Posted by: Sagan Harris, Argonaut <Info Msg Rep>
Point of fact, there is very little that transhumanity understands about the gates. It’s easier to classify what we don’t know. We don’t know who made them, what they’re made of, how they work, or what their full capabilities are. We suspect they were made by the TITANs, but no one’s really sure if that’s true or if the TITANs simply found them first. We know that they are composed of some sort of programmable exotic matter, which has so far defied analysis. We think they create a wormhole in the fabric of space, though exactly how they do so is beyond our understanding. We know of five gates within the solar system and thousands of extrasolar gates, with the count rising almost daily.
About the only thing that transhumanity has figured out so far is how to interface with the gate control systems. We of course have learned how to open and close gate connections, but only after extensive periods of trial and error. The truth is, the vast majority of gate controls are not understood, and for the most part they are left untouched out of fear that some unforeseen event will be triggered. The gates within the solar system are all too highly valued and deemed irreplaceable, so the limited amount of experimentation that takes place with gate control systems is conducted on extrasolar gates that are suitably remote and considered slightly more expendable.
There is one thing we know with certainty: using the gates is an unpredictable affair. Despite what we have learned from half a decade of gate operations, our mastery of the control systems can be compared to that of a non-uplifted monkey seated in front of a car’s manual controls. We might have figured out how to steer in order to go in certain directions, but the car is a mechanism far beyond our intellect and experience, with numerous functions that stymie and confuse us, and ultimately the whole situation is likely to end in injuries and suffering. The gates have an unfortunate tendency to act in ways that we don’t understand. Even things we thought we’d figured out often go drastically awry.
Perhaps most significantly in the category of Things We Do Not Know is whether the gates are truly an opportunity—or a threat. Transhumanity has eagerly embraced the chance to expand out into the galaxy and explore new worlds and new life—perhaps too eagerly. Knowing as little as we do, we have no idea what dangers we may be placing ourselves in. We may find out that we have no control over the gates at all. In fact, we may not be the only ones using the gates. We strongly suspect the TITANs did, and it is completely possible that they still are. Many fear that the TITANs may one day return, using the gates, and finish the job of wiping us out. What if there is something else out there, however, some other threat? What if one day we open a gate to the homeworld of some homicidal alien species, thus alerting them to our existence? What if the gates are already being used to spy on and monitor us, tracking all of our interstellar movements and colonies? With such a poor understanding of the gates, we have no way to know what dangers we are placing ourselves in simply by using them.
Pushing those happy thoughts aside, we must acknowledge the fact that transhumanity has already adopted the gates as another tool in our technological arsenal, despite the fact that we can’t read or even identify the user guide and aren’t really sure of the tool’s intended purpose. Like many tools of our own devising, we are adept at conniving new and unexpected uses for the gates. Transhumanity is likely to continue to use and abuse the network of gates to its full extent—at least until something nasty comes along and convinces us otherwise. In the meantime, there are very good reasons to exploit the gates to our full advantage, from increasing our knowledge of the universe to expanding transhumanity’s population and territory so that we might better survive any unfortunate future catastrophes. If the Planetary Consortium’s propaganda memes are to be believed, the gates are the path to transhumanity’s destiny as a galactic civilization. Despite the hubris, this is a goal for which many of us are more than willing to charge forth. It sure beats sitting at home.
Sidebar: The Gates: Opportunity or X-Risk?
[Incoming Message. Source: Anonymous]
[Public Key Decryption Complete]
You’ve asked why Firewall doesn’t act to close the gates. The answer, of course, is complicated. I don’t think any of the proxies are naïve enough not to realize that the Pandora gates pose a very real and credible x-risk. They provide an avenue not just for the TITANs to return, but for some as-yet-unknown hostile entity to reach directly into the solar system and attack us. Even if you consider the dubious notion that the gates can be defended as some sort of choke-points, the expansion of transhumanity into the galaxy is itself worrisome to many. The more we make our presence known, the more traces we leave, the more noise we create, the more likelihood we have of making contact with other forms of intelligent life. Given that there is no certainty that this life will be friendly, we may be setting ourselves up for an unfortunate future encounter.
Make no mistake, there are elements within Firewall who decry the use of the gates and who argue, sometimes vehemently, that we must avoid using them. There are even rumors of some of these agents going off the reservation and taking up direct sabotage campaigns against the gates. The overriding opinion among proxies, however, is that the gates present a marginally better opportunity than they do a threat. Security is always a trade off, and sometimes you must accept a modicum of risk in exchange for a necessary gain. In this case, the fact that the gates allow us to expand transhumanity outward, making ourselves less centralized and not as easy to wipe out with a single stroke, is arguably the better choice. Additionally, the gates allow us to take a more pro-active approach, to learn from the galaxy around us and even from the ruins of dead civilizations we find. It is quite possible that long-dead species may provide us with answers or solutions to situations that might otherwise spell our doom.
