The panNorm are an insectoid species originally found on the S-14 colony ship and now only found in the "S-14" nation, more accurately known as the Coordinated panNorm Hives. There are four main races of panNorm, mostly classified as to their carapace color: Blue, Red, Green, and Mini. While this would normally be considered racist, these races are actually nearly distinct species, each particularly adapted to specific tasks. The color of their carapaces are a secondary attribute, as they will be the first to admit, but it is also the most obvious.
Universal panNorm Traits
All panNorm are generally ant-like in appearance, insectoid, with hard chitinous outer shells that make up three major body segments (the head, thorax, and abdomen) and six appendages that extend from the thorax. The most forward of these appendages have three major joints and are equivalent to arms and end in bony manipulator claws, four to a 'hand.' The four appendages behind these have four major joints and act as legs and end in multi-clawed feet that can grip porous surfaces easily.
All panNorm have complex compound eyes, each facet of one similar to a normal human eye but with a much more durable lens, placed on the sides of their heads for stereoptic vision to the front and nearly 360° monoptic vision all around. They all have two antennae that extend from their heads anterior to their eyes, and their mouths all have two sets of external "teeth"--two mandibles, which are large grinding and cutting teeth, and multiple maxillae, which are smaller teeth for processing food. It is generally disconcerting for humans to watch panNorm eating solid foods.
Internally, all panNorm have internal load-bearing endoskeletons that are connected to their exoskeletons via structural members that resemble the inside of bird bones. Their anatomy is quite complex, with spiracles all over their body leading to multiple respiratory systems and highly evolved nervous systems. They are by no means related to Terrestrial insects but only resemble them externally.
Each race of the panNorm has particular differences which make it unique compared to the others. All of these differences are the product of fifteen million years of divergent evolution from the True Norm aboard the colony ship S-14.
An example of a Blue panNorm
Blues tend to be two to two-and-a-half meters long from mandible to gaster and are optimized for living at around one gravity. Their carapaces are primarily blue with green highlights along joints and plate intersections. They are about as strong as a human of similar mass, a little more durable, slightly less dextrous and far more "intelligent" as measured by speed of learning and concept retention, although this is probably augmented by constant connection to the panNorm gestalt. Their primary physical distinction (aside from color) is their bulbous braincase.
Blues are the scientists and computer technicians of the panNorm, often fulfilling navigation and data analysis roles on the S-14 colony ship and administrative roles as a whole. They enjoy science and learning for its own sake and will voraciously learn and discover whatever they can for the benefit of the panNorm. Of all the panNorm races, they are the best at formal diplomacy and often take the role of 'leaders' to outsiders.
An example of a Soldier Red panNorm
All Reds are around two-and-a-half meters long from mandible to gaster and are optimized for life at 1.4 gravities. Their carapaces are red overall with black highlights along the joints. They are all much stronger and more durable than similarly massed humans, but are about equivalently dextrous and far "duller" mentally if engaged in topics outside their field.
Engineer Reds evolved in the reactor rooms of S-14 and have smooth carapaces similar to Blues. They are the applied technologists of the panNorm, taking what the Blues discover and learn and making it useful. As such, they tend to disdain intellectualism in favor of pragmatic applications of technology.
Soldier Reds evolved from Engineer Reds on the 1.4-gravity Ring Plain of S-14 and are optimized for warfare. They have no interest in learning whatsoever outside of tactics, strategy, and applied violence and appear to be mentally "slow" compared to any baseline human. They are, however, exquisite fighters. Their carapaces have spiky protrusions that are often used as natural weaponry in addition to the usual manipulators and mandibles.
An example of a Green panNorm
Greens are about one-and-a-half meters from mandible to gaster and are used to living in null gravity. As such, they are visibly spindly compared to the other panNorm races and are far less strong and far less durable than a comparable human. They do have a slightly increased dexterity, though, and appear to be on parity in intelligence. Generally neutral during the Blue/Red conflicts aboard S-14, they seem to be far more sedate and Zen-like, which comes from their purpose of tending hydroponic gardens. They are the naturalists of the panNorm and make excellent ecologists, being partially responsible for the terraformation of Venus. When on a planetary surface, they usually travel around in wheelchairs described as similar to shopping carts.
Minis come in a variety of colors and shapes, but all are between seven and thirteen centimeters in length (thus the name "Mini"). They are the technicians of the panNorm, capable of repairing delicate equipment without resorting to waldoes or special tools. They are much stronger and more durable than comparatively massed humans, but as there are no half-kilogram humans, they are limited by their size. They are far more dextrous, but seem to be extremely simple mentally, operating on a complex if-then stimulus-response structure similar to Skinneresque behaviorism.
The panNorm are a collection of individuals connected by constant biological radio 'telepathy,' which gives any individual an inherent understanding of how the local panNorm are faring at any given time. This inherent understanding is utilized by Coordinators, who logically coordinate the actions of the panNorm in order to achieve species' and racial objectives; it is also used by Queens to determine what kind of panNorm need to be born and raised to meet the same objectives. The structure, in this case, is essentially identical to that of an insect hive without resorting to true groupthink as would be seen in a true hive mind. The panNorm regulate themselves because they simply know how by virtue of instinct. While this is again beneficial for coordination and stability, the lack of conflict impedes progress technologically and culturally.
The panNorm is "controlled" in its entirety by the OverCoordinators, who continue to act by instinct rather than governmental analysis. The panNorm politically could classify as a racially segmented oligarchy, but it lacks any form of legal structure and is more akin to a mediated anarchy than anything else.
