Note on pronunciation: The initial 'c' is silent except after a prefix; so the name of this species is pronounced 'thonid'; but (for instance) a post-cthonid individual might be sometimes be referred to as a po-cthonid, pronounced 'pokthonid'.
Background The Cthonids were discovered by radicals from the Andian Mission who were traveling corewards from NGC 3496 in the 6800's. They discovered radio transmissions from a star system, and upon arrival found themselves in the middle of a thriving interplanetary civilization. Initial contact went badly, as their intent was misinterpreted by the Cthonids as hostile and they had to retreat into the Oort cloud while attempting to salvage diplomatic relations. Eventually an understanding was reached, and the first tentative cultural exchange opened.
When news about the find reached the Wormhole Nexus in 7200 many groups decided to send representatives to the Cthonid system. The 400 year trip from the closest stargate delayed the encounter to 7600, giving the Cthonids ample time to prepare themselves for the arrival of aliens. Since then xenodiplomatic societies of Cthonids have interacted with the Terragens, trading advanced technology and spices for cultural artifacts, mechanisms and history.
The Cthonids are eager to adapt the knowledge of the Terragens to their society, so eager that many xenosociologists are worried that their traditional culture is going to disappear or be transformed beyond recognition. However, both the NoCoZo traders and the xenodiplomatic societies consider that a small price to pay. There is a wormhole from Mutual Satisfaction in transit to the Cthonid system, expected to arrive within a century. Once it reaches the system the Cthonids will most likely become one of the most eager members of the wormhole nexus.
History The Cthonids originated on a low-gravity world orbiting a somewhat unstable star in the Carina arm. From time to time great storms or climatic changes wracked the surface, making most life aquatic or adept at hiding underground when the weather turned dangerous. Many species spent their entire lives in tunnels beneath the surface, emerging only to snatch food down into the safer underground. The surface was gradually dominated by fast-moving or flying predators, some of which lived in symbiosis with plants that they protected. In response, underground species developed elaborate ways to avoid detection and exposure. One solution was to have expendable appendages which were used to explore the surface. This gradually evolved into a situation where some species had almost independent organs which could be used for exploration, gathering food, and mating, not unlike the workers of Earthly social insects.
The Cthonids evolved from a digging species living beneath the extensive plains on the largest continent. Their main bodies are spindle-shaped and covered with shovel-like appendages used for digging. A slit along the side of the main body contains their secondary bodies, which grow folded up inside pouches. To explore the surface one or more of the lesser bodies unfolds and scurries away. Unlike the main body they are thin and graceful, adapted to fast movement in the open and even limited flight. They are mainly controlled by instinct and complex chemical traces from their main body, although they have some limited intelligence on their own.
A few hundred thousand years ago a new species of predator appeared on the continent, digging hunters working in packs who could attack the previously safe main bodies of the Cthonids. Faced with evolutionary pressure, the Cthonids became more and more adept at inventing clever ways to evade the predators, by using their secondary bodies both for fighting and to create simple tools and traps. Gradually the Cthonids became an intelligent species, and eventually drove the hunters to extinction.
The Cthonids invented agriculture, using their secondary bodies to spread seeds and guard them from herbivores, and they began to grow plants which attracted symbiotes which they ate. In time most of the plains were cultivated. However, development was quite slow since young Cthonids started their lives without training and protection; they had to seek out older Cthonids to learn from, and this was not always possible or appreciated.
The first true Cthonid civilization developed after a group of Cthonids on a somewhat isolated island learned how to control their mating bodies so well they could make sure they fused in roughly the same place all the time. This made it possible to gather the young while they were newly hatched in an ordered way. Gradually a community emerged, where some Cthonids would gather food and some care for the young. The latter group also developed better and better ways to use their secondary bodies, and taught it to the young. In time the island culture spread to the main continent, dividing the plains into a large number of more or less independent societies, often in conflict for land or resources. However, since the Cthonids themselves moved slowly, and never developed techniques for riding, any warfare was mainly local. The societies also had trouble growing large as long as the main force holding them together was the mutual care of the young because the mating bodies had a limited range of flight.
