Thursday, April 18, 2013

Servants of the Zhmun

The zhmun inhabit a domed city on the small, austere world of Aygo, orbiting a yellow star in the Zuran Expanse. Their famed wealth comes from ancient treasure stores (the contents as much of value as art objects or archaeological finds as anything else) and by their control over the mining rights to three superterrestrial worlds in their home system. Enforcement of these rights and protection from interstellar marauders of the Expanse comes via their alliance with sophont, ship-sized moravecs that have patrolled the system since ancient times.

Zhmun are thought to be bioroids due to their unusual structure. They're invertebrates with ameboid characteristics, despite being multicellular. A zhmu uses the hydrostatic pressure of internal fluids and the ability to quickly alter the rigidity of its tissues to hold itself in a roughly humanoid shape. Zhmun who can’t achieve consistent humanoid appearance are second class citizens—“globs.”  Zhmun are asexual (though sometimes assume gendered titles) and reproduce by pinching off a bit of their substance and tossing it into comunnal vats of doughy proto-zhmu plasm. Zhmun are only allowed to contribute to vats in their living districts, which are rigidly segregated by status. While zhmun don’t need to sleep in the human sense, they do need to relax their hold over their form for a few hours every few standard days. They're also said to re-encode information from ancient brain scans from their sacred stores every week or so, but it is uncertain if this serves a ritual or biologic purpose.

Zhmun perform no manual labor, but insist that their needs be provided for by biologic entities, not robots. Higher status zhmun perform no work at all. They affect an air of nobility and assume lofty, nonsensical titles. They spend their days in artistic pursuits or idle pleasures, as befits their station.  Globs direct zhmu business interests and supervise their myriad of alien employees and servants in the name of a zhmu master. Menial tasks are performed by a slave clade of unknown origin, collectively called yoom. Yoom are low on the sophont-scale and are bred in a variety of function-based forms from brutish, thick-browed laborers and bodyguards to sleek, quadrupedal racers.

The zhmun’s paid employees arrive from the co-orbital planet, Erg. There, a rundown spaceport, mining camps, and shantytowns attract the desperate and down an out of known space. They watch the job listings, hoping to get a lucrative position with the zhmun, either serving them on Aygo, or working in their mining concerns on the neighboring planets. or (dare they hope?) representing zhmu interests on other worlds. While they wait, they pay rent to the zhmun on whatever shabby accommodations they can find, and go in debt buying food and entertainment in zhmu-owned businesses.

6 comments:

Tim Shorts said...

Interesting society. I'm also interested in those moravecs. Not sure if you did a write up on them yet. But I will cast my vote for one.

Bard said...

Nice write up! I love the clever allusion in the name.

I'd love to hear about the moravecs too.



Trey said...

Thanks. Since you guys asked, I just may cover that tomorrow.

garrisonjames said...

These guys sound interesting, but I'm really curious about the Moravecs...

John Till said...

Intelligent, civilized Shoggoths...

Trey said...

@John - Probably not as civilized as they might think. ;)