Arcways: Gateways to the Galaxy
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Travel to the stars has long been the dream of Mankind. In the beginning, he wished to meet the gods. Much later, his scientific curiosity was set aflame by those distant sparks of light. When it became clear that he could not reach the stars in any sort of timely matter, that the speed of light was perhaps the one great absolute in the universe, his desire to fall starward became even greater. In the long run interstellar travel was achieved, but it was only possible in great ships powered by antimatter-fusion engines, and even under their massive thrust the journeys could last decades. The majority of Mankind would never travel to the stars, it seemed. And then the ArcWay was discovered.
five hundred feet tall, the great construction proved to be a literal gateway to
the stars, with interstellar travel made as easy as stepping from one room to
another. This is made possible by the fact that the ArcWays are mechanisms
through which wormholes are formed and stabilized, following pre-set paths
through the Galaxy. After the initial discovery of the Earth ArcWay,
several more years of research were required before the secret of their
operation was learnt. Beyond that, even more time was needed to learn what
destinations could be input into the system. But, in the long run, the
ArcWay Network would open up the stars to Mankind.
Origins and Nature of the ArcWays
The ArcWays are a network of devices located in many star systems, constructed by the so-called ArcBuilders an undetermined amount of time in the past. These ArcWays are constructed by automated nanoassembly platforms, directed by moderate level AI's. They are limited to STL travel, but their destinations are preprogrammed by the AI while in transit between the stars. Capable of detecting the spectroscopic signature of appropriate worlds (Gaian worlds, but probably with some specific environmental
requirements), they arrive and immediately begin construction on the two portions of the local system.
The first portion is what is called an ArcNode. This large device is the source of all computational and energy requirements for the actual ArcWay. Placed within the outer atmosphere of the local star, here it can avoid detection and tampering, while at the same time drawing all the energy required. An active ArcNode is linked to the entire network in the same manner that one travels through the ArcWays, meaning that in effect all ArcNodes network-wide are operating in a synchronized manner*. It is assumed that this also represents a major amount of computing power. While the local ArcNode operates under the guidance of a moderate AI, it is entirely possible that the entire Network, when active, represents a single major AI. Once positioned within the local star, the Node extracts energy from it and uses it to create a proton-sized gateway. One mouth of the gate is stored inside a 'cell' within the structure of the Node (the Node has the capacity to store tens of thousands of mouths within itself ). Each mouth is stored as a proton sized object, electromagnetically suspended in a cell until needed.
The second part is the actual ArcWay. In appearance, the ArcWays are giant arches, several hundred feet tall. This immense size is presumably to allow for major movement of mass, such as large vehicles, large amounts of Cargo, large crowds, etc. The two feet of the ArcWay extend underground for nearly a kilometer, and it is thought that they actually gather geothermal energy for power. However, what this power is needed for is not known, since the ArcNode supplies plenty of energy via passive and constantly activated wormholes.. However, it also makes the arches extremely stable, even over geologic periods of time. And since they are made of the same material as the ArcNodes, they can withstand nearly any geological event. It is postulated that if an ArcWay were carried down into a subduction zone, it would still survive intact.
In the end, the Network can be visualized as this: the wormholes are a series of strings stretching light years, branching of in every direction, but they all gather at the many ArcNodes throughout space. From each ArcNode, a single string can be generated and sent to a local planet; this is the terminus of a wormhole, shunted to an ArcWay by the ArcNode. Thus, every ArcNode is connected to every other ArcNode, and every ArcWay can be reached. If a Node is destroyed or otherwise rendered non-functional, then that star system is effectively cut off from the Network until a replacement can be built. And the chances of that are very slim indeed! However, it is also very unlikely that an ArcWay can be destroyed in any conventional manner.
The Earth's ArcWay was constructed from 78 to 76,000 years ago. What happened to the nanoassembler afterwards? It probably searched for another likely candidate, and moved on. The ArcBuilders may well be a long-lived, very patient species! Or the entire affair may be a runaway project, begun by a society that has forgotten it, or has gone extinct. It is not known when this network was begun, but it can be assumed that if these nanoassemblers have indefinite lifespans. If this is true, then in a few million years the Galaxy will be rife with ArcWays. If it isn't already.
Nature of Wormholes in Regards to the ArcWays
As stated, the ArcWays are transversed via wormholes. But what are wormholes? In essence, they are shortcuts through the cosmos, passages offering a route from here to there, but not requiring travel through normal space and the stellar distances involved. Wormholes occur naturally within the quantum foam of the universe, that very foundation of existence where unimaginable energy is bound. But this scale is so small and so difficult to exploit, that it is even further out of reach than the stars once were. The wormholes here are correspondingly tiny, a microscale nearly immeasurable. But wormholes can be extracted from the quantum foam, and they can be brought up to the macroscale, as the ArcWays demonstrate. This requires exponentially increasing amounts of energy, the larger the wormhole, as well as computational ability to maintain its integrity. The energy is available from the local star. The "brains", as it were, are inherent within the ArcNode itself, and the limited AI that operates it. Some theorize that the greater the Network grows, the more energy is available, via stellar energy piped through the Network itself. It is also thought that the power of the individual AI's may combine through the Network. The power of such an intelligence is indeed daunting, but no indication of such a remarkable AI has ever been documented.
What does it feel like to travel through an ArcWay? When a particular destination is keyed into the planetary gateway, it sends a signal thru the local wormhole gate to the ArcNode inside the local star. In response, the Node does two things: First, it uses the energy at its command to expand the local wormhole connecting it to the planet (the ArcWay acts as a stabilization frame for this process). Simultaneously the Node locates (based on the keyed in destination code) the wormhole that corresponds to the destination gateway and moves it into proximity with the gate leading to the local planet. It then expands this wormhole as well. At the same time, it signals the ArcNode of the destination system. The destination Node essentially duplicates the actions of the first Node, expanding the link to its planet and shifting and the interstellar link into close proximity to the planetary link. It also contributes energy to help expand the interstellar link from both ends.
The result of all this is a 3 stage transport link that appears to be a single stage from the viewpoint of the traveler. The traveler steps through the arch of the ArcWay on one world and arrives on another planet light years away. From their viewpoint, looking to the side, they see the thickness of the ArcWay arch and nothing else. They probably also feel a strange shift as they step from one world to another. This is because when a traveler uses the ArcWay they actually do this: Planet to Local ArcNode (gravity to free fall), Local ArcNode to destination ArcNode (freefall), Destination ArcNode to destination ArcWay (freefall to gravity). All in a few steps.
wormholes, with each 'exit' mouth on one side of the ArcWay and the 'entrance'
mouth of the next stage right on the other. Visually it would all appear
as a sort of short tunnel with the origin world on one side and the destination
on the other. If the gate is 1 meter thick, then looking through the gate
while activated the arch would appear about 3 meters long. When the gate
is deactivated, the wormholes are shrunk back to proton size and restored until
called upon again.
Story Of An ArcWay
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ArcBuilder Universe concept © John
M. and Margo L. Dollan 2002-2003
* Thanks to John B. for this aspect of the ArcNetwork.
Many aspects of the ArcWays were provided by Todd Drashner. Many thanks!