Pas'utu'ril

A Preliminary Description of a Newly Discovered Xenosophont Civilization Detected by a Faber Exploration Swarm

Pas'utu'il
Image from Steve Bowers
The chromatophores of the Pas'utu'ril display an ever-changing pattern, used for communication and camoflage


Introduction

During its survey of the binary star system HIP 105075/BD-04 5403 (R.A. 21H 07m 10.6665s, Dec -04d 14m 22.313s, 6657.143 LY from Sol), an exploration swarm sent by a Faber reprogroup surveying new territories on the Periphery recorded a temporary increase in the visual magnitude of one of the stars in its field of view, designated as TYC 8143-9825-0. Noting that the star in question had not been described as doing this before, it flagged the event as anomalous and continued its mission. Later, during a regularly scheduled communication, it transmitted its data, including a recording of the anomaly, back to its controllers.

Six decades later, the Faber reprogroup owning the swarm received the data and, within a short time, the anomaly was rediscovered. After confirming that TYC 8143-9825-0 had never before exhibited such variable brightness, and that it appeared to be later unaffected by the anomaly, the recording was analyzed in detail. It was soon discovered that the increase in magnitude was not continuous, but instead was marked by pulses, each with a duration of one-quarter nanosecond. This revelation, combined with the lack of a reasonable natural cause for the anomaly, led quickly to the conclusion that this was an artificially generated signal.

Armed with this insight, it soon became apparent that, during the 147.38 seconds recorded by the probe, a potentially large amount of data might be encoded within the signal. It turned out that the signal was comprised of a binary code, comprising some 73.69 gigabytes of data. The problem, at that stage, was finding a format in which the data could be made intelligible. This problem was solved, eventually and with some difficulty.

As the data began to assume form, a new problem arose, being how to interpret the information being extracted. Fortunately, it was recognized early that much of the data was regularly repeated; these repetitions were later determined to mark the boundaries between data streams and instructions for displaying the information. This recognition allowed a relatively painless assembly of the data into intelligible chunks.

Finally, the chunks of data were translated, with the help of numerous linguists and linguistic subroutines, into a form that could be readily understood. It soon became apparent, though, that the signal was probably not deliberate; much of the information was redundant, while most of the remainder seemed to be randomly selected and/or trivial in nature. Upon examination of the information's content, it was determined that the signal was probably accidental in origin, most likely leakage from some form of optical data communications system. Nevertheless, a substantial amount of information about the civilization that "sent" the signal was abstracted from the data, and compiled into this report.

Based on this report, an expedition to make contact with the Pas'utu'ril (a transliteration of the species name; what they call themselves may be different) has entered the planning stages. Interest in such an expedition is enhanced by the fact that the aliens seem to possess the same basic body plan as the Fabers. Both the Eden Institute of Xenoscience and the Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology, through eir representatives, have expressed interest in such a mission.


ASTRONOMICAL PARAMETERS

The Pas'utu'ril homeworld's star is a yellow dwarf (Spectral Type G0V) within an open cluster of some 124 stars, near the outer part of the Sagittarius Arm some 24,500 light-years from the Galactic Center. It is located some 7384 light-years from Sol, beyond the Meistersinger Migration route past the Spinward limits of the Outer Volumes.


TYC 9825-8143-0 (Tsin'gakh) Data Panel

SystemTsin'gakh (TYC 8143-9825-0)
RA21h 53m 46.752s
DEC00d 33m 37.6272s
Dist7384.677966 LY
XYZ Coordinates6851.6210, 72.2338, -2753.8228
Distance from Sol7384.677966 light years (near M2 in Aquarius)
Spectral TypeG0V, no companions
Metallicity1.047 sol
Mass1.16 sol
Luminosity1.89 sol
Diameter1.368 sol (1.223 sol as seen from Tsi'wadzj)

Planets (listing outward from Tsin'gakh):

PLANET TYPE AU RADIUS (km) MASS
Dzha'khis Hermian 0.32 2,782.65 0.07 x Earth
Pir'dozh Hermian 0.50 3,991.10 0.11 x Earth
Mezh'takh AreanXeric 0.69 4, 206.37 0.27 x Earth
Tsi'wadzj EuGaian/GaianContinental 1.0041 8,241.13 2.18 x Earth
Khlin'dazht MicroJovian/AzuriJovian 1.67 15,818.43 3.45 x Earth
Tlakh'dzho AreanTundral 2.06 5,624.26 0.67 x Earth
Dzhir'takh MesoJovian/EuJovian 3.16 65,853.06 383.37 x Earth
Zhir'maht MesoJovian/EuJovian 6.85 46,169.79 70.08 x Earth
Ezh'takh MicroJovian 9.65 31,329.85 21.82 x Earth
Kra'torrh MicroJovian 11.23 30,472.64 19.00 x Earth
Dzhil'takh SubJovian 19.59 43,336.7 54.22 x Earth
Etakh'ahn Ymirian 30.32 5,039.48 0.19 x Earth
Nir'takh MicroJovian/CryoJovian 47.93 14, 926.27 1.08 x Earth

Tsi'wadzj - Data Panel

Planet TypeEuGaian/GaianContinental
Distance from Primary1.0041 AU
Insolation1.807 Terran
Diameter1.2921 Terran (16,482.26 km)
Density1.0072 Terran
Gravity1.30 Terran at surface
Day0.5576 Terran (13 hours 23 minutes)
Year1.0895 Terran (713.665 local days)
Orbital Eccentricity0.09684
Axial Tilt19.79841 degrees
Natural SatellitesEight small bodies,the largest with a radius of 439.859 km

Geography

Tsi'wadzj experiences tectonism similar to that of Old Earth, but at a slightly decreased rate of relative activity due to the planet having less of its surface covered by water. A single contiguous continent rises from sea level to folded mountain ranges in the interior. Several large islands are located near the coastlines of the continent. A large ocean surrounds the continent. There are no discernable polar ice-caps. Erosion has long since removed nearly all traces of impacts suffered by the planet during its formative period.

