Dr Susan Eribaku wondered if she would ever cease to be amazed by Xanxes, the small planet on which she was Lead Exploratory Scientist. The latest addition to her planetary catalogue, the Spanner, was one of the strangest life-forms that she had ever come across.
Like any xenobiologist worth her salt, Susan had encountered numerous alien life-forms, both in person and virtually. There were some very strange ones: the flocks of giant winged crabs from Po, the Swarm-Bear of Magellus whose ‘appendages’ were spread over the entire planet, and the appealing Sluggies of Kieron V to name but a few. Spanners outdid them all, mainly because of how the creatures reproduced.
Spanners resembled large treacle-brown toadstools with burnt orange spots, legs and a mouth. They only reproduced over great distances and could somehow sense the location of other Spanners. If one caught the scent of another that was far enough away (the exact mechanism had not yet been determined), a tendril would shoot out of one of its spots and up into the sky. Once clear of all vegetation, the tendril would curve down towards the source of the scent and connect with a corresponding spot. The creatures would remain stationary for several months while genetic information was exchanged.
During this time, a diaphanous, orangey, rainbow-shaped strand connected them. At some point, the strand would unravel at both ends, revealing a cocoon at its apex which would drop to the ground. On impact, the cocoon would split open and a young Spanner would emerge.
At times, the sky of Xanxes took on an orange hue, so criss-crossed it was with strands spanning the planet. It was because of this vision that Susan’s team had given Spanners their name.