|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 4||March, 1999|
[Reprinted from the A.S.A. Quarterly Report, Spring, 1929]
I've spent a large portion of my life in the forests of Chantilly surrounding my home city-state of Réunion and the northern parts Asoka surrounding Ankara to the southwest. During those long hours as a logger, I've managed to find the time to explore those marvelous sapa jungles with my faithful Groundhog Work Gear, Sara, an old Mark II, by my side. Together, Sara and I have observed and cataloged hundreds of different critters. We'd always assumed that we weren't the first to see the Chantilly javelina, or to marvel at, say, the firebellied crabfly's light display, but just last cycle, I attended a meeting of the Alpine Society of Ankara, mostly at the suggestion of my friend Bobb Mackalwayne, and was surprised to find that several of the creatures and plants Sara and I had found had never before been observed by another human being!
So, at the request of the A.S.A., I've written up some of my notes on a select few of those critters and have published them here, in this Field Guide, as part of their Spring newsletter. I hope it's useful to you, and I hope you'll take the time to explore our planet's wonderful forests. Of course, you probably shouldn't go out alone if you've never been out before -- Terra Nova has seen enough Harrises already!
Winter 15, TN 1929,
Réunion, Chantilly, Southern Republic
The angel's kiss is a large, single-flower plant that lives at the top of the Asokan forest canopy. An angel's kiss plant consists of one large, white flower, an expansive leaf arrangement at the base, and long, vine-like roots that tap into the soil far below. The leaves of the angel's kiss are broad and smooth, with alternating bands of dark and light green color reminiscent (in pattern) of a tiger's stripes. Most angel's kisses have five leaves, although a few have been found with six or even seven; the leaves typically cover several square meters of surface area total.
The most striking feature of the angel's kiss is its scent, which can be described as subtle and vanilla-like. The scent carries down to the forest floor below, revealing its presence to those on the ground. Nearer the flower, however, the scent is much stronger. In fact, within about a meter of the flower, the scent is so powerful, it has hallucinogenic and sedative properties. The flower can be harvested and distilled into a very powerful hallucinogen that takes its name from the plant itself. Angel's Kiss, the drug, is worth quite a lot on the recreational drug market, partly because of its power and partly because of the difficulty in obtaining enough flowers to produce a useful quantity of the drug.
What makes the angel's kiss flower so hard to come by is not necessarily its rarity; while the plant is somewhat rare, what really poses trouble to harvesters is both the altitude at which it grows and the devil's bite prowler, a ferocious reptile that likes to nest near the angel's kiss.
|AGI n/a||BLD +5||FIT +3||INS n/a||PER n/a|
|WIL n/a||STR n/a||HEA +1||STA 55||UD n/a|
Hallucinogenic perfume (POT 6, effect: hallucinogen/sedative, onset time: 30 minutes), Devil's Bite Prowlers like to nest near Angel's Kiss plants.
The Angel's Kiss street drug has the following properties: POT 20, effect: hallucinogen, onset time: 5 minutes.
You never forget the first time you see a firebellied crabfly. They're nocturnal, so it will be at night. You'll be deep in the sapa forests of the Chantilly or Asoka regions of the Southern Republic, so it will be even darker -- you won't see much of Hope, certainly none of Faith or Charity, and absolutely no stars. The only light you'll have will be your own, from either a campfire or a flashlight. As it gets later and later into the night, your fire will die down, leaving behind only softly-glowing coals. You'll shut off your flashlight and crawl into your sleeping bag or your tent.
Then, out of the corner of your eye, you'll spot one: A dancing, reddish light that never sits still, always weaving around and through the foliage. You'll gradually notice more and more of these eerie creatures. If you're lucky, you'll see hundreds of them darting around your campsite.
The firebellied crabfly, or "tinkerbell," as it's sometimes known, is about the same size as the common crabfly, with reddish markings on its back and a yellow and black striped design on its underside. The tail of the firebellied crabfly, like that of the common crabfly, lacks the stinger found on some of the more aggressive subspecies. Instead of a poison sack, the tail contains a gland that secretes a bioluminescent chemical, causing the bulbous tip to glow a warm, reddish color. The glow flickers on and off as the creature makes its way through the forests, which often gives the appearance that there are more crabflies present than there actually are.
The firebellied crabfly is not an aggressive creature by nature. It feeds on sapa fern leaves.
|Aggressiveness: 1||Damage/Turn: x2||Threshold: 10||Rnd. Horde Size: 2d6||Swarm Size: 10|
I actually saw one of these things once. You hear stories about giant crabflies living near Okavango in the Eastern Suns Emirites, and you tend write it off as the ravings of a drugged-up Easterner. Even if you do happen to believe the stories, the last thing you probably expect is to come face to face with one in Asoka!