Atmosphere

The atmospheric pressure at Tsi'wadzj's coast is 4.32 bars; water boils there at a temperature of 145.46 degrees Celsius. The atmosphere has a dry composition of 0.81 nitrogen, 0.175 oxygen, 0.0075 argon, 0.002 carbon dioxide; ozone, nitrogen compounds, and volatile organics make up the remainder. There is a variable but moderate (0.02 to 0.035) proportion of water vapor. Clouds are ubiquitous; particulate matter, mostly inorganic, is sometimes noticeable. Atmospheric circulation is somewhat turbulent, due to feedback effects between the high rate of planetary rotation and heating by the local star.

Hydrosphere

Water covers about 60% of the surface; it varies from fresh to very saline depending on the body of water. In the largest seas, stellar tides are approximately equal to one-third of a Terran lunar tide, or only slightly more than a Terran solar tide. Rainwater and most rivers are essentially neutral (pH 6.8). Most oceans and seas are anoxic or poorly oxygenated at depth.

Surface Temperatures

The mean surface temperature on Tsi'wadzj is a balmy 32.4 degrees Celsius; this varies by altitude and latitude but varies little according to diurnal or seasonal factors due to the short day length, the dense atmosphere, and the moderate axial tilt. Continental interiors are significantly warmer than the coastal regions.

Climate

The slow and fickle movements of the surface winds pack considerable power, since the air at that level is more than four times denser than the Terragen standard. Very strong hurricanes form over both tropical and temperate waters and tornadoes are common visitors to the semiarid inland plains; cyclonic storms of any sort are strong due to a strong Coriolis effect from the planet's relatively rapid rotation.


BIOLOGY

The Biosphere of Tsi'wadzj

Life arose only once on Tsi'wadzj, just as on Old Earth or any number of Gaian or Gaian-like Garden worlds. It has the usual abundance of life of the prokaryotic variety: physically simple cells that cover a very wide range of temperature and pressure tolerances when all the species are considered. The equivalent of eukaryotic life, including large multi-cellular forms, has arisen in the seas and has since evolved both at sea and on land; each environment has evolved forms comparable to animals, plants, fungi, and protists, though of course their ranges overlap somewhat.

Nearly all life forms, biochemically comparable to standard Gaian life (though with the unsettling property of the relevant sugars and amino acids sharing the same optical polarity), have an optimal range of temperatures centered at about 35 degrees Celsius and are adapted to the higher atmospheric pressures found on the planet. There are relatively few arboreal analogues, being limited in range to sheltered valleys near the coastlines; instead, a low-lying sort of broadleaf shrubbery and grass-like plants seem to be the major photosynthesizers of the terrestrial ecosystem. Each of these major groups is capable of maintaining life processes at warmer or cooler temperatures than the optimum, just as multicellular life on Old Earth shows a wide range of adaptation. Spores, cysts, seeds or inactive resting forms can survive much more extreme temperatures, and so the native life forms on Tsi'wadzj are thoroughly integrated. It is currently unknown whether the planet's lithosphere supports any form of life at depth, as is the case in standard Gaian planets, in which life can extend for kilometers below the surface, but at the present time there seems to be no fundamental impediments to subterranean life on Tsi'wadzj. The biochemistry of all Tsi'wadzji, is adapted to a relatively high proportion of copper, and to the presence of small amounts of sulfur, cadmium, and tin compounds that are released into the atmosphere by extensive volcanism and are present in the crust generally due to the planet's high metallicity.

The life forms found on Tsi'wadzj include four major kingdoms of multicellular life: one kingdom equivalent to plants, a subsurface-dwelling kingdom without any Terragen equivalent but somewhat resembling non-photosynthetic plants (these can be lumped together with the terrestrial fungal equivalents as "saprophytes" in colloquial use), a kingdom of sponge-like filter feeders, and a kingdom equivalent to animals.

Fungoids

Of the terrestrial prokaryotes, the members of the "fungal" kingdom comprise the greatest proportion of the biomass. They grow wherever any significant volume of sediment accumulates. Like Terragen fungi they consist of a mass of mycelia that scavenge the substrate for nutrients plus transient fruiting bodies that disperse spores. The smallest of these form a moldy fuzz on the soil. The larger fruiting bodies, usually in the shape of a mushroom, puffball or stinkhorn, are seldom more than a few centimeters across, though some are a much as a half-meter or more in diameter. A few grow membranous sail-like structures that catch the wind when they are ripe, the better to disperse spores, and are part of the foundation of the terrestrial ecology.

Plants

The largest living forms of the surface landscape are the "grasses," "trees," and "shrubs" of the photosynthetic "plant" kingdom. They have complex root-like structures below ground but their above-ground portions are usually clusters of simple stems bearing a cluster of reproductive organs and leaves.

