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They'd been together far too long to start playing games with each other now.

She took a deep breath, as if preparing to jump off a high precipice armed only with the faith that someone would catch her on the way down. "All right. But what I'm about to tell you doesn't leave the room. Is that clear?" When he nodded, she continued, "For two hundred years after we first went into space, ships from Earth would take months just to travel from one planet to another. And traveling to other stars was considered impossible. Then we met the Centauri, and they gave us jump-gates that let us travel through hyperspace. So now instead of hundreds of years, it takes only days or weeks to go from one star to another."

Morishi couldn't quite understand where she was going with this. She was telling him "top secret" stuff that every kid this side of the Rim knew. "Old news. Fact is, the way I hear it, the Centauri didn't invent jumpgate technology either. None of the current races did. They found the gates when they got out into space, took them apart and put 'em back together again. No one even knows who built the first gates." He shook his head, realizing that they'd gotten completely off track. "But what does any of that have to do with the artifact?"

She drew closer to him and lowered her voice conspiratori-ally, as if someone were listening in. "I think it's one of the original gates left behind by whatever ancient race first came up with them." His eyes widened and she knew she had his interest as she continued, "But this one's different. Maybe it was an experiment that got away from them, I don't know ... but I do know that it doesn't open into normal space or hyperspace. I think it leads to a totally different kind of space entirely. Call it a Thirdspace, for lack of a better
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