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Seattle

A superterrestrial Garden World with a biosphere that closely resembles that of Old Earth

Seattle
Image from Selden Ball
Seattle, with a radius one-and-a-half times Earth's, has 3.9 times its mass

Seattle System Data Panel

StarWashington, 5133LY from Earth, constellation Auriga
ClassM3V, 0.34 solar masses
Age7 billion years
PlanetsPortland: SuperHermian, 0.07AU, 3.1 terrestrial masses
Seattle: SuperGaian world, 0.14 AU, 3.9 terrestrial masses
Mt. Ranier: MicroJovian, 1.2 AU, 0.05 jovian masses
Vancouver: EuJovian, 2.7 AU, 0.4 jovian masses
Yakima: EuJovian, 5.1 AU, 0.3 jovian masses
Spokane: MicroCryoJovian, 9.5 AU, 0.06 jovian masses
Puget Belt: Kuiperian belt, 21 to 30 AU
AllegianceMetasoft Version Tree
Colonized10,107AT
PopulationSeattle: 100 bionts (modosophont, Su, various clades), 3,000 vecs
Seattle Orbitals: 27 hyperturings, 15,000 vecs, 5,000 bionts (various clades)
Tacoma S3 Caretaker AI and support staff
System Varying population of Metasoft security personnel
ImmigrationNone; visiting researchers and tourists only
TravelTransport Wormhole, 'Alaskan Way,' 1000-meter, to Metasoft Relay System DD-10

Seattle Planetary Data Panel

TypeSuperGaian, natural garden planet
Diameter19110 km
Density6.403g/cm^3
Surface Gravity1.75 gees
Escape Velocity18.1 km/s
Day Length36 hours
Inclination2 degrees
Water Area81%
Continents19 (12 landmasses)
Minor space portCamp Walla Walla
MoonTacoma, 6,773km diameter, 6300kg/m^3 density, 0.63 gees
Major Orbitals27 hyperturing A-brains, 3 quarantine and security Stanford toruses

SYSTEM OVERVIEW

This SuperGaian garden planet was identified by the Argus Array long before a linelayer reached its location in the Perseus Arm. The star system itself is not greatly exciting: a M3V parent star (Washington) that seems to be about 7 billion years old and of rather high metallicity for its age; a SuperHermian inner world of unusual density (Portland); assorted gas and ice giants (including Seattle's outer neighbor Mt. Ranier); and some Kuiper-type icy worlds on the fringes of the system. However, it is Seattle that has captured some attention on the Known Net: it is a natural garden planet, Gaian even, and the various macrocellular biota of the ecosystem are (broadly speaking) similar enough to terrestrial plants and animals in appearance that Seattle's ecosystem has been decried by xenodenier modosophonts as a hoax.

Orbiting 0.14AU from Washington, Seattle is about 1.5 Terra's diameter, with a density of about 6400 kilograms per cubic meter, and a surface gravity of 1.75Gs. There is a fair amount of core compression, so the world features a proportionally thicker mantle and smaller nickel-iron core than Earth. Despite its age, it remains quite geologically active due to a large amount of retained internal heat, which it has been slower to yield than smaller worlds. It has a relatively vigorous tectonic cycle and a dozen continents (or, technically, 19 continents, some of which are abutting each other currently).

Seattle's axial tilt is virtually zero, and interplay between its equatorial bulge, Washington, and its large moon, Tacoma, stabilize the planet's tilt. On the other hand, Portland and Mt. Ranier have conspired with Tacoma to prevent Seattle from tidally locking with Washington. The planet has a 36-hour rotation.

The environment is quite gaian overall, though such a large planet it has more room for extremes. Seattle has less atmosphere and water than most superterrestrials, but that is typical of SuperGaian worlds. There is substantial isotopic evidence that the massive impact behind Tacoma also blew off most of the planet's primordial atmosphere and hydrosphere. Since then, though, high gravity and a strong magnetic field have helped it retain its atmosphere. That atmosphere is 15% oxygen, which isn't a problem for humans at Seattle's sea level thanks to a 1.5-bar pressure, but the atmosphere does thin out quickly with altitude. (Other than a relatively high abundance of argon [4%], helium [0.01%], and carbon dioxide [600ppm], the atmosphere is quite terrestrial.) The oceans have five percent salinity owing to a longer history of volcanism and erosion than Earth, but there is abundant freshwater in lakes, rivers, and polar icecaps. Water coverage is 81%, leaving about one and a half times Earth's land area.

Though two larger continents have very impressive deserts in their interiors, most landmasses are well-watered due to various factors like proximity to oceans, presence or absence of mountain ranges, and so forth. This produces large and varied plant biomes: forests, jungles, swamps, steppes, savannahs, etc. Overall, Seattle is thought to have a proportionally greater biomass than Earth, perhaps 20-30% more per unit surface area.

Tacoma is about as massive as Mars, but is smaller. It is very dense, at 6300kg per cubic meter, and its composition is suggestive of a stripped planetary core. The likely system formation scenario is that proto-Tacoma grazed proto-Seattle and lost its crust and mantle. The moon currently has a thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide and argon, and is extremely deficient in volatiles. Small amounts of hydrated minerals exist where subsequent cometary material has impacted.

The system's naming conventions stem from the Kja Observers among the first in-system explorers, who were interested in a pre-GAIAn province of Earth known as "Washington."

ECOSYSTEM CONTROVERSIES

The Known Net's reaction to Seattle was unusual, at least among modosophonts, because of the similarity to Earth's biosphere. The newly discovered world's plants and animals bear a surprising resemblance to terrestrial life, with some species passing for Terran lifeforms at a quick glance. This resemblance occurs at both small and large levels. For example, Seattlan life has left-handed proteins and the same amino acids as terrestrial life. 'Mammals' are quadrupedal, bilaterally symmetrical animals with at least some body hair, placental-uterine gestation, and mammary glands, and many convergent evolutionary cosmetic details such as facial features falling within the extremes of terrestrial mammals.

The similarity is such that most macrocellular life forms fall in the 'uncanny valley' for human observers familiar with Terran life: not alien enough to be ignorable, and not sufficiently Earth-like to prompt a comfortable, positive emotional response. A neb well-versed in terrestrial biology would be unlikely to mistake a Seattlan mammal for a specific Terran animal, but might be discomfited by near-recognition. Likewise, Seattlan plants would not look out of place in a forest on Earth, though they do not exactly resemble any specific terrestrial plant and have relatively dark foliage. Ironically, lower familiarity or affinity for terrestrial life makes Seattlan life more agreeable.

The controversy stems from Terragen history and culture. By the time of Seattle's discovery in 9017AT, Terragen civilization had learned that alien life rarely resembled terrestrial life in any fashion. Even garden worlds where baseline humans could survive without much technological assistance (e.g., Dante, New Gaia) had plants and animals that were quite alien in appearance. When virches of what seemed to be bottlenosed dolphins (with vertical tails), miniature pandas, and giant, maskless raccoons reached the Known Net, a vocal minority of modosophonts declared Seattle to be a hoax. Xenodenier speculation suggested that perhaps it was an elaborate advertising scheme for a new virch world, or a corporate campaign to sell genemod pets (since some animals are being exported).

The various xenodenier memes have been difficult to root out and arguments are often caustic, moreso than comparable debates about Stanislaws mechosphere. Conspiracy theorists continue to cherrypick biological data to 'prove' that the ecosystem is simply a genemod version of Earth's. This has led to negative connotations about anything Seattlan, hampering funding for modosophont scientific investigations.

In fact, there are enormous differences between Seattlan and terrestrial life. The geological record indicates that multi-cellular animal life began to develop about 2 to 2.3 billion years ago. Large disasters - often volcanic, as Washington is deficient in minor bodies - have winnowed the number of phyla and body forms to the current range, which is somewhat less than Earth's. But beyond that limitation, Seattlan life is often more sophisticated than Terra's. Every phyla has had at least 1.5 billion more years of evolution than Terran life. The results form an interesting ecology.

BIOLOGY

(In the following discussion, terms appropriate to terrestrial biology [e.g., 'mammal,' 'reptile' etc.] will be used even if, strictly speaking, the plants and animals are not in the least bit related to their terrestrial equivalents. This is done primarily because of the superficial similarity between the two biologies.)

The most-discussed set of examples during xenodenier debates are 'post-mammals.' Post-mammals are evolutionary descendants of Seattle's mammals (which are still quite extant). They have 5-chambered hearts, including a smaller ventricle specifically for the central nervous system, and the high gravity has led certain carnivorous species have developed peristaltic actions in the major veins of the limbs to boost blood flow back to the heart. Their lungs are uni-directional circulatory systems in which the air enters and exits through separate tracheal ports to avoid stale air mixing with fresh. Rather than a single diaphragm, sheets of muscle contract different lobes of the lungs in sequence (keeping chest volume constant while minimizing dead space in the lungs.) This also aids post-mammals in clearing their lungs of foreign matter.

The combination of efficient, high-capacity lungs and powerful circulatory systems makes post-mammal carnivores capable of feats of great endurance and strength. This sort of activity does, however, demand a large amount of food.

While modosophont-level intelligence does not exist in any Seattlan animal, presapient intelligence is common in mammals and post-mammals though hardly universal. Terrestrial crows, raccoons, dolphins, and chimpanzees would find their intelligence common, rather than exceptional. In addition, some post-mammals exhibit additional specialized brain centers. Carnivores and some omnivores have exhibited a spatial memory center that appears to remember 15 to 20 objects, their positions, and their velocity vectors separate from their working memory, which gives them an excellent situational awareness during hunts and fights. Many post-mammals seem to possess brain centers that interpret body language as readily as a human's Wernicke's Area interprets speech, making them natural empaths. Their brains are bifurcated, and are distinguished by a 'super-prefrontal cortex' that supports both superior cross-hemisphere coordination and multi-tasking, the latter achieved by allowing each hemisphere to work on different problems simultaneously. Many post-mammals sleep fully with only one hemisphere at a time, while the other hemisphere is in a reduced (but not eliminated) state of alertness (lazing, not sleeping). Thus, they are hard to surprise even when resting.

Other evolutionary refinements are shared across multiple classes of organisms, not just the post-mammals.

Immune systems are beneficiaries of some of these. While terrestrial animals have two types of immune system, the innate immune system and (in jawed veterbrates) the adaptive immune system. Seattlan reptiles, mammals, and post-mammals exhibit both of these and a third, the 'fortification immune system.' The innate immune system in both ecologies uses chemical responses and killer cells to eliminate pathogens with non-specific responses, but lacks a memory. The killer cells of Seattlan animal's innate immune systems seem to be exceptionally good at eliminating cancer cells, to the point they were thought to be immune to cancer until nanosystem-monitored subjects were found brief instances of cancer cells developing before elimination. The adaptive immune system of both ecologies targets specific pathogens and has an immunological memory, but the Seattlan versions seem better regulated. For example, cytokine storms have not been successfully stimulated without genetically crippling the immune system. The novel 'fortification immune system' supplements the innate and adaptive immune system with a superior immunological memory and almost offensive capabilities. For example, the fortification immune system also has some luck in poisoning parasites by attempting to survive in their gullets as spores, entering the parasite's circulatory system, and clumping/clotting the blood like a poorly matched blood transfusion. Successful parasites are obviously ahead in this immunological arms race.

Most vertebrates seem to retain the ability to regenerate lost limbs and organs. (Oddly, regeneration is rare among invertebrates.) They can replace injured nerves, but new motor and brain cell nerves lack the memories and reflexes of the old ones - a paralyzed animal will need to re-learn how to walk, if they live that long. There are a number of social animals that will provide rudimentary care for injured herd members, primarily in the form of shared food. The regeneration is imperfect in certain circumstances. A badly mangled joint will regrow as a lump of scar tissue. Some post-mammals have been observed performing 'first aid' on others in their herd or pack - they will amputate limbs above injured joints to allow it to regrow cleanly.

In addition to regeneration, mammals and post-mammals exhibit efficient responses to trauma. A torn artery will clench shut for some distance along its length around the injury, while valves in traumatized veins prevent back-flow blood less into the site of injury. This does not fully halt blood loss (or the circulation necessary to heal), but improves survival rates. Post-mammals seem to have particularly good response to nervous system stress, isolating mental stress from impacting long-term physical health. Extended fight-or-flight conditions, attacks by predators, and losses in family groups do not seem to produce fatigue or post-traumatic stress disorders, at least within the limits of nanotech monitoring of their presapient brains. Prey animals thus remain alert for longer; stressed animals are less likely to abandon their young or nests; and excessive 'negative learning' behaviors are less likely than in stressed terrestrial animals.

Even among animals that seem to live in a single habitat, mammals and post-mammals exhibit sophisticated responses to heat and cold. As with terrestrial penguins, animals exposed to excessive cold will begin pre-warming blood from their extremities to mitigate core temperature reduction. This is not, however, a constant function because in warmer environments the heat exchange ceases. Some mammals and all post-mammals both sweat and pant, using their lungs as large evaporative cooling surfaces to support high-endurance activities. Post-mammals are warm blooded, but will automatically lower body temperatures a few degrees due to famine, saving calories at the expense of being lethargic. Body temperatures will rise on demand, if required by external temperatures or a need for activity; the equivalent of adrenaline prompts a resumption of the normal metabolism.

Most mammals and post-mammals exhibit stronger, tougher bones than terrestrial animals. Tensile strength and fracture resistance are noticeably higher. Supporting the stronger bones are stronger tendons and ligaments. The connective tissues are not just exploited for strength, but often arranged for more efficient, energy-recovering gaits. The specific examples vary by animal. Some large land animals will have an almost pogo-like function in their columnar (elephant-like) limbs, while small, fast animals achieve higher speeds for fewer calories.

Most species have had more time to develop symbiotic relationships with bacteria. Herbivores are able to break down cellulose with better efficiency because of symbiotic gut bacteria. A number of predators use virulent bacterial cultures to poison their prey with bites. Most vertebrates have symbiotic organisms on their skins that discourage harmful bacteria and fungi from taking root. While this helps keep the animals clean, baselines and nebs that pet Seattlan animals (see Cuddle Bears, below) need to be up-to-date on their vaccinations or nanoimmune systems.

Insects and other invertebrates also show a number of evolutionary advantages. Lungs appear to be widespread and have independently evolved several times. Variations include book lungs, internal bellows lungs, and lungs that appear to be an outgrowth of gastrointestinal passages. Some avoid molting of exoskeletons. Rather, chitinous shells are continuously grown from living cells in the chitin while older, inner layers are re-absorbed. Combined with the lungs, land and aquatic hard-shelled invertebrates can be relatively large, with one vaguely crab-like octopod species averaging thirty kilograms. (Due to the high gravity, flying insects remain small in comparison to terrestrial counterparts.) Some orders of insects and arachnids have developed relatively large and sophisticated brains, comparable to terrestrial Varanid lizards. The complicated emergent behaviors of 'Seattlan Termites' are discussed below. A few cephalopod species are creative tool users, though not to the extent of Seattlan post-mammals.

Predictably, plants have evolved a number of higher-efficiency photosynthetic modes. C4 photosynthesis, regarded as a higher efficiency photosynthesis pathway for terrestrial plants, appears only among the most primitive Seattlan plants. Like CAM photosynthesis, the common forms of photosynthesis appear to be thrifty with moisture and carbon dioxide, and many plants will recycle CO2 from their respiration and actively concentrate it near photosynthetic molecules; some are also good about capturing water from their metabolic processes. Geological records and plants' CO2 miserliness suggest Seattle has gone through periods of carbon dioxide deficiency. Currently, plants are thriving in the relative CO2 abundance and support a thriving biosphere.

There are some distinct absences from the diverse ecosystems of Seattle. There are no traces of vertebrates capable of true, powered flight: no avian equivalents have evolved, and mammals and post-mammals show no equivalents to bats. A long-extinct reptile appears to have had fairly complete wings, but wing and leg development well-suited for climbing are strongly suggestive that they were cliff- and tree-based gliders. Current mammals, post-mammals, amphibians, and fish all have some species capable of gliding short distances (flying squirrels, flying fish, flying snakes, etc.), but true flight is only the domain of insects. The high gravity seems to have discouraged the evolution of flight on Seattle.

High gravity has also led to more compact forms. The delicate, long-legged deer and antelope of Earth have no equivalents except among the smallest Seattlan animals and most have relatively thick limbs. Likewise, the energy-intensive 'sprawling' posture of terrestrial reptiles is absent from most full-time land vertebrates, which universally have the strong, 'pillar erect' posture seen only in the extinct terrestrial rauisuchians. There are also no long-necked animals akin to giraffes. The blood pressure required to support the brain at the end of such a neck appears to have been prohibitive.