There are no guarantees of course. Every trip through a gate is a potential danger. Keep that in mind, always.
Posted by: Sagan Harris, Argonaut <Info Msg Rep>
The vast majority of gates so far discovered are physically anchored to some sort of astronomical body, whether that be a planet, moon, or small rocky asteroid. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the Aerie Gate free floating in the vacuum of space in a tidally-locked orbit around an extrasolar planet or the Vortex Gate that appears to be suspended by unknown means within the crushing depths of a gas giant’s atmosphere. This standard placement, in conjunction with their size, implies that the gates are not intended to facilitate spacecraft travel, though some of them may be used for this purpose. (Most asteroid-locked gates, for example, require little in the way of escape velocity.)
The geographical placement of gates has varied widely, with some locations defying logic. Gates have been situated on open wind-swept plains, in cramped caverns, in deep underground tunnels, underwater, at the bottom of crevices, high atop mountains, and in at least one instance, embedded within an ambulatory ocean-surface biomass. They have been found on planets with toxic atmospheres, hidden within craters on remote asteroids, on surfaces ablaze with a nearby star’s heat and radiation, exposed to the vacuum of barren moons, and buried within the methane ice of frozen worlds. Several gate locations seem to be completely entombed in stone, with no possibility of actually passing through, even despite attempts to drill.
Most gates appear individually; it is rare for more than one to be found in the same star system. There are exceptions to this rule, however, and several nexus points have been discovered, similar to the solar system, with more than one gate.
Sidebar: Geological Strata and Implications on Gate Age
To: Dr. Vargas, Ministry Science Advisory Group
From: Dr. Tiptree, TerraGenesis Geological Research Group 8
Thank you for inquiring into our research. Though our findings have been interesting, they are so far inconclusive. assessment of the geological composition surrounding over three dozen gates has unearthed contradictory results. In a significant sample of our findings (over 40%), evidence overwhelmingly indicates the gate foundations to be extremely recent additions to their environments. Though exact timing is far too difficult to pinpoint, it certainly remains a strong possibility that these gates were put into place within the past decade, or around the time of the Fall, thus reinforcing arguments the gates were manufactured and located by the TITANs.
In many other samples, however, we have found gates that appear to have been established in time periods that are significantly less recent. In fact, some gates are so old as to be partially or entirely buried by the effects of time. Oddly, however, the dating on these samples varies wildly, ranging from several hundred years to billions. You read that right: billions. Some are so old as to predate the Earth itself, which implies that something vastly more ancient than the TITANs created these gates—or that the TITANs discovered time travel.
Naturally this information has wide-ranging implications. We tried to suppress it until the memeticists could find a good way to spin it, but with the argonauts jointly involved in the project, that was a lost cause. The cat is officially out of the bag, though various Consortium interests are managing the leak by arguing that the TITANs may simply have the means to embed the gates in ways that make them look incredibly ancient. I suppose that’s a possibility, though why a vast machine intelligence would want to fuck with our heads like that is beyond me. Maybe it’s their idea of a joke. In my mind, however, such arguments run far too similar to the desperate claims of pre-Fall religious creationists who argued that their deity stuck dinosaur bones in the ground in order to keep humans guessing.
A very serious possibility here is that the TITANs—and us—are but the latest in a series of intelligent life forms who have found and used the gates, eventually going on to create more of our own, adding to the network. If the TITANs did indeed discover a gate in our solar system, it is not a stretch to presume that their vast intellects could have found a way to copy it, and both find and create more. The archeological evidence strongly indicates that at least one other alien species, the Iktomi, also made use of the gates. This leads to the distinct possibility that the network of wormhole gates we now use are the relics of not one, but many alien civilizations. This position is gaining traction in research media and peer review circles.
The question then, of course, is: where did they all go?
Within the solar system, the Pandora gates are prized and protected, which is no surprise given their strategic and economic value. As the centerpoint of numerous activities, each of these gates has sprouted complex encircling settlements, as if vast bureaucracies, management ecosystems, and security apparatuses were fed and nourished by the entropy pouring from each wormhole. Though the individual setups vary, they share some notable features. Each of the solar system gates are now housed within shielded artificial structures, sealing off the gates from outside view. While the gates themselves are protected within large warehouses, with plenty of room for operation, observation, and security measures, these are usually connected to larger campuses and structures. These linked buildings are home to prep centers, decontamination facilities, research labs, sensor arrays, armories, supply depots, fab labs, minifactories, repair centers, vehicle pools, medical wings, as well as housing and entertainment for the hundreds or thousands of staff who man these facilities. The gates used most heavily for colonization projects—notably the Martian and Vulcanoid Gates— feature additional facilities for training colonists and meeting the colonies’ logistical/supply chain needs. These gate compounds are often equipped with internal transportation systems for moving people and goods, potentially including rail lines leading right up to the gates themselves (and continuing at the colonies beyond). Spaceports are also located nearby, but a suitable distance away for safety purposes. The airspace near the gates themselves is universally off-limits and guarded.
