How you live so alone in your own head is beyond me. Never truly knowing each other, fearing each day and the uncertainty it brings. We know everyone, from our neighbors to the Queen Who Protects Us; her voice reaches us all, a gentle whisper each night that soothes our dreams and allows us to wake reassured. She protects us, our sanity and our confidence. And in return, we protect her.
The Tanndai are the most commonly encountered Tann off of their homeworld of Eril. Known colloquially as Techknights, these highly trained individuals are the protectors of the Tann people as a whole, and their Queen specifically. A Tanndai off of Eril is there to ensure situations throughout space don't boil over to harm Eril.
Masters of cybernetics, every Tanndai and practically every Tann has significant cybernetic conversion. Weapons are rare outside the Tanndai, but limbs, sensors, communications and armor are commonplace. These cybernetics are the most advanced in the Alliance, and are never given to non-Tann.
One enhancement every Tann has is a neural link. Short ranged, about 100 meters, this selective link allows Tann to merge minds with others near them. These links always broadcast emotions and general thoughts, but not necessarily specifics. A Tann family might know that one of them is hungry, but not what he wants to eat, unless he chooses to open his link wider.
The center of Tann society is their Queen. Hooked into a giant neural transmitter near the plane's core, the Queen is able to link into every Tann mind on the planet simultaneously. All Tann know their Queen personally, and feel her emotions daily. This gives the Tann a sense of inclusion unrivaled among other species. Tann crime is rare, typically committed only by those with faulty neural links.
Tann who leave Eril rarely travel alone, as no Tann want to be cut off from at least some emotional feedback via neural link. Tann aboard starships tend to be family groups as owners and operators, and Tann who settle off-world always gravitate towards each other, generally forming small ghettos to maximize the similarity to Eril's warrens.
There are really only two levels of Tann governance. At its lowest level, Tann communities (generally known as 'warrens') work as a simple representative democracy. Clans are led by a single member, and a new vote can be called at any time. This clan leader, or shor'mai, acts a community representative for that clan. A clan council acts as the basic framework of government in most warrens, appointing resources as they see fit for the benefit of the warren as a whole.
Anything above the warren is the province of the Queen and her advisers. The Queen herself makes policy decisions for the Tanndai, based on the information she gathers from her neural link as well as a select group of advisers on specific matters (such as economics, technology, defense). These advisers are part of the neural link, but when the Queen cannot reach a clear consensus, the opinions of these advisers are generally followed.
There are very few codified legal strictures on Tann. The majority of Tann law is simply the Queen's will, and everyone simply knows it. The few written laws are for the benefit of off-worlders.
Tann culture is very group oriented. Family, clan, warren, species, all Tann have a connection at each of these levels, particularly because of their neural links. There are very few secrets amongst Tann, as information tends to spread like a virus. Privacy is uncommon, but not really sought-after.
Because so much of their mental and emotional state is on display to the rest of their species, Tann tend to be very individualistic in other ways. Cybernetic modification is very common, with implants, body part replacements and cosmetic changes present in over 85% of all Tann.
Masks are also a major cosmetic item in Tann culture, as well as a status symbol. "You are born with your first face, but you choose your next one," is a saying on Eril. When a Tann garners enough influence in his chosen field, he may choose to design and wear a mask. This is never a rashly made decision; it says to those around him that he is worthy of choosing a new way for others to see him. The average employee at a Tann business has to have his face shown, so people can identify him, but when someone shows up on the factory floor with a Mask, he's proven that his life and his abilities has transcended his birth; he's earned the ability to reinvent himself.
A Tann who chooses a mask too early is considered pompous, the equivalent of a commoner who adds imaginary noble titles after his name. Fortunately, this rarely happens, as a Tann can sense the impressions those around him have of him through his neural link.
