lundi 25 juillet 2016


Alien Main Image
Image from Anders Sandberg

Generic term for alien (non-terragen) lifeform. May be animal-like, plant-like, protistan, exotic chemistry, or any other possibility. Does not have to be sophont. In fact, just as on Earth, very few alien species ever evolve any measure of cognitive intelligence.

While some display broadly parallel evolutionary traits with terrestrial creatures, others are completely unlike any Terragen life. May be found in any environment that can support life, include extremophile conditions deadly to most terragen organisms. The number of different xenobiont species discovered and recorded so far numbers in the trillions, but this is still but a tiny percentage of total species of life-forms to be found in our galaxy alone. Also, even planets that have been mapped and surveyed may contain many undiscovered or unrecognized species (especially rare or microscopic forms).

Many natural garden worlds with their complements of alien life forms have been claimed by corporations or caretaker gods, the former marketing select species as pets or novelty value, the latter jealously guarding the indigenous biota from appropriation by other sentients.



Werewolf.Werewolves are an ancient example of pseudolazurogenics based on mythological and folkloric shapeshifters. These rianths are distinguished by a lupine physiology, created in part by incorporating DNA from canine sources into the host genome. Historians generally agree Werewolves were the first example of a true rianth clade capable of endogamy.

There is evidence of Nekomimi modifications that predated the development of Werewolves, but these early catgirl genemods were individualistic and for the most part not compatible. Werewolves became a quick growing fad in the 130s a.t. following the popularity of Donna Mather's Pack Attack Tetralogy. The genemod's development took advantage of new progress in animal cross-species gene-splicing that had occurred over the previous decade. Gene therapies for medical therapies and enhancements had become acceptable over the past century for many cultures; however voluntary genemods used for purely superfluous alterations continued to remain a controversial topic. Morphological freedom was not a universally accepted human right, in the most severe cases Werewolves were ostracized or run out of town. This attitude drove many Werewolves to gather in minority neighborhoods that were historically sympathetic to their plight. Before the Technocalypse, the largest communities of Werewolves in SolSys were established in London, Paris, New York City, Mexico City, and Tokyo.

The first generation of Werewolves used a combination of germline modifications and prosthetics to emulate the look of classical werewolves. By the second generation a genemod standard had been decided on, and continued advances in gengineering allowed for the physiology to be further refined. Several centuries after being first established the werewolf standard was adjusted for breed specific traits in dogmen.

Since these early beginnings, most Werewolf clades have resisted all but the most conservative of bodymods. One option that first became available during the First Federation, is a shapeshifting ability to switch between a lupine state and a more baseline human state. This process can either be consciously triggered or cycled based on an external trigger. The shapeshifting is limited in scope, with the most dramatic changes occurring in the integumentary system and to a lesser extent the musculoskeletal system. Other organ systems like digestive and respiration remain unaffected. The process is energy intensive and requires a tripling of daily average caloric intake. Depending on the extent of shapeshifting taking place, an individual can complete the transition in about fourteen days.

Individuals from Werewolf clades that lack the ability of repeatable shapeshifting are nearly indistinguishable from baseline humans developmentally until they reach puberty. Once this stage is reached a number of physical changes take place. The maxilla and nasal bones are extended and widened into a proper snout. The canine teeth are enlarged and premolars are adapted to carnassial teeth to adjust to a predominantly carnivorous diet. The fingernails and toenails are modified into claws, and in some clades the shoulders and hips are modified to support efficient quadrupedal locomotion. Their strength is boosted by increases in muscle mass and muscle fiber density per square centimeter. A layer of fur is formed by an induced hypertrichosis, producing thick terminal and fine vellus hair. Further modifications deal with the sensory system, hearing and olfactory, and digestive system.

As with many early genemods, the standard Werewolf genemod had unforeseen complications. The combination of the changes in diet and neurobiochemistry has resulted in a high incidence rate of Werewolves suffering from episodes of melancholia and manic depression. A workaround to this defect has been known since the early 4th century a.t., however even with this cure many purists refuse to adopt the changes and instead have modified their lifestyle. These psychological symptoms are now well known to be caused by environmental factors, and can be minimized through avoidance. This misunderstanding of occasional foul moods by outsiders has reinforced the pack lifestyle of close connection to family and friends.
Image from Steve Bowers


Image from Steve Bowers

An object of erotic horror fiction since Industrial Age Old Earth, the first vampire clades came about when gothic romanticists set up their own gengineered and tweaked subculture during the Interplanetary Age. As part of their mythos about avoiding natural sunlight, they chose to get as far from the sun as possible, and set up small habitats and colonies around Neptune and in the Kuiper belt. In this way they escaped the Technocalypse, and in the subsequent centuries further evolved their own cultures and subculture (with each hab is a separate "clan") - keeping sacred the memory and myth of the 19th century c.e. Count Vlad, the 20th/21st century c.e. Blessed Lestat, and other figures who came to be considered real historical personalities

The Vampire clans had no desire to join the new Federation, and as even the haloists and hiders considered them strange, they had little to do with the rest of civilization. They have good relations with the Backgrounders, being attracted to their cyborg "cold adaptations", which were compatible with their own aesthetic of the cold and the grave (this latter referring to the pre-medical nanotech period when humans were mortal and would be interred in the ground following death). The Backgrounders for their part tend to be simply amused by these funny little tweaks and either humour them or use them to further their own goals

Among the diverse clades and clans, there are some vampires who go for backgrounderization and cryocyborgization, but others would see that as a sell-out, because by becoming cyborg they lose their inhumanity

Among the many well known tribes that have developed and cladized over the millennia are the vlads, wampyres, bloodborgs (vampire cyborgs), Children of Lestat, House of Lamia, Tan'gg DruU, the Convocation, and many others.

It is not uncommon for there to be long-running feuds between the clans.

Most raid hu settlements, usually haloists but sometimes inner system worlds, to seek new victims (although they also have their bionano blood replicators it is considered contemptible to rely on them too much. If you can't kill a real hu you are not considered a true Child of the Undead). Some clades kill their victims, others retain them as erotic slaves, and others again inject into them the vampire nano, thus making the victim emself a vampire (until they can get the nano flushed out, but the clever vampire clades use a type of nano that is very difficult to remove without killing the victim).

A few vampire groups claim or pretend to be involved with groups like the Shadow Federation, usually because they like the name. It is not known what Shadow Federation powers themselves think of this.

In addition to neogenic and symbiotic bionano virus clades, there are also high tech nano-based vampires that use massively-parallel bio-nanocomputers in the bloodstream and achieve data transfer via blood-cell memory. In some parts of the Durath Orwoods they are so common that if they tried some kind of wireless transfer they'd irradiate their hosts. It would be pointless for such creatures to attack others, but that hasn't stopped rumors of the "bloodsucking fiends".

In the Current Era vampires and vampire colonies, are fairly rare, but still well entrenched throughout the galaxy. While thinking of themselves as hunters they more often find themselves the hunted. In isolated or frontier worlds they are hunted ruthlessly, while in the more hi tech systems if they are caught they get their biochemistry redone to convert back into normal hu, as well as extensive behavioural and memetic re-engineering. But even though there are not many (compared to other clades), they are tenacious, and survivors, and live off their reputation and notoriety. There is no shortage of unhappy near-baseline children wanting to join their ranks, but very few survive to their 100th birthday (usually the newest are sent on suicide missions to prove themselves. Only those that make it are truly accepted). But there are also more easy going vampire clades who happily accept newcomers. These are despised by the serious older vampire houses and clans. In the present era there are perhaps a billion vampires of all types and tech levels, in more than a hundred thousand houses and clades throughout the galaxy.


Twin Clades

twin clades
Image from Bernd Helfert

Biont clades which have been gengineered to consistently produce twin pregnancies are known as Twin Clades. While some of these clades produce dizygotic twins, most such clades produce monozygotic ('identical') twins. Monozygotic twins occur when an ovum splits in two post-fertilization, resulting in two genetically identical embryos.

Twins of this nature have long been noted for their great, though not total, similarities. While they are originally genetically identical, environmental factors, especially during gestation or early after birth or hatching, can produce epigenetic differences by turning different genes on or off. Epigenetic differences increase with age and are more pronounced when the twins have divergent experiences or upbringings. Nevertheless, monozygotic twins are often very similar in habits, tastes and personality, the latter of which has historically often been seen to become more similar with time.

Cryptophasia has long been observed in monozygotic twins, they often develop their own private languages in early life, especially if raised in somewhat non-verbal environments. Monozygotic twins are thought to have been studied since even before the Information Age on Old Earth to determine the importance of genetics in psychological development.

Among baselines, twinning of this nature was rare and essentially random with no genetic predispositions, but as early as the Interplanetary Age it began to become more common and some early clades started to develop, some for research purposes, others were founded by twins, often for the sake of continuing their lifestyle and creating a whole new culture. At first this was accomplished by manipulating in-vitro fertilization, but not too long after this time genetic studies of the Nine-Banded Armadillo (which always produces identical quadruplets) revealed a mechanism which could guarantee the production of identical twins in natural reproduction.

Since then, many Twin Clades have been created. There are clades made entirely of identical twins, others restrict the trait to one sex or another and often practice some form of bigamy. Some clades emphasize the sameness of the twins by encouraging twins to never be apart, sharing all the same experiences, wearing the same clothes, and keeping identical styles, others find interest in going the other direction to see how similar the twins end up without trying to, a cultural remnant of early scientific interest.