I did, and for a moment, I was scared out of my mind. It was huge, about a full meter in length, with a mass probably in excess of a hundred kilograms. Like all crabflies, the giant Asokan crabfly has two claws and a long tail -- and this species is one in which the tail is a functional stinger. Overall, the creature was black in color, with dark red highlights.
After holding my breath for several long seconds, I realized the critter wasn't even remotely interested in me as it wound its lazy way through the forest. Naturally, with a body so massive, the wingspan is pretty impressive, and it seemed not to have much luck finding a decent path, so it often resorted to walking. (Yes, I followed it around after a while -- and after making sure I had enough ammunition in my rifle to take it down if it turned on me!)
I followed it for about two or three hundred meters, at which point I learned the answer to a question that had been on my mind since I had started tracking it: What does it eat? The answer is small and mid-sized lizards, perhaps no bigger than a dawg. It seems to use its stinger to kill its prey outright, then it feeds away like most crabflies, picking apart the victim for hours. (Yes, I watched it feed for two hours before giving up; during the whole time, it faced me as it nibbled away at bits of flesh while I checked and rechecked the action of my rifle.)
While this particular giant crabfly didn't take much more than a passing interest in me, I can't guarantee that encounters with other giant crabflies will be so mild, so be warned.
|AGI -1||BLD +2||FIT +1||INS +0||PER +2|
|WIL +0||STR +1||HEA +1||STA 40||UD 5*|
|Combat Sense 1/+2||Dodge 2/-1||Hand-to-Hand 2/-1|
Bite (x 4), Claws (x 5), Stinger (x 6, toxin with POT 5, effect: fatal, onset time: 10 seconds), Armored Carapace (+20 armor), Flight (5 MP dive)
You'll find standing pools of water in the forests, and sometimes you'll find ponds or even the occasional small lake. And there is where you'll find one of the most beautiful crabflies in the world. Deep purple in color, with blue highlights, the purplejacket crabfly's carapace shimmers and glistens in the sun light as it hangs suspended upside down from the leaf of a shoreline plant or from the inside of a dead log.
When you do find one, get out of there, and get out of there fast!
The purplejacket is one of the crabfly species that has a stinger, and although the venom itself is fairly mild, the purplejacket is easily angered and is rarely alone. When you anger one, it will go after you, as will other purple jackets from the local hive. If you're really careless, you might find the whole hive out to get you -- and they will, because one sting is easy to manage, but when you're surrounded by a dozen angry purplejackets, you're going to get stung again and again, and that much venom adds up quickly! Worse, it has a pain-relieving effect, so after a while, you won't even know how badly hurt you are.
I've never seen one of their hives up close, but I've seen one from the safety of the opposite shore of the pond where Sara and I first spotted a purplejacket. It hung from a dead branch on a sapa tree, near where the branch joined the trunk; it resembled a strange growth at first, until we saw a couple of those nasty things coming and going. Given that the purplejacket forms a hive, it probably has a caste structure, too, like skags, with queens, workers, nurses, gatherers, and warriors. I wasn't too keen on finding out, though, so I don't know for sure.
|Aggressiveness: 3||Damage/Turn: x3||Threshold: 25||Rnd. Horde Size: 2d6||Swarm Size: 5|
Venom! (Fatal/Analgesic toxin, POT 4, onset time 1 minute)
The devil's bite prowler is small and ferocious. With a mass of only five or six kilograms, you wouldn't think these things pose much of a threat, but you'd be wrong. Then you'd be dead. The devil's bite is a natural born killer, a master of disguise, a cunning hunter, and a dangerous foe when it's angry -- and if you've found one, it's probably angry, because you've probably stumbled onto its nest.
Small, sleek, and green, the devil's bite prowler blends in with its surroundings with its chameleon-like abilities, where it waits for its prey, which is typically smaller reptiles and large insects. They hunt alone, so if you find one away from its nest, you should be fine -- in fact, the devil's bite will actually alert you to its presence if you happen across one, by hissing sharply. Then it will probably scurry up a sapa tree and hiss another challenge, after which it will make its way higher into the branches. They'll only strike at you in this state if you strike first, and they'll usually give up if things are going badly for them.
While they hunt alone, they nest in larger groups, often with four or five mated pairs sharing a nesting area, displaying surprisingly social behavior for reptiles. They tend to make their nests beneath the leaves of the angel's kiss plant, and appear to be the plant's primary source of pollination. They are quite protective of their young, and the whole colony will act together to defend the nest from intruders.