Arborescent organisms, similar in several respects to ancient Lycopsids of Earth's Carboniferous Period, can be found growing in sheltered valleys near the coasts. These tree-like plants grow up to 22 meters in height and their trunks can measure as much as 80 centimeters in diameter. Brachiation is generally absent in the lower two-thirds of the trunk's height, though it can be extensive above that point. These branches support a profusion of roughly delta-shaped leaves, the largest of which can measure up to 17 centimeters in length that are slightly concave and serve, in addition to their photosynthetic function, as water reservoirs. Lacking seeds, these plants reproduce via spores encased in spheroidal casings that develop on the undersides of the branches; these casings fragment when released from the branch, ensuring a wide dispersal of the spores.

The larger "shrubs" look like large flattened mops splayed on the ground, and the smaller versions somewhat resemble the stalks and seed-heads of grasses. The entire stalk/trunk is simply a platform for the release of seeds and photocollection, and is usually branched except near its very top. The brush of reproductive structures at the top of the stem has male cones that spread pollen, and female cones or drupes that enclose seeds. As flowers seem never to have evolved, most are wind pollinated, but some have evolved the equivalent of symbiotic relationships with the local equivalent of insects. Most such plants signal pollinators by releasing distinctive scents, but many can chemically change the plane polarization of their leaves, and a few have distinctive structures that move jerkily in local breezes. "Forests" of these organisms make up the landscape wherever there is sufficient water and protection from the wind, and "grasslands" of lower growing structures cover large areas of the continental uplands.

A phylum that seems unique to Tsi'wadzj is composed of organisms that join together to form structures resembling freshwater stromatolites that live in slow-moving rivers and streams as a filter feeder. They are colonial structures formed by photosynthesizing rhodobacteria and other microbes. Like stromatolites, these colonies thrive when immersed in warm waters.

Another species apparently unique to Tsi'wadzj is an agave-like carnivorous plant native to the more arid parts of the continental interiors. At the end of each flexible "leaf" is situated a balloon like growth that resembles a ripened fruit; this growth is used by the plant to lure small prey animals. When an animal steps onto the "leaf" to eat the fruit, small hydraulic valves at the base of the "leaf" open; as the water drains away, the leaf rolls up quickly, trapping the animal and dropping it into the bowl-shaped base of the plant, filled with digestive enzymes, to drown and be digested.

The phylum of surface life that eventually gave rise to the Pas'utu'ril corresponds neither to an animal or a plant, nor even a fungus, but is most like a cross between a sponge and a hydra of Old Earth, though they have a propulsive tail-like structure rather than a basal disc. Most are shaped like tentacled tubes, though some form a thin radiating carpet-like form instead. Like a hydra, they consist mostly of two layers of tissue, an ectoderm and a gastroderm, with a gelatinous mesoglea in between them containing only scattered cells. In addition, they have a rudimentary nervous system connecting the mouth and tentacles to an equally rudimentary brain. They cover any surface where water and airborne dust are sufficient to support life, usually on or near the tidal flats of the coastlines.

Animals

The animal life on the surface of Tsi'wadzj consists of about three dozen phyla. There are three general classes of such creatures: those that burrow in the sediment, those that filter the air for edible particles, and those that eat the saprophytes or other animals. The first include many forms equivalent to annelid worms or to mollusks. The second includes some animals that resemble comb jellyfish, sponges, and even some species that resemble animated wind-socks.. The third includes some of the larger animals with internal skeletons. These dominant large animals have a skeleton and six limbs, but are unlike Terragen hexapods. Their ancestors are anemone-like suspension feeders, and as a result they have aspects of radial six fold symmetry. There is no head, but the central nervous system is usually in a protective skull atop the body. Some have eight limbs in all, due the development of their jaws into a pair of feeding appendages and the elaboration of the skin folds between the rearmost legs into a sail-like radiator.

Arthropod-like phyla are numerous, as on many worlds, and are found as burrowers in the sediment, suspension-feeders, or as more direct feeders on the saprophytes or other plants. Active flying or gliding animals are also quite common; the "gliding crab" and the winged "spiders" fulfill this role. Few land animals weigh more than 125 kilograms, though the largest land-dwelling herbivore, the Tsin'gha'rakh, of the temperate coastal plains, can weigh up to 9,000 kilograms when fully grown. Since the air is so dense many animal species are capable of gliding or flying, and these can grow to surprising size. Sessile suspension feeders often look and act like the surrounding geological features.

Evolution

The first life forms on Tsi'wadzj to successfully adapt to life on dry land were a species of radially-symmetric hexapod similar to a somewhat rigid sea star, themselves descended from hexasymmetric hydroids. Their initial success set the dominant pattern for body architecture for all later forms of life. Over the eons that followed, the ancestors of the Pas'utu'ril developed an internal skeleton for increased rigidity, an improved musculature for movement across dry surfaces, a larger, more complex brain to coordinate those movements, and, perhaps even more significantly, radial symmetry gave way to bilateral symmetry due to the need for a more active lifestyle. Along the way, better sensory organs were evolved, as was an adaptive camouflage mechanism; both developed to better enable the primordial Pas'utu'ril to find and capture prey, while at the same time avoid becoming the prey of other predators higher up on the local food chain. Book lungs evolved into true lungs as they grew in both size and expanded their habitat range farther from the coast. Feeding tendrils on each limb evolved into manipulative appendages. As the brain grew larger, it moved from its earlier location adjacent to the lungs and gut to a bony skull atop the body. Finally, in what was to become the penultimate step in the evolution of the Pas'utu'ril, an area of the brain adapted the already-developed camouflage capability to also serve as a medium for linguistic communication.


