Monday, February 23, 2015

54. Settlers of Mars

The settlers of Mars can be found almost anywhere. Perched on a ridge overlooking a patrol route, posed menacingly in cul-de-sacs along small canyons, or gathered around a broken vehicle, they are designed to appear human at a glance. Part emerging ruster cultural tradition and part Barsoomian psych-ops, the settlers are created to fool Martian surveillance with false returns, wear-down Consortium agents with paranoia, and scatter visions of "Mars for Martians" across the planet.

A settler is typically created in one of two ways. The old-fashioned create theirs with scrap metal, welding together humanoid structures, sometimes with simple animatronics. Newer methods use protean swarms, programming complex scenes then leaving the swarm to cook the Martian regolith into iron. These models are usually robotic, maintaining simple routines and incorporating heating and fake communications elements designed to create false positives in long-distance surveillance.

The robots are positioned in ways that can serve two purposes. They may display scenes of free Barsoomian life, of what life under a victorious Barsoomian movement would be like. Otherwise, they are designed to scare, appearing as convincing as possible, striking menacing poses against the horizon or be suddenly revealed in hidden corners. Many Martian Rangers have a story about panicking and shooting a settler, or of waking up to find their tent surrounded by silent iron figures.

Plot Hook: A bright young Barsoomian engineer has plans to create self-perpetuating settlers that would reproduce across Mars. This unbounded spread is itself a potential X-risk for Mars, but Firewall's true fear is how the self-perpetuating technology will interact with the remnants inside the Titan Quarantine Zone. Contaminated by TITAN agents, the settlers might become very real.

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