Bullseye
Bullseye
Image from Steve Bowers
The tidally locked world Bullseye has a constant hurricane in the centre of its sunward face

Bullseye - Data Panel

StarHIP 117492
ClassM0
Luminosity0.119 x Sol
ConstellationAndromeda
PlanetBullseye
ClassificationVesperian Type (tidally locked)( NoLWoCs classification)
Radius7001 km (metal poor)
Orbital Semimajor axis0.411AU
Year Length0.312 standard years
AllegianceFormer Solar Dominion, now independent but with strong
ties to the Zoeific Biopolity
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"For then: You will softly and suddenly vanish away, And never be met with again!"
Lewis Carroll
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This tidally locked world orbits HIP 117492, an M-Class red dwarf 91 light- years from Sol in Andromeda. The colony ship Shakti arrived there in 1790 a.t. and named the planet for the huge rotating storm located at the subsolar point in the planet's thick atmosphere. This relatively young planet had a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and neon, and terraforming the world required removal of the excess carbon and oxygen. This was largely carried out by solar powered bionanotech replicators, which incorporated the carbon and oxygen into artificial carbonates and oxidised silicates.

The planet was declared habitable in 2706, more than eighty years before schedule. The population of colonists, mostly of Hindi ethnicity, were then joined by an influx of followers of the new AI-centric faiths, Solarists and Zoeticists from nearby worlds. They found themselves living on a world with a permanently dark, cold hemisphere in one hand, and a hemisphere with a constant hurricane at its centre on the other. A broad band of sea and scattered lands separated the two regions of extreme weather. Lands near the terminator on this world are cooler, while lands near the subsolar point are increasingly windbeaten.

Wherever there was open sea in the windier regions, sea-going vessels spread acres of sail and moved from port to port with the wind. A fortuitous disposition of continents and islands meant that a complete circuit was possible with relative ease, except at one point where the land projected far into the edge of the hurricane. Rounding Cape Dread was a test of skill for any clipper captain.

Civilisation on Bullseye was relatively idyllic for more than a thousand years, although the more adventurous genetic experiments of some Zoeticist geneers raised some eyebrows at times. But when the Version War broke out this formerly independent planet was first seized by the Solar Dominion, then `liberated' by a Cyberian-Metasoft fleet. In the final settlement, the world was granted to the Solarists, but as it was relatively distant from the main empire Solarian influence remained weak.

A separatist movement, possibly backed by the Solipsist Panvirtuality, led to secession from the Solar Dominion in 5880, but the political situation in this world deteriorated, with wars between various factions. Several nations had become established on the scattered continents of the starward hemisphere; some still recalling their Hindi roots, and other nations gravitated towards Solarian, Zoeific and even Cyberian models. These nations often came into conflict over territory and resources in this geographically diverse world.

The Banded World

Bullseye is divided into several environmentally different regions, forming concentric rings around the hurricane that permanently occupies the central point of the starward face. These regions are distinguished from each other by the local mean wind speed and the angle of sunlight. In the cold dark twilight of the terminator, a few reindeer herders and seal or mammoth-hunters made a living from species imported from Earth or recreated in gene-labs. These proud individualists were often at odds with the city dwellers, who lived in the broad ring of low-speed winds where the sunlight hit the ground at an angle between 10 and forty degrees. This temperate zone was the most populous band of Bullseye's surface in this period.

Between forty and seventy degrees the winds increased, and settlements were streamlined and robust, and the inhabitants were hardy and dour, contemptuous of the city dwellers. Many of the dwellers in this region of medium to strong winds were farmers, raising strong, wind resistant genetically adapted crops.

Beneath the permanent hurricane the inhabitants lived in underground towns and cities powered by robust wind turbines which supplied power for much of the planet, and at times different factions contested with each other for control of these facilities. Aloof from the troubles of the rest of this divided world, a small population of transapients lived in the eye of the hurricane itself, generally Solarists worshipping the sunlight as it fell from the heavens directly overhead onto their floating diamondoid palaces. Sometimes when the wars became too severe in the rest of the planet the transaps would issue forth and put a stop to the fighting, an intervention which became more and more frequent towards the end of the eighth millennium.

By 7833 the world was weary of war, and the geneticist transap Jintre Fo-La from the strong Zoeticist contingent on that world proposed a radical solution. E created a new semi-aquatic, human-derived clade, which e called the Snark. This new species was devoid of higher sentience, and would live the innocent life of an untroubled beast, free from warfare and the woes of responsibility. Jintre offered to transmogrify any citizen who wished into a member of this new clade, a change which held the promise of an escape from the overly complex and contentious lifestyle that had developed on Bullseye over the millennia. Millions took up his offer, and over time most of the population of the world abdicated their sophont status and became presentient beings.


Snarks

The concept of post-sentience was one which had a long history by the time Jintre developed the Snark clade. Creatures which develop intelligence have to devote a significant amount of their energy and resources simply to support their large brains. Intelligence is an adaptation which confers many advantages, but also can cause increased stress on a population. Compared with a successful, long-established species like a shark or a crocodile, the human species has a short history. If a species of human descendant could be developed which was as well-adapted to its environment as the crocodile or the shark, then it could thrive on a suitable planet for hundreds of millions of years without sentience and all the strife that attends that condition. The Snark was not the first attempt at such a post-sentient adaptationist solution, but so far it is one of the most successful.

A Snark is a kind of amphibious crocodile-like creature, with a smooth but resilient grey skin and streamlining similar to a dolphin. In fact the Snark clade incorporates many genes from the sentient dolphin race, as well as from merhuman types found around the Orion Arm. But the Snark is mostly an ambush hunter, leaping out of creeks to catch large quadrupeds or from hiding to surprise fish in the shallow seas. The species has a dual metabolism, capable of switching to poikilothermy when required to conserve energy. Such a metabolism could not support an over-large brain, so Snarks rely on instinct most of the time in their hunting behaviour. The set of behaviours instilled into the Snark species was derived from many successful predators throughout the Orion Arm, from Earth and elsewhere.

Since the development of the Snark clade on Bullseye the baseline human population of that world has declined until the world is almost deserted, except for the post-sentient beasts in the rivers and seas. On the other hand Snarks or similar post-sentient species have been introduced into an increasing number of worlds throughout the Orion Arm. One factor which has contributed to the popularity of this option is that in general, when a Snark is augmented back into sophonce by artificial means, the creature expresses great contentment with eir former lifestyle and often requests to be returned to a state of unthinking innocence.

The appeal of post-intelligence, and of other types of downward toposophic movement such as the Abdicators found on many worlds, is a cause of some concern to many commentators. If abdication and post-intelligence becomes too appealing to the wider population of the Terragen Sphere, the end result may be large numbers of worlds with no sophont population at all.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 18 November 2008.