Mycon Clamn, King of Mars

This artist’s impression shows how Mars may have looked about four billion years ago. The young planet Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 140 metres deep, but it is more likely that the liquid would have pooled to form an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’s northern hemisphere, and in some regions reaching depths greater than 1.6 kilometres.

In 2046,  tech entrepreneur Mycon Clamn established a Mars colony. It was the first time in history a western civilization established a colony without displacing or subjugating anyone, and was for that and many other reasons a cause for celebration.  Being in complete control of the space travel equipment required to access the colony, Clamn’s company StarTech dictated the laws on Mars. The first colonists knew they needed supplies, so the political will to obey was powerful in the first few decades. Unlike on Earth, if you quit your job at StarTech you had to wait for up to six months to be picked up during the next supply shipment. That was plenty of time for disgruntled colony-mates to arrange an accident for you in the dangerous early Mars environment. The same went for firing someone. These supply shipments therefore tended to coincide with sudden mass firings and quittings. It was hard to say if the quittings or firings were more awkward because management often knew when a firing was coming and could arrange for a replacement to arrive on a supply ship, but then again, looking at the number of new people on a supply ship, one could estimate how many layoffs there might be on a given shipment sol. A sol is the term for a Mars day, roughly the length of one Earth day.

Naturally, the colony was encouraged to be fertile. Within two Mars decades,  (roughly four Earth decades) the majority of the inhabitants were native Martians. Being born into a corporation was something not considered before, and native Martians were welcome to leave their home and their families and pursue whatever work they wished on Earth. The now venerable Clamn had even managed to negotiate a simple path to American citizenship for Martian immigrants over some protest. If you stayed on Mars, though, you worked for StarTech.

In 2101, with the passing of Mycon Clamn, StarTech was set to come under new management. The Martians, now mostly second-generation natives, had little sense of what America, or even Earth, was like. A few of their kind were respected in StarTech and had high positions. They thought the natural next step would be to give StarTech the first ever Martian CEO. After much clamoring and political fighting over who among them would have the honor, the Martians were astounded to learn that the successor had already been selected from StarTech headquarters on Earth. Barring radical intervention from the exclusively Earthling board of directors, no Martian would run the company for another several decades at least.

This cast a pall over the Mars StarTech colony, now a city roughly the size of 2016 Boston, Massachusetts with functioning solar farms and agriculture and just beginning to turn a profit with its tourism industry for the very wealthy. It also was just beginning to form its own history and culture. Mars was a rough climate founded on largely libertarian principles including free speech, and management was not so thin-skinned as to punish anyone for complaining about a perceived injustice on the part of the Earthling rulers. They were happy to ignore such complaints until some of the younger Martians began to act out, refusing to work for StarTech and demanding the right to live as free Martians.

In 2106 the largest ever set of firings from the StarTech corporation’s Mars branch sent over two thousand young, unskilled Martians to Earth. The firings numbered twice that, but many Martians refused to go to Earth, and hid instead until the ship had left. The Martians sent to Earth arrived in Florida and were left outside the Cape Canaveral launch station with no contacts. With the cost of space transportation automatically deducted from their meager savings, they were largely broke. Martians by this point were unusual but not rare or newsworthy, so they were alone. A few got money transfers from their on-colony parents or other more fortunate relatives and friends, others found menial work. Some happened upon other rebellious organizations and got food and shelter. Others were not so lucky.

Meanwhile on Mars, there were now Martians who did not work for StarTech. Their seeming ability to stay hidden so easily gave truth to the rumors about disguised anti-StarTech sentiment among the general Martian public.

In 2116, the Earthling head of Mars operations, the highest ranking on-planet position, died in a freak accident when the oxygen to his bedchamber became cut off in the night. His second in command, a native Martian, told the planet’s denizens that they would no longer be sending their profits to or taking orders from Earth. Instead they would rule themselves, with him as the benevolent leader, and use their resources to enrich the lives of Mars’s own inhabitants.

Now we don’t hear much from Mars. StarTech does not publish their communications with the former colony and has refused to send more ships there. Earthbound Martians living off of their loved ones are now rapidly joining the ranks of expat Martian homeless. We hear a lot about Mars. Everyone has their opinion about whether they’re a modern example of the heroic shrugging off of colonial chains or simply communist thugs claiming high morals so their leaders can snub Earth and enrich themselves, and everyone seems to have a leak to back up their side of the argument.

Maybe in 2126 another company will be able to contact Mars and open up trade. Maybe in 2136 we’ll have tourism again, or even immigration, but in some way that won’t make the Martians hate us. Wiping the sweat from my brow in the sweltering heat and looking from my hoe in the dry, cracked earth up across the withered landscape towards the sky, I can’t help but hope so. I’ve always wanted to visit Mars.

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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