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Ngagi, Clade

A clade of provolved Gorillas

Ngagi
Image from Steve Bowers

Introduction

Clade Ngagi is generally considered the first completely new clade produced by the Institute for Primate Provolution; although the unplanned Clade Eja template was developed a little earlier. Their success was the foundation for that institute's reputation in provolution circles. Though many other gorilla-based clades have appeared since, the Ngagi template was so successful in its time that it absorbed nearly all the earlier, less successful gorilla provolve clades; most gorilla provolves upgraded themselves or their children to join the Ngagi some time during the 19th century After Tranquility. Though the Ngagi today are far less numerous and widespread than human nearbaselines, or even the sapientchimp and sapientbonobo lines, this says more about the relatively low rate of reproduction within the clade than about any other innate abilities. Unlike so many of the early ape provolves, the Ngagi are successful in modern Terragen society to this day. They have carved out a number of important roles for themselves, especially in the Inner Sphere, and have given rise to a number of Su and tweak subclades as well. There are even a few transapients of Ngagi origin.

Description

In keeping with the IPP's provolution doctrine, the original Ngagi were as close as possible to the original species' physical type as possible, and in the many centuries since the main line of Ngagi have not altered that plan. Though they have brains as large as or larger than that of a typical human baseline, and have enhanced manual dexterity over the original gorilla species, they kept their large size, formidable physique and teeth, their robust skulls and powerful jaws, and their quadrupedal, knuckle-walking posture. Females are large, typically massing about 90 kilograms, and mature males usually tip the scales at about 180 kilograms. They have the shiny black skin, dark brown eyes, and dense hair of their ancestors (some subclades in cooler environments have opted, however, for true fur, a trait not found in the original gorillas). This hair is most commonly the deep sooty black favoured in the original provolve group at Fossey Habitat, in imitation of the mountain gorilla subspecies, but some groups opted for dark brownish-black hair, with a head crest that might be auburn or red, like the ancient lowland gorillas who are also their ancestors. Just as in the original species, the hair on a male's back becomes silvery with maturity, and full grown males lose the hair on their chests and bellies. Some sub-clades have altered details of their colouration, but overall the Ngagi have been rather conservative in cosmetic body modifications by comparison with their human kin. However, some minorities have opted for even larger size than that of the originals Ngagi template, and rival the Gigantopithecine clades.

Communication, Senses, and Locomotion

The Ngagi opted for a full human nearbaseline-equivalent vocal apparatus, but chose a deep, resonant bass as their clade norm (perhaps because they felt that it helped to command respect in the predominantly human nearbaseline society of the times). They are rather taciturn in general, and reserve their spoken language largely for technical and intellectual matters. Matters of the heart are customarily expressed in a parallel language of gesture. The early Ngagi cultures adopted a modified version of the Old Earth lingua franca of Swahili for their spoken tongue (this is the origin of their name, which simply means "gorilla" in Swahili), but the original language has been expanded and modified in the time since so as to become entirely unrecognizable, or has been abandoned for other Terragen languages that have arisen since.

Since the Ngagi and their provolution team chose not to adopt a human-style upright posture (partly for reasons of "authenticity" and partly because of the health problems that arise from large size and a human-style bipedal stance) they are not capable of the kind of rapid long-distance running for which humans are famous, though they can muster considerable speed in a brief charge. Ngagi who need to carry items either move more slowly in a bipedal or three-legged stance over short distances, or else use their pockets, or satchels and panniers for longer distances. In Terragen standard gravity they are quite able as climbers, if the framework they use will support their bulk. In microgravity their prehensile feet give them a considerable advantage over standard humans, and in fact many Ngagi are spacer clans or live in orwoods. Ngagi are several times as powerful as a human nearbaseline if they must shift or lift something by hand.

Lifespan and Reproduction

The original Ngagi had natural life spans of no more than 120 years without rejuvenation treatments, but most populations have availed themselves of the IPP's subsequent upgrades, and are as long lived as the most advanced human nearbaseline populations (500 years or more). Children are borne one at a time, and grow slowly. They are mature in most ways at 17, but are not capable of developing full sexual maturity until they are nearly 30. At any time thereafter the development of full adult characteristics (including, for the males, a doubling of mass) is a conscious, though irreversible, decision. The Ngagi "boys" can remain pre-adolescent indefinitely if they so choose and some may never become full grown. Delayed sexual maturity was not a part of the original clade's heritage, but was added early on by the Ngagi themselves as a way of maintaining beloved male children in the family and postponing the inevitable day of their departure, as well as a way of reducing the social disruption and personal tragedy that often ensued when elderly silverbacks were challenged for the rule of their families by young rivals.

Environmental Requirements

The original clade Ngagi was developed for Terragen standard environments, but the IPP included the standard set of microgravity adaptations that had already been developed for human nearbaselines. Though like many other Terragen clades they have added broader tolerances, and have developed some local adaptations, the Ngagi still prefer environments built to the old standards. Most clades and cultures prefer closer, denser environments than do human nearbaselines, with small open spaces and many private nooks. They do not like broad vistas, barren plains, or large expanses of water. Despite their larger size they are less prone to claustrophobia or fear of heights than are human nearbaselines.

Ngagi can eat nearly any vegetable matter, and unlike their baseline ancestors they can digest cellulose without microbial assistance. This permits a somewhat more energetic lifestyle than that of their baseline ancestors, though they still prefer a rather sedate pace of life. With very few exceptions the members of clade Ngagi are vegetarians, and prefer leaves, stems and roots (and some fruit and nuts). They enjoy fibrous or tough foods, and spend a great deal of time eating if they have the leisure. Variety of colour and texture, and an interesting mix of spices, are key elements in Ngagi cuisine.

