Eta Cephei, a Provolved Hyena system

Image from Steve Bowers
Skulk, a gas giant in the Eta Cephei system, showing the Belligerence ISO ring

Bone-Claw - Data Panel

SystemEta Cephei
Distance from Sol46.78ly, epoch 2000
PlanetsUncouth: AzuriJovian type, orbital radius 0.63au, mass 0.4 x Jupiter
Skulk: EuJovian type, orbital radius 8.4au, mass 0.29 x Jupiter
Ett: Titanian type, orbital radius 28au, mass 0.4 x Earth
PopulationEmbodied: 61 billion (75% Hyena, 9% other bionts, 6% vec)
Virtual: 720 billion
TravelStargates: Spike, to Vega (Microgauge)
Beamrider: Two beamlines to local brown and red dwarfs
Lightways: Connections to Alpha Cephei/Wachowski Prime (Transit barred to modosophonts); Mandra Quin'Si; Peta Dromanis; Vega; Zeta Herculis; Orinoco; 44 B


Sapient Hyenas from the First Federation arrived at Bone-Claw in 1550 AT. None of the colonists had taken the anti-aggression patch given to other members of their clade, and set out with the explicit goal of establishing a Hyena centre of power, free of human interference.

Ten years earlier, a preparation probe had seeded the second planet, named Skulk, with self-replicating bubblehabs and local infrastructure. The interiors of these habs were dimly lit plains, over a kilometres across, under a ceiling a few tens of metres high. Internal fusion reactors kept them at a tropical temperature, and provided lift in the hot-hydrogen bubble above the hab.

The first planet, Uncouth, was deemed too warm to make bubblehabs feasible. However, it had an abundance of heavy elements that were lacking in Skulk, so the probes had set up industrial facilities. The third and final planet, named Ett (the etymology of this term is unknown), was left undeveloped.

For the first fifty years, the number of bubblehabs slowly proliferated. The Hyena-Anglic was replaced by a new constructed language, Cutan. The Hyena social organisation, constructed in deliberate defiance of the "hominid ideals" of the First Federation, was based around a meritocratic monarchy. Each clan — the population of a single hab — had a well-defined place in the hierarchy, which it could increase by great accomplishments in advancing the colony. At the top, the Matriarch Jelana and her clan ruled over the entire colony. Her position was, in the normal rules of this social structure, unassailable.

Skulk Bubblehabs
Image from Steve Bowers
Hyena Bubblehabs in the atmosphere of Skulk

The rise of the Clans

The second generation of colonists — derived from frozen sperm, rather than entire zygotes — moved onto new bubblehabs when their clans fissioned. They started on the bottom of the hierarchy, but soon started to work their way upwards.

The greatest of these was led by a matriarch called The Empress Belligerent Bitch of this Frigid Shit of a Planet — or, for short, Belligerence. (This was almost certainly not her name at the time, but all records were retroactively changed.) By the age of 22, she had already brought her clan to third place in the hierarchy, along the way acquiring a reputation for intelligence and ruthlessness.

At the time, a competition was underway which would determine whether Belligerence's clan would rise to second place. Instead, in 1687 with the aid of several low ranking first generation clans, Belligerence assassinated the Matriarch Jelana and her entire clan by destroying her bubblehab. From there, Belligerence moved fast to cement her position. The clans who had aided her were placed together by the top of the hierarchy. Loyal, low-ranking individuals from other clans staged local coups with her help. Those who opposed the change were killed. The rest of the population quickly fell in line.

In the confusion, while the local systems were still being subverted to accept Belligerence rather than Jelana as matriarch, a few individuals managed to escape. They were able to subvert the local boostbeam and travel to Uncouth, where they joined the onsite engineers. There, they worked quickly to prevent Belligerence from subverting their systems, and by the time she had established full control over Skulk, she had lost Uncouth.

Both sides quickly saw there was a stalemate. Skulk had a greater population and more weapons, but Uncouth had control of far larger industrial systems, and supplied a large part of Skulk's heavy element needs. Any overt conflict would lead to the destruction of the system.

On Skulk, Belligerence began a series of slow but steady reforms to increase her hold and remake the planet in her image. The local systems were programmed to behave in line with hierarchy. They gave preference to higher-ranked individuals and clans, and sometimes even responded aggressively to those near the bottom, ignoring their requests and forbidding them access to food and resources. The higher-ranked Hyenas had power of life-and-death over the lower ranked — they could order a hab to starve its inhabitants, or simply evacuate all its air. The legal system became more draconian. Free speech was non-existent, and execution by cannibalism became common. The culture grew inward looking, centred around immense impressionist-romanticist artworks and narrative epics.

Uncouth, meanwhile, developed along different lines. With a population of a little over two hundred, its population formed a single clan, oriented along the original meritocratic lines. Elements of democracy were introduced slowly, with each member's vote weighted by their performed on various strategy tests and games. The Hyenas dug back into to old colony archives and began to introduce AIs with full citizenship to increase their population (and thereby introduce a greater variety of strategic thinking).

