Chorus

Homeworld of the xenosophont provolves the Jade Chime Singers.

Chorus Xenoflora
Image from Chris Shaeffer
The purple xenoflora and rich green skies of this chlorine-rich world can be seen in this image.

The Cantor System, including Chorus - Data Panel

SystemCantor
Stellar Type:K0 V, no stellar companions, high metallicity
Mass:0.79 sol
Distance from Sol2735 light years
Luminosity:0.42 (visual luminosity 0.32)
Planets:1 Hermean, 1 Cytherian, 1 Eugaian, 1 Titanian, 1 ice and rock asteroid belt, 1 Eujovian, 3 Cryojovian (Local names for these bodies vary. All are relatively rich in heavier metals, particularly chlorine and other alpha-process elements such as sulphur).
PLANETOLOGYCHORUS
Planet Type: Eugaian (chlorine world subtype, 'Chlorogaian')
Distance from Primary: 0.9 a.u. (varies from 0.8 to 1.0)
Insolation: 0.52 terran (average); 0.64 to 0.43
Diameter: 1.5 terran (19,134 km)
Density: 1.3 terran
Gravity: 1.95 terran
Day: 1.58 terran (38 hours)
Year: 0.96 terran (221.5 local days)
Orbital Eccentricity: 0.1
Axial Tilt:
Natural Satellite: Solo (sidereal period 7.1 local days, synodical 7.3 days, rotation 55 hours, size 1.8 lunar (6255 km), tidal effect 2.2 lunar, surface gravity 0.4 terran; partially chorusformed)
Chorus map
Image from Steve Bowers
Chorus - map (Equirectangular projection)
IMPORTANT LOCAL ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCEAI Overseer: Mist Rising (toposophic unknown; presumed to be SI:3 or higher). Mist Rising is not visibly active in the system, and in fact eir primary substrate has not been located. There are a number of other transapients in the system, none above SI:2. Most of these are postfaber entities. There is only one known transapient of Jade Chime Singer origin.
AI's Ethos: Mist Rising's ethos is presumed to be a form of Caretakerism; the other transapients are of various other memetics, none predominant.
AI's Current allegiance: independent/unknown
GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATIONGovernment Type: Democracy analog (Jade Chime Singer Mootism: participatory local democracy, regional cyberdemocracy, with some anarcho-syndicalist and charismatocratic elements). Prime governing body is the Greater Moot.
Administrative Divisions: By continent and local linguistic subgroup. (Lesser Moots)
National holidays: Songsnight (midsummer mating rituals), Firstmoot (annual remembrance of ascension to full sapience, shortly after midwinter), Freenight (commemoration of Payment Due's destruction, late spring); many local festivals and observances
Constitution: Declaration of the Firstmoot
Legal system: Modified IPP dispute resolution system
Foreign Policy: No known enemies or established allies; friendly to nearby Faber and Tavi polities
POLITYName: Chorusmoot
Symbol: Glyph of Accord
Affiliation: none
Founded/Colonized: Discovered 9953 a.t.; Jade Chime Singers' Moot achieved full independence in 10377.
Timekeeping: Solar calendar beginning equatorial midday preceding Songsnight, the first full moon after midsummer (perihelion) and containing 30 divisions (months) according to lunar phases. The nights after last new moon and before Songsnight are not part of the regular calendar year. A new night is reckoned to begin at midday; day-night cycles are divided into 36 parts Watches, roughly equal to a Terragen hour. Each of these is divided into 36 Pauses, equal to nearly two Terragen minutes, and further divided into 36 Moments (just under 3 Terragen seconds). Orbital hab environments are synchronized with this planetside rhythm.
ECONOMICS, LOCAL INFRASTRUCTUREEconomy: ecosocialist/ecocapitalist nanotopia with gift/honour exchange components
Currency: tokens (the 'smallsong') in multiples or divisions of six; virtual or physical
Major Industries: tourism, arts, scientific research, chlorine world biotech and dry nanotech; major imports are various Terragen sciences, arts, philosophies
Angelnetting: ubiquitous but unobtrusive in all urban and agricultural areas, but absent in wilderness preserves
Major Orbitals: Greenring, Friendly Question, Songcircle
PSYCHE, ART, CULTUREMetapsychology and Metaethics: Eclectic; none is dominant.
Religion/Ideology: Eclectic; none is dominant.
Language: Chimesong (glyph/song pulse communication), various dialects; Faber Pulsecode v22.9, Tavitak (local variant).
Aesthetics/Architecture/Style: Informal, with an emphasis on waterways and gardens. Biological materials are used preferred. Colours are bright by local standards (rather dull and subdued to Terragen eyes, which cannot see into the far red). Small soft lights outline many of the larger and smaller structures. Locals carry patterned umbrellas and wear colourful or phosphorescent sashes and tool belts. Styles vary considerably within these parameters according to local culture and personal or family tastes.
POPULATIONSurface: 2.3 billion: 95% Jade Chime Singer, 3% Faber, 1% Tavi, 1% various other groups (predominantly post-Faber transapients and various IPP personnel).
Orbitals: 0.8 billion: 90% Jade Chime Singer, 4% Faber, 3% Tavi, and 3% various other groups
Moon: 0.2 billion, mostly Jade Chime Singer
TRAVELStargates: None; nearest access to the Wormhole Network is 12.3 light years distant via the Beamrider Network, and no links are known to be en route
Spaceports: None on the planet; one in orbit at each of the 3 beanstalks.
Hazard Rating: orbital habitats - 0.0 to 0.1; greater for those who do not take elementary precautions (see: environmental requirements)
Visa Restrictions: Officially, none. Visitors to the system from NoCoZo polities may expect delays for additional security checks. Tavi customs/security personnel insist on physically intercepting and examining all entities and items that enter the Cantor system. They and their software are extraordinarily and sometimes offensively intrusive. While Chorusmoot does not directly support or fund this activity, Tavi findings are incorporated into Angelnet data on Chorus, Solo, and all orbital and co-orbital habitats.
Freedom of Movement: Generally easy, but subject to some local restrictions. There are extensive provolve preserves that are off limits to casual tourists, and some monastic religious orders discourage uninvited contact. Consult the local datanet for regional protected or sacred areas and local privacy customs. For a variety of reasons (see below) visitors to Chorus are seldom allowed to be alone or unsupervised for any significant period of time.
Environmental Requirements: Chlorine gases are toxic to oxygen-breathing bionts; local hydrosphere is extremely acidic and presents a hazard to most Terragen bionts and vecs. Use of enclosed habitats and vehicles or environmental suits is required. Locally adapted utility fog is an option.
Sites of Interest: Iceflows (Kalimba), Emerald City (Harp), Burning Hills (Xirulu), Sea Pillars (Harp)
The Chorus System
Image from Steve Bowers