Gate facilities are among the most secure places in the solar system. These complexes are blanketed with several layers of sensor systems and defensive nanoswarms. Getting anywhere near them without passing through redundant rings of identity authentication and authorization is nigh impossible. Security guards and sentry bots are sometimes authorized to use deadly force against intruders. Combat shells, mechanized troops, and heavy weapons emplacements will bring major firepower to bear against more serious attacks. Interceptor drones and hunter-killer bots swarm any surrounding airspace, while fightercraft and warships stand guard over nearby orbits and space. Most gate complexes are in fact more heavily guarded than common military facilities. Not all of these defenses are pointed outwards. The gates themselves are encircled with multiple defensive perimeters, designed to thwart or at least stall any offensive originating from the gates themselves. There is serious concern and worry that some hostile entity might employ the gates as an avenue to attack or even invade the solar system. It is wise to assume that most gates reside in the cross-hairs of orbital strike platforms or that they are mined with “last resort” nuclear or antimatter bombs.
Extrasolar Gate Facilities
Outside of the solar system, gate environs are significantly different. Only a few colonies boast gate facilities of any scale, much less anything close to that found within the solar system. Extrasolar gates are very much virgin frontier. Though it is common practice to monitor them with sensors and post robotic sentries, there is little in the way of major infrastructure or defensive installations. On many worlds, in fact, it is quite easy for a gatecrasher to approach a gate and access the control systems without interference. The more occupied an extrasolar site is, the more likely the local gate will be upgraded with supply depots, housing encampments, research labs, communications centers, weapons batteries, and so forth. In colony worlds that make extensive use of indentures, procedures are often put in place to keep conscripted laborers from accessing the gate site and escaping.
Gate Design and Appearance
Posted by: Sagan Harris, Argonaut <Info Msg Rep>
Though the Pandora gates are all very similar in look and function, in truth there are many notable differences between individual structures. First among these is size. Some of the gates are quite large, with the main spherical cage having a radius of over 30 meters and a volume of over 100,000 cubic meters, with openings easily large enough to drive a tank or push a shuttle through. On the other hand, most gates are significantly smaller, with the lower end gates having a radius of approximately 2 meters across and a volume of only around 30 cubic meters, just large enough for individual transhumans to pass through one at a time. There is some speculation that the gate sizes may be programmable, though no one has succeeded in reshaping one yet, or at least acknowledged such to the research community. It is possible to manipulate the wormhole size so that it is smaller than the gate; this is in fact standard procedure when connecting to unknown locations. In these cases, the wormhole is intentionally kept just wide enough to stick a microsensor through, while preventing anything larger from coming through.
All gates have the same basic form: a rough sphere of interlocking angled arms, like a round patterned cage. These black arms are solid and composed of an unknown form of stable and programmable exotic matter. Despite almost a decade of study, the exact composition continues to spur a raging debate in materials science and physics circles, and there seems to be some evidence that different gates may actually be composed of different substances, or perhaps change composition over time. The arms move and change shape when new destinations are programmed into the gate, though it is interesting to note that set destinations do not always produce the same arm configurations. Physically, gate arms have a polished metal look, and they seem to be impervious to signs of aging or physical damage, having an inherent self-repair function. Aside from the Discord Gate incident, nobody has yet been willing to risk damaging a gate— at least that they’ve admitted—and so no one is quite sure just how resilient to damage these structures are. Analysis of the material properties suggests they can easily shrug off concentrated burns from even our heaviest beam weapons and are all but immune to personal weapons fire.
Disturbing to the Senses
One documented and much-discussed phenomenon regarding the gates is their unusual visual appearance. To many observers, the gates are odd and difficult to look at, with blurred edges and a seeming resistance to coming into focus—a visual feature that is acutely unnerving and sometimes invokes physiological symptoms such as vertigo and nausea. Various experiments attribute this to some metamaterial quality of the gates’ physical structure, impacting the visual wavelengths. Scanning the gate cage in other electromagnetic wavelengths has produced similar oddities: they are all but invisible to higher and lower frequencies, including radar, microwave, terahertz, x-ray, and gamma-ray scans—which makes them notably difficult to spot with robotic probes and long-range sensor scans. Inactive gates are notably cool on thermal imaging, however, exuding very little thermal radiation, and so can be spotted by their contrast in warmer environments. Strangely, the material composing the gate arms fluoresces and shows up quite brightly in the ultraviolet band.
