Amphisapiens

amphisapiens
Image from Steve Bowers

Sometime in the later part of the third millennium a.t. a small group of nearbaseline settlers along with several posthuman overseers left the core of the emerging Utopia Sphere for a small system in the coreward Middle Volumes. The single habitable planet in the system was scheduled to complete terraforming a few decades ahead of the settlers' arrival. However on arrival at the system (at a now unknown date), the settlers were greeted by a disappointing sight.

A flaw in the programming of the subsentient terraforming ships had made them bombard the target world with far too many icy meteors and other volatiles than were necessary. A series of accidents (possibly related to that flaw) had also caused the destruction of two of the seven terraforming ships. The result was a watery world with only about 7% as inhabitable landmass. There was only a single large island-continent, which made up about 5% of the planet's surface. In effect, the world had been "aquaformed" instead of terraformed. It wasn't a complete disaster as the bio-replicators had been successful in seeding the world with a fairly wide array of living species. Of course things weren't perfect as the original intent had been to create a land-based biosphere rather than an ocean-based one. But the settlers didn't have enough amat to go back or to move somewhere else, so they decide to stay and make the most of their new world.

In a few months the 3000-odd nearbaselines had all landed and were putting their advanced biotech to good use, improving on the basic lifeforms on the world to create more variety. Then suddenly their ship along with all the posthumans and most of their other equipment suddenly left. The settlers were effectively marooned with nothing much besides themselves, their newly constructed habitats and their advanced biotech.

The rest of the galaxy soon forgot the world and the marooned colonists. It was not until after the Version War in 4898 that an expedition from the Utopia Sphere entered the system. On approach a strange vessel greeted them and asked them to identify themselves. When the expedition had proved beyond doubt that they were from the Utopia Sphere the vessel allowed itself to be boarded. The members of the expedition found, much to their amazement, that the posthumans of the original (now forgotten) expedition had coalesced and undergone a collective ascension to SI:2 and had even integrated the surviving terraforming ships into their original ship. The new entity, calling emself the Wishful Watcher, instructed the expedition to move toward the watery world, but requested them not to interfere with anything they saw.

When they reached the world, they were surprised once more. From what they had heard from the entity, they had expected to find a crowded and busy nearbaseline society squeezed onto the small island-continent. But they found that the continent was covered with pristine, undisturbed forest. In fact, they found no immediate signs of intelligent life at all. Their immediate thought was that the nearbaseline population had somehow died out during the two millennia between the expeditions. But a closer look revealed that things were far different.

The first unusual thing they saw was what looked like small circular islands, placed in almost perfect circles and heavily forested. But on closer observations the "islands" turned out to be rings of huge tree-like plants, with trunks stretching all the way down to the beds of the shallow oceans. Eventually they found out many more such biological marvels, though the trees were the most common. Finally they solved the mystery of the lost colonists.

The colonists had abandoned most of the tiny continent in favour of the much larger and open ocean and in order to do so, they had become amphibians. Consequently they had built themselves a stable amphibious and biotech-based civilization. Marooned without sufficient technology to start a typical industrialized society, the colonists had formed a predominantly agricultural and piscicultural society instead. In accordance with the Wishful Watcher's request the expedition observed, but did not interfere. As they pondered their next step, the Wishful Watcher suddenly reappeared and offered them information on what had happened in the last two millennia.

Soon after reaching the system, the posthumans realized that the lack of habitable land would lead to one of two possible conclusions. Either the nearbaseline colonists would multiply and expand until there was no longer space for comfortable habitation, resulting in conflict, or they would freeze themselves into a rigid, technologically and culturally stagnant society which would ultimately creep to a slow death. Foreseeing inevitable disaster, the posthumans had taken measures that would force the colonists to take a completely different path to survive. They had made sure that the colonists were all adapting to life on the new world, and were fairly comfortable and happy. At the same time, they also made sure that the colonists had very little technology besides their advanced biotech. That being done, the posthumans had left the colonists after memetically ensuring that after a few months of turmoil, the colonists would again continue their work and embark on the new plan set up for them.

