The Martian Gate

Posted by: Karen Li, freelance journalist <Info Msg Rep>
The Martian Gate is the icon for the Planetary Consortium’s dreams of galactic empire. Easily the busiest gate, it sees the most traffic, is kept to a strict schedule (regardless of loss of life), and has the most significant support infrastructure in place. Given its place on Mars, the new homeworld of transhumanity (at least to the Consortium), it is the one within easiest reach of many of these desperate enough to turn to gatecrashing as a solution to their problems.

Ma'adim Vallis Canyon

Though it pales in comparison to Valles Marineris, Ma’adim Vallis is one of the largest canyons on Mars. It runs roughly 700 km from Mars’s southern lowlands to Gusev Crater. In some places, the canyon is as wide as 20 km and as deep as 2 km.
The Martian Gate itself lies at the very northern end of the canyon, hidden away in a cave less than a kilometer from its mouth. The impressive Ma’adim Research Park has taken over this section of canyon, while the nearby Pathfinder City has arisen in short order to meet the demands of the Pathfinder Colonization Initiative (PCI) and other gate missions.

Pathfinder and the PCI

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.

Ma'adim Research Park

The canyon immediately surrounding the gate has been covered, walled, and pressurized to hold breathable atmosphere. This habitat may in fact be one of the most secure areas in the solar system. Nothing gets within 25 klicks that Herzog Security hasn’t tagged and authorized without getting turned into a smoking pile of slag.
Inside this installation, Pathfinder houses a staging area for gate operations, decontamination chambers, secure and clean research labs for immediate study of interesting finds, emergency supply depots, and impressive defensive systems (aimed both outwards and inwards at the gate itself). The equipment alone in this facility is worth billions. The sensor probes used to scan and analyze new exoplanets include some of the most sophisticated systems transhumanity has yet devised. Pathfinder is fortunate enough to have a small army of inventive hypercorps at its back, each willing to contribute their latest developments to the cause, as long as they get a cut.

Pathfinder City

While Ma’adim Research Park is all business, Pathfinder City is where all of the real action is. Though still relatively small and less than a decade old, this settlement is the fastest-growing habitat in the solar system. New hypercorps and masses of desperate people swarm here on a daily basis. Glommed onto one wall of Gusev Crater 40 klicks to the north of the gate, Pathfinder City has plenty of room to grow. The initial dome constructed for the city is already nearly filled, and so the groundwork for a secondary dome is being laid. New construction towers in every direction, from crater-wall-hugging settlements to new skyscrapers.
Many have remarked that the growing city is taking on the color and vibrance of old-Earth cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Las Vegas. Much of the burgeoning infrastructure has little to do with the gate itself and everything to do with making Pathfinder City a Place To Be. Casinos, gambling and gaming dens, dollhouses, and petal pods draw the desperate and unlucky, priming them for a future with no option but to sell themselves for gatecrashing or colonial efforts. Sports activity is also on the rise, spurred by the wave of gamblers eager to take risks on low-g air racing, canyon parkour, and more traditional sporting outlets. Media icons and metacelebrities are drawn here in increasing numbers, and even the hypercorp glitterati are starting to view Pathfinder City as a worthy stopover on their hedonistic tours.
The action and nightlife is most concentrated in the central part of the dome, an area called the Hub, where credits flow like water. The areas near the crater wall remain mostly residential, though a significant portion of these homes are transitional. Pathfinder pulls in heavy numbers of potential colonists, barracking them here until they can be shipped out to homestead a new life on a distant exoplanet. North of the Hub is the corporate sector, where most of the corps involved in gate missions of various stripes have physical offices, depots, or facilities.

The Crasher's Bazaar

Located just south of the Hub in Pathfinder City, the Crasher’s Bazaar is perhaps the most complete community for gatecrashers located anywhere in the solar system. Not only will you find the latest equipment, but specialists in the bazaar can easily handle any upgrade or modification you might need for your morph.
Beyond gear, the Crasher’s Bazaar offers many specialized services. Does your team need to hire a specialist with a particular knowledge or skill? For a reasonable fee you can access private mesh locations where information about individual gatecrashers is kept. You can use these to find crashers with specialized skill sets, experience with specific environments or situations, or particular affiliations. A burgeoning ExploreNet reputation network allows gatecrashers and sponsors to evaluate each other based on past missions and e-rep feedback from other crashers.
Both Pathfinder and the various mission sponsors take advantage of these networks in the bazaar to announce new crashing opportunities. Most of the announcements are general in nature and often request teams to either visit a specific site or office for more information. Most corps simply treat this as the first step in finding the kind of team for which they are looking. Some very specific missions are not posted on the public nets at all. Instead, hypercorp representatives contact the crashers they are interested in having do the job, and direct them to a private mesh location for more information. These private missions usually require discretion, deniability, or more serious risks— but the payouts are significantly better.

Gate Operations

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.

Gatecrasher Benefits

Though Pathfinder only runs a limited number of exploration ops, they are known to pay some of the best rates for gatecrashing ops among the major gate entities. The drawback, however, is that their bonuses for discoveries are average and they offer nothing in the way of medical care or benefits. They also only provide the bare minimum of necessary gear; anything extra must be brought by the gatecrasher or paid for out of their commission.
Many crashers suspect that Pathfinder actually sets the rates for crashing agreements, and the other Consortium hypercorps just copy Pathfinder’s policies. While most go along with what Pathfinder does, some crashers have started complaining that Pathfinder needs to change its attitude towards paying people. Of course those who complain too loudly about how the corps pay their crashers often find it difficult to get missions.

Sidebar: Pathfinder: Reliable Sponsorship

Don’t be fooled by the gimmicks others use when hiring gatecrashers. Pathfinder offers straightforward terms for our gatecrashing contracts. No hidden terms or unreasonable bonus goals. Your team knows up-front how much they will be paid for their services. Pathfinder knows exactly how dangerous gatecrashing can be, and the last thing we want is a team worried about their pay when they are in a dangerous situation.

[ Home | Setting Information | Pandora Gates ]