Brought to you by popular demand, the next entry in the Exile: Into the Dark Waters Historical Database: The Martian War (Part 3).
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Category: History, Selected Article: #37c
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* * *The Martian War (concl.)
Tools of destructionIn the meantime, Admiral Rossendarch, now commanding the EFCa
Sovereign, returned to Mars orbit and confronted Fleetmaster Caliphtys’ battle group. As both commanders were too cautious to risk a frontal assault, they sent skirmishers on flanking attacks, made precision orbital bombardments and launched bomber raids against their opponent's ground forces still stalemated on the planet’s surface. In the following months, Martian cities were pounded into rubble and –- according to post-war estimates -- more than 30,000,000 civilians were declared dead or missing.
Hoping to break the deadlock, the Federation began preparations to use Xanthean Gas, an experimental chemical weapon of mass destruction named after Xanthea, the Martian province where the secret facility that had created the weapon was located. Although after the war the EFN banned the weapon and classified all data pertaining to Xanthean Gas to prevent it from ever being used again, it was revealed that the gas was in fact a swarm of self-replicating nanobots that could direct its poisonous cloud in any desired direction. Each nanobot performed a micro-scale chemical reaction that transformed components of the terraformed Martian air into a deadly poison gas.
The EFN first used small samples of Xanthean Gas on several remote sectors of the front lines. The poisonous cloud directed by the nanobots was capable of penetrating or damaging air filters and gas masks, entering deep into ORS fortifications, and even choking entire battalions in their own barracks. Syndicate marines were forced to leave their prepared positions and defend in the open field, making them vulnerable targets for EFN bombers and artillery. More and more garrisons were being decimated and the ORS saw no way to counter Xanthean Gas other than to destroy entire infected facilities. Hoping to prevent the total defeat of their forces, the ORS prioritized finding the source of the deadly weapon.
BOD operatives managed to locate the Xanthea facility where the nanobots were being produced and stored. On October 6, the ORD
Ironclad entered Mars' low orbit and, while under the heavy fire of EFN planetary defenses, destroyed the facility with its cannons. This action, however, instead of removing the threat, merely opened the floodgates. The data that ORS Intelligence agents had gathered on Xanthean Gas nanobots indicated they could not survive a planetary bombardment of that scale. However, unbeknownst to the ORSI agents, the facility also contained the next generation of nanobots that were more resistant to physical damage and high temperature. After the bombardment, these nanobots were damaged and became nonresponsive to remote shutdown attempts, but were still operational. As a result of the bombardment, they went haywire and began poisoning the atmosphere. Larger and larger areas of Mars became contaminated, previously breathable air became poisonous, and toxic rains began destroying the terraformed vegetation so difficult to grow and adapt to Martian conditions. The Hesperian ArmisticeWhile the battle for Mars remained inconclusive, both sides were now under the threat of a planetary-scale cataclysm which would render the planet uninhabitable. Terrified by this prospect, more and more soldiers of both decimated armies, many of whom were native Martians, refused to fight. The ORS and the EFN held an emergency summit on October 9 and agreed to a ceasefire, despite internal opposition on both sides. Soldiers of both armies who were still able to act were sent to provide humanitarian aid to Mars' civilian population and deal with the damage dealt by Xanthean Gas.
EFN and ORS fleet commanders, who could not bring themselves to believe the scale of the cataclysm on Mars, were initially reluctant to cease hostilities. Admiral Walker's hunter-killer teams and BOD operatives continued to fight minor skirmishes in the Outer Rim for a few more days before both the EFN and ORS governments convinced their military commanders to abide by the ceasefire.
On October 29, a second Martian summit was held, this time in Hesperia City, where both sides agreed to an armistice that would divide Mars into EFN and ORS zones. The rest of the Sol system mostly returned to pre-Martian War boundaries.
Xanthean Gas contaminated vast areas of Mars’ surface and caused several million casualties. It took several years to eradicate all the nanobots and stop the contamination from spreading further, and decades more would be needed before the damaged environment could fully recover.
To be continued in...The Second Interbellum.