Jeepers of Mik's Planet
Jeeper 2
Image from Steve Bowers
A Jeeper. Descended from an alien multispecific terraforming swarm, this artificial species has become fully sophont.

Mik's Planet, located 6010 light years from Sol in the Vela/Puppis region, is in many ways a typical Eugaian world: 6115 km in radius, with oceans, a typical oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere, and a diverse set of biota. However its life forms, known collectively as the Cybyota, do not seem to have evolved here, and there are no fossils more than thirteen million years old. It appears that a single long-range seedship arrived some time before thirteen million years ago, and proceeded to terraform this world. It is not known where the original seedship came from, or how far it came, or from which direction. Some resemblance has been noted to the botworld silicon-only aiota of Stanislaw, and some similar theories have been formed concerning the real origin of these cybyotan worlds, but so far there have been no satisfactory conclusions regarding the problem of their origin.

After a time the planet's biota collectively achieved the goal of building and launching the seedships to four other relatively nearby terraformable worlds, without any of the species involved in these launches ever attaining self-awareness, but in the post-launch era of the planet's paleohistory a sapient species evolved.

The animal-like and plant-like members of the cybyotan biosphere both have silicon processing organs or shells. Those in the plant-like organisms act as memory storage units, and the add strength to their support structure. Animal-like organisms generally have a silicon-rich processing mantle on the top part of the body, generally covering a third to a half of the top surface of the organism. The cybershell holds pre-programmed behaviours, and deals with communications of a basic kind. Bioelectric organs in the mantle of the cybyotan life forms are easily capable of dealing with the energy requirements, and the shell produces just a small amount of waste heat. This mantle or shell can be brightly coloured, and often is studded with ellipsoidal infrared ports. After the seedships were launched, many parts of the pre-programmed memory became redundant. The silicon shells have atrophied on some species; others simply use the cybershell's infrared signals for complex mating displays that are invisible to unaugmented eyes.

Jeepers

The species known as 'Jeepers' arose seven million years ago, from a widespread genus of GPR (general purpose repair) maintenance morphs that were equipped with large biological brains in the anterior part of their body. The Jeepers evolved self awareness and sentience spontaneously as the genetic and stored-data they inherited from their precursors mutated and changed due to information drift. The ancestral species was pre-programmed to oversee the construction and testing of the seedships, and individuals were dextrous and equipped with acute senses. The ancestral Jeeper species was not inherently sapient, was but imbued with a broad range of skills and instinctive behaviours which must have been part of the original cybyotan blueprint. Similar general-purpose morphs are found on all the seeded worlds, although they are strangely changed and diverge markedly, especially in the third and fourth generation systems (such as the dead end worlds, which were discovered first).

The ancestral Jeeper species was used to maintain the seedship launchcraft, which were powered by fusion pulse into orbit. They were also programmed via the data-transfer channel to oversee the construction in orbit of the giant seedship vessels. Jeepers are therefore adapted to operate in microgravity, and are very unusual among intelligent species in that they evolved into self-awareness after attaining space flight capability. The seedship program halted when vessels had been launched toward each of four nearby target stars, and no other target stars had been identified, but the newly self aware Jeepers used their pre-programmed astronautical skills to launch more spacecraft into orbit for their own purposes. They eventually established space colonies on their moon and several other terrestrial bodies.

The Jeepers are six-legged animal-like organisms, with two complementary pairs of manipulative arms (one large, one smaller) associated with each pair of legs. The limbs all meet at a complicated girdle, and the three girdles are arranged in line and surmounted by the protective cybershell. As the girdles are freely articulated, the cybershell is also divided into three segments, with large stereoscopic frontal eyes and smaller rear dorsal eye pairs; the rear eye pair has an independent optic processing centre linked to the anterior brain complex by a notochord. The middle segment has no dorsal eyes but has six infrared ports instead. Each girdle also has a smaller ventral pair of eyes, which co-ordinate the movement of the limbs, and the complicated mouthparts, which are located on the front segment. The smaller limbs are also responsible for passing captured food to the mouth, and for grasping the mate during genetic transfer (mating).

Jeepers are mostly carnivorous, as hunter/scavengers, but sometimes adopt an omnivorous diet. Small animal species are carried by Jeeper spacecraft as food stocks, but on the home world the Jeepers enjoy the pursuit of prey whenever possible. In hunting the twelve manipulative arms fold neatly into the sides of the body, and the running legs are capable of short bursts of speed until the Jeeper is within grasping range of its prey. Jeepers hunt many of the nonsentient species of the cybyota. All their hunting and survival behaviour is the domain of the instinctive and learned behavioural complexes, and the data-transfer mode of behaviour is always overridden.

