Tuesday, May 28, 2013

148: Gravity Bridge

ENTRY 148: Gravity Bridge

Ruby is an exoplanet accessible through the Martian Gate, an irregularly shaped planetoid that shows signs of heavy industrialization orbiting a red giant somewhere on the far side of the Crab Nebula. The gate is located on the lip of an open-pit mine, one of fifteen such bores on the exoplanet’s surface, and the first explorer fell three hundred meters down the terraced slope before it could arrest its fall. Soil samples indicate the race who built it was probably mining for radioactive materials, especially a particularly blazing form of aluminum oxide contaminated and splendidly colored by native uranium ores to yield rainbow-shifted rubies, some up to ten centimeters long. The center of the pit is filled with waste materials from the mining and processing operations that must once have been a major concern: there are at least three hundred metric tons of radioactive slag, spent fuel rods, and assorted other junk piled into the middle of the hole. On any other exoplanet, the prospect of picking through the toxic and radioactive waste from the abandoned mining station of an apparently space-going alien civilization would be counted as a major win—but Ruby has something more: the Gravity Bridge.

Hanging above the horizon and about a hundred kilometers from Ruby in a parallel orbit around the red giant is an artificial satellite, a ring of metal with an inner diameter of 16.3 meters—more than big enough for a ship or ore container to pass through. If a viewer on the surface stares up and looks straight through the ring, they notice something weird: the stars and planets seem to shift toward the center. The first observers considered it an optical illusion; subsequent tests proved that gravity within the ring really was abnormal, producing approximately 30g of acceleration passing from the side facing Ruby to the other side. Ships (or anything, really) that approach within a kilometer or so will be sucked in and accelerated at a leisurely 300 meters/second squared, usually hitting a velocity of a couple thousand kilometers per second by the time they leave the trailing area of the effect. Fine for rocks, not so good for organics.

The Gravity Bridge is plainly a one-way device for speeding up transport from Ruby to whatever the bridge was pointed at—currently the ring appears to be oriented toward an asteroid belt 53 million kilometers distant that might have been a fair-sized planet at one point. It would have been a cost-efficient method for a long-term mining. Researchers speculate the patch of distorted space-time is caused by exotic matter from within the satellite itself, though they’ve been slow and careful in their examination so far, afraid to break the device, which they believe might be a primitive precursor to Pandora gate technology.


The surface of Ruby is a mildly radioactive near-vacuum with very low gravity (0.1g); anyone that jumps to hard will find themselves falling into space, drifting toward the Gravity Bridge, accelerated very quickly indeed and flung out in space in an arc that would eventually take them to an asteroid field that may or may not contain the debris of a former spacefaring civilization. Alternately, characters can not do that and take a ship, which is generally safer.


  • A medium-sized automated explorer vessel with a resleeving station and a group of synthmorphs was pushed through the Gravity Bridge and with the gravity assist has reached the asteroid belt in record time. The call has gone out for gatecrashers willing to do an initial survey—a job slated to last at least twenty-four months (including two months training and prep), but with a massive payout at the end with plenty of bonuses if the characters find anything interesting. If the PCs want the job, they’ll probably have to call in every favor they ever owed and stretch their rep to the max…but at the end of the two-year mission, they’ll either be dead or rolling in fortune and glory.

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