By Blake Hutchins
A Brief Description of Mars
Gravity = 0.37 G
Escape Velocity (m/sec) = 5000 (mph) = 11,185
Equatorial Diameter (miles) = 4,217
Average distance from Sun (AU) = 1.524
Rotation period (length of day in Earth days) = 1.026
Rotation period (length of day in hours) = 24 hours, 39 minutes, some seconds
Revolution period (length of year in Earth days) = 686.98
Revolution period (length of year in Martian sols) = ~668
Highest point on surface = Olympus Mons (about 24 km above surrounding lava plains)
Atmosphere: Terraforming has changed the Martian atmosphere drastically. Basically, it’s now about 20% Oxygen, 70% Nitrogen. The atmospheric converters maintain it at earth normal levels.
Air pressure: In 2829, the base air pressure level is equivalent to the high country around Telluride. On the Tharsis bulge, it is equivalent to the Andean highlands. Martian atmospheric converters are still crucial to maintaining and building the Martian atmosphere. People cannot go far up mountains without suffering from altitude sickness. Olympus Mons and the Tharsis Montes, naturally, requires vacc suits before one can reach the higher slopes.
Land area is about equal to Earth, since although Mars is about 22% the size of Earth, the lack of oceans makes up for the size difference. The creation of lakes as part of the terraforming is reducing the land area gradually.
Hydrologic Cycle: The hydrologic cycle on Mars has been profoundly altered as a result of the terraforming. Basically, there are oases by 2829, plus some small lakes at the lower elevations. Rain rarely occurs in the higher areas such as the Tharsis Bulge. The prevailing climate is high desert.
Surface Water: Still small, but approaching 4% of the total surface area by 2829, mostly in small lowland lakes, mostly concentrated in the Syrtis region.
The Martian solar day is called a “sol.” The Martian year, for Starsiege purposes, is 668 sols long. It can be divided into 24 months of four seven-sol weeks.
The names for the sols of the week are derived from Earth’s. Just for kicks:
|Terran Day||Martian Sol
GEOGRAPHY of MARS
• CYDONIA & THE FACE OF HUNTER:
The Face in the Cydonia region is an artifact many believe could not have occurred via natural causes. The Church of the Masters’ Return has established a settlement near the Face, believing it to be created by the enigmatic “Masters” from the Devastation period at the beginning of the millennium. The location of the rebel cache is directly below the “crosshairs” formation in this region. No mining occurs here, which is why the rebels ran tunnels into it. Cydonia is located just south of the Kulkovsky site north of Arabia Terra in the middle of the map toward the top.
• NOCTIS LABYRINTHUS:
An incredible maze of canyons and gorges located at the head of the Valles Marineris.
• OLYMPUS MONS:
Tallest mountain in the solar system. Martians usually refer to it as Big Nix, since its original name was Nix Olympica, the Snows of Olympus. Olympus Mons is about 25 km tall, but has a base of over 600 km. The average slope works out to about six degrees.
• SINAI PLANUM:
Also known as “Stormland,” this area is famous for its fierce dust storms, which have become more severe as the atmosphere thickens. Think big sand dunes with rocks sticking out of ‘em.
• SYRTIS MAJOR PLANUM:
This is where the comet “Noah” was dropped in the early terraforming stage in 2504. The impact left an enormous depression in the middle of the planum and rained debris over most of the hemisphere.
• THARSIS BULGE:
A bulge of volcanic crust in the Western Hemisphere. Olympus Mons and three other titanic mountains sit atop the Bulge. The crustal thickness under Tharsis is about 70 km, whereas the average thickness elsewhere on Mars is closer to 10 km.
• THARSIS MONTES:
These mountains run in a line along the eastern end of the Bulge, from about seven o’clock south to one o’clock north, in the order below.
• VALLES MARINARIS:
An enormous 5,000 km long network of canyons cutting through the eastern flank of the Bulge, the Valles Marineris contains gorges that would easily swallow the Grand Canyon of Earth. The widest part of the Valles is 200 km wide, meaning that one could stand on one side of the canyon and not see the other side. Some of the canyon walls are over 6 km deep.
• SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE:
In general, the Southern Hemisphere is far dustier, older terrain, pockmarked by craters. The lands that are scarred by wind erosion, meteorite strikes, water erosion, and ejecta from Noah are classified as “scablands.” You’d see scablands in Noachis Terra, which is geographically the oldest region on Mars. However, the dust-ravaged Southern Hemisphere is more likely to have scabland. It’s an evocative term, so let’s use it.
• NORTHERN HEMISPHERE:
The Northern Hemisphere, much younger geographically, has been described as one vast lava flow. Its terrain is marked by enormous volcanic mountains, with fewer craters. It has the amazing Tharsis Bulge, the Valles Marineris, and generally rougher, even more rugged terrain.
• THE POLAR CAPS:
These are considerably diminished by the overall warming and atmospheric changes engendered by the terraforming. Small permanent water caps have emerged at both poles. Probably rough and rocky terrain beneath, like subglacial strata.
NAP and China established permanent colonies and began the terraforming process in 2482. In 2504, the decision was made to drop the comet Erriam D-689 (jokingly nicknamed “Noah”) onto Mars to increase the available water content. After the impact, the colonies spread rapidly, led by mining corporations and research geologists. Chi Xuang and Barsoom Station were the first two permanent settlements. The first decade focused on advanced geologic surveys. As mining began on the Tharsis Bulge, a consortium of mining interests built a great processing city and spaceport east of the Tharsis Tholus, a settlement that became known as Tharsis City. By 2576, the spaceport traffic became so heavy that a new port had to be built some distance away from Tharsis City. This new port, Port Burroughs, received the nickname “Tharkport” from the numerous labor Cybrids used as loaders for the ships. In recent years, it has also been called “Port Skeeter.” China kept its efforts focused on its initial settlements, since Feng shui readings on Mars were quite ominous. Consequently, the PacRim efforts were far more successful and widespread, spearheaded by settlers of Australian descent.
Cybrid military forces were deployed in 2490 as the war economy expands to Mars. Mechanized Cybrid forces sought each other on battlefields far from the human settlements. When The Fire broke out, the Cybrids initially hunted the humans directly, and the first stages of the “MarsSiege” were almost identical to the tragedies being played out on Earth. The Martians retreated to their boltholes, however, and hid in the thousands of kilometers of mining tunnels that veined the planet’s crust. The Cybrids pursued them at first, but as the war dragged on, the machines turned their attention toward destroying the atmospheric converters. The Martians became increasingly desperate as the years passed, and the carefully constructed greenhouse effect began to dissipate.
When Prometheus called back its forces in 2625, the Cybrids were still locked in a “rat-hunt” struggle with the colonists, and had even begun to retool the atmospheric converters to produce poisonous gases in hopes of asphyxiating the stubborn humans. The planet had cooled by several degrees, and conditions for the Martians were brutal. Food was running out, and their hidden gardens were few and far between. When the Cybrids left for Earth, some units remained to carry on the war. Many of these left also, when Prometheus fled Luna toward the outer planets. The few rogue Cybrids that remained were quickly destroyed by the vengeful colonists.
The next twenty some years were very difficult. The Martian economy and fledgling ecology were wrecked. Most of the survivors were battle-shocked. Manufacturing was nearly impossible. The food supply was thin. All available effort went to food production and toward repairing the atmospheric converters. No help came from Earth, despite numerous pleas for assistance. Thousands starved. But the Martians had gained enormous strength from their trials. They dug in and rebuilt. By the time they had recovered enough to do more than scrape a bare living out of the harsh dust of Mars, most had developed a round hatred for Earth. Mater Terra finally responded to the plight of Mars, but not until well after the formation of the Empire. In the meantime, the Martians got their fill of Terran broadcasts celebrating the victory over Prometheus and the establishment of the “Terran” Empire.
When help came at last in 2660, it seemed to the Martians to be in the form of an occupational force. Corporations reclaimed old territory without regard for the colonists who had repaired the equipment there. A police force settled in under Imperial authority. Terran workers streamed in to work the mines. At first, the relative scarcity of labor meant high wages, even with the crush of Terrans. Martian miners profited and began to settle down. Birth rates boomed, spurred by Imperial subsidies. Nevertheless, Martians who had endured the horrors and isolation of The Fire kept a healthy distrust of the interlopers from Mother Earth. The true “dusters” kept the independent spirit of Mars alive, holding “dirtborn” Earthers in contempt.