Most likely due to these metamaterial qualities, many transhumans find the gates to be physically unpleasant to view. As a consequence, the gates themselves are often shrouded from sight within gate facilities, meaning that gatecrashers only see the gates themselves immediately before stepping through. There have been numerous recorded incidents of visual hallucinations in the presence of the gates, with various accounts describing fleeting images, hazy apparitions, and flickering distortions. The vast majority of these involved biomorphs, and the prevailing theory is that the gates in question vibrate at infrasonic frequencies in resonance with human eyeballs (19 Hz), creating visual illusions. The gates do indeed emit both ultrasonic and infrasonic hums when in operation. Several instances involving similar visual anomalies with synthetic morphs remain unexplained.
Though many variant theories have been postulated, the emerging scientific consensus is that the Pandora gates inflate a traversable Lorentzian wormhole from the quantum foam when activated, bridging two separate parts of the universe; a shortcut via a trick curvature of space. Intense electrical charges are generated by the gate apparatus, creating a palpable sense of electromagnetism at work nearby. Within the throat of the wormhole, however, researchers suspect some sort of negative energy field is at work, suppressing electromagnetic fluctuations to stabilize the wormhole and keep it open. Still others theorize that each wormhole is crafted using the negative mass of a cosmic string. A small minority continues to argue that the wormhole connections are in fact zero-width Planck-scale bridges through which only information is transmitted, and that the gate cages use unknown means to scan, disassemble, and reassemble anything that passes into them on the other side. To viewers, the wormhole within the cage appears as a pure black sphere of nothingness, rippling with green static energy. Like the cage, the wormhole itself is effectively invisible on various electromagnetic wavelengths. The wormholes bleed Hawking radiation, however, so they show up very brightly and with a distinct signature on thermal scans. The unknown fields surrounding each wormhole effectively keep the environments at each end of the throat or tunnel from interacting. This means that gatecrashers do not need to worry about suddenly losing atmosphere or getting sucked through if they open onto a vacuum environment, nor do they need to worry about the remote location’s hostile atmosphere, radiation, or gravity until they pass through.
No sensory data passes through the wormhole; it is impossible to see, hear, or otherwise sense what is on the other side without passing something through.
Sidebar: Wormholes and Time Travel
One of the common questions that arises with the Pandora gates and the wormholes they create is: do they allow time travel? The answer, as far as transhuman science currently understands, is: no. At least, not exactly. Part of the confusion lies with the fact that gates seem to allow superluminal (faster-than-light) travel. In other words, a gatecrasher traveling through a gate to a remote destination four light years away will arrive instantaneously, whereas light itself outside the wormhole will take four years to cross this same distance. This is because gate travel itself works by curving space so that two distant points connect. The speed of light is not exceeded through the gate; any light passing through the wormhole would still travel far faster than the gatecrasher. Special relativity only applies locally.
There are researchers who have argued, both currently and in the past, that wormholes could be manipulated to allow time travel. In order to do this, one end of the wormhole would need to be accelerated to a high velocity in relation to the other and then brought back. Within the wormhole, time occurs at a rate separate from that outside the wormhole; two clocks at each end of the wormhole will always remain in sync. To an external observer, however, the accelerated end of the wormhole would have aged much less than the stationary end, due to relativistic time dilation. This means that someone entering the wormhole from the accelerated end would exit the stationary end at a point prior to their entry. This theory has yet to be verified with actual experimentation, and numerous counter-arguments have been raised that suggest that quantum vacuum fluctuations in such a scenario would destroy any wormhole that enabled time travel—or at least anything passing through it, including information. This remains in accordance with the chronology protection conjecture, which strongly suggests that the laws of physics prevent time travel. Other theories have been suggested that could circumvent these problems, though all such debate remains abstract and unproven.
Sidebar: Asyncs and Gates
>Why didn’t you tell me that asyncs are sensitive to the gates?
<I wasn’t aware they were. Did something happen?
>Yeah, something happened all right. On the jump out she got all fidgety as we approached the gate. She tried to hide it, and I think the gate ops guards passed it off as newbie nervousness, but her kinesics told me she was well and truly spooked. When our turn came, I practically had to push her through. Then, on the other side, she goes catatonic. Just stood there in the way. Corpsec took notice right away, drawing a lot of attention I wasn’t interested in having. Luckily she snapped out of it before it became an incident.
