In the course of its business, SPD sends its elite delivery agents to many scenic, exciting, and other noteworthy parts of Nexus, some of which are described here.
Text in italics describes how these locations are relevant to SPD, or gives additional information known to SPD but not the general populace.
Hodsville is most of a small early-21st-century English town from a world where magic returned at the turn of the Millenium in 1997. The town is several dozen hectares of elegant Victorian, blocky '60s, and organically rounded 'teens buildings in a rough semicircle around Hodds's Haunt, a large domed hill with a Druid-Revival stone circle atop it; on the other side of the Haunt is a large MHD power plant which keeps Hodsville and much of nearby Nexus well-lit, and provides a stipend for all the original inhabitants of the town.
The power plant is no longer as ecologically friendly as before (replacement filters for the stack scrubbers being hard to come by) and is not reliably downwind of the town anymore, but is still not terribly bad to live near, for combustion-based technology. Mom and Dad claim to need the industrial taint to the air if anyone complains.
SPD headquarters is in a three-story Victorian townhouse at the edge of town, which is now mostly living quarters (except the parlor, which has been converted into a reception area/office). Behind and beside the house is garage space for assorted vehicles, behind that is a large earthen berm, and within *that* is Mom's lab.
Immediately east of Hodsville is an old spaceport ruined by orbital laser fire and time, and flooded with water from Moondrinker's Web to a depth of a meter or two (more in craters). The Y-shaped main terminal is windowless, soggy, and pretty much empty, but going all the way down the north arm of the way leads one to the shallows of an ocean inhabited by half-dolphin mermaids, who are glad to trade fish and seaweed for ceramic knives and glass beads, and to engage in stimulation of parthenogenetic reproduction. Since the interface is about five kilometers from the nearest island, watercraft or ground-effect vehicles are recommended for travellers.
Rough but serviceable causeways allow dry-land-only traffic to traverse the spaceport.
Apparently once part of the Shinjuku district of a Tokyo, this zone was ravaged by some combination of earthquake, typhoon, flood, fire, conventional warfare, and asteroid strike before it arrived in Nexus, and now is just a couple square kilometers of concrete-and-steel rubble, piled tens of meters high in places.
Rather than go into the rubble-mining business, the entrepreneurs who laid claim to the Sandbox when it appeared set it up as a firing range/proving ground/dueling arena for rent by the hour or day, for those with weapons, spells, or powers that would otherwise unacceptably lower properly values. The northern half is divided into lots of various sizes for reasonable amounts of destructive force, while the southern end is one huge lot for those who wish to engage in the more grandiose forms of overkill.
Some claim to have seen rat-people or mole-people of some kind lurking in the crevices between chunks of concrete, but it doesn't really seem plausible that anything could or would want to survive in the Sandbox.
The Sandbox is just west of Hodsville, so it's a convenient place for Mom and Mitsui to blow up.
Machine City is a suburb, connected to Nexus in two places about forty kilometers apart. Although the distance between the two interfaces in Machine City is closer to sixty kilometers, travelling that way avoids having to go through or around the Yirm Blight and Moondrinker's Web, so the Machine Citizens do a good business on their toll road. They also export high-temperature superconductors, and take in return rare and precious elements and isotopes (including Chlorine-14) , and industrial diamond and other high-tech materials.
The Machine Citizens are intelligent robots, of course, although their technology is not in general at the level where such things would be expected. In fact, with two exceptions, they are only at about level 6 on the usual scale. Those two exceptions are the previously-mentioned high temperature superconductors, which they export, and the peculiar crystals which apparently hold their minds or souls, which they take great pains to keep out of the hands of others.
Although the Machine Citizens come in a wide variety of shapes, none of them are particularly humanoid. Wheels are the most common form of locomotion; tracks, ground-effect skirts, and helicopter rotors are also popular. Walkers are very rare in Nexus, although apparently are used more heavily in Machine City itself. The soul crystals are small, but the sensors, superconducting power supply, and locomotion and manipulatory systems add up to about a hundred kilos for a minimal Citizen, and many of them are much larger.
