The TITAN Quarantine Zone


The TQZ’s part tomb, part zombie museum, part imminent threat. It forms a scalene triangle with rough vertices just east of Arsia Mons in the western outskirts of the Noctis Labyrinthus, just southwest of Olympus Mons on the Amazonis Planitia, and at Gale Crater, south of Elysium. So it covers parts of Tharsis, the Amazonis Planitia, Lucus Planum, and the Elysium Planitia. I grew up out here; it used to be the most heavily settled part of the planet outside Tharsis.

The outskirts of the TQZ seem pretty normal, but by the time you’re wondering what the big deal was about, you start seeing that there’s something real wrong with the terrain. The actions of the TITANs left weird landforms: fractal barrows, termite mounds, and disassembler aeolians, among others. Fractal barrows look like geometricallybranching clusters of wing-like shapes made of finely patterned slag. The process that forms them hasn’t been studied, but given they’re made of iron, the barrows’re probably a byproduct of baking the regolith for oxygen and other volatiles. Termite mounds seem to be the reverse: weird columns of glittering yellowy-white silicate shaped a lot like the giant termite mounds on old Earth, formed by a process that extracts iron. Disassembler aeolians resulted in places where an active cloud of disassembler nanobots was pushed by strong winds against or through a rock formation, possibly more than once. They look like hoodoos and other wind erosion formations, but the stone is newer and the shapes they form much more extreme.

Arsia’s the southernmost of the Tharsis Montes (the others, to its north, are Pavonis Mons and Ascraeus Mons). The mountain’s fully inside the TQZ, but it’s close enough to Tharsis’s major highways to make it attractive for smugglers. Hostile machines are rare here, but they still appear often enough to keep this place under quarantine. The Martian Rangers and occasional Consortium military patrols’re more of a threat than exsurgents here.

Set on the massive natural overlook formed by Apollinaris Mons, Qurain was built as a fortress. They were Muslims of some sort—never really understood the theology myself. Qurain was a Martian city-state in its own right, with a lot of dependent settlements scattered around what’s now the Zone. I spent some time in this area sellingcondenser pool shoju to them, just like my dad did to the the Muslims where I grew up—markup’s better than on cabbage. Muslims or no, the illegal liquor trade to Qurain kept a lot of us rednecks afloat back then. Now Qurain is a ruin. You’ll see scatterings of burnt-out, dust-choked domes on the way in, then the citadel itself up on Apollinaris Patera, cracked in half by a tac nuke. Qurain died quickly in the Fall, and the other city-states didn’t have to think about it more than five minutes before bombing the place back to rust. There was a massive tunnel complex under the citadel and numerous surface buildings that partially survived the nukes, leaving a lot of ground to explore for scavengers. Most of the place is hot, though, so don’t forget to pack your de-ionizing nanopharm.

This is where the flyovers end. The White Zone is the most dangerous part of the TQZ, where you still run into active warbots, zombified transhumans, nanoplagues, and the like. It’s also the heart of the TQZ, centered roughly around a big ridge on the Amazonis Planitia called Amazonis Sulci. If you’re going in here, have your weapons hot and your killswitch program ready. There’s stuff in here that’ll break your brain down into its component atoms and replace it with sentient tapioca, just for kicks. The fact this area’s still so active is a source of worry to both the Consortium and Firewall. The PC’s made matters worse by dropping bunker buster nukes on Amazonis Sulci, thinking if they drill into it they’ll kill some beating heart of evil. Idiocy … I mean shit, are things ever that simple? Still, something under that ridge is still cranking out helluv monsters.

Believe it or not, people live here. Whether you want to call them people or not is a debate I don’t want to get into, because the evidence ain’t weighed yet. There are reports from the smugglers all the time about individual drifters, hermits and such, wandering into or out of the Zone. More intriguing for my money’re rumors of the Yazidis, a clade of authentics who supposedly got abandoned out here during the Fall. Like the sufis, they were ecostation nomads with a mystic bent, but they ain’t sufis. They speak Kurdish, though they ain’t Kurds, and on old Earth they lived in southern Turkey. We’ve got evidence of the Yazidis—a little refuse from a camp here, bit of footage recorded by a distant scavenger there—but the patrols’ve never spotted them. They ain’t exsurgents, but they might be classifiable as exhumans.

The one person I know of who’s ever talked to them was a smuggler named Deja Torvik who ran into a band of them when she had to abandon her flyer over the Zone evading a patrol. She claims the Yazidis helped her find her way and resupplied her. They talked about how their head angel, Tawûsê Melek, had sent machines into the world to cleanse it of human evil. After she came out of the desert, Torvik started acting weird. She got a whole mess of new implants, mostly cybernetic as I hear it, and then about a month later disappeared with nothing but a note to a few old friends that she was going to rejoin the Yazidis. Hasn’t been heard from again. Give anyone you meet in the TQZ a wide berth, is my advice, unless you’re there specifically to investigate them. It’s a big place, and there’s more weirdness than just the Yazidis hiding out there.

The TITAN Quarantine Zone

Eclipse Phase | AUSTIN, TEXAS | 2015-2019 A.D. FireWall