The Sword and the Star
Exobiology in the Draconis Sector
Terran life has been spread to all human-inhabited worlds by the long-dead Terran Mandate, but humanity has also taken along native xenoflora and xenofauna from their homeworlds for use in agriculture, medicine, industry, companionship, aesthetics, and more. Furthermore, some species have accidentally been tracked or spread by human ships amongst the stars. Some of the worlds in the Draconis Sector have a number of native miscible ecologies that have survived human reindustrialization and population growth post-Scream.
The trunk of the tree is twisted, hard, and typically a reddish clay colour, and the ‘leaves’ are clusters of flute-like pseudoceramic hollow pipes, which are iridescent due to high bismuth content. The tree, at dawn and dusk, ‘quivers’ for nearly an hour at a time; the vibration of the flute clusters creates a haunting melody. Modern exobiologists believe the noise was intended to attract a pollinator. Choir trees are difficult to push into sounding phases in places without regular circadian cycles. These trees are also notoriously finicky and prone to all sorts of ailments, making caring for them an expensive prospect.
This xenoflora species is typically only possessed as a luxury item by wealthy individuals. The Choir Forest, an acre of parkland in Alpha Draconis dedicated to the preservation and research of this species—maintained by the Staro Gaza Academy of Exobiology—is open to the public.
This vine grows on metallic and rocky surfaces. It has a milky, crystalline structure and branches in fractal patterns. There are no leaf analogies. The vine requires almost no care, but can take anywhere from one month to ten years to grow an inch, depending on the nutrients available to it. Quartz vines left uncared for in high-nutrient environments for extended periods of time tend to damage structures by burrowing into foundations and disrupting electronics. Removal is difficult and can be very expensive.
This xenoflora species is typically used as a high-class ornamental. Pruning is difficult, but it requires no other care. Many old buildings on Astral Alacrity are encrusted with the vine.
This aggressive-growth vine thrives in low-light conditions. It has long, thin, wiry leaf clusters that are rubbery to the touch. During nighttime, glow weed exhibits bioluminescent properties. The original variety had a green-blue hue, but genetic engineering during the pre-Scream days yielded varieties that glowed in every colour, even infrared and ultraviolet. It is now common on all worlds in the Draconis Sector. The plant needs to be in indirect sunlight for significant portions of the day to bioluminesce.
This xenoflora species is typically used as an ornamental, especially in places that focus on night life and nighttime activities. Many varieties of varying colours, intensities, and displays are commercially available.
This fungus is believed to have originated on a dangerous H-miscible world now unknown. It was spread amongst the stars due to the ability of the spores to remain dormant in a dry state for decades or even centuries. It is a parasitic organism that is capable of infecting Terran vertebrate life, although it is best known for its infection of humans. If a human is infected with anthropathogenic cordyceps, they will begin to exhibit erratic behavior for one to three weeks before moving into the sedentary phase, gradually slowing their physical activities until they are motionless and dead. At this point, the cordyceps will begin the spore phase and sprout from the dying body or the corpse.
Individual infection is rare. Outbreaks are almost unheard of due to high visibility of infection, and if caught early, can be treated with fungicides.
This animal is primarily genetically a Terran dog, but spliced with multiple other H-miscible species with the intent to create an intelligent battle beast, effective on the modern battlefield. Baskerville hounds are superficially similar to Terran dogs, and are often a meter high at the shoulder. They possess three rows of triangular, serrated teeth and four eyes. Although it appears as if they have hair at first glance, their skin is actually covered in thin, hard scales composed of carbonaceous polymers, capable of deflecting most non-mag projectile weaponry and resisting a great deal of physical damage. When relaxed, the scales are loose, and the beast clinks like a suit of maille when it walks. When agitated, the scales tighten up and it becomes a flexible, nearly impenetrable suit of armour. Baskerville hounds can sprint up to 80-90kph (50-56mph) and are extremely intelligent. Like many canids, these animals often form close bonds with their trainers.
Baskerville hounds are uncommonly used in contemporary warfare. Alpha-D makes the most heavy use of them, and Gate has some military branches that have trained Baskerville hounds, most notably, the anti-psion squads.
Over the years, warfare in unconventional terrain has necessitated research into machines that can operate in most conditions. Alpha-D turned to spider tanks, which are prone to breakdowns and whose legs are vulnerable; Astral Alacrity designed the battle stag from various xenofauna. It has vaguely cervine appearance, often reaching 2m height at the shoulders, and has branching, heavy antlers that secrete necrotic toxins. When brought into a battle, it is often equipped with armour. It has an extremely high endurance and can maintain speeds of up to 100kph (60mph) for extended durations. Its longs legs allow it to navigate almost all terrain with ease, and the beast is extremely intelligent. Battle stags are prone to sprained ankles and hip dysplasia.
The Eden falcon is a large ‘bird’ of prey valued economically for its feathers and meat, and also used for training and companionship. It has large, leathery ‘feathers’ that are distinctly colourful, and can subsist on Terran meats (although it requires some vitamin supplements for health). Eden falcons have a wing cord length of roughly 63 cm (25 in). They are difficult to train, but form close bonds with their trainers when successfully broken in.
This crystalline insect-like morph only exists naturally on Gate, although it is studied and kept in captivity in other areas. It has 10 legs, a legspan of about a meter, and three sets of powerful mandibles that chew through metals and plastics with ease. It feeds on electric current, and chews through walls to gain access to wires. They are skittish by nature and have largely been pushed out of their natural range in the Gate administrated sections of the space station. Their breeding mechanism and origin are wholly unknown.
Sapper spiders are regarded as a pest, as they cause damage to power infrastructure. If one is seen, standard advice is to not approach—they can be dangerous when agitated—but to report it to the appropriate authorities.
Leviathans are a special class of megafauna found only in the depths of Beta-D oceans. They very rarely approach the surface, hence little is known about them, and are believed to the the apex of a little-understood deep sea ecology. Three primary classes exist: serpentine, kraken, and dragon. Serpentines can reach lengths of up 200m and often consume their prey whole with unhinging jaws. Krakens possess between 10 and 1000 tentacles, depending on the variety, and strangle smaller prey while using neurotoxins in its tentacle suckers to kill larger prey. The least is known about dragons, who have vast, undulating leafy ‘wings.’ Their behavior is unknown.
Although there are many reports of leviathans surfacing to attack sea vehicles on Beta Draconis, most of these reports are instantly discredited.
This megafauna from Beta Draconis faces the threat of extinction. It is incredibly massive, reaching lengths of up to 300m. They have vast, leathery sail-like structures and uses biologically produced hydrogen to stay aloft in the lower atmosphere. Sail skimmers feed by skimming along the ocean surface, picking up plankton and algae. They often get tangled in power lines or windmills, which causes them to recede from their natural coastal nesting grounds. The meat is not economically viable, and the leather is too thing to be of any use; they have little to no economic value.
Little is understood about this semi-incorporeal energy structure found only on Gamma Draconis, and indeed, they were only understood to be a unique phenomenon in the last decade. The energy structure ‘possesses’ native flora and fauna on Gamma Draconic, causing it to behave or grow erratically. The relationship is thought to be parasitic, but this is unknown. The energy structure can change hosts if one dies or it is being disrupted. The transferal phase is the only period of time that sprites are visible. They enter the atmosphere in an oxidizing environment, causing friction, and thus appear as flickering, ethereal flame or lightning to the naked eye. They must find a living host within seconds or the energy pattern will be lost and the sprite dissipates.