Radar is the primary sense of most Citizens, and radio their standard method of communication, but they can and do use many other senses and faculties, including speech, and can add or modify them at will. In Nexus, most Citizens equip themselves with guns (electromagnetic rather than chemical) and chainsaws or inert blades, just in case.
Popular fiction to the contrary, Machine Citizens are fully sapient, as capable of dealing with the complexity and ambiguity of the real world as any proteinaceous brain. Asking one for the last digit of pi will only get you laughed at. (Yes, they do have senses of humor, and a full if somewhat odd range of emotions.)
The two entrances to Machine City are in the square before the Cathedral of the Lunar Christa (post-Catholic man-hating saurian nuns) just east of the Fish Factory and west of the Yirm Blight, and in a wide market plaza east of Moondrinker's Web, near a perpetual reality tornado with occasional Architect manifestations. Each entrance is in an undecorated brown concrete box about the size of a three-story office building, and the Citizens built them over the interfaces in a single night. Although the blockhouses are well-guarded by heliraptors and doom buggies, passage back and forth is not strictly regulated, and traffic is heavy at all hours.
Hodsville is only a few kilometers west of the western entrance to Machine City.
Recently, the Machine Citizens have been having trouble with "renegade elements", apparently banditry, rebellion, or civil war of a sort they do not explain to outsiders, and trade and traffic have dropped off sharply. However, access is still reasonably free to anyone who still wants to risk it.
Machine "City" is of course an entire world, but the part relevent to the ordinary Nexan is a dry valley between two ranges of low, scrubbily-forested mountains near the ocean. The entire valley is covered with square concrete buildings, which appear soul-killingly identical and boring to vision but have the data and code of the Machine Civilization blazoned across them in variable radar reflectivity.
There is a free trade zone around each blockhouse, with wide plazas for moving freight, buildings for private negotiations, and even accomodations for visitors, but high concrete walls keep them isolated from the bulk of the city. A broad highway runs between the free trade zones, but it too is walled off. Only at the top of a particularly high overpass can visitors get a glimpse of the swarming activity of the Machine Civilization.
Some Nexans refer to Machine City as Roboville, but that name more properly, or at least more commonly, belongs to a zone well to the north, inhabited by the android survivors of a human-exterminating plague.
Two levels of four lanes of traffic in each direction, Intercanton Highway 3640 looks vaguely like a checkmark on the map: from its closest approach to Hodsville (about five kilometers north of the town, through a couple of deserted zones, a toll castle, and a low-tech village tarted up as a tourist trap) it curves from west to north, past Base 37, and eventually ends in the Great Canal about 70km north; in the other direction, it bends from east to northeast, cuts through the corner of Moondrinker's Web (a total of six well-defended kilometers in that zone) and runs on straight for another hundred kilometers, into the heart of the Ceramic Jungle.
The Yirm Blight is an irregular circle some fifty kilometers across, encompassing many zones which are now all desolate and uninhabited. Buildings and streets within the Blight appear drastically weathered, and blackened and eaten as though by fire or acid, and no natural animal, not even the fearless Nexan cockroach, will cross the obvious boundary.
Entering the Blight is creepy, and saps one's life force, but is not immediately fatal; however, no one who goes out of sight of the edge, no matter how close that is in meters or how fast a trip in seconds, ever returns.
The Yirm Blight is immediately south of Moondrinker's Web, and with it forms an oblong area some 40 kilometers by 80 which is impassable to essentially all Nexans, which means deliveries to the east of headquarters have to either detour around or go through Machine City.
One of the few zones to have an independent food supply, Moondrinker's Web is the lair of the Larvae of the Charnel Sky, a necromancy-crazed cult who practice peculiar and unpleasant magic which fortunately is not portable to adjacent zones.
