The Channelers of Tzjetshu 2

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Zjetshu 2 is a small, dense, rapidly rotating, rocky world with a thick atmosphere and powerful magnetic field. In combination, these features combine into the two major forces on the tectonically quiet sphere: its constant and terrifying coriolis storms and its dense, radioreflective ionosphere.

Most life forms on Zjetshu 2 live a subterranean existence. They have evolved in the thin band of soil that is neither too far from the warmth of the sun nor too close to the blasting winds, absorbing water and nutrients brought by underground rivers before they can dissipate into the atmosphere. Some life forms are more mobile than others, and most can at least move themselves to different strata of soil as it accrues and scatters with the wind.

capellid

Two major life forms defy this subsurface pattern, though: the capelloid, a plant-like life form that stores energy from the wind to power its life processes, and the Channelers, an intelligent, but only provisionally sapient, social grazing creature.

An adult Channeler’s fin-shaped body stands five meters tall with three vertical, eye-like organs facing forward. Two stout legs propel it over Zjetshu 2’s stark landscape, while a thick, sensitive trunk searches the ground for the small, near-surface pseudoplants and subsurface creatures that form the bulk of its diet.

When caught in a storm, a Channeler faces into the wind, minimizing its frontal area, and hunches down toward the ground, gripping with anchors extending from its feet and the pseudodigits of its trunk.

channeler

Channelers use an r-strategy reproductive system. When they have an abundance of nutrition and predict safe weather, they will lay a spherical, 3 centimeter egg. When they come across such an egg, they fertilize it with a joyful, if brief, abandon, then move along.

Many eggs are destroyed by storms, their contents consumed by the entities living just centimeters below. A smaller number hatch, just to find themselves consumed by predators beneath their feet or simply swept into a storm. Those who survive stand upright and begin to graze. Once they have reached a few days of age, individuals can discharge an electric-generating organ through their feet and trunk, defending themselves against the hidden predators below.

Channelers use this organ to power a naturally-evolved spark gap radio, listening to their far-off herdmates for weather predictions and reports of food quality. As they begin to mature, they learn to both speak in their own “voice” and mimic “voices” they hear, relaying the signal 10 kilometers at a time.

Immature Channelers communicate about a very narrow set of subjects: their predictions of the weather and the quality of their food. Their language has complex grammar and syntax that provides context, but only narrow set of symbols. However, when an immature Channeler survives to the age of majority, older Channelers find their way to the individual and bring them to a location where they have found a colony of a particular toxin-exuding creature. In immature Channelers, this toxin causes discouraging pain and occasional death. But when they have reached the age of majority, it instead causes a profound psychoactive effect.

After consuming a colony, the elders teach the initiate a new set of symbols applicable to mathematics, philosophy, and aesthetics.

The initiate then begins their first creative act, sometimes using the sensitive pseudodigits of their trunk to create sculpture (however temporary) from the clay and rocks of the earth, sometimes “singing” radio songs, or sometimes asking increasingly precise questions about the nature of their world. Elders familiar with the form of intelligence growing in the initiate may convene from a great distance to help the initiate in their exploration.

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