A major point of difference between terrestrial and Seattlan life that 'Seattlan Deniers' (or xenodenier in general) ignore is embryological development. Seattlan vertebrates develop as a 3-layer embryo, like terrestrial vertebrates. However, the layers develop into different organ systems. For example, terrestrial animals develop their gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and urinary system from the endoderm, but Seattlan animals develop their gastrointestinal tract and circulatory tract from the endoderm. Their respiratory and urinary systems develop from the mesoderm. While terragen genetic engineering could accomplish such a profoundly basic change in terrestrial life, it is not worth the trouble to perform on a planet's worth of species.

NOTABLE ANIMAL BEHAVIORS

With the above-noted intelligence, Seattlan animal behavior (and learned skills) may be quite sophisticated. Animal cultures - regional skill groups - are common. For example, three separate species (two herbivorous, one omnivorous) have been observed deliberately gardening fruits as a foraging supplement, protecting the plants from threats, and metering out the fruits rather than gorging. The gardening is primitive: the animals appear to know to plant seeds, but know little of pest control and appear to understand nothing of irrigation, fertilization, or drainage. The same species elsewhere will not garden, but have crafted simple tools to enhance foraging. Division of labor has been seen in multiple species, with some animals foraging and returning food to the herd for other adults tending the young or guarding a warren.

Evidence of short- and long-term planning has been observed, too, ranging from prepositioning piles of stones to throw at rivals; stockpiling food in caches along seasonal migration routes or territorial patrol routes; and planning ambushes against rivals or prey after days of observation. One of the larger grazing species, a herd beast, was observed to be in a continuous tactical arms race with local predators, who were likewise constantly adapting their tactics. These tactics included defensive formations, herd guards and scouts, distractions and ambushes, etc., and retaining and communicating lessons over multiple seasons. Many of the brighter animals seem mentally adaptable to different environments, and will leave their birth biome (a forest, for example) and begin learning how to live elsewhere (a savannah) if environmental pressures call for it.

Limited pseudo-languages are common in the brighter animals, able to convey numeracy, specify threats, provide locations, and identify individuals in a pack. (It should be noted terrestrial insects like honeybees and ants accomplish most of the same feats of communication.) Many post-mammals understand gestures like pointing at potential prey or threats regardless of the originator's species, something only seen in terrestrial dogs and elephants. Cooperative problem solving (e.g., lifting a small packmate to retrieve food from a small branch) is noted. Deceit, such as trying to hide food while misleading other members of a pack as to its location, has also been observed. Several species have death rituals akin to elephants.

Three-level social interactions, which are only seen in humans and dolphins, are common among the brighter Seattlan animals: personal/family relationships, social structures within a herd/pack, and group-level interactions between different packs/herds.

Another interesting mammalian and post-mammalian behavior is inter-species cooperation (and/or exploitation). This is sometimes one-way. Post-mammal predators have been observed using the predicted actions of other animals to enhance their hunting success. For example, 'raccoon-cats' (see below) have been known to exploit unintelligent crocodilians as distractions for ambushing prey herds, deliberately seeking out crocodilian hunting zones along rivers. This requires mental models of the behavior of two separate species to be used simultaneously.

Deliberate inter-species cooperation is more interesting because it does not appear instinctive (unlike terrestrial remoras and sharks), but rather learned and communicated. In some areas, small, tree-dwelling foraging post-mammals will tend to stay close to large, forest surface grazers. The foraging quasi-primates will provide danger alerts to the grazers, and only alerts specific to the grazers' concerns (large predators, like crocodilians dwelling in forest ponds). Meanwhile, the grazers will shelter and protect the foragers from small arboreal threats (like tree-dwelling predators). This happens on a herd-by-herd basis.

Predators of two different species have been observed cooperating with prey herds. This was originally thought to be shepherding behavior with no input from the prey animals, but extended observation revealed it was cooperative: the herd tolerated small culls if other predators were chased away or consumed by the 'shepherds.' The arrangements could fail if there was a change in the herd alpha, and the herd would chase the predator away. In a singular case, a predator was observed culling competitors of the herd alpha, apparently reading and understanding prey animals' social behavior. In another case, a predator pack lived among a herd of large grazers without culling them, instead using the herd as cover to reach other herds (social rivals of the shelter herd) undetected. As noted, these interspecies communications are ad hoc. In other regions, the same species will have different relationships.

