5 hours ago
Sunday, November 13, 2011
The first thing that strikes any Earthling visiting Mars for the first time is that Mars is old. The seas and lush vegetation of its youth have given way to anemic canals and barren rock and sand. Many of its canal cities are more ancient than Sumer--and even these are young compared to the ruins that dot the dust-choked wastes.
The Great Powers of Earth came to Mars hoping steal knowledge and wealth from the dying world. It was the first planet to be conquered with the arrival of the Age of Space and with good reason. The 1898 invasion that had nearly ended the human race had come from the red planet, after all. When man mastered the psychic technologies of the Invaders, it was only natural to want to strike back.
The Invaders weren’t actually from Mars, of course. That had only been a staging point. But the old canal cities of the true Martians had been waystations for space travelers in the past, and they still held ancient secrets. In the arid wastes there were underground complexes, the abandoned redoubts of ancient Martian civilization, constructed when they burrowed in to survive their world growing inhospitable. These subterranean ruins contain treasures both magical and mundane.
Treasure-hunters, thieves, and spies flock to the colonial cities. The British and French have governmental presences and peacekeeping forces. The Americans are represented by soldiers of fortune and freewheeling traders. The Russians are divided between White Russian spies, dreaming of a czarist resurgence, and Communist agitators, looking to make Mars more Red. German agents of the Nazi Ahnenerbe or the more shadowy Vril Society search out secrets for their mysterious “Aryan” masters in Agartha.