First First Contact (3)

Galáré Actual, Galáré System.

The noösphere of Galáré sang with electromagnetic voices.  The galari themselves, crystalline creatures of carbon-wrought silicon,  were the most complex voices in the song, exchanging trills and dithyrambs of information, an endless symphony of knowledge framed in multi-layered harmonies of incredible complexity; not a singular overmind, but a continual conversation on a million topics, each seeking its own harmony.  The simpler voices of lesser orders, the stony plantimal-forms from which the galari arose, the spun-crystal worker-machines, and the computer minds embodied in the planet’s greatest monoliths filled out the chorus; and Galáré itself, so much of its surface worked into matrices in which the knowledge and history, the memories, of the species were imprinted, echoed the song back to them.

Now, though, the song was disturbed.  For centuries, the music of Galáré had been serene, a slow adagio towards a well-planned future, filled with calm and order, endless self-reflection and contemplation of the sciences and philosophies stored within the galari’s great archives.  But today the astronomers sang quick, sharp arias of warning: of the 18.3 MeV glow the oneirists thought most likely for a fusion drive, with blueshift and parallax showing its path clearly.

Someone was coming to Galáré, and the divergent imaginings made the song stutter in jagged dissonance.

A Penny for How

“Thus it is said that an eldrae thinks pacing; a dar-bandal, sniffing; a galari, hovering; a kaeth, fighting; a dar-ííche, floating; a sssc!haaaouú, blowing; a mezuar, standing; an esseli, twitching; a codramaju, merging; a kalatri, sitting; a járaph, of itself; a selyéva, basking; a vlcefc, hanging; a spinbright, watching; an embatil, arguing; a múrast, many times; a seb!nt!at, already; a digisapience, continuously; an azayf, afterwards; and a ulijen, too late.”

– Stereotypes of the Worlds, Imperial University of Almeä Press

Trope-a-Day: Starfish Aliens

Starfish Aliens: Most of them.  Digisapiences, of course, have no bodies at all.  The galari are sophont crystal-virus hybrids with inbuilt techlepathy and mechanical psychokinesis.  The codramaju are pseudo-fungoids which can merge, exchange, and separate bodies and minds at will.  The kaeth are vaguely draconic pseudosaurians with a metal-rich biology.  The hydrogen-breathing sssc!haaaouú are fragile collections of membranes that dwell in the upper layers of gas giants.  The myneni are crystal-based carbohydrosilicate amoeboids with built-in chemosynthetic talents.  The mezuar are a network of collectively sophont purplish-blue trees.  (Yes, as sessile as that implies, although the selyéva are green-blue plantimals – non-sessile photosynthetics – who probably most closely resemble walking broccoli.)  The esseli have engineered themselves into brains with manipulating tentacles and customized personal auxiliary organs, and don’t even remember what they used to look like.  (And the link!n-Rechesh are heading that way.)  The qucequql are ammonia-metabolising octopi from a world of nitrogenous oceans.  The múrast would be simple multiheaded snakes, except that they breathe methane, live in oceans of hydrocarbons, and their primary body structures are constructed of ice.  The ulakha are metal-plated, fast-moving lizardoids who think Venerian conditions are just about right for a planet.  The linobir resemble furless, leathery-skinned, hexapedal, hermaphrodite bears.  The shan kari resemble larger versions of Terran mustelids fairly closely, actually, except they prefer to breathe warm methane.  The mirilasté are legged-serpents with skin we would recognize as essentially plastic, who breathe the most astonishingly noxious fluorine-hydrocarbon soup.  The ktelaki are furry arachnids with trilateral symmetry and multi-branched legs.  The seb!nt!at are star-dwelling creatures of plasma and electromagnetic force.  The celsesh are quadrilaterally-symmetric with a fused-barrel body plan, and sensory organs on stalks in lieu of a head.  The embatil are worm/tentacle creatures whose life cycle begins with individuals, but which merge into single creatures as they mature – while transforming a ganglionic into a collegiate intelligence.  The tennoa are chlorine-breathing radial-crabs blessed/cursed with obligate utilitarianism…

And that’s all before we get to uplifts, neogens, and exotic neomorphic bioshells.

First First Contact (2)

CS Extropy Rising, one light-day outside Galáré system.

Sophont intervention required.

Supercargo processor: Engage emergency revival sequence for Command Conference in accordance with protocol 1030.

Core, Cryobay Ess Zero.

Fire and ice.

Microwaves hammered at the frozen bodies hanging in the thick blue gel that filled the cryotubes, bringing them slowly back up to a temperature suitable for bringing them back to life.  Tapping their energy as flesh thawed, the crude nanites perfused into the bodies’ tissues before chill-down came sluggishly into action, attempting to patch the gross damage of cryostasis with a sensation like ten-thousand red-hot needles, then sending painful trickles of electrical current down raw nerves to coax activity from reawakening muscles and organs.

Flight Commander Svínif Andracanth-ith-Cyranth leaned over the side of his cryotube, wet, naked and shivering, and spewed a long stream of greasy gray-green freezer-porridge onto the deckplates; then hung there, caught between coughing, retching, and trying not to do both at once.  Around him in the bay, he was aware through the sick throbbing in his head of the rest of the command crew doing much the same.

