A small selection of Aquaans.
Aquaans are a hermaphroditic anthromorph people living alongside humankind. The two species are so tightly integrated that the term 'humanity' has come to refer to both humans and Aquaans.
Their population has never been high. At first contact, there were around 250 of them. Now the population is closer to 3000.
The Aquaans made themselves known to humankind in AU172, though they had known about humans for at least half a century beforehand due to picking up transmissions.
Accepting the Aquaans and their advanced biological sciences changed the lives of every human. Within twenty years, the human lifespan had been extended to three hundred years, cloning became practical and accepted, and medical sciences leapt forward.
Possibly the most famous Aquaan was the First Speaker, Thalassa Lamassu, who was the first Aquaan to interact with humanity. She was mistaken for their leader because of this - in fact, Lamassu was only the best linguist in the group.
The genship Waayaun was decommissioned and docked on Earth, where it was turned into a museum.
Why the Aquaans were travelling in their genship is unknown, even to them - several thousand years was enough to make them forget. The most common theory is that they were simply a colony ship that decided to keep going.
The original forms of the Aquaans are unknown. They wore reptilian forms on the genship, adapted for that environment.
Etymology and Language
The word 'Aquaan' has nothing to with water and isn't even the species' original name. 'Aquaan' is a language-drift of Aqwaayauni or the People of the Night Wind, ie: the people of the genship; from Aqi - people; waa - wind; yaun - night. Person singular is Aqu, though the 'u' is generally dropped when the word is a prefix. The pluraliser is 'i', though contact with humans Standardised the plural of Aquaan to Aquaans instead of Aquaani. While the species' original name is 'Aqi', the Aquaans consider it inaccurate for themselves, having been separated from their origins and changed so much that they feel themselves to be a distinct species.
Aquaane is a bit of a mishmash, with new words made from squishing smaller words together, borrowed from other Aqi languages, and several thousand years of drift. Despite their time on the genship, they managed to preserve their language for the most part, even when they had no use for the words. For example, a gheellou was a type of nocturnal bird, and they kept the word even though they hadn't any birds on the ship.
All Aquaans born after first contact speak Standard as their first language. Very few speak Aquaane and use the language for little more than naming their children.
The Aquaane word for humans is Aqrellshi or the Divided People, referring both to their sexual dimorphism and general habit of finding things to fight each other about. The Aquanne word for entomorphs is Aqilli or the Bright People, referring to their colourful exoskeletons.
In terms of idiom, Aquaans tend not to use metaphors or euphemisms, preferring to state things directly. ( This seems to be a comparatively recent shift, since the genship had the rather poetic name of Night Wind. ) They avoid using possessive language except in terms of direct family, working relationships, or other non-subjective relationships. Otherwise, "We are friends," is preferred over, "It is my friend". They also avoid 'conquest' language - an Aquaan won't say it took or had a person, or made a conquest, or any of the like if it can just say, "We had sex," instead.
Aquaans have very few visible cultural trappings - there is no such thing as Aquaan cuisine, Aquaan fashion, or Aquaan holidays, for instance, and they simply merge into whatever human culture they find themselves in. One thing they all seem to do is their names are arranged surname first, then given name ( eg: for Thalassa Lamassu, 'Thalassa' is the family name. )
What they have is something called the Etiquette, which is a long list of behaviour rules and guidelines. The Etiquette is rooted in genship living, where cooperation, compromise, self-control, and general live-and-let-live were the primary survival traits. Most humans don't realise how all-encompassing the Etiquette is and think it's only about propositioning strangers for sex.
Aquaans have a distrust of possessiveness when it comes to sentient beings deep enough that they're leery of marriage. While capable of long term monogamous relationships, formalising it feels too much like ownership. Aquaans will sometimes stay together for a decade or two to raise their children, but in general they're a species of single parents.
There is no hierarchy within the Aquaans - they have no leader one may be taken to. This, combined with the fact that they value service over command, can make humans believe them to be servile and unambitious.
Aquaans are deeply pacifistic, to the point of finding even rough sports distasteful and embarrassing to watch.
