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An Alien Race

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This page is divided into the following sections:

Click on the section names or Back to the Top to return to the top of the page.


Back to the Top THE HSIL-HSATEE SYSTEM

In a binary star system it is apparently possible to have stable orbits at radii less than about one third of the separation of the two stars; for the Hsil-Hsatee system this means at less than about 1 AU, and also far beyond their maximum separation. See also this.

The Hsil-Hsatee system from which the Ekrratki originated is quite a young one, having formed some two billion years ago [as opposed to some 4.6 billion years ago for the Earth].

Atbzak, the home world of the Ekrratki, orbits Hsil, a K5V type star, a relatively dim orange star with 0.57 times the mass, 0.68 times the radius and 0.53 times the luminosity of the Sun. It is one of two basically identical K5V stars in their system that move in identical eccentric orbits about their common centre of mass with a period of 21.7 Earth years. The second star is known to the Ekrratki as Hsatee. The motion of the two stars is roughly as follows:

Two identical objects orbiting their common centre of mass, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Orbit5.gif

The orbits of Hsil and Hsatee about their common centre of mass are highly eccentric with an eccentricity parameter of some 0.9 [this is roughly the same as that of some comets in the Solar System], so that the semi-major axes of their orbit are some 18.7 AU, while the semi-minor axes are some 8.2 AU [like this]. This makes the shape of each orbit, when viewed from above, as follows:

The shapes of the orbits of Hsil and Hsatee about their common centre of mass

This means that at their closest the two stars are some 3.74 AU apart [about the distance from the outer edge of the asteroid belt to the Sun], while at their furthest they are some 71.0 AU apart [somewhat less than twice the distance from Pluto to the Sun].

Thus Atbzak and all the other worlds of their star system, although they are mainly warmed by the star they orbit (whether Hsil or Hsatee), also receive energy from the other star. The amount of this varies over their 21.7 year mutual orbit. Thus they have two 'years', a short year deriving from the orbit of their world about its primary with an extra modulation of light and temperature provided by the other star giving a second longer 'year' overlaid on this. This second period is known as a Great Year.

A number of individual asteroids orbit Hsil, Hsatee or around the Hsil-Hsatee system as a whole.

A gas giant world named Akddkeeakeeka also orbits the system as whole some 615 AU from its centre of mass [for reference Neptune in the Solar System orbits some 30 AU from the Sun], taking some 20191 Earth years [183000 Atbzak years or 930 Great Years] to do so. It has a density of 16% that of the Earth and a mass some 160 times that of the Earth [larger than Saturn and about half that of Jupiter in the Solar System], giving it a diameter of some 128000 km [slightly larger than Saturn]. Its axial tilt is 21°. It has a ring and three moons of significant size, as well as a number of small asteroidal moons.

All of these moons have a mean temperature of some -260°C [13 K].

Beyond this is a cometary halo, and then interstellar space.


Back to the Top THE WORLDS OF HSIL

The sibling worlds of Atbzak and Atkadkka are the closest worlds to Hsil and lie within its habitable zone, orbiting it at a distance of some 30 million km [0.2 AU; this is about half the distance from Mercury to the Sun in the Solar System] taking some 40.3 Earth days to do so. They are described in more detail below.

There are small collections of dust and small asteroids at the Trojan points of the sibling worlds.

Hsilat, a small moonless rocky world, with some 40% of the mass of the Earth [between Mars and Venus in size] orbits outside the sibling worlds some 0.5 AU from Hsil [somewhat further from it than Mercury] is from the Sun in the Solar System. This has a diameter of some 9400 km and a surface gravity of some 0.74 that of the Earth. It takes 4.25 Atbzak years [171 Earth days] for it to circle Hsil. It has an axial tilt of zero, though this varies greatly over time [as for Mars]. It has a day some 34.5 Earth hours long. At the surface its atmosphere has a pressure roughly half that of the Earth, but un-breathable, being made up largely of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Some 13% of its surface is covered by ice caps. Its average temperature is some -45°C [228 K], though this varies by roughly plus or minus 20°C over the course of a Great Year. It has no native life. From Atbzak, Hsilat never appears as anything other than a featureless point to the naked eye.


Back to the Top THE WORLDS OF HSATEE

A thin asteroid belt known as the Ekbzeketg Belt circles closest to Hsatee. This is centred about 0.2 AU from the star, is 0.02 AU [some 3 million km] wide and made up of a mixture of metallic and chondritic asteroids with an average size of some 50 km and some bodies up to 500 km or so in size.

Outside the Ekbzeketg Belt, Hsatee is also orbited at a distance of some 0.4 AU by Etbzggak, a gas giant planet with a single moon. Etbzggak has a mass some 33 times that of the Earth, a density of 0.26 times that of the Earth, and is some 64300 km in diameter. It orbits Hsatee in some 122.4 Earth days. Its axial tilt is about 25°. There are significant clusters of asteroids at both of its Trojan Points [equivalent to the Trojan asteroids of the Solar System].


Back to the Top ATBZAK AND ATKADKKA - THE SIBLING WORLDS

Humans might call them twin worlds, but as the Ekrratki do not have twins as such they refer to them as siblings instead.

The sibling worlds of Atbzak and Atkadkka orbit Hsil in some 40.3 Earth days [so they orbit their sun 9.06 times per Earth year]. Both worlds are considerably larger than the Earth. They are roughly the same size and as such they form a double planet system.

Atbzak and Atkadkka both follow nearly circular paths about their common centre of mass taking some 4.3 Earth days [103 hours] to do so. They remain separated by some 1.18 million kilometres as they do so [compared to an average of 384400 km between the Earth and the Moon], with Atbzak orbiting some 648000 km from their common centre of mass and Atkadkka orbiting closer to it, at some 534000 km from it.

Because of their large masses and close proximity Atbzak and Atkadkka are tidally locked to one another. Thus their day-night cycle is the same length as the period of their orbit around their common centre of mass, that is, some 103 hours. Because of their tidal locking they generate no tidal variation of water levels on each other, although they do each generate a fixed 'bulge' of water facing and opposite each other.

From Atbzak, Atkadkka appears to be some 1.34° wide, that is some 2.7 times larger than the Moon as seen from the Earth. From Atkadkka, Atbzak appears to be some 1.13° wide, that is some 2.3 times larger than the Moon as seen from the Earth.

From the surface of Atbzak, Hsil appears some 1.8° wide in the sky, that is some 3.6 times larger than the Sun does in the skies of Earth. Hsatee varies greatly in size over the course of its orbit about their mutual centre of mass, from roughly 0.1° in apparent width [about one fifth of the size of the Sun as it appears from the Earth] at its closest approach, to a featureless point at its furthest separation. Regardless of its position in its orbit, it significantly illuminates the nights of Atbzak.

Hsil and Hsatee from Atbzak at the closest approach of Hsatee, derived from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Compare_61_cygni.png

Because the apparent size of Hsil from Atbzak is larger than the apparent size of Atkadkka there are no total solar eclipses on Atbzak. However, Atkadkka does transit across the face of Hsil from time to time, causing partial eclipses when it blocks out up to 74% of the surface of, and thus the light from, Hsil. Likewise, there are no total eclipses of Atkadkka by Atbzak [equivalent to Lunar eclipses on Earth], though again the shadow of Atbzak can cover a significant part of the disc of Atkadkka. The same applies to eclipses seen from Atkadkka.

The large sizes of the other world in the skies of Atbzak and Atkadkka mean that each one reflects much more light than is the case with the Moon on Earth. Because of this the nights of the half of each world facing the other are rarely very dark; the only exception to this is when heavy clouds obscure the sky.


Back to the Top ATBZAK

Atbzak, the Ekrratki home world, has roughly 6.08 times the mass of the Earth, with the same density as it, and is about 1.825 times the diameter of the Earth giving it a diameter of approximately 23360 km [where the diameter of the Earth is roughly 12742 km] and thus roughly 3.33 times the surface area of the Earth, counting oceans. Taking all of this into account Atbzak has a surface gravity of 1.825 times that of the Earth. Because of this humans would classify Atbzak as a dry super-earth. It has an axial tilt of some 6°.

Some 2% of the surface of Atbzak is land [which has roughly the same area as 6.66% of the land of Earth; this is about the area of Europe; in 2008 the population of Europe is some 731 million people, so any potential population of roughly human-sized entities is high]. All of the land area of Atbzak is in the form of archipelagos of islands, all of which are the tips of underwater mountains, some of which are expanded or extended above the surface of the ocean by the equivalent of coral reefs.

The oceans of Atbzak are on average deeper than those of the Earth. In particular, because of tidal effects between Atbzak and Atkadkka the regions of the ocean facing and opposite the twin world are deeper than those perpendicular to it. Thus there are more islands in the perpendicular regions. There is also some alignment of island chains and so on with the axis linking Atbzak and Atkadkka. In addition to the tidal forces from Atkadkka that generate a fixed bulge of water there are also large solar tides, some eight hundred times stronger than those generated on the Earth by the Sun [and about four hundred times stronger than those generated on the Earth by the Moon], and these do cause major variations in water level around Atbzak over the course of its day and year. Because of the stronger gravity of Atbzak water pressure at a given depth is thus 1.825 times more than at the equivalent depth on Earth.

The oceans of Atbzak have roughly the same level of salinity as those of the Earth.

Although it has large deep ocean regions, Atbzak also has very large continental shelf areas. Because of its strong tides and weather the waters of its oceans, and in particular of the shallower oceans, are in general turbid and muddy. This muddiness, combined with the redder light of Hsil and Hsatee compared to the sun [giving much less short-wavelength light to penetrate the water] means that visibility in the underwater environment of Atbzak very poor compared to that of the Earth. Even when the water is clear, at any significant depth below the surface it is dark, very much a 'wine dark sea'.

Because of the strong tidal forces from Atkadkka and Hsil, Atbzak is tectonically active, with seventeen major tectonic plates [as compared to seven on the Earth] plus numerous minor plates and crustal hot spots. Planetquakes and volcanoes are roughly twelve times more frequent than on the Earth. These help keep land building up despite the best efforts of the oceans to erode it away.

Taking into account the contributions from both Hsil and Hsatee, the average temperature of Atbzak is some 18°C [as compared to some 14°C for the Earth]. This drops to an average of -66°C at the poles and +54°C at the equator, and additionally to -76°C at the poles at the end of the night and +68°C at the equator at the end of the day.

At its closest approach Hsatee contributes more energy, raising overall temperatures by some 22°C above the average; at its furthest separation it contributes less, causing a drop in temperature of the same amount below the average.

On average the ice caps of Atbzak come down to some 33° of latitude [roughly equivalent to the northern tip of mainland Scotland on Earth], although their edges fluctuate by roughly 10° north and south of this over the course of the Great Year. This means that on average 16% of the surface of Atbzak is covered by ice [an area larger than the entire land surface of the Earth]. Of course, this still leaves an area of open ocean some 2.8 times larger than the entire surface of the Earth, both land and sea.

Because of the low axial tilt of Atbzak there are only minor seasonal variations in temperature and so on over the course of the [40.3 Earth day long] year.

The muddy ocean waters mean that the edges of the ice caps have a dirty look to them.

The atmosphere of Atbzak at sea level is some three times denser than on Earth, giving three times the atmospheric pressure, but roughly the same speed of sound [the speed of sound depends largely on temperature rather than pressure or humidity]. It consists of some 30% oxygen [compared to about 21% for the Earth], with the remainder being mostly nitrogen plus other trace gases. This larger percentage of oxygen arises because of the smaller amount of land area by which oxygen can be absorbed in oxidising rocks. It also leads to the seas of Atbzak being more oxygenated than those of the Earth. Because of the higher degree of volcanism on Atbzak there is more carbon dioxide in its air than in that of the Earth. This makes its seas somewhat more acidic than those of the Earth. Because of its higher atmospheric pressure the boiling point of water on Atbzak is some 134°C.

The thick atmosphere of Atbzak leads to huge storms and powerful weather, though of course this seems normal to the Ekrratki, who would think the weather of Earth feeble, so say the least. It also extends much further from the planet than does the atmosphere of the Earth, so that the lowest stable orbit is at roughly three times the altitude that would be required on Earth.

In addition to this, despite its heavier gravity, the denser air, deeper oceans and stronger winds of Atbzak mean that waves more powerful there than on Earth, if not larger than them.