They are also highly resistant to the angel's kiss' hallucinogenic perfume, a fact which has led many an unwary angel's kiss harvester to an untimely death as a half dozen of the vicious beasts tear into him without being affected by the same perfume that's slowly putting him to sleep and filling his mind with a distorted view of what's actually happening.
|AGI +3||BLD -6||FIT +3||INS +2||PER +2|
|WIL +0||STR +1||HEA +2||STA 10||UD 1*|
|Camouflage 2/+2||Combat Sense 2/+2||Dodge 3/+3||Hand-to-Hand 3/+3|
Bite (x 4), Claws (x 2), Resistant to Angel's Kiss hallucinogen (+2 on HEA checks)
The hummingfly is a small, flying insect native to Chantilly. It makes its home in the forests and the meadows of the area alike, with no obvious preference. They're completely harmless, feeding off of the fruit, leaves, and flowers of whatever kind of terrain they happen to be inhabiting, and are quite pretty, displaying vibrant colors. Hummingflies make their nests in the ground, however, and are therefore usually not found near bodies of water.
Hummingflies get their name from the hum-like buzz they make when agitated. Thanks to their docile and harmless nature, they tend to get agitated at just about anything that they perceive as being "out-of-place." When a whole swarm of them starts buzzing -- and they will, as soon as one of them knows you're there -- it often becomes hard to hear. I once had the displeasure of stumbling into a whole colony of these creatures, and the sound was deafening.
Strangely, there's a manufacturer of scientific equipment here in the Republic that has named one of its exploration drones after this noisy insect. The problem is that this drone is supposedly very quiet...
|Aggressiveness: 0||Damage/Turn: x2||Threshold: 15||Rnd. Horde Size: 4d6||Swarm Size: 25|
Noisy -- especially around anything they perceive as "out-of-place," such as a person or a Gear (PER-based skill tests that require audio clarity suffer a -1 penalty when a swarm is present; -2 for a whole horde of hummingflies)
My first glimpse of a pygmy springer happened while Sara and I were clearing out some old growth in the foothills of the Réunion Plateau. At first, I thought I was seeing a pair of newborn woodspringers, which surprised me given how protective wild springers are of their offspring. Then a couple more pygmy springers wandered into the clearing, following the first two. Within a few moments, there were over a dozen miniature springers marching around the edge of the clearing. In their midst I saw a trio of grassrunner-sized springers, which was when I knew the rest were fully grown adults. A few other larger ones marched along on the outskirts of the herd, always keeping between me and the young ones.
And then they marched back into the forest, leaving behind a strong, somewhat unpleasant, musky odor.
The pygmy springer is much smaller than its larger cousin; a full-grown adult stands only about 50 centimeters at the shoulder, is about 75 centimeters long on average, and has a mass of about 20 to 30 kilograms. Like all springers, this dark-colored species features tusk-like projections on its bony shoulder cowl, although they aren't nearly as pronounced as on some of the larger species. It lives in the low scrub brush of the of Chantilly, where it eats fruits, nuts, leaves, grasses, insects, and even small lizards. In short, the pygmy springer will eat just about anything.
This little guy is an interesting example of parallel evolution: It bears striking resemblance to the peccary, an ungulate of Earth known also as the javelina (hah-vay-LEE-nah) -- which gives rise to the name given the creature by the A.S.A., the Chantilly javelina. The pygmy springer has a scent gland just under its shoulder cowl, from which the strong, musky scent originates, a characteristic similar to the Terran peccary. Both creatures use this scent to mark their territory, by rubbing up against trees and stones. The similarity between the two creatures extends even to its speed: Like the peccary of Earth, the Terranovan pygmy springer is capable of shorts bursts of unexpected speed, and can easily outrun a human being. Of course, the pygmy springer is a reptile-like creature, and not a mammal.
|AGI +0||BLD -5||FIT +2||INS +1||PER +0|
|WIL +2||STR +0||HEA +2||STA 10||UD 1*|
|Combat Sense 1/+0||Dodge 2/+0||Hand-to-Hand 1/+0|
Gore (x 8), Sprint (75 m/round, 5 rounds duration)
The treerunner is a relative of the grassrunner of the savannas of the north. Several subspecies of the arboreal treerunner can be found all over Terra Nova; the particular type found in Chantilly is more properly known as the yellow frilled treerunner, thanks to the brilliant yellow coloring of the creature's head and neck frills.
Treerunners look quite a bit like the ground-dwelling grassrunner, though their forearms are slightly larger and their hind legs aren't nearly as muscular. They spend most of their time in the trees, where they eat fruits and nuts. Like their cousins, treerunners tend to be solitary creatures, though the females do raise their young.
|AGI +1||BLD -7||FIT +2||INS -2||PER +2|
|WIL -1||STR -2||HEA +0||STA 10||UD 1*|
|Athletics (climb)* 2/+2||Combat Sense 2/+2||Dodge 2/+1||Hand-to-Hand 1/+1|
Bite (x 3)
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 4||March, 1999|
Heavy Gear is © 1999, Dream Pod 9, Inc. All rights reserved. APAGear is not affiliated with Dream Pod 9 in any way. Submitted material remains the property of the creator.