- Physical look: (please make use of the below pictures in addition to textual description. They are extremely indicative of what is desired for the Rlaan. The text is brief due to reliance on images.)
- (arms and legs to front and rear of image removed for simplicity)
(arms and legs to front and rear of image removed for simplicity)
Worker not drawn to scale relative to Defender (defender is actually much larger than worker)
The Rlaan are actually two species arising from a common ancestor. Hundreds of thousands of years of breeding within specialty have induced speciation between the Defender and Worker variants. Offspring of matings between the two are sterile Hybrids.
- Basic body plan: radial symmetry around vertical axis, 4-way symmetry. 4 arms, 4 legs, 4 eyes. Hermaphrodite, 1 gender, egg laying.
- Height at top knee ( Normal posture): Defender - ~1.5 meters, Worker - ~1 meter, Hybrid - ~1.3-1.5 meters
- Radius (center to top knee): Defender - ~1.5 meters, Worker - ~1 meter, Hybrid - ~1-1.2 meters
- Mass: Defender - 225-275 kg
- Head: Underneath the primary torso is what most resembles a Rlaan's head. The bottom-most portion of the head is a hard, bony plate the Rlaan can rest on the ground when "sitting". Even the brain within the head is radially symmetric, with four lobes.
- Mouths: four beak-like projections in line with limbs
- Eyes: four short stalks projecting with alignment between the limbs
- Breathing slits: four sets of puffy, soft fleshy bits through which the Rlaan breaths
- "Neck" - the head and primary torso are connected with a corrugated, flexible musculature
- Hands: Four fully opposable digits. Workers have much greater fine motor control than defenders.
- Legs: Four legs, each with 3 primary segments ending in a 4-splayed foot. On Defenders, the outermost facing toe-parts are fused into a spike.
- Arms: Four arms, each much smaller than the legs, and sprouting just below them, terminating in the above-mentioned hands.
- Tail: N/A
- Skin: Rlaan have a hard external carapace, but it is not truly their primary weight bearing mechanism. An internal skeletal system of struts criss-crosses their internal cavities, and musculature and organs attach to both internal skeletal struts and, in some places, the hard external carapace. Defenders tend towards deep red tones, workers toward creamy marble tones, and Hybrids are usually various shades of mauve.
- Rlaan do not wear clothing, but will coat portions of their carapace with various insulating and colored gels.
- Torso: The upper (primary) torso contains most vital organs. It is most heavily responsible for breathing and digesting.
- Other attributes: Rlaan metabolism can be thought of like a cross between a redwood and a natural-gas bus. It is sometimes more convenient to think of the "animals" of the Rlaan ecosystem as more like staggeringly active plants. Rlaan larval forms are similarly radially symmetric, but around a horizontal axis. They are unintelligent, worm-like eating machines, and are treated more like livestock than children. Rlaan achieve their full adult size during metamorphosis and will not grow thereafter. Visual spectrum is broader than that of humans in both directions.
- What kind of people are they?
- As humans, we do not truly understand the Rlaan. They are fundamentally alien to us in ways that even some other aliens aren't. We can describe their behavior, and even predict it, but we will not easily internalize it. It does little good to think of them as insane, for they clearly can reason, after their own fashion, but their value systems tend to strike us as odd. Likewise, the Rlaan capacity for mental compartmentalization and parallel thought processes sometimes produce unsettling responses to stimuli. They are an old culture, in space for thousands of years, frantically changing details on the surface of their existence, but fundamentally slow to come about to real changes. They feel threatened by the faster pace of Human and Aeran development. Their distinct atmosphere requirements and metabolism give them both an opportunity to co-exist with other species (desire different planet types) and a life still fundamentally apart from their neighbors.
- The Rlaan homeworld is cold - very cold. The warmest locations are still well below the freezing point of water. Ammonia-life prospers slowly in its thick methane-nitrogen atmosphere. Environmentally, Titan is to the Rlaan homeworld what Mars is to Earth. Life on the Rlaan homeworld proceeds at a stately pace, with metabolisms suited to the temperatures. The higher atmospheric pressure of the Rlaan homeworld allows for Ammonia-methane life to more comfortably exist at temperatures that would otherwise be considered rather on the high-end for that chemistry. Rlaan living conditions tend to reflect their ancestral origins in subterranean colonies, but also make use of surface buildings.