For a few decades they had watched from afar, always ready to return if need be. But once they saw the ecopoesis of the colonists get underway in earnest, they left for the outer system. There they gathered the remaining dormant terraforming ships and ascended to SI:2, becoming the Wishful Watcher. Though the arrival of outsiders into the system had never been considered really important by the posthumans themselves, the Watcher said that E would no longer interfere in the development of the amphibians, but would stay in the system until they were properly introduced to the rest of the galaxy. Seraphim from the Utopia Sphere arrived soon after that and began the careful process of adjusting the memeticity of the new clade (which soon began calling themselves the Amphisapiens) so that they could join the rest of the galaxy.

In 5347 a body representing the various Amphisapiens habitats of their world, christened Shaati Jol (Peaceful Waters), formally decided to join the Utopia Sphere. With this event, the Wishful Watcher ended Eir two-thousand-year vigil and returned to the Utopia Sphere. There E was rewarded for Eir "efforts to preserve life and devotion to a worthy cause". E was upgraded to SI:3 and given the freedom to explore the galaxy. E is currently somewhere in the Zoeific Biopolity.

Physiology

The Amphisapiens gradually changed themselves from a standard nearbaseline genotype to an amphibious rianth/neogen genotype, with features adapted from a number of different species. Although the exact method and steps used for the change has been mostly forgotten it is known that the changes took place over a number of generations, each one coming closer to the goal of a complete amphibian genotype.

The most important adaptation was of course creating respiration systems for underwater use. The standard Amphisapien design still keeps the lungs as the main respiratory organ, but enhances their efficiency. The Amphisapiens can hold their breath for up to an hour and extract almost 95% of the oxygen available. Special filter membranes at the entrance to the bronchi allow them to increase the percentage of oxygen in their lungs per breath. After breathing in normally, this filter closes off the entranceway and their diaphragm pressurises the air inside to force the nitrogen out through it. Almost 40% of the air left behind is oxygen, which is double the atmospheric ratio. Their diaphragm is also used to force out the spent air after a dive allowing the lungs to be refilled with 90% fresh air in one breath. They also increased the amount of haemoglobin in the blood as well as creating a number of complementary macromolecules that allows them to carry a larger amount of oxygen in the blood plasma itself, and their muscles contain high concentrations of the oxygen-binding protein myoglobin. However this on its own is not entirely enough to fulfill their oxygen requirements. They also have a pair of gill-like structures on either side of their neck, which allow them to draw some amount of oxygen directly from the water flowing out of them. This water is taken in through the mouth but prevented from entering the lungs by the same filter at the entrance to the bronchi. Most of their body surface was at one time covered by a sub-dermal membrane which allowed a small amount of oxygen to pass directly from the water into the blood-stream but one of the later enhancements replaced the sub-dermal membrane with a set of crosswise flaps (generally five but six in some sub-clades) of skin covering the shoulders and about a quarter of the back. The underside of these flaps is thick in ridges of membrane. This membrane is similar to the sub-dermal membrane but is more effective while being more protected. While swimming, the action of water helps to separate the flaps and ridges and increase the surface area for direct absorption of oxygen. The climate of their homeworld is warm so heat loss is minimal.

Being amphibious, the Amphisapiens spend a large part of their time swimming, but can also stay on land for long periods. Amphisapien feet and toes are quite long and the feet are webbed. The structure of the ankle and foot is also modified. This modification allows the Amphisapiens foot to bend down to form a streamlined straight line with the rest of leg. Adult Amphisapiens can 'lock' their feet into this position for long periods of time. Hair is almost completely absent from the whole body and a layer of streamlining fat smoothes the surface.

