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Old Apr 28th, 2021, 09:16 PM
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The Starfinder Chronicles


This thread is for those players who wish to contribute to The Starfinders' publication called the Starfinder Chronicles. This publication is available to all Starfinders and it will accept contributions of all kinds: from scholarly journals, tactical studies, accounts of adventures, advice on traps or weapons or other dangerous technologies, info on alien cultures, you name it. So if you want to write about your adventure on the Drift Rock, your scrap with the Corpsefleet, or whatever you find in Ukulum or beyond, but what you're writing doesn't really fit a game post, go ahead and put it in this thread.

Last edited by ruffdove; Apr 28th, 2021 at 09:16 PM.
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Old Apr 30th, 2021, 10:54 AM
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An Exploration of the Anatomy and Ecology of the Akata
Author T'aro, with editing assistance by Grix and Matsu Soryn

A recent expedition of our crew-- a young and hopeful group of Starfinder initiates-- lead us to the derelict ship Acreon recently recovered by Absalom on 4.18.317. The ship had returned towing a strange asteroid which was believed to be a driftrock (Gao and Jetsa 302), spanning nearly a mile in diameter, and various legal claims had been made upon the ship and its prize. This particular driftrock will be referred to as "Joyner's Rock", as per the wishes of the late captain who recovered it. The party's goal was to discover what happened to the brave crew of that ship and acquire information that might put to rest legal disputes. This essay will leave legal questions to those better suited for the task.

Almost immediately, we discovered boulder-like objects made of a rare and valuable metal tinted green but with flecks of black and silver, noqual prized for its magic-dampening properties established over a century ago (Samuel and Dietre 206). Six of these objects were found, and it is doubtful that there were more aboard. Ship logs found later confirmed that this was all. The tops of these boulders (or, more accurately, cocoons) were broken open with outward-bending patterns, as though something had burst from within. The cocoon nature of these boulders was confirmed by close analysis to reveal that the metal was neither ore nor simply purified-- it had the pattern of weaves, as though some organism was wrapped within it. While such woven cocoons are a well-established biological phenomenon across many planets and cultures (reviewed in Bretheda Omnibus of Ecological Genetics, Vol. XVII), there are no known biological sources of woven metal before this discovery.

It was later discovered that, in attempting to take a core sample, a crewmember had apparently awakened the creatures inside. An excerpt from the crew logs follows:
DTG: 4/16/37-22:59:53 S
ID: FO Cala Hardsteel
TERMINAL: Captain
ENTRY: Taking first watch for night. Kreshina still running tests on geodes, reports internal anomalies. Granted permission to drill them. What the Hells? Gonna melt it all down anyway. Borrland volunteered to assist. Think he's got a thing for the new Science Officer.

DTG: 4/16/37-23:31:18 S
ID: ACREON COMPUTER
ENTRY: LOGGING BIOLOGICAL ANOMALY--SIX UNIDENTIFIED LIFE FORMS DETECTED: PORT HOLD. GENERAL ALARM SOUNDED.
This confirms that some kind of creatures were within these noqual cocoons, and that extraction of a sample from within was swiftly followed by the appearance of 6 creatures, later discovered to be Akatas. This provides strong circumstantial evidence that the Akatas emerge from these cocoons, a fact which may be further supported by researching such cocoons on the surface of Joyner's Rock, discussed below.

right-aligned image
Fig 1. Video still of a live Akata, provided by technician Andrew Hou with the consent of Ambassador Nor. Full video can be provided by Nor's diplomatic office upon official request.
As we continued out search of the ship, we were attacked by a creature of horrifying power. A video still, which Ambassador Nor of Eox graciously licensed to us, is in figure 1. We were unfortunately unable to capture a specimen alive for further study and understanding. Throughout the assault, we sustained many wounds, and saw the creatures' capabilities. The creatures are quite lithe and hardy. Their jaws are predictably powerful, as is the rest of their body. While this author suspects that their cocoons are woven in such a way as to make bursting out of them less difficult than breaking into them, it is undeniable that the beasts must have developed formidable musculature before being capable of escaping their chamber of metamorphosis. Indeed, their musculature extends even to their many tentacles upon the dorsal cranium. In future encounters, all should be aware of this potentially lethal danger.

We also encountered a larger version of this creature among the six, an "alpha" (despite the inaccuracy of this term as applied to wolves (Ahmed 14), it is a persistent and evocative term). Its greater size granted it more musculature and made it a more dangerous opponent, but there was otherwise no observable biological difference. Because only one has been observed, it is unclear how such alphas form-- if they are simply older, if it is a gender bias, if a certain percentage of akatas become alphas, or if any given pack of akatas will form one alpha by unknown means. Further research is needed.