It became clear to the Imperial Governors that the “native” Martians thought little of the Empire, and that they saw themselves as Martians before they acknowledged the ties to Earth. When Martians tried to obtain an independent seat on the Imperial Council in 2697, the governor supported the mining corporations in their successful effort to defeat that change. Colonists shrugged and quietly and gradually began to restock their hidden tunnels.
Tensions between dusters and dirtborn stayed a part of the background until 2770. When the Fortification Proclamation was issued, the Empire had already been rearming for ten years. The question faced by the Emperor was whether to permit Terran Defense Force resources and manufacturing to go to the colonies. Emperor Petresun chose instead to allocate all defense-related manufacturing to Terran space. Likewise, the logistics of mounting a defensive perimeter in the vastness of space was put forth as a reason for the tight deployment of military assets around Earth and Luna. Colonists protested vehemently, but even while the duster emissaries pleaded their case before the Imperial Council, Imperial Security tightened its grip on Mars. The Imperial Police established curfews, routine identity checks, and new standards for “immediate adjudication.” Tight-lipped Martians protested this loss of liberty, and the more cynical ones began to organize secretly. Even as the Emperor rejected Martian demands to loosen the Proclamation’s restrictions, the first cells of resistance formed on the red planet.
As the Proclamation was implemented, and more and more Martian effort went into less and less return, the resistance began to steal and stockpile weapons, food, and vehicles. The dusters were aided by sympathizers in the Imperial bureaucracy and by Martian clannishness. 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 discontented terrorists, and dramatically increased security. 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 the descendants of The Fire’s survivors.
The Empire countered by sending in great numbers of BioDerms to labor in the mines, displacing the Martian workers. BioDerms were incorruptible, hard-working, and cheap. As civil unrest increased, the Imperial Police received broader powers. By 2821, the Imperial Security Chief held more power than the governor. Recognizing this reality, the Empire terminated the office of Colonial Governor in 2822. The efforts of the “Imp Lice” drove the rebels to dig new tunnels and hiding places, closing off some of the old routes and reopening still older ones in an effort to throw off pursuit. Cat and mouse games had returned to Mars.
In 2826, a group of rebel miners dug a particularly deep branch off Starbright 141D in the Cydonia region. They received unusual areological readings in the bedrock directly beneath the famed “Face of Hunter” that occupied the surface above them. When they investigated, they discovered the unthinkable: a treasure trove of advanced technology created by alien hands. When the shock wore off, the rebels found they were able to adapt the technology to human use fairly easily. It was almost as if it had been left there expressly for humans to discover. The more religious dusters claimed the mysterious Masters must be the creators of the alien cache, but nothing they found shed any light on this theory. Pragmatic above all, Mole Command authorized the conversion of the alien technology for rebel military purposes.
IMPERIAL PROVINCE NAMES
The Empire divided Mars into administrative provinces shortly after recontact, and despite Martian dislike for the practice, the names have stuck even with the colonists.
PETRESUN (in the PROMETHEI TERRA area)
THE TERRAFORMING of MARS
Papers speculating on the requirements for terraforming Mars were first written in the last years of the 20th century. Some of these documents survived The Devastation. By the 29th century, the theoretical assumptions posted in those early papers were technically possible. Commercial fusion power was readily available, as were heavy-lift space vehicles and advanced genetic engineering. The primary goal for Mars would be to generate low freezing-point greenhouse gases in order to create a greenhouse effect that would trap heat in the Martian atmosphere and eventually permit the formation of a hydrologic cycle. Additionally, terraforming would require thickening of the Martian atmosphere and reduction of the carbon dioxide component. Oxygen and ozone would need to be increased, as well as an inert gas such as Nitrogen or Argon.
The terraforming plan had three components: (1) crash an asteroid or comet onto Mars to increase the amount of available water and nitrogen; (2) construct fusion-powered atmospheric converters to generate heat, greenhouse gases, and oxygen; and (3) release tailored microorganisms to begin to produce nitrogen for the atmosphere.
