In the Gaean Reach, almost every world capable of supporting life gave rise to creatures of an insect-like body configuration. Though biologists assign each planet’s evolutionary tree its own taxonomic categories, in both lay and scientific circles the term “insect” is used to describe them all. The so-called insects of Achernar, for example, bear no genetic connection to those of Zonk’s Star. Yet the operation of parallel evolution assures that similar environments on quite separate planets gave rise to similar animal forms, insects included. Thus mosquito-like insects can be found on most planets in places where stagnant waters coexist next to warm-blooded beings.
Some planets run by nature conservancies have managed to largely screen out invasive lifeforms. But few worlds were settled with such care. All manner of plant, animal and fungal species have spread throughout the universe in the wake of that destructive beast, homo sapiens. Initially the invasiveness ran along one vector, from Old Earth outwards to other stars. Over the centuries, spillover from biospheres has run in all directions. Earth’s cockroaches, once considered invulnerable, have been all but replaced by even tougher and more tenacious equivalents first encountered by penal colony residents on the planet Boniface.
These factors complicate the work of forensic entomologists, yet also give them a topic to endlessly drone about. Always determine the loquacity of an entomologist before agreeing to go on a long star voyage with him!
One religious faith-slash-gambling syndicate, the Thorax Cacophony, deliberately introduces the insect species of different worlds to new planetary environments. They seek out planets with nitrogen-rich atmospheres, which allow arthropod species to hyper-evolve to gigantic sizes. Once nature has achieved this, Thorax Cacophony priestesses train the giant insects for gladiatorial combat, to the disgust and delight of spectators, adherents and well-financed nonbelievers alike. Needless to say, one must wear breathing apparatus in order to witness the bouts first hand. Many bettors prefer to observe the battles from the comfort of orbiting space yachts, via video feed.
Yet a recent rash of incidents has raised concerns of match-fixing, and you and your crew suspect that the mastermind behind them is Quandos Vorn, against whom all of you have sworn deadly vengeance. Is it time to infiltrate the Thorax Cacophony?
Death to Quandos Vorn!