The Lonely Galaxy Megathread (comments encouraged)

Discussions about constructed worlds, cultures and any topics related to constructed societies.
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The Lonely Galaxy Megathread (comments encouraged)

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"The Lonely Galaxy" written in Commonthroat
The Setting
Do other minds dwell among the stars? A team of six explorers sets out in a tiny sleeper ship named the Dewfall seeking an answer to that very question. After a two and a half century voyage spent in metabolic suspension, they arrive in orbit around a planet that may harbor intelligent life. Many others have made similar journeys before them only to return home as alone as when they left. But this time is different. The ship's AI picks up non random radio emissions from the planet's surface. This is it! They've finally found other rational souls after crying out into the blind infinity for what seems like forever. Upon landing on the surface and alighting their craft, our brave explorers come face-to-face with... humans. This is yet another story about First Contact, but not just for humanity. It turns out that among all the potentially habitable planets in the galaxy, only two have nurtured intelligent life, and Earth is one of them.

Now there are two species, endowed with reason and conscience, who must learn to walk down the hard road of life together.

Lore
The list has gotten long enough to justify collapsing it into a spoiler tag.
Spoiler:
The Great Commandment
The Inner Planets of Focus (WIP)
Physical Description
The Orbit of Yih and Its Effects on Yinrih Biology and Culture
By the Palms that Nursed Me!
The Wrist and Writing Claw
Erickson, TX
Xenoergonomics: Postures
Xenoergonomics: The Desk
Writing with the Writing Claw
Yinrih Mathematics
Xenoergonomics: Drinking Vessels
Some Body Language and Paralinguistic Vocalizations
Powered Armor Helmet
I Choose You... For Dinner!
retribution field generator
Mule Punch
Still Working on Anatomy
Paw Gauntlet
Carrying the Tail
The Beginnings of the Bright Way
Steadtree Fruit
Somewhat Realistic Sketch
Amnions
Seasonal Feasts: Winter Solstice
HUD Specs and Earpiece
Handy Feet
The Star Hearth
How is Babby Formed
They Need To Do Way Instain Mother
Tree Dwellers
Dogtors
Sketching the rest of Focus
The Fall of the Bright Way (WIP)
Sunshine of Hearthside
Orbital Colonies and Wayfarers' Haven
Leaseminds and Fabricators
Reject Yinrih. Return to Tree-Dweller
Perfumes
Amnion Rendered in Lego Bricks
More Subfactions of the Atavists
The City of Eternal Noon
More Lego: Retribution Field Generator
The Star Hearth in Lego
Wayfarer's Prayer Ring
3D Steadtree Fruit
The Hard Problem of Unconsciousness
Star Lanterns
The Yinrih Can into Space
The Mechanists
Raw Tailstone Crystals
Underlay tunnel interface card
Making the Galaxy Less Lonely
Powered Armor Torso Jacket
Broad Strokes History between Sapience and First Contact
Interplanetary Ferries
The Outer Belt
Xenoergonomics: Spacer's Canteen
Yinrih Milk
Golden Hour City
Xenoergonomics: Tail Gesture Ring
The Litany of Creation
Micro Mechs
HUD Specs Render
The Knights of the Sun
The Noosphere
YAP and YIP
Firefly
The Birth of the Partisans
Farspeakers
Pascal the Wanderer
But What do the Missionaries DO, Anyway?
Bachelor's Mantle
Tod the Luckless
Tod the Luckless, Part 2
Teenage Wasteland
Shoes
Binomial Nomenclature
Of All Things The Light is the Measure
What's in a Name?
Mind Candy
Exovoviviparans and Forest Flyers
I Like Trains
The Spring Feast
Iris and Lodestar
Bright Way Epistemology
Natural Philosophy
Silence
Connecting the Terran Internet to the Monkey Fox Ansible Network
The War of Dissolution Begins
Front Paw Print (Female)
Terraboos
Rear Paw Print
Front Paw Print (male)
Yih's Ring and Claravian Iconography
Ear Notch
St. Cloudlight the Sensible
Medi-mechs
The Healer's Paw
The Star and Gear
A Brief History of Commonthroat and Linguistic Overview of Focus
Symbol for the Missionaries
Ora et Laboratory
The Black Paw
Thought on Yinrih Eyes
Butter Analog
Xenoergonomics: Vehicle Cockpit
Bright Way Eschatology
A Spacer Doing what Spacers Do
Yeaning Sickness
More on Ferries
Stormlight Blackpelt
Icon of Sin
The Weremoot and Wifemoot
Allied Worlds Currency
One Man's Trash...
Hearthkeeper's Canticles
Monkey Fox Linemen
The Dawn of Sapience
Part of a not-so-balanced Breakfast
The Bright Way on the Environment
Some Effects of First Contact on the English Language
I'm a Person and I Have Personal Space!
Friendship is Magic!
Lucy
Ludd Laws
Tailslengths and Heartbeats
More on the Knights of the Sun
The Rite of Alightment
The Butt Brain
Visual Adornment
That's Some Accent You Got There
Fly Like A Brick
Say the Black and Do the Red
Commonthroat's Original Autonym
I Find Your Lack of Fur Disturbing
Torpor
Why Red is Unlucky
Coat Patterns
More Mech Musings
1-Year Anniversary
More on Mechs and the Knights of the Sun
Sweetwater
Paw Coverings
Womb Ship Layout
Ladder Wells
Just a Yinrih Face I Guess
Overbrooding Syndrome
Slavery
St. Aurora's Draft
Stories
Caveat Lector: I'm not a professional or even an aspiring author. These stories are primarily mental exercises to help me build the world, and also a way to present lore in a hopefully more interesting format compared to just listing historical events or statistics. Having said that, constructive criticism is encouraged. In the end I hope these stories are at least worth the time it takes to read them.
The House of Friendship
The Tornado
Are We As Mayflies?
The Artificer's Litter
Beating the Heat: Part 1
Beating the Heat: Part 2
The Mass Router
The Ansible
The Spacer Confederacy
Mundane Utility
First Contact, Part I
Table Manners: Part 1
Table Manners: Part 2
First Contact, part 1.5
The Farspeaker's Aprentice

Links to previous story threads. These have been reposted in this thread, but I'm linking to them here for the sake of the curious. If you want to comment on a story please do so in this thread rather than on the original. Conlang
The yinrih who land on Earth speak a language called Commonthroat. I'm developing a detailed grammar here in the Conlangs subforum.
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The Great Commandment

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Consider, little ones, the Tree-dwellers, the very clay from which I sculpted your form. They do naught but what I permit them to do. They move about, seek refuge, nourish themselves, and beget young according to the passions which I have kindled within them. Yet do they gain any merit thereby? By no means! For they do so without understanding. They paint the leaves, yet they cannot write a single glyph. They call out to one another, yet they cannot chant a single syllable. But to you, little ones, to you alone among the myriads of creatures walking upon the land and swimming beneath the waves and soaring upon the wind of this earth, I have granted the light of understanding. Now gaze, little ones, upon the countless stars bedewing the heavens. Think ye that I have wrought them for no purpose? Nay, each one is an icon of my glory. Know ye that there are others like yourselves, in whom I have kindled the fire of understanding. Their bone is not of your bone, their flesh is not of your flesh, yet their souls are like unto your own. search among these stars for other minds, that together ye might meditate upon the majesty of my creation. Listen to them for other voices, that together ye might chant my praises. Seek among them other hearts, and offer to them your friendship. Go, dearest little ones, spread your light to the stars, and ye shall become brighter yourselves.
And here's a version I tried translating into Anglish for some reason:
Spoiler:
Behold, little ones, the Tree-dwellers, the same clay from which I shaped your bodies. They do naught but what I leave them to do. They move about, seek shelter, feed themselves, and beget young only by the stirrings which I have kindled within them. Yet do they win any worth thereby? By no means! For they do so without understanding. They bespot the leaves, yet they cannot write one staff. They call out to one another, yet they cannot sing a single verse. But to you, little ones, to you alone among all of the beings walking upon the land and swimming beneath the waves and flying upon the wind of this earth, I have given the light of understanding. Now look, little ones, upon the unending stars bedewing the heavens. Think ye that I have wrought them for nothing? Nay, each one shines forth my wolder. Know ye that there are others like yourselves, in whom I have kindled the fire of understanding. Their bone is not of your bone, their flesh is not of your flesh, yet their souls are like unto your own. lait among these stars for other minds, that together ye might bethink all that I have wrought. Listen to them for other stevens, that together ye might herry me in song. Seek among them other hearts, and offer to them your friendship. Go, dearest little ones, spread your light to the stars, and ye shall become brighter yourselves.
Context
Spoiler:
What better way to start of the thread than with an origin story of sorts. This is an excerpt from the scriptures of The Bright Way, and it sets forth one of their major goals, to seek out and befriend other intelligent species.

According to Tradition, this message was revealed to the entire newly sapient yinrih species as a whole in an event called The Theophany. Several written accounts exist dating from the time of the event. They differ slightly in minor details, and the version above is an English translation of a single synthesized version.

After the secularization of yinrih culture, the event is dismissed as an instance of mass hysteria, perhaps a glitch in their newly sapient brains. Although this doesn't account for the fact that the written accounts come from separate tribes scattered across the tropical river basin their species came from.
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The House of Friendship

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Standing a mere stone’s throw from the Eternal Hearth, the edifice was supposed to be a monument to the friendship between the only two sapient species in the galaxy, and to the Yinrih who built it, it was just that, but to most humans visiting the holy world of Hearthside, it was--well--a tower of human skulls.

We had offered a large supply of medical cadavers to our new galactic neighbors so that they might better understand human biology. It was thought that the Yinrih, who had terraformed every suitable body in their star system dozens of millennia before we humans put plow to earth for the first time, could bestow upon our primitive species all manner of medical miracles, after, of course, dispelling their ignorance regarding our anatomy. When the human ambassador was asked what ought to be done with the bodies after they had been studied, “Treat them as you would your own dead.” seemed to be the culturally appropriate response.

What we didn’t know at the time was what exactly they did to their dearly departed. Bury them? Cremate them? Nope, turns out the answer was dissolve the soft tissue with acid, then use the bones to build with. Of course, not every structure had the honor of being made from the remains of your friends and family. In more traditional corners of the system, such architecture was reserved for houses of worship. In more secular parts, this peculiar building style extended to monuments, libraries, halls of learning, and centers of political power. In the most general sense, the best way to make your building scream “this is important!” was to cover it in skulls.

The Yinrih healers studying our anatomy had mountains of alien remains to deal with, and also wanted to show us weird flat-faced hairless bipeds that they saw us as friends. Building a library to house the newly acquired medical knowledge in the traditional ossuary style seemed to solve both problems neatly. So there it was, bones bleaching in the perpetual noon of a tidally locked world, containing the musings, anecdotes, theories, and observations of an intelligence that was not our own pondering the peculiarities of the human form.

Aurora sat politely at the door, ready to greet any passing visitors, human and Yinrih alike. She always found it interesting how differently the two species reacted to this little library. Her fellow Yinrih would hurry inside, passing the façade of grinning alien skulls without comment, but eager to peruse the shelves, learning as much as they could about these large tailless creatures. Humans, on the rare occasion they decided to visit Hearthside, would stare open-mouthed at the outer walls encrusted with the skulls and bones of their conspecifics with a mixture of disgust and fascination. Or at least that’s what she gathered from their comments. The nuances of human body language still escaped her.

There was one memorable exception. He was a cleric, or at least he looked like the pictures Aurora had seen of human clergy. He approached her, teeth exposed in the way humans did to show they were not a threat, extending his arm to grasp hers in a greeting gesture. After quickly remembering not to expose her own teeth, she stood on her hind legs to better meet his gaze, wrapping her tail around the pillar behind her for balance. She politely refused the handshake. The human was positively drenched in that pungent excretion, “sweat”, she thought they called it. The unforgiving heat of the nightless desert apparently did not agree with this alien visitor. It was just a brackish solution used to regulate body temperature, exuded by glands just under the surface of the skin, odorless on its own. It was the bacteria living on the skin that caused the smell. Whatever it was and however it smelled, she was not eager to get it on her pelt.

“Good, uh, morning?” said the human, quickly glancing up at the star perpetually frozen at the zenith. “Sure is hot today.”

“Hello,” Aurora yipped. “It’s like we say: on Hearthside, if you don’t like the weather, too bad, it’s not going to change.”

“Quite the monument you’ve got here. What’s it for if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Not at all. I’m actually a volunteer here. This is the House of Friendship. It’s just a little medical library. It’s all books on human biology and medicine.”

“Ah,” the cleric responded. “And the skulls are real, then?”

“Uh, yeah,” she hesitated. “It’s considered the respectful thing to do here. You guys gave us all these cadavers to study, and we wanted to do right by you when we were done with them.”

“Fascinating.”

“You’re not… uh… offended? Most humans seem to think it’s morbid.”

“I mean, we build our altars on top of the bones of saints. It’s really not all that different, I guess. We even have a few chapels that look just like this. We usually bury our dead first, but after a few hundred years it kind of builds up and we need to make room. The bones get dug up and they need to go somewhere.” he gestured at the façade. “There’s even a huge system of tunnels lined with bones under one of our national capitals.”

“Interesting,” said Aurora, ears tilted forward in attention.

“Well, most of us humans still think that stuff is morbid, too. I don’t know, I guess it can be, context is everything. But in a way I can see why you find it comforting. Being surrounded by friends and family. Being reminded of one’s mortality also keeps your mind on the important things.”

“Exactly,” Aurora barked happily, glad to finally see a human recognizing her species’ gesture of kindness. “You know we’ve been searching for other sapients for so long. It’s kind of the whole point of all this.” She waved her paw in the direction of the Eternal Hearth and surrounding religious buildings. “We’re just happy we’re not alone anymore.”

“Thanks,” said the human. “We’re just as glad as you are.”
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The Tornado

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Spoilered to save on scrolling.
Spoiler:
Jim surveyed the empty trailers around him as he sat in the lawn chair in front of his mobile home. Everyone else in this little student ghetto had left for spring break. It was quiet, and he liked it that way. He raised his eyes to the object of interest, a thunderhead billowing in the distance, reflecting the golden rays of the westering sun. He took a sip of iced tea as he listened to the sounds of nature: the chirping of birds, the buzzing of insects, and the quiet clicking of claws on the wooden porch behind him. The clicking was followed by the sounds of something scrabbling its way up the tree trunk and flopping down on the large branch to the left of Jim’s chair.

“Hi, Tod,” said Jim, not looking away from the skyscape.

«Good evening, Jim.» grunted a voice off to Jim’s left. «These alien skies are breathtaking.»

Of course, they weren’t alien to Jim. He had grown up in this sleepy town in central Texas and spent many spring evenings watching storms wash over the landscape. To his roommate presently lounging in the tree above his chair, however, the chaotic vista before them was very otherworldly indeed.

Tod was not his real name. The name he was given at birth would be unpronounceable by any human tongue. Jim had given him that name when Tod first moved into the spare bedroom of his manufactured home. Jim had posted an ad for a roommate over Christmas break, with the only requirements being a quiet lifestyle and splitting the rent. He didn’t think it necessary to specify that the candidate needed to be a member of Homo Sapiens, and, until the Dewfall arrived on Earth, that qualifier would have been redundant.

Honestly, Jim couldn’t put his finger on why everything went so smoothly when the Dewfall landed. Something always goes wrong in every story about First Contact. The aliens want to blow us up. We want to blow up the aliens. Other humans blow up the humans trying to contact the aliens. In the best case, the aliens just lecture us about how violent we are and how badly we’re wrecking the environment. Maybe everything went so well precisely because we’d been rehearsing this exact scenario again and again for over a hundred years. But Jim figured the biggest reason was that, until the Dewfall entered Earth orbit and intercepted those radio transmissions, the yinrih were all alone, just like us. They’d been howling into the void looking for other rational souls like theirs for longer than we humans had been tilling the soil, and up until now they were only met with the cold, pitiless indifference of the empty cosmos.

The joy they felt upon discovering us transcended language. It transcended culture. It transcended species. It was infectious. They were just so happy to see us that we couldn’t help but be happy to see them, too. Sure, the media had a nice juicy headline to milk for a week or two. Sure, a few speeches were made, sure, some laws had to be tweaked to make sure nobody could murder one of our little guests and get off on the technicality that they weren’t human. But the news cycle doesn’t grind to a halt just because we found out we’re not alone in the universe anymore, and ET wasn’t going to pay our bills, so life went back to normal after about a fortnight.

