Friday, September 18, 2020

Godtech, the Gates, and the Beast in the Pit

Spread across the many worlds of Mappae Solis are fragments of technology. Some are rude chunks of inert metal, others simple toys and trinkets. Others have remnant power, and many a hedge wizard possesses a small collection of minor artefacts. Some however, are not minor. Some have incomprehensible power, and work in bizarre and arcane fashions. Some, are godtech.

Godtech can refer to a wide variety of things, but in general the definition is simple. Godtech is anything whose functioning cannot be explained by the current understanding of the universe. Some godtech might be as simple as advanced nanoware or field emitters, while others might consist of space-time distortions or singularity-based virtual matter.

Godtech was relatively rare even pre-Fall, though even the simplest nanoware systems seem godlike to many contemporary scholars and mages. True godtech did the inexplicable, ignoring or rewriting the laws of physics, or certainly appearing to do so.

One of the most common pieces of godtech that still functions are the Gates.

The Gates are a central part of life in the world of Mappae Solis, despite their functioning being completely unknown. The Gates themselves are technically only anchor points for the true transport system, which is a hyperdimensional construct folded throughout the solar system. It is probable that this externality to regular space-time is what preserved the Gate system where all other tech failed. Each Gate is meant to function as an interface to this construct, with travellers setting their designation via implants or other cyberware commands. Without these cues, the Gates have to rely on other methods.

Many Gates default to “local” connections with other Gates on the same planet or orbital system as them. This is both to conserve power, and because statistically speaking, most travel is local. When someone enters a Gate for the first time, the local system logs their identity, and attempts to send them to their destination.

With the exception of Gate Keys and the occasional engel, no one remembers how to directly command Gates or even that you can. As a result, the local Gate system’s limited intelligence attempts to determine a preference based on previous trips, company, and social media posts. As the latter no longer exists, travelling by yourself through a Gate can result in strange destinations, especially if one makes several continual trips. The system assumes you are searching for a specific destination and, as you did not simply travel straight there, becomes more erratic in its attempts to auto select.

People have walked through Gates that should have been local, and ended up on other worlds.
First trips should be done with guides. Local systems recognise frequent travellers, and will usually send them to the same locations, prioritising their travel and rerouting companions with them. Several guilds exist as essentially meta-trade routes, with members being carefully inducted into the guides route in order to eventually lead caravans. Different guilds may use the same Gate to regularly go to different locations, but sufficient local traffic can soft-lock a Gate, and make mislocations rare.

Individual guides also exist, people who have travelled without guidance into the Gates in order to find paths to new and interesting places. A person who finds a quick way between two wealthy cities can expect to found their own guild, whereas a location with rich resources could spark a mining boom. They may also die when the Gate sends them to a place no longer conducive to life.

Travelling in a small group mitigates some of the extreme risk as the system averages traveller logs, which leads to the standard adventuring party being a not uncommon way for risk-takers to earn safe money.

Certain circumstances, most common among them being the accidental or intentional transit to a different planet and its local Gate system, can reset a traveler’s profile, requiring them to start again. If an adventuring party finds their destinations to be safe, comfortable, and familiar, they may decide to trigger one of these intentionally.

Most Gates are transparent, their archways clear passages to the other side. A thin field prevents atmospheric transfer, and even the occasional Gate that links to vacuum is safe enough to stand next, apart from a slight coolness to the air.

And then there are the Black Gates.

The Black Gates might be mistaken for Gates that link to the void, except they have no stars, and are far, far colder. Air near a Black Gate bites, and moisture forms frost on nearby surfaces. Skin pricks and prickles, and the foolish traveller who gets close enough to gaze into one will see a void darker than space, a perfect infinite black that absorbs all light.

If they are very unlucky, they might see something looking back. For the Black Gates do not link to nothing, but to the atmospheric deeps in an ice giant, perhaps Neptune or Uranus, or some far more distant object. Something lives in those deeps, and very little is known about it, most of it false. Black Gates speak sometimes, hissing and warbling in sound, subsonics, and radio. It is unwise to listen.

Things that may be true about the Beast in the Pit:

  • It can grant wishes, if only you’d do simple tasks for it.
  • It is old. Older than anything else in the Solar System, and it remembers the Fall clearly.
  • It is an escaped experiment, a secret lab hidden inside the deeps of an icy world testing new forms of matter and consciousness.
  • It is native to the Pit, evolved in its dark depths.
  • It is older than the Fall, and even humanity. An alien lifeform, strange and terrible, not from Here, but from Out There. Only in the Pit can it live.
  • It is a species of great leviathans, working together or at cross-purposes in strange and terrible plans.
  • There is only one of it, and it fills the deeps.
  • It is not organic, but a cogitating layer of superfluid sandwiched between pressure fronts and thermoclines.
  • It wants out.
  • It wants you in.
  • It hates you.
  • It is greater and grander than any mind in the Solar System, now or before the Fall, but trapped in the deeps it festers and loathes and plots.
  • It caused the Fall. It spoke, and people listened, and worlds burned. It failed to truly end the Solar System, and it does not intend to make the same mistakes again.
  • It can offer you everything and anything, for just one little favour.

Black Gates come and go, replacing regular Gate connections in an unknown pattern and by an unknown mechanism. There are rumored to be permanent Black Gates, but such devices are often mysteriously lost or buried, often coinciding with rumors of engels or devils in the area, though of course never together.

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