Week 3 - Only the Strong Survive at CV Beta 4

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Week 3 - Only the Strong Survive at CV Beta 4

Post  Admin on Fri May 06, 2011 5:00 am

The small pod was innocuous enough. Launched from a small Builder-crewed ship, it plummeted towards the main continent. Upon entering the lower atmosphere, it burst into hundred of tiny fragments. Each peanut-sized fragment was equipped with a feathery stele, catching the wind to ride a multitude of air currents. The cloud of particles slowly dispersed over the main continent, slowly coming to rest on the moist, rich soil. A few seconds passed as the capsules sucked in surrounding water, swelling until a tiny crack appeared in one end. A tiny radicle snaked forth, pushing aside soil particles as it extended deep into the ground. Peeping out from where the tiny root had emerged, a minuscule green shoot tasted the air. It slowly unfurled two tiny leaves, xylem and phloem slowly beginning to pulse. The shell of the capsule glowed slightly, and at the opposite end a small green light began to blink in time with the plantlet's sap beat.

Far above the surface of the planet, a view screen aboard the ship began to fill with tiny blinking green dots.
"Success, friends. Someday, there shall be more. More to be nurtured and taught." Oleifera watched a duplicate view screen on Zahaz. It was pleased that over 70% of the seeds had implanted. Once they had reached a certain height, they would be visited, and begin the Opening - the rite of bringing-forth of consciousness, and then the teaching of Choate creation. Oleifera was hopeful that the Builders would assist it in such an endeavor. For now, the seed shell would sustain the children with basic choates. Length of time to maturity was unknown - Oleifera hoped that the temporal radiation would reduce time to consciousness to a matter of weeks, instead of dozens of years. Sensitive recording devices would log the health and safety of the infant Oleifera-clones. Even though no breeding had yet taken place, the Oleifera had done its best to package a sampling of its own genetic material in each seed. Someday the plantlets would share information between each other during their journeying, as Oleifera had once done on its homeworld. It wasn't perfect... but it was a start.

But the kind and caring Oleifera were not the only beings that were drawn to the challenge posed by Canes Venatici’s small planet in the fourth orbit of the CV Beta star.
Far away in the Polar expanse was the planet known as Habitat 2, home to the brilliant if morally ambiguous scientist Michael Herbert Gilmour.

"Only a single species?" the scientist mused to himself, his vast mind thrumming with possibilities, "such a stifling condition." He would have much; much preferred a situation where only a certain amount of biomass could be brought to the planet, for that was where he excelled. Nothing could bring forth so much from so little as his creations, but it just wasn't to be. No matter; he could still make due.

One of the most wonderful advantages of his creations were both their efficiency in terms of time and their efficiency in terms of energy, two limitations that seemed to be meaningless on this particular world. For one who has spent most his time trying to bring life to words without even an atmosphere, with mostly silicon oxides as solid substrates, CV Beta 4 presented a rather odd situation to him. Instinctively, he decided to bring his world to his 'opponents;' the goal would be to exhaust or otherwise consume as many available nutrients as possible as quickly as possible. His working model would be the 'algal bloom,' a condition in which fast growth flooded the area with waste metabolites and toxins, as well as depriving it of vital nutrients. Such conditions would often occur in places of very high nutrient density, as he saw in this new world. Once nutrients got less dense, fast evolutionary processes would render his fungi resistant to being consumed, and should allow for slow-growth and complete takeover.

This would be a preliminary victory condition; remove all nutrients from the area and sequester them in unavailable biomass. As such, a fast-spreading monolayer would be the most volume-efficient manner of doing this, both covering the planet surface as well as anything growing on it. It could grow deep into the earth and metabolize as quickly as possible, generating fruiting bodies that would continue the process. This is when Michael's particular areas of expertise would begin.

His single species would contain several separate sets of genetic information, and over time some of them would be lost and others would be gained, distributing them stochastically through the population. This process is found in many 'lower' organisms, simply due to that fact that they require a fair bit less genetic 'precision' than higher organisms. They have been designed so that the products of each combination of discrete sets of genetic material will be its own unique organism, well suited toward generating an ecosystem on CV Beta 4. The original fungus would have the vast majority of this information silenced, until conditions are right.

