Mars

Earth was the cradle of transhuman civilization, but Mars, with a population of 200 million, is now its heartland. When humanity began its spaceward diaspora, Luna was its first stop. Yet while Luna boasts a sizable population, Mars was the first world humans settled where they could thrive entirely on locally available resources. During the first few decades, the early Martian settlers dwelt in tin can hab units, extracting methane from the local atmosphere for rocket fuel and water from the Martian permafrost, farming in inflatable greenhouses, and eventually manufacturing enough greenhouse gases to warm the planetary climate to the point where transhumans could walk the Martian surface unprotected, save for oxygen respirators.

The second phase of the great project of terraforming Mars—husbanding plant life and microbes engineered to rapidly replace atmospheric carbon dioxide with oxygen—was already underway at the time of the Fall. A belt of orbital mirrors helps to heat the planet by focusing the sun’s rays. The spread of plant life is a long-term project that will take several centuries to produce a fully breathable atmosphere, but the nigh-immortal transhumans of Mars are prepared to be patient. A new homeworld is worth the wait. Research into new plants and micro-organisms capable of releasing oxygen and nitrogen into the Martian atmosphere at an ever-accelerating pace is a major focus of economic activity.

In the meantime, the red planet is a place of startling contrasts, from the stark beauty of its mountain ranges and high desert to the slowly greening bottomlands of the equatorial Valles Marineris canyon system. In these bottomlands, oxygen levels are slowly rising, and liquid water can now be found in canals that had already been dry for millions of years when transhumanity’s ancestors came down from the trees. Mars is a popular destination for travelers from around the system. Many Martians accrue wealth by operating lavish hotels, offering tours of historical sites, and leading wilderness expeditions to the rugged highlands and vast deserts of the untamed Martian frontier.

Mars now sports ve vast, domed cities, mostly in the equatorial regions, along with numerous smaller settlements. Settlements are connected by surface roads, a network of near-sonic maglev trains, and air/spaceports from which suborbitals, airships, and near space rockets y on regular schedules. Thanks to the abundance of methane fuel and gravity only one-third of Earth’s, transhumans on Mars finally got their flying cars as well, and all settlements have welldelineated rights-of-way for these vehicles. Meanwhile, in the wild uplands, planetologists and terraforming engineers dwell in small villages, living the simple life in ruster morphs while seeing to the continued development of the Martian climate and atmosphere.

As a partially terraformed planet with vast tracts of unused land, Mars is one of the few places that can offer new sleeves to infomorph refugees. Martian brokerage houses do a brisk business in the purchase and resale of infugee contract labor, with agreements (for some) leading to eventual sleeving. This has led to a sizable Martian underclass, however, organized as a growing resistance movement under the Barsoomian banner (though the hyperelite socialites disparagingly call them “rednecks”).

Habitat Akosha

Ashoka is located in a crater in the Ares Vallis region about 3,000 kilometers northeast of Valles-New Shanghai, not far from the landing sites of the early Viking and Path nder probes. The town is a popular spa and spiritual retreat for Martians wanting to revisit their pioneer roots. It is also an active terra- forming station and a major point of contact between the semi-nomadic Barsoomian culture of the high desert and the settled Martians of the equatorial canyonlands. 10,000 scientists, historians, terraforming workers, and spiritual gurus live in the town and surrounding area.

Habitat Elysium

Located in the Elysium and Hyblaeus Chasma in the north of the Hesperia region in Mars’s eastern hemisphere, Elysium is the entertainment capital of the system and the largest Martian city outside of the canyonlands of the equator. It is also the most physically remote of the large Martian cities, though transhumanity’s advanced transportation technology (suborbital flights and rocket flight from habitats above) make this remoteness a trivial quality.

Region Ma’adim Vallis

This deep canyon system on Mars holds one of the Planetary Consortium’s most treasured possessions: the Martian Gate. This Pandora gate was originally discovered by nomadic Barsoomians, then violently wrested from their hands by hypercorp troops—an event that still rankles the rednecks. As different hypercorps themselves nearly came to blows, the Hypercorp Council was forced to step in and offer a resolution that all could agree to.

