Monday, August 19, 2013

231: Gravity Prison

ENTRY 231: Gravity Prison

There are as many kinds of prison as transhumanity has concepts of freedom. All of them rely on the principle of separating an individual from society, both to prevent further harm and as a punishment or place where reformation and re-education can take place. Habitats take different stances regarding incarceration based both on their social and ethical background, and on the economy and technology available to them. Isolated, secure holding facilities for physical morphs that see to their basic needs are expensive to operate, and typically only used for the short term—and even then, only if the prisoner is suspected to be a risk to themselves or others. Mental prisons such as time dilation protocols, simulations, or simply removing the ego from the morph are much more cost effective, but sometimes run into issues regarding the rights of the prisoner and undo trauma. Then again, there are some people that just want someone else put away, as cheaply and effectively as possible, and don’t care a wit about laws and regulations.

Gravity prisons are as brutal as they come: durable prison-habitats with constant high (>1) effective g forces, such as the Elysium High Capacity Residential Habitat on the surface of Jupiter (>2g). The most famous are the three GMax facilities in orbit about the sun, all of which are located as stops along the same one-way space elevator. The GMax Alfa has an effective gravity of 2g; GMax Bravo is 4g, and GMax Charlie a bone-crushing 8g. Each habitat is monitored remotely, but policed from afar. Fresh supplies are dumped in once a month by a one-way shuttle; any tampering with the shuttle means no supplies the next month, and anyone stupid enough to try and hitch a ride on the shuttle simply ends up on the next GMax down…and after Charlie the space elevator simply runs out, and the spent shuttle free-falls towards the surface of the sun. All GMax terms are for life, but aside from the brutal gravity and isolation the inhabitants are free to do as they please; Alfa’s inmates have set up their own societies and hierarchies, while Bravo is an anarchistic model with heavy Main Belt cultural influences since the majority of the surviving morphs are Bouncers. Charlie is the harshest of the three habitats, but the morphs that can handle the gravity have pioneered experiments in heavy-gravity agriculture and aquaculture that have earned them special privileges (Mesh access, luxury goods, etc.) compared to those habitats higher up the gravity well.

An alternative model gravity prison is a habitat with a ring section that spins fast enough to emulate g forces of 1g and higher. The few examples of these are generally located in the inner system, where more abundant solar power is available, and vary from the “gravity spas” around 1-1.5g used for transhumans adapted to zero gravity and microgravity environments to “bonecrushers” that can potentially emulate up to 10g, though most have safeties that prevent them from being taken up above 4g acceleration due to an incident when a hacker killed an entire imprisoned population by prolonged exposure to high g forces. Rotary gravity prisons offer the wardens and guards moderate control over the gravity by controlling the acceleration of the rotation, and depending on the individual prison riots and the like can either by broken up by halting spin completely—few prisoners have the skills to riot effectively in zero g—or by accelerating and forcing the transhumans onto their knees.

Using Gravity Prisons

Prisons in movies and books tend to suck: cramped, crowded places typically segregated by sex and filled with violent and often filthy criminals and ruled over by corrupt guards. Science fiction prisons tend to suck differently: a bit more clinical and severe, focusing on the isolation of the individual and the numbing of the mind. Those are just tropes, however. In Eclipse Phase, a prison can just be another habitat where leaving is difficult in some way and life is relatively unpleasant. Gravity prisons in this regard aren’t toxic hellholes where badasses tattoo themselves with racist symbols and face gang rape in the communal showers. Instead, picture your average habitat except most of the biomorphs are solidly built, suffer chronic back and joint pain, and probably there against their will. They may not be criminals, just inconvenient people shot down the gravity well because it was cheap. This is a different enough perspective from “regular” prison that a gamemaster could potentially set an adventure in one, and breaking in/breaking out isn’t too hard for a creative crew with some outside help (for example, having a ship waiting at the end of the Solar GMax line to pick up some escapees taking the one-way shuttle), so some bulky NPCs could even be escapees from a gravity prison, or only available through the Mesh because they’re stuck in a gravity prison.


  1. This has been one of my favorite things on the Internet for the past year and by god I hope I can find published work of yours so I can purchase it.

    Quick question: When you say "Surface of Jupiter" do you mean within the upper atmosphere or...where exactly? The 10bar pressure zone?

    1. Well, Jupiter is of course a gas giant and doesn't have a solid "surface" per se until you hit the core, but for purposes of Science! scientists on Earth consider the "surface" to be the point where the atmospheric pressure is 1 bar (Earth normal). And the gravity at that point is about 2.5g. Maybe should clarify that.

      Anywho, thanks for reading! It's all downhill from here.

    2. Pfft. Not bloody likely. You're going to be great.