- Role of technology:
- Just as humans have used technology to control their environment, so have the Rlaan. However, for the Rlaan, they see few particular distinctions between living and non-living tools. Their conception of technological ethics is sufficiently different than ours that conversations on the topic by anything other than highly patient diplomats tend to bring about confusion. Due to the odd nature of the Rlaan's primary religious text, the role of technology in Rlaan cosmology is frequently changing.
- Religion and philosophy:
- Most Rlaan are adherents of Rlaanbzztkrlbzeentkaan. What this means is very difficult to say, as, though it is a text based religion, the text is under constant revision. Indeed, the Rlaan Assembly regularly submits changes and additions to the holy text. Contradictory edicts abound, but some incomprehensible degree of compartmentalization allows the Rlaan to consider it all canonical.
- Each Rlaan is a mentally complex creature, and Rlaan society labyrinthine and byzantine, but most Rlaan are basically interchangeable, and their society, while never making this explicit, relies on this fact implicitly. Variations in behavior among most groups of Rlaan seems to arise more out of situational complexity and chaos than because of strong individual personality. That there are different Rlaan political/philosophical sub-groups discernible to humans is mostly a function of the vast size of the Rlaan population - even with limited variance, with sufficiently large numbers, there are measurable clusters.
- Technology level:
- In materials science, and biology, the Rlaan are unmatched. However, lacking much impetus, the Rlaan have very minimal development in the field of abiotic AI and have often avoided entire fields of study for inscrutable reasons (Rlaan don't use missiles as such). Rlaan shield/gravitics/etc-technology is arguably more advanced than that of any other extant group, though not necessarily always more effective in any given confrontation.
- Diet and taboo:
- Biologically, opportunistic omnivores. Culturally, they have since become nearly vegetarians, no longer consuming macroscopic animals as part of their regular diet.
- The greatest Rlaan taboo is violence against workers, or expressed outside their species, violence against unarmed civilians. Indeed, the concept of armed civilians causes great mental anguish among the Rlaan, and it is generally easier for them to think of any such persons as Hybrids independent of a particular colony. The Aera misunderstood the biological depth of this taboo, and sparked a war with the Rlaan lasting most of a decade.
- The greatest contribution of the Rlaan to inter-species relations is the very explicit threat of retaliation for civilian atrocities, even against non-Rlaan, prompting a series of limited warfare treaties to be signed. The vast weight of the Rlaan fleets behind these agreements gives pause to even the most bloodthirsty commander.
- Rlaan interests tend to operate in either fickle or obsessive modes. Either a Rlaan is in entire agreement about something, in which case, it is difficult for an outsider to dissuade it from its decisions, or else it is "of four minds about the subject".
- Construction aesthetics:
- While no large Rlaan constructions are single living organisms, many Rlaan constructions are built out of materials synthesized by bacterial vats and the Rlaan make use of bio-engineered animals in situations where other groups might use robots and software. Metals and ceramics still feature heavily in Rlaan construction, but in places where other groups would use plastics or carbon fibers crafted at a refinery or factory, the Rlaan use extracts from life-forms specifically created for the task at hand. The result is often more limited in many ways, but light, cheap, and easy to deploy at scale anywhere in the Assembly's domain.
- The Rlaan never build one of anything. The domain ruled by the Assembly is vast, and parts have been inhabited for thousands of years. When the Rlaan lack in quality they tend to make it up in quantity - not in the rate at which they can produce new construction (which is still paced for Rlaan lifetimes) but simply due to the staggering amount of infrastructure and vessels already present.
- The Rlaan lived in vast warrens on their homeworld, and they bring some of that aesthetic with them, running curving networks of tunnels through buildings and starships alike.
- Rlaan palettes often seem muted and toward the red end of the spectrum, as humans cannot see highlights in the near IR that Rlaan can see.
- Worker ships are always completely unarmed (not even defensive weaponry) and feature bleached out color schemes compared to their more aggressive brethren.
- Natural/organic curves feature very heavily in Rlaan designs. Up and down are often well defined, but notions of left and right are often very limited. The Rlaan do not limit themselves to radial symmetries in their designs, but they are as likely to eschew symmetry altogether as to produce truly bi-lateral designs.
- Rlaan live in high densities, and limited space, thus humans would consider Rlaan living situations claustrophobic.
- Rlaan are perceived to have exquisitely horrible taste in music, and will often listen to multiple recordings simultaneously.
- The Rlaan are very fond of fractal visual art.