Lost Worlds

The Thrantix by TR Campbell

Excerpts from a popular nonfiction book

The Thrantix

By T. R. Campbell

Mankind has been fascinated by this insectoid race since our first encounter.
Thrantix are hexapedal with chitinous skin and compound eyes. They bear a strong resemblance to Terran mantises but lack the cutting forelimbs. The front two limbs each have four manipulative digits. Color is a uniform aquamarine. Thrantix are thought to undergo some sort of metamorphosis in early life but are unwilling to discuss the matter. Thrantix are deaf but have an advanced sense of smell which is based in their antennae.
It is not clear what Thrantix eat, whether or not they sleep, or much else about their physiology. Contact between humans and Thrantix has never been intimate enough to discover these things. No human has ever dissected one and communication difficulties prevent anyone from finding out much about them.
Almost nothing is known about Thrantix history. A probe from Thrant was definitely sent to the Washington system in around the late 4700s. This would indicate that the Thrantix had a working understanding of space travel at least a thousand years ago. When humans contacted the Thrantix in 5322 they already had a working jump drive but did not appear to be using it except to travel back and forth to their colony at Raygun.

Thrant
The Thrant system is named after St. President Roger Thrant, the 54th President of the United States. Their name is derived from St. Thrant’s name as nobody has ever been able to figure out what they call themselves or even if they have a name for their own race.
The world has four natural moons, all of them small, and one artificial moon constructed by attaching four planetoids together. The reason for the artificial moon’s construction is unknown.
Thrant has a dense oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere breathable by humans. Despite the heavy industrialization of the world there does not seem to be a significant pollution problem. Two major salt water seas are in the northern and southern hemispheres and together cover 60% of the surface. The world is significantly warmer than Washington but within human tolerance. Urban sprawls cover two major portions of the world and are surrounded by large agricultural zones, but most of the rest of it is covered in forest and jungle terrain. Those who have visited the world say that the dominant life forms are all insects in various sizes, but notably no humans have ever visited the wilderness areas.

Jeferson
The Thrantix have had a colony under the southern sea on Jeferson, but nobody is sure when it was started or why. As a rule the Thrantix are not swimmers and it is not at all clear why they would choose to occupy a domed city on a water world when there are better, more comfortable worlds nearby.
The colony on Jeferson does not accept visitors. They occasionally trade with humans but always come to them.

Communication
Thrantix communicate at short range by scent. They communicate over longer distances by flashing lights. Both of these communications techniques are prone to mistranslation. Their written language is no easier to understand. Talking with the Thrantix is only accomplished with advanced computerized translators and is still often frustrating and sometimes dangerous. Their brains appear to operate on a different level with different priorities than human brains.
The Thrantix do not believe in social protocol and seem have no concept of manners or courtesy. Their tone as translated by humans always comes across as abrupt. They will always state their immediate intentions in a manner that sounds like a demand. If a Thrantix ship enters the system its first message is typically “You will permit us to refuel.” Which is really them asking permission to refuel. Because this is usually their first message, humans are good at translating that. Immediately after this as they proceed to refuel without waiting for a response they will explain why they have come to the system. This is where things break down because their intentions are often inscrutable.

In 5625 a Thrantix ship entered the Howayee system. This is the log of the communications as recorded by Howayee traffic control.
Thrantix Vessel: You will allow us to refuel
Howayee TC: Aloha Thrantix vessel you are cleared to refuel at gas giant Powhatan any available pattern. Welcome to Howayee.
TV: We seek six thousand seven hundred and fifty units of liquid water consumption. We seek to forty four thousand and fifty-four units. Forty-four three units each of us will give you one of the forty-seven units.
HTC: Thrantix Vessel please stand by.
TV: We seek six thousand seven hundred and fifty units of liquid water consumption We seek to forty four thousand and fifty-four units. Forty-four three units each of us will give you one of the forty-seven units.
HTC: Thrantix Vessel, we do not understand your last message. Clarify.
TV: We seek six thousand seven hundred and fifty units of liquid water consumption We seek to forty four thousand and fifty-four units. Forty-four three units each of us will give you one of the forty-seven units.
HTC: Thrantix Vessel, you are cleared to enter atmo at bearing three-two-niner mark eight seven for ocean refueling. Beacons indicate safe areas. Still trying to translate the rest of your message.

After this the Thrantix ship refueled at the gas giant, repeated its message twenty more times, appeared to ignore all responses from traffic control and left the system. To date nobody has been able to figure out what they wanted.

Economics
Humans visiting Thrant are handled by a traffic control system that just gives coordinates. They are usually directed to dock at the orbital port where they can conduct business. Occasionally they are directed to land at one of the two major downports, usually to load on cargo. There they are required to remain within a fenced off “reservation” as the Thrantix word is translated by most automatic devices. Some report that they are presented with goods for trade immediately and others say they have waited a week with no activity only to be approached as they were leaving.
It is not known how the Thrantix economy works but from time to time they seem to have excess goods that they will push on visiting traders. They seem to have particular ideas of what can be accepted in trade. They will trade raw materials for other raw materials, for example, but they will not trade raw materials for finished goods. Or sometimes they will if the finished goods are made from the same raw materials that are being traded. They never trade food or any other consumables, since it’s not clear what they eat anyway. If they like what a trader has to offer they will present the amount of goods they will trade for what he has in his cargo hold, despite whether his ship can hold those goods. They will let him come back and get the remainder later. Some traders say that the Thrantix are confused if they carry more than one type of item and others say it does not seem to be a problem, but they will either buy everything in the cargo hold or nothing at all.
The very nature of communications with the Thrantix makes trading with them a gamble. Traders report that often the deal they are offered is extremely lopsided either way. One trader reported that the Thrantix offered him a single crate of lead bars in exchange for his entire hold full of rare woods. On another visit he was offered thirty nuclear warheads in exchange for a hold containing six tractor combines. He had to pass on the deal for fear of getting arrested for carrying illegal warheads.
Some traders have reported that of late the Thrantix have shown interest in human media productions including movies, books, video games and oddly even music. It is not known if they comprehend the content of such works or why they would be interested.
If the Thrantix approve of a trade transaction they will, sometimes, end the transaction with the translated sentence “This more.” This is an indication that they want the trader to come back and repeat the deal. This is one of the few generally comprehensible phrases in their language.

Arthur Kent
One man claimed to have spent enough time on Thrant and dealing with the Thrantix to learn their language. Arthur Kent (5470-5549), a Newyorker by birth, described himself as an amateur sophontologist, but his critics say he was actually more of a tramp merchant, traveling in his own vessel from world to world and purchasing small items to try to sell at a profit. He was not the only man engaged in such trade but he was the only one who made a point of stopping regularly at Thrant. He attempted to learn their language but was stymied by their reliance on scent. He claimed that the Thrantix recognized him as a business partner and eventually as a friend. He claims that he was eventually invited into their underground lair where they initiated him into the mysteries of their culture.
Kent, in his self-serving autobiography, stated that he gained access to a higher level of his own consciousness by consuming drugs given to him by his Thrantix hosts over several such subterranean visits. It was through this expansion of his mind that he was able to finally comprehend the scent distinctions of the Thrantix true language and could finally understand what they were thinking. Which, according to him, is too complex to explain to humans. He claims he was never able to properly speak to them because he had no means of generating the specific scents required.
Kent also claimed that the Thrantix communicated through flashing lights only as a type of Morse code. He said that they didn’t consider this their language and rather only a means to transmit information. The distinctions he made are unclear.
His outrageous claims aside, Kent’s observations are more believable and may be accurate. He says that there are at least two classes of Thrantix society. The upper class (which he called “The Wealthy”) have a luxurious amount of space and enjoy all manner of sophisticated technology. The lower class (which he called “The Poor”) lives in squalor and often literally in dirt. He observed dead Thrantix of the lower class on several occasions and noted that nobody seemed to make any effort to remove them. He rendered an opinion that there is a third class of administrators (“The Rulers”) that actually run the society from a deep underground location.
Most of Kent’s claims about learning the Thrantix language are not believed, but he became somewhat famous during his lifetime for his interaction with them. He expressed a wish that his body be taken to Thrant upon his death and given to the Thrantix for burial. The friend given this dubious honor reported that they refused to take it.

The Jonas Theory
Noted sophontologist Richard Jonas proposed the theory that only some of the Thrantix are self-aware sophonts that he refers to as Masters and the rest are a near-robotic suborder he calls Slaves that simply do what they are told. It is not clear if Slaves develop into Masters or if all Masters are descendants of other Masters.
Under this theory in Thrantix prehistory a Master was a rare commodity and would herd its nonsentient cousins together and induce them to build an underground nest. The number of Masters is estimated at one out of twenty-seven. It is possible that the ratio is shrinking and there are more Masters now than there used to be.
This theory goes along well with Kent’s observations, if they can be believed, of the clear stratification of Thrantix nests.

Warfare
The Thrantix have warships as anyone visiting their homeworld can attest. They seem to build only one type of heavy warship, roughly cruiser size and one smaller type, roughly escort size. They have been involved in only two known conflicts.
In 5569 during the Third Regional war, a task force consisting of six cruisers and a fleet carrier from Lincun arrived in the Thrant system. They requested permission to refuel at the ocean but the response from the Thrantix was unclear. When they moved to refuel, the Thrantix warships formed a line and attacked them. All seven Lincun ships were disabled or destroyed. The cruisers returned fire and disabled two of the Thrantix ships.
Of note, this is what the Thrantix said when asked for permission to refuel:
“Can be accessed by only one warship at a recharge. The rest should be a distant orbit. We go to battle the sea, your ship.”
While this is confusing, the first part of the message seemed to say they would allow them to refuel one ship at a time. The task force commander either mistranslated or misinterpreted this or perhaps he chose to ignore it.
This encounter was witnessed by a merchant captain from Jeferson who had been similarly given unclear refueling instructions. He wisely decided not to approach Thrant, and witnessed that after the battle the Thrantix made no attempt to rescue any of the survivors, neither the humans nor their own.
Despite this incident, the Thrantix do not seem to treat ships from Lincun any differently than those from any other human world.

In 5618 a task force of three Thrantix escorts entered the Filmore system. They intercepted a single armed merchantman Window Rock, flagged from Arizona. They disabled her with laser fire and appeared to board her. They ignored all queries from Filmore traffic control and departed the system. Window Rock was abandoned and left adrift. When she was boarded later there were no crew left aboard and signs of a struggle. Her log simply said she had jumped to Filmore from Thrant. What became of the crew is unknown and the Thrantix do not seem to be willing to discuss the matter.
Comparing notes, the same week a similar Thrantix task force arrived at Poke and Vanburen. They caused no trouble and did not contact traffic control. The common interpretation of this incident is that Window Rock’s captain or crew did something offensive on Thrant and the Thrantix sent out three task forces to the three possible destinations of the Jump-2 merchantman in order to apprehend them.

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