Yet Scientist Gilmour was not the only one who saw the planet as a perfect place to test new species. Commander Mor’aye’ahn, the brilliant mind behind the S.U.A.R.M. also had a species and had decided to use the lush strangely temporally affected world of CV Beta 4 to test out a new species the Sporekint.

As he rode the lift the comms went off just above the number pad "Commander Mor'aye'ahn sir he bridge is still awaiting orders."

With an annoyed sigh a lone finger pressed the button to respond "Alert the rest of our fleet, we head to CV Beta 4." He took his finger off of the button for a second and then a very important thought came about "Broadcast our intentions of being non-aggressive, all channels.”

"Aye sir!"

The silence of the comms said that for a few moments that his crew were working well enough without him, the remaining minute of the trip to the lower levels was uneventful. The walk from the lift doors to the research bay was also quiet as only scientists went down to these levels and even then they were all inside, where he intended to go. Once inside the white lights and the sounds of rattling cages greeted him first, followed by the synthesized voice of a small white-painted SUARM. "SIR" was the first words to be processed.

"Ziggiz how are our beauties coming along. I'm hoping that the genetic material has not decayed from the merger." His eyes were alight like an Earther child during the winter holidays. One day he would actually have to sit down and ask someone the reason behind the fat man in the red suit.

"Oh yes the genetic samples show no signs of abnormal decay, they are indeed within optimal limits!" The sounds of excitement were easy to pick up from the artificial voice box.

"And how big have they grown?"

"Oh, well that is the problem I wished to discuss with you sir. There is no sign to show how big these plant-creatures will grow as once they reach the size of a Tsoga the smaller ones gang up and try to eat the bigger ones. We have tried separating them but it's hard without breeching containment!"

Problems were always that... problems. But this one was minor. "So the small ones are compelled to eat the big ones as opposed to eating the food?"

"No sir. It is just that food is in such short supply once they have reached stage 2. And with the reproductive rates even if we were to isolate a single life form the spores would germinate in the slough produced by the parent life form and then once they reached maturation they would begin eating anything that they can get their teeth into... There just isn't enough food for them in this contained state."

A smile went wide on Mor'aye'ahn's face. "So containment is the issue, very well. Will there be enough of this species to transplant once we reach Canis Venitici Beta?"

Looking at the containment pens the robotic life form lifted up his arms and let them clang back to his sides "Sir, this species is the most adaptable and aggressive species of plant, fungal, or animal life that our files have on record. Maybe because it has the genetic material of all three but that is neither here nor there." He looked back at the cages briefly "If a planet supports life then this species will thrive!"

On one side of CV Beta 4, a Unity Sagittae flew across a wide field, across a verdant valley, and up the side of a mountain seeding it with Gilmour’s new fungus. On the other side of the planet the S.U.A.R.M. were burying seeds the size of a robins’ egg. Its vaguely oblong continent was split by a mountain range whose highest mountain was massive enough to be seen from orbit.

It was towards these that a wing of starfighters serving Viggo the Kasanthian flew, dragging behind them stolen asteroids. One after another the Starfighters dropped the asteroids into the atmosphere. The asteroids streaked into the CV Beta 4’s skies and pounded deep into the mountain side. First one deep cavern was drilled into the side of the huge mountain. Lower down two more hit, creating deep partially covered craters. The last three impacted the lowest slopes of the mountain and created wide craters. The dust, dirt and stone kicked up by the asteroid impacts blanketed the sky for days, and cut off all communication with the test site.
A terse week passed waiting for the cloud to dissipate.
Then the skies finally cleared enough to send down exploratory vessels, scout meks, and Eyespies.
What they found was that the entire mountainside had been quarried by sentient nightmare kulieks. It was now an immense set of Nightmare Breeding Pits which were defended from the toxic fungal blooms by the Nightmare flesh covering their entrances. The Nightmare Flesh filtered the air and collected water for the Kasanthians hiding inside.
The apprentices of Viggo had succeeded in breeding hundreds of thousands of Nightmare Kulieks. The creatures technically didn’t need to eat, didn’t need air, and were completely immune to the Fungi that had battled for control of the planet for the first three months of its rapid year.