THE PAS'UTU'RIL

Pas'utu'ril Physiology

The Pas'utu'ril are a crablike species, having a roughly disc-shaped body and six jointed limbs, three on each side of the body. A typical adult stands roughly one meter in height, has an overall diameter half again as large, and masses between 40 and 75 kilograms. While they may appear, from a distance, to resemble crabs or insects, on closer inspection it can easily be seen that the Pas'utu'ril are quite different. For one thing, they do not possess an exoskeleton, and are covered with a grayish-yellow skin. Centered atop the body is a bony protuberance some twenty centimeters in height, in which are located six eyes, three respiratory openings, three auditory orifices, and the brain. Each limb is connected to the central body with a ball-and-socket joint, while the lower portion is connected to the upper by a hinge joint. About midway down the lower portion of each limb, on the side nearest to the body, is a hand-like structure consisting of three articulated digits and a fourth, fully opposable, digit located opposite the middle digit. Below the "hand," the lower limb terminates in a four-lobed "hoof," which is used both for locomotion and for combat. The Pas'utu'ril are a homeothermic species, and a healthy individual typically maintains a core body temperature of 38.75 degrees Celsius.

Pas'utu'ril skin is nearly translucent, and nearly every skin cell overlays a single chromatophore. These chromatophores, which originally evolved to provide camouflage for the Pas'utu'ril while hunting (or being hunted, a peril of having not been at the top of the food chain), have since been adapted as the primary means of communication between members of the species. Words, ideas, and moods are expressed as varying shades and patterns of color. Although there are at least four hundred different languages expressed by the Pas'utu'ril, a sort of pidgin "trade language" is relatively common throughout the species.

The Pas'utu'ril mouth is located on its "front" side, and is evidenced by upper and lower incisor plates that stretch the width of the mouth. Inside, bony plates serve as molars, and food is manipulated by a broad thick tongue. The digestive tract includes an esophagus-like structure leading to a corkscrew-shaped stomach located near the lower center of the body. Adjacent to the stomach are organs that serve as analogues to kidneys and livers. From the stomach extends the intestines, which extract nutrients and water from the food dissolved in the stomach. The hydophilic intestines terminate in an anal shincter, through which the nearly dry pellets of fecal matter are excreted. Fat is deposited under the skin.

The respiratory system consists of the above-mentioned respiratory openings connected to a pair of crescent-shaped lungs, each lung having four respiratory sacs along the outer circumference. Copper-based blood is oxygenated in the lungs, and carbon dioxide is removed from the blood and exhaled. The "nostrils" can be sealed, when necessary, to allow a Pas'utu'ril to submerge in water too deep to easily ford, for up to four minutes at a time.

Within the dome-shaped bony protuberance is located a six-lobed brain, which receives and processes sensory inputs from the eyes, olfactory bulbs (located adjacent to the upper jaw, auditory apparatus, and the tactile systems. Additionally, the Pas'uturil have three fluid-filled organs located on the upper side of the body adjacent to the "head" which serve as a sort of barometric sense for detecting changes in the local weather. The brain outputs signals to the limbs for locomotion and/or object manipulation, to the eyes to control focus and binocularity, and to the skin, for communication. Located between the lungs and the digestive tract are three two-chambered hearts, connected in series to the vascular system. In addition to rapid breathing and perspiration as cooling strategies, the Pas'uturil anatomy includes three air-filled sacs, each branching from one of the three eustachian tubes, adjacent to both the brain and to the trachea. These sacs allow for heat transfer from the brain, and function similarly to an equine "guttural pouch."

Lifespan and Reproduction

Although, like humans, the Pas'utu'ril have two sexes, they have a reproductive strategy that is unlike that employed by humans, in that they are both viviparous and oviparous. Pas'utu'ril young are born live (usually only one per pregnancy, multiple births are exceedingly rare) to a pair-bonded couple who, along with members of an extended family unit, raise the offspring during its first fifteen Standard years, after which it will have reached adulthood. The female, in most cultures, is usually the more active partner in courtship and mating rituals. Pregnant females are always attended by female members of the family unit, while males take the roles of bodyguard and "go-fer." The average lifespan of a Pas'utu'ril, at the present time, is 73.65 Standard years, of which the last five or six are spent in various stages of senescence. Prior to the development of life-extension techniques in the 90th century, the Pas'utu'ril had an average lifespan of only 46.75 years, though a small minority had managed to survive into their early sixties.