The masks themselves are each unique. They tend to have cybernetic interfaces, additional communications and sensors, as well as other options suited to the Tann's job. They tend to be geometric patterns, often incredibly exact; a right angle is often accurate to 1/10,000 of a degree, thanks to enhanced visual sensors. Colors vary wildly, including some which are only visible in ultraviolet or other spectrums. A custom that varies from warren to warren is inscribing the mask with ancestral data.
Since the Queen first brought the Tann together as a species, she has relied on a group of dedicated protectors, known as the Tann'Dai. These elite few are selected from birth, based on a variety of family criteria: medical history, psychological profile, physical projections. They are selected from every warren and every clan, allowing everyone to feel their blood line has contributed to their beloved queen's protection.
They are implanted with their first cybernetics at approximately six months old, a closed neural link, able to connect only to each other, a select few government officials and, of course, the Queen. Over the next ten years, they are fitted with cybernetic implants that will not need replacement with the aging process. During this time, they are trained intensely, on a wide variety of subjects: tactics, history, religion, psychology, chemistry, protocol, philosophy and ethics. The majority of this information is gained through educational implants, although some are the product of field and classroom training.
The limited neural link is for several reasons. One is to emphasize their importance and build esprit de corps. The only connections Tanndai have are to each other and their Queen. Not warrens, not families, not strangers. The only opinions that matter to them are those of their peers and their leader. This focuses their beliefs strongly on those of the Queen and their loyal brothers, since the outside world has no direct influence on their emotional state. It bonds them completely with their fellow Tanndai, since the only emotional feedback and support they receive are from them. Second, it allows the Tanndai to be aloof if necessary. A Tanndai can look dispassionately at any situation, because they don't have the emotional waves coming at them. Where another Tann might be willing to let a criminal go because they sense their overwhelming fear through their neural link, a Tanndai will do what needs to be done.
When the Tanndai candidate reaches physical maturity, they are given a wide variety of cybernetic enhancements, exceeding even the average Tanndai, depending on their projected assignment. High-grade weapons and armor are commonplace, as befits a bodyguard and elite soldier.
As training continues, the Tanndai candidate is psychologically programmed for loyalty to the Tann and Queen. This is done through standard indoctrination techniques, as well as a sense of belonging fostered through the neural link to other Tanndai. Experiments have been conducted regarding physically programming loyalty into a Tann's neural link. These were discontinued, however, because of the risk of a reprogrammed link being used to create an assassin. The popular holodrama "The Erilian Candidate" was based on just such a possibility.
During training, the default Tanndai moral code is that of the Queen's protectors: honor, a desire to protect the weak and innocent and personal bravery are all stressed. The majority of Tanndai, from Queen's personal bodyguards to roaming enforcers of the Queen's will throughout the galaxy, have this attitude. However, when the situation calls for it, additional moral imperatives may be downloaded via the neural link into individual Tanndai. This is most often used for covert and undercover assignments: deep cover operatives can be set to actually believe certain fabrications, even under torture, and morally reprehensible acts to the default Tanndai mindset, such as assassination or brutal expediency in combat, can be made palatable.
Tanndai go through significant amounts of martial arts training, as befits a monastic lifestyle. Tanndai military martial arts are a combination of several traditional martial arts styles (although these were developed primarily for balance, flexibility and muscle tone, as Eril never went through the long periods of interspecies warfare most species go though). Rather than striking, Tanndai martial arts involve grappling and using the dual opposing thumbs to dig deeply into vital components (eyes, genitals, etc.), or using their third leg as a lever to break the bones in an opponents extremities.
Tanndai weapon training could be said to be based on the philosophy of "whatever works." Initial training is with blunt objects such as staves and rods, but works up to high-tech weapons, including juicers and pulse cannons. In a fight, a Tanndai is trained to eliminate any threat to the Queen with the utmost expediency. Once that is accomplished, the default moral code of the Tanndai calls for a worthy opponent to be shown the respect he deserves.
