The Gates of Antares
The gigantic inter‐dimensional machine that we call Antares has provided untold races with the means of exploring and colonising beyond the confines of their immediate homeworld. Humans have spread throughout Antarean space over seven long ages and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they were not the first race to do so. In all that time Antares has been studied and a great deal has been observed concerning how it functions and behaves, but even today relatively little is known about Antares itself. The greatest trans‐dimensional engineers amongst the Isorians can offer little except hypotheses and conjecture. As for the creators of Antares – the Builders – their story remains almost as mysterious as ever.
This detailed article covers much of the information provided in the core rulebook. For a summary of how Antarean travellers actively use the gates of Antares, try this introductory article and for more details on the ships and travel, try The Holiday of a Lifetime.
In practical terms the functioning of dimensional gates has been understood and exploited by humans since the days of the great diaspora of the first age (otherwise known as the spill). All Antarean gates connect to an equivalent systemside gate located at a distance from a system’s star that is fixed by the star’s energy output and in direct line with the actual location of Antares as it lies within that space‐time: this point is known as the system’s gate horizon (for what we know as the Sol system and Old Earth, the Gate Horizon lies at around 40SAU – Standard Astronomical Units – approximately just outside the orbit of Pluto. Antarean gates, which is to say the dimensional gates on Antares itself, take the form of long trans‐dimensional tunnels that emerge from the depths of the photosphere. These tunnels rise upwards through the photosphere forming long thin tubes that wave gently in the solar winds that whirl across the Antarean surface, stirring its plasma into vortices of pure energy.
The density of tunnels over the surface has been mockingly likened to the hairs upon a dog, and whilst it has been estimated there are currently over five and a half million tunnels, it is impossible to know exactly how many exist. However, the surface area of Antares is so great that even tunnels that emerge in close proximity are tens of thousands of miles apart. Navigation from tunnel to tunnel is therefore a question of knowing where gates lie relative to each other, as chancing across a gate is unlikely even if its approximate position is known.
These tubular tunnels rise like serpents from the depths of Antares and the entrance into a tunnel, the gate itself, lies at the very tip forming the mouth of the serpent. As far as is known all gates are of the same form and diameter: perfectly circular and roughly four miles across (this is the same size throughout the tunnel and system gate). Although a tunnel itself may rise tens of thousands of miles through the photosphere it can only be entered via the tunnel mouth or gate. Gates lie at different depths within the Antarean photosphere, with deeper lying gates being correspondingly difficult to locate. The depth of a gate within the photosphere is known as its Antarean horizon. Unlike a gate’s system horizon, which is an expression of solar energy output, there is no way of determining where a gate’s Antarean horizon lies (although needless to say theories abound). Visibility and detection distances within the photosphere are limited and vary depending upon patterns within the plasma flow, but are generally greater high within the photosphere and practically negligible within its depths.
The movement of spacecraft over the Antarean surface is confined by the granular density of plasma throughout the photosphere. Spacecraft descending down into the plasma flow endure considerable stresses and, regardless of the effectiveness of their shielding, there is a point at which they are consumed. More significantly, there is a depth from which a spacecraft is unable to emerge without the accumulated stresses causing its destruction. This is the critical depth, which effectively marks a point of no return. Many Antarean gates lie below the critical depth, but this is not a problem so long as a ship is able to find and open a gate before its shielding becomes overloaded. Variations in plasma granularity caused by the orbit of Obureg affect this critical depth within the equatorial region of Antares (the Tropics of Obureg). Most Antarean ships have comparable levels of shielding. Ghar ships, which have primarily magnetic shielding, are less efficient but Ghar are usually willing to take risks where others would not (in particular the IMTel societies of the Concord and Isorians which are extremely risk adverse by nature).
Opening a Gate
Although both system gates and Antarean gates are effectively tunnel mouths, ships do not enter as such, rather they make the appropriate resonant signal and are then drawn into the gate and along the corresponding transdimensional tunnel to the other side. All gates emit a signal over a limited range and can be opened by returning a key signal that is a standard variant of it. Thus, so long as the variant key is understood any gate can theoretically be opened. Because a space faring race must discover this key to open its own system gate it follows that doing so provides a key to the entire Antarean universe. Or at least this would appear so. There are Antarean gates that have proven impossible to open. The reasons why this should be so are unknown.
Once taken into a gate a spacecraft is drawn along the transdimensional tunnel to its destination. The null‐space within the tunnel – of which the tunnel is made – is not part of any physical universe. It is impossible for a ship to manoeuvre within a tunnel or to use its engines to propel itself through. It is simply carried along with a tiny bubble of reality, on its own, and deposited out of the other side.
The time taken to get through a tunnel varies and might be a few hours or many days. When gates re‐open following a period of collapse there is no guarantee that a journey of a few hours in a previous age might not now taken days or weeks. Indeed, there is always the possibility of an unexplored gate carrying a craft upon a neverending journey, which is why explorer probes are used when initially exploring a new gate.
