Gargamadua Stripworld

Partially completed SupraJovian megastructure

Suprajovian ring
Image from Steve Bowers
Gargamadua Stripworld is suspended above the Jovian world Mungo by orbital ring technology

Location: Ophiuchus

Name: HD 154519
Type: F2
Luminosity: 8 x Sol
Distance from Sol: 401 ly

Name: Mungo
Mass: 3.4 Jupiters
Semimajor Axis: 7.6 AU
Orbital Period: 15.7 years

Supermundane Strip
Name: Gargamandua
Mass: 2.5e17 tonnes
Radius: 100,000 km
Width: 10,000 km
Surface Area: 6.8e9 km2 including atmosphere walls
Surface Gravity: 0.45 gees
Colonised: 2701 AT
Allegiance: MPA.

Colonised initially by the Interstellar Frontiers Group this system had only two significant planets, a hermian-type rockball near the hot star and a distant Eujovian world. IFG began to construct a power and habitat swarm using the material of the rockball, but when they became part of the Mutual Progress Alliance in 3007 they began to consider a number of more unusual projects. In due course they decided to encase the Jovian planet Mungo in a supramundane shell. This would initially take the form of an equatorial strip supported by orbital rings, which could be extended to cover the entire world at some later date. Although Mungo has a comparatively weak magnetic field compared to many similar gas giants, the orbital rings were placed at a radius of 100,000 kilometres from the planet's centre to reduce adverse effects on the ring's environment and on the ring support system itself.

At first only two hundred km in width, this equatorial strip-habitat was gradually widened until, in 3600 it was ten thousand kilometres wide. The ring floor was built from matter extracted from the inner planet, Badvoc, which had been mostly disassembled by this time. Atmosphere walls were constructed from tall, tubular balloons inflated with helium (extracted from the surface of Mungo thirty thousand kilometres below). Mungo also supplied the nitrogen and oxygen content of the strip's atmosphere, extracted from ammonia and water clouds on that planet.

To support the ring 200 orbital rings were constructed, running parallel to one another under the landscaped surface, directly above the planet's equator. These parallel rings would tend to migrate towards the central position, so are kept separate by further dynamic compression members. Each cell of the resulting support net is a square 50km on each side. Supported above the strip floor is the sculptured landscape; 90% of Gargamadua is a shallow sea, interspersed with islands. Most of the islands are small, ranging from 1km to 200km across. In the Current Era there are more than a million inhabited islands, arranged at random into seventy-five archipelagos. Although it is understood that the Artificers of Gargamadua originally intended to build a complete supraplanetary sphere over Mungo, they appear to have abandoned this goal.

History of Gargamadua

The artificers who built the stripworld, mostly former members of the Interstellar Frontiers Group, were mostly content with retiring to the largest island Celemer, although they were still active in monitoring the development of ecosystems on the myriads of empty islands. Floating sea-borne tree-nuts were generally the first species to colonise the smaller islands, transported across the shallow seas from planted forests on the largest islands in each archipelago. As increasing numbers of new colonists arrived from other systems, they found that each island was still at an early stage of development; sometimes these colonists brought new species with them, either as pets or as stored data for engeneration. By the end of the Second Federation era around a third of a million islands were inhabited, and most of the others supported life of various kinds, often littoral or amphibious.

The Pedlarites

One important group that elected to come to Gargamadua was the Pedlarites, a sect of synthetic humans from Yno, (TYC7929-796-1). The Pedlarites had extremely realistic human bodies which aged relatively quickly; after less than a century the Pedlarites were old and moderately infirm. Many of their leaders were among this older population, and most islands with a Pedlarite majority were gerontocracies.

The Pedlarite sect followed a modified form of Mortalism; once the android body of a Pedlarite becomes too decrepit to function after a hundred and fifty standard years or so, the individual voluntarily deactivates emself and is placed in storage. A few choose to be reactivated after a set period, or in the event of an emergency or other interesting event; these reincarnated individuals are given new, young bodies but generally only have limited access to their former memories. On a number of occasions in the history of Gargamadua a significant number of Pedlarites have, for various reasons, been re-embodied at the same time.

The Agdisteans

This clade arrived from Djed soon after the strip habitat was completed, and soon became the most populous group on this world. The Agdisteans are herms, with both male and female attributes, and all individuals are able to bear children, so they are capable of relatively fast population growth. This clade was created as a way of developing a new psycho-sexual identity for its members; each individual in this clade makes no distinction between masculinity and femininity, but can form a bond with any other herm.

At first the Adgisteans rarely interacted with the other inhabitants of the ring, but by the end of the Second Federation period many herms had formed relationships with males, females and other sexual types on this world. Interclade breeding was possible naturally in some cases, and in others could occur with the aid of reproductive technology.

The Version War

The MPA remained neutral for many decades after the start of the Version War, but the visiting Lawkeeper vessel Andersøn persuaded the Artificers to allow a small Negentropist fleet of naval vessels to be established on the oceans of the stripworld, ostensibly to protect against terrorism. The Andersøn then left the system, and was eventually destroyed in the battle of Rho Ophiuchi. The ocean fleet on Gargamadua was gradually upgraded by the Negentropists until the ships were fast and powerful omnicraft, capable of flight and operating in space. Meanwhile the Unarchists, a minor faction of bubblehab dwellers in the upper atmosphere of Mungo with ties to the old Sagittarius NoCoZo worlds were angered by the presence of the Negent fleet, and made plans to neutralise it. In 4550 the Unarchists attacked the naval ships with powerful drone weapons; three vessels (out of two hundred) were sunk, but the efficient defences of the craft prevented further losses.

