By Charles E. Gannon
This article expands upon basic data that was first presented in the Kafer Sourcebook by William H. Keith, whose work is gratefully acknowledged. While it is not necessary to possess the KAFER SOURCEBOOK to run adventures involving the Ylii, the author highly recommends it as a source of deeper understanding about the Kafer-Y'Lii interaction, as well as some features of Y'Lii physiology.BASIC PHYSIOLOGY
The Y'lii are homeothermic, oxygen-breathing humanoids that evolved in an environment of diffuse, low-frequency light. They are polytaxic, which means that their `race' isn't a race at all, but is a sprawling amalgamation of sophonts belonging to (roughly) the same sub-order or superfamily of creatures. To use an terrestrial example, the Y'Lii `race' would be equivalent to the entire super-family of Hominoidea (man and the manlike-primates, or apes) operating as a single, integrated society.
Despite division into 33 separate species scattered across 7 genera, all Y'Lii evince certain common characteristics. They are upright bipeds, although some can adopt a rolling four-limbed gait. They have four fingered hands and feet, with two fingers of each extremity being opposable digits (thumbs). Almost all species are equally dextrous with their pedal digits as they are with their manual digits. Furthermore, they are polydextrous, meaning that they do not evince a right/left coordination bias in either their manual or pedal `hands'.
Ylii heads are actually `sensor' housings for their large eyes (binocular arrangement), small ears (2, located on the `cheeks' of the head), and a complex of hairlike sensory spindles dedicated to maintaining equilibrium and assessing air pressure (clustered in tufts around the ears). The Ylii eye is a large organ, designed to gather low-energy light. Consequently, Ylii can `see' body heat, vehicle emissions, and other infrared sources that are invisible to humans. However, Ylii cannot see blue light and do not adjust well to high-intensity light conditions. Noon in the Sahara would be an intensely uncomfortable (and temporarily blinding) experience for a Ylii.
The Ylii brain is located in the center of the upper torso in a bony protective casing. A six-chambered sequential pump functions as the heart and is located in the upper abdomen. Four-lobed lungs overlay the brain case and acquire air through 4 slits located near where one would find the upper bronchea in humans. The Ylii mouth provides direct access to the alimentary canal, being located in the abdomen. The abdominal mouth structure inverts and folds out of sight when not in use. Communication is achieved by passing air through the 4 breathing slits, resulting in wheezing/whistling phonemes with a muted nasal quality that has been likened to French. Without palate, dental structures, or larynx, the tonal variations of Ylii language are much subtler, since fewer phonetic options are available.
The Ylii are trisexual and deliver single, live young. The three gender are male, female, and bearer. The male impregnates the female, who then carries the fertilized ova for approximately one month. Then the female transfers the ova to the bearer, who carries the child for another 10 months. Consequently, Ylii females do not endure long or difficult pregnancies. Also, the more specialized and single-purpose anatomical arrangement of the bearer makes for easier and safer births. Ylii infants are slightly less physically dependent than human newborns, but must quickly master the complex social arrangement that results from the polytaxic nature of their society.
All Ylii are covered with a smooth silky fur, although color, length, and texture vary according to genera. These differences are not signifiers of class or caste. With the exception of only 1 of the 33 species, Ylii are herbivores.THE GENERA AND SPECIES
The Ylii are divided into seven genera --Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, Epsilons, Iotas, and Zetas. Within these seven genera, there are 33 separate species and subspecies. Each of the seven genera classifactions is also the classification for the dominant (by percentage) species within that genus. The different species are distinguishable not only by physical characteristics, but by the tasks they perform within Ylii society. Most of these task-related roles will be explained in terms of human equivalents. However, the reader should be aware that many of these parallels are crude congruences, at best. Even where Ylii activities may `seem' to be physically analogous to human behaviors, this in no way implies that the two share a commonality of function, purpose, or cultural significance.
Ylii of the Alpha genus are the most `adventurous' of the Ylii and are the most likely to be encountered off-world or as interspeciate liaisons. They are curious, hardy, and have a strong, aggressive will to survive. Alphas have traditionally served as the Ylii's explorers and first-wave colonists.
The Alpha genus includes two related but distinct species, which might best be termed the `gamers' and the `finders.' The gamers serve a purpose that might be be likened to a cross between professional athletes and performers. In short, they seem to retain and enact those cultural aspects of Ylii society that require physical expression.
The finders seem to specialize in tracking things, searching for lost objects, persons, and livestock. They tend to be the most reclusive of all the Ylii, and tend to associate predominantly with the Alpha species of the Alpha genus.
All species of the Alpha genus are fairly large (for Ylii), averaging 1.5 meters in height. With the exception of the palms of hands and feet, they are covered with glossy brown or brown-grey fur.
The Beta genus might well be called the Ylii technicians. They tend to follow quickly in the wake of Alpha explorations, their inquisitive natures drawing them to the new and puzzling challenges presented by novel environments. While they are skillful artificers, they are also extremely placid and socially malleable. They quickly adapt to --and adopt-- any social order in which they find themselves. The dominant species of this genus --Beta Beta-- are highly dextrous and knowledgable engineers, designers, and manufacturers. However, their fixation on such things appears to degrade their overall intelligence. In fact, they are not so much `slower-witted' as they are just plain uninterested in (and therefore, ignorant of) other things.
There are two other species in the Beta genera, which would best be called the `fixers' and the `tinkers.' The fixers tend to be a little less intelligent that the dominant Betas, and a little more stubborn. However, they are extraordinarily dextrous and doggedly persistant repairmen.