Gradually, the plains became covered with an artificial ecosystem, centred around their agriculture, and the ground beneath was gradually criss-crossed by tunnels while underground pests were eradicated. Unfortunately, the cultured areas also lost much of their vitality and often were ravaged by unexpected ecological disasters. Many Cthonids chose to explore new regions, in search of new land or wealth. As the Cthonids gradually spread across their planet they encountered environments where they were unable to live underground, and they had to develop new forms of living. Since the Cthonids severely disliked being out in the open they developed buildings, often filled with loose material and linked by covered crawlways. As their technology advanced, the single buildings became whole cities, often covered with dense vegetation and brightly coloured poles designed to help secondary bodies navigate. They look quite like decorated overgrown ruins, with very little visible above the surface.
The old societies gradually turned into nation-like confederations of smaller units, held together by faster communications, military strength, and economic power. However, they never truly lost their independence, and often had quite distinct attributes. This often caused friction between different societies inside any one nation, and in many cases encouraged specialization. One area might specialize in farming and the development of ecology, while another area perfected the methods of training secondary bodies. By travel, consultancy, and the exchange of members many societies became tied together, not only inside the nations but also between them. Some very specialized societies became just as powerful and wealthy as whole nations, while others were powerless in their mediocrity.
Slowly but carefully the Cthonids developed their science and technology. The taming of fire was a slow process, since it was by its nature unpredictable and dangerous. It had been known for millennia, but it was not until a group of Cthonids managed to train their secondary bodies to work with fire and not flee in panic from the heat, that it became useful. The discovery of ceramics and later metals accelerated technological development, and was soon followed by the creation of complex mechanisms. For a long time the Cthonids developed the science of mechanics to perfection, building wind and water-powered factories, digging machines and mechanical computers. Electricity was known, but not used for much. This went on for a long time.
What propelled the Cthonids out of their inertia was a series of violent solar eruptions, which disrupted the climate and ecology planetwide. Titanic storms and unpredictable rainfall destroyed much of Cthonid civilization, and turned parts of the ancient plains into an inland sea. Millions of Cthonids were killed or died of starvation. After having rebuilt their cities and repaired their machines, the Cthonids began to worry about the possibility of a second cataclysm. Many societies began to study meteorology and how it related to the sun and moons. They discovered the law of gravity, and determined the structure of their solar system. But they were unable to understand exactly how the sun worked and what controlled it. The fear of ignorance and chaos forced the leading nations to temporarily unite to find a solution. Several of the most skilled societies were called upon to form an artificial nation to find out how to control the sun, or how to prevent another cataclysm.
For quite some time the societies of the nation developed and tested their theories about the sun. They soon realized it was not based on any known chemical or electrical process. Following the Cthonid tradition of sending out secondary bodies to scout, they developed small rockets carrying measurement packages and radio systems. As they gained expertise, they invented a radio-link which could be used to communicate with a secondary body remotely (this technique revolutionized planet-bound communications and social life), and sent bodies out into space . They gave up on trying to change their sun, since they realized that its titanic energies were far beyond their technology. Instead they concentrated on predicting its eruptions and the effects on the planet. After some years, they had developed simple space-stations where secondary bodies controlled from the ground watched over the sun and the weather. They realized one fundamental problem: to keep the station manned they had to send up new bodies from time to time, as the old wore out or broke down, and this was both expensive and inefficient. In order to protect their planet, Cthonids had to live in space.
Over the next centuries the Cthonids created their first habitats and began to expand into space. They hollowed out asteroids (to make sure flares from their sun were no threat) and filled the interior with air and a thick layer of gravel. Light was seldom needed, and the huge interior spaces were devoted to life support and other machinery. Each asteroid station became its own community, and gradually many of them became nations in their own right. The Cthonids explored their system using the huge but slow asteroids, eventually colonizing the asteroid belts to a large extent (today the space-living Cthonids outnumber the planet-bound populations by at least 10:1). The reason for this expansion was never clear even to the Cthonids themselves. While they were obviously ensuring the survival of the species and finding vast new resources to exploit, there was something else driving them outwards. Somehow they couldn't stand the thought of unexplored places.
Physiology The Cthonids main bodies are about 2 to 3 meters long and at least half a meter thick, spindle shaped and covered with slick black scales; to a human they would look somewhat like a walrus. Some of these scales grow into large shovel-shaped extremities used for digging and moving, usually in a regular pattern around the body. In the front end there are five scales/teeth covering the mouth, which can also fold outwards and manipulate things. The slit where the secondary bodies are kept is usually tightly closed, and runs along most of their length; an adult Cthonid can have up to 10 mature secondary bodies inside it at one time, and often several under development. Old secondary bodies are eaten.
