Beyond the Gate
The Pathfinder Movement
Colonization projects are pursued and sponsored by hypercorps, scientific institutions, governments, and even powerful (and insanely rich) individuals. Divided as transhumanity may be, many factions are actively involved in or preparing for one colonization project or another. These can range from hypercorp indentures hoping to establish a new life for themselves to brinkers literally pushing the boundaries of isolation even further to ambitious mercurials attempting to create their own society, and everything inbetween.
The Planetary Consortium seeks to claim the galaxy for their own one colony at a time, while the autonomists try to prevent exactly that from happening. Terraforming hypercorps research new ways to turn a piece of rock into a habitable environment, hackers and rogue scientists seek places to experiment in safety and isolation, and crime syndicates set up secret bases to do god-knows-what. Rich oligarchs stake out their own private fiefdoms, while those concerned about transhumanity’s collective future spread out to the stars just to make our species harder to extinguish.
The five Pandora gates within the solar system serve as a chokepoint for these efforts, giving definite advantages to certain actors and impeding others. The Pathfinder Colonization Initiative is the juggernaut, founding new colonies on a monthly—and soon to be weekly—basis and maintaining an infrastructure on Mars to support the dozens that have already been established. In the race for new lebensraum, the Morningstar Constellation and the Titanians lag behind the Consortium, followed by the autonomists, numerous hypercorps, and other factions. Among the most under-represented are the LLA and the ultraparanoid Jovian Republic, each maintaining nothing in the way of extrasolar colonies.
In the wake of the Martian Gate’s discovery, Pathfinder was quickly assembled by the Consortium to control the gate, settling all quibbling over it by hypercorp interests and ensuring that it would be put to use in ways that would benefit the Consortium as a whole. A subsidiary of the Consortium itself, Pathfinder’s stated purpose is to spearhead the Pathfinder Colonization
Initiative and lead the Consortium’s charge to explore, colonize, and exploit the stars.
Given their mission, it is no surprise that Pathfinder focuses heavily on finding habitable or near-habitable worlds on which it can dump indentures and plant a flag for the Consortium. The bulk of the infrastructure it has built around the gate is geared towards this effort. Resource exploitation is its second largest concern, with a number of ongoing mining operations bringing heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and even organics from distant exoplanets directly through to Mars.
Weighing heavily on Pathfinder’s shoulders, however, is the fact that as a warden of Consortium interests, it finds itself answering to hundreds of Consortium hypercorps and their individual interests. Though the directives of the Ministry and Hypercorp Council take priority, Pathfinder’s mission includes providing incentives to other hypercorps that are part of the Consortium itself. Many of these corps view this as a mandate for Pathfinder to bend over backwards to meet their demands, which sometimes leads to harsh exchanges when things don’t go as desired.
Pathfinder Gate Control operators are masters of efficiency. Gate connections are established like clockwork, with everything scheduled down to the second. Due to staging considerations, missions are typically grouped in blocks according to type. Two hours of first-link and first-in exploration missions, for example, with probes and first-in teams cycled through a gate every ten minutes, will be followed by an hour of explorer retrieval ops, where gatecrashers previously sent through have just a short minute of opportunity to step back through before a search-and rescue bot is shoved through and the gate cycled to the next address. The decontamination chambers, sample containment units, and medical gear are then wheeled out of the way so that several hours of colony check-in and supply missions can be run, with materials carried through by drones or in some cases shipped right through on rail lines that run right up to the gate and
connect with rail lines on the far side. With the exception of rare debugging and maintenance operations, the gate activity never stops.
Given the busy schedule, Pathfinder Gate Control is notoriously ruthless about timetables and gate usage. They will only keep a wormhole open for as long as the sponsor has paid for and not a nanosecond more, barring an executive command from the upper hierarchy, which oversees all gate ops in real-time. They have been known to intentionally strand wounded gatecrashers who were limping towards the gate when their window of time ran out, or even cut short supply trains to colonies and research posts mid-transfer, regardless of the hardships that might mean for the colonists. In the rare cases they do extend a wormhole’s duration, the extra charges applied to sponsors are astronomical.