The Qualm is a massive, spherical, leafy green plant with hundreds of vine-like tentacles freely flailing in space. It's giant leaves look like rhubarb leaves complete with red stems. The tentacles are fully articulate manipulators sparsely covered with smaller leaves. Each tentacle appears to be about equal to the diameter of the Qualm's center mass in length, but they can extend up to three times their length. Between the large leaves there are hundreds of pods that each look like a budding pink lotus. Each pod can open into a flower-like mouth with teeth lining each petal and flailing barbed filaments. These petals and filaments work in concert to grab and trap prey or small asteroids while a sucking pistil drains nutrients from them. A few of these pods are larger and glow hot pink with radiation. These larger pods are used for travel and for a devastating radiation blast.
Underneath the deadly canopy lies a tropical jungle. Massive red stalks anchor the thick canopy to an asteroid where millions of tiny leafy plants, vines, and root systems cover the asteroid's surface. The heavy canopy and flora provides an internal atmosphere of breathable air with almost zero gravity. Heavy condensation and intense internal heat create a perpetual fog and small droplets that cling to every surface. This atmosphere is heated by the Qualm's "heart" and is a little too warm for comfort.
Many years ago, Earth scientists had an overabundance of nuclear waste and irradiated organic trash. In the interest of safety, the scientists loaded the waste onto a rocket and fired it off into space. The rocket crashed into an asteroid that contained a frozen water supply, and the heat from the nuclear waste melted the ice into water which was then absorbed into the organic waste. A mutated seedling sprouted on the asteroid and quickly grew to completely surround the asteroid. The plant grew tentacles that it used to reach out and grab nearby ice covered asteroids that it could drain for more nutrients.
Once the Qualm grew large enough, it began moving through space looking for more nutrient rich asteroids and moons. The Qualm is driven by resources. It will travel to the nearest water and mineral supply and use it's massive tentacles like straws to suck water from a planet from orbit. It wasn't long before it started heading towards Earth. Once the Qualm gains enough resources, it will launch spores to reproduce.
If threatened, the Qualm's first line of defense is to use its huge tentacles to constrict and immobilize larger attackers. The Qualm will use its pods to attack and try to eat anything smaller that tries to get through the thick canopy. If any attackers make it to the inner atmosphere, there are three separate defensive plants that will attack intruders:
- Barb launchers: Many of the leafy plants can launch foot-long barbs at intruders. These barb launchers are bright red, and they aim so slowly that they can be easily avoided as long as the intruders keep moving.
- Carnivorous pods: Several human-sized, pod-like plants lay on the surface of the asteroid with four large toothy leaves laying open facing upward. If an intruder steps on these pods, they will close around the intruder, trapping and ultimately digesting him. Because the pod wraps so tightly and thoroughly constricts the intruder, the intruder will need an ally to cut him free. These pods are difficult to spot because they match the surround foliage, but they can easily be identified once an intruder learns to look for the inch-long teeth pointing upward.
- Saprolings: As intruders near the Heart of the Qualm, thousands of smaller plants uproot themselves and chase the intruders. The saprolings vary in sizes from a household cat to a horse. The smaller saprolings have long slender tentacles to ensnare intrudors, and they can run across the ground. The larger saprolings move more slowly, but they carry massive toothy maws that can crush intruders.
The Qualm's most powerful defenses lie in its excessive radiation production. The Qualm constantly generates massive amounts of radiation from its heart. This radiation is amplified by the radiation received from direct sunlight. The Qualm is able to channel massive amounts of radiation into any number of the large, glowing pods in its canopy. These pods can focus the radiation into a laser-like blast of searing, hot-pink radiation. These radiation blasts are quick and deadly, and several pods can create a devastating barrage of radioactive blasts in every direction. However, these small bursts are often not powerful enough to stop a large monster. For this occasion, the Qualm can rearrange these large pods across the surface of the canopy and bring them all together on one side. Like dozens of fire hoses tied together, the Qualm can dump tremendous amounts of radiation into these pods. The pods flare up as the intensity builds, and then all the pods fire in unison creating a single mega blast of radiation equivalent to a nuclear explosion.
The Qualm is drawn to resource rich asteroids, moons, and planets like a flower to sunlight. To propel itself, the Qualm channels smaller amounts of radiation into the larger pods that are able to refine and release the energy like a rocket's engine. The active pods glow much more brightly as they provide propulsion. Typically, the Qualm moves slowly as it attempts to hone in on any nearby resources, but that changes once it detects a resource-rich target. The Qualm accelerates by funneling more radiation to the pods and adding more pods to the engines. The pods rapidly flare and leave a streak of fire like a comet's tail as the Qualm plunges towards its target with outstretched tentacles. Smaller asteroids and moons are "tackled" out of orbit while larger planets are pierced by the weight and force of the Qualm's tentacles. Puncturing planets this way makes it much easier for the Qualm to insert its weaker, straw-like tentacles into the crust of the plant to begin extracting precious minerals, heat, and water.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Radiation damage causes a rapid growth spurt that can repair damaged appendages and grow additional defenses.
Fire and heat cause very little damage, and nothing about the Qualm is flammable.
Cold slows the Qualm severely. Because the lengthy tentacles are so far from the warmth of the heart, they rely on the heat and radiation of direct sunlight to move quickly. If the qualm should ever move out of direct sunlight, it's outer tentacles stiffen and cannot move or react quickly. The Qualm's canopy visibly shrinks when out of direct sunlight to better preserve its inner heat. Lastly, the Qualm's radioactive bursts take longer to charge without assistance from direct sunlight. This weakness can be overcome if there is another nearby source of radiation and/or heat.
The Qualm has two types of tentacles. One is stronger and used for grabbing and defense, the other is weaker and used solely for sucking water and minerals from a planet's surface or from giant attackers. The weaker tentacles are hollow and can easily be severed or broken off.
Electricity stuns the Qualm for as long as it is applied. Everything inside the inner atmosphere is also electrocuted whenever the Qualm is, though it is much milder. Only the saprolings are unaffected by electricity unless it is directly applied to them.
Whenever the Qualm feeds on enough nutrients, it launches spores in every direction. These spores are tiny pods much like watermelons that rocket through space hoping to land on a suitable asteroid or moon to grow. These spores remain inactive until they come into contact with water. Each spore contains a tiny radioactive heart that generates enough heat to melt any ice it comes into contact with.
At the center of the Qualm's asteroid lies the wreckage of the human rocket that put it there. A giant crater houses the wreckage, and massive roots grow out of the rocket forming a cave-like housing around the base of the rocket. At the center of the cave is a chamber that houses a giant radioactive heart suspended above the ground by roots. The heart and connecting roots are semi-transparent and they glow red. Minerals can be seen flowing through the roots like glass plumbing. Beneath the heart lay hundreds of spent nuclear fuel rods, all of which are connected to the heart through small red roots. The Heart chamber is very hot and very volatile. Any puncture in the heart or roots sprays super-heated radioactive fluids that burn like acid, and the severed roots grow back in a matter of seconds making any direct attacks both dangerous and useless. However, any small explosive could easily cause the volatile fuel rods to melt down in a chain reaction that would destroy the heart utterly along with most of the asteroid. Once the heart is destroyed, the Qualm will begin freezing into solid ice as it looses it's heat to the infinite vacuum of space. In this state, the Qualm will float lifelessly through space until it is eventually smashed into pieces by asteroids or burned up by a star.