City of Mists

by Sawyer Grey
 

Prologue

 
small cover image

Prologue
Chapter 1 - A Night in Hong Kong
Chapter 2 - A Secret Mission
Chapter 3 - The Airship Zambesi
Chapter 4 - Attacked by Sky Pirates
Chapter 5 - Singapore
Chapter 6 - A Voyage by Aethership
Chapter 7 - Return to Mars
Chapter 8 - Secret Mission Revealed
 

Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Volume 9 No. 3, January 31, 1887

Report on Martian Explorations

Mrs. Margaret Wylie has resided for sixteen years on Mars, and has taken part in numerous expeditions on behalf of the Society and the Colonial Office. Her long studies of Martian artefacts and languages, as well as her unique relationship with the Martian High Emperor, have given her a tremendous insight into the history of the red planet. On her most recent visit to London, Mr. Francis Galton, F.R.S., invited her to address the Society, and she graciously accepted. The transcript of her remarks is provided in full below.

Gentlemen,

Approximately ten thousand years ago, while our Earth was emerging from the perpetual winter of the last glacial period, civilization on Mars was reaching its zenith. A temperate climate combined with advances in science and medicine gave rise to a long period of peace in which the Martians attained heights of culture and technology we can still scarcely comprehend. The dozen or so nations of Mars maintained this peace for hundreds of years, until a scientist of the nation that occupied the Tharsis region discovered the properties of Cavorite. As you all know, when properly refined and applied, Cavorite completely blocks the force of gravitational attraction, and it is this substance that allows our aetherships to travel to our sister worlds. This scientist immediately understood the possibilities of his discovery, and he presented his findings to his government. This government swiftly built a small fleet of aetherships and launched them to explore the worlds that most resembled their own, Earth and Venus.

On Venus they found a thriving civilization, similar in advancement to our European civilization on Earth today, save that the Venerians had no knowledge of Cavorite. Venus was lush, rich in all forms of life as well as precious metals and jewels.

The world was matched by her people, who were passionate and proud and quite conversant in the pursuits of war.

Earth, on the other hand, was peopled by barbarian tribes with only the faintest knowledge of agriculture or the other arts of civilization. The planet was not as rich as Venus, but there was always the possibility that mineral wealth lay buried beneath the slowly receding ice sheets.

With the riches of two new worlds to exploit, the Tharsis nation turned to building fleets of aetherships. For the first time in centuries Mars knew strife, as the other nations of Mars insisted that they, too, be allowed to share in this newfound knowledge and wealth. Tharsis resisted their entreaties, however, knowing that sole possession would make them the foremost power on Mars. At this refusal, the other nations began to re-arm, and there were great battles fought all over Mars until the Tharsians were able to use their new aethership fleet to crush their enemies. Within another ten years they had conquered all of Mars and the first High Emperor was enthroned at Nix Olympica.

These wars led to a fundamental shift in the nature of the civilization of Mars. Their culture became more pragmatic and more cruel, consumed with desire for wealth and advancement, willing to let mere strength substitute for reason and morality. The Venerians were the first to suffer the consequences of this, when the Martians decided that there was no need to trade for what could be taken by force. They established bases on Venus and raped the territories around them of anything that caught their fancy. When the Venerians attempted to fight back, they were annihilated, their cities bombed, their civilization crushed by the Martians’ superior technology.

Earth was not spared; Tharsis aetherships carried off massive quantities of her raw materials. Furs were especially prized, and the great beasts of the period—mammoth, mastodon, gigantopithecus, cave bears, saber-tooth tigers—were hunted to extinction to decorate the homes of Mars. Massive machines harvested the exotic Terrestrial forests and turned vast regions into deserts. Most importantly for us, humans captured and displayed in Martian zoos thrived as stolen Venerians did not. They were sold as pets and used as experimental animals until their full intelligence was realized, at which time they came into high demand as slaves and servants to provide services that the Martians no longer wished to perform themselves. Soon the Martians were kidnapping human barbarians en masse, mainly from the high northern latitudes since they seemed to acclimatize better to Mars’s cooler conditions.

This situation lasted for somewhere around three thousand years, with the Martian society becoming ever more ossified. Scientific advances stopped. Production of art and literature declined, the Martians becoming content to merely review the creations of the past. They ceased exploration of the solar system, abandoning their outposts on Mercury and Ceres completely, and closed down many of their bases on Venus and Earth. Then came the Collapse.

About six thousand years ago, there was an accident at the main facility in Syrtis where the Martians refined the Cavorite for their aetherships. Apparently a large sheet of Cavorite was improperly shielded, and it created a mighty vortex over the facility. This vortex blew a significant part of the Martian atmosphere into space before the Martians were able to destroy the Cavorite slab. While not immediately fatal, the atmospheric loss proved disastrous to their planet. The reduced atmospheric pressure and oxygen content slowly killed off large sections of the Martian fauna. The temperature dropped and the polar ice caps spread. Far more devastating was the increased aridity. Open bodies of water disappeared at an alarming rate, first the lakes and seas, then the oceans themselves. As the seas shrank, their salinity increased, so that even those bodies of water that persisted like the Acidalian Sea could no longer support much life. The bases on Earth and Venus were abandoned, and the vast fleets of aetherships destroyed, the Martians being terrified of another catastrophe.

Martian agriculture and industry ground to a halt without plentiful water supplies. Millions of Martians in the cities suddenly had no drinking water. During the first year after the accident, Mars’s population dropped from four billion to a few million. Cities emptied as the inhabitants starved, killed each other for the meager resources left, or fled into the countryside in search of sustenance. Human slaves were slaughtered, or abandoned and left behind to starve. Every atrocity—murder, theft, rape, torture, cannibalism—was practiced on a scale that is quite unimaginable to us here today.

In a few areas the Martians were able to secure their water supplies and maintain their civilization to some degree. The megalopolis of Nix Olympica where the High Emperor reigns is the primary example. Elsewhere the die-off continued. The Martian survivors struggling to exist blamed their downfall on the failure of science, and developed a virulent hatred and fear of advanced technology. They shunned the old cities, leaving them to their former slaves, and cast off all but the most basic knowledge. Inside the cities, the human slaves systematically looted the buildings, then slowly learned to survive on the meager sustenance they could draw from the city environs, occasionally augmented by raids on the Martian tribes outside. This situation has remained fairly stable for thousands of years.

But while the desertification of Mars has slowed, it has not stopped. Every year the deserts spread a little more, and all but a handful of the cities in the high latitudes are now completely dead and abandoned. Six thousand years ago, the Martians built a number of great pumping facilities at the edge of their ice caps to deliver water to their cities. Most of these are now buried under hundreds of yards of ice. As they fail, so do the cities that depend on them. Those who speak of colonizing Mars do not understand that Mars is a dying planet; the Martians a dying race. There will be no recovery, no Martian Renaissance; only a long, slow slide into eventual oblivion.