The initial colonization by Gilmour’s fungal variant was conducted by a mat-forming fungus. It grew in long sheets, and covered the entire landscape except a few miles to either side of the Nightmare flesh which seemed deadly to fungi that tried to spread to its surface. This increased surface area for absorbing light was one of the few reasons the fungi survived the clouds kicked up by the asteroids. It also smothered all other life forms that considered CV Beta 4 a home, including the CVB4 Sparrig, a large avian predator that helped spread pollen from the CVB4 Lotus which it used to pad its nest.
Nutrient starvation and death was the result for all life on the planet not protected inside mini-domes of Nightmare flesh.

During the same three months that Gilmour’s fungi spread, the Sporekint filled the landscape. They started as eggs and emerged as mouse-sized creatures that can consume more than twenty times their body weight in organic material every day. Given an ample supply of food their growth rates are extremely fast taking them from the size of a mouse to the size of a mastiff on steroids within the matter of five days. And still given enough food and area to roam they can grow even larger however the larger they grow the less aggressive they become. It can be surmised that given enough time a Sporekint can grow one and half times the size of a bull elephant from Earth, however in captivity they never reach this size as the smaller generations eat them before reaching such an amazing mass.
They were provided an amazing amount of organic mass to eat when they reached the areas already converted by Gilmour’s fungus. The toxin levels were high enough to wipe out most of the larger Sporekint which were quickly killed by the younger ones. The younger ones quickly developed resistance to the toxic environment.

By six months the fungal biomass density had reached a certain level, genetic diversity programming kicked in and additional structures formed. Thick, corded hyphae covered the bulk of the biomass, and as a result the majority of the planet, all except for the Nightmare mountain of Viggo. The fungal network itself will be spotted with large, tall structures. These structures are fruiting bodies, designed for high surface area in order to spread spores over a large area. They looked very much like sprays of flowers, though each 'flower' was a series of feathery threads, each continuously making new spores.

At the same time 'Housekeeping' fungi was generated to integrate nonfunctioning or poorly functioning biomass into itself, which is then replenished into the network. These are some of the only mobile elements that will be integrated into this specific colonization attempt. The move much like slime-molds, slowly spreading across the fungal network and beyond. Generally speaking however, they tend to stick to the more humid and nutrient-rich fungal beds. Fungi that are unable to properly maintain themselves were unable to hold off the housekeeping fungi, and consumed. In successive generations of Sporekint, they had fed off and lived in so much of the fungal network that elements of it integrated into the Sporekint. As a result some had even developed the proper external protein coats to be ignored by any but the most persistent housekeeping fungi, which they consumed in packs.

In time, even the air became choked with dangerous spores and chemicals, making invasion difficult, and travel virtually impossible. By the end of the year the Sporekint and Gilmour’s fungus had created a total biosphere across the planet. One so toxic it would kill an Earther without a spacesuit or envirosuit in under an hour. Roadways of Mycelium were now patrolled by Housekeeping Fungi supported by packs of Sporekint. It was an uneasy balance, as the rate of growth of Sporekint and feeding rate, resulted in them growing large enough for the Housekeeping Fungi and smaller Sporekint to consume and reintegrate into the biomass. Time would tell if the toxic environment survived at its current rate of growth.

Deep inside their Nightmare Pits, the Nightmare-Kulieks of Viggo had grown under the watchful gaze of the pale Kasanthian Apprentices. In the highest of the Nightmare Pit, a small set of solar lamps had been set up. In a small indoor garden with soil that had been dug before Gilmour’s Fungi and the Sporekint had destroyed the planet, was the only plant still alive on CV Beta 4. It was an Oleifera, and for the last year it had been filled with the evil faith of the Kasanthians, and darkness had been seeded inside it.

But for the rest of the universe their year was but a week.


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Re: Week 3 - Only the Strong Survive at CV Beta 4

Post  Admin on Fri May 06, 2011 6:05 am

This mission's reward is as follows:

The planet CV Beta 4 is now split

Michael Herbert Gilmour 75%
Mor'aye'ahn 20%
Viggo 5%
Oleifera 0%*

Oleifera has also just learned that one of her seedlings is alive, but apparently brainwashed by the Kasanthians. Conversation to be continued in the CV BETA 4 forum


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