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Menexenes

An exotic lifeform existing in the metallic hydrogen core of a gas giant world

Menexenes
Image from Steve Bowers
A flock of Menexenes float far below the hydrogen ocean layer (false colour image)

Star system TYC 2410-1320-1 (known as the Socrates System)
Arity Triple
Components TYC 2410-1320-1A - red giant (type M1-3III)
TYC 2410-1320-1B - orange-yellow giant (type K0III)
TYC 2410-1320-1C - yellow-white dwarf (type A5V).
Separation distances AB = 20,566AU, AC = 24,907AU
Distance from Sol 3372 light years
Constellation Auriga
Planets (around TYC 2410-1320-1C)
Xanthippe
Lamprokles
Sophroniskos
Menexenos

Introduction

In 8862 a Deeper Covenant exploration ship arrived upon the star system Socrates, with its four attendant planets Xanthippe, Lamprokles, Sophroniskos and Menexenos in the Outer Volumes. Initially it was thought that the system was uninhabited real estate. However, these beliefs were soon changed when in 8902, closer study of the gas giant Menexenos revealed it was inhabited: not by regular Jovian life but by an exotic xenosophont lifeform living in the core.

The Menexenes, as they came to be known, were found to have a pre-singularity civilization. More interestingly, when contacted, the Menexenes seemed to regard the existence of Terragens with a sort of polite indifference despite being friendly to the contact AIs. Since then a group of eccentric/quasi-insane Menexenes left with the aid of a transapient to form their own polity, and the Socrates system has been declared the realm of a caretaker god. It is possible both these events were linked to the archailect Synergenesis.

Background

The Menexenes evolved from self-replicating lifelike patterns in the dense molten metallic hydrogen core of the Jovian class planet Menexenos in the Outer Volumes near NoCoZo space. They are based on transition metals, water ice and ammonia ice that contaminate the hydrogen. Rather than chemistry, they use self-recursive electromagnetic and electrostatic interactions; the transition metals make a form of spin glass with a high degree of magnetic frustration. The electromagnetic patterns in the spin glass also affect, and are affected by, the orientation of the polar water and ammonia molecules.

Description

An adult Menexene is an ovoid about three metres long by 1.5 metres in diameter at its widest point. It has radial symmetry order 12. Manipulation of external environment is via induced magnetic field in the surrounding hydrogen, induced pressure waves via pulsation, and jets of metallic hydrogen (much in the same way cephalopods squirt water). Locomotion is achieved through either Lorenz force — pushing against the planetary magnetic flux, or the aforementioned jets of hydrogen.

Menexenes primary senses are the ability to detect pressure waves (sound) and magnetic flux. They can also sense changes in the composition of local transition metals and ices (somewhat akin to an olfactory sense).

Lifespan and Reproduction

The Menexene lifecycle begins when two or more mating Menexenes emit a long spindle of their "genetic material" (consisting mainly of metallic superatom clusters). The spindles of the participants merge to form a sphere where the genes are recombined to form new patterns. This spherical "egg" lasts for between twelve and sixteen hours, during which it is kept safe by its "parents". Then it breaks apart into a number of tori, similar to smoke rings except in a metallic hydrogen medium, which travel away from the epicenter where the egg-sphere used to be. Each torus traverses a distance of approximately three kilometers in the space of around forty hours; at which point it collapses, leaving a child Menexene which is also toroidal. The Menexene child then makes its way back to the nearest colony of adults, guided by its auditory sense.

The Menexene child stage lasts for around 22,000 hours (for comparison, a Terran year is 8760 hours) during which it consumes "food" (plants which gather energy from convective currents in the hydrogen). Then it breaks somewhere along its circumference to make a long, thin spindle — an adolescent Menexene. Unlike children, adolescents can be educated, and it is at this stage that they acquire most of the general knowledge of their society.

Adolescence lasts around 90,000 hours, after which the individual fattens and becomes a young adult, sexually mature and able to reproduce. Adults are remarkably long lived, able to live several centuries naturally, and with their artificial enhancements they are practically immortal.

