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Eosapien

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Eosapien

"It hung before me as if probing my 'cone with its alien senses."

The Eosapien is a large, adroit, omnivorous, highly intelligent floater from the planet of Darwin IV. It is the most intelligent life form on the whole planet. This huge creature can float absolutely motionless and move just about any direction, similar to Earth's dragonflies and hummingbirds. These creatures had been stalking the First Darwinian Expediton members for a while, but were finally observed by Barlowe near the Amoebic Sea in the morning on March 1, 2361, a fortnight before his departure from Darwin IV.

A sign that these floaters approach will be indicated by what appears to be an array of approximately two-meter-long flyers vectoring directly in. They have originated from a floating source sometimes 100 kilometers away. This mysterious floater will produce sonar that is hollow and echolike, at times imitating the sonar of other creatures with identical beacons. The flyers are not incoming missiles, nor are they true flyers in the biological sense. They are, instead, dart-like, organic projectiles, vaned and streamlined for subsonic flight. On their dark, chitinous surfaces there are tiny teardrop-shaped blisters. Located toward the back of each projectile are four recessed holes, and complemented by an oval vane mounted on a thin stalk, these vanes will twitch fractionally to alter course.

Though a projectile's exterior is cool, the interior indicates a single, small life form with a high metabolic level. Thermal images are vague, but there is the impression of jointed chitinous plates, arms and bladders, all beautifully filled within the narrow confines of the projectile. Over the next hour or so the projectiles will slow, and change their outer conformation as they do. The tiny blisters expand and fill with buoyant gases. Eventually the formerly missile-shaped objects are four times their original size and are drifting at the mercy of the winds.

AirCreatures
The giant floater that released the projectiles will move at a leisurely rate through the air, including in clouds, pinging in a way oddly different from anything so far discovered on Darwin IV. There is a decided complexity to the ambiguous sounds, and to the responses that come in. It feels as though it is a conversation.

Looming a full 20 meters in height, it is a veritable study in alienness. Its cuticle-covered body is an intricate collection of ridges, folds and curves flanged and wrinkled so as to almost defy description. Here a pair of moisture-dampened openings quiver and flare, while behind float-bladders pulse and expand with inrushing air. A web of glowing bio-lights surround a small pair of recessed infrared pits. Two swinging, orange sonarbooms stretch from beneath enormous, overhanging fins. Above them a pair of gyrating balance organs oscillate in a blur of constant movement. Surmounting the forward, vertical portion of the organism's body is a great translucent bladder that seems to be its principal organ of buoyancy. Running throughout this vast sagittal sac is a fine tracery of veins, which can be delicately backlit by flowing clouds behind. But most remarkable of all, two muscular arms, terminating in dexterous-looking hands, hang from the creature's sides; this creature can sometimes be seen carrying a giant club.

The floater can shift its formidable cudgel a bit to enable its long, toothed trunk to "chew" uneasily on it; tiny bits of plant matter drop away as it hangs.

Here is the impression of some degree of sentience, for this floater can seem in no particular hurry to disengage from any mutual observations. The floater is named Eosapien, meaning dawn thinker, since it seems wonderfully appropriate for a creature seemingly on the threshold of intelligence.

When an Eosapien is moving, its twin siphons puff and push it smoothly through two revolutions.

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The Eosapien's sheath-like egg launcher grows distended and releases the airborne oothecae, or egg projectiles, when atmospheric conditions are favorable.

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The multiple blisters on the ootheca will inflate with buoyant gases when its velocity diminishes.

This creature has a long tail, beneath which runs an elongated, sheath-like growth. It is from this orifice that the projectiles - in fact, airborne oothecae or eggs - are launched. The suns' radiation in these rarefied levels of the atmosphere is in some way instrumental in their hatching.

When communicating with one another in a group, an alpha can direct the others with a steady flow of signals into their midst, either with short pings or longer ones. When partaking in finding something new, they can squeak and ping attentively, shifting a club here or a sonarboom there. Each individual bares a unique pattern of bio-lights that seem to distinguish one individual from another; and some might ware what might be vertebrae (maybe from an arrowtongue) strung on fibrous chords, hanging from their tails like trophies. They are solemn, dignified and, above all, aware. These individuals with clubs and hunting trophies are obviously members of hunting parties (usually numbering eight or even three).

Sometimes, to understand things better, they will touch and stroke objects very delicately and at times cautiously with their rubbery, nailed hands.

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Powerful arms and multiple gas bladders enable the Eosapien to stalk and kill Darwin IV's larger creatures. The opposable finger and claw arrangement allows the limb to be used for killing, dismembering, and transporting prey.

Eosapiens are remarkably fast. When hunting, they are often in pursuit of some victim on the ground far below them (sometimes at 50 meters), adjusting and readjusting their immensely powerful sonarbooms. Each hunting Eosapien carries club-like implements, which are huge flechettes. Upon targeting their prey, Eosapiens release their missiles with such a rapidity that it is certain a kill can only be attained by chance.

They can follow their victims, such as a symet or a gill-head (the primary food of the Eosapien), into trapped areas (like ravines) where, with their missiles, they can pen it. The desperate prey animal will throw itself against the deeply-sunk missiles, but they do not move. Within moments the floaters are upon it, some holding the hapless beast down while others wrench its legs from its sockets with sickening pops. It is a terrible sight, redolent of primitiveness and savagery. The sometimes still-alive victim will be carried aloft, as will its detached legs, leaving long, calligraphic trails of black blood on the rough ground below.

Eosapiens

"They ascended again, leaving the steaming carcass in the darkness."

At times, chases after prey can be less frenetic, as the floaters may trail a slow and sometimes aged victim, such as an elderly rayback. The pursuit can come to its inevitable tragic conclusion as the weak victim falters and falls. Without ceremony the Eosapiens descend to either side of the terrified beast and, grasping its kicking legs, twist them off. As quickly as they have dropped down, they ascend again, leaving the steaming carcass.

Sometimes, Eosapiens will tear into the Amoebic Sea for food, resulting in a great puckered opening on the surface of the "sea". Out of this opening will appear huge globules of gel, backlit, looking like giant water droplets filled with spinning organelles, pouring lazily upward in lazy slow-motion, sometimes hanging hundreds of meters above the Amoebic Sea. Eosapiens will follow their ascent, systematically puncturing the globules and inserting their trunks to drink.

GLobu
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Eosapien hunting teams hurl their flechettes with deadly accuracy, trapping their prey in escape-proof staked pens. The giant floaters then move in from all sides for the kill.

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