The fact that baseline monozygotic twins are genetically identical means that they have very similar thought patterns and they can sometimes seem almost telepathically linked, but this is just the result of them being very similar in genetics and experience, which can be compared in a limited fashion to recently diverged Copies. Some Twin Clades are noted for taking this phenomenon and making it a reality, giving twins some means of linking and/or sharing their minds to some degree. This ranges from simple enhancement of many empathic cues made unique to the twins, to DNI or genemods creating partial sharing up senses or even full techlepathy to the point of making them one person.


Tro'el, Clade

Image from Arik


The Tro'els are a clade of hu tweaks that have been optimized for arctic and sub-arctic climates. Originally refugees of the Great Expulsion, they settled on an ice moon in the outer system and used genemods to adapt themselves to living in ice caves beneath its surface.


Tro'els are large nearbaselines; up to 2.5 m tall with a round muscular body that weights about 500-700 kg. They have a large, wide nose with a rich network of blood vessels to warm inhaled air and recover heat from exhaled air. Their arms and legs have length proportions more akin to a great ape than a human but each is much thicker than in either of them to retain heat. Thick layers of fat and hair covering their bodies from head to toe further enhance heat retention. Even the palms of their hands and the bottoms of their feet have special pads that act as thermal breaks between them and the ice. Tro'els are so well protected from the cold they can use a slab of ice as a comfortable bed and a bucket of snow for bathing/scrubbing down. Nor do they need protective clothing often go about their business au naturel. (Of course this doesn't mean they are exhibitionists as their hair covers anything of interest.) Interestingly, these changes were achieved with only minor genetic alterations, mostly those that guide the degree and timing of growth hormones, and as a result Tro'els are fully interfertile with baseline humans.


Tro'els have a reputation for being anti-social or misanthropic. Nothing could be farther from the truth; Tro'els simply like to live in an environment that humans and most other nearbaselines avoid. Those who have braved the cold dry air of a Tro'el warren have found them to be quiet but friendly and generous even to strangers. Tro'els are particularly fond of showing off their folk art; a style of large-scale ice carving that highlights fine detailing and often tells a locally known story.


Culturally the Tro'els are very diverse. Their preferred environment is a network of ice tunnels deep beneath the surface of an ice dwarf moon or frozen planet. As such they form small communes around some local heat source or pocket of liquid water and each commune is free to develop their own culture. They mine for ices and meteorite debris and may trade with the outside world but their isolation protects them from many foreign memes although they do take on the general meme-sets of the local polity. Some warrens are closer to the surface/outside world than others and the Tro'els of these communes often like to maintain the illusion of them being the trolls of old Earth folklore. Tro'els are aware of their appearance to outsiders and of the race memories they invoke in some baseline hu and this has become something of a cultural in-joke to them.


Tro'el technology is like-wise very diverse. They dig their habitats, and carve out the furnishings, directly out of the ice but other tech may use any substrate they can get their hands on. Tro'els are modosophont so their day-to-day tech can be anything from prim to high and dry to biotech, depending on their commune's culture. Also, when Tro'els set out to settle another ice dwarf they sometimes carry a geoflex computer seed with them. If the new world is suitable the AI associated with this seed may be anything up to a third toposophic hyperturing, which often gives the Tro'els access to ultra, transapient, and low godtech.

Clade Tro'el

Toy Humans

Dependence-tweaked human-clade.

A rather disturbing trend found in the unscanned market recently by various sophont-rights groups investigating alleged NoCoZo abuses, Toy Humans are beings based off of a human genome but biochemically and/or genetically altered to grow to roughly 1/3 normal human height (approx .6-.9 m tall) with a concurrent 1/27th weight. These beings are often plagued with health defects and thus a surprisingly short lifespan of only a few centuries even with proper medical care. Worse, their cognitive abilities are cruelly stunted by the processes applied as zygotes.

Toy humans are often mules, but those few which are fertile may or may not produce human-standard or 'toy' scale offspring, depending on the specific process(es) used in their creation.



The first intelligent alien race discovered by Terragens

To'ul'h vs Human
Image from Andrew P.
To'ul'hs are a flying sophont race from the wet greenhouse world of To'ul'h Prime


The To'ul'hs are an intelligent, flying species with an origin on a hot wet greenhouse world; many are now closely integrated into the Terragen civilizations. They were the first xenosophonts to come into direct contact with Terragens. When they were belatedly discovered in 3831 AT beneath the clouds of their home world they were a surprise, and in some quarters a disappointment, because of their relatively low level of technology. To'ul'h Prime (also known as Tohul) had been noted as a life-bearing world more than a millennium beforehand, and at least one preliminary expedition to the To'ul'h system had examined its planets from orbit, but the To'ul'h civilization was not apparent except at closer range. Because of their environment the To'ul'hs had never developed the kind of technology that would have led to electromagnetic emissions or orbital settlements, and To'ul'h cities and the extensive but subtle To'ul'h agricultural works were not evident beneath the thick layers of clouds and airborne life of their homeworld. The To'ul'h and their civilizations were found only after probes were sent to the planet's surface to explore the peculiar biology of To'ul'h Prime's pressure-cooker surface life.

Though their technologies were relatively unsophisticated (approximately equal to those of late Agricultural Age or early Industrial Age humans on Old Earth) baseline To'ul'hs had already been a civilized species for ten times as long as the entire history of the Terragens when they were contacted. They brought a rich culture and tradition with them when they finally joined the rest of the Civilized Galaxy, and To'ul'hs and their post-To'ul'h descendants are widespread and successful, some of them as a part of Terragen civilizations and others as part of more exclusively To'ul'h developments.

To'ul'hs on the surface of their home planet
Image from Luke Campbell
Beneath the thick clouds of Tohul Prime the surface is almost completely dark, except when lightning briefly illuminates the landscape.

The To'ul'h civilizations have had the greatest single xenosophont influence on Terragen culture. To'ul'h culture, already rich, grew even more so as the To'ul'hs and their various sophont descendants and creations spread outward from their homeworld, and they have been in contact with Terragens for longer than any other xenosophont group. Most importantly, the To'ul'hs and their descendant clades have proved to be surprisingly similar to humans and their posthuman descendants in many aspects of their mental and cultural development despite the profound physical differences between baseline To'ul'hs and baseline Humans. In fact, the founding Terragen and To'ul'h species are so similar in outlook, and had origins so close together in time and space, that To'ul'hs have been called humanity's twin. Those same coincidences have been the cause of much speculation by Progenitists, though no ancient link between Terra and To'ul'h has ever been conclusively proven, and serious scholars dismiss these parallels as matters of chance.

The To'ul'h homeworld, like Old Earth, was eventually commandeered by one of the Caretaker Gods, and is now more or less as it was before Terragen contact.


Though they are beautiful and graceful to the accustomed eye, To'ul'hs have a bizarre and nightmarish appearance to Terragens who are accustomed only to standard Old Earth life. All baseline To'ul'h are sooty to jet black in standard Terragen vision. They mass between 40 and 100 kilograms depending on their sex and regional variety (baseline To'ul'hs included pygmy and giant races). Typically a male To'ul'h masses about 70 kilograms, while a female tips the scales at 63 kilograms. They are otherwise difficult to describe in terms of any Terragen life form. They have been compared to deep-sea octopi, to headless flying squirrels, to headless kangaroos, to skates or rays, and even to starfish. While these descriptions are suggestive, none of them are accurate. They are like Old Earth tetrapods in that they have a bony skeleton, bilateral symmetry, and four limbs, but the similarity ends there. Like the other members of their phylum, which is the dominant form of animal life on the surface of To'ul'h Prime, they are distantly descended from a line of sessile organisms similar in some ways to an Old Earth crinoid. As a result they retain traces of an ancestral tetraradial symmetry. The four limbs are attached to a central body that harbours the vital organs. The braincase is near the centre of the dorsal surface, and major nerve fibres radiate outwards to the four limbs. The forelimbs are smaller and end in grasping hands, while the hind limbs are stronger, heavier, and adapted to jumping, though they can also grasp objects in a crude way. Both hands and feet have eight digits: six fingers and two opposing thumbs, each ending in a retractable claw. The digits of the feet are much stouter and less dexterous, but either pair can grasp an object. A complex series of folds and flaps on the upper forward part of the body is concerned with the To'ul'h sense of hearing; the upper surface of a To'ul'h body is otherwise smooth.

The To'ul'h digestive tract begins with a set of sideways-opening mandibles. These are set between the forelimbs on the ventral surface. The oral cavity has a rasping tongue, but there are no teeth. Instead, the forepart of the stomach contains a gizzard and gizzard stones. The main stomach and the intestines are well inside in the central body; and the anus is on the ventral surface between the two hind limbs. Fat is deposited around the brain and internal organs, supplementing a rather thin and light skull. The To'ul'h excretory system produces liquids, and has a port near the anus.

The respiratory system is a pair of independent book-lungs between the fore and hind limbs. Each has a spiracle that opens onto the upper body surface. Normally air moves in and out through the spiracle on the upper surface, but the lung is also capable of converting to a gill-like flow-through system when a To'ul'h exerts itself, by opening slits in the ventral surface. This "turbocharged" breathing system allows rapid oxygen uptake and good evaporative cooling. However, a To'ul'h who breathes in this fashion needs to drink a great deal of water. Movements of the limbs in gliding or jumping helps pump air through the respiratory system, whether it is working as a lung or as a gill. Most of the sounds used in To'ul'h speech are produced by these organs. A similar but modified gill-lung between the forward pair of limbs serves as a "nose", and produces sounds for echolocation through a complex series of chambers. The rear lung is largely vestigial, though it does serve as a barometer to detect longer term pressure changes in the atmosphere. The To'ul'h circulatory system features three hearts: one to each lung-gill and one that circulates oxygenated blood from the lung-gills to the rest of the body.