An autopsy was later performed on one specimen, and it was discovered that the beasts lacked lungs entirely. This is unsurprising, given their survival on a compromised ship for quite some time. They appear to not require breath, making them capable of surviving the hardships of space for an unknown time, and likely adaptable to many environments.

Observers will note that the creature has pale yellow orbs where eyes are typically seen. While difficult to confirm, I believe that these creatures are actually blind, and sense their surroundings via sonic vibrations, similar to the Shirren ability to do the same (Xirlectic 149)-- however, this cannot be their sole method of environmental detection, as they are able to detect in a vacuum. It may, therefore, also have to do with direct detection of emotion or heat signatures via non-visual methods. Their combat movements are more akin to a creature sensing vibrations in the air, consistent with their observed vulnerability to sonic assault, discussed below. Additionally, the optic nerve of the creature is quite underdeveloped based on an autopsy performed much later, as observed in Figure 2. I hasten to note, though, that this autopsy occurred several hours after the death of the akata, and it has been noted in several species that neural tissue degrades more quickly than other tissues (Mann 278).

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Fig 2. Optic Nerve structure of the Akata.
If these eye-like features are vestigial, why evolution has not fully removed them from Akata anatomy is not known. There are several potential explanations, as explored in the work of others.
  • There has, perhaps, simply been insufficient time for genetic drift or selection to remove these eyes. The reproductive time of the Akata is fully unexplored. Such is the case of varying kinds of cave fish and insect found on various Pact Worlds, but especially Castrovel (reviewed in the Xenodruids' Guide version 84.6.1a, published 1.4.316)
  • They may provide a threatening visage or produce assumptions that make their prey easier to hunt or fight. This has been observed in taxa as widespread as insects, avians, mammals, and even plants. Such facial mimicry is reviewed in Langerholc (209). While some have argued that this is unlikely, and merely a result of mammals experiencing pareidolia, its prevalence across planets and cultures suggests that this is a real phenomenon. This is further supported by the observation that such patterns always appear to mimic the facial features of their native worlds, and creatures from other worlds rarely recognize the pattern of a face from their own world on the species of another world, despite recognizing it as a face in the broad definition.
  • It is possible that they are functional in an earlier stage of the creature's life, and become defunct upon maturity. Such phenomena have been observed on many levels, such as the lactase gene's downregulation after infancy in most humanoids. Such features at a macroscopic level are rarer, but speculation about such features are available in pioneering work by Grug and Ogg (316).
  • Because the source of Akatas is suspected, but not entirely certain, it is possibly that the eyes are remnants of whatever species an Akata is formed of, if that is indeed the method of their production, as discussed below.

While in combat with these beasts, we did discover a number of their vulnerabilities. Chief among these was their vulnerability to high-intensity soundwaves, commonly known as sonic weaponry. Aja Miram extemporaneously demonstrated this by use of her Diffraction Perforator Pistol under extreme duress. I confirmed that, even after death, their skin was surprisingly responsive to sonic stimuli. Additionally, the creatures have an intense fear of large bodies of water. While this is of limited tactical use, I was able to cause the creatures severe psychic distress by projecting images of the ocean into their mind. This may actually be a secondary result of a fear of or sensitivity to salt. During our exploration, we found that the creatures had torn through the galley's food stores, but had completely avoided salt containers. For those capable of mystical arts, this is worth practicing if there is any expectation of encountering akatas. It is also worth noting that this is reminiscent of Akata legends which survive of Golarion. While there is long and storied controversy about Golarion and its past (e.g. Gu and Zhang 52, Lionhart 76, Nox et al 103, Shale 112, Everrett and Lang 163, Proc. of the Church of Serenrae 230, Serianno and Mukherjee 291), this evidence is certainly consistent with the existence of that world and its connection to ours. For a fuller exploration of such lost lore, see Existence and other Myths: What can we really believe about Golarion? (Absalom Press).

After combat, it was discovered that the mouths of these creatures are teeming with microorganisms, which are transferred to victims of its bite. It appears that these viral beings are capable, in principle, of altering host DNA. However, no such changed happened to our party. the microorganisms quickly became inert and, presumably, died. I suspect that the woven, egg-like boulders we encountered are cocoons, and are potentially formed from those infected by these parasitic microorganisms. If that is true, then any given creature might be converted into an akata, making them an existential threat to any society that encounters them. Additionally, it may explain the apparent "eyes" found on the akata, despite their lack of functionality. Many transitions from one state of life to another state of life, unlife, or cybernetic post-life existence leaves behind many vestigial features. e.g. many zombies contain hormone-producing vestiges connected to their digestive tract, despite any apparent function. While this is a compelling hypothesis, it is obviously one that cannot be easily tested within the bounds of ethical science.

