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Bone Crusher

Through the deliberate modifications of Qu and the blind molding of evolution, the heavens came to be populated with creatures that would put the myths of their ancestors to shame.

Their ancestors were pint-sized pets of Qu that were bred for the dazzling colors of their tooth-derived beaks. When their masters left, most of these pampered creatures died, with no one or nothing left to take care of them.

But some, belonging to the hardiest breeds, survived. In less than a geological eyeblink of a few million years, the descendants of such creatures radiated into the evolutionary vacuum of their garden world. One lineage led to a profusion of human herbivores. These were preyed upon by a variety of enamel-beaked raptors, each evolved to deal with a specific prey. Among these generalized niches were entire assemblages of specialized animals, resembling anything from ibis-billed swamp sifters to splendorous forms with bizarre crests that flared out of their toothy beaks.

There were even secondarily sentient forms, in the shape of the ogre-like bone crushers. To an observer of today they would indeed be the stuff of nightmares; three meters tall and hairy, sporting vicious thumb claws and enormous beaks that suited their scavenging diet.

Despite their shortcomings, these corpse eating primitives were one of the first species to attain intelligence, and although primitive, a level of civilization. All of this proved the fallacy of human prejudice in the posthuman galaxy. A creature could feed on putrefying meat, stink like a grave and express its affection by defecating on others, but it might as well be your own grandchild and the last hope of mankind.

In eventuality, however, not even the bone crushers fulfilled this promise. Their dependency on carrion for food limited their population severely, and their mediaeval civilizations crumbled after a few uneventful millennia.


Colonials

Their world had given the toughest resistance against the Qu onslaught. So tough, in fact, that they had turned back two successive waves of the invaders, only to succumb to the third.

The Qu, with their twisted sense of justice, wanted to make them pay. Even extinction would be too light a punishment for resisting the star gods. The humans of the rogue world needed a sentence that would remind them of their humiliation for generations to come.

So they were made into disembodied cultures of skin and muscle, connected by a skimpy network of the most basic nerves. They were employed as living filtering devices, subsisting on the waste products of Qu civilization like mats of cancer cells. And just to witness and suffer their wretched fate, their eyes, together with their consciousness, were retained.

For forty million years they suffered; generation after generation were born into the most miserable of lives while absorbing the pain of all that they were going through.

When the Qu left, they hoped for a quick extinction. But their lowliness had also made them efficient survivors. Unchecked by the Qu, the colonials spread across the planet in quilt-like fields of human flesh. After an eternity of tortured lives, the human fields tasted something that could almost be described as hope.

A section from a Colonial field shows the misery that compromises their entire lives. Note that these disorganized creatures can reproduce through both asexual and more familiar methods.


Flyers

They were not uncommon at all in the domain of Qu. At least a dozen worlds sported human-derived flying species of one kind or another. Most resembled the bats or the pterosaurs of the bygone past, dancing through the aether like angels. (Or demons, depending on the point of view.) There were a few bizarre kinds relied on swollen gas glands for floatation as well.

Sadly, most of these creatures were already too specialized to be anything but flyers. They had forsaken their humanity for the conquest of the sky; they had little potential for further radiation beyond their limited roles.

The only exception proved out to be a monkey-like species that flew on wing membranes stretched across the last two fingers. Their advantage was a unique, turbine like heart, artificially developed during the regime of Qu. No other human flyer in the galaxy had such an adaptation. The starfish shaped organ sat in the middle of their chests, directly funneling oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream in a supremely efficient way. This meant that the Flyers could develop energyconsuming adaptations such as large brains without having to give up their power of flight.

Not that the flyers were going to reclaim their sentience right away. Instead, they literally exploded into skies, filling the heavens with anything from bomber-sized sailors to impossibly fast predators that raced with sound. Their world was pristine and there were plenty of niches to play in. Intelligence could wait a little more.

An ancestral Flyer in her native element. Although ungainly, these creatures have an artificial metabolic advantage that gives them tremendous evolutionary potential.


Hand Flappers

Some flying posthumans re-approached sentience in an entirely different way. Without the augmented metabolisms or the gravitational advantages of their siblings on distant planets, they had no choice but to give up their power of flight in order to develop further.

The Hand Flappers were one such species. Their wings, once used for butterfly-like flutters in the unearthly gardens of Qu, had shrunken and reverted back into their manual condition. Their legs were likewise re-adapted, but they bore a splayed awkwardness from their perching ancestry.

