Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Journey of the NSS Nunchuck

Being a nomad, one wanders the SLandscape. And being a nomad, one of the perquisites is a good grasp of vehicles, how they work, and what they can do. Sure, you could fly, but it's much more of a entrance to climb out of a space shuttle you crashed into an infohub. But there's always obstacles, impediments. When you're walking, it's some griefer who orbits you. When you're flying it's ban lines and poor sim seams. When you're boating, it's ban lines and junk people love to extend over the water. Boats don't tend to cross over rocks well, I've noticed.

But, most marine impediments, they only go so far under. People pave over the river, but to save prims they don't extend the walls all the way down. You can see the direction I'm going with this. For this means that if one has a submersible the sea is literally at your command. One other constraint is that it was to be small and narrow enough, for reasons I will explain later.

In this spirit, I commissioned the Nunchuck Submersible Ship Nunchuck. I rezzed it and launched it from Heaton Village, and after a few minutes of sea trials I deemed her fit enough to endure the waterways the Lindens so thoughtfully provided.

The Heaton River is a rather narrow channel, but the bottom is relatively smooth, so it's easy running and hardly any worries of obstacles. For a while, it was quiet. Mainland is always quiet and empty, but the seas even more so. It's a side effect of being a snow sim, that people instinctively think "jeez, that river must be freezing". Unfortunately, they were dead right. The instruments kept freezing, and I found it rather difficult to maintain depth. It wasn't such a big deal at this point, because there was no need, the Heaton river was clear and smooth sailing all the way.

The Heaton river connects into the Anzere lake, which isn't really a lake so much as a reservoir between the Heaton and Tethys rivers. There's a small island in the middle. This entire area, in fact, was once a bustling metropolis. What happened to it, was lost to the progression of ages. All that is known is that in this area, meters of wasteland extend as far as the eye can see, and the only monuments left to attest to this bygone age was an isolated infohub and a Linden road snaking through the snow.
I almost collided with a purple sphere set on the bottom seen above. It had been placed by Torley, under the group 'Maintenance'. It contained no scripts. What is the purpose of these spheres, I do not know. They do provide a useful navigation tool, as they usually are placed in long lines leading to and from rivers and across the oceans. But that cannot be their intended purpose. Perhaps, like the waste, their original intent was lost to time, and now serve only in this ancillary function, of which few know. Except for the fact that I just told you.

The Tethys river, unlike the Heaton, is treacherous, like a SL Scylla and Charybdis. There are no whirlpools and disgruntled nymphs here, however. Just extremely narrow and deep channels. For this purpose the sub must be narrow, for otherwise it would lodge in the crevice and this would be a short journey. Many of my best submarines met this fate, and but for the grace of Nunchuck I survived to try one more time, each time.
The cliffs here are impossibly high to describe, and these photos can never do justice to them. Unlike the lower lying areas of SL, roads here hug the higher elevations like a child to its mother, after all, all the builds are on top of these plateaus, and a road by the shore would be useless to them. As a result of this, numerous bridges span the gorge, both of Linden and resident design.

This was one of the more impressive bridges I saw pass overhead. It is simple and elegant, and shows mastery of detailed craftsmanship while maintaining low usage of prims. Truly, this deserves to be featured as among the greater builds of SL. I suppose it is not as exciting as a Starax, but such creations are in my opinion one of the beautiful 'background' art of SL. Without builds like these, our world would be much the poorer.
Some of the bridges were in poor condition, having owners who neglected them and left them to their own. In a world where crossing the sims is a luxury to the few with the hardware to try it, the brave, and the foolhardy, most opt not to travel. And so these background arts sit silently, serving no purpose other than as landmarks along the river. Some have collapsed, others sit on the verge. It is a shame that we all rush to witness the CSI sims or the latest Light Waves creation while abandoning others to obscurity.
At a certain point, the Tethys opens up, and the temperatures rise much to my chagrin. Pipes moan as the water in them warms and melts. I had to surface for repairs. The snow sims wreck hell upon the Nunchuck, and here is where understanding how to fix prims and scripts of a damaged vehicle come into play. Most amateurs would flounder here, and abandon the journey. Not I! I trudged on. Then I hit the actual source of the Tethys river: The tethys sim itself.
I had drifted in while distracted with the troublesome turbine coolant. Tethys is a true challenge for even the most skilled of nomads and sailors. Many ships lie wrecked on the floor of the river from hapless newbies unaware of where they were sailing. Plane wreckage litters between them, as the Tethys river's infamous cliffs suddenly climb after relaxing just a while back. I hurry and throw everything together, because in this sim time is of the essence. I dive and pray that everything holds until I reach the next sim.
For the first leg, I dive and hug the sea floor. This is the easy part of the challenge.
Above us lies the first obstacle: A misplaced dock. Once used as a jumping point for rafters and kayaks, now it lies to deter the foolish who dare think they can attempt to cross the river at this point. It has a flight of stairs that lead the wary, the defeated, and those who know where their strengths lie up the half a kilometer cliff, where a Linden road passes by and guides them to other points beyond. Theirs is a journey I do not take, for the sub slides underneath silently and effortlessly. I can hear the water start to rush by through the hull, and that is when I reverse the engines and prepare for the next.

For this many came to raft and raid through the canyon. The sharp and jagged rocks and boulders, honed into sharp daggers by the fast moving waters, wait eagerly for those who do not know their strengths. Here is where many crash and wreck. Some survive and live to learn. Others do not. It's SL, and it's not easy, and it eats newbies alive who aren't careful.

These death rocks lodge into the narrow river, and one can glide underneath them for rarely do they reach to the very bottom. And it is this that enables me to pass them intact, for the Nunchuck passes by under the water far from the treachery that lies above.

This is the final test. I must plunge into this narrow and inconsistent subterranean cavern in order to make it past and into the warmer sims below. I have never sailed in these parts, I have no idea what awaits me in these caverns where the shadows hold sway and the water is both friend and enemy. I am sure I can make it, but the sail may catch, and in the rapidly moving water with the rapid changes of temperatures between the snow and grass sims, the sonar and mystiHud are unreliable. And there is the possibility that the builder of this placed traps and jagged rocks specifically to ensnare the subs who dare pass through it. This is truly the final test.

One may be asking why I do not surface and sail over this cavern. This is why:

This waterfall is the reason that I must travel deep. To attempt to jump the waterfall would lead to death on the rocks below. If the rocks didn't kill me, the impact of the sub with the water certainly would. Faced with certain death, the cavern is the much more logical choice. If I can make it past this, I am finally out of Tethys and I will have made the voyage through it for the first time after numerous failed attempts.

If there were windows on my sub, I would see nothing. It is pitch black in the cavern. The readings from sonar come back jumbled but in this cave it is the only hope of navigating. It is eerily silent, the rocks insulate me from the roar of the falls above. Nothing lives here, and maybe nothing can live here.

Time passes. It's cliche to say that it felt like eons passes, but it's cliche precisely because it is true. Time slows down in the adrenaline rush of struggling to maintain and trim depth, or adjust it for what appears to be a stalactite in the way, or cursing the sluggish rudder. I am going as slow as I can, but I wish I could go faster. That's a trap some fall into, attempting to rush through passages like this. It's not a smart idea. Fast is a quick way to meet Nunchuck.

And then, the sound of the falls returns. The sonar stabilizes and starts returning contacts I can rely on. And then, I see one more test. Can I make it past the turbulent waters at the foot of the falls?

Yes, yes indeed I can.

I survive to make the next part of my journey, out amongst the more pleasant grassland sims of the Old Continent, closer to the core where SL began.

But that is a story for another day.

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