Back to the Top ATKADKKA, THE SIBLING WORLD

Like Atbzak, Atkadkka is a super-earth planet, but unlike it Atkadkka also possesses a vast mass of water. The rocky core of Atkadkka has roughly the same mass as that of Atbzak, that is some 6.08 times the mass of the Earth. However, on top of this is an ocean some 500 km deep over some 1600 km of ice [note that this ice is not normal water ice as it is found on Earth, but instead is Ice VII; see also here and here; the structure of the ocean arises because water even at relatively high temperatures turns to ice at high pressure, above 10 GPa (100000 atmospheres); the depth that this occurs is governed by the hydrostatic pressure it experiences]. Taking its ocean into account the total mass of Atkadkka is roughly 7.38 times that of the Earth, with 1.38 Earth masses or so of that [roughly 23% of the total] being water or ice. This gives it a diameter of 27560 km and an overall density roughly 0.74 times that of the Earth, giving it a surface gravity of 1.59 times that of the Earth. It has an axial tilt of some 4°.

The atmosphere of Atkadkka is nitrogen and some 40% oxygen at a pressure of some 4 times that of Earths atmosphere. Like that of Atbzak the atmosphere extends much further from the planet than does the atmosphere of the Earth, and supports extremely powerful weather.

The average temperature of Atkadkka is somewhat warmer than that of Atbzak, but is still cool enough for there to be small permanent ice caps at the poles. Like Atbzak the average temperature of Atkadkka varies significantly over the course of a Great Year.

Because of the lack of rocks to absorb oxygen from the air, atmospheric oxygen on a super-Earth world such as Atkadkka is independent of the presence of life. Because of this life never evolved on Atkadkka. Instead life was carried from Atbzak in meteors; as such it is, of course, biologically compatible with the life of Atbzak, including the Ekrratki themselves. However, life on Atkadkka is very limited because of the lack of minerals and other nutrients in its water due to the vast ocean depth and the ice beneath it, so that it consists only of slow-growing photosynthetic bacteria [with very slow life cycles not unlike those found deep in the crust of the Earth].

Fundamentally, Atkadkka is a fairly useless world! It has no land, though it does have small ice caps, nor enough life to support much imported life that might want to colonise it. It has no accessible mineral resources of any kind, and it has a high gravity that makes it hard to get to and from, as well as a thick atmosphere and powerful weather and tides that all in all also make it fairly hostile.


Back to the Top THE LIFE FORMS OF ATBZAK

Despite the relatively young age of the Hsil-Hsatee system [2 billion years as opposed to 4.6 billion years for the Earth] life there is at least as widespread and diverse as it is on the Earth, although it has taken very different paths to life on Earth.

Biochemically speaking, the life forms of Atbzak are based on roughly the same chemistry as those of Earth, with DNA used for storing genetic information. As the biochemistries of Atbzak and Earth are reasonably compatible, each can eat most of the food of the other without starving or being poisoned, though both would suffer deficiency diseases in the long term. Thus the plants of Atbzak would grow on Earth given the opportunity, though how well they would compete with Earth life would depend on the circumstances of this; their chemosynthetic life would probably do best.

Because of its relatively small land area, most of the life forms of Atbzak are found in the sea. However, the land and the fringes of the ice caps do support rich and diverse ecosystems, even if that are somewhat limited in size.

The more turbid oceans of Atbzak mean that there are no sunlight-driven coral reefs there as there are in the oceans of the Earth. However, the suspended mud and so on means that the seas of Atbzak are rich in nutrients, and there are roughly coral-equivalent structures that live purely by filter feeding on the muddy water.

Because of its denser air there is more aeroplankton, that is small life forms which spend all or part of their lives airborne, on Atbzak than there is on the Earth. This aeroplankton is also more diverse than that found on Earth.

Because of the redder light and thus low ultraviolet output of Hsil and Hsatee, the life forms of Atbzak are more susceptible to the effects of ultraviolet radiation, from sunburn to skin cancer, than the life forms of a world such as the Earth, whose star outputs more ultraviolet.


Back to the Top SOURCES OF ENERGY

The planetary ecosystem of Atbzak is based on three sources of energy.

In many cases life forms make use of more than one of these source of energy. For example, a photosynthetic plant might also make use of anemosynthesis. Or, if located in a suitable place, also exploit chemosynthesis. This can arise from a symbiosis between life forms using the different energy sources or from one life form being able to use multiple energy sources.


Back to the Top PLANT LIFE

Most areas of ocean on Atbzak are rich in nutrients. However, because of the poor visibility of the oceans of Atbzak, coupled with the poor penetration of the redder light of Hsil and Hsatee into the water, productive photosynthesis is only possible above, at, or very close to the surface of the ocean. This has confined the photosynthetic aquatic plant life of Atbzak to a thin layer of water immediately adjacent to surface [as opposed to the case on Earth where the relatively clear oceans allow plants to photosynthesise over a wider range of depths].

Over time this drove Atbzakian phytoplankton to evolve from free-floating individuals, at the mercy of the currents which might carry them away from the surface, into floating mats or colonial rafts that helped to keep the phytoplankton in daylight. Although these mats would often be broken up by waves, tides and weather they gave enough of an advantage to the phytoplankton making them up that they became the most successful form of photosynthetic ocean life.

Further evolution drove these floating mats to become larger and more diverse, not unlike sponges or other colonial organisms, with specialised types of plant performing different functions that all contribute to the good of themselves and the mat as whole. These came to form the basis of their own ecosystems until they developed into what are basically floating islands with grazing creatures that feed on the islands, and/or act as 'gardeners' for them in return for living space.

Some floating islands do not float free but are anchored to the land, extending islands out onto floating 'rafts'. Others anchor themselves to underwater seamounts, forming floating islands in a fixed location. Of course, these anchored islands are more vulnerable to bad weather and so on than free-floating ones, but there are some advantages to this mode of life that drive some species to adopt it.

Most of these floating islands are small, being broken up by storms and so on, but some are both strong and flexible enough, with structural 'skeletons' made up of biogenic silica [not unlike the shells of diatoms] to strengthen and reinforce their structures. These larger islands are essentially immortal.

Floating islands as a whole can reproduce by fission, either deliberately or by being broken up by storms when they grow above a certain size. Some of the 'structural' plants that make up islands can also reproduce by budding off small individuals at their margins; these then separate to grow into new islands on their own. Some of these simply float off in the sea, but in some species they are blown up into the air and away by the wind.

There are some aquatic plants that remain as undifferentiated mats. However, many island plants raise leaves or even branches and tree-like structures above the water to maximise their area for photosynthesis. These branches tend to be short and thick compared to those of plants on Earth because of the higher winds and stronger gravity of Atbzak. Others have vertical leaves but no branches, giving an effect not unlike a floating yellow-orange lawn. Other large aquatic plants live individually, and are not unlike floating trees, with a buoyant float from which a keel-root extends down, balancing it and extracting nutrients from the water, while a branching tree-like structure extends into the air for photosynthesis [which from a human point of view would look quite autumnal]. By the nature of their existence most of these trees float alone but it is possible for floating forests to form when the conditions are right.

Click on the thumbnails below to see my idea of an Atbzakian seascape, complete with floating trees.

Thumbnail of Atbzak seascape

Thumbnail of Atbzak seascape

Thumbnail of Atbzak seascape

Some of the floating trees monitor the light levels they receive and use their leaves as sails to try to change their position and manoeuvre themselves to maximise the light they receive. This means that in some parts of the oceans there are floating forests where the trees each use their leaves to steer themselves so as to maintain an optimum distance from their neighbours. Most of these sailing trees are asymmetrical to keep them in alignment with the wind [a process known as anemotropism].

All of the plants of Atbzak that reproduce sexually are water-pollinated rather than via the wind. Some aquatic creatures perform the role of underwater bees in fertilising plants, which has led to the evolution of an array of underwater flower-equivalents. These underwater 'flowers' have evolved to be bright to the sonar that most animals on Atbzak use, rather than visually bright.

Many plants reproduce via seeds or spores. Some of these are airborne, while others are spread by floating in the sea. Others spread by being eaten by animals and excreted elsewhere. These latter have bright colours to make them stand out; on Atbzak this means they are green, bright red or bright in infra-red. Underwater fruit, which also exist and are spread in the same way, are shaped to be bright to sonar.

On land plant life evolved from the same sort of algal mats that floated on the sea, after those mats were beached by storms. Of course, most such mats died, but enough found sustainable niches for life to gain a foothold on land and develop from there. From these beginnings land plants diversified into a wide range of forms, including tree-like ones, though as with water plants these are shorter and squatter than plants on Earth because of the higher gravity of Atbzak.

Some land plants are also related to the floating tree types, and are assumed to have evolved from ancestors that survived beaching.

The fact that all land is in the form of islands, and the high rainfalls they experience, mean that all land plants use water to transport eggs and sperm between plants, rather than, for example, the wind as happens on Earth.


Back to the Top ANIMAL LIFE

Because of this higher gravity of Atbzak all of the land-living life forms of Atbzak are strong for their size. Many of them also have fast reactions to cope with falling and other events that occur faster in high gravity.

The denser air of Atbzak, even taking into account its stronger gravity, means that Atbzak is actually a friendlier environment for flying life than the Earth, and larger creatures can fly there than can on Earth. In addition the dense atmosphere makes Atbzak a good environment for gliding.

Unlike earth animals, the bones of the life forms of Atbzak are made of a form of biogenic silica [not unlike the shells of diatoms on Earth]. The hard parts of their skeletons thus appear to be glittering and glassy. However, many creatures, including the Atbzak, have a skeleton made up a of a mixture of rigid and more flexible elements, with the flexible parts being composed of something not unlike cartilage [like the skeleton of a shark]. However, there are no life forms on Atbzak equivalent to Earth vertebrates.

Although this is not obvious externally, the most successful animal forms on Atbzak, in terms of both numbers of species and diversity, are actually colonial entities made up of a number of linked but distinct entities, like siphonophores [such as the Portuguese Man O'War] on Earth, with the elements of the colony being unable to survive independently of the whole.

With the higher pressure, higher oxygen air of Atbzak, there are larger creatures using trachea rather than lungs than is the case on Earth.


Back to the Top TYPES OF ANIMALS

There are no vertebrates as such on Atbzak. However, there are a number of major animal groupings on there. All of these groups of creatures include at least some land- or ice cap-living species. Because of the density of the air on their world there are many flying and gliding creatures. These are in general quite small because of the high gravity of Atbzak, but the higher air density does allow the largest of these to be larger than the largest flying creatures on Earth. The animals of Atbzak are divided into the following major groups:

The animals of Atbzak are related to one another as shown below:

Note that none of the animals of Atbzak have scales, feathers or fur.


Back to the Top GENDERS AND LIFE CYCLE

All the animal life of Atbzak does not have individual creatures with a fixed gender. Instead, all animals change from one sex to another at different stages of their lives, normally beginning female and later turning into males.

The crustacean and worm-like creatures of Atbzak have two sexes and breed not unlike water creatures on the Earth, shedding vast numbers of eggs and sperm into the water at mating season. These eggs then grow into larvae the survivors of which then develop into adults.

The jellyfish-like and sea anemone-like creatures and the tubular swimmers, on the other hand, have three distinct genders. In addition to female and male, they have what is best described as a 'brooder' gender. Males and females produce sperm and eggs, while the brooders nurture and grow the fertilised eggs until they are ready to survive on their own. Brooders are normally the earliest stage of life, so the eggs they nurture become mature brooders in the company of other brooders.

There are examples of similar, if not quite as major, differences between the genders among life on Earth. For example, among fish, tapetails, whalefish and bignoses all appear to be very different to one another, but recent research has shown that they are actually the males, females and young of the same species, and that the fish undergoes what is claimed to be the most extreme metamorphosis ever seen in a vertebrate. Likewise there are examples of Earth animals, and in particular fish, changing gender over the course of their lives. Metamorphosis from one organism to many is an innovation of life of Atbzak, however.

In these creatures the changes between genders have evolved from simply gender changes into more drastic changes of form between genders; their colonial nature has allowed this to evolve more easily than might be the case with non-colonial organisms. This has led to varying degrees of sexual trimorphism [the three-gender equivalent of sexual dimorphism] in different species. These gender differences allow males and females to live in and exploit different environments, with one (normally the males) perhaps being protected from the hostile ocean. In many species these different environments have driven the further evolution of sexual dimorphism. Land has become such a niche for some groups (such as the Ekrratki) to exploit. In other creatures that use this strategy physical symbiosis of male and female [as in the triplewart seadevil and some other anglerfish on Earth] has evolved.