Only a singular, and an almost sadistically simple flaw held them back from developing civilization. In the course of their secondary atrophy, the wings of the Hand Flappers had become useless as hands as well. Their flag like appendages were very useful in signaling and mating dances, but they couldnt hurl missiles, construct shelter or even manufacture basic stone tools. All that they could do with their useless hands was to display each others sexual availability, so the Hand Flappers did just that; flashing and dancing their way to oblivion.

A Hand Flapper on the edge of his mating territory. During their almost comical exaggeration of sexual display, his kind has begun to lose their edge at adaptation. Theirs will be a boisterous, ecstatic but ultimately ephemeral existence.


Blind Folk

When the Qu came they dug in, and dug in deep. Inside several continent-sized shelters under their besieged world, they waited for the invaders to pass them by. It was a futile gamble. The Qu located the shelter-caves and remade their inhabitants without effort.

The shelters became home to an entirely different ecology, a realm of perpetual darkness, fueled by the trickle of water and nutrients from the world outside. A surprisingly complex ecology developed on this scant resource; gigantic pale insects; the descendants of common household pests, competed with Dali-esque birds and rodents over fields of overgrown fungi. Predators were not uncommon; almost crocodilian fish patrolled the underground streams and vast blind bats, echolocating with unnerving precision, took their toll on the residents of the cave floor. The kilometer-high ceilings of the shelters glowed in the dark with protean constellations of bioluminescent fungi, and in some cases, animals.

People were present here as well, albeit in unfamiliar forms. They were more often heard than seen, as they tried to find their way in the dark with banshee-like screams. These albino troglodytes lived in a realm where sound and touch, not sight, was the gateway of perception. They had developed long, tactile fingers, enormous whiskers and mobile ears to live in the dark. Where their eyes should have been, there was nothing but a patch of haunting, flawlessly smooth skin. Their perfect adaptation to the world of darkness had erased the most basic feature of human recognition.

As adapted as they were, they were doomed. Before the Blind Folk could develop any kind of intelligence to crawl out of their geographical graves, the glacial constriction of their Worlds continental plates snuffed out the shelters one by one.

A startled Blind father with his year-old daughter. Although he knows better to sit still in order to confuse sonar-equipped predators, the youngster screams and soils herself in terror. Their attenuated fingers are hallmarks of a lifetime spent in darkness.


Lopsiders

The Qu were grotesquely creative in their redesign of the human worlds. One group of misfortunate souls they transported to a planet with thirty-six times the amount of normal gravity, and made them over for life in this bizarrely inhospitable realm.

The results of these experiments resembled nightmare sketchings of Bosch, Dali or Picasso. They looked like cripples squashed between sheets of glass. Three out of their four limbs had become paddle-like organs for crawling; only one of their arms remained as spindly tool of manipulation. This singular, wizened limb also doubled as an extra sensor, like the antennae of an insect.

Their faces were different horrors altogether. All pretensions of symmetry; the hallmark of terrestrial animals from jawless fish onwards, were completely and utterly done away with. One bulging eye stared directly upward while the other scanned ahead, in the direction of the creatures vertically-opening jaws. The ears were likewise distorted.
Monstrous as they looked, these ex-men thrived in their heavy-gravity environment. Once again there was the usual explosion of species into every available niche, and the Lopsiders consolidated their chances for a renewed sentience.

A Lopsider feeds some indigenous pets native to his high-gravity world. The domestication of native fauna is the Lopsiders first step on the long way towards civilization.


Striders

While the Lopsiders were redesigned to live under extreme gravity, another species had been adapted for life under the exact opposite conditions; on a Jovian moon with one fifth of Earths gravity.

It was a world of wonders, where even the grass grew almost ten meters tall and the trees were beyond belief, towering to sizes attained only by the skyscrapers of antiquity. In these surreal forests lived equally spectacular fauna; the descendants of pets, pests and livestock of humans, who in turn had been reduced to animosity as well.

One could see them in the league-tall forests, almost dancing among the trees as they reared higher and higher to browse. Their arms, legs, and necks had been stretched impossibly thin, great flaps of skin blossomed throughout their bodies to dispense waste heat. Sometimes they would even change their color in order to reflect light and keep cool. Overheating was a great problem for their grotesquely tall, thin bodies.

Although imposing, these Giacomettian wraiths were over-developed as to be sickeningly fragile. Even on their gravitationally forgiving world, a fall could shatter their bones, and slipping down from a branch would prove to be fatal. Sometimes, on the open plains, even a strong wind could bring them down like the toppling masts. They survived entirely due to the merciful conditions of their garden world, which were about to change drastically.

