Gatecrasher’s Almanac #25

Name: Puffball

Location: 3400 lightyears spinward, 100 lightyears below galactic disc

Gravity: 1.03G

Atmosphere: Nitrogen-oxygen

Body Type: Joker Terrestrial

Puffball is one of the more benign Joker worlds out there, warm enough for familiar life, with 80% of the surface covered in shallow oceans and a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere within the comfort range for transhuman survival. It would be an ideal colony world, if it weren’t for the xenofungus that covers the planet. Unlike Tanaka’s bizarre situation, the fungal growths of Puffball show the familiar course of evolution, save that all the non-fungal kingdoms died off a long time ago.

The xenofungus has evolved to fill all the familiar ecological niches; brilliantly colored stalks wave in the winds, photosynthesizing even as they release a constant trickle of spores into the air. Even the animal analogues release clouds of spores periodically; nothing on Puffball has discovered the familiar animal method of reproduction, and each new generation begins as sessile growths parasitically feeding on whatever they happened to germinate on. These same spores – thick enough to be a visible haze in the air at all times – are the reason why Puffball is a Joker world and not a candidate for colonization.

Many of the fungal growths are harmless and get rejected and killed by even the most frail biomorphs; a few are a genuine hazard to living transhumans, enough that none are allowed on the planet for fear of carrying parasitic hitchhikers back to the solar system. The biggest danger, though, comes from an order of the fungus that has a taste for artificial materials and a high presence for a few hundred miles in all directions from the Pandora Gate. The Gate itself seems immune to the fungus, likely self-repairing as fast as anything tries to eat it and killing anything that tries to invade the substance of it. Nothing transhuman can survive without regular baths of cleaning solutions, several times a day, and even then everything gradually weakens over time.

There are reclaimer groups looking into exporting samples of the xenofungus in hopes of finding a way to use it as a weapon against the TITAN remnants on Earth, a nightmare to anyone with any sense – an Earth reclaimed by the xenofungus wouldn’t be Earth, and would be nearly as hostile to transhuman life as the planet is today. Some think it might be worth it, as long as the biomorph-hungry strains aren’t carried back – a fungal garden Earth inhabited by neoprimitives seems preferable to a completely uninhabited Earth.

Firewall, naturally enough, has all of the more conservative factions on high alert, seeing it as a clear and present danger to transhuman life and culture. Some inter-server conflicts have already happened when one maverick group tried to extract a sample for study at a secure site, only to be gunned down at the Gate by a bioconservative erasure squad.

Rumors abound in the Eye that Ozma already has a tamed sample of both the anti-tech strains and the anti-biomorph strains of the fungus, ready to unleash on unsuspecting sentinels.

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Gatecrasher’s Almanac #25

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