Author’s Note: Quebérúr

For your envisioning pleasure – and also because I secretly hope someone will send me fan art along the lines of a classic Old West painting set on said Mars-type world (beautiful for spacious pink skies and vermilion mountains’ majesty above its fruited plain of mottled green and blue grass, although the grain still comes in amber waves) – the greenlife quebérúr is a relative of the Terran bison. Specifically, it’s a separate descendant of Bison antiquus than our modern Bison bison, that has kept the 15%-25% larger size of the former (about 7.5′ tall, 15′ long, and 3,500 lbs.) Other relevant differences include having developed curled, downward-pointing horns, and being able to digest and mostly excrete the non-overlapping compounds across the bluelife/greenlife gap without being poisoned or sickened by them. Much the same parameters apply to their transbovine descendants.

Every bit as tasty, though!

Trope-a-Day: Humans Are Diplomats

Humans Are Diplomats: There not being humans, well, no, but since there is greenlife, the diplomatic hat is worn by one of Earth’s species.  Well, sort of – diplomacy and community-building is the hat of the dar-bandal, the uplifted dogs, who bring their talents for social cognition to this field much as they do to professional negotiation, arbitrage, community genesis, fixing, and path-pointing.

Trope-a-Day: Earth is the Center of the Universe

Earth is the Center of the Universe: Severely averted.  Earth is an unknown backwater somewhere out beyond the ass end of the Periphery, and has all the galactopolitical significance you would expect a world which, having once reached its own moon, gives up on space travel beyond its own orbit entirely to have.  In other words: none at all.

(The only revelation that might change this even a little is that it’s evidently the planet that the Precursors got Pseudoeldrae archaea and the rest of the greenlife family from.  But, honestly, even that’s mostly only going to be of interest to biologists.)

Trope-a-Day: Taxonomic Term Confusion

Taxonomic Term Confusion: Taxonomy is even more of a mess than it used to be, having to deal with life originating separately (it is usually thought; see Panspermia) in a multitude of different ecologies, which then got intermingled by ancient and modern terraforming and accidents of star travel to produce the situation as we know it today.

Imperial taxonomy uses something that resembles our current system, but with an additional parameter right at the top of the tree to indicate the ecology which this particular species originated within (wherever it may be found now); i.e., adding to the classification of humans as kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Hominidae, tribe Hominini, genus Homo, species H. sapiens an initial level of classification along the lines of “ecology Terragenea“.

(Of course, not that this works perfectly even then: humanity – albeit not quite modern man – by virtue of ancient fossils turning up on Eliera with greenlife similarities, exists in the Imperial taxonomy as Pseudoeldrae archaea, ecology Cálenlethis; and in the event that they should discover us, I suspect we would take about as well to being reclassified as Pseudoeldrae novis about as well as they would take being shoved into genus Homo; which is to say, not at all well.  This is the sort of thing over which wars, or at least vicious academic infighting and people being cut – as in “cut direct”, not as in “I CUT YOU”… well, at least most of the time – at professional conferences, start.

It also doesn’t help that the eldrae, E. alathis, E. anthalis, or E. kirsunar, are already a taxonomic mess by virtue of having at least as much claim to being in ecology Fidúrlethis [bluelife] as ecology Cálenlethis; hybrid engineered lifeforms are like that.  And the continued production of neogens makes this problem worse by the day – while, yes, the Applied Biotics, ICC Bactry Template Organism EC-7 is descended from organisms in kingdom Bacteria, it’s descended from about a dozen of them, taken apart and the best bits kept.  This is hard to classify in anything resembling the normal manner.)

There are also at least two alternative partial taxonomies in use simply because they’re useful: one, a classification of species by their biochemical features, simply because it’s useful for some purposes to have all the methane-breathers or all the silicon-based life, and so forth, classified together regardless of origin; and another more approximate classification by homology alone, because for non-biologists travelling between planets, it’s useful to have relatively simple terms to call all the avioids, the ichthyoids, the arboroids, and so forth even if they’re not related by anything but general similarity.  (Which terms I still, despite this fine feature of the “original language”, I still “translate” as “bird”, “fish”, “tree”, etc. when writing just like the first set, because the clarity in the original language is the bloody-minded wordiness in English.)

On the use of “race” to mean “species” in particular: In formal speech they’re usually good at maintaining the race/species distinction, but then, the whole race concept is also a mess – inasmuch as it used to be that the former was used in much the same loose sense as we use it for natural phenotypic distinctions within a species, and then clade came to be used for artificial ones (as people started producing aquatic people, photosynthetic people, space-adapted people, etc., etc.), which are messy categories, because they overlap quite a lot (one clade can include all races; one race can include all clades), but some clades rewrite for perfectly good reasons the same phenotypic elements that were used to define races (for practical reasons: all naked-to-space-adapted-clades have high-melanin [etc.] skin for radiation protection, but all photosynthetic clades have to have low-melanin skin to avoid conflicting with the chloroplasts [etc.], for example), and some clades exist to be cosmetic phenotypes that are essentially new races in the casual sense, and aaarrrgh.

(It’s clade that’s used for classification, when relevant, because it’s the one that tends to be medically relevant, environmentally important, and so forth, on a regular basis.)

Trope-a-Day: Panspermia

Panspermia: Not proven in the general case, any more than it is today, and probably substantially less – different evolutionary trees and biochemistries surely look as if they had different origins.

Confirmed in some specific cases – Eliera, for example, derives its life from three sources: bluelife, which is very clearly descended from the native life of Revallá (Imperial Core); greenlife, of unknown but extraplanetary origin; and silverlife, descended from feral Precursor nanomachines – but then, Eliera is an artificial planet, so that’s to be expected.  And many garden worlds are the product of ancient terraforming, such as the many methane-based garden worlds in the vicinity of the Elmon Rift that were terraformed by the ancient and extinct methane-breather civilization that thrived there around 33 million years ago, and so possess life which obviously originated offworld.

But natural panspermia, or a common/intentional aliens-seeding-life origin?  Very much not proven, and looking increasingly unlikely.

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

Trope-a-Day (R): Ancient Astronauts

Ancient Astronauts: Almost certainly happened in at least a few times and places, for the same the-Galaxy-is-old-and-relatively-life-rich reasons that are why half the systems in it are practically knee-deep in elder-race trash.

Also, technically, connected with the origins of the eldrae and greenlife in general from prehistoric Earth, although given that Earth is not found and not likely to be in canon, no-one has a clue where those fossils of so-called Pseudoeldrae archaea came from, or exactly what they have to do with anything anyway, even if we’d clearly recognize an offshoot of genus Homo if we saw one.

Averted in the “alien abduction” meme sense, just because, as mentioned, lighthuggers ain’t that subtle.