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The circumstances necessary to form a ring-shaped world
seem beyond the capabilities of nature, yet the toroidshaped
planet Orikolai—also referred to as the Crucible—maintains
a fairly stable shape that resists collapsing into a rounded mass.
This shape dictates Orikolai’s bizarre surface conditions.
Gravity on the planet is irregular, with surface gravity strongest
along the interior and exterior equator and weakest along the
hub and rim. In this way, the planet’s gravity fluctuates from
low to normal. Because it orbits its sun at an angle, Orikolai
experiences dramatic seasons, resulting in summers with 10,000
hours of daylight and equally dark winters. The planet remains
tectonically active, with hubward plates converging into towering
mountains capped in sun-shielded glaciers and rim-bound plates
diverging dramatically into volcanically active expanses.
Orikolai’s flora and fauna have evolved to endure these
conditions. Some, such as the herds of hashukayaks and highflying
hub geese, live in a yearlong cycle of migration, crossing
the planet to follow sunlight and food. Others hibernate to
combat the long winters. Yet others demonstrate seasonal
plasticity, even evolving bladderlike organs that allow them to
adjust to a range of surface gravities.

Popular etiology holds that scientists of a long-removed age
built Orikolai as a laboratory before departing millennia ago, even
seeding the surface with life that has since adapted to their world’s
dynamic climate. Outside races have attempted to colonize
Orikolai with little success. Xenoarchaeologists
nonetheless delight in exploring the world, for in
secluded regions, ruins from the planet’s creator
race remain. Most intriguing is the moonlike body
within the circular void of the planet’s ring. Explorers
suspect that this moon might have once served as a
control center for the entire planet.
The time left to study Orikolai
draws to a close, however, as the
artificial stabilization processes
that prevent the torus from
collapsing have experienced
gradual decay. Scientists predict
that in a matter of centuries, the
world will collapse inward on itself,
making it a race against time to learn
who the creators were, where they
went, what they learned from their
experimentations, and why they
disappeared without a trace.

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