Level 0.1 - "Zenith Station"

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Ria Valpuri stands at one of the many glass windows in the Zenith Station, looking out at the distant stars. In the upper-right corner of the window, she can just make out the star she calls Sol, and although she cannot see it, she knows that circling it is a planet called "Earth". The planet where her grandparents were born, and the planet to which her children's children's children may someday return. That is, as long as everything today goes according to plan.

She looks back at the screen, double and triple-checking the calibrations as to ensure that nothing will go wrong. The culmination of decades of work, coupled with centuries of scientific theory, has made it so that everything that can be accounted for will be. Doubts flood into her head that she cannot push aside. What if something goes wrong? What if something was not taken into consideration? After all, this isn't like other great human achievements. When humankind first escaped the atmosphere; when humankind first set foot on the moon; when humankind first reached beyond the solar system, they knew where they were going. They could see where they were landing, but here, humankind will be creating an Einstein-Rosen bridge, a wormhole, for the first time in history, and no amount of calculations can tell them what they'll find on the other end.

The countdown blares in the background, telling her that she will witness something great in only a few minutes. She turns her attention towards the station's central vacuole where one billion particles accelerate inside the white walls that could encapsulate a small country, their trajectories and velocities mapped and remapped down to the Planck-length, ensuring that they will collide with impossible precision to create a chain reaction of quantum string vibrations that will temporarily alter the curvature of the space in which they reside and open a wormhole for just long enough for Ria and her team to see what's on the other side before it collapses back into flat space, as if the hole had never been there.

She feels the fabric of the NASA tee-shirt under her lab coat, an artifact passed down to her for good luck, commemorating the long-defunct organization that acted as the precursor to the precursor to the precursor to where she is today. She sends a pre-written message back to Earth, informing them that everything is a-go, knowing full well that if anything should go wrong today, the light will not even reach their telescopes for several years.

She looks around the room, but she is the only one present in this wing of the building, with all other jobs either automated or done remotely from elsewhere in the terminal. Someone gives her the go-ahead over the loudspeaker, and, with intense care, she pushes her finger into the button, triggering the chain reaction that will make history.

T-minus zero seconds.

Particles collide at unmeasurable scales.

Cosmic exception handlers that have lain dormant trigger for the first time since the big bang.

Matter blinks in and out of existence sporadically as the universe's fundamental laws are temporarily ignored for reality to plug a newly formed hole.

The expansion of the universe freezes for a pico-second before resuming its course.

Cosmic strings form knots around quasars and collapse in on themselves.

One million miles away, a galaxy pops into existence at the end of a trail of dark energy that leads everywhere and nowhere.

Zenith Station disappears from reality.

Zenith Station is removed from reality.

Zenith Station leaves the reality it once called home.

And emerges in one that is completely alien.

T-minus zero seconds.

Something is wrong. Ria Valpuri's eyes are fixed on the central vacuole, waiting for an awe-inspiring sight, but the vacuole stays still. She turns her eyes to the sensors on the screen to her left. There was a registered shift in the curvature of space around the vacuole, a shift so great that it went beyond what the sensors are capable of measuring. According to the screen in front of her, the readings suggest the formation of a wormhole with a certainty of 9 sigmas, and yet, nothing can be seen within the vacuole. Was the wormhole simply too small to be seen with the naked eye?

An alarm goes off, and an automated voice over the loudspeaker tells her and everyone else in the station to remain calm. Something is wrong. Ria leaves the room, passing only a heptapedal cleaning bot, scrubbing away as if nothing is amiss. Ria walks briskly down the hall, trying to get to an outer window as quickly as possible in hopes of dispelling the creeping feeling in her gut, an inkling of what may be happening.

Ria arrives at the window and looks out into what should be an abyss full of stars. Instead, what greets her is a gargantuan megastructure, far larger than anything Ria had ever seen. An enormous lattice of dimly lit rooms surrounds the view outside the station. She traces her finger mournfully over the place where Sol once would have been seen, confirming that the worse possible chain of events had occurred. The wormhole hadn't been too small to see, it had been too big. Larger than the central vacuole and larger, even, than the station itself. The wormhole had been so much larger than their calculations had imagined that it had swallowed the entirety of the Zenith Station and cast it somewhere foreign in a one-way trip.





















SURVIVAL DIFFICULTY:

Class 0

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zenith-station.jpg

A particularly degraded section of Level 0.1, as photographed from Level 0.

Description:

Level 0.1 is an enormous megastructure found embedded in Level 0. Although it's large enough to be considered a sub-level, Level 0.1 is believed to be contained entirely within the bounds of its parent level. One notable detail about the threshold between Level 0 and Level 0.1 is that when viewed from the sub-level, Level 0 appears to be a series of nearly identical floors stacked vertically on top of each other, but attempting to breach the ceiling or floor of Level 0 from elsewhere in the level does not lead to other parts of the same level.

Level 0.1 is made primarily out of metal and glass, and features several different rooms and chambers, which are built using a smooth, almost futuristic style of architecture, though the majority of the structure shows extreme signs of damage with exposed wires and broken electronics found in many parts of the sub-level.

Although the sub-level is far from being completely mapped, an enormous hollowed-out section in what is believed to be the centre makes it possible to get a good idea of the general shape and structure of the level as a whole. It is believed that the sub-level takes the shape of an extremely large, spherical shell that surrounds the aforementioned cavity. The shell itself is extremely thick, generally having the width of dozens of city blocks.

zenith-room.jpg

One of the many rooms found within the sub-level.

Within the shell is a large variety of brightly lit rooms, with bedrooms, kitchens, gyms, and even some hydroponic greenhouses in various states of disrepair. Many of the rooms in the level are connected with automatic sliding doors, some of which are perfectly functional, despite the decay around them. There are also many automatons of various designs roaming the sublevel. The few that are working perform automated tasks such as cleaning and cooking.

Aspects such as temperature and lighting vary wildly throughout the sub-level, depending on how damaged any given section is. Much of the level is relatively well-lit, with temperatures staying steadily around room temperature. More damaged portions of Level 0.1, however, can often be left in almost complete darkness, and some sections display extreme cold or heat to the point of unsurvivability. This is believed to be because of a malfunction in some sort of internal temperature control system.

Level 0.1 retains the same irregular qualities as Level 0, including the impossibility of coming into contact with other wanderers, the malfunctioning of navigation and communication devices, and visual/auditory hallucinations. Because of this, Level 0.1 is not considered to be a viable place to live or set up an outpost, but many of the materials found within the sub-level are extremely valuable, and it is believed that members of the B.N.T.G. make regular trips to the Level 0.1 to harvest its materials. This is not advised by the M.E.G., however, due to the dangers posed by Level 0 and the difficulty leaving the level.

Entrances and Exits:

Wanderers can easily pass between Level 0 and Level 0.1 by simply walking from one section to another. Due to the vastness of Level 0, however, coming across Level 0.1 in its parent level's halls is extremely unlikely. That being said, it has been suggested that the B.N.T.G. may have access to an, as of yet secret, method of reliably encountering Level 0.1 due to the prevalence of material from the sub-level in their possession.

Aside from simply travelling back to its parent level, Level 0.1 can also be exited by random noclipping, usually leading to Level 1, similarly to Level 0.





















After hours and hours of walking through the foreign yellow halls, Ria collapses onto the damp carpet. The stink of piss and buzzing from the ceiling has grown so monotonous at this point that she has almost forgotten what anything else felt like. Where had they arrived to? And where were her colleagues? Her friends? She thinks, for a moment, that she might be in Hell. Where else, she wonders, would she encounter sound distinctly human architecture? On what alien world would she find miles of shag carpets and patterned wallpaper? But why her? Why was she alone cursed to roam this wretched place? Was it some divine punishment for flying too close to the sun? For going where man was never meant to go before?

Alone in the endless halls, Ria Valpuri finally begins to cry.


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