The tinkers are quite the opposite, being quick-witted, utterly cooperative, but a bit fickle. The tinkers manufacture the small items used by the Ylii, as well as little eye-pleasing objects that are jewelry-like adornments to be added to utilitarian devices. Tinkers do quick, beautiful work --but rapidly tire of making any given product, and so move on to something else.
The Beta genus are small for Ylii, never standing much more (or less) than a meter in height. They are covered with short brown fur that is quite sparse on their heads, hands, and feet. Exposed skin is red-brown to rust-colored and somewhat wrinkled.
The Gamma genus might be called the `proles' of the Ylii culture. They provide the strong backs and hands that do whatever heavy labor remains to be done by Ylii. They are simple-minded and docile, and are less sensitive to environmental differences than other Ylii. Consequently, they are frequently found in the Ylii industrial sites that dot Ssuushni'a's deserts, moons, and orbital stations.
There are three specialized species in addition to the dominant strain of Gammas. These species would be best referred to as `helpers', `scavengers', and `wildlings.'
The helpers seem to fulfill a role not wholly unlike that of an itinerant laborer, except that their `homelessness' seems to stem from an ingrained nomadic nature. In effect, they wander about Ylii society, perpetually on the look-out for any little (or big) job that needs a strong back or hand --which they gladly supply. They stay and eat either in the homes of other Ylii species, or in special `hostels' maintained for them.
The scavengers are essentially garbageman/undertakers, who consume any edible waste products --including dead Ylii. This makes them the only meat-eating species of all the Ylii. They also have the most complex sensory appartus, including a variable-sensitivity retinal arrangement and brown-tinted nictating ocular membranes that function as `sunglasses.' This arrangement allows them to function equally well in light and dark.
The wildlings are possibly the most interesting --and enigmatic-- of all the Ylii species. Esentially the wildlings are elemental or `prehistoric' Ylii. They do not read, only fashion the crudest tools, and speak a simplistic pidgin dialect of the Ylii language. The rest of the Ylii accord them a great deal of respect and take great care not to influence or change the habits or lifestyle of the wildlings. In fact, the wildlings play a complex role in the `macropsychology' of Ylii cultural outlook. Basically, the wildlings both serve as a living reminder of what the Ylii were, and constitute a way for at least one species of the `proto-Ylii' not to become extinct. The importance of these concepts reflects the Ylii focus on not exterminating any species, even if that means carefully preserving one's own evolutionary predecessors.
The Gamma genera are the largest of the Ylii, averaging 1.8 meters in height and 80 kilograms in weight. They are sturdily built and quite strong for their size. Their fur is short, thick, and either black or charcoal grey. Their hands and feet are hairless and black-skinned.
The Delta genus are the most intelligent --and elusive-- of all the Ylii. The great majority of them are teachers, a term which includes authors, documentarists, reporter/ observers, and any other task that focuses on the transmission of knowledge. Deltas are nonagressive, but are highly individualistic. Humans would think of them as `politely pigheaded.' A delta that is forced into an environment or role that it does not approve of will quickly weaken and die. This is their inborn way of `fighting back;' a physiologically-activated metabolic change that effectively `suicides' the Delta.
The deltas generally oversee and orchestrate the activities of the other genera, although they are not `hands-on' leader-types. Quite the contrary; their guidance takes the form of suggestions --which are readily obeyed by the other genera. Although the Deltas tend to make excellent and thoroughly-considered decisions, they do not do so rapidly. To a Delta, insistence upon a quick decision would be like telling a human that fish should have legs; it is a non sequiter. The only important thing to a Delta is that their decision is (in all ways) responsible and ecologically holistic.
Besides the dominant species Delta Delta, there are three other species, which would best be referred to as `mnemonics,' `healers,' and `conceivers.' Mnemonics are less mentally agile than the dominant deltas, but have extraordinary memories and a knack for logical and mathematical thought. They are expert computer programmers, librarians, and simulation experts.
Healers are the `doctors' of the Ylii, who tend to work in close concert with the `comforter' species of the Epsilon genus (which are described later on).
Perhaps the most important --and rarest-- of all Ylii species are the `conceivers'. More than any other species, these are the Ylii leaders, who possess unusually powerful and versatile minds. They tend to spend long periods isolated in monospeciate groups, where they may work together or apart. Their role is a mix of many things: inventor, judge, macroeconomic logistician, and thinktank consultant.
Delta's stand about 1.4 meters tall and are almost completely hairless, except for scattered tufts on their torsos, forearms, and a sparse covering across their backs. Their skin is dark grey to black and is quite wrinkled. They are extremely sensitive to light (even for Ylii) and still follow an almost completely nocturnal existence.
The Epsilon genus is the most gregarious of the Ylii genera, with the dominant species of this genus being akin to civil servants. The Ylii word for this group translates roughly as `communals' and certainly conveys more of the diffuse and broad nature of their role in this society. They are the noisiest of Ylii, tending towards hyperactivity when they are excited or upset.
The Epsilons are to the Ylii community what the Gammas are to Ylii industry; they are the hands that get the work done. But beyond this, there is a predisposition in the Epsilons toward social amalgamation; in some strange way, they are the glue that holds the Ylii together as a unified society. There is no `logic' behind this, nor is it simply explicable as an adaptation that ensures enhanced survival due to their specialized contribution to the welfare of the other genera. Rather, the activities and interaction of the Epsilons seem to be a behavioral cue to the rest of the Ylii to remain tightly integrated and socialized. They make the logical structure of the polytaxic society `feel right' to its various, diverse members.
There are four species other than the dominant Epsilons in this genus. They are the `commercials,' the `organizers', the `comforters', and the `watchers.'