Psychology

As first developed, the Ngagi were about as intelligent as typical human nearbaselines of the time, and they are comparable to nearbaselines today in general ability, though they differ in their biases. By comparison with typical human nearbaselines, Ngagi are somewhat introverted: modest, refined, and extraordinarily determined to keep their lives private. They do not invite any but their closest friends and associates into their homes or home territories. Many Ngagi cultures have extensive nudity taboos. In some cases they may veil themselves in public, or insist on conducting all of their business through virtual or utility fog proxies. They find humans and sapientchimps, and many other varieties of provolved primates, to be loud and gossipy, and prone to indecent behaviour. Behaviour within the family may be another matter, but most Ngagi prefer to maintain an impenetrable wall between family and public life.

Most Ngagi are extraordinarily patient and persistent. They will work on a problem long after a human would have given up in frustration, and are fully capable of laying the groundwork for events that might not take place for dozens years or more.

Society

The unit of nearly every Ngagi society is the family: a dominant silverback male (in some cultures there may be subordinate silverbacks, usually brothers or cousins), three to ten wives, and their immature children. The patriarch of the family has the final say in internal matters ("the male's place is in the home"), but relations with the outside world are generally handled by his wives. Some Ngagi societies keep their males from all direct contact with outsiders, and may regard them as completely unsuited to dealing with the "real world". Most however are more moderate and liberal, and expect a male to participate more fully in external affairs. Still, a male is usually buffered and pampered so long as he has the regard of the chief wives.

Young females often leave the family for another established family, or more rarely will depart with a passing young male who shows promise, in hope of becoming his chief wife when he makes a place for himself in the world. Young males who choose maturity may wander for years or decades, working in the larger society, seeking to make the kind of mark in the world that will attract the favour of one or more females. Females often become merchants or politicians, or may work together with other wives as members of a research team or in some other collaborative effort, whereas the males may become honour warriors, inventors, archaeologists, architects, or artists, or engage in other activities that gain attention.

Whether as families or as wandering individuals, Ngagi have always done well in the context of human nearbaseline societies, unlike the earlier gorilla-based clades. They are most often seen in the roles of gardeners, mystics, ecosystem designers, software specialists, or gengineers. Strangely enough it is when they try to form single-clade polities that the Ngagi show some weaknesses. Though individual families are extraordinarily tight-knit, and work well together, there is little community feeling among Ngagi families; they are somewhat anarchic at that level, and show poor social cohesion even in the face of threats. Too often it is "every family for itself," to the detriment of the entire polity. The exception to this is the case of serious and obvious threats to communal life and liberty. During the Version War it sometimes happened that the transapients canceled one another out, and a colony's defensive force and automatic systems were overwhelmed. Ngagi trapped in such situations were famous for fanatic defence of their homes and families, from the hasty but brilliant contrivances of the female scientists and engineers to the suicidal waves of unattached young males to the final berserk charge of the patriarchs themselves, who sacrificed their lives in the hope that their wives and children might escape. Attacks against civilian populations of Ngagi were often so costly that even professional soldiers tended to turn aside in search of other targets, or opted to destroy a hab or planet outright rather than attempt to capture it.

The religious and philosophical beliefs of the clade are various, but there is a strong pacifist, bioist, and mystical bias in most Ngagi cultures. Various forms of Buddhism, neo-Taoism, Caretakerism, and Zoeific beliefs are common, as are some specifically Ngagi religions. In some cultures the males who do not become patriarchs become monastics of one sort or another (often they combine this with some form of scientific, artistic, or defencive military expertise). Though most Ngagi are not particularly likely to become zealots, sometimes the unmarried males are prone to extreme points of view. Perhaps fortunately for the Ngagi generally and for society at large they are far less likely to make common cause. The Ngagi do not have the same inclination to wage violent "Jihads," "Crusades," "Cleansings" and "Glorious Revolutions" that humans and some other clades exhibit.

Perhaps because of their bioist leanings, Ngagi rarely become cyborgs, though they may opt for moderate bioborg implants. The do not commonly upload, and do not often seek transcension. Those few Ngagi who have become transapients include some of the more famous habitat or planetary "garden minds," responsible for weather and ecosystem maintenance on large habitats or at ongoing terraforming projects. No transapient above S3 has been traced back to Ngagi origins.

History

Clade Ngagi has its origin in the work of the Institute for Primate Provolution at Fossey Habitat in Solsys. The first members of the clade appeared in 1805 a.t., and at first they multiplied rapidly, in part because gorilla provolves of other earlier clades who were unhappy with their lot tended to convert to the Ngagi standard. They have since spread slowly through the Terragen sphere. Most have remained in the core Terragen areas, though a few families have taken part in longshot expeditions to the periphery of Terragen space (usually as part of a combined colonization effort together with other clades). Ngagi may be found anywhere, if they can find quiet and stable regions in which to raise their families. They still form a disproportionate number Institute for Primate Provolution members, and are particularly common in the Zoeific Biopolity. Ngagi clans and families most often find a niche as gengineers or ecosystem managers, to the extent that they are often stereotyped in such roles, but in fact they will turn their hands to whatever sorts of work will support them. There are a large number of Ngagi ludd and prim cultures in the Utopia Sphere, and it is not uncommon to find Ngagi families or even entire civilizations working as agents of one of the Caretaker Gods.


 
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Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 19 September 2005.

 
 
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