.”
“You’re talking to me.”
Judas shrugged. “It was my turn to be pastor this week.”
Paolo nodded. “I need to exchange my ‘bug for a new one. I’m on a quest.”
“What are you looking for?”
“I’m not looking for anything in particular. I’m sort of gathering clues.”
“A private investigator, of sorts.”
Scowling, Judas crossed his arms over his chest. Paolo knew Human behaviors well enough to recognize resistance, so he said, “I stumbled across an alien satellite.”
Judas shrugged. “Interesting, but irrelevant.”
“It has markings on it only visible when you project ultrasound over it.”
“We can’t see them, but a computer tuned to it can change the reflections into visual images – and they show up as symbols.”
Paolo shrugged this time. “Maybe. The tablets of a collector here has the same markings.”
This time Judas pursed his lips then finally said, “How does that help the underground Church?”
Paolo took a deep breath. He hadn’t tested his idea on anyone ever before. Perhaps someone who wasn’t a partner would be more inclined to poke holes in his thoughts. He said, “I think Mars had life on it long ago.”
“Duh. Well-known and accepted evidence supports…”
Judas shook his head, “Impossible. Mars wasn’t viable long enough…”
“It didn’t come from here. It was extraterrestrial in origin.”
Judas didn’t say anything for some time. “So? I reiterate my question, ‘How does that affect the Church’?”
“If we come forward with evidence that Humans aren’t alone in the universe – and our faith doesn’t go to pieces – the witness will bring more into the arms of Christ. If the Unified Faith in Humanity either attempts to suppress us by increasing the efforts of the pogrom, we aren’t any worse off than we’ve ever been. But if we lead people to a new understanding of our place in the universe and are seen to embrace it, the UniFiH can’t exactly crush us AND celebrate the discovery. Besides, I think God is leading me to gather the evidence.” He paused, waited, then said, “I also believe that other Christians have other pieces of evidence pointing to the same thing. I think God is preparing the Church to lead Mars.”