- Borealis Basin (650,000 pop)
- One of the most conspicuous features of the Martian geography is the dramatic difference in elevation between the northern and southern hemispheres; whereas the southern hemisphere is dominated by vaulting mountains, the upper part of the northern hemisphere consists of broad lowlands on average several kilometers lower in elevation than the rest of the planet.
- Other differences between the northern Borealis Basin and the rest of the planet exist, including an escalated incidence of dust storms in the southern highlands, in turn leading to relatively higher temperatures compared to the Borealis Basin.
- While water ice exists throughout the planet, most of this water is below ground; the great exceptions lie in the polar ice caps.
- The Free State of Mars grew out of the labor revolts of 2465, and today persists politically in the form of a loose alliance of labor collectives that manage their own internal affairs while pooling what passes for a military force into a mostly centralized command.
- While capable of very limited production of drones and freighters, the Free State of Mars would likely collapse overnight without the constant stream of economic aid from State.
- Widespread decentralized light industry and manufacturing.
- Limited production of drones and freighters.
- After a series of unsuccessful political maneuvers throughout the 23rd century failed to significantly deter the influence of State over economic and political affairs on Mars, the dominant corporate oligarchs on Mars took advantage of a severe recession gripping Earth in 2401 opted to nationalize themselves as a means of creating the political pretext necessary to sever State control.
- While this succeeded in cracking State's stranglehold over Mars, it did nothing to help the large underclass working the ice and silicate mines concentrated in the northern polar region of the Borealis Basin. By 2465, the situation had reached a boiling point, and as waves of riots and shutdown swept the Borealis Basin, radical labor elements unilaterally declared the formation of a Free State of Mars in the northern part of the planet.
- As the Mars Republic had long since turned to Union patronage to hold State at bay, it was only logical for the nascent Free State of Mars to accept aid and succor from State. As State still controlled the powerful military base of Laputa Station on Phobos high above the Martian sands, this provided a critical lifeline and desperately needed political support.
- In the seven years following the emergence of the Free State of Mars, the Martian Civil War has lurched on in fits and starts. While the Mars Republic vastly outstrips the Free State of Mars in resources and population, the Borealis Basin is nevertheless the source of critical industrial infrastructure that the masters of the Mars Republic are loathe to see destroyed. Moreover, State sponsorage of the Free State of Mars prevents aerial bombardment or blockades, reducing the course of the Martian Civil War to an endless series of precision (and sometimes not-so-precise) raids and low-altitude drone strikes on the "economic terrorist camps", as the Mars Republic refers to the forces of the Free State of Mars.
- Meanwhile, the population of the Borealis Basin has suffered horribly, living in appallingly poor conditions, all the while stirring a pot of resentment and nascent political nationalism that leaves little room for compromise, nor appetite for diplomatic solutions. While the Mars Republic retains a superior military posture in the conflict, it nevertheless lacks the popular support among its own population for the kind of scorched earth tactics likely necessary to bring the rebellious territory to heel.
- The Free State of Mars is wholly dependent upon its status as a political pawn of State. While the political leadership of the Free State of Mars is entirely aware of the cynical nature of State's support, at the moment it has little choice until such a time as the Mars Republic might be convinced to let the Free State of Mars exist as an independent polity.
- The ongoing civil war fought with the Mars Republic has boiled for almost a decade. While the situation is not entirely a stalemate, the conflict has consisted primarily of the Mars Republic's own limited security forces executing surgical(ish) strikes and raids on suspected military emplacements in the subterranean enclaves of the Borealis Basin.
- While the Mars Republic is far more powerful, there are many inside its administration that are skeptical the cost is not worth just signing a deal. For now, pride has kept the conflict going, and the dominant factions on both sides are in no mood to temporize. In the Free State of Mars, the abject conditions have generated a wave of patriotism resulting a deeply committed population that has already paid such a high price in blood that at this point any major compromise has become inconceivable.
Politics and Culture:
- Politically, the Free State of Mars is a confederation of locally-controlled settlements which themselves vary widely in laws, culture, and internal politics. A significant majority are in fact run as labor collectives, a vestige of the organizations that encouraged the labor riots of 2465; however, many other variant structures exist.
- A unified military command does exist in the form of the Free State Central Military Command, more often known as CentCom. It is likely even this degree of centralization would never have occurred were it not for the need of State to have a single point of contact, minimizing its own political footprint on the planet. As commercial and emergency aid are funneled through CentCom, CentCom possesses many of the functions of a national government.
- CentCom's commanders have been loathe to allow for transparency, and graft and corruption are kept in check only due to the fact that there are virtually no luxuries to be had within the Borealis Basin today. Political power, however, has no such restraint, and while patriotic fervor has thus far dampened down dissent, there are growing rumblings of dissatisfaction with the centralization of authority at the national level. Too, as well, because of the Free State tradition of local autonomy, many people are willing to accept a level of virtual dictatorial control at the national polity level, as its influence outside of military affairs and foreign aid is modest.
- Culturally, the peoples of the Free State of Mars find luxury and open displays of wealth distasteful and shameful. A utilitarian ideal born of the harsh realities of life beneath the Borealis Basin is the dominant attitude, along with a growing warrior ideal born of a rabid patriotism that flourished in the first years of the labor riots of 2465.
- Fiercely independent, Free Staters as a rule are direct and practical - if something doesn't work, you throw it away, even if that thing is a hundreds-year-old tradition. Life is assumed to be short, brutal, unfair, and unhappy, and so satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment are derived from living up to a cultural code of honor that encourages asceticism and personal honor.
- Notably, honor duels as a way of settling disputes, while not universal, is quite common, even legal in many places.
- As with the rest of Mars, the dominant language of the Borealis Basin is English, albeit a linguistic patois with a significant contribution of Hindi vocabulary stemming from early, pre-Southern Bloc colonization efforts.