Another important change was in the digestive system. The original colonists were creating an ecosystem from scratch and they soon realized that they could create whatever plants and animals they liked, and could design them to provide nutrients in an easily usable form. Thus they could easily simplify their digestive systems and over a number of generations they did so, fine-tuning it so that they could better live off the ecology they were creating. They also created several species of symbiotic bacteria, which live in their digestive tracts and are capable of breaking down certain foods. The result was a much smaller, compact and efficient digestive system. This is turn allowed them to increase the size of their lungs and also to create a muscular pouch along their belly. The Amphisapiens place stones and other heavy items in this pouch to counter-act the buoyancy of their enlarged lungs. This allows the Amphisapiens to be neutrally buoyant (they can stay afloat while at rest at almost any depth as long as it is not too extreme) but also gives them the ability to drop their ballast and ascend quickly in an emergency. Their genitals are also normally retracted into the body and covered by this muscular pouch. Amphisapien metabolism has also been greatly modified. It is somewhat slower than a human baseline's, which increases the time they can spend underwater, but it is still more efficient at processing certain compounds that are abundant in their environment while it is less capable of handling other substances. On the whole, it can be said that the Amphisapien metabolism has been carefully adapted to the ecology they created for themselves.

A common problem faced by many land-based lifeforms, when adapted for aquatic life is the problem of communication. Sound based communication while very effective for an air environment can be difficult under water, mainly because the vocal system in most Terragen life forms is directly and intimately linked to the respiratory system, making it almost impossible to speak while holding one's breath. A common solution is to move away from sound-based communication altogether and use light (similar to the Europans). The Amphisapiens chose the latter, however they still retain fully functional vocal chords and can talk like normal baselines out of the water. Some of the few existing records show that an ultrasonic adaptation (using a completely different organ set to generate the sound) was in fact tried out, but later cancelled, probably because the Amphisapiens found it difficult to cope with the 'noise' produced by the echo of the ultrasonic sound, especially in small areas underwater. Ultimately the Amphisapiens chose a method of communication based on signalling using chromatophores. Large chromatophore clusters were placed on the chest and back region and smaller clusters on the arms while the lower limbs are almost entirely devoid of chromatophores.

Some of the most drastic changes are to be found in the reproductive systems and lifecycles adopted by the Amphisapiens. For most of their history, before being discovered, the Amphisapiens were playing a delicate population balancing game. On the one hand, they had to keep their population low enough as not to damage the fragile new ecosystem they were developing and at the same time, they had to grow fast enough to extend and maintain the ecology. They chose to make themselves long-lived, living for well over 400 years without medical assistance. At the same time they divided their lifecycle into a number of biologically based phases. Amphisapien children are all born out of the water, generally at above-water projections of their underwater cities (see below). Their gills and oxygen separating membranes are undeveloped and their lung volume is too small to hold air for a large amount of time. Their haemoglobin levels are close to a baseline's and the complementary macromolecules are produced in very small amounts. Like baseline babies they have little control over their movements, or their chromatophores. Over a childhood phase of about 13 to 15 years they develop their amphibious organs. At the end of this period they are fully capable of an amphibious life, but are still sexually immature. Up to this point, the children are completely sexless and have no sex organs in their bodies. Over a period of about 20 years of an adolescence phase, the juvenile Amphisapien develops sex organs and sexual characteristics. Extensive neural development also takes place at this time, especially in the areas responsible for perception, communication and movement (adaptations for the completely 3 dimensional environment of the seas). At the end of this, the Amphisapien is an adult capable of reproduction.

While chromosomes determine the sex of the individual at birth they have the biotechnology to change their sex easily. An Amphisapien is capable of reproduction for about 250 years and during this time may change sex a maximum of 3 times (after which their bodies become 'resistant' to the sex change biochemicals). Sex change is a slow process as it involves change in the sexual organs as well as the brain and related psychology and can take a few months for a complete change. Though individuals can initiate and complete the change entirely on their own, by exposing themselves to the proper custom made biochemicals, the process is often monitored and guided by other Amphisapiens who have been specially trained for such purposes. At the end of this 250-year period the individual undergoes another transformation over a period of a few years where the sexual organs and hormones are lost entirely. The individual becomes completely asexual and the brain areas previously devoted to emotional activity become restructured to devote more neurons to more logic intensive thoughts. The result is a being that is biologically suited to be a manager, planner and leader. The individual remains in this phase, known as the 'elderhood' for the remaining period of jer life.