The commercials oversee the final distribution of goods and services in the Ylii community, although there is no `selling' or `buying' per se'; Ylii do not have any concept of money. They are more akin to social welfare administrators.
The organizers fill a slot that might best be described as ombudsman/foreman. They keep track of what is going on in a community, do any simple planning that does not require a delta, and oversee the execution of any directives from the deltas.
The comforters are a combination day care/nurse/midwife/ hospice attendant/counselor. Separated from other Ylii, they will die within days.
One of the more interesting of the Ylii species is the watcher. Quite literally, the job of a watcher is to make sure that everything is going according to plan and that everybody is doing what they should be doing. While this might sound to a human as a cross between a kibitzer and a policeman, it is actually more analagous to a babysitter/surrogate parent.
The most common task of the watchers is to see to the ongoing socialization of the Ylii young, regardless of genus. The complexities of a society that integrates 33 different species into a single functioning unit are learned with some difficulty, and parents cannot always be present. When they are not, a watcher will usually be around to guide the young Ylii through any social unsureties or errors.
Generally, adult Ylii are of no concern to watchers; lacking a concept of crime, the Ylii never TRY to do anything that's wrong. However, if a Ylii is getting senile or is becoming mentally disturbed, the watcher is there to make sure that their cognitive impairment does not bring them --or other Ylii-- to harm. The watcher will then report this impairment to one of the organizers.
The Epsilon genus averages 1.2 meters in height and frequently adopts a four-limbed lope when moving on the ground. Except for their hands and feet, they are covered with light grey to snow white fur. The fur around the eyes is jet black, giving them a `masked' appearance. Their skin is also black. They are the most numerous of all Ylii genera.
The Iota genus is the Ylii answer to the professional builder. The dominant species of this genus has an innate fondness for structures, whether of stone, steel, or composite laminates. Like the Betas, they're a little bit detached from the rest of society. However, they are not as socially malleable as the Betas, and have a strong self-preservative instinct.
There are two additional species in this genus, which are best thought of as the miners and the finishers.
The miner's role is fairly self explanatory. These Ylii actually like working in narrow, confined spaces. Given their heavier fingers and prominent nails, Ylii evolutionists speculate that this species probably made its home in burrows, or in hollowed-out `tree' trunks. The miners also enjoy working in P-Suits, although the vastness of space produces agoraphobic reactions in them.
The finishers essentially handle the fabrication of building components and have an extraordinary eye --and feel-- for balance, smoothness, and stress lines.
The Iota genus stands about 1.3 meters tall and (except for the hands and feet) is covered with an almost blue-grey fur. The skin of the Iota is tannish-grey.
The Zeta genus is essentially the agrarian equivalent of the Gamma. These smallish Ylii are fairly docile and simple-minded. although the dominant species of this genus has a thorough understanding of farming and horticulture. This genus is interfertile with the Epsilon genus, but offspring are sterile Zetas. Of all the genera, the Zetas are probably the least curious, evincing a strong desire to live and die in the same vicinity where they are born.
Although there are only two species (other than the dominant) of Zetas, each one of those species is further subdivided into subspecies. One species would best be qualified as arboreal gatherers, of which there are five subspecies. The arboreal gatherers have only one task in life; to tend and/or gather needed products that grow in the high vegetation of Ssuushni'a's temperate zone. The subspeciate discriminations are largely due to different sensory sensitivities and varying weight (with the smaller subspecies being able to range up into the higher regions of the Ssuushni'an forest). They are by far the best climbers of the Ylii.
The other species --the land gatherers-- are ground dwellers who range back and forth across thinly-forested areas and even scrub-lands in search of food or other natural products of interest. They tend to be larger than the arboreal gatherers and are the swiftest runners of the Ylii, frequently using a 4-limbed gait.
Zetas range between .8-1.1 meters in height and are covered with tan-brown fur (except for their hands and feet). The arboreal gatherers have the largest ears of any of the Ylii, as well as the most developed balance sensors. However, their eyes are the smallest of any Ylii, giving them an almost tarsier-like appearance.
YLII NPCS: In the course of this (and any subsequent) adventure, the players are likely to encounter a number of Ylii NPCs. The following statistics offer mean values for each of the Ylii genera (based on the dominant species). Variations across species can be inferred from the separate description of each genus' non-dominant strains. There is considerable variation due to individual differences as well, but generally less so than in humans.
Evolution and History
The Ylii `race' evolved via the compilation of symbiotic interdependencies between closely-related species. This occurred largely due to the gradual cooling of Ssuushni'a's star, at trend which became significant enough to begin to change the biosphere approximately 10,000,000 years ago. Ssuushni'a became colder, glaciers advancing across once-temperate plains. Air temperature decreased, causing a long-term increase in rain.
For the `forest'-dwelling proto-Ylii, this heralded unwelcome alterations to their biome. Preferring the lowland forests and jungles, their ranges were eventually flooded, killing many of the trees. This provided the first impetus toward a polytaxic society.
The Epsilons and Zetas, originally a single suborder, had already begun evolving into separate genera. However, these branches of the Ylii evolutionary tree were still closely related and still interfertile. Social structure was similar as well. Consequently, when local conditions worsened, these two proto-genera began to cooperate, evolving a symbiotic relationship. The Zetas were food-scroungers par excellence, possessing the excellent noses and superior agility that enabled them to locate and retrieve fruits from even the highest reaches of the trees. Meanwhile, the Epsilons patrolled, oversaw the young of both groups, and saw to the portage and storage of the food, thereby freeing the Zetas to do what they did best.
