“Well,” he said after a moment, “TJ and the rest of the team and I have already taken a pretty close look at the data you people have been able to provide. Obviously, you didn’t begin to have the instrumentation we’ve brought with us, so we weren’t actually in a position to reach any hard and fast conclusions about what we have here. One thing we have observed, however, is that the terminus’ gravitic signature is quite low. In fact, we’re a bit surprised anyone even noticed it.”

“Really?” Du Havel leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. Kare looked at him, and the prime minister shrugged with a smile. “Oh, this certainly isn’t my area of expertise, Doctor! I’m fully prepared to accept what you’ve just said, but I have to admit it piques my interest a bit. I was under the impression that ever since the existence of wormholes was first demonstrated, one of the very first things any stellar survey team’s done is look very hard for them.”

“That they do, Mr. Prime Minister,” Kare acknowledged wryly. “Indeed, they do! But, as I’m sure all of you are aware, wormholes and their termini are usually a minimum of a couple of light-hours away from the stars with which they’re associated. And what somebody who isn’t a hyper-physicist may not realize is that unless they’re particularly big, you also have to get within, oh, maybe four or five light-minutes before they’re going to show up at all. There are certain stellar characteristics — we call them ‘wormhole fingerprints’ — we’ve learned to look for when there’s a terminus in the vicinity, but they aren’t always present. Again, the bigger or stronger the wormhole, the more likely the ‘fingerprints’ are to show up, as well.

“What we appear to have here, however, is a case of pure serendipity on someone’s part. My team and I have looked very carefully at Torch, and we’ve determined that it really does have most of the ‘fingerprints,’ but they’re extremely faint. In fact, it took several runs of computer enhancement before we were able to pick them out at all. That’s not entirely surprising, given Torch’s relative youth. Despite their mass, F-class stars are statistically less likely to possess termini at all, and when they do, the ‘fingerprints’ are almost invariably fainter than usual. That means nobody should have been looking for a terminus associated with this star in the first place, and, in the second place, that they shouldn’t have been looking just sixty-four light-minutes from the primary. That’s ridiculously close. In fact, our search of the literature indicates that it’s the nearest any terminus associated with an F6 has ever been located relative to its associated primary. Coupled with how faint its Warshawski signature is, that suggests to us that whoever found it in the first place must have almost literally stubbed his toe on it. He sure shouldn’t have been looking for it there, at any rate!”

He paused and shook his head, his expression wry. In a properly run universe people like Manpower wouldn’t have the kind of luck it must have taken for them to stumble across a discovery like this one.

Although, he reminded himself, I could be wrong about that. I’m pretty sure Manpower has to be gnashing its teeth over the thought that the goody they found has ended up in the clutches of a batch of anti-slavery “terrorists” like the Torches. So maybe what this really represents is the fact that God has a particularly nasty sense of humor where “people like Manpower” are concerned.

That possibility, he reflected, was enough to warm the cockles of his heart.

“In addition to making it hard to find in the first place, the faintness of this terminus’ Warshawski signature, coupled with its unusually close proximity to the primary, also indicates that it’s almost certainly not especially huge. Frankly, despite the rumors to the contrary, I’ll be surprised if there’s more than one additional terminus associated with it — it looks a lot like one end of a two-loci system, what we call a ‘wormhole bridge,’ unlike the multi-loci ‘junctions’ like the Manticore Junction. Some of the bridges are more valuable than quite a few of the junctions we’ve discovered over the centuries, of course. It all depends on where the ends of the bridge are.”

The Torches at the table nodded to show they were following his explanation. From their expressions — especially Du Havel’s — the prediction that their wormhole was going to connect to only one other location wasn’t exactly welcome, though.

“Even in a worst-case scenario, most wormholes are significant long-term revenue producers,” Captain Zachary put in. Obviously she’d seen the same expressions Kare had.

“Unless the other terminus of this one is somewhere out in previously totally unexplored space — which is possible, of course — then it’s still going to be a huge timesaver for people wanting to go from wherever the other end is to anything close to this end,” she continued. “It’s only four days from here to Erewhon even for a merchant ship, for example, and only about thirteen days from here to Maya. And from Erewhon to the Star Kingdom’s only about four days via the Erewhon wormhole. So if the other end of your wormhole is somewhere in the Shell, anyone wanting to reach those destinations is going to be able to shave literally months off of her transit time. I’m not suggesting you’re going to see anywhere near the volume of traffic we see through the Junction, of course, but I’m pretty sure there’s still going to be enough to give your treasury a hefty shot in the arm.”

“Maybe not a goldmine, but at least a silver mine, you mean?” a grinning Queen Berry asked.

“Something along those lines, Your Majesty,” Zachary agreed with an answering smile.

“Which probably wasn’t exactly a non-factor in Mr. Hauptman’s thinking,” Kare added, and chuckled. “From what I’ve seen and heard, he’d probably think backing this survey was a good idea even if it wasn’t likely to add a single dime to his own cash flow. On the other hand, I understand he’s going to be showing a nice long-term profit on his share of your transit fees.”