About two million years after the Qu left their towering works of human art, a lineage of fearsome predators evolved from the terrestrial poultry that had gone feral on the planet. Resembling attenuated versions of their dinosaur ancestors, the predators swept through the garden world like wildfires, extinguishing any species too fragile to escape, or resist. The peaceful, delicate striders were among the first to go.


Parasites

Humanity had diverged into two separate lineages on their world. On one hand there were several races of almost Australopithecine cripples, degraded by the Qu for managing to turn back their initial wave of invasion. Yet simple atavism was too light a punishment for them. Their twisted relatives, the parasites, made up the second part of their sentence.

There were actually several kinds of parasitic ex-people, ranging from tortoise-sized ambulatory vampires to the more common fist-sized variety that lived attached to their hosts. There was even a tiny, endoparasitic kind that infested the wombs of their female victims like ghastly, living abortions.

All of these evolutionary tortures were played out under the careful scrutiny of the Qu for forty million years. The punishment was so baroque, so elaborate that most of the artificial parasitehost relationships died out when the Qu left. Some sub-men learnt to cleanse their tick-like relatives by drowning, burning or even eating them. Others, like the vaginal parasites, died out as their aggressive method of parasitism effectively sterilized their hosts.

Yet one or two varieties did manage to cling on to their hosts with abdominal suckers, muscular, gripping limbs and sterile, pain-soothing saliva. But their success did not lie entirely in the strength of their parasitical advantages. They also learnt to regulate their dumb hosts, not killing them by over-infestation and thus ensuring their own long-term survival as well.

In any case, totally single-sided relations were rare in any ecology, natural or artificial. In millennial cycles, the cousin species vicious parasitism began to give way into something more beneficial for both sides.

A parasitic person, shown real size. Although their fate seems inhumane in every aspect to an observer of today, their very survival shows that such subjective values are ineffectual in matters of long-term survival.


Contents

To Mars ............................................................................................ 3
The Martian Americans ................................................................. 5
Civil War .......................................................................................... 7
Star People ....................................................................................... 8
Colonization and the Mechanical Oedipi .................................... 10
The Summer of Man ....................................................................... 11
An Early Warning ........................................................................... 13
Qu ...................................................................................................... 15
Man Extinguished ........................................................................... 17
Worms ............................................................................................... 19
Titans ................................................................................................. 21
Predators and Prey ........................................................................... 23
Mantelopes ....................................................................................... 26
Swimmers .......................................................................................... 28
Lizard Herders .................................................................................. 30
Temptor ............................................................................................ 32
Bone Crusher ................................................................................. 34
Colonials ......................................................................................... 36
Flyers ............................................................................................... 38
Hand Flappers ................................................................................. 40
Blind Folk ........................................................................................ 42
Lopsiders ......................................................................................... 44
Striders ............................................................................................ 46
Parasites .......................................................................................... 48

Finger Fishers ................................................................................... 50
Hedonists .......................................................................................... 52
Insectophagi ..................................................................................... 54
Spacers ............................................................................................... 56
Ruin Haunters ................................................................................... 58
Sentience Reborn ............................................................................. 60
Extinction ........................................................................................... 61
Snake People (Descendants of the Worms) ................................. 63
Killer Folk (Descendants of the Human Predators) ..................... 65
Tool Breeders (Descendants of the Swimmers) .......................... 67
Saurosapients (Livestock of the Lizard Herders) ........................ 69
Modular People (Descendants of the Colonials) ........................ 71
Pterosapiens (Descendants of the Flyers) ................................... 73
Asymmetric People (Descendants of the Lopsiders) ................. 75
Symbiotes (Descendants of the Parasites) .................................. 77
Sail People (Descendants of the Finger Fishers) ........................ 79
Satyriacs (Descendants of the Hedonists) .................................. 81
Bug Facers (Descendants of the Insectophagi) .......................... 83
Asteromorphs (Descendants of the Spacers) .............................. 85
Second Galactic Empire ................................................................... 87
Gravital (Descendants of the Ruin Haunters) .............................. 88
Machine Invasion ............................................................................ 90
When Considering the Invasion .................................................... 92
Subjects (Many descendants of the Bug Facers) ....................... 93
The Other Machines ........................................................................ 96
The Fall of the Machines (Return of the Spacers) ...................... 98
The Post-War Galaxy ...................................................................... 100
The New Machines ......................................................................... 102
Second Contact ............................................................................... 104
Earth Rediscovered ......................................................................... 106
Return ................................................................................................ 108
All Tomorrows ................................................................................. 110


 

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