The first step was surprisingly simple. Erriam D-689, a comet popularly known as “Noah,” was dropped onto the Syrtis Planum in 2504 to increase the amount of water available for terraforming. It was inserted at an angle sufficient to vaporize much of it in the atmosphere, but the remaining portion still caused an enormous impact on the Syrtis area, and Noah ejecta can still be found throughout the Eastern Hemisphere in 2829.
After the Noah Drop, the first tailored lichens, algaes, and bacteria were seeded into the Martian environment, especially on the polar ice caps. Orbital mirrors were deployed to focus more solar energy on the planetary surface. Dark panels of metaplas were dropped on the polar caps to increase their heat retention. As the caps melted, the first atmospheric converters began operation in 2507. These miraculous machines drew water from the polar caps and extracted oxygen from the ice and from the highly oxided Martian surface minerals. An enormous amount of nitrogen was also needed to buffer the oxygen being introduced into the atmosphere. As the number of converters increased, and macroscopic plants began to spread over the Martian surface. First mosses, then varieties of scrub grass and brush began to take root. By 2588, the lowland atmosphere was sufficiently hospitable for a human being to breathe. Marjori Kantix was the first human being to breathe the air of another world. After she cracked her rebreather unit and took her first breath, her words echoed the ancient spacefarer’s immortal phrase in a typically irreverent Martian manner: “One small sniff for a woman, one giant sigh of relief for all humanity.”
Mars was now a world of life.
This Chinese settlement has become the best-known research and advanced manufacturing complex on the planet. The University of Xanthe is the best of the colonial schools, especially in planetary engineering and mineral science. The settlement receives substantial funding from Greater China, and so has continued to prosper despite the Imperial policies.
The first permanent resident settlement on Mars, this city was founded by the PacRim in 2483. Old Barsoom has a spaceport, but it is smaller and less modern than those at Port Burroughs or Victoria. The Old Port is generally used for suborbital launches to other locations on Mars. The main business district is known for an exotic underground shopping mall in the city center that is decorated with fanciful motifs borrowed from Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars stories.
Hosting the largest spaceport on Mars, this city is located near Tharsis City, Port Burroughs also has the reputation of being the kind of place where one can buy anything. The majority of Martian shipping traffic runs through Port Burroughs, and security is tight. Mass drivers are often used to send inorganic cargo materials into orbit, to be picked up by waiting ships. Martians call this practice “shooting up skeets.” The popular nickname for Port Burroughs is consequently “Port Skeeter.”
Besides Port Burroughs, a lot of small settlements, streets, and buildings are named after Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the ancient John Carter adventure stories.
Largest city on Mars, and as one of the oldest settlements, it’s the one native Martians look to with the most pride. Tharsis serves as a center of smelting and processing activity, and every mining concern of any size has offices here. The Imperial Police has a substantial presence here.
The Imperial capital, located in Isidis Planitia. The city is surrounded by a number of Imperial bases and settlements. Victoria was one of the earliest settlements, founded by the PacRim and originally named Harmony, it was destroyed by the Cybrids in 2612. Since then, it was rebuilt and has a fairly extensive manufacturing sector. However, the Fortification Edicts have damaged the economy even here. Unemployment is high, and many of the corporations are simply Imperial proxies. Victoria has the tallest building on Mars, the much-maligned NewsNet Tower, a structure that suffered from many problems during construction. Many of the offices remain empty, and the comm array has frequent dust-related burnouts.
A residential community outside Victoria, containing mostly Martians who work in the government and can’t afford the price of living in the Imperial capital. It has a reputation for being fairly liberal and yet pro-Empire, sort of like Los Alamos in the 20th century United States.
This is the site of the vanished colony. In 2703, the 4,000 person community of Burton went off-line. Investigators found nothing but fine ash. The buildings remained intact, although badly burned. Radiation levels were slightly elevated. As Burton was a domed city with antique air processing systems, investigators concluded that some hyper-oxygenated combustion must have occurred. Other theories discount this conclusion, saying other unreleased evidence weighs against it. Still other people whisper fearfully about alien abduction. Burton has been a ghost town ever since. Some rebels now wonder of some other cache of alien technology was discovered in Burton.
