Teleportation is a great way to get from Point A to Point B, but too often it's limited by the distances it can cover, for one reason or another. So what do you do when you need to travel farther than your abilities allow?
Easy! You just teleport over and over! Multistage Teleport is when a method of teleportation that is limited to a set distance can be used to get around that limit by making a journey in a series of shorter jumps.
Almost always Justified, though the exact justification varies from work to work. Generally, the justification is less "We literally can't teleport long distances" and more "We can teleport long distances, but it's unsafe to do so", but both are frequently used. The most common justifications include:
- In Science Fiction, a common explanation is that they aren't actually teleporting, they're just traveling really, really fast (like, violating-general-relativity-fast), and traveling that fast for farther than you can see or calculate poses a risk of slamming into something at catastrophic speeds.
- Another explanation that lends itself more to Science Fiction is that if the work features true teleportation, the limit may come from dangerous kinetic or potential energy differences between the entry and exit points.
- A common Fantasy justification, albeit an arbitrary one, is that the teleportation only allows its user to teleport to someplace that they can see, i.e., line-of-sight. A further variant of this is that they can teleport farther than they can see, but if they don't look where they're going, they risk Tele-Fragging themselves into something that happens to be at their destination.
See also Teleport Spam, which is when a similar technique is used to disorient or overwhelm an opponent rather than to travel, and Light-Flicker Teleportation, which is often used several times in quick succession and thus approximates this effect on a small scale.
Portal Networks can overlap with this, particularly when each portal in the network doesn't actually connect directly to each other portal, and a traveler therefore needs to go through each portal on the way. However, it's important to note that if the teleportation in a Portal Network is not explicitly or effectively limited by distance, then it's not actually this trope.
- Played with in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Homura can't actually teleport, but she has the ability to stop time around herself. Since she can only stop "outside" time for a brief period of her subjective time, to an outside observer, she often appears to be covering a lot of ground in a series of short-distance teleportation jumps.
- In A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, Kuroko Shirai's teleportation has a distance limit of about 81.5 meters, so she has to do this if she wants to move across the city.
- Aoi from Psychic Squad uses this as a form of Not Quite Flight.
- In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Akira Okochi is granted a Pactio Artifact that allows her practically costless transportation between any bodies of water within 300 meter radius. So when you need to go further away (or confuse your pursuers) it can easily be used like this.
- Nightcrawler of the X-Men has had to travel long distances quickly on several occasions and in different incarnations. Since he can only teleport along a line-of-sight, he does this by teleporting over and over in rapid succession, similar to how he does Teleport Spam in combat, but in a straight line. Eventually the line-of-sight requirement turns out to be more of a mental block that he overcomes, by which point he no longer fits the trope.
- In The Maretian, this is the basis of the Sparkle drive, which by the start of the fic can teleport a ship four meters forward, 250,000 times a second (which is about 0.3% of lightspeed).
- The Shobijin from Mothra vs. Godzilla travel this way due to the limited distance their teleportation allows. Being little wingless fairies, they have to rely on short-range teleportation to move long distances faster and more safely. For moving across lengthier distances, like from their homeland of Infant Island to Japan and back, they ask the help of humans or Mothra herself.
- Invoked in The Belgariad: teleportation is difficult and only works by line of sight, making it impractical for long trips thanks to this trope. Belgarath tries it once, then gives up and turns into a falcon for the journey instead.
- Empire from the Ashes: In Heirs of Empire, Narhan is mentioned to be far enough from the Fifth Imperium's capital Birhat that anyone using the mat-trans to travel between the two planets has to do so via Earth. The Big Bad exploits this to swap out a statue the Narhani are giving the Imperial government with a replica with a planet-busting bomb hidden inside.
- In Foundation's Edge, Foundation long-distance space travel is done one relatively short jump at a time, after which a ship must calculate the next jump. The calculations can take days. These "short" jumps are still hundreds of lightyears, but traveling all the way across the galaxy in one jump risks collisions with stars or other obstacles. When an advanced computer is able to calculate and execute a series of 28 jumps in a matter of minutes within an acceptable margin of error, Trevize is astounded and considers it a revolutionary advance.
- The Heroes of Olympus: As a son of Hades, Nico can "shadow-travel" long distances with fair ease; however, when using this ability to transport more than himself (like, say, Hedge, Reyna, and a sixty-foot-tall-statue of Athena) back to Camp Half-Blood, he can only do it in a series of short jumps for fear of overexertion.
- Parodied in Howl's Moving Castle with the seven-league boots. Sophie only wants to travel a short distance, so she wears just one boot (to go three and a half leagues) and walks round two sides of a triangle. Then she has to backtrack when she overshoots.
