Airlock Gremlins Myth in Solar Dominion | World Anvil
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Airlock Gremlins

The myth of the airlock gremlin is a folk tale common to cultures based around space stations, space habitats, long duration space missions and habitats on planets and moons that lack breathable atmosphere.   Whilst the particulars vary from telling to telling, the core of the myth remains fairly consistent. There exists, children are told, one or more small humanoid creatures which can survive in vacuum or in the atmosphere beyond the airlock. These creatures are generally the size of a stuffed toy and devilishly intelligent if single minded. Their primary goal is to remove the helmet and/or gloves of a suited child or in some retellings, open both sides of an airlock. These creatures are purported to be lightning fast and masters of disguise, explaining why the children would be unable to see them coming. In order to protect themselves from the gremlins, children are reminded of the important of correctly sealing and locking pressure suit connectors and the importance of fully sealing, locking and cycling airlocks after use.   An alternate retelling focuses on the punitive aspect. In these versions, which were particularly popular in the 2210s possibly due to the production and distribution of a comedy-horror holofilm based on the myth, the airlock gremlins instead live in the airlock and sabotage the suits of unruly children or lie in wait to grab and snatch away children who play near airlocks. The use and popularity of the latter sub-variant dropped off sharply in 2217 after a group of four children were killed in an accident where they somehow managed to cycle an airlock they were playing in searching for the gremlins.   Whilst the gremlins are fictional, and there are very few macroscopic species that can survive in a vacuum, there are a few real animals colloquially known as airlock gremlins.   A cluster of star systems on the core-ward edge of IP3 space struggle with a species of insect that can survive extended periods in vacuum by entering a hibernation state. Initially found in a series of hollow asteroids orbiting Tair c, the Saturn analogue orbiting the star Tair. The insects require a vacuum to complete their lifecycle, and the cycle of pressurisation and depressurisation mimics their native habitat quite well. Once an infestation has taken root, it can be quite difficult to uproot them.   Adding to the complexity of identifying and dealing with a potential infestation, the mature insects are only a few centimetres long whilst juvenile specimens can be as small as a millimetre. In at least three cases, the insects have attempted to nest in the seals of pressure suits causing catastrophic failures during use. Routine inspections can identify the issues sooner, but many skip the more detailed inspections to save time.   The real Airlock Gremlins have so far spread to five other star systems and whilst containment of possibly infested ships and cargo is so far preventing it from spreading further, these insects have already done incredible damage. And as the story of the real gremlins spreads through human space, it is slowly mixing with the varying forms of the myth and further cementing it as a common bogeyman for children and superstitious adults alike in the 23rd century.
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