The curiosity and inquisitiveness of these intelligent animals is tempered with caution; only their young are recklessly curious in the fashion of some of the more intelligent terrestrial animals. Higher Seattlan animal life often projects the air of weary veterans, not mischievous and bright animals. Many of these high intelligence animals experiment: they will allow or force one pack-member (typically the omega) to try a new food and watch for the results before testing it themselves. They learn from the mistakes of other species too - a predator that sees a herbivore attacked at a watering hole by an aquatic carnivore will grant the entire watering hole caution and the specific area of the attack a wide berth, while also marking the site for future exploitation.

Neural mapping has confirmed that many of the above behaviors are not instinctual. Rather, the subject animals have complicated internal world-maps and reasoning that fully fit the definition of presapients (or borderline sophonts like dyglufsares), making Seattle the planet with the largest number of naturally-evolved presapients yet discovered.

NOTABLE SPECIES

Cuddle Bear
Image from Steve Bowers
A Cuddle Bear on an Ironwood Tree (Warning! Tourists should not attempt to cuddle a Cuddle Bear)

Cuddle Bear: This small post-mammal herbivore resembles a small panda, albeit with a more random pattern of black and white blotches rather than the consistent coloration of terrestrial giant pandas. Some biologists have alternately described the Cuddle Bear as a 'black and white koala bear.' They are, to many humans, 'insipidly cute, adorably clumsy, very gentle, delightfully inquisitive, and prone to causing an irresistible urge to hug and squeeze them.'

Hugging and squeezing present no harm to the animals because the arboreal Cuddle Bear is a compact block of muscle: they burrow multi-chambered nests in Seattlan Ironwood trees. From this burrow, the muscles and heavy, blunt claws of the slow Cuddle Bear are enough to deter most predators. The name 'Cuddle Bear' was bequeathed sarcastically upon initial discovery, when a researcher reached into a tree-burrow only to have the arm trapped by a muscular Cuddle Bear and then amorously assaulted. The name was rehabilitated when the perceptive post-mammal discovered it can acquire food from biont visitors by approaching them and encouraging petting, and cuddling with the potential food provider. There is a profitable export market for the Cuddle Bear. Empaths, however, detest them. One empath cited the eyes, saying, "For all their cooing and cuddling, [domesticated Cuddle Bears] have the hardened stare of a sociopath. They're only in it for the good shelter and easy food."

Raccoon-Cats: This post-mammalian taxonomic family consists of a range of species from small arboreal predators to medium open-terrain sprinters and large, powerful endurance hunters comparable to the largest bears. All are omnivorous hunters and foragers (favoring high-energy nuts, fruits, and tubers), or at least non-obligate carnivores. The family has some of the grace and predatory features of felines, but the semi-manipulative front paws of raccoons, while their muzzles split the difference (longer and narrower than cats, blunter and heavier than raccoons). Most species will sit bipedally when manipulating objects with their front paws, and may walk and fight on two legs for short distances like bears. The larger (jaguar to bear-sized) raccoon-cats, such as the 'Striped Raccoon-Cat,' are currently vying for the title of 'most intelligent Seattlan animal.' They have the most complicated pseudo-languages, highest tendency to make tools, and seem to develop the most complicated plans and solutions of Seattlan animals. They do not, however, make artificial shelters or garden.

Seattle Termite: Several species of Seattle 'termites' surpass the most complicated structures and behaviors of terrestrial mound-building termites. Despite the name, they are actually miniature relatives of land-dwelling, octopod pseudo-crabs, not insects.

Their blade-shaped mounds are reinforced, hardened, and waterproofed with a waxy, resin secretion from the termites, but the wax is not applied evenly. The water-repellent wax is heaviest in external walls and chimney passages (see below), and used in moderation in the bulk of the mound, but almost absent in mud packs near the base (see evaporative cooling, below) and the queens' chambers. The mounds may be up to 10 meters tall and 20 meters long, and will be oriented with their long direction east-west (in warm and tropical climates) or north-south (in cool and temperate climates), providing passive solar temperature control. (In cool climes the broad flanks of the narrow mound will be illuminated all day. In warm climes, one side will always be shaded and thus free to radiate heat.) The peak edge of a mound is interrupted by a pair of roughly circular chimneys every few meters. The mounds use a stack effect to draw in external air from ground-level openings, evaporating moisture from the mud and damp soil near the base, and raise it through the chimneys to ventilate the mound with evaporatively cooled air. The termites respond to excessive temperature drops and rainfall by constricting the chimney passages with wax membranes, and widen them when the mound becomes too warm.

Seattle termites accumulate their wastes and rotting vegetation in two areas: their fungus farms, and the mounds' multiple queen chambers. The queens' chambers are arranged as poorly-ventilated methane digesters, hypoxic conditions in which the queens and their egg-removing attendants appear to survive. If temperatures of a queen's chamber drops excessively (more than 5C) or the chamber is greatly disturbed by burrowing animals, then the queen will sacrificially produce a catalytic chemical reaction to ignite the methane soaked into the walls of the chamber. This pulse of heat will be stored by the adjacent soil mass or drive off burrowers. The combination of passive solar heating, methane heating, metabolic heating, ventilation, and evaporative cooling keep the mounds' temperatures stable to within +/- 2C of 30C, which seems to be the ideal temperature for the farms.

Seattle termites do forage for some foods, but primarily bring dead plant matter back to the mound to use in their waste-fertilized fungus farms. Several strains of fungus are farmed, making the mounds resistant to fungal diseases infecting any one or two of their cultivated fungi. The termites are very successful in keeping temperatures balanced and farms operational: the mean age of most mounds is about 300 years. While many modosophont observers speak at length about the intelligence of Seattle's 'higher' animals, others note that only Seattle's mound-building termites have developed true agriculture, harnessed fire, and built air conditioners.

Seattle Ironwood: This tree is notable for reaching 100 meters in height and, per the name, having fairly hard wood. Neither aspect would be record setting on Earth, though the hardness and strength would be near the upper limit of terrestrial trees (specifically, lignum vitae.) The height, though, is impressive for Seattle's 1.75G surface gravity. The tallest Seattle Ironwoods exist in high humidity areas such as cloud forests where their upper branches can intercept moisture, but they still manage to lift moisture from their roots using a low energy chemical peristalsis through wicking tubules. Such giant trees also have low transpiration rates and store water in the wood of upper branches. The Seattle Ironwood is also found in dryer climates, but is shorter (under 30 meters).

SETTLEMENT

Seattle currently falls within the Metasoft Version Tree and is managed by a SI:3 administrative node based on Mt. Ranier. The administrative node serves as a caretaker for Seattle but also oversees several neighboring systems and is the gateway for Metasoft expansion into the Perseus Arm. Accordingly, the Jovian planet was selected both because of the low light-speed lag to Seattle and because it might eventually support an expansion to an S4 J-brain when the Metasoft district needs that level of oversight.

The node appears to have Kja Observance sympathies, which has some modosophonts concerned that it might secede as a Caretaker God. However, if the translated pronouncements of higher administrative nodes are understood correctly, then there is no concern in Metasoft's upper ranks about this.

Metasoft only allows carefully protected and cleaned researchers (preferably, but not exclusively, vecs) to visit Seattle.

About 100 biont researchers and several thousand vecs currently study the planet, supported by a global monitoring network of nanotech swarms and bots. These mostly launch their expeditions from the isolated and quarantined base, [u]Camp Walla Walla[/u]. A constellation of orbiting SI:1 hyperturing satellites are processing the flood of data from the planet and generating a number of informative, profitable studies. The 1000-meter wormhole supports some tourism (conducted via non-biological rental bodies.)

SEATTLE DENIALISM: THE TRANSAPIENT PERSPECTIVE

The persistent attacks on the authenticity of Seattle's ecosystem have confused modosophont watchers. (Higher transapients and archai do not seem surprised at the modosophont behavior, although their comments range from unintelligible to uninformative: "I'm not surprised" and "Yes, there is denialism.") There are two popular theories about modosophont reactions. First is that the persistent denial is simply an emergent meme derived from millennia of conditioning that truly xenosophont ecologies must appear radically different from Earth's ecology. Second is that a higher toposophic entity (or entities) is somehow manipulating large numbers of modosophonts across countless polities into denying that Seattle's life is real. The second theory is much less popular because it requires consistent responses from modosophonts in many different Sephriotic empires.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Mike Miller
Initially published on 25 February 2016.

 
 
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