Friday, 10 February 2017

The Qualities of Hyperspace: The Peralles Incident Revisited


"One could say that the recent history of New Eden would be completely different if, say, Tibus Heth had been born female; or if, say, Empress Jamyl had a big wart on her nose. Since both those possibilities involve the element of chance, then it could be said there are many universes where one, or both of those things happened."

Lucile Nagahan - Higher Quantum Theory #21, Hedion University Guest Lecture Series Holovid Archives






Signal Cartel HQ: Theology Council Station orbiting Zoohen III, 1822hrs, 2/4/YC119 (aka now)

In my last entry I mentioned I was in the Syndicate. I ended up spending almost three weeks there, and I think a lot of it rubbed off on me to the extent that I'm still processing it all. I returned from Syndicate with several hundred million ISK more in the virtual bank thanks to some trading in archaeological relics and the proceeds of salvage (null security space means no Receiver of Wrecks, and liberal - non-existent - Laws of Salvage, but then you already knew that).




When I returned to Zoohen, I felt as if spending three weeks in Syndicate had benignly corrupted me and turned me into something resembling a Gallente, which is totally unacceptable. I knew this because I felt the warmth of Amarrian conformity upon my return. As an ethnic Ni-Kunni with a strong agnostic streak, I've previously railed against that sort of thing. However, the Empire is my home. I know what to expect there. Syndicate isn't like that. My dress sense even changed there in an attempt to hide in plain sight. Syndicate was energizing in its unpredictability for a while, even seductive; but ultimately, living on my wits is not my thing: I had to get out of there in order to slow down and recharge.

It's that deserts-of-Mishi-IV thing again.

Anyway I'm not here to talk about Syndicate as something more important cropped up since I came back.


Upon returning to my own internalised interpretation of 'known space', I embarked upon a cleansing ritual - a cleansing of too much accumulated garbage and capsuleer-dioxide: excessive amounts of ships, weapons, modules, parts, junk; especially ships parked in hangars all over the place and not getting used. Did I ever tell you I had an Armageddon-class battleship? It was docked in Zoohen. I hated it and seriously regretted buying it. I took it to the trade hub in the Dodixie system, stripped it of all its parts and sold it, and made another 200 mil right there. I did the same with over half of my roster of ships that I had scattered throughout Zoohen, Tash-Murkon Prime and Mista. Three of them went up on Signal Cartel's own in-house contracts list. They all sold.

Ships are to be used, not stored. It is a crime to leave them gathering dust in hangars.



During the numerous errands I had to run in order to transport everything to the various trade hubs and set up all the sell orders therein, I had cause to pass through the Dom-Aphis and Iderion systems that are right on the border between Genesis and Kador. Both systems are on one of the 'country routes' back to Zoohen from the centre of the Empire - a route that avoids the most commonly-trafficked systems where unimaginitive wardeccers and gankers lay traps for us.

In fact this part of space is actually just at the other end of the Mih Constellation and only five jumps from our HQ in Zoohen, so it is not remote. Barren and underpopulated, certainly, but not remote.



I had a bit of a memory gate moment as I passed through these systems en-route to Zoohen. The names 'Dom-Aphis' and 'Iderion' struck chords, like I'd heard of them before for some reason, long before I ever started operating around here. I mean I already knew of them in a more recent everyday operational sense of course, because they're in the same constellation as Zoohen and are just a handful of light-years away, but something deeper in my lizard-brain rang a bell of familiarity.

Dom-Aphis. Iderion. Who was it..? Something about a missing ship..?

This remnant of ghost-knowledge gnawed away at me until I docked in the Zoo (just a few minutes later...). I called up the big holovid on the wall as soon as I got to my quarters.

"Document search".

The holovid replied:

[request parameters?]

"Search global. Keywords: Dom-Aphis system, Iderion system, statistics on both. Supplement: unusual phenomena, newsworthy events, current affairs."

