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Nov 17, 2019 6:33 PM
Space-age Murune opens a portal to Psion
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Four hours later, a ship arrives and announces itself as the Marchseam.  It's an older model than the newly-commissioned Dewgather, stubby and painted in elaborate swirling patterns of teal and ice blue.  

The ship wastes no time in arranging itself beneath the Virene Ship, then pulling it forward towards the inner system.  

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They gather as much data as they can about the trip.

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Murune is a star with 3 planets and a wide asteroid belt, inhabited but not crowded.  There are around 20 billion people scattered across planets, moons, and space stations.  Many ships are shuttling people or cargo between stations or pulling objects from the outer asteroid belt or oort cloud.  No ships are traveling to other stars, and the portal between their two universes seems to be the only one that currently exists.

From the edge in, the closest planet is the gas giant Netarin.  It has dozens of smaller moons home to mining stations, and four large moons that are clearly impossible.  Breathable nitrogen/oxygen atmospheres with liquid water far past the point where they should have been frozen.  The smallest should have been too light to keep its atmosphere.  The sandy one is orbiting slow enough that it should have fallen into the gas giant.  Visible cities dot these moons, having been inhabited for centuries.

The middle planet Tle is a rocky planet in the zone where it should have liquid water, and does.  Breathable atmosphere, saltwater oceans, and green-covered continents.  Ships cloud around the large stations on top of its four space elevators.  

The Marchseam slows them down over Muurkari, a rocky airless tidally-locked planet closest to the star.  Most of the surface is dotted with solar farms, and a ring of arcologies around the twilight band.  From the map and information offered, there is supposedly a large population in tunnels beneath the planet's surface as well.  There is an especially palatial structure right on the north pole, where they'd been directed.  A massive translucent dome and sprawling spires of bronze in elaborate and artistic shapes.

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Is there a landing site that can accomodate the ship?

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Word of their arrival has preceded them.  They are directed through a massive airlock next to the dome itself, rather than try to figure out how to hook a ship with different door designs into the standardized airless dock system.  Like the rest of the palace, it is made entirely of bronze and a tinted glasslike material.

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A simple enough solution.

The ship maneuvers gracefully through the door to touch down with a soft hiss.

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Once the room has atmosphere, three Murune natives step into the room and wait for the visitors to disembark.

They are led by an extremely tall human.  The fashion for Murune formal wear this century is long skirts for all genders, with metallic threads and gems embroidered onto the fabric to match elaborate jewelry.  His is particularly ornate to signify rank, almost looking like chainmail.

Behind him stands two much smaller species.  First is a multicolored 4-winged variant with a head like a claw hammer and four faceted eyes.  Beside it is an even smaller feathered biped with a vestigial pair of wings on the shoulders of an otherwise humanoid body plan.  Or, humanoid as far as can be seen - the long skirt hides what their legs look like.  

 

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From the ship extends a ramp, and down it descend three humanoid figures. The two leading wear sleek dark body armor with no visible insignia or sign of rank and carry heavy rifles at a sharp angle across their chests. They come to a snappy halt at the end of the ramp.

The third figures walks down sedately behind them. A woman in finely tailored robes, hood thrown back to expose her face, not quite so tall as the leader of the other delegation. She reaches the bottom of the ramp and takes one step beyond her bodyguards, regarding the reception committee steadily.

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The Murune group performs bow-like gestures, and the human steps forward.  As he speaks, his words are overlaid with a second voice speaking in every listener's native language.  

"I am Raen'Vine, Champion of the Murune System.  I am in command of all of Murune's foreign affairs.  These are my head diplomat and master of exploration, respectively.

"We're here to lead you to Empress Hirune's audience chamber.  Beyond that, I will also likely be the main point of contact between our civilizations, as Hirune prefers to take a hands-off approach to rule in most circumstances."

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"Raen'vine. I am the Empress of Vir, Lightbringer and Breaker of the Cycle, the goddess beyond time." She speaks the language flawlessly and without accent. "Bring me, then, to your leader."

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"Right this way."

He leads her through a short hallway, then into the dome itself.

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Empress Hirune's preferred physical manifestation is the centerpoint of the massive room.  Rather than mimic one of the species of her domain, she has continued the tradition of her kind and created something unique and building-sized.

There's a raised dais close to the entrance from the dock, and Ara'Vine walks up to stand to one side.  Opposite him is an old kiarasa with something elaborately embroidered trailing down to the floor around its perch.  The center is the obvious place for the visiting Empress to stand.

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She takes her place there, flanked by her bodyguards.

She essays a light psychic probe, seeking to ascertain the shape of the mind before her.

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Hirune permits this, curious, and sends through information as a greeting.

A zoenshoeth is a sapient component of the physics of this universe, cycling potential the way that clouds cycle water back from the ocean to the land.  When entropy increases, that lost potential is moved to their layer of reality, where they can move it back as they wish.  As such, this universe is quite old, having gone through many cycles of heat death and recreation, cycles where they maintained the stars for trillions of trillions of years before letting things fade.  

