Stars Edge Redux
Spread out over a massive region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, the belt contains a few hundred asteroids greater than 100 kilometers in diameter, over a thousand objects greater than 30 kilometers in size, and countless smaller ones. Despite this, the total mass of asteroids in the belt is only a fraction of one of the inner planets, meaning that asteroids are spread out over great distances. A spacecraft flying through the belt is highly unlikely to encounter an asteroid unless it deliberately navigates toward it.
Resources and Economics
The rich, easily accessible mineral deposits in the Belt were a major link in transhumanity’s first steps toward the outer system. Automated mining and high-impulse ion boosters enabled outer system colonists to move metal-rich Main Belt asteroids into the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond, where metallic asteroids are much scarcer. This activity continues to this day as transhumanity pushes further out into the system.
Hundreds of small habitats, mostly involved in prospecting activities, dot the belt. Distant from Earth, settlements in the belt were largely spared the devastation of the Fall. Both hypercorp and autonomous outposts ourish here. Derelict habitats abandoned when nearby asteroids were boosted into the outer system or depleted are common here as well, although some of these are now occupied by residents who are best left to their solitude.
One of the system’s three dwarf planets (along with Pluto and Eris), Ceres is almost 1,000 kilometers in diameter and hosts a population of almost a million. Unlike most Main Belt asteroids, Ceres has an icy crust with a layer of liquid water beneath it, like a miniature version of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. With its abundant water, Ceres has a major role in resupplying other stations in the belt. Similar to Extropia, Ceres operates largely along anarcho-capitalist lines. However, the Hidden Concern, a cartel run entirely by uplifted octopi, holds sway in the sub-crustal sea and maintains a stranglehold, as it were, on water extraction operations. Cerean octopoid morphs are specially adapted to survive in the ammonia-rich waters of the Hidden Sea.
Extropia (44 Nysa)
This massive beehive habitat is a major crossroads and anarcho-capitalist/mutualist marketplace. Extropia is a neutral free city whose infrastructure and social fabric is maintained by a loose association of anarcho-syndicalist af nity groups. Extropia’s neutrality hinges on strategic alliances between key local gures, their networks, and an unusual array of outside interests that include the Lunar banks, technolibertarian factions, and outer system colonies dependent upon raw materials exported from the belt. The hypercorps use Extropia as a tax shelter and a haven from which to do illicit business. There are no laws or government as such; visitors are advised to register with an insurance and security provider. Named after one of the rst transhumanist movements, Extropia is considered a utopia for transhumans looking for body modi cations. AGIs and forking are accepted and allowed here. The transhuman population is nearly ten million.
Nova York (Metis)
One of the more unusual near-weightless habitats is Nova York, the main city on Metis, a large nickel-iron and silicate asteroid located in the main belt. Nova York, the third largest habitat in the main belt, is a thriving metropolis of 500,000, with the main portion of the city located in a spherical cavern approximately four kilometers in diameter, the top of which is two hundred meters beneath the asteroid’s surface. Lit during the day by a series of huge light tubes in the outer walls, at night the lights of the buildings cause the surface of this sphere to resemble an enormous geode. The habitat’s basic design consists of many thousands of exceptionally tall and fragile-looking buildings that extend between one hundred and fifteen hundred meters above the surface, as well as a few buildings that stretch from one side of the cavern to the other. In Metis’s minute gravity of 1/140th of a g, up and down have little meaning, and even relatively fragile buildings are in no danger of falling down. The vast majority of the buildings, including ones more than one kilometer tall, are made from thin plastic panels over a durable supporting framework. These buildings jut out at all angles from the sphere.
Many inhabitants of Nova York move from one building to another by jumping, and a single leap can carry someone many hundreds of meters. Residents do not worry about falling—the combination of air resistance and exceedingly low gravity means that even someone falling from the top of the cavern to the bottom is in no danger of injury. In this environment, the only real meaning of up and down is that down is where you look for objects to come to rest (as long as an air current does not pick them up and blow them around).