HyderaBy Khannea Suntzu
Hydria Prime is from the human, terrestrial perspective a planet of contradictions. The planet itself orbits in a very ciurcular orbit a gas giant larger than Jupiter, at a mean distance of 1.5 million kilometers. The gas giant is on the verge of Brown Dwarf state, and has entered compression to produce cyclical surges of thermonuclear reactors in its core. The mean surface temperature of the gas giant in its upper cloud layer ranges from a few hundred degrees in hot spots to 150 degrees near its poles.
Heat/cold cycles in the atmosphere of this Brown Dwarf cycle over 50 years between dormant and active, influencing surface heat and radiation flow on Hydria prime. The brown dwarf itself orbits a K5 star which is smaller than Sol. Several million years ago Hydria Prime did not receive sufficient solar heat to permanently melt its surface ice. Despite that Hydria as a planet was formed 7 billion years ago, from a more metal-rich cloud. Hydria prime is consequently more metal rich and “dense”, despite being older than the solar system/earth. Only the last several hundred million of years the main brown dwarf started emitting sufficient energy to thaw Hydria prime. Nevertheless there was been higher order organic life inside the sub-surface oceans of Hydria prime. It is assumed the Gas Giant will heat up in the next few ten million years as to make Hydria uninhabitable. Despite the harsh conditions complex life evolved 4 billion years ago, and has evolved ever since in the dark subsurface oceans of the planet, below a mile thick ice crust. Originally the subsurface oceans were quite acidic, and tainted with complex hydrocarbons salts and complex organic molecules. Primitive Hydrian life lived in planet wide deep sub-oceanic vent regions along the equator – Hydria used to have an equatorial oceanic ridge.
How Hydria Prime evolved in to its current state
Life got started on Hydria Prime a billion years ‘early’ on terrestrial life. Hence, Hydrian life is surprisingly (and often terrifyingly) resilient, robust, versatile and organically complex when referenced with terrestrial life. But the story doesn’t end there – Hydria Prime used to be a moon not unlike Titan – with a thick cryogenically frozen outer surface, a thick soupy organo-chemical atmosphere, and cryo-volcanism. Below the deep frozen primordial surface of Hydria prime lay a 40 mile deep ocean, not of just water, but mostly of viscous black sludge the consistency of honey. In this ocean life complex organic evolved and remained in a state of stasis for a billion years. There were little evolutionary pressures and the habitat was only disrupted by infrequent asteroid strike extinction events. The ecology comprised very complex strata of crawling sea current, variations in temperature and halocline salinity, and truly massive mile long deposits of sedimentary debris floating smack in the middle of these halocline layers.
But then the temperature of the system changes. The Brown Dwarf started heating up due to contraction and emitted enough light to gradually thaw Hydria. Hydria started losing its atmospheric constituents (primarily Hydrogen) very gradually over the course of hundreds of millions of years. In some time in the geological past Hydria was orbiting more inward to the Brown Dwarf (it migrated outwards due to tidal pull from the main star). Over the span of billions of years the subsurface life grew in complexity and started having a feedback impact on the composition of the ocean, making it less acidic and reducing salt levels and general viscosity. As a side effect of this transition gaseous hydrogen was produced as a free gas, which accumulated in pockets under the ice crust and which emerged from the surface in geysers. Over billions of years the tidal heating of the planet was replaced by heating from the outside and heating from the brown dwarf.
Hydrian gradually life found its way to the still frozen surface and evolved a natural resistance against the radiological “allen belt” onslaught of the Brown Dwarf (hydrian radiation spikes at over 1000 rem at certain times of the month). This trigger the formation of an oxygen atmosphere on the surface of this ice moon, as truly titanic plants used the energy gradiant between the subsurface ocean (and hydrogen) and the surface light and radiation (and oxygen) to grow through sometimes miles of geyser crackers.
Then 500 million years ago the ice surface of Hydria Prime cracked and split open, and very quickly the oceans started boiling off through hydrogen loss. At the same time the atmosphere of Hydra grew thicker to the current 10 standard atmosphere pressure. Hydria Prime is tidally locked to its Brown Dwarf and Hydera evolved on the northern delta regions of the main continental mass that is turned halfway towards the main star and halfway to the Brown Dwarf. The two geographic regions look apocalyptically different, since the Brown Dwarf visibly glows in the dark sky.
The main sun looks like a smaller version of Sol, at a distance to the Brown Dwarf of equivalent to Mars.