Overview

Chorus is famous as the home of the sole extant clade of chlorine-breathing sapients, the Jade Chime Singers. Of all the known Chlorine Worlds it is also one of the richest biospheres, comparable to Old Earth in its abundance of species. The youthful planetary cultures are in ferment, and an infectious creativity and optimism pervades the entire planet and solar system.

Impressions and Appearances

To unaugmented Terragen eyes, life on the planet itself may appear dreary, particularly by daylight. The landscape is flat, the vegetation is low and dull black, and the light is dim and greenish. The swarms of local life and the lushness of the vegetation may seem overwhelming and slightly threatening. The oppressive gravity and heat and the toxic and corrosive environment are a constant burden. Sounds are startlingly loud in the dense air, and the frequent thunderstorms are deafening. Direct exposure to the atmosphere or hydrosphere is quickly and painfully fatal to terragen bionts, and even small amounts leaking into habitats or past protective nano may blister the skin or induce dizziness.

Long term Terragen biont residents may well require later treatment due to the activity of some potent carcinogens. Similarly, vecs who are not specifically designed for the environment will suffer component failure in a matter of minutes to hours with results varying from extreme discomfort to death. Even Terragen Aioids may find the non-standard computronium substrates used in a chlorine atmosphere obscurely "uncomfortable" (though some believe this is not a physical effect but is due to the hidden activities of Mist Rising or eir agents). The natural world can be somewhat more attractive at night, with its multitude of twinkling lights, its cooler temperatures, and the bright moonlight of Solo. Still, for Terragens of all sorts the physical aspects of a visit to Chorus are unpleasant. The charming and friendly locals, with exuberant culture and beautiful music and speech are a startling contrast to the hostile environment.

Planetology

Chorus has a highly active geology, with a number of small but rapidly moving tectonic plates. There are several continents, mostly covered in shallow seas. The Jade Chime Singers have named the continents and seas after local musical instruments; by convention these are known to standard Terragens by the names of their nearest Old Earth equivalents. Upland areas are relatively small and low. However, because air pressure drops sharply with height in Chorus' heavy gravity the few mountains and high plateaus have much reduced atmospheric pressure (as low as 0.3 bars). Due to the small axial tilt, the polar areas receive very little insolation, though the extensive atmosphere and hydrosphere transfer large quantities of heat from the equatorial regions. Ocean circulation prevents the formation of ice on the south polar ocean, but glaciers of water ice are a feature of Kalimba, the small northern continent, giving Chorus a small but permanent northern polar cap.

