ENTRY 215: Exonatural
Powdered Iktomi webstone goes for 300 credits a gram on Luna, said to be good for skin and long life. Bile peat from the Banshee bog-habitats on Luca II is sold dried on Titan, steeped in hot water to make Banshee tea. Mishipizheu “amber” is secreted from the creatures of the boiler reefs, and is valued as much as an aromatic base for incense and perfumes as for its mild antibiotic properties. Bluewood shavings and bark samples are claimed throughout the system to have mild euphoric properties, though this is a careful marketing ploy, as the immediate effects of consuming them are the result of spraying the woody shavings with synthetic cannabinoids; the rumored long-term hallucinogenic effects are the result of exotic tumors growing in the brain from extended abuse.
Simply put, there is a demand for natural products from exoplanets, and with so little relatively known about these products and their exact chemistry, a good deal of the material on the market consists of fakes and adulterated products. “Exomedicine” is the order of the day, even among several otherwise rational biomorphs, who tout the real and imagined benefits of every piece of alien grass and dirt that comes back through a gate—which means a good income for various gatecrashers and light-fingered lab-techs, but hard on the consumer to sift through the material for authentic exonatural products.
And there is a need for Mishipezheu amber and Lucan bonsai stamens. The loss of Earth led to a tremendous loss of biodiversity in the solar system, and chemists cannot hope to recreate and commercially synthesize many of the natural products that are now quite scarce—aromatic base notes like musk, rubber latex, petroleum, flavorful herbs and spices like angelica, black mustard, chicory, lemon grass, orris root, neem, and spikenard, as well as their various aromatic hydrocarbons and essential oils. While exonatural products cannot replicate these products exactly, they do provide a welcome expansion to transhumanity’s diminished catalogue of natural compounds and materials.
Gatecrasher hypercorps balance the lucrative trade in exonaturals on the open market against the profits of scientific exploration, and more often than not science wins out, with gatecrashers ordered to bring back more data and less weeds and rocks. That being said, everyone recognizes the demand for these goods, and most savvy gatecrashers negotiate clauses in their contracts for a certain amount and type of exonatural products that they can return with and sell on the open market to their own profit—generally, these clauses are for around 500 grams of material. Smaller gatecrashers with less resources to compensate gatecrashers for their skills and the risks they take sometimes offer more generous terms up to a couple kilograms, but as the saying goes “The more you can bring back, the less chance you’re coming back.”
The buying and selling of exonatural products in the solar system is an unregulated grey market where ludicrous claims abound and any number of fake products abound, from cocaine-calcium carbonate mixes posing as “Iktomi webstone” to dried leaves soaked in benzene and dyed blue sold as “bluewood incense.” Most of these are fairly harmless, all of them are tremendously overpriced given their relative worth. Still, for microcorps that cannot afford the time to stage a gatecrashing mission of their own, many have their agents in the exonaturals market looking for “the real thing” and willing to pay for it.