Appearance and Function
Karma portals are circular units of energy made completely of karma that are capable of transporting humans through space into a variety of areas. They are surrounded by three concentric energy circles that almost make full connections around the center.
The energy circles around the center of the portal spin rapidly when the player brings their mouse close to the portal: the closer the mouse, the faster the speed. The portal also brightens and dims accordingly.
Most karma portals are thought to be created by Murtaugh by use of his karma arm. However, creating one incorrectly has a huge toll on the environment. All materials from glass to stone walls crack under the force of the karma portal, and Liz implies that enough of them in one dimension might cause the dimension (aka layer) to collapse completely.
It is, however, possible to create karma portals without causing such destruction, although the exact mechanism is unknown. Such examples are by use of karma portal stands. It is known, however, that the material on which the portal is drawn doesn't affect the process. Ways to reorder the destroyed surfaces have been successfully researched by Murtaugh (See more below).
Types of portals
Most of the karma portals that have been observed are blue, and relatively small. These are found in Sub7, Sub10, and the SubVerse. They have a black center.
The graphic representation of a blue karma portal interior is a large blue dot on a line, which could represent the player, and seven ovals. The seven ovals likely represent the seven main layers through which the player passes, but this is not certain. Aside from this brief graphic, the transport journey is almost instantaneous. (This graphic is only seen in Sub7, and loading karma portal locations in SubVerse technically take a few seconds if the location data is being loaded onto the computer for the first time)
The only other confirmed color of the karma portal is green, one found in Sub7 and most found in Sub9. These portals have a green center instead of a black one. Besides the Big Green Karma Portal found at the end of Sub7, these portals are mostly contained in brass rings either mounted on walls or on top of brass poles. Since green karma portals appear in locations known to have all seven layers (plus layer 8) overlapping each other, it may be the case that green portals transport the player directly through all of the layers actively, instead of just one.
The brass rings mentioned above seem to have special properties to contain both blue and green karma portals without shattering the surrounding areas. They appear in both Sub9 and the Submachine Universe.
It is possible that the white portal found at the end of Sub9 is a third type of karma portal. This is based off of the extreme amounts of light energy found in Layer 8. However this is the only piece of hard evidence for a Layer 8-specific white portal and the device may be something else altogether. Either way, the device obviously uses great amounts of energy to send the player to the beginning of Submachine 10: The Exit.
The portal that connects the infernal basement to the basement is half-red and half-blue. The red end appears in the infernal basement. This portal acts the same as any blue karma portal would; the color just appears red instead of blue.
The portals found in the Prince room are purple, matching the theme of the location. They otherwise function the same way as the other color karma portals, and, like the red one, are blue on the other end.
- Main article: Karma arm
The process of creating these portals is described with the verb "to draw". Murtaugh creates his portals by focusing all seven layers of his left hand to a single location, creating a karmic link between his hands across the layers. Murtaugh mentions using the energy from a wisdom gem to teleport to an unknown location, which means it is possible, and perhaps even required, for the arm to use external energy sources while drawing portals.
It is also possible for Murtaugh to draw portals while inside other portals but this "changes the direction of everything", so it might not be ideal. This also speaks for the quickness of the drawing process.
While technology that can open karma portals exists, it is not known whether or not these have originally been drawn by Murtaugh, or whether they are an application of the portable karma stabilizer.
Murtaugh tested his powers a lot while he lived in the Core, and learned to control them better with these 'baby-steps' as Elizabeth puts it. These experiments had an undesired effect on the Core, but Murtaugh chose to ignore this. Eventually the South Garden and Winter Palace started falling apart due to Murtaugh's experiments and occurring deaths.
From there he moved into the lighthouse and here he reached a new feat; he traveled to an unknown area, the dungeon under the lighthouse. He fashioned a theory that he could go anywhere if he used the lighthouse's full power of light. Elizabeth discouraged this course of action, but eventually under pressure he did use the portal to escape the lighthouse. This portal caused the Collapse, or the event in which the Subnet was torn apart and began rapid expansion outside the Core, creating the Outer Rim.
During a period of about three and a half years of research Murtaugh was able to refine his theory of karma. He discovered that focused karma can also be used to restore the molecular order that drawing a karma portal between two layers destroys. As an application of this technology he created the portable karmic stabilizer, which allowed for much more stable inter-layer travel and the ability to easily restore already destroyed material.
In addition to this, special devices to hold karma portals have been seen, which make it possible to support a karma portal without making the surroundings disintegrate. However, most of these seem to require constant energy to maintain the portal.
- A forum post by Mateusz Skutnik, February 2013, concerning the portal in Cake room
- Portal note, Submachine 2: The Lighthouse
- Karma portals note, Submachine 7: The Core
- Miracle note, Submachine 9: The Temple
- Letter to Liz, Submachine 2: The Lighthouse
- Transcript 17/38, Submachine 8: The Plan
- Mateusz Skutnik's post, on PastelForum, last paragraph.
- Letter to Elizabeth from Submachine 10: The Exit
- As seen in Submachine 10