The third most recent intelligent species from Earth in Ex, arriving from –1,050 u.c. to –600 u.c. The Trilos are descended from terrestrial trilobites in timelines where the trilobites continued to grow and diversify after the Ordovician era. They grew in size and complexity, eventually producing a wide variety of species both on land and in sea. Eventually an intelligent species emerged that was to discover phasing.
The Trilos evolved from coastal scavengers, gathering food on the shores of a great inland sea. They are equally at home in water and on land, and use the different environment for the purposes that suit them – land for engineering, water for rearing the young, and so on.
Trilos are not cold-blooded, but instead partially warm-blooded. Their body temperature is usually at around 31 degrees Celsius, although being poikilotherms their body temperature is strongly affected by the surroundings. They can survive body temperatures down to 15 degrees (although at that point they are very sluggish) and up to 45 degrees. Fat tissue embedded in the exoskeleton gives partial insulation, and special glands exude a cooling liquid on their back when they get too hot. Humans used to insects tend to be surprised at the flexibility and mammal-likeness of the Trilos. They are fast and surprisingly agile, despite their rigid bodies.
Adult Trilos are two meters long and stand 90 centimeters tall on their 20 pairs of legs. They are covered with a chitinous exoskeleton, usually gray or red. On the back part of their body it is segmented not unlike an armadillo, while on the front part of the body it forms a heavy three-lobed “head” crowned by an elaborately patterned occipital lobe. Sharp spines run along the margin of the shell. When seriously frightened or surprised they sometimes roll into a tight ball of spines and shell, although this defense reaction is relatively weak. They molt regularly.
Their front three pairs of legs have evolved into claw like manipulators, with two strong pincers and several auxiliary “fingers”. The underside of the shell is soft and vulnerable, and equipped with extensive gill/sensory fronds. They have two vestigial antennae that are mainly used for sensitive probing.
Their enormous compound eyes are a startling blue, like the eyes of hermit crabs. They have nearly 360-degree vision, and while somewhat farsighted they are extremely good at distinguishing tiny depth distances and the polarization of light.
Their brain lies below the mouth and esophagus, extending along the entire length of the body. It consists of a series of segmented ganglia controlling different parts of the body and integrated through dense nerve bundles. Different segments take on different roles and act a bit like a 20-lobed brain. A trilo can survive far more brain damage than a human and still remain partially functional; if the nerve segment controlling a part of the body is disabled only that segment is hurt, and the segments after it will be somewhat less synchronized with the overall behavior. The length of the body causes noticeable delays in “thinking” when it involves remote parts of the brain. Usually the head segments are the true controllers, and the other only deal with movement and certain specialized skills or emotions.
Trilos are amphibious, and prefer warm environments with high humidity or at least a few decimeters of water on the floor.
The Trilos are scavengers and partial vegetarians. Their food is crushed by their hypostome on the underside of their head, and usually consists of soft plants, algae, fruits and decomposing meat. Most humans find their feeding habits disgusting and prefer not to be around trilos shortly after they have eaten.
Trilos can switch sex depending on their wishes, and usually do so with a few years interval. Traditional reproduction is still done in water: the female lays eggs in a special cache, and the male impregnates them with his sperm. Traditionally several males compete for the right to impregnate, usually through demonstrating their skills in various ways. This has been transformed among the trilos into a symbolic “sexual” competition between participants in projects, where the leader or client takes on the role of female and the members attempt to produce the most impressive “courtship display”; usually no sex is actually involved. Modern Trilos employ artificial insemination and commonly genetic modifications, and a symbolic ritual has replaced the courtship behavior in reproduction. The eggs hatch into first instar Trilos, which undergo several moltings before they start to exhibit much intelligence. The weakest, ugliest or just superfluous are culled before this stage, and the rest ride on the underside of their parents.
Trilos are very alien psychologically compared to humans. Their brains are entirely different from mammalian brains, lacking the division between an old reptilian brain, a mammalian limbic system and a primate cortex. Instead Trilo brains are segmental, with each segment consisting of a basic neural network handling basic life functions, specialized nodes for certain functions (like the vision nodes in the head, sensory nodes connected to the gills in back segments and reproductory nodes) and a general mass of neurons that is not unlike the general computational system of the primate cortex. There is a far weaker central motivation system, and emotions are usually more like distributed feelings such as hunger, arousal or fear than anything with a cognitive content. The further up the head a segment is, the more dominant it is in controlling behavior and motivation. This produces both a fairly “emotionless” way of being, as well as dividing the trilo self into numerous interacting subselves rather than any integral self.
To a trilo there is no clear sense of being an individual. Rather, their consciousness is like a theatre where a number of beings or wills participate, debating, interacting and combining into decisions and thoughts. When a trilo ponders whether to pursue one action or another, different parts of the brain propose different solutions and they are compared, evaluated and eventually the voices of the strongest or most numerous segments combine and convince all parts about the action to take. This process is often very fast, and gives the impression of an unified whole. Trilos have however never really cared for the concept of an individual, isolated from others and unique in itself. Instead they culture the vision of the “clear theatre”, a mind (possibly spread across many trilos) which is complete in that it encompasses a sufficiently wide range of subminds to solve most problems, yet is clear and efficient in reaching results.
The trilo mental world is a world of constant communication, negotiation and construction. Trilos tend to communicate intensely when they meet, exchanging gossip, explaining what they are doing and why, discussing the general situation and anything on their minds. Compared to humans they are extremely open and honest.
Trilo society is very group-oriented; the borders between individuals are far weaker than among humans, and the voices of others are usually regarded as similar to the internal voices of different brain parts. Hence issues of social interaction, organization and mediation are regarded as the most important, far more important than concerns about the physical world. Trilos live in a world of mind, tending to regard inanimate objects or other species as uninteresting or worth ignoring unless they can be communicated with.
Trilo aesthetic is not particularly human. They enjoy rotating objects, certain scents (usually salty or musty by human standards) and complex rhythms. Typical Trilo artworks are labyrinthine sculpture-buildings that are explored by the visitor, or intricate mobiles that often involve parts banging into each other according to certain patterns.
Ex Trilos seem to live a corporate life. They have created corporate states, outwardly competing like enormous corporations and internally organized along complex ideas and rules of conduct. Some seem more like religions and cults, others have elaborate organizational schemes that adapt to outside demands in incomprehensible ways. Sometimes they form true group organisms or hives, but usually they are just enormously tightly knit societies where individuality is less important than among humans.
Humans seldom get the chance to look into the Trilo structure, it is too alien and they do not have any interest in giving out sensitive social information. However, the Trilos often adapt to “enfold” humans and other species in customized social interactions to deal with them. Trilos have found that their flexible minds are able to adapt to the task of managing organisations of aliens, and have begun to run corporations among Strigae and humans with a vengeance. They seldom take a personal hand in the everyday running but instead act as investors, directors and strategic planners. Although it does take a certain kind of mindset of both the employees and executive Trilos to form a successful venture several such xenocorporations have proven very successful, like the Aescul Strigae and Yrekk Interfacing, a Lamplandae-Trilo virtuality patching association.
The Trilos in Ex have access to very high levels of technology, although the dominant culture is mainly a quantum technological society. Although they have “hard” nanotechnology, the Trilos excel in bionanotech. Tailored organisms are used for a variety of purposes, and when normal biology isn’t enough it is augmented with implanted hard nanotechnology. Trilos in Ex usually have significant internal enhancements such as nanotech immune systems, brain-virtuality links, various forms of nanoassemblers able to construct small objects and so on.
A sizeable fraction of Trilos live in technologically mediated group minds, where direct mind to mind communication makes them meld together even more firmly. Some Trilo corporations upload their members when they get to old and merge them into vast corporate minds that interface with members or other corporations.
Trilo buildings are commonly squat, with broad low-ceilinged rooms connected by ramps. They often extend both above and below water.
A common form of decoration is to treat shed shells in various ways and making furniture, art or tools from them. A common Trilo gift is a recently molted shell that has been worked into an artwork or tool.
The Trilos are on their way of becoming mainliners. They are no longer connected to anything outside Ex Tempore, and spend most of their interest on internal Trilo or Ex issues.
The Trilos do not take much notice per se of the humans. They are just one species among many, and the fact that they evolved on the same planet and share the basic DNA with the Trilos doesn’t mean much. In fact Trilos in general feel somewhat disgusted by the grublike endoskeletonness of humans.
Trilos get along better with Strigae, mostly through formal employer-employee ties. Over the last centuries many joint corporations have developed where the different species work in different functions. Some of these dominate trade in Namaqua, to the irritation of ambitious humans.