Space Rogues Coast to Coast
Aerozoa are scattered throughout the worlds of The Veil in the lower reaches of the Koronus Expanse.
Nobody is sure where the gaseous, amorphous atmospheric beasts originally originated from, or exactly how far they’ve spread but they are proving to be somewhat of a thorn in the side of all space-faring species in the area.
First sightings of the beasts were conveyed with descriptions of wonder and splendour, their rainbow shimmer in daylight skies frequently commented on in explorer journals and recorded in picts being sent back to the inhabited worlds. Night-time displays were equally dazzling, being likened to celebration displays on the core worlds in their majesty and colour.
It took years for the links between the plague that was being referred to as shimmerlung, and the worlds where aerozoa could be found, and even when it was uncovered, it was thought to be something endemic to the planets themselves that attracted the beasts. It took many years beyond that, and the tireless efforts of a particularly invested Magos Biologis to relate the illness back to the creatures themselves.
So-called because of the peculiar, iridescent appearance of the sufferer’s lungs on post-mortem examination, shimmerlung starts off like an ordinary respiratory tract infection that the sufferer just can’t shake. If left untreated it will progress with the patient suffering increasing levels of fatigue and gradually decreasing lung function until eventual suffocation takes them.
A patient suffering from late-stage shimmerlung will also be overtaken with an almost irrational urge to be outside at all times, even if the atmosphere where they are is completely inhospitable to their particular form of life.
Shimmerlung is actually a by-product of the aerozoa’s particular form of reproduction. Spawning aerozoa flood the air with drifts of spermatazoa and ovum which mingle and fertilise in the upper atmosphere. These fertilised eggs then fall to ground level as a light fog, where billions or trillions will dry out and perish. Some that are lucky enough may be inhaled by atmosphere-breathing creatures of the world in question, where they will attach to the creature’s lungs and tap into their bloodstream, both reducing available lung capacity and removing oxygen (or other relevant gases) and nutrients from their blood.
Once the aerozoa spawn are sufficiently matured, they are capable of generating enough psychic ability as a gestalt to compel their host to try and get outside, to breathe them out where they can inflate their gas bladders and rise into the atmosphere to begin the cycle a new on whatever world they happen to have ended up on.
Progression and Treatment
An early-stage shimmerlung infection (more correctly an infestation) can be treated with anti-parasitic agents. This only generally will work within the first 30 days of exposure. After that, partial or whole lung augmetics will be needed. So far it has not been determined if there is any atmosphere-breathing species that is resistant to a shimmerlung infestation.
If the infestation is not treated in the early stages, or augmetic replacement is either not feasible or simply not allowed to occur, the patient will start complaining of ever-shortening breath and increasing tiredness at all times, regardless of how much rest they get.
From day 11 onwards, a character suffering from shimmerlung will gain 1 level of fatigue, with another level accruing for every 10 days spent without treatment. Characters who exceed their fatigue threshold will find it nearly impossible to stay awake and end up passing out frequently, feeling like they’re constantly drowning even when they’ve been nowhere near any liquid. They will also start being taken by a burning urge to be outside, somewhere they can breathe “fresh air” (regardless of how toxic it may be to their particular species).
Once the character’s fatigue threshold is passed, fatigue will then accrue every five days without treatment, and any time the character does anything except sit quietly and talk at a measured pace, they risk passing out again. Once the character’s fatigue levels double their fatigue threshold, they will die.