Mars

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A view of new biodome complexes in Olympia.

Mars (Sol IV) is the fourth planet out from Sol. Often called the Red Planet, it has a surface area the size of Earth's entire landmass. It has a stable population of 4.5 billion people. Around 11% of the population is non-human - an astonishing number for a planet in the Solar system. There is a significant minority of synthetics on the planet; a hold-over from Mars' early years of harsh criminal justice allowing corporations to cyborgify criminals responsible for major crimes.

Despite its proximity to Earth, during the early years of interstellar colonization Mars was only home to small scientific expeditions and outposts that etched out a meager existence until the 2200's, when terraforming technology was finally able to slowly reintroduce water and atmosphere to the planet. Currently the atmosphere is breathable but incredibly thin, which makes strenuous efforts outside the arcologies very dangerous.

Until recently an Alliance fleet remained in orbit of Mars at all times, ensuring that the planet remains disarmed and free of armed disputes. With a political shift in 2459, that fleet was removed and Mars is now granted greater autonomy as a member of the Sol Alliance itself - possibly at the expense of SolGov.

Demographics

The Urban Martians

The vast majority of Martian population is urban, living in arcologies, sometimes referred to as “hives”. A miracle of engineering for early colonization times, they are designed to support as many residents as possible, while conserving space and construction costs. The lower part of a truncated pyramid-shaped structure is dedicated to apartments with the occasional amenity such as a hospital or grocery store, while the upper one is dedicated to various malls and offices. Finally, the top part, covered by a transparent dome, usually hosts entertainment and hydroponics facilities, as well as a gravity generator. This section of the arcology is heavily maintained by the arcology's habitants, with many of them coming to do volunteer work here due to the section's importance to the arcology as a whole.

Almost all of the major arcologies on Mars are concentrated around liquid water. Because of the unique mineral content of Martian soil, unfiltered Martian water is incredibly acidic and unsafe to drink. Very few fish can survive in the Martian lakes and seas, and none of them safe to eat or fish.

Two centuries later, however, obvious problems with these designs have come to light. Stacking thousands of tiny apartments into a relatively small space has led to the structures being nigh impossible to navigate without a GPS or decades of experience, which especially cripples the local law enforcement. The cramped flats often do not possess basic necessities such as kitchens or bathrooms, and later attempts to expand upon them have made the complexes into ugly, over-engineered structures that require almost constant maintenance. Because only the outer part can be built upon, the verge apartments tend to be the most expensive to live in.

As such, insides of the complexes are dimly lit, grim places with low quality of life. This is very starkly contrasted by Mars being incredibly technologically and economically developed. Workers here often enjoy the highest quality equipment, high salaries and an extremely wide selection of consumer goods. Due to having a Bluespace Gate nearby, Mars is considered to be the center of Sol trade, which has historically attracted a considerable alien population.

Rural Martians

Despite the inhospitable terrain, the deserts around the arcologies are not uninhabited. Boomtowns and villages wax and wane across the surface. Most rural Martians have rejected the daily grind of urban life, preferring to life off the land.

Most rural Martians live in small, sealed biomes. Many of these small towns, usually numbering no more than 20 - 2,000 people, are sponsored by a major corporation and get by on hydroponic farming or mining. Martian tubers, such as potatoes, remain a popular dish in the core worlds as the Martian soil - when removed of toxic elements - gives them a unique flavor.

Rural Martians tend to have a deep connection to the planet and its soil. The appreciation for the harsh environment has bred a population of rugged survivalists. This is compounded by their lack of access to gravity generators; many rural Martians try to raise money to send pregnant, young, or growing family members to the arcologies. Those that stay behind adopt a vigorous culture of physical fitness as they try to stave off the developmental issues associated with low gravity. Some of the rural Martians are people exiled from the arcology for offences of varying gravity, as the punishment systems vary widely from arcology to arcology.

Despite the harsh and arid environment, many urban areas have developed.

Culture

Mars is home to the Sol cultural underground. In the latest centuries, the more prominent celebrities began to avoid the planet in favor of moving to and giving performances on Venus and Biesel. Instead, the unique Martian scene flourishes here. The most common themes in works of art are politics, standing up against the authorities and the absurdity of the modern world, and simply musings on the Martian life - especially of the poor.

The tensions combined with the planet’s wildly different features and cultural mindsets have, over centuries, produced cultures and traditions unique to Mars. Even today, some of many culture groups on Mars still keep to old traditions that have all but disappeared on Earth. Many Martians take pride in this, believing that Mars holds a unique connection to humanity in its pure state.

A majority of Martian artists aim to create art that is serious, often experimental in nature, and is not intended to appeal to the mainstream audience. This movement is called egait ztush, which roughly translates from Freespeak as “higher forms”.