To'ul'hs have an organ system, comparable to the water-vascular system of Old Earth echinoderms, that controls a set of small manipulatory appendages on the underside of the limbs. In the To'ul'h these allow a highly developed set of touch and taste and are another way for them to handle small objects. Their primitive function was to convey small items towards the mandibles along a set of food grooves.

As in some other representatives of their phylum, To'ul'h forelimbs contain organs that generate and detect electrical fields in very much the same manner as some Old Earth electrogenic fish. This sense is only fully operational in the water, though on land a To'ul'h can still detect the planetary magnetic field. Under water, however, it allows short range detection of prey that might otherwise remain hidden, even if it is concealed beneath sediment. Ancestral To'ul'hs used this sense to forage in streams, lakes, or tidal pools, or in puddles and ponds of the coastal swamps. A To'ul'h can create a mild shock with one of their electrochemical organs that is strong enough to stun small prey items, though it does not have a significant effect on larger organisms.

To'ul'hs have no external genitalia, but males have testes and the equivalent of a penis at the base of each of the arms (these have sometimes been compared to the pedipalps of Old Earth spiders), and the openings to the female genital tracts are also found where the arms join the body along the ventral surface. Holding hands and sexual activity are much more strongly associated in To'ul'h than in humans, and handholding may be a part of foreplay. The young, who are borne live, either singly or as twins, grow until birth in the central body cavity of the female.

Each limb has broad muscular retractable flaps, and when fully extended, these stick together along their edges to form a continuous surface, using the same dry adhesive properties that Old Earth geckos use to cling to a surface. They can also operate as pairs or completely independently of one another, depending on the degree of manoeuvrability required. There are eyespots along the upper dorsal surface near the brain-bulge and at the tips of the forelimbs, but these are small and not easily distinguished from the rest of the skin. To'ul'h skin is hard and leathery, and does not bear discernible scales, hairs, or feathers. The upper surface is smooth and glossy; the lower surface is rougher, with patches of dry adhesive comparable to an Old Earth gecko's foot pads. Usually these are associated with small projections associated with the water vascular system, and are used by To'ul'h to cling to a surface.

Communication, Senses, and Locomotion

To'ul'h are effectively blind, but they are not insensitive to light. Their eyespots allow them to detect sunlight, flashes of lightning, or even the phosphorescent life forms of their native environment. However, they cannot form images. For them, vision is a distant fifth sense. Their primary sense is echolocation. They use a range of different wavelengths for this purpose. Ultrasonic chirps in the 50 to 200 kilohertz range allow them to define features as small as half a millimetre, but such signals have a very short range; less than 20 metres. They use longer wavelength sounds to sense objects and the general terrain over longer distances, but such sounds do not provide the same sort of fine detail. This more general echolocation sense has a range of up to a kilometre under the right conditions. Ordinary passive hearing is also highly sophisticated, and To'ul'hs can learn a great deal about their environment simply by listening, without using sonar chirps. Of course, such a sense is adapted to their native dense atmosphere and would not be effective at Earth normal pressures. Unlike humans, To'ul'hs have the ability to shield their ears against loud sounds: a necessity given the dense atmosphere and frequent thunder storms of their home world.

The second major To'ul'h sense allows them to detect weak electrical or magnetic fields. To'ul'hs are able to detect planetary magnetic fields, the activity of distant electrical storms. Underwater it can detect and the bioelectrical fields of nearby animals. This latter sense has a range of less than a metre, but they can use it to detect small organisms that might be hidden beneath mud or sand or inside the stalks of saprophytes. As with their sonar sense, To'ul'hs can only use this sense by generating fields. To employ it is to announce their presence to any being with the ability to detect such fields.

To'ul'h touch is extremely sensitive as well, especially in their hands and generally along the ventral surface. The palps along their food grooves are an important source of information regarding textures, and they also provide some information through a sense comparable to that of taste. To'ul'h have a sharp sense of smell; baseline To'ul'h relied heavily on this sense to discover edible saprophytes and to track prey species.

To'ul'hs can move slowly along the ground by walking on all fours, or somewhat more swiftly by hopping on their hind legs. They are also good climbers in the cliffs and in the fungal forests of their native habitats. Their hands and foot-hands, the claws at the end of their fingers and toes, and gecko-like pads on their ventral surface help them cling to surfaces. However, their primary mode of rapid or long distance movement is a series of jump-glides, supplemented by some flapping flight. They cannot gain significant altitude, but remain within a few metres of the ground unless they are able to use an updraft. This allows them to maintain the equivalent of a human jog or run over considerable distances. If local air movement is favourable, they may coast for a considerable distance. They can "fly" underwater by trimming back the size of their limb membranes and flapping as they do in the air, though of course they must return to the surface to breathe. Long distance travel over and in the water includes short bursts of swimming followed by long glides over the water surface somewhat in the manner of an Old Earth flying fish. The To'ul'h jump-glide depends on a high air density, or on extremely low gravity. Some To'ul'hmorphed Terragens living at Earth-normal temperatures and pressures have been able to accomplish the same movements in low acceleration habs or on very small blueskyed moons.

Lifespan and Reproduction

Despite the fact that they are so radically different in their physiology, biochemistry, and anatomy, baseline To'ul'hs are remarkably similar to baseline humans in their reproduction. Like humans they have two sexes, bear their young live and usually singly (rarely as twins), are pair bonding, and raise their young through a long period of dependency. The male is usually, but not always, the more active partner in courtship and as in humans is typically less discriminating concerning potential mates or sexual partners. The females are slightly smaller than the males, and like humans feed their young with special secretions in early infancy and provide most of the early child care. As with humans, males (usually the fathers of the children, or more occasionally their uncles) typically provide additional support to the female and infant when the child is young, and usually are involved to a greater or lesser extent in raising and training children after infancy as well. Childbirth is not as great a hazard for To'ul'h females as it is for human females, but in low technology societies, pregnancy is very inconvenient; some modes of To'ul'h locomotion such as the jump-glide are completely unavailable in later pregnancy, even though newborn To'ul'hs are smaller in proportion to adults than are human infants. Likewise, a female carrying an infant who has yet to learn to jump-glide has a very limited range. Perhaps as a result, pair bonds are even stronger in To'ul'hs than in humans, and in most cultures the social or legal penalties for infidelity or abandonment by either party are more severe in proportion. A newborn weighs about one kilogram, and can crawl from birth, though jumping comes at one year and jump-gliding is not fully developed until the age of five years. Infants cling to the undersides of their parents (usually the mothers) when they are very young, or may ride on their backs when they are older but still unable to move at adult speeds. Baseline To'ul'hs had a natural lifespan of 80 to 100 years.

Environmental Requirements

Baseline To'ul'h are accustomed to a gravity approximately 20% greater than that of Old Earth. Their optimum environmental temperature is 135 degrees Celsius, though they can survive temperatures of 150 degrees or more for short periods if they move slowly and have access to water so that they can breathe heavily to cool themselves. A To'ul'h is unable to survive without clothing and shelter at temperatures below 100 degrees Celsius. Earthlike atmospheric pressures are immediately fatal to a To'ul'h; their bodily fluids begin to boil away. They prefer pressures of 70 atmospheres, though they can survive long term at as little as 50 and can tolerate shorter term exposures to pressures as low as 10. They need oxygen, at values no less than 7% and no greater than 15%. Water on the surface of To'ul'h is strongly acidic due to carbonic acid from the high carbon dioxide fraction in the atmosphere and due to small quantities of sulphuric acid from the sulphur compounds in standard To'ul'h air. Neutral or alkaline water causes long term health problems. Most To'ul'h can drink salty water, and excrete excess salt through their digestive system as part of their solid wastes. The degree to which they can do this varied originally according to regional types in the baseline To'ul'h population, since bodies of water on the surface of To'ul'h Prime vary from fresh to hypersaline. Like all of the life forms native to To'ul'h Prime, To'ul'hs require considerably more sulphur than do Terragen bionts, and small quantities of tin and mercury are essential elements in their metabolism. To'ul'h find bright light of any kind painful. Ultraviolet light causes severe sunburn.


To'ul'h baselines are remarkably similar to human baselines in psychology and in their modes of intelligence, so much so that some Progenitist groups have suggested some ancient connection between the two. Their similar reproductive habits have already been noted. They are also like humans in that they were originally omnivorous foragers who hunted or gathered in small cooperative groups and shared food within the band along lines of kinship and mutual obligation. Like humans, they ranged over long distances, and were largely terrestrial, but are descended from more arboreal species. The result is that humans and To'ul'hs understand one another rather well, and find one another almost reassuringly predictable. However, there are significant differences. For instance, To'ul'h are less fearful of heights as a rule (since they can glide), and much more fearful of inclement weather. Heavy winds can mean extreme injury in the dense atmosphere of To'ul'h Prime. The famous "Steam Hurricanes" are particularly deadly. Not only may they tumble an unanchored To'ul'h helplessly along the ground, breaking bones, but they may hurl victims into the hellishly cold upper air. On rare occasions, parcels of clear air allow sunlight to reach the surface, blinding eyespots and even burning skin. Traditional To'ul'h cultures always placed Hell in the skies, whereas Heaven is hot, dark, still, and damp. To'ul'h have a love of warm water and hot springs comparable to that of humans, though To'ul'h spas have also been compared to the baths of the Muuh as well.

