January 11, 2019

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 139: Aster of Opportunity

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 and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – 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 (100,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

“What’s vo’Maddux’s plan?”

“To become First Consort initially. Then to become Mayor-for-Life.”

Aster narrowed her gaze and leaned forward. “Over my dead body.”

Fardus leaned closer and whispered into her ear, “She’d have to step over mine as well.” She leaned back, “Most likely another part of her plan includes stepping over the boy of Etaraxis Ginunga-Gap as well.” She feigned a faint, adding in a papery voice, “He was so young to die of such a simple thing as a heart attack.” Aster couldn’t help but smother her guffaw.

The two women sat back as their drinks arrived. They toasted as if they were celebrating their friendship, but anyone who glanced at their faces would have shivered at the cold, calculating gleam in the eyes of both of the women.

Then they would have felt their hearts quail in fear.

After surveying the Middle-of-the-Road for obvious eavesdroppers, FardusAH said, “We have to get the Orphan’s Ball stuff moving. Fast. We have four weeks until the event and we need to find some really cute orphans – and some really cute, really young Artificial Humans.”

She made a noise, “Are there very young Artificial Humans?” FardusAH pursed her lips, hesitating. Aster’s gaze narrowed. “Is it something I might find revolting or something that make me angry and do something rash?”

“The latter. That’s why you’re going to have to trust me on this one. I can get cute, young Artificial Humans, but you have to take it on faith that they are neither illegal nor coerced.”

“On faith…”

“You’re good at that faith stuff – not the United one in which only part of the Humans on Mars can fully participate. You know, that ancient ‘separate but equal’ thing…”

“Apartheid? You can’t be serious! You-fee practices apartheid?”

FardusAH shrugged, “You notice that You-fee only banned Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, and Embezzlers. It wasn’t specific about – though if you ask around, they’ll tell you that ‘of course it implies that You-fee is against them – racists, sexists, or any other kind of ‘-ists’’ They’ll swear that’s what it means – but the honest ones will admit that it is not stated the same way the injunction against your type is spelled out.”

Aster stared at the lovely echeveria skin of her friend and opened her mouth to reply. She leaned closer, “How long have you known?”

FardusAH smiled, “Your father is well known among Artificial Humans in the underground.” The smile faded, “Not all of them trust him, figuring he’s got an angle or he’s working for vo’Maddux…”

“My dad?” Aster breathed. Then she leaned back and shortly nodded. “I’d have never seen it before Etaraxis called me to be his consort, but what goes on up in the Pylon is more closely related to Roman Court intrigues than in Twenty-fourth Century politics.” She thought for a bit, then said, “We’re going to have to be not only sneaky, but we’re going to have to start playing the shell game.”

FardusAH frowned. “What’s that?”

Aster looked down at the table, then got three ‘sauce’ cups from the bartender. She took a ground nut and held it out. “I’m going to place the ground nut under one of the cups then shuffled them. I want you to guess which cup has the nut.” She shuffled the cups, then stopped. “Where is the nut?”

FardusAH studied them, then touched the one on her left. Aster flipped it over. “Nothing there! If we’d been playing for credit, you’d have lost.”

Scowling, FardusAH said, “Flip over the other two.” With a wide grin, Aster did. “None of them had the nut! I would have lost no matter which I chose!”

Aster caught her eye then leaned forward, FardusAH mirroring her stance. Aster whispered, “The game is called a confidence trick, or a ‘con’. The nut is here.” She opened her fist. “I slipped it out while I was shuffling the cups.”


“If you were going to say ‘cheating’, that’s not entirely true. Every gamble requires taking a risk. But if the con artist is good enough, they can make the gambler believe whatever they want them to believe.” She leaned closer, “That’s why a good con takes lots of planning – and inside people.”

FardusAH leaned back, studying the Mayoral Consort. After several moments, she said, “Remind my never to play against you in poker.” With a mirrored nod, they stood up and headed to their separate homes.

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