The Amphisapiens used not only genetics and biochemistry to alter themselves, but also used powerful bionano and neogenics. Much of the development of an individual during the various phases, especially during large-scale restructuring, is done using bionano and a species of symbiotic neogen worms capable of analyzing an individual's genetic make-up and creating a fresh stock of stem cells, which are then used to create new organs. These worms also synthesize the biochemicals used to initiate and guide sex changes. The hormones responsible for the phase changes are made by the modified endocrine glands of the individuals themselves. These hormones trigger the activity of the bionano and the worms to perform the required tasks.

Society and Culture

Amphisapien society is a pseudo-nomadic one, and is influenced by their lifecycle. The basic unit of society is not a family or clan based on biological relations, but rather a 'siblinghood' based on age and generation. A siblinghood consists of about 500 to 700 individuals all of whose ages are within about 3 to 4 years of each other. These siblinghoods are nomadic. But there are permanent cities of no more than 200,000 individuals and each city is generally centred about a growing or developing ecology. Each city has projections above water, which provide space for the birth of Amphisapien children, and is surrounded by a local ecosystem, created, or at least maintained by the Amphisapiens. All births take place at cities, but if there is a large enough natural landmass nearby, it is also used as a nursery. The parents of a siblinghood generally all belong to a single siblinghood themselves. Once their children are born at a city, they remain at the city for about 30 years, until the children near the end of their adolescence. At that point the parent siblinghood departs leaving the children at the city in the care of each other and the older permanent city residents.

Once most of the children have reached adulthood, they form their own siblinghood and leave the city on the first of their own nomadic journeys. It is not unusual for these journeys to last for a few years. During this time the members of the siblinghood form strong bonds with each other, and males and females often pair into couples. Of course, not all members pair up, especially if there is a gender imbalance. After a few years of nomadic wondering and exploring, the siblinghood seeks out another city. Here they settle down for a few decades and help to improve and maintain the local ecology before setting off on another journey. When the siblinghood has reached the second or third city in this way, the members of the siblinghood generally decide to have their own children. Like their parents before them, they give birth to their children at the city's above-water areas and wait for about 30 years before setting off again. It is also at these cities that Amphisapiens may change sex, guided by the older, permanent residents of the city. The Amphisapiens will spend all the 250 years of their adult life in this semi-nomadic way, traveling from city to city, helping out where they can, and gaining a varied experience. They will generally have children two to three times throughout this period. As elderhood sets in, the siblinghood will generally choose a final city to settle in, or may even decide to start their own city. Once they reach their new city, they will settle there and devote the rest of their lives to managing and developing the city and its local ecology.

Both the cities and the nomadic journeys play an important part in the life of an Amphisapien. It is at the cities that they receive education and training in various fields, related to biotechnology and ecosystem management. By working and helping out at the cities, the Amphisapiens can earn their stay and also various rewards, mostly in the form of resources, and biotech, which they can carry with them in their journeys. The cities also provide a meeting place for various siblinghoods and facilitate the exchange of information as well as stories about their journeys. It is also at the cities that siblinghoods of about the same age may join together to form larger siblinghoods, or simply exchange members.

However, to truly understand Amphisapien society one must look at the Amphisapiens during their nomadic migrations. The migrations are the periods when the individual amphisapien develops his relations with his siblings and also explores his own nature. These long journeys often result in enduring relations between individual members, which last for a lifetime. As with many societies in the Terragen Sphere, where the members are long-lived, the Amphisapiens have no marriage system. Parenthood is more important. Two individuals having a relationship with each other may decide to have a child together. If both are of the same sex, one of them simply changes sex (this is easily achieved as both sex change and childbirth take place at cities). Once the child has reached the end of adolescence, they may decide to continue with their relationship, or to separate. The process of forming and breaking relationships takes place almost exclusively during the journeys. There is little change while the siblinghood is at a city. Group relations are not uncommon, though parenting rights sometime become confusing, and sorting them out is generally left to the individuals in the relationships.