The original To'ul'h were primarily nocturnal, though they sometimes also foraged during the day. The fact that they are nearly blind, and that their primary sense is sonar, has had a tremendous impact on their ways of thinking. Sound, and the qualities of sound, are primary metaphors in To'ul'h language. So too with their electrical sense. Because it is short range, it is an intimate form of communication, with no good equivalent in human terms.

The To'ul'h also have some similarities to the Muuh, perhaps because of the fact that they both live in dim environments in which food is produced in the upper atmosphere, and do not rely on sight. To'ul'h, for instance, claim to understand aspects of Muuh poetry that have always baffled humans and similar Terragens.

Like humans and like many of the clades descended or derived from humans, the To'ul'h show a high frequency of aggressively curious or ambitious individuals. Great conquerors, philosophers, and artists are common, and in most To'ul'h cultures are greatly admired. Perhaps as a result, baseline To'ul'hs had a high rate of toposophic ascension from the very start of their contact with Terragens, and there are many known post-To'ul'hs. Baseline and nearbaseline To'ul'hs have shown a very human-like propensity for aggression, both within and between societies, and their history both before and after Terragen contact has been fully as turbulent as that of Old Earth. Likewise, and again like Terragens, the adventurous To'ul'h psyche has meant a strong urge to explore and colonize and an equally strong tendency to develop into new clades.

The baseline To'ul'h species has a natural talent and affinity for technology, similar to that of human baselines, that under other conditions would have lead to fairly rapidly to Industrial, Information, and Interplanetary civilizations. As may be seen from the response of the To'ul'h to Terragen contact, only the particulars of their situation kept the To'ul'h from expanding beyond their planet on their own.


The original set of To'ul'h societies has an extraordinary depth of history, and was arguably much more diverse than that of Old Earth. Advances comparable to writing, the wheel, and agriculture were achieved tens of thousands of years before the first human civilization. Though no one To'ul'h culture lasted more than eight or nine thousand years, there are beliefs, technologies, traditions, and even the equivalent of written records dating back as far as 70,000 years BT. Though they never developed an Industrial age, the To'ul'h in the settled regions of their planet were heirs to a culture more sophisticated and ancient than anything experienced by Old Earth humans before the advent of interplanetary technologies. Even tribes living the simplest and most primitive material lives had a sense of continuity with ancient events. The resulting diversity is impossible to describe in anything but the most general terms.

Because of unique factors in To'ul'h history, philosophies emphasizing balance and harmony tended to predominate over more aggressive change-based schools of thought, but To'ul'h nature is remarkably similar to human nature and had a startlingly similar set of expressions. It is safe to say that nearly any school of thought or belief ever conceived of by humans up to the end of the Interplanetary Age had its expression somewhere on To'ul'h Prime, sometimes more than once. Terragen Humanists, Christians, Marxists, Taoists, Capitalists, Etodists, Neoplatonists, Confucians, Fascists, Hindus, Negentropists, Stoics, and many other groups have all have their cognates somewhere on To'ul'h Prime, either among To'ul'h Prime's living cultures or somewhere in the planet's long history. The subtle differences and the eerie similarities between To'ul'h philosophies, religions, political movements and their Terragen equivalents have quite understandably been a continuing source of interest to scholars, and a continuing source of wonder, revulsion, amusement, or controversy among partisans of these belief systems.

To'ul'h music and art has been profoundly influenced by their dependence on sound over sight. A development particular to the To'ul'h is polmusic, a combination of politics, poetry, music, logic, and rhetoric. One needs to be a To'ul'h to experience its full persuasive force, though some Terragens (notably some sophonts of cetacean ancestry) claim to have a grasp of its essentials. Ancestral polmusic disciplines were widespread and ancient on To'ul'h Prime itself, but it reached its fullest development after Terragen contact in the Ho'mth'u culture in the Morogai system in the late 35th century. It has since become an essential element of To'ul'h and post-To'ul'h culture.

Another unique aspect of ancient To'ul'h culture, still a metaphor in some traditional religions, is ritual cannibalism. In many of the older and denser agricultural centres, animal flesh was a rare commodity. Like humans, baseline To'ul'hs are omnivores, and require either some meat or a careful balance of other foods for optimum health. In many parts of the planet, and especially in the cultures of the Narrow Seas region, this led to ritual consumption of the dead by the kin of the deceased. The echoes of those practices are still strong in baseline and nearbaseline To'ul'hs whose cultures are descended from those of the great cities of the homeworld, though of course, in the millennia since, many To'ul'h and post-To'ul'h have forgotten the practice, and there are some homeworld cultures (notably the nomads of the uplands) that never knew it.

To'ul'hs do not have the usual graphic arts known to humans, except in the form of textures and incisions on a suitable surface. Their written records are designed to be detectable by touch or by sonar: glyphs or ideographs carved into a surface, or runic inscriptions, or Braille-like bumps and hollows, depending on the language and culture. Sculptures are usually intended to be pleasing to the touch, or to give interesting patterns when scanned with a sonar chirp.

To'ul'h of the lowlands did not wear clothes, other than professional equipment (aprons, tool belts, armour, etc.), though they did often wear beads, or in some cultures decorated their skin with patterns of scars. Those of the highlands wore protection against the cold and tended to consider it impolite or even obscene not to enclose the main body (though arms, legs, and the flaps between them remained free).

As an agricultural species for nearly 100,000 years of history, the To'ul'h have an extraordinarily deep and rich set of traditions around gardening and farming for practical or aesthetic reasons. The shape and styles of To'ul'h gardens varied strongly according to culture, from various pseudo-naturalistic designs to highly abstract formal patterns, and from nearly barren arrangements of rock and sand to lush well-watered landscapes. Though they are designed to appeal to sonar or the sense of smell rather than sight, and employ fungi and saprophytes in place of plants, humans find them surprisingly pleasant to look upon, though of course To'ul'h gardens lack any colours other than black or white or various phosphorescent blooms, and the scents they give off tend to be sulphurous and pleasant only to To'ul'hese life.

There are as many styles of To'ul'h architecture as there are of human architecture, but the To'ul'hs are much more inclined than humans to create substantial stone or subterranean structures, or collapsible tent-like structures, to resist or avoid the powerful but slow surface winds. Another important difference arises from the To'ul'h ability to glide long distances. To'ul'h generally regard upper windows and balconies as preferred exit points from a building. Some of the most famous great To'ul'h cities are built on cliffs or steep hillsides, or in the ravines of the great rivers that run down from the continental plateaus. In such places the houses of the wealthy are most often at the highest points, since for a To'ul'h this give access to a broad region of the lower part of a town or city; one need only launch oneself from a suitable elevation.

A fear of the bright turbulent overworld, with its killing chill, its lightning and thunder, and its burning ultraviolet rays is innate in every baseline and nearbaseline To'ul'h. Most of the planet-bound cultures believed the upper regions to be hell, or at the least a metaphor for a hellish state. This caused considerable fear and suspicion when the To'ul'h were first contacted by Terragens, since they came from above.


Like humans, To'ul'hs lived for a long "Stone Age" as bands of foragers who ranged within a home territory and interacted occasionally through trade, warfare, and limited intermarriage. They were most common where they first evolved, along the shores of the seas at the edge of continental shelves, and on the chains of islands along the mid-ocean ridges, where they foraged along the shores, in the "fungal" "swamp-forests" and on the open plains of saprophytes in the upland regions. A few invaded the harsh continental plateaus, but most of these lived along lake shores or along the river valleys leading down to the lowlands. These ancient To'ul'h tribes knew the use of fire (a less potent instrument than on Old Earth due to the lower oxygen content of the atmosphere), used pottery, wove baskets, fashioned tools from local obsidian or from the sturdiest fungal stalks, and generally lived in a fashion that might, with suitable translations, seem familiar to many an Old Earth human hunter-gatherer, or for that matter to the most extreme human Prims of modern times.

Gradually, about 100,000 years ago, the To'ul'h drifted into an Agricultural Age. Since many of the saprophytic life forms on the surface reproduce by spores, not seeds, and since any one area has less reliable productivity, and since the surface waters of To'ul'h Prime's lakes and oceans are not especially productive, this was not a rapid process. Archaeologists have compared this to the limited and very slow development of agriculture-like practices in Old Earth's Australia, where some of the same factors also applied. Nevertheless, by approximately 95,000 years ago, the first towns and cities grew up along To'ul'h Prime's seas and major rivers.