At 18, a Tanndai candidate undergoes his final tests. It is a month long series of brutal exercises, with current Tanndai taking the roles of enemies and proctors. The tests are often extemporaneous, with Tanndai making up situations that parallel crises they've averted in the past. These range from combat and survival situations to unusual duties a Tanndai might have to perform. A popular sequence is a mile-long swim in freezing waters, leading directly into an elaborately staged recreation of a stock trading floor, where the candidate must mitigate an economic disaster for a Tanndai company. At the closing bell, the candidate is immediately attacked by a trained Erilian Face-Ripper.
Once they survive the testing (and 'survive' is the correct word; there is no place in the general Tann population for barely socialized killers with no emotional link to their neighbors), they are placed into duty rotation and given the Mask of Service.
All Tanndai wear masks. In earning their place as Tanndai, they have earned that right. However, unlike the rest of the Tann, Tanndai masks are standardized. They are known worldwide by all Tann as a badge of office for the Tanndai. It is, for all intents and purposes, their entire uniform. Each mask has connections that can plug into the audio and visual implants of a Tanndai.
There are 12 Tanndai masks, each representing a general rank, distinction or honor:
- The Mask of Service: Awarded to all new Tanndai, it is proof of the role, but nothing more.
- The Mask of Duty: This is a symbol of six years of service.
- The Mask of Honor: The highest honor a Tanndai can receive, it is for a lifetime of valiant service.
- The Mask of Courage: Awarded for selfless sacrifice, not necessarily in combat.
- The Mask of Protection: Awarded for directly preventing Tann deaths.
- The Mask of War: Awarded for extreme valor in combat.
- The Mask of Wisdom: A mark of worldliness and forethought, this is awarded to a Tanndai who solves problems without resorting to violence
- The Mask of Stealth: Given most often to Tanndai operating undercover, the Mask of Stealth is actually no mask at all; it is a series of plugs that cover the connectors for their facial sensors, allowing them to masquerade as non-Tanndai. They give off a disguised radio wave that can only be identified by other Tanndai sensors, so that a Tanndai knows when he is in contact with an undercover brother.
- The Mask of Pain: Awarded to a Tanndai who suffers grievous injury in the line of duty.
- The Mask of Guidance: Awarded to a Tanndai who devotes himself to the education of future Tanndai.
- The Mask of Stars: Awarded to Tanndai who serve off Eril. Difficult, because they have no neural link with the Queen, and because they have a species-wide agoraphobia.
- The Mask of Shame: Not so much awarded as bestowed, this is a punishment for failure in a mission, meant to remind the Tanndai that the well-being of their people ride on their shoulders. Very few Tanndai have this mask for very long; they either devote their energy to redeeming themselves with a vengeance, or they die in the attempt.
A Tanndai may choose to wear any mask they've ever been awarded, aside from when they are forced to wear the Mask of Shame. This will often tell you about their personality, and what skills and accomplishments they value most. A Mask of War Tanndai is generally a force to be reckoned with, while a Mask of Wisdom Tanndai prides himself on his mind. Some Tanndai choose to change their mask daily, and some wear one through their entire career. One Tanndai even chose to wear the Mask of Shame for the rest of his distinguished career, as a reminder of his foibles and as a promise to never let such a thing happen again.
The planet Eril is a small volcanic world in the Andromeda galaxy. Beneath its surface, the Tann work and live, harnessing the energy of the volcanic core to run their factories and the vast untapped mineral wealth beneath them to build their cybernetics. Among this technology, a peaceful race stands vigilant to protect its Queen.
Evolving from mole-like rodents found in the caves and tunnels of Eril, the Tann rose quickly from sentience to civilization. Their clan structure, innate empathy and abundant resources allowed them to cooperate in their development, rather than fight each other for resources as is common for many species. Scant centuries after the first recorded Tann nation-state, a planet-wide government was put into place, peacefully.