[specify time interval]

"No time interval. Prioritise."
  
[visual or spoken presentation of results?]

"Visual."

[processing]

The big whirling symbol started up on the screen. After just a few seconds the results arrived. Before sitting down and reading it all, I used the interval to brew some chai and change my outfit. I went for my traditional tunic. The purple one. I find that it grounds me and resets my ethnic baseline, which is something I need to do from time-to-time.



Only after that did I sit down and scan through the results. Page one was everything a capsuleer would expect it to be: navigational information, station specs, solar system data, planetary statistics, political situations, ship losses, colonies, settlements etc. because 'results are based on previous search history'.

"Filter: news reports only."

[processing]

The big holovid theatrically rearranged itself in that way that betrays a flashy, self-indulgent programmer. I'm all for artistic expression but just give me the damn results.

This time it was mundanities, like press releases on things like the recent appointment of a new VP of Procurement of some-corporation-or-other.

Halfway down the new page I saw the result I was looking for: Caissor.

The Peralles Incident.

That's it!

I retrieved the report. It was an official CONCORD thing. I read it, considered it, and digested it. My chai was cold by the time I was done.


 

[Excerpt from the declassified public summary of the report into the disappearance of the starship Peralles, declared missing and presumed lost in the vicinity of the Dom-Aphis system in Southern Genesis, near the Araz/Kador border]

The theory and technology behind jump gates opened up a whole new era in the history of mankind and is readily accepted as being one of the most important discoveries of all time. Jump gates have now been in usage for centuries and new versions appear regularly that make them more sophisticated and safe. Even if the functions of jump gates are well known from a theoretical point of view, there still remain a lot of unanswered questions about the fundamentals of dimensional inter-connections. 

Naturally, many theories exist on the subject, but none are comprehensive enough to fully explain how the universe is divided into many dimensions and the connections between them. Some also touch upon the subject of hyperspace, an alternative plane in another dimension. About the only statement these theories agree upon is that these issues are definitely not as simple as they seem on the surface.

[caption redacted]

Every now and then some unexplained events have occurred when a ship jumps through a jump gate, but these have been so few and far between that they’ve always been put down to accidents or faulty data. In recent months strange incidents in the barren and unpopulated systems near the hub of the known world have had people starting to question the reliability of jump gates and wonder whether humans opened Pandora’s box when they started using them.

What finally caught the attention of the media and, hence, the public, was the disappearance of the Gallentean Senator Hubert Caissor along with his family and his fortune in the ship Peralles en-route to a new post as ambassador to the Amarrians. The Peralles entered a jump gate in the Dom-Aphis system between Amarr and Gallente space. Its destination was the jump gate in the Iderion system close by, but it never re-appeared there. 


What makes this even more of a puzzle is that the control station at the Iderion jump gate received notification that a ship was incoming, showing all the right signs, yet no ship exited the jump gate. What is more, this notification is received at the exact same time every day, with the same result: no ship appearing even if all the signs indicate that a ship is about to come through the jump gate."

Since the Peralles incident, stories of other similar incidents have surfaced, all within the same region. These stories, some no more than unsubstantiated rumors, all tell tales of disappearing ships, strange disturbances while jumping, ghostly echoes and images and unsettling time shifts in the vicinity of jump gates.

[archive:1228/536/334/X65 - dissemination: this excerpt approved for public release. For further details contact your local CONCORD representative. Have a nice day]






 The Dom-Aphis - Iderion Stargate, Mih Constellation, Genesis, 2353hrs, 2/6/YC119

I'll wager that most of the space-based denizens of New Eden take the use of stargates completely for granted. I know I did.

My scientific curiosity got the better of me: after reading the report and refreshing my memory of the Peralles (and being a bit stunned by the fact that its disappearance was right on our cosmic doorstep and that hardly anybody around here knows about it), I headed over to Dom-Aphis in my Crow interceptor at the next available opportunity. I felt like running a few field tests. I loitered near the gate to the Iderion system - the gate that the Peralles disappeared into, and the gate I'd passed through in a state of obliviousness two days previously.



