There are no rationalists. We all believe fairy-tales, and live in them.
-G. K. Chesterton, Heretics
Andy Dandy looked out the window of the administrative building of the UNMC-1.* It looked out the back, where
the Graeco-Roman exterior continued, only with modern windows of offices. The window looked out onto a courtyard surrounded
on the other three sides by more of the extensive building. The lower level had a peristyle, and he looked onto its tiled
shingles below and at the Doric pillars across. He smiled to himself, seeing shade in a land of simulated sunlight. He turned
around, back to the desk behind which sat Ms. Vanderladen, back the wholly modern office with a marble statue of a naked man
in one corner, a contrast to the bright, synthetic material of the walls and floor. The missionary was praying wildly in his
mind. "O God. Help." Followed shortly by, "Let your will be done in this place and in this land."
"We have all the food, clothing, and supplies we need. Do not worry an iota about those. All we lack is a
place to live. This is a problem because the Paul is leaving soon, since it’s property of UNSA.** We are, quite
unfortunately, out of money." Rev. Darnell paused. The Christ had sent his disciples out without even a walking stick. St.
Francis had begged for the blackest bread. He prayed again, and he prayed hard, knowing God heard, hoping the angels in the
room would somehow help him. "I do not ask for a place to be given freely to us. We have little property and require little.
If we own anything, that would require us to defend it. I also understand that you are not the richest governing body. Therefore,
I would not ask for what you cannot afford to give. Yet, I do humbly ask you for a place for the Martian Missionary Team to
dwell free of charge for the first while. We sadly lost a lot of funds through the sabotaging business back on earth." The
"sabotaging business" involving the murder of one of the missionaries, the suicide of a UN military officer, and the cessation
of power to the whole city of Edmonton. The "sabotaging business" that meant they had lost all the money they'd intended for
rent. Andy Dandy had banged his head against a wall when the e-mail from their proposed landlord told them they'd have to
pay immediately. The "sabotaging business" of which Vanderladen was wholly aware.
"Sabotaging which was spearheaded by your bishops," Vanderladen was quick to point out. She looked at Rev.
Darnell. Her gaze seemed kin to a Fury. Andy would have preferred blind Iustitia. "Unfortunately for you and the Martian Missionary
Team, we have no available buildings or land that we can allow you to use free of charge. It seems, then, Rev. Darnell, that
you and your comrades are stranded in a state of limbo between planets. You cannot afford to stay here, yet you cannot afford
to go home. This is quite the problem. I wonder if you could not have fixed it before reaching Mars."
"This is indeed a grave problem, which is why I hoped upon your beneficence, Ms. Vanderladen. Yet I understand
that you have no available space for thirteen weary travellers and their cargo. I seek sanctuary for the weary traveller,
as can be granted in the spaceports between earth and the new Jupiter Station. We shall live in the spacedock until other
accommodations can be found. I assure you there is room enough for us."
Vanderladen looked at Darnell. "You will live there?"
"I have no other choice. Even if I had the money, I could not turn back. To do so would be to abandon the
call of Almighty God."
"Your faith in your God is enormous, Rev. Darnell. For your sake, let’s see how it does for you. Sanctuary
is granted. Enjoy the spacedock."
"Thank you, your grace," Andy bowed fifteen degrees, tapping his nose and his forehead before leaving. Mars
had made itself a strange society. Good thing Christ had made his own strange to the senses of every society ever made. It
would make adjustment easier. As he walked from the room to his companions, who seemed to have been waiting with bated breath,***
he found it hard to trust in the verse, "all things work together for those who love the Lord."
"Well . . . ?" asked Felicity.
Andy Dandy looked at their hopeful faces, and shook his head. He looked back at the sleek green door that
had just slid shut behind him.
Andy Dandy quoted, "Es vilior et levior…"****
A non-person uttered something in its gibbering language and gave what was quite possibly a rude glance at
Taka. Taka was frightened out of his mind. He was in a large cavern dug out of the red Martian rock. The largest pieces of
ferivusium^ he’d ever seen illuminated the cave. The creatures filled the whole place. He sat at the top of stairs,
his hands bound by a rough length of cord. At the back of the cave was a rectangular door. Beside him stood a tall non-man,
its skin shimmering a mauve colour in the light of the shining rocks on the walls. It pointed at him as it spoke. The other
ones all faced one direction, their huge eyes staring at him.
"Neca it! Neca it!" cried one. Some took up the chant.
A creature to Taka’s left emerged from the crowed. It turned to face them. The being gave a brief speech
in jibber-jabber. Its finger pointed at Taka.
"Ya!" shouted a voice from the back.
"Ita it is!" came another.
Taka sat up straight suddenly. He had definitely heard "it is", which was unequivocally English. Then again,
if one heard Zulu without listening or understanding, occasionally English words could be perceived. It was probably such
a situation here. The scientist wondered what on Mars he could possibly do in this situation.
One of the beings uttered a harsh oath.
"Ya! Ya! Ya!" shouted others. A chant developed. "Imprison! Imprison! Imprison!" Taka understood
that, he was fairly certain.
The one who’d spoken first spoke two syllables. They all fell silent. It gave them a brief tirade,
then pointed at two that stood and came to grab him.