The Web is more than thirty kilometers across, mostly farms where animated corpses raise food for junior Larvae and still-living concubines and children, and herd animals for lesser sacrifices. The whole place is criss-crossed with dry brick-lined channels that route geomantic force in mystical patterns, delivering the magical energy to the half-buried temple-citadel at the center. Unusually for a bleeding chunk, the whole pattern is present, or at least no channels reach the edge of the zone, so presumably it works. Certainly the Larvae have enough mojo to deal with uninvited visitors, and probably enough to conquer huge swathes of territory, if only they could find swathes where it worked.
The Larvae of the Charnel Sky do not have much to do with outsiders, although they can be hired to do things like animate corpses to force them to speak the secrets they took to their graves. The entire border of the zone is walled off with a three-meter brick wall and patrolled by undead horrors; outsiders are normally welcome only in the Vile Aperture, a large brick building on the border which serves as both gatehouse and business office, but are tolerated along the six kilometers of I-3640 that are within the Web (though slow-moving vehicles are subject to attack by undead that have "shaken free of control").
As the Larvae consider the act of flight theologically significant and do not permit outsiders to fly in their domain at any altitude, overflights are not recommended.
Base 37 is inhabited by what can only be described as Space Orks: robust, green, crude, and anthropophagous humanoids with fusion power and commensurate armor and medical technology. Soldierly space orks carry plasma guns and wear varying amounts of probably ceremonial armor (too little to be effective against advanced weaponry); technical orks wear greasy coveralls and carry many tools that could be used to good effect on living flesh. There is apparently also a priestly caste of some kind, but they don't mingle with aliens.
The buildings of Base 37 have only a single story showing above ground, and that slope-walled to deflect attacks and made of high-tech metal deeply incised to show just how massive it is. The roads are made of black glass, apparently formed by melting the appropriate stretches of dirt.
Although they are prone to violence and have no more than practical objections to eating the flesh of sophonts, the space orks are not xenophobic and are perfectly willing to trade weapons, regeneration tank usage, mercenary service, or slabs of platinum-iridium called yorbitz for supplies, vices, and samples of new kinds of flesh to grow in the food vats.
The space orks are presumably even now noshing down on Mitsui nuggets, yum!
South of Base 37 is a concrete wall topped with perpetually red-hot razor wire; a ruined gate with melted-off severe tire damagers leads to a boring low-tech zone with oxcarts, and past that is an onramp to I-3640. Other adjacent zones include one with ten-story mud-brick residental ziggurats, good falafel, and goat gyros; one consisting of treehouses built in low spreading trees and connected by boardwalks over a swamp inhabited by 'swamp gators' (which the locals apparently wrestle for sport) with a large market run by fast, brightly colored saurians; and a half-kilometer-wide parking lot/landing field of bare concrete.
Between two storage buildings at the edge of the zone is the interface leading to Bilania (which occupied that position until the arrival of Base 37), which only works if you go forwards down the alley and then return backwards without turning around.
Separated from Base 37 and the Gator Swamp by the parking lot/landing field are half a dozen formerly glass-sheathed office buildings, ten or fifteen stories high. On the top floor of the tallest, most intact one (eighteen stories up) lives the Hermit, a small white-downed, owl-eyed, bird-footed creature with a screechy voice and a fondness for booze. He has a lot of books about Nexus, a lot of maps, an excellent view, and no fondness for company (but might except avians who bring booze).
Bilania is an highly advanced zone of the sort that emphasizes white plastic and psychosocial equations, inhabited by primates like highly-evolved gorillas in white jumpsuits. The entire zone is one arcology, with bright lighting, clean light plastic walls, square parks at exactly the density required for optimum psychological health, and no crime. Even the language is highly advanced and optimally designed, which causes problems for the few outsiders who visit.
In the back corner of the city, where right-thinking citizens rarely go, is the bad part of town where the streets are sometimes smudged, a few buildings have been modified without approval of the Science Council, and a wall or two is even defaced with <shudder> grafitti! Lemario Derce, who is apparently a magician of some kind, lives here, doing unspecified research.
