An Introduction to Stariionae
by John R. Plunkett
* * * * * Continuity Alert * * * * *
The information listed in this document may be at variance with what has been published in various stories. In such cases this document supersedes all other sources; in time I'll review the stories and update them as required. Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns; I don't at all rule out the possibility that I've made mistakes or overlooked things. Aside from that, discussion is how I discover inconsistencies and points that aren't well thought out. Plus, I'm always open to new ideas.
The purpose of this document is to acquaint the reader with what is known of Species 23330714, colloquially known as the Stariionae. The material presented herein is a general overview, and not by any means all-inclusive.
- Adult Dimensions
- Female -
Length: 72.00 meters (nose to tail) Span: 44.50 meters (wingtip to wingtip) Height: 13.75 meters (keel to rudder tip) Mass: 420 tons
- Male -
Length: 64.80 meters (nose to tail) Span: 40.05 meters (wingtip to wingtip) Height: 12.38 meters (keel to rudder tip) Mass: 307 tons
- Outward Appearance
Stariionae resemble supersonic fighter aircraft. The nose cone is long and pointed, with a pair of canards near the base. These fins have sharply swept leading edges, sharply reverse swept trailing edges, and squared tips, giving them a half-diamond appearance in planform view (from above or below). The fuselage is oval in cross section, wider from side to side than top to bottom. A pair of strakes, with sharply swept leading edges and much less sharply reverse swept trailing edges sprout from either side. The main wings are relatively short and sharply swept, on both leading and trailing edges. The tips are organically curved, not squared, with a small "hook" on the trailing edge. The wing roots actually attach at the fuselage centerline but the strakes, combined with a steep anhedral (the wings angle downward from root to tip) gives the appearance that they are high-mounted. In planform view, there is a modest but noticeable flattening of the leading edge angles between the strakes and the wings. On the trailing edges the break is very sharp, since the wings are forward swept and the strakes reverse swept, creating a saw tooth trailing edge. The fuselage extends into a flattened oval tailcone that flares out into a full-width elevator. Between the elevator and strakes, on top of the tailcone, are dual rudders, canted outboard. Beneath the tailcone, in positions analogous to the rudders, are two fins, also canted outboard. These fins overlap both the strakes and elevator but are very short from root to tip; where the rudders are designed to intrude fully into the slipstream along their entire length, the fins are shadowed by the fuselage in normal flight. They only come into play at high angles of attack where the rudders would be shadowed by the main wings. All the tail fins have curved, hooked tips, like the main wings.
Despite resembling aircraft, the Stariionae lack cockpits, view ports, intakes, exhausts, thrusters, or hull piercings of any kind. The skin surface is smooth, shiny, and imbued with an opalescent radiance, like mother of pearl. It's unbroken by joins, joints, or fasteners, as if the entire skin were a created as a single piece (which, in a sense, it is). Just below it is a layer that emits visible light; at rest it's soft and diffuse, easily washed out by external illumination. Passing through the skin diffracts the light; minute variation in skin flexion combined with changes in intensity divide the light into zones of constantly shifting color. The effect has been described as like watching sunlight reflect from a pool of liquid mother of pearl, where the surface ripples in slow motion. It is known that the Stariionae nervous system exerts both conscious and subconscious control over the light emission system; physical activity and mental excitement will both increase the intensity of the glow. Psychological agitation tends to increase the saturation of the colors and the rate at which they change.
Stariionae have a total of six limbs, all of which are constructed in a fashion very like humanoid arms. All six mount to the underside of the fuselage, near to the center of mass. Four are set on the belly, in a trapezoidal arrangement: two aft of center, close together, two forward of center, farther apart. This cluster is known as the strength limbs; they are short but thick and strong, capable of supporting the individual's body weight under normal gravity. The other two limbs mount right on the centerline, in the strakes. They are much longer- the forearm and hand are the full length of the strake- but much slimmer and not nearly as strong; these are called the manipulator limbs.
All six limbs have five digited hands with opposable thumbs and elbows that bend forward. They are coated with a hard shell that's similar to hull material but lacking the light emitting qualities. The tips of the fingers on the strength limbs are pointed, while on the manipulator limbs the fingertips are rounded. Joints are protected by black "boots" made of flexible, rubbery material. Textured pads of the same material coat the palms and the undersides of the fingers to provide a gripping surface. Molebind fields projected through the pads keep things stuck to them even when not firmly gripped by the fingers.
When not in use the limbs stow away inside the body. They fold with the elbows pointing aft, hands forward, and lay in channels in the hull. The edges of the channels squeeze shut over the upper arm and forearm but leave the hand exposed, though still inset. All six limbs are equipped with an extra joint whose sole function is to swing out, placing the shoulder articulation outside the hull. The limb channels then close, smoothing the belly and strakes.