Aquaans often take jobs in biological, chemical, or medical fields, at least partially due to cultural pressure. The stereotypes cut both ways - while an Aquaan will be assumed to be a better biologist than an equally-skilled human, an Aquaan in a technical or mechanical job will be assumed to be less skilled than an equivalent human.
Physically, Aquaans appear nearly human. Most humans can identify them by sight through various small tells, but others can't.
Aquaans tend to be tall and slender, usually ranging between 1.8 and 2.0 metres. Skin ranges from medium to dark brown, hair tends to be from medium brown to black and straight, but the eyes are light, usually shades of green or blue but amber is also possible. They are longer in the torso than humans. They have minimal body hair and no facial hair. Aquaans are generally androgynous unless they put an effort into presenting a gender, or when pregnancy adds extra curves.
Unclothed, an Aquaan is likely to be mistaken for a slender woman since the gonads are internal and the penis tucks back, held in place by the labia majora when not in use.
Aquaan genship forms.
During their time on the Waayaun, the Aquaans were reptilian - something like snakes with long arms and short legs, about 1.2 metres tall. When they resolved to meet humanity, they used their bioengineering skills to alter their DNA and make themselves appear human, fearing that they would be rejected as reptiles. Such an extensive change took thirty years to complete.
Pronouns and Perceived Gender
Because 'it' is considered rude among humans and Standard has no proper hermaphroditic pronouns, Aquaans adopt gendered pronouns. Aquaan children are strictly 'it', but during puberty they come to accept that their lives among humans will be easier if they use gendered pronouns. The choice can be made based on anything from feeling it identifies with one gender more than another to a coin flip. Some Aquaans refuse to play along and remain 'it' their whole lives. However, a third-person Aquaan whose chosen pronoun is unknown is always 'it', such as in this article.
However, 'it' is not considered rude among Aquaans. An Aquaan speaking of a hypothetical human, or if it doesn't know the human's pronouns, uses 'it' as the polite term.
Aquaans are biologically almost - but not quite - human. Ninety percent of the differences involve the arrangement of the reproductive organs. Most of the remaining differences are invisible, such as how Aquaan bones and muscles are denser than those of humans, making Aquaans stronger and heavier than they look.
Aquaan children tend to be smaller than their human peers, then gain all their height at puberty. Puberty tends to start at about age ten, lasting for seven or eight years. Aquaans have a lifespan of about 450 years. Their age doesn't show until the last decade, when they decline rapidly.
Humans and Aquaans are incompatible for blood transfusion or organ transplants, and cannot interbreed.
Aquaans are isogamic hermaphrodites - while possessing both male and female sex organs, they have only one set of gonads. Aquaans have two sets of chromosomes, written as VV.
Aquaans do not have a menstrual cycle or a mating season - estrus is self-controlled. When a pair want to breed, they effect hormonal changes in themselves that change their pheromones, which then activates other hormones in their partner that start their bodies to becoming fertile - the uterine lining fills out and the gonads release a gamete into the womb instead of shunting it all out through the penis.
The estrus cycle takes several days to complete. Usually an Aquaan pair will seclude themselves for a week, spending time with one another, as they require fellow-Aquaan-in-estrus pheromone triggers to complete the process. Any other Aquaan in the vicinity will avoid an Aquaan in estrus so as to not be stimulated themselves. An Aquaan in estrus also has a higher than normal sex drive, and while they can seem perfectly normal if they work at it, their attention is prone to wander and they get grabby with anyone in reach, so it's considered polite to avoid bystanders. An Aquaan in estrus doesn't have to have sex, it just really, really wants to.
An Aquaan cannot naturally self-impregnate. The gametes recognise same-types by pheromones and won't bind.
If only one partner wants to become pregnant, the other uses prophylactics.
If an Aquaan who went through estrus doesn't become pregnant, the uterine lining is reabsorbed.
Gestation is eight months. Aquaan newborns tend to weigh between two to three and a half kilograms.
Aquaans have identical and fraternal twins at the same frequency as humans - about one percent. However, Aquaans also have 'paternal' twins, when both parents become pregnant during the same estrus cycle. Most Aquaan siblings are paternal twins.
Aquaan technological development was focused almost entirely on the biological sciences. Almost all mechanical advancement was to the direct purpose of advancing their biological sciences. Even the Waayaun was a relatively simple, basic machine.