The main bodies of the Cthonids are extremely sensitive to smell, especially the skin between the scales. They are quite able to detect smells from different directions and how old they are. In fact, the Cthonids often communicate using smells, secreted by glands inside the mouth. In dangerous situations they can exhale an intense smell to confuse an attacker or even "blind" it. The scales are also sensitive to vibrations, both in the ground and in the air in the tunnels. Their sense of touch is naturally quite good, especially at each end of their body. However, the Cthonids possess nothing like eyes and are completely blind.
The secondary bodies are disc-like and dark when folded. They grow in pouches, gradually developing until they are fully grown (around 15-20 centimetres in diameter when folded tightly). They are nourished and protected by a syrup-like secretion of the main body (modern Cthonids can keep large numbers of secondary bodies alive using artificial syrup). When they are needed, they are pushed out from the pouch and slit, and gradually crawl away until they get into enough space to fold out. When unfolded, they become around a meter in diameter, a graceful irregular construction of very thin and translucent insect-like limbs, covered in hairs which form feathers. They are extremely nimble, and are able to fly/jump quite well in the low gravity of the Cthonid home planet. These bodies have quite good hearing and a somewhat developed sense of sight, but they mostly navigate using smell and touch. On the surface they mostly gather food, watch for predators and scan the surroundings; when they return they transmit what they have found to the main body using a mixture of signs and smells, a bit like bees in an Earthly beehive. When in close contact with the main body they can be directed with great precision, and used nearly as extra hands. They are not really intelligent, more like trained animals.
From time to time Cthonids form mating bodies, secondary bodies with brightly coloured feathers which climb to the surface and seek out other mating bodies. When they meet, they quickly build a burrow where they enmesh and spin a cocoon around themselves. They gradually merge, and after a few days a young Cthonid breaks free and starts to dig its way into the ground. The Cthonids are able to decide which type of secondary bodies to grow, and mating bodies are usually regarded as a more refined way to do something. Normal secondary bodies are used for personal tasks and business as usual, while mating bodies are often sent as messages/gifts/snacks or used to perform certain social functions.
The Cthonids can partially control the development of their secondary bodies, both by mental and bodily control, certain drugs, selective breeding and training. This is regarded as the highest art by most Cthonids; it is a mixture of self-discipline, animal training, cosmetics and etiquette. All Cthonids can control whether to spawn mating bodies, and most are able to create partial mating bodies (which are somewhere in-between real mating bodies and normal secondary bodies) and to control how the development occurs; some Cthonids prefer to grow many small bodies, while others create very small numbers of large ones. Much of their appearance and general behaviour can be controlled by the ingestion of certain chemicals, foods and the conscious control of body odour. The most subtle part of the art is the training to make the bodies respond as the Cthonid desires to signals and orders; this is an extremely complex task which has been honed by special trainers for millennia. Most Cthonids have specialised some of their secondary bodies, especially for speaking or handling objects.
The Cthonids have several forms of speech. The most common form is by shaking their bodies, which is used to communicate through vibrations in the earth (or today through televibrators, which transmit vibrations and sounds). They also can communicate by changing their odours, a more personal form of communication usually reserved only for the young or close associates. Over longer distances Cthonids speak by sending secondary bodies carrying smell and vibration. These discussions can often become quite complex, as several bodies are involved and skilled Cthonids can program them with several possible responses.
One recent development is remotely controlled bodies, where the Cthonid can send signals to the bodies and receive responses from them. This allows trained Cthonids to reprogram their secondary bodies when they are far away.
Psychology The Cthonids are extremely individualistic, and have an intense feeling for privacy and property. They dislike even the thought of another being in the close vicinity, preferring to signal to each other using vibrations or bodies. Anything getting too close to them is regarded as an intruder, unless it carries exactly the right smell-patterns and behaves somewhat predictably. Secondary bodies of other Cthonids are usually acceptable, as long as they keep their distance from the main body. The etiquette of privacy is exceedingly complex, and most Cthonids are very careful not to get too close to each other using any of their bodies. However, some secondary bodies are bred for their taste or smell as gifts (history speaks of how some murderous Cthonids have used poisoned secondary bodies against their enemies).
