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 leaned on the door. It didn’t budge. He set the stick down, found the seams of the door then ran his fingers up and down. Nothing happened. He pressed the center of the door. Nothing happened. Stretching his arms, he ran his palms over wall beyond the door. His fingers caught on a square, raised slightly from the wall, about waist height. Scowling, he turned his light on it. “There’s a switch here!”
“Don’t touch it! Come on back up, Master!” QuinnAH, a blue, artificial Human boy who’d joined Stepan several days earlier.
Stepan leaning back as he looked up at the light, Quinn’s head hanging over, looking down. Then he pressed the switch.
When he woke up, he was flat on his back, staring up at the same square of light, minus Quinn’s head. He took an experimental breath, held it, and coughed from the dust in the air. From that, he figured he wasn’t hurt – at least not obviously. He stood up, picked up his flashlight and played it around the room he’d opened. He gasped.
A surface pressure suit, deflated but with the helmet attached, lay on the floor, sleeve with the glove sealed on stretched toward where he stood. Taking a step forward, he examined the suit more carefully, noting that it wasn’t lying exactly flat. It was lumpy as if it had something inside of it. He knelt down, slowly reaching out his hand. He thought of the thousands of horror movies he’d watched during his teen years. After a terrified night under the covers when the scene with a farmer sprawled in the corner of a room, empty, dark blood crusted sockets where his eyes had been staring sightlessly at the camera had come up in the two-hundred-year-old masterpiece of horror, THE BIRDS; no horror film had ever bothered him again. He knew this for certain because he had tried watching everything from zombies to alien creatures devouring colonists. Virtually every one had elicited nothing but laughter from him.
This wasn’t any different. Even when he realized that he could clearly feel bones in the flaccid parts of the suit. “Someone died in this suit,” he said to the still air. He stepped to the side of the suit and put down the flashlight. Gently sliding his hands under it, he turned it carefully over.
The former occupant’s other hand, inside its glove, was underneath. It had clearly clutched an oddly shaped object. Stepan scowled, picked up the flashlight and examined it without touching it.
The main part of the object had once been a rectangular piece of glass. It had been broken in half, one side with smooth, rounded edges, the other jagged. The glass was scratched and pitted, old most likely, and embedded with sand or some other kind of grit. A coil of dull metal about fifty centimeters long was attached to the corner of the glass, then twisted so that it ran across the top of the rectangle. It made a clear U-turn, then ended in a broken end, as if it had been bent several times before being snapped off.
Stepan touched it, but nothing happened. He looked around the room and stood up, moving deeper into the room. It turned out to be an airlock, most likely set in the base of the Dome and opening to the surface of Mars beyond.
It was a secret airlock.
“For what?” He turned back to look at the suit on the floor, making the obvious deduction – someone had found the odd object outside and brought it back into the airlock. After cycling through, it fell – or the person died somehow and collapsed on the floor. The body had decomposed down to a skeleton inside the suit. Decades for certain; possibly longer than that up to a hundred years. He looked down at the suit. This could have been one of the original colonists for all he knew. They lived long lives, the last one dying some seven years ago at the very ripe old age of one hundred and fifty-three. The question remained. He knelt to study the artifact again, went back into the airlock, and opened one of the storage compartments. Inside was a box of specimen bags, usually used for geological samples. He took one, shook it out, and returned, picking up the glass and wire object – ‘glasses’ he dubbed them, ‘cyclops glasses’, he decided finally – into the bag. He gently tied the top and stepped out of the airlock, debating whether or not to close it.
He looked up and called, “Quinn?”
He wasn’t expecting Quinn to have been joined by four other heads, peering down at him, silhouettes in the brilliant light from above.