As Petresun's Empire raised its shining towers and monuments, colonies on Mars, Venus, the asteroid belt, Europa, Io, and Titan toiled to provide for the Emperor's military. Colonists were independent people used to hardship and sacrifice, but Terrans stereotyped them as ignorant rustics. When discontent first stirred on Mars, Petresun allowed his Imperial Police to crack down hard. It proved a costly mistake.
The Fire devastated colonial humanity. On Venus, surviving settlements fought each other for food
and parts. On Mars, destruction of terraforming apparatus cooled the planet by several degrees, and
Martians faced starvation. Luna and the belt colonies simply perished.
Venus was a graveyard. Lack of supplies weakened the colonists to exhaustion. They struggled to maintain equipment needed to keep their bulkheads instact. The absence of help from Earth embittered Venusians, who had watched loved ones die during a time when it was technically possible for rescue forms from Earth to provide assistance.
The war wrecked the fledgling Martian ecology. Survivors suffered battle-shock. Food was scarce. Desperate colonists focused on food production and repair of atmospheric converters. Earth offered no aid, despite numerous pleas for help. Thousands starved. But Martians gained strength from their trials. They dug in and rebuilt, all the while watching Terran broadcasts that celebrated victory over Prometheus and the establishment of a "Great Human Empire."
The only ark to survive The Fire, Sa Thauri held a legion of ghosts. Monuments to the dead were everywhere, from small, acid wormed statues in alcoves to antique chambers marked with graffiti. Sa Thaurians took pride in being from "the toughest rathole on Venus."
When help came at last in the 2660s, the colonists nevertheless welcomed their "rescuers" eagerly.
However, these sentiments changed as corporations reclaimed old territory without regard to colonial
efforts, as new police settled in under the Emperor's authority, and as Terran workers streamed in
to work the mines. Stunned colonists quickly grew resentful of "dirtborn" arrogance, and the
immigrants eventually adopted native views as they, too, suffered Imperial prejudice.
But Earth desperately needed raw material, so Venus and Mars once again boomed. As arks and atmospheric converters went up again, however, colonial veterans of The Fire quietly stockpiled equipment, food, and weapons. They taught their children the true lesson of the Cybrid Wars: Dirtborn could not be trusted. Earth would forsake the colonies again.
With grains only microns in diameter, dust got into everything on Mars. Martians used "dust" as a cussword, and Martians were typically called "dusters."
From their beginnings, colonists developed a love-hate relationship with Earth, a cantankerous
distrust of authority mixed with a certain yearning for the rich sophistication of the Earthborn.
Before The Fire
Martian terraforming began in the 25th centure. A consortium of mining interests built great processing cities and spaceports. Chinese settlers remained few, since Feng Shui reading Mars were ominous. Conversely, PacRim and NAP efforts blossomed into numerous small domed towns and underground communities.
Only when the extent of Venus's wealth became evident did corporations encourage full colonization. Venusians congregated into arcologies, or "arks," communal settlements designed with massive bulkheads against the Venusian environment. The Oberwind made shipping offworld expensive, so corporate sponsors constructed surface refineries. Excellent hazard pay made Venus attractive. It became a haven for independent souls seeking to found new societies. Arks developed different laws and customs, but corporations paid little attention so long as profits remained high.
Imperial governors easily saw that "native" Martians thought little of the Empire. When Martians
tried to obtain an independent seat on the Imperial Council in 2697, the Emperor rejected the
petition. Colonists shrugged and began to restock their hidden tunnels. Tensions between dusters and
dirtborn stayed quiet until 2770.
In the meantime, a stereotype of Martian duster evolved in the Terran mind: crude, hard-working, tough as nails, and independent. "Dustbunny" or "dustsquatter" became perjorative ways of referring to Mars natives, often linked to a demaning view of Martians talents for scrounging and salvage. The dusters gritten their teeth and became more distant and laconic toward their Imperial cousins
These heavy cloaks contained onboard heating units to protect against the Martian chill, as well as special static chargers to deflect the ever-present dust.
During The Fire's years of solitude behind creaking steel and metaplas bulkheads, Venusians learned
to distract themselves with drama and poetry. After the Empire reestablished contact, Venusians
continued to create. Theaters, salons, and literary academies blossomed in the arks, as the hellish
planet became a haven for artists seeking inspiration.