Hot springs and volcanoes are numerous, and earthquakes are frequent, but there are few areas of exposed igneous rock other than geologically recent lava flows. Aside from the low mountain ranges and plateaus, most of the planet land surface is swamp and lowland forest, with broad rivers and numerous lakes over a thick covering of sediment, mostly clays and sands. Exposed rock is usually sedimentary: quartz sandstones, the ubiquitous oil-bearing shales, and coal-like deposits. Pitch lakes are a frequent feature of the landscapes. In a few places the underlying rock has been eroded into fantastic shapes by the acidic oceans, most notably in the Sea Pillars region off the shore of Harp.

The moon, Solo, has a strong tidal effect. Tides may exceed 30 metres in places, though more typically they are in the 5 to 10 metre range. Tidal bores in the numerous estuaries may be formidable.

Weather is fairly predictable given the planet's small axial tilt and the relatively small areas of land, but powerful cyclonic storms regularly form in the temperate zones. On the one hand such storms are relatively weak because of Chorus' slow rotation and proportionally weak coriolis effect, but on the other hand the differences in insolation between the equator and the pole are stronger than on a planet with a greater axial inclination; the heat exchange between these regions therefore allows for some large and persistent, if slow-moving, weather systems. The dense atmosphere ensures that even the more sluggish winds may pack considerable power. Thunderstorms are common nearly everywhere, particularly at the onset of planetary summer. Wildfires are rare, since most areas of land are well watered, but they are a feature of some of the drier upland areas. Some of the floating "cloud forests" are subject to extensive fire/explosion events, since the gases that bear them up are flammable. Since the gas bladders themselves have fire retardant properties this spectacular event occurs only after an extremely prolonged dry spell followed immediately by thunderstorms. Underground fires are found in some of the upland areas where deposits of coal are sufficiently large and dry. The Burning Hills of Xirulu are a well known feature.

Biosphere

Chorus has an extraordinarily rich biosphere, comparable to Old Earth before the Great Dying. On land, the dominant biomes are swamp and rainforest. There are extensive tidal flats, and the equivalent of reed beds, eelgrass meadows, and mangrove swamps, along most shores. The intertidal zone is extraordinarily broad, extending for kilometres, because of the large tidal range of the oceans and the shallow slope of most coastal plains. Forests do not reach great heights. Gravity restricts more conventional tree-like forms to heights of 25 metres or less. In areas sufficiently sheltered from storms, the bladderforests, supported by buoyant gases, can reach heights of up to 75 metres, but this seems to be the maximum height to which the local vegetation can pump water from the ground. Though there are no true deserts, there are hundreds of square kilometres of sand dunes along some of the drier coastlines. The high rainfall leads to many river, lake, and estuarine habitats. There are extensive reefs in the shallowest waters; ranging from massive barrier reefs to the atolls that ring the eroded remains of island volcanoes. Further out there are seaweed forests, and the deeper waters have extensive "sargasso" habitats of floating vegetation. Airborne life of all kinds is rich in small flying arthropods and larger dirigible-like forms. The "balloon-squids" can be several metres in length, but large winged life forms that move without flotation devices are relatively rare, perhaps due to competition with the "balloon-squids". The plant life forms cloud-forests of floating vegetation where there is sufficient rainfall; these forests have their own unique, if somewhat restricted, ecology. Upland forests also have a distinct ecology, adapted to the relatively thin air and lower concentrations of chlorine; they are dominated by the local "lichentrees" (advanced symbiotic organisms composed of Chorus' equivalents of fungal and algal organisms).

The numerous and geologically short-lived volcanic islands, the many lakes, and the small sizes of the continents, have encouraged an extraordinary degree of speciation. In addition, it appears that unlike some other Gardenworlds Chorus has experienced relatively few major extinction events, and the number of fundamentally distinct life forms is therefore relatively high. The number of species catalogued so far exceeds 4 million and is expected to be an order of magnitude higher when the oceanic and microscopic species surveys are complete. There are 35 distinct phyla of animal-like life, 10 land-based plant-like phyla, 7 phyla of fungal equivalents, and 4 phyla of multicellular algae in addition to many microscopic forms.

Among the animals, the number of amphibious species is extremely large, partly because of the large areas of swamps and tidal flats. The corresponding number of phyla that have adapted to land is also significant: no fewer than 8 animal phyla have extensive populations on the land and in the air.

The dominant phylum of large terrestrial animals has an internal skeleton, breathes air through a pair of trachea (though most forms also have a set of gills on the underbody), and is decapodal. There are four pairs of mouthparts (derived from ancestral limbs) and three pairs of eyes. The eyes are on the model of Old Earth jumping spiders rather than on those of Old Earth molluscs or vertebrates: there is no pupil and the lens is fixed. Changes in focus, and in the objects that fill the visual field, are achieved instead by moving the retina internally. Adjustment to light levels is achieved not by a pupil but by a photoreactive cornea. This can make it difficult at first for Terragen bionts to tell which direction one of these animals is looking, though of course locals can learn a great deal by watching for changes in the reflectivity and colour of the eye caused by shifts in the retina. In most forms the number of walking limbs is reduced to 4 or 6, and the remainder are either reduced or lost or are specialized.

Some predators have an impressive set of grasping, rending, slicing and piercing limbs, while herbivores often have specialized appendages for plucking or nipping fruits and vegetation, or for pulling down branches. Many animals in this phylum, including the ancestors of the Jade Chime Singers, have limbs adapted to the creation of tools or dwellings: primitive weaving of nests or nets, construction of canals or huts, masonry, and spear or rock throwing are extremely common strategies. The most successful members of the phylum, including the members of the Jade Chime Singers, are descended from a small group of upland omnivores and have a highly active endothermic metabolism. They fill most of the large-animal niches both on land and the shallow seas, and are in some ways comparable to Old Earth mammals or archosaurs. For most, maintaining body temperature is a matter of radiating excess heat. Aquatic and amphibious forms use their gills for this purpose even if they do not require them for oxygen uptake, and the purely terrestrial forms have horns, or dorsal fins for heat dissipation. A few upland and polar forms require insulation, and have a feather-like body covering.

The other terrestrial animal-like phyla include arthropod analogs, an extensive snail-like phylum, various earthworm-like analogs, and a sessile pentaradial filter-feeding form which is comparable to a land-dwelling crinoid. These last, since they can also photosynthesize, are sometimes mistaken for a sort of carnivorous plant. Large patches of the more venomous varieties are a hazard to local life; the largest individuals are a hazard to any being. The mollusc-equivalents have an order of dirigible-like forms, rather like floating octopi or squids. These maintain buoyancy with hydrogen sacks, move about with a rippling wing/fin, and manipulate their food with a set of 10 to 25 tentacles. Of the numerous aquatic animal phyla, the most notable are some reef-building organisms comparable to corals, sponges, and clams, some manta-like filter-feeding invertebrates, a range of arthropod-like forms (filling the niche occupied by fishes on Old Earth) and some extremely large worm-like predators, the well named lancet-eels. The larger and more active animals all use a respiratory pigment that requires chromium; their blood is bright orange when oxygenated or pale yellow when deoxygenated.

The fungal equivalents are numerous, and include many life forms superficially similar to mushrooms and encrusting molds. There is a related set of slime-mold like organisms, some of which achieve considerable complexity in their motile forms, and fill the roles that flatworms or slugs do in Terragen ecologies. There is also a very successful group of lichen-like symbiotes. These have achieved a high degree of specialization, and are comparable in complexity and sophistication to some of the most advanced plant life on other worlds. They produce compound seed/spores, and a flower-like organ is pollinated by small arthropod equivalents. Most are epiphytes or early colonists of the numerous lava flows, but they also grow in forests of squat needle-leaved "trees" in the uplands, where they are the dominant form of vegetation.

Like the photosynthetic forms on all other Chlorine Worlds, Chorus' plants are black (purple-black under terragen-style illumination). Foliage usually turns green and then yellow or red before it falls. Most vegetation consists of sprawling vines or bushes, or thickets of bamboo or reed like vegetation, or more rarely of stubby powerfully built trees. The tallest forests consist of plants that use bladders of lighter gases (usually methane or hydrogen) rather than growing thick support structures. These are usually somewhat like Old Earth kelp in profile, with rope-like stems upheld by bags of gases, though their leaves are rather like those of more typical land plants. Many plants have leathery or waxy leaves for protection against rains that are too acidic or alkaline. In the lakes and rivers a lily pad or lotus like form is extremely common, as are various kinds of floating vegetation. Leaves are usually broad and waxy, or grow in the form of fern-like fronds. In many cases the leaves fold up or the bladders deflate in stormy weather to prevent damage to the plant.

The equivalents of flowering plants are dominant even in aquatic environments. Many produce flower-like organs to attract pollinators. Flowers and fruit may be of any colour. Green is the most common. Some are blue (they look white or black to the Jade Chime Singers), and some are brown or black (but are bright in the far-red visible to many life forms on Chorus). Powerful scents to attract pollinators or seed distributors are quite common.

Bioluminescence is found in many plant, fungal, and animal forms, especially as a signalling device. Many night-blooming flowers use both scent and light. The colours are for the most part soft yellows and pinks.

The equivalents of shell, bone, and wood are various chlorocarbon polymers, often reinforced with graphite filaments, silica, silicate/carbonate minerals comparable to scapolite, and various acid-resistant metals and minerals (some organisms employ a thin coating of gold foil, for instance). Extensive reefs of these substances are known, and sands consist of these plus silica.

