The six-worlds rule had been a fact of life for thousands of years. It predated even the Solidarity. Long enough that no one questioned it anymore. It was a fact that turned a healthy profit for savvy pilots like Kadence.
She wasn’t famous, but those in the know knew her.
The six-worlds rule said that no stellar system could be connected by wormgate to more than six other systems. Scholars think it was a rule born out of fear that we might one day encounter and engage in warfare with an alien civilization. The six-world gate limit could slow an enemy advance. Of course, hindsight revealed scant few aliens, and none of them were capable—much less interested—in waging war. That was a purely human endeavor.
Even talking to an alien was like trying to explain a dream you had: uniquely bizarre, and hardly worth the effort.
But as the Solidarity formed and then expanded, the rule persisted. Travel between distant systems required the use of dozens of gates in succession, and the systems who hosted those gates had come to rely on the toll charges they imposed. Once people started getting rich off the six-worlds rule, it was too late to repeal it.
Kadence’s niche was in finding optimal routes through the ever-changing wormgate maze. And optimal meant different things to different people. Some wanted the most direct route as the photon flies. Others wanted the fastest, or the cheapest, or to avoid certain customs laws. Whatever the route, Kadence could find it and fly it. So it wasn’t often that she said—
“But I was told you knew how to make a route.”
“I only make routes to places that actually exist.”
Kadence wiped her face. “Look, I can get you to any wormgate you like, but you’ve got to name a gate, not some fairytale planet.”
The man inhaled deeply and nodded his head. “Take me to Sheratan, then.”
“Come on, I’m running a business here. Sheratan’s behind the veil. The gates were closed when the Plague swept through.”
“That’s a cover! The wormgates within the veil lead to Earth! Don’t you see?”
Then he said Kadence’s favorite phrase.
“I’ll pay you double.”
“Talk about burying the lede. How soon do you want to go?”