Habitat Noctis-Qianjiao

With a population of 13 million, Noctis-Qianjiao is the major metroplex in the west of the Valles Marineris region, an area known as Noctis Labyrinthus. Although not as hospitable as the Eos region in which Valles-New Shanghai lies, Noctis Labyrinthus is considered prime real estate for its gorgeous scenery and well-developed river systems. The metroplex boasts two major domes: Qianjiao, on the northern bank of the River Noctis, and Noctis City (normally just called “Noctis”) to the south.

Habitat Olympus

Olympus, with a population of 1 million living in a space designed to accommodate 6 million, is something of a ghost town. The former principal city, built in the caldera of Olympus Mons around the space elevator, is now fallen into disuse. As the temperatures rose and the climate improved in the Valles Marineris canyonlands, most of the population left the windswept caldera for more hospitable surroundings. Olympus is not and never was a large domed city, consisting instead of a souk-like network of minor domes and antiquated tin can hab modules.

Region Olympus Mons

Mars’s most notable landmark is the mighty shield volcano Olympus Mons, on which the first—and still principle—Martian space elevator was constructed. Similar in shape and origin to Earth’s Hawaiian Islands, but now dormant, Olympus Mons is one of the highest mountains in the solar system, rising 27 kilometers. Olympus, the settlement in the volcano’s caldera around the base of the space elevator, was once the chief city of Mars, but waned in popularity as a place to live when terraforming made other regions more attractive.

Habitat Progress

Progress is one of the largest Cole bubbles in the Solar System. With 8.5 million residents, it is second in population only to Extropia in the belt. Progress was created when Fa Jing evicted all of the former residents from the Martian satellite of Deimos, excavated the inside of the moonlet, and used a massive solar array to convert it into a bubbleworld. From an engineering standpoint, Progress is a wonder. It was the first successful use of new methods to create a Cole habitat after several previous attempts to create bubbleworlds resulted in the asteroid or moonlet breaking apart.

Habitat Qing Long

Qing Long, with a population of 2 million, is the largest O’Neill habitat in the system. It is situated among the Trojans at the Martian L5 point. Qing Long has its roots in the Chinese effort to colonize Mars. Despite its exceptional size, it is one of the oldest habitats of its type, having been built almost entirely from metal-rich asteroids mined near its present location.

Region Titan Quarantine Zone

Officially labeled the TITAN Quarantine Zone, the TQZ is a large area stretching from the smooth plains of Amazonis Planitia (between the Tharsis and Elysium volcanic areas) and southeast to Arsia Mons (just west of Noctis). This zone is known to be crawling with leftover TITAN machinery: warbots, nanoswarms, and other dangerous things. Several devastated habitats lie in this region, including the former Islamic stronghold of Qurain.

Region Valles Marineris

Most of transhumanity’s terraforming efforts center around the winding Valles Marineris canyonlands, which twist and turn over 4,000 kilometers east-to-west along the Martian equator. In these relatively warm bottomlands, liquid water is becoming abundant and the land is green with hardy plant species like crab grass, dandelions, and towering Douglas firs (which botanists estimate may reach heights of 180 meters in the low Martian gravity). 75% of the transhuman population of Mars lives in this region, giving it the highest density of transhuman habitation in the solar system.

Habitat Valles-New Shanghai

The principal city of Mars, Valles-New Shanghai is transhumanity’s largest planetary metroplex, with 37 million inhabitants. Valles-New Shanghai lies in the heavily terraformed Eos region in the east of the Valles Marineris canyon system. The metroplex is comprised of five major domes connected by a network of Martian souks. The souks are a unique architectural feature of large Martian cities, consisting of covered thoroughfares and galleries lined with bazaars, eateries, and squats. It is said one can nd anything if one spends enough time walking the souks.