<I’m not aware of any of our asyncs reacting to a gate in this way before, and we’ve sent more than a few outsystem. What did she have to say about it later?
>She said the gate was talking to her. She said a lot of things, and none of them were good. I had to stop Mekhet from ventilating her braincase right there and then. She was on thin ice already. When she started talking spooky, we were ready to assume the worst. We let it slide, but that wasn’t the bad part. That came when we were trying to extract ourselves back through the gate after pulling the op. The job went according to plan, except that corpsec caught wind of our activities a little quicker than we’d hoped. We were back at the gate site, ready to open a link to the Fissure Gate on schedule, when they caught up to us. In the middle of the fight, our pet async suddenly went mental on us. She pulled some sort of mind trick on Fareed, convinced him to dial up a different gate than Fissure. No idea where she got the address from. Next thing we knew, she stepped through to who-knows-where. Didn’t say a word to us. Fareed immediately snapped out of it, thankfully warning us before the rest of us stepped through. He barely had time to dial up Fissure again so we could get away before the heavy artillery showed up.
<So she’s gone? Do you know where?
>No idea. But Fareed was with it enough that he still has the address she dialed in …
Sidebar: Pandora Gate Rumours
There are many unverified rumors about the Pandora gates in circulation. These tall tales, spread word-of-mouth between gatecrashers, are typically exaggerated, with little or no basis in reality. They might be complete fantasies, propagated by misunderstandings of the physics involving wormholes, or the result of deliberate memetic sabotage. A few remain in the realm of possibility but are unverified with any sort of experimentation or evidence.
Pan-Galactic Wormholes: To date, all wormhole destinations have led to remote locations within the Milky Way Galaxy. In fact, with a few exceptions, all lead to locations within Orion’s Arm. No gates have yet been discovered that lead to other galaxies (rumors of a gate opening in one of the Milky Way’s satellite dwarf galaxies are common but unverified). It remains unclear whether this is a physical constraint on the wormholes themselves, meaning that they are unable to bridge the immense distances between star clusters, or simply that we haven’t yet established the right connection.
Cosmological Wormholes: Some theories claim that wormholes should be able to create connections outside of this universe, establishing links to the bubbles containing other universes. In fact, a religious cult with a small following of gatecrashers known as the Cosmonomads believes that the gates do in fact link to a universe or universes that mirrors our own, one of myriad within a proposed multiverse.
Vast Simulation: One philosopher has suggested that all of the experiences people have had traveling through wormholes are not real but part of some massive virtual reality simulation run by an unknown cosmic entity. According to this idea, the gates are in fact nodes or routers in some sort of galactic computer network. This theory has led to speculation that other intelligences are living within this computer network, monitoring and analyzing transhumanity.
Forknapping System: Among those who worry that the gates are some trick or trap of the TITANs, some believe the AIs still control and monitor the gates and mentally scan and steal a fork of everyone stepping through. These copies are whisked away and incorporated into whatever hive mind or gestalt intelligence the TITANs have created, along with the millions of uploads they ran off with during the Fall. A variant of this rumor claims that the TITANs aren’t stealing forks, but are physically copying everyone who passes through a gate, collecting millions of transhumans for some unknown purpose.
Alien Conspiracy: On some underground mesh nodes, you will find a thriving network of people convinced that the Planetary Consortium is secretly in league with some alien species that uses the gates—and may even have built them. According to the more moderate conspiracy theorists, the Consortium has established a pact with these aliens that enables transhumans to colonize certain areas of the galaxy, but that makes other areas strictly off limits (the aliens have, of course, hardwired these limitations into the gate controls). More extreme rants claim that the Consortium leadership is in thrall to a group of alien masters, some of whom walk among transhumanity disguised. The stated intent of these aliens varies, though most suggest the aliens are some sort of parasite or view transhumanity as an entertaining slave race or food source.
Transcript: Diogenes University/EGR-392 Pandora Gates/Session 2 Chat Log
ProfTex: Welcome class. Today we’re going to expand upon our first lecture and take a look at the operation of a Pandora gate. Are there any questions about last week’s discussion?
Atomik_Annie: Yes, sir. I read that the gates are made up of a niobium-silicon-yttrium lattice, according to Dr. Statham. What is the feasibility of building one of these gates?
ProfTex: Well, Statham has jumped the gun a bit there. Research has confirmed those three elements are present in several gate constructions, but only the outer layer. We’ve literally only begun to scratch the surface. The material composing the gates has some unusual physical properties and characteristics, to say the least, and is also mutable. Making materials like this is currently beyond our scientific understanding and nanotech capabilities. The real genius in Statham’s research is just determining that much. Anyone else? No? Okay. Gate operation. How do we operate a gate?
