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 had a stable population of 4.5 billion people, and its current population is estimated to be anywhere from 1.5 to 2 billion. Around 4% of the population is non-human, a significant reduction caused by the Third Tajara Deportation Act and the Violet Dawn catastrophe (Mars’ non-human population previously stood at 12%). 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. Many regions also suffer from airborne phoron contamination, adding further danger to already hazardous activities outside arcologies.
Until recently an Alliance fleet remained in orbit of Mars at all times, ensuring that the planet remains disarmed and free of armed disputes. Following the so-called “Violet Dawn” explosion in 2462, Mars now finds itself worse-off than ever before; in the wake of an ecological catastrophe and plagued by unrest and violence.
While Martians may have previously been divided into urban and rural demographics the catastrophic aftermath of Violet Dawn has rent these past divisions asunder. With millions - perhaps billions - dead in the disaster and its immediate aftermath, billions displaced, and millions having fled the planet Martian demographics have permanently - and irreversibly - changed. For the sake of convenience, the two primary Martian ethnic groups prior to Violet Dawn are listed below.
The Urban Martians
The vast majority of the 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. Many of these arcologies were destroyed or abandoned during the Violet Dawn catastrophe, with some now serving as little more than mass graves for their previous residents, the arcologies now twisted and warped by the heat of phoron fires.
All surviving arcologies on Mars are concentrated around liquid water. Due to 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. Phoron contamination has worsened the issue following the Violet Dawn explosion, and water has quickly become the most important resource on Mars - to the point where small-scale “wars” are fought between surviving arcologies over it. The largest source of surviving drinking water is the northern ice cap, controlled by what remains of Mars’ Solarian government. Two centuries later, however, obvious problems with arcology 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, let alone amenities, such as kitchens or bathrooms, with later attempts to expand upon them only making the complexes into ugly, over-engineered structures that require almost constant maintenance. Because only the outer part can be built upon, the verge, or “surface,” apartments tend to be the most expensive to live in. The refugee crisis caused by the Violet Dawn catastrophe has only worsened the conditions in many arcologies. Overcrowding, already a typical issue, has skyrocketed out of control to levels only before seen on planets such as Konyang and New Hai Phong. Services are stretched to the very brink in many of Mars’ surviving cities as well, and crime has become an even greater problem, with criminal gangs acting as the de facto authority in many neglected sectors of Martian arcologies . It remains to be seen how much the arcologies of Mars can bend before they break.
Rural Martians, as a demographic, have disappeared in the aftermath of Violet Dawn. For all the pride they held in their sense of self-sufficiency and hardiness, they have been unable to overcome the scorching, toxic aftermath of Violet Dawn. Their hydroponics bays now sit poisoned by phoron, their mines have no markets to export to, and their hamlets have been torn apart by desperate raiders seeking to make off with what supplies they need to survive. Many rural dwellers of Mars have resorted to armed banditry to survive, but most have bitten down on their pride and moved into arcologies - often contributing to already extreme issues of overcrowding. The same traits that made many rural dwells of Mars excellent survivalists - such as their adaptation to the harsh environment of the Martian plains - have made them excellent raiders and bandits in the post-Violet Dawn Martian environment. The reputation of rural Martians as bandits is so widespread that some rural refugees taking shelter in arcologies find themselves brought under suspicion purely by association.
Mars was home to the Sol cultural underground prior to the Violet Dawn catastrophe. The tensions with the greater Solarian Alliance combined with the planet’s wildly different features and cultural mindsets have, over centuries, produced cultures and traditions unique to Mars. Of course, with the damage wrought by the recent catastrophe, high culture has fallen to the wayside in favor of the day-to-day struggle of survival that defines much of life on Mars now. One artistic movement that has endured 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. The simplistic nature of these tales allows them to often be recited orally from books, instead of requiring advanced technologies such as holographic televisions.
