Altspace Portal

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The primary means of interstellar travel in the Commonwealth. A two thousand foot diameter torus with eight to ten field projector arms that rotate inward/outward to open and close the naked artificial singularity. The device punches a stable and traversable hole between normal space and Altspace allowing ships to travel between the two universes.

The first and oldest of them were created by unknown Elder Races and found abandoned hundreds of thousands of years later by the younger races.

Navigation is achieved by way of unidirectional communication beams sent from automated NavCom stations in altspace located near where the portal appears. The carrier signal is used by ships as a navigation reference, and ships simply follow the beam from one station to the next to find their way between systems. Drifting off signal is usually a death sentence for any ship without its own portal capability.

Only the largest, most advanced ships are able to generate their own portal. Design requirements are so unusual and extreme, that they are usually built solely for that purpose. Generally, only large military or well-financed exploration projects. They are treated similarly to aircraft carriers as far as protection and support vessels. Portal ships are toroidal in shape, though length can vary. Arms with the focus devices start closed in center, punch a starter hole, then widen to stabilize the portal. Any accompanying ship must be able to fit through the center opening of the portal ship. The arms then swing outward and travel down tracks along the length of the ship, closing around behind it until they nearly touch and allow the portal to gracefully collapse. It’s similar to cutting a hole in a sheet, then having to hold it open while you step through and close it behind you. Explorer vessels tend to be rather long with few support ships. Military portal ships tend to be very large and short (nearly as big as standard stationary portals), and look like they’re turning themselves inside out as they pass through.

Construction of an altspace portal requires Exotic Matter. It can only be produced in altspace itself using extremely large particle accelerators and gravity field generators. Since production within altspace is required to produce the Exotic Matter required to get to altspace, no one has any idea how the Elder Races got there the first time. They couldn’t have originated from altspace due to the lack of stars and planets there.

The few races able to produce Exotic Matter have economy-dominating power over the entire Sagittarian Commonwealth. Its extreme value and everyone’s utter dependence on it to produce and repair altspace portals means that they have all of the money and power. The Commonwealth’s banking and treaty influence helps mitigate that somewhat by regulating trade and preventing price fixing, but they can only accomplish so much when many of the banks supporting the MU are owned by those same races and they have unparalleled fleet forces with extreme mobility. The only thing keeping any individual one of these races in check is their peers, who are constantly vying for dominance with each other.

FTL Communication

NavCom stations serve as communication relays as well as navigational beacons, but can only send/receive high bandwidth across to normal space while the portal is open, so messages are queued up by the altspace portal itself until the next ship is ready to go through and then dumps the data to the station to be passed on to the rest of the network. When the portal is closed, the station is only able to transmit a minimal signal used as an activation request by the portal, and extremely low bandwidth emergency broadcasts reserved for maydays and SagCom government use only.

Portals As Weapons

The massive spacetime distortion and energy discharge created by opening a portal, plus the fact that you can't see it coming from the other side until it's too late, would seem to lend itself well to creating a powerful weapon. However, gravity wells and normal matter both destabilize singularity formation. Acceleration (from propulsion or surface gravity) or the presence of matter beyond extremely small amounts at the target point create too much distortion for the singularity to form, let alone stabilize enough to be widened. This is why portals can't be built on the surface of massive bodies like planets or asteroids, even in a vacuum.

The lance-like energy discharge from the portal's initial burst would devastate a ship or extremely close station, but portals are slow to fire, extremely hard to aim, highly vulnerable and valuable devices, and there are far easier ways to cause equivalent damage with standard weaponry.