The Pas'utu'ril exhibit dimorphism solely in terms of their genitalia; the males testes are inside a sac located in a hollow on the rear underside of the main body, adjacent to a retractable penis-like organ located near the anus, while the female vagina is similarly located. Mating is achieved by the male and female backing up to one another, whereupon the penis is extended into the vagina and sperm is excreted into the female's reproductive tract, where it travels to the uterus and merges with an egg. Once impregnated, hormones excreted by the female's endocrine system seal the vagina, the fertilized egg implants itself into the uterine wall, and the embryo begins to develop. Approximately four Standard months after impregnation, the amniotic sac enclosing the embryo begins to thicken into a flexible shell. A few weeks earlier, a loose pouch of skin had begun to form on the mother's back. Roughly two Standard weeks later, the still-developing embryo is excreted from the uterus into the pouch of skin, where it will remain for a further six Standard weeks. Six Standard months after impregnation, the fully developed fetus excretes a hormone that dissolves the shell surrounding it, which the fetus ingests as food, and the fetus tears its way out of the mother's pouch (while this may sound horrific, the birthing experience is neither painful nor injurious to the mother, as the pouch has neither nerves nor a significant blood supply). Within a few hours after giving birth, the remains of the pouch are sloughed off and, traditionally, is presented to the mother, who then eats it. Some cultures however, take the remains and either burn or bury it, rather than allow the mother to eat it.

The infant Pas'uturil, which is ambulatory at birth, is removed from its mother's back and immediately imprints the mother's smell and shape. For nearly a Standard year, the infant will subsist on food regurgitated by the mother and/or another female member of the family unit, until it can ingest solid food after about a local year after birth. Thereafter, increasingly solid foods are gradually introduced to the infant's diet until, by the end of its second year of life, the infant is able to hunt small prey with only minimal asistance from adult caregivers.


SOCIETY & CULTURE

Culture

With more than three billion inhabitants, Tsi'wadzj is home to a vast number of diverse cultures, each with its own societal mores, ethics, and customs. These range from the highly materialistic and ruthlessly pragmatic Khtor'djir clan along the shores of the Evening Sea to the quietly ascetic Bhazh'tali mystics of the Northern Desert region. One feature that is nearly universal is the family unit, whether nuclear or extended, as the basis for social organization. There is one event, however, that is common to most cultures on Tsi'wadzj, the semi-annual Zhi'valn'jhir ("Gathering of the Clans"). This event, held twice each year during the Northern and Southern Hemisphere springs, began millenia ago as a venue for exchanging goods, information, and potential mates between the various clans in attendance. Over time, these events, an exhilirating and even bewildering mix of carnival, bazaar, and sporting event, has evolved to include inter-polity political and economic summit meetings, scientific conferences, and world championship sports tournaments. The Zhi'valn'jhir is always set in a neutral territory unclaimed by any clan, is open to anyone that wishes to attend, and is a highlight of the Pas'utu'ril social calendar.

A feature of modern Pas'utu'ril culture that is perennially bemoaned by various elements of the Pas'utu'ril cultural elite is the gradual and seemingly inexorable leveling of cultures. The main cause, they contend, is the insidious and pervasive influence of global telecommunications which, over the past two millenia, have blended and diminished formerly distinct local cultures into a bland, nearly homogenous global culture. This global culture, which traces its roots to the immediate aftermath of the planet's only major war involving the use of nuclear weapons, is decried as emphasizing conformity over diversity, progress over tradition, and material success over spiritual enlightenment. In this seemingly unending debate, there are others who claim those who believe culture is losing its distinctive facets are merely exaggerating the influence of popular culture. Another, far larger group, maintain that a global monoculture has maintained a sort of uneasy peace and is therefore a good thing indeed. The debate continues with nary a hint of resolution.

A highly prized feature of Pas'utu'ril popular culture is the harmonious balance of nature and created artifacts, a balance referred to as "lir'azho."The Pas'utu'ril express their tastes in using this term to refer to anything from song to fashion to craftsmanship that was beautiful by being understated, or by being precisely what it was meant to be and not elaborated upon. Essentially, the aesthetic ideal of lir'azho seeks out events, performances, people or objects that are beautiful in a direct and simple way, without being flashy. Expert authors, actors, potters, and artists of all other sorts are often said to be lir'azakh; their expertise causes them to do things beautifully without making them excessive or gaudy. Today, sometimes spacecraft crew members are even said to be lir'azakh when they contribute to the overall success of the mission without doing anything to make themselves stand out individually.

A relatively new feature of society is the small (<1 million) but growing population of Pas'utu'ril who live off-world, mostly in the home solar system. Off-world societies tend to be more pragmatic and less tradition-bound than their brethen still on the home world; this is a natural result of the difficulties encountered in merely surviving, as well as the fact that most off-worlders are employees of their respective clans who have left the home world to do a job. A subgroup of this population consists of those Pas'utu'ril who leave the home system to live and work at one of the refueling/resupply stations established around other stars in what could be described as "Pas'utu'ril Space." These hardy individuals and nuclear family units, the farthest-flung members of their civilization, are paradoxically among the most traditional of the off-world populations, as many of them cling to their traditions as a means of coping with the isolation they face on a daily basis. The smallest, and most extreme subgroup of the off-world population are the Lirat'jhir (lit. "Star Walkers"), who spend their lives traveling from star to star, repairing balky systems on the various refueling/resupply stations and any other task that may require their technical expertise. These individuals have formed their own culture based on their punctuated lifestyles (periods of intense activity followed by years or even decades in suspended animation as they travel to their next assignment), often communicating via radio messages that may not be answered within a normal Pas'utu'ril lifetime, and abandoning nearly all semblance of membership in their home cultures. The Lirat'jhir occupy a special place in Pas'utu'ril society: although they are honored for their extreme sacrifice to the clan, their virtual outcast status means that the average Pas'utu'ril finds it difficult to trust them in "polite" society.