Stariionae are not "handed;" they may be considered fully ambidextrous. Manipulator limbs are generally more dexterous that strength limbs, but a Stariionae could use a keyboard or stylus with equal facility in any hand.
Strength limbs are meant for lifting, carrying, and grasping, not standing or walking. Using the strength limbs as legs, for the Stariionae, can be likened to a humanoid crawling on hands and knees: possible but not comfortable and detrimental in the long term.
- Internal Structure
Despite their appearance, Stariionae are endoskeletal creatures. Their main support is a spar running the length of the body, from nose to tail, along the top of the fuselage. The spar is jointed where the nose and tailcone join the fuselage, allowing those members to both swing and twist. In the fuselage are no less than five joints, allowing the main body a quite amazing degree of movement. The main wings are supported by five spars, running from root to tip, articulated to the spine and also divided by five joints each. The wings can flex up and down, twist, and change their camber. The tail fins are supported by a similar arrangement but with fewer joints. For flight control, the entire tailcone swings and the fins change their camber.
The nose cone is almost entirely solid and contains the "skull." Inside the fuselage, a series of ribs support all the muscles which move the various joints. A fork and scapula arrangement, somewhat similar to a humanoid shoulder, anchors the limbs. In the case of the strength limbs, the fork and scapula are mounted vertically; for the manipulator limbs they run horizontally. The lower ends of the fuselage ribs are joined by something similar to a bird's keel bone: as in birds it's not actually bone but a joint designed to allow a certain amount of flexion.
All the extra spaces within a Stariionae's body are filled with a spongy material stiffened by a honeycomb structure. This material can be considered analogous to fat; it stores fuel and whatever else is needed by the Stariionae's biological processes. It also acts as an intermediate structural layer, helping the skin to hold its shape. In case of a hull breach the material hardens by forming a network of strong, sticky fibers. The honeycomb provides support for the fibers so holes can be sealed quickly and effectively.
Because of their unique biology Stariionae don't have that many internal organs as compared to Terrestrial animals. They don't breathe, so they don't have lungs. Their digestive tract is limited to a series of pouches connected by tubes, analogous to the stomach and small intestine. Except for the stomachs these organs take up very little room; the feeding transporters bring material on board already in form for optimal absorption, so very little subsequent processing is required. There are several organs believed to be analogous to the liver, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys, but more concerned with controlling blood chemistry than aiding digestion. The operation of these organs is not clearly understood. Collectively they're referred to as the factory organs, since they manufacture and reprocess the body's nanites.
It can be argued that Stariionae are not living creatures but rather fantastically complex robots. They are indeed not organic; their bodies are composed of synthetic composites, assembled and maintained by nano-machines. Many of these nanites are powered by nuclear fission, as opposed to chemical processes. Muscles are composed of many small fibers, just like organic ones. Individual muscle fibers are powered by nuclear fusion; modified muscle tissues power "high energy" systems such as weapons, shields, sensors, and FTL drive.
Because of their particular biochemistry Stariionae flesh and blood is very dangerous to organic creatures, being both chemically toxic and highly radioactive. Wounded Stariionae are very dangerous Healthy Stariionae are safe to approach because their hull contains all the toxic materials but
- Circulatory System
Stariionae have two hearts, one just behind the nose cone and a second just ahead of the tail cone. Females have a third in the center, which supplies the reproductive organs. (In males there is a homologous structure which is part of the warhead launcher system.) These hearts are not mechanical pumps but instead use arrays of super-gravity tractors to draw fluid through a venturi. Nevertheless, output pressure is cyclic; in males the front and rear hearts operate in opposite phases. Females have a three-phase beat; in 75% of individuals the pattern is front - middle - rear. In 20% of individuals the pattern is rear - middle - front, with the last 5% equally split between middle - front - rear and middle - rear - front. In the womb and during infancy the female's cycle pattern will change several times before settling down to the pattern the individual will retain through her adult life. When a female reaches the equivalent of menopause, when the reproductive system shuts down, the center heart stops working. The remaining hearts will gradually shift to a two beat pattern, just like a male's. The cyclic frequency at which the hearts operate is analogous to pulse rate in an organic creature.
The hearts circulate fluid throughout the body via a network of ducts laid out just like blood vessels in an organic creature. The fluid serves the same purpose as blood: fuel, building materials, and repair nanites are carried to where they need to be and wastes taken away. Blood is not used for thermal regulation; that's handled by the shield system.
nanites, fuel, and building materials throughout the body and the cyclic frequency is analogous to the pulse rate in
Of particular note are the Stariionae's hearts. Males have two, one just behind the nose cone and another just ahead of the tail cone. Females have three: the same two as the males and a third in the center, which supplies the reproductive organs. (The reproductive system itself will be discussed later.) The hearts are not mechanical pumps but focused reaction thrusters, employing the same principle as the lift-and-drive system, described below.
