Our immediate galactic cluster produces a surprising number of so-called “deathworlds”: planets whose biota accept any kind of intrusion only after the application of overwhelming force. A few are hive minds who use their animal and plant analogues as surrogates for other organisms’ immune systems. Others are so nutrient-starved that to pass up relatively harmless and helpless prey as a battalion of Invec mercenaries on assault platforms is nearly impossible. A few have such a complicated interconnected life cycle between parasites and hosts that even the most horrified researcher can’t begrudge the opportunity for a parasite to slip sideways into an unfilled niche, even if that unfilled niche is the researcher. One of the most intriguing of those worlds, one used as a case study for xenobiologists as to educated assumptions, is the terrestrial world Shaw III, named after the head of its first exploration mission, Dr. Muriel Shaw. She was the head of the mission and one of only two survivors, as everyone else who touched down on its primary continent died within approximately ten minutes of opening the airlocks and taking direct samples.
Dr. Shaw not only didn’t take the threat of her named world lightly, but took it as a challenge. In the fragmentary remains of the animals killed inside her lifeboat as it ejected from its doomed parent, she discovered unique enzymes that worked on metals as well as organic compounds, practically begging for further study. Her initial papers led to the formation of a second, heavily armed research team, which lasted about as long on the surface as the first. Teams Three through Six managed to stretch out the time on the surface to an hour, leading to a plan to build a massive research station that was literally dropped from orbit and supplied in the same way. Nicknamed “The Bug” because of its plethora of sensory globes, it was truly impregnable, both to all other known organisms, but to the life of Shaw III.
For the most part, it worked. The Bug held integrity, even as wave upon wave of species, hunters and herbivores alike, rushed and flew and crawled and slithered to break in. Dr. Shaw’s team collected wonderful data, even as the noise of giant slime molds sucking on the microphone feeds and analogues to pterosaurs smashing their beaks upon the sensory globes started to wear on them individually. Finally, Dr. Shaw had as much information as she felt she needed, and launched herself back into orbit for further analysis. The rest of her team stayed behind, bracing for the next series of creatures, plants, and bacteria to try to get in through the barely-opened launch tube.
The next wave never happened. The first wave stopped moments after Dr. Shaw’s transport reached stable orbit. Every attacker broke off and went back to their apparently normal behaviors. After hours of peace, Dr. Shaw’s assistant professor risked opening the launch tube and climbing out onto the top of the Bug. The very same pterosaurs that were attempting to smash their way inside a solar day before not only didn’t attack, but actually landed, came close, and begged to be scritched on the head.
Dr. Shaw never returned to her namesake world, and the Bug was soon abandoned. There was no need: other researchers were able to walk across the planet’s surface without incident, taking samples and conducting tests without fear. The biota of Shaw III didn’t dislike humans, or technology, or anything else that anything Dr. Shaw brought with her. For some reason, which still eludes an answer, they just didn’t like her.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Plant: Nepenthes specularis x tenuis BE-3884
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Shirt Price: $350US