To'ul'h "agriculture", rather like human agriculture, consisted largely of providing water and organic matter, planting appropriate organisms (spores or seeds or the gemmules of sponge-like life forms, or the larvae of sedentary suspension-feeding animals) and removing undesirable growths and exterminating herbivores or parasites. Likewise "pastoralism" entailed use of herds of domesticated or semi-domesticated species, accustomed to and bred by To'ul'h attendants. However the similarities are only superficial. To'ul'h Prime's surface does not know seasons, but it does know unpredictable and long-term fluctuations in local climate. Likewise the masses of organic matter on the surface can develop in unexpected ways, according to shifts in temperature, the nature of the rain of nutrients from above, rainfall, and most of all interactions amongst the saprophytic species. All of this is affected by boom and bust cycles in the productivity of the overlying layers in the upper atmosphere, which are themselves difficult or impossible to predict. Finally, the surface of To'ul'h is not a source of primary production, and therefore offers a limited output per hectare compared to the plants of a standard Gaian world. This fundamentally less rich and reliable food supply shaped the Agricultural Age of the To'ul'h. Many of the longest-lived cultures survived by using highly sophisticated management techniques and multi-species mixes, known as polycultures, and living at relatively low settlement densities. However, they were often outshone or overrun by shorter-lived cultures that blossomed in favourable conditions and that crumbled (sometimes taking more stable and potentially longer lived neighbouring civilizations with them) when they overran the local resources or when conditions changed. The long term effect of this has been that many of the To'ul'h religions and philosophies have a strong component that resembles aspects of Old Earth Taoism, Shintoism, or "Green" Conservationism. Often these beliefs were tied to or implicit in folkways that preserved long-term survival at the expense of short-term development. Naturally, there were counter-movements in To'ul'h thought, particularly in civilizations founded on a local burst of productivity. The intermittent Skywhaler cultures are a prime example of this phenomenon. These were widely regarded as impractical or even evil by more traditional thinkers. This polarity between what some Terragens have called the "Prometheans" (the advocates of progress, even reckless progress) and the "Sysipheans" (the advocates of balance, harmony, and persistence) eventually had its fruit in the conflicts between To'ul'h Homeworlder and Spacer factions in the years following Terragen contact.

The impact of agriculture on To'ul'h societies was muted, but the impact of Industrial Age technology was even smaller. The advent of metallurgy did not have the same result on To'ul'h as on Earth, in part because most alloys do not survive well under humid and acidic conditions that prevail on the surface. Metals generally were held in high regard, but this was as much because of their odd and magical-seeming appearance to the To'ul'h electrical sense as for their utility. Steam engines were developed, though they were not as important because it takes a hot fire to develop steam at all in the high pressures of To'ul'h Prime's atmosphere. Most important of all, however, was the fact that coal, oil, and gas deposits are practically nonexistent on the planet. The energy subsidy that boosted the Terragens through the Industrial age and into the Interplanetary Age simply did not exist. Electricity was discovered early, due to the fact that electrical effects can be sensed directly by the To'ul'h, but it was never highly developed. Balloons and dirigibles were an early development based on the various floating life forms, but they never saw widespread use, since gathering and maintaining the necessary gases from natural floating mats, or heating the air in them from biofuels, was expensive. Perhaps for these reasons, there never was a dramatic onset of scientific thought, and science never became the distinct discipline that it did on Old Earth. For instance, at the time of contact educated To'ul'h in the most complex civilizations were aware that their world was round and was millions of years old, and had constructed the equivalent of a periodic table of the elements, and could if desired build chemical batteries or internal combustion engines, but this knowledge saw only local and specialized application. Rail lines between the Narrow Sea's major cities were at some periods traveled by carts that were driven by methane-powered engines, or by oils refined from harvests of cloudforest plants taken from the high atmosphere. Such vehicles were expensive toys of the aristocracy, however, or the tools of elite couriers and diplomats, and never saw broad application.

The constant rise and fall of civilizations in To'ul'h history was not entirely a cycle of futility. Eventually a common language (the ancestor of To'ul'hoss) and an associated meta-culture of knowledge grew up; a way for scholars across the ages to communicate with one another, as well as for To'ul'h traders and diplomats from distant regions to carry out their business. This language had the status that Sanskrit, or Latin, or the written form of Chinese, assumed in Old Earth's human societies, but it was even more influential and eventually became universal on To'ul'h Prime. Texts that are thousands of years old can still be read by educated To'ul'h, and written history in the Braille-like texts favoured by the To'ul'hoss speakers extends back tens of thousands of years. The calendar still in use by many To'ul'h descended clades dates back to an ancient ceremonial calendar devised in the Narrow Seas region, many thousands of years ago.

Terragen contact began in 3831 AT, when the famous S1 explorer Fortunate Cloud, an agent of the Mutual Progress Association, used an exploration replicating swarm to study the biosphere of To'ul'h Prime and found the To'ul'h civilizations that had been hidden beneath the clouds. Long-range observations and an earlier more cursory exploration of the system had missed the To'ul'h entirely, though of course they had noted that To'ul'h Prime was a lifebearing world. Over a period of 180 years, Fortunate Cloud was joined by other representatives of the Terragens, who studied the To'ul'h and debated a course of action. Eventually the interventionist factions prevailed, and a carefully selected contact team was sent down to the planet surface. In a gradual series of revelations, they introduced the most complex civilizations of To'ul'h Prime to Terragen technologies and cultures. A major barrier proved to be the fact that the Terragens came from the sky. Many ordinary To'ul'h and quite a few of their greatest leaders had the same reaction that even the most sophisticated humans might have had if emissaries had emerged from the fiery bowels of the earth during the Agricultural Age. This lingering image of the Terragens as devils, and of those who dealt with them as corrupted by the representatives of Hell, laid the seeds of later conflict. So too did the contrast between some of the most dynamic Terragen memetics and that of the most sophisticated (and successful) To'ul'h customs and beliefs.

Nevertheless, most of the To'ul'hs proved highly receptive to human technology and ideas. Within a mere 300 years of first contacts there were To'ul'h civilizations that had fully absorbed S<1 a="" action="" along="" already="" and="" at="" began="" begun="" both="" br="" ceremony.="" clades="" concerning="" constructed="" course="" day.="" eill="" eithne="" emerge.="" enusian="" famous="" first="" from="" funeral="" h="" habitats="" had="" hs="" incidents="" intent="" interact="" level="" lives="" lost="" misunderstanding="" modified="" most="" o="" of="" orbiting="" own.="" post-to="" resulting="" riot="" serious="" setbacks="" several="" some="" technology="" terragen="" terragens="" that="" the="" their="" there="" these="" they="" to="" transapients="" tweaks="" ul="" was="" way.="" were="" with="" xenosophont="">
Over the next millennium, To'ul'h groups became part of the human community, settling on and To'ulhforming other Cytherean planets, modifying themselves, building their own AIs and creating their own distinct To'ul'h-human creole. To'ul'h-inhabited worlds existed alongside human worlds, sometimes with no contact, sometimes with busy trade.

The spacefaring To'ul'hs from the interstellar colonies and the To'ul'hs of the homeworld and home system diverged more and more over this time. The Spacers tried to help or convince the stay-at-homes to join the greater Terragen sphere, while conservative groups in the home system, the Homeworlders, increasingly regarded the Spacers as a menace tainted by alien ideas and technologies. In 4211 the first To'ul'h-To'ul'h war occurred, when a Spacer faction attempted to seize power on To'ul'h to "administer the needs of the future". The attempt failed, but was repeated a few decades later, leading to a brief period of technocratic dictatorship. In 4328 the Homeworlders (with some volunteer help from a variety of sympathetic Terragen groups) staged a bloody revolution and ousted the Spacers.

The Spacers organized themselves and began to plan for the final assault, which in the ordinary course of events would have been successful. However, in 4645 one of the Caretaker Gods made an unexpected intervention. The "god" calling eirself Smoking Mirror (O'hoth'so'toh), declared To'ul'h eir domain; and announced e would destroy any entity that trespassed on the Compact of Eden in the system. After some hothead Spacers attempted a pre-emptive attack and Smoking Mirror dispatched them with trivial ease, the aggressive arm of the Spacer movement lost power within the To'ul'h sphere, and turned its energies outwards, towards exploration and development elsewhere in the Arm.

Since then the To'ul'hs outside of the home system have diverged into two directions. The human-creoles have continued close interactions with humans, becoming one species among many others (often employed to survey and colonize Cytherian or hot Gaian worlds). Another fraction, influenced by some Homeworlder ideas, became isolationists and refused all contact with the rest of the civilized galaxy. It is believed they are building their own empire in the space beyond IC6633. Some of these, though not the majority, are known to have adopted various To'ul'h versions of Hider beliefs. As with the Terragens proper, the To'ul'hs have many descendant cyborg, provolve, vec, and AI clades. By policy the To'ul'h homeworld remains accessible to any and all To'ul'hs and post-To'ul'hs, and to the sophont universe at large, regardless of beliefs. Under Smoking Mirror's protection, any and all belief systems are allowed in the home system, as long as they are neither imposed on an unwilling populace nor disruptive of the To'ul'h homeworld's ecology. It is notable that descendants of the ancient Homeworlder ethos are dominant in the cultures of To'ul'h Prime itself.

To'ul'h society has produced some great statesbeings, among the foremost being Ho'th'hss'lho. Others include To'h'hshls'ho, Ho'h'h'l'l'h, H'to'hs'hssl'o, and H't'lo'h'ss'so'h.

Among other To'ul'h persons and groups that have been influential both within and beyond To'ul'h cultures, one particular note is the school of Seniis-2, which popularized the idea of Cytherean "terraformers" for many years before the concept was finally rejected by xenopaleontologists. Today it is of influence only to the historians of ideas, and for the part it played in the development of early Re-evaluation Age Progenitism. The strong parallels between Terragen and To'ul'hese biology, the extraordinary coincidence that both humans and To'ul'hs arose within the same million year period, the mental similarities between To'ul'hs and humans, and even some remarkable parallels between certain of To'ul'h Prime's Narrow Seas cultures and some human cultures (most notably those of Central America), and finally some enigmatic ruins, possibly a hoax, discovered on the To'ul'h homeworld, have meant that both Terragen and To'ul'hese clades have been susceptible to Progenitist thought, though most educated folk reject these beliefs.