A less popular movement is ktipita, translated simply as “plainness”. Fiction, music and film of this genre aims to simply encapsulate “life as it is”, being extremely grounded and dealing with very simple stories and concepts that an average Martian can relate themselves to, with the occasional folk motif.

In the recent decades, Martian culture has received strong Skrellian influences. Themes of synthetic uprisings and the Cassandra metaphor have caught on very well with Martian artists, given the planet’s history with cyborgs. A lot of Skrell writers and directors have worked here with human actors and cinematographers on various egait ztush films, usually producing works with extremely complex and convoluted, yet surprisingly consistent plot lines.

History

Early Colonization

Despite Mars being a barren planet, a mixture of desperate living conditions on Earth and a bold commitment to exploration and colonization caused it to experience small scale colonization in the 2100's. After the terraforming efforts of 2200 began and with the discovery of massive fossil fuel deposits (therefore confirming Mars once held life), optimistic nations and corporations attempted to set up a foothold on it, causing tens of thousands of colonists to arrive during the first waves. After it became clear that Mars would remain hostile for quite some time, was passed over for more suitable, distant worlds for a long period, leaving the original settlers to etch out a meager life. The byproduct of this is that many issues, national and cultural that plagued humanity at those times were brought over to the Red Planet, causing tensions between its inhabitants and new settlers. Despite the one world government of the Alliance, individual nations on Earth would finance and support colonies on Mars, pitting them against one another. Wars between the colonies, although rare, were not unheard of. The ones that survived have long since grown into large, independent arcologies, which are for the most part friendly competitors under the watchful eye of Sol Alliance.

The fossil fuels found on Mars were quickly put to use. Power plants, large factory complexes were constructed outside the arcologies, and the planet was becoming industrialized, which later on played into the terraforming process of the planet. Most of construction was done by crew-operated behemothian industrial machines(around the size of modern-day bucket-wheel excavators), which are still used to this day for work outside the domes. Mostly Cyborgs and programmed robots worked in these buildings outside the safety of the arcologies, until later on when the planet's atmosphere stabilized in 2400.

History of Terraforming

Terraforming process started during the late part of the 22nd century, as massive terraformers designed to turn Mars’ natural minerals into gasses and legions of cyborgs were put into action. The idea was to replicate the Global Warming process humans have inadvertently done on Earth, but in a more controlled environment with goals of increasing both air pressure and temperature. The process was incredibly slow and expensive, and dogged by a major catastrophe in 2298 that nearly ended the entire process and caused untold amounts of human suffering and economic damage.

Although controversial for both its cost and dangers, the terraforming project of Mars is considered a success. The air is still toxic, but it effectively raised Mars' near zero pressure to slightly tolerable, along with the average temperature. Furthermore, the vast amounts of polarized iron dust now flowing around the planet’s lower orbit has created for a makeshift electromagnetic shield, reducing harmful radiation by a large degree. Efforts are being made to maintain it. This difference meant that by 2400 a space suit was no longer needed to traverse its surface. Instead, pressure suits or thick clothing, along with eye, mouth and ear protection are enough to stop the worst effects of low pressure environment. Single-cellular life has prospered as well, due to a atmosphere now rich with organic particles. Due to this, Mars is slowly losing its famous red color.

Mars has a relatively long history of colonization, as well as destructive events. This has resulted in many colonies, facilities and arcology covering the wastes of the planet. One such arcology was Divitae, an independent mining colony established during the early gold rush that failed because of aging storms and lack of funds for redevelopment.

During the period of terraforming, Mars received an immense number of Cyborgs to serve as its workforce. In the late part of the 22nd century, Humanity has achieved the ability to produce heavy cyborgs. Being able to function and work freely in the harsh environment, Martian terraforming firms pressed for more and more cyborg workers, but volunteers for this process were few and far between due to the risks around the procedure. Eventually, to meet demand, cyborgification was implemented as capital punishment for crimes, less and less severe as time passed. In total, between 2204, when the implementation of cyborgs started, and 2260, when it stopped, over 35 million cyborgs have been sent to Mars as serve as workforce. The terraforming project started to backfire soon after.

The extent of the crimes Martians caused, as well other problems the synthetics caused, resulted in an overall negative view of AIs and cyborgification among the populace. Sometime after, Mars Senate constructed a large monumental graveyard for victims of forced cyborgification sometimes refered to CyTomb. Cyborgs and cyborgification are banned in several larger arcologies such as Crest Olympia, Greater London, Elysium and Red Gaia.

