March 14, 2019

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 142: 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 (100,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

At the end of the street, people were running. Copdrones hovered in the air, laser scans flickering over the faces while at the same time dodging flying debris, clubs, sticks, and stunner shots. Projectile weapons had been banned on Mars a century ago and had never made a return. But the technology to kill without projectiles had been honed to create seriously deadly weapons. Before he could reflect on the ability of Humanity to create more and deadlier weapons, and the failure of the Unified Faith in curbing that desire not at all, the mob took a sudden turn and he found himself facing a wall of running, cursing, and panicked Humanity.

They ran, fighting among themselves, and he realized suddenly that it wasn’t just Rimmers, poor and dressed in cast offs from other parts of Burroughs, wealthier parts. There were others mixed in; some dressed in clothing he’d only seen in historical video from Earth – women in hijab, men wearing yarmulke, women in saris, men with collar tabs, there were a few turbans, and even a black and white head covering he thought had been called a habit; all of them had been banned on Mars.

There was a brief break in the mob, then another crowd followed after them. Some had clubs. One or two had gardening tools. Others lobbed stones. This mob was dressed in coveralls, usually with logos stenciled or sewn onto one the breasts; these were the workers. They were not from the towers that poked up from the Dome, rather they were the ones who worked at the base of the towers.

Stepan took a step forward and as he did, someone tackled him from the left. Rather than a crushing weight, it was light and knocking him over owed more to the speed of his attacker than mass. He rolled and when he looked over, he shouted, “Quinn!”

The boy scrambled to his feet, “You gotta get outta here! The other ones, the smarty pants ones, they said they needed you!”

“For what?”

“They got a plan! They’re smart, what do I know about smart! They sent me back to get you ‘cause they knew there was gonna be a riot!”

“How’d they know that?”

“They got someone they stay in touch with, someone what knows what’s goin’ on in all the Domes! They said you gotta follow me and I’ll lead you to them!” Quinn scrambled to his feet and reached down to drag Stepan to his.

Stepan tried to pull away, but genetic engineering gave the Artificial Humans muscle that was almost three times as dense as standard-born Humans. They’d been engineered with faster reflexes, and their neural net was less tangled and more tightly woven. They were, in many ways, superior. But they were internally gender-free, though their external appearance was left to chance and then artificially enhanced or designed based on the owner’s needs or whim. He shook off that thought as he started to let Quinn drag him back into the warehouse. Stepan tried to pull free. As the roar from the riot grew, Quinn tightened his grip and shouted, “I’m supposed to send you to them in Breakport. They’ll meet you at the marsbug Bradbury rental store.”

Stepan struggled against Quinn’s grip, “I’m staying here with the garden!”

“You can come back when the people aren’t going to murder you and feed you to Mayor Peta Nasseri.”

“I have to…”

“You have to live today so you can come back and keep doing your God’s work!” Quinn threw Stepan over his shoulder. “You’re gonna go down the chute…” Quinn opened the floor chute and kissed Stepan on the cheek, then shoved him into the chute and slammed it shut. Outside the crowd got uglier. Looking at the door, Quinn sighed, then hurried to the secret stairway door. A moment later, the warehouse was empty.

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