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Bloodsworth Bayou
Golem Gauntlet
Shrine Of The Salamander
A Flame In The North
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Escape Neuburg Keep
Any Port In A Storm
Below Zero Point
Tales From The Bird Islands
The Ravages Of Fate
Nye's Song
A Knight's Trial
Return To G15-275
Devil's Flight
Above The Waves
The Curse Of Drumer
The Word Fell Silent
A Strange Week For King Melchion The Despicable
Sharkbait's Revenge
Tomb Of The Ancients
A Midwinter Carol
The Dead World
Waiting For The Light
Contractual Obligation
Garden Of Bones
The Hypertrout
The Golden Crate
In The Footsteps Of A Hero
Soul Tracker
Planet Of The Spiders
Beggars Of Blacksand
The Diamond Key
Wrong Way Go Back
Hunger Of The Wolf
Isle Of The Cyclops
The Cold Heart Of Chaos
The Black Lobster
Impudent Peasant!
Curse Of The Yeti
Bad Moon Rising
Riders Of The Storm
Bodies In The Docks
House Of Horror
Rebels Of The Dark Chasms
Midnight Deep
Lair Of The Troglodytes
Outsider!
The Trial Of Allibor's Tomb
Hellfire

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Planet Of The Spiders

by Ulysses Ai


This is a sequel to Wrong Way Go Back, though it works as a standalone gamebook in its own right.


Background
Planet Of The Spiders Cover Illustration
Artwork © Ulysses Ai
The spider scuttles forward aggressively, hairy legs waving in the air as it rears up, fangs displayed. With a weary sigh, you extend the long plastic tube in your hand and suck the small spider up into a storage unit in the equipment worn on your back.

"It's safe now," you say.

A whir of motors comes from the next room, and one of the denizens of Teeheehee pokes her lovely head around the corner of the doorway, eyes wide with the haunting memory of the horrible spider. "Oh, thank you!" she exclaims, emerging to embrace you with sincere gratitude.

You sigh once more. It was supposed to be a dream job. A planet full of women, helpless before a hoard of small, non-poisonous spiders; needing someone to come and deal with them. The woman on the monitor was so beautiful that you did not hesitate to agree, imagining how they could express their gratitude. But looking now at the Teeheeheean before you, you remember keenly the disappointment you felt that day you boarded their ship, and every day as you receive countless hugs and kisses from them.

The clues were there. The woman was green; a little odd you thought, but hardly an obstacle for a lusty young man like yourself. She told you that they reproduced asexually, so there were no males on their planet; great! No need to share.

Now you understand all too well. She stands before you like some kind of arboreal mermaid: a lovely humanoid woman, green, above the waist; and a bark-covered tree below. Up from her back grow a number of long delicate fronds, and she has a halo of buds ready to flower growing around her head. Initially, trying to make the best of a bad situation, you eyed their naked upper sections hopefully. But the embraces with which they greeted you as their saviour tore away your last hope as you clasped their woody bodies in your hands. No soft, yielding flesh; it was about as satisfying as hugging a giant broccoli.

Leaving the house, the woman; if it can be called that; escorts you to the front door, thanking you profusely. Her roots are buried in a large, blue, glazed pot that sits atop a pair of motorised treads, allowing her to roll along at your side with a whir. You disentangle yourself from her embraces and move off down the street.

As alien planets go, Teeheehee is a nice one. The whole planet is like a landscaped garden. The Teeheeheeans feed directly on sunlight via photosynthesis, and so have never needed to labour to live. Instead they fill their days with leisure and gardening, their one passion.

Returning to the small house where you live, you see with relief that the alarms are not ringing. Each room is fitted with a siren and a flashing red light that will alert you when one of the natives sees a spider.

Dumping your equipment on the floor, you collapse into an armchair. Not for the first time, you reflect on your life. Nothing you have ever done has gone to plan, yet this uncertainty and unpredictability has failed to result in any excitement, apart from one brief episode involving a luxury cruiser falling into a star. But that's not the kind of excitement you need.

As always, you reach one inevitable conclusion: you need a girlfriend! But how to get one? Every time you suggest leaving, the treemaids start crying and offering you whatever you want. Unfortunately what you want is the one thing they can't provide.