Upland areas are largely abandoned to their unique local life forms; the Jade Chime Singers cannot visit without technical support, and seldom go there unless they are scientists. There is a class of large local predator, in the uplands, the phobothere, that makes visits by unarmed individuals of any species a hazardous activity.


Chorus and Solo
Image from Steve Bowers

Natural and Artificial Satellites

Chorus' moon, Solo, is extraordinarily large and dense. It is comparable in mass to an Arean type planet, though given the relatively high concentration of heavier elements in the Cantor system it is still somewhat geologically active. Paleontological evidence shows that it was once a Chlorine World itself. It was apparently seeded by the Halogenics at the same time as Chorus. Since then, most of its native life forms had gone extinct, as the planet steadily lost atmosphere and hydrosphere; only a few varieties of single-celled organisms remained. The Jade Chime Singers have recently begun an aggressive and sophisticated Chorusforming project, and have already achieved an atmosphere breathable to Chorus life forms, and the beginnings of a stable biosphere. Large areas remain uninhabitable except to gengineered versions of Chorus' highland fauna and flora, but it is possible for the Jade Chime Singers to move about unprotected near the shores of the growing seas. Most settlements are still domed, but the project's leaders expect to achieve complete habitability within a century.

Most of the orbital habitats the Jade Chime Singers have constructed so far are relatively small, with populations of 4 million or less. Even in orbitals, the Jade Chime Singers prefer a rather low population density. Because of the number of Tavi and Faber colonies in the rest of the system, and because the Jade Chime Singers wish to accommodate the tourists, researchers, and missionaries who visit from elsewhere in the Terragen sphere, there is usually a smaller "friendship circle" nearer the center, where guests who need a less corrosive atmosphere and who cannot tolerate heavy acceleration are accommodated.

One of the most famous of the orbitals is Friendly Question (sometimes translated as Amicable Curiosity). Friendly Question is notable for the AI who runs it; an SI:1 entity whom the Jade Chime Singers call Clark. Clark dates from some time in the early Federation period, and was apparently found and re-activated by a group of Jade Chime Singer students who had been exploring some ancient Keterist archives. The Jade Chime Singers are uncharacteristically mysterious about the circumstances that led to Clark's residence at Friendly Question. The most they have been willing to say is that "he followed us home". Friendly Question is the particular focus of missionaries and teachers from elsewhere in the Terragen Sphere who wish to convert the new clade to one philosophy or religion or another, or to study (and be studied by) their hosts. Debates between the various missionaries, or between their local followers, are frequent and well attended. It is a strange and lively place indeed. Clark's odd sense of humour and archaic mannerisms make it even more so. Recently Clark has begun construction of a second Friendship Ring, one with a Muuh friendly acceleration and temperature. It appears there are no Muuh in the system, or even travelling to it at the moment. Clark refuses to say what e is planning; the local Moot has given full cooperation in the venture, and has cheerfully committed resources for the project, but its members declare that they don't know what exactly Clark has in mind either.

Songcircle is the second-largest and the most heavily populated of the orbitals, and is also the seat of what passes for Jade Chime Singer government. It is one of the oldest structures in the system, as it was once a Tavi/Faber orbital habitat. It has since been greatly expanded. Songcircle has the largest percentage of Terragen citizens of any spot within Chorus' sphere of influence, excepting the Emerald city planetside. Most are Tavi and Fabers, or representatives of the IPP, but there has been a recent influx of representatives from other clades and polities.

Greenring is a large Bishop Ring, still under construction. The completed sections house not only a considerable population of Jade Chime Singers but also an extensive zooeum containing selections of life from a number of Chlorine Worlds. The Jade Chime Singers have been more successful than most other sophonts in negotiating the right to take samples from worlds that are under the Compact of Eden, though they have not managed to gain the same level of unprecedented access at the mystery-world of Doreen. This collection is already a magnet for researchers into Chlorine World life forms, and also has a significant archaeology/paleontology "Thoughtmoot Hall", containing everything that the Jade Chime Singers have been able to gather from the Terragen sphere's archives regarding the Halogenics. Greenring is co-managed by a postfaber ai, Rubyclaw, and by one of the earliest post-jade chime singer uploads/copies, Glass Harp Sunset (whose sophont level original, still extant, is the highly respected biologist/philosopher Glass Harp Moonrise).