The panNorm attitude towards individuality is highly detached, seeing it mostly as a theoretical construct to separate the self from the radio telepathy 'overmind.' They agree with the statement "I think, therefore I am" but in considering themselves--or any other individual--the statement lacks any suggestion of value beyond its immediate truth value: "I" may "be" but that does not mean that "I" have any intrinsic value. The individual has value only in its contribution to the hive, which ranges from what it does in its life to when its biomass is recycled into life support expendables. This value is constantly measured subconsciously compared to the value of resources absorbed and lost to the individual which, while relatively low, does set a lower acceptable limit on productivity. If the good of the species states that an individual panNorm is 'better off dead,' that panNorm dies, either willingly submitting itself for reprocessing (the usual case) or attempting to resist, being overcome by its peers, and reprocessed anyway (what the panNorm would consider an unhealthy psychosis-based race treason). AdminCoordinator 67521 touches on these attitudes in telling how she gained her post:
- "I have been serving in an overall administrative and chief-diplomatic role since I reached intellectual maturity, at which point I took my position upon the scheduled termination of my predecessor, AdminCoordinator 67520."
Procreation is accomplished by multiple "Mothers of Us All" for each panNorm subspecies. These "Mothers" fulfill the queen role in the panNorm caste system, and, being the only ones capable of breeding, are extremely well protected. The attitude of the average panNorm individual towards procreation is therefore one of a distant duty, an important service to the species but one they themselves are glad not to have to be concerned with. The panNorm control their procreation through eugenics and throttle the birth rate by the same instinctive need that drives everything else in their coordination; it is usually considered a simple if technical process and was clinically described by AdminCoordinator 67521:
- "Individual purpose is determined by the needs of the Hive at any given point in time. Eggs are laid and pupae bred dependent upon the gross population needs at any given time; pupae are allowed to become fully mature once a role has been found for them in the society, essentially to fill a gap in the overmind. Excess prenatal and natal resources, or those that do not meet the specifications of tolerable genetic drift range, mental capability, physical strength, and other such parameters are recycled back into the life support system to ensure a minimal waste of biomass."
While the panNorm are not a hive mind in the strictest sense, to an outside observer the panNorm appear to qualify. Singular panNorm lack individuality in that nothing in panNorm culture or psychology is personalized beyond those differences which are natural to differences in function. All Blue Scientists think alike, all Red Engineers think alike, all Green Ecologists think alike. While this is extremely beneficial to coordination, it is detrimental to progress in research; note that it took fifteen million years for the panNorm to develop a faster-than-light drive from a sublight interplanetary technology base by trial and error alone.
Coordinators appear to have more "culture," externally, but this is because their duties require additional information beyond the knowledge base of what they are coordinating. Any coordination requires a greater knowledge base to allow for consilience. The higher up the Coordinator, the greater the consilience required and thus the greater the knowledge base necessary.
Culture due to Nature
PanNorm culture is self-admittedly self-limiting. The highest virtue in panNorm culture is efficiency, and all aspects of panNorm life reflect this. The panNorm do not play, at least not in ways that do not contribute directly and efficiently into work. The panNorm do not decorate, but everything they build has a geometric elegance and simplicity based directly on form following function. The panNorm have no visual, performing, or musical arts beyond those immediately necessary to facilitate use of displays and communications.
Culture due to History
The panNorm are recovering from a series of racially-instigated "Succession Wars" based on when each race mistakenly thought itself to be the True Norm. The True Norm, when they launched S-14, created a Prime Directive to prevent genetic anomaly:
All deviations from the Norm are anomalies and are not to be suffered to propagate without appropriate genetic manipulation to keep them within nominal standards.
Over time, the True Norm began to split according to its particular duties, and these individual populations began to diverge, each one thinking itself to be the True Norm. The advanced genetic technology was lost when the last vestiges of the genetic-True Norm went extinct, and the Prime Directive changed:
All deviations from the Norm are abominations and are not to be suffered to live.
Thus, every race of the panNorm tried to exterminate every other race, with the conflict eventually settling along the Blue-Red axis (as they were the strongest and most capable to fight). This turned out to be impossible because by this time each race of the panNorm had entered so far into its niche that it could not replicate the duties of the other races. Every race was required for survival, but every race was an abomination to be destroyed. This continued as S-14 entered the Solar System, where a team of explorers entered and revealed the truth to the panNorm populace.
Because of this history, all panNorm races are relatively openly racist towards each other. There have been continued racial conflicts even after the acknowledgement of the panNorm simply due to continued friction, although these conflicts have been relatively small and kept very quiet to outsiders. The panNorm are also racist towards endoskeletals, such as humans, although to not the same extent--humans are different and alien (and disgusting, lacking a neat exoskeleton to hold their insides in), but not an abomination of the insectoid ideal. The panNorm acknowledge this and do their best to work around or past it, and they have made great progress in the centuries following the end of the Succession Wars.
The Prime Directive still exists, just modified again:
All threats to the continued survival of the panNorm are abominations and will not be suffered to continue.
While this is closer to the original, it underlines a key facet of panNorm culture--the will to survive at whatever cost and, perhaps more importantly for outsiders, at whomever's cost. The panNorm, when they entered the Solar System, were willing to eliminate all life on Earth in a kinetic-based nuclear winter if it was necessary for them to find a safe location to colonize; the nations of the previously mentioned teams of explorers prevented this by directing them to Venus. What they are slower to admit now is that they are still completely willing to annihilate whatever they need to in whatever scale they need to to survive, as can be seen by the tensions with Wazzu and Eniqcir after corporations from those two nations posited changing the orbital characteristics and thus climate of Venus, which would have conflicted with the panNorm's plans and been immediately detrimental to their survival. This fact is currently hidden under an otherwise cordial diplomatic demeanor to anyone who they find supplemental to their survival at any given time.