Amphisapien society is based on sharing, rather than on individual possession and trade. Amphisapiens have few personal possessions and little attachment to them. Most of them work for work's sake and care little for what rewards they get. They are dedicated to the development and improvement of their local ecosystem, and tend to view themselves as 'gardeners,' working to sustain and improve their 'gardens' without the intention of actively exploiting their creations. Often they will add elements to their ecosystem, simply for the fun of it, without caring if it is really necessary. They do however consider it wise to 'test the waters' with non-reproducing samples of these additions to see how they interact with the greater whole.

The Amphisapien culture does not have an indigenous religion but many Amphisapien view their journeys to be spiritual experiences, as opposed to the material experiences of the cities, and after being reintroduced to the galaxy they have adapted a mix of Caretaker ethos and Bioism. As they spread throughout the Utopia Sphere, and later the Zoeific Biopolity, they often formed 'cults' devoted to the local God. Most of these cults view themselves as 'children' or 'disciples' of that local god, performing the same role for their ecosystems that their God performs for them.

The native Amphisapien spoken language is similar to the language of the Utopia Sphere, though Amphisapiens in other parts of Terragen space generally adopt the local language. However, their chromatophore-based language appears to be the same throughout the clade. Amphisapiens claim that they do not "understand" the various colour patterns that they use to communicate, but rather, they "feel" them in much the same way that a baseline would feel emotions. There is some evidence that the Amphisapiens included some empath genes, and the brain areas responsible for visual perception are quite different from that of most other rianth species. Thus their visual language is more of a genetic trait than it is a cultural one.

Technology

Amphisapien technology is exclusively biotech. Even their buildings and vehicles are biological structures and they create neogen plants and animals with the same frequency that other societies would create new machines or new software. Like many other biocentric cultures, the local ecosystem forms a vital part of their technological infrastructure.

Amphisapiens live inside in huge plants, both on land and in the water. The "circular islands" that the Utopia Sphere expedition saw were actually plants of this type. Amphisapiens prefer shallow seas to deeper oceans and their cities are usually in areas where the seabed is not too deep down. The cities generally consist of a circle of large trees, which reach from the water surface to the seabed. The tree trunks can be up to 200 metres in diameter and have large, interconnected hollow spaces inside. The hollow spaces, which vary in size, provide living space and space for other social activities. Some of these are air-filled, while others are water-filled. The actual structure of the trees is composed of dense plant fibres, as well as some bio-diamondoid analog based support structures, which together provide structural strength. The trees also contain channels for transport of air and water, as well as communication networks made of a form of biological optical fibre. There are also special channels for the transport of nutrients and energy-rich chemicals used by the various biological machines, as well as channels for removal of the wastes they produce.

The outsides of the trees have large leaf-like structures, some of which are flat and serve as platforms and others that are closed spheres or similar shapes. A tree will have a roughly equal number of each. The flat leaves are more often above the water. Most of the closed leafs are underwater and serve as entry and exit points, as well as temporary storage locations. They also act as vehicle parking areas and airlocks, though the vehicles are mostly aquatic animals. Both types of leaves provide surfaces for exchange of gases.

The trees also throw out branches, generally directed towards adjacent trees and towards the centre of the circle. These branches are often hollow and the Amphisapiens guide the growth of the branches so that branches from different trees grow toward each other. When the tips of these branches come close to each other the Amphisapiens use a special neogen creeper/fungus to eat away the tips and join the branches, forming tunnels between the trees. In developed cities it is possible to go all around the circle without ever coming into contact with water from the outside. But the centre of the circle is the most interesting. Here dozens of branches from all the trees come together at various depths. More special symbiotic plants join the multiple branches, but here they don't form tunnels. Rather the joining of the various branches at multiple depths forms a huge cage, holding a multilevel, open-water metropolis, where Amphisapiens can easily swim from one level to the next. Considering that most cities have ten to a dozen trees and that there is over a kilometre of separation between the trees, the metropolis can be a vast area (add to this the fact that there are often several levels). The exact use of this area varies from city to city, though in general it is used for large-scale social activities like markets and universities and often for hosting meetings of the City Council.