However, as the forests continued to decline, more ground foraging was required --which put the Ylii at hazard from various predators that they had never had to worry about before. In order to acquire protection for the Zeta ground foragers, the joint Epsilon/Zeta troops began to shadow the movements of the more formidable Gammas, who were often left alone by the same predators that troubled the smaller Ylii genera. In time, this relationship was cemented by food-sharing with the Gammas.
As the orchestrators of the Ylii proto-society, the Epsilons began to specialize in attracting and integrating other Ylii who possessed skills that were needed by the whole group in order to enhance its survival. And as the decline of the forests continued and their habitat shrank and grew colder over the course of several million years, these first crude polytaxic groupings began to migrate toward the warmer equatorial regions.
These were the darkest --and most dubious-- days of the Ylii struggle for existence. Forced to cross swamps, open plains, and mountains, the Ylii frequently found themselves stranded in treeless biomes. It was during this period that the Deltas and Alphas were added to the symbiotic network. More individual-oriented than the other Ylii, these genera were accustomed to fending for themselves, and were better able to adapt to living in treeless climes, due to their greater ingenuity and versatility. So, in a reprise of the way the Epsilons had begun to shadow the Gammas, the whole polytaxic troop now began to follow the Alphas and Deltas (which at this time had just begun to evolve into separate genera). The Alphas and Deltas adapted to this new arrangement quickly and rapidly emerged as the `brains' of the troop.
Those groups which reached the warmer equatorial regions did so only because they adopted this sweeping macrosymbiotic arrangement. Consequently, by the time the `crisis' of survival had passed (Ssuushni'a's climate essentially stabilized at a new, cooler level approximately 6 million years ago), the Ylii polytaxic structure was firmly in place. Some troops had stumbled upon tool-making as they struggled for survival during their equator-bound migrations. This skill was retained and enlarged by the intensely curious deltas, who still placed a higher premium on self-reliance than other Ylii. The tool as an extension of self was a notion that the Deltas were temperamentally primed to embrace, and before long, drinking gourds, ropes, and javelins (to repel predators) began showing up in their hands. The rest of the Ylii evinced keen interest in these objects as well, and an offshoot of the Epsilons began to fashion these devices with an almost compulsive dedication. This offshoot eventually subdivided into the Beta and Iota genera. At this point, Ylii society began a rapid upward climb in sophistication and intelligence.
It should be noted, however, that whereas human intelligence was almost exclusively prompted by survival needs, Ylii intelligence evolved as much from the challenges inherent in managing a polytaxic social order as from desperate responses to Maslowian needs. Consequently, Ylii are not particularly `tool' oriented compared to other intelligent species. Much of their intelligence and inventiveness is focused on the nature and manipulation of ecological and social relationships. Ylii thought tends therefore to be broad in scope (seeing the universe as an intensely and absolutely interactive whole made up of inextricably linked parts), yet oddly narrow in focus (the only valid criterion for anything is whether it is in keeping with the dynamics of the universal equilibrium).
Clearly, a full, cognitive realization of such issues is not the province of each and every Ylii. Some genera are not much more intelligent than exceptionally bright `domesticated' creatures. The Gamma Wildlings --and several subspecies of the Zeta arboreal gatherers-- are not much more clever than an orangutan (but go and meet an orangutan sometime...).
These unusual aspects regarding the evolution of Ylii intelligence not only influence psychology and philosophy (which will be addressed later), but have had a profound impact on the history of the Ylii.
Early History: When Less Is More: The Ylii As Technical Minimalists
At the core of Ylii thought and behavior is their reliance upon the skill specialization enabled by their polytaxic society. This arrangment ensures optimum capabilities for survival without recourse to tools; the differentiated expertise of the group members takes the place of special purpose artifacts. Therefore, the Ylii only invent a tool if it serves a responsible purpose that cannot be met by the `organic' abilities of the group. And they only improve the tool if the need that prompted its invention has changed or intensified in such a way that an enhancement of the tool is required. Also, violence is almost unknown amongst Ylii, so wars were very infrequent (and resembled brief, extensive barroom brawls more than anything else). Consequently, the Ylii have not had to contend with any of the classic human `technology drivers.' Only as their societies grew larger and more complex was any form of industrialization or mass-provided service required. Hundreds of millenia passed before the changeover to a truly technical society began.
It is appropriate to note here that by the time they were beginning to enter their equivalent of the Industrial Age, the Ylii had evolved an alternative to war that might best be described as a `war of words.' These `wars' were simply generation-long debates between differently-minded factions. For instance, as smaller governments began to amalgamate and centralize into bigger entities, a three-century-long `war of words' was waged between those Ylii that saw this trend as a movement away from a true `oneness' with the natural order, and those which saw it as a natural evolution for an intelligent species. Central to this --and any other-- Ylii `war of words' is the effort to determine whether a given course of action is `holistic' or not.
The Ylii achieved most technical breakthroughs either to serve the needs of their society, or --later on-- to sate their curiousity about the universe. Lacking a colonial drive, the Ylii expanded slowly across the face of Ssuushni'a, and even more slowly once they began to reach out into space. By this time, the pattern of Ylii technical excellence was already clear. They evinced extraordinary abilities in the areas of animal communication, ecology, clean energy technologies, environmental control, philosophy, mathematics, programming, and biogeneering. Their military and health technologies were --by comparison--decidedly retrograde (and in some cases, downright primitive).
However, approximately 100,000 years ago, the Ylii encountered a crisis that they were unprepared for. In the course of their slow but steady expansion into their interstellar neighborhood, (including settlements or bases in a number of systems that are in human space) they came across a race of intelligent creatures --the first intelligent life they had ever encountered. Ironically enough, this race was the Kafers.
