ENTRY 068: Spetälsksbok
Recovered from the dead extraterrestrial Iktomi civilization on Echo V, the Spetälsksbok was reportedly part of a parcel of alien artifacts looted and brought back through the Pandora Gate, but the expedition suffered a mechanical failure and died before returning. A subsequent recovery mission by Gatekeeper located the craft, including the skinless remains of one crewmember holding the damaged Spetälsksbok, and the alien artifact was flagged as a potential biohazard and placed in a quarantine archive.
Spetälsksbok was removed from the archive after it was observed “eating” airborne dead skin and hair cells. Subsequent scientific examination of the webbing-like structure revealed it consists of variegated filaments of keratin around a monolithic core of viral machinery hosted by symbiotic radiophage bacteria. The Spetälsksbok captures environmental sources of keratin to repair and rebuild damaged sections of the object—basically, a highly-developed and durable bioengineered artifact. The presence of nearby radiation sources awakens the dormant bacteria, which powers the viral machinery’s capture of nearby keratin sources—including the skin, nails, and hair from the majority of biomorphs if they get too close.
Physically, the Spetälsksbok resembles a fractal structure of lace-like branches up to ten centimeters in length, surrounding a sixty-centimeter long spun cone of the same material; though the whole of the artifact has been badly damaged by some endothermic process and it is estimated a quarter of its total mass and three quarters of its surface area remain missing. Analysis of the structure of the filament branches reveals regular features suggestive of language, and the general consensus among xenoarchaeologists is that it is some form of Iktomi book. Crowdsourced analysis has identified several features of the language, with some suggested implications regarding Iktomi culture and anatomy, but so far the work remains untranslated.
Any biomorph who touches the Spetälsksbok with their bare skin takes 1 damage as the viral machinery infects them and breaks down the keratin in their hair, skin, and nails (and scales, feathers, horns, etc. as applicable) in the immediate area; synthmorphs and other characters without keratin are immune to this. Any implant or precautions that protect from nanoinfection are effective against the viral machinery.
- Gatekeeper Corp has been “feeding” Spetälsksbok vat-grown keratin fibers in the presence of various radiation sources in the hope of causing the artifact to fully regenerate. However, one experiment has caused the Spetälsksbok to regenerate to quickly it has spawned a room-filling cancerish mass that has resulted in the deaths of four biomorphs and trapped three researchers in the lab as the fractal branches continue to grow. Gatekeeper is offering a reward for anyone that can rescue the lab researchers without substantially damaging the artifact, or in extremis shut off the radiation-source.
- A possible translation of a part of the Spetälsksbok reveals what may be a map of Iktomi settlements on Echo V—including several not heretofore known, explored, or looted. Gatekeeper is asking for volunteers to check out these new sites, in exchange for a cut of the profits from whatever they bring back.