May 9, 2019

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 145: Paolo and DaneelAH & Company Enroute to Cydonia

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 (They are HanAH, the security expert (m); DaneelAH, xenoarchaeologist (m); AzAH, language expert (f); MishAH, pattern recognition (f).) – 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.

“It’s not that complicated,” MishAH cut off HanAH’s rant. “I’ve seen other things stirring on this rusty pinball.” DaneelAH sat as well, looking up at her with interest. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d turned her considerable skills to a problem outside of agriculture, population studies, and local politics. She smiled at him, shot a superior look at her other brother and said, “There’s something going on in Opportunity.”

Paolo Marcillon, sitting in the pilot’s seat, looked thoughtful then said, “I’d probably go back to Burroughs just to meet your friend Stepan; maybe take a side trip to Opportunity.” He leaned forward suddenly and all four vatmates leaned away as he said, “Except that I’m headed for Cydonia – because I’ve found more evidence that your friend Stepan seems to have added to. There were aliens on Mars long ago, when the North was still covered by an ocean, and I think they may be a key to a Martian reformation.”

HanAH couldn’t help himself, he laughed out loud and said, “That’s absurd! There’s no such things as aliens!”

Paolo made a thoughtful face then said, “Two hundred years ago, someone might have thought you four were aliens.”

HanAH snorted. AzAH slugged him in the shoulder. She said, “In most languages, the word for ‘alien’ and ‘stranger’ are closely related. I would testify that there are very few people who are stranger than you.” She smiled, though as far as Paolo could tell it had more to do with a canine’s warning snarl than a sibling’s affectionate grimace.

HanAH shook his head, scowling at her. Seeing that his vatmates agreed, he subsided. DaneelAH pursed his lips then, “You’re on a quest to Cydonia to recover artifacts, correct?”

Paolo inclined his head, adding, “It wasn’t what I started out to do, but I seem to have collected a few.”

“As have we,” said MishAH. She paused then said abruptly, “What artifacts have you found?”

He hesitated then said, “How do I know the four of you won’t kill me and take the artifacts by force?”

HanAH smirked. “Not much faith in your god, huh?”

MishAH elbowed him, but Paolo smiled. “Touché, Mr. Security Specialist.”

HanAH’s jaw dropped. He shook his head. “Why would you think that?”

“That was more a confirmation than a denial, so I’ll take it that while you’re not the leader,” he nodded at DaneelAH, “he is, your opinion carries weight.” He nodded at MishAH, “Thought less than hers.”

HanAH eyes flashed angrily and he said, “We don’t…” The other three burst out laughing and his skin darkened to purple. “This isn’t…”

DaneelAH said, “Where are going to hide?”

HanAH glared at each one before crossing his arms over his chest, and turning away, as if shunning them. He said from his position, “Answer the question, christian man!”

Paolo nodded, “It’s a fair question. I am afraid…”

HanAH spun and snapped, “Aha! ‘O ye of little faith!’”

Paolo’s eyebrows arched, “Luke twelve, verse twenty-eight. I thought you didn’t hold with religious teachings as such. They’re illegal. Even saying that could get you arrested in some of the Domes.”

He blushed again, stammering, “I didn’t mean anything by it! It’s just a colloquialism…”

“…that has its basis in the scripture I hold dear.”

Flustered, HanAH turned back around, looking for a seat. Paolo stood and the artificial human sat down and rested his head in his hands. “I think my head is about to explode.”

Paolo nodded, looked at MishAH and said, “You’ve all seen the Stele at Burroughs?” DaneelAH nodded. “I have a few bones from what appears to be the fin of a cetacean.” HanAH looked up and made a raspberry, then held his head again. Paolo smiled, adding, “I also collected a satellite that isn’t of Human design.”

“How do you know that?” AzAH asked, suddenly interested.

“It appears featureless until you spray it with ultrasound between a hundred fifty kilohertz and two hundred and fifty kilohertz.”

AzAH whistled. “Then what?”

“You can see it’s covered with symbols.”

“A language?”

Paolo shrugged, “No idea.” He grinned suddenly, “But I aim to find out. That’s why I’m headed to Cydonia.”

AzAH said, “Then we’ll come with you.”

HanAH looked up, “It’s going to get a little crowded over the next few weeks while we drive up there. There’s not exactly a paved highway to that part of Mars.” The looks they gave him made him laugh. He stood up and said, “Glad I finally was able to say something that got everyone’s attention.” He nodded. “We need to get ourselves an exploration vehicle.”

From the speaker, Fifty-seven exclaimed, “I beg your pardon!”

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