Kinalla_Ikla: We plug commands into the gate’s control system?
ProfTex: Tell me about this interface.
Kinalla_Ikla: It was devised by the argonauts, after they made some breakthroughs researching the original gate on Pandora. It connects to and communicates with the operating system built into the gate structure, the growth on the gate arms. ProfTex: Correct, though there are several models of gate interfaces now. The argonaut version is open source, and so is the one you’ll be practicing on. Pathfinder and Go-nin have developed their own proprietary systems. So now tell me about the gate’s built-in OS.
Y3K: It’s some sort of biological computing system we think, based in the organic growth that is spread across the gates.
ProfTex: Also correct. The cellular automata in this algae-like growth seem to operate as an advanced computational network, unlike anything we can produce. It’s an amazing achievement just to be able to get our primitive-by-comparison systems to talk to it. The chemistry of the setup is fascinating, but we’ll get to that. Let’s jump ahead. Who can tell me about the libraries?
Huan Hsu: Aren’t the libraries the preset lists of locations contained within each gate’s control system? Like the addresses to other gates?
ProfTex: That’s right. And what do we know about them?
Huan Hsu: Each gate seems to have a different set of “addresses” in its library; they aren’t the same. Attempts to copy addresses or entire libraries to other gates haven’t worked.
ProfTex: Good. That may be because each address represents a set of spatial coordinates and conditions that are relative, and so unique, to that particular wormhole. The address used to connect to the Vulcanoid Gate from the Martian Gate is completely different from the address used to connect to the Vulcanoid Gate from Pandora.
BasilC: But we haven’t really decoded these addresses yet, right? So it’s possible that there’s a way to use the same address at a different gate, but we won’t know until we crack the code?
ProfTex: That’s quite possible. We use the term “addresses” very loosely, because all we actually know is that there seems to be a particular bit of code, a particular reference in each library, that corresponds to each gate. Each address is in fact a rather large dollop of data, in the range of yottabytes, that we’ve only learned to identify by certain aspects.
Huan Hsu: And this is why we can’t tell where each address goes, right?
ProfTex: Sort of. You may remember that I noted several studies that are researching the characteristics of different addresses, as charted against the locations of the gates they connect to, to see if they can discern any recognizable patterns. There in fact seems to be some progress here towards creating a useful taxonomy for the different addresses. For example, we may someday be able to tell what kind of a star the extrasolar system the gate opens will have by its address. Perhaps more interesting to gatecrashers, however, would be classifying the addresses by the likelihood that they will lead to something of value— habitable worlds, exploitable resources, etc—or, on the flip-side, lead to something dangerous, like the middle of a supernova. They are only just starting to break ground in this area, however, and so far the results are far from reliable. Speaking of reliability, have the libraries been consistent?
Kinalla_Ikla: No, you said that there are documented cases of addresses simply not working, disappearing from the libraries, and new ones appearing.
ProfTex: That’s right, and that’s one of the reasons we seem to have lost contact with several colonies, such as New Sacramento. That extrasolar system was regularly accessed from the Discord Gate for over two years, and then the address mysteriously disappeared— or at least, the gate techs can no longer access it. There have also been documented cases of addresses opening to new locations than they previously did, with no apparent change in the data, as far as we can tell. So let’s not presume that the libraries are reliable. Now, you’re accessing the gate interface, you pull up the address you want from the library, and you send the commands to open a wormhole connection there. What happens then?
Tsokatos: The wormhole sucks you in and the TITANs eat your brain?
Tsokatos: The gate’s cage restructures itself, then generates a new wormhole?
ProfTex: How important is this restructuring, with the arm movements? How is it accomplished?
Atomik_Annie: Very. You said the locations and shape of the arms seems to impact the fields at the wormhole mouth and possibly energy outputs.
ProfTex: Yes, in order to affect the wormhole characteristics, the arms must move. Input from the gate’s control system is passed through a network of nanoscopic computers—the programmable matter that makes up the arms—which connect to the machines around them to alter their shape, density, and other characteristics. Attempts to move the arms mechanically or with force have failed. In theory, if the arms were restricted in some way, the wormhole would not open or at least would not open properly.
Huan Hsu: Question, professor. How are the gates powered?
ProfTex: That’s an astute question. While the gate mechanisms most certainly draw power from somewhere, we have not actually identified the source of this power yet. There are no recognizable batteries, reactors, or anything of the kind. Our best guess is that there’s some advanced physics at work, allowing the machinery to draw energy from its surroundings, from the universe itself. It’s a mystery. Maybe in twenty years, one of you will solve it, eh? Ok, let’s talk time-frames. How long does it take to establish a wormhole link?