[SIDEBAR COPY - Ylii remains in human space can be found in systems Ross 863 I, DM +5 3409 I, Ross 867, DM +3 3465, and DK +17 4521.]
--END SIDEBAR]Culture in Crisis
Study of the Kafers had a profound effect upon the Ylii, who had been accustomed to discovering biospheres and biots in balance; the unfailing and unconscious drive of all things to follow the universal law of cosmic homeostasis. The Kafers confused the Ylii, who could not understand a species that would despoil environments, kill more prey than it needed, and revel in violence. It took several centuries for the Ylii to finally come to a consensus that the evolution of Kafer intelligence --indeed, its very nature-- was the product of a heritage of violence. Consequently, since it was the central adaptive quality of their society, Kafers were able to apply violence to other life forms, each other, or even the environment itself. The only driving factor was self-preservation; they had no concern or concept of ecological balance.
+This presented the Ylii with a major problem. Clearly, the Kafers were a product of the universal order; after all, everything is. Yet, the universal order had created a species which was either blind to or uninterested in maintaining the order that had created it. The philosophical implications and dilemmas embroiled the entire Ylii culture, which --for the first time-- was forced to consider that its emphasis on ecological communalism was an arbitrary, not inevitable, outcome of evolved intelligence.
Dramatic rifts in opinion began appearing in the Ylii society when this `Kafer Question' advanced another fateful step --a step that mortally wounded the `first' Ylii civilization. Xenologists began pointing to the Kafers' success as survivors, and the rapid (by Ylii standards) improvement of their technology and social ordering. The end result; eventual expansion into space, and contact with the Ylii.
What could be done? Certainly, the Ylii could contain the Kafers; they had the technological headstart to maintain absolute control of the situation if they wished. But such action flew in the face of the central Ylii instinct; never interfere with the natural order of things. And any decision to keep the Kafers bottled up on their home world would constitute just such inteference with a naturally-evolving race.
Most Alphas took a stand with the minority of Deltas who believed that it was only natural for the Ylii to respond to the Kafer question with SOME kind of action. This involvement on the part of the Alphas was unique in Ylii history. The society's decisions and debates had always been the sole province of the Deltas. The Alpha reaction was seen by the majority of orthodox Deltas as the beginning of a fracturing of the natural Ylii order --and panic began.
In actuality, the Alphas were responding in accordance with their nature. The Kafer Question, representing a threat to the Ylii, reactivated the old defensive/agressive scout instincts of the Alphas, who were the closest things to decisive or military leaders that the Ylii had. But they had not functioned in this role for so many hundred's of millenia, that the `organic' nature of their reaction was unrecognized by most of the Deltas.
Of course, following their natures, many of the Gammas sided with the Alphas --the footsoldiers following the officers. Others, however, stuck with the Epsilons, who remained dedicated to the orthodox Deltas.
No one incident touched off the ensuing cataclysmic war. However, the orthodox Deltas were unable to control the comparatively excitable Epsilons, who began to withhold communal services from those Alphas and Gammas that were seen as `rebellious.' The dull-witted Gammas began causing incidents, that were in turn put down by the Epsilon-serving Gammas --and the ineluctable upward spiral of escalation took care of the rest.
The war devastated Ylii society. Unknowledgable in the waging of war, the Ylii did not have an ethic for how to handle it societally or personally. Literally billions of the Ylii --particularly the Epsilons-- went insane and/or committed suicide. THe weapons developed were crude and imprecise, slaughtering millions that might have been spared had the Ylii ever evolved a science of war. All this was made more horrific by the fact that since there were no real `military' targets, EVERYTHING was a target. The war itself only lasted about a year.
However, the aftershocks went on for several generations. Mentally-shattered Ylii (`reverts') roamed the surface of every settled world, occasionally destroying everything in their path. Just as often, whole communities would go silent, later discovered as a heap of suicides.
The orthodox delta factions won the war (if it can be said that anybody won it) and determined that the only way to preserve the homeostasis of Ylii culture was to remove those aspects of aggression that made the Gammas respond to Alpha crisis leadership. Similarly, they decided that the Alpha agressiveness had to be toned down by making the defensive instinct of this genus self-centered rather than socially-protective. After several centuries of careful eugenics work, this was accomplished on Ssuushni'a, --which by then boasted the only remaining population of Ylii in the universe.
The Ylii experienced an inward turning after the war which shattered what they refer to as their First Civilization. Most of the aforegoing history was lost --either obliterated by the chaos of the war itself or forgotten in the sad and desperate years that followed. Subsequent generations of Ylii did not want to remember it, desiring to put as much conceptual distance between themselves and that time of madness. One of the things they forgot about was the Kafers --a race that has (inadvertantly) already destroyed them once.
The Kafers are now preparing to finish the job they are unaware they started. The `modern' Ylii resumed interstellar space travel only 900 years ago. 300 years ago, they encountered the Kafers, and since then the Ylii have been brutally swept aside or taken as slaves by these savage neighbors. (Please consult the KAFER SOURCEBOOK for more detailed information). Now, only three systems still remain under Ylii control; SS -27 6854 (site of the Ylii homeworld, Ssuushni'a), DK -33 1023, and Dk +32 2390. And moves are afoot in the Kafer Associative to conquer the remaining Ylii worlds quickly, in order to free up assets for the next human conflict.
Psychology, Philosophy, and Interaction with Humans
The broadest assertion that can be made about Ylii psychology and philosophy is that it is exceedingly conservative by human standards. Not surprisingly, this is a direct outgrowth of the environmental and physiological realities of Ylii existence.