Society

The society of Chorus and its orbital habitats is in the first flush of youth and growth. It is an exciting time, for natives and visitors alike. The Singers' "Houses of Learning" and "Thoughtmoot Halls" are brimming with debate, exploration, and innovation. The datasphere crackles with exchanges. There is palpable optimism in the air. The cultures of the Jade Chime Singers, and the local cultures of their Faber and Tavi tutor/allies have flowered; they are not mere passive recipients of subsingularity Terragen cultures but are already enthusiastic contributors and critics. It is only natural that Chorus should be making a mark in Chlorine-world biology, Halogenics archaeology, and chlorine-world adapted nanotech, but they have also had a perceptible influence on Terragen thought in broader fields, such as philosophy, architecture, and music. The dynamism of the local society is contagious; travellers and tourists from the rest of the Terragen sphere have been known to stay for decades on that account alone.

The citizens of Chorus (and its orbitals and its colonies on Solo) are extraordinarily friendly and open towards outsiders. The Jade Chime Singers are intensely curious about foreigners, and the children in particular may follow them and watch their every move. Outside of one's personal quarters, privacy is a rare thing for all but the dullest of Terragen visitors. Adults do not hesitate to ask very personal questions regarding everything from life experiences and emotional states to religious and philosophical views to intimate details. Though tourists with teachable skills or good stories are treated the most royally, even the lowest plebhu or plebvec is greeted graciously (and, of course, tapped in a friendly way for any useful knowledge or interesting personal stories, down to the most minor hobby or least anecdote). The IPP's custom of gift-giving and pranks has become a part of most local cultures, though pranks against foreigners are of the gentlest nature.

Though it is fair to say that the Jade Chime Singers still have a single clade-wide culture, (not surprising given their relatively recent origin), they are beginning to develop differences from region to region of Chorus and from one orbital hab to the next. They actively cultivate these differences, and are rather proud of them, though they maintain a unified government and have kept the same written form for all of their diverse spoken dialects. Local cultural differences are most evident in the music, art, and architecture, and in details of gardening styles. Local costumes vary in pattern, but always include umbrellas, sashes and toolbelts, and waterproof cases. The colours of these are often muddy to Terragen eyes, though at night they may glow in various shades of yellow and pink.

Adventurous though they may be in regard to their intellectual pursuits, and fascinated as they are by foreign cultures, and tales of exotic places, most Jade Chime Singers do not often move, except possibly to emigrate (once) to Solo or one of the new habitats. They may well live within a few kilometres of their birthplace, and they tend to stay near home unless they are in "wandering" mode. When they do enter wandering mode, they may travel for years or decades in search of a particular site, person, or experience. Young females are the most common questers, and usually they travel singly, but males, older individuals, and sometimes even small groups of pilgrims with a similar interest are also known to engage in this sort of "walkabout".

The locals do not engage in hunting (other than use of nets and weirs) or in extreme sports, but spend much of their spare time on artwork, gardening, and manual structural maintenance. Though they do have their athletes, the competitive element is largely confined to displays of skill in art, engineering, music, or philosophy. The equivalents of gardening and the maintenance of commensal "pet" organisms are very important indications of status in Jade Chime Singer society. They have hundreds of domesticated animal, plant, and fungal species. Jade Chime Singer dwellings and settlements can be rather crowded and cluttered with other life forms, ranging from the equivalents of potted plants or small gardens through hives of triphibious "bees" and ponds of "catfishbeetles" to various useful, ornamental or companion animals. Of the latter, a small otter-like predator is particularly popular.

The Jade Chime Singers have a written language that is analogous to but more complex than Old Earth Mayan or Chinese characters. This parallels their spoken communication. Jade Chime Singer languages are multi-layered. The primary component is song produced by one or both breathing tubes, supplemented by accompaniment on a musical instrument (usually a simple drum or chime), and augmented at close range with gestures (mostly of the mouthparts, known to the locals as foodhands) and patterns of light from the dorsal phosphorescent organs. Each phrase of the song embodies a set of related ideas. The written glyphs are an approximation of this mode of communication. Jade Chime Singers are capable of using more standard Terragen modes, and most speak several such languages.

Though no single Terragen memeplex has yet managed to thoroughly establish itself in local culture, and even native developments such as Mootism are regarded by the locals as a convenient technical arrangement, not a societal "given", there are some interesting trends. The pragmatic atheism and consensus forms of government common to many Faber societies have made their mark, as have some of the more romantic adventure-oriented memes of the Tavi (though Tavi concepts such as the Great Matriarchal Leader or the Death Taunting Game have not been popular). Aspects of culture and belief common among members of the Institute for Primate Provolution, including such Inner Sphere memeticities as New Beneficence, Orthodox Catholic Evangelical Christianity, or Neotaoism, are also popular in some quarters. Due to founder effects, one or more of these may yet prevail. However, entities from nearly all of the major meta-empires have been active in the Cantor system. Most recently an emissary from the Emple-dokcetics has been to Friendly Question, and has excited a great deal of local interest, leading to some proposals for changes in Chorus' Mootist systems. A decade ago an avatar of the IPP's Monkey King arrived in the system, apparently not as any sort of missionary but "just to chat" (though he stayed long enough to detect and destroy a stealthed nest of autowars hiding in the system's oort cloud that was apparently left over from the Payment Due invasion). Monkey departed shortly afterwards, reputedly after having communicated with Mist Rising, but he created a similar stir in local society before he left, having sparked, by his very presence, a debate on the nature and importance of individuals in Mootist thought. Most recently, for reasons that are obscure, there has been a great deal of interest in the archaic Second Federation Ontology, which is regarded by most Terragens as somewhat backward and outdated. Whether this is to be merely an intellectual fashion on Chorus or whether it will lead to some enduring change remains to be seen. The influence of the Known Net remains muted, due to relativistic delays, but every year Terragen visitors and Jade Chime Singer students and scholars returning from travel in the Wormhole Network bring a flood of new ideals and ideas.