“…I repeat: Non-emergency critical exception in progress.  Command Conference to the bridge, please.  Command Conference to the bridge.”

In Many Shapes and Forms

The ecology of Eliéra is uniquely complex in the known Associated Worlds, since it is not, as most are, the product of either natural evolution, or ancient or modern ecopoesis.  Rather, a few unique survivals excepted, its ecology is a mixture of species from three separate origins and their coevolved descendants; referred to as bluelife, greenlife, and silverlife.  It is believed that the progenitors of these ecologies were transported to Eliéra during the tenure of the Precursor species, and in the case of bluelife and greenlife, that their descendants reflect those ecologies which were best fit to survive and adapt to the world in the absence of the Precursors and thus anyone to tend their gardens and biological preserves.

Both bluelife and greenlife are examples of oxygen-breathing ecologies using the common L-protein/lipid-D-carbohydrate biochemistry, with nucleic acid-based information-storage molecules; although the encoding used for these information-storage molecules differs greatly between the two classes.  There is considerable overlap in the specific compounds (amino acids, for example) used by the two classes, to a sufficient extent that heterotrophs and saprotrophs of both classes find the other edible, although in many cases lacking in some essential nutrients.  Indeed, some members of each class, including the sophont species of Eliéra, the eldrae, now naturally require some essential nutrients from each of the classes in their diet.  (The eldrae, among some other large animal species, are particularly notable for having adopted some symbiotic bluelife organelles into an essentially greenlife makeup, giving them their distinctive indigo blood.)

Bluelife, a class including a large number of non-cellular and single-celled organisms, also includes among its complex organisms the majority – around 85% of species – of Eliéra’s plant life (whose distinctive and predominant blue photosynthetic pigment is the source of the name of the class), a smaller percentage – around 75% of its species – of its animal life (including both scaled and furred hexapedal land animals, four-winged birds, duodecids, and tubefish), 90% of its fungi, and all of its algae and plankton.  It is strongly believed to consist of evolved and/or modified forms of life transplanted from the nearby world of Revallá, which used a near-identical biochemical substrate and set of body plans, the more so when Eliéra bluelife’s adaptations to coexistence with greenlife and, to some extent, silverlife are considered.

Greenlife also includes a large number of non-cellular and single-celled organisms, along with another 14% of Eliéra’s plant life (again, the green photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll, gave its name to the class), the remaining (with very few exceptions) 30% of its animal life (including both scaled and furred quadrupeds, two-winged birds, arachnids, cetaceans, and bony fish), and nearly 10% of its remaining fungi.  The origin of greenlife is unknown; no world currently known to the Imperial Exploratory Service appears to have a compatible ecology.

The final class of life on Eliéra is the silverlife, a class of lifeforms descended from what are believed to be a number of simple Precursor nanites which survived the destruction of the Precursor civilization, many of them mutated by radiation effects and evolved over time.  By far the vast majority of silverlife is composed of microscopic organisms of the crystallite and metallite kingdoms, of which the most notable are the saerymaharvéi, descended from simple assemblers and responsible for the many crystal deposits and outcroppings across the surface of Eliéra.

Silverlife also includes some simple macroscopic organisms, including some silicate pseudo-plants found in sunlit, rocky areas of appropriate compositions (most prominent are cikril, which forms tall, slender columns of translucent crystals, charged with photoelectricity, and cikrieth, a swamp-dwelling variety of cikril which extracts materials from seawater and forms intertwined resource-sharing complexes), and some colonial organisms roughly analogous to slime molds.  These together make up the remaining 1% of Eliéra’s plant species, and 0.5% of its fungi.

Silverlife in general has many aspects and features in common with the lower lifeforms of Galáré, the homeworld of the galari; while the evidence suggesting their origin in Precursor nanotechnology remains convincing, scientists are studying the possibility of a link between known Precursor nanotechnology and the ecosystem of this world.

– An Introduction to Eliéran Biology, Imperial University of Almeä Press

First First Contact (1)

One light-day outside Galáré system.

The long plume of the fusion torch flickered out, and the great ship began to rotate slowly, end over end, bringing the foreshield once more into alignment with its direction of travel. The wide radiator vanes of the drive module glowed a bright cherry-red from the torch’s waste heat.

Extropy Rising, the eighth sleeper-ship of the Deep Star program, had finished decelerating into the Galáré system.

In obedience to the programming set up before it had left its construction slip in Talentar orbit, the triple-triple computers which controlled the Rising completed the flip, then turned their attention to the next steps in the entry procedure. A centrifugal ring spun up, throwing a sextet of probes outward to safe ignition distance. Sensors, unused since launch, slid out from behind the foreshield and powered up.

As the computers gorged themselves on the influx of new data, ongoing critical paths were adjusted at thousands of decision gates, fine-tuning the remainder of the mission to match the newly revealed local conditions; precise solar spectra, orbital elements, atmospheric composition…

Extensive electromagnetic emissions from the third planet in the log-8 to log-10 bands. That was outside all defined parameters.

Sophont intervention required.