Hydrian Plant Life Evolved
Hydrian “plants” function quite differently to terrestrial plants. Since the planet is inundated by frequent and severe radiation storms, Hydrian life doesn’t use codified genetic material in cells to convey its heredetary qualities. Plant life has a single ‘genome pocket’ that tends to be buried. Hydrian Plans are “organic” and not at all wood-like. There are complex organs inside Hydrian plans, generally surrounded by an exoskeleton. Nevertheless Hydrian plants tend to be inanimate, and are as a rule extremely defensive (quils, poison, sharp bark, symbotic relationship with animal species, etc.) against “predation” or “grazing”. Hydrian jungles are objectively speaking considerably more dangerous than Terrestrial jungles.
Hydrian plants generally procreate through lifecycles. Some plants have an ambulatory or “animal” stage, and some animals may have an “inanimate” stage in their life cycles. Some plants actually exhibit a fair degree of smarts, if you can call it that. “Commerce” and “Betrayal” is a routine feature of plant interactions. It is best to say that the plant ecology of Hydria prime is itself ruthlessly ‘capitalist’.
Hydrian Animal Life Evolved
Hydrian animal life exists in several sub strains, each as radically different from each other as terrestrial plants. In fact whereas on Earth there are Bacteria, Archaea and Eucariotes (and the latter comprise all “visible” complex life, including plants and animals). On Hydria there are five distinctly different different Clades, of which three have evolved complex organic life. On Hydria Prime plants and animals are more alien to another than terrestrial plants and animals. The third clade only generates very small invertebrate tendriled molds and has been gradually going extinct.
Animal life had to content with frequent surges of ionizing radiation from the Brown Dwarf and evolved a range of different coping strategies, ranging from a mixture of resilience, a rapid breeding cycle,
Sexuality and Reproduction
Hydera are by default a-sexual. This wasn’t always the case; before Hydera became intelligent (were “uplifted”) the species often overflowed available habitable space, and experienced severe cyclical extinctions. Through evolution the Hydera was forced to generate a solution, namely that only very fit and well-fed specimen would enter a procreative stage. Hydera do not have anything resembling genders – they produce eggs, which hatch in to tadpoles, which in turn go through a several decade life stage where they are non-intelligent and extremely aggressive. Only after some 32-odd terrestrial years this “feral” stage passes. In the feral childhood of Hydera it is a biological given that adult Hydera kill about 7% to 90% of their younglings, in cyclical cullings. Finally when the adult Hydera grows a neurological stem along it’s ventral spine does it achieve potential for the peculiar Hyderan sentience, and only then, when it is fed does it become able to lay eggs.
Hydera build elaborate nests. The smallest of these nests are round hollow mounds with a central warren filled with meticulously selected mud and decaying Hyderan plant matter. These mounds have a distinctive smell which is quite unpleasant for human noses. Singular mounds effectively produce clones of the Hydera parent. Hydera do however gather their breeding mounds in clusters (at which the base shape becomes hexagonal) and allow the tadpole stage Hydera to intermingle, based on an intricate political alliance game. Tadpoles that intermingle either kill and devour one another, or go through a mitosis stage, becoming a single new Hydera with “genetic” traits from either “parent”. These “merged” Hydera tend to be somewhat bigger, and enter sentient state earlier, usually after 25 years. The “merged” Hydera are however sterile. Hence the planet-locked traditional Hydera are sexual reproducers, whereas those species that colonized other lands, planets and star systems needed to develop contrived means (hormones, minor surgery) to enter a reproductive stage. There is no social distinction between either strain of Hydera. Both are (generally) societally treated equitably.
Hydera naturally live to an age of about 180 terrestrial years, but in practice most Hydera have long since altered their physiology to be biologically immortal. There are Hydera alive thousands of years old.
Whenever a Hydera corpse is incinerated it is clear what these creatures are composed off -they leave a remarkably aesthetic organic looking chrome skeleton that is essentially a light type of corrosion resistant metal. Hydrian skeletal material decays in the Hydrian organochemistry but it doesn’t decay on earth.
Interaction with Hydera makes clear they are quintessentially “alien” and nonhuman. Hydera think and function very different than humans. Hydera can both be regarded as sentient and “in a continued trance like state”, hyper-alert and remote. The Hydera mind is singular, whereas the human brain operates in distinctive sub-functions. Human minds in comparison have a “sub-conscious”, and a “reptilian brain”. Hydera on the contrary are extremely “in the now”. There are very few double layers in Hydera behavior, and they are not as prone to humans to “superstitions” or errors of pattern recognition. The first impression Hydera make on humans is a remote cynical detached-ness. Hydera have an acutely versatile voice box and are able to communicate “emulating” human language. The reverse is less easy achieved, and only very few humans are able to generate a crude “pidgin” Hydrian speech. The simple fact is that current Hydera, even young ones, are simply a whole lot smarter than the typical human being.
The Hydera Interplanetary Age
The Hydera Influence Spanning Parts of the Galaxy
The Galactic Horrors
- The Galactic Visor
- Wayne Douglas Barlowe
- David Gerrold
- Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle