Liir music is all choral, for obvious reasons. It is inexpressibly beautiful and powerful, even as a recording, but of course the full effect could never be achieved outside of live performance. When you are close enough to receive the telepathic stream that goes with the song—to hear the lyrics as well as the melody—the experience is magnified a hundred-fold. And this is to say nothing of the frequencies of sound which Humans can more easily feel than hear.
Do Liirian colonists, being Liir that take to the stars, also die? The crew of a colonial transport ship will be Black Swimmers—members of the Liir navy, capable of piloting an interstellar vessel, managing guns and engines and communicating in Fleetsong.
The colonists in the mission section may or not be naval personnel. Some Liir have an urge to swim strange new seas or seek new knowledge. They do not necessarily have to join the Black Swimmers to do so.
It is common for the civilian Liir traveling on interstellar journeys to enter a deep, near-comatose sleep. Otherwise they find themselves forced into close telepathic contact with the Black Swimmers who pilot the vessel—and despite all attempts to shield the civilian passengers from the thought/feelings of battlesong, it is impossible to block out all that information. It can be quite traumatizing for a civilian Liir to be caught in a battle and forced to ride those surges, especially as the military crew comes under increasing stress.
Even those who remain in stasis for the duration of the trip sometimes report disturbing dreams.
The Liir definitely have mixed feelings about the Suul'ka and all events that have followed since their traumatic first contact. There is definitely a schism between the civilian struggle to cope with this aspect of their history–which, due to their tendency to live long lives, is very much a "Holocaust survivor" syndrome among them—and the military response.
Becoming a Black Swimmer, for some Liir, was very much like becoming a Nazi hunter. For others it is plain and simple fear for their homeworlds and loved ones that drives them into the Black Sea. Thanks to their oral-telepathic traditions it is literally impossible for the Liir as a species to ever forget the way death can come from above...and the humiliation, pain and loss of life that they suffered under Suul'ka dominion has become a very dark and ugly scar.
There is a certain amount of tragedy in military service for the Liir. The Liir are occasionally involved in genocidal wars against other sentients, and are often forced to kill the entire civilian population of an enemy world. The Black Swimmer who must pilot assault shuttles often are the ones most deeply affected by this action.
How do they cope? Often the answer is "not well". The truth is that, in some cases, a Black Swimmer crew who have seen too much of the wrong kind of action will never return home. When they are no longer needed by their people, they may well choose to "decommission" their own vessel by piloting it into the corona of the nearest star. They understand that they will never be able to become Liir again. In this way, they are still protecting their home from the horrors of war.
Some Liir now have a dangerous tendency to regard all non-Liir sentience as somehow the same. "Suul'ka" is a fairly universal word for "enemy" among them—and given their historical experience with the "enemy" the Liir have little understanding of a concept like "limited war". Or "surrender" for that matter. Once you become "Suul'ka" in their eyes, you must be eliminated or driven off; they do not have any native notion of "honor", restraint, or correctness in dispensing violence.
Unlike the Tarka who have a much more sophisticated grasp of war and a code of honor regarding its conduct, the Liir tend to have a very simple view: either you are my enemy or you are not.
In general, it's probably best not to fire the first shot against the Liir unless you're ready to fire the last volley as well. They may not understand that you're done being the "enemy" and would like to call it quits and go home now.
Liir can both transmit and receive from just about anything that is capable of thinking or feeling, from the tiniest minds to the largest. Humans who dive with schools of Liir have been known to undergo profound experiences and transformations of thought.
"Hide-the-thought" is a telepathic game which Liir children begin to play soon after birth, much as human babies first learn to play "peek-a-boo" and then "guess which hand the penny is in"? But as the Liir grow older and stronger, "hide-the-thought" becomes a much more aggressive, passionate, fascinating contest of wills. It is a common exercise for hundreds of younger Liir to wrestle the mind of an Elder, trying to prize the thought from beneath his layers of defenses. When they finally "find the thought", it sometimes changes their lives forever.