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 and skirmishes 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, which are still used to this day in limited capacities for work outside the domes. Primarily 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
The terraforming process started during the late part of the 22nd century, with massive terraformers designed to turn Mars’ natural minerals into gasses and legions of cyborgs 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, until recently, was still slightly 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 created a makeshift electromagnetic shield, reducing harmful radiation by a large degree until it was disrupted by the massive ecological disruption of Violet Dawn. Limited efforts are being made to restore it, but these have mostly been unsuccessful. 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 a low pressure environment. Single-cellular life prospered as well, due to an atmosphere now rich with organic particles, but does no longer due to the wide-spread poisoning of the Martian atmosphere from the fires ignited in the Violet Dawn disaster. Due to this, Mars’ famous red colour has been replaced with patches of black, deep, burned orange, and violet in some places.
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 to serve as a 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 referred to CyTomb. Cyborgification, along with the use 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, with all three 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 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, legal 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 Warr. Despite this, many Martians felt sympathetic to the Coalition of Colonies, as they felt they shared the resentment towards a growing, authoritarian 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. Anti-Solarian factions on Mars calling themselves the Red Coalition began rallying popular and political support based on many “injustices,”committed by the Alliance against the Martian people, an alliance which had also shown casual disregard for Mars. Financially backed by the Coalition of Colonies (CoC), on 18th of January, 2279, many Martian cities 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 aid from the Alliance, material or otherwise. 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 distancing themselves from the action and its perpetrators. 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.
The Violet Dawn Explosion
On the seventh of November, 2462, an unprecedented disaster came to Mars in the form of the Violet Dawn explosion. Initially an attempt by the Sol Alliance to produce synthetic phoron in response to an ongoing phoron shortage crisis, the Violet Dawn program would be remembered for much more. Safety standards were neglected in Violet Dawn facilities, located on Mars’ south pole and as a result, the synthetic phoron grew out of control before igniting. The resulting conflagration completely destroyed the southern pole of Mars, demolished a multitude of arcologies in the southern hemisphere of Mars, and spread toxic - and highly flammable - phoron particles throughout the Martian atmosphere creating massive firestorms the size of entire cities combined. The official death toll of the Violet Dawn catastrophe is unknown - and will likely never truly be known - but is estimated to be in the billions. Billions more were displaced from their arcologies, creating the largest refugee crisis in recent history and straining the already-overburdened government of Mars to its breaking point. The Mars of the post-Violet Dawn Orion Spur now bears little resemblance to what came before, and how the crisis evolves remains to be seen.
Economy and Government
Mars' economy was previously developed and mixed, with its largest industries being orbital construction, mining, refining, energy and a small but rapidly growing hydroponics industry. Mars also enjoyed being a center of trade, prior to the catastrophe on its southern pole. In the post-Violet Dawn environment of Mars, the economic state is most readily described as “imploded.”
With over half of the planet rendered uninhabitable by the aftermath of Violet Dawn and many of its richest cities - such as Olympia - turned into smoldering ruins heavily contaminated by phoron, much of the Martian economy now lies in literal ruins. Even cities not immediately destroyed by the Violet Dawn explosion have been damaged by it, with trace elements of phoron in the air often sparking flash fires around electronics, previously relied upon water sources contaminated by the same phoron that now causes numerous flash fires around Mars’ remaining arcologies, and the contaminated air chokes the engines of shuttles that once enjoyed easy flights through the low gravity of the planet. The wealthiest - and largest - of the remaining arcologies is now Kunlun, the center of the planet’s reigning military government.
While Mars may have, before Violet Dawn, been known for its energy and orbital construction sectors, the most valuable resource on the planet is now something most residents of the Orion Spur take for granted: water. With the secession of Konyang, one of the Solarian Alliance’s primary providers of fresh water, and the destruction of its southern ice cap along with contamination of open-air water sources by airborne phoron, the water situation on Mars has become quite dire. Outside of the military government-controlled northern ice cap and its surrounding arcologies, clean water is typically very hard to come across - in some areas, water is so difficult to find that groups fight for control of it.
The Martian “government,” has been, like its economy, devastated in the aftermath of the Violet Dawn catastrophe. The antiquated, bloated, and corrupt Martian government - with its highly-decentralized nature - was unable to handle the unparalleled crisis posed by the Violet Dawn disaster and quickly collapsed under its own weight, leaving much of the planet without a government beyond surviving local arcologies in the days immediately after the disaster. As the aftermath of Violet Dawn - columns of terrified refugees, imploding economies, and contaminated water - became apparent more and more of these local governments, already stretched thin by widespread civil unrest before the Violet Dawn explosion, began to collapse - thrusting more and more of Mars into a state of anarchy.
