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The Liir are an air-breathing aquatic species, and bear a strong resemblance to the extinct cetaceans of Old Earth. They are the result of a long-term process of environmental change: an ice age lasting millions of years initially allowed for the development of mammalian species on the isolated tropical islands and huge ice shields of their home world, but eventually an extended warming period resulted in a planet with less than 10% of its surface above water. The vast majority of land-dwelling species returned to the sea—including the early ancestors of the Liir.
The Liir have not been a star-faring species for long. Up until 150 years ago, the Liir were a peaceful race with limited technology. Various agrarian and nomadic cultures operated within the rich waters of their home world, and war was virtually unknown to them. Although they had not developed far in the sciences of architecture or ballistics, some Liir societies were extremely advanced in bioengineering, aquatic horticulture, volcanic engineering and metallurgy.
The Liir were conquered and enslaved by another star-faring race, whom they learned to call the Suul'ka. The Suul'ka established several lucrative industries on Muur, the Liirian home world, and force-marched the Liirians through the Industrial Revolution by employing them as slaves in mines, factories and manufacturing facilities.
After several decades of abuse, realizing that the greed and rapacity of the Suul'ka would destroy the aquatic environment of their home world completely, the Liir rebelled against their alien masters. The war was remarkably bloody in its early stages, but finally ended when the Liir unleashed a bio-weapon tailored to Suul'ka physiology on Muur. It is impossible at this point to say what agent the Liir may have used, or what vectors it followed. We only know that the resulting disease was so virulent and lethal that it appears to have quickly spread beyond the colony and completely eradicated the Suul'ka, at least from that sector of space.
The current state of Liirian technology is a result of their successful rebellion. The former slaves of the Suul'ka quickly absorbed the abandoned technology of their masters, and have adapted the old drives, guns and orbital elevators to their own use. Driven by natural curiosity and the desire to preempt any further assaults from the stars, the Liir have now begun exploring space.
The divine SongEdit
The Liir spiritual worldview is both simple and profound. They have no separate sense of the divine as we would understand it. They believe that all things are equally divine and sacred; the universe itself is their "god" in essence. They make no philosophical or hierarchical separation between themselves and other living things, or even between themselves and non-living bodies like stars and planets.
The Liir conceive the Universe as one great Song—a vast tapestry of harmonious music. To a Liir, every physical object and living thing in the universe is another trembling chord, a pattern of vibrations, a sequence of notes. Everything is part of the Song. Everything that exists, in their eyes, is beautiful and necessary; if one cannot see that beauty, the fault lies within.
If the Liir perceive themselves as special in some way or separated in some way from the rest of the Song, it is only because they recognize the unique ability of all sentient beings to marvel at the music and to shape the world around them—to change the Song, even in a small way.
Whether the Liir conception of the Song implies the existence of a divine Singer is a subject open to debate. When asked whether there is or was a Singer—a Creator who was the author or instigator of the divine Song—most Liir simply create bubbles. If pressed, they all reply with the same question: "Are you not singing yourself?"
Liirian bodies are sleek and dynamic, allowing for fast movement in water. Although they appear completely smooth, their skins are in fact coated with a layer of dense, fine fur, patterns and colors of which will vary with the individual. They bear live young, and all members of the species are hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female sex organs. The majority of Liir are capable of both fertilizing as a male or bearing young as a female, but only the very oldest Liir can do both at once—it is normally impossible for a Liir to impregnate as a male while carrying an offspring itself.
A newborn Liir is very small, less than half a meter in length and weighing only 8-10 kilograms. By the time they reach the age of majority, after a period of roughly fifty years, a standard Liir will be around 3 meters long and weigh approximate 120 kilograms. There seems to be no natural end to the potential life span of any given Liir, and throughout their lives the Liir never stop growing: some observers have reported sightings of elder Liir over 60 meters long, massing many tons.
The most unusual feature of the Liirian race is not the shape of their bodies, however, but the power of their minds. Liir do not have opposable digits, tentacles, or any other physical means of manipulating objects; they employ a limited form of telekinesis instead. A deft Liir can use several tools at once, and can often operate many simple machines simultaneously. With some concentration, they can also hurl objects with astonishing force, and the spear was a traditional hunting weapon among the Liir for many centuries.
Although they have large, light-sensitive eyes, the frequency range of Liirian vision is limited. They have a very refined sense of taste and a sophisticated array of sound-producing and sound-receiving equipment, however, which more than compensate for the lack of sight. Liirian echo-location is good enough to allow Liir to draw very sophisticated schematics of any machine or device simply by “singing” to it and reading the sound waves that bounce back.
The Liir communicate largely by telepathic means, although they do have some very rudimentary sound-signals that convey strong but simple emotions—being startled, amused, frightened, angry, etc. The challenge of commanding and controlling a fleet of starships however, has forced the Liir to develop new modes of communication. A new class of Liirian "singers" has recently emerged and they now sing an entirely new type of song, one that is purely auditory. These Liir can now shape sequences of gross physical sounds which are meant to be broadcast by mechanical means, and can be heard at far greater distances than even the strongest telepathic shout can travel.