Hirune in particular is very young, only 60 years as the mortals here count them.  She formed as the concept of this part of space being composed of planet-sized parts started instead considering itself as being composed of a solar system.  The permission for the mortals to travel between the planets was the mechanism her parents used to contemplate merging.  Hirune has chosen to rule them personally for a few centuries as she settles, rather than leaving them alone as most others do.

The 2-light-year-radius barrier around this system is a decision between her and the zoenshoeth of other star systems, who prefer not to merge.  However, there's no risk of merging with another universe, so when the mortals began getting sad that they'd reached the edges, she opened up a portal to another universe for them.

The mortals have called so many different things 'gods' and she's curious to learn what definition is being used for the visiting Empress of Vir.

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She is called a god because she is the guide, protector, inspiration, and example to her people. She is the strongest human psionic there will ever be. She broke free of a time loop that a malevolent entity had trapped her species in so that it could feed on them. She awakened others to their psionic potential. She shepherded her people from stone forts to sprawl across the the galaxy. Her subjects worship her. That is why she is a god.

All this she conveys without speaking.

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A valid definition, though Hirune supposes any definition that is being used and understood by people is.  That is how language works.  Speaking of which, they should probably speak aloud for the sake of her Champion and High Priest.

"Tell us about your universe.  Are there many different kinds of people there?"

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"There are eleven Great Powers at present, which is to say species that control multiple systems and habitable planets, and that have the resources to defend those claims. In addition to these, there are some few dozen others known to the galactic community at large who are either migratory remnant populations, hostile unaligneds, uninterested in expansion, or below the technology level required for spaceflight. My empire is composed primarily of humans, of which I am one, and smaller populations of srrseke, furred mammals averaging half the size of a human, and ootaanii, aquatic molluscoids adapted to extreme pressure."

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"We have several here, though the exact number is a matter of some debate on what counts as a 'species'.  As few as 5, to as many as 14.  I'm sure the humans of Murune will be very interested in learning how similar yours are to ours.  It isn't surprising that a humanoid form would evolve twice - they were the one species to evolve naturally here while the Tle zoenshoeth was focused elsewhere - but the exactness is astounding."

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"The other species present here were created by others of your kind?"

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"Yes.  Zoenshoeth tend to create life in their domains, if the domain is remotely suited for it or can be made so.  Physical life is aesthetically pleasing for us, and sapient ones are moreso, with their cities, roads, and ships."  

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"What are the other species here like?"

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"The six humanoids are humans, fishfolk, merfolk, mersol, ray-solon, and claw-solon.  Humans evolved naturally but were used as a base to create others.  Their interbreeding acts like three codominant alleles, meaning the pure-breeds will always breed true, the hybrids will regularly produce throwbacks, and they don't hybridize into further fractions.  Ray Solon are tall and have 6 tentacles in place of arms.  Very prosocial and community-minded, and make up most of the inhabitants of MuurKari.  Their hybrid with humans are the claw solon, which trade in 2 pairs of tentacles for arms.  Merfolk are the other pure-breed, with fish-like tails in place of legs, and gills with no lungs.  They inhabit the saltwater oceans of the system, and are otherwise pretty similar to humans.  Fishfolk have human body plans but shorter legs, both gills and lungs, and often have scaly patches.  Mersol (solon-merfolk hybrid) are very rare, but have humanoid upper bodies with 8 tentacles in place of legs. 

"The other main group is the Saurians, composed of two pure-breeds (the shoth and kiarasa) plus their sterile hybrid dracona.  Kiarasa, like the chief ambassador and the High Priest, are experts at administration and leadership.  Shoth are the opposite - mentally dull but physically powerful.  Dracona are a middle ground that is fairly human-like in their abilities, and are known as skilled craftsmen.

"Tripods have three arms and three legs, and an unfortunate high reproductive drive which once caused war.  This has been solved with the creation of a genetically-engineered symbiote which can imitate fetuses within the queens and prevent overpopulation.  Besides that, they are usually model citizens as long as they're permitted to spread out within other species' cities rather than live close enough to their own kind to have to smell rival queens' pheromones.

"Owlida were the first created species, and include the Master of Exploration, there.  Small, peaceful, and brilliant at technology.  They were originally created to inhabit the Netarin moons, but the zoenshoeth ruling that planet eventually grew tired of them and replaced them with the tripods.  That they survived at all is due to the zoenshoeth of Tle, who collected an arcology full of them and squirreled them away in her zoo for extinct animals.  They were released along with the Saurians only a few hundred years ago.

"Dryads were the most recent species, created after humans nearly wiped themselves out 700 years ago, to preserve what they could of the cities and culture of the time.  They are plant-like, spending a long adolescent period as mobile saplings, using artificial chassis as skeletons to move their flexible branches against like muscles.  When they've grown too large to continue, they join large Groves composed of thousands of dryads who have merged into massive hive-minds which make up several cities in the tropical regions of Tle."

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