Well, for the rest of the world, anyway. For the little Texas hamlet that the Dewfall chose as it’s landing site, those first two weeks were just the beginning. The first thing to do was chase away all the weirdos trying to see the aliens, pet the aliens, eat the aliens, and do whatever else you can think of with or to the aliens. That wasn’t so hard. The unwanted gawkers just had to be reminded that this was Texas, so everyone old enough to write their name owned a gun and knew how to use it. After the clowns were dealt with, everyone got to work helping our little guests settle in.

First things first: communication. It was clear from the outset that humans and Yinrih were never going to speak one another’s languages. Our vocal tract and theirs were just too different, but writing, writing they could do. They learned to write English surprisingly quickly. Then it was discovered that, even if they couldn’t speak a human language, they could still understand it when it was spoken. Humans could also understand them, even if their little yips and growls were a little quieter than the average human tongue. So we would all just have to be Han Solo to their Chewbacca.

After surmounting the language barrier, it was time to talk lodging. The Dewfall was a tiny, single use craft designed with just enough room to carry six crew in suspension. It would remain where it was, acting as a high-tech storage shed, but our little guests would have to find accommodations somewhere else. They could have gone anywhere in the world. They could have been treated like more than royalty, but they let it be known that they wanted to grow where they were planted, so to speak. And that’s how Tod ended up on Jim’s porch on that cold day in January. Jim answered a knock—more of a scratch, really—at his door, and opened the door to see this little dog-possum with its tail curled around a half-folded, half-rolled up copy of his ad.

Jim turned to look at his roommate lying on the branch. The orange rays of the setting sun made Tod’s red pelage glow as though it were on fire. His black ears completed the vulpine impression that earned him his name. Jim pretended not to notice the translucent fluorescent green cube Tod was nervously tossing between his forepaws, occasionally flicking a freely rotating corner and letting it spin on its axis like a fidget toy. Just the alloy that made up that thing’s chassis was probably worth enough to pay off the national debt, never mind whatever tech was inside it.

Tod, evidently aware that Jim was watching, tossed the cube across his back and caught it in his left rear paw and continued to fidget with it with as much dexterity as before. Tod turned to look at his roommate. Was he impressed? Tod couldn’t tell. Jim’s ears were practically immobile, and he had no muzzle to speak of. The Yinrih was still learning the ins and outs of human body language, Jim’s lack of a tail making the endeavor that much harder. Surely his little trick must seem impressive to a creature with only two prehensile extremities. Still, Tod couldn’t help being a little jealous of the human’s ability to both walk and manipulate objects at the same time. Sure, Tod could waddle precariously while standing on his hind legs and using his forepaws to carry an object, but if he wanted to get anywhere quickly it was four legs or nothing. His tail could grasp objects. It could even support the weight of the rest of his body, but he couldn’t manipulate anything while moving at a significant speed.

“Am I supposed to be impressed by those possum paws of yours?” said Jim.

«Oh… I was just… never mind.» Tod curled his tail around the mystery cube and turned fully to meet Jim’s gaze. The Yinrih studied the human’s liquid eyes. In the center of each was a transparent dome-shaped membrane that reflected Tod’s features. Behind the membrane was a hazel-pigmented sphincter. The sphincter relaxed slightly, increasing the diameter of the aperture at its center. Delicate muscle movements turned the two orbs upward slightly, exposing the white tissue that covered the rest of the eyes. It was all lubricated with a thin lamina of mucus. When the mucus began to dry out with exposure to air, Jim would rapidly close and open his eyelids to coat his eyes afresh.

Jim hesitated for a split second before responding. Tod’s eyes, when they were fully open, appeared to be coated in vantablack. The alien would occasionally slide a colored reflective membrane over the eye, making it appear as though he were wearing mirrored contact lenses. Jim had noticed at least four different colors of these secondary eyelids. This was in addition to the regular eyelids covered in the same ginger fur coating the rest of his face.

“Well? Should I be impressed?” Jim persisted, raising his open palms to face his interlocutor and making grasping motions with his fingers.

«Only five digits? And you can’t even write with any of them?» Tod plucked a leaf from the branch and scribbled on it with his writing claw, mimicking the territory-marking behavior of his non sapient ancestors. He let the leaf flutter down into the cupholder of Jim’s chair.

«It’s just ink.» Tod clarified.

Jim sniffed the blue-black scribble on the leaf. The smell of petrichor blended seamlessly with the cool outflow from the storm in the distance. He turned back to the skyscape. The violent convection rocketing upward from the storm’s base had finally slammed against the stable air at the edge of the stratosphere, and a cloudy anvil head was pouring out across the invisible ceiling like upside-down spilled milk.

«So, what exactly are we looking at?» Tod asked.

“Never seen a thunderstorm before?”

«I was hatched and raised on a lunar colony orbiting a gas giant. All my military assignments were either on space stations or asteroids. The only planet I’ve been on besides this one is nothing but desert.»

Jim turned back to contemplate his roommate’s form again. This little monkey fox had to be 70 pounds on a full stomach. More than once Jim had tossed the little ET off his couch because he was lying on it without a slipcover. Tod could barely walk and hold onto something at the same time. How on earth did he hold a gun? Did they even have guns? What on earth did armed combat look like for a four-legged species? Humanity had barely reached out beyond our own atmosphere, but we had enough nukes to glass our whole planet nine times over. What sort of apocalypse could a species who had conquered their entire solar system bring upon themselves? …And what if they pointed their weapons at us? Jim swallowed his questions for the moment.

“You’re a veteran?”

«Yup.»

“Hoo boy, you’re gonna be real popular round here.”

«It’s not enough that I’m one of only six sapient nonhumans on this rock? Why in the void would people here care about my military service?»

“Son, this is Texas! We love our fightin’ men and women. It don’t matter where you served or how many legs y’all got. Hope you like hearing people say, ‘thank you for your service.’”

«Women? You let females in your military?»

“Yes.”

«Female soldiers and male clerics, you guys are full of surprises. You still haven’t explained what I’m looking at.»

Jim looked back at the storm. “That’s a thunderstorm. The sun heats the ground, and the ground heats the air. The air boils up into the atmosphere carrying water vapor with it. The water vapor condenses and falls as rain.” Thunder rumbled in the distance. “And there’s the thunder.”

«And what’s that?» Tod asked, a little more urgently, pointing his writing claw at the storm’s base. The gesture was unusual for his species. Tod was accustomed to using his ears, eyes, and muzzle to indicate the direction of interest, but he felt this application of human body language would get his point across more quickly.

“That’s…” Jim scanned the area indicated by Tod’s outstretched paw. A swirling eddy of dust had developed on the ground, and a black condensation funnel was snaking its way down to the earth to meet it.

Up until this point, Tod had been mildly nervous about the storm. The sheer size of it, towering into the heavens, was a little disquieting. The flashing arcs of electricity it produced made him uneasy. He had seen similar phenomena back home, but always looking down from orbit. But that sound it made, now that was terrifying. Some of it he was sure Jim couldn’t hear. The grinding, roaring cacophony that seemed to come from the mid-section of the cloud was too deep for Jim’s ears. The loud claps of thunder that followed every flash of electricity were just icing on the cake. His playing with the cube earlier was as much a self-soothing gesture as it was an attempt to wow his alien friend, but Tod kept his emotions in check thanks to a little trick he learned in the military. Look at the most experienced guy in the room. If he’s not panicking, then you’re OK, and up to now Jim had shown no signs of distress, but the object of Tod’s query set off in Jim a cascade of involuntary bodily processes, sharpened by three and a half billion years of evolution, designed to survive an approaching threat, by fighting it or by fleeing it.

Tod turned to look at his friend again, scenting the air as he did so. Epinephrin, cortisol, and perhaps the merest whiff of urea. «Jim, you OK, buddy? Should I be worried?»

Jim took some time to answer. The primitive simian part of his brain was screaming “Fly, you fool!” But the somewhat-misleadingly-named rational part of Jims brain was too busy cramming that little monkey into a closet and barricading the door shut. He quickly rehearsed his response to his roommate. “Oh, that little thing? It’s just a twister. We get ‘em all the time here in Texas. What’s that? It’s roaring with all the voices of the damned? Nah, that’s nothing to worry about. It’s ripping asphalt off the ground? Totally normal. The sirens? The ones we installed back when we thought the Russians would nuke us, and that we are currently sounding, thereby implying this is a proportional threat? Don’t worry your fuzzy little head.”