The interface from Base 37 leads to the remaining half of the entry hall, a gigantic empty white room hundreds of meters in size, with enormous sliding gates at one end and empty air at the other. The gates are guarded by two locals and six white plastic humanoid robots that seem to have slow reactions but terrifying physical strength and speed. They are there to prevent the importation of refined sugar, many other drugs, internal combustion engines, computing devices, and inefficient memes.
At least some of the guards can be bribed with sugar, so apparently Bilanian society is not as perfect as they like to believe.
Although it is not evident except from the very brink, there is a narrow ramp leading down from the cut-off edge of the entry hall at about a 45 degree slope, down to a park of some kind and more Nexus beyond that. To return to Base 37, one must leap or drive off the left side of the ramp half-way down. This results in a nerve-wracking drop, but no harm upon landing in the alley in Base 37.
(Contributed by Chrisber)
A famous Nexan landmark, the Clock Tower was built by an eccentric millionaire who got annoyed at his watch never running the same in different zones. The Clock Tower is a skyscraper, with 52 floors of office and commercial space. What makes it different is the giant clock faces covering the entire top part of each side. Given that the surrounding area consists of much lower buildings, the time is clearly visible several kilometers away. Unfortunately, it runs on a 26 hour day.
The top four stories of the Clock Tower, behind the clock faces, is commonly assumed to be filled with machinery, but in fact each clock is run by a simple electric motor and most of the space is empty. In the center is a two-story pedestal with a bell jar large enough to hold a human atop it. The bell jar is intricately engraved with fine glyphs of some kind, but appears empty, with nothing to explain why taut threads of optical fiber connect the pedestal to the four clock motors. In the peak of the slightly pyramidal roof lurks a skeleton in a security uniform that will shine its flashlight on intruders and tell them to go away.
To the southwest of the Clock Tower is a large palace complex of onion-shaped white marble domes and gilded minarets (currently undergoing renovation), inhabited by a powerful sorceress-queen with djinn servants and doe-eyed serving boys; to the southeast is a small zone containing several houses of excellent repute and a few ancilliary business such as midwives and cheapskate tailors, called the Paradise of Bells for the tradition of the working girls, boys, lizards, and succubi wearing small bells as jewelry. The rest of the perimeter of the Clock Tower abuts an overgrown, sultry jungle city inhabited by serpentine bankers and loan sharks. A narrow gulley runs directly east from the Clock Tower, through the financial area and several zones beyond; a railroad drawn by shaved wooly rhinoceri runs regular service along the gully.
The world of Invarig was laid waste thirty or forty years ago when its sun flared horrendously before settling into a new, brighter, phase of existance. All life not shielded by meters of earth or hectometers or water was wiped out and the remains cremated in firestorms that swept the dead forests and grasslands, driven by hurricane winds beneath the dessicating sun. Now, Invarig is theoretically habitable by particularly durable organic life, but it will probably take centuries to even being to recover.
When Invarig came into phase with Nexus, profit-minded souls realized that it would be an ideal source of mineral resources, having no ecology to be damaged by cheap, brute-force mining techniques. Most of the mining is done by robots hardened against the harsh UV; living supervisors only work at night, returning to Nexus or at least to well-shielded and airconditioned bunkers during the unlivable day.
The cities nearest the interface have been looted for whatever nonflammable valuables the early Petroleum Age inhabitants owned, but the scorching daytime temperatures, gene-curdling UV, ferocious and bizarre weather, and ozone-tainted air make Invarig an unpopular destination for opportunists.
The interface to Invarig is located in a former park, beneath a stone dome supported on many tall pillars. The interface is just a shaft leading downward, with local gravity perpendicular to the walls of the shaft (so that Invarig is "upside down" relative to Nexus) which surfaces near the remnants of a town in the eastern foothills of a mountain range, on the edge of a great expanse of plain.
