Stargates, also termed Ferlin tunnels, use massive amounts of solar power to warp spacetime in order to literally reduce the distance between two such devices. While similar in concept to a wormhole, they do not bypass any intervening spacetime, and the gates are forced to remain nearly at rest with respect to one another. The only motion they undergo is modification to accommodate changes in distance and vector between two stars.
In order to function, they need to be 'anchored' to a large mass - around half a solar mass, at a minimum. The first such gates had a maximum reach of a bit over four parsecs when formed, though later, more refined models can stretch close to twelve between large enough stars. Once so anchored, and the necessary energy densities established, a proper stargate will become a stable feature of the stars it binds. It will expand and contract to accommodate true velocity between the two, and actually work slightly to retard this motion.
Physically, the tunnel itself is exceedingly tiny when viewed from the outside - smaller than an atom, it is actually possible for ships to fly over it with a measure of safety. The inside, on the other hand, is at least several kilometers in diameter, though the actual depth is only a few millimeters. The physical hulls of each gate are joined together on the inside, to help prevent collisions and to help maintain the field.
A hemispherical cap covers each mouth, maintaining the 'spacial bleed' region surrounding each, which performs the reverse of what the stargate does - increasing the volume of space in a region between the gate and its host star. Thus, in order to make a superluminal transit between two stars, a ship cannot fly straight through, but must instead weave through in an s-pattern. Most such gates, therefor, look like half an ellipsoid, the rounded end pointing at the local star. A sectioned ring opens the way into the structure in the back, allowing transit.
Once established, a well-built gate will use its altering of spacetime geometry to reinforce it - making them extremely difficult to destroy as immense tidal forces rip apart kinetic projectiles and redshift light to 'safer' values. Most stargates are not destroyed in combat, but rather by stellar motion bringing the path of one stargate pair across the actual physical structure of another. This creates a violent reaction similar to a matter-antimatter one, releasing the immense energies used in the construction of the victimized gate. Because of this, engineers are rarely too zealous about making the web of stargates 'too thick'.
If a star's motion should take it outside the gates' mutual range, or if two lines cross between the physical stargates, their deactivation is usually much less dramatic than a collision, with the energy slowly being released over the course of several years on each side. The gate can then be used to link to a new star, deconstructed for raw materials, etc. On the other end, gates being actively linked are also generally quite visible, as the host star's light is usually focussed into such a tight beam that it fluoresces the interplanetary medium.
Black Hole Gates
Black holes form a different sort of stargate, frequently called a blackgate. They are able to cross thousands or even millions of parsecs to another black hole, depending on the mass and comparative spin of the black holes in question. These links have a different structure than that of normal stargates, and do not destroy 'normal' links, though they do render them untraversable for a time.
A special regalic device, called a singulus, can be used to open a similar path to a high (1.6 solar masses or more) mass star, if the device is allowed to remain fixed. Each member of the Triad was granted one such device. The Dyrajt used theirs on Sirius, and the Thireshi on Altair. Humans recovered the Altair device at the beginning of the Diaspora, but left the Sirian one at the behest of the Concord, which continues to remain in the system. The First recovered the device gifted to the Khavene shortly after.
Such links - whether using a singulus or a 'natural' one - are extremely valuable in that interstellar - or even intergalactic - travel is not required in order to make the link - just extremely precise calculations. Using this, it is possible not only to reach across the galaxy in mere years, but even to giant neighbors in other galaxies.
The Triad were entirely dependent on what the First cared to provide to them, which was merely the means to relink stargates to nearby star systems, and established access to a black hole so that they could deal with a newborn cerevate species should they find one. While extremely generous of them, they never properly understood how these mechanisms worked, and could not grow beyond the limits of those gates that they were able to activate.
This, fundamentally, was a subset of those stargates that the Renlai and Soronen had constructed. Many were destroyed - intentionally or accidentally - and the simple passage of time de-linked many. Even still, this left them in control of billions of stars, held together by blind theocracy.
Many of the renlai gates have decayed through one fashion or another over the aeons. Even still, billions remain. Tau Ceti, Gliese 783 and 82 Eridani all had remnants of such gates, which humans used to expedite the process of settling these systems. See Cetan civilization.
The soronen gates include a number of renlai constructions that were repaired and refitted to their needs. They did not reach a black hole before the First found them, and thus were limited to only a few million star systems. Building on the knowledge of their predecessors, theirs are the most durable of the ancient gates, and though stellar motion has scattered many of them across the galaxy, a vast quantity of them - about 60% - remain in a general cluster. Many call it the Soronen cluster, though it is predominately controlled by the Khavene.
Humans began constructing their stargates in waves. The first wave went to the nearest eight 'major' stars, of around .6 Solar masses and higher, and the second went to another twelve, though that set was destroyed.
- Alpha Centauri (4.36) - The first gate constructed, activated by the Centaurus Mission. It is sometimes called the Centaurus Gate.
- First-wave gates to Lacaille 8760, Sirius, and Epsilon Indi.
- Sirius (8.58) - The second gate constructed, through the Sirius Mission. Sirius had the first two gates to other star systems - to Procyon and Alpha Centauri.
- First-wave gates to Alpha Centauri, Procyon, Epsilon Eridani, and Tau Ceti.
- Second-wave gate to Keid.
- Epsilon Eridani (10.32) - Activated by the Eridanus Mission.
- Procyon (11.40) - Host to the Procyon Concord, this gate was actually completed and fully active in 2216, before Epsilon Eridani's was.
- First-wave gates to Sirius and Epsilon Eridani.
- Second-wave gates to Keid and Groombridge 1618.
- 61 Cygni (11.40) - Activated by the Cygnus Mission.
- Epsilon Indi (11.82) - By the Indus Mission.
- Tau Ceti (11.88) - On-line in 2221, by the Ceti Mission.
- First-wave gates to Epsilon Eridani, Epsilon Indi, Lacaille 8760, and Sirius.
- Second-wave gate to Keid, Van Maanen's Star.
- Lacaille 8760 (12.87) - Activated by the Microscopium Mission.
- First-wave gate to Alpha Centauri, Epsilon Indi, Tau Ceti.
- Second-wave gates to Altair, Delta Pavonis, Gliese 783.
Additional second-wave gates:
Inside the Solar System, the eight gates were locked some distance outside Neptune's orbit. Since the Diaspora and the formation of the dreadskearns, it is still possible to use these 'gates' - or at least what they've become - to cross to the others. Most generally prefer take other routes instead of running that gauntlet. The drastically increased mass of the hellskearn has kept the first and second-wave gates within range, though several crossings have required management.
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