The well continued to deepen. Venusian art rocketed upward with the release of The Long Wait, a docudrama of The Fire that swept all major awards in 2752. The haunting music of Heinrich Salis enchanted millions with sound sculptures laid over the acid hiss of the Venusian atmosphere. The salons glittered with genius. Pale young men and women - "kerls" and "deerns" - sipping strong coffee in cramped Venusian cafes and arguing over poetry came to epitomize Imperial cool.
Because of enormous atmospheric pressure, Venusian workers wore massive hard-shelled spacesuits that resembled deep-sea diving rigs. Exoskeletal boosters assisted wearer movement and mechanical hands manipulated tools.
The Colony Moons
Though less populated, the various moon colonies developed distinctive cultures. Luna became known for its mining, its military bases, and a resort town called Arx Imbrium, the Citadel of Dreams.
Operating under Imperial charter, Arx Imbrium was a domed city filled with post hotels, low-gravity sports, pleasure arenas, and gambling.
Europa and Titan held extensive mining colonies, inhabitants usually working brutal two-year shifts before returning to Terran sapce for a year. Several research stations used these colonies for supply centers. In addition, Titan hosted a docking station for TDF's Long Patrol, the long-haul naval squadron that patrolled deep space for signs of Cybrid activity.
Titan, Io and Europa were the farthest settlements established by humanity. The Emperor provided police more to back up corporate law than any Imperial law. Off-duty miners spent much of their time drinking in seedy company taverns and gambling. Corporate executives, on the other hand, lived in luxurious orbital accomodations, heavily shielded against radiation.
In 2770, Petresun proclaimed that the Empire would fortify only Earth and Luna. The Fortification
Proclamation cited the impossibility of mounting a defensive perimeter in the bastness of space as
the reason for concentrating military assets around Earth. Imperial Security tightened its grip via
curfews, routine identity checks, and new methods of "immediate adjudication."
Tight-lipped Martians protested this loss of liberty. Even as the Emperor rejected Martian demands to loosen the Proclamation's restrictions, secret cells of resistance formed on the red planet. These eventually fell into two groups: the Martian Liberation Front, which focused on killing "Imperial oppressors," and the Free Martian Alliance, which aimed to disrupt the Imperial economy.
As Martian effort earned increasingly less return, the resistance began to steal and stockpile weapons, food, and vehicles. In 2815 armed cells carried out the first attacks on Terran corporations and Imperial Police installations. The Empire dismissed these events as the actions of a few terrorists. Nevertheless, the "moles," as the rebels came to be known, continued to strike and withdraw into the old tunnels. Many of these tunnels had been forgotten since The Fire - except to descendants of the survivors.
As civil unrest increasd, so did Imperial Police power. In 2821, the Emperor granted Police Security Chief Navarre full governing authority over Mars. SecChief pursuit drove rebels to dig new tunnels and hiding places, closing off some old routes and reopening others. Cat and mouse games had returned to Mars.
Rebels adapted labor vehicles for combat using a patchwork of stolen Imperial equipment, parts scavenged from Fire-era Cybrids, and exotic components from the alien cache. Clunky loaders ,drillers, and dozers lacked the sophistication and agility of TDF gear, but proved remarkably durable in the field.
The Proclamation also hit Venus hard. Low prices cut wages and reduced funding to the arks. The
Empire sent in BioDerm labor when miners tried to strike. BioDerms were incorruptible, hard-working,
and cheap, efficient replacements for disgruntled "Veens." The salons rustled with anger, and
Imperial Police arrested the boldest critics.
Prisons were rare on Venus; the Police way of dealing with criminals was summary justice, usually chemical incarceration, and serious crimes carried sentences of BioDerm conversion. Venusians were furious as their own people became Imperial drones. Music out of the arks of Dante, Shelley, Faustus, and Byron became explosively strident. The Police rounded up dissident musicians and artists, the Empire's tolerance of Veen radicalism having clearly reached an end.
In 2820, Harabec Weathers began his self-imposed exile on Mars. Taking the name "Bek Storm," he put
his personal equipment in storage and proceeded to wander the planet. He worked a variety of jobs
without complaining at the often hard labor, and his easygoing attitude won the respect of the
For Bek, it was a journey of discovery. He saw much that he liked in the Martian character, and his lingering Imperial loyalties faded as he witnessed the repressive tactics of the Imperial Police. By 2824, he had joined a cell in the Free Martian Alliance. His quick mind and Imperial training made him an invaluable assets, and he passed test after test set for him by a dubious Mole Command.
In 2826, rebel miners investigated unusual reading from the bedrock many kilometers beneath Olympus
Mons. At the locus of the anomaly, the team found the unthinkable: a treasure trove of advanced
technology not matching any known human manufacture or science. The storage chamber itself added to
the mystery, appearing to thave been created through some miracle of surgical teleportation.