Y3K: It varies. Anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes. There doesn’t seem to be consistency, even with the same addresses.
ProfTex: That’s more or less true. In practice, the time-frames are relatively stable, but they’ve been known to change without warning, throwing off connection timetables. As a gate operator, your job will be to ride shotgun on this, making adjustments as necessary to keep things on schedule as much as possible. An extra 5 minutes spent opening a gate connection can mean 5 fewer minutes to transfer supply materials through to a needy colony, in order to make the next connection on time.
Kinalla_Ikla: Can gate connections be timed? Preprogrammed?
ProfTex: Absolutely. This is common practice, in fact, especially for extrasolar colonies, in case something happens to those skilled in gate operations.
Tsokatos: Excuse me, prof, but aren’t the gate connections known to sometimes cut off prematurely? Ahead of schedule, without warning to the operator?
ProfTex: Yes, that’s known to happen. Not often, but enough to be statistically significant. This could be some sort of safety mechanism, where the gate shuts down an unstable connection before something goes wrong. It seems to happen with some links more than others. Wormhole stability is a factor that plays into mission priority decisions. A few potentially sweet colony spots or resource finds have remain untouched due to dodgy connection rates.
RuiXue: What happens when a gate closes like this? Is there any warning? What if someone is transitioning at the time?
ProfTex: Let me put it this way: you don’t want to be caught in the mouth when this happens. When the wormhole shuts down, anything that’s passed through is through, anything that isn’t isn’t. If something is transitioning, it will be sliced in two. It’s happened to people, with unfortunately messy results. Luckily, there’s usually a few seconds warning, so pay attention to those klaxons and entoptics, people. Sometimes, however, there isn’t. So keep your backups up-to-date.
BasilC: I’ve also heard stories of gates malfunctioning and fusing people and things together. Is that true?
ProfTex: No, not really, at least, not as far as I’m aware. If there’s something in the way on the other side of the wormhole’s mouth, you would simply be pushed into it, there is no melding of matter.
Kwaku_Nortey: What happens if a gate opens a wormhole to a gate that already has an active connection with a third gate?
ProfTex: There’s a mechanism for this, a busy signal of sorts. The gate trying to make the connection will simply go on standby and wait for the remote gate to close its active wormhole. If more than one gate tries to link to an active gate, they’ll essentially queue up.
Y3K: So, by default, a remote gate will automatically open when a gate tries to connect to it, as soon as there’s no other active wormhole? The remote gate can’t choose to block the incoming link?
ProfTex: Actually it can. By default the gates are set to a sort of open access mode, where they will take any and all connections. The Love and Rage Anarchist Collective actually figured out a way to restrict this, so that an incoming connection was only established with local gate approval. They originally used this to keep Pathfinder and the other gate corps from accessing worlds they wanted to keep free from hypercorp exploitation. These techniques were shared, of course, and now approving incoming links is SOP with the five solar gates, though most extrasolar ones remain in permissive mode. It’s considered a safety measure to prevent an unauthorized connection from a hostile alien entity.
Typically, a bit of a cold war has developed over this feature. Pathfinder gate hackers figured out a way to remotely override this connection blocking protocol. Shortly after that, TerraGenesis found a way to tweak the settings in a way that blocked the Pathfinder hack again. And so it continues to this day. Whether or not a remote gate can be opened may depend on the hacking capabilities of the gate operators at either ends.
Y3K: So the remote gate operator, if there is one, can tell where an incoming connection is coming from?
ProfTex: In theory, yes. Assuming it’s in that gate’s library and has been pre-identified. As noted earlier, though, the libraries are prone to glitches. Ok, enough about problems, let’s get back to the basics. You’ve dialed up a remote gate and established a connection. Who can tell me what the wormhole looks like?
Langjökull: It’s a black sphere, confined with the cage. Black as the void. Black as the Jovian Junta’s heart.
ProfTex: I don’t remember this class having a poetry component, Langjökull, so let’s keep the politics out of it. Black is correct, however. All those ancient hack poets should be alive today to see one, to see what “blacker-than-black” really means. The sphere can’t be pierced by visual or other wavelengths or indeed by energy of any kind. Shoot a laser into it, and it stops dead. The “surface” of the sphere is actually a bit shiny and reflective, at least up close. The fields at the mouth even have a small amount of surface tension, approximately one hundred kilopascals in most cases. The gates seem to change their surface tension to exceed that of the local atmospheric conditions. This prevents bleeding of the atmospheres or suction into a vacuum. Once the surface has been breached, there is a slight tug, around half a newton, pulling objects through.