The role of Obureg
We have already said that the speed of ships over the Antarean surface is constrained by the granular plasma flow of Antares, and in fact it is the relative speed of the plasma flow as well as its density which is dangerous to spacecraft. Moving against the plasma flow can be as dangerous as diving to critical depth even in the upper levels of the photosphere. However, the extent to which a ship can rise from the photosphere is also constrained, although why this should be so is less certain. In this case it is the orbital influence of Obureg that appears to limit the ability of craft to move beyond the influence of the photosphere, forcing spacecraft to move over the Antarean surface much as a craft might move over the surface of an ocean.
The role that Obureg plays is uncertain but definitely significant. At the end of the fourth age (Xon Times) the orbit of Obureg started to exhibit eccentricities that wrought havoc with the regular plasma patterns of Antares. Where the plasma flow fell stagnant gates began to withdraw into the depths of the photosphere until they disappeared altogether. This is the general process by which gates collapse – they collapse back into the null‐space void that is presumed to lie at the heart of Antares.
Thus it appears that the constant orbit of the tiny green star‐like Obureg is a necessary part of the mechanism that powers the Antares nexus. The equatorial regions of Antares correspond to the orbit of Obureg and are consequently the most tumultuous areas of plasma flow (the Tropics of Obureg). The region is also the most densely populated with gates. By contrast the polar areas have fewer gates at higher levels of the photosphere and lower rates of plasma flow in general.
Although the Seventh Age (the Age of the PanHuman Concord as it is known in human space) is reckoned as having lasted over thirteen hundred years, gates continue to emerge from the depths of Antares as worlds are gradually returned into Antarean space. Within a few years a gate might rise from unimaginable depths to an horizon in the upper layers of the photosphere, although how far and how fast a gate rises in this way is impossible to predict. A gate’s position on the Antarean surface and its depth within the photosphere will significantly affect how a world relates to the rest of Antarean space. The position of a gate is not predictable and worlds whose Antarean gates lie at a point on the Antarean surface in one age can open at an entirely different point on the surface, and at a different depth, when they re‐open in a succeeding age. This is why worlds that are important and powerful in one age may be reduced to relative obscurity in another. Isori itself suffered in this way during the fifth age (Warring Ages) when the position of its gate carried it far from the densely populated regions around the Antarean equator.
A Trans-Dimensional Engine
Even as long ago as the first age it became apparent that the worlds joined in Antarean space were scattered over wide regions of the galaxy and in most cases it was impossible to locate them relatively in real space at all. The only thing that they had in common was that all lay at about the same distance from what looked like the same giant red star that we call Antares. However, the positions of other stars from all of these co‐joined worlds did not amount to a coherent picture of the same galaxy. In fact, it soon became obvious that most worlds lay in completely different galaxies, yet inexplicably all lay at a comparable distance from what appeared to be the same giant red star that aligned with their system‐side gate.
By the second age the relative positions of some worlds in real space and within the same galaxies had been settled, but observational astronomical data still failed to align completely. The only conclusion that allowed for this was that although the worlds shared a common galaxy they occupied different times within it. Once this became commonly understood it was realised that many more worlds than originally thought shared the same galaxy but many were also separated in time by millions of years. Further observational data suggests that not only are worlds separated in time and space but that they may be also be separate in terms of belonging to entirely different universes. This remains one of the most
studied aspects of Antares and suggests something of the
powers wielded by its creators.
Antares – The Sentient Machine
Each historic collapse of the nexus has been followed by a period of reconstruction in which trans‐dimensional tunnels are rerouted to different regions of the Antarean surface. This has happened six times since the human ages began, but accounts from alien civilisations go far beyond this, and there is every reason to believe that further collapses will occur in the future. These collapses may be due to a malfunction of Antares itself, a result of damage inflicted upon the nexus, or some necessary adjustment to shifts within the multidimensional spaces that Antares occupies. The Trisapient Catastrophe followed upon the deliberate destruction of a number of system gates by the Isorians and is likely to have triggered it. The Isorians have never since deployed their dimension shifting technology against a gate.
The destruction and reconstruction of the nexus appears to take place with a definite purpose, suggesting that Antares is capable of reacting to its multi‐dimensional environment. It is – in other words – aware. It is also obvious that the tunnel network is constantly developing and growing. Each new age sees the reinstatement of gates to previously connected worlds, but also the addition of new worlds that were – as far as is known – never part of Antarean space before. It is as if Antares itself is able to find worlds and build connections to them, but what criteria it uses to initiate construction is impossible to guess. Gates that lead to worlds that have been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable are rarely rebuilt following a collapse, as if Antares itself was exercising judgement in respect of which worlds to return to the nexus. Behind all of this construction and reconstruction, the expansion of the nexus and its periodic retrenchment, it is easy to sense the will and power of the Builders, but for what purpose and to what ultimate end is impossible to say.
The Xilos Disaster
Following the catastrophe on Xilos , when it seemed that another machine or gate was established within a planet, many Antarean researchers now believe there may be multiple Antarean machines. Further, it is possible some are actually connected via special systems. None have yet been found, however: it seems Xilos stood on its own.
The problem caused by teh devastation on Xilos is that the Antares Nexus and its system of gates is now in a state of flux. The steady growth of gates that has been seen for a thousand years is changing, wavering, inconstant, with gates sometimes collapsing and reconnecting elsewhere – or never being seen again. This is causing confusion and, in places, chaos as the wave of uncertainty spreads from Xilos. What happens now is unknown…