The Cthonids are still not actually asocial; most prefer to feel the protection and kinship of their community. This is especially pronounced after hatching; the young are gathered by their teachers and protected by them. This is the only time Cthonids are physically close, and the mystique/taint of closeness isolates the teachers from most other Cthonids; while doctors sometimes have to touch patients, the teachers touch the young freely. Today even the teachers can help the young without physical contact, but the symbolism persists. They are in a way the force holding the community together, and are often regarded as its symbolic (if not practical) leaders. It is not uncommon for their collective smell to be seen as the smell of the community, of unity and safety.
The relationship between Cthonids and their secondary bodies is very complex. In most societies the bodies are regarded as extensions of the main body, but not the true self. The self is experienced as the clouds of odour around the main body, and the mouth is the noblest organ. When a secondary body misbehaves it is regarded as having lost the connection with the true self of its owner, and while most Cthonids find it both irritating and distasteful, it is not really the fault of the owner except in discipline. To be able to control and predict the actions of one's bodies, and to train them to work together, is one of the best expressions of a pungent self. The secondary bodies contribute to the self, and by training them well a Cthonid can become more pungent.
Something all Cthonids dislike is unpredictability and surprises. The secondary bodies are good at handling situations they have been trained for, but faced with something unexpected they tend to scurry back to the main body for advice and orders. Since it is impossible to predict every possible problem and train the secondary bodies for it, the Cthonids either have to rely on general guidelines for the limited intelligence of the secondaries, or try to divide all problems into simpler tasks, preferably problems which have already been solved. This reflects in their thinking: Cthonids prefer to reduce all problems to previously solved problems. This sometimes makes them miss elegant solutions, but they are very good at finding a way, however tortuous, to make things work. When someone finds a simple new solution this is greeted with admiration, but most of the time everybody is using the old and proven methods rather than looking for the new.
Society The central unit in Cthonid society is the community, a group of around 100-1000 Cthonids centred around a team of teachers and a central mating ground (the mating grounds are specially prepared by the teachers so that mating bodies will seek them out; most commonly they are surrounded by highly reflective poles and certain traditional smells). Each community essentially runs itself once it has been established. Most are governed by one or more leaders and their staff, usually selected by the other leading Cthonids in the community. Once the teachers usually held this function, but today professional politicians and technocrats are more common.
Each community controls a very defined area of land, and does not tolerate another community encroaching without proper permissions, even if it is friendly. The borders are clearly marked with poles smelling of the teacher-union of respective community. The teacher-union is the social core, and highly respected. Today it no longer solely includes the teachers who take care of the young, but also experts on various sciences, especially the social arts. Most politicians still have to crawl lightly not to upset the teachers; if they officially pronounce their dislike for a leader, he will be in for a very rough time.
Each community is usually specialised towards certain areas. There are farming communities, industrial communities, scientific communities and aesthetic communities. While membership is usually by birth, it is not uncommon for Cthonids to seek admission into a new community to learn or work. If they are accepted, they are brought before the teachers and formally initiated into the community smell. The cultural differences between different communities are often surprisingly large. They employ different smells, have different methods of training the secondary bodies and other social rules. Prejudice against other communities is quite widespread in many places, but many communities are so well renowned that their pungency are above all reproach. This includes a few extremely famous teaching communities, the remains of the artificial space nation (today a set of closely linked scientific, political and industrial communities) and the exclusive communities of body-trainers.
The communities have been linked together into nations, sometimes by conquest, sometimes by politics and economics. The nations are not as defined as Terragen nations, and are often just loose confederations of communities. Some of the old nations still persist, ruled by a small elite controlling all the communities through military and social force, but they have gradually been replaced by confederations run as generalized communities themselves. These are controlled by leaders chosen among community leaders, and have a ceremonial group of nation-teachers. However, it is not uncommon for communities to simply change sides and join another nation, or proclaim themselves free. It has become rarer, but still occurs.
Cthonid politics is extremely complex and devious; the drive to reduce uncertainty combined with individualism and local government has produced elaborate codes of conduct, treaties and oversight organisations.