As you are just getting into feeling sorry for yourself, the alarms sound, the lights flashing. Sighing, you collect your equipment and walk over to the screen next to the front door to see the address of the 'emergency'. Your eyebrows move slightly as you see that it is the palace.

You went to the palace on your arrival, but you don't remember much about it (experiencing as you were at the time a crushing disappointment). Leaving the house, you stroll up the grand avenue to the many-layered palace. The palace is a terraced hill with flowering arches leading inside. Two treemaids stand guard outside, armed with shining spears and blasters. They bow to you.

"Welcome, honoured spider-catcher!"

You wave, stifling a sigh. Entering into a large, airy passage, you make your way to the centre of the hill where a grand hall has been built. Sunlight shines down from large, vacuous windows, illuminating a great tree that stands in the centre, rooted into the soil of the planet. It is Queen Hotbutt herself. The great trunk splits into three, the centremost rising up into a woman, twice life size, with long delicate limbs and a head of flowers. The other two stems break into boughs that spread into supple leafy branches, arrayed around her humanoid part like great green wings. Her bark is silvery grey, and covers her human part as well. But she is very much animated, and smiles down at you with bright red lips and shining green eyes.

"Welcome, great protector!" she intones, and her entire court of treemaids bows to you. "My apologies for summoning you with the siren. There is in fact no spider, but an emergency of another kind."

"What is it?" you ask, hoping to hear that the planet is plunging into its sun.

"Show him!" the queen commands.

One of the treemaids whirs forward, offering you a box of tissues. You regard it with some uncertainty. Many times since your arrival on the planet you have wished for tissues, especially when visiting a certain small room in your house. But you refrained from bringing up the matter, as you were uncertain how the treemaids would react to the idea of anything made from wood pulp.

"Er, what is this?"

The queen seems disappointed. "You cannot identify this item?"

"Yeah, it's a box of tissues."

The court exclaims, and the queen leans forward eagerly. "Show us what it is used for."

Feeling very self-conscious, you reach out and pull free one of the tissues. You fold it over and raise it to your face. You give your nose a blow, causing the treemaids to exclaim once more.

"He is expelling sap!" says one incredulously.

"They would destroy us for this?"

The treemaids start speaking in loud agitated voices. You have never seen them act so upset in the whole week you have been on their planet. The queen waits for the talking to die down, and then addresses you. "The humans are threatening to conquer our planet."

"Wa? Why?" you ask.

"They want to cut us down and turn us into these tissues. Your people have cut down all the other trees in the known universe, and cannot grow more for at least a month. In the meantime, they intend to fill the gap by slaughtering our population!"

"That's... terrible," you say. "But what do you want me to do about it?"

"Go to Earth and stop them!"

"How?"

The queen gestures helplessly. "You know your own people better than us. To be frank, we find your kind confusing and unpleasant. You are the exception of course, Honoured Protector!" She pauses to beam at you. "We shall give you whatever you need to complete your mission!"

Looking around at the large, pleading eyes, shining with tears at the prospect of their doom, you feel your heart wrench and with a sigh you know that you must help them. "Ok."

Your announcement causes great joy, and you are swept up in countless woody hugs. After the initial celebration subsides, you are informed that a forestry ship from Earth is already in orbit, making preliminary assessments for a larger fleet. You will be sent off to deal with them immediately.

As promised, the treemaids offer you anything that they can provide to assist in your mission. You don't know what will help, but ask for a blaster, a golden credit card with 100 Galactic Roubles on it, and a backpack containing some sandwiches.

The treemaids provide the items without question. Before your departure, you are taken to see queen Hotbutt, and are placed on a levitating platform that brings you up to her level. "Farewell, Noble One!" she says, hugging you to her woody bosom. Tears appear in her eyes, but she smiles and hands you a small crystal leaf on a delicate silver chain. "Take this. It will allow you to communicate with plant life. But be warned. Much plant life is primitive and will have little of worth to say."

You thank her for the amulet and after another silvern hug, you are deposited back on the floor and escorted with great fanfare to the spaceport where a small ship stands within a ring of cheering treemaids. You quicken your step, which the grateful treemaids perceive as the determined step of a heroic saviour; in truth you just want to avoid more hugs. But you pause at the doorway as you see one treemaid you recognise. It is Bigones, the treemaid who first brought you here. True to her name, the fronds growing up from her back are huge. She smiles, and hugs you before you can slip away.

"You are a great, great man!" she sobs.

