|Created on||December 27th, 2017|
[Your grandparents have been gone for a while now, visiting the solar markets a few systems over while they’re open, and they promise to be a few hours more. You decide to go rummaging through their stuff. Dusty clothes, trinkets from that one time they visited Khoros, irreplaceable photo albums of you when you were a baby, and other such trash that you toss aside without much care. Near the bottom of the pile is a holodeck VR recording labelled simply ‘CRANVIUS’ in rather scruffy permanent marker. To you, Cranvius is a strange little planet you once read about in history class. It was a place where, during the Heaven Wars of old, the dead would be dumped as to save time burying them wherever people might actually object to stumbling upon half-buried bodies. Always a sucker for that old shit, you head over to your Grandfather’s rickety old holodeck and insert the disk before stepping inside.]
[The walls are a bright white as the playback begins. The logo of the Betelgeuse Broadcasting Corporation fades onto screen, the letters each being cut outs that show different clips from their previous productions. A pack of Polar Manzardills building themselves a bridge across an artic river using their breath, a Crabdozer emerging from its crater, and some Earth cows walking across a field of blue grass are among the clips you manage to make out. A deep but soothing voice booms throughout the small room as the walls turn a deep black. A dark, ugly looking planet appears below you, giving the impression that you are now standing high above this alien world.]
“The graveyard world of Cranvius. Outwardly dead in appearance, the planet harbours many secrets invisible to outsiders. Although many would simply prefer to believe that Cranvius is a dumping ground for the deceased, here the dead have become the basis of a vast ecosystem that covers the majority of this dwarf planet. Thanks to the very latest in observation technology, we’ve sent a drone down to the surface in order to capture the previously little-known creatures of Cranvius on tape for the very first time.”
[The view of the holodeck falls rapidly down to the surface of Cranvius. The sky is grey in every direction, and every scrap of ground is covered in bone -stripped bare of any meat they may have once supported.]
“Our search for life on this planet, outside of simply recording a Bone Wraith, has taken months of detailed observation, peer-reviewed study, and incredible luck. The first creature we observed is, alone, perhaps not the most impressive.”
[You look around, desperately searching for something to ease your boredom. Suddenly a small instectoid creature about the size of your hand crawls out from a rock near your feet. The holodeck’s view changes abruptly, throwing you off balance for a second. Looking back up you see the drone whose view you had previously shared. Now, you were seeing things from the perspective of a camera at the end of one of its probing arms. Turning back, the insect is now almost as tall as you are. It has a very deep red exoskeleton covering its two equally sized body segments. It has a single huge compound eye covering most of the front half of its body, under which sit two impressive crushing mandibles. It has ten spindly legs.]
“The Cartilage Crawlers. Scavenging pests first discovered as stowaways feeding on food scraps in a ship of passing mourners. This one, a male, is relatively weak. He spends most of his time asleep and only comes out of his hole on one of two occasions: He smells fresh food, or it’s mating season.”
[You hear a loud screech overhead. The camera’s view switches back to that of the drone itself. High above you, gracefully sweeping across the sky, is a strange, black, almost snake-like creature.]
“A Bone Wraith. A single Cartilage Crawler is not enough food to warrant hunting down, so this Wraith must have seen something far more appetising. The Crawler follows. A meal or a mate, it’s worth finding.”
[The tiny creature begins to crawl over a tall hill of bones, the drone following closely behind as you float over the ghastly environment. The disadvantage of holodecks is how disorientating a jump-cut would be. So, despite doing just that earlier to switch your view down to worm level, the editors decided it was in the best interest of the viewer to sit through the insect’s entire 500 metre journey. It wasn't.]
“The Bone Wraith circles overhead, having found its next meal. A horde of Cartilage Crawlers preparing to start, and end, mating season.”
[Over the last hill is a huge ocean of Cartilage Crawlers, all scurrying over each other in search of something to procreate with. If there's one thing to be glad for, it’s that this holodeck is too old to incorporate smell. The Crawler the drone had been following disappears into the crowd, yet somehow the drone still manages to keep track of it. The Crawlers stops for a second in front of a titanic counterpart to itself.]
“The females of this species tower over the males, measuring at an average size of three feet long and one foot tall.”
[The narrator’s description begins to align with what you are seeing as the camera switches back to the view on the end of the drone’s appendage.]
“Being so small, dominating a mate is not an option. In such a massive gathering, impressing them isn't much use either. Instead, securing a mate means beating the competition.”
[The following was information, and images, you would rather not have gained today.]
“The Crawler approaches his chosen female. The male must attach himself to the female’s vulnerable underside in order to fertilise her eggs, but being late to the party means he must crash someone else’s. Several other males have already attached themselves to this female and there is no more room for anyone else.”
[The small male begins pulling off other males, the details of which are best left undescribed. Eventually he succeeds.]
“Success! A chance to pass on his genes means that this small insectoid’s life has achieved its purpose. As a result, his organs will begin to shut down over the next few days and, once the female has found shelter, his body will be used as a nursery for the next generation of Cartilage Crawlers. But the future of his genes is not secure yet.”
[The holodeck’s view is returned to the main body of the camera drone, just as the Bone Wraith swoops down from above and grabs a distant female from the gathering with its mouth, hauling it into the air. A lone, fortunate male falls from the female’s underside to the ground.]
“A single male survives the attack, but having already dispensed his seed he shall not survive for long. He will become a meal for whatever finds him next.”
[Okay, not so lucky then after all. The Wraith comes in for another meal. It hovers effortlessly over the crowd briefly, spitting out the now empty carcass of its last meal and picks up another female using two of its four long spindly tendrils protruding from its neck. The holodeck’s view narrows into a small field, and you turn to face it. Inside the narrow field of view is the Bone Wraith, now rising high into the sky once more. The view zooms in, giving a closer, but 2-dimensional, view of the Wraith as it pulls apart the female Crawler with its two free tendrils and feeds the meat directly into its mouth before discarding the rest.]
“Bone Wraiths are this planet’s most well-known inhabitant, and with good reason. They are incredibly intelligent hunters with no care for how well-armoured their prey are. Notorious for attacking tourists and natives alike, we advise staying far away from Cranvius purely due to the presence of the Wraiths.”
[The view of the drone returns to normal. A lone figure is standing on a nearby hill of skulls.]
“However they are not the most intelligent species on this planet. That title belongs to this species, captured here for the first time on holotape. The Cranvius Sapience. Here to pick off the leftovers from the Cartilage Crawler mating season.”
[The figure bends over and picks up a few bones. It begins stacking them up next to itself as the drone approaches it slowly.]
“They have a remarkable natural talent seldom seen in other sentient races. They are born artists with an unmatched sense of balance and creative vision. This Sapient is busy making his latest piece; a perfect replica of himself made entirely of bone. Perhaps not perfect enough to fool you or I, but more than enough to fool the local troublemaker.”
[The Wraith overhead screeches again as the Sapient disappears into the skeletons beneath itself. The Wraith swoops in for the kill, obliterating the statue and flying off with a chunk of disowned bone in its mouth. Disappointed it's the outcome, it spits the bone back out.]
“A resounding success. The Bone Wraith took the bait. It takes a lot of energy to fly and there is very little food to go around. This Wraith will not be attempting to feed on this Sapient again for fear of getting another mouth full of nothing valuable.”
[The Sapient, clearly pleased with itself, emerges from its hiding spot. It picks up what appears to be an alien wishbone from the ground and inspects it closely.]
“The Cranvius Sapience are a truly bizarre species, fitting of their totally unique environment. Their sweat is a mild adhesive, perfect for sticking to bone. They can use it to aide in their constructive efforts or, in this case…”
[The Sapient attaches the wishbone to the exposed flesh beneath its neck.]
“They can attach the bone to themselves as an added layer of protection. A wishbone won't do much other than look nice, so the best he can hope for is that it will get stuck in the throat of any predator that catches him.”
[The Cranvius Sapience looks upwards and sees the drone. It pauses for a moment, before walking slowly forwards.]
“This is a unique opportunity. This is perhaps the first time a Sapient has ever interacted with an alien intelligence. A mark in history for their race, should they have societies within which to record such information. This brilliant event, however, will be short-lived.”
[The Sapient double-takes to the side, and panickedly retreats back underground. You turn around, to see the Bone Wraith from before only a few feet in front of your face. It’s massive teeth clamp onto the drone around you, lifting it high above the surface. Its teeth crunch down and error messages pop up across the holodeck before the view switches back to the end of its tentacles, giving a disproportionate impression of the size of the creature. With each crunch, the visuals become more and more distorted as the drone’s ability to transmit footage is slowly inhibited.]
“It appears we were mistaken, and this Wraith has indeed tried for the Sapient again.”
[The door to the holodeck swings open, and you step out. Getting jumpscared by an alien apex predator was perhaps not what you had planned for today. After stopping for a second to catch your breath, you close the door to the holodeck to drown out the continuing narration. Sitting down on the sofa you decide to turn on the extranet television for some good-old 2D entertainment. This lasts for all of 30 seconds before the following message appears:]
“This is a breaking newscast to all extranet receivers in the sector. Hostile Atasian ships have entered the Morra System. Repeat: Hostile Atasian ships have entered the Morra System. This is a warning for all civilians to find shelter. All combat-trained personnel report to your nearest military installation for service.”
[You stare blankly at the television for a brief moment, before a single thought crosses your mind.]
- You discover a Documentary Holovid about the planet Cranvius, and learn about its wildlife.
- Atasian warships launch an assault against the Morra system.
- This story is a parody of real life nature documentaries, specifically the ones narrated by Sir David Attenbrough.
- It was inspired by the sheer amount of clips from these documentaries that I had been watching on YouTube about the same time that the Winter 2017 Fanon Con Creative Writing contest was announced.
- The Atasian ships attacking the Morra system was supposed to be foreshadowing an episode of Ben 10: Road Trip, however this episode did not make the final cut for the series.
- To clarify, the Atasian ships specifically belong to Highbreed ships that were removed from time about two-three years prior to the episode by [REDACTED]. Because of this, the Pure Highbreed aboard the ships are not aware of the ceasefire and have not been hybridised by the Omnitrix.