A research and exploration settlement originally, Capri Station houses the Imperial Corps of Planetary Engineers, and has the largest atmospheric converter on the planet.
This town houses the main Imperial Police station in the Scablands. A few small businesses serve the base residents and passing travellers.
A mining settlement owned by the Garson Delving Concern (GDC), Escalante has a mass driver which it uses to launch raw metals into orbit. GDC occasionally lets other businesses use the mass driver for a fee.
A settlement founded on the remains of the main Martian base that sheltered colonists during the Fire. Today, it has a museum detailing the colonists’ side of the Earthsiege, and the Mars Militia holds a parade there on the first day of every Martian year.
One of the largest settlements in the Southern Hemisphere, Haldane Station is the place folks think of when they think of the stereotypical Martian duster, tough as nails and independent as they come. It is a mining town and has a thriving light manufacturing sector. Its citizens are also very adept at scrounging and salvage. Imperial Security sees it as a haven for rebel sympathizers, but the Empire has been reluctant to send a garrison in.
A newer city built after the Empire made contact, Helium is a gleaming corporate showcase, completely under a dome of transparent metaplas. There are open canals and parks in the city. Pix of Helium grace public relations brochures all through the Empire. Most real Martians refer to it as “the Balloon” or “the Dollhouse.” A maglev train line connects Helium to Victoria.
Largest agricultural concern on Mars, using craters filled with organically converted soil to raise crops in a reinforced greenhouse environment, the well-known AgriDomes. Largely populated by immigrants and descendants from United Africa, Hellas has a reputation for staying neutral in Martian politics, although defections to the rebellion increased sharply by 2828. The Imperial Police are sending a security force to keep tabs on activities here.
– Martian rebel HQ, in old mining tunnels located in the Southern Hemisphere. The name relates to the nickname for the rebel leadership: “Mole Command.”
This settlement has the main Imperial Police base in the region, and has a high number of airskimmers that provide a rapid-response capability in the Valles Marineris region.
A predominantly Chinese Martian settlement located near one of the new lakes, Pei-Shan has plans to construct canals in hopes of someday creating a Martian Venice. Those plans have been stalled by the increasing demands of the Imperial war buildup. The city is well-known for its Memorial Hospital and Medical Academy, founded in the post-Fire years.
Located near the Face of Hunter in Cydonia, this settlement houses the Church of the Masters’ Return, a cultish religious group who believe that Jake Hunter was a messiah and that the Masters will someday return to take true believers to the galaxy of light. The Church runs a profitable tourist industry, including extensive publishing about the Face. Founded by the Minister Arthur DeLuna in the mid-2600’s, “Loonies” selling holopix and “galactic crystals” are fixtures at all major spaceports in the inner system.
RIO DE LUZ:
One of the heaviest manufacturing sites on Mars, Rio is known for the failure of its hot fusion reactor in 2779 and the near-disastrous breach that occurred. Radiation levels are still higher than normal, and business has continued with higher security. The incident has been attributed to some kind of sabotage. Rio is also known for some of the hardest drinking workers on a planetful of hard cases. “Pulling a Rio” is Martian slang for getting highly intoxicated.
Robinson is primarily an areological research site and tourist settlement. It hosts the Scuttlebot Olympics and is the gateway for any expeditions to Olympus Mons. Many of the smaller settlements around Robinson have suffered from the Imperial Police presence that has never diminished after the ’28 Games.
Located in the Tartarus Province, this is a mining town that has been a focus of popular discontent. The Imperial Police stationed a garrison there in 2828 after a series of sabotage incidents. Tombstone suffers the most severe curfew and security restrictions on Mars. The Imperial Police have actually hired mercenaries to handle the worse parts of the security detail here.
Settled in 2588 by immigrants from United Africa under a joint program with PacRim, Woolawarra Station is a subterranean mining town in the heart of Gierling Province. It safely ignores the enormous dust storms that rage through the area, and has succeeded in diverting a number of resources to the rebel cause.
A city built deep in the Melas Chasm, the Underground is one of the settlements which sheltered the colonists during the Fire. Extensive mining and hydrologic engineering has left a network of enormous tunnels that run for miles around the settlement. The Underground also has Bonafide Lake, the first true lake on Mars (albeit underground).