Many of the other cybyotan planets have unusual commensal ecologies where the prey are partly or wholly controlled by the hunters via the data- linkage route, but on Mik's world the control mechanisms have become largely ineffective, and ecological relations between predator and prey more closely resemble those on other planets. It is thought that this arrangement is likely to explain the emergence of self-awareness among the Jeepers, and the absence of intelligence from the other seeded worlds: a system where the hunted leaps into the jaws of the hunter is unlikely to lead to individualistic sentience.

Nevertheless, the psychology of the Jeepers is profoundly influenced by their data-linkage with other members of their species, and to a lesser extent their linkage with all the various cybyotan species via the cybershell. Apart from hunting and instinctive survival behaviour, there is still some connectivity available between the Jeepers and all other silicon-bearing life forms on this planet. The datasphere has become a medium for transfer of thoughts and dreams from the simplest of the biota to the most complex, and these abstract and naturalistic thoughts form a constant undercurrent in the psyche of all data-linked creatures on this world. However because of the hunting strategy adopted by the Jeepers and other carnivorous morphs, the surviving biota of this world have learnt to limit their data-transfer to information that cannot be used during hunting.

The cybyota on Mik's Planet seem to have undergone a period of rapid evolution after the last seedships were launched; some species used the datasphere to detect their prey, while others sent confusing messages to spoof predators or conceal themselves. The datasphere became a rapidly changing environment, and only those creatures able to discriminate between useful and spoofed information could thrive. Several types of naturally evolved data viruses are also present on this world, together with evolved countermeasures.

Jeepers have a strong community spirit because of their data linkage, which can send long distant messages from individual to individual via the plant-like ecology. However in the wild these long distance messages are prone to data loss and interference from the minds of lesser creatures, so the Jeeper civilization maintains cultivated telecommunication forests that are free of mind pests. Because of the unreliability of natural long distance telecommunications several differing data protocols, or languages have developed, and it is necessary to translate between these, often with some difficulty. For this reason different regions of Mik's planet have developed separate cultures, similar to nation-states.


Seedworld (Mik's Planet)
Image from Steve Bowers
Mik's Planet (also known as Seedworld) The typical avocado and purple tones of Cybyotan plant-life can be seen.

In the larger desert regions of the planet, under the sea, or in space, individual Jeepers can become cut off from the Datasphere; they experience loss of memory and become psychologically disturbed. Without access to the store of culture and information the civilized Jeeper datasphere contains an Individual Jeeper becomes inefficient and despondent, but sometimes isolated from er fellows e can become an individualistic genius; Jeepers have highly developed mental faculties in themselves. Jeeper cybercraft spaceships, metal-framed fusion pulse craft partly constructed from organic components, have small dataspheres containing pre-programmed skills and orbital calculators, some of which are directly derived from the original programs that arrived with the first seedship millions of years ago.

Contact with Terragens

When the Vela-Pup Borderer mission (commanded by Mik Junior Junior, who named this world after himself) arrived in 10297, the three inner planets of the system had been colonized by Jeeper cybercraft. The Jeepers had developed a number of belief systems based around the mysterious race that sent the first seedship to Mik's Planet, which race they called the Originators or Original Makers. The Jeepers have long been searching for details about these Makers who sent the first seedship; this quest is a major driving force behind the Jeeper exploration of space. Some versions of the belief system held that the Originators would one day come to Mik's Planet (which the Jeepers called the Seed, or Seedworld); when the Borderers arrived the followers of this creed believed that the Originators had at last arrived. Some small sections of the Jeeper population still believe this.

The Jeeper Datasphere has become a fascinating subject for study, especially by self-contained virtual entities who are able to travel through the cybyotan ecosphere and contact the greater and lesser minds of this world. Many Jeepers meanwhile have been allowed to enter the Known Net as virtual entities and are gaining access to the greater Orion's Arm civilization in carefully controlled stages.

There is no way of telling if the Jeeper body plan resembles that of the species which originally sent out the seedships, wherever that species might have been found; it is possible that the original long range seedship came from very far away, even from a different galaxy, so this may never be known for certain.

 
Articles
  • Clive's Brain  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Cybyotan world in the Vela-Puppis border periphery. The alien Cybyotan phylum of interconnected mobile and sessile autotrophs and heterotrophs has on this planet developed a single shared datasphere which is home to a single entity, known as Clive.
  • Cybyota  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Mechanical/biological world-seeding and terraforming agents of non-Terragen origin that have apparently evolved into independent life forms since their origin.
  • Xenobiont  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Generic term for alien (non-terragen) lifeform. May be animal-like, plant-like, protistan, exotic chemistry, or any other possibility. Does not have to be sophont. In fact just as on Earth, very few alien species ever evolve any measure of cognitive intelligence.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 09 February 2005.