Saturday, November 23, 2013

327: The Maas Gate

ENTRY 327: The Maas Gate

"The Pandora Gates are a universe in and of themselves; each is obviously based on the same technology, but each is also unique, yet there are no indications that one was made before the other, with no indications of refinement or development. Even the basic materials they are made of could have been made a million years ago or yesterday. Each is also complete into itself, a whole unit...except for the Maas Gate."
- Prof. Brainbug, impromptu lecture at Titan Autonomous University

The Maas Gate was discovered and claimed late in AF 9 by Kalen Maas on Tethys, buried in centuries-old ice. It was recognized early on as technology of a piece with the Pandora Gates, but with crucial differences - smaller, with a simpler interface, and partially damaged as evidenced by a sixteen centimeter burn mark on the edge of the outer torus. Kalen quickly incorporated as Maas Laboratories, and has begun construction of a new laboratory facility to study it; meanwhile the Maas Gate is kept and studied in a high-security laboratory leased from Godwinhead and originally designed for dealing with radioactive samples.

By design or damage, experimentation with the Maas Gate has shown it does not operate identically to existing gates. The gate torus is small, only twenty-eight centimeters inner diameter. There is a wormhole effect, but no means to input an address. The effect itself only remains stable for 2.4 seconds, and puts out so much electromagnetic noise that telemetry from probes is often lost or corrupted. What came as a real surprise is that 11.2 seconds after the gate effect collapses, it spontaneously activates again and ejects an object with near-identical mass to any that passed through the prior gate episode at a velocity of 4.6 m/s, often accompanied by an "exhalation" of gases. These "exchange masses" are always alien objects which are of sufficient dimensions to fit through the torus and within 3 grams of the mass of the initial mass, none of which have ever been recovered.

So far "exchange objects" have included micrometeorites, metal fragments, partially fossilized extraterrestrial gastropod-analogue shells and exoskeletons, a single gold-coated alnico magnet with considerable intermetallic buildup, a lightly radioactive saline/heavy water solution, and a glass tube filled with neutral gasses and inscribed with a series of lines of different thicknesses and depths. The nature of this quid-pro-quo exchange and the complete randomness of the "exchange mass" has led to both considerable theorizing about the purpose of the Maas Gate and, almost inevitably, gambling. The "lottery" method of testing with the Maas Gate has proven popular with researchers, who simply drop input masses through and receive the exchange mass for study - and many of the results are posted directly to the Mesh, where bookmakers like Maas Roulette can bet on the nature of the outcome.

The current popular theory, supported by the little sensor data relayed from probes sent through the gate-device, is that the Maas Gate hooks in to a storage and exchange system set up by the gatebuilders to facilitate communication. The only slightly-less-popular theory is that the Maas Gate is an intelligence test, and that the more crap transhumans drop through the gate the greater the likelihood that whatever comes out is going to be dangerous enough to destroy everything. Maas Labs has already limited the mass of input objects to no more than 1 kilogram, ostensibly to minimize the possibility of receiving highly unstable heavy elements in quantity, and the countermeasures have been set up to hopefully contain any alive xenobiological material or active nanoinfections that might pass through.

Using the Maas Gate

Using the Maas Gate in a game directly is tricky; although PCs could gear themselves up as micromorphs (entry 282) and maybe go exploring with no guarantee of return. Instead, the Maas Gate will primarily be used in the form of the exchange objects that it outputs, which are perfect macguffins for most games and at 1 kg +/- 3 g are eminently transportable and valuable. Concerns about the nature and purpose of the gate are real, and the internal politics at Maas Labs regarding the cavalier "lottery" approach can get quite heated, and may cause some parties to involve the PCs in one fashion or another - staging a break in to underline the need for greater security, etc.

Alternately, the gamemaster may decide that the Maas Gate is a fake, a clever prop whose properties are replicated with stage illusion and carefully planned demonstrations in front of scientists. The electromagnetic noise, the light show, the puff of smoke or gas that just happens to hide the object the moment it emerges, the inability to get good sensor data - all possible elements of an elaborate hoax. If this is the case, then Kalen Maas will laugh all the way to the bank, provided they can find someplace far enough to run when the scheme is exposed.

No comments:

Post a Comment