“I think it’s what’s referred to as ‘a comfortable return,'” Du Havel said dryly. “One-point-five percent of all transit fees for the next seventy-five years ought to come to a pretty fair piece of change.”

Several people chuckled this time, and Kare nodded in acknowledgment of the prime minister’s point. At the same time, the hyper-physicist really did feel confident Hauptman would have backed the survey effort, anyway. It was obvious to Kare that Klaus Hauptman regarded not making a profit for his shareholders whenever possible as a perversion roughly equivalent to eating one’s own young. He supposed no one became as successful as Hauptman without that sort of attitude, and he didn’t have any particular problem with it himself. But anyone who bothered to take a look around the Torch System would have been forced to concede that Hauptman also put his personal fortune’s money where his principles were.

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11 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 30

  1. William McLamb says:

    Does anyone know if a secondary terminal can be discovered before its central terminal?

  2. JN says:

    Was it found going in–or coming out?


  3. John Roth says:

    @1 JN

    Don’t know, but if it was found from the other direction, that would be … interesting. Because it indicates it’s a system that 1) Mesa is interested in, and 2) that Mesa has managed to keep off the books, and isn’t using for commerce.

    Which in turn implies a bunch of other things.

  4. robert says:

    Something completely different, but not very interesting. That is a Snerky comment from a prior snippet, ruining all fun speculation. Let’s wait and see.

  5. Gil says:

    Interesting thought, but does anybody remember the reference to Asguard and how the invasion of torch was thier responsibility? Yes it seems the terminus was discovered from the other side by friends of Mesa… no further speculation warranted after that though…

  6. Summercat says:

    Oh, you guy’s don’t know? The terminus goes to *******, and which is why the ****** ****** ***** ******.

    /Got nothing.

  7. John Roth says:

    @5 Gil

    Huh? I certainly don’t remember any such reference.

    According to the published wormhole maps, Asgard has a three terminus junction (see the map in War of Honor). The termini go to the Anderman Empire, Mazapan and Midguard. There’s a second terminus somewhere near Mazapan that goes to the Manticore wormhole junction.

    So to get to Torch from Asgard, the path would be (I’m using em-dashes for wormholes, two = = signs for hyper paths between wormholes.)

    Asgard — Mazapan == Mazapan — Manticore — Phoenix == Phoenix — Erehwon == Torch.

    Note that it’s also possible to go through the Anderman Empire and bypass Mazapan; I have no information about how long the hyper journey in the Anderman Empire would be.

    If there’s a path that doesn’t go through Manticore, it’s certainly not in the material that’s been published so far, and I haven’t seen it mentioned elsewhere, either.

  8. RobertHuntingdon says:

    @5 & 7

    The invasion was very much NOT the responsibility of Asgard. It seemed at one point that it was supposed to be done by a SL member world and their SDF, but I don’t remember precisely who. O-something I think. I suspect that was the original plan and that the State Sec mercenaries we heard about in SoSag and other hints are a replacement for that original plan.


  9. John Roth says:

    @8 RH

    It certainly didn’t seem reasonable, which is the point I was getting at. They’re just too far away. A campaign to blame it on them might have some traction though – for a few days.

    Apparently Mesa has something else going on in the vicinity; Oversteegen’s little adventure swatting the Four Yahoos (in Service of the Sword) occurs before he takes part in the Torch adventure.

    @1 William McLamb.

    I know of no reason why not.

    @2 JN

    Well, the authors certainly seem to be emphasizing the difficulty of finding it. Given what they say in this snippet, it’s very unlikely that someone came looking for the wormhole and found the planet, and it’s also unlikely that, having found the planet, that they then stumbled into the wormhole. Finding it from the other end, and then finding a reason to occupy the planet that wouldn’t look too faked up, does seem like it’s a whole lot more likely.

  10. Peter Z says:

    @9 Weren’t those yahoos the stick to pressure Erewhon into closer ties with Technodyne? 4 heavy cruisers acting as pirates would cause Erewhon some serious trouble, especially at a time where Erewhon’s relationship with the venal High Ridge government was strained. Little or no help from the Manties leaves only Technodyne left. Before the plan bore fruit along came Oversteegen to derail it and later Cachat to provide the coup de grace.


  11. John Roth says:

    @10. Peter

    As I remember it, Manpower had some kind of a plan, never specified, and the four Solarian cruisers were backup for it. They were allowed to do some piracy after the transport carrying refugees to Tiberian blundered into them.

    Ringstorff and Lithgow discuss it; Ringstorff is of the opinion that the ships will be destroyed (with all hands aboard) if they have to actually use them, so that there aren’t any embarrassing witnesses. If they don’t, he thinks they may be kept around for some other operation.

    Look for the first use of the term “Yahoo” in The Service of the Sword for the textev.

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