Some of the tubular swimmers, including the Ekrratki, actually pupate between phases to allow the drastic changes they involve to occur. In the creatures that do this there is normally a brief period immediately after they emerge from their pupae when they very rapidly learn how to live in their new form, for example, how to swim or walk.

In the sub-group of the tubular swimmers that includes the Ekrratki, this process has evolved further, with a single brooder metamorphosising into a single female, which then metamorphosises into multiple males; this gives more chances for breeding and genetic diversity, as well as the chance to raise populations quickly. In parallel with this the females have evolved to have multiple sex organs, normally enough to match the ratio of males to females.

All the animals of Atbzak, even those that live all of their lives on land, require water to breed.


Back to the Top SENSES


Back to the Top SONAR

The muddy waters of Atbzak combined with the lack of blue light to penetrate deeply into the water make visibility in its oceans very poor. Over the millions of years this has driven the evolution of sonar as the main sense of sea creatures. In parallel with this many creatures have evolved increasingly complex sonar countermeasures and counter-countermeasures in an arms race between predators and prey [see here, here and here for more information]. The use of sonar, coupled with noises arising from non-animal sources, means that the oceans of Atbzak are a very noisy place. This noise, combined with the many competing sonar-using creatures, has driven an evolutionary need for brainpower to provide creatures with the powerful sonar signal processing skills they need to survive. This sonar arms race also drove the need for socialisation to successfully hunt prey. These factors have driven the rise of more and more intelligent and social creatures, eventually leading to the Ekrratki.

There are also many land animals on Atbzak that have sonar as their primary sense.

Many sonar-using predators have evolved the ability to identify the vital organs of their prey with sonar and attack them preferentially. This has driven the evolution of organ structures that shift the apparent location of vital organs, so misleading these predators and diverting their attacks to non-vital areas [these are analogous to the eye-spots and other markings used by animals on earth to do much the same thing].


Back to the Top VISION

Eyes do exist, but among aquatic creatures are used mainly for navigation and timing matings and so on - seeing when Atkadkka, and to a lesser extent Hsil - are in the sky rather than for finding food. Some creatures that live far out in the deep oceans do use sight to find food and hunt, but these are very much a minority. Land animals make much wider use of vision as a primary sense than sea creatures.

The different spectral range of Hsil and Hsatee means that the visual range of the life-forms of Atbzak is shifted towards red compared to that of the Earth, so that they see into the infra-red, but cannot see violets and blues.

As a side effect of this, for the Ekrratki the sky of Atbzak is a very dark orange-red, almost black to the casual viewer. This is because Hsil, their sun, puts out little blue light, and more importantly their eyes do not see blues, although they do see what small amount of orange-red light is scattered around the sky. [Even for humans the sky of Ekrratki would be a very dark blue.]


Back to the Top OTHER SENSES

Aquatic creatures do not have a terribly acute sense of smell as the muddiness of the water tends to overwhelm any useful scents. They do have a sense of taste. Land-living creatures, on the other hand, do have a sense of smell, although this is often a modified form of the sense of taste [not unlike that in snakes on Earth].

Despite its muddy oceans no creature on Atbzak seems to have evolved electroreception senses.


Back to the Top THE EKRRATKI

The Ekrratki evolved from the group of tubular swimmers with a high degree of sexual dimorphism. The females were fairly large oceanic carnivores while the males were land-dwelling omnivores and the brooders fixed bottom-dwelling filter feeders. As with some related species, their females were driven into intelligence, and then sentience by the highly competitive underwater environment. Unlike other species, their males also became sentient, and in addition to this tool-users.

As with their related species, the overall body structure of all phases of the Ekrratki is that of a tube, although beyond this they vary significantly.


Back to the Top THE EKRRATKI LIFE CYCLE

Like many of the life forms of Atbzak, the Ekrratki do not have separate genders, but instead a single individual metamorphosises from one to another through the course of the phases of their life. From an egg, the Ekrratki hatches into a large sessile kretdksskr [brooder]. When old enough this pupates and emerges as a large active rrkidru [female]. This in turn pupates out of water, self-stranding at a high tide, to metamorphosise into some forty individual grrakli [males]. Grrakli age and die. Each of these life phases lasts for two Great Years, that is some 43.4 Earth years. Metamorphoses between phases are synchronised to each Great Winter. This means that when new members of each gender appear there is an older generation of that gender to teach and support them. At the next metamorphosis cycle they are now the older generation and teach the new members of their gender. This jump from one to two Great Yeats was a major development in the progress towards sentience of the proto-Ekrratki as it allowed teaching and so on by mature but not old and feeble members of the genders and the male gender in particular.

Individual kretdksskr become individual rrkidru. Pods of rrkidru become towns of grrakli. Grrakli age and die, but (with medical care and so on) can live the longest of any of the phases. Individuals retain at least some memories and personality through the metamorphosis between phases. Thus all males derived from a given female remember being her, and have roughly similar personalities, although different males may reflect different aspects of that female.

There are no separate races of Ekrratki as there are no geographical barriers in the ocean.

All individual male and female Ekrratki have a mating period and an urge to mate synchronised with the orbital period of the sibling worlds around Hsil, that is, they effectively come into heat every 40.3 Earth days or so for one Atbzak day [4.3 Earth days]. This time synchronises with periods when the tidal range is particularly small, that is, when the sun is perpendicular to the line between the sibling worlds, the time when mating is as safe as possible for both males and females. Even so, it is not entirely unknown for males to be crushed or drowned when mating, or for females to be beached and asphyxiate.

Of course, not all males or females are able to or wish to mate on every such cycle. Thus some matings take place at every mating period, but not all Ekrratki mate at every such period.

Because of this eggs are constantly fertilised and so brooded, with new brooders settling onto the sea floor throughout the year and Great Year. However, the transition of brooders into the stage in which they being to wake up is triggered by a Great Summer. The brooders then wake up over the next half cycle and metamorphosise into a female at the next Great Winter. The metamorphosis occurs at this time because the cold forces creatures to migrate to the equatorial regions, thus concentrating life, and the opportunities for hunting, there.

To both males and females sex is very pleasurable. This is because for both genders sex is something that involves venturing into a hostile environment - for females risking beaching themselves in the shallows, for males risking drowning - and evolution has favoured increased pleasure to help drive and motivate both genders into mating.


Back to the Top KRETDKSSKR [BROODERS]

The kretdksskr [brooder] gender is a is a largely non-sentient filter feeder. Its role in the Ekrratki life cycle is to nurture the eggs produced by the female and fertilised by the males until they are ready to hatch into new brooders.

A mature Ekrratki brooder is shaped roughly like a ten metre long tube standing upright from the sea floor. It has four-fold radial symmetry. Four thick limbs each ending in a holdfast both attach it solidly to the sea bed and also hold the body above it, so that there is a gap between the lower end of the body and the sea floor. At the top of the body is a constantly-open mouth into which water is sucked by a pumping action inside the tube of the body; this is expelled at the bottom. In between filters extract nutrients from the water while gills extract oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. In addition to this at the top of the body are four large filter-sweeps [not unlike those of barnacles] that are swept through the water to gather more food and deliver it to the mouth.

Running down the body between the fore and aft limbs are four rows of ten brooding chambers in each of which an 'egg' is held, fed, grows and develops. When each egg is mature it is released into the water, where it hatches into a baby brooder which floats for a while then settles to a suitable point on the sea floor and begins to grow into an adult brooder over a period of some two Great Years [43.4 Earth years]. There is a high mortality rate during this floating stage.

Although rrkidru [females] and, with the rise of the technology to do so grrakli [males], do protect the brooders, they do suffer from disease and predation. Because of this Ekrratki brooders have a fairly high mortality rate. Even after they settle to the sea floor.

As they mature and grow, brooders begin to listen to the world around them. They learn signals and the rudiments of how to discriminate them, until they begin to wake up, not into full sentience, but into a passive, essentially dreaming, state that is aware of its world but detached from it. They remember what they learn during this period when they metamorphosise into a female.

When this occurs they pupate into a cocoon on the sea floor, in which they turn from the sessile brooder to a free-moving female. They are vulnerable to predation during this period and there is also a significant mortality rate from this.


Back to the Top RRKIDRU [FEMALE]

In terms of their role in the ecosystem of Atbzak, rrkidru [female] Ekrratki are herder carnivores, not unlike dolphins or wolves on Earth. Individually they are by no means the largest or most fearsome predators in the oceans of Atbzak, but they are the most effective pack hunters.

The average female Ekrratki is similar in body plan to a brooder, being roughly ten metres long and massing perhaps 8000 kg [this is roughly as big as the largest killer whales seen on Earth]. The female body shape is that of a tube, similar to a brooder, but mobile, covered with smooth, tough, almost frictionless skin [not unlike that of a dolphin on Earth]. Like the brooders they are fourfold radially symmetrical and so have no specific up or down. They move by water pulse jet propulsion through the tube of their body, sucking in water at the front and expelling it at the rear through a flexible nozzle which gives them underwater vectored thrust propulsion in three dimensions. This makes them fast, manoeuvrable and deadly underwater. They can jet in reverse if they wish, though more slowly and clumsily than they move forward. They also have two rings of four fins each to aid with steering, one at the rear and one perhaps a quarter of their length back from their front; they can swim with these fins, though again more slowly and clumsily than when jetting forwards. They are a mottled mud colour to provide some visual camouflage in the oceans of Atbzak.

Click on the thumbnail below to see a very rough sketch of a female Ekrratki:

Thumbnail of female Ekrratki image

Around the front end of their intake are a ring of four equally-spaced eyes, giving them binocular vision; in fact quadrocular to the front and binocular to the sides, although their eyes do not see as well as (for example) those of a human, being rather short sighted. Each eye is independently steerable to the sides and also forwards and backwards. Behind each eye is a bulge equivalent to the dolphin sonar melon, which acts as a very powerful and sensitive active and passive sonar sensor. They also have four rows of smaller such bulges running down the length of their bodies behind these bulges. These give them active and passive sonar sensing abilities spherically about themselves. Sonar is very much their primary sense, and they hunt by sound using active and passive sonar with a very wide frequency range [much wider than that of a human, and more like that of a dolphin]. Although their hearing is very sensitive, because of the noisy environment in which they evolved, it is also resistant to deafness caused by sudden or prolonged loud noise. They have very poor senses of taste and smell, worse than those of a human.

They do not have a closable mouth at the front of their body - it is just a tube. Inside the front of this tube are mouthparts that fold up into streamlined slits or recesses in the walls of the tube. Some of these are used for stabbing their prey while others are for dismembering it, and still more pass the dismembered prey back to a ring of four mouths opening from the central tube into four digestive systems running the length of the body from behind the mouthparts to a ring of four anuses feeding into the rear of the jet tube. None of their mouthparts are hands as such, though obviously they have some clumsy manipulative ability. The forward mouthparts are not four-fold radially symmetrical. Instead there are two pairs of adjacent identical arms, one pair of stabbing/slashing arms tipped with roughly 1.5m long organic swords, and one pair of shorter, more powerful slicing/dismembering arms tipped with tooth-edged beaks for ripping and biting off portions of the prey and feeding them into the tube of the body. Behind these the smaller cutting and delivering arms are radially symmetrical.

Females respire through gills that protrude into their jet tube from all sides, like an array of somewhat backwards-pointing feathers, behind the mouths and well inside the body so that they are protected from attack. They do not bridge the tube, but go roughly halfway across so they can bend and fold when the jet tube contracts.

Their circulatory system runs forward and backwards from the gills in four pairs of two main loops. Overall they have forty hearts, four main ones and thirty six subsidiary ones. Each loop has a main heart located adjacent to the gills and from there pumps oxygenated blood forwards and backwards along a main artery. To the rear this runs between and supplies a digestive system on one side and a set of reproductive organs on the other. To the front this blood supplies the brain and sense organs. Nine subsidiary hearts on each pair of loops aid with this circulation. The blood is then returned back via veins. The four circulatory system do not really interconnect.