Tiger Splices

Popular human bodyform

Tiger Splices
Image from Bernd Helfert

Many different clades of nearbaseline human are colloquially known as 'tiger splices' but in fact most of these are actually carnivorous rianths, humans with a small amount of tiger genome or with completely artificial neogen genes added to give a tiger-like appearance and other characteristics.

Actual tiger 'splices', that is to say tigers with a small admixture of human or neogen genes that give them some human-like characteristics, are much less common, as are tiger provolves, which are fully sophont tigers which have few human characteristics or none at all.


Tavi, Clade

Provolved clade largely derived from meerkats

Vacationers at JD345768502-7
Image from PortalHunter
A group of Tavis on vacation with their Faber associates on JD345768502-7

The Tavi are a provolve/splice group of Terragen mammalian stock. Genetic analysis shows that the clade is derived primarily from the meerkats (Suricata suricatta) of Old Earth, but with significant additions of genetic material from other mongoose species, from humans, and from procyonids (raccoon, coati and kinkajou), as well as some strictly neogen sources. Tavi are rare in the Inner Sphere, but are well known on the Periphery of the Terragen sphere as early colonizers of new systems. They have been particularly common in the regions just beyond NoCoZo influence.

Physically, the Tavi are small slender humanoids. Standing digitigrade they are typically under 1.5 metres tall. They have clawed hands, prehensile tails, short snouts and large brown eyes with vertical pupils. Their black skin is covered in short greyish-brown fur over most of the body, but shows through near the hands, face, and feet. The fur itself varies from dense to sparse according to the ambient temperature over the past few weeks. Tavi prefer a high protein diet containing some chitin for roughage (comparable to their ancestral diet of lizards and small arthropods), but can subsist on a wide range of organics. They have a highly developed tactile sense and a surprisingly strong grip, and have a deft and delicate touch with intricate work. Though not particularly large or strong, they have very quick reflexes and are swift sprinters. They are excellent climbers and leapers, and are good at wriggling through confined spaces. They have a very keen and wide-ranging sense of smell. Tavi vision and hearing are somewhat comparable to that of the upper end for human nearbaselines subclades, with visual acuity and colour discrimination well above the human baseline norm and extra sensitivity to faint sounds. However their night vision is better due to their vertical pupils and the upper range of their hearing is higher by two full octaves. Their own language consists of high pitched chirps, barks, and trills, but their vocal range is very broad and they can communicate verbally with most terragen bionts.

All Tavi can grow or shed under-fur to adapt to the ambient temperature, and are able to see clearly in very dim to very bright light. They are capable of regenerating limbs without technical support and have a moderate degree of resistance to gamma and particle radiation and are strongly resistant to UV burns. Though they prefer habitats in the 25 to 35 °C range with a terran-standard mix of gases and standard terran gravity, they can tolerate varying temperatures in a broad range of oxygen bearing atmospheres, and they can survive indefinitely in anything from microgravity up to two terran gravities. Under adverse conditions Tavi are capable of placing themselves in long-term hibernation, reducing food and oxygen consumption to negligible levels. On the whole, they are physically tough and versatile creatures.

Living without medical support, Tavi have a natural life span of just under a century, though of course in civilized areas they can defer aging effects indefinitely. Their childhoods are short (sexually mature at 8 years, socially mature at 12), and they bear litters of 2 to 6 children at 6 month intervals. This gives the clade a powerful natural reproductive potential. However, socially subordinate individuals are not fertile, and when crowded or otherwise in sub-optimal conditions even the alpha pair in a Tavi social group does not bear any young.

Tavi are adaptable and imaginative, and have a strong sense of curiosity. They are quick and flexible though not particularly deep thinkers, and though they learn very quickly they have a very practical outlook and relatively short attention spans. Though individually they are not considered to be particularly intelligent overall (about the level of a baseline human), each one usually has one or more islands of brilliance (linguistics, programming, art, gene splicing, habitat design, combat, teaching, etc.). Their diverse talents and the fact that they are highly cooperative within their social groups makes them quite formidable collectively even if they are not very imposing as individuals. Tavi intuitions, innovations and kludges are famous. Tavi have a high need for excitement, and are aggressive both individually and as groups, though seldom to the point of physical violence. Even though their responses to their environment are quick and spontaneous, they are not usually long sustained. Though seldom actually rash or cowardly, Tavi are easily irritated or frightened by comparison with a typical human nearbaseline.

There are no known transapient entities of Tavi derivation. Since the Kedric Incident, most Tavi who attempt artificial self-improvement are regarded with extreme suspicion by the rest of the clade. Tavi have few lasting prejudices beside this, other than their present-day distrust of SI:2 entities. However, they are excitable and prone to political, legal and territorial disputes. They are good tacticians but poor strategists, and so are more often than not the losers in long term campaigns against patient or numerous opponents. Many sophonts regard them as clownish and bumptious half-provolved beings. Even where well-liked (some human nearbaselines think of them as "cute", especially in their heavily-furred cold weather form), they are not often highly regarded by a typical unsophisticated modosophonts.

The basic Tavi social unit is the "mob": an alpha male and female with 6 to 30 subsidiary non-reproducing adults, usually related, plus any children. The children are raised in community crèches. The subsidiary adults may, on occasion, divorce their mob and petition another group for entry, or may leave to form a new mob of their own. This most commonly happens between the ages of eight and fifteen, but adults of any age have been may do so at any time. More rarely, a displaced alpha pair will leave the primary mob with a few faithful hangers-on. Mobs cooperate as often as they compete, and occasionally form temporary nation-like, semi-democratic structures based partly on a hierarchy according to economic power and partly on one-mob-one-vote referenda. Where there are few immediate opportunities, a Tavi mob may remain stable for centuries. However, when a frontier opens up, mobs fragment and replicate as individuals and small groups strike out on their own and found new mobs. At times, the population growth rate can be alarmingly rapid.

Image from Steve Bowers

The Tavi are most often found at or beyond the fringes of Terragen civilization, where their alertness, innovation, and ability to deal with crises are most valuable. Scouting, exploration, and crisis management are areas in which they particularly excel. They typically discover and colonize a star system, terraform planets and construct habitats, and live there for several generations before a combination of Tavi restlessness and competition with later-arriving clades causes the majority to move on and colonize new areas (not before, of course, they have sold their existing holdings at a profit). Those who remain tend to be found in the "outback" of habitable planets, or on the less developed fringes of a system. Some Tavi mobs in the more highly settled areas are reclamation specialists who complete botched or marginal terraforming, fix damaged habitats, or clear systems that have been mined with the less sophisticated blights from autowars. In such cases, they tend to use the space they have created for a few generations, and then either by contract or impelled by pressure from later immigrants, sell their holdings and move on. A few collections of Tavi mobs have been "kept" in societums in the Utopia Sphere, but they are a difficult clade to maintain in this way, as they cannot thrive without new challenges and frontiers. Despite their reputation for simplicity, they can recognize attempts to manufacture artificial challenges for them.

Tavi mobs are commonly found in association with reprogroups of the vec clade Faber. Together the two clades can cover a wider range of habitats when they develop a new system, and in alliance, they are far more formidable when they deal with other clades than either of them might be individually, since their personalities and skills are complementary. Some Tavi mobs have integrated themselves into the Deeper Covenant, primarily in their specialty of colonization and reclamation. Together with Fabers they are often the first scouts and constructors for the beamrider network.

The precise origin of the Tavi is unknown. Their own records are of little use, as most mobs have a low regard for historical data unless some practical value is evident. The first mobs were recorded in the 5th millennium in the Utopia Sphere, but they quickly spread from that region, and the Utopia sphere may or may not have been their origin. Tavi are not particularly associated with any of the known Archailect driven civilizations, or allied with any of the major polities. It is commonly believed, even by the few speculative Tavi, that the entire clade was specifically designed to prepare new systems for Terragen settlement. Sapient grade conspiracy theorists often add that the Kedric Incident was designed to propel them even more quickly to the Periphery, so as to speed this process.

One of the few remains of the common Tavi heritage is a stylized crest with the motto "run and find out" in ancient Anglic. Such a motto, in one form or another, is known by nearly every known culture of the clade. The derivation of this appears to be a single tale by an Industrial Age fabulist named Kipling. This is the most likely clue as to the author(s) of the Tavi and their own culture, but no plausible candidates have yet emerged.



Clarktech seeds which confer super-powered augmentations to users

Image from Steve Bowers
A Supersophont converted by a Clarketech seed is usually very bulky, to increase the cross-section of each of eir Ultimate Muscles, and the massive, ultrahard bones they attach to. Thick bones and muscles allow the power of the user to be increased to a maximum. However many supersophonts choose to have smaller muscles and/or muscles, thus retaining a closer resemblance to eir original form at the expense of strength.

In modern Sephirotic societies many citizens possess physical forms which are considerably stronger and more capable than those of a baseline human. In particular, sophonts engaged in law enforcement, military or mercenary activities are often particularly well-augmented and adapted for their tasks. However in some societies not all citizens can acquire such augmentations due to legal, financial or other restrictions and, of course, there are always some who will dedicate themselves to the task of improving their physical forms by any means possible (not all of which are entirely legal or safe).