right-aligned image
Fig 3., anatomy of impact crater, as described by Kring and collegues.
We confirmed that much of the crew was slain by these Akatas, but some of their number had retreated down to the surface of Joyner's Rock. In an effort to rescue or recover these crew members, we moved to the surface, where we discovered a vast field of craters upon the surface, and within each was a noqual cocoon. We must be careful in speculating about the source or cause of such craters, as the real source of driftrocks are unclear. What is clear, however, is that at some point a huge number of these cocoons impacted the surface, much as a meteor strike might do. It is certainly the case that the composition and density of the driftrock will soon be explored and known. Using pioneering work by Dr. David Kring's impact models (an overview given in Figure 3), and the observable properties of these Noqual cocoons, we can determine the speed and trajectory of their impact. Hopefully, this can provide insight into whether they are naturally-occurring objects within the vastness of space, within the Drift itself, or if, possibly, the objects were launched at Joyner's Rock intentionally.

In conclusion, I present a number of observation about the elusive akata species, its development, its anatomy, its ecology, and crucial weaknesses that may aid in surviving an encounter with the creatures. I urge anyone coming across an akata to attempt to subdue it non-lethally, as I do with any creature. Not least because there is much left to understand about the creatures, best or only accomplished by observation of the beasts while alive. There are several questions remaining about their life cycle and habits. Perhaps most important for understanding the creatures as a threat is how they reproduce-- whether it truly is by parasitic conversion of other species, by sexual or asexual reproduction, or a combination of the two. Similarly, their ultimate origin is a mystery, as is the appearance of their cocoons on Joyner's Rock. I hope that this short paper can provide impetus for other intrepid researchers to pursue these questions. For myself, I will be just as happy to never see another of them so long as I live.
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Last edited by Unko Talok; Apr 30th, 2021 at 10:55 AM.
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Old Apr 30th, 2021, 10:56 AM
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Drift Wraiths: First Evidence

... We came upon a ship of the Confederacy, adrift within The Drift. Though the exterior of the destroyer was undamaged, we received no response from within. Ship logs did not reveal any indication of crew leaving, but reported steady decline of fuel and power until automated hibernation initiated. We boarded the ship to investigate further. On board, we found not one of our allies alive. The ship was largely undamaged, though signs of fighting could be seen. Hallways here and there were burned. This was some work of The Devourer, not the mark of dignified Attaxea. On coming to the bridge, we found the remains of the crew. Bones and flesh of the crew, each in a pile, each carefully placed and entirely unique. Artful. We know not who or what this Garaggakal* is, but it is a graceless enemy...

*Draelik name for the Drift Wraith, meaning "he who makes art out of us".


The above is the first known report of the creature known as the Drift Wraith. Reports of these creatures have been made since early in Drift Travel, by multiple cultures. However, no clear evidence of the creature has ever been produced. Videos are corrupted, survivors are rarely left behind, and many ships found after a supposed Drift Wraith attack have fully lost power, any records long since deteriorated by whatever energies fly about The Drift. Those few who do survive produce inconsistent reports with only some similarities. For instance, some reports suggest that the creature has wings, while others report no wings, but a tail. The creature's coloring is inconsistent, literally spanning the gamut from white to black (Tales from Beyond the Drift, Xym 291). The lack of physical, photographic, holographic, or even audio evidence of the creatures, along with the inconsistent reports, have largely banished tales of the Drift Wraith to the realms of cryptozoology within more skeptical academic circles. As such, any serious literature on the topic is scarce. Any similarities could be written off easily as having come from stories transferred by word-of-mouth. Many have argued that supposed Drift Wraith attacks could easily have been the result of some kind of temporary or permanent madness (Hodde and Linkel 312). Indeed, some who claim to have survived an attack speak of voices in their heads, and unbridled terror consistent with some kinds of madness.

However, I and my team have had the misfortune of finding a Drift Wraith in our recent expedition into the Joyner's Rock (T'aro 317, published concurrently) offers the first evidence that this creature does exist. Video evidence was captured by Ambassador Nor, and was viewed in real time by the denizens of Absalom station. The corpse of the creature was recovered, and I was able to perform an autopsy on the beast. This newfound evidence requires us to give a closer examination to those tales which were heretofore considered myth.

First, we examine observations made during the brief but horrifying combat with the creature. The beast appeared from within the wall. In so doing, it did not appear to damage the wall in any way. This confirms reports that the creature can pass or "phase" through solid objects, though there may be limits to this ability, discussed further on. The appearance of the creature confirmed the consistent details across many tales of the Drift Wraith-- the beast was eyeless, and its mouth and "torso" structure was reminiscent of a lamprey, though much larger and with more complex secondary anatomical features.