I watched a few ships pass through it. I know that nothing will have changed; that the risk of passing through here is no different than at any other time, but I felt like testing it out anyway.

Science and detective work: what a combination.

I called up the text of Professor Alain Topher's classic primer on stargate development that's become a set text in the academies, and scanned a couple of paragraphs, in my head, through my implants:

"Jump gates are built around artificial wormholes created by exploiting gravitational resonances found in star systems. This resonance is a friction between the gravitational waves of stellar objects. The more massive the objects, the stronger the resonance between them. The positions of planets in a solar system, as well as the complex structure of dust rings around heavy planets illustrate this resonance.



"At the node points, the rapid oscillation of the gravitational field in opposite directions creates strong shear in the contravariant energy-momentum tensor. Under normal circumstances this stress is dissipated by high frequency graviton radiation, so it does not create any noticeable macroscopic phenomena. But if this stress is confined and forced to build up in a limited region of space, then the tensor-field will eventually develop a steadily growing high-curvature tentacle-like structure in the space-time continuum. 

"More specifically, the tentacle constitutes a self-avoiding 4-manifold that attempts to grow farther and farther from itself. The tip of the tentacle, where the curvature is highest, effectively acts like a magnet on space-time, and for high enough curvature it can eventually induce the creation of a small tentacle in remote high-density regions that can reach to the tip and spontaneously combine. An analogy of this phenomenon is when lightning strikes ground, where the tip of the downward lightning actually creates a small upward lightning emanating from the ground and the two combine somewhere above the ground, thus closing the electrical circuit."

That's how the artificial wormhole between two stargates is generated. The power of a star brought to bear on a single point. What if that 'tentacle' it produces, that lightning bolt, that whip, breaks while I'm passing through it? What would happen? Is that what happened to the Peralles? In his text, Topher doesn't elaborate on dimensional theory and the nature of hyperspace. Anyone who studied quantum theory and all its forms knows that to do so is to invite madness. Advanced theoreticists speculate on a minimum of ten dimensions because the equations all make sense when you assume that many.

Madness.

If I jumped through this gate and never came back out again, would I become a resident of hyperspace or be injected into another universe altogether in accordance with the 'brane theory' of multiple universes? Would that other universe be an alternate timeline, where there's another version of me that never became a capsuleer?



Gate-activation protocol is based on proximity. The sequence is automatic. There is no need to communicate with the crews that man those gates, because it's all polling between ship AI and gate AI, the operation synchronised down to the femtosecond. You have a small window of time in which to cancel the transit, but after that you're going through whether you like it or not.

The hyperspace whip cracked.

I dived in...


 Into - somewhere...


...and back out the other side, still intact.


I certainly did not see the Peralles in there. I didn't expect to. I assume I emerged in the same universe, just like I assume I do every other time. How would I know for sure? Maybe everytime we use a stargate, we end up in a different universe only slightly, imperceptibly different from the one we left...

In any case, the visual 'tunnel' effect is an artifact - a pod-created simulation designed to distract you and make you feel better about where you just passed through order to get to where you are, now.  

To make it feel more normal. 

Cam drones are drawn in towards your ship and deactivated as part of the transit procedure. In that temporary reality, you see nothing, because there is nothing to see.



Or is there?

Is God in hyperspace?


Far from being elegant miracles of ultra high technology, stargates are a crude, brute-force method of tunnelling through the quantum foam that's filled with nameless sprites that sever the link between time and distance. Wormholes to Anoikis go further and faster. As far as we know, they are natural phenomena. To do the same, we need the equivalent of a hammer smashing a window.

In the case of jump drives on supercapital ships, we carry our own hammer around with us like opportunist burglars.

