Adaptation

2016_A(Alternate words: none.)

Among the complexities of dining in the modern age are those introduced by the many different worlds upon which we now dwell, all with different histories, geologies, and ecologies, independently evolved. As children of a single world, this has required a degree of adaptation, whether biotechnological or simply in custom, to the varying conditions of Sylithandríël’s other daughters.

What these adaptations are vary from world to world across the Empire, and I shall list only a few examples here. On our many eutalentic worlds, to list a commonly found example, many residents make use of the Rieltelir biomod to breathe in the open, which requires the body to take in additional calcium and potassium salts to assist in disposing of excess carbon dioxide. Such salts are thus presented as seasonings on every dinner table; for the most part harmless to visitors, if unnecessary to consume and prone to cause minor digestive upsets.

Clajdíä, on the other hand, is a colonized garden world whose native life is, miraculously enough, both edible and often delicious – save for the high levels of selenium found therein, which would prove toxic over time. Thus, a particular tisane is commonly drunk there to accompany the midday meal, from a plant engineered to contain complexes capable of chelating selenium, which is essential for both residents and visitors alike.

A similar provision, accompanied by a radiation detector, is made on Paltraeth, known for its burden of heavy metals, along with an electronic stunner, and krevtakris blade (an approximate translation would be “soft-belly”; it is usually given to young children whose digestive systems are not fully developed) when dishes customarily served live are part of the presentation. If these are not provided, either you have been truly accepted by the clan, or else you are being assassinated, a situation which is beyond the scope of this book.

And, most familiar of all, on most worlds it is customary to serve one of a number of common antihistaminic drinks along with water, when any local food is being served in the presence of offworld guests, as a convenience to prevent any adverse reactions which one’s guests might have to such food.

With such constraints, what does custom mandate?

While these adaptations differ enough from world to world that there are few general customs, one that has developed is that such necessary adaptations are served in a turquoise vessel (be it bowl, teapot, goblet, or of other form), turquoise as a blend of blue and green being the symbolic color of life.

With the exception of the antihistaminic drink, and its defined position in the place setting, however, whether the visitor may, must, or should not participate in their consumption is not something readily understood from their presentation. The thoughtful host may mention this at the beginning of the meal, in small groups with homogeneous guests, or may include this information in discreet place cards for those who require it in a larger or more diverse setting. Otherwise, a quiet word with the host or the host’s footbot will not be out of place.

– Madame Allatrian’s Garden of Exquisitely Correct Etiquette

 

Trope-a-Day: Gargle Blaster

Gargle Blaster: Several of them, indeed.  Most notable would be much vereldrae liquor (made from only fruit and sap, really, but distilled in ways designed by demented alchemists and with a kick that mules or moonshine would envy – and a lot of these are flammable), essentially everything brewed on Paltraeth (the kaeth enjoy their tests of strength, including booze that is high in alcohols – including the ones that make humans go blind – high in heavy metals, and not quite highly radioactive), anything produced by a Military Moonshiner or indeed a spacer moonshiner, especially if it mentions reactor coolant, thruster fuel, or antimatter in its name, and in general, lots of things made for species whose biochemistry doesn’t quite match one’s own, which may not kill you, but will certainly void your ‘shell’s warranty.

There are also the nano-powered drinks that stimulate various brain regions in interesting and unlikely ways, but honestly, given what people will do with simple chemistry

How the World was Won

This rose-and-yellow orb is Paltraeth, homeworld of the kaeth.

Most think of Paltraeth the way it is today: a dry, mostly desert world baking under the fierce glare – in light, heat, and hard radiation – of its hot blue-white sun, its dust-laden atmosphere stripped thin and its oceans reduced to small alkaline puddles and sprawling potash flats.  A harsh world of temperature extremes, heavy metals (chelate regularly!), and radiation, more than suited to its equally harsh people, and somewhere that no-one else would want to live for long.

To think this is to ignore the major shaping event of its history.  Paltraeth used to be much worse.

Ancient Paltraeth was a seething jungle world, an ecology that, due to the intense radiation-bath of its sun and falling into some unfortunate local maxima, was home to more fire and claw and fury than any other dozen garden worlds you care to name.  This was the environment that shaped the ancestors of the kaeth; one in which virtually every other being on the planet was trying to kill you.  In which uncannily fast healing, strong immunities, and distributed organ systems were a necessity for survival.  In which the heavy metals that enriched the planet were seized and put to use by the evolutionary arms race to grow harder bones and natural armor.  And in which, despite their sophonce, the early kaeth were no more than midway up the food chain.

It is a truism that the eldraeic relationship with nature has always been one of intermingled love and hatred for a wild force that needed to be tamed and gardened to become a place in which sophonts might truly live.  The kaeth relationship with nature was much simpler; pure hatred for a world that seemed to exist only to break them.

In this environment, what would have been a disaster on any other world, the asteroid impact of circa -183,000 that created the distinctive, orbitally-visible astrobleme now known as Venirek’s Fist, came as a blessing to the kaeth.  While the planet was devastated by the impact – its atmosphere and oceans partially stripped away, wildfires blazing across much of its land surface, and most of the population killed in the first impacts – a minority of the sophont kaeth were able to survive, and in the aftermath of the impact ripped, tore, crushed and stomped most of the disaster-shocked ecology that had produced them and fought them daily into the muck and ash.  It’s believed by modern genetic archaeologists that only a few thousand individuals planetwide survived Fistfall and its aftermath, but in that time, modern Paltraeth was shaped.

The modern kaeth love their harsh world, it is true, but not as the world that made them; rather, as the world they seized and made their own.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

Made By Fermentation… Well, Mostly Fermentation

…at some point during your stay on Paltraeth, someone is certain to offer you the opportunity to sample “a traditional local beverage”.  This offer should not – unless your current ‘shell is built to consume substances that would be classified as hazardous waste under most other production regimes – be accepted.  Traditional kaeth alcoholic beverages serve, as so many things do in their culture, as a test or demonstration of strength; thus, in addition to a high percentage of ethanol, they are known to contain a variety of other alcohols (including methanol, isopropyl alcohol, cyclic alcohols, and others of those which tend to cause blindness, madness, or death in other sophonts), toxic, carcinogenic and hallucinogenic alkaloids, benzene, fuel hydrocarbons, a variety of caustic substances, high levels of the heavy metals found throughout Paltraeth’s environment, and rather more radioactivity than the manufacturers of glowing synthdrinks would consider safe or advisable.  The offer is essentially a joke when made to an offworlder, and no-one will think any the worse of you for refusing it if done good-naturedly.

If you can consume just about anything, however, and have no particular place to be, go ahead and chug it right down.  You can make some great new friends this way, and the hangover will almost certainly be worth it.

– An Innocent on Paltraeth, Delphys Travellers’ Press