Atomik_Annie: But you can pull it back, right? Like tethered probes?
ProfTex: Yes. It’s not so much that a transhuman couldn’t break free if they didn’t want to step through, but if you leave an object spanning the threshold, it will slowly but surely be pulled through. This could be a built-in safety feature, to prevent items from being caught on the threshold when a wormhole closes. Now, stepping through the gate is an instantaneous process. The moment you cross the mouth, you’ll be coming out the sphere at the remote gate location. There is no measurable time delay in terms of the crossing. Blink and you’ll miss it.
OK, I think that covers our review of last week’s material. Let’s move ahead to a more detailed examination. In your entoptic display you will see …
Sidebar: Gate Experimentation
File 28387C—Extrasolar Gate Experimentation #322
1100: Stable wormhole connection opened to gate GLASS CHILL TANGO
1115: Assessment complete, connection status nominal.
1130: Experimental gate code BRASS WATER SKETCH entered into gate control system.
1145: Probe passed through with programmed return time of 1205.
1155: System check. Wormhole still nominal.
1200: BRASS WATER SKETCH activated.
1200: Alarms triggered. Wormhole link unstable. Mouth field scans report energy spikes.
1202: Imminent wormhole failure alert triggered.
1203: Wormhole failure. Gate control system temporarily deactivated.
Casualty Report: 5 members of the experimental team immediately killed by some sort of cone-shaped pressure field that emanated from the wormhole for .003 seconds. This field exerted over 6,000 newtons of force. Death was instantaneous, their shells were crushed, and cortical stacks were not recovered.
Evaluation: BRASS WATER SKETCH returned to Programming for further work.
- Organizing Missions
- Exploration Missions
- Extrasolar Environments
- Colonization Missions
- Research Missions
- Resource Exploitation Missions
- Xenoarcheological Missions
- Gates and Communications
- Emergency Protocols
Sidebar: Opposition to Gatecrashing
Not everyone supports the use of the Pandora gates. Several political and ideological factions argue that the gates are a potential threat, while others protest the exploitation and contamination of alien biospheres.
To the mildest biocons, the Pandora gates are TITAN technology and thus Not To Be Trusted. To the more conservative elements, they are an active threat, an open door through which planet-eating AI war machines might enter at any moment. To their eyes, use of the gates is the equivalent of a child playing with a nuclear bomb, and yet another sign that transhumanity is not mature enough to handle the technologies at our command.
The Jovian Republic, the most dominant bioconservative voice in the solar system, regularly denounces the use of the gates as an invitation to TITAN or alien invasion. Some extreme biocons take this quite literally, spurring some cults and terrorist cells to view military action against the gates and gatexploitation corps as justified. These same bioconservatives also proclaim that continued xenogenetic research will complete the transformation of transhumanity into something (genetically) inhuman or unleash an alien plague within the solar system. As a result, several hypercorps and research groups focusing on astrobiology have suffered from protest, sabotage, and armed attacks.
Preservationists are primarily concerned with preserving the pristine nature of exoplanet ecosystems. Their primary cause is arguing that transhumanity may be contaminating, interfering with, or otherwise despoiling indigenous life on alien worlds by our mere presence there, especially in environments where we spread our own microbes, germs, and other forms of life. They argue that we should be respecting the diversity of other forms of life by protecting it and studying it carefully, rather than interacting with it directly and exploiting it. They argue that we may be even be affecting forms of life that we don’t yet recognize. Some liken transhumanity’s efforts to genocide and ruthless genetic imperialism.
Hardline preservationists see it as their duty to act as the defender for alien life that cannot protect itself from transhumanity’s excursions. Some of these have actively inﬁltrated hypercorp and gatecrashing operations in order to sabotage them from within. Preservationist cells have also been blamed for mesh warfare, attacks on automated convoys to remote extrasolar outposts, and even kidnapping xenogenetic researchers. In one infamous action, a preservationist sympathizer managed to delete the gate address to a Fa Jing extrasolar mining operation, effectively cutting off the camp and personnel from contact with transhumanity. Preservationist saboteurs are known to be active on at least two extrasolar worlds rife with xenolife, hoping to protect these alien species from further contamination or exploitation.
Though supportive of gate exploration, resource exploitation, terraforming, colonization, and similar activities, nano-ecologists are critical of unrestricted operations that do not temper transhumanity’s impact and balance it with other concerns. Nano-ecologists try to occupy a middle ground between transhumanity’s needs and preservationist concerns, arguing for a measured and ethical approach to these matters. Quite popular even in hypercorp circles, the nano-ecologists nevertheless fall in a position where they are attacked by both sides.