Red Uprising

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A young woman born on Mars must cope with her rage and grief following the death of her father at the hands of his greedy corporate employers. The Red Planet will never be the same.

There is nothing so dull as watching Earthers land on Ares Colony for the first time. Their fleshy faces and greedy piggy eyes bug out as they realize they can carry their 140 kg mass on their own two flabby legs for the first time in decades. Their expressions on catching their first glimpse of a "Martian", their long, slim bodies shooting down the Traverse like a Cold War torpedo, is pathetically amusing at best. But then, so is Ares Colony.

The year my Papa landed on Ares was the most prosperous year the Colony had ever had. The 'ponic crops were finally yielding beyond subsistence, the mining exploration had hit pay-dirt and mine stakes were worth the weight of every fat-cat supervisor employed by USMineCon in Global Credits. Cobalt and Uranium deposits in the mantle sent every deep ore speculator scrambling to buy up mining concerns, and the specialists to go with them. When MineCon found a young exo-geologist with Gulf-coast energy ties living in an one-room flat outside Old Mexico City, they snatched him up to head their mine-site location project. The adventurer in my father couldn't refuse the opportunity to get paid a million credits to dig into the red Martian rock. Why not? He had no prospects, no familia, nothing to tie him down to Earth. What he failed to do was adequately research his new employer's hiring and mining practices. Among the handful of legitimate scientists and mining experts paid handsomely to find raw materials in the raw Martian dirt were hundreds of convicted felons, political prisoners, misanthropes and Catholic "freedom fighters" who were offered the choice of breaking big rocks into smaller ones or being sent to the orbiting maximum security prison known as The Hulk. MineCon made little or no effort to keep these killers and rapists from mixing with the hard-working local colonists.

To Papa's credit, he refused to look the other way when miners and locals came into contact violently. He believed the best way to maintain positive relations between miners and locals was to wed the two groups together the old-fashioned way. He always said, "Men with nothing to lose are capable of anything, but men with families and friends are the first step toward a civilization." 
The first thing he did after settling in was to take a "local girl" to the Catholic chapel and make an honest woman out of her. I was the inevitable result. His acceptance into the local community opened the floodgates for lonely miners to marry lonely colonist daughters. Once he had a "native" wife and daughter he went on a crusade for a local bill of rights and a mining Union. The Company indulged his whims because of his successes locating the richest lodes and the good PR he was generating with investors. He used his successful inter-marriage to catapult himself into the Union leadership with mixed results.

I won't say Dead ole Dad was a bad politician, if anything he was one of the purist politicians since Thomas Jefferson. Popular with the men, charismatic and devout, his ideals and hard work inspired miners and colonists to band together for mutual benefit and survival. Unfortunately, he ran his mouth off a bit too much in front of the wrong Union leaders. MineCon grudgingly allowed the Union to form and then promptly infiltrated it and had bylaws written in their favor. They couldn't stop my father from being elected a leader, but they very easily hired thugs to cause the cave-in that buried him alive. My Papa was a wonderful father, but also ambitious, popular, idealistic and replaceable. His death triggered a surge of discontent among his followers which lead to pogroms and more mining accidents. Labor is cheap here in the solar system's dustbowl. Life is even cheaper. Without a strong voice to fill the void he left behind, the Union quickly became MineCon's lapdog. Too bad he couldn't live long enough to watch his only progeny fight youth and nail against everything MineCon and his beloved Union stands for. I like to think he'd be proud of me for standing up for myself and my beliefs but Mama is proud enough for all of us, so it doesn't really matter. I'm just grateful he left me Mama and Abuello. The blood-money MineCon paid us, "for our loss" Mama doggedly earmarked for my continued education.

Mama is the reason I keep with these Hermanos . The dregs of the barrio, too high on their rage and self-worth to realize the futility of their minor thefts and vandalism. The youth of Mars, most are like me: products of "positive miner and colonist relations," who also lost their fathers in mysterious mine "accidents". Others are simply looking for a better choice than toiling in the 'ponic fields or digging radioactive metals out of unstable holes in the ground. That's all most of them can aspire to. They are united in their impotent rage and hatred for the capitalists. Mama says they need, "a woman's sensibilities and an intelligent, able leader"... guess I'm elected. We call ourselves Los Hermanos de Ares, The Martian Brotherhood or just Los Hermanos.
Mama came to Mars as a young grad student, accompanying her father, a genius biologist and Socialist Catholic from Spain. She was determined to transform Mars into a New Eden; with her own two hands if necessary. Beautiful, educated, driven and strong, Papa couldn't have found a better partner anywhere else in the galaxy. Nor a better mentor than her father. She made sure I knew that any mothered child who didn't know their calculus and Earth-history wasn't worth the spit on their Sunday-shoes, but she also taught me that your neighbors were family no matter where they learned their alphabet and we always help anyone who needs it. I was asked, politely, in cultured Castilian, if I would be so kind as to lend my dexterous mind and charismatic name to the cause of a free Mars. It was the first time Mama had asked anything of me more difficult than routine hygiene maintenance or to finish my homework before using the Net.

