by Max Barry

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The Morthanveld Polity of
Iron Fist Socialists

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Morthanveld Overview

The Polity of Morthanveld

Population: ~40,000,000,000

Capital (and largest city): Morthan Sky Nest

Official Language: Morthan

Demonym: Morthanveld

- Most Ancient: Cik-rak-mak
- Alpha Memory Keeper: Di-rep-mal-ik
- Speaker for the Supreme Nest: Yet-ji-koc-mak

Legislature: Supreme Nest Collective

Home system: Xah
Spectral Class: F5
Stellar mass: 2.9030 kg (1.458 Sol)
Stellar radius: 1.09 06 km (1.56 Sol)
Surface temperature: 6600 K

Planet: Kitakia
Distance from star: 2.05 AU
Year length: 885.2 Terran days
Mean radius: 71,492 km (11.2 Earths)
Mass: 1.90×1027 kg (318 Earths)
Mean density: 4.44 x1004 kg/m3
Surface gravity: 49.875 m/s2 (2.525 g)
Albedo: 0.343

Moon: Morthan
Mean radius: 2,634 km (0.41 Earths)
Mass: 1.48×1023 kg (0.025 Earths)
Mean density: 4.44 x1004 kg/m3
Surface gravity: 1.18 m/s2 (0.145 g)
Albedo: 0.43

GDP (nominal):
GDP (nominal) per capita:

Currency: Spine

Polity of Morthanveld
"You might call them soft, because they’re very reluctant to kill, and they might agree with you, but they’re soft the way the ocean is soft, and, well; ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be."

The Morthanveld are a Class III, Tier VII species hailing from the ice-crusted oceanic moon of Morthan. Their homeworld orbits a large gas giant called Kitakia, which itself orbits an F5 class star called Xah. All the energy in Morthan comes from the undersea vents, piping heat and chemicals into Morthan's rich oceans, deep underneath a thick layer of ice. In the past thousand years, the Morthanveld have progressed from primitive beginnings to the prime species in their system. Declaring themselves neutral in the supercluster, the Morthanveld accept all comers to their system, to talk, trade or visit, so long as open conflict is kept away.


Morthanveld is derived from their own name for themselves; dwellers of Morthan. Morthan comes from the root word meaning 'Home nest under the ice', rendered in a form suitable for Standard pronunciation. Morthanveld language does not translate well, so most of the names used on this page are altered, either to match the most commonly used non-Morthanveld term, or assigned a random name.

The standard way to refer to a citizen of Morthanveld is simply as "Morthanveld."


The central star, Xah, is a main sequence star of classification type F5 with a luminosity of 3.9 and a surface temperature of 6,600 kelvin. It has a complex and abundant solar system, consisting of twelve planets with dwarf planets extending into the Oort Cloud, along with a number of asteroid fields. Of the twelve planets, six are gas giants (four Jovian style, three sub-Jovian) and six are rocky, additionally four of them have moons of a significant size.

Of all the planets, three have identified life forms; two of them are moons of the largest gas giant, Kitakia, although the life forms found on Mirelda, the sixth planet, are still very primitive. Most of the system is exploited and developed by the Morthanveld who claim the entire system and are particulary protective of Kitakia's fourth moon, Uxnara, forbidding any close approach from non-Morthanveld craft.

Type: Ice world
Distance: 2.05 AU (Kitakia)
Radius: 1,560 km (0.245 Earths)
Mass: 4.80 x1022 kg (0.008 Earths)
Surface temperature (ave): 106.59 K

Morthan is the second moon of the gas giant, Kitakia and the second largest moon in the solar system after Uxnara. Shrouded in a layer of ice about 5 to 8 kilometres thick, underneath is a deep ocean heated by extensive geothermal vents and underwater volcanoes.

