The origins of the Hellas Revolt of the late 21st century were tied intimately to the imminent construction of the Beanstalk, but those of the Martian Revolution, and of the Pansolar War which it sparked, were considerably more complex. Such a crisis in the Metanational-Eurasian system had been forecast for at least half a century, and in the years of the corporate arms race it became obvious to all that the crisis was close. The crucial turning point was the secession of the Belt Zaibatsus. Before the 2180s the megacorporations had competed within the established system, much as had the Great Powers in the decades before the First World War, but had been united in their opposition to all threats to the system - most visibly in the cooperative Intercorporate Security arrangements on Mars. With the independence of the Ceres Combine the stable system of limited corporate and supranational competition finally ended. This change in the power relations of the system was even more fundamental than it seemed during the decade of the first Earth-Belt Cold War - for that conflict disguised the deepening of the rivalries between the Earth corporations.
Before 2186 many had believed that a future of corporate dominance, peace, and progress was almost inevitable - there may have been economic crises and military rivalries, but such had come before, and gone, and the system had endured. Even on Mars, the Underground, having learned the lessons of Hellas, had foreseen a long struggle before independence. Suddenly, though, anything had become possible. In the corporate boardrooms of Cis-Luna, the meetings of conspirators in the backrooms of Port Robinson, the security subcommittees of the EF Senate and the Mars Councils of Zea Dorsum, the thoughts of ambitious men and women turned to the remaking of the future. The aristocracies of each corporation saw a future in which they alone formed a dominant oligarchy: all else being equal, whichever megacorporation controlled the resources and industries of Mars would be in the strongest position when the time came for the struggle for Earth and the greater System. The politicians of the EF saw the chance to play corporation against corporation, and through their struggles perhaps regain some of the lost Eurasian power. The cadres of the Underground for their part realised that independence in the near future was, if not likely, then at least possible. All sides knew that the time for action had arrived, and that if there were not an immediate and decisive outcome on Mars then the System would be lost to the Zaibatsus. Few foresaw the apocalyptic consequences of their decisions.
The immigration crisis, the curfew, the limiting of democracy, the imprisonments of dissidents without trial, the random searches and the ubiquitous security checkpoints had already largely turned opinions in the North against the Terran-IDC hegemony. In 2194, these opinions were transformed into active unrest by the actions of the corporate security forces themselves. On the surface, perhaps, it appeared that little had changed: the IDC had issued no new directives to Intercorporate Security, and had certainly not extended that organisation's already sweeping powers. Beneath the `business as usual' facade, however, there had been more serious changes. It was no longer enough for the security forces of each corporation to contribute to the general maintainance of order - in the new game each security force was not only attempting to suppress the Underground, but to extend its area of operations at the expense of its corporate rivals. The most important regions to control, of course, were the economically vital Northern cities. Stamping out the separatists in the Outback became very much a secondary concern next to pacifying and stabilising the more developed regions.
In this new climate, semi-legal `black operations' proliferated on the edges of the security apparatus. Amongst the targets were the political parties and the Mars-based corporations that were the backbone of the crumbling Northern liberal consensus: for were not the strikes and demonstrations evidence that these bodies had been subverted by Martian nationalist extremists? Rumours about the black ops spread rapidly and were followed by more substantial revelations about botched operations against political targets. The people of the major cities realised that Intercorporate Security now aimed not to protect them, but to impose an authoritarian regime in which they were no longer Martian citizens, but rather corporate subjects. The legitimate opposition had been rendered almost impotent, so the people joined Krasnaya Volia and the other illegal parties of the Free Martian Alliance in droves. The IDC may have had massive economic and military advantages, but the FMA was winning the hearts and minds of the common people.
The true corporate strongholds, both in the North and the Outback were the arcologies, virtually self-contained cities that were as secure against frontal attacks as against the strikes and demonstrations of the populations that were not direct transnational employees. In the Outback these arcologies controlled key mining sites, as well as providing command and control centres and military staging areas. In the cities they were largely dedicated to the laboratories and development centres that provided the true basis of corporate power. While the core citizen-employees of the arcologies remained loyal, and the transnationals controlled Mars-orbital space, the corporations could maintain their grip on the planet forever. The longer-term goal of the Underground was therefore to subvert the arcologies. With the security forces tied up with the troubles in the major cities, parts of the FMA began a military campaign against the most remote of these corporate fortresses. These guerilla attacks were the first active military activity on Mars for almost a century, and the beginnings of widespread violent opposition to the IDC.
On Earth, public opinion remained firmly against the Martian Underground and in favour of the rule of the IDC, continuation of large scale emigration to Mars and intensification of the security operations on the planet. To a Terran population that largely misunderstood the situation on Mars, the transnational military operations against rebel forces in the Outback were simply police actions against criminals and terrorists. The highly visible bombing campaigns against transnational facilities in Port Robinson, Flammarion and the Isidis cities only strengthened this opinion. Minorities that used terror and assassination as weapons could not be allowed to impose their policies on the peace-loving and democratic majority. That this democratic majority was one in which votes on Earth swamped votes on Mars in making decisions on Martian issues was easily overlooked. The problems on Mars, though, were far away and only of minor interest. Within a few short years the escalating war would reach right into the heart of Cis-Luna, and threaten a conflagration that would consume the entire System.
The future of Ad Astra