Chapter 1.6 – The Nelja Nexus
After recovering the group makes it to the high point on this side of the conch. There they find Lysander’s people, 15 in total, including the Lord of the Chase and Nisha. Over the course of the next month the group temporarily splits. Lysander works tirelessly with the Lord of the Chase, honing his skills and learning the secret techniques of his people. Meanwhile, the rest continue to try and locate the marker on the map they saw in the Letanzi enclave.
It’s a frustratingly long month as Helios, Zisk, Ruby and Billum search unsuccessfully. Gess over the month works on bringing over the Rift Walker to the other side of the Conch, so that the base camp is closer to their point of search. When the going stalls Zisk comes to the rescue and uses his mastery of lightning to keep the Rift Walker charged and moving steadily.
After completing his training Lysander joins the rest of the group and they decide to start searching the cliff sides. With his leadership they make better progress than they otherwise would, but the going is slow. After five days on the cliff side without discovery spirits and supplies were getting low. The group starts to make their descent back to the ground to resupply and figure why they are wandering along miles of cliff side and what could possibly be worth it.
Like clockwork, as they near the ground Zisk loses his grip on the rope and starts to free-fall from about 45 feet up. Helios is on the rope below where Zisk is and sees his fall. He braces his weight and tries to shuffle to the side of the cliff in order to not be taken out with Zisk. His maneuver starts without issue but as his foot slides back to find purchase there is no wall where there should be wall. The lack of a solid surface puts Helios into small spin but he’s still able to get his hand out in time to grab hold of Zisk. The momentum built from the fall is far too much for Helios to bear and the force swings his body violent. It’s all Helios can do to hold on to the rope, but the maneuver has its intended effect and slows down and changes the direction of Zisk’s fall. Zisk is able to use the forward momentum to effectively roll out of the fall without taking any damage thanks to Helios’s intervention.
Confused at the lack of cliff, Helios turns to figure out why his feet never made contact with the wall. After a little bit a searching Helios finds an extremely clever natural design in the cliff that hides a secret entrance to an unknown chamber. As the group all gathers in the tunnel that form out of the entrance the excitement and tension rises. The tunnel is perfectly round, and made of the black shell material as the conch itself. As the group progresses into the tunnel they come to the end, which opens into a perfect hemisphere, all lined in the black shell. They start to poke around the edges and Helios discovers a switch near the entrance. He figures out how to manipulate it and the entire room light up, lighten emanating from every direction. The brightness is overwhelming at first, but the group adjusts and begins to explore the room.
The group finds five devices, cylinder shaped numenera. Through dialog with the “Oracle” a spherical AI that communicates with the group through telepathy they learn the room was created as a production facility and has the ability to manufacture various devices depending on the protocol initiated. The five cylinder shaped numenera devices, called Protean Enablers by the Oracle, can be used to enhance a physical being or object in certain specific ways. Each of the five companions (Gess staying back to continue working on the functionality of the Rift Walker) ends up using one of the Protean Enablers.
Lysander thrusts his glaive into one of the enablers, which transforms his favored weapon into a beastly sharp silvery metallic glaive. Helios enacts a protocol that infuses his flesh with nano-mites. The nano-mite protocol continuously restructures the surface of his skin, providing immunity to contact poisons/disease, bleeding and blemishes of any kind. Zisk steps in his and has synth implants placed all over his feet, attaching to the skeletal system. This enhancement isn’t visible through the skin. When activated with a thought it allows him to move normally over any solid (or liquid) surface as though he were moving on solid flat ground, though his feet never actually touch the surface. When the power is activated the soles of his feet emanate a faint blue glow, though shoes mask this light. Ruby has her eyes replaced by synthetic parts giving her vision in various spectrums and Billum has his skeletal structure reinforced, turning him into a human mule.