Another social structure is the artificial nations. Often they are created by several nations who wish to solve a mutual problem, as a token of peace, a buffer state or for economic reasons. Communities are simply gathered into a new nation, with its own rulers and economy (although the parent-nations often place certain restrictions on its activities or even a time-limit for its existence). The most famous artificial nation was the nation which developed radio and spaceflight, but there are also nations devoted only to trade or culture. One of the most unusual artificial nations is a kind of UN located on a peninsula of the main continent. It consists of communities from most nations, and seeks to unify them into a single world-community.
Religion and Philosophy There are many local philosophies dealing especially with ethics, propriety, politics and epistemology. Cthonids seem to enjoy creating debating secondary bodies, grouping them together and analyzing what they come up with. In some sense philosophy is viewed as a competitive sport, although some schools of thinking instead consider the search for truth and control to be the sole smell that can unite Cthonidkind.
The Cthonids are amazingly non-religious and practical. They have never even considered the thought that there is anything supernatural. Instead they lump all unknown and unpredictable things together into a big whole. In the last few centuries this great unknown has become more threatening, and several schools of thought seek to either discover what it is (and thus render it controllable) or to find ways to completely avoid it. These ideas are mainly discussed by scientists and teachers, the rest of the Cthonids simply avoid them. In fact, one of the main reasons the Cthonids began to explore space was simply to make sure it was not too threatening or unknown.
The teachers are the closest thing to priests the Cthonid have. In addition to their teaching duties, they also perform ceremonies for the community, certain symbolic duties (like the scenting of border-poles) and generally represent the community spirit. Their presence is reassuring on a deep level.
Technology Cthonid technology is contradictory. On one hand it tends to be somewhat inefficient and baroque due to their tendency to use complex solutions to solve simple problems. On the other hand, it is often divided into simple and elegant modules which have proven to be useful, and gradually reduced to simple works of art. If there is any problem, the modules are checked and changed, often with surprisingly good results.
Tools are generally of two types: simple, rugged tools for personal use by main bodies, and the frail, flexible and often computerized tools used by the secondary bodies. The Cthonids have never perceived the need to change their direct environment, and still prefer real earth and rocks inside their buildings and the classic plants and animals for food. The only personal areas they have developed further are the production and control of smell and communications. Cthonid cuisine/cosmetics involves the use of spices, herbs and chemicals to improve or change the odours they produce and perceive. Refined Cthonids rely to a large extent on exotic smells, and it is a status symbol to be able to afford the latest spices. The manipulation of taste and smell is a appreciated art, almost on par with the discipline and training of secondary bodies.
The other main use of personal technology by the Cthonids is communications. Today almost all Cthonids use a televibrator to communicate with other Cthonids. It is a machine embedded inside the walls of the home, which transmits vibration-messages not unlike a telephone. It is controlled by a circular panel which is manipulated by the teeth of the Cthonid (this is a standard arrangement for most Cthonid equipment). A more uncommon but more important system consists of small radio modules which are placed on the secondary bodies. With some training, the Cthonid can remain in contact with them even when they are far away; by sending signals to the radio, it can release different smells and vibrations which they obey, and signal back what is happening. This requires a highly trained operator with skilled secondary bodies.
Outside the home, the Cthonids are quite industrious. They like to build machines to help them, often imitating the secondary bodies or even performing similar functions. While they have never even considered the idea of an artificial intelligence, they are quite good at building simple automata or machines with a set of pre- programmed behaviours. Many of these are discreetly incorporated inside what looks otherwise like normal walls or buildings, ready to be used whenever the Cthonids need them. Many buildings are actually machines, often combined factories and homes. Transport systems have been developed which allow Cthonids to travel in relative comfort and solitude, not unlike railways or moving walkways. However, most Cthonids prefer to conduct business from their homes.
It is worth noting that the Cthonids prefer to use ingenious mechanics before electronics, even if electronics are often faster and more efficient. It seems that the Cthonid simply regard electronics as soulless and eerie, while mechanics are trusted. All forms of technology where they can touch or sense the inner workings (at least in principle) are acceptable, but electricity, fire, information and anything too small to be touched is regarded as too uncertain to be truly trusted.
They are very skilled chemists, and have developed a wide array of materials and chemicals with useful properties, ranging from medicines and essences to extremely stable plastics and superconductors. On the other hand, they are hopeless at biology; they only learned about ecology the hard way when the ecosystems began to collapse around them. Biology is simply regarded as too messy to deal with, and the Cthonids prefer to simplify ecosystems around them to suit their needs. They don't see any inherent value in diversity or complexity, so if a species is interfering or just in the way, they exterminate it.