The local Tavi mobs and Faber reprogroups have been changed by their centuries of contact with the locals. They are quite visibly different in their attitudes from similar groups elsewhere in the Terragen sphere. The Fabers tend to deck themselves in jaunty bright colours, and are even more than usually inclined towards quirks and "follies" in their constructions. The Tavi aggressive and competitive streak tends now towards gift giving: a kind of "ha, now top that!" potlatching culture, and complex epic ballads have become a mainstay of their entertainment. Both clades have been spurred to their own cultural renaissance by contact with the Jade Chime Singers, and innovations from Chorus are spreading rapidly to other Tavi and Faber cultures along the Periphery.

Cities and Installations

Cities are relatively few, though the population density is high. Most Jade Chime Singers prefer to live in small villages, and use the local Net for interaction with the larger universe. Usually the village maintains a residential compound in the city, and a villager will go to live there for a matter of a few months or years at a time, eventually to return.

At first glance, a typical Jade Chime Singer settlement appears to be the equivalent of a pre-Singularity agricultural settlement of Old Earth, complete with groves, fields, ponds, thatched huts, and primitive solar or wind powered energy collectors. That the central meeting amphitheatre has full utility fog capability, or that each dwelling has a link to the Known Net and a household grade nanofac, or that the community storage hut also contains an industrial grade nanofac and full medical facilities is not immediately obvious.

Buildings are low and broad, with few basements or second stories. There are no stairs but many ramps. Even in the cities, canals, natural waterways and parks are a large part of the landscape, as are the bowl shaped concert hall/meetingplace structures, some open to the sky and others domed. Activity is low during the day, and in the hours around midnight, but peaks at dawn and dusk. Most buildings are softly, even dimly lit inside, and many are outlined with phosphorescent lights at night. Natural building materials are preferred, though diamondoid and corundumoid are employed in massive structures. Ceramics of various kinds are also extensively used. There are, naturally, few metals in evidence, other than gilding on many of the surfaces. Communities of all sizes are notable for the large number of pets and children, and have a leisurely and informal aspect.

Local transport is by air (usually in enclosed and very stable devices, since the Jade Chime Singers do not appreciate heights), by railed public transport in individual cars, or for shorter distances by a sort of tricycle powered by the Jade Chime Singers' walking legs. Gondola-like watercraft, sculled, or powered by small jet motors, are favoured in the city areas for transporting goods.

An exception to the local pattern of cities is the Emerald City on Harp. This was the planet's first city and its sole arcology, and was built not by the Jade Chime Singers but by Fabers. Founded on a white sandstone massif on the southwest coast, it towers above the surrounding swamps and bladderforests, and is home to most of the Terragens on the planet. The Jade Chime singers do not frequent it except to meet with their Terragen friends and acquaintances, though the surrounding countryside is heavily populated. They are quite uncomfortable in a cityscape that consists of so many towers and bridges, for all of its crystalline beauty, and in any case many of the interior spaces are adapted for use by oxygen breathers. The Emerald City is considered to be one of the better examples of Faber-style architecture along the periphery.

History

Chorus is a young world in the context of Terragen civilization, and as yet there are few truly important dates in its history. At undetermined point, probably not before the 8th millennium AT, Mist Rising, a transapient of Terragen origin, presumably explored the system and marked Chorus for eir own. E appears not to have been in communication with any other Terragen entity, with the possible exception of the network of Caretaker Gods, and must have taken great pains to hide itself. Faber/Tavi exploration and development teams entered what they thought was a virgin system in 9953, and though they left Chorus strictly alone other than for scientific purposes, they began to develop the rest of the system. Not long afterwards, the Fabers secretly began provolution work with the ancestral species of the Jade Chime Singers. They made the existence of the new sapient clade public in 10377, after some centuries of development, and the Tavi and Faber colonists granted the new clade ownership of Chorus and the entire system (the colonies in system are held under a standard Faber/Tavi lease-development contract, with an expiry in 10732). The system was invaded briefly in 10403 by a mercenary NoCoZo entity, Payment Due, but expelled by Mist Rising in eir single appearance to date. This story is told in more detail in the entry for the Jade Chime Singers.

