In the last years of the twenty-first century, the first permanent non-research colony was founded on Mars. While the agricultural settlement, nicknamed Terra Nova -- New Earth -- was a grand feat of engineering and design in its own right, the social effects were even more significant. Proving that the creation of colonies housing civilians was now a realistic accomplishment, Terra Nova became the catalyst for a new era of Manifest Destiny as mankind took its first unsteady steps out into the stars.

As with many great scientific leaps, however, the political implications were widespread. If the Outer Space Treaty, having established the rest of the cosmos as a political neutral ground since the 20th century, were to be upheld, no colonists upon the red planet would be able to legally own their own land. As a stopgap solution until the Treaty were to be updated or replaced, TOLLUM -- the Treaty Organization for the Legislation and Land Use of Mars -- was founded. The primary role of TOLLUM would be to manage the issuing and tracking of land use permits, which could be purchased by individuals and corporations to claim a legal right to land on Mars.

In 2123, after over two decades of debate and legal challenges, TOLLUM awarded the first land use permit to the mining company Hypox, allowing the company to mine or otherwise extract minerals from a section of the planet's surface. Several years later, Hypox's first shipment of mining equipment arrived on Mars. Much to the dismay of the company's owners, there were already people there.

Ever since Terra Nova had been proved a success, other colonists had flocked to the planet. Aegis Private Colonisation Industries had for years organized the construction and settlement of colonies on the Martian surface. Colonists' transportation and housing were provided for free by Aegis; in return, colonists were obligated by contract to repay this loan. Though the medium of repayment was unspecified, colonies banded into dozens of small communities focused on creating their own small and sustainable systems of raising funds. Most of these groups established their own small mining operations, selling back to Aegis the same valuable minerals that Hypox sought. Since these colonies were unregistered and had been founded before TOLLUM came into power, the colonies' presence upon the planet's surface was unrecognized by TOLLUM.

Soon after Hypox's equipment arrived on Mars, TOLLUM issued a mandate requiring colonists to immediately cease mining operations and depart from the territory which now legally belonged to Hypox. The settlers, claiming grandfather rights to the lands they had independently settled, refused to obey, and, with support from APCI, formed the Aegian Frontiersmen Army.

For several months, Hypox and the Aegian Frontiersmen army were at an impasse; neither would withdraw their claims to the land.

Enter Osprey Modular Hardware and Weapons Engineering, a research firm and international arms dealer. With legislative approval from TOLLUM, Osprey offered to sell to Hypox the parts required to construct a robotic army to suppress and exterminate the settler rebellion.

The directors of Osprey, however, felt no urge to take sides in the conflict. Aegis, fearing the attacks upon its colonies would leave colonists unable to repay debts and thus threaten the company's solvency, secured a deal with Osprey. In exchange for a percentage of colonial profits, the Frontiersmen Army would be supplied with military hardware equivalent to what was made available to Hypox, leaving the two forces evenly matched in battle.

The war will be long and hard-fought. But to the victor go the spoils. And to Osprey, the profits.

Will be continued...