ey, Ed! Haven’t seen you in weeks. How are you? You look worried. The usual?”
“Hi, John. Yeah, and a shot of the strongest stuff on your shelf. I’ve had a really bad day.”
“So what’s wrong?”
“Trouble. And bad news for all of us Martians.”
“Damn it, Ed, what’s going on?”
“Earth’s going on. I was in a teleconference with the other dome mayors all morning over it. We’re in trouble. Earth is at war!”
“What? At war with who? Us?” John exclaimed somewhat ungrammatically.
“What? I thought it was a single government?”
“It was, sort of, although nations had a certain independence, but had to follow U.N. laws. North America, China, and Australia rebelled. The Arab states may be next. It’s civil war!”
“So what’s that got to do with us?”
“Oh, shit. I’d better call Dewey.” Of course, he could only leave a message, since Mars and Earth were on opposite sides of the sun and the relay station was half an astronomical unit north of it, making radio lag even worse. It would be quite a while before the message reached its destination.
John left his message and got back to the mayor. “Okay, it affects me, but what’s it got to do with Mars? We can get along without Earth, we’re self-sufficient and have been for fifty years. I have a problem, some other Martians probably have the same or similar problems, but why does Mars have a problem?”
“Because technically we’re under the auspices of different states in the United Nations. We’re North American, the Alba Patera dome is Chinese. Half of the domes are European, so are affiliated with the U.N.”
“But we’re all Martians. I’m an immigrant, but most of us were born here and have never left the planet.”
“Half or more of the Euros here share that opinion, but their governments, like China’s and unlike ours and the Australians, are staffed with Earthians imported from Earth, and are appointed by Earthians rather than being elected by Martians.”
“How about the Africans and South Americans?”
“They’re neutral, but nobody from those continents have built domes here, anyway.”
“It it a hot war yet?”
“No, the diplomats are still talking but blockades are being erected. Give me another beer and another shot, John. This war crap is making me crazy. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Well, the only advice I have is to be nice to the European domes’ mayors, maybe try to talk up independence.”
“Why not? We need to get untied from Mamma Earth’s apron strings. Why should we be tied to their laws? They’re millions of kilometers away!”
“You’re talking about revolution!”
“Yes, I am. Hopefully peaceful. But like I said, we have to follow a lot of laws and regulations that make perfect sense on Earth, but are either meaningless or downright stupid here. I think it’s time!”
“John, that’s crazy talk. We aren’t even armed!”
“Yes, we are. You’re forgetting who does half of all space transport, and that’s Green-Osbourne Transportation Systems. Between the two of us, Destiny and I own a quarter of the company, and her dad and Charles control almost two thirds.
“We have the fastest, most heavily armed and armored ships in the solar system, and Dewey has worried about war for a long time and has been preparing. War’s really bad for the shipping industry and we’ve always refused to engineer warships for Earth’s governments just because of that. Not many people know it, but our transports are warships, and there aren’t any Earthian government warships in deep space.”
The Mayor sighed and ordered another beer and shot. “Maybe I should hold a Dome Hall meeting, televised and with the public invited so we can get a feel of the public’s attitudes.”
“Ed, better slow down on the alcohol. It wouldn’t do to have a drunken mayor when war might be imminent.”
“You’re right, skip the shot but give me another beer.”
“I agree about Dome Hall, but don’t forget: GOTS is not about to let anything bad happen to Mars’ colonies.
“Not only are we better armed, but we’re experienced, thanks to the damned pirates. Dewey started the defense fleet eight years ago because of the pirates and we’ve killed or captured most of them. Earth’s armies haven’t any experience at all with real war; there hasn’t been a shooting war for half a century except the war of shippers and pirates.”
“Well, I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you’re about drunk and it isn’t even two in the afternoon and you need to go home and sleep it off.”
“I’m not going to be able to sleep with this over my head!”
“Here, take these home with you,” John said, pulling out a bottle of white lightning and a twelve pack of beer. “It wouldn’t do to have the mayor staggering around the dome, especially now. Get drunk at home.”
“You’re right, of course... about getting drunk. But revolution?”
“Sleep it off and think about it. It’s time Mars was independent. Look how much we’re paying in taxes to Earth, and we’re getting absolutely nothing from it. We could use that to make Mars a better place.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Look, Ed, stay sober tomorrow, okay?”
“I’ll have to. See you, John.”
John’s phone made a noise; there was a message from Dewey.
imée Beaulieu hated her job. She didn’t want to be in this damné dome on this God-forsaken planet. But she had been exiled here; “exiled” isn’t exactly accurate, but it’s close.
She had been head of the EU’s diplomatic corps, and had an idea that could give Europe more commercial power. She sent her diplomats to the other continents’ governments with orders to negotiate her plan. Instead of negotiating, three of them, inexperienced but influential people appointed by Europe’s government, presented the idea as an ultimatum.
