Happy Independence Day everyone. Here’a holiday appropriate story for America’s Birthday.
Orion scrambled over the hillside overlook of Settlement Alpha. The Martian landscape glistened under the blazing sun, suppressed by the massive solar screens above him. He traversed the Martian plateaus whenever he needed to escape the conflict of the elders. A day didn’t go past without hearing the word ‘Revolution’.
Today the mines stayed empty and the equipment stayed silent. Today was Independence Day.
He hooded a hand over his eyes, spotting a ship approaching piercing the atmosphere. The painted red white and blue exterior told him exactly who it could be. Orion hurried to his land rover and started the engine, tearing down the plains towards the landing station.
Commander Havis came back just in time, bringing his usual shipment from the main world. Today he’d have bundles of rockets by the crate full, a means to celebrate ‘America’ in the darker corner of Sol. Orion had never set foot in the country; he was born and bred Martian. In fact, only three living members of the settlement had even seen it. Commander Havis, their supply runner, promised to take Orion one day. He didn’t see the point.
Havis’ ship roared overhead, and slowed to hover over the docking bay. Orion kicked his land rover into overdrive, kicking up a wave of surface dust in his wake.
He arrived just as the Potomac touched down, sliding into a designated parking area and leapt from the driver seat with a front flip and a flawless landing. The lower gravity of the plains never got old. Hurrying into the entry chamber, he pulled off his mouth filter and punched in his entry code. The door closed and the oppressive gravity of the landing center pulled on him before a taunting ‘ding’ of the decontaminator announced his entry.
“Orion,” the desk guard said, nodding in greeting. “Happy Fourth.
He gave a halfhearted wave in response. “Yeah, yeah, same to you Bolkis.”
Guardsman Eustace Golkis was one of the earth-born in the settlement, eighty years old and cantankerous. Given the opportunity he’d bore Orion with a history lesson. “Havis just docked in, you here to see him?”
“Yep. I figured I’d help him load the fireworks.”
“Well, tough luck. There won’t be any this year.”
Orion gaped. “What? That’s the best part about the stupid holiday, isn’t it?”
“There’s something more important in there today,” Golkis said. “You never listen to me when I tell you what this holiday is about, so we’re gonna show you instead.”
“Show me?” Orion tensed. Oh Scientific Method, what is he going to have me do? Homework? “I’m not a kid anymore. I turned twenty this earth year. ”
“Well you only ten on Mars. You’re not a man till you’re thirteen you know.”
Orion rolled his eyes. “You told me on earth you were a grown man at eighteen. The only thing you couldn’t do was drink intoxicants.”
Golkis slammed a hand on his desk. “Things are different here. You’ll live to be two-hundred. It’s a small price to pay. Back in my day we’d be lucky to live to one hundred and look at me. I’m eighty and already fallin’ apart.”
“You’re fine. You’ll live to three hundred knowing my luck. Who else’d be here to nag us to death?”
The docking door opened behind Golkis, disrupting his rebuttal. Commander William Havis stood in the doorway, grinning with his pearly whites. Havis was one of the earth-born of Alpha, darker skinned than anyone else with short curly black hair. He had piercing brown eyes and a commanding presence. “Hey, Orion. Here to help with the shipment?”
“Yep.” Orion hurried to the door, thankful to miss out on Golkis’ history lesson.
“Heya, Eustace,” Havis said waving. “Send a comm out to the others, everything went smooth as silk pie.”
Golkis nodded and lifted his decrepit old comm box. The damn thing was older than he was.
Havis clapped an arm around Orion’s shoulder and led him into the hangar. His blue uniform didn’t have a scratch on it, pressed and clean. “So, anyone tell you what today is?”
“Independence Day,” Orion said, muttering. Havis too? I wanted stories not lessons.
“Yep. The Independence Day, you been listening to the others?”
“Not really, the whole thing seems silly to me. Everything is fine in Alpha, plenty of food got a girlfriend this year—”
Havis pulled him into a headlock. “Oh ho? You’re a big man now, huh?”
“It’s not like that. We just kissed is all. She likes me, I like her.”
“Lemme guess. Paula?”
“Oh, young love. A soldier needs motivation too. She’ll be right beside you when it goes down.”
“You too, Havis? Old man Golkis said something about there being no fireworks this year.”
“I should just show you, you’re a man grown after all.” Havis pulled his comm pad, punched a few numbers in and the cargo bay of the Potomac slid open. The familiar boxes filled with luxuries from the mainland and rows of fireworks seemed all accounted for.
Orion stepped forward, running a hand over the smooth steel containers, pulled the release handle and opened the closest box. There were no fireworks inside. Instead long rifles with plasma turbines mounted with lethal looking bayonets.
He staggered away from the box. “Weapons?”
“Tools for revolution,” Havis said. “Terra has abused your people for too long. Time to remind them what today really means.”
Orion ran a finger across the plasma rifles. “But— you’re from earth. This is treason.”
“More reason I’m with you on this. This is what America is about. They work you all to your fingers and just because you’re a light-jump away from home, you get no say in the Presidential election. Yet they’re fine with making you send minerals back and tax your labor. The other settlements are just as sick of it. They’re all with us.”
Orion paled, realizing the implications. Revolution. Even Paula had talked to him about it in their tender moments.
“Are you with us?” Havis offered a hand. “You might die, but better to die free than a slave.”
“Whoa, hold on. It’s not that bad. They built the settlement, maintain our filtration systems. In a few years we won’t even need masks when the Terraforming is finished.”
“You’re second class citizens,” Havis said. “I told you about my ancestors. We used to be forced into labor. It ended up being a flashpoint to the Civil War. America broke away from England for the same reason. You know the history. We’re in the right.”
Orion swallowed back a lump in his throat. “Can’t we just reason with them? Tell then we’ve had enough?”
Havis pinched the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger. “Orion, you really need to pay more attention. This has been going on for a decade, longer even. They think you’re too ‘out of touch’ to be relevant for earth issues. This is a utopia by comparison. You can’t go outside without a full gas mask. You can’t have skin exposure for longer than four hours. Earth is hell. Once they Terraform, they’ll move here and take this from you. It’s how it works.”
“But how can we fight earth?”
“We’ll wait for the escort fleet to come in. They have the vice president with us. He’s on our side. He’ll deliver the ultimatum, we overpower the soldiers that don’t cooperate and we’ll have enough ships to hold the jump point. The American fleet will have their hands tied; if they launch and assault the other countries of the world will get antsy. You think they’ll be able to form a joint operation with Russia? They’re still bickering about gay marriage like it’s the Twenty First century or something.”
“I don’t know about this. But I trust you, Commander. If you think it’s best. I’m in.” Orion raised his palm before his face, thumb curled: a Martian sign of promise.
“Good man,” Havis said. “Take up your arms. You’re my Paul Revere. “
“Who?” Orion raised a brow.
Havis sighed, handing him a rifle. “Seriously, kid. Pay more attention to your lessons.”