Jim finally responded. “We… uh... we should be fine as long as we’re south of it…” Jim looked to his right at the setting sun. To his right. At the setting sun. The sun setting in the West. The West that was currently to his right. Then ahead 90 degrees counterclockwise from the West, at the writhing column of wind and debris, appearing to stand still in the field. The field that was to their South, which, simple logic demanded, meant they were in fact North of the tornado.

The monkey burst out of the closet.

“If it’s not moving, it’s coming toward you.”

“If it’s not moving, it’s coming toward you.”

“If it’s not moving, it’s coming toward you.”

What had started as an insistent voice in Jim’s head had escaped his lips, repeating like the mantra of a madman. Tod noticed his friend’s crazed mumbling and scented the air again. Now he was sure that was urea he was smelling. He hopped off the branch onto the ground, his tail coiled a little tighter around the mystery cube.

The sound of Tod’s movement broke Jim out of his meditation. he turned down to look at the little quadruped standing beside him. They were absolutely going to die. Tod was going to go down in history as the first alien to die on Earth, and Jim was going to be the nobody who died alongside him. And they would not be going gently. Their skin would be sandblasted away by the dust, their bones shattered by larger debris, their screams drowned out by the roar of the wind.

Jim’s monkey brain finally took control. Must protect tribe! Must protect little one! Jim swiftly grabbed Tod by the scruff of the neck and draped him over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. Tod let out a trilling hiss of surprise. «What in the blind void are you doing?!»

“Trying to save our skins!” Jim shouted as he quickly darted hither and thither, trying to choose which of the objectively terrible sheltering options was the least terrible. Flee in his car? Nope, the twister was currently blocking the only dirt road out of this trailer park. Go back inside? Of course not. Mobile homes are a tornado’s staple food source. Where was the lowest point they could get to in time? Jim looked back at the twister. It was definitely getting closer, and was that a cow up there?

Jim’s mind seized on the only option they had. “The ditch behind our trailer. That’s all we’ve got. Not gonna lie, Tod, we’re probably not going to survive.” Tod squirmed his way out of his friend’s grip and hopped back on the ground.

«We might have a chance, if this thing still works, that is.» Said Tod flicking his tail holding the cube.

The din of the tornado was steadily getting louder, and its wind began to pull against their bodies. The two turned and ran to the drainage ditch behind the trailer, Tod gripping the cube in his tail as though their lives depended on it. Jim went prone, covering the top of his head with his hands. He turned his eye to look at Tod, but Tod wasn’t there. In his place was a vulpine sorcerer, executing the verbal, somatic, and material requirements for a powerful warding spell to protect them from the wrath of a god of destruction. He stood on his hind feet, manipulating that powerful arcane focus with his outstretched forepaws, tail and ears blowing dramatically in the wind, hind claws digging into the wet ground for purchase against the gale. Jim could hear him mumbling something as he rotated the cube, twisting the freely rotating corners of the device, The mumbling stopped as Tod quickly glanced up toward their approaching demise. He hastily traced an arcane rune onto one of the cube’s faces with his writing claw. The ink beaded up slightly and then was quickly absorbed into the cube without a trace. The spell’s requirements met, a metal stake extended from one of the cube’s corners. Tod jammed the device into the wet soil, and…

…critical failure…

The device glowed blue for a split second, then went dark again.

Tod often wondered what thoughts would be going through his mind in his last moments. Would he think of friends and family? Would a holy canticle be in his throat? Or would he utter some blasphemy against The Light that had created him? Whatever Tod thought would be on his mind in his final hour, it wasn’t this.

Tens of thousands of years ago, on a rusty planet neighboring their homeworld, there developed among the first wave of colonists and terraformers a strange animist cult. The spirits that this cult revered did not dwell in the wind, for their world lacked an atmosphere, nor in the water, for their planet lacked a hydrosphere, nor in the trees, for their new home lacked a biosphere. The genii worshipped by these heathens dwelt not in natural things but in the artifices of mortal paws. Within every machine—the cult believed—dwelt a fickle spirit that must be appeased with various arcane rites. The most sacred of these rites was the holy sacrament of Percussive Maintenance. As subsequent waves of colonists arrived on that ruddy planet, the cult was diluted and pushed out of the collective memory, but traces of their beliefs lingered on, especially among the rank and file of the military. Ask any of Tod’s fellow soldiers, and they would dismiss such superstitious nonsense. But sometimes… sometimes an engine wouldn’t spool up, or a fabricator AI would refuse to boot. All the normal troubleshooting steps would be followed: Identify the problem, Establish a theory of probable cause, Test the theory, blah blah blah. But every attempt would fail. Then, out of desperation, the frustrated tech assigned to fix the problem would utter a prayer to the heathen spirit dwelling in the machine, whack the offending mechanism with a wrench, and it would spring to life, the spirit within evidently pleased with the ritual.

Tod looked up again. The roaring hell vortex was almost upon them. He saw a giant beast, hoofed and horned, careening through the air toward them. «What’ve I got to lose?» Tod thought as he picked up a rock and bashed the cube with it.

The machine spirit was appeased.

In an instant, the cacophony was quieted. Jim noticed the sudden lack of noise and risked an upward glance. Just as he did so, a cow slammed into an invisible barrier above them. Bright blue scintillations blossomed from the point of impact, arcing like the flashes of a detaching retina. The light cascaded down, tracing the hemispherical outline of their ephemeral shield. The cube emitted a subtle whine as the hypercapacitor within absorbed the kinetic energy of 1800 kilograms of bovine mass, traveling at 134 meters per second. The cow’s trajectory halted, it slid down and landed on the leeward side of the barrier. However, the twister would not be denied its quarry. The cow let out a plaintive moo as it was quickly sucked back into the swirling mass.

Other missiles collided with the forcefield, repeating the light show and increasing the pitch of the cube’s whine as they did. Slam! A stop sign. Slam! A tractor tire. Slam! A transformer coil. It was only thirty seconds, but to both Jim and Tod it felt like an eternity.

Finally, the air cleared. Jim sat up and looked at Tod. Tod’s claws were digging into the meat of his forepaws, rills of blue-black ink matting the fur on his front legs.

«By the palms that nursed me, what was that?!»

“What on earth was that?!”

The pair said simultaneously, Tod indicating the retreating funnel, and Jim looking at the cube, which had stopped whining and begun a quiet low-pitched beeping.

Jim spoke first. “A tornado. Never seen one before. Don’t want to see one again. What… what is that thing?”

The cube’s beeping increased in pitch and tempo.

«A retribution field grenade. It’s supposed to block relativistic artillery shells. Absorbs the kinetic energy, then you—»

The cube arrested Tod’s attention as the beeping became urgent. In a single swift motion, Tod wrapped the end of his tail around the cube, spun on his heel, and slingshot the cube into the air, then lost his balance, falling backwards onto his back. The cube traced a ballistic trajectory, flying much further than Tod’s mediocre strength could account for.

For an infinitesimal fraction of a second, the cube hung at the apex of its arc, then a pillar of light and concussive force burst forth from the cube and rocketed upwards, punching a large hole through the mammatus pouches glowing red in the last rays of the sunset and revealing the purple twilight sky above. The pillar of light evaporated almost as quickly, leaving no trace of the cube behind.

Jim stared open-mouthed at the hole in the clouds until he was alerted by the sound of tires on gravel, unmuffled by his now nonexistent trailer. A police cruiser and a pickup pulled up to the remains of Jim’s home.

An officer exited the car and walked toward the two survivors. One of the survivors was a man in his 20s, and was that his dog? Tod executed a formal greeting, rearing up and patting himself on the abdomen with a forepaw, leaving a blue-black stain on his belly. «Ink sacs are probably dry.» Tod thought to himself. «It’ll be a few days before I can write again.» He looked up at the uniformed human and attempted an introduction.

“*Chuff! Yip, yip! Huff, bork!*”

The human’s demeanor immediately changed. “Ah! One of our little visitors from out of town.” The officer jogged past Jim and attended to the little arboreal canid. “You OK, little guy?”

“*Yip, huff, wuff!*” Tod responded.

“Tod, I don’t think he can understand you.” Said Jim.

«Well tell him I’m fine.»

“He’s fine, officer.”