On a rocky headland jutting into the Sea of Infernal Winds perches the city of Hokuran, which is much like the other cities of its island: inhabited by saurians with manes of enlongated scales who fight wars, write haiku, drink tea and sake, appreciate the moon, and commit suicide rather than live in shame (or at least apsire for their grandchildren to be of the class that does those things). Hokuran's claim to fame is its great library, which is a point of particular pride for the city and therefore heavily guarded.
The Hokuranese were somewhat disconcerted when one morning the south gate of the city was opened to reveal not the road that should have been there (and was still there when they looked over the walls) but a red-foliaged street in a city of bizarre monsters. The monsters turned out to be reasonable, though, and had many interesting devices and substances to trade, so Hokuran adapted pretty well, and some of its people have even travelled to the city of monsters, returning with tales of wonders which were duly recorded and stored in the library.
The local authorities are perhaps a bit too attached to their trade concessions, and unwilling to extensively hassle monsters, so a Nexan with a good poker face can get away with quite a bit.
The Ceramic Jungle is an agglomeration of zones with advanced info- and biotech, mostly with lots of human-machine integration, almost always dystopic, and only rarely magical, around the eastern end of I-3640. Since any technology that works in one part of the Ceramic Jungle is almost certain to work in all the other bits, the whole hundred-kilometer-wide region is one megacorporate oligarchy heavily riddled with secret societies, underground cabals, and AI conspiracies.
A fast gun, a well-groomed immune system, and resistance to industrial waste are all musts for the visitor to the Ceramic Jungle.
The Subway consists of a long subterranean tunnel, twelve meters wide and ten to the top of the gracefully arched roof. A spiderwebby pattern of green-gold metal forms two tracks along the length of the tunnel, the pattern tighter at the edges of the tracks and looser along the middle. At each end is a fifty-meter circular room with a complex maze of tracks that forms the equivalent of a switching yard. The whole thing is lined with some white, marble-like stone.
The four original stations are large, airy, decoratively-columned places lying across and above the tunnel, with a broad staircase leading down to a boarding platform on each side of the tracks, and another leading up to the surface. With considerable effort, another three stations have been gouged into the fantastically durable stone; despite half-hearted attempts, their esthetic quality is far inferior.
There are twenty-three cars, each originally a four-by-ten meter slab of the same white stone, with a spiderweb on the bottom that keeps it magnetically suspended approximately a meter (depending on load) above the track. Colonel Oligarth (who operates the subway under charter from Prester John's Nexan viceroy and daughter, Mary), has had superstructures attached by means of the holes in the edges, making them more comfortable for passengers and more convenient for freight. Ducted fans propel the cars along the track at up to thirty kilometers an hour.
The truly interesting thing about the Subway, however, is that although the tunnel is only twenty-five kilometers long, the two end stations are 340 kilometers apart as the winged Nexan native in a hurry flies. Furthermore, although the line connecting the stations runs through several underground complexes, at the same depth as existing caves and catacombs, it does not intersect any of them. Digging down from the surface reaches whatever would normally be expected to be there; only digging upward from the Subway makes a new entrance. The distance ratio of 13.6 appears to hold for the whole length, judging by the above and below positions of the stations.
The labyrinthine tunnels of Helmugar's Deep follow the twisting roots of the World-Tree, from which the svartalfir mine unearthly metals to be forged into wondrous objects and traded for things not available in their lightless realm.
The svartalfir are neither dark elves nor dwarves in the common sense of either term, but more like goblins: diminutive, misshapen almost-men, dark of skin, huge of eye, and prone to careless sadism. Only a few still have any of the beauty and selflessness of their brighter ancestry, and even those are not good company by human standards. Despite their general unpleasantness, however, the svartalfir are commonly sought out for their ability to make the magical items of legend: dancing swords, flying chariots drawn by mechanical swans, unbreakable shields, harps that stir mountains to dance. Those who deal with them often regret it later, for the svartalfir have no need of gold and instead ask prices that seem simple and prove ruinous.