The fact that the female Ekrratki have four separate circulatory systems means that they can take serious wounds to one of them and the others will continue to operate. However, if one of them does bleed out, then that part of the body - a quarter - will die and while surgically speaking this could be amputated, that would also be crippling as they would lose the tubular body structure that lets them jet through the water. Medical developments do allow them to be re-attached as a three-part tube rather than a four part tube, and also perhaps divert blood from the neighbouring circulatory systems into the damaged one, allowing it to survive and heal.

The bones of the female Ekrratki are rings perpendicular to the long axis of the body linked to the next ring in front of or behind it by four horizontal struts of cartilage, which give some flexibility to their body. The struts are forty five degrees out of step between each pair of rings, giving increased flexibility. The rings vary in shape and size depending on their location in the body. In particular two rings hold the joints for the front and rear ring of fins. The rings and struts at the front of the body - where the brain and the mouthparts are - are solid bone, forming a rigid framework to protect where most of their brains are and to provide anchorage for the mouthparts. Those towards the rear are entirely of cartilage, giving flexibility for the pumping action that provides mobility.

Females are largely cold-blooded, with their overall body temperature being the same as that of the water around them. However, not unlike swordfish on Earth, they have special organs that maintain their brains, sonar and eyes at a higher temperature, which allows them to function much more effectively independently of the temperature of the water around them.

Running down the length of the females body in four rows, externally between the front and rear rings of fins and internally between adjacent digestive tracts are four rows of ten vaginas, for forty in total. Each of these holds one egg at a time. They can mate with as many males at once as they have vaginas. When an egg is fertilised that vagina seals and becomes a womb while the egg develops to the point of being able to survive outside the body of the female and be transferred to a brooder. This occurs when they are roughly the size of a grapefruit; this size compared with that of the female means that 'pregnancy' is no hindrance to a female Ekrratki. When this occurs the female swims to the brooders and releases her eggs into the water. The brooders sweep the eggs up with their forelimbs and place them into their brooding chambers in which they then grow to maturity.

As the time comes for them to pupate and metamorphosise into males, females feel a stronger and stronger urge to beach themselves at high tides. Even if they try to resist this, something most societies consider highly unnatural, females will eventually beach themselves on a particularly high tide, ending up well above the sea; this makes them safer from predators and so on. At this point they pupate and transform into some forty males, with about half of their body mass being used up for food during this metamorphosis and the other half becoming the new males themselves. With civilisation and sentient males, the males guard the pupating females from threats and sometimes also move them further from the shoreline for their own protection until they hatch.

Females would be great war leaders in a high-tech settings; they could float in the midst of spherical displays (perhaps sonar ones) commanding and coordinating by means of song.

Female Ekrratki have much larger brains than a human being. These evolved to process sound signals out of the complex audio environment in which they live, and this, along with the hostility and high degree of competitiveness in this environment drove them into sentience. Much of their brainpower is devoted to sonar signal processing, but as a side effect of this female Ekrratki are, on average, roughly at a human genius level of intelligence [males on average are somewhat less intelligent than the average human]. They are not super-intelligent, though the most exceptional females are more intelligent than any human can be. Most of their brainpower is devoted to vast and accurate memory and savant-type skills in signal processing, pattern recognition and mathematics, all of which are far beyond those of the best human. Note that females do not know how they do what they do - it is an instinctive process to them, one that occurs below the level of conscious awareness.

Because of this females can see a 'bigger picture' of any subject they care to learn about than any male can. As a side effect of this females are also great planners and allocators of resources, as well as linguists, cryptographers, mimics and possibly even detectives or stockbrokers [or the Ekrratki equivalent]. They are also almost impossible to lie to, even by other females. [In terms of the theory of multiple intelligences, as much as it applies to an alien race, the female Ekrratki have savant-level intelligence in the verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial and musical categories of intelligence, while they have 'merely' genius-level intelligence in everything else.]

From a human perspective this means that more than 2.5% of the Ekrratki population are geniuses, most of them female, though there are also some males. This is much more than is the case for humans [where less than 1% are considered to be geniuses], and has played its part in the more rapid advancement of the Ekrratki species as a whole compared to humanity.

Aided by their superhuman memory female Ekrratki have a very rich oral tradition, although of course no written tradition at all. Their signal processing abilities include pulse and data compression abilities, which allows them to compress their songs and words so as to be able to say a great deal to one another in a very short time, using a very wide frequency range. These are effectively highly complex songs that make the most complex and baroque human compositions seem simple by comparison.

Because of their good memories, females can, and do, keep track of a vast and complex network of relationships with one another and the larger world. Thus they think well at the strategic level and despite being adept at the detection of lies are highly Machiavellian, never forgetting slights and social interactions, even if not necessarily acting on them. They are thus very manipulative and political within their social groups

Because of the dark, noisy and turbid environment in which they live in primitive times female hunting success was down to, as much as anything else, signal processing - the ability to come out with complex songs and so on that would give them the edge over others, and other predators. Thus the best singers - the ones with the most complex and intricate songs - would be the ones that survived best and so the best to lead. This still carries over into the modern day, though other things are also considered important now, for traditional role structures the power of song is what determines position in society. Females also use song to mark their territories. With training the most talented females can even produce acoustic illusions that appear solid to convincing to other females.

As a result of this, females do not generally fight among themselves physically but instead compete in song, with the group as a whole judging the efforts of the competitors. For most females such song contests are also an opportunity to satirise and insult their opponent as part of their song as a whole.

For much the same reasons songs are also a way of resolving disputes between groups of females, as well as between individuals within a group. In this case the singing of the whole group as a choir determines the outcome, resulting in a form of choral battle with the group that sings the best overall being the one that considered the strongest and so the winner. Again these inter-group songs commonly satirise and insult their opponents. Verbal vendettas of this kind can be remembered and carried down from generation to generation. Legal challenges can also be dealt with in this manner, although in the modern day this is done more by specialised singers, the equivalent of lawyers than by the individual or group concerned.

Of course despite these song competitions when there are irreconcilable differences individuals or groups of females do sometimes fight physically. This can range from simple butting and shoving of one another up to attacks intended to kill. These last tend to be bloody and brutal mouthpart-to-mouthpart [as they have no hands] fighting.

Related to this females love to hunt and kill. They also commonly play chasing and hiding type games with one another. The most extreme form of this is that in some societies females execute their criminals by hunting them, in what is considered to be the ultimate hunt.

In the modern day many females do not need to hunt from necessity, full-time, any more. However, many still do for pleasure and what they see as fulfilment. In others their hunting instincts, driven on by their high intelligences, are turned to other things, such as politics or science.

Given the opportunity females can put on fat for the lean times. This is stored around the front of the body, between and just behind the front ring of fins.


Back to the Top AGING AND DEMENTIA

As they gain experience over the years, and also have more memories to operate on and compare with, the pattern recognition skills of a given female become better and better. However, as they get older and have more memories that they think through more and more, it is possible for a female to begin over-analysing the world around them, seeing more and more patterns and so on where there are really none. They can gradually slip into a form of dementia manifesting as paranoia, indecision, and the seeing too many options, to the point of becoming prone to conspiracy theories, highly indecisive and generally unable to act. In the vast majority of females this process starts just before they change into males, so it is not a problem; at worst they become a little eccentric at the ends of their lives. However, in a few females this process begins earlier, and they become indecisive, paranoid and so on before the change. Particularly intelligent and incisive females are especially prone to this.

In general the current medical treatment for this disorder is to confine the female in question until they turn into males, which cures the problem. Older treatments included attempts at a surgical cure, not unlike a lobotomy, but this has never given satisfactory results and so has been abandoned.

Also, all attempts to extend the female lifespan have failed because of this.


Back to the Top GRRAKLI [MALES]

The ancestral, non-sentient, grrakli [males] were bottom-dwelling predator/scavengers, not unlike radially symmetrical starfish with bones. These gradually evolved to live on the land, becoming amphibious then entirely land-dwelling, retaining their radial symmetry as they did so. In the process their diet changed and they became hunter/browsers [like bears or racoons on Earth], that is, at the carnivore end of the omnivore spectrum.

Part of what drove the males towards sentience was the building of safe 'mating pools' where they could mate with females without being attacked by predators, affected by storms and tides, or at risk from other threats. Cooperating to do this drove male intelligence and social development, with the evolution of hierarchies and rota systems for guards, those mating and so on until full sentience was achieved.

Males are roughly as tall as a tall human, but are very muscular and mass on average 100 kg or so. Because of the high gravity of Atbzak and the need to move under it they are considerably stronger than their size would indicate. Their reflexes are also fast to cope with the high gravity of Atbzak, for example to avoid damage when falling over. Thus the average male Ekrratki is both significantly stronger and faster than the average human. They are warm-blooded, and covered in smooth hairless skin; this is fairly tough over most of the body but more delicate on the hands, giving greater sensitivity than other areas of the body.

The shape of the male body is utterly non-human. They are fairly squat-seeming upright cylinders with fourfold radial symmetry and no specific front or back. They have four long (reaching almost to the ground) and muscular arms (that is, the same number as the females have fins) cantilevered out from raised shoulders placed evenly around the top of the body, and four thick and muscular legs descending from the bottom circumference of the body. Each arm ends in a hand consisting of two fingers and two thumbs, one on each side of the fingers; all of these digits are long, thick and powerful with vestigial claws on the tips. Each leg ends a circular foot with four almost vestigial toes ringing it, with vestigial claws forming an equivalent of toenails. Males are ambidextrous, but because of their large digits their manual dexterity is somewhat worse than that of a human being.

Between each shoulder is an eye, giving them all-round vision that is roughly equivalent to that of a human in resolution and acuity. Each eye is independently steerable to the sides and also up and down. Because their raised shoulders limit the side-to-side field of view of each of their eyes, males do not have close-up binocular vision. They do have limited binocular vision on things that are relatively far away that they can see with more than one eye. Below each eye is a line of several ears, which give the males good hearing, better than that of a human, but nowhere near as good as that of a female Ekrratki; like the females they have a very wide frequency range to their hearing [much wider than that of a human, and more like that of a dolphin]. Also, the quality of their hearing is very dependant on the thick atmosphere of their world; on (for example) Earth it would be worse. They have poor senses of taste and smell, worse than those of a human, though not as bad as those of the females.

Click on the thumbnail below to see a very rough sketch of a male Ekrratki:

Thumbnail of male Ekrratki image

The male brain is a four-lobed structure with one lobe located in, and protected by the bones of, each shoulder. Adjacent to each brain is a heart. They have four lungs with one lung positioned between each set of limbs, with the opening to the air from inside the top of the digestive tract; this opens upwards then slopes downward to the lung to avoid the male drowning when it, for example, rains. The lungs are long and thin and run the height of the body, expanded and contracted by muscles within the body, with alternating lungs expanding and contracting out of phase with one another.

The bones of the male Ekrratki are solid horizontal rings linked to the next ring above or below it by four vertical struts of cartilage, which give some flexibility to their body. The struts are forty five degrees out of step between each pair of rings, giving increased flexibility. The ring-bones vary in shape and size depending on their location in the body. In particular the topmost one holds the joints for the arms, and also extra bone to protect the male brain, while the lowermost one holds the hip joints for the legs.

Their mouth is located in the centre of the top of their body feeding into a top-to-bottom digestive tract with the anus at the lowest point. The male reproductive organ extends from the bottom of their body and Essentially consists of a part of their rectum that is inflated and pushed out in a penis-like manner. They mate by squatting over a female reproductive organ.

Like the females, given the opportunity males can put on fat for the lean times. In males this is stored around the bottom of the body and the top of the legs.

Males are the last stage of the alien life cycle, following which they die. In the primitive state they live perhaps two Great Cycles [roughly 43 Earth years]. However, with advanced medicine they can live anything up to twice this, perhaps four Great Cycles [roughly 85 Earth years; this is much the same as with humans, where medicine and so on can greatly extend life span].

Males are on average less intelligent than humans. As much as comparisons can be made between different intelligent species, their average IQ is roughly 90 [as opposed to 100 for humans]. Obviously there are some that are more intelligent than the average human, and a few above the human genius level, but less of them than is the case for humans. As a species this is compensated for by the higher female intelligence.