Muscle Almost all these nanites are powered by radioactive decay; as such Stariionae blood and flesh is intensely toxic to organic creatures. Stariionae muscles are powered by nuclear fusion, which happens on a molecular level inside individual "cells." Depleted fission and fusion products, as well as other biochemical waste, is used as reaction mass. If Stariionae are robots then they are true Von Neumann machines, self-sustaining and self-reproducing.
Since they don't have engines, Stariionae fly using a system something like current Federation contra-gravity lift-and-drive. Basically, the system generates a focused super-gravity beam capable of attracting or repelling nearby objects. But where Federation systems rely on fixed arrays with a limited range of focus, every muscle cell in a Stariionae's body is capable of generating an individual beam, in any direction. As such, a Stariionae can develop full thrust in any attitude, as well as dividing total thrust into any number of beams which may focus completely independently of each other.
A Stariionae can fly in any of three modes. Like an ordinary air car, thrusting against the ground to achieve lift and motion. Like a stratojet, thrusting against the air. Or as a true space craft, where matter is beamed out by the feeding transporters and thrust against. (Note: the excitation of matter as a result of the transport and thrusting is what causes the Stariionae to glow brightly while engaged in high-G maneuvers in vacuum.)
A Stariionae may control its attitude with thrust but it also has an angular reaction system consisting of spherical gyros, suspended and spun by super-gravity beams. In keeping with the basic design philosophy these gyros are very small and there are thousands of them scattered throughout the body.
In aerodynamic flight, Stariionae project specialized force fields from their skin. These fields prevent airflow from touching the skin, thus reducing parasite drag. They also control boundary layer turbulence, which further reduces drag and also enhances the authority of the control surfaces. Thus a broad range of mechanical motion in the fins is not needed to achieve high maneuverability.
Just like Federation star ships, Stariionae are equipped with shields and zero inertia fields. Both are generated by a specialized form of muscle tissue, with what amounts to billions of individual emitters. Furthermore, the shields are embedded in the hull rather than projecting beyond it. For both these reasons Stariionae shields are markedly more effective than Federation designs. Multiple emitters eliminate "windows" of vulnerability to energy of a particular modulation and type. Segments on the verge of burn-through can transfer energy to adjacent, unloaded segments or the hull itself, which acts as an enormous heat sink.
The Stariionae's main offensive weapon is often called a power beam, though strictly speaking it should be called a force beam. Instead of projecting highly charged particles or waves at a target, after the fashion of a plasma cannon or laser, it projects a long, thin, very tightly focused force field. This field is designed to "diffract" into multiple vectors upon striking a target; this "spreading" effect creates a shockwave in the target which inflicts the actual damage. The beam is, up to a point, tunable for varying densities of targets.
The beams are generated by fan shaped arrays of emitters in the front part of the fuselage, located outside the ribs and the muscles anchored to them. There are four such arrays, each of which discharges through a single emitter point on the outer hull. These points are just aft of where the nose cone joins the fuselage, evenly spaced in a ring around it. The skin over these points is black instead of the normal mother of pearl and bulges outward in smoothly fared bumps. Each emitter can fire a beam in any direction not masked by the hull. Because of their position on the forward curve of the fuselage all four emitters can fire directly forward but there's an approximately cone shaped "dead zone" directly aft. Between those extremes, at least two mounts can fire into any given hemisphere.
Male Stariionae have missiles, which are grown and stored inside the body and deployed by transporter. Transport causes a slug of matter inside the projectile to become anti-matter; thrust is produced as it combines with normal matter in the missile body. Missiles do not have warheads; they inflict damage through a combination of high relative velocity and the release of whatever anti-matter remains on board. A missile that doesn't hit anything will literally burn itself out, degenerating into a spray of highly charged particles.
Missiles contain sophisticated guidance systems; they may be used in "fire-and-forget" mode or under remote guidance. A given male can only guide his own missiles, but certain females have the ability to guide missiles launched by various males.
Each of the Stariionae's limbs has a powerful tractor/pressor mount built into the palm. These can be used as weapons in "rattler" mode: by switching very rapidly between attraction and repulsion. Synching this frequency to a material's resonant frequency makes it possible to saw through even extremely refractory objects; more delicate materials will literally explode.
The fingertips of a Stariionae's strength limbs are equipped with a specialized form of rattler that acts as a claw, lengthening and sharpening the fingertip. In some ways these "force claws" are more effective than the rattlers, as a result of being considerably more tightly focused, but their range is extremely limited and they only cut; they don't have the shattering effect of the rattlers.
