Gatecrasher’s Almanac #35

Name: PXC-1037 (Floater)

Location: 1875 ly spinward/700 ly rimward from Sol

Gravity: 1.4G

Atmosphere: Hydrogen-dominant mix/nitrogen-oxygen mix

Body Type: Jovian

Floater is the name of both the planet and the structure that the Floater Gate itself resides within. A gigantic aerostat, similar in construction to those that float in the upper reaches of the Venusian atmosphere, Floater appears to be suspended into the atmosphere of a gas giant within a few thousand lightyears of Earth, swinging on a lazy orbit around a relatively dim orange star.

The installation itself, if it were outfitted to Inner System standards, could hold over a million instantiated people; the size and shape of the structure suggests that those who built it were substantially larger than the average transhuman, with most archways and doors framing an opening 3.2 meters tall. The other pieces of identifiable furniture – benches, beds, and the like – match a suggested height of about three meters, with construction built to handle a significant amount of mass when in use.

Gravity inside the aerostat is 1.6G – heavy but tolerable for those assigned to explore and try to work out the mysteries of whoever built the structure, and the interior atmosphere is a familiar nitrogen-oxygen mix, although the default of the systems is only about 14% oxygen and an unusually high amount of argon at just under 4%. So far the research teams have had little luck accessing any of the systems, and if there are any hardcopies of data on the aerostat they haven’t been found.

Floater does have a strong wireless signal, suggesting an active mesh, but only the vaguest suggestion of structure has been teased from it; either it’s a flat carrier signal or packed so dense with information as to be indecipherable. One researcher, an uplifted raven who answers to Rodney, swears zie can identify a pattern in the signal, but nothing else confirms zir claims. Firewall’s main interest in the aerostat at present is attempting to determine if Rodney is an async or an exsurgent.

Outside the habitat, the atmosphere is an unusually calm hydrogen mix somewhere between that of Jupiter and Saturn, with wind speeds relative to launched satellites clocking in at around 500 kph on average. There’s a fair wealth of organix compounds present, and a fairly high level of both methane and oxygen, suggesting that something on the planet might be alive, although nothing has yet been spotted.

The odds of anything being recovered by those working on the station are slim; the habitat shows signs of having been abandoned for at least thousands of years, including wear to the outside that has been causing it to slowly leak – very slowly, a few atoms a year at most – and descend toward the more turbulent depths of the giant’s atmosphere. It could potentially be retrofitted to bring it back up to a safer altitude, or additional aerostats built and launched using it as a base of operation.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Floater is that there is life here – the distant descendants of the original inhabitants of the aerostat, whose ancestors engineered an entire aerial ecology before modifying themselves to live free in the clouds. No longer even vaguely sapient after long ages of evolution, they resemble vast manta rays that ‘swim’ in the turbulent depths, sometimes breaching into the clear air where Floater hangs before diving again. They and the ecosystem engineered for them are the source of the methane and oxygen in the atmosphere, and they’ll likely still be around long after transhumanity has left Floater behind for good.

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Gatecrasher’s Almanac #35

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