In the tenth millennium a persistent rumour became current among clarketech hunters about the existence of devices which could rapidly augment the strength of any modosophont to an unprecedented degree. Unlike most such rumours this one turned out to have a basis in fact; the so-called Clarkekent seed.

Clarkekent Seeds

Clarkekent seeds are small godtech artifacts found in various obscure systems in the vicinity of the open cluster M23, apparently scattered by the rogue mobile ISO Genai Memtophaedron during the period from 9201 to 9523. M23 is located in the Sagittarius sector at a distance of 2150 ly from Sol. Altogether some three hundred clarkekents are known to have been recovered and many have been used for various purposes, although more are believed to be floating in deep space. It is not known whether Genai Memtophaedron constructed the devices emself, or acquired the templates from a higher toposophic mind, although most archailectologists and clarketechnologists lean to the latter explanation.

In appearance the clarkekent device resembles a matt-black semi-fluid globule approximately 30cm in diameter, although it weighs several tonnes. Analysis of specimens indicate all have an identical structure, consisting of a godtech computronium core, a reservoir of selfreplicating nanites of extremely advanced design, and a massive but invisibly small quantity of magmatter configured as a power storage loop.

When touched by a modosophont human, vec, provolve or other intelligent being the computer program activates the nanite reservoir. The nanites migrate to various parts of the sophont's body and begin to radically alter their structure, converting its structure into a radically modified version of its original form. Wherever possible this transmogrification will incorporate materials found in the surrounding environment, in particular carbon, boron and nitrogen which allow the construction within the transmogrified sophont's new body a full set of Ultimate Muscles and a skeleton largely replaced by diamondoid or solidified UM material. The end result of this process is an extremely strong, damage resistant, massive artificial entity known as a supersophont, vaguely resembling the original being. A fully converted supersophont will have an average tissue density of approximately 2 grams per cubic centimeter, plus a 30 kilogram magmatter power storage device. A number of additional processing centres are also constructed within the body of the supersophont, to improve the fine control and reactions of the new body, and a range of additional sensory systems which augment those of the original sophont (whatever they may have been).

Soon after the process is completed, the new supersophont must seek a source of energy to charge the magmatter loop, which has itself migrated from the clarkekent device into a suitable location in the new body. The supersophont can exploit a wide range of energy sources and fuels. The godtech replicators remain within the new body, and will rapidly repair almost any damage incurred. If the supersophont wishes to move rapidly from one location to another e may run very rapidly or leap over obstacles, but the increased weight of the new body may cause considerable damage to its surroundings upon landing.

Such a supersophont is highly resistant to many kinds of weaponry, as well as being able to exist in a wide range of environments, including vacuum, high pressures and corrosive atmospheres, without harm, and is resistant to radiation damage. The being so affected also acquires a craving for energy to power the tremendous strength that the person has acquired, and without it e becomes rigid and immobile, and presumably loses all metabolic and neurochemical functions (like the unfortunate "living statue" of the Free Orbital Billonton-5, originally one Citizen Hansu Tilingghang who won a clarkekent during a card game and now has pride of place in the otherwise unprepossessing Billonton Museum of the Unusual (actually a converted shop front)).

This transformation to superstrong being is permanent, and irreversible without archailect help. While a being thus transformed can live happily and indefinitely in this state, the godtech relf-replcating devices are vulnerable to high energy cosmic radiation, as well as to various kinds of transapientech blue goo, and if the devices crash the result is quickly fatal.

Because of the dangers involved, many polities warn against contact with clarkekent devices, should one be fortunate enough to acquire one. If a transapient entity attempts to use a clarkekent seed, the seed will deactivate and denature itself; it appears to scan the user with magnetic resonance sensors before activating. For this reason transapients only seek clarkekent seeds to remove them away from possible contact with modosophonts, presumably for safety reasons.

Supersophonts in society

While there have several cases of clarkekentised sophonts becoming defenders of small lo-tech communities, there have also been cases where they have used their newfound powers for criminal purposes, such as the notorious General Uzzor (originally Stanlei Modesthu of Bells Ascension, nominal Negentropy Alliance) who discovered too late the vulnerability of clarkekent technology to boom bullets when the Negentropist Commissioner Jion Pasthuman used a single 12'' gauge bullet to bring an end to Uzzor's reign of terror.

Clarkekent augmented supersophonts have occasionally competed in the Summer Combat on Perdix, but since they were persistently victorious they have been banned since 10480. Supersophonts are also banned from several other major competitions.

Despite the dangers involved, many ambitious sophonts would like to acquire a clarkekent seed, and the value of the artifact (one recently sold at auction in Merrion for several hundred billion Merrion Dollars) makes it in high demand. Numerous fabulist stories and popular virches tell the story of downtrodden but heroic adventurers who after many dangers acquire a specimen, which is then either used by them to vanquish enemies, or sold to bring lifelong wealth. There are also a number of guides (some with valid advice, others more harmful than beneficial) circulating across the Known Net on the Careful Use of Clarkekent, should one be fortunate to acquire one of these artifacts.

Similar Clarketech Devices

Other powerful clarketech devices which confer different types of supersophont abilities are occasionally found, such as the fabled Blue Mazarin, which allows limited control over the local spacetime metric, allowing the user to fly or lift heavy objects without damaging them, and the Fog Subverter, which can assume control over many types of utility fog, including to a limited degree certain grades of angelnet. Perhaps most remarkable is the Silverseed, which confers all the abilities associated with the matt-black clarkekent, but also includes a set of tiny nested void bubbles which gives the supersophont reactionless flight capacity. In effect the victim becomes a minature displacement drive vessel.

Note that a sophont who uses a clarkekent seed does not transcend to the next toposophic level, although they are generally augmented mentally to some degree. For this reason clarkekents are regarded as less powerful than godseeds, which do induce transcension (but are just as dangerous in their own way). The power conferred by a clarkekent seed is remarkable, but it is only comparable in quality to that possessed by a typical avatar of an archai, and since the avatar is controlled by a high toposophic being it will prevail in almost any contest with a supersophont. For this reason supersophonts who wish to use clarkekents for criminal purposes almost always avoid areas controlled by high transapients and above.

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Genetically Engineered Sophont Elephants

Jessi and Mahotep
Image from Arik
Jessi, a nearbaseline human, dancing with Mahotep, a Sufant.

A program of genetic engineering of elephants began in the mid-third century AT by a consortium of companies from Sri Lanka and Thailand who wished to improve the working Asian elephants already present in their countries. Already being intelligent, the provolution of elephants did not prove too hard a task, limited mainly by the slow reproductive and generation cycle of the elephant species.

However in 350 A.T. they successfully engineered the 'Superphant', which was more intelligent than an unmodified Asian elephant, with a more dextrous trunk and some limited ability to speak. Superphant was quickly contracted to Sufant, the name all of the various elephant provolve races have been known by ever since.

They were a great success in their jobs, and even came to replace mechanical vehicles in some roles, particularly in rough country. Because of this success, the Sufants spread to other places, particularly India and other south-east-Asian countries. As the success of the project grew, the first Pan-Sophontism movements began to grow up, particularly in Sri Lanka. The Sufants were one of the earlier provolved sophont races, being perhaps the fifth or sixth such race (records are unclear).

Later generations of Sufants were made more intelligent yet, up to the human level, and it was here that problems began to arise. The Sufants tended to still have contact with unmodified elephants in their work, but the more intelligent they became, the less and less well the modified and unmodified elephants got on. The difference in intelligence was simply too great, leading to a number of fatal fights between individuals and small groups of Sufants and normal elephants, with a great deal of collateral damage as these multi-tonne-mass creatures brawled in the street.

To solve this problem, most governments simply decreed that the Sufants and normal elephants be segregated from one another. However, the Sri Lankan government came to a different conclusion. Influenced by the Pan-Sophontism movement growing in their country, they instead decreed that all elephants in Sri Lanka be provolved into Sufants, with the new intelligent species to be given full equality with the humans there.

In time the idea of equality for Sufants spread, and all members of the species everywhere came to be granted citizenship of their various nations, though, in some cases, not without struggle and deaths. But eventually Sufants came to live peacefully side-by-side with humans across Asia, with all of Sri Lanka's elephants now being a sentient race, one more flavour in that nation's cultural melting pot.

As the Sufant race developed, with their permission additional changes were made to them, increasing the dexterity and number of fingers of their trunks, and also increasing the number of trunks, normally to two (sometimes side by side, sometimes one on the top lip of the Sufants, one on the bottom lip), but in a few cases to four, or even six. In all cases efforts were made to ensure that all Sufants remained inter-fertile.

While the Sufant race was spreading in Asia, efforts to provolve African elephants were also being made by a group of African nations led by the government of Kenya. This was inspired by the success of the Sufants, and also revived an old idea as to how useful tame or sentient African elephants could be to the development of the continent.

However, although as intelligent as the Asian variety, African elephants proved a much harder species to provolve. Not only did they not have the thousands of years of association with humanity 'hard-wired' into them which the Asian species possessed, but they also simply did not seem to like humans, regardless of all the efforts made to change this. They seemed, as a race, to hold a grudge against humanity as a whole, perhaps for the long-term hunting of their kind for ivory by humans.