When the shock wore off, rebel scientists cautiously examined the technology. Despite apparently alien origin, the technology proved easily adapted to human use, almost as if it was left expressly for humans to discover. Religious dusters praised the find as a sign of divine favor.
More skeptical rebels feared they had stumbled upon a Cybrid cache. Pragmatic above all, Mole
Command authorized conversion of the "alien" technology for combat purposes. The task proved
Field testing still posed a challenge. Bek, now a rebel field officer, took charge of testing new weapons, cloaking, and propulsion systems. He proposed that "space raiders" pirate Imperial cargo drones and shipping. The rebels could stockpile supplies while shaking down the new gear. Mole Command agreed; "Bek's Raiders" operated unscathed through 2827. The new tech worked flawlessly. The biggest problem was underestimating the new weapons' power. Additionally, the cache was a finite resource so later problems involved rationing components, since the rebels were years away from being able to manufacture new parts.
By 2828, Bek Storm had risen to Mole Command and a general's duties. At this urging, Mole Command
prepared a massive offensive against the Imperial Police. As preparations continued through the last
months of 2828, Bek secretly distributed cache weaponry to rebel cells on Venus, Luna, the Jovian
colonies, and Titan.
Cautious forays by rebel strike crews drew out the Police, who expected no serious resistance. Bek's irregulars met them with innovative tactics made uncannily effective by cache technology. Stung, the Imperials pulled back to their bases. Very quickly, the rebels came to own the hinterlands and outback areas.
As the skirmishes against the Police waxed and waned, Mole Command waited.The plan was to launch Yoke Offensive once the relative orbits of Earth and Mars made transport of relief forces from Earth increasingly difficult. As zero hour approached, cache technology permitted rebel forces to creep into attack positions undetected by Imperial satellites.
Yoke Offensive began when Bek used stolen artillery to flatten the defenses of an Imperial
communications array. Bek linked his comm system to the base antenna and broadcast a short speech in
which he revealed his true identity as the Imperial Knight "Phoenix," and challenged the Empire to
accept Martian independence. The rebels themselves were shocked at first, but rallied quickly behind
The Empire responded by mobilizing its Fleet at record speed. Led by Harabec's brother, Caanon, the Knight strikeforce Red Whirlwind set out a month after Harabec's Phoenix Declaration. The Imperial fleet followed two months later.
On Mars, the rebels continued to advance on all fronts. The Imperial Police retreated to Carter Flats, their main base in the Southern Hemisphere. There the rebels closed in with crack troops. SecChief Navarre was executed by zealots from the Martian Liberation Front before Harabec could intervene.
Mars was free... for the moment. Heartened by news of the Martian victory, rebels on Venus and Titan rose up, and the Empire found itself facing a systemwide revolt. Harabec urged the new Martian government to keep the celebration short; Imperial reprisal was on the way. The rebels began to dig in.
The colonists on Venus, the Jovian satellites, and Titan drew heart and inspiration from Harabec's words, but the Emperor was furious, and for the first time in centuries, he allowed his anger to usurp his better judgment. He ordered the entire Imperial Fleet to Mars. The Knights, led by a vengeful Caanon, would precede the main force by several months. Thus was the way to Earth left open.
Caanon and his Knights dropped onto Mars within an hour of hitting orbit. Harabec struck
immediately; both sides suffered heavy casualties. The brothers engaged each other inconclusively.
The rebels had a huge technological edge, but the Knights were seasoned soldiers, far superior to
With Harabec leading them, the rebels held their own for weeks. But when the Imperial fleet entered Mars orbit, Caanon let the Knights show their true capabilities. Dismayed rebels fell back, pursued by a vengeful Caanon. Confident in their Fleet's support, the Knights overextended their supply lines.
Then the unthinkable happened. The Fleet mysteriously withdrew. Chaos broke out as TDF scrubbed
landing missions and Knights received grabled orders to retreat.
Caanon's supply lines vanished overnight. The rebel army surged back. His command in shamble, Caanon cobbled together a rear guard to cover the rout. Beleagured Swords stumbled to safety as Caanon bought time. The Grand Master's group failed to escape, however, and the final lander departed departed without Caanon. Stunned at the abrupt reversal of fortune, surrounded by hostile rebels, yet seeking an explanation for these events, Caanon finally surrendered to Harabec. The Phoenix had conquered the Icehawk.