All males inherit a good degree of knowledge from the female of which they were once a part. This includes language. However, because their brains are not as powerful as those of the females, they do not inherit their full ability, only a fraction of it, and hazy memories of the full female ability and intellect. Thus they remember, to some extent, being female and cleverer, and know they are incomplete. They know they are/were part of a female. Many males come out of their pupa somewhat confused, thinking they are still the female they are derived from. It normally takes a while for them to get over this and fully adapt to the male life. However, a few never overcome this, and remain in a deluded state for their entire lives.

Despite their lesser mental ability as compared to the females, males are fully sentient, and do have hands. With these abilities they have been able to develop a technological civilisation that has allowed their species to become the dominant one on Atbzak.

Males are more playful than females, and are less able to think at a strategic level, instead in most cases being able thinkers only up to the tactical level.

Males sleep in a squatting position, with their four arms and legs acting as props to the body.

They can swim, if clumsily, with the body roughly vertical to keep the mouth and so the breathing orifices above water.

Given the large tides and heavy weather of their world males tend to live well above the mean water level. In some places males live underground or otherwise in shelter to avoid the weather.


Back to the Top PHASING DISORDERS

The metamorphoses between the different life phases of the Ekrratki sometimes fail to varying degrees. Some of these problems arise from genetic defects while other are due to environmental factors such as radiation or chemicals.

One of these is 'pre-phasing disease', a disorder of brooders and females in which the change to their next phase occurs too soon. With brooders this causes the creation of a non-sentient and largely helpless female. These are normally killed or allowed to die. With females the causes the creation of a set of males, much as normal, but they know little (as the female also knows less than a fully mature one) and tend to be less intelligent than those from full-lifespan females.

Sometimes the brooder to female transition simply does not occur, in which case that individual remains a brooder forever, or it fails, in which case that individual dies or survives as a female, but is deformed in some manner. In this case she most likely dies. Likewise in the female to males transition, the female sometimes simply does not transform, inevitably leading to dementia. Or they pupate and the transformation fails in any of a number of ways. In the worst case the female dies and no males are produced. Sometimes the transformation partially succeeds, so some males are produced but most die. Sometimes the males come out deformed, or some combination of these.

It is also possible under very rare circumstances for Brooders to metamorphosise directly into a group of males. When this occurs it largely occurs underwater, so the males drown. If the males are saved then they are invariably helpless and non-sentient, and like premature females are normally killed or allowed to die.

Many males come out of their pupa somewhat confused, thinking they are still the female they are derived from. It normally takes a while for them to get over this and fully adapt to the male life. However, a few never overcome this, and remain in a deluded state for their entire lives.


Back to the Top GENDER RELATIONS

Even beyond the need for all genders to be involved in reproduction there is very much a symbiotic relationship between the rrkidru [females] and grrakli [males] of the Ekrratki species. Females provide insight and intellect, as well as, when required, strategy and more of a 'big picture' view than males can provide for themselves. Males provide hands, and technology which makes the lives of the females richer and better than they would otherwise be. Together they form a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

In addition to this males revere and almost worship the females, and are driven to help them, in a manner analogous to the human drive to have and maintain a family group, while females help males as they know they will become them in the future - though not all of them like this - and so do not want to abuse what is effectively themselves.

Females in general remain convinced that they are the superior gender and the ones in overall change. However, the fact that the males are more numerous and have a technological base of some power means that in reality they are the ones in charge.

There have in the past been attempts by some male groups to take over the females, keep them penned in and otherwise exploit them. This has never ended well. For one thing, the instincts of the female do not take to captivity. For another, the males derived from these captive females inherit at least some of the mental problems and ignorance suffered by the females that such a policy implies, something that is bad for the males and for society as a whole. In general societies where this behaviour occurs go extinct very quickly, so that in the present day it is abhorred by all Ekrratki as against nature.

Thus most Ekrratki societies across Atbzak are ones in which the two genders agree to disagree on who is in charge. Females are at least nominally in charge everywhere - and more than nominally in many cases as they are, on average, more intelligent and better at things requiring pattern-matching and so on than the males. However, the females do realise that they are not entirely in charge; male technology and their own lack of hands makes that clear, along with the fact that because of this they can, at best, have only a theoretical understanding of the male world.

Among some male societies there are males who are specifically assigned to talk to females, to act as intermediaries between the females and the mass of males. These are often some of the more intelligent males, to avoid stupid ones annoying the clever females. In others they are selected by lot, or the post rotates through all qualified males over some period of time. In some the post is for life. In some there are no intermediaries and so all males can talk to any female.

Some males of a conspiratorial bent worry that the females really do run their world, but secretly, their high intelligences in the most intelligent higher than that of any male allowing them to control males, and events, in ways that males simply cannot detect. Most males dismiss this as paranoia, pointing to the many instances of male leadership and overall female-male cooperation in their world. But still, some worry...


Back to the Top EKRRATKI HISTORY

Rrkidru [female] Ekrratki have been sentient for considerably longer than the grrakli [males]. However, only blurred oral traditions hark back to those times, when females travelled the oceans as nomads, following their prey. Males were driven towards sentience by the need to build of safe 'mating pools' where they could mate with females without being attacked by predators, affected by storms and tides, or put at risk by other threats. Cooperating to do this drove male intelligence and social development, with the evolution of hierarchies and rota systems for guards, those mating and so on. It was only once males became sentient that technological civilisation began to develop on Atbzak.


Back to the Top OTHER SENTIENT LIFE FORMS

The large oceans of Atbzak, combined with the complex environment and need for signal processing and thus brainpower to survive drove the evolution of a number of related sentient and near-sentient species there. Many of these were at least as intelligent as the females of the Ekrratki, and evolved before them. Because of their relatively close evolutionary relationships the different sentient species were also carnivores, and so inevitably competed for prey and living space for males and brooders, leading to many prehistoric wars between females. This competition drove the advancement of intelligence in the Ekrratki, and the other species.

However, none of the other species had males that were both sentient and had hands, and so because of their lack of intelligent tool users they were incapable of more than rudimentary control of their environment. Thus, with the evolution of technology by the Ekrratki, this was inevitably applied to the problem of their competition, with the result that the competing sentient species were eventually exterminated in a number of wars of genocide. That were won, of course, by those with the tools for the job...

A number of the related intelligent but non-sentient species did survive these wars of extermination by becoming domesticated. As such they continue to have a role and a place among the Ekrratki, as trained hunting animals and pets.

The other sentient races of Atbzak are remembered by the Ekrratki, as ancient tales of enemy others. There are physical remains of them around Atbzak, in sediments and so on, some of which have been excavated for research purposes.


Overall the Ekrratki are a younger civilisation than humanity, with their recorded history stretching back some 8000 Earth years [369 Great Years of 21.7 Earth years each].

The first sentient males inhabited the islands of Atbzak, living well away from the sea apart from when mating. From there they developed stone tools, and with them rafts and then ships, initially constructing these with the equivalent of reeds and floating seaweed before later developing ships of wood. Later they learned to farm, and to exploit the minerals of the islands and developed metalwork. As their shipbuilding techniques improved the males were able to begin fishing and, with the help of the females, farming the sea. This allowed larger male populations to be supported, driving the development of the first civilisations. It also allowed females to take up a non-nomadic lifestyle, so that they and the males could interact more, driving the development of civilisation faster. The imperfect memory of males drove the invention of writing by them during this time.

Helped by their females, who would cooperate with the males to navigate and even pull ships, male Ekrratki used their ships to expand out across Atbzak. At this time each island or close group of islands was the equivalent of a city-state.

These warred with one another over land and in particular over underwater space for brooders to be sited. The development of technology to allow the creation of artificial brooder sites was an important development in the expansion of their civilisation and in reducing the number of wars.

Using ships, males and females also colonised the larger floating islands, exploiting their life and resources for their own ends. However, because of the lack of brooders on or around these islands they remained tied to the land-based city states.

This dependence was only broken by the invention of ways to allow brooders to be attached to the undersides of floating islands. With this development a separate seafaring culture began to evolve there, who were at least partly gardeners of the islands, helping them to spread and grow. Although still dependant on the land-based nations for metals and minerals, they had enough resources of their own to make their own way, and avoid attempts by the land-based nations to take them over.

Some females re-adopted a nomadic lifestyle with this development, sometimes accompanied by males in ships that they would assist, sometimes alone. These nomadic groups, although they did have contact with the island and floating island dwelling groups, also developed their own distinctive cultures.

As groups grew and split, or met others out on the open sea, there was conflict and exchanges of ideas. This led to diplomacy and the equivalent of nations.

As their technology advanced Ekrratki from the floating islands and nomadic groups also colonised the edges of the ice caps to exploit the life living there. Again these groups developed their own distinctive cultures.

These four major groups of civilisations on Atbzak - islanders, floating island dwellers, ice cap dwellers and ocean nomads - form the basis of the major Ekrratki cultural groupings down to the present day.

For a significant period of their history Ekrratki technological development was limited by problems with the use of fire in the high-oxygen atmosphere of Atbzak, that allows things to burn much faster and more fiercely than they do on [for example] the Earth. It was only once this was overcome [using closed and somewhat airtight containers to limit oxygen inflow] that technology using advanced metalworking and all kinds of techniques requiring controlled combustion and heat could be developed.

As the numbers of Ekrratki increased and male technology advanced, there were problems with pollution and over-utilisation of resources that began to impact them, and in particular the females and brooders. This only accelerated after the invention of techniques to mine underwater, in deeper and deeper water as time progressed. This forced them to make their technology more efficient and less polluting, in particular using nuclear, wind, wave and geothermal power. In many cases wars were required to force these transitions.

There were also problems with the floating island dwellers expanding the number of such islands by their activities so much that they began to affect the ocean ecosystems of Atbzak, and also the composition of the atmosphere by removing carbon dioxide from it. Again this forced adaptations and changes to the way the island dwellers lived their lives, which in many cases were only adopted after wars.

The Ekrratki took longer to develop space flight than humans did on Earth because of the higher gravity and denser and higher atmosphere of Atbzak as compared to the Earth. However, they have it, putting up with delivering smaller payloads into space at a time, or using more advanced techniques than were required on Earth, for example, nuclear drives of some kind.


Back to the Top CULTURE AND SOCIETY

There are no children as such in either rrkidru [female] or grrakli [male] society, and kretdksskr [brooders], while they do have a child stage, are non-sentient. Both sentient genders are born into that gender with some knowledge and skills carried over from the previous gender. However, they are not completely ready for life in the new phase, and so all new females and males go through an apprenticeship period when they are assessed and trained and find their place in the society of their new phase.

Even in non-sentient days male Ekrratki provided grooming and parasite removal services to their females at the mating time. In most Ekrratki cultures this has continued to the present day, and expanded to also include the provision of medical treatment to females.

In general most Ekrratki cultures of the present day, and certainly the most successful and dominant ones, accept and even embrace change and technological advancement. As such their scientific knowledge and technology continues to expand and become more capable. This is assisted by the competitive nature of their society, with different groups of both females and males struggling for precedence over others, both within a given grouping and between groupings. This struggle occasionally descends into violence, but in general it is sublimated into various other competitive but non-violent activities, such as sports and song contests.


Back to the Top AMONG RRKIDRU

In the primitive state the basic unit of rrkidru [female] society is the hunting pack of, on average, some one hundred females [compared to perhaps fifty for killer whales on Earth]. Above these is a clan consisting of a number of related packs. With the development of fixed societies and closer association with males these numbers have greatly increased, so that in advanced societies tens of thousands of females may live in the same area.

Within each group of Ekrratki females, the overall structure is that of a meritocracy. The group hierarchy changes constantly with events and individual responses to them, with every female essentially keeping track of the position of themselves and others in the group hierarchy in 'real-time'.

As far as females relate to those outside their immediate group, they can keep track of some other females outside of their own group but obviously not all of them. However, these external relationships rely on their knowing what the other females are doing, so these can be out of date.

Females do not, in general, know who their parents were, as often many eggs are released to the brooders at the same time, so that it is unclear who mothers which egg. Brooder death and egg and brooder survival rates also mix this up. It is possible for females to keep track of what happens to their eggs, and thus their children and the males derived from them. However, this is difficult and complex, and socially frowned on across Atbzak.

Each new female is raised by one or more of the older generation of females in their group, in a process analogous to a mixture of adoption and patronage.

