Gatecrasher’s Almanac #22

Name: Phlegm

Location: Galactic edge, approximately in line with Sol from the core

Gravity: 0.98G

Atmosphere: Nitrogen with high levels of sulfides

Body Type: Joker Terrestrial

Phlegm is what exoplanet researchers have taken to dubbing ‘Jokers’ – worlds that are much like Earth, in terms of gravity, orbital position, and all the conditions that should have resulted in them becoming relatively terrestrial planets, potentially home for transhuman colonists. Through sheer chance, these should-have-been garden planets are instead bizarre, uninhabitable places that defy easy research, much less colonization.

The gatecrashers who found Phlegm were all synthmorphs; it’s just as well, as the atmosphere of the planet is deadly to any kind of terrestrial biology. It rains acid, the shallow oceans are acidic, and the local biology seems to be built around sulfides. As such, it’s about as unpleasant a place to be as can be found without a TITAN around.

The name comes from the thick mats of gelatinous life that float on the oceans and ooze over nearly every solid surface; just about the only thing not coated in a layer of acidic slime is the Gate itself. Most life on the planet comes in the form of this revolting slime; the gatecrashing team left as soon as they’d logged enough information to claim the finders’ fee. They were lucky to miss the more complex lifeforms that inhabit the ecosystem; none of them show any signs of being even vaguely sapient, but evolution has clearly been hard at work here.

It’s not clear if the life on Phlegm can be divided into familiar taxonomy; while something resembling photosynthesis helps set a base to the food web on the planet, nearly everything complex enough to be identified as a lifeform rather than a colony of cells relies on a mix of photosynthesis, chemosynthesis, and predation. Xenobiologists are having a field day with the planet, even though the environment means any given morph, no matter how sturdy, only lasts a month or so before the corrosion starts to cause malfunctions.

There are, naturally, those who speculate that the world might be related to the Factors, somehow; the aliens haven’t expressed any interest in information about the world, but conspiracy theorists have never let a lack of facts stop them. That the known biology of the Factors doesn’t even vaguely resemble the biology of Phlegm isn’t about to stop the rumors. Who knows? They might even be right – the Factors seem to have been guiding their own evolution for some time.

Of more direct interest is the trade in smuggled lifeforms from the planet – wealthy inner system collectors and xenobiologists who can’t afford or finagle a trip to the planet are willing to pay a tidy sum for even the smallest of the acid-breathing wormlike creatures. That they’re safer than most exoplanet prizes, certain to die if they breach their confinement, doesn’t do much to reassure those who look on the trade with concern.

As it is, Phlegm may be one of the rare planets where the mysteries are entirely the result of the odd biosphere, neither an x-risk nor a source of cosmic enigmas. Whoever built the Pandora Gate network undoubtedly did so to study the odd biosphere; there’s no evidence of TITAN activity or intelligent activity on the planet save for transhumanity; and nothing taken from the planet will live long enough outside captivity to pose any real risk to anyone or anything.

That doesn’t stop people from looking for the other shoe they know is about to drop.

Gatecrasher’s Almanac #22

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