ENTRY 154: The Martian Cryptids
When transhumanity arrived, Mars was a dead planet. Some still hold there was no life on Mars at all before humans made Marsfall. Now, though far from terraformed, Mars teems with life in and around the habitats and terraforming gardens. Yet no transhuman can say precisely what species are present on Mars; there is no master database of all animals, plants, and bacteria brought to Mars, or engineered since transhumanity arrived. As well, much of Mars remains ares incognita, unvisited and unexplored at the ground level, known only from the cameras and sensors of orbiting satellites and the occasional aerial sweep. So perhaps it comes as little surprise that Barsoomians see things out on the fringes, and come across strange carcasses from time to time after a dust storm has blown through, and some ruster takes a few pictures and uploads another entry in the Martian Cryptids database.
A classical open-editing environment, the Martial Cryptids is configured to allow any user to upload sightings and evidence; a devout community of bored scientists and cryptozoologists then begin the long battle of evaluating the rumors, collating data, sometimes even raising funds for expeditions to find evidence of cryptids with a high probability of actually existing. Most of the two hundred or so cryptids currently in the database are assumed to be the result of outside agencies, brought or engineered by transhumans, TITANs, or Factors; pre-Marsfall cryptids are generally considered hoaxes even by some of the most uncritical zoologists. Some of the favorite/most probable Martian cryptids include:
Aram snail-tortoise: A hypothetical silicon-based organism with multiple sightings in the Aram Chaos. The creatures are supposedly similar to gastropods and move on a single large pseudopod, protected by inarticulate iron-rich exoskeleton or shell which the foot draws into when dust storms come. Most reported examples are 6-8 centimeters long. “Aram shells” retrieved from the Aram Chaos region have so far proved to be inorganic hematite-silicon rocks.
Borget’s sunflower: A wild, self-reproducing “petal” nanoplant with hexagonal solar-panel “leaves” in Reull Vallis, supposedly crafted by famed narcoalgorithm programmer Glenda Borget after a trip inside the Zone and containing primitive maker-facilities sufficient to create new copies of itself from available materials. More conspiracy-minded cryptozoologists point to anomalous movements in the region shortly after rumors first emerged as part of a deliberate coverup.
Marsman: Known only through poor video and still photo footage, as well as hundreds of sightings, the Marsman appears to be a heavily modified, perhaps experimental morph combining traits of rusters and neo-hominids. Unlike typical Barsoomians, the Marsman reportedly is perfectly adapted to the current Martian environment, requiring no survival gear. Scientists decry this as highly improbable, but the number of sightings and mounting evidence suggest there might be something more than popular hallucination.
Using the Martian Cryptids
The Martian Cryptids Database, besides being the most popular source of data on Martian cryptids, also serves as a focal point for bounties proving the existence of any given cryptid, and the starting point of most expeditions that set out to prove/disprove the existence of such beasties, and as such may serve as jumping-off points for adventures. Some of the cryptids listed may be victims of the exsurgent virus, experiments of the TITANs, critters imported from exoplanets, genetic experiments that got away, or hallucinations brought about by stress, sleeplessness, loneliness, and low oxygen out on the fringes. Any way you cut it, cryptids can be a good excuse to get the PCs out to some of the unexplored places of Mars. Other sizable planetary habitats like Titan, Europa, and many exoplanets likely have their own cryptid databases.