"Er, just doing what I can," you say.

"I have no doubt you will succeed!" Bigones says fiercely.

"I can't promise that," you say nervously.

"I have faith in you, but... if you do not succeed, we do have a plan B. But it shouldn't be necessary."

"Plan B? What is it?" you ask, hoping to be able to wriggle out of this heroic, man-making mission.

"I've offended you. I'm sorry. You will succeed!"

"I'm not offended," you reassure her. "I'm just curious."

"Oh," she shrugs. "It's just that if you fail, then we will be forced to blow up the Earth."

"WA?! Blow up the Earth?"

"Of course," Bigones says in what perfectly imitates a rational tone. "We can't let them come and turn us into tissues, can we? There are 20 billion people on Earth, and according to our calculations, that will reduce the demand of tissues by exactly the right amount to enable the current stockpiles of tissues to last until the plantation trees can be grown, harvested and processed."

"But... you can't blow up the Earth!"

Bigones shrugs again. "If they can turn us into tissues, why can't we turn them into space-dust?"

"But... are you even able to do it?" you ask.

"Yes, with that." Bigones points at a large metallic tower that you have noticed them building over the last week. "It is a weapon that will destroy any planet we point it at."

"But I thought this threat of being turned into tissues was something you just learned about!" you say. "You must have been building that thing for weeks!"

"Oh, yes," Bigones agrees. "The spiders that you have been so brave in helping us to dispose of are not native to this planet. They were brought from elsewhere, but escaped from the research facility."

"What were you researching?" you ask in confusion.

"The Organoray," Bigones says, gesturing towards the metallic tower that is actually a planet-busting weapon. "Do you know that the universe is full of disgusting, creeping things? We wanted to find a way to get rid of them. So we devised the Organoray! It is designed to irradiate a planet, and kill all of the nasty, ugly hairy-legged things, but leave the plant-life intact!"

"Despite how they look, all creatures have a role to play in their ecosystems, which are often delicate, and can be upset by the loss of a single species, and thus bring harm to all other members of the ecosystem, including the plants," you say.

Bigones smiles proudly. "You are correct! But on this planet there are no animals. All roles are fulfilled by plants. Thus when we remove some horrible creepy-crawly, we can replace it with a species from this planet."

You shake your head. "But you can't just destroy something because you don't like how it looks!"

"Of course not!" Bigones exclaims, laying a hand on your shoulder. "We value your services, and your noble and courageous heart!"

"Huh? When did this become about me?" you ask.

"Anyway, the Organoray doesn't work," Bigones sighs. "For some reason anything that kills a spider also damages plants. We seem unable to identify what the ugly, horrible, creepy genes are susceptible to."

"Of course!" you say. "All this ugly creepiness exists in your own minds, not in the creatures themselves! If you want to destroy ugliness, you need to elevate yourselves! Transcend your attachments to illusionary notions such as beauty and ugliness!"

Bigones looks a little guilty. "Yes, but that will take years of introspection and dedicated effort. We decided it was more efficient to just blow up any planets with creepy crawlies on them."

"Blow up?" you say. "What about the Organoray?"

"Like I said, it doesn't work, so we have modified it to just blow up the planets instead."

"But that will kill the plants as well!" you point out.

"Yes." Bigones wipes a tear from her eye. "We shall collect individuals to preserve the cultures unique to each planet, and find new homes for them. Then the universe will be free of horrible disgusting crawly things!"

"So even if I succeed, to stop you blowing up the Earth, you are going to blow it up anyway because it has spiders on it?"

"Earth has spiders too?" Bigones asks in surprise.

"Of course," you reply.

"Oh," Bigones pulls out a glass rectangle and starts to input data. "I will add Earth to the Termination List at once!"

"No, I..."

You stop talking. What can you do? Bigones looks at you innocently; unable to understand why you are so upset, but very sympathetic about it. Giving up, you slip into the ship and the hatch closes behind you. Slumping in the large comfortable chair that dominates the interior of the small ship, you feel a deep despair. You have never even been to Earth, growing up as you did on the excitement-packed manufacturing planetoid of G15-275. You encountered many Earthlings in your time aboard the Attila, and found them to be rather snobbish, mentioning rather too often their place of birth like some kind of accolade.

Even so, you are determined to save the Earth, and the treemaids as well. But how to do it?
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