Literature

The Pas'utu'ril have a rich storytelling tradition, which has, with the spread of literacy, evolved into a style of heroic prose celebrating the deeds of noted personages such as politicians, military leaders, and athletes. While these sagas may be told from any point of view, and in almost any imaginable genre (including satire), most commonly they are semi-biographical and are told in the third person. Poetry, on the other hand, is only rarely about a person or event, and generally describes aspects of the natural world, or of the vagaries of Pas'utu'ril emotions.

Music

Although the Pas'utu'ril communicate visually rather than acoustically, they have a wide variety of musical styles from which to choose, from the Qagh'ved ("Flowing Water") style of blended microtonalities to the fast-paced rhythmic drumbeats of the Tir'Nazh ("Hunting Dance") school. Usually, though not always, the music is played as an acoustic accompaniment to the visual lyrics.

Visual Arts

Sculpture is a particularly revered artform among the Pas'utu'ril, with painting coming in a close second. With the advent of computer-controlled laser and hydro-blade sculpting booths, nearly any Pas'utu'ril can afford at least a small bust or figurine, of any subject he or she chooses, cut from natural stone with but a few moments notice, but the more discriminating patron still prefers a hand-crafted sculpture, which has become a mark of status and taste. There is also a vigorous trade in handicrafts of all sorts, particularly between the wealthier clans and their poorer brethren.

Architecture

The preferred architectural form among the Pas'utu'ril is the dome, because of its obvious connection to the "Arch of Heaven," the rings circling Tsi'wadzj. In terms of urban planning, many Pas'utu'ril settlements are planned around a central circular plaza, which serves as a focal point for the settlement's activities and as a gathering point for public events. Another urban planning motif that is common to many cultures is a tendency to fit roadways to the contours already present in the landscape, rather than forcing the landscape to fit the roadways. Hence, there are few straight roads, and gridded plats are rare outside the flat terrain found on the plains. Of course, site terrains such as mountains or particularly steep valleys dictate that these ideals be modified as necessary.

Society

The primary social unit in all mainstream Pas'utu'ril cultures is the family unit, which in most cultures is of the extended form composed of parents, grandparents, and siblings of each generation (some cultures, particularly in the more affluent clans, center around a more streamlined nuclear family arrangement limited to parents and their offspring). Families, whether nuclear or extended, form into larger clan associations based on kinship relationships. These clans serve as cultural and political units, which have over time grown to assume nation-state proportions. Some of the more traditional Pas'utu'ril clans are ruled by a male and a female tvil'wahn (main leader), chosen by competition for their fitness to rule, and reigning until defeated by a challenger from the same clan. Other clans choose as their leaders the eldest members of the clan. Still others have as their rulers a clique of warriors who rule through their control of the clan's military infrastructure. In a few of the smallest clans, rulership is shared equally among the clan's membership. The majority of clans practice a style of politics that contains elements of two or more of these archetypes.

Leadership of inter-clan gatherings is usually shared equally for the duration of the gathering, though sometimes a particular clan will take control of a gathering it organizes. A defining feature of Pas'utu'ril inter-clan politics is its transience. Alliances are usually formed only to deal with specific issues and situations and, when those have been resolved, the alliance quickly disintegrates. It is not uncommon to find that polities which had been allies one day find themselves foes the next, or vice versa. As a result, there is no semblance of a global government, nor has one ever existed in Pas'utu'ril history. There are, however, a number of regulatory agencies with global and even interstellar jurisdiction over environmental issues, interplanetary and interstellar shipping and transport, and inter-clan extradition of certain classes of criminals (including the identification and monitoring of those criminals sentenced to become "tszivat'nar" (clan-less) outcasts, a sentence sometimes extending several generations in duration). Some cultures forego the outcast sentence, either by forcing the criminal to pay restitution to the victim or, in less enlightened clans, by public execution of the criminal.

Religion

The Pas'utu'ril practice a wide variety of theologies, although some similarities between them reduce the number of religious categories to a manageable quantity. Many follow the instructions of local shamans (indigenous priests or ritual specialist) regarding social taboos, weather, and predictions for the future. There is also a small but growing minority, mostly in the more affluent clans, who do not profess belief in any theology. The dimensions of "above" and "east" are associated with the sacred and new life. Among most Pas'utu'ril, the various religions have provided a continuum of ritual and tradition during periods of upheaval. All major activities receive the shaman's blessing, and all the homes in the clan's villages are ritually blessed at least once a year. Pas'utu'ril beliefs reflect the hunting culture upon which their survival once depended. All animals are believed to possess a soul, which meant that the Pas'utu'ril sought to treat all animals with respect. When an animal had been hunted and killed a ritual would sometimes be performed to enable the animal to return to the place from which it had come. Certain taboos governed hunting practices. Land and sea animals were kept separate from one another. The life cycle is governed by a number of rites of passage. At birth a child would often be given the name of a person who had recently died in the belief that the deceased person would live on in the child. When a boy killed his first meal it would be celebrated by a ritual distribution of the meat. At death the soul passes through the "Arch of Heaven" and goes to the Milky Way galaxy to thereafter watch over one's descendants. In some Pas'utu'ril traditions the shaman is of great importance. Shamans will go into a trance and receive messages from spirits or deities or control them in order to ensure success in life. Shamans are also healers and some claim to be able to identify sorcerers who used their powers for evil ends. Among the more prominent deities are Vlazh'khat, who controls the sea animals; Tsin'gakh, the sun; and Khav'ril, the air. Vlazh'khat is the subject of a number of origin myths. In one she is presented as a girl who was thrown off a boat and, while trying to cling on, had her fingers cut off. Her fingers became the sea animals and she became a deity with the power to withold sea animals if certain taboos were broken.

