Ermin (pronounced UR-min): An Overvview
The Ermin are a relatively small and frail race of mustelids which were originally native to the planet Touraine on the northern galactic gulf. The species is space bound, living out of starships as a result of a nuclear holocaust on their homeplanet. All Ermin planetside died, the only survivors were the miners who were operating in space at the time. After the war they remained in space, traveling from system to system for hundreds of years, leaving them in their present situation. Ermin are very small compared to the galactic standards of species, being only three feet tall (not counting the tail) on average and weighing approximately fifty pounds on average. From several hundred years of living in space, the collective physical strength and durability of the race has declined significantly. The original Ermin of Touraine were suspected to be nearly a foot taller and a sixty pounds heavier when the extra muscle and bone mass was taken into account. The Ermin retain their dull blue gray coats even in space, along with the dark patterns that separate out different families. A curious note is that Ermin grow a thicker, white coat during the winter. Compared to the galactic average they also live notoriously short lifespan, dying of old age around thirty and becoming fully physical mature and sexually functional around the age of five. This is likely a side effect of their alarmingly high metabolism, which makes it so that any member of their species does not need more than three hours of sleep a night to function normally. Most Ermin are slender because of this, however obesity is possible and easily achieved through chemical imbalances in the body.
A normal Ermin eats six meals a day, and while they are nothing too substantial in terms of actual size, the amount of calories in Ermin food is amazingly high, as they require almost 11,000 calories a day. An Ermin that is forced to live off of normal food will die of malnutrition in six or seven days. As such, all Ermin have nutritional supplements they carry with them while eating away from their normal food, allowing them to get the required nutrients and carbs to stay functional (these however are not the best tasting). Needless to say, non-Ermin who try to live off their food get some very bad stomach issues, ranging from constipation to failure to digest outright, which would require stomach pumping if the creature would ever wish to eat again. If a creature can stomach it successfully, they are likely to eat far more than an Ermin would eat, resulting in an intake of nearly eight thousand calories in a single sitting. As such most shy away from Ermin cooking when staying with them, eating from the off fleet restaurants, that is unless they can handle the indigestion or possibility of gaining seven pounds a day for the duration of their stay. As stated above, some Ermin experience sudden metabolic imbalances in times after puberty, resulting in needing fewer calories to function and causing the rest to go into storage, leading to weight gain. There are tests to detect this and methods to prevent