The Stariionae's prime sensor is called a state detector, to avoid confusion with the mass detector, whose operation is superficially similar but employs different fundamental principles. Like a mass detector, the data collected by a state detector is not skewed by relativistic distortions, and events in hyper-space are visible. How the state detector works is not clearly understood; functionally it's capable of penetrating any known matter and registering the presence of electric, magnetic, and gravitational fields. Dense materials are described by Stariionae as being "dark," while empty space is "light," but a barrier of dense matter does not impede the state detector's ability to discriminate less dense material beyond the barrier. Shields, even the ultra-high energy type used to shield lightweight warp reactor cores, only slightly degrade the state detector's resolving power. Zero inertia fields, however, reduce it considerably: as field strength increases detail within it gradually fades, until it appears to be a single object of uniform density, structure, and composition. The presence of the field can't be hidden, but it's contents can.
Stariionae skin is capable of detecting all along the electromagnetic spectrum. They can discern the intensity and bearing of an EM source with a high degree of accuracy but do not resolve the data into images. It could be said that they "feel" radiation rather than "see" it.
Tactile sensation is extremely well developed in Stariionae, stemming from the need to closely monitor airflow over their bodies.
Stariionae have no sense of hearing per se, though their high tactile sensitivity allows them to discern pressure waves. The vocalizations of organic creatures are, for the most part, much too soft for them to detect.
This is the biggest enigma by far. What is known is far less than what isn't. It appears that Stariionae transform themselves into a form of matter which can exist stably in hyper-space; they do not enclose themselves in a bubble of normal space after the fashion of Federation spacewarp drive. In fact, a Stariionae can enter or leave a star ship's warp bubble just like entering or leaving normal space. Doing so induces a tremendous imbalance in the warp field; most warp drives will go into emergency shutdown and most likely sustain grievous damage to their energizer systems. This disruption can be minimized if the Stariionae slows the transition, giving the drive time to react.
The Stariionae system requires comparatively little energy. Stariionae do not need antimatter-fueled warp reactors to supply their power needs; the lower energy fusion reaction is sufficient. Also, they can activate their drive while running their other systems at full power, where a Federation star ship has to shut almost everything else down while charging its warp field.
In terms of apparent velocity, Stariionae drives are only about a third as fast as Federation designs. A Stariionae could easily keep up with bulk freight hauler; a reasonably modern liner would quickly pull ahead and any recent generation military vessel would leave a Stariionae in the dust. On the other hand, A Stariionae can refuel from readily available hydrogen, so its effective operating range is vastly larger than that of a Federation vessel, which is constrained by the availability of anti-matter manufactories.
The Stariionae word for the state they enter when translating into hyper-space has been rendered into English as "shadow space." This is an extremely rough approximation, chosen by consensus as the best of several alternatives offered by the SwiftSure Translator. (SEE Language, below, for further details.)
The Stariionae word for inserting into hyper-space or normal space is rendered into English as "side-stepping."
Stariionae speak to one another using a system which seems to be closely related to the state detector. Intelligence may be passed instantaneously over very long distances: much longer than is possible with hyper-wave. As with the state detector, communication signals are not affected by space, matter, or energy located between endpoints. As with hyper-wave, the communication must be directed to a particular location; it can't be broadcast.
It's possible for one Stariionae to eavesdrop on another by opening a channel but not sending. If the target is observant, though, he or she will notice the intruding channel and may take steps. It's also possible for a Stariionae in shadow-space to detect that other Stariionae are speaking, though not to detect what's being said, even without knowing where the speakers are located. The volume in which this detection is possible is a solid ellipse whose major axis is defined by the endpoints of the transmission. Because of this, even though it's possible for them to communicate over very long distances, they generally confine themselves to speaking only over ranges measured in light-minutes, or light-hours if the environment is safe enough for it. This practice is to avoid alerting the Thraxid (SEE "The Enemy," below).
Translating Starrionae language has proven extremely difficult. It's multi-threaded nature means that there are always many different intrepretations of any particular symbol set. Furthermore, the vast majority of Stariionale language artifacts are based on concepts that organic minds are simply incapable of percieving or grasping. In short, the universe Stariionae see, and how they see it, is completely different from the one organic creatures see.
Stariionae brains are capable of processing data a hundred times faster than organic ones, and this increased capability is reflected in their language. Not only is the raw data rate much higher, but Stariionae speech is multi-dimensional: where most vocal communication is presented in serial fashion, Starrionae speech is multi-threaded. (Like music as compared to ordinary speech, but it isn't clear how accurate that analogy is.) are very facile with language and have no trouble learning "softie" languages, even though, so far, no non-Stariionae has yet made any sense of the Stariionae language.
* Manipulator Limb Shoulder Positioning *
* Anterior Strength Limb Median Joint Direction *
* Molebind Finger Pads *
* Fairing of Limb Channels *
* Arrangement of Power Beam Mounts *
To Be Continued
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