After depleting the protean enablers the group discusses and decides on which protocol to activate. They decide on the major protocol for transportation and a minor protocol of gadgetry. The Oracle at that point expands and extends from ground to ceiling in the center of the room. After the concentric metal plates at made up the sphere expand the blue gel like substance at its core expands along with it, growing brighter and brighter. A sudden flurry of activity starts to happen in the back of the room, where piles and piles of synth material were stacked and jumbled together in an unrecognizable fashion. As the light grows brighter and brighter it gets harder and harder to see, to the point where everyone has their eyes closed and are trying to find cover from the blinding light. The whole process last for a few minutes, and when they are finally able to open their eyes again they see the room transformed. The light has faded from the ground and now emanates from the walls and ceiling in a much more tolerable white-blue hue. The jumble of synth has formed a station with various pieces of equipment, a gadget assembly station. Also with the area are two massive assembly line stations, with huge pieces of equipment lining movable tracks in the ground. There are two terminals, one in front of each assembly station.
Helios, Zisk and Ruby go around the stations to try and learn more about their operation. Zisk is able to activate one of the assembly station control panels, choosing an option to create a flying machine. Ruby does the same on the other, creating some sort of ground vehicle. Helios has no luck with the machines or the gadget station and gets together with the rest to watch the action. The build is set to take about a week to finish. It works feverishly for a while, then remains inert for long periods of time before starting again. Zisk moves on to the gadget station and gets his hands right into it, taking time only to eat as he begins to create using the various pieces and testing equipment available.
The rest of the group explores the rest of the room and discover a large entrance to a platform that is open as far as the eyes can see. They get on the platform and Helios senses a presence tied to the platform. He mentally commands it to ascend. The machine moves quickly, but there seems to be some field protecting them from the air resistance. After about 30 seconds the platform reaches its stopping point and the group follows the only path and winds around and up. They reach a dead end, where the path, lined in black shell, runs at an angle into the earth. Billum uses the artifact found in the kargriff den to blast a perfect circular hole in the earth above them. Twelve feet above natural light floods into the pathway. They make their way to the surface and find they are only a couple miles outside the city limits. Ruby refuses to head back to the city at this point and starts back down the path towards the complex underground.
Reluctantly everyone returns below as they try and decide how to proceed. Everyone wants to see what will be created and they know they need to bring back some numenera to fulfill their mission. There is also the challenge of getting all of the people from the conch to the surface and set on their new path, whatever that might be.
Over the next week Zisk successfully creates a number of transportation based cyphers and all the people from the conch (55 in total) relocate to the chamber, dubbed the Nelja Nexus bases on Ruby’s findings. Gess and the original crew of the of the rift walker prepare to transport the rift walker back to the surface using one of the cyphers created by Zisk. Both the ground and air vehicle finish being created, and the group continues to learn more about the Nelja Nexus and its purpose.
Through study of the chamber and the numenera inside, the group learn a number of interesting details about the facility:
There is a trigger mechanism that will deploy a massive piece of the shell material into the air above. This is directly connected to the facility and will power it through it’s harnessing of the sun’s energy. When it deploys it will be a signal to anyone with 100 miles that something is here. The assembly lines and gadget station won’t run without deploying the shell. The room is now extremely dim as its energy has been depleted.
The flying machine and the ground transport both are very complex, but come with a device that can be attached to the back of the brain stem to impart knowledge of how to operate it. The device works only once. If you plan on giving these things to Jongo and his mother, it would be wise to allow them to choose who will get the knowledge.
When the trigger mechanism is deployed it will actually work in tandem with three other identical facilities that are all located in various parts of the Steadfast. These other facilities are as yet undiscovered, but the shell energy harnessers will be a beacon for any number of curious people and they are unlikely to remain so.
In order for the production lines to operate they also need a source of raw materials. Just about any material can be used, as the facility will manipulate the source at an atomic level. Stone or Rock seem like the best sources, as they are pound for pound the most material for the least space and are plentiful.
The assembly lines have a number of different potential devices that can be created, but neither will create anything like the original flying machine or ground transport. They are one of a kind and superior in technology to anything that will be created in mass.
To fully operate the facility there will need to be teams of individuals working together.
The group will have to decide how to proceed, with the knowledge that Ruby and Billum are both on the city’s payroll and may potentially disagree with choices that don’t place this facility in the hands of their benefactors.