One large wallscreen dominated the wall opposite the ultra-modern food dispenser, the image showing a view from the Marcinko’s forward video feed. Jupiter was visible just on the edge of the screen, with its moon Callisto closer to the center, the entire scene sprinkled with stars. In the very center of the image sat two vertical structures, parallel to each other, with several blinking lights. The Takahashi Gate.
The T-gates, as they were more commonly referred to, were first built in 2091 by the Japanese Space Administration to more easily control the unpredictable nature of the wormholes. The first wormhole was discovered four years earlier by Masahiro Takahashi of the research vessel Hakudo Maru.
The Hakudo Maru had stumbled on the first wormhole, located just inside Jupiter’s orbital path around the sun, completely by chance. The ship was en route to study the atmosphere of the gas giant for possible use as fusion fuel when a probe sent in advance of its route suddenly disappeared. Captain Takahashi ordered the ship in closer to the point where they lost the probe, and detected highly unusual gravitometric readings. Not wanting to endanger his ship or her crew, he ordered another probe sent. When it too disappeared, this time right in front of their eyes, he took it upon himself, a hunch he later explained to have come from his boyhood science fiction reading, to have another probe reconfigured to automatically return on a direct reverse course thirty seconds after it passed the point in space where the previous two had vanished.
The probe was launched, and again disappeared at the same gravity fluctuation. However, after sixty seconds, this probe returned, appearing at the same location, on an opposite return course, completely intact. Takahashi and his crew brought it back on board, and over the next three days all gas research on the ship ceased while the crew excitedly pored over the data. It was conclusive – based on star data, the probe had instantly jumped over 150 light years into a completely different star system, determined to be Nu Ophiuchi, a binary system with no planets, only a millions of miles wide asteroid belt drifting around two early-phase stars.
Within a month, dozens of JSA ships arrived at the ‘wormhole’, as the Hakudo Maru crew was calling the gravity fluctuation; again a nod to Takahashi’s reading habits. Exuberant scientists sent more and more probes through, military leaders fretted over possible wartime scenarios, and young crewmembers unhappy with their current positions in life dreamed about limitless futures in another star system.
Over the next year, thousands of probes were sent to scan every corner of the solar system, by every Earthbound government and private corporation, but no other wormholes were found. Hundreds of probes sent through the Jupiter wormhole did the same, and reported back with one additional wormhole point. The scientists posited, correctly as it turned out later, that the number of wormholes in a particular system were based on gravity fluctuations caused by the star itself, with single star systems like Sol having one, binary systems having two, and so on. The home solar system had one wormhole, and Nu Ophiuchi, named Ryokou by Captain Takahashi, the Japanese word for journey, had two, matching the number of stars.
The decision was made to send a manned ship through, and although the JSA vociferously objected, it was Masahiro Takahashi who rode the first shuttle through. The crew of the Hakudo Maru, now considered heroes back home, wouldn’t allow anyone but their revered captain to have the honor. He returned safely from the four minute ride, though horribly nauseous as he explained later, and went down in history with other pioneers like Gagarin, Armstrong, and Chiang Le.
The gates were created to not only mark the location of the wormholes, but also to stabilize the fluctuations. With a combination of electromagnetic fields and particle beam generators, they created a safe corridor down the gullet of the wormhole, allowing ships in size up to a mile and a half wide to pass. Smaller ships, such as the Marcinko, were outfitted with special EM field generators which meshed with the T-gate fields, and provided a smoother transit through.
Gabriel watched the T-gate get closer on the wallscreen and turned to Takahashi, who had dragged one of the chairs closer to the screen, away from the others at the table. “Not a bad namesake you have, Ensign.”
“No sir, not bad at all,” he replied, taking a sip from a water bulb in one hand, his other clutching a spacesickness bag.