Normal meathead baseliner ship crews get plagued by cynosis during repeated stargate transit and the use of warp drive. We capsuleers are immunized from it by the pod, our implants and our training. It makes us take stargates for granted.

I did.

Not anymore.


As long as a stargate connection exists between these two systems, there always exists the possibility that the Peralles might one day re-emerge from whatever constitutes the limbo that it may or may not be stuck in. If it is anywhere at all. If it was destroyed, then how come an arrival signal carrying the ship's ID occurs at the Iderion gate every single day? 

Is hyperspace everywhere or nowhere? If distance has no meaning there, then how can anywhere be anywhere at all?

I called up the text of the report on the Peralles again and reviewed its most disturbing last paragraph:

"Since the Peralles incident, stories of other similar incidents have surfaced, all within the same region. These stories, some no more than unsubstantiated rumors, all tell tales of disappearing ships, strange disturbances while jumping, ghostly echoes and images and unsettling time shifts in the vicinity of jump gates."

So it's happened many times, right here in Genesis. Funny how we never get to hear about it. Has nobody considered that among the causes might be accidents of timing involving the proximity of the EVE Gate, right here in Genesis, with its God-like, respiratory pulses of electromagnetism and gravity? Topher speaks of gravitational nodes in his stargate primer; perhaps the EVE Gate produces some form of travelling rogue node that intersects - interferes - with the operation of a stargate. It only has to happen to you once.

What if the EVE Gate itself is the ultimate grand portal to some other dimension?


I'd ruminated enough; and proved nothing. I left the gate and headed over to the Civil Service station in Iderion, because there was no way I was passing through that gate twice in one night.


At this hour the station was quiet (because Civil Service bureaucrats derive their fun from rigidity - imagine an entire station full of them). In this massive station, the largest in the Amarrian station architect's repertoire, my Crow was the only ship in the docking bay. It was too damn quiet. At times like these I want noise.


Every time I come up against the boundaries of human knowledge, my lizard-brain reaches for its religious comfort blanket, which always surprises me because I'm supposed to be - I am - a scientist. And an artist. I'm supposed to be an agnostic too. Science and religion are clearly not that different.

I initiated the disembarkation procedure even before the docking clamps secured the Crow ('cannot comply, cannot comply'). I unjacked from the pod and headed straight for the standard quarters where I ordered lots of beer from the concierge service, and sought the banality of the local media as a distraction from thinking too much about quarks, and foam, and the other six dimensions we can't see. The dimensions that are all around us, but which we need a crude spacetime hammer to pass through.

How those higher entities must laugh.

Who do we think we are? What are we doing here?


I've said before how Signal Cartel is 'on the cutting edge of weird'. I've also theorised on how Genesis has more than its fair share of strangeness. Placing Signal Cartel's HQ in Genesis may have been more apposite than management may have ever anticipated.

To take a rational perspective, none of the above is ever going to stop me doing my job, but from now on I might momentarily invoke some ancestral superstition before sending that command at a stargate.

Especially in Genesis.

Science vs religion...

Before I unjacked from the pod in Iderion, I saw the optimistic chatter on our Alliance comms channel from other Signaleers embarking on their own personal missions all over the cluster and beyond.

I wondered:

Do any of you really know for sure where you'll end up tonight..?




[OOC Footnote: the above quotes two of the official EVE Chronicles - one of which I've embellished with graphics - as found on the EVE Online website and in the Book of EVE. Fair use terms are asserted, and any additions I've made are from a respectful standpoint. The EVE Chronicles are a rich seam of sci-fi lore & backstory and are the sole reason I got into playing EVE, and I feel that in the modern era they are somewhat neglected, especially since the EVElopedia died a death. For the record, I think EVE does itself a disservice by relieving the player of the requirement to engage with the lore in order to play the game. Therefore, if this blog entry motivates anybody to revisit the Chronicles, I will be pleased.]

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