Silent Ones

A typical city on the homeworld of the species known as the Silent Ones

Silent City
Image from Anders Sandberg

Star: YTS-4376437-4376
Class: FV5
Distance from Sol: 2445 ly
Location: Puppis sector, spinwards of Ruprecht 46
Planet: YTS-4376437-4376 IV
Type: SuperGaian
Gravity: 1.6 gees
Diameter: 14101 km
Contacted: 6392 (NoCoZo explorer class ship)

The species known as the Silent Ones is a prime example of a hi-tech civilisation which has become limited to a single system. Because their technology emits minimal radiation of an artificial nature, the presence of such an advanced race was unsuspected until NoCoZo explorers entered the system. Such silent civilisations may exist in relatively large numbers throughout the galaxy, unsuspected by Terragen astronomers.

Biology

The Silent One's home world is a high-gravity supergaian. They evolved from creatures living in the reef-like forests girdling its shallow seas, seeking out burrowing creatures using their excellent hearing.

Their body plan is slightly unusual; they have two thick and short legs ending in four long pads holding up an elongated horizontal body that balances using an ingenious spine hinged upon the legs. There is no set front or back end; in one direction the body narrows into a flexible snout/tentacle, and in the other it thickens into a ridged bulb, but the being can walk in any direction. When resting the Silent Ones gently put their bodies on the ground, stretching their legs orthogonally to their bodies.

Modern Silent Ones are around two meters long and stand around 70 centimeters tall when erect; the main body is around 50 centimeters in diameter.

The bulb houses the mouth and most of the digestive organs; in their original state the Silent Ones used the snout to dig up edible subterranean animals and plants, and then lowered the folded mouth-bulb over them. After the nutrients are absorbed, the remains are expelled. The bulb appears to be soft and flabby, but contains a tetrapartite beak.


Silent One
Image from Steve Bowers

The central part of the body houses the brain and main muscles. The skin is evenly dark yellow and hairless except for patches of long whiskers linked to their sense of touch and hearing (these whiskers can be moved quite dexterously, and are often used to feel over things with or manipulate their version of keyboards). The Silent Ones have rather limited sight in both ends, one small eye on the snout and one on the bulb. However, their sense of touch and hearing is excellent; they can pinpoint a noise source underground from several meters away within a few millimeters.

The snout/tentacle is used for manipulation and is quite strong but also dexterous. It ends in a pyramidal nail, and can extend several "thorns" that act like fingers along its length.

The Silent Ones reproduce by releasing sacks of eggs and sperm in lagoons or large puddles; as civilization spread they began to dig these nurseries and guard over the young ones. The tiny eggs and sperm cells seek out each other, and form dense clusters where they combine. Fertilized eggs begin to absorb unfertilized eggs and nutrients, and quickly grow and divide. After hatching, the larval beings rapidly grow into small amphibious snake-like creatures, which latter loose their thick fur and develop legs.

Silent Ones use clothes, which look like blankets hung or wrapped over their elongated bodies. These blankets have many holes letting the whiskers out, and sometimes have artificial whiskers (which can reach great lengths). The feet-pads are often protected by a sandal-like construction. Most Silent Ones also have several computers or telecommunication systems hidden in the clothing.

History

Very little is known of what the Silent Ones did before encountering the Terragens. It is assumed they evolved naturally, constructed a technological civilisation and spread interstellarly, but practically no information has been found. They appear to have had severe problems with overpopulation and internal warfare, and during a great war their homeworld was devastated together with most of the species, possibly due to outside help to one fraction if their stories are to be believed. However, at least some of the survivors had apparently made a biological breakthrough - the ability to halt their ageing completely. The exact method is a bit unclear, but seems to involve a kind of chemotherapy combined with something like gene therapy.

One unfortunate side effect of this treatment is that the transition from the larval stage to adult stage becomes impossible; the larva simply doesn't loose its fur and develop legs, it just continues to grow into a ball of fat with severe retardation. In fact, it is possible that the treatment was intended as a kind of birth control originally.

Apparently, the immortals were uplifted by an earlier race that suddenly disappeared, and used the remains of older civilization to build their own, largely based on advanced technology and automation they first developed themselves but later bought from other species such as theTterragens. It seems that the survivors had decided to reshape everything — themselves, their worlds and their culture. As much as possible was automated, and much of the remains of the old culture were simply destroyed as being "agewritten".

Naturally, the immortal population remained small and even began to dwindle as accidents or other problems killed individuals. The immortals then decided to institute a class of mortals to make sure there was enough viable larvae. These mortals were initially kept addicted to various substances, both to keep them loyal and peaceful, and to produce healthy offspring.

As centuries passed, the Silent Ones became more and more reclusive. Gradually their interstellar expansion faltered, and they eventually abandoned all their interstellar colonies. Their single solar system contains several planets perfectly terraformed to suit their needs, and a number of orbiting megastructures resembling moons (except at close range). The rigid society of immortals continued to develop in strange (some would say decadent) ways: cannibalism was institutionalized (previously the surplus of larvae had simply been killed, but now they were used as food), they undertook several bizarre terraforming projects to change worlds to completely artificial biospheres (of which most seem to have failed, although a few thrive with unusual life) and they gradually withdrew to immense cities surrounded by pristine nature nobody was allowed to venture into.

Today the Silent Ones are regarded as among the most bizarre and decadent members of the wormhole nexus. They very seldom interact with the rest of the nexus, usually only to reaffirm old policies. They seem to be following current debate, but continue to use a very old ontology making interpretation hard. Some members worry that they are not at all as static and decadent as they seem, and instead are plotting something.