“And you, sir?” asked the cop.

“I’m OK, I think.”

“That twister was ripping up the road. How on earth did you two survive?”

Jim looked at Tod, then up at the hole punched in the sky.

The cop turned back to Tod. “That huge laser thing, that was something of yours?”

“*Bork!*”

The cop squatted down and looked Tod in the eyes, which were shielded by crimson bandpass membranes reflecting the flashing lights of the cruiser. “I’m very happy you were able to save yourself and your friend, but you need to be careful with your fancy little doodads in the future. I just hope you didn’t hit anything with that.”

«A retribution field generator isn’t a ‘fancy little doodad’.» Tod mimicked the stress and tone of the last six syllables of the officer’s admonition, but all his cynoid vocal tract could manage was “awAAA ohOO OOwaah”

“Anyway,” said the cop, standing back up, “We need to get you two checked out by a doctor to make sure nothing’s wrong.” He looked at Jim. “Well, we need to get you to the doctor. I’m not sure what we can do for our little guest, but I’d hate to think we’re leaving something untreated.”

«I’m fine, really. But if you need someone to give me a clean bill of health, we can have Sunshine take a look at me. All her medical stuff is stored on the Dewfall.»

Jim relayed Tod’s suggestion to the officer.

“OK, I’ll take you to the clinic, and we’ll have Mark take your friend to his ship.” Said the cop, gesturing toward the pickup.

Just then, the driver’s side door of the pickup opened. The beeping cadence of a CW repeater ID drifted out of the cab. Tod slid back the bandpass membranes covering his eyes and tilted his ears forward in his species’ equivalent of an excited grin. He recognized that sound, and the smell of decade-old second-hand smoke confirmed that the truck belonged to one of the radio club members, the first group of non-yinrih sapients the crew of the Dewfall set eyes on after arriving on Earth.

An older man got out of the truck and ran up to the group. He looked at Jim and the officer, then down at Tod. “Hi, little man, haven’t seen you in a while. Glad to see your OK.”

“*Chuff! Yip!*” Said Tod.

“Ah, sorry I haven’t learned the lingo yet. You need to come to the club meetings and teach me.”

Mark looked back at the officer.

“You’re taking him to his ship. He’ll contact their medic and have her meet you there.” Said the cop.

“Will do.” Mark looked back down at Tod. “Let’s get going.”

Tod slid another pair of bandpass membranes over his eyes and surveyed the remains of their trailer. It didn’t take long for him to find the little trunk he was looking for. It was impossible to miss. Well, for him anyway. The humans probably thought it looked dark gray, but to Tod it was painted in the Allied Worlds standard safety color, peaking at a wavelength of around 0.186 millimeters. He scampered over and delicately opened the lid, trying not to smear ink on the contents of the box. He pulled out the two objects he needed: a paw keyer and a pair of HUD specs.

The HUD specs looked, well, like a pair of reading glasses designed by a dog: two frameless glass lenses connected by a bridge designed to sit on the muzzle. The keyer looked like the rubber grip on a bicycle handlebar. Four keys lined the length of the device, sitting in shallow grooves sculpted to fit a yinrih’s four middle digits, with a fifth and sixth key capping the devices two ends, designed to be gripped by two thumbs. The HUD specs and paw keyer together filled the role of portable computer.

Tod wrapped the keyer and specs in his tail and hopped into Mark’s truck. He laid down on his back in the rear seat of the cab, gripped the keyer in his left rear paw, and put the HUD specs over his muzzle. Squeezing the two thumb keys together started the boot process. The two lenses frosted over, obscuring the roof of Mark’s truck. Reams of boot text, glowing a comfortable infrared, flowed down Tod’s field of vision. After a few seconds, the screen cleared and the login prompt appeared, the square cursor blinking expectantly.

Code: Select all

Localhost login

Username: tod

password: ********

tod@localhost:~$ omnichat

connecting...

connection successful

4 users currently online: 

tod

stormlight

iris

sunshine

==========

tod> Jim and I caught in some sort of windstorm. Both OK but our friends insist I see a healer. Currently on my way to the Dewfall. 

sunshine> It’s true you red-pelts really are unlucky.

tod> shut up

sunshine> kidding, Tod. I’ll be there ASAP

<sunshine has left>

tod> /quit

<Leaving chat>

tod@localhost:~$ humansynth

Experimental human speech synthesizer interactive prompt

Enter phoneme string or /h for help

>>>
Mark looked down at his little passenger lying on his back, staring at the ceiling, left rear paw just barely twitching as he entered chords on the keyer. Little inky paw prints covered one side of the bench where Tod had pulled himself into the cab.

“Sorry I got my ink all over your vehicle.” Said a tinny bloodless voice coming from the input device Tod held in his paw.

Mark inhaled. The smell of a welcome rain after a long drought filled his nostrils. “Don’t worry about it.” Mark responded. “I believe we’ve seen each other before but I don’t think I know your name. I’m Mark.”

“Call me ‘Tod’. That’s the name Jim gave me.”

“’Tod’, that’s clever, you look like a little tod fox with your red coat and black ears.”

“Is that a good thing?”

“Sure. Foxes are sly little critters.”

“Interesting. This pelt color has some bad associations back home.”

“Is that so?”

“Having a red pelt is supposed to mean you’re unlucky, and having black ears means you’re dumb. I’ve got both, so I’m constantly the butt of jokes. Nobody actually believes that, for sure, but the teasing gets really old really quick.”

“Oh, sorry to hear that.”

The topic of conversation wandered here and there as the pair drove down the road. As they were nearing the Dewfall’s landing site, the subject of Tod’s military service came up.

“So you’re a vet, then?” Mark asked.

“Yeah. Never seen combat, but did a few peacekeeping missions. Relief supply deliveries, helping refugee camps, that sort of thing.”

The truck pulled up to the landing site. A small car pulled up shortly after, a bumper sticker proudly identifying the driver as a student at the veterinary school at the nearby university. A girl in her 20s got out of the driver’s seat and opened the back passenger door. Another yinrih, completely hairless with black splotches on the bare skin of her paws and muzzle, hopped out and ran to the truck.

Mark and Tod also disembarked. Sunshine looked up at Mark and executed the customary introduction, rearing up on her hind feet and patting her belly.

«Light shine upon you, friend. My name’s Sunshine.»

Mark looked pleadingly at Tod, who was now incommunicado, having removed the specs and keyer.

“She’s saying hi.” Said Sunshine’s chauffeur .

“Howdy, ma’am.” Said mark.

“Sunshine filled me in on the way here,” said the woman. “I’ll take Tod back to Jim at the clinic when Sunshine’s done with her little checkup. You can go if you want.”

“OK. Thanks for your help.” Mark responded. He climbed back into the cab and started the engine.

“Seventy-three, Tod. Come see us at the radio club so we can start talking for real.”

“*Yip, huff*” said Tod.

Mark closed the door, but quickly rolled down the window for a few parting words.

“Tod, Thank you for your service.” Said Mark as he put the truck in gear.
Last edited by lurker on 09 Nov 2023 13:49, edited 1 time in total.
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Are we as Mayflies?

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Here's another story. I'm not sure if it's kosher to be posting these as separate threads, but that seems to be how this works. Let me know if that's not the case.
The hot Texas sun beat down on the two people sitting outside the root beer stand. Only one of them was a human. Bob the human looked to his right at the half wall next to his chair. There, lying on his belly, straddling the wall like a raccoon resting on a tree branch, glossy black pelt shining in the sun, prehensile tail hanging off the opposite side of the wall, was the other person. His six-fingered paw held an ice-cold root beer, which the waitress had thoughtfully poured into a bowl to accommodate this strange patron's canine muzzle.

Stormlight Blackpelt looked down from his perch at the sidewalk, where two elderly humans, who looked about Bob's age, were pushing a wheeled cart containing a human infant. Bob followed his friend's gaze. "Looks like grandma and grandpa are giving mom and dad some time off." Bob said, waving at the couple. They smiled back and continued walking.

Stormlight turned to Bob again, regarding his human friend's bald crown and wrinkled face. He grabbed his tail and began running his claws along it as though brushing out a knot. Bob looked up and noticed the alien's fidgeting. "Well go on and ask." Said Bob. "You do that whenever you're fixing to ask me an awkward question."