In the time since, the population of Jade Chime Singers has risen sharply (though they have ceased to increase in numbers on their home planet), as has their rate of interaction with the Terragen sphere. Since the invasion, Mist Rising has not been detected. The Jade Chime Singers seem to have taken no protective measures against outsiders other than to update their angelnets with the best available Keterist and Cyberian security measures, and to place them under the management of Heimdall (yet another of the apparently friendly transapients of obscure origin who, like Clark, have come "home" with wandering Jade Chime Singer groups returning from the Terragen Inner Sphere). Tavi scouts are active throughout the Chorus system and beyond, and the Fabers make no secret of the fact that they have placed mines and sensors in a very large swath of local interstellar space. Apparently neither group is confident that Mist Rising would again intercede on behalf of themselves and their "younger siblings". The fact that there have not been any aggressive actions against the Cantor system in the time since probably indicates a reluctance on the part of outsiders to make any assumptions whatsoever. Recently, though, a very large number of HaRoNa toured Chorus for a decade and then suddenly departed, leaving a single very observant but extremely uncommunicative representative behind. Some suppose that the HaRoNa know something that other terragens do not about Chorus's immediate future.

Visiting

There are a number of barriers to be overcome by anyone who wishes to visit Chorus. Perhaps the most significant is the travel time required. Chorus is not, and apparently does not presently plan to be, on the wormhole network. The nearest terminus capable of carrying embodied sophonts is over 12 light years away along the Beamrider Network, so that even with relativistic effects a significant sacrifice of personal time is required. Aioids may feel somewhat less inhibited, since they can visit over the Known Net, but even then the external transit time remains significant.

Difficulties clearing customs have already been noted. The Tavi security teams are zealous and intrusive in their attempts at security, and Faber bureaucrats are not swift to provide advice or transport to casual visitors. The Jade Chime Singer officials are helpful, but are honestly more interested in informal conversation and gossip than in the performance of their duties. It is well to cultivate a relaxed attitude.

Orbital accommodations range from comfortable to luxurious, depending on one's clade, but planetside installations tend to be rather Spartan once one leaves Emerald City. The Fabers do not need special habitats, the Tavi prefer the challenge of a difficult environment, and both would apparently prefer that any visitors interact with their former charges in the orbital habitats rather than on the surface of Chorus. There are some Tavi outfitters who provide equipment and tours for those who want to travel the planet, but they are known to have a rather cavalier attitude towards safety, and there have been several fatalities. More recently a clan of Anakites from New Muspelheim have immigrated to Chorus, and they provide somewhat more reliable service (incidentally causing most of the Tavi-run businesses to fold, since they now attract only those who are actively seeking danger and discomfort). The Anakites provide safe and reliable (if somewhat cramped) temporary habitats and some Faber-designed amphibious vechidai vehicles. In exchange for the orally transmitted tales of the New Muspelheim Firefall Saga the Anakites have obtained some novel synanotech envirosuits from local Jade Chime Singer designers. These provide the option of representing Chorus to the user as the Jade Chime Singers see it: a brightly lit and pleasantly warm tropical paradise, its air filled with the scent of flowers, wet earth, and growing things.

Even these are not foolproof, of course. Chorus is, when all is said and done, a frontier world unless one is a chlorine-breather. The most reliable equipment to support standard terragens has been developed for use by scientists, reporters, and professional adventurers, not a coddled and uninformed neb from some Inner Sphere nanotopia. It does not have the failsafe devices that have been installed and refined over the millennia for the uninformed or careless general public in other situations. All the local equipment, and especially the Anakite envirosuits, while they are reliable and pleasant to use under normal circumstances, are far less forgiving if misused. At least one thoughtless tourist was tempted to actually sample the local cuisine while using one of the new envirosuits. He died, and had to be replaced from backup. Others who have wandered blithely into the forest or gone swimming in the surf have been attacked by phobotheres or lancet eels, or ingested by some of the local carnivorous "plants", all of which are capable of overwhelming the envirosuit's modest protective nano. Such incidents are extremely rare, of course; a visitor must not only be extraordinary careless, but must also work hard (or be extraordinarily dull and uninteresting) to shake the usual following of interested locals who might have otherwise provide a timely warning.

All of this said, Chorus is well worth visiting. Some believe that it will be the origin of great things in the millennia to come. It is, quite possibly, history in the making.


 
Related Articles
 
Appears in Topics
 
Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 06 February 2005.