Chapter no 9 – The Lie

Red Rising

The city is one of spires, parks, rivers, gardens, and fountains. It is a city of dreams, a city of blue water and green life on a red planet that is supposed to be as barren as the cruelest desert. This is not the Mars they show us on the HC. This is not a place unfit for man. It is a place of lies, wealth, and immense abundance.

I gasp at the grotesquerie.

Men and women fly. They shimmer Gold and Silver. Those are the only Colors I see in the sky. Their gravBoots carry them about like gods, the technology so much more graceful than the clumsy gravBoots our keepers wear in the mines. A young man soars past my window, his skin burnished, his hair fluttering loosely behind him as he carries two bottles of wine toward a nearby garden spire; he’s drunk and his wobbling through the air reminds me of a time I saw a drillBoy’s air system break down in his frysuit; he gasped for oxygen as he died, twitching and dancing. This Gold laughs like a fool and does a mirthful spin. Four girls, not at all older than me, fly after him in a merry hunt, giddy and giggling. Their tight dresses seem to be made of liquid and drip around their young curves. They look my age, in a way, but seem so bloody foolish.

I do not understand.

Beyond them, ships flit through the air along beacon-lit avenues. Small ships, ripWings, as Dancer calls them, escort the most intricate of air yachts. On the ground, I see men and women moving through wide

avenues. There are automobiles, Color-coded lamps along the lower levels—Yellow, Blue, Orange, Green, Pink, a hundred shades of a dozen Colors to form a hierarchy so complex, so alien, I scarcely think it a human concept. The buildings through which the paths wind are huge, some of glass, some of stone. But many remind me of those I’ve seen on the HC, those buildings of the Romans, made this time for gods instead of man.

Beyond the city, which stretches nearly as far as I can see, Mars’s red and barren surface is scarred with the green of grass and struggling woods. The sky above is blue, stained with stars. The terraforming is complete.

This is the future. It should not be this way for generations. My life is a lie.

So many times has Octavia au Lune told us of Lykos that we are the pioneers of Mars, that we are the brave souls who sacrifice for the race, that soon our toils for humanity will be over. Soon the softer Colors will join us, once Mars is habitable. But they have already joined us. Earth has come to Mars and we pioneers were left below, slaving, toiling, suffering to create and maintain the foundation of this … this empire. We are as Eo always said—the Society’s slaves.

Dancer sits in a chair behind me and waits till I can speak. He says a word and the windows darken. I can still see the city, but the sun no longer blinds my eyes. Beside us, the squat instrument, called a piano, whispers a dreary melody.

“They told us we were man’s only hope,” I say quietly. “That Earth was overcrowded, that all the pain, all the sacrifice, was for mankind. Sacrifice is good. Obedience the highest virtue …”

The laughing Gold has reached the nearby spire; he surrenders to the girls and their kisses. Soon they will drink their wine and have their amusement.

Dancer tells me how it is.

“Earth ain’t overcrowded, Darrow. Seven hundred years back, they expanded to their moon, Luna. Because it is so difficult to launch spacecraft through Earth’s gravity and atmosphere, Luna became Earth’s port through which it colonized the moons and planets of the Solar System.”

“Seven hundred years?” I gasp, feeling suddenly very stupid.

“On Luna, efficiency and order became the chief concern. In space, every set of lungs must have a purpose. So the first Colors were gradually instituted and the Reds were sent to Mars to gather the fuel for mankind. The mining colonies were established there since Mars has the highest concentration of helium-3, which is used to terraform the other worlds and moons.”

At least that wasn’t a lie.

“Are they terraformed, the other moons and worlds?”

“The small moons, yes. Most of the planets. Obviously not the gas giants.” He sits in a chair. “It was in the early stages of the Colonization when the wealthy of Luna began to realize Earth was nothing more than a drain on their profits. Even as Luna colonized the Solar System, they were taxed and owned by corporations and countries on Earth, but those same entities could not enforce their ownership. So Luna rebelled—the Golds and their Society against the countries of Earth. Earth fought back and Earth lost. That was the Conquering. Economics turned Luna into the power and port of the Solar System. And the Society began to change into what it is today—an empire built on Red backs.”

I watch the Colors move about below. They are small, hard to distinguish from our height—and my eyes are not used to seeing so far or seeing so much light.

“Reds were sent to Mars five hundred years ago. The other Colors came to Mars about three hundred years back, while our ancestors still toiled beneath the surface. They lived in the paraterraformed cities— cities with bubbles of atmosphere over them—while the rest of the world terraformed slowly. Now the bubbles are coming down and the world is fit for any man.

“HighReds live as maintenance workers, sanitation, grain harvesters, assembly workers. LowReds are those of us born beneath the surface— the truest slaves. In the cities, the Reds who dance disappear. Those who voice their thoughts vanish. Those who bow their heads and accept the rule of the Society and their place in Society, as all Colors do, live on with relative freedom.”

He exhales a cloud of smoke.

I feel outside my body, as though I’m watching the colonization of worlds, the transformation of the human species, through eyes that are not my own. The gravity of history drew my people into slavery. We are

the bottom of the Society, the dirt. Eo always preached something of the like, though she never knew the truth. If she had known this, how much more passionately would she have spoken? This existence is worse than she ever could have imagined. It is not hard to understand the conviction with which the Sons of Ares fight.

“Five hundred years.” I shake my head. “This is our bloodydamn planet.”

“Through sweat and toil it was made so,” he agrees. “Then what will it take to take it back?”

“Blood.” Dancer smiles at me like a township alleycat. There’s a beast behind this man’s fatherly smiles.

Eo was right. It comes to violence.

She was the voice, like my father. So what am I to be? The avenging hand? I cannot grasp that someone so pure, so full of love, would want me to play this part. But she did. I think of my father’s last dance. I think of my mum, Leanna, Kieran, Loran, Eo’s parents, Uncle Narol, Barlow, everyone I love. I know how hard they will live and how quickly they will die. And I now know why.

I look down at my hands. They are what Dancer called them—cut, scarred, burned things. When Eo kissed them, they grew gentle for love. Now that she is gone, they grow hard for hate. I clench them into fists till my knuckles are white as icecaps.

“What is my mission?”

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