As part of this female Ekrratki practise a form of eugenics among themselves and also among brooders. Those considered unfit to live, which normally means those with genetic or other incurable disorders are killed. With modern technology it is possible for males to medically treat genetic conditions and so on among females, but most females do not believe in this because of their technology-less, hand-less lives, which drives them to be opposed to 'coddling the weak' in this way.

For similar reasons there is little in the way of a medical or social 'safety net' for female Ekrratki, and also for brooders.

Some female groups are nomadic, undertaking long-distance migrations through many different environments following their prey, sometimes alone and sometime accompanied by males in boats. Others live in more fixed locations in association with males, and have learned to herd/farm their prey animals, with the help of males.


Back to the Top AMONG GRRAKLI

Grrakli [male] society has at its basis the 'family' group of some forty individual males derived from a single female. With roughly fifty females pupating per community per Great Year, there are roughly two thousand new males per Great Year, that is, effectively, some ninety per year. Thus a male community in the primitive state is some four thousand males made up of all the males derived from an entire female social group, and this forms a larger social grouping above the 'family' level. In the present day, of course, millions of males may live in association in cities and so on.

For their society as a whole the fathering of young with multiple males fertilising one female is the basis of their society as a sort of linked clan. Above that society on a larger scale is interlocked by exchanges of males, and breeding across/outside group lines.

Because of the colonial nature of the female Ekrratki all males derived from the same female are not identical, either genetically or in terms of intelligence, personality and so on. Within each 'family' of males there is an informal hierarchy derived from which part of the female each male is derived from, with brains and senses considered the top. Obviously this is very subjective, and in fact nothing more than superstition, but it still remains a common influence in male society.

Even into the present day male 'families' retain largely ceremonial posts that perform various necessary roles. In many Ekrratki cultures these roles are named after the part of the female Ekrratki they are considered to derive from, so that there are positions names the Voice, the Eyes, the Fins (responsible for speaking for the 'family', monitoring the world for threats, and transporting or arranging transport for members of the 'family' respectively) and so on.

Each new male is adopted by one or more other males from their community, who act as what are effectively parents. Normally these are selected (by whatever means) from all of the 'families' there, so that new males keep their 'family' identity, but are also integrated into the community as a whole. In fact this is really more like the new family adopts some new 'parents' so that the new 'family' remains intact. In human terms this is a mixture of adoption and patronage, not unlike the case for females.

In the early days of the Ekrratki, male 'families' derived from a single female were essentially independent self-contained and self-sufficient units that could survive on their own, with its head, the Voice, acting as a formal link from that 'family' to the larger community derived from all females of a given group. With the development of society and knowledge, and the growth of specialised tasks, males other than the Voice also associated and worked together on common tasks, or for other 'families'. For example, in a ruling 'family' all menial tasks might be done by members of another 'family'.

Over time these 'lower-level' links between individual males evolved into social groupings - fraternal societies or gentlemen's clubs - and professional ones. These, in combination with social and technological developments as society and technology have advanced and become more complex, and also as populations have become larger, have caused the blurring of the border around 'families', as members link to other 'families' or extra-'familial' groups, and increased the importance of the fraternal and professional social groupings. Because of this these non-'family' groups have come to be as or more important in male politics and society than the 'family' ties of each individual male, and so at least as important as part of the basis of society in some male cultures.

Professional groups are often - but not exclusively - derived from things that the males have but the females do not. For example, in historical times, blacksmiths would form such a group, with members being drawn from all 'families'.

Depending on their social and professional preferences of the individual it is entirely possible for males to be members of more than one fraternity or professional body. These fraternal and professional groupings often use the same terms for positions within them - the Voice and so on - as 'families' do.

In modern male society a 'family' member in the role of servant to their own 'family' is considered to be a very low-status role.

Even in societies where profession and fraternal bodies have largely replaced 'families' as the basis of society, 'families' still provide the basis of the social safety net of the male Ekrratki.


There is a great deal of cultural diversity among the Ekrratki, although, because of the oceans of Atbzak which make true isolation harder for them, not as much as among, for example, humanity. Even in the present day there are cultures and societies that remain outside the mainstream of Ekrratki society and are viewed as primitive, strange or barbaric by it.

There are, historically speaking, four major groups of civilisations on Atbzak - islanders, floating island dwellers, ice cap dwellers and ocean nomads. These form the basis of the major Ekrratki cultural groupings down to the present day. Those based on the floating islands and the edges of the ice caps are the largest, but the islanders tend to be the richest, as they have the most access to the mineral resources of Atbzak.

There are perhaps fourteen billion male Ekrratki living on Atbzak, with roughly a billion males living on the islands, tens of millions of seagoing nomads, and the rest divided between floating islands and the fringes of the icecaps. In addition to this there are roughly 1/40th as many [2.5%] females, that is, some 350 million individuals.


Back to the Top POLITICS

The overall Ekrratki political philosophy is to bring harmony out of cacophony, that is to order and arrange the world for the benefit of some group, whether the rulers or all of its members.

Because of their biology and life cycles, the Ekrratki have no concept of all beings being created equal, because for them they are not. However, at least in the more modern societies they do have evolved a concept of all beings having a contribution and a voice.

As this philosophy has become more and widespread in the political world the more successful societies have evolved into ones in which all of their members are given a voice of some kind, and representation. Thus Ekrratki, both rrkidru [female] and grrakli [male], discuss - although (among females) this boils down to singing - the matter at hand until one voice gains a consensus. This is basically a form of democracy.

Rrkidru politics are largely driven by manoeuvrings for resources - in the form of feeding grounds and brooder sites, as well as access to male technology - and influence and power in the wider female community. The political rules governing the relationships between groups of females are largely informal and unwritten, based on relationships between groups of females that are constantly updated but also handed down from generation to generation, along with tales and precedents to give examples and guidance. In general females sing until most (or for preference all) agree and join the same song, with, between groups, legalistic song conflicts generally determining the outcome of disputes and negotiations. This works because females can keep track of large bodies of relationship data in their minds.

Grrakli politics has at its basis the 'family' group of some forty individual males derived from a single female. In the early days of the Ekrratki these 'families' manoeuvred for the advantage of their 'family' over others in terms of resources, access to females, power over other males and so on. This group forms the basic Ekrratki political unit with its head, the Voice, acting as a formal link from that 'family' to the larger community derived from all females of a given group.

Of course, males from different families who are not the Voice also associate with one another via social fraternal and professional groups that have in many societies become more important than family ones. Together these groups link male Ekrratki society together.

How the 'families' within a given settlement are organised into a group differs from place to place, in any of a vast number of ways, at least as varied as the different political organisations of humanity, from hierarchical absolutisms analogous to human monarchies, to representative or even participatory democracies. As with humanity, and for similar reasons, a democratic structure of some kind has proven to be the best for promoting an advancing and stable society.

In some male governments there are two political deliberating bodies [both equivalent to, for example, the House of Commons] who propose, debate and accept or reject governmental actions, one derived from the 'families' and one from the professional and/or fraternal groups. In others there is only one deliberating body derived from a mixture of these three. In others again, more technocratic governments have only the representatives of professional groups participating in the political process.

In many male governments, the females they are derived from - or a subset of them - act as a 'second house', providing a counterbalance and another point of view to the male political process.

With the rise of a global technological culture on Atbzak, the Ekrratki have been obliged to develop political mechanisms to resolve and mediate disputes among the different political and cultural groups of Atbzak. As such an organisation known as the Gakekdkdk [the 'Universal Choir', roughly equivalent to the United Nations on Earth] has developed to fill this role. Although not quite a world government, it is the closest things to one the Ekrratki have.


Back to the Top THE ECONOMY

Not unlike the case with humans, the economy of the male Ekrratki is based on the exchange of goods and services in return for money, or vice versa. The range of goods and services found within the Ekrratki economy is at least as wide as that within the human economy.

Among themselves female Ekrratki simply keep track of credit and debt, repaid by services, respect, songs and other intangible commodities. As part of the male economy, females cannot provide goods, but they can perform any number of services, from ones using their signal processing and pattern recognition abilities or simply their high intelligence, on tasks males find difficult or impossible, to medical ultrasound scans of males or things built by males, to all kinds of underwater tasks, such as surveying, sea farming and so on. For economic interactions with males, females normally make use of the male financial institutions, although in any case these often have significant female involvement in areas such as strategy.

Because females can handle more data and see a 'bigger picture' than males, and also than humans, some of the more successful polities on Atbzak have had more success with central planning approaches compared to those of, for example, humans.


Back to the Top SEXUAL ATTITUDES

Because multiple males mate with a given female, male Ekrratki have no inhibitions against having sex in company, and no nudity taboo. Because of this they only wear clothing for practical or decorative purposes, not out of a wish to cover themselves from sight out of embarrassment or shame.

Because sex is so enjoyable for males, when they have their monthly mating urge, even males who cannot or do not wish to actually breed often do not wish to miss out on the pleasure involved. The layout of the male body makes male masturbation quite difficult, and so homosexual relationships for this purpose are common among male Ekrratki. Some of these are casual, but others are longer lasting and with an emotional investment on both sides.

Females who cannot or do not wish to breed also would prefer not to miss out on the pleasure involved in sex. However, their lack of hands makes this difficult. Thus females suffer sexual frustration and associated bad-temperedness if they cannot mate, not out of any physical problem, but because of what they know they are missing. It is not entirely unknown for males to provide sexual but non-mating services to females during this time, for payment, or just out of love of the female or females generally.


Back to the Top DEATH

The rare females who expire in open water for whatever reason - injury from prey animals or other sources, disease, predator attack and so on - are left to simply fall to the sea floor where they die, without any sort of grave marker. Those who die in other circumstances are carried out to sea by other members of their social group and left to fall there. However, all of them are remembered, and songs sung for and about them, with those with greater deeds being remembered for longer. There are a very few females who are remembered from the very down of Ekrratki history, and far more from more recent times.

All males are buried at sea, to return them to the environment that birthed them. This is normally done with some ceremony. All males are remembered by at the very least their 'family', and also by any fraternities and professional groupings that they are part of. These remembrances take the form of stelae, stone slabs inscribed with the details of the 'family', fraternity or professional grouping that erected it, and the names (and perhaps other details) of the dead, that are erected along the sea coast. Stelae are used until there is no more space on them, when a new one is erected to continue the remembrance. Because of this in some locations that have been used for long periods there are 'stelae forests' containing stelae of all ages, with the oldest ones eroded by time and weather, perhaps down to stubs.

Males erect similar stelae for females with whom they associate who die rather than metamorphosise into males, so that they may remember them in the same way.

Brooders that die before metamorphosising into females are remembered, but not mourned greatly. Their deaths are considered to be less of a loss, and part of the natural order of things.


Back to the Top INHERITANCE

Because of the way in which their reproduction works there is no inheritance of power, position, wealth or property by blood in Ekrratki society.

Some primitive Ekrratki societies did try to do something analogous to this, with divination used to find the next ruler and ruling 'family', as well as, sometimes, the other important positions within society. However, this worked about as well as random selection of the ruler might be expected to, and so is largely abandoned by all but a few societies on Atbzak.

Females of course have no property to inherit. However, they can have wealth. In most male polities new males inherit the wealth of the female they originate from. This provides every new male with a 'seed fund' to get them started in life. Some male polities change a 'birth tax' on this inherited wealth to cover the costs of assisting females to pupate and males to be born, but many absorb these costs as they are for the good of the community as a whole. Other male polities do not do this, and instead the wealth of all metamorphosising females is pooled and divided equally among all the new males derived from all the females of a given generation.

In males inheritance occurs through the fraternities and professional groupings of which they are a part, although sometimes inheritance occurs with a 'family' too, despite the fact that all males of a given 'family' are of the same age and so all have roughly the same life span. Because of this some fraternities and professional groupings are very rich.


Back to the Top CRIME AND LAW

Among the rrkidru [female] Ekrratki there is no written law. Instead, much like the case with their politics, there is tradition, encapsulating both expected behaviours and punishment for transgressions, that is handed down from generation to generation, along with tales and precedents to give examples and guidance. This works because females can keep track of large bodies of data in their minds, and also because the basic female social unit of some one hundred individuals is fairly small. Even between these female groups the law among them remains fairly informal, with legalistic song conflicts generally determining the outcome of disputes and negotiations.

Females remain, from a human perspective, rather primitive in their punishments of crime. The penalties for crimes in their society range from:

For the penalties of exile, shunning and outlawry this sentence can be for a set period, or permanent, depending on the crime.