Taka was escorted through the rectangular door. The creatures parted as he passed through the cave. He noticed
that carved on the floor was a dragon. He wondered what that represented. His two escorts led him through dimly-lit passageways.
At one point they passed by what must have counted as a window. He looked outside to the red, rocky desert of Mars. Phobos^^
was visible in the sky. But his eyes were drawn to the deep, wide valley below. A cracked dome, of the sort the UN teams built,
resided there. He looked at the unpeople beside him. What were they?
Soon they deposited him in a cell. The large metal door closed, trapping him within; its bolt slammed in
place beyond His escorts stood outside, talking in their strange language.
Menelaus ApangelloE stood impatiently beside Alejandra as she worked at the
controls in the deepest foundation of the UNATME.E He was Director of All Things Pertinent,
and their loss of power was most assuredly pertinent. He held a flashlight on the panel as Alejandra worked. The room was
pitch dark except for the sapphire of his light which cast a blue circle around Alejandra and made pieces of equipment glow.
People had been working for seven hours to get the power back on, but no one had been successful. The dome's cover had been
manually removed so they could have light in the buildings aboveground. But in the H-shaped submartian depths, no natural
light penetrated. And neither did any emergency lights.
Menelaus had one fear-that it was the work of Them. If They were behind this massive sabotage, then he would
have much explaining to do. Furthermore, all could be lost if it were Them. He hoped that it wasn't Them and was just some
"Aha!" declared Alejandra. "I've found it, sir. It's in Tube 9238- C. That one's way in the depths. We'll
have to send in robots, sir. None of the automatic fixes will work, of course. We wouldn't be having this trouble if that
were so. I wonder how this could have happened? That's a very secure Tube-no chance of malfunction. I wonder if it's a more
essential problem, such as a programming error. What do you say, sir?"
"I believe that the problem here certainly has to do with essentials. Something is essentially wrong, and
it is our job to fix it. How likely is a computer error?"
"At this stage in the game? Slim to none, sir. But sabotage is the only other possibility, and that's utterly
Menelaus blanched. "Send the robots in," he ordered.
For the next two hours he sat huddled with Alejandra over her personal computer. Next to them, a minor worker
was controlling the BMD-342, nicknamed "the Motherbot." He watched the progress carefully. The robots reached the Tube safely,
and far more quickly than humans would have. They pried open and cut through doors locked shut. Relieved people greeted the
robots with joy. Within fifteen minutes of departure, the robots had reached the Tube. A floating fluorescer then turned on
full brightness. And there was the circular entrance to Tube 9238-C. Nothing was out of the ordinary. It's sequence of green,
blue, and purple lights still lit regularly. Menelaus hoped Alejandra had been right. A codebot scuttled to the controls to
open the Tube. Menelaus punched in a code on Alejandra's computer. A specific plug slipped into an outlet beside the circular
hatched. It whirred for a few seconds.
When the Tube door opened, all they saw was gaping black. The squad of machines went in, the fluorescer leading
the way with a cambot. They lit up the vertical cylindrical shaft. Still nothing looked wrong. The cambot floated up and down
the whole thing. Every screen looked right with its proper readings. Every cord was plugged into the right place. They finally
scoured the entire Tube for half an hour. As far as the cambot could tell, nothing was wrong. Then a work-bot found something
of use. A footprint was distinctly seen on a control-panel.
The robots quickly detached the cover. Beneath, every cord was cut. The big coverplate was slipped inside
the storebot. Clearly, the display screen had been lying. For ten minutes a hacker plugged itself into the computer's mechanisms
until it cracked the code and brought up the ERROR screen. An electrician robot reconnected several wires in a certain arrangement,
and a small door to the right of the damaged panel open. Within was a smashed jar with a blude liquid lying amidst the pieces
of broken glass. The pseudaqua was designed for cleansing the other liquids involved in the energy-creation process. The mess
was meticulously cleaned.
Fingermarks were everywhere. None of them had fingerprints. Alejandra said that whoever did this must have
had some very good gloves or a great genetic engineer for a best friend. Menelaus groaned inwardly. Panel after panel was
removed, and display screen after display screen was hacked into. The place had been sabotaged and put back together very
carefully. Every screen flashed ERROR now. Various operations were disabled. At the end of hour two, a workbot opened the
final panel and all of Tube 9238-C exploded. It set off a chain reaction that consumed half of the floor above. At that moment,
Menelaus Apangello also received disastrous news involving Dr. Nkumo's disappearance while on the night-shift monitoring the
It was most assuredly Them. He banged his head against the metal wall and moaned.
*United Nations Martian Colony One
**United Nations Space Administration
***Blue faces were involved.
****Catullus, poem 72: You are cheaper and crummier [than I thought you were]. (Translation courtesy of Michelle
Lovric & Nikiforos Doxiadis Mardas, How to Insult, Abuse & Insinuate in Classical Latin)
^On March 23, 2207, some surveyors discovered that beneath Mars’ surface there were small deposits
of a shining rock that was able to produce short bursts of electrical current in lab tests. They named it ferivusium from
the Latin for "glowing".
^^The lower of Mars’ moons.
(But only if we're speaking Attic...)
EUN Attempt to Terraform Mars Edifice (OOO-NAT-ME)