Chapter 23
The Zócalo, Tharsis, Mars, Martian Sphere
Date: Tue 12 May 123
Time: UST 0900

The Zócalo of Tharsis was called the Times Square of Mars by some, an advertisement-laden hub of commerce and communication where all points seemed to converge. Major retailers and five-star restaurants existed alongside bazaar stalls and portable noodle carts. Rich and poor, fancy and common, everything in the capital came together in this one place. Tens of thousands passed through every day and during the peak of the morning traffic, dozens of giant monitors switched over to MCN newsroom.
Her voice amplified by innumerable speakers, morning anchor Sina Navarre told the crowds,"We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming bring you this special broadcast from Space Marshal Donovan Graves."
The screens cut to Marshal Graves in his distinctive custom uniform. Rows upon rows of medals were stacked on his left breast and the Hero of the Union medal hung from his neck. As a native Martian, Marshal Graves was well-known and well-loved by the people of Tharsis, but he had never made an appearance like this before.
"Citizens of Mars and all my Colonial brethren, you all know who I am. For 35 years, I've been a bought and paid for mercenary in the service of your oppressors: the corporations, the banksters and all the other fatcats who've lived fat and safe on that dirtball by your sweat, your tears and your blood. For my service, they've called me Hero. Just look at all the honors they've heaped on me for betraying you. But no more."
The crowds buzzed with mutterings and murmurings. What did this mean? There were plenty among them who had no great love for the Union in general or Earth in particular, but none of them would have expected someone as high profile as Marshal Graves would be saying these things. Whatever a person's political leanings--for, against or indifferent--, there was not a person there who was not hanging on the Marshal's every word.
"I'll bear the crime of being a collaborator to my grave, but I can at least dedicate the time I have left to make amends and set right the many wrongs you have suffered. I speak to you from the bridge of the ESS Iberia, former flagship of the Union's Fifth Fleet. Today I redub this ship the Liberation, the flagship of the Colonial Liberation Army.
"I call on you now, brothers. Rise up against your oppressors! Break the yoke! Throw off your chains! Arm yourselves and take back what's yours! This day you are no longer colonists but the free men of independent worlds! You--"
The screens suddenly went black, cutting off Marshal Graves' speech before it could finish. No doubt the government had moved in to cut the feed. It was a wonder they had not interrupted sooner.
While there were some apathetic enough to continue about their business, the vast majority stood there transfixed, puzzling over what they had just heard. Of course there were campus radicals and street corner firebrands, but there had not been a serious call to arms against the Union by a high profile figure since the Lunar Revolt. How would they respond?
A lone voice cried out, "Liberation! Liberation!"
More voices chimed in.
"Liberation! Liberation!"
More and more joined in the cry, shouting, "Liberation! Liberation!", pumping their fists in the air, forming up into loose ranks as a sort of ad hoc army.
"Liberation! Liberation!"
The cry rose up louder and louder as hundreds, maybe even thousands joined in the chorus. It was as if all the people in the Zócalo were kindling and Marshal Graves just tossed out a lit match. The fire was spreading, burning hot, and the government would have a hard time putting it out.