Among grrakli [males] there are a large array of different legal systems and punishments for what those legal systems consider to be crimes. These are almost as varied as among humans, although the more unified global Ekrratki culture limits the amount of variation to some extent. Likewise there are many different opinions as to the sources of crime and other social problems.

The basis of all male legal systems is a form of collective responsibility. In the past this was based on all of the members of a single 'family' derived from a single female being responsible for each others actions, and sharing in both rewards and punishments. With advances in knowledge and the understanding of how 'families' work, more advanced cultures have rejected these ideas. However, most have not removed the idea of collective responsibility. Instead the responsible group has changed to ones governed by social and/or professional ties rather than 'family' ones.

Some male groups make use of female judges, as they are considered more able to see the 'whole picture' and give impartial justice.

Penalties under the male legal system are what modern humans might consider to be more civilised, and cover at least as wide a range as those under human law, including fines, imprisonment, penal labour and so on. One type of punishment uncommon among humans is the use of eugenic practises to prevent the passing on of what are considered to be 'bad genes' to the next generation; in primitive times this would be done by castration, but now it is done by surgical means.

The most major difference between male Ekrratki and human law is that because of the greater focus on collective responsibility, punishments of all kinds are often likewise collective ones.


Back to the Top DRESS AND DECORATION

Rrkidru [female] Ekrratki do not wear clothing for protection from the elements. However, it is not unknown for them to wear decorations. In primitive times these might consist of scarification that was visible by sonar. Now more sophisticated sonar-visible decorations, for example sonar-visible decorations implanted under the skin or attached to the body in such as way as to not spoil their swimming ability are used instead. A very few have fin piercings and other such decorations.

In many parts of the world grrakli [males] do have to wear clothing for protection from the elements. This comes in a variety of forms, but the most common are four-legged trousers and four-armed shirts and coats that open along one side to allow them to be put on, along with shoes made to fit their large round feet. Poncho-like garments with four sleeves are also quite common, as are skirts. Long robes also exist, but are much less common. Belts are widely used.

All clothing for the upper body of male Ekrratki includes eye-holes, and often also ear-holes. All clothing that goes over the top of the body includes either openings or vents of some kind to allow the male to breathe. Outside of these constraints male clothing comes in a vast number of styles and types, from functional to decorative, with at least as much variation as is the case for humans. Some male Ekrratki styles include large hats that cover the entire top of the body, more like a small roof, and which strap on under the arms.


Back to the Top AN EKRRATKI RACIAL SYMBOL

Were they to require one, an Ekrratki racial symbol might be as shown here. It symbolically describes both them and their home solar system.

The basic shape of the symbol is a diamond with its long axis vertical, and its horizonal axis some 62% the size of the vertical one. It has a dark red field that represents Atbzak, their homeworld. The three genders of the Ekrratki themselves are represented by three nested circles in the centre of the symbol. A black innermost circle represents the Brooders, a middle dark beige one the females and an outer one of alternating light and dark grey coloured bars the males; the number of bars represents the average number of males born from each female, that is, forty. All three parts of the circle have equal areas, indicating the equal importance of all three genders. Going from the centre of the circle to the edge represents the life cycle of the Ekrratki.

Beyond the Ekrratki themselves, A dark purple disc below the centre of the symbol indicates Atkadkka, the sibling world, while a large orange disc above it indicates their sun, Hsil, and a smaller orange disc to the right of the centre indicates Hsatee, the companion star of Hsil.

The Ekrratki Symbol


Back to the Top EKRRATKI FOOD AND DRINK

Rrkidru [female] Ekrratki in the primitive state eat raw meat only, from any living thing they can catch. In the civilised state, with male assistance, they enjoy a diet including types of meat they could not obtain by themselves, and also meat prepared with spices and so on that they could not produce for themselves; because of their poor sense of taste any such spices are in general very strong by human standards. Despite this, most females remain convinced that natural untreated meat is the best for them. There are a number of stimulants and other drugs that are enjoyed by some females; these are usually delivered in capsules that they ingest and which they break in the tube of their body for ingestion or inhalation.

As omnivores, if ones with a bias towards meat, grrakli [male] Ekrratki have a much wider-ranging diet than the females. Male cuisine is quite as varied as that of humans on Earth, though again because of their limited senses of smell and taste the flavours of their food tend to be much stronger than those of human cuisine. Depending on their location on Atbzak any of a vast range of animal and vegetable product may be eaten, prepared in any of a vast array of ways. Like females, males enjoy a number of drugs and other such substances, ranging from alcohol-like beverages to any of a number of other drugs, both legal and illegal.


Back to the Top ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Rrkidru [female] arts are entirely ephemeral, consisting of song, storytelling and dance. Tales and songs - including history, myths and legends as well as simply entertainment - are passed down from generation to generation. Some of these form a fundamental underpinning of their entire racial worldview and elements of their psychology, not just of the females, but through the metamorphosis between phases also of the males of the species.

Some of these stories are so ingrained into their culture that no-one would consider writing them down, as they are 'something everyone knows'. These stories form a reservoir of cultural references and allusions that outsiders might find very hard to understand. Over the years numbers of these have been written down by males, and studied, but most of these transcriptions lose at least some of the depth of the original female stories.

Grrakli [male] arts are not entirely dissimilar to those of humans, with music, literature, dance, painting, sculpture and so on all being present, although the techniques and details of these art forms are very much shaped by the different physique and psychology of the Ekrratki, as well as by the different spectral ranges of their sight and hearing.

Both females and males play pattern-matching games. Those of females in particular are fiendishly complex from a human point of view.


Back to the Top LANGUAGE

All of the Ekrratki cultures on Atbzak are linked by the ocean, and also by the fact that the females inhabit that ocean, through which sound - their voices - can travel long distances. Because of this there is little geographical isolation there, and because of this only one global language among the Ekrratki; this is also helped by there being a relatively small population of females. This language is known as Ileekail. Although all one language Ileekail does have accents and dialects, especially among the males of the species, and also local slang and codes, secret languages and so on. Ileekail words can be created using this Ekrratki Word Generator.

Because of the mental and physical differences between rrkidru [female] and grrakli [male] Ekrratki males and females speak different versions of Ileekail. The female version is fast, compressed and dense with information. The male version, on the other hand, is slower and simpler - a 'baby talk' version of what the females speak. This means that communicating with males can be perceived as a slow and tedious task by females, although obviously it has to be done.

The nature of the female and male Ekrratki vocal systems also means that Ileekail is a language that can be spoken in chords rather than just one sound at a time as humans do. [It is meant to sound somewhat like a most complex version of whale whistles and clicks to human ears.]

In Ileekail the name of their race translates as roughly 'the Three-In-One'.


Back to the Top NAMES

For the vast majority of rrkidru [female] Ekrratki individual names are of the form ' of generation of '. The personal name is given to a given female by the older generation of females who raise them. The generation number is the same for all females of the same generation, as they all emerge from their pupae at roughly the same time in the same Great Year. This generation number is an indication of the age of the brooder grove and thus of the female grouping and male settlement derived from it, and indicates a level of seniority among such groups; even if this has no real power, it often has influence.

In most societies grrakli [male] names are the female name, with a male personal name added to the front of the female name. This is normally told to older males of a given settlement before the female in question pupates. However, in some Ekrratki societies males take on an entirely new name, unrelated to that of the female they are derived from.


Back to the Top WRITTEN LANGUAGE

Given their lack of hands there is no written script used by females, although they can learn to read scripts written by males. It is also possible for males to take transcripts of female speech.

There are a number of different written scripts used by males. These vary from logogrammatic [like Chinese among humans] to alphabetic ones. The most commonly used script is an alphabetic one used to write the male version of Ileekail and its related languages. This script is known as Ildkdkka.


Back to the Top NUMBERS

The physical layout of the Ekrratki, both females with two sets of four fins and males with four hands each of which have four digits, leans them towards counting in fours. However, base four is not a terribly convenient counting system, so the vast majority of Ekrratki societies instead use a base derived from that, base sixteen.

There are a very few largely primitive groups who continue to use older systems based on combinations of four and three (from their number of genders), counting in base twelve or base seven. And even among Ekrratki society as a whole three-fold cycles and things in threes are considered to be significant, although precisely how such things are interpreted varies from group to group.


Back to the Top TIME

As with humans, the Ekrratki system of time measurement is derived from the natural cycles of their world. Based on this they have three fundamental time units:

Within the day-night cycle, time on Atbzak is divided into sixteen equal shorter periods each one of which is roughly six and half Earth hours long; these are used to divide up time into (for example) periods of working, resting and leisure. Among females, whose sonar makes them largely independent of daylight, these continue unchanged through day and night. Among males, who rely on sight, activities do vary depending on whether it is day or night, but they do continue constantly. On the half of Atbzak facing Atkadkka this is aided by the bright reflected light from it [equivalent to moonlight, but much brighter] which means that apart from when cloud cover is very heavy the nights of that half of Atbzak are rarely very dark, even ignoring artificial light. It is also aided by light from the star Hsatee.

These sixteen shorter periods are subdivided into sixteen equal shorter periods, each of which is roughly 24 Earth minutes long; these are roughly equivalent to hours among humans. These are divided into 256 equal periods of roughly 5.6 seconds each. These are the fundamental unit of time among the Ekrratki [roughly equivalent to minutes and/or seconds among humans], and are subdivided by factors of sixteen as required to measure shorter periods of time.


Back to the Top EKRRATKI SETTLEMENTS

There are no rrkidru [female] settlements on Atbzak; females simply live in the ocean as it is, although they may use facilities built for them by grrakli [male]. Most females also associate with males and their settlements on a regular or even permanent basis.

Given the high level of weather and tectonic activity on Atbzak, the settlements of land-living male Ekrratki are built to be as resistant to the vagaries of the environment as possible. This includes, among other things, making them resistant to storms and violent weather of all kinds, planet-quakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunami. Because of this many settlements, particularly old ones, are located in natural shelters, such as in the lee of hills and so on. Others are constructed underground, with the males who live there having a troglodytic existence. Even when they are built above ground very few Ekrratki buildings reach a very great height by human standards.

There are two main forms of land-based architecture on Atbzak:

Regardless of their design many male settlements also incorporate various forms of protection around themselves. Many use windbreaks of various kinds, often consisting of 'forests' of wind turbines to break the force of the wind while also extracting energy from it. Coastal cities may use sea walls to deflect waves and tsunami, or, in a similar manner to the windbreaks, shoals of wave power generators to both blunt and exploit the force of the sea.

To allow females to associate with them, despite the difficulties of doing so many male cities are on or close to the coast, and are laced with canals or underwater tunnels to allow females access to the city as a whole. In some places these also run inland to allow females to reach non-coastal settlements. Cities and so on also often have artificial lakes and pools to allow male-female interaction.

Meeting places used for contact between female and male Ekrratki are water-filled and constructed like stepped pools. There is a deep end where females can comfortably fit submerged and whose size can vary from enough for one female to as large as necessary, and a shallow end where males can sit with at some of their ears underwater to listen to the females, and some above to listen to one another, while keeping their arms out of the water. This way there is contact between the two genders in a way that works for both of them. These meeting places have evolved from prehistoric seacoast locations where females could come close to shore and males could partially submerge themselves to listen and talk to them. These were then carved and modified by males to make them better, then artificially constructed where required.

Because of the limitations their dwelling place puts on the weight that can be supported, those males who dwell on the ice caps and floating islands tend to make use of light and flexible building structures. However, because the floating islands tend to ride out storms and tsunami this is less of a problem for them. For ice cap dwellers this can be more of a problem, so ice dwellings are often constructed down into the ice rather than above it.

Because of fluctuations in the edge of the ice cap over the course of the year and Great Year, ice cities tend to be far from the nominal edge of the ice. They are thus accessed by air, underwater, by submarines travelling under the ice to dock under the ice or surface in ice-free holes cut in the ice, or by icebreaker ships that keep channels to the cities open.

The size and shape of male Ekrratki mean that doors are normally rectangular, somewhat taller for them than for humans, and significantly wider than human doors.


Back to the Top RELIGION

Not unlike the case with humans, as the Ekrratki as a race and a set of civilisations first developed they invented a number of beliefs to explain the world as they perceived it and how it works, its functioning and their place in it. Over time these evolved into religions. With the advancement of their science and technology since then, many of these beliefs have become outmoded and less widely held by the population as a whole, but despite this many of them remain deeply ingrained in Ekrratki society, in particular among the grrakli [males] of the species.