Even reaching Helmugar's Deep has been the end of more than one potential customer: not only are the tunnels pitch-black and bewilderingly mazy, but the roots of the World-Tree are infested by worms and vermin of magnitude fitting their home (hunted for food by the svartalfir but posing a definite hazard to visitors.) Eager to do business, the svartalfir rarely play lethal jokes on those who seek them, but being nearly immortal, they sometimes overestimate the durability of mortal beings.
It is generally believed that the tunnels of Helmugar's Deep descend to the tip of the deepest taproot, and ascend at least to the surface and possibly, burrowed into the wood of the World-Tree itself, much higher than that. Some claim that the World-Tree is only a stump, with the city of Nexus built upon its top; others say that it bears as fruit all the worlds from which Nexus is assembled. Neither point of view is supported by hard evidence.
The Earthmind is not common knowledge, and prefers it that way, so unless Leo goes around blabbing about what he found, he will remain one of the few who know of it.
Sessile sophonts are not unknown in Nexus (although they tend to be dull at parties), but the Earthmind is apparently unique in being one thinking creature that extends throughout multiple zones and even into a few suburbs.
Originally the Earthmind was multiple fungus-based brains buried deep beneath several zones, but over time they extended their lichenous tendrils throughout their own zones and into any hospitable adjacent ones, until they met, argued, no doubt fought vicious biochemical battles, and finally gave up their flimsy senses of self in the cause of peace.
The composite entity that resulted has a reach of hundreds of kilometers horizontally (though with many gaps where the substance or nature of a particular zone will not support fungal thought) and at least several kilometers vertically; it also connects through non-Euclidian interfaces to some points far distant in Nexus. In total, it comprises at least tens of thousands of tonnes and possibly millions of tonnes of thinking matter, but its lengthy signal paths and the general inefficiency of fungal thought make it somewhat less frightening than its mass suggests. On a human scale, the Earthmind is comparable to a smart, retentive, but not quick-witted person; only when it can take the time to bring more of its distributed intellect to bear does it really scare people.
Intelligence aside, the Earthmind has sensory receptors of various sorts ranging from taste to clairvoyance and telepathy in every zone it penetrates, and in many has telekinesis, the ability to bud off genetically engineered creatures to do its will, mind control of passers-by, or some other means to execute its will on the environment. If it can be persuaded to cooperate, it is an amazing intelligence resource; if it were willing to risk exposure, it would be equally useful for theft and assassination, but it prefers to lie low and not arouse the enmity of motiles.
The Earthmind has not disclosed to Leo what capabilities, if any, it has in Hodsville.
The town of Adamantaria was built in the ancient crater where a violent asteroid strike converted buried veins of carbonaceous material to immense deposits of diamond. Diamond of various colors being the best possible material for spell-crystals, Adamantaria was fortified, beseiged, refortified, captured, expanded, hardened, granted its independence, fortified further, recaptured, and freed again quite a few times over the following century, until quite without warning its inhabitants awoke one morning in the Infinite City.
The entire city, much of the surrounding crater, and a substantial portion of the mines was taken to Nexus, but although the wall and killing ground remain intact, there's not much point in the defensive perimeter: too many zones can grow diamond in vats, and although Adamantarian diamond is cheap, it is not strong enough for structural use nor pure enough for photonics. Now the elves, gnomes, and assorted other inhabitants of Adamantaria live by hiring themselves out as mercenaries, with a sideline in conducting tourists through the disused mines.
The mines are quite worth seeing: a glittering wonderland of multicolored crystal that turns the guides' witchlight to rainbows, glass-clear bridges over depthless chasms, diamond pebbles chiming as they polish each other in subterranean streams, and stalactites and stalagmites of fantastic shapes. Visitors are strictly enjoined to remain on the marked paths, however, as the edges and bottom of the mines connect to other underground zones which have not been approved by the Tourism Board.
This file was last modified at 1125 on 30Mar01 by firstname.lastname@example.org.