Dionaea, Diona for singular, are slow-moving, slow-thinking, intensely curious sapient plant-like creatures that grow from seeds or budding to produce animal-like nymphs, which eventually cluster into human-sized gestalts and then into station-sized clusters.
Players may play as a Diona gestalt by visiting the forums and making a whitelist application. Whitelisted observers may also join as Diona nymphs if they are being harvested from seed pods.
In a nutshell
- Nymph: extremely curious slug-puppy with the intelligence of a clever dog and awful reaction times. Can crawl through vents and make a nuisance of themselves.
- Gestalt: A collection of roughly 11 nymphs in a human shape. Very slow in thought and action. Weak self-preservation instinct. Fixate on minutiae.
- Incapable of feeling pain, largely emotionless, and very slow to react to threats.
- Nonviolent to the extreme. Respond to threats by fleeing or requesting assistance.
- No intuitive grasp of human society.
- Communal intelligence - gestalts refer to themselves as a collective unless deliberately affecting the attitudes of other sapients.
- Split-and-remerged or regrown gestalts are different individuals.
- Use ,q To talk in the Dionaea language.
- Dionaea must be in lit areas to survive. Darkness will cause damage and eventually death. However, light increases nutrition and nutrition is consumed to heal brute and toxins damage.
- Radiation will also increase Diona nutrition without ill effects.
- Diona nymphs are grown in hydroponics trays in botany and can with time grow into a full gestalt
- Dead Dionaea release nymphs, one of which is player-controlled and can regrow.
- Dionaea can also split apart using a verb but do not do so lightly.
Dionaea cannot make the split-decisions required for Command roles, cannot physically restrain criminals for Security, cannot move fast enough to be Paramedics, and cannot understand the sapient psyche well enough to act as a Psychiatrist. They most often gravitate towards Engineering roles (being familiar with deep-space structures and fond of the hellishly irradiated environment of the Supermatter Engine) and Science roles (satisfying their natural curiosity). Dionaea are badly underpayed for their labor, but the unsleeping, uneating, unfeeling tree-people are usually satisfied with mere inclusion.
The Dionaea are a group of slow-moving photosynthetic plant-like organisms that are in fact clusters of individual, smaller organisms. They exhibit a high degree of structural flexibility, and come in a wide variety of shapes and colours.
Dionaea have no planets or government. The diona reproductive cycle eventually results in the smaller gestalts making a pilgrimage of sorts to a communally agreed-upon site - either a gas giant or a star, depending on the 'strain' of the individuals. Once there, they interlink their bodies and enter an orbit around the celestial body, fusing and merging into a fledgling cluster that will eventually grow to the size of a space station. The gestalt feeds on the gasses and emissions of the star or planet, converting them into myriad useful forms or storing them in sacs and bladders for buoyancy in atmosphere, propulsion throughout the stars, resupply by other clusters, or for trade with interested bodies.
Prior to this transformation, the dionaea spread their seed gestalts throughout the galaxy in a search for knowledge. Ambassadors, traders, and researchers (to the Dionaea, one and the same) are produced by clusters by budding off collections of interested and talented nymphs and networking them together into a new Gestalt. The trade of unusual compounds produced within great biological factory-clusters and their role in Skrellian society as starships and terraformers is used to facilitate the dispersal of the gestalts throughout the stars, and the "seeds" will gather as much information as they can, developing into wildly unique and interesting individuals to bring as much variation as possible to the clusters when they merge. They will also collect scientific information on bio-engineering, genetics, chemistry and biological science in order to help produce more interesting and robust cluster designs.
The ternary system known to humans as Epsilon Ursae Minoris shines more brightly in the sky of Qerrbalak. Skrellian astronomers had long noted slightly anomalous spectra from the stars, attributing it to a close-orbiting planetoid or an unusually robust asteroid belt.
When a Skrellian exploration team first visited the system in 2132, they found it more unusual than they had anticipated. Carbonaceous asteroids orbited the stars in irregular clumps and drifted between the system center and its gas giants. The mystery was resolved when the Skrell reached visual range of one of these asteroids-- it was made of photosynthetic plant matter and very interested in them.
Over the next several decades, science vessels were brought in and the strange electromagnetic language of the creatures that came to be called Dionaea was painstakingly decrypted. The scientists learned that the strange, immense structures were conglomerates of plantlike creatures, fueled by hydrogen gas, growing on bare asteroid, and feeding on radiation.
Eventually - over several years, due to the slow speed of thought of the Dionaea clusters- an agreement was reached. The scientists would take from the Dionaea several samples and seeds, and sow them in other systems that the Dionaea could not reach, and return them when they had grown. In exchange, the Dionaea would serve as starships, terraforming machines, communication satellites, and factories for the burgeoning Inner Kingdoms.
Relationships with Other Species
Dionaea are for the most part entirely peaceful and compatible with all know interstellar cultures. Their preferred habitat is completely uninhabitable, being in the upper reaches of a hellish inferno, and since they have little to no use for money and a fondness for interaction with other intelligent races, they serve as excellent emergency berths for ships lost in unfriendly and underpopulated space.
The Skrell maintain a good working relationship with the Dionaea, exchanging star maps, planetary settlement rights and bluespace communications and FTL engines for various services, and many of the younger Diona have actually formed their bodies around starship components and habitation modules to enable them to journey across all manner of systems, and host explorer parties as they warble across the cosmos.