Unfortunately the attack on one of the ships was sufficiently violent to rupture the sea-floor underneath it, causing the shallow ocean to spill through into the vacuum below. Although this hole was leaking around 30,000 tonnes of water per second, the flow would still have taken seventy thousand years to drain the ocean completely. The Artificers and the remaining Negentropist craft worked together to raise the landscape under the leak by applying acceleration to the underfloor area, raising the landscape around the leak by ten metres or so. This stopped the water flow, allowing the hole to be plugged and repaired despite the hurricane now blowing through the gap.

The threat of Unarchism was countered with increased surveillance on the ring, and millions of reincarnated Pedlarite elders were embodied to help with the search for terrorist cells, on the ring and in the bubblehabs below. Most of these elders migrated to Negentropist worlds when the war was over.

The ComEmp and After

During the age of relative peace that came with the Commonwealth of Empires, the Adgistean herms became very diverse, adopting several different lifestyles and cultures. The original clade were very androgynous in appearance, and could pass for either male or female in many populations. This phenotype persisted in several regions, notably the large islands in the Southern Smattering group. In the Tzu archipelago they interbred with several other human-derived groups, and became very diverse; some remained androgynous and hermaphrodite, while others became more masculine or feminine in appearance; they often chose to have just one single set of reproductive equipment, becoming true males or females, or sometimes merms or ferms.

The Cortnay Islanders chose to take their body diversity further; instead of appearing as either male or female, many of them became heteromorphs, adopting entirely new, often only vaguely humanoid forms and changing them at will. Members of other clades in this region often adopted the heteromorph lifestyle, so that the distinctions between the clades blurred further.

Meanwhile in the nearby Aerian island chain the herms split into two groups, both hermaphrodite but one with a male appearance and one with female, the two populations rarely meeting except for the traditional inter-island sport events. As is generally the case in the Terragen Sphere, humanoid individuals with a female body plan are slightly smaller and more gracile, but they have comparable athletic abilities when size and bodyweight are taken into account. The inter-island games on Gargamadua are organised on the basis of body mass rather than sexual morphology, with males, male-seeming herms, and merms competing on an equal basis with females, ferms and female-seeming herms of similar mass. The Cortnay Islanders, with their heteromorph bodies, were only permitted to compete if they conformed to certain strict categories.

Pedlarite Conformism in Ascendancy

Because they were synthetic beings, the Pedlarites could easily have adjusted their own bodies to reflect the diversity of the herm cultures; but instead they continued to follow their traditional lifestyle, acting more human than the humans as the Aerian poet Aduyevo remarked. Many Pedlarites, on the other hand, considered that the chaotic lifestyle of the herms and related clades was veering towards Unarchism, the lawless philosophy to which they were still opposed. In 7001 the Pedlarite gerontocrats decided that they should act to bring the stripworld to its senses. By engenerating millions of stored elders into new bodies, they hoped to spread the doctrine of conformism among the dissolute islanders. They found many followers among the Southern Smattering group of islands, where the herms were comparatively conservative; and with their backing they began to make inroads among the other archipelagos. But the cultures of the Cortnay Islands and elsewhere were too resistant to conformism by this time, leading to a number of conflicts at various locations throughout the stripworld.

Some factions appealed to the Artificers, isolated on the tech-saturated island of Celemer; some of these individuals were first or second singularity transapients, and could presumably solve many of the stripworld's problems with ease. The Artificers declined to intervene, stating that the citizens should be free to pursue their own goals, no matter how much these goals conflicted with each other; the Artificers had other concerns. However from that time on the conflicts reduced in number, and disparate groups began to find common ground; many suspected that the appeals had been successful, and the transapients did in fact act in some subtle and undetectable way to resolve the situation.

The Current Era

Since that time much of the culture on Gargamadua has become a mixture between the conservatism of the Pedlarites and the Smattering, and the eccentric hedonism of Cortnay and elsewhere. Many of the androids have rejected Mortalism and adjusted their somatic technology to prolong their lifespan, sometimes indefinitely; while the herms are now thoroughly integrated with the other human groups on this world through interbreeding and optional genetic integration. Only a few islands among the Smattering hold populations of genetically pure Agdisteans, many of which have been cloned from stored data several thousand years old. Nevertheless a number of the ancient herm lifestyles are popular even in the Current Era, often adopted by synthetic as well as biological citizens.

The extensive seas of Gargamadua are now home to many different aquatic clades, including merpeople and highly modified heteromorphs. One very recent development is a clade of sentient corals that has colonised the shallow seas around certain reef-cities. Gargamaduans have emigrated to several worlds in the Middle and Oouter Volumes, including the dry, salty world of Uyuni.

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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 19 November 2015.

More images of stripworlds in Paul Birch's essay here
Supramundane Planets.