Monday, November 8, 2010

Part 28, Chapter 4 - Introducing the Selachee, and Further Psychlo History

So now we're formally introduced to The Gray Men, henceforth known by their species name, the Selachee. In an amazing coincidence, the superorder that terrestrial sharks are classified under is called Selachimorpha.

Anyway, these loan sharks are native to "the only three habitable worlds of the Gredides System," which I guess means that they evolved simultaneously on three separate planets? All predominantly water worlds, of course. And the entire species has devoted itself to banking, in much the same way the Tolneps are dedicated slavers, and the Psychlos are mining enthusiasts. Because only humans are capable of producing a multifaceted, nuanced society instead of a species-wide stereotype.

His Excellency Dries - Jonnie is suddenly on a first-name basis with him - explains that "We're ideal bankers. We can eat anything, drink anything, breathe almost any atmosphere, live on almost any gravity." This is pretty damn ludicrous, but par the course for this book. "By tribal mores, we worship total honesty and the righteousness of obligation." I'm not sure what to say to that.

The Selachee have been a space-faring race for nearly five hundred thousand years, but the major event in their history was meeting the Psychlos over three hundred thousand years ago. Back then the Psychlos weren't homicidal morons, and had no interest in the Selachee's worlds since they were mostly water and therefore too much trouble to mine (god forbid the Psychlos come up with some sort of autonomous, deep-water mining robot). Instead the shark-men traded their computer technology for Psychlo metals, and became the big dumb aliens' financial tutors. The Psychlos were in financial ruin, you see, plagued with overpopulation and economic depressions and unemployment, until the Selachees revealed that they could sell the metal they were accumulating, leading the Psychlos to prosperity.

So yes, the species that invented teleportation across universes never figured out birth control and didn't think to sell off what they were obsessively mining. Every time we learn more about these guys they manage to get even dumber.

Dries gives us more information about Psychlo history: their species underwent a great change some two hundred millennia ago, when the Boxnards of "Universe Six" invented teleportation of their own and militarized it. The Psychlos, in just under four (Earth?) years, conquered the seven worlds of the Boxnards' system, and then any other races in close contact with them just to be on the safe side. There was economic ruin, then the Psychlos wiped out over half their own population in a bout of in-fighting, and emerged the sadistic, artless race that we know and tolerate.

Jonnie deduces that this is when the Psychlos started implanting those mind-control capsules to protect the secret of teleportation. I'm still awestruck that in two hundred thousand years he's the first to make this discovery.

This teleportation war left the Psychlos destitute, so they begged the Selachee for help and struck a deal - the Galactic Bank would handle all the Psychlos economic and diplomatic functions, and the Psychlos would guarantee the Selachee's safety.

Jonnie realizes that he is now dealing with the Psychlos' overlords, and senses a hidden danger behind their words. He casually mentions the issues of teleportation or conference fees, but the Selachee are disinterested. The chapter suddenly ends before their true motives are made clear.

Though this section is mostly Dries talking, Lord Voraz's contributes with lots of interruptions where he supplies a name or precise date in the middle of Dries' infodump.

Back to Chapter Three

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