In the first place, although the Ylii trisexual arrangement significantly reduces the risks that humans associate with reproduction, it does not alter the fact that Ylii never deliver more than one young over a combined gestation period of 11 months. Furthermore, the `chain of reproduction' is more complex (requiring three rather than two participants), making it more fragile; the removal of any of the three participants will result in reproductive failure. Consequently, Ylii reproduction is a slow process that is still quite vulnerable to all sorts of disasters. The bottom line, then, is that (similar to humans) the first roots of Ylii society are grounded in assuring adequate care and protection for the young and for pregnant adults. As a strictly non-predatory, herbivorous species, this led to an extremely conservative approach to food-gathering and defense. Preemptive defensive aggression and hunting were unknown, which forced increased emphasis upon rationing of supplies and avoidance --or appeasement -- of predators.
This of course prompted the polytaxic arrangement of Ylii society. However, this arrangement in turn intensified Ylii tendencies toward social conservatism. Place and role in one's society was largely predetermined. Furthermore, the complex rules of a polytaxic society and of trisexual parenting and family groupings have always forced developing Ylii to tread carefully and cautiously.
Consequently, the Ylii temperament is very mild, with a tendency to embrace the orthodox and the logical. It is also stresses rationalism, and patient observation. As a result of this, the Ylii had fully evolved notions of scientific method and empiricism before they even began to smelt metals.
It was this extraordinary (and perhaps for a human, unsettling) legacy of societal homeostacis that made the Ylii so unprepared to handle internecine war --and so unable to limit its destructiveness. Predictably, the victors of the war --the more orthodox deltas-- resolved to make sure that Ylii society could never be imbalanced again. However, in their urgency to take a hand in the evolution of their own species (ostensibly by ridding the Alphas and Gammas of recidivistic aggressive traits), they were actually flying in the face of their own beliefs. The traits removed from the Gammas --but most particularly, the Alphas-- were essential to a balanced Ylii society. The orthodox Ylii were too overwhelmed by the horror of the war to realize that their society NEEDED a defensive, reactionary element, if it was to have any capacity for self-preservation against an aggressive foe. Instead, they excised this very capability.
The result was more than just a reduction of aggressive tendencies in Alphas and Gammas, but a decided trend toward social stagnation. The adventurous Alphas now seemed more content to stay in known environs, to explore less boldly, to raise fewer scientific questions that had spurred the Ylii on to some of their best and brightest discoveries. As is true for humans, the Ylii trait for aggressiveness was inextricably linked to decisiveness and adventurousness --and it had been removed. Acceptance of things as they are became the uncontested mindset of the Ylii.
This attitude underlies the Ylii approach to health and medicine. The delta hearlers are quite capable surgeons and biogeneers; their expertise with recombinant DNA therapies is at least equal to human abilities in this area. However, the Ylii only use these capabilities to heal injuries or infectious diseases. Congenital, inherited, or other `innate' health failures are left untreated, although any discomfort to the afflicted is alleviated. A human seeing this for the first time might perceive this as being profoundly cruel, but it is in fact a result of the Ylii worldview.
The Ylii care deeply for those among them who are plagued with an `innate' illness, but their philosophy stresses harmony with the natural order of things, rather than the preeminent importance of individual lives. Consequently, they perceive an innate illness as a part of the natural order, and are thereby bound not to interfere with it. Conversely, the Ylii see the repairing of damage to be consistent with natural behavior; individual creatures attempt to heal themselves, and social animals rally to the aid of the infected or injured. Although it may also be claimed that animals do not care whether an affliction is innate or not, and that therefore the distinction is irrelevant, the Ylii would point out that nature prevents the animals from healing innate ailments. This factor serves to control their numbers in the event that predators or infectious disease cannot, and ensures a healthy species. The Ylii therefore conclude that a race which has intelligence is not automatically mandated to save whatever life it can. Rather, intelligence must be used to order a society of sophonts in such a way that it continues to follow the natural order, no matter how complex and advanced that society becomes.
Ylii conservatism is also reflected in Ylii language, which emphasizes precision and functional construction. The complex social patterns of Ylii culture make it inevitable that each individual will have to describe and distinguish many different relationships between persons. Additionally, some of these relationship are almost identical structurally, but have vastly divergent social connotations. The necessary distinctions are achieved through increased emphasis upon the importance and definitive detail of labels, or `names.' This necessity produced the Ylii linguistic focus on naming and linguistic precision.
Consequently, the names for all things are not only precise, but functionally descriptive, being somewhat reminiscient of German. (An example; the German word for wrist --handgelenk-- literally means `hand-linkage', or `hand connector'.) The emphasis on names is reinforced by a number of grammatical rules, the most notable of which is that, in any sentence, a pronoun can only be used after the utterance of the proper noun it is connected. Therefore, where in English one would say, `I saw Bob. He's at the store,' a Ylii would have to say, `John, (who is the speaker) saw Bob. Bob is at the store.'
Like English, the language obeys a subject-verb-object order. However, possessives, plurals, superalatives, and diminuitives are each denoted by a single, discrete prefix or suffix. Ylii is remarkably free of grammatical exceptions, and is therefore structurally easy to learn. However, the vocabulary is tremendous, since terms do not change meaning according to `context.' In Ylii, there is no such thing as context, and consequently, there is really no such thing as Ylii `humor.' The closest thing that Ylii experience to laughter or amusement would be analagous to the Victorian notion of being `charmed' or `delighted.' Ylii would conceivably interpret human laughter as a sign of anger (or possibly, gastronomic distress).
