Khepri Picture

Playing with the new continent making method some more. I also tried out a new method for ice caps! I like it a lot. It needs refinement but it's a good start!

This planet is called Khepri, after a solar deity from Egyptian mythology. This name was given to it not because of any feature of the planet, but of its inhabitants: they are pseudo-arthropoids with a head that some claim, if you squint and look at it sideways, looks a bit like a scarab beetle's head. Khepri is known for--like many Egyptian gods of old--having an animal's head rather than a human one. In his case it's a scarab beetle. The entire scarab beetle. He got a bug for a head, moving on...

The Kheprians made contact with humans prior to the foundation of the Coalition of Independent Worlds when the species was still unified under a single government. Although several centuries ahead of humans technologically (a useful judgement but a fallacious one as technological advancement doesn't necessarily move forward at a set pace or in a certain order) they had little interest in interacting with humanity outside of an advisory capacity. As the United Earth Federation began to become more powerful and militant the Kheprians grew concerned due to the close proximity to Earthling space of many of their important frontier colonies. The Kheprians saw the Earthlings as somewhat arrogant and xenophobic, and the Earthlings saw the Kheprians as imperialist because of their policy of contacting primitive civilizations and colonizing their planets in exchange for technological advancement. The Kheprians didn't see this as a problem: they didn't conquer or oppress any civilization that declined their offer and they didn't impose themselves where they weren't wanted. It's easy to see how this might be seen as concerning for Earth in much the same way an outsider may be concerned by a friendship between an adult and a child not their own, even if nothing nefarious is actually going on. After many of Earth's outer colonies broke away and formed the Coalition the Kheprians grew even more concerned as two large military powers grew along their borders and tensions between them started drawing their other neighbors into Coalition-Earth conflicts. The Kheprians, their vassals, and their allies grew closer and eventually founded the United Ecumene as a way to balance the scales and enforce peace in the region.

The United Ecumene failed at this, of course. Even though they were just as large and had just as many resources as either the Coalition or UEF many of the Ecumenical worlds had originally been vassals of the Kheprians and were still relatively primitive. The Ecumene simply couldn't keep pace with the production capacity or research and development of the other two superpowers and simply did its best to remain neutral and offer mediation whenever it could. They couldn't keep up in terms of military strength either: even though Ecumenical ships were more technologically advanced than either Coalition or Earth vessels they were fewer in number and cost more to maintain, and the number of ships they could field was constitutionally limited to a fraction of those each member had individually. This was problematic because most members only fielded small self-defense forces to protect their trade routes and core worlds from raiders and pirates, and these ships were excluded from being called into military service by the Ecumenical government in foreign wars. In addition the Ecumene, unlike its rivals, did not keep a standing army and relied on volunteers to fill its ranks as needed.

The biggest issue the United Ecumene faced was internal disputes regarding the powers held by the Ecumenical government and the rights of its constituent members. In many cases these issues were not directly addressed by the Ecumenical constitution and attempts to amend it often stalled from political gridlock. This lack of cohesion caused the inevitable collapse of the United Ecumene only a century after its foundation when a brief civil war saw the secession of most of its members either by force or plebiscite. After its collapse most of the Ecumenical worlds, including Khepri, would join the Coalition of Independent Worlds which had by this time resolved to simply avoid causing tensions with Earth whenever possible and focus on their own region of the known galaxy.

Khepri is a planet approximately the same size and mass as Earth and is the second of twelve planets orbiting an F-type main sequence star. This has caused the vegetation on Khepri to evolve a red appearance as it absorbs green light and reflects the more abundant reddish wavelengths. It has five continents, all of which appear somewhat arid from orbit but in truth the planet is no more arid than Earth (though to be fair if you look at a satellite map the Earth is actually pretty arid). The illusion is created by the coloration of the plants on the surface, which do not contrast as much with the landscape as green plants do. It has a single large moon, Lotus, which is known to create far more dramatic tides than Earth's moon does. The Kheprians themselves are members of a group of species that nominally resemble large insects or crustaceans, and among humans the derogatory term "crabbie" is sometimes used to refer to Kheprians. Outwardly the Kheprians do appear very crab-like, though they lack the pincers and only have four legs rather than six. Their young appear much more crab-like than they do as adults, and as they grow much of their exoskeleton begins to be subsumed by softer flesh rather than molted and begins to act more like an endoskeleton than an exoskeleton. By the time of their final molt only their large back plate and complex mouthparts retain a chitinous exoskeleton and the rest of them is muscle and soft tissue covered by a thick hide many humans swear looks just like the flesh of a slug or snail. During their infant nymph stage they are fully aquatic and rely on external gills to breath, but as they grow their swimbladders adapt into functional lungs. Their external gills become vestigial but remain and continue to grow, and as adults they will be used as manipulators not unlike four feathery tentacles. They do still function and absorb oxygen from surrounding water, but because the adult Kheprian body requires more oxygen than the gills can provide they serve merely to prolong the amount of time a Kheprian can remain submerged: Kheprians have been known to "hold their breath" for upwards of seven hours. Kheprians have two sets of eyes: one which is better at seeing colors and shapes and one which is better at seeing contrasts of light and dark and detecting movement. These are used in conjunction and because of this their eyesight is very fragile.

Kheprians, although air breathers as adults, continue to live large portions of their lives in water. Most of their cities are on the coast or border a large body of water, and many of their structures are built beneath the water itself. There are many cities that are fully submerged and are built on the seafloor in shallow seas and large lakes. Relatively few Kheprians live inland and have allowed many different species--most of them former vassals--to colonize the inner regions of their homeworld's continents. Most of their cultures are deeply connected to the sea and their agriculture developed around exploiting food resources grown in shallows and along the coast. Duality seems to be a concept universal to all Kheprian cultures and is firmly entrenched in their collective psyche. They have many adages about things and people being "above the waterline" or "below the waterline," the context of which changes from culture to culture. Most even have two languages: a spoken one used on land and a more complex, ritualistic sign language used underwater. This is believed to have led to the relatively early development of writing in Kheprian societies as the sign language easily translated to written symbolism. Due to their amphibious nature the development of metalworking was much slower than with other civilizations as metal tools tended to rust quickly in the wet, salty regions that Kheprian civilization developed in. It wasn't until the discovery of aluminum that metalworking began to develop at an increased pace, though it was still slow due to the difficulty involved in refining aluminum in useful amounts.
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