Lalande

lalande

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White scrub, desert

The only settlement on Lalande is a luxury villa belonging to Nora Herzog Wittelsbach, an Old Earth noble. Since the fall of Earth, the duchess now lives here full time – whilst still retaining a good deal of influence on both Earth and Procyon. The compound is defended by ground based weapons and two system defense boats.

The planet is a ghost, orbiting a red dwarf. The world used to support a diverse ecology, but its oceans and most of its atmosphere have been boiled away. Only the hardiest species have survived. A notable surviver is the Lalande sand worm – a brain burrowing parasite. As life on the planet dwindled, the larval stage evolved the ability to go into hibernation, lying dormant for incredibly long periods of time, until one of the few remaining hosts came along. Now all the hosts are gone, but billions of the larvae are still out there, waiting…

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  1. alex said,

    15 December, 2014 @ 12:01

    Facebook comments:

    Tony Jones If the Lalande sand worm is a parasite, what sort of native life is it a parasite on?

    Alexander Tingle Extinct ones.

    Tony Jones But then how does it survive without a host?

    Alexander Tingle Oooh. Difficult questions! There are two possibilities.

    1. The larval stage is capable of surviving and breeding on its own. Of course, the next question is “why does it need an adult stage, then?” or,
    2. Hardy eggs have survived. “But why haven’t they been used as a food source by other struggling species, then?”

    Perhaps the easiest solution would be to retract my first answer, and say that it preys on other surviving species. Small rodent-like creatures?

    Matt Fitzgerald 3. The larval stage can survive indefinitely. It just needs to find a host with a brain in order to breed. So as long as Herzog Wittelsbach’s staff consists entirely of politicians and estate agents they should be perfectly safe.

    Alexander Tingle I actually quite like that. As life on the planet dwindled, the larval stage could have evolved the ability to go into hibernation, lying dormant for incredibly long periods of time, until one of the few remaining hosts came along. Now all the hosts are gone, but billions of the larvae are still out there, waiting…

    Andy Miles The larval form excretes a spectacularly unpleasant neurotoxin when ingested.

    Tony Jones Depends how long the parasites can survive in a dried out state; maybe centuries but sounds like they might need to last longer than that:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptobiosis

    How about they are just about hanging on as parasites on some native organism, but are much happier to parasitise such rich pickings as humans given the chance…

    Alexander Tingle I’ve added a bit more detail about the parasite to this article.

    Tony Jones In light of the new bits, I can imagine the lifespan of the parasites in hibernation is probably some sort of normal distribution, so some would still be viable even after a very long time even if most of them might be dead. In fact that would probably be a good way for people to get infected – they’ve found lots of dead parasites and are investigating them with little in the way of precautions, because they’re all dead. Then they find one that is not…

    Alexander Tingle This is a great example of collaboration at work. I probably wrote that paragraph on Lalande a few months ago now. The mention of the brain parasite was just a throwaway that I added on the spur of the moment, without giving it a second thought. Now it has a back story, and a potential plot.

    Andy Miles http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/nov/21/tapeworm-parasite-mans-brain-four-years-china

    Alexander Tingle Eieuw!

    Tony Jones Another thought is that the planet might have a large non-permanent population of researchers who would not count towards the UPP population digit. Once it becomes clear just how long the native life forms were able to survive in hibernation, biologists and possibly medical scientists would probably become very interested in it (hibernation drugs etc.). They might have their own research base far away from the Duchesses compound so as not to bother her. And if researchers are (were) constantly coming or going that might make it easier for the parasite to escape off-world…

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