Many of these groups of beliefs differ greatly from one another in what they believe and how they see the world. Because of this there is a great deal of potential for religious conflict among them, and this has sometimes been the cause of violence and even wars between different groups.

There are a number of distinct groups of religious beliefs on Atbzak.


Back to the Top SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

As is the case with humans, the development of Ekrratki technology has been shaped by the environment of their world. Unlike the case with humans it has also been shaped by the need to not pollute the seas, as they are vital to the Ekrratki kretdksskr [brooders] and rrkidru [females], and thus to the Ekrratki race as a whole.

Females have been able to give a significant number of insights and analyses into male Ekrratki psychology and society, ones that have made those male groups and cultures that accept them more stable, progressive and calmer than others around Atbzak. In particular this has eased the tensions caused by population growth and higher population densities, and also at least some of the problems caused by advances in technology. The success of such techniques has seen them adopted more widely in time, and this is another factor that has helped the reasonably close integration of all of the cultures and groupings of Atbzak. Whether the females have similar insights into themselves is another matter altogether.

Despite the heavier gravity of Atbzak, shipbuilding was able to advance at least as rapidly as on Earth [as the depths to which things sink due to their buoyancy is independent of gravity]. Because of the thicker atmosphere sailing ships required much smaller sails than was the case on Earth. The more violent winds and weather of Atbzak did, on the other hand, limit the sailing abilities of the male Ekrratki, at least in the early days. Because of this Ekrratki ships tend to be flatter and more raft-like than human ships. They also make more use of catamarans, trimarans and multi-hulled ships generally than do humans.

One more serious limitation on their technological development has been the high partial pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere of Atbzak, which is some four a half times more than that of the Earth. This mean that things burn much faster on Atbzak than they do on Earth; things also corrode much more quickly there than on Earth. This led to the fall of a number of civilisations in Ekrratki history as they burned all of their resources, including things such as coal. Eventually they were able to develop means to limit the speed of combustion, which enabled their technology to advance more rapidly.

As their technology developed the grrakli [male] Ekrratki made use of the natural energy sources of their world. Although there are fossil fuels such as coal and oil there, the high level of oxygen in their atmosphere and thus the faster burning of these fuels limited their use. On the other hand the higher degree of tectonic activity and strong winds, waves and tides of Atbzak meant that the Ekrratki developed geothermal, wind, wave and tidal energy generation technology early compared to humanity as their world is well suited for it, and continue to use it to the present day. As another a side effect of this they retain the use of sailing ships into the present day. Many of these are of advanced designs analogous to human turbosails and wingsails [see also here and in particular the Macquarie Innovation].

The Ekrratki took longer to develop space flight than humans did on Earth because of the higher gravity and denser and higher atmosphere of Atbzak as compared to that of the Earth. However, they have it, putting up with delivering smaller payloads into space at a time and having to use more advanced techniques than were required on Earth, for example nuclear drives. Needless to say, the much greater mass of the female Ekrratki means that without very advanced drives far fewer of them, if any, will make it into space.

Because of the sibling worlds arrangement of Atbzak and Atkadkka, and the fact that the two worlds are tidally locked to one another, the equivalent of geosynchronous satellites are impossible on either Atbzak or Atkadkka; the geosynchronous position is on the other world. There are stable Lagrange points associated with the sibling worlds that provide a relatively stable position over parts of Atbzak, but they are tens of times further away from Atbzak than geosynchronous orbit is from the Earth and there are parts of Atbzak that cannot be covered by a fixed satellite. Thus satellite communications is more complex there, requiring larger numbers of moving satellites, and took longer to develop.

Their counting in base sixteen has assisted them with the development of computing technology, although the females' natural ability in this area has, on the other hand, retarded them too.

With advances in medical technology there has been research to try and sustain the female phase of Ekrratki life for longer, mainly driven by females and particularly those of the philosophy that questions why the superior female must become the inferior male. However, so far this has run into the seemingly insurmountable problem of female dementia that inevitably strikes those female volunteers who live beyond two Great Years.

Ekrratki technology is all, at the very least, waterproof and most of it is capable of surviving full submersion. Much of it is also built to float, even though this can make items somewhat more bulky.

Because of the larger and somewhat less dextrous hands of the male Ekrratki, the buttons and controls of their technology are generally larger than those for humans. Their devices tend to be less compact than those of humans for the same reason.

Similarly, Ekrratki displays [television screens, computer monitors and so on] have a different colour distribution than those used by humans because Ekrratki eyes see a different range of colours to them. There are no blues or purples, and often no colours above green, but the colours they display extend into the infra-red instead.

For males, rifles and pistols tend to be larger than those built for humans, as their hands are larger and they are quite strong. Also the thicker atmosphere of Atbzak means that more powerful projectiles are required to achieve significant range, which makes projectile guns larger. Apart from those few designs that require the use of two thumbs to operate Ekrratki handguns would be usable by humans, although with more difficulty than ones designed for humans. Humans could not use Ekrratki rifles on their shoulders, but could fire them from the hip.

Male Ekrratki use seats like a sort of cross-shaped saddle or stool that the male sits on, with the hips going between the 'arms' of the cross. They do not have seats like a human armchair or sofa in which they can sink back and lounge.

In many Ekrratki vehicles driven by males all four arms and four eyes are used to control them, although for simpler vehicles such as cars this is normally not necessary. Some vehicles have a large windscreen at the front with the instruments and controls behind the driver to take advantage of their all-round vision. They might well wonder how humans manage to drive safely at all given their comparatively limited number of limbs and narrow field of vision! In vehicles males have to sit with one pair of arms along the front to back line of the car and other side to side. This allows them to have binocular vision over as much of the forward view, and so of the road ahead, as possible. Thus seats in vehicles, which do have a back rest to support males against acceleration, have the rest supporting them between the rear arm and leg. Males have to 'rotate' themselves into these car seats.

Many modern females have prosthetic enhancements to their mouthpart-blades, covering, edging or even replacing them with sharper, tougher ones in stainless steel or titanium. A lesser number of females make use of other technological devices, such as radios. All controls for devices to be used by females must, of course, be very simple and robust if they are to be operated physically. More complex and/or delicate devices must be operated by other means, such as voice control.

Even though male Ekrratki are radially symmetrical, their spacesuits are not. External air tanks and manoeuvring jets still form the equivalent of a backpack, mounted under one male eye even though not actually on the back of the male as such.

Among the Ekrratki there have been some suggestions to Atbzak-form Atkadkka, introducing plants and so on to it. However, the low nutrient levels in its waters makes this impractical, and the oceans of Atkadkka are far too large and deep to easily seed with nutrients, although this could perhaps be done in enclosed areas or perhaps on the ice caps. It is possible to scoop air from its atmosphere for use in space; this is currently considered the most useful thing that it can be used for...


Back to the Top OTHER RACES

Assuming equivalent levels of technology, the Ekrratki would be formidable opponents to any other race. They are numerous, strong, fast, and have a high percentage on genius-level intellects among their population. On the other hand the high-gravity, high-pressure environment of Atbzak makes it harder for them to access space and requires more robust space vessels and habitats than, for example, humans do.

Because of the greater pressure of the Atbzakian atmosphere a given volume of its air has roughly four and a half times as much oxygen as the same volume of Earth air [that is, it is equivalent to breathing air at one Earth atmosphere of pressure consisting of some 95% oxygen]. This is easily enough to cause pulmonary oxygen toxicity in humans, beginning within a day of starting to breathe their air, and, with long enough exposure, causing irreversible lung damage. This is not helped by the higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the air of Atbzak which will also drive humans there to breathe faster, possibly leading to hyperventilation and exacerbating the process of lung damage.

Conversely, for the Ekrratki the atmosphere of the Earth contains only 23% as much oxygen in a volume as the air they are used to, and the water is likewise low in oxygen from their perspective. It is possible for all phases of the Ekrratki to acclimatise to these conditions [roughly equivalent to humans acclimatising to high altitudes], but this would take time.

Given the complexity, speed and wide frequency range of the speech of rrkidru [female] Ekrratki, normal humans are simply incapable of hearing much of it, or of learning to understand it, much less speak it. It would be possible to use audio transceivers covering the entire Ekrratki vocal range coupled to computers to translate to or from it, but communication would still be limited because a female Ekrratki phrase translated into a human tongue would take much longer for the human to listen to and understand than it did for the female to say, and likewise for a human to say something that would be compressed when being translated into female speech. Female Ekrratki would probably cope with this, as it would be similar to how they communicate with grrakli [male] Ekrratki, but it would not help. Also, the fact that the Ekrratki speak in chords rather than individual sounds means that it would be almost impossible for humans to speak even the male version of Ekrratki languages, again requiring, for example, technological assistance, although they could perhaps learn to understand it if frequency conversion was used.

Given their behaviour towards the other sentient life forms of their home world they may not react well to competition from other sentient life forms that they encounter. Certainly some females retain the attitude that removing competitors for the good of the race is a good thing. However, their extermination of their rivals on their home world was in their very early history, and so they may well not react in quite such an extreme fashion to other sentient races in the present day. This will probably depend on their assessment of their relative strengths as much as anything else. Also, given the liking of the females of their species for the hunt, they may enjoy the competition, or even a war, as long as it was not one that threatens their species as a whole.

It would take the Ekrratki some time to comprehend the human life cycle and the role of children in it, as it is so different from their own, with only the non-sentient brooders having anything resembling childhood among humans.

Because their home world of Atbzak is of a fairly rare type the Ekrratki may not be too interested in other life-bearing worlds such as the Earth, and instead colonise space by way of space habitats of various kinds. On the other hand, depending on how easily they can adapt to other worlds with extensive oceans, again such as the Earth, they may wish to colonise such suitable worlds, leading to conflict.

To the Ekrratki the world of Hsilat and Dkakekdkeedat, the large moon of the gas giant planet Etbzggak, are considered to be largely useless for colonisation (although not for mining and so on), as they are small, dry and relatively airless. However, they would both be much more hospitable to humans or more human-like races.

Assuming a level playing field in terms of technology and force levels, it is likely that the Ekrratki would win a confrontation with humanity. This is because the Ekrratki have, in their females, a much higher percentage of genius savant-level individuals than is the case with humanity, as well as, in their males, an entire race of physically superior individuals. This combination together could give them a great advantage.


Back to the Top NOTES

The Ekrratki were originally intended to be an aquatic race that also had a plausible way to have technology comparable to that of humanity. Out of this they also developed into a race with a very high degree of sexual dimorphism (trimorphism really) and so into their current form.

This alien race was somewhat more complex to write up than my earlier ones (the Oghaldzon and the Txkri) because of their more complex solar system, the distinctly non-Earth-like nature of their home world and their complex life cycle. But it was still interesting!

Despite how different the Ekrratki are to humanity the fact they are self-willed social creatures who share many of the same drives and needs as humans - to breed, to feed, to socialise, to work cooperatively to some end and so on - means that as far as I can see they would have evolved similar or analogous social structures and mechanisms, such as laws, religion and the like. In particular I feel that a society of creatures like this, in which all individuals (of a given gender in this case) are self-willed and comparable in abilities would have to evolve into a form that is reasonably egalitarian and democratic in order to thrive. Thus they have many points of commonality with humanity and other similar social species. Of course, this in no sense guarantees mutual understanding, harmony or cooperation in the same way that different human cultures do not necessarily get along, but there is at least the hope of such...

I have deliberately not specified very much about Ekrratki technology, apart from saying that they have gone into space. This is entirely intentional, as it makes the race reasonably generic so that they can be tailored to fit into different backgrounds as required.

The Ekrratki solar system was generated with help from the star system generation system of the Traveller roleplaying game, again extended using my own ideas.

The Ekrratki Word Generator is derived from Traveller alien word generator software found at the Welcome to The Patinir Belt site.

61 Cygni A is a star close to the Sun that is not unlike the stars of the Hsil-Hsatee system.

To my shame, I'm not sure where the original version of the background used on this page (heavily modified from the original) comes from. Regardless it is here for personal use only and not for profit or commercial gain.

The font used for the banner on this page is called Smoking Tequila and comes from the dafont.com site.


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