MINING TUNNEL NAMES
These are largely corporate names, along with a numerical identifier plus size identifier. “A” would be the smallest, and “G” the largest.
Example: Garson 94A
Corporate names for this purpose include:
|Garson Delving Concern (GDC)
||Redgod Minerals and Excavation
|Zelaban-Koroyev Industries (ZKI)
||New Brisbane Extraction (Nebex)
||Offworld Consolidated (O-Con)
|Vogelschaft Erdverke AG (VEAG)
||Starbright Mining (SM)
OTHER NOTABLE FEATURES
These are fusion-powered. Their job is to generate heat, nitrogen, oxygen, ozone, and greenhouse gases. The greenhouse gases, in order not to break down the critical ozone layer, are ozone-noninteractive, IR absorbing, chlorine-free halocarbons. The converters would make use of the highly oxided surface minerals to produce these atmospheric gases. Martians treat the converters like gold.
These would be important for the tanks, especially.
Yes! Mars has canals! Not many, but there are some in the more urban areas. Canals are actually useful in channeling the surface water.
These would be pretty common on Mars, particularly in the more rugged areas.
Phobos Orbital Haven:
A microgravity space station on the moon Phobos, located in the Stickney Crater.
Usually named by the Corporation that dug them, along with the registration number and directional descriptors
Surface to Space Elevator:
No skyhook has ever been built to ferry goods and people to and from the gravity well, as such a structure was judged to be too vulnerable to Cybrid attack. In recent years, however, the Empire has reportedly drawn up plans to build one so as to reduce the cost of bringing goods off Mars.
In 2829, dust storms are still fairly frequent, but they’re only REALLY bad in the Southern Hemisphere and on the Sinai Planum, the latter just south of the Valles Marineris. The winds can still be fierce, up to 400 or 500 kilometers per hour in bad storms.
A pretty severe problem. The amber tint to Martian skies in the Viking photos is believed to be caused by suspended dust particles in the air. Many of these fines reach only microns in diameter. There are global dust storms in the 20th century that have occluded visibility of the entire planet, except for the Tharsis Montes and Olympus Mons.
In 2829, there’s a little due to the impact of terraforming on the hydrological cycle.
Floods are a problem in the Valles area due to the numerous aquifers and occasional surges due to surface runoff. Scientists are trying to contain the water buildup that has occurred since the planet warmed following terraforming.
OTHER SITE NAMES (just in case we need ‘em)
I’ve written these as though they’d be town names, but if we want to use ‘em for hills, gullies, ridges, escarpments, etc., that’s cool. For example: “Chandler” could go to “Chandler Station” or “Chandler Hills.” The following name ideas are not in any particular order:
||No Rush Station
||Old Garson Dig
||No Beer Here
Wuchan River (there’s a trickle at the end of winter)
Marjie’s First (where the First Breath happened)
A MARTIAN LEXICON
Martian slang has picked up some elements of Terran street slang, in part because Martians dealt with the Terran underworld more frequently as the Empire tightened its grip.
Calling Noah in:
Making big changes, being really serious, taking a major step.
Dirtborn, Dirtboy, Dirtghel:
General cussword. Martians can mean it as an endearing term as well. Also used as a verb meaning “to kill” or “to forget.”
Airhead. Sometimes used to mean “to pretend to be ignorant” in cases where the Imperial Police are asking questions. The Imperials have picked this term up as a derogatory term for Martians, along with “dustbunnies,” “dustsquatters,” or “dustrats.”
Native Martian, as opposed to the Terran immigrants. Not derogatory if used by Martians.
The rural areas of Mars, away from the larger settlements.
Frying Pan Terra:
Petresun Terra, a region on Mars formerly known as Promethei Terra.
Heading for the tunnels or to a place of safety.
Imp Lice, the Lice:
Pulling a Rio:
Getting really drunk.
To kill something.
Terran Defense Force (derogatory).
The major regions on Mars. Dusters delight in pretending confusion with impatient Dirtborn who think any reference to Terra means Mother Earth: “Terra? Which one, mac?”