The race has been evolving in space for a million years, and find visiting a planetary environment very uncomfortable. While some of the characteristics described here are the result of natural evolution, a significant percentage is due to genetic engineering.
While the race’s name for itself translates into the English word “human”, humanity’s word for them is quite different, owing to the corrupted logs of Deep Space Probe One Hundred Eleven, the first Earth vessel to encounter them. A fragment of those logs refers to the species as the “Altose-Kamm”, although the source of that name was never made clear.
* Roughly bipedal, although that stretches the definition a bit. Instead of hips, they have a lower set of shoulders, and a lower set of arms. As a leftover from their original planetary origins, these lower shoulders are broader than the upper, and their lower arms tend to be thicker. Their “feet” (lower hands?) are similar in size to their hands (upper hands?)
* Longer torsos than humans, to accommodate the two sets of arms.
* Elbows, and “knees” are free to rotate in any direction, giving them the advantages of both bony limbs and tentacles.
* Five fingers to each hand, but two of those fingers are thumbs, situated a hundred and eighty degrees apart. The remaining three fingers are longer than the thumbs. All finger joints have the same freedom-of-movement as the elbows and “knees” (imagine fingers bending sideways).
* In general, their bones have more flexibility (they bend rather than break) than human bones. While they find it difficult to move about in human-normal gravity, they can endure higher gee force than human.
* No hair anywhere on the body
* Anus in the expected place between the lower shoulders.
* Genital pouch in the lower shoulders. Only one gender, with each person having both male and female sex organs. A person cannot impregnate himself, however, so “sex” is required. Each participant can get pregnant, and the norm is for both to become pregnant at the same time. After a three-month gestation period, a tough, leathery egg is laid. The egg takes 9 to 12 months to hatch. The egg is able to withstand extremes in temperature, radiation, and air pressure. It cannot, however, withstand high gravity (no more than about one-half gee)
* No ears and no sense of hearing.
* Eyes are sensitive to light from the near-infra-red to the near-ultraviolet. An inner transparent eyelid protects the eyes from brief exposure to vacuum. No eyebrows (no sweat), but protective bone ridges over both eyes, and down the outside of the face to a point just above the cheeks.
* Instead of a nose, a long slit in the middle of the face covered by a small flap of skin. Sense of smell is very sensitive. A trained individual can learn to identify individual chemical compounds by smell.
* Skin is thick and leathery, and allows protection from brief exposure to vacuum.
* The base skin color is bright white, highly reflective of all forms of light. Skin pigments change automatically to absorb or reflect infra-red light, helping to control body temperature, as the body does not sweat.
* The skin pigment also changes according to the individual’s emotional state.
* Spines down the center of the back can be raised or lowered. When raised, a thin layer of skin is stretched between the spines. this shares the same chameleon properties of the rest of the skin, and serves to control body temperature. Spines from the upper shoulders to mid-back fold down against the back. Spines from the lower shoulders to mid-spine are offset slightly to one side, and fold down in the opposite direction. Because of the combination of spines and pigment, clothing is never worn inside a space habitat.
* When sexually aroused, an individual’s spines tend to rise.
* Internally, the body chemistry can function under a wider temperature range than can a human. In addition, the blood contains an antifreeze-like component, allowing individuals to be resuscitated even after being in subzero temperatures. Interestingly enough, they still retain something similar to the mammalian diving reflex in humans, indicating a planetary origin similar to our own.
* Instead of a larynx, they posses a short-range biological radio transmitter/receiver. Clearly the result of genetic engineering, this form of communication is valuable in space, where the atmospheric pressure of habitats is kept very low. A layer just below the leathery skin acts as a radio antenna.
* Diet normally consists of a variety of genetically engineered algae and fungal products.
(c) 2015 Thomas F. Brown, All Rights Reserved.