The conflict was still billed as a Police Action on Earth, but reports of the scale of deaths on Mars began to leak out. Video footage of Earth forces interrogation camps and executions also began to leak; no prisoners were being taken unless they had intelligence to offer.
This provoked the new Ceres government in the Belt to declare in favour of the Martian underground. A new doctrine arose that the only way entrenched Earth forces could remain on Mars, cut off from the raw materials to build new defences, was to be resupplied from Earth orbit. The war in orbital space was deadlocked, with Martian stealth satellites hard to detect and Earth platforms hard to destroy.
To utilise Ceres' support, and cut off Earth support, Martian orbital space needed to be secured. Also leaders on Earth needed to be encouraged to believe that the Martian resistance was so strong it was not worth taking on. Therefore a campaign of sabotage against Earth orbital installations was conceived; the cost to Earth in extra security alone would be huge.
The AB-Benz beanstalk was a natural target since that corporation was also half owner of the Mars beanstalk and therefore a major bogeyman on Mars. On 8 September 2198 the Martians detonated a briefcase fission bomb that had been smuggled into Artsutanov. The blast killed all 300 000 inhabitants of the city and severed the beanstalk cable. AB-Benz shares lost 55% of their value within four hours of the beanstalk collapse; its credit rating was downgraded to AAA.
Also shuttle operators to Mars found their shuttle reception and launch stations exploding, breaking down and rendered inoperable. Earth's capacity to reinforce Mars was devastated.
The future of Ad Astra