Type: Terran
Distance: 2.05 AU (Kitakia)
Radius: 6,051 km (0.950 Earths)
Mass: 4.87 x1024 kg (0.815 Earths)
Surface temperature (ave): 264.6 K

Uxnara is the fourth moon of the gas giant, Kitakia and the largest moon in the solar system. Uxnara has a cool, temperate climate and has large boreal forests and steppe biomes with substantial polar regions. For reasons of their own, the Morthanveld have restricted access to Uxnara to all but their own ships.

Other important worlds
Zekilti - Fourth planet; hot, airless and barren, Ixorix is a major mining colony for the Morthanveld, although entirely run by drones and AIs.
Mirelda - Sixth planet; Venusian, with a thick, hot atmosphere and a simplistic, sulfur-based ecosystem in the upper clouds. Protected as a park-like world
Fetik - Second moon of Kitakia; whilst the moon itself is barren and airless, the orbital space above it is the location of Morthanveld's main ship-yards
Xeplar - Eighth planet; hydrogen-based gas giant and heavily mined for volatiles. Orbital stations with long, draping magnetic extractors siphon off vast quantities of gas for fuels


Physiology: Morthanveld biology is based upon the mix of chemicals that pour from the volcanic vents of their homeworld. Their inner body is about a meter in diameter and roughly sphere-shaped, covered in a tough exoskeleton and containing all their major organs. Dozens of long spines extend out another two meters from this main body containing sensory organs and tipped with an orifice that allows a 30 cm prehensile tentacle to emerge. A single opening in the exoskeleton is used for both oxygenation, and filtering of water for nutrients.

Distribution: Morthanveld have a preferable water depth range of between 70 and 90 km; any deeper or shallower than this and there are medium to long-term physiological problems. Their upper range, without protection is about 60 km, only trained Morthanveld with aclimatisation can stay above this depth for very long. Correspondingly, their lower range is about 105 km; below this becomes fatal very quickly.

Diet: Nominally carnivorous, Morthanveld eat all organic detritus; either free-floating like plankton-forms, or created by catching prey and disseminating into manageable pieces.

Movement: Locomotion is typically achieved by movement of the spines to roll or crawl across a surface, the tentacles can grip and pull, allowing Morthanveld to climb. Short bursts of speed can be done by expelling water from their body.

Communication: Communications consists of rapid clicks made by specialised organs inside the main body, along with non-verbal movements of spines and tentacles. Morthanveld language is complex, capable of transmitting on more than one channel at a time and allowing for rapid transfer of information in a short time.

Life stages: All Morthanveld are technically hermaphrodites, with only one gender existing. About every ten years, in response to environmental triggers, Morthanveld gather at specific locations and engage in a mass spawning, where gametes are released into the water to fertilise. The fertilised embryos develop into highly carnivorous soft-bodied larvae with attrition at this stage being high, due to cannibalism and predation. After six months the larvae create a cocoon and spend about two months inside until the infant Morthanveld emerge, now about 20cm in size. They grow rapidly for the next two years before being considered adults. Morthanveld grow slowly for their whole adult life, reaching full growth at about one hundred years. After this time, a Morthanveld sheds its spines and outer exoskeleton, reverting back to the cocoon stage where it will remain for around six months. Upon re-emerging, the Morthanveld retains most, but not all of its awareness of its previous adult stage. Some of the oldest Morthanveld are thousands of years old, but remember very little of their earliest cycles.


Recorded history for the Morthanveld began only three thousand years ago; previously all their knowledge was passed on in non-written formats by a class of 'Memory Keepers' trained to retain their knowledge through successive degenerations. About three millennia ago, an event occured that altered the course of Morthanveld destiny; an ancient spacecraft, which had crashed into Morthan's icy surface countless eons ago, finally emerged through the kilometres thick ice and revealed its presence to the denizens below.

The Morthanveld were quick to grasp the significance of the ship and began to learn from its advanced technology, bypassing advances that would be almost impossible to achieve for an aquatic species. Undersea volcanoes provided the heat and resources where other species developed fire and smelting. Within five hundred years of discovering the ship, the first Morthanveld explorers broke through to the surface and a bare two hundred years after that, Morthanveld pioneers ascended into space.


From space, Morthan appears to be a white sphere, criss-crossed with countless streaks of dark orange. Covered entirely with a layer of ice that averages about seven kilometres in thickness, the surface of the planet is smooth, broken only by the large cracks between sheets of ice; the darker streaks revealed as dust from the meteors that occasionally strike it gathered in the gaps. The ice is constantly shifting, forced into motion by the movement of the water currents underneath and, as a consequence, the surface is relatively new. The cycling of the ice also has the benefit of moving resource rich meteor debris into the water under it. Whilst the surface of the planet is a frozen wasteland, underneath is a vast planet-wide ocean, on averge about 70 to 80 kilometres deep, but can extend as deep as 120 kilometres or as shallow as 20. The average temperature of the water under the ice is a balmy 279 Kelvin, with temperatures near the vents rising considerably. This sections the oceans into various zones, dependant on the distance from the vents, and the presence of the currents that circulate the warmer waters. The water is highly saline, with fresh water being unknown outside of Morthanveld laboratories.

The under-ice ocean harbours a rich and varied ecology. From the nutrient rich oceanic vents, to the unique ecosystems found on the underside of the ice, the planet is teeming with life, most of it tiny, but some even bigger than the dominant species, the Morthanveld. Most lifeforms on Morthan are blind, sight being an unnecessary feature in an ocean that has never seen the light of a sun. Whilst soft-bodies are common, a lot of Morthan species have exoskeletons, especially those who roam free and do not rely on the vast coral-like reefs that are frequent on the ocean floor. Where metal-rich meteors protrude through the ice, whole ecosystems based off this bounty of resources crop up, only lasting for a few hundred years before having to move off to the next outcropping.


Total population: 40 billion (est.)

The majority of Morthanveld still reside on their home world, the need to obey the urge to procreate every decade or so still a strong instinctive force. Morthanveld live in settlements that resemble large coral reefs, many kilometers wide and tall, housing tens of millions of individuals. The largest city is the orbital ring around Morthan called Sky-Nest, and is home to a billion Morthanveld, although none permanently, as each is cycled back home regularly.

Morthanveld language is highly complex due to the nature of their speech organs. Morthanveld are able to create clicks and tones with five different organs, allowing information to be transmittes on multiple channels. This, combined with non-verbal signals from their spines and an ability to detect electrical signals makes Morthanveld language deeply layered. Writing was almost unknown before their technological revolution, mainly restricted to important signals; for a species with no visual senses, written words had little meaning. Since the discovery of the ship, and the explosion in Morthanveld knowledge, a writing system was developed based on textures and shape. To an outsider, Morthanveld texts are similar to human Braille, or carved heiroglyphs and their computer output devices a grid of points that extend and retract.


Morthanveld have no belief in deities or gods, and no organised religion as such. Until relatively recently, information was held by specially trained individuals who retained their knowledge through successive regenerations, so no literary tradition or story-telling, myths and legends, were ever developed.

The closest thing Morthanveld have to religion, is the reverence and significance they ascribe to the remains of the ancient spacecraft that granted them their ascension from primitive beginnings to their advanced status they hold now. Although the ship has been thoroughly stripped down and its secrets revealed, the shell and the collective knowledge scribed on giant basalt blocks, form the centerpiece of a vast temple.


Morthanveld society is largely coherant with little in the way of opposing factions and their politics are very similar. Groups of Morthanveld congregate in Nests, associating themselves with a location. Nests can be quite small, barely a dozen individuals, or very large, in the order of millions. Each nest has at least one Speaker, whose role it is to speak for the Nest as a whole, and an Ancient, who is responsible for holding the collective knowledge of the Nest. Whilst the Speaker relays the will of the Nest, it is the Ancient, on account of their experience, who is the Nest's leader. In recent times, the role of the Ancient has become less important in smaller Nests, and a lot of Ancients gathering in specialised 'libraries' where their knowledge is more easily accessed by everyone. In these situations, the Speaker holds authority in the Nest.

All the Speakers of Morthanveld gather annually for the Speakers Collective where they choose a member to represent the entirety of the Nests on Morthan. This 'Speaker for the Supreme Nest' acts as an advisor to the Ancients on the will of the Nests.

The Ancients have a strict heirarchy based on age and ability to recall knowledge and it is a rare occasion when a new Ancient is selected. Most Ancients have memories stretching back thousands of years; the one with the greatest accessible memories is selected as the 'Most Ancient' and is responsible for guiding the Morthanveld species.

With the relatively recent development of written language and the organisation of libraries, the Ancient tasked with collating Morthanveld knowlege is called the 'Alpha Memory Keeper'. Some more traditional Ancients disagree with retaining knowledge in this way, but it has resulted in far more Morthanveld being able to access knowledge than ever before.

Foreign Relations and Military

No aliens are allowed on the surface of Morthan and very few non-Morthanveld will ever meet one in person, largely due to the extreme differences in appropriate climate and languages. Almost all interactions the Morthanveld have with other civilisations is through their semi-independant AI drones. Equipped with sensory apparatus more suited to the alien races it will interact with, the 'pik-Veld' number in the millions and are viewed by the Morthanveld as, if not full citizens, then valued members of society.

Morthanveld Defence Force

The Morthanveld have a powerful and numerous fleet made up of just two types of craft; the Morthanveld fleet is not primarily a combat fleet and the Polity has yet to get involved in any hostilities. Instead, the Morthanveld use their ships to engage in trade and diplomacy, with Starcruisers a common sight in most habitated systems where they are welcome. The majority of the rest of the fleet is based at the Sky Nest or patrolling the Xah system.


The most commonly seen ship and the 'face' of the Morthanveld is the Starcruiser, used predominantly as a diplomatic shuttle, ambassadorial craft and cultural envoy. Although capable of its own superluminal travel, whenever a Starcruiser is in a foreign system, there is probably a Starliner somewhere close. Starcruisers are generally not considered warships, but are still armed and are more than capable, but will always retreat in the face of hostilities if unaccompanied. Their unusual twin hull has pressurised areas on one side for the Morthanveld crew, but the other half is given over to exotics or cargo, whichever is being transported.


The second type is the huge Starliner. These craft almost always operate on their own, and outside of the Xah system, it is a momentous event to see more than one of these craft in the same place. Whilst openly non-hostile, Morthanveld are aware the supercluster is a dangerous place and the Starliner is more than capable of defending itself. The Starliner has capacity to dock up to 16 other craft around its ring, and typically carries at least 4 Starcruisers. The Starliner is an extension of Morthanveld, a cultural ambassador of their species and world. Each Starliner is a microcosm of Morthan, the central sphere containing a large Morthanveld biome, filled with water and providing a place to live for almost fourteen thousand individuals. The spines are a combination of sensors, shield projectors and weapons, with a powerful Diadem x-ray laser at the tip of each. The equatorial ring houses the ship's mechanics; reactors, docking ports, the FtL drive and the large Starspine weapon.

Also important is the shuttle, used to transfer between ships when not docked, and also to transfer to non-Morthanveld craft. Far smaller than other Morthanveld ships, the shuttle is unarmed and incapable of superluminal travel, although its in-system delta-V is considerable.

Superluminal craft numbers:
Starcruisers: 3,200
Starliners: 800

Morthanveld weapons

Starspine: The Starspine is the largest weapon ever developed by the Morthanveld and found exclusively on their Starliner craft. A large X-ray laser, the Starspine is capable of penetrating 4m of carbon-titanium hybrid armour at a range of 1 light-second. It uses an anti-matter reaction to create 2 TW of energy that is focused through a disposable X-ray generator. The resultant laser burst is one second in duration. Starliners carry enough anti-matter for around 50 shots.

Wavelength: 2.0 x10-8 m
Lens diameter: 10 m
Laser output power: 2 TW
Beam duration: 1 s

Diadem: The Diadem is the standard weapon found on Morthanveld craft. An X-ray laser, the Diadem is capable of penetrating 1.5m of carbon-titanium hybrid armour at a range of 40 thousand kilometers. It uses 2 GW of energy and cycles in 0.1 second pulses, powered by the ship's fusion reactors it has virtually unlimited capacity.

Wavelength: 2.0 x10-8 m
Lens diameter: 2 m
Laser output power: 2 GW
Beam duration: 0.1 s

Morthanveld shielding

Shielding on Morthanveld craft is obtained by a combination of two types; photonic matter and negative energy. The main component is a psuedo-solid photonic matter barrier, created by projectors on the outside of the craft. When activated, the shield appears like a matt-grey bubble around the craft and can be resonated to allow the passage of other objects with an identically resonating photonic shield. It is capable of blocking physical, kinetic impacts, but is particularly effective against energy attacks, especially photons. The secondary component is a negative energy field that absorbs incoming thermal energy like a heatsink; this is the key component that allows Morthanveld craft to enter a star's corona for prolonged periods of time.


Economic Indicators

Currency: Spines
Major exports:
Major imports:

Morthanveld's internal economy is based on individuals being assigned a specialism upon maturation and working for the betterment of the Nest. Food production is a minimal occupation in most areas as the filter-feeding nature of the Morthanveld does not require either agriculture, nor a strong hunter/gatherer tradition. In the largest Nests, where the local waters can become devoid of the required amount of detritus, nutrients are shipped in and released. Since the acquisition of advanced technologies, most menial tasks and the means of production have become entirely automated, with Morthanveld individuals free to engage in whatever past-times they choose. Mining, manufacturing and nearly all other tasks are performed by AI-guided robots.

Externally, the Morthanveld are keen traders, exporting goods unique to their homeworld in exchange for items unable to be produced by themselves. Novety items such as paper objects, land plants and animals, and music are popular, appealing to the aesthetics of the Morthanveld.

Since the advent of the Morthanveld's technological revolution, they constructed several large mega-structures in and around their world. The most apparent, and the largest, is called the Sky Nest, a vast artificial ring around Morthan, with several 'spokes' decending into the ice. A giant city, housing about a billion individuals, the Morthanveld have opened up Sky Nest as a Free Port in the supercluster, allowing anyone to stay, trade and talk so long as the neutrality of the system is respected. Minor conflict between parties is allowed, but nothing major and certainly not between military spacecraft. In the two hundred years since beginning its construction, Sky Nest has welcomed major civilisations, trading blocs and even pirates, all here to spend their money and take advantage of the lack of conflict and judgement.


For most Morthanveld, working for the betterment of the Polity is seen as a noble undertaking, and many individuals volunteer for the space fleets or diplomatic corps.




Whilst the Sky Nest may be a large habitation, ship dock and monument to greatness, it's primary function was to act as a giant particle accelerator for generating the main fuel used by the Morthanveld; antimatter. Ultilising Morthan's vast geothermal potential, giant fusion reactors and even energy from Morthan's star, Sky Nest's 10,000 km circumfrence is used to create hundred kilogram quantities of anti-hydrogen annually. Whilst the habitats, cities, ship systems and sub-luminal drives of Morthanveld are powered by simpler fusion reactors, the compact nature of antimatter is required to power the superluminal hyperspace drives and the Starspine lasers. One 'dive' into hyperspace requires the consumption of a tenth of a gram of anti-matter and each ship is equipped with enough anti-matter for 100 'dives' into hyperspace before refueling is required. Using the Starspine laser adds an additional demand on anti-matter stores, although each firing requires only micrograms of anti-matter.

Total energy consumption of Morthanveld (including Sky Nest and fleet): 5.23 exowatts

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