Gatecrasher’s Almanac #24

Name: Jotunheim

Location: 6300 lightyears antispinward from Sol

Gravity: 1.06G

Atmosphere: Nitrogen-Oxygen

Body Type: Joker Terrestrial

Jotunheim is one of the friendlier Joker worlds, in that it has life and an atmosphere with no nightmare biochemistry to make it uninhabitable. It still isn’t a friendly place, of course; the entire surface is frozen in a situation referred to as a snowball climate. In time, with the world being geologically active, it should thaw out again. That’s still millennia in the future, however, and for now the planet is an icy waste.

That doesn’t stop life from existing, and there are teams of researchers on the planet studying the exotic cryobiology of the world. The main curiosity is that the world seems to have been well-developed and fairly well along a familiar path when the climate took a cold turn and spiraled into the present relentless ice age; remains of the warmer past can be found entombed in the ice, suggesting that at one time the planet was almost like Earth in prehistoric times.

Today, mats of lichen-like growths cover the surface of the ice, providing the basis of the surface food web; slow-moving and incredibly well-insulated herbivores browse large paths through the lichen fields, while a mix of small pack predators and large ambush predators that burrow into the middle of the fields prey on them. There’s little resemblance between the present lifeforms and their ancestral forms, but xenobiology teams are beginning to piece together a local phylogenetic tree.

Beneath the surface of the ice lies a world that might as well be entirely alien. Deprived of sunlight and the rain of nutrients from the surface, life in the depths has turned to the black smoker vents and chemosynthesis as the basis of their biological chains. Kelp analogues strain the mineral vents and live in symbiosis with complex bacteria as the basis of the food web, but it departs from any similarity to the surface there. The sheer diversity of the deeps eclipses the surface world by orders of magnitude, to the point that only analysis of the local genetic analogue ensures that these two vastly different biospheres are related.

Undiscovered thus far are several species of proto-sapient deep-dwellers similar in mental sophistication to pre-uplift chimpanzees or corvids, capable of tool use. The discovery of these would draw a fair amount of attention, as transhumanity is always looking for new potential morphs and new sources of egos to make them a bit less alone in the cosmic night. The discoverer could just about name their price in rep or credits if they brought the news to the right buyers – and it’s only a matter of time before someone finds them and Jotunheim becomes the center of a war between those who would want to exploit them and those who would want to abandon the world and let them develop or regress at their own pace.

Gatecrasher’s Almanac #24

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