Second, each of us near the beast were the recipients of unsolicited messages from the creature. Many of the crew did not wish to speak of what was said. But, to the best of my recollection, the creature spoke the following words to me:

And what manner of thing are you? So unlike the others... What is inside that shell?

But, as can be seen in the video, other victims of this telepathy responded in ways that suggest the creature was also speaking to them telepathically, possibly of how it would eat them or of draining their life force:

"My life is mine, not yours to steal!"
"**** me, it talks!"

Third, we confirm sporadic reports that the creature is able to drain the life of others from a range, without any apparent physical contact. After the creature had been damaged-- at great effort-- by the party, it sapped the life of myself and two other of the crew, draining our very life force to feed its own.

Finally, the beast exhibited a clear fear in response to the discharge of a Static Arc Pistol, fear which was not exhibited from any other attack, including the powerful Doshko wielded by a certain half-orc in our number. Indeed, when the discharge of the pistol made contact with the Drift Wraith, it produced significantly more damage than is typical of the weapon. This is consistent with reports from survivors of Drift Wraith attack, who claim that by hiding in electric ducts they could survive the attack of a Drift Wraith. I would be remiss if I did not note two extremely important implications of this finding:
  1. Future design of Drift-capable ships may consider including additional electrically-charged wiring throughout the hull to impede Drift Wraith phasing aboard vessels.
  2. The case of Ensign Tao, who was incarcerated for seven life sentences after conviction of butchering his commanding officer and most of the remainder of the crew, should be revisited. Though another Ensign testified against him, divination magic revealed that both of the survivors believed they were speaking truth. Tao's claim that he did not see the attack and simply hid in the Electrical Duct based on stories his grandmother told him rings more true in light of this Drift Wraith evidence. Other cases of which I am unaware should be similarly reconsidered, so that justice may be served. See Annals of Verces Law of 316, Vol 4 .




On return to the Acreon, the creature's body was recovered, and I was able to examine it more carefully-- though I insisted on several armed observers during the process. Unfortunately, my notes here must be superficial, as many anatomical analyses are upon first contact. More time and additional observations may improve these notes-- but I sincerely hope there is never opportunity for anyone to do so.

Though the Drift Wraith's mouth reminds one of a lamprey, the internal digestive tract of a lamprey may in fact be more developed and complex than that of a Drift Wraith. Its stomach seems capable of only minimal digestion, and it may either pass or regurgitate food before it is ever processed. While it seems capable of eating, it also does not require food. Instead, the stomach lining is replete with emoto-sensory neurons, which seem capable of generating energy from negative emotions, such as fear. On discovering this, I became quite distressed, and the neurons began firing. This increased my distress further, and the autopsy was put on hold for fear that the creature might somehow regenerate.

The ability to feed of of negative emotions is somewhat consistent with its advanced brain structure. It is difficult to parse, as the creature is so thoroughly alien. However, it has large nodes which appear to be the source of its telepathy. These may or may not be the source of its other powers-- I could find no evidence that its brain was capable of its phasing abilities. But we are then left with two possibilities, equally unlikely or disturbing. That it has some other biological structure which grants it these powers (and who knows what else), or the creature is also capable of some kind of mystical magic. Perhaps the original Draelik account was prophetic, and these Drift Wraiths are somehow linked to The Cult of the Devourer.

So far as other gross anatomy goes, the beast has no eyes, but was clearly capable of sensing its surroundings-- both where prey might be and sources of electricity. It is unclear if it sensed (or needed to sense) the presence of walls. But it may be able to hunt by vibration, sensing emotions, or some other blind-sensory method. The creature has no sexual organs-- it is unclear how or if it reproduces. Perhaps it does so asexually, or perhaps it is birthed in the Drift by some other creature or generative process.

Finally, a note on the creature's molecular structure. It is complex and largely alien to me. Ancient scientific texts once speculated that life might come in the form of a Silicon basis, rather than Carbon basis. (This has long since been confirmed, and anyone doubting it may visit the Quorlu enclave on Absalom Station.) But I have not yet seen speculation that elements native to The Drift might be the basis of a creature's structure. Though the gross anatomy is recognizeable as an organism, the molecular structure-- and thus an unknown amount of its biochemistry-- is almost entirely new. This discovery is likely to spur on countless theses and grants for decades to come. In order to allow this scientific progress we have, against my better judgment and protests, preserved the corpse of the Drift Wraith in the Starfinder Society aboard Absalom Station. Anyone interested in accessing this rare and valuable specimen may contact Chisisk to petition.

Note: Due to the truly and unutterably horrible nature of this creature, I have not included a visual representation of it in this report. However, anyone interested in seeing it may petition the Syndicsguild of Absalom Station, simply mentioning "The Incident"
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