Despite this, a small group of sophont African elephants was produced, and given a reserve on which to live while their future was considered. They came to look down their noses (quite an impressive thing, with an elephant) at the Sufants, considering them far too friendly with humanity. The Sufants, in their turn, and after a number of heated meetings with representatives of the African provolves, also came to look down on the African provolves as ignorant half-savages who should stay on their reserve, and away from humanity.

By the time of the Technocalypse, Sufants were well established across Asia, and in a few other parts of the world too. Experiments in creating lazurogenic mammoths were also taking place, with the intention of, perhaps, creating a cold-adapted Sufant. The small enclave of provolved African elephants also still existed, having been rather ignored, perhaps in the hope that it would simply go away. However, very few provolved elephants of any kind had been into space, mainly because of their size and difficulty of manoeuvring in micro-gravity.

The Technocalypse nearly caused the extinction of all of the various elephant provolve races. It is almost certain that the African provolves did become extinct during the Grey Spring of 541 AT, though they were later recreated by the GAIA archailect. As with all of the other sophonts of Earth, after GAIA took charge the Sufants and African provolves were given the choice of staying on Earth and living in an eco-friendly manner, or leaving. All of the African provolves and a few of the Sufants remained on Earth; most of the Sufants left.

In due course the Technocalypse was overcome and stability returned, and the Sufants diversified even further, some setting up polities of their own, and some living side by side with the other sophont races.

The diversification of the Sufants included the creation of lazurogenic mammoth, mastodon and deinotherium-types, which have all became distinct sub-species, as have a number of pygmy Sufant types. Using bionanotech to strengthen their bones and other tissues also led to some Sufant groups becoming gigantic, the largest Terragen-descended land animals ever to exist. These various original groups of Sufants have since diversified into a number of sub-clades, each containing mixtures of different features such as origin (Asian elephant, Indian elephant or lazurogenic mammoth, mastodon or deinotherium), size, and number of trunks. Some Suphants have also been given a prehensile tail so that they have manipulative ability at both ends of their body. Certain other types of Suphant refer to this sub-group by the derogatory term 'Monkeyphants'.

Almost all elephants and Sufants have a unique seismic sense, the ability to both receive and transmit infrasonic seismic signals through the ground, allowing them to sense activity, and communicate with other Sufants and elephants at great distances. They can also use their seismic sense to detect vibrations and so on in objects they touch.

None of the elephant provolves proved to particularly like living on starships or in space habitats, apparently because of the limitations such places put on their seismic sense, and the impression they gain from this sense of their living over a great void. Because of this, the only large elephant provolve settlements grew up on planetary surfaces.

Some space-going Sufant groups did have their seismic sense removed to make their lives there easier. Most other Sufants look down on them much as a human might on someone who voluntarily plucked out their own eyes. Other space-going groups have simply adjusted their brains so they do not react so negatively to what their seismic sense detects in space. Some space-going Sufants have also adjusted themselves to existence in microgravity, with prehensile feet and so on; many of these now do not greatly resemble baseline elephants.

It was some time after the Gaian Whales left Earth that a similar Diaspora of Earth-based elephant provolves began. These proved to consist entirely of African elephant provolves, who wanted nothing to do with any other race. Their ships departed into interstellar space after only minimal contact with anyone else. A few of these provolves settled on the world Hhrraiirah in Sophic League space, but most of them are still heading to rimward, presumably hoping to escape the Terragen Sphere altogether.

In the millennia since, the Sufants have spread far and wide through Terragens space. Expansion into space has occasionally brought various Terragens-descended groups into contact with African-descended Sufant groups who have settled on various previously unexplored worlds. These groups usually pack up and leave when outsiders make contact with them. Because of this behaviour it is suspected that there are also a number of Hider Sufant groups. African Sufant polities have, on a number of occasions, warred with human and other groups, particularly Indian-descended Sufants (who they disparagingly refer to as 'Baba's, after an ancient fable), apparently still bearing their ancient grudge.

There have been, and are, a number of Sufant polities spread across Terragens space. Most of these are fairly small in influence, partly because their large size tends to lead to their worlds having small populations (a maximum of hundreds of millions on an Earth-like world, with little room for other large herbivores) and also because they tend to be limited to large savannah, forest or tundra-type habitats. Because of their seismic sense, few Sufant polities use space habitats of any kind, and what space vessels they have tend to be very solid hollowed out of asteroids with living quarters installed inside. However, a few Sufant groups are spacefaring and a number are heavily cyborged and bioborged. Many Sufant ships have seismic communication systems.

Biont Encoding Protocol
Image from Steve Bowers

One of the most successful of the Sufant sub-clades is the Harrroh descended from Indian elephants, who are respected as philosophers, playwrights and artists. However, there are many other clades of sufant which are found throughout the Terragen Sphere.

The Hhrraiirah, in the Sophic League, are descended from the African elephants who left Earth later, and have established a quite competitive culture that puts them rather at odds with most of the rest of the League.

Many Sufant groups have world-deity-based religious beliefs based on their seismic sense, which, to them, allows the world talk to them, and the world allows them to talk to others at great distances. Those Sufant groups who are non-technological and/or primitive (whether from choice or otherwise) often take these beliefs much more seriously than high-technology groups. Some Sufant worlds have implemented computer networks, and in particular BioGeoComputer systems, such that it and they can communicate via the ground, using their seismic sense.

The various Sufant races have also, over time, produced their share of higher toposophic entities.

Unmodified elephants walk at a pace of perhaps four miles per hour, but can charge at speeds of up to thirty miles per hour. They cannot jump and so cannot pass barriers too wide or too high to step over, but they can swim well. They are surprisingly graceful, and can be remarkably stealthy for such large creatures. All of these capabilities are retained in most Sufants.

The social structure of Prim and Ludd Sufant groups is often not unlike those of unmodified elephants. Male and female Sufants in such societies tend to live in separate groups (herds).

The female herd is the much more enduring social group, and is the basis of Sufant society. These herds (which also include any children) are led by a matriarch, the 'keeper of the memory', the oldest and most experienced of the herd, who guides the herd - her family, generally consisting of her female offspring and their young, though it can also include one of the matriarch's sisters and her offspring as well - and protects them from danger, using the wisdom she has acquired over the years. These groups tend to be between ten and twenty individuals, but can split up pr merge depending on the size of the family, the amount of available food, and how well they are getting along. Female groups that split up maintain contact with one another, forming a wider society, and with links to other groups form clans, which are even larger social units.

When the matriarch of a herd dies or otherwise steps down from her position, one of the oldest of her offspring takes her place. Without leadership unmodified elephants become unhappy and disorientated; although Sufants can cope better with this, they are still uncomfortable if they are in a leaderless group. However, because they are sophont they normally have a defined line of succession so that, even if medical treatment is not available, it would take a major disaster to render a herd entirely leaderless.

Male (bachelor) herds tend to be much more nomadic and transitory than the female herds. As male Sufants grow older and approach puberty they gradually become more independent from the family group, spending more time on its outskirts. Eventually, the males leave the family and join with other males of different ages in a bachelor herd.

In general the male and female herds remain apart, only coming together when females are in heat, when a male will pursue a female until she accepts him (or chases him off), mate, and then return to the bachelor herd.

More advanced Sufants will have societies which are based on this social structure, but usually have a thick layer of civilisation overlaying the basic society making it, in many cases, barely recognisable as deriving from baseline elephant society. And with the diversification of the Sufant clade into a superclade there are now, as with all superclades, countless different tribes, subclades, species, cultures, lineages, and so on which vary greatly among themselves in social and other matters.

In many advanced Sufant societies herd leadership is provided by AIs, or by Sufants who have ascended to higher toposophic levels. In some cases this has also allowed the creation of 'super-herds' where one AI or post-Sufant leads not just one herd but many, co-ordinating them together into a very well organised Sufant polity. In other cases, biont-friendly hyperturings have adopted Sufants, and even entire worlds of Sufants, in the same way as they have been known to do with hu and other bionts. On a few worlds the use of implanted communications and web nodes has led to Sufant herds self-organising, not into a group mind (though that has happened in some cases) but into larger and larger clans and beyond this into a society which, although still made up of individuals, acts almost automatically as a single social unit, co-ordinated by their communications web.

All Sufants have an even longer period of childhood than unmodified elephants, becoming sexually mature at around sixteen years of age, and are usually considered fully mature when the male Sufants join the bachelor herds, usually at around twenty-five years of age.

Sufant greetings can be very loud and raucous affairs, as the Sufants, with their heads held high and ears flapping, fill the air with a symphony of trumpets, rumbles, screams, and roars. They take play, joy and grief very seriously.

One thing that has become clear over the centuries is that Sufants have long memories, and they bear a grudge. This was even observed in unmodified African elephants, which have been known to hunt down and kill lion cubs when lions kill their young. Although they are aware that not all of a given group will necessarily be responsible for a given act against them, they will do their best to track down those who act against them, and both gain retribution and ensure that such acts do not happen again. They will not act precipitously in this, but they will, eventually, act. There are several recorded instances of Sufants transcending simply to give them the power to act against some threat to them or their world, and even more of Sufants carrying vendettas over many generations.

Most baseline Sufants also seem to have a near-instinctive negative reaction to big cats, which also applies to provolves, rianths, and splices with big cat characteristics. Those Sufants who have not had this outmoded behaviour edited out of their minds usually have rather strained diplomatic relations with these various cat-like races.

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