They were fired and she was paying a price as well. Stuck on Mars, Mayor of one of the stupid domes.
Damned dome! She’d only been here a month and hated it with a passion. Now there was that stupid revolution, civil war, whatever back on Earth and they told her she was no longer allowed to trade with the North American, Australian, or Chinese domes.
And she loved Knolls beer, Damn it! That was the only good thing about this God-forsaken planet. She wondered what could be done about the situation. Probably nothing, she thought. Except by the idiots in charge on Earth, damn them.
She didn’t much like the Martians, either, but she understood where they were coming from. A lot of the Martian-born Martians in her dome had been talking about independence from Earth. That would suit her... as long as she was off of this damned rock and back in France first. After all, if the dome revolted under her watch her career would be ruined even worse than it already was. She’d probably be forced to resign.
She sighed, and went back to the meaningless paperwork Earth demanded.
huck Watson, mayor of Ceres, was angry. What were those idiots on Earth thinking? If he followed their directive Cererians would surely starve! Those who had been born on Ceres had already been talking independence.
And Charlie, who had been a close friend for years and a trading partner for almost as long, he was prohibited from communicating with.
He had enough, he decided, and called Charlie. To hell with the Earthians!
harlie Onehorse, Mayor of Dome Australia Two, was annoyed. DA2’s main export, high quality steel and rare earth ferromagnetics mostly went to the European domes, and half of all the domes on Mars were European. And the ores were from the British mining colony on one of the asteroids. DA2 was going to have trouble both importing and exporting.
They could probably have ore shipped from China, but Earthian ores were incredibly expensive; mining anything on Earth was effectively outlawed by regulations that made it a hundred times cheaper to import from Martians and asterites. On top of this, ferromagnetics from the belt were a hundred times as strong as Earthian rare earth magnets.
He was thankful that a few of the North American domes were farming domes, since none of Australia’s three domes had farms, and they had to import all of their food. He swore to himself that the situation was intolerable and would have to change.
Born in DA3, his parents were immigrants from Australia. His paternal grandfather had moved to Australia from somewhere in North America.
But unlike other countries’ domes, the Australians had great autonomy. They could pass their own laws and regulations, and only had to pay tax to the Earthians. Still, paying those taxes rankled; the money would be better spent improving life on Mars. Things were still rough on the Martian frontier, although nowhere near as bad as it had been before the robot factories were built.
He wondered where the Europeans were going to get new robots, since the three robot factories were all in North American domes. Parts to repair malfunctioning robots, as well. He grinned at that, and thought to himself “bloody dills! Those bludgers are going to have to work now. Bloody hell, it’ll be Rafferty’s rules for sure; things are already becoming a bit chaotic.”
He decided to call his old friend Ed Waldo. Ed always knew what to do when things got crazy.
Ed’s secretary said he had taken the afternoon off.
“With this war stuff going on?”
“He said he was going to talk to his friend John, said John always knew what to do when things got crazy.”
He should drop by Ed and John’s dome and bend the elbow with them, he thought. He liked John, who didn’t charge as much for his grog as anybody else charged for theirs, and his beer was the best. Even better than Victoria Bitter, although that brand’s quality had suffered in the last couple of decades.
He called Ed’s pocket number, but Ed had it shut off. He called the French dome, which was only twenty kilometers from DA2, but was told that there could be no communication with non-UN domes as well as no trade; the diplomats were all in charge. And there were no diplomats on Mars, only Earth.
Except, well, John, maybe. John wasn’t even a real Martian. Not yet, anyway. You had to be a resident of any dome for ten years to get voting rights, even though those rights were pretty meaningless in some domes, like the Chinese and UN domes. John had two years to go before he was a citizen.
John had connections. He was the son in law of the founder of the biggest shipping company in the solar system, and he and his wife owned a quarter of company stock. He also had a small farm, a brewery, and a bar on Mars, all of which his wife said were hobbies even though they all made him a lot of money and even more friends.
As he was trying to figure out a plan, a message came from his friend and trading partner Chuck Watson. Luckily Ceres and Mars were close enough at the time that the radio lag wasn’t too bad.
“Charlie, what are we going to do? The damned Earthians are killing us!”
“Come on, Chuck. don’t over react.”
“Charlie, I’m not. We’re going to need food, where’s it going to come from? Earth? We’ll starve!”
“No you won’t. Earthians can go to hell, we Martians and you asterites can stick together. You want to trade, we’ll trade. We need rare earths and you need food, and neither of us needs Earth.”
Of course, it was a very long conversation because of the lightspeed lag.
ou look like hell, Ed.”
“Hung over, and I even had trouble sleeping after getting stumbling drunk. Got any coffee?”
“Yeah, coffee’s free. The pot’s over there.”
“Thanks, John. What the hell am I going to do? We don’t need much from the Europeans that the Chinese and Aussies can’t provide, but if this lasts a long time...”
