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 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 – ‘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.
Fifteen minutes earlier, Quinn had stopped at a hollow lift tube, slapping the activation pad. The floor glowed a dim red as he stepped onto it.
“I’m not riding on that!” HanAH said. “It’s so old it’ll quit halfway up!”
The boy shrugged, “Suit yourself. The stairs are down the corridor and to your left.” AzAH, DaneelAH, and MishAH stepped in with the boy.
DaneelAH waved. “See you upstairs.”
HanAH strode forward, muttering, “Someone in this pod has to use their head for something more than a battering ram!” He squeezed between the boy and his vat mates as the gMod lift tube started up to the surface. They rose up slowly – if the lift had been a mechanical elevator, it would have creaked and groaned, rattling to the surface where it deposited them like a cat vomiting. “This is a pestilential hole!”
Quinn spun around and would have kicked him in the shin if DaneelAH hadn’t steered him ahead of them. To HanAH, he said, “Temper, temper, mate. This is where the boy and his hero live.”
Quinn looked up at DaneelAH, jerking free of his hand, saying, “He ain’t no hero, but he’s a good man! He tryin’ to make the Rim a better place.”
AzAH spoke before her vat mate could. “What’s he been doing?”
“He’s got plans that can help – like we’re looking at the roof of this big old warehouse thing he’s got.”
“What’s he want with something like that if he’s a preacher?” HanAH snapped.
“He’s growing plants – fruit, veggies, stuff like that. I think personally he should grab some chickens and guineas. I know exactly where I can nab a few to start us off.”
DaneelAH sent AzAH and MishAH a lop-sided grin. MishAH lengthened her stride until she was alongside the boy. She said, “Why would he do that?”
Quinn shrugged, lengthening his own stride, challenging her. MishAH kept up with him easily – she spent many of her free hours strengthening her body. He glanced at her and said, “He wants to feed us on the Rim.”
“You need food?” He snorted. She tilted her head and half-smiled. “I see.” He turned suddenly, going down crumbling steps and into a huge, deeply shadowed warehouse. “This is it?”
“On the roof.”
“What’s on the roof?” HanAH said.
“Does he have a name?” asked MishAH.
“Pastor. The name he calls himself Stepan, but it ain’t his real one.”
“What’s that mean?” asked DaneelAH. They reached the back of the warehouse. “What are we going to do here?”
Quinn whistled sharply. There was a clank high overhead in the darkness and a moment later a battered gMod disk floated down and thunked on the ground. “We have to go up one at a time.”
“There’s no stairway?”
“We’ll take that up, then,” said HanAH.
“We’ll take that up, then,” said HanAH.
“If you want. Meet you up there.” He stepped on the disk and with a whistle, it began to rise.
“Wait!” HanAH said.
“What’s wrong with the stairs?”
“They haven’t been touched since somebody put up boards and sealed the thing.”
“How are we supposed to open the boards?”
“The cop guy thinks he knows how. Let him.” With a whistle so high they could barely hear it, he rose quickly and disappeared above.
“What was that all about?” HanAH said.
AzAH snorted with laughter then said, “He’s tweaking you, mate. He thinks you’re a puffer.”
All three of them laughed. A moment later, the gMod disk floated back down. They wasted no time in ascending to the roof one at a time. The Martian sun, even magnified and concentrated by lenses built into the Dome structures, still had to be supplemented to grow Earth plants and keep Humans in peak physical condition. HanAH said grumpily, “The place is still a dump.”
AzAH said, “Dumping ground more like.”
Quinn suddenly screamed, “Help! Help! Stepan is trapped!”
The boy was face down on the roof, head sticking out over a square hole in the roof. The others dropped down to their chests and peered over as well.
Far below, the pale face of a man looked up. DaneelAH said, “Mr. Izmaylova, I presume?”
“It is, but I have something very interesting I’ve discovered.”
HanAH snorted and said, “What exactly do you think you’ve discovered?”
“A wearable computer screen – ancient and possibly not of Human origin.”
“How can you tell that?”
“Well, as far as I can tell, the Human would have to have a brain case thirty centimeters across and have one eye…”