As has already been indicated, the Ylii `political process' is quite unlike anything that humans have ever developed. While neither a hierarchy or caste-system, Ylii society is nonetheless highly regulated, albeit by an invisible `social metabolism' that seems to make all its members quite happy. However, despite the differences between Ylii and human society, there are clearly a large number of basic similarities in language and value-structures. In fact, unless players are wary --and astute-- they may make the erroneous assumption that social similarities are in fact interchangeable human:Ylii equivalents. This is not the case; the distinctions are all the more important BECAUSE so many of them ARE so subtle.
For instance, both humans and Ylii have a highly developed philosophical concept of what both call `equality.' Brief exchanges between the two species would suggest (to both of them) that they mean the same thing when they use the term `equality.' But in fact, they do not.
The human concept of equality is hardly ironclad or immutable. It varies from individual to individual. For most people, any definition of equality includes the presupposition of a `spiritual' equality that defines every life as being equally sacred and valuable. However, many humans expand this view to include assertions that the potentials and abilities of human beings are equal also (given completely equal opportunities), whereas others insist that there are vast innate differences. This nature vs. nurture debate remains unsettled, and thus clouds the meaning of the word `equality' when used by humans; to know what it means, you must know the opinions of the person uttering it.
However, the Ylii use equality to mean ONLY equality of the spirit. Since Ylii social composition actually depends upon complementary IN-equalities (represented by the differing specializations of the various genera and species), the human nature vs. nurture issue is a non sequiter for Ylii. Similarly, the Ylii understand the concept of individualism but not with any of the human subtextual implications of resisting societal pressures.
For the Ylii, many human concepts will be utterly alien, odd, or downright alarming. Ylii have no word for `murder.' Their closest equivalents --roughly corresponding to `manslaughter,' `assassination,' and `war-killing'-- are not shaded by the concept of domestic premeditation that underscoures the human concept of `murder.' Similarly, the Ylii do not even have a concept faintly resembling the human values known as `disgusting' or `lofty.' The Ylii perception of the universe is that all things fit and therefore, all things are to be as they are. Individual Ylii are not wont to pass aesthetic judgments when determining the worth of a thing. Consequently, a whole category of human adjectives --here represented by `disgusting' and `lofty'-- are meaningless to them.
Many human concepts --such as covetousness, gluttony, exploitation, competition-- are known to the Ylii only because of their three centuries of contact with the Kafers, in whom they observed such behaviors. Humans may not find the comparison very flattering, but that's the truth of the matter.
In all fairness, humans may have some problems understanding a number of Ylii attitudes, particularly the sometimes chilling aspects of their social pragmatism. While Ylii society might be called the ultimate welfare state, it is also true that the Ylii remorselessly discard their dead for the scavenger species of the Gamma genus to eat. They allow the `innately' ill to perish (albeit painlessly) without making the slightest effort to heal them. Deltas can --and will, if necessary-- issue purely pragmatic prioritized survival lists dictating which members of a population should be saved if disaster is imminent. To humans, this may look like the ultimate in depersonalized, clockwork autocracy. However, to the Ylii, their adherence to --and acceptance of-- this system is as natural as a human's self-preservation instinct. No Ylii is complying unwillingly; no one is getting `cheated' or `exploited.' This is simply how Ylii society works. Consequently, humans may also find that the Ylii have a different view on the importance of individuals. Ylii revere each individual, much the same way we are grateful to each cell in our body, but this does not alter the social knowledge that certain Ylii are more expendable than others. Human society wages a tug of war between the ideal of `perfect equality' and the logistical reality of differing degrees of expendability (usually based on abilities and attributes). The Ylii feel no such dilemma; their polytaxic social order makes such considerations moot. Expendability alters as the environment changes; new challenges define new needs. And right now, the Kafer challenge means that the Ylii need human allies.
POSSIBILITIES OF A HUMAN/YLII ALLIANCE
Clearly, the Ylii need allies if they wish to survive the continuing aggression of the Kafers. Despite projects to reintroduce aggressiveness into Gammas and the development of an effective remote fighter (the Fastball; see part II of the adventure BACK DOOR for details), the Ylii simply do not have the numbers or temperamental predisposition to mount a fast, effective war effort against the Kafers.
One of the major paralyzers of the current Ylii defense initiative is that many of the Deltas (once again) see the Kafers as behaving in accord with their natures; the species is doing what it evolved to do. However, unlike the last time, the Kafers are not just a potential threat; they are a proven hazard that is threatening to exterminate the entire Ylii race. So the Deltas are compelled to ask the question: is it the natural fate of the Ylii to be exterminated? Is this the Ylii role in the events of the universe? Or --as some are beginning to wonder --must they fight back, and thereby take a natural step forward in their own evolution?
To humans, this debate may seem ludicrous, but it is serious business to the Ylii. And resolution is difficult, since they eliminated the aggressive Alpha traits that would have galvanized thought and action in the face of such a threat.
This is where the influence of first contact with humans may have a profound impact upon the Ylii as a race. Certainly, upon learning that the modern Ylii believe that their forebears `removed' the aggressive instincts of at least one genus, some human is likely to ask whether in fact the ancient Y'Lii --in tampering with some of the genera-- destroyed the very thing they wanted to create; NATURAL balance. This is a crucial perspective that the Ylii need to consider and contact with humans --and their value system-- will help the Ylii make that critical conceptual jump.
In effect, the Ylii `answer' to aggressive tendencies was not an `answer' at all, but a dodge. The Ylii were so used to altering relationships between things in an organic or systemic fashion, that they did not see that the next step in their evolution was to realize that one of the unique challenges to sapient creatures is to realize that some situations are not `fixable' per se; they are paradoxical, and even tautological in nature. Unfortunately, the post-war Deltas sought a *structural* answer to what was inherently a *moral* dilemma. They tried to delete the `problem' aggressive component from their society. They never realized that it is `natural' for an intelligent creature to change its NATURE by changing its THINKING. by being *forced* to ask questions such as: how do societies endure disagreement? Aggression? Is aggression --both external and internecine-- ever necessary and if so, when? Does the necessity of violence make it justifiable? Even if it is justifiable, how should one emotionally feel about it?