"Does it bother you that we live so much longer?" Stormlight asked. "I've been reading a lot of human stories and myths: Fountains that make you young again, stones that grant immortality, things like that."

"If I'm honest, maybe sometimes," said Bob. "But Earth has trees that live for millennia and brainless jellyfish that can live pretty much forever. It's not like humans were breaking longevity records until y'all came along. Besides, we already live twice as long as our closest animal relatives. I'd say that's pretty nice. And what about you? Don't the yinrih have legends about people living for five thousand years?"

"Of course. We fear our mortality but hope in the hereafter."

"Don't start getting preachy on me now." Bob chided.

Bob thought for a moment, then asked, "Does it bother you that we don't live nearly as long as you?"

"It'll take at least a year for the Hearthkeeper to pick the legates who will come after us, and then another two and a half centuries for them to get here. That's a long time even for us, and several of your lifetimes. You aren't getting any younger." Said Stormlight, tilting his muzzle up slightly to point at Bob's balding scalp.

Bob reflected on his friend's concern. Stormlight and his fellow missionaries were around one hundred fifty earth years old, that is if you didn't count the centuries spent in metabolic suspension on the way to Earth. They were already older than every human alive, but still young as the yinrih reckoned it. Bob couldn't even name a single relative of his that was born before the twentieth century. By the time the missionaries would lay eyes on their fellow yinrih, Bob would be just a name on a tombstone, forgotten even by his descendants.

After a few moments, bob said, "It hurts to say goodbye for the last time, and y'all are going to be saying a lot of last goodbyes as long as you hang around us humans. But think of it this way. You're already a big hit with my grandkids. You can help them grow up, and again with their children, and their children's children. You can tell them all about how their great great great grandpa Bob got to be the first human to shake hands with an alien. You and Iris and Tod and Sunshine and the others can be that one constant in their lives, the one thing they can count on to be there no matter what. They'll have to say goodbye to me soon enough, and by and by their parents, too, but not you. Y'all can be the one thing they'll never have to say goodbye to. And after you've said your last goodbye to me, you can pray for the repose of my soul, or speak my name among the living, or do whatever it is your critters do for as long as you feel like doing it, which will sure be longer than any human will remember me.

"Besides, I'm in good health. I've got at least twenty years left in me if my family history is anything to go by. That might not be very long for you, but it's a while yet for me. Don't go mourning me until I'm actually six feet under. It's a wonderful day out... if a little hot." Bob added as the sophont next to him noisily lapped up some soda from the bowl. "Let's just enjoy the day."

Bob looked up at his yinrih friend. Stormlight tilted his ears back, relaxed his jaw slightly, and let his tail hang loose again. "Thanks, Bob." said the cynoid. "Sometimes I worry so much about the future that I don't appreciate the present."

The two looked back at the cars driving down the street and the people walking along the sidewalk. "It sure is a nice present." Said Bob.

Some Context:
Spoiler:
Stormlight is part of a group of alien missionaries seeking other sapient lifeforms to fulfill a religious commandment to find and befriend other rational souls. Humans happen to be the only other sapient beings in the galaxy.

I think I described what the yinrih look like in a previous post, but they look like arboreal canids with li'l grabby paws and a prehensile tail. The tail may be analogous to the boney tail of a terrestrial vertebrate, or it might be a boneless muscular hydrostat like an elephant's trunk. Either way the tail can comfortably support their weight. They're about the size of a medium to large dog, and have six digits per paw (four fingers and a thumb on either side of each paw). A lot of this project has been figuring out how their ergonomics would work. As indicated in the story, their "sitting" position is lying on their back or belly, preferably with all four paws free. They can also sit like a dog, but that's a bit more awkward because they can only use one paw at a time.

Bob is a member of the ham radio club that the missionaries communicate with while still in orbit. The missionaries are lodged with local human residents of this small town in Texas.

Yinrih can live over 700 years. I took the ratio between human years and dog years and inverted it. Writing this story was actually cathartic for me because I'm coping with an aging dog. The yinrih have to live with their human friends aging and dying.

The Hearthkeeper, or as I like to call her, the pupper pope, is the chief cleric of the Bright Way, the religion that the missionaries belong to. After learning of the existence of Earth, she organizes a team of legates to travel there and continue forging ties between the two species. As far as the missionaries know, they're stuck on Earth for the next few centuries until the legates arrive. As far as I know, they only have to wait a year between the time they land on Earth and when FTL travel is perfected back home in the form of the mass router. The missionaries have an ansible for instant communication, as well as a fabricator AI, so they can construct a working mass router linking Sol and Focus, their home star, using instructions from home.
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Here's a WIP model of the inner planets of Focus

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I'm trying to figure out LibreOffice Draw.

This is a draft of the inner planets of Focus. I didn't originally intend it to be this way, but I'm kind of liking the theme of the planets being based on outdated theories about our own inner planets, namely that Mercury was tidally locked and Venus was an ocean world. For the most part I'm trying to use an "Anglish" translation convention for the names.

I'm not sure how the various states will be distributed among the planets, and whether each planet will be under a single government or whether separate states claim parts of a planet. In any case, with the exception of Hearthside the whole inner solar system is under the Allied Worlds, which is a UN- or EU-like organization.

I mentioned the machine cult in one of my stories. Yeah it's a carbon copy of the Adeptus Mechanicus. I'm not the most creative worldbuilder out there.

I'll have to do a write up on the "Reverse Inquisition" at some point, but the TL;DR is that it was founded for the purpose of holding corrupt clergy accountable. It started out as an internal renewal movement making sure that clerics were upholding their vows, that they were worthy of the respect their office was supposed to grant them. But it devolves into a anticlerical secularist movement later on.
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My attempt at what the yinrih look like

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It's really hard for me to put into words what the yinrih are supposed to look like. A lot of this project has been about their ergonomics, and I have to know what their body is shaped like as well as the range of motion of their limbs, how good their gross and fine motor skills are, etc. in order to be able to come up with their tools.

Their head is essentially canine, with a wet nose, mesocephalic muzzle, and erect ears. Their ears are more motile than a dog's. They can tilt them forward such that the tips of the ears are pointed toward the direction they're looking. Their eyes are completely different than any terrestrial animal. They have normal-looking eyelids, but rather than eyeballs attached to ocular muscles they have patches made up of organic nanoantennas that couple with ambient EM radiation similar to a radio. These patches absorb almost all incoming light, making it appear as though a yinrih's eyes are coated in vantablack. It looks disturbingly like they have black holes where their eyes should be. Underneath their normal eyelids are a series of bandpass filter membranes that, to a human, look like colored reflective sunglasses or the shell of some iridescent beetle. They narrow the bandwidth of the incoming light. Between the bandpass membranes and signal processing in the brain, a yinrih can shift the spectrum they're seeing to get a better idea of what they're looking at. They can see a much wider range of wavelengths than humans, possibly all non-ionizing radiation, from basically DC to near UV.

Their torso is also mostly canine in appearance. Humans often mistake yinrih for medium to large dogs at a distance, although their limbs also suggest lemurs or baboons. It's their limbs I'm having the hardest time with. They walk on the palms of their paws like a lemur. Both their front and back limbs have the same range of motion as a human arm. The yinrih can't walk upright, however. One thing I have yet to determine are whether their hind feet are plantigrade or digitigrade. I want to maintain a largely canine appearance, but I also want them to be able to use their hind feet to manipulate objects.

They have six digits per paw. When their paws are planted on the ground, they have an inner thumb, four fingers, and an outer thumb. The first joint of each digit is hairless, as is the palm. This gives rise to one of their human nicknames of "dog possums". their digits and palms have pads, with the palmar pads of the forepaws being the major instance of sexual dimorphism. Males have a single full palmar pad, while females have several smaller pads surrounding a lactation patch. The lactation patch will start sweating milk when it comes in contact with saliva, usually from a kit licking it in an attempt to nurse. As an aside, clerics collect their own milk and use it like holy water.

The big "feature" of their paws is the writing claw. There's a musk gland located in each forepaw, with a duct leading to the tip of the claw on the digit next to the inner thumb (analogous to our index finger). The writing claw is shaped differently than the rest of the claws and acts like the nib of a fountain pen. The yinrihs' non sapient relatives use this writing claw to mark territory. They excrete a blue-black ink that smells like petrichor. The yinrih evolve a written language out of this scent marking behavior. This allows them to preserve information across distance and time as soon as they achieve sapience. Even though they've only been sapient for about a hundred thousand years (which I believe is actually less time than modern humans have been around) they're able to gain spaceflight a mere five millennia after gaining sapience, and are at Kardashev level II by the time humans discover agriculture.