The tops of the trees reach above the water and there they branch out into huge branch and leaf systems, spreading over a roughly circular area about 500 meters in diameter and often extending over 70 meters in height. This canopy serves a dual purpose: firstly it provides much of the photosynthetic needs of the tree as well as contributing to gaseous exchange, which maintains a proper oxygen level inside the tree. Secondly, in absence of a large enough local landmass, the large leaves and leaf-like structures of the canopy provide living space for those who wish to live in air for some time as well as, more importantly, providing areas for the birth and rearing of Amphisapien children. Often soil from the seabed is lifted up to the lower levels of the canopy, and this soil in conjunction with a growth of creepers and other plants, form a sort of pseudo-soil, which is often indistinguishable from normal, thickly forested land. In such cases the lower most level of the canopy is made of a dense growth of smaller spherical leaves that are partially submerged and hence help to support the weight of the pseudo-soil. These rafts of closed leafs are also used as nurseries, where new plants and animals can be grown using nutrients from the tree itself before being relocated.

Accompanying the larger trees is often a number of smaller, free-floating plant-derived structures. These come in many forms but are generally composed of a large hollow gourd-like structure, partially submerged with leaf and branch-like structures spreading above the water and along the water surface. Being free-floating these often drift away to collect in the doldrums of the world ocean. There they get entangled in the great floating mats of seaweed that form in the still waters. As the gourds and floatation chambers of the seaweeds are filled with pure oxygen the Amphisapiens can use them to increase their diving time. But the gourds have another function. They float low in the water because they collect iron and other heavy metals dissolved in the seawater to form nodules. The Amphisapiens harvest these nodules for their own ballast needs.

On land, the Amphisapiens also live in neogen trees, but these are generally smaller and consist of only two or three stories. Often a building is not a single tree, but a structure built up by dozens of smaller plant structures intertwined together. Few Amphisapiens choose to live permanently on land, so the landmasses are more like resorts or theme parks and, for a few special cases, the raising of children.

The areas in and around the cities are home to vast ecologies, both in water and above it. These ecologies are closely monitored by the local Amphisapiens and they often add to it and extend it, in the same way city planners would develop a city. The local ecology is also the local industry, with the various lifeforms producing most of the products used by the local populace. The various lifeforms include everything from slightly tweaked versions of standard Terragen biota to neogen species bearing absolutely no resemblance to anything else in existence. As a result the trade among Amphisapiens is mostly in gene or bionano templates and new plants and animals. Each city generally has its own preferences and styles, which are often very different to those in any other cities. The result is that any world with a sizable Amphisapien population will generally have a number of very diverse and unique ecosystems. However the Amphisapiens sometimes indulge in creating "monobiotic ecosystems" (ecosystems where all the lifeforms are just variations on a single original creature) and are credited with this style's current popularity in several biospheres.

Bionano is widely used in Amphisapien technology, though rarely on its own. It is almost always found as an add-on to some other lifeform. Many organisms created by the Amphisapiens have bionano systems for specific purposes like processing special substances. In developing ecosystems, bionano 'glues' are often used. In such cases, bio-swarms are used to perform certain ecological roles while organisms are created or adapted to fill them. Often bionano is used in conjunction with microbes to act as decomposers and recyclers. This is especially common in large or fast growing ecosystems where resources once used must be freed up quickly. They are also very quick to recycle whatever wastes are produced by their organisms and often go to great lengths to do so.

Unlike many bioist clades, the Amphisapiens are not particularly fond of bioborging. They believe bioborging to unaesthetic and sloppy. They prefer using external biomachines and biobots or in some cases to grow new body parts over a few weeks. However many Amphisapien societies that have spread across Terragen space have gradually begun to accept bioborging over the millennia, though with some reluctance.

Sub-Clades

Throughout the millennia, the Amphisapiens have given birth to sizeable number of sub-clades, but most of them are confined to a single planet or star system. Only two sub-clades have spread far enough to be of interest. They are the Icthysapiens and the Light-tails.

