Wormhole Key Generator (Tech 6)
the most complex but speediest form of transportation available
in the universe. Essentially, holes are punched in the fabric of the space-time
continuum, forcibly connecting distant locations so a properly equipped ship can skim along the surface
formed between them.
A wormhole generator is fabricated in a
factory. It will be comprised of two
identical Hole Punches, one of which is dropped at each end of the
intended "tunnel". Through an exceptionally focused, massive,
and complicated set of gravitational and quantum fields, each Punch
twists a hole in the surface of space, similar to a rotating black hole
or singularity. The
two Punches must be dropped, calibrated, and synchronized by an
incredibly specialized ship. Both components need to be dropped
by the same ship, which must also make the journey between drop points taking
detailed scans of astronomical conditions along the way. The drop ship resonantly calibrates both generators
and a skin of space forms between the holes. Ships propel themselves
along this skin with standard propulsion drives... the Wormhole Key
modulates their drives and shields and creates a quantum field around
them to keep them from being torn to bits as they come within proximity of the
wormhole and related fields that create it. Even minor errors in the calibration of
either Punch, or unforseen astrological entities in the path of the wormhole,
such as unaccounted-for nebulas or quasars, can cause the wormhole formation to
fail. And failure can be catastrophic. Even when the wormhole is installed and
stable, changes in astronomical conditions between the Punches can cause the
tunnel to collapse, requiring constant maintenance in the form of survey scan
trips and consistant recalibration of the Punches.
The Holes generate massive spatial distortions in
very close proximity to themselves. Ships wishing to use the wormhole need a
Wormhole Key, which is comprised of a specialized set of hardware
and software that feeds a battery of 13-dimensional information about the physical
characteristics of the generators, the fields they produce, and the
wormhole itself. The "soft" part of the key changes constantly but predictably based
on the physical and quantum properties of the wormhole and
generator. Keys are generally either privately distributed by
whoever lays the wormhole or broadcast publicly or privately by the generator
itself. Keys can be calculated but the necessary computing and scanning
resources are considerable and specialized. To decode an unknown
Wormhole Key requires parking these resources right beside the Wormhole
for a considerable period of time.
The significance of wormhole travel resounds to this day. In fact, the beginning
of the Modern era is defined by the opening of the first inter-empire wormhole,
between Bryden in the Core Commonwealth and Bjaki in the Bjaki Federation.
Previously, alliances between empires were much in name and spirit only. Very
important officials could not take the time or risk to travel to a distant
empire. Likewise, the common man was limited by prohibitive costs and the time
it would take to visit an alien culture. Now, however, the distance had closed
and the risks had been carved to a fraction of what they once were. Foreign
empires could now move quickly between themselves, spreading news, ideas,
technology, and culture.
Wormholes are still extremely expensive and difficult to set up. Currently, the
only groups capable of installing wormholes successfully are the Core
Commonwealth, Bjaki Federation, Kharkosanth Empire, and San Jorge Industries.
The initial trip through can result in a number of personal or large-scale
catastrophies. So they are not commonplace by any means. They are, however,
becoming more common and are undeniably a critical, expanding, and defining
technology in the universe.
You don't just go sticking your Wormhole any old place you choose.
When placing Wormholes in a system controlled by a friendly foreign government,
there are certain conventions that are generally followed. You are
expected to provide a "refuelling facility" which will provide
services including basic lodging, refuelling, restocking, and repair
capabilities as well as emergency management crews. The refuelling base
also needs to be able to provide traffic control and maintain order if
the hole becomes busy.
Taxes and levies for placing the hole
are negotiated and paid by the government or organization laying the
wormhole as well as by ships passing through, based on factors like
tonnage, ship function, and cargo. In most cases, the government
controlling the system will insist that they be provided with the key.
If the key is to be publicly broadcast, the host government will
generally insist on some form of regulation of the traffic allowed to
use the wormhole to prevent activities like invasion and smuggling.