Culture

The original culture of the Silent Ones is almost completely erased, and according to the immortals it was fundamentally flawed; they claim it was forced upon their species by "outside necessities" and never suited to their being. They have worked quite hard to destroy any remains of it, including bombing certain areas of their devastated homeworld.

Instead their new, immortal culture is based on the fundamental archetypes and myths of the species, older and more powerful than rationality itself. The unity between archetypal existence and rationality is synergetic, giving the species stability, perfection and something more, a concept that no other beings can understand.

This synergetic culture is very hard for aliens to understand, since it is based on ideas and feelings only the Silent Ones know. Apparently the current society is largely based on subconscious visions that has been psychologically and logistically optimized to fit reality for centuries.

Almost everything done in their society has a symbolic meaning. Daily life is celebrated like a hermetic ceremony, where events, work and thinking are intended to fit together with the synergistic vision. Some Silent Ones have complex duties involving causing carefully designed interruptions and complications, both to teach others and to make them conform to the societal norms. Essentially everything is planned with complex double meanings, but it is uncertain if they are intended to be taken literally or as just "decoration".

The art of the Silent Ones is strangely interwoven with everything else. The few remains of true original art, mostly clay sculpture from the pre-Old One era are duplicated and imitated in countless ways. Modern art is strangely absent; only the oldest art is deemed worth seeing as art, everything modern is just an elaborate frame. However, most other species regard almost everything done and built by the Silent Ones as a kind of weird art, ranging from the body-computers (form-fitting metal plates with small holes for the whiskers to pass through; the computer reacts to their movements by vibrations and changes in texture) over their ceremonial logistics to their beautiful cities.

Society

Silent One society is divided between the immortals (who are the majority) and a minority of mortals. The immortals are to a large extent the original founders of the new civilization, although a growing number are "new" immortals bred from the mortals. Immortal society is extremely hierarchical, with every individual assigned to an unique office. In most cases the young immortals are found in the lowest ranks.

Compared to any other species, the immortals live in extreme opulence. Even the lowest immortal has immense resources at its disposal, a staff of automated servant systems and sometimes even alien servants (it is known that a small number of aliens live within the domain of the Silent Ones, but very few have ever left).

The mortals live in huge reservations very similar to the old habitats of the species. They live on genetically engineered animals and unquestioningly obey the orders from the regulating immortals or computers. The hatcheries are temple-like buildings where the larvae are brought up and fed according to unknown customs, and selectors select larvae to be brought up as immortals. The vast majority become food for the immortals.

Silent One society is unbelievably static and may appear to an outsider as very cruel. But the Silent Ones obviously accept it, and seems to regard themselves as the only civilized species in the universe. Even the mortals are content, even when they are not drugged.

The major source of dissent (although it is extremely minor by the measures of any other species) is between the young and old immortals. The young immortals accept that the old immortals have much more experience and wisdom (which is often true) but take exception to the system of having unchangeable offices - when an immortal dies its office vanishes and is replaced by a new office, usually with a slightly different purpose as determined by the Councils of Office (which are exclusively manned by the old immortals).

The Councils of Office are however supervised by the Councils of Vision, who design and execute the elaborate manipulations needed to bring society closer to the archetypes. These Councils are very secretive, and oversee each other in a round-robin fashion to keep the intent and visions pure. They seek to understand the ancient visions, and implement them in reality to keep society healthy. This ranges from redesigning customs to become more "authentic" to ordering bizarre project intended to fail in order to give the right emotional tinge to society.

Technology

The Silent Ones are among the wealthiest beings per capita in the wormhole nexus. Each individual (except for the mortals) has a small army of assistant devices and servants, and the automated systems are intended to keep the wealth per capita at a high level.

The Silent Ones have rather standard if advanced technology. It is highly autonomous and often integrated into huge systems designed to support and enhance individual immortals. A spaceship has an advanced autopilot and a onboard AI to communicate with other ships, refuel, plot the course and keep the passenger(s) happy. A personal computer (usually part of the dress) keeps track of its owner's duties and appointments, opening doors and directing other systems on its own. Nanotech, including a semisentient form of utility fog is commonplace, and their most advanced AIs operate at the third singularity or equivalent (although the AI used by the Silent Ones seem to have a very different toposophic phase space to that developed by the Terragen civilisation, so are not directly comparable). However, new technological development is apparently totally absent. The most advanced technology has either been purchased from other species or retained from the pre-immortal civilisation. Which technology is acceptable and which is not is determined by the various official Councils.

The cities of the Silent Ones are immense constructions, largely built out of artificial polymers or diamondoids. Many are mountain-like or pyramidal structures (some are monolithic blocks, others just wisps of crystal supported by nanotube fibers) with huge voids and galleries filled with garden-like vegetation far above the ground, huge mirrors and refractors. In sunlight, Silent One cities glitter like immense dreams. Each individual lives in a large complex based on its office, interlinked by hallways and maglev tubes; most of the city is empty or automated.

On the other hand, the Silent Ones ancient homeworld is kept almost completely natural, with only minor changes. They seem to regard genetic modifications as abhorrent, and have apparently spent a long time studying the remains of the original ecosystems of their homeworld and terraforming other worlds into perfect replicas. Some of these depopulated worlds exist elsewhere in the region around Ruprecht 46, terraformed long ago during their interstellar phase.


Ruprecht 46
Image from Steve Bowers
The location of Ruprecht 46 as seen from SolSys

A worrying fact is that the Silent Ones are stockpiling antimatter. Observers note the construction of new, huge orbital installations whose obvious use is antimatter production, and what seems to be dodecahedral storage systems in orbit around many of their planets. It is uncertain why the Silent Ones are doing this, it might be just an autonomous system producing far in excess of demand, a deterrent to invasion or something more ominous. Since many observers regard them as downright insane, it is very worrying.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg, modified by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 21 February 2001.