In effect, the ancient Deltas --in a manner similar to some orthodox human religions-- attempted to bypass the existential crisis of morality and ethics by `mandating' an answer; in this case, mandating via genetic law, rather than the `law of God.'
Contact with humans is sure to bring about self-questioning because human society --for all its imperfections and internecine cruelty-- is intimately involved with the dynamic (and often infuriating) process of trying to sort out what is moral and what is not. The Ylii will see clear parallels between themselves and human society --and will furthermore quickly come to the seminal deduction that the humans are social creatures who stand somewhere between the Ylii and Kafer evolutionary cultural extremes. Seeing the human interplay and conflict of morals will make the Ylii wonder; could this also be part of the natural order of OUR social evolution? Such a thought would have wide-ranging impacts on Ylii attitudes and thoughts, and would pave the way for a re-emerging subspecies that has --as of yet-- not even become aware that it exists again, or of the crucial role it may play in defending the Ylii race. (More on that later.)
However, there is an equally likely --and equally efficacious-- outlook that more conservative Ylii thinkers are likely to embrace (humans may find it somewhat odd --or even repulsive). This view would perceive humanity as the `defender' species that must now be integrated into Ylii society!
Although this may seem a strange conceptual turn, one must remember that the Ylii do not see themselves as a `race.' Each genus is physically and mentally disparate. Consequently, their collective `identity' has nothing to do with biological/genetic conformity.
Furthering the perspective that suggests `adopting' humanity into Ylii society is the alluring fact that the humans have come along JUST when their protective tendencies were needed. From the Ylii viewpoint, conflict (and therfore, fighting) is evidently natural for humans, even though they also seem to have some degree of concern for maintaining harmony with the natural order. In this way, it is all too simple for the more orthodox Deltas to see current events as a parallel to the prehistoric evolution of the relationship between the Epsilons and Gammas --with the humans cast in the role of the less-aware but physically imposing protector-Gammas. In this equation, the Kafers are the new and dangerous predators that must be discouraged from attacking.
Clearly, this conceptualization fits with the current Ylii worldview. It does not require that the Ylii change; it merely requires that a new species be added to their polytaxic society. The Ylii DO realize, however, that this addition will not be like the others, that social and cultural differences will always be vast.
It is also important to note that any human offers beyond military alliance (such as trade and cultural exchange) will be seen as an invitation to the kind of `social amalgamation' that underlies the more orthodox Ylii view. Not really understanding the human notion of sovereign states and commercial transactions, the Ylii will assume that the humans are following the polytaxic paradigm that shapes all Ylii thought and perception. Understanding the human political notions of `united yet separate,' and `cooperative yet self-determining,' will require a colossal conceptual leap on the part of the Ylii. To them, these ideas are every bit as logical as assertions that `up is down,' and `black is white.'
THE RETURN OF THE DEFENDER
However, some Ylii already exist who may be more ready to understand humans than the deltas or even the normal Alphas: a new (or actually, very old) Alpha species, the `defender.'
The Defender species is actually an evolutionary throwback to the original, prewar dominant Alpha Alpha strain. After almost 300 years of Kafer conflict and fears of extinction, the Ylii genetic pool has undone what was done to it by the ancient deltas who biogeneered the aggressiveness traits out of the Alphas. Despite their advancement in biology, the few Delta researchers who have suggested that such a thing may be occurring are at a loss to explain it. They can only ascribe it to nature's uncanny (almost spooky) knack for producing properly-adapted mutatations in response to new environmental conditions.
The new `Defenders' are no larger than the modern Alpha Alphas, and are similarly colored. However, they tend to be somewhat more intelligent, more goal-oriented, and more outspoken. However, the Ylii --including the Defenders themselves-- have not yet realized that these temperamental changes actually herald the reemergence of the original Alpha species.
Instead, the Ylii are much more focused on their attempts to reintroduce aggressivity into the Gammas. This is largely being done by accessing the Wildling gene pool, which was left unmodified in the wake of the Ylii war. There is some success here, but even the most aggressive mutant Gammas seem to need some sort of lightning rod to get them motivated. Despite intelligent planning by the deltas, and personal leadership by the dominant alphas, most gammas simply do not fare well as soldiers or guerillas. However, there have been one or two notable exceptions to this rule which are currently being studied. Unfortunately, the study is centering on the mutant Gammas, rather than the unseen factor behind their success; they were being led by a Defender alpha mutation. In the same way that Epsilons possess a mysterious quality that generates a desire for close communalism in other Ylii, the Defenders have the capacity to excite, inspire, and organize the Gammas to perform as highly-effective soldiers.
The other major impact of human:Ylii contact will be the way that Alpha defenders gravitate toward humans and their philosophies. This does NOT mean that defenders are humans in Ylii-suits; not in the least. However, the defenders will understand the human capability for decisive action when trying ensure survival. The defenders will gravitate toward the comparatively radical idea that the Ylii must accept that moral dilemma is part of the natural process of all sophonts, and that ecological and/or genetic engineering is not always the answer to social problem.
By clustering around humans, the defenders will increasingly come into contact with each other and become a distinct, cohesive voice in Ylii affairs. This in turn will prompt investigation by more deltas, who will begin to realize that the defenders are not just oddly-outspoken Alpha Alphas; they are the welcome throwback to the original alpha --now to be labelled as the defender species.
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