Monday, November 4, 2013

308: Glowstick Fungus

ENTRY 308: Glowstick Fungus

"Earth still has gifts for us."
- Shaneequa Kilkenny, nano-ecologist

In Viriditas on Mars, nano-ecologists repairing a leaky pipe carrying waste water have discovered a new kind of fungus with pale stalks up to 3 cm high that glow pale blue-white under ultraviolet light. The news caused a stir of interest in the local community, as the species could not be identified, and further intensified when genetic analysis proved that the fungus - nicknamed glowstick fungus - was an Earth-native species, related to matchstick fungus, and showed no overt signs of genetic engineering. While official announcement is pending, the popular theory is that this previously undiscovered species had been carried to Mars as spores from Earth, and could have lain dormant or grown unseen for years. Stranger stories of discovering new species have been known in the annals of ecology, but not by much. Even pending official determination, the colony of glowstick fungus has already been the focus of conservation efforts to protect the fragile ecology around the leaky pipe, and efforts have begun to grow new specimens in captivity.

While most of Viriditas expresses awe and excitement at the discovery of the new species, especially the possibile origins on Earth, there is a volatile countercurrent that believes the glowstick fungus is a plant or stunt, an obvious genegineered fake cooked up in a lab and deliberately placed to be found. The debate has been heated in parts of the local Mesh, deepening divides in the nano-ecologist faction over the testing and procedures involved, warring points of ecological theory and ideology, and even political divides and personal attacks regarding the teams doing the testing, making the determination, and controlling access to the glowstick fungus and their harvested samples.

Using Glowstick Fungus

A lot of excitement and emotion over a very small, unassuming fungus. Aside from being UV reactive, glowstick fungus is fairly unremarkable; a rare species that found a warm, damp little niche and managed to sprout. It isn't considered likely to be a commercial plant, a cure for cancer, or even a subject for cultivation until its population grows - though in time it might be any or all of these things. It is that potential, the thrill of discovering something that no one even knew they had lost, which is at the heart of the hubbub surrounding glowstick fungus. In their own way, the naysayers mean well, because they knew well the ways that this discovery will boost careers and the reputation of nano-ecology as a whole if true, and what a stain it will be should it prove to be false.


  • While a dedicated scouting of Viriditas has not uncovered any other samples of glowstick fungus, certain nano-ecologists remain unconvinced - and willing to hire others to search out off-limits or difficult to access areas that may harbor additional colonies. If the PCs take this job, they'll be sent into the bowels of the maintenance shafts of the building, to discovered subterranean areas not on any of the official maps, and dust-covered security devices designed to keep some secrets buried. Anything could be under there - hidden vaults of unreported wealth, climate-controlled seed storage, cemeteries for rusters that died building the station, a grotto with a pool of radioactive waste water, any of which might be a good place for a colony of glowstick fungus...
  • Concerns over the testing and determination process have led to some nano-ecologist hacking into the lab computers to view the data. The Viriditas administrators are aghast at this interference, which could contaminate their results. The PCs are hired to deliver a message to the rogue nano-ecologists, explaining what their actions could cause and repeating the promise by the Viriditas admins to a completely transparent analysis process and full publishing of the data. Anyone that still makes a noise after that gets something broken.
  • A murder has occurred on Viriditas - a gene hacker named Leroy Blackwell walked into an open elevator shaft and fell onto another of explosive bullets, after someone had carefully lasered his head clear off and slagged his cortical stack. More disconcertingly, security forensics forces have identified glowstick fungus spores on Blackwell's clothes - it could be a coincidence, but if published (as Viriditas law requires within 48 hours), it could raise doubts about the origins of glowstick fungus. The PCs are surreptitiously suggested to investigate as private citizens, with security forces members "losing" valuable items nearby to serve as payment. If the PCs break into Blackwell's lab, they find more samples of glowstick fungus, but also signs that the whole scene has been staged, as Blackwell's actual research involved a type of lichen called devil's matchsticks that have nothing to do with glowstick fungus. So who wants people to believe Blackwell created glowstick fungus - and who killed Blackwell?

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