“Don’t worry, it’s only going to last a few months and when it’s finished, Mars is going to be independent of Earth.”
“No way. This is a diplomatic and economic war, it could last for years.”
The mayor from the neighboring dome came in. “Hey, Charlie,” Ed said. “Hell of a mess.”
John grinned. “Nope. Where’s Europe going to get any rare earth magnets, or any of the other rare earths?”
Charlie groaned. “John, ever hear of the asteroid belt?”
John grinned. “Yep. Ever heard of Green-Osbourne?”
“So they shouldn’t have pissed off Dewey and Charles. First the Europeans seized company holdings in Europe, but luckily all the engineering is done in North America and most of the assets are in space. Then we lost a man and a landing craft when the Euros fired on it. It was full of my beer, too, damn it. Anyway, that was the last straw.”
“I thought your ships were almost impervious to weapons?”
“Only the interplanetary ships. Landers and boosters have to deal with the gravity well and can’t be that heavy.”
“So what can Dewey do?”
“Guys, do any of you know anything about war?”
“I do,” an elderly female voice piped up from the other end of the bar. “I was only twenty. It was horrible.”
“Oh,” said Ed, “Hello, Mrs. Ferguson. I didn’t see you down there. Where are you going with this, John?”
“Earth hasn’t had a shooting war for half a century, and their armies have forgotten how to fight. They’re barely armies.
“Meanwhile, Mars has been at war almost from the beginning, at war with pirates. Green-Osbourne has an army, a space army, and an experienced one.
“Dewey convinced all the other shippers to refuse interplanetary shipments until the mess on Earth is over. Some he had to threaten, he made it clear that his army would allow no shipping, and people who tried to trade with Earth would be blown out of the sky. Nobody but Green-Osbourne is doing any shipping, and only to select clients, like us. You Aussies can have all the rare earths you can afford, but the Euros get nothing.
“China and North America are the only Earthly sources of rare earths, and there are no superferromagnetics on Earth at all, so Europe is screwed; mining is effectively impossible there. Their economies will collapse; they’ll come around.
“Meanwhile, I expect to see riots in the European domes pretty soon. There will be revolution for sure. Lots of Martians are tired of being tied to Mother Earth’s apron strings. We want to be free!”
“I don’t know, maytie,” Charlie said. “Australians almost have independence already, I don’t see any revolt coming.”
“John’s right,” Ed replied. “you folks will be last, except maybe the Chinese, you might revolt before them. But when we’re not paying taxes to Earth and you are, and there’s nothing that can happen to you for not paying the tax, you’ll sign the declaration.”
“We’ll declare our independence. When the time is right. Mars has an army and Earth doesn’t. They can’t boss us Martians around any more!”
ir, we’ve detected a craft coming in from the belt.”
“Very well, Captain Phillips. Disable it with an EMP and set it in orbit around Mars. It will be their prison until a treaty is signed, we’ll supply them with the necessities of life.”
month later, there was indeed rioting in the French dome. The elected, normally powerless city council presented a demand for independence from Earth; after all, Earth was powerless against Green-Osbourne, and that company had protected Mars from pirates—and now was protecting Mars from the Earthians.
The mayor refused to sign the declaration and was arrested, and an election for a new mayor was scheduled.
News reached the other domes, of course, and almost all of the Martians became rebels.
hree months later on June thirteenth, by Earth’s calendar (Mars rotates at a different rate and is on a longer orbit), the UN had no choice but to sign a treaty with the Martians, which recognized the domes as sovereign states. Earth’s economy was crumbling, citizens were doing more than grumbling, elected leaders were in danger of no longer being elected.
Earth no longer had the illusion of a single government.
Aimée Beaulieu was released from jail and returned to Earth after the treaty was signed, and retired with honors and a huge pension, seen as a patriotic hero by her French countrymen and the French government.
The only loss of life in the entire “war” was the Green-Osborne landing craft captain that the U.N. had shot down.
ohn’s bar was full of happy people with nothing on their minds except celebrating Martian independence. John downplayed his involvement.
“I’m not even a real Martian, Charlie. Not for two more years. The real Martians, guys like you who were born here are the real Martians.”
A voice came from a few stools down. “Hey John, don’t you serve Frenchmen?”
“Lewis! Good to see you, old man. Lager?”
“So how do you like your new job?”
“Oh, man, I hate it. I wish I hadn’t run for office, those damned Euros really fouled everything up. But I’ll manage. Mars will, too, now that we’re not wearing Earth’s yoke.”
“The second French revolution and nobody got guillotined!”
“The second American revolution, too. And it was a lot more like now than the French revolution.”
John grinned. “I wouldn’t know, my wife’s the history buff. Excuse me, Lewis, it looks like there’s a lot of empty glasses! PARTY!! Robot, don’t just stand there, you stupid junkpile, get Lewis a lager.”