Abuello was the one to convince me to stick with it. One day while teaching me the finer points of solar-cell replacement, he took the measure of three hermanos sliding by in their chopped ground-skiff.

"Mija," he said, nodding his head at the boys, "do you school con elles?"
"Sí, Abuello."
"Ingleís, por favor. Do you speak to them? Do they look at you too long? Do they speak to you when La Professora is out?"
Confused by this barrage of questions from my taciturn maternal grandfather, I blushed and said, "No Abuelo, nunca!" 
"Ingleis, por favor. Mija, if these... niños approach you, call you names or insult your Papa, leave. Promise me. Now."
"I promise, Padre (He's the highest ranking Catolico in the colony). I bring Puta (my ceramic butterfly blade, present from Abuello on my cinciniera) everywhere I go. No white boys or hermanos try to talk to me when I sharpen her..."
El Padre mirrors my evil grin for a moment. He knows how fast I sling my blade. He taught me after all. Then the sweet glint in his eye fades, "No, niña, these boys will work for the Gringos. They talk. Too much. Talk about the Union, talk about Race Relations, talk about MineCon, talk about..."
"Qúe? What else?"
"Your Papa."
"What about him? He's a dirty Mex and a liar? Heard it."
"That he's a traitor to his kind."
"What kind? Mextizo? Or Martian?"
"Why?! How?! He loved both things! He did more for this planet, for these people..."

I couldn't hear my grandfather's response at first for the strength of my bitter sobs. He stopped trying reason and resorted to the base response of sympathy. It worked. 

Finally as my sobs strangled to a halt against his strong chest, he said, "You are the future of this world and your father knew that and loved you far more than any other thing he loved. He saw you and your mother and the future of Mars in your eyes every time he looked at you. He told me this days before he died. I like to think that you were the last thing my daughter's husband was thinking about when that tunnel collapsed on him..."

He choked to a halt and I found myself sweeping my thin arms across his broad, gnarled back in my own awkward sympathy response this time. He sniffed twice and snorted once at the absurdity of it all which set me off and pretty soon we were holding each other up nursing our tearful laughter.

He left me with just one thought that day:
"Mija," he said, "those boys need your help. They need your Papa's charisma and intelligence and zeal and your Mama's wit and common sense and appreciation for beauty..."
"And just a dash of El Padre's wisdom and religion. No?"
"And more than a dash of just you. Put us together, add in your own anger and insights, a pinch of courage and defiance and season well with an open mind and a generous heart. You know how to cook to taste, Mija you'll know what to do. Go forth, be useful, be successful, remember your home my Daughter."

The familiar and formal blessing I had heard so many times from my grandfather's lips touched me like never before. I knelt before my aged grandfather, took his hands, kissed his rings and prayed my first Ave Maria since Papa died. As the tears raining on my naked head slowed, I heard him sob the words along with me. I thought of my father's love for this budding planet and his assurance of my place in it. I thought of all the young mothers dying in this thin atmosphere to bear Martian children for their beloved miners. I thought of all those Martian girls and boys growing up without a legacy, without fathers to teach them integrity and honor and pride. Without mothers to show them strength and tenderness and loyalty. Without someone to give them vision and direction. 

Most of all, I thought of the war my father had so innocently begun and was unable to finish.

These boys, mis Hermanos need me. Even when they hate me, they love me. I am their Maria Madonna, lusty Amazon who leads them ever on against the fascist capitalistos. I am their Joan of Arc and Mother Eve rolled into one. Every child I will bear will own the name of Martian. One day soon I will see one live to rule the red planet and make it a green haven for the despised of godless Earth... and then? God knows.


Submitted: July 27, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Matt Tuckey. All rights reserved.

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