Settlement Connectivity and Resource Acquisition in Pre-Discontinuity Wormhole Networks

Taken from the thesis of Jarun Rivola, Scholarch

The wormhole networks of the Discontinuity Era reduced interstellar distances to instantaneous steps. Much on the construction, maintenance, and repair has been irrevocably lost in the unrest-filled decades that followed their collapse. The cheap, accessible transmission of goods and materials between worlds brought prosperity to otherwise remote sectors of the galaxy. As such, its collapse resulted in immediate, and often critical, scarcity in many places [1, 2]. This is even immediate in the Red River ruins in southern Telasp, where archeologists note the substitution of local materials in building, rather than the rare ores imported in prior centuries [3]. The famous skyline of nearby Southwall exhibits the most dramatic example, with the famous contrast between the Old and New Districts [3, 4].

Much of the scholarship has focused on identifying individual figures, factions, and factors active just before, during, and after the collapse of the wormhole network [4, 5]. The economic scarcity, and resultant political instability and widening conflicts are still vigorously debated, but certain key concepts are lamentably misunderstood. Chief among them are the assumption that the bulk of the galactic population was planet-bound. Given Teret's well-cited reasons for wormhole construction [3], I will present my evidence against this.

Even in antiquity, the difficulty of finding planets suitable to the natives of another was well-known. Adventurous cultures across history adopted genetic engineering, nanotechology, cybernetics, psionics, and various fusions to compensate. Others terraformed worlds, some exterminating or wiping out native life-forms in the process. Even terraforming an uninhabited world was an arduous undertaking, requiring centuries and intense resources. Given the comparative historic economic analysis by Riaz [6], there is evidence for another possibly: the bulk of sapients building their own habitats.

Materials rare on planetary surfaces are common in space, especially those used in electronics and psionically-active alloys. Thus, it makes sense to place wormholes directly close to processing centers, which were most often asteroid mines or material extraction colonies on dead, otherwise uninhabited worlds. While the mining stations were mostly automated, they were most commonly organized into individual star-system "branches" centered on a "hub" settlement. These hubs were primarily artificial habitats, often of cylindrical hulls that spun to generate artificial gravity. An example of this present in our own system is the Terrix Cluster of asteroids near Blackstar Station, which was damaged a century ago in a feud between warlords [7]. Interstellar wormholes would be located in this hub settlement, which fed processed and refined metals to other worlds, in addition to rather surprising commodities [3, 5, 6, 7]. Even databases and communication transmissions between worlds were typically uploaded and shared during periods of wormhole connection, sharing cultural, scientific, and technological advances between worlds [6, 7].

Many commentators, most notably Yiren [8], were curious why wormholes would be put on the surface of planets when a faster-than-light method of interstellar transit would be more suitable for space travel. Again, Ern's commentary on Riaz's original survey [6, 9] notes this would have been a non-issue in the pre-Discontinuity Era. Historical and contemporary surveys show the vast majority of spacecraft were interplanetary, rather than interstellar. They included shuttles, survey ships, crewed military vessels, and in-system supply haulers. Even among interstellar ships, most colony vessels were seed-ships, sleeper arks, or generation ships, and the rest were primarily scientific and exploratory craft. True interstellar warships were rare in history, as an ancient writer once commented there is no such thing as an unarmed starship. All were rare in the pre-Discontinuity era, and well beyond the financial and material means of most contemporary nations.

The costs of shipping are cited by both Riaz and Ern [6, 9], stating that planetary positioning was the most economical use of wormholes. In their framework, automated mines would feed towards hub space habitats, like Blackstar, which would be connected by wormhole to potential customers, even other worlds in the same system. Thus, this arrangement provides context for the specific types of shortages mentioned in primary historical sources [10-12]. Similarly, the battles that erupted in the absence of important resources were over local sources, as off-world resources were no longer readily available [11]. Lamentably, many of the survivors of the pre-Discontinuity era, including sentient machines, longevity-treated biologicals, and cyborgs perished over the course of the following, tumultuous centuries [11, 12].

Thus, several inferences can be drawn about wormhole placement. One is that despite immense potential for misuse, gateways would be key industrial sites. One may compare them to power plants, major ports, and aerospace complexes in their strategic importance. Archeological evidence shows that the garrisons and defenses associated with suspected wormhole placements were the most defended site in pre-Discontinuity cities. With wormholes, it would be possible to launch a simultaneous invasion of several worlds and systems, all in the span of minutes. As this possibility weighed heavily on the minds of pre-Discontinuity sources, interplanetary law has placed certain restrictions on ruin research and salvage, partially out of fears of activating some long-forgotten contingency or worse [12].

If such a wormhole were reactivated, the implications would be immense. The scientific and technological advances would no doubt be world-shaking, but the other possibilities become terrifying. The pre-Discontinuity sources cite wormholes requiring highly complex, but non-sentient, artificial intelligences necessary to provide stabilization and safeguards. These failsafes were necessary to prevent things such as the atmosphere from one world being sucked out the other end, and to ensure everything that entered the wormhole exited safely [13]. If we open a wormhole in hard vacuum or the heart of a star without such safeties, it would be a world-ending weapon on its own.

We have no idea what transpired on other network nodes in the last millennium, or if anyone is still active. Some systems may have become insular and xenophobic, perhaps as a result of suffering wormhole-based invasions. Others might have advanced to an incomprehensible level, becoming entirely post-biological or even post-physical. Another might have used the circumstances to establish a multi-world empire, or worse, weaponized the wormholes themselves. As noted by the Telasp War College, the threats posed by nuclear, antimatter, and relativistic weapons would seem quaint by comparison to wormhole abuse [12, 14].

A pre-Discontinuity writer referred to the wormholes the Eyes of a Blind God, a cosmic body that spanned the universe [15]. The technologies behind the wormhole network are certainly dangerous, but I believe fearful restrictions on archeology is not the answer. We must seek to understand this great accomplishment of the ancients, for our system is only a small mote in a cosmic ocean. If knowledge of this blind god can cause problems, then ignorance cannot solve them. If we do not strive, then someone else will. The blind god once bore an entire galactic civilization on its back. I hope one day, it will do so again.