With a collapsed civil government and widespread damage due to the Violet Dawn explosion, much of Mars exists in a governmentless anarchy where the strongest group (generally the group with the most guns) rules over a petty statelet. The one region of the planet with a semblance of traditional authority is the Alliance of Sovereign Solarian Nations’ Provisional Government of Mars (ASSN-PGM), a military-led transitional authority that controls the largest remaining non-contaminated drinking water source on Mars: the northern ice cap. The ASSN-PGM is led by the recently-promoted Governor-General Tereza Varzieva from her headquarters in the newly-unified Kunlun and represents the only government officially recognized by the greater Solarian Alliance. The military government also controls some of the only functional shuttleports on Mars, with southern ports often having air too contaminated by phoron for typical air and spacecraft to fly. The ASSN-PGM has absolute control over Unified Kunlun, the northern ice cap, Mysteron, Marvinia, Chicago, and Draka - making it the largest single government on the Martian surface by far. While the ASSN-PGM has been referred to as “yet another," example of Solarian repression by some Coalition of Colonies member states, its region is - in part due to one advantage it has over other warlords: orbital naval support - the most stable on Mars and, if the Governor-General plays her cards right, may be the red planet’s best chance for a return to normalcy. Of course, they may also simply be a new form of Solarian control over the red planet.
The anarchic “states” that can be found across the rest of Mars are even more diverse than the eclectic governments that preceded them. Many are simply bandit states run by local strongmen - often former gang leaders - that enforce their rule by force of arms and nothing more. Others are the vestigial remains of what were once local governments on Mars, such as the city councils of arcologies that have managed to hang onto their immediate domains. A few, such as those arcologies in the hazard zone unlucky enough to not have been immediately destroyed, have no authority at all. The most common form of “government” on Mars is a syncretic mix of the gangs that once dominated Martian arcologies and the corrupt government officials that turned a blind eye to their activities. Now, with no external government to hold themselves accountable to, Martian gangs and their allies in the remains of Mars’ arcologies are experiencing a new golden age of hedonism and power while the planet burns around them. As the situation on Mars worsens day by day, its warlords seem all too willing to throw gas upon the fire - to let the whole planet burn, consequences be damned.
Major Martian Remnants
Crest Olympia was, until the establishment of the ASSN-PGM government zone, the seat of government on Mars following the immediate aftermath of the Violet Dawn explosion. However the arcology’s status as the most important city on Mars was not to last for long as the capital was shortly transferred to the newly-unified Kunlun. Now, stripped of Sol Alliance patrols and facing a mounting refugee crisis, Crest Olympia struggles to remain a functional arcology in the Martian anarchy. One bright spot in the darkness is the arcology’s good relations with the remaining government forces on Mars, which often send cargo shuttles laden with direly needed humanitarian supplies to its still functional ports.
Red Gaia was, prior to the Violet Dawn catastrophe, an arcology that proudly rejected the Sol Alliance in its official rhetoric. Its government, having witnessed the seeming abandonment of Martians by Sol following the catastrophe, threw open its doors for any and all refugees that could prove their loyalty to Mars above their loyalty to the Alliance. This stance, coupled with the arcology’s almost fanatical dedication to broadcasting it, has been disastrous for it. With an extremely overtaxed government, huge overcrowding, and absolutely no outside assistance arriving from other arcologies, Red Gaia, despite its dedication to Martian nationalism, is expected to collapse under its own weight within months if not weeks.
Unified Kunlun, previously known as Kunlun and Free Kunlun, is the technical capital of Mars and the planetside headquarters of the ASSN-PGM. Both arcologies were torn apart by civil unrest as a result of the Third Tajara Ban and placed under martial law in the days leading up to the Violet Dawn explosion. In a twisted way, this allowed the arcologies to weather the effects of the catastrophe better than perhaps any other arcology on Mars. Unified Kunlun, thanks to its location in the far north of Mars, has no overcrowding or refugee issues and is one of the few locations where shuttles travel freely between space and the Martian surface. If not for the large numbers of Solarian troops in the arcologies, or the fact that most tajara have disappeared to repatriation centers, life would seem almost normal here.