- In Larry Niven's Known Space universe, the Puppeteer homeworld features a network of "stepping discs" (freestanding teleport pads) in pairs spanning a block or two, placed end-to-end one pace apart. The result is a sort of seven-league boots effect, allowing a traveler to circumnavigate the planet on foot in an afternoon.
- Heralds of Valdemar: In the Mage Storms trilogy, Altra's "Jumping" is range-limited. When Altra jumps from Shonar (in Hardorn) back to Haven (in Valdemar) with Karal, it takes multiple jumps to cover the distance, which makes Karal's resulting Teleportation Sickness worse than normal. The exact reason for the limit isn't spelled out, but is implied to be due to Altra stepping physically into the plane of mage-energy to jump—as the Mage Storms get worse, his range decreases.
- A common method of international (especially intercontinental) travel in Mother of Learning, since you can only teleport to a location you're familiar with and the mana requirements of teleportation scale exponentially with distance. Zorian eventually finds ways to open portals at arbitrary distances, but he - or his simulacrum - first has to have gone to the other end the slow way.
- In Spacecraft: 2000 to 2100 A.D., sometimes starships must take long interstellar journeys; for example, from Earth to Arcturus (about 40 light years). The ship jumps as far as it can using its Warp Generator, then must take a rest to recharge its Generator before it can jump again.
- Played completely straight in Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination. One person discovers how to "jaunt" (personal teleportation), and in a little while (almost) everybody can do it. The limitations are 1) you have to know where you are and where you are going (which allows prisons to exist and provides at least a minimum of personal security), and 2) the distance you can jaunt is limited by your personal capabilities. So large platforms are setup at reasonable distances apart so that people have intermediate destinations so they can jaunt large distances in stages.
- During the climax of the Star Trek novel Memory Prime, Kirk, Spock and a couple of other characters use portable transporter pads to chase an assassin down into the heart of an asteroid, jumping less than a hundred meters each time from sealed gas pocket to sealed gas pocket.
- In William Shatner's novel Star Trek: Dark Victory, Captain Kirk is kidnapped and beamed through numerous transporter stations (he briefly sees them while he's being transported) all the way to a distant location outside normal transporter range, where he meets his Mirror Universe counterpart, Emperor Tiberius.
- In Starwalker, starships do this as they travel along FTL lanes, both to accommodate their warp engines' recharge cycle and also to make sure the lane segment ahead is clear of navigational hazards.
- In The True Game, elators are capable of teleporting to anywhere they've been or can see. In one instance, Peter, the protagonist of the first trilogy and a shapeshifter capable of duplicating the other classes' powers, combines elator teleportation with a modification to his eyes to travel fast by sighting on a faraway location and teleporting to it, then sighting on his next target.
- Painstakingly justified in Vernor Vinge's The Witling; the psychic Azhiri can only safely teleport over relatively short distances on the planet's surface, because otherwise the difference in rotational velocity between their starting location and their destination would result in a very nasty splat (or the traveler could simply be shot up into low orbit). They mitigate this by teleporting between pools of water, which cushions the impact, but they are still limited in distance, so long trips are done in a series of jumps between checkpoints. Before visiting the planet, some of the human characters notice clearly-artificial chains of pools visible on the planet's surface via satellite imagery, but fail to guess their purpose. Interestingly, the Azhiri actually exploit this phenomenon for combat by using it to fire rocks, water, and even high-pressure blasts of air at their enemies.
- The Zombie Knight has a couple of examples:
- "Light-wielders" (alteration users with power over electromagnetic waves) capable of the pan-rozum Super Mode can teleport by turning into a beam of light and back, but they have to take very long distances in a series of discrete jumps, because if they go too far in a single hop they can go out of focus and die.
- The aberration Ibai Blackburn has the power of true pathless teleportation. However, as of his first appearance, his maximum range is only a few dozen feet, so he has to jump repeatedly to go any great distance. He seems to prefer this method anyway, as it lets him enjoy the view.
- Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: How the Wayhouse Portal Network of Cool Gates works, for any useful distance, coupled with high costs and Teleportation Sickness, as said in the seventh episode, Princesses in the Darkest Depths:
The Wayhouse of Bargoczy was among the newest wave of civic construction to wash over the city, [...] it was solidly built of quarried chalkstone fitted with dark mortar, then stained with strong primary colors. [...] the Wayhouse network's convenience was hampered only by its range. In order to go any appreciable distance, one had to suffer through a daisy chain of transfer points. Few people were willing to pay the cumulative costs, and a larger number of stomachs were unwilling to deal with the stress of so many transfers.