Art Cthonid art is quite incomprehensible to humans, since it relies mainly on smell and texture and is based on a completely different aesthetic. They seldom create individual artworks in the human sense. Most Cthonid art is either just experienced once or built into other things. They enjoy to touch complex patterns of textures, which artists cover their machines and buildings with, and this is also the basis of their written language. Practically all surfaces in Cthonid society are covered with elaborate patterns pleasant to the touch; tools and machines are adorned with surfaces describing their use and hallways have patterns which subtly shift as one moves along them (this also makes it simpler to orient oneself). The patterns are both decorative and useful, like all Cthonid art.
The art of creating and controlling odours is very complex, and many spend a large amount of time developing just the right smells for themselves, their secondary bodies, and their possessions. Perfumes, spices, and chemicals are artfully combined into various mixtures, added to food, applied to objects or bodies, or just savored by the connoisseurs. To a human these smells range from the sublime to the disgusting, and even the Cthonids have disagreements about the interpretations of certain smells. Different societies have developed their own smell-symbolism, often disquieting or even irritating to other societies. The mating-bodies of the Cthonids are especially finely scented, representing the odour of their main body at its most refined state, subtly altered and decorated. Of course, a human would not notice it.
Training of secondary bodies is the most revered art/craft of all in civilised nations. Everybody is doing their best to learn how to master their secondary bodies, and especially skilled individuals are often seen as being as important for the well-being of the community as the teachers. Individuals who fail at control are usually relegated to basic physical labor.
Techniques to control the development and use of the bodies are often jealously guarded within a community. The methods range from physical/mental discipline to psychological tricks to chemical and even surgical modifications. The most complex part of the art is to program the bodies to work flexibly. By teaching them different behaviours linked to a code of smells and vibrations, a Cthonid can build "programs" for a secondary body, but it is very hard to make sure it will behave as it should when on its own. That is the ability that distinguishes the masters from the merely skilled. The introduction of radio links has complicated things somewhat, but the psychological/programming skills are still needed, maybe even more than before.
Relations to Other Species The Cthonids do not appreciate the alien; the unexpected appearance of an alien ship 1200 years ago caused a major uproar and the hostile reception was not just accidental. However, the patient (and unreachable) transmissions from the Oort cloud managed to clarify the nature of the aliens sufficiently to enable limited contact. Several emergency artificial nations for system defense, xenodiplomacy, and metaphysics had been formed as a response, and managed to establish enough about the aliens to convince most Cthonids that they were not an unknown threat, just a real threat.
The Andian Mission turned out to be quite eager to disseminate information about the Terragens, helping the Cthonids to estimate the benefits and risks of contact. It was clear that contact was unavoidable, as the aliens were far too technologically advanced to be stopped. On the other hand at least the Andians appeared eager to trade, a concept the Cthonids understood perfectly. As the picture cleared many Cthonid nations and societies began to scramble for more: the aliens did not just have more advanced technology, they had information that could help banish the unknown farther from the smellable world. Continuing and extending trade became a major imperative not just pragmatically but culturally. The search for things and services to trade became intense.
Opponents pointed out the terrible risks such alien creatures posed by their very nature. But the xenophiles countered with the promise of starflight - that would give Cthonidkind the key to the universe. If they could spread across the stars, then even the most unknown and dangerous aliens could not stop their pungent expansion.
Today the Cthonid society is trying to adapt to all the powerful technologies that are appearing. Many new forms of societies are emerging to deal with the truly alien concepts of AI, nanotechnology and starflight, as well as understanding the complex smell of Terragen civilization. Several major disasters have occurred, such as the nanoswarms that in 7833 nearly destroyed the main xenodiplomatic asteroid cluster or the failed attempt by one nation to use a copy of the Encyclopaedia Everythingiana to bootstrap fusion power. Tensions are running high between conservatives and radicals, between xenophobes and xenophiles, the new societies dealing with alien science and traditional societies, augmented Cthonids and unaugmented ones, and groups trading with different Terragen groups. It is generally regarded to be an intense and full-flavored time to live in.
- First Contact - Text by Steve Bowers
Strategies and policies for contact with alien life forms (xenobiota) and Xenosophonts (intelligent alien life).