At first, they were found on old, dead worlds. Massive chrysalises by the hundreds, seemingly impervious to cutting tools, waiting in alcoves and caves, surrounded by metallic fibers that slowly waved as if in a light breeze, even if in total vacuum. When disturbed, the chrysalis cracked open, with the monstrosity inside attacking immediately. Worse, its awakening set off chrysalises in the vicinity, and an unwitting exploration team was suddenly not fighting one or five horrors, but dozens, then hundreds, and then then thousands. The only thing each one had in common was that their armor was as impregnable as their shells, and the only defense was flight. Worse, the gladiators and hunters eventually died off, but new chrysalises grew from the webs left behind as the previous sleepers fell, guaranteeing that the world infested with them was perpetually dangerous.
Within five years of the first discovery on Bolander’s Bane, the assumption that the webs and their horrible fruiting bodies only existed on dead worlds had to be thrown out. Before long, the webs were found on hundreds of worlds, from ones completely covered with liquid water to ones completely covered with frozen nitrogen. An active research colony on the fecund world Kristobal Muñeca set off a colony that forced the whole installation to evacuate within 48 hours, and then then the terraforming project by the famed Fronimos team stimulated another. As the webs were found on more worlds, two things stood out. The first was that different stimuli opened the chrysalises: on one world, here proximity to a strand of webbing could cause the whole planet to explode in buried warriors. On another, they were perfectly safe until exposed to a particular chemical or wavelength of light. In all cases, any attempt to remove a chrysalis or break its connection to its web led to an inevitable conclusion, and few such bold explorers survived to share the results.
Even worse, the webs started showing up on worlds that had been thoroughly explored and surveyed, in places where absolutely nothing had been before. That was when researchers realized that the webbing, which resisted efforts to classify it as a true life form or as a particularly sophisticated nanosynth, was spreading. Microshards, often too small to be found and removed with standard decontamination techniques, were being spread throughout this galaxy and three others via pressure suits, tools, and boots, where they would root and establish when encountering the right conditions. As with the factors that stimulated their killing response, though, the “right” growth conditions ranged far, with no common pattern spotted by organic or AI researchers. The efforts to find a pattern, and possibly a way to stunt or remove their growth, became particularly vital. Last week, the first web appeared on Earth.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Plant: Nepenthes rafflesiana x sibuyanensis BE 3819 “Suki”
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Shirt Price: $200US