The cosmological world of the Pas'utu'ril is full of spirits, both good and bad. Future events are foretold by various methods, including dream interpretation and scapulimancy. The role of shaman is open to both males and females, and these specialists practice curing, divination and sorcery, including in their performances spastic gestures and a number of special-effects tricks. The Pas'utu'ril worldview incorporates a strong polarity element - translated as "the Light and the Dark". The Light, as represented by the "Arch of Heaven" (the planet's rings as visible from the surface), refers not only to hunting, food preparation, travel, and communication, but also science, work, and peace. The Dark, as represented by the Milky Way galaxy, refers to sleep, death, medicine, war, history, and computer science. The Pas'utu'ril consider Art to depend on the right balance of the Light and Dark.


HISTORY

The history of the Pas'utu'ril is replete with fits and starts, as civilizations arose from the depths of obscurity to heights of technological splendor and then disintegrated into the shadows of time. This sequence of events is known to have occurred at least twice before the current civilization, and clues in the archaeological record suggest the current civilization may actually be the eighth in a long line of Pas'utu'ril attempts at mastering their world. Each interregnum following the collapse of a civilization has had a duration measured in millennia, if not tens of millennia, during which the survivors of the previous catastrophe slowly, painfully, rediscover the rudiments of civilization so as to begin anew the rise to prominence. Traces of the episodic nature of Tsi'wadzji history abound, from the pottery shards and primitive tools found in caves along the northern coasts to the weathered, crumbling remains of fantastic cities in the southern plains. Traces of earlier civilizations have even been discovered on other bodies of the home solar system, proof that the Pas'utu'ril are no strangers to spaceflight. Whether Pas'utu'ril from these previous civilizations ever managed to establish and maintain colonies on other worlds is a matter for speculation, as none have yet been discovered.
Pas'utu'ril history began (in its current incarnation) along the shores of the Evening Sea with the development of writing in the 19th century A.T. and the first permanent villages soon thereafter. Copper first began to be smelted ca. 1890 A.T.; bronze was first smelted not long after. Iron was first used ca. 3540 A.T., and improved ironworking techniques became widespread after 4390 A.T. The first clan to achieve supremacy, the Hsin'dal, established the first cities on the banks of the Inner Sea, surrounded by the first large-scale ranches. Their supremacy lasted from ca. 4600 A.T. until ca. 4840 A.T., when the neighboring Khir'tadzh clan established their own cities and government. The Khir'tadzh period (4840-5390 A.T.) is known for its creation of schools, the first calendar, and the earliest code of laws. Civilization spread quickly as Khir'tadzh traders made contact with other clans as they trekked across the wilderness.

Like many other civilizations, the Pas'utu'ril passed through their own versions of the Industrial (ca. 7290 A.T.) and Information (beginning in 7582 A.T.) Ages, and even now are on the cusp between an Interplanetary and an Interstellar Age. Tragically, each Pas'utu'ril civilization seems doomed to invent their way into the future anew, as little survives from the previous civilizations' passage through these milestones. One peculiarity of the Pas'utu'ril rise to civilization is the lack of an equivalent to the Terragen Agricultural Revolution; the analogous period in Pas'utu'ril history is marked by the domestication of food animals on land and the beginnings of aquaculture and fishing in the coastal regions, but the development of farming the land for crops is noticeably absent until much later in history, and even then crops are limited to medicinal herbs.
Innovation, at least during the history of the current civilization, seems to be linked as much to the desire by many clans to make themselves more attractive to potential members as to improve one's own standard of living. To that end, the (semi-) annual Zhi'valn'jhir has, along with its numerous other functions, evolved into a sort of technological exposition, where clans may showcase the latest fruits of their various intellectual labors. Thus it is that the current civilization, despite its fragmentary organization, has managed to maintain levels of material progress that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, in a civilization without such a medium of cultural and intellectual exchange.

Over the course of time, the various clans experimented with new techniques for managing and harvesting their food animals while expanding their use of metals to fashion new tools and weapons. Inevitably, perhaps, the need for tools led to the invention of manufactories to produce them on ever-increasing scales; at first, the supply of tools and weapons were merely sufficient to satisfy local needs, but as production expanded, trade became an important consideration. Warfare between clans escalated from small-scale border raids for captives and brides to large-scale battles to secure sources of raw materials (and, of course, captives and brides). It was not until the Industrial Age was well into its second century that the use of military captives as a source of slave labor began to fall out of favor as automation made slavery increasingly impractical, and the capturing of "enemy" females for the purpose of matrimony did not end until after the nearly catastrophic nuclear war of the 77th century.

