Jump Gate Technology
If a starship cannot reach the speed of light through sheer thrust, perhaps the answer lies in bending the laws of time and space so that the distance itself is shorter. A ship could then get around the need to travel at relativistic speeds, leaving behind the problem of increased mass and negating—if not actually reversing— the effects of time dilation. In other words, if one could find a shortcut through the galaxy, it might be possible for spacecraft to travel quickly between star systems, and perhaps even travel backward in time.
Shortcuts through space and time are called wormholes. Wormholes are created naturally when black holes collapse, though they tend to close so rapidly that a ship attempting to pass through would instead encounter a singularity—a point with infinite density and a radius of zero—and be instantly crushed. But, if the technology were developed to enable a wormhole to remain open, it might become possible for spaceships to enter wormholes, travel for a few million miles, and emerge several light years away—perhaps at the point of a white hole.
White holes are theoretical objects that spew energy into the universe from unknown sources. One theory suggests that quasistellar objects (also known as quasars) are actually white holes, at the far end of which might be wormholes. Thus, it is theoretically possible to enter a wormhole in one location in the universe, and emerge from a white hole in another. Such a stable conduit could be called a jump gate.
At Progress Level 5, the technology does not exist to stabilize wormholes in order to create jump gates, though by PL 6 scientists might have developed the technology to map the exit points of wormholes. With a theoretical advance in astrophysics, humanity might be ready to make the first safe jump by Progress Level 7.
In theory, a collapsing wormhole in a strong enough gravitational field could remain open of its own accord, creating a kind of natural jump gate, or “jump hole.” The jump hole would function the same way as a jump gate but could close while travelers are en route to the exit point.
A jump hole might collapse while there are ships still traveling through its jump space. Roll d% each hour; on a result of 100, the hole collapses. If this happens, any ships in its jump space immediately drop back into “real” space—most likely in the middle of nowhere. Determine what percentage of the journey the ship had completed, then compare that percentage to the real distance; this is how far from its destination the ship is.
Jump Gate (PL 7)
Jump gates consist of gigantic rings in space that use fusion reactors to generate a magnetic field capable of holding open a collapsing wormhole. This allows starships to enter the wormhole, engage their engines, and reduce the effective travel distance to the wormhole’s exit point by a factor of 1,000. For example, the 48,360,000-mile trip from the Earth to Mars would be reduced to 48,360 miles via a jump gate (assuming a wormhole had appeared near the Earth and that its exit point was near Mars). Thus, a starship with PL 6 ion engines traveling through “jump space” could reach Mars in approximately 1.6 hours (instead of 67.2 days) and completely avoid the effects of time dilation.
Jump gates have a few limitations:
- Jump gates have only one exit point. Therefore, a jump gate from Pluto to Alpha Centauri is useless to characters who don’t want to go to Alpha Centauri.
- Jump gates are one-way. The journey to the exit point might be comparatively short, but the journey back could take just as long as it always did—or require a circuitous route from jump gate to jump gate, some of which could be dozens of light years out of the way.
- Jump gates are rarely located near one another. A starship might have to cross an entire system to get from one exit point to the next jump gate.
- Maneuvering a jump gate into position requires a successful Navigate check (DC 35). If this check fails by 5 or more, the jump gate collides with the closing wormhole and is crushed against the forming singularity.
In PL 7, jump gates are most likely owned by megacorporations that charge for their use. The toll varies according to the real distance between the jump gate and the exit point: Divide the real distance by 1,000,000 miles to determine the purchase DC for passage through the jump gate.
Purchase DC: 75 (per jump gate).
Restriction: Licensed (+1).
Jump Network (PL 8)
As science develops ways to harness the power of singularities, astrophysicists apply the technology to wormholes. A jump network is a series of jump gates that can each serve as an entry or exit point. Thus, jump gates are no longer one-way: A jump gate can take a ship from the Earth to Mars and back. Further, the network could also include jump gates leading to and from Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto.
Jump gates in the network are still expensive, but the risk of placing one has completely vanished; the jump gate merely has to be moved into the desired position—usually a Lagrange point—and switched on.
Many gates in the jump network are owned by megacorporations, who charge for their use. Some gates are operated by the military and have restricted access. However, the gates between common locations like planets and stars are government owned and designated for public use.
Purchase DC: 75 (per jump gate).
Restriction: Licensed (+1).
Jump Drive (PL 9)
The jump drive is a portable version of a jump gate. Ships carrying a jump drive can create a stable, though temporary, wormhole. The artificial wormhole lasts until the ship that created it emerges from the exit point.
The jump drive suffers from one major limitation. Once a ship has entered jump space, it has only two real options: continue to the exit point or deactivate the jump drive. The ship cannot change course while in jump space; it must drop out of jump space, set a new course, and re-engage the jump drive. The drawback to this is that jump drives require a lot of energy; recharging the drive takes hours, as shown on Table: Jump Drive Recharge Time.
|Table: Jump Drive Recharge Time|
|Starship Size||Jump Drive Recharge Time|
Purchase DC: 25 + one-half the base purchase DC of the starship.