Environmental Requirements

Menexene environmental requirements are extreme by Terran terms. They require a pressure of at least 1000 gigapascals and an ambient temperature of a least 25 kilokelvins to survive — by Menexene standards, even a Toul atmosphere is a frigid near-vacuum. Menexenes also require a strong planetary magnetic field to be able to move properly.

Psychology

Menexenes are highly sociable entities; among themselves they make friends and mating partners easily — some parties are arranged between individuals who barely know each other just for this purpose. However, they are also individualistic, and will sometimes go to great lengths to be left alone and do something no one else is doing. In a way, they consider their friends merely pragmatic alliances to satisfy their social wants; they all know and accept this, and seem to quite simply not care whether their friends like them so long as they like their friends. Menexene social groups are transitory, and they seem happier to forge new relationships than hold onto old ones. The primary reason for this behaviour seems to be the fact that primitive Menexene groups were often swept apart by rapidly changing convection currents in the core, and new groups were constantly being formed.

Menexenes are also very ludic, devoting much of their life to "having fun". The archetypal hero is one who is able to find play in all aspects of life and yet never stagnate into permanent hedonism.

Society

Menexene society is amorphous; there are no discernable nation states or economic regions. Menexenes have no conception of property; instead they use a "take what you need" system of resources. Etiquette determines what happens when there are clashes, and where that fails they resort to heated debates and very occasionally violence. Whilst this may seem rather unusual to outsiders, the Menexenes are happy with their system: it works well enough and doesn't get in the way.

There are cities, but no fixed places of residence: Menexenes are nomadic, moving all across their planet from city to city.

Menexene technology is based around ices, the few silica/carbon substances that reach Menexenos via asteroid impact, transition elements native to their local biosphere and (in more advanced technology) complex self-sustaining waveforms and topological disturbances in the metallic hydrogen medium. Ices are the most common building blocks whereas transition elements are used to make the Menexene equivalent of biotechnology.

History

The Menexenes recorded history goes back to 14000 BT. They have maintained a degree of technological stasis since 3000 BT, only progressing culturally and philosophically since then.

Between 12 and 163 AT, there were a series of "bordered corpuses" — the closest Menexenes ever got to states. The first one was a social experiment, trying to create a society analogous to a living organism, and was divided into castes accordingly: the intellectuals forming the Brain Caste, the scouts forming the Sensory Caste, the librarians forming the Genome Caste etcetera. Later bordered corpuses were more diverse and experimented with a whole range of political and economic organisations. Eventually however the idea fell out of fashion and the remaining bordered corpuses become more decentralised, eventually losing their borders and becoming part of Menexene society at large.

Contact with the Menexenes in 8902 would tend to be viewed as a pivotal event. They were famous for several years in the civilised galaxy until surpassed by yet another fad. Despite all of this, the Menexenes themselves seem relatively unimpressed and indifferent to the occurrence. The few eccentric Menexenes who were actually interested formed the Association-With-Greater-Civilisation Guild in 8995.

By 9220 the AWGC Guild had become a large and powerful organisation, though viewed with a sort of pity/contempt by the rest of Menexene society. At this time a postneumann arrived on the scene, under the instruction of a TRHN S4 archailect, Synergenesis. Synergenesis provided the neumann with a monopolium interstellar craft capable of holding an environment comfortable for Menexenes and a star system near the Periphery to give to the Menexenes. Seeking to get away from their contemptuous brethren, the Menexenes of the AWGC Guild agreed to be transported to the new system, and accordingly left.

The Guild arrived at their destination in 9844 and settled a brown dwarf orbiting the star, forming the polity First Exocore Bordered Corpus.

In 10038, a rogue autowar entering the Socrates system was destroyed, and a message transmitted to surrounding polities that the system was now protected by a Caretaker God, and any hostile attacks would be met with lethal force. It is thought that this enigmatic caretaker god may be related somehow to Synergenesis.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Liam Jones

Initially published on 23 May 2006.