Wednesday, February 25, 2015

56. Gullet Worm

Hypercorp mining installations often simply devour the ground whole, pulverizing stone and running it through nanoscale filters to ensure every atom of value is extracted. In the outer system, and among the independent prospectors on Mars and Mercury, more selective approaches are called for, favoring quality over quantity. To these small mining outfits, the gullet worm is a godsend.

Small and autonomous, a gullet worm requires little overhead and seeks valuable minerals on its own. Before being deployed, the robot is a simple cylinder, one end a flexible tube, the other a "head" of complex nanotech. The tube is attached to a storage container and solar panel, the head planted in the ground. The head will begin burrowing, using specialized disassemblers to vaporize rock, and specialized fabbers to lengthen a muscular tube between it and the container. The head uses ground penetrating radar, t-rays and x-rays to survey its surroundings, steering itself to more valuable material. Once vaporized, this valuable material is moved up the tube through peristalsis.

The beauty of a gullet worm is its self-sufficiency. Once planted, it can bore through the ground indefinitely, yielding a slow but steady supply of material; a miner need only check in and pick up the results. The ends of gullet worms can be found scattered on the surfaces of Mercury and Mars, as well as larger asteroids and some moons. Often many worms work in parallel, and feed simple refineries and smelters.


Gullet mines are robots [Moderate]

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