Their tail is prehensile. It is actually more like an elephant's trunk, being made of pure muscle rather than being an extension of their spine. They can easily hang from their tail, contributing to their human moniker of "dog possum". They often pull small carts behind them with a handle held in their tail.

As far as locomotion, they're built mostly for arboreal movement. They evolved in a tropical rain forest river basin that floods regularly. They spent the dry season equally on the ground and in trees, and would stay in the trees during the wet season. This arboreal lifestyle is why they have grabby paws and tail. It also means they take to zero gravity like a duck to water. While they normally have to walk on all fours on the ground, they can float in zero-G and use all five limbs to hold and manipulate things. There's a large population of spacers who choose to live permanently on orbital colonies with no gravity. The missionaries that find Earth depart from such a colony, and some of them have never set foot on a planet's surface before landing on Earth.

Regarding evolutionary history, their nonsapient ancestors had populations on either side of the river, with the southern population gaining sapience while the northern population remains irrational. These non sophont relatives are called "tree-dwellers". They're cute as babies but get violent as adults (not unlike chimps, actually). Humans have a very hard time telling the two species apart, leading to some off-putting situations when they see what look like sapient yinrih in zoos. The two species are similar enough that the yinrih use tree-dwellers for organ transplants and lab testing. There's even a faction of yinrih called the Atavists who regard sentience as a curse and want to return to being irrational animals. "Reject smart tree doggo, return to stupid tree doggo."
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Re: The Lonely Galaxy Megathread (comments encouraged)

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Nice and interesting critter!
... brought to you by the Weeping Elf
My conlang pages
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Re: The Lonely Galaxy Megathread (comments encouraged)

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WeepingElf wrote: 19 Nov 2023 12:54 Nice and interesting critter!
Thanks. I suck at drawing for the same reason I have braille in my signature.
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The Orbit of Yih and Its Effects on Yinrih Biology and Culture

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Yih is the name of the yinrih homeworld. Yih is one of only two instances of Commonthroat loanwords in Englsih, the other being the word yinrih. These words are better thought of as onomatopoeia mimicking yinrih speech sounds as humans and yinrih cannot actually utter one another's languages. It's Commonthroat pronunciation is [yip, short high strong whine, huff]. The word means "ground" or "earth", naturally enough.

The following figures ignore the more complex aspects of orbital mechanics. I've assumed a circular rather than elliptical orbit with no variation in speed due to perihelion and aphelion, nor have I accounted for solar vs siderial days and years.

Yih is about 1.3 astronomical units away from Focus. It has an orbital period of about 1.4 Earth years, and a rotation period of about 24.38 Earth hours. There are exactly 528 Yih-days per Yih-year. Yih has an axial tilt of exactly 30 degrees, meaning that the planet's surface area is evenly divided among tropics, mid-latitudes, and polar regions.

Yih has a ring, meaning winter days are darker and colder (although not by as much as you might think) and summer nights are brighter. "Chasing the end of the ring" is a proverb meaning to go on a fool's errand.

As stated in another post, yinrih and the other creatures in their clade have a far broader visible spectrum than humans, meaning you don't see niches divided into diurnal and nocturnal like you do on Earth. Yinrih don't sleep per se. They have an active period that lasts about 11 days and a period of torpor that lasts 1 day, with the cycle taking a total of 12 days. They don't actually loose consciousness fully during torpor. It's more like how some birds and dolphins sleep, where only parts of the brain are inactive. They experience dulled sensation and a feeling of detachment, but are still somewhat aware. It's like the anesthesia they give you for cataract surgery. Yinrih may not even be capable of losing consciousness at all without dying, and may find the fact that humans spend 30% of our already pitiably short lives asleep as existentially disturbing.

Since Yih doesn't have a moon, there are no months. Since the yinrih progressed technologically so rapidly after gaining sapience (achieving spaceflight a mere 5 Earth millennia after becoming rational) they don't have a week (which was originally based on the seven planets as reckoned in ancient times on Earth). Whether they have intermediate time division between day and year is to be determined, although they probably do.

The torpor cycles of individual yinrih aren't in sync, so there's no stretch of time where everyone is inactive light nighttime on Earth. However, within individual families in the very early days of yinrih history, and today among the Amish-like Atavists, the dams and pups would go into torpor together, while the sires would stagger their torpor cycles so that some can rest while others keep watch.

Clerics are not allowed to beget young, and are expected to spend their torpor period in the sanctuary near the star hearth (liturgical nuclear fusion reactor) in the event that it needs attention. In smaller, more traditional communities and especially aboard orbital colonies, this duty is more than ceremonial. The star hearth may be the only power source for the community.

Particularly traditionally-minded clerics will spend at least part of their torpor period repeating the following prayer in time with their breathing:

(breathe in) May my soul be a mirror
(breathe out) reflecting the Uncreated Light

Clerics hold short liturgies three times a day during their own active period, at sunrise, noon, and sunset. The faithful are expected to assist at at least one liturgy during their own 11 day active period. The liturgies aren't particularly long--an hour at most, and usually more like 30 minutes.

There are five principle high holy days, one on each of the solstices and equinoxes, and one commemorating the dawn of sapience or the Kindling of the Fire of Understanding, which they count from the first evidence of written language. (They evolve a written language rather than inventing writing much later, so it's a fair assumption to equate the two). Both the daily liturgies and yearly holy days are supposed to be reckoned according to the local planetary orbit and rotation unless the timings deviate from those on Yih to such a degree that they become a burden, in which case the Yih calendar is followed. Orbital colonies follow the calendar of their parent planet. Moons may have a local calendar if it isn't too far off the norm, but often follow the primary planet's calendar like orbital colonies do. The exceptions to this local-first approach are the Feast of the Fire of Understanding and, after meeting Humans, the Feast of First Meeting. The Feast of the Fire of Understanding is celebrated at the same time everywhere according to the Yih calendar, and First Meeting is a movable feast set according to the Gregorian calendar.
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By the Palms that Nursed Me!

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The palms of the forepaws, demonstrating sexual dimorphism. Male is on the left; female is on the right. Both males and females have digital pads (on the fingers and thumbs). Males have a single palmar pad, while females have several smaller palmar pads that surround a lactation patch.

Females can excrete milk at any time when the tissue on the lactation patch is exposed to saliva. When nursing the saliva comes from a kit licking the palm. Clerics gather their own milk by licking their own palms and soaking the milk up with a sponge. The milk is wrung out of the sponge into a container and blessed. Blessed milk is usually sprinkled by means of an aspergillium which is held in the cleric's tail.

The proportions are pretty bad. The digits aren't that stubby, and I'm unsure about the length of the palm. All in all though I'd say it's pretty good given my unfamiliarity with digital drawing.
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Wrist and Writing Claw

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A dorsal view of the left forepaw, in color! Notice the discolored claw on the digit next to the inner thumb. That's the writing claw. It's supposed to be flatter and broader than the other claws, but I had a hard time making it look right.

The ink sac is located near the knuckle, with a duct leading to the point of the claw. These structures are homologous to musk glands in other animals in the yinrih's clade. As such, the ink is very fragrant. Humans compare it to the smell of rain (petrichor). There is a rumor among the yinrih that humans like to drink it. It's not true, although we do enjoy the smell. The ink is largely sterile, but it's still a bodily fluid, so drinking it is ill-advised. The fact that yinrih use a bodily excretion to write with causes some friction when yinrih try to live on Earth. Imagine peeing on a check. Using a writing utensil feels very unnatural to a yinrih, and the best compromise humans can come up with for the sake of hygiene is a thimble-like contrivance that fits over the writing claw and provides its own synthetic ink.

The first joint of the digits lacks fur. This, along with the yinrihs' prehensile tail, is why they're sometimes called "dog possums". Other nicknames include "monkey foxes" and "wolf lemurs". The skin of the paws is strongly pigmented, as you can see from the fingertips. It's more obvious with healers since they have no fur. Their paws and muzzle are covered in black splotches.