The Humans have most of their contact with the Dionaea via the Skrell, tentatively beginning to host diona guests and migrant workers on their stations and habitats, and beginning to explore their scientific and social options with this new contact. To many humans in the inner systems, Dionaea are an oddity found in recordings and academic texts; and for those in regular contact with the Skrell, they may be just another part of the crowd.
The Unathi have made numerous diplomatic overtures towards prominent clusters, much as the Skrell did early in their relationships. The Dionaea have responded with characteristic slowness and deliberation, which suits the long-lived Unathi fine.
The Tajaran are also relatively uninvolved with the Dionaea, though the occasional dealing they do have are all cordial.
While smaller Dionaea are capable of vocalizing languages from all manner of other races, thanks to their fluid form, they tend to do so in a monotone or as a series of heavy bass rumbles or grinds. Their speech in Siik tends to come across as slurring and "uneducated", but they communicate well in Sinta'unathi. They cannot speak Skrellian due to the pitch variations involved, but manage Tradeband rather well. They are one of the few alien races capable of speaking Terminus, albeit with a great deal of difficulty.
Their own language, colloquially called Rootsong, is based on the emission of radio waves (for Global Rootsong) or infrared radiation (for Local Rootsong) and as such is impossible to speak without several hundred kilograms of specialized machinery. Luckily, most modern Dionaea are capable of speaking at least one other language.
Dionaea are highly curious, intelligent (if slow) and passive. They feel pain of a sort, though in a very different manner to humans, but have little in the way of recognizable human emotions beyond curiosity, satisfaction, and frustration. An diona gestalt travelling among humans will generally take on observed traits of the entities around it as a side-effect of the instinctive information-gathering and hoarding that each gestalt conducts.
They do not have names as such, and when asked for one by other races will often supply an excessively long and poetic description of a memory they consider fundamental to their makeup ex. 'the spatter of starlight across the face of the iron mountain and the deep note of the planetsong'. This has been known to make Heads of Personnel need to go have a lie down when filling out ID cards.
They have no concept of personal or mental space, and those who are new to human culture tend to be excessively touchy-feely or invasive of privacy.
Dionaea have nothing resembling government. They speak about the chorus or song of a group in the same manner that one would talk about teamwork or membership in a group.
Dionaea don't need oxygen to function, being powered by extremely powerful anaerobic reactions facilitated by trace amounts of biophorogenic compounds. They don't have a central circulatory system either, instead using capillary action within the segments of their bodies to move fluids and nutrients around (similar to many plants). Their nervous system is underdeveloped and decentralized, with the neural matter of the component nymphs merging into a complex strata of tissue that can often take up many cubic meters of space in mature clusters. For this reason, the large a diona becomes, the slower it will think, but the larger its information processing capacity will become.
Dionaea don't have DNA. Their precise means of storing reproductive information is unknown to modern science but does not match any currently known form of cellular life. Dionaea are cell-based, but their cells are very large (visible to the naked eye), fibrous and lack distinct nuclei. Each nymph is a perfect clone of every other nymph, with gestalts and clusters being differentiated by the composition of these nymphs.
Dionaea maintain a collection of symbiotic virii and other biological structures, capable of facilitating a wide variety of chemical interactions within the interior of a Diona cluster. These reactions are the core of the Diona lifestyle and the secret to their irreproducible biological abilities. Some "strains" of Diona are capable of directly manipulating DNA, which they claim to find fascinating.
Dionaea in their natural state use individual nymphs to communicate and transmit reproductive information, and of course for growth and development. Dionaea prefer not to incorporate too many nymphs spawned from their own cluster, viewing the practice as intellectually incestuous. Gestalts who are roaming far from Epsilon Ursae Majoris, however, often have little choice but to reconstruct themselves with self-spawned nymphs.
Diona grown from seed or otherwise disconnected from the usual clusters lack the molecule-parsing viruses that allow adult clusters to survive and function. For this reason, "station-grown" Dionaea must find cluster-spawned gestalts when they eventually come to form a cluster of their own, or the resulting offspring will be malformed.
A mature cluster is structured in several layers. The topmost and thinnest is for the most part ridged and finned for heat dissipation and signalling via Rootspeak. Below this is a layer of 'flesh' and cavities in which nymphs move and thrive as well as gas and matter storage analogous to fat in animals. This is the most specialized layer, and can include human or skrell habitable "bubbles" in some cases. The neural strata and nutrient capillaries are spread throughout this layer and several dedicated layers below it. Between the neural strata and the outer husk lies a layer of cavities and tissue responsible for maintaining the radiation-harvesting blisters dotting the diona underside. The blisters are iridescent meter-wide bubbles of layered crystalline material that absorb several wide varieties of radiation for use in photosynthesis. The layer surrounding them is a combination of dead, hard diona-flesh, harvested rock, and synthesised 'filler' intended to absorb heat and hold the gestalt together.
While the only dionaea contacted so far have existed in the upper atmosphere of gas planets and the photosphere of stars, the gestalts have made oblique references to 'deep dwellers' that live within the surface of the stars themselves. Such a state makes them impossible to contact with conventional transmissions, and no pattern or encoding has been detected in the emissions from the system; it is unclear if the gestalts still exist or if they ever existed at all.