Timeline

10601 A.T.: The "signal is decoded, and this report is authored.
10532 A.T.: The "signal" is detected by a Faber probe surveying the binary system HIP 105075 / BD-04 5403.
9072 A.T.: The "signal" is emitted from the vicinity of Tsi'wadzj, presumably by accident.
9071 A.T.: The first Pas'utu'ril interstellar spacecraft to use beamed-core annihilation drive is launched from the home system, drastically cutting travel times between systems.
8867 A.T.: The first interstellar mission is launched from Tsi'wadzj by a consortium led by the Hlu'khat clan.
8256 A.T.: The global telecommunications network, controlled by several AIs, crashes when the AIs begin sabotaging each other's areas of responsibility in an internecine war for dominance; millions of Pas'utu'ril are killed by nuclear power plant failures, out-of-control fires in cities that had lost water pressure, and aerial vehicles suddenly crashing into population centers. Public backlash causes the abandonment of AI research and the demonization of intelligent machines.
8185 A.T.
: The first orbital spaceflight since the war is launched by the reconstituted Azkh'tsir clan.
7677 A.T.: The Pas'utu'ril civilization is devastated and some parts of the planet depopulated for decades by a global war involving the massive use of thermonuclear weapons.
7663 A.T.: The first inter-alliance war employing nuclear (fission) weapons is fought, marking the birth of the Atomic Age on Tsi'wadzj.
7647 A.T.: The first Pas'utu'ril is launched into orbit around Tsi'wadzj by the Akh'djir clan.
7290 A.T.: The beginning of the Pas'utu'ril Industrial Age in the more advanced clans.
1840 A.T.: The beginnings of the current civilization's recorded history. It is believed that at least three, and perhaps as many as eight, Pas'utu'ril civilizations have arisen, flourished, and collapsed prior to the current one.


TECHNOLOGY

Energy

Like all civilizations, the Pas'utu'ril require a constant and reliable source of energy. At the present time, that need is being fulfilled with a mix of antimatter production stations in circum-stellar orbits, wind- and hydro-electric generators on the planet's surface, ocean-thermal electrical generator systems in the tropical seas, carbon-cycle fusion reactors on the surface and large orbiting photovoltaic arrays which beam electrical power down to receivers on the ground for distribution to the public. In some of the less-developed polities, power is generated by older technologies, such as the antiquated deuterium-tritium fusion reactor near Klath'daol in the Bazh'djaln clan's territory.

Nanotechnology

The Pas'utu'ril experience with nanotechnology has been a long, and not always happy, one. Instances of accidental and intentional releases of nanotech into the environment, resulting usually in widespread devastation and misery, abound in the history of the past millennia. On the other hand, nanotechnology has produced many benefits, including smaller and better-functioning electronic devices, improved materials for industry and personal uses, and nanobots to monitor the health of individuals and, when necessary, to repair any damaged tissues from within the body. It is in this latter capacity that nanotechnology has virtually eliminated the need for invasive surgical procedures in Pas'utu'ril medicine. Even with such benefits, however, the average Pas'utu'ril is leery of nanotechnology.

Biotechnology

Pas'utu'ril biotechnology has a long history, stretching back to the first experiments in animal husbandry. Indeed, biotechnology is still mostly applied in the production of food animals and the plants grown to feed those animals. Medicine is another prime mover of Pas'utu'ril biotechnology, where it has found application in the elimination of genetic diseases, the creation of new and better treatments for other diseases, and in the production of replacement body parts. These uses are widely viewed as essential to maintaining and improving the lives of the Pas'utu'ril, and almost no effort has been expended on researching the feasibility of the provolving any species, including their own.

Computronium & A.I.

The Pas'utu'ril have built and operated computer systems of various descriptions for slightly more than eighteen centuries now, and these have steadily grown in power and complexity during that period. The Pas'utu'ril have grown to depend on these devices to manage everything from education to the scheduling of interstellar flights. However, in all those centuries, no computer system or network has developed more than a rudimentary sentience greater than what was required to accomplish its assigned goals in nearly a millennium. This failure to develop a self-aware AI stems both from the prevailing attitude that computers are merely useful tools, which have resulted in a lack of software appropriate for AI experimentation and development, and from a persistent public demonization of intelligent machines that dates from the AI disasters of the latter part of the 83rd century.

Wormholes

Pas'utu'ril astronomers have long been aware of the existence of black holes in the Universe, and theories concerning wormholes connecting them are a ubiquitous feature in their scientific literature. However, the consensus opinion of the Pas'utu'ril scientific community is that, if wormholes exist, they are short-lived transient natural phenomena. Pas'utu'ril science, at the present time, is unable to conceptualize a plausible means for constructing an artificial singularity, let alone a stable wormhole.

Spacecraft

The Pas'utu'ril have been active, to varying degrees, in space for the past eighteen centuries [as of the date of the original transmission], and possess a wide variety of spacecraft and space platforms to accomplish those activities. Spacecraft in common use include ground-to-orbit shuttlecraft, interplanetary bulk cargo carriers, interplanetary passenger transports, gas mining facilities in orbit around the home system's giant worlds, mining bases in the asteroid belt, orbital photovoltaic arrays, epistellar-orbit antimatter farms, and so on. In addition, the various clans have established a fleet of automated starships, propelled by matter-antimatter annihilation reactions (beamed-core), to travel between the home system and their far-flung interstellar outposts; these starships travel along highly elongated interstellar "cycler" orbits encompassing both the home system and the target star. Cargoes are magnetically accelerated to a rendezvous with the starship, and are detached and similarly decelerated to a capture velocity at the other end. Rarely do these starships carry passengers, and when they do, the Pas'utu'ril aboard are in cryogenic suspension due to the long travel times involved. Servicing these starships is a growing number of highly automated refueling/cargo transfer stations that have been constructed in orbit around the destination stars.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Michael Jones

Initially published on 10 November 2009.