The word "yinrih" (pronounced /ˈjɪn.ɹə/ or /ˈjɪn.ɹi/ or /ˈjɪn.ɹɪ/) is an onomatopoeia of the Commonthroat word <odmGm> (yip, short high strong whine, huff, long high weak growl, huff) which means a person from the planet Yih. The word is analogous to the word "Terran" or "Earthling". Commonthroat uses a different word to refer to a member of the yinrih species. There is an English word, "cynoid", from Greek κύων (dog) -ειδής (shape), that can be used in more scientific contexts. It has the pleasant traits of being etymologically accurate and having that pulpy sci-fi flare. The yinrih don't mind any of these names, provided they're not deliberately derogatory. "We won't tell you how to speak your own language."

The yinrih refer to humans as <mJmj> (huff, long low strong grunt, huff, short low strong grunt), which is the best their vocal tract can replicate the English "human". The missionaries who land on Earth refer to humans as <f oDoDl mI> "our friends", and the human residents of the small Texas town they've decided to live in refer to the missionaries as "our little visitors from out of town."
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Erickson, Texas

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Time for some more mundane worldbuilding. Erickson is the small Texas town that the Dewfall lands in. Rather, a park outside of town. It's just large enough to justify the presence of a small college. The residents are very protective of their little guests, and it's largely thanks to them (and their many, many guns) that the missionaries remain unmolested.

The town was historically an ethic enclave for Lebanese immigrants who arrived in the US via Galveston. After WWII and the proliferation of air conditioning, an influx of Yankees results in the present ethnic makeup of both near-eastern and ethnically European citizens.

The religious demographics are divided between the Maronite Lebanese population attending Our Lady of the Cedars, and the Evangelical European population attending Calvary Bible Church. To these two groups are added five Wayfarers following the Bright Way, and one wanderer tagging along with them because they're his friends.

The college consists mostly of a veterinary school, but also has a few smaller departments, Linguistics being the most salient to the events of First Contact.

The Erickson Amateur Radio Club (EARC), specifically members Bob Williams, Mark Simmons, and Louis Shaheen, are the impromptu ambassadors of all mankind who meet the missionaries after they land.
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Xenoergonomics: postures

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Working on some more xenoergonomics. Here are some postures the yinrih can assume.

1. standing on all fours. This is the standing position that requires the least amount of energy. It's also the position taken in order to start walking.

2. Perching. Lying on the belly straddling a narrow surface such as a branch with the paws and tail hanging freely. This is the default "sitting" position. The yinrih equivalent to a chair is built for this position. Such perches may have flat surfaces below that act as a desk or drawers that can be accessed with the paws or tail.

3. Squatting with the palms of all four paws facing down. Very similar to a dog's sitting position. Yinrih may take this posture if they assume they're going to get up soon, as it's quickest to assume a fully standing position from this posture.

4. Reared up, front paws free, with the hind feet bearing most of the weight and the tail lying flat on the ground. This posture takes a fair bit of energy to maintain, so it isn't comfortable to hold for long periods of time. It can be assumed when manipulating light objects or controls, but pushing or pulling heavy objects is out of the question.

5. Floating freely with the tail wrapped around a tail bar to maintain position. This posture is used in microgravity. All four paws can now manipulate objects. Alternatively one of the rear paws can be used to grip the tail bar and the tail can be used for manipulation.

6. Reared up more fully, with the tail wrapped around a tail bar for balance. This is a less energy-intensive posture than number 4. It's often taken when conversing with humans as it allows the yinrih to better make eye contact without craning the neck upward as far, although it's still considered polite for the human to sit in a chair so full comfortable eye contact can be made.

7. Lying on the back with the tail hanging. When operating equipment, yinrih use seats similar to bowl chairs. They lie on their back gripping a keyer in all four paws, with the tail being used to actuate analog controls located at the base of the seat.
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Xenoergonomics: The Desk

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1. Perch
2. Writing surface
3. Table
4. Drawers
5. Shelves

This is the most natural "sitting" position for a yinrih. This piece of furniture, most similar to a human chair and desk, emulates a branch.

The drawers and shelves are accessed by the tail and rear paws. The yinrih make greater use of tactile information than humans, as they use their rear paws and tail almost as much as their front paws to grasp objects. Items are made to be more tactily distinct so they can be identified by touch alone.

I promise yinrih actually have four legs, I'm just bad at drawing the two rear legs. I'm also still up in the air about the proportions of their rear paws and lower legs. I want the yinrih to be equal parts canid and monkey.
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Writing with the writing claw

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A yinrih's writing claw is shaped like the nib of a fountain pen, and acts more or less like one as well. However, while a fountain pen uses capillary action and gravity to cause a "controlled leak" to produce ink flow, a yinrih has voluntary control over the muscles in the ink sac. By contracting these muscles, and by gently pressing the tip of the claw against a writing surface, ink can flow out. This mechanism allows the writing claw to work in microgravity as well as planetside.

The Commonthroat word <FnA> (long low strong growl, chuff, long low weak whine) literally means "no ink" or "inkless" and is used like the English word "nerd". The idea is that nerds write a lot, and are thus constantly running out of their own ink. Since a yinrih's ink is a bodily fluid, it takes time to replenish itself.

The script is written from right to left. Yinrih are predominantly left-handed, especially when it comes to writing, although they have ink sacs in both forepaws.
Someone is inevitably going to ask how I did this blind. I have a magnifier attached to a monitor. I don't normally write by hand anymore, but this project has made me research fountain pens. I got some cheap calligraphy pens and a bottle of "blue-black" ink off of Amazon to do this. I was going to go the extra mile and add some scent to make it smell like petrichor, but the bottle of oil that advertised itself as smelling like rain ended up smelling like a generic air freshener. Maybe I should just buy pure geosmin instead. It'll just smell like dirt but that's closer to petrichor than the other stuff.
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Yinrih mathematics

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The yinrih use a dozenal numeral system. The highest place value is closest to the beginning of the line, which means the digits decrease in value going from right to left. The yinrih also use a set of symbols representing orders of magnitude similar to how we use K, M, G etc to represent thousands, millions etc. Instead of being based on powers of 1000 (or every third power of 10) they're based on powers of 1728, which is 1000 in base 12, or 1 great gross.

Not pictured is the negative sign, which is a small upper half circle placed before first digit on the midline. There is also a similar symbol to denote imaginary numbers (which the yinrih call perpendicular or orthogonal numbers) which is a small lower half circle. You can denote a negative imaginary number with a full circle.
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Xenoergonomics: Drinking Vessels

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Humans have very nimble lips compared to yinrih. We are capable of making an airtight seal with our lips (for all practical purposes, anyway), but a yinrih's chops hang loose like those of a dog.

Yinrih drink by putting the tongue in the liquid, forming a spoon shape with the tip of the tongue, scooping up a bit of liquid, and drawing the tongue back into the mouth.

So how do you make a drinking vessel that accommodates this behavior?

It has to be wide enough to fit a yinrih's muzzle. The tongue has to be able to reach the entire bottom surface of the vessel to lap up any remaining liquid, and it has to avoid liquid getting everywhere during the course of drinking.

Pictured above is a possible solution the problems listed above. While the picture is more narrow like a glass, in reality it would be a bit wider, closer to a bowl. The bottom is rounded to allow the remaining liquid to pool at the center, and there's an inward-pointing flange around the lip of the vessel to prevent spillage.

Drinking in microgravity is a bit trickier. Human astronauts use straws, but yinrih can't form a seal with their mouth as stated above, and can't create negative pressure in their oral cavity to suck liquid through a straw. I suspect it would involve something similar to the water bottles you see in rodent cages, where there's a ball bearing forming a seal , and licking the ball causes water to seep out. Those work on gravity, but the ones used by yinrih spacers might use positive pressure.
If I had a 3D printer I'd make one of these and see if it worked with my dog. Sadly, I don't.
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Re: The Lonely Galaxy Megathread (comments encouraged)

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Human beings have long used drinking bowls e.g. kylixes. Why not adapt that? Maybe the bowl shape is just like how we have it, but the handles are different.
Also, second idea: maybe a Yinrih bowl might look more like a spoon or a shell. Fill it up and pour it in.
Last edited by Visions1 on 07 Dec 2023 10:47, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Lonely Galaxy Megathread (comments encouraged)

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Also
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I figure the desk diagrammed above is probably a deluxe edition. The simplest desk for us is just a table. I guessed here it'd be a log with a bookstand, the latter in this case being moveable.

I think I got the eyes wrong.
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