Marin intends to enter the bridge. It's a procedure she's implemented thousands of times before; leaving Nymet requires using the bridge, and Marin Pathfinder of Nymet could not have survived cooped up in a single innangarð for her entire life. It's not an exaggeration to say that she has spent more of her life in the bridges than in any innangarð. She knows how to operate them: entry, traversal, and exit. It should take a moment's thought to conclude her journey. Instead, as her staff strikes the earth, the bridge opens...somewhere else. She's standing on a bridge- an ordinary bridge, one made from materials and not the raw power of the gods- in an unfamiliar innangarð, with no sign of the bridge she just exited behind her.
"I suppose that does sound like magic. We build all our bridges without magic just out of normal wood. They tend to be built over water. There's a few Nomai bridges we've found, they tend to be built out of ceramic like most of their buildings. You definitely couldn't build a bridge between planets since they don't stay at a consistent distance from each other."
"Planets could be quite different from innangarðs, if my translation is treating the words this way. Could you tell me more about the scale involved with space travel, and what makes planets different than space?"
"Our planet is 243 meters in radius just about. The sun is about 9 thousand meters away. Space is well... nothing it's empty aside from the planets and stars and such. Planets are big balls of matter that orbit around the sun. The sun is what we call the closest star and it's is an even bigger ball of matter that puts off a lot of light and heat."
"Fascinating. The concept of the sun is familar enough to translate, but we know much less about it than you seem to. As for my world, innangarðs are often further from each other than it sounds like your sun is from the planet. Is 'innangarð' translating at all, then, or is it completely foreign?"
"As far as I can tell it's not translating. I've never heard that word before. We have a whole exhibit about stars here in the museum. We've managed to figure out how they stay bright and how they'll eventually die."
"I'm not able to translate written language. I would appreciate a tour, if you don't mind."
"That's a shame... I guess we'll have to wait on Hal and Syl's translation project afterall." They shake their head. "On to the exhibits. The wall fragment over there came from the south pole of our moon Attlerock. It has some Nomai writing and apparently it helped Hal and Syl make a breakthrough. Hopefully they'll be done soon and we can finally read all the writing we've found. That star symbol appears at a lot of the Nomai sites we've visited, at least a few times it's been a centerpiece of the area it appears in. We haven't seen any other symbol as prominent or ubiquitous as it. We don't have any good guesses as to what it's supposed to be though."
"From the moon? Is the moon also considered a planet?"
Marin does have a guess for why a symbol might repeat, but it relies on magic existing here without their knowledge. If the Nomai had magic, the Hearthians might not know about it.
"Technically, no but basically. The moon isn't a planet because it orbits our planet instead of the sun and of course because it's smaller. The exact details aren't too important though."
"What other planets have you visited? How many of them bear signs of former Nomai occupation?"
"We've visited Giant's Deep, The Hourglass Twins, and Brittle Hollow. We've scouted the Dark Bramble but the only explorer to try going inside never came back out and nobody else has been brave enough to follow them. All four of the other planets and our moon Attlerock bear obvious signs of Nomai occupation. There's also a Nomai space station in orbit around Giant's Deep nobody has found a way in though. All their creations seem to be powered down for the moment and some of the doors are just completely broken."
This sure does sound like the exact reason people aren't supposed to go into the utgard, doesn't it.
Marin has never been very good at doing anything but exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
"Those are interesting names. How were they chosen?"
"Giants Deep has Hurricanes that throw islands into space, back before we understood science better and then visited ourselves, we thought that there were literal giants that threw the islands up and let them fall back down. The Hourglass Twins are named that because for some reason once every few days a huge amount of sand pours from one to the other. It looks a bit like an hourglass when it happens. Nobody is exactly sure what prompts it. Brittle Hollow is a hollow planet with a black hole at it's center. A few times sections of the planet have broken off and fallen into the black hole at it's center. Dark Bramble... well it used to be a frozen planet but some strange plant seems to have eaten the whole thing. All that's left of the original planet are some bits of ice held up by the brambles... and some bits of ice that have been flung onto other bodies in our solar system. The wood of the plant is pretty dark and it's also a bit intimidating... I shudder to think what would it would be like if that happened to our planet."
Four innangarðs whose gods are unusually hostile to human life? Some kind of strange inversion, wherein the world outside is innangarð and the enclosed spaces are utgard? This planet seems safe so far, so she's leaning towards the former, if not something even stranger. Black holes sound quite outside her abilities to deal with, as do hurricanes that throw islands, but she might be able to do something about the Hourglass Twins or Dark Bramble.
"I would be interested in learning more about these planets. My magic could help resolve the issues they're facing."
"That must be some magic. I don't rightly know that most of them are a problem either. It would be shame if Brittle Hollow ever fell apart though. If you can do something about that it would be great. If you can do something about Dark Bramble that would be great too... though if you can try to rescue Feldspar before destroying it that would be good... they might still be alive they've pulled off some amazing things before."
"Tell me more about Feldspar."
While she tries to think about how to solve the problem. If the plant has really covered the entire planet, but it is still a single plant...
"Feldspar was one of the four founding members of Outer Wilds, our space program, along with our flight coach Gossan, our engineer Slate and me. As ground control and later museum curator I didn't work with Feldspar as closely as Slate and Gossan did. I can tell you Feldspar was absolutely fearless though. Nothing scared them. Test-piloted everything Slate ever built! It's a wonder Feldspar lived to see space, frankly, but they did. Flew all sorts of dangerous stunts and explored everything they could find. And then they went to explore Dark Bramble and we never heard from them again. We don't even know if they're alive."
"My magic can't help find them if they're still alive, but it does help me travel in difficult conditions, move more quickly, avoid illness, control terrain, change weather, translate speech, protect myself, disguise myself, and tame utgard-beasts. The last one may not be useful here, but I believe the rest should apply."
"Sounds helpful. Do you still need air to breath? There isn't air on most planets, least not air we Hearthians can breath. Though for some reason there is breathable air near trees just about anywhere... Nobody's quite sure how that works. I wonder how you'd do with ghost matter... it kills us pretty reliably and it makes exploring some places quite hard."
"There are things that can kill me, and some of my protections have to be activated, rather than keeping me safe by default. I would want to understand much more than I currently do about the dangers."
"We don't completely understand ghost matter. If you go inside it then it kills you pretty quickly, it only takes a few seconds. It destroys the tissues of your body both inside and out. We've built equipment to detect when it's nearby and our cameras overlay it when they take pictures as a safety measure. It also appears briefly as a green glow if any object enters it. As for other dangers, the main ones are running out of air, crashing into something too fast, and on the ember twin specifically there are some caves that fill up with sand... you don't want to get trapped in one of those... thankfully nobody has died that way but there have been some close calls."
"Ghost matter does not sound like something I have any advantage in combating. Suffocation will take longer to kill me, but not by enough that I would risk it unless your technology provides significant improvement over nothing."
"Our space suits carry 6 minutes of oxygen. I don't know how long that is relative to how long you can last."
"I can add two minutes to that, assuming creating a bridge would be impossible- which I need to assume, if you've never heard of the kind that we make. It means I'm very far from the world I know. What else would you recommend I take on this rescue mission?"
"Can you fly? Our space suits can fly a little but they don't have enough fuel to get you all the way to Dark Bramble."