Liir are often horrified by their contact with the minds of other sentients, but their holographic comprehension of consciousness and emotion tends to prevent them from reacting to "bad thoughts" in the way you might think. They are supreme psychoanalysts and the most likely Liir response to "bad thoughts" in other sentients is profound pity and sadness. For almost every "bad thought" a Liir can easily perceive an origin point in previous injury and past suffering—non-telepaths are dismally bad players of "hide-the-thought".
The exception to this rule of thumb is the sort of "bad thoughts" that the Liir call "suul'ka"—they seem to use this word interchangeably with the name of an enemy race and a type of thought and behavior.
In turn, Liirsong has a profound effect on any sentient organism within range of the metaconcert, especially if the mind is unprepared and open. This power can be both positive and negative as being in the presence of Liir in metaconcert has the potential to be a transforming experience. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on how one feels about transformation.
Regardless, contact with three non-telepathic species has given the Liir many new concepts with which to grapple and they have had to struggle to translate many terms into their own language. Prior to their first contact with the Humans, for example, the Liir had no word for "alone", a meaning which has become the most radical contribution that other non-telepathic races have made to Liirian thought. Humans have many subtle and delicious flavorings of "alone" which are unknown to Hivers, and less sharply defined even among Tarkas—thoughtshapes like "maverick", "rebel", "non-conformist", which can shade into "hero" and "genius". Close contact with humans might very well lead to the first Liirian James Dean or even Liirian "rock and roll".
Some Liir can stop pain and create fairly sophisticated illusions in sentients with little or no Psychic defenses. Memory fiddling probably wouldn't be much harder.
A Liir psychiatrist can repair (or damage) a great deal, once the basic structures of the mind were understood. Humans are convenient in that our consciousness allows a great deal of material to be shunted into subconscious areas, at least temporarily, while other repairs are being made.
The problem that arises is that Liir do not necessarily distinguish between one form of mental injury and pain versus another. Human identity is often founded on creative responses to a life-long scar left by a traumatic experience.
Sometimes it's not a good thing for a human to "get over it".
An elder Liir is capable of a great deal of psychic engineering. However, it would be extremely difficult to impose selective amnesia on another Liir, especially an adult. The Liir do not enjoy the full benefits of a "subconscious" mind, as many land-walking species do; they do not sleep as we do, and even their breathing is conscious. Liir do not experience comatose states unless they are dying or in suspended animation. And given the constant self-diagnostic performed during meditative and shared trance states, there really isn't any place to hide a memory which is subconsciously repressed--rather than being withheld consciously, as in the famous "hide the thought" game.
A hole in one's memory would nag a Liir like a missing tooth and an empty socket in the jaw nags a human--they would be unable to leave it alone, and the danger that the damage would fester and manifest in som
Most healing techniques for this sort of trauma revolve around sharing the burden of the memory and being stabilized within a loving environment for long enough to heal.
The strength of the Liirian mind is also present in their telekinetic ability. Telekinesis is the base of their technology. Their telekinesis is reactionless; that is, moving an object using telekinesis is not subject to normal Newtonian physics. For the force applied through telekinesis, no force is applied in an equal and opposite direction upon the Liir. However, while the Liir can use their telekinesis to impose forces upon themselves—for example, aiding their speed or agility—it is seen as a gross imposition of self upon the universe, and thus, a great psychological bias has developed against it in Liirian society.
Some games played by young Liir are telekinetic exercises; a perennial favorite is basically a game of "blanket toss" without the blanket. Several Liir children will circle around one of their fellows and suddenly send him shooting skyward on a pillar of water, often as high as thirty feet; he twists and dives back down to join the circle and another child takes his turn. Older Liir, of course, are easily capable of giving youngsters a playful toss—or a not so playful one, if they don't mind their manners.
An Elder Liir is capable of moving a significant volume of water and youngsters, not only with his body but with his mind; when the master is in a playful mood his proteges can find themselves body-surfing and being tossed to a dizzying height.
The control that the Liir have over their telekinesis is very much skill based. Power and range increase with age, and finesse increases with practice.
Most Liir can move slightly more than their own mass telekinetically, if they exert their full force. A small Liir can move a smaller mass than a large Liir. Not all Liir have as much strength as Black Swimmers, but there are minimum requirements in this regard for service.
Resistance to being moved is also an athletic skill, and there is a good deal of playful "mind-wrestling" among younger Liir—and sometimes older Liir who know each other well. Although they do not manifest the intention to harm one another during these contests, young Liir are as egotistical as any other species and always curious to know who is the strongest.
Liir telekinesis can be exhausting to use. For example full force is not something they can exert repeatedly or constantly.
Liir do get tired, some more rapidly than others. The weariness resulting from moving small objects is more about mental fatigue and focused concentration. The problem with assuming that Liir will be exploding hearts in close combat is that reaching into flesh to do careful, specific work requires focused concentration and calm--not brute strength or raw instinct.
A Liir under heavy stress is more like to hurl objects or tear them apart with sheer force than to do careful surgical maneuvers, unless that Liir has been specifically trained to use its abilities as a martial artist.
As to the length of time Liir can work without pause — this usually would depend on the need to surface for breath. Liir are conscious breathers, and so cannot "sleep" as we do, but they do accumulate fatigue and they do need down time every day to recover. Black Swimmers aboard ship or in spacesuits do not suffer from the need to interrupt work for periodic breaths, since they are Drowned, but they still do get tired.
An AI is not completely inaudible or intangible to a Liir's senses, but the differences in their physical and mental make-up severely dampens the transmission of data. AIs communicate largely in "fleetsong" and have a very faint life signature. They read to the senses of the Liir like a non-living thing that moves--a machine--with only a very faint ghost of consciousness audible on the telepathic level. It is a psionic impression that is barely detectable, much less so than even the simplest, smallest living things. Very few Liir can sense it, and as yet the Liir have no explanation for it, although theories abound. In general, they regard AIs as mechanical devices which are not "alive" in any sense of the word which they really understand. They are rarely able to empathize with an AI, even to the degree that they would with a simple life form like a fish.
The attraction of developing AIs for Liir is the perhaps mistaken belief that the AIs they create are less alive, less "thinking" and less "feeling" than biological beings. Like any other sentient, Liir have a tendency to assume that things which they cannot perceive do not exist.
Liir parenting is communal. An infant can nurse from any other "female" Liir in its community. They have several variations on the word "mother" which, depending on mental inflection, can mean: "a female Liir," "she who birthed my body," "she who nourishes me physically (or spiritually)," "she who tears away the blinding caul," etc.
Pair bonding among the Liir is not common, but it is possible. Courtship is an interplay of minds and bodies which is impossible to unwind and separate from other interactions.
Any organism capable of religious faith is capable of superstition. The only difference between a religious belief and a superstitition is the number of people who believe it. — Arinn Dembo
The Liir spiritual worldview is both simple and profound. They have no separate sense of the divine as we would understand it. They believe that all things are equally divine and sacred; the universe itself is their "god" in essence. They make no philosophical or hierarchical separation between themselves and other living things, or even between themselves and non-living bodies like stars and planets.
The Liir conceive the Universe as one great Song — a vast tapestry of harmonious music. To a Liir, every physical object and living thing in the universe is another trembling chord, a pattern of vibrations, a sequence of notes. Everything is part of the Song. Everything that exists, in their eyes, is beautiful and necessary; if one cannot see that beauty, the fault lies within.
If the Liir perceive themselves as special in some way or separated in some way from the rest of the Song, it is only because they recognize the unique ability of all sentient beings to marvel at the music and to shape the world around them — to change the Song, even in a small way.
Whether the Liir conception of the Song implies the existence of a divine Singer is a subject open to debate. When asked whether there is or was a Singer — a Creator who was the author or instigator of the divine Song — most Liir simply create bubbles. If pressed, they all reply with the same question: "Are you not singing yourself?"
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