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We're not in Excidium Planetis Anymore: The Birrin Homeworld of Chri-irah (WIP)

(OOC Disclaimer: Large portions of the following factbook are not original work by the user "Excidium Planetis". Much of the material here is the intellectual property of Alex Ries, who you can find either on Linkhis website, or his LinkDeviantArt account.)

In the year 1015 ACR, Excidian explorers encountered an inhabited system, whose sole habitable planet was occupied by a sapient species known as the Birrin. This homeworld is known to the Birrin as Chriirah and is referred to as such throughout the remainder of this factbook.

Biological Data

Depicted here are two young birrin recently out of
the nest and already engaging in the boisterous
play behaviours that will prepare them for their
often dynamic, active lives.

The Birrin are a sapient hexapod (six limbed) species from a planet approximately the size of Venus. 

They are approximately 2 meters tall.
The Birrin are an egg laying species, and clutches typically contain 3 or 4 eggs which hatch within days of each other to reveal small, hungry and fuzzy chicks. 

The young birrin have several adaptations evolved to aid their survival in the humid and life filled swamps in which the species first evolved. The short hair covering their small bodies is a dense mat of fibres designed to keep the myriad nest parasites from gaining access to their skin, while the conspicuous stripes allow birrin parents to immediately locate their young on foraging trips. This fur, while useful, poses an overheating problem in the tropical climate and so the undersides of the large dorsal ‘wings’ are highly vascular and by holding them out from the body the young can cool themselves.

The fur is shed in stages, first falling away from the lower limbs to prevent mud from the wet forest floor fouling the fibres.

The other major adaptation youthful birrin possess are large patterned plate-like growths around the base of each eye stalk, and covering part of the breathing apparatus: These plates not only help deny access to certain parasites but are also used to elicit feeding behaviour from the adults when displayed around the open mouth.

Most modern Birrin, having long since industrialised, rarely brood traditionally but often use communal incubators or hired nannies to warm eggs during gestation. Indeed the fur, once useful for parasite control, is now a hindrance in the hot modern climate of Chriirah and in some regions is shaved off soon after birth to keep the chicks cool.

This individual resides in the tropical region of their world, bordering the uninhabitably hot
equatorial zone many Birrin call the 'Kiln'. Low employment, high temperatures and generally
harsh conditions mean that narcotic use is high among many of the population here.

This Birrin, after ending a work cycle and with no further hive duties, uses and deals in most
of the local low end narcotics. The three clasped in the beak offer an enjoyable combination
of flavours when partaken together. Other mixes are stored in plain view under a strap on
the head for sale or later use. As there is no substance control in this region, they can be
shown in plain sight.

Addition accessories include a wrist mounted multimedia device, which feeds headphone
cables to the auditory receptors at the tip of the upper two eyestalks; the device was likely
traded illegally, or purchased from a wholesale shipment moving from the deep water docks
on its way inland.

Many Birrin, being pleasurably susceptible to many of the psychoactive defence compounds found in their planets’ plants, have developed complex rituals around recreational drug use.

The practices are not universally accepted, and many societies have strict controls to reduce their economic impacts. Others embrace them to such an extent that they have become an essential part of the daily ritual, as is the case with the Southern Chey nations: Before and after work many Chey stop at their local smoking bars to partake in a variety of substances both inhaled and ingested. As community focal points, smoking houses are also places for social interactions, and as a way to prepare for, or wind down from, the days’ pressures.

Smoking houses have a long history, this example predating the widespread collapse of Birrin society millennia ago. Restored by wealthy locals as civilisation recovered, the interior was painted a calming blue to lend an air of tranquility. To avoid the smoke damaging their garments, many regulars wear blue smoking suits infused with years of volatile chemical scents.

The Birrin are at home in water, and many engage in swimming recreationally with or without the aid of SCUBA systems.

Non-Birrin Species

Evolved from the same land-living ancestor as the Birrin the Sardu, as they are locally known, are air breathing creatures of great strength and predatory skill. They range across most regions of the ocean, hunting diverse prey depending on local resources, and adjusting their strategies accordingly. All however rely on an extraordinary ability to generate powerful electric shocks via organs housed in their huge, elongated horizontal jaws. This allows them to stun entire schools of smaller organisms to consume at their leisure, or to probe their jaws into soft mud and detect, flush out kill benthic creatures of considerable size. The electrogenic organs also have a social purpose; and mating individuals compete to show both their ability to generate electricity, and to withstand the shocks of their adversaries. The small creatures that accompany sardu as commensals must also be tolerant of this hazard, and most swim to a safe distance during the closing stages of a hunt, moving in to feast on the scraps afterwards.

The Birrin diver seen here may seem in danger, however it is experienced with the local sardu and knows it is not a part of their prey search image; the constant stream of bubbles generated by the SCUBA gear and bright wetsuit look so unlike the large bottom dwelling creatures it usually hunts that it does not view the Birrin as food.

The Irridalli are a successful group of medium-sized predators stalking the upper levels of Chriirah’s tropical oceans. Like many mobile quadrilaterians, evolution has optimised their four-sided body plan into a sleek, secondarily bilaterally symmetrical shape able to move swiftly and efficiently through the ocean.

Possessing some social intelligence, Irridalli travel in loose pods to locate swarms of suitable food, at which time they separate and attempt to drive the prey nearer the surface, thus rendering them easier to capture. Despite this initial co-operation, the actual hunt itself is performed independently of the other pod members, cooperation only resuming when prey needs to be driven towards the surface once again.

While Irridalli are quite fast, many prey species are considerably faster and swimming speed is not their primary weapon: Moving in behind prey, the large eyes fix on a target and when in range two tentacles launch outwards as an elongated and lethally barbed lower jaw attempts to impale it. If the strike is successful, the tentacles rapidly coil around the doomed creature and draw it towards the mouth.

Like most apex predators, the Irridalli suffered major population depletion in the period leading up to, and during, the fall of Birrin civilisation. As the birrin recovered, so too Irridalli populations increased in parts of their former ranges as prey species returned. The loss of genetic diversity however has resulted in higher than expected parasite loads in some pods.

Once hunted by the Birrin as food, they are now rarely eaten both because they are widely protected, and are so infused with accumulated industrial poisons they are mildly toxic to ingest.

Excidian explorers noted that although the Birrin were advanced enough to fall under the classification "Modern Tech", with the use of turbine propelled aircraft and automatic ballistic weapons, they appeared to have at one time been a far more advanced civilization. Remnants of buildings near the equator were advanced enough to fall under a Tier 4-3 borderline civilization, despite being almost 1000 years old, and were confirmed Birrin in origin.

These ruins represent the height of Birrin pre-industrial engineering (Early Post-Fall Period), and
continue to impress tourists from more recent, technologically complex
societies today. Part city and part fortress, this gate was built to defend
one of the few entrances to a lush, steep walled floatforest valley beyond,
in which a society of several million inhabitants flourished for centuries.

Initially a natural stone monolith with only a narrow passageway dividing it,
generations of craftspeople and slaves hammered away at the stone to
perfect it into its current form, before finally coating it with a resin/sand
mixture to protect it from further natural erosion.

The guardian statues warned foreign armies and traders of the power and
capabilities of the valley people, who maintained a massive standing army
at all times, based in a garrisons built into the gate walls.

Too heavy to themselves be created from stone, the guardian statues were
built from the interlaced and cemented trunks and roots of local float-forest
and other imported plants. Treated with resin to prevent decay, this
meshwork was then coated in the same substance used to smooth the wall
standing behind them.

Ultimately, the civilization responsible was conquered by a society that had
developed steam powered warships, and who attacked from one of the
seaward entrances of the valley. Left to ruin by the conquerors for several
centuries, it is now of prime interest to archaeologists attempting to
reconstruct the history of the valley society.

Seen here, a small camp of nomadic locals pitch tents in the evening glow
of the great gate, which now resides in the nation of Kaybor.

Access to space has been achieved twice in Birrin history.

In the first age rocket technology advanced so far as to allow several moon landings and the construction of space stations, the remains of many still orbiting Chriirah in the modern era several thousand years later.

Born in an age of exceptional technological complexity and profligate resource exploitation, Spear was the first Birrin attempt to send a vehicle of any kind to another solar system. Powered by nuclear fusion and cooled by banks of enormous radiators, the intelligent and self-sufficient machine even now represents the most costly and complex undertaking of any Birrin age.

The extraordinary expense of the vehicle’s development was shouldered by a multi-national interhouse consortium so extensive that organizations from every continent found themselves contributing. Components were shipped and flown from all over the world to the equator, from where thunderous nuclear rockets catapulted them into orbit.

After half a century Spear, finally complete, undertook a long range shakedown tour of the solar system, flying deep into the realm of the outer planets.

As it slowly returned in-system, however, the scale of the exponentially ascending Birrin civilisation began to terminally overtax the planet. Crop failures, famines and coastal flooding lead to regional wars and ethnic cleansing on a scale never before seen, and what little food remained was sequestered by the most able houses.

Meanwhile Spear, all this time arcing closer to home, was supposed to be captured, fueled, and sent on its mission to a nearby star.  As the recovery team prepared to leave orbit, a coalition of minor houses left starving by the major powers launched a salvo of warheads. Bursting into clouds of metal spheres, they tore through the delicate vehicles and their crews at orbital speeds. As Spear fell past uncaptured, the response by the wealthy stakeholders was swift: Invading with full force, the punitive occupation quickly became culling, and Birrin society rapidly degenerated into a war so total civilisation would not recover to a semblance of its former complexity for over a thousand years.

Through all this, Spear, pocked by minor impacts and long silent, swung through space in its vast and ever changing ellipse.

The effects of this fall are clear: Birrin civilization, once united, is divided, and technological advancement ranges from basic space flight in some nations to primitive spearfishing in others. Part of this is the geographical divide that splits the planet at the equator (see Geography).

After the collapse of Pre-Fall Birrin civilization, a period of dark ages sprung up. Not much is known about this time, but Birrin civilization slowly regained its lost technology, progressing as though it had suffered a history reset.

The second, post war age eventually saw a return of Birrin rocketry, mostly reverse engineered from rediscovered ancient designs. With the expanding need for communication, navigational and military satellites many launch systems were developed, though few approached the versatility of the Tallantelli (see Birrin Air and Space Craft).

The equator of Chriirah, baked to lethally high temperatures by its sun, has long presented a barrier to trade and communication between Northern and Southern Birrin cultures. Prior to the first Birrin civilizations’ destruction, the region could be easily traversed: Centuries later, a legacy of industrially derived carbon dioxide and other substances has cut off the emergent societies that survived the Fall. It wasn’t until the rediscovery of the internal combustion engine that the first refrigerated ships crossed the equatorial ocean to re-establish contact. Wheeled vehicles, now with useful speed, were able to explore the Kiln at night, darting between safe houses dug deep into the cool desert bedrock. 

However it took the re-discovery of powered flight to finally traverse the Kiln. Able to fly high enough to avoid the searing heat, early pressurised aircraft began hazardous day crossings to re-map the expanse. With little chance of rescue, the aircrews had to accept significant risk while also making their aircraft far more reliable. Indeed, it is largely due to the engineering necessities faced by these pioneers that later Birrin aircraft were so reliable.

Pictured here is one of the first dedicated Kiln runners, able to fly non-stop
between airfields in the North and South to deliver people and cargo in a
regular fashion. The three fuselages enabled heavy loads to be carried, the
outer two being unpressurised and only suitable for cargo. 

The two flight engines, mounted on the front of the cargo fuselages, are
powerful in-line units each driving a contra-rotating propeller. Due to the
lethal nature of the Kiln and to aid lifting off from short desert runways a
supplementary engine is mounted on the rear passenger cabin: This engine,
with its single folding airscrew, is used to assist takeoff and, perhaps more
importantly, to supplement the main engines should one of them break down
during flight.

Below this aircraft the desert is baking at an average temperature of eighty
degrees Celsius, yet evidence that this was not always so abounds: A faint
tracery of ancient roadways and industrial ruins dots the landscape and awaits
re-discovery by future generations of Birrin.

Industrialisation of Chriirah has had a dramatic effect on many of the planets’ ecosystems. The equatorial zone of this world, dominated by a vast superheated region named the Kiln, has seen perhaps the most extreme changes as the desert continues to expand. 

Agricultural needs necessitated the damming of several major rivers to provide irrigation for Kiln border areas, and the lakes these rivers once fed began to evaporate. Ultimately most of these lakes vanished, leaving behind shallow sandy basins and ghost towns.

Unable to afford relocation, or unwilling to spare the expense, shipping companies left their craft to rust on the dry lakebeds.

Shown here is a ship abandoned in a former lake,
now claimed by the deserts of the Kiln.

To the north and south of the Kiln, there are tropical regions, with large inland seas. These waters feature "float-forests", floating mats of vegetation.

The floatforest is a constantly shifting sea of drifting plant covered islands, in some areas so dense as to be almost indistinguishable from land. Millions of Birrin call this tropical, dynamic world home, from sophisticated city dwellers to nomadic tribes with limited contact with the global civilisation.

The Birrin discovered that, when dried, the heavily compacted masses of dead plants that constitute the older larger islands can be burned as a very efficient fuel. In a short period of time mining began and factories sprung up in the old forest, large areas of vegetation being destroyed to supply fuel for cooking and industrial steam boilers. Soon steam powered ships plied the channels of the float forest, using the forest itself as fuel as they travelled, or purchasing high grade and dried peat from retailers.

As seen here, some more enterprising groups combined the two and use huge ships to transport peat for sale in towns across the forest. The tall hull of this vessel contains racks of high grade peat, being dried on the go and kept warm via heat diverted from the steam ships' own boilers. To counter balance the height of the ship, much of the vessel lies under water in an expanded hull filled with ballast. This added mass also gives the ship the inertia needed to ram through sections of forest, using the blade like prow to first life and then cut the mats of vegetation floating on the waters surface. The flared disk built out around the bow catches vegetation and forces it downwards, keeping it from impacting against the front and sides of the vessel.

Anchored and with boiler firing to dry the latest shipment, this peat-merchant paddle wheeler has stopped off at one of the larger suppliers in the oldest parts of the forest. Over the next few days it will be loaded as the crew relaxes a little, and set off into the narrow channels to deliver its wares across the inland sea, using a portion of its peat load as fuel.

A few locals, curious, look across the water towards it on their morning swim.

Birrin societies of the float-forest were faced with unique transport challenges as they reached full urbanisation: How to move large numbers of people and freight around a vast inland sea, where large stretches were chocked with constantly drifting vegetation mats and already heavy and hazardous boat traffic.

Many turned to the floatplane: Able to land in narrow lake clearings, operate in areas chocked with vegetation, and with far higher speed than shipping, aquatic aircraft manufacturing exploded across the region.

Aircraft of this type are available of many designs and configurations, often customized by the families that operate them. These unique vehicles form an integral part of life for most float-forest inhabitants.

The oceans of the Birrin homeworld are populated by vast numbers of organisms, particularly the mid-latitude tropical zones on either side of the hostile equatorial 'Kiln'; a region of intense heat and violent storms. The surface waves and currents generated by these weather events create deep oceanic mixing, bringing nutrients to nearby surface waters and supporting the assemblages of life found there.

Two Birrin fisher-folk ride the wind back to the coast after a mornings' hunting. Marine creatures surf the waves with them, hoping for scraps when the catch is gutted and cleaned.

The boat, a small but strong outrigger yacht, was built by the local tribes to sail relatively close to shore in low tropical seas.

Its frame is built from the tough, plant like stems of local phototrophic organisms which have been pre-stressed into strong curved shapes and bound together under a watertight leather skin. This was then coated with sap and waxes from local plants and animals to further seal it. Inside the cabin, a birrin can rest, as well as store the days' catch. If water does flood the boats' interior, it is not a concern as flotation is provided by bundles of sponge like plant tissue inside the hull.

Birrin Air and Space craft

Powered Glider
Lightweight, fast and offering unparalleled views of the world beneath, the serious MSI flight enthusiast can rent or purchase this turbojet vehicle for sightseeing and holidaying.

The large wings allow the craft to ride thermals and land safely should the engine fail, and the wing base and tail boom carry enough fuel for long range flights.

The vehicle here is carrying a photographer on a wildlife photography trip along the Bhani Peninsula

Enforcer Floatplane
Birrin societies of the float-forest were faced with unique transport challenges as they reached full urbanisation: How to move large numbers of people and freight around a vast inland sea, where large stretches were chocked with constantly drifting vegetation mats and already heavy and hazardous boat traffic.

Many turned to the floatplane: Able to land in narrow lake clearings, operate in areas chocked with vegetation, and with far higher speed than shipping, aquatic aircraft manufacturing exploded across the region.

Aircraft of this type are available of many designs and configurations, often customized by the families that operate them. These unique vehicles form an integral part of life for most float-forest inhabitants.

The model here is relatively small and used by many organizations, particularly law enforcement, due to its excellent downwards visibility. A large central float provides buoyancy while two outrigger types at the tail end give stability. Used primarily for patrols or transporting small numbers of people, this models' fuselage is too narrow for heavy freight, and the stock in-line piston engine too weak for large loads. However many have been fitted with modern turboprop or jet engines to improve performance.

Seen here, two law enforcers are refuelling their craft as morning breaks over one of the open stretches of water near the float-forest centre. They will spend much of their day flying lazily across shipping lanes, dropping down to inspect suspicious boats or help Birrin in need.

Irradalli RO patrol craft
Inheriting its graceful lines from a civilian seaplane, the Irridalli RO (Radar/Optical) was named for the sleek marine predator of Chriirahs’ equatorial oceans, and provides far ranging oversight of all surface activity across the Kiln desert.

Once the airframe was acquired by the kiln administrators, the original civilian platform was heavily modified for its new role. Already optimised for efficient long range travel, the underpowered turbines were replaced with advanced low-infrared emission models to render them less tempting targets for the heat seeking SAMS sometimes launched against kiln administration aircraft. These turbines drive a highly efficient, though very loud, counter-rotating propfan capable of impressive speed and range; critical components in a vehicle which patrols the largest inhospitable region on the planet.

The sensor suite of the Irridalli R/O is one of the most advanced produced by any post-fall birrin society. The original high visibility canopy of the civilian model has been largely replaced by plate armour enclosing the pilot, and protecting them from small arms fire. The pilot observes the world outside via a nose and fuselage mounted optical system: these interlinked cameras feed a wealth of infrared and visible light imagery to an integrating helmet, which takes full advantage of the birrin’s four eyes and rapid multi-image neural processing abilities. Should the aircraft suffer an electronics failure in these systems, small viewports can be accessed by ejecting their armoured coverings to allow limited visual navigation.

While these systems significantly enhance a birrin’s natural vision, most Irridalli R/Os’ carry a large recon pod beneath their fuselage. Roughly the size, shape and position of the civilian version’s float, it contains both a high resolution camera system and a side looking radar. The radar performs regular high resolution scans which can either be analysed by the pilot or sent via satellite to analysts who will look for any changes in existing structures and other suspicious surface features.

Though originally a seaplane, the Irridalli R/O was designed for terrestrial landings and its retrofitted landing gear is designed to prevent both the underslung equipment from impacting the ground and the huge blades of the propfan striking the runway. Telescoping downwards, fore and aft pairs of wheels lower from their mounts on the wings to provide centrally balanced 4-point undercarriage. In the event of a technical failure, the observation pod must be dropped for any chance at a survivable gear-up landing.

Direct confrontation of Irridalli over the kiln is a relatively rare event: any attempts to shoot one down have historically resulted in large scale counter attacks. Missiles fired at these aircraft are also unlikely to ever make their targets, as they are quickly confused by escalating waves of electronic and physical countermeasure systems fitted to every Irridalli R/O.

Should they go down, either prey to anti-aircraft fire or simple mechanical failure, the pilot can be explosively ejected out of the top of the fuselage. The pilots’ parachute equipped seat comes fitted with ice suits, small arms and other survival supplies to keep them alive long enough for rescue to arrive. Pilot recovery units are always standing by, as without shelter no birrin can survive long in the baking sands of the Kiln.

Tallantelli Launch Vehicle

A mishmash of technologies, the Kaybor-Kendi Tallantelli launch vehicle was designed for versatility rather than specific requirements, allowing a Kaybor-led business consortium to service clients from around the globe. Taking off from large specialised runways, the Tallantelli carries its cargo piggyback propelled by 6 powerful turbojets and two huge linear aerospike engines. As the thinner upper atmosphere is reached the turbojets are shut down and their exhaust slot closed to improve aerodynamics, while the aerospikes automatically adjust their efficiency as the vehicle climbs towards space.

For many rockets the altitudes reached by these systems is sufficient and they are launched under their own power to achieve orbit. Heavy loads, or those with smaller propulsion systems may need and extra boost. Four conventional liquid rocket engines mounted in pairs beneath the aerospikes are ignited, pushing the vehicle ever higher and helping to maintain a nose-up attitude in the thinning atmosphere until launch altitude is reached.

With launch complete, the vehicle can then return to any number of specialised spaceports servicing the industry and land as a conventional aircraft, ready for another flight in only a few days.

Depicted is one of the most versatile configurations of the Tallantelli: The re-usable manned vehicle Tuum, launched from the Tallantelli with the help of a solid rocket booster, can carry relatively large payloads and more importantly complex construction and maintenance machinery into orbit, where it deploys them to build and repair space stations, satellites, and interplanetary spacecraft.