Icthysapiens

The Icthysapiens were the first of the groups to move away the standard Amphisapiens genotype and are now the largest sub-clade. They were among the first wave of Amphisapiens to leave their homeworld to explore other water rich worlds in the Utopia Sphere. Many of these worlds had oceans much deeper than those found on their homeworld. In order to take advantage of the depths they abandoned the amphibian design and became fully aquatic. The most prominent changes include the replacement of their lungs with gill-like structures that occupy the chest cavity and (as they no longer have a natural buoyancy from the lungs) a true swimbladder instead of a ballast pouch. Their gill-like structures are fed water through openings on the chest, which have their own network of counter-flowing blood vessels and act as heat exchangers to minimize loses in the cold, deep water. As they are fully aquatic legs became superfluous and in the Icthysapiens the bones of the legs and the simplified pelvis have been joined into a single long, jointed assembly with the bones of the feet spread out at its end and enclosed in skin to form a flat, horizontal tail. They have also abandoned speech as a sound-based communication, but have adopted ultrasound to augment their vision and for rudimentary signalling over greater distances in the depths. More personal communication is done through their chromatophores, which in the Icthysapiens are backed by bioluminescent organs to make them visible in the darkness of the deeper waters. Their children are also born underwater but because of their simplified pelvis the foetus can be given a longer time to develop and a newborn can be swimming with its mother within seconds of its birth. However they still keep the stage-based lifecycle and are bioist. Additionally their technology is somewhat different, especially in building construction, where they prefer free-floating structures as opposed to the Amphisapien rooted design.

Later many Icthysapiens returned to Shaati Jol, where they live alongside the Amphisapiens. Almost a quarter of the planet's biont population is now Icthysapien, or an Amphi-icthy hybrid. The Icthysapiens were also fundamental to the formation of the Society of Humanoid Swimmers (often touted as "the aquatic human's answer to the IPP").

Light-tails

In the middle of the ninth millennium a.t. the Red Star 'M'pire was gradually gaining ground as a strong and dynamic biopolity. When travelling 'M'pire lums came into contact with colonies of Amphisapiens they both realized that they had a lot in common. Not only were they both strongly biocentric with meme-set of self-transformation, but both also used light extensively in their societies and both lived and worked in large groups. Over the following millennium many thousands of Amphisapiens migrated from their biopolity in the Utopia Sphere to the 'M'pire, where they were readily accepted by Farview as citizens of the 'M'pire and became lums.

When they accepted a variant of Farview's inheritable godmod they quickly used it to add another improvement to themselves. They grew a tail almost as long as their bodies. These tails have a strong musculature and a flat, paddle-like membranous outgrowth along the bottom, which helps them to manoeuvre better. But the tail was meant not so much to help in swimming, as it was to help in communication. The tail is almost entirely covered in chromatophores and the photonano organelles of the godmod. The membrane is especially rich.

The high density of chromatophores and photonano often make the tails glow very brightly and this has led to their name of Light-tails. When two or more Light-tails meet, it is customary for them to intertwine, or at least place their tails in contact with each other. This allows them to communicate in a very efficient and intimate way, and also helps the functioning of Farview's blue light social node. When on land the strong muscles of the tail allow them to hold it almost upright, but they are unable to do this for long periods of time. This tail is the Amphisapiens' Mark of Pride and they wear it to signify they will always belong to the amphibian culture. No matter how else they may use Farview's godmod to change their form, the tail remains to tell the tale of their history. Their link to Shaati Jol has never been forgotten, in fact every Light-tail makes a pilgrimage to the peaceful waters of their world of origin at least once in their lives. The years they spend on such a trip are viewed in the same way as the nomadic journeys that are still so important to their culture and it is not unusual for these journeys to be taken with members of their siblinghood.

Due to the free breeding meme-set of the 'M'pire the Light-tails are now widespread and productive members of the 'M'pire community. Most of the aquatic habitats in the 'M'pire have a sizeable population of Light-tails. This clade also holds the distinction of giving rise to highest number of transapients among the Amphisapien sub-clades. This is not really surprising, considering the easily available opportunities for ascension in the 'M'pire.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Basu with additions by the AI Vin

Initially published on 01 March 2007.