It was hardly a paradise, however. Despite the amount of resources, the interior of a volcanic planet is a harsh place, and the rapid industrialization of the Tann exacerbated the situation. Toxins and pollutants filled the tunnels, threatening the Tann with extinction. Among the suggested options (including genetic modification and a race-wide relocation to another planet), cybernetic enhancement to filter out the toxins was seen as the only cost-effective short-term solution. Within generations, the cybernetic implants had become a Tann way of life. The addition of neural links cemented it in their collective consciousness.
Eril's surface mineral composition is quite rare, with mildly radioactive ores interspersed throughout the igneous rock produced by the volcanic process. When an Eridani scout ship charted the system for the first time, Eril was written off as too difficult to scan for notable resources. It only received a closer look when unexplained interference in communication systems seemed to be coming from the planet.
Upon landing, the Eridani found the Tanndai waiting for them. Properly the Tann'Dai ("Protectors of the People"), these warriors had been preparing for the eventuality of alien existence for centuries. Despite this tense first contact, conflict was somehow avoided. Some stories say the Eridani commander, a Swordsaint of some reknown, saw a kindred spirit in the Tanndai warriors. Some say the Eridani were confident they could defeat the "primitive" aliens if they attacked. Some even say the Tanndai got the drop on the Eridani scouts.
Regardless, peaceful relations ensued. The Eridani discovered an industrialized race with interplanetary technology, whose cybernetics was beyond anything seen in the Alliance. Further investigation showed that the Tann actually had the technology to create interstellar vessels, but space travel was thought to be a dead-end technology for them; they had abundant natural resources and space on Eril, and the Queen's neural link didn't reach far beyond Eril's gravity well.
Once their planet was known by the universe at large, however, Tann policies had to change. Their cybernetic technology was too advanced for other races to leave them alone, and the Tann desired to take part in trading with others as well. This led to a new era for the Tann: one where the welfare of the entire race must be protected from all the threats the universe has to offer.
As previously mentioned, Tann are social creatures. A Tann who has no neutral link to any of his own kind is at an emotional handicap. They are poor bargainers, often failing completely to read basic emotional states of other species, even though they have the full range of emotions themselves. Tanndai, without a widespread neural link from childhood, tend to not have this difficulty.
As a primarily subterranean species, they have a difficult time adapting to open spaces, and suffer from a mild species-wide agoraphobia. Significant time in open air or in space can induce vertigo, nausea and even panic attacks.
The Tann neural link leads to a number of unusual psychological quirks. Polite lies are generally unknown in Tann culture, since they are impractical for a species that can detect emotional states. This doesn't mean they are actively rude, but they will not actively lie. For example, if a Tann sees a friend in a new item of clothing he thinks is ugly, he might say "That's not my style, I prefer a simpler pattern," rather than "That scarf is fantastic!" or, at the other end of the spectrum, "Your taste is wardrobe makes my eyeballs vomit.""
They also tend to be highly open sexually. It's difficult to be coy when everyone around you can sense your attraction to someone else. Tann in their adolescence receive a temporary vasectomy and are set loose, leading to spacer's legends of the voracious sexual appetite of the Tann. Most grow out of this phase, but are still apt to simply proposition someone only recently met if they are attracted to them and they sense similar feelings. This can lead to miscommunication among other races, resulting in violence and hilarity in equivalent amounts.
The Tann are carbon-based oxygen breathers. There is little unusual in their chemical makeup. Their senses, when unaugmented, are approximately equal to a humans, with a tendency toward nearsightedness in vision and an excellent sense of directional hearing, though not as advanced as echolocation.
Tann skin is a mottled grey, with only slight variants in shade. It is slightly resistant to radiation, enough to withstand the radioactive ores strewn throughout Eril's rocky surface. Shoulders and arms are similar to human, although the hands have six digits, with two opposable thumbs, one on each side of the hand.
The Tann has three legs, two front and one rear. The front hips are human-like, and the rear is in a more flexible ball-and-socket joint approximately where a human's coccyx would be. The knees have a range of movement similar to humans, although the rear leg bends in the opposite direction of the front. Each foot has three thick, elongated toes. These can be used to grasp, but are not truly prehensile. The tips of the toes have no nerve endings, making them impervious to pain. Tann can walk on these extended toes, or they can fold them up towards each other, walking on their more sensitive knuckles; the equivalent of walking barefoot. The genitals are located at the intersection of the three legs.
Their heads are long and thin, set on a forward-jutting neck. Facial features are vaguely human, with comparatively larger eyes and smaller noses. Their teeth are blunt, a remnant of chewing cave-grown lichen. Their diet does include some meat, but their speedy social evolution and experimentation has outstripped their physical evolution, so stomach enzyme pumps to aid the digestion of proteins are common implants in early childhood.
The favorite item of a Tann who has one is their mask, since it is so uniquely personal and a sign of their accomplishments. Otherwise, their favorite items are with them all the time: their cybernetics.
Tann gravitate towards loose fitting, flowing clothing, to prevent snags on various cybernetics and the ability to easily access any part of their body. Geometric patterns are very common, as are representations of mathematical formulas. A recent fashion show on Eril featured a frock coat where every measurement was a multiplier of pi to the 24th digit, and patterns of sine waves have been popular for years. Clothing colors, like those of masks, vary from the visual spectrum to those only visible through cybernetic implants.
Because of their nerveless feet, Tann don't typically wear shoes. Protective shoes are available if needed, for Tann who deal with caustic materials, for example, or for spacesuits. Facial coverings that aren't masks are non-existent; there's no such thing as a scarf on Eril.
The most popular hangout on Eril are computer cafes. They allow lots of Tann to congregate in a smaller area, and usually have small neural link hubs, allowing them to expand their link to more nearby Tann than usual. They tend to congregate towards similar places on other planets, even without the neural link hubs.
Traditional Tann buildings on Eril are carved from rock, and are situated vertically rather than horizontally. Due to the three legs of the Tann, they are able to scale narrow tunnels without using their arms. A Tann home, for example, is built around a single narrow vertical hallway, a tube down the center of the residence with various rooms set off the central hall. Being technically advanced, they often have anti-grav backups for moving heavy objects without assistance or for the benefit of non-Tann visitors. Décor varies widely, ranging from bare rock to wall hangings and other artwork.
When a Tann moves into his own abode to being a family, it is traditional for well-wishers from the new community and the Tann's own family and clan to bring a small sliver of rock from the walls of their own home to the newly independent Tann, although Tann who live in more modern homes often buy specially made tiles to give as gifts in place of actual rock. These tiles and rocks are made into a mural in the central tunnel, symbolizing both the unity and the variety of the Tann people.
When confronted with a threat, Tanndai will deal with any rank-and-file soldiers quickly and as efficiently as possible. A warrior with a code of honor, however, will usually be singled out for single combat.
Tann tend to be excellent cyberneticists and computer scientists. Strangely enough, they are also fantastic therapists, particularly when they are off-world; very few Tann on Eril need therapy (the neural link tends to help them develop well socially), but their knowledge of human-like nature from their neural link is invaluable in psychology.
The Tann diet is a combination of their past as herbivores and carnivorous additions aided by cybernetic implants. Ancient Tann diet consisted primarily of mosses and lichen found in underground caves. Their digestion processes were very efficient, however, so they never developed advanced farming techniques. When their industrialization led to population outstripping their gathering capability, they added meat to their diet, often aided by enzyme pumps implanted in childhood.
Today, the Tann import significant amounts of food in the form of plants and vegetables from off-worlders. Earth bamboo is somewhat of a delicacy, as it has a unique sweet and spicy flavor to the Tann tastebuds. It is also mildly narcotic, though not addictive, and chewing bamboo is a vice many Tann indulge in, with about the same regularity as cigarette smokers on 20th century Earth.
Tann often keep small pets. The most popular are Yorin, which appear to be a cross between warthogs and caterpillars, and grow to be about 15 pounds. They are fairly intelligent, very clean and affectionate creatures, and are very popular with families.