Originally a peaceful race, The Liir focused on sciences that would improve their world. Once they were forced to take up arms and go into space, their inexperience showed in their weaker ship designs. However they also brought with them their impressive ability to research technologies, particularly the Biotechnologies.
Liirian ships of the line have a very high mass-to-size ratio, as their ships must be filled with a super-oxygenated liquid medium to allow the Liir to breathe and move freely. Fortunately, the unusual system of propulsion employed by the Liirian fleet allows them to compensate for the colossal mass of their vessels.
The Liir use an inertia-less "stutter" drive, which creates movement through space by teleporting the entire ship in tiny spatial increments of a millimeter or so. The implications of this drive system are many: for example, a Liirian ship does not use thrust to accelerate or decelerate. It also allows for the mass of a Liirian ship to be a non-issue, as the ship never develops the inertia of a body in motion; it simply changes its space-time coordinates. The Liir DO use reaction thrusters for close maneuvers and rotation. So a Liir ship with a destroyed drive can still rotate. For combat maneuvers, they use both...their reaction thrusters are used as secondary systems.
The "speed" of a Liirian vessel is determined by the number of teleports per second that its engine can perform. It is not difficult for the Liir to achieve relativistic speeds in open space, but the stutter drive has a distinct disadvantage when operating near a gravity well. Any object massive enough to cause a large space-time distortion—be it a planet, star or black hole—can severely slow the movement of a Liirian ship.
Liirian drive tech tends to inspire a combination of puzzlement and dismay among the other races.
"Where was the last reported sighting? And they're WHERE now? Well, for heaven's sake don't try to engage them in open space – get your back to a big gravity well and pray it slows them down..."
Culturally speaking, the Liir have a strong pacifistic streak and are inclined to avoid violence. Up until recently, the very notion of “war” was unknown to them; they do not war among themselves, historically, and had some difficulty grasping concepts like “conquest”, or understanding why such a thing would be desirable.
Because of their empathic and telepathic abilities, the Liir are always keenly aware of the sufferings of others, and they take no joy in causing pain, fear or anger. They revere life and harmony, and abhor needless death or destruction. Nonetheless, they also value their own lives, and over the past two centuries they have come to embrace survival as a necessary virtue.
The Liir are extremely curious and quick to learn, and have made astounding strides with technology of various kinds in a very short period of time. They are masters of back engineering; the combination of telekinetic tool-use and their ability to form three-dimensional schematics of any machine without having to disassemble it have proven to be powerful advantages. And although most of the weapons in their arsenal are easily recognizable, the unique character of their species does tend to show in their battle tactics.
Liir have a tendency to encircle their enemies, forming an attack ring which allows them to assault the target from several sides at once; this is analogous to the standard treatment of predator species on their home world, which are dispatched in a similar fashion. Liir will always target an enemy’s engines if possible, not only to spare the lives of the crew but to preserve any useful technology or data that might be gleaned from the undamaged remains of the ship. Their reverence for life has given them a strong aversion for high-explosive weapons, and they dislike the indiscriminate bombardment of planets. When Liir attack, they strike with surgical precision.
As a telepathic race, there is no need for any special way for individual Liir aboard a single ship to stay in sync with one another. They are all part of the same battlesong, sung in counterpoint to the enemy.
The Liir express themselves almost entirely through music and thought. They never stop dancing from the moment they are born until the moment they die—because they can always hear the music. Most of their art is difficult to describe in human terms; it consists of tapestries of sound, memory, motion and emotion.
Liir music is all choral, for obvious reasons. It is inexpressibly beautiful and powerful, even as a recording, but of course the full effect could never be achieved outside of live performance. When you are close enough to receive the telepathic stream that goes with the song—to hear the lyrics as well as the melody—the experience is magnified a hundred-fold. And this is to say nothing of the frequencies of sound which Humans can more easily feel than hear.
For fun, Liir tend to engage in various athletic contests or play a game called "hide the idea". "Hide the idea" is a game which Liir children begin to play soon after birth, much as human babies first learn to play "peek-a-boo" and then "guess which hand the penny is in"? But as the Liir grow older and stronger "hide the idea" becomes a much more aggressive, passionate, fascinating contest of wills. It is a common exercise for hundreds of younger Liir to wrestle the mind of one elder, trying to prize the thought from beneath his layers of defenses. When they finally "find the idea", it sometimes changes their lives forever.
Liir parenting is communal. An infant can nurse from any other "female" Liir in its community. They have several variations on the word "mother" which, depending on mental inflection, can mean: "a female Liir," "she who birthed my body," "she who nourishes me physically (or spiritually)," "she who tears away the blinding caul," etc. Pair bonding among the Liir is not common, but it is possible. Courtship is an interplay of minds and bodies which is impossible to unwind and separate from other interactions.
The Liir don't keep pets—instead their relationship with biological mechanisms is so intimate that half the natural world is a "pet" to them—i.e., something which they care for, nurture, train, control, and love to the extent that one can love a lesser creature.