The stalemate between the two colonies evolved into a long cold war. Trapped in an arms race, both sides industrialised quickly. Skulk worked to free itself of heavy element dependence; Uncouth stockpiled beam weapons. Both set up bases around the L4 and L5 points of their respective planets. For all their interest in one another, they remained isolationist, spurning the occasional attempt at contact from the Federation, Megacorps, and others. Both lay claim to Ett, and neither tried to take it.

The first Transapients

In 1820, word reached Uncouth that Belligerence was planning to ascend. Though a risky move given the unpredictability of new transapients, if it succeeded, it would ensure a definitive victory. The Uncouthans decided their only option was to try and get their highest-ranking and most capable AIs to ascend first. From 1820 to 1900, both sides devoted their energies to try and achieve a successful ascension.

It is unknown who ascended first, Belligerence or the Uncouth AIs. But it did not lead to the expected victory. Whoever did ascend first chose not to attack, and instead to allow the other side to ascend too. Whether this was because of transapient intervention, because the new ascendee subverted the other side as a longer route to victory, or due to a simple act of mercy, is unknown.

Regardless, by 1920 each planet was ruled by a transapient. On Skulk, Belligerence uploaded into the orbital structures around the planet. She retained four physical avatars — cyborg bodies, each twice the size of a normal Hyena, which regularly travelled across the planet to visit her people. On Uncouth, an engineer AI known as Imari was the first to ascend.

The cold war did not stop, but there is a clear record of increased co-operation between the two planets. Most of this went un-noticed by the S0 Hyenas, who continued life as normal. Still, surrounding colonies noted more productive communication with Bone-Claw at this time, and between the 2000s-2100s a number of colony ships were launched. The resultant colonies ensured the growth of Cutan as a language family. Many later allied with Cygexpa or the Solar Dominion.

In 2043, following negotiations, Belligerence and Imari offered Ett to a small group of rogue TakiCorb development vecs. This conveniently resolved the Ett issue without loss of face for either side. The TakiCorb vecs arrived by gentron in 2060. They had little interest in Hyena politics, and proved to be a convenient neutral party who could take the planet out of the equation.

Over the 2100s and 2200s the situation on Skulk slowly resolved itself as Belligerence instituted a series of liberalising reforms. As with the end of the ascension race, the reason for this decsion is still hotly debated. All Hyenas were guaranteed adequate resources, backups, and co-operation from their local bubblehabs. Bullying across the hierarchy was forbidden. Execution as a method of punishment was rolled back in favour of banishment to Uncouth. At the same time, most of the local culture, with it's vivid impressionist iconography and epic grand guignol narratives, was retained.

Uncouth gradually became a more open society, opening up relations with the Ett vecs. The vecs themselves negotiated the creation of a beamrider route through the system.

Though not as coldly isolationist as it was in the early centuries, Bone-Claw was insular enough that it escaped notice during the Age of Consolidation and even the Version War, though the latter led to a small influx of refugees, most of whom joined Uncouth. The two matriarchs breached further toposophic barriers, growing ever closer together. Bone-Claw was finally connected to the Nexus by a microgauge wormhole in 5012.

Bone-Claw in the Current Era

Bone-Claw remains something of a backwater in the Inner Sphere. It attracts a minor amount of interest (and a small but steady stream of tourists) for its early history and as the source of the Cutan language in later Cygexpa and Solarian Hyena colonies. The old notion of an independent Hyena civilisation has long since faded, though there is still amount of pride on both the old worlds about being the first Hyena colony.

Uncouth is a diverse and modern polity. Hyenas make up a little over half its embodied population. The rest is composed of a wide variety of nebs, provolves, tweaks, and vecs. (Sophtware, numbering an order of magnitude more than the embodied population, is derived mostly from Hyena uploads and the original AIs.) Politically, it has returned to a standard cyberdemocracy with AI oversight. Though it remains unaffiliated, the Solar Dominion and the Negetropy Alliance have significant cultural pull. Large habitat clusters sit at both Lagrange points, and the planet itself is surrounded by a 5000 km wide supramundane strip. The Hyenas live on the strip's dark side, whereas the light side is home to vecs and high-temperature tweaks.

Skulk is an ancient and proud world. Belligerence remains Matriarch, and inhabits a chain of ISOs orbiting the planet, all shaped like open jaws. Her giant avatars still patrol the bubblehabs. The polity remains strongly aicratic, but with some liberalisations: Uncensored access to the Known Net is permitted, and the highest punishment is banishment. Cannibalism remains, but is only permitted after a body dies of natural causes. The modern bubblehabs are all powered by conversion generators, and a DWIZ orbiting the star ensures the polity's industrial independence.

Ett is now allied with the Deeper Covenant. The surface is home to a large community of vecs and methanoids, and a small swarm of habitats and boostbeams orbit the planet.

Belligerence and Imari are both S3. It is a matter of debate among archailectologists how much they are distinct entities.
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Development Notes
Text by Liam Jones
Initially published on 07 September 2017.