The Catastrophe of 2298

The first of two major catastrophes in Martian history was the abrupt failure of its terraforming infrastructure in the winter of 2298. The entire infrastructure was linked to a single network, which suffered a serious melt-down as a result of human error. The network either shut down areas of terraforming or spit out wild algorithms that put the entire project into a tailspin. The network was restored after several days, but the result was catastrophic swings in the climate. For the next 10 years Mars experienced climactic storms that severely damaged or even destroyed arcologies and utterly wiped out smaller settlements. The atmosphere was flooded with excessive C02 that smothered people in the open without internals. Billions of credits of property damage was recorded, and millions were killed as a direct result of the disaster. It was estimated to have put back terraforming efforts by a century.

Despite the damages, an investigation by SolGov saw only three technicians arrested, and all three were later acquitted despite anger and protest from the Martian population.

In modern times, the ruins of arcologies lost to the catastrophe remain popular spots for scavengers, explorers, and tourists. The polar canyon regions of Mars started to serve as scrapyard for obsolete and/or abandoned machinery. Starting in the early 2370s, megacorporations began to dispose of their obsolete lineups by storing them in gargantuan “lots” for later retrieval when the manpower needed to sustain them returned. This would never be the case, and for years to come other megacorporations would do the same in haphazardly tossing their waste electronics into the canyon regions as time went along. In 2405, definitive action was taken to prevent the excessive usage of this disposal, and it quickly halted. What was left were what would be referred to as the Metal Dunes of Mars, endless electronic scrapheaps as far as the eye could see.

The Martian World War

Considering Mars' strong ties with Earth governments and its dependence on Sol Fleets, Mars never had unified interests or tools to openly fight against the Sol Government during the First Interstellar War. Despite this, many Martians felt sympathetic to the Coalition of Colonies, as they felt they shared the resentment towards a growing, imperialist oppression within the Alliance.

In the early stages of the war in 2278, the Alliance quickly pressed the small Martian self-defense force into service, merging the tiny Martian fleet into the Alliance navy. Factions on Mars, which began calling themselves the Red Coalition, began rallying popular and political support. They had many reasons to desire independence from the Alliance, which had shown casual disregard for Mars. Financially backed by the The Coalition of Colonies (CoC), on 18th of January, 2279, many Martian nations seceded from Sol Alliance and launched a coordinated, surprise attack on the rest of Mars.

The loyalist arcologies became known as the Sol Coalition, or more popularly, the Blues.

With the mighty fleets of the Alliance out fighting in the frontier, the Blue Coalition saw very little material aid from the Alliance. Red Rangers, special forces under the Red Coalition, seized lightly defended orbital Alliance military stations, including nuclear-equipped missile platforms. The Red Coalition threatened to use these weapons on any planet or fleet that attempted to intervene, effectively isolating Mars and throwing it into a Cold War with Earth.

As military conventions prohibited direct bombing of population centers, the Red conquest consisted of prolonged sieges while unrest, terrorist attacks and counter-offensives began to sap their ability to wage war. In the face of growing losses, the leadership of the Red Coalition gained the dubious honor of being the second nation in human history to use nuclear weapons in warfare. In 2284, the Red Coalition arcology of Terra Nova, facing capitulation in the face of advancing Blue forces, successfully appealed to an orbital missile platform to launch a nuclear missile on a nearby Blue arcology of New Dresden in an attempt to turn the tide of war.

This action immediately fractured the entire Red Coalition, with most of its members reeling from the action. Within days the majority of arcologies in the Red Coalition abandoned the alliance, and within weeks the remainder had surrendered.

The Treaty of Olympus was signed on 5th of April, 2284 featuring unconditional surrender of remaining Red Coalition states. The Alliance, negotiating on behalf of the loyalist Blues, used the treaty to place harsh restrictions on Mars. The entire planet was disarmed and all factions on it surface were banned from fielding a standing army, navy, or engaging in armed conflicts with one another. In addition, the planet was put under "indefinite" martial law, with an Alliance Admiral permanently stationed in orbit of the planet to enforce indirect martial law, overriding any local laws or ordinances.

Economy and Government

Economy

Mars' economy is developed and mixed, with it's largest industries being orbital construction, mining, refining, energy and a small but rapidly growing hydroponics industry. Mars also enjoys being the center of Sol trade, being a major contributor to Sol's fossil fuel industry not to mention over 40% of Sol's trade at some point passing through the planet or one of its stations, due in no small part to the Bluespace Gate near the planet.

Low gravity and favorable air drag allow for cheap and efficient landings by shuttles, allowing shuttle traffic to far surpass what just the planet's space elevators would allow. Low gravity allows constructions of space elevators at larger longitudes Mars as compared to Earth, this, combined with amount of space trade the planet receives, has shifted center of planets economy into planetary orbit. The port arcologies are as such, by far the wealthiest. The richest and most developed is Olympia, which is often thought of as the center of Mars.

Government

Mars has a system of government almost as complex, antiquated, and corrupt as the political system of Earth. Many different types of governments either based on practicality or tradition are in practice, even some tiny monarchies and theocracies. Some mega-arcologies have ruling bodies consisting of representatives from various city sectors or biodomes. However, Mars has its own planetary representing body composed of representatives scaled according to population of the territorial bodies, with each having their own method of election: The Martian Senate.

The Mars Senate has large power concerning decisions that affect the planet as a whole, but little to no power over internal politics of the various self-proclaimed countries. It is located in arcology of Olympia, within the Galle Crater Terraformed Zone, but a majority of senior administration facilities and personnel reside in orbit on New Concordia station in orbit. The 464 member senate is meant to meet four times a year but rarely meets quorum (232) more than once.

Gangs of Mars

Due to the biodome design, Mars “enjoys” incredibly low police coverage and the highest crime rate of any Sol Alliance planet. Many organized criminal organizations have sprung up here, from simple street gangs to wealthy criminal syndicates. The latter are simply accepted as a fact of life by the authorities, and are considered to be semi-legitimate. In return, Martian criminal organizations readily cooperate with the local government - from fighting the street criminals to even helping fund various projects

Nowadays, the martian gang landscape is not in its prime. Although bickering over territory is, as always, very common, the last really major attack on civillians happened about ten years ago. In general, the major gangs currently are more occupied with fighting each other, and are largely introverted.

The War Heads

Dating all the way back to 2284, this group initially consisted of young people in the far outskirts of New Dresden, who were made jobless by the sudden nuclear attack on the center of the arcology. In ensuing political chaos, it was easy for even an ill-equipped gang with few members to quickly seize power in the criminal underworld, staggering as well after the, arguably, most prominent crime lord at the time, Hugo Stein, died in the explosion. Their significant doings include kidnapping the mayor of Olympia, Terry Woodworkers, in 2301.

They were previously signified by wearing yellow-black clothing. Their hand sign is extending the index finger of the right hand upwards and pinching the end of it with the index finger and the thumb of the left hand, making a simplistic gesture roughly resembling a mushroom cloud.

Since almost two centuries have passed, the gang is currently mostly stagnant. It's in heated rivalry with the Boys. It engages in small-scale drug production and dealing and extortion of small businesses, and occupies territories as far as from Bova to Stapledon, even though the density of gang members in these areas varies significantly.

The Shuttleyard Boys aka "The Boys"

In 2449, a couple of Warheads known as Sludge and Tulip suddenly turned on their allies at an abandoned shuttle factory, graffiting over the Warheads logo with a one unheard of before. Tulip died in a skirmish that came afterwards. The word spread, and shortly afterwards, a new gang was born as many flocked to a new side. Sludge was proven to be a very capable leader with strong connections in the underworld, and the gang's territory expanded quickly.

However, the gang would only truly make itself known in 2450. After Aoina's police force intervened in a yet another huge fight between the two major gangs over an abandoned laser weapon factory, the Boys were forced to lose. However, Sludge was not going to let this slide. Just two weeks afterwards, the gang made a surprise attack on Aoina's police force headquarters itself. Their weaponry was extremely nonconventional, but terrifyingly effective against the woefully underequipped policemen, which forced the Martian military to engage the gangsters. Although many were arrested, they were all discovered to be new to the gang and low in rank, with the leaders and the organizers mysteriously vanishing from the scene. After this embarassment, the remaining police force in Aoina received significant reinforcements, including military-grade weaponry. The sole act of stating that you belong to a gang became a severe crime.

Their clothing is traditionally gray and blue, like a shuttle's typical insides. However, it is not usually worn due to the police specifically targeting young people wearing clothes of gang colors.

The rivalry with the Warheads is still heated. The Boys' specialization is gun trafficking. From Aoina, they have mostly expanded to the north, up to and including Capon and Nycatlope.

The Providence

A closely knit group originally borne in the mines of Divitae. A small group of young boys collectively shared what they called a religious awakening. An unorthodox cult was born, as the members claimed that some "dark deity" told them to commit crimes in their name; to sow chaos and stand on top. Some of these crimes are religious in nature, such as vandalizing churches and setting fire to places of worship, while others are more selfish in nature, such as muggings and harassment. Members are also known to partake in ghost mushrooms, which are infamously hallucinogenic.

Members traditionally wear full body, all black clothing with some kind of mask, covering up as much as possible to look anonymous and faceless compared to one another.

The Providence has a noticeably diverse population of followers compared to other gangs originating on Mars, which is attributed to the ambiguity of their "dark deity" and how they apply it to other species beliefs. They've always been seen as an odd one out compared to the War Heads and the Shuttleboys. Although they've had relatively little territory compared to the other two largest gangs, their markings have also been noted in a couple locations in Tau Ceti, lending credence to a possibility they are migrating elsewhere, perhaps in search of new territory.