One of the many native agrokinetically-altered plants of Janikk, Nirkk leaves possess unique alchemical effects when consumed, leading to use as everything from a mental relaxant to a sedative. Metabolism of the drug in the blood stream is accelerated in the presence of adrenaline, making nirkk especially popular as a substitute for alcohol among active duty Mordena mercenaries in the Grand Armada and Mordena Special Forces.
Jeb gave an uncharacteristic smirk. "Urla wrote the book on the plants of Janikk, and I helped her edit it." Auren gestured to the weird plant he'd been studying. “I guess you know what that one is, then?”
Nirkk is an annual flowering plant native to Janikk. Young nirkk appears as a collection of pink leaves growing around a centralized root bundle, eventually developing into a sturdy stalk with spiraling leaves growing along its height as it ages. At this point the leaves of healthy nirkk also begin to pulse with a faint bioluminescence, attractive to predators. On older nirkk plants the leaves stop pulsing and begin to turn purple, while the stalk forms small flowering buds at the top which will eventually seed into the next generation of nirkk. While still pink the leaves are mildly sweet if eaten fresh, with a light but satisfying crunch and a high water content for their size. Once purple the leaves are tougher, developing a bitter flavor when eaten due to a higher concentration of the nirkk's natural sedative. Drying the leaves weakens the flavor and alters the effects of the drug, especially if heat is used to speed up the process due to nirkk's high water content.
Jeb turned to study the pulsating pink leaves of the plant Auren indicated, his face flashing instant recognition. "You have a good eye, Auren. That's nirkk. Why don't you grab a pair of leaves? Aim for the medium sized ones, not too young, not too old. They'll be useful for our mission."
Ecology and Habitats
Nirkk grows best in waterlogged soil along the swamps and denser marshland of Janikk. While they can still grow in dry soils they thrive in ground fed by an aerated, slow-moving water source and low lighting, making them ideal candidates for hydroponic growth setups. The more plentiful the water the thicker their leaves appear, courtesy of a complex and efficient set of apoplastic pathways throughout the plant. In slow or stagnant water nirkk remains fairly stationary, but exposure to faster currents – such as those caused by flooding, or due to the water pumps often found in hydroponics setups – the plant's leaves will pulsate slightly as if it is breathing, a side effect of its natural processes to expel excess water. If this current remains constant it will hurt the plant. Proper growth setups add long rest periods punctuated by several minutes pumping, while also reducing water pressure around nirkk by widening the growing channel and reducing the density of the substrate not directly surrounding the plants.
Auren nodded, moving to do as he was asked. Once he had retrieved a couple of suitable leaves, he looked over his shoulder at Jeb. “The fact it feels like it’s breathing is interesting.” Weird, but interesting.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
The discovery of nirkk and its capabilities had an immediate effect on the Mordena as the fledgling mercenary organization quickly found methods to utilize the plant's alchemical effects. Upon verification the extracted drug would not impede combat readiness or effectiveness it was approved as an alcohol substitute for use across the fleet, with most Medical personnel quickly adding the plant to their alchemical garden lists for Hydroponics. For most species fresh nirkk works as a sedative, inducing a deep and relaxed sleep. Dried nirkk, by comparison, is known as a physical and mental relaxant, capable of reducing or completely suppressing inhibitions. Fae have discovered an additional side effect, as adrenaline-metabolized nirkk has also been shown to boost their Imperium production, allowing for greater use of magic and even serving as an effective treatment to help stave off the worst effects of cosmic burnout in close cases if administered quickly. Today nirkk is the most commonly used drug across all of Janikk, prescribed as anything from a sleep aid to a mental relaxant, and more popular than alcohol for recreational use. The plant is grown across Janikk and considered a staple in every hydroponics bay of the Grand Armada. Alchemical formulas including nirkk have also been developed to suppress the body's manufacture of adrenaline, thus allowing the nirrk to remain in the user's bloodstream for longer, although anything administered at more than a minor dosage is typically reserved for therapy patients with crippling anxiety or trauma-induced stress disorders.
Jeb grinned at Auren's fascination. "Nirkk's a popular alchemical plant on our military fleet. Fresh, the leaves are a mild sedative. Dried and crumpled into a drink, though, they have effects similar to alcohol... Except in both cases, a surge of adrenaline will knock it out of your bloodstream pretty quickly."
Symbiosis with RemrakkWhile the species of life on Janikk were all altered with Agrokinesis or Zokinesis to meet the needs and expectations of the ancient civilization originally inhabiting the planet, thousands of years without the active intervention of these original guardians has left the planet's inhabitants to fend for themselves and forge their own paths to survival. Nirkk found its partner in the patient remrakk, a large, aquatic insect known to farm small patches of nirkk for use as bait for its own prey. Small colonies of the insect patrol the leaves of their nirkk farms, carefully pruning, removing pests, and even guaranteeing a fresh water supply in cases of drought. In return the pulsing leaves of a healthy nirkk plant attract larger herbivores, putting them to sleep with its sedative and allowing the remrakk colony to safely incapacitate them with the insect's own complimentary poison before swarming to devour their catch. Careful study of the remrakk's farming habits have allowed the Mordena to imitate some of their methods, extending the lifespan of the plant to two years and allowing a careful rotation of harvest crops with seed crops. In this way nirkk is always available and in season within the fleet.
Auren filed that information away in his mind. "Janikk has a lot of unique plant life," Jeb continued. "Sometimes I wonder just how much time and expertise went into the genetic alterations our predecessors made to their planet. And then Urla will be disappointed with me if I don't mention the thousands of years they were allowed to just... run wild after." "We're lucky she's willing to talk to us. Share her secrets," Shane added. Jeb beamed with pride. "I think Urla has more to do with it than luck." "I know so." Shane looked down to Auren, kindness in his eyes as he offered his hand. "You ready?"