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Jumpgates

There is a maxim of our species, more ancient even than the words of the Prophet: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." One need but look about in these discordant times, when nobles spread fire and strife, the better that they and they alone be allowed to look after the welfare of all, to evince the veracity of this statement. Nothing is simple and true; all things have become a maze of mirrors within mirrors, and the very h'naa-lizard that devours the Karangian ass is also the dray animal bearing medicine to the provinces.

And so what to make of the jumpgates? Beloved of the Prophet; way stations of the barbarians and Symbiots. Windows to a thousand paradises and gates whereby demons can emerge from nighted hells. Tools built by unknown hands, bearing the virtues of Zebulon and the vices of Leagueheim indiscriminately.

Much has been written of these structures since their discovery in the dim eras before the Diaspora. Nobles, priests and Guilders alike have acted, if for no other common purpose, to understand these artifacts, at once utterly enigmatic and completely essential. And yet all Urth's collective efforts have gone for naught; the gates are as much of a conundrum now as they were millennia ago. Who created them? For what purpose? What logic behind the intricate web of stellar leaps? Ah well, perhaps it is the Pancreator's will that they should remain a riddle.

The gates themselves hover in the astral night at the fringes of certain solar systems, evidently those which the Pancreator desired us to claim for Him. However, just as the Pancreator requires His servants to prove their devotion through earthly works before He deigns to allow His angels to bear their soul- sparks to salvation, those who would dare the jumpgates must first free themselves of their planetary ties, traveling to the fringes of their solar systems through the harnessing of often recalcitrant spacecraft. This journey to the gate itself can take as long as a fortnight, during which the travelers are at the mercy of pirates, rival houses, Void Krakens and a host of other horrors. One indeed needs the favor of the Pancreator even to attempt such a trek.

Perhaps the gates are indeed the work of the Pancreator, simultaneously allowing humanity to carry His message to the stars and instilling Everyman with a much-needed sense of humility; for I personally aver that it is impossible to approach one of these structures without a sense of awe evoking itself in the witness. Certes the approaching traveler, viewing the vast metallic ring, hovering in the void like a hollow moon, and I use this simile deliberately, for many jumpgates are indeed of lunar proportions, becomes consumed with a profound sense of humility, as she can do naught but tremble before one of the universe's greatest works and most fundamental mysteries. Nor is this wonder diminished when, awakened by the call of the star-pilot, the gate begins to throb and pulse, and luminescent orbs play up and down the arcs of the metal hoop, and the entirety of the inner circumference is litten with a lambent radiance, as if a sun had erupted new-formed from the abyss.

And so the gate, newly roused from slumber amid the silence of the void, awaits its passengers as the leviathan anticipates its meal of krill. Of the gates' inner workings, few know much save the heathen Charioteers. Of their operation more is understood. These gates mystically connect disparate tapestries of space, allowing a traveler to enter the glowing portal at the heart of the jumpgate ring and thereby "leap" across vast cosmic distances in a matter of moments.

The time of travel remains the subject of heated conjecture; most travelers agree that a jump, while not precisely instantaneous, transports the users across vast gulfs over a period of mere seconds at most. What, then, transpires during those moments of bodilessness, adrift in an incorporeal state? Those of learning will recall the suppressed Sathra heresy of the early Diaspora. The devotees of this cult, jumpgate pilots all, claimed to be elevated into ecstasy by passage through the gates, and to have heard disembodied voices bearing messages of paradise.

Ever seeking further enlightenment, Sathraists indulged in frivolous cosmic jaunts and all manner of dangerous practices, until they came to seem less like mystics and more like addicts. The early Church, recognizing the Sathraists as foolish degenerates likely deluded by demons, put a swift end to these false revelations, and prevented further experimentation by ordaining the installations of wards dampening the astral narcosis: wards which still grace spacecraft to this day. A few Sathraist rants yet survive in the depths of the Church archives, but offer less insight concerning the jumpgates than about the addled brains of the authors.

More enlightening are the epistles of our Most Holy Zebulon, who himself was a student of the jumpgates, but toward a nobler end than the unfocused rapture of the Sathraists. In his writings he often speaks of the peculiar "ephemeral" state of the jump, and about its relationship to both the Pancreator's Empyrean and those hells housing the dwellers that wait between the known cosmic gulfs and the Outer Darkness (which is to the void we know as the dinosaur is to the gecko).

In the end there is little more that can be explained, and so the jumpgates remain as they have always been: monuments to powers greater than we can hope to explain. I add only that vigilance is critical; for the jumpgates are the bridges to celestial and infernal powers alike, and in this treacherous age it would serve us well to monitor closely what sorts of beings travel freely in our midst.

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2008 Fading Suns MUSH