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by Pete Grey

Soonrod is the exclusive property of Pentagogue, Avalar's second largest company. Pentagogue was formerly the Consulate's main military-industrial combine, before it was semi-privatised in the aftermath of the break with Zhodane. And its ownership of Soonrod is vital to the company and its leadership role in organic chemistry, genetic and military textile industries.

The world itself is covered with dense forests shrouded in a thick fog of heavy gases toxic to humans. Despite the taint, a diverse ecosystem has evolved on the world. Most of the fauna are little more advanced than terrestrial insects. It is one class of these invertebrate animals, a group known as "Bell-Spiders" that makes the world so attractive to offworld development.

Bell-Spiders are six-legged psuedoarachnids that get their name from their complex webs, which "ring" at certain frequencies as the wind passes through them, or when strummed or plucked by the spiders. Most of Soonrods aerial fauna navigate and communicate through the darkened canopies of the forest via a wide spectrum of sounds in either the low-frequency or ultrafrequency ends of the sound spectrum. The webs either attract certain species to their doom, or disrupt navigation and detection enough to allow the spiders to ambush or stalk their prey.

The chemical complexity and diversity of these webs is amazing, encompassing a range of different polymer and liquid crystalline types. Several species create silk that are many times stronger than the silk of terrestrial spiders, which is itself three or four times stronger than steel in tensile strength. Other silks have other desirable attributes, including resistance to acids and moisture, electrical conductance/resistance, protection against abrasion..etc. Most of these properties have useful industrial and military applications, which explains why Pentagogue has ownership.

Most of these silks are unique to the world, and have either proven too expensive or difficult to synthesise, replicate through genetic transferrence, or undesirable to Pentagogues upper management in their desire to protect trade secrets. Simple genetic tweaking can cause significant alterations within the silk of an individual species, and makes it more cost effective to farm the spiders on their homeworld than normal industrial techniques.

Soonrod has very little industry other than its "weavers". Most of the population lives in scattered harvesting towns near the companies specially equipped breeding and weaving farms. Whatever agriculture exists otherwise is for the raising of plants for the cultivation of the spiders prey species. The main farms are expansive plantations protected by electronic surveillance and corporate security teams. These protections are heaviest around experimental or military oriented farms that produce cutting edge silks. Because Pentagogue has a monopoly on this product certified by the Consulate government, the price can be exorbitant, which encourages theft attempts, requiring security around the simplest of operations.

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