- In Battlestar Galactica (2003), Faster-Than-Light "jumps" are limited to certain distances for safety reasons; in order to keep the fleet together, coordinates and vectors have to be carefully synchronized on a regular basis, and failing to do so could result in ships being separated from the fleet and stranded in deep space. For this reason, long journeys are done in a series of shorter jumps that are easier to coordinate.
- Justified in Stargate Atlantis. Using a Stargate to go directly between galaxies requires the use of a Zero Point Module, a limited-availability technology that is often required elsewhere (for instance, powering the Ancient Control Chair that defends Earth), so a more practical method is required. Cue the McKay/Carter Intergalactic Gate Bridge. Instead of a single Stargate trip requiring an impractical amount of power, the journey is made through thirty-four daisy-chained Stargate trips, each one relying on an ordinary Stargate battery. The traveler doesn't even feel the difference; travel time is reduced to about thirty minutes, compared to traveling on Faster-Than-Light ships, which can take weeks. A stop is required on the "Midway" station, though, since the Stargates from the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies, respectively, use different systems that can't be directly linked, and the travelers need to rematerialize there to make the switch.
- Traveller. Starships can travel from 1 to 6 parsecs per week by traveling Faster Than Light through Jump Space in discrete jumps. A starship with a Jump-1 drive jumps 1 parsec at a time, taking 6 weeks to travel the distance a Jump-6 ship can go in one week, and so on.
- The ships of the Tau Empire in Warhammer 40,000 do this as their method for faster-than-light travel, specifically allowing them to "skip" across the Warp's shallows. While this is safer, because in this universe Hyperspace Is a Scary Place, it's also very slow.
- BattleTech JumpShips can only jump up to thirty light-years at a time, with long charging periods in between and only specific points within a solar system that they can safely land at.
- In 2300 AD, the stutterwarp FTL drive works by performing small jumps of a few hundred meters hundreds of thousands of times per second, giving an apparent velocity multiple times that of light.
- In Sword of the Stars, the Liir's "stutterwarp" drive teleports the ship microscopic distances millions of times a second. This avoids the inertia problems inherent in filling their ships with water, since the Liir are an aquatic race. And given that it's the only starship drive in the series without a Minovsky Physics explanation, it could very well be a lower-power version of the telekinetic space-folding abilities of the Suul'ka, who can teleport light years at once and are insane Liir Elders who've grown larger than dreadnoughts.
- In Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, Maiev Shadowsong refines her Blink ability into this, allowing her to escape Sargeras' collapsing tomb.
- In Overwatch, this is Tracer's ability; she can store up to three at once and use them in quick succession.
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 Chrono Legionnaires can teleport the length of the map instantly, but the farther they teleport in a single jump, the longer they're vulnerable at the destination.
- In City of Heroes this is how those with the teleport travel power would get around as the power is limited by line-of-sight and has a maximum range. A teleporter would hang in the air for a couple seconds before they would start to fall to give time to choose the next destination though some would also take the Hover power to give themselves plenty of time to reorient themselves in mid-air.
- Ultimately how the Mass Relays work in Mass Effect, where craft jump from relay to relay in quick succession to get to their destination.
- Alex's teleportation Psynergy in the Golden Sun series seems to be limited in this fashion, at least when carrying villains that you have just beaten. He has to teleport three times just to get out of the room they're in.
- In the season 4 finale of Flander's Company, it is implied this is how Caleb manages to vanquishes Alternate Armand during their fight. At first he uses his teleportation powers to send his opponent away, but the latter has Super Speed and is back in a few seconds. Sick of this, Caleb finally chains his teleportations through his clones, and we see an orbital shot of multiple "teleport flashes" all over the Eurasian continent, from France to Japan, where he abandons Armand. The speedster is still back a few minutes later, but that leaves enough time for Caleb and Hippolyte to deal with the Big Bad.
- Steven Universe: Lion's portals can go pretty much anywhere on Earth, but they do have a maximum range. When the Gems need to go somewhere very far away such as the moon, Lion creates portals inside his portals until he has enough distance. Doing this is extremely exhausting, however.
- In Wakfu, Yugo learns that he can use his portal abilities, which are usually limited in range, in a daisy-chain fashion, diving out of one and immediately into the next.
- An episode of Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) has Nightcrawler visit Genosha, Magneto's island for mutants. At the end of the episode, Nightcrawler has to flee Genosha, but he has no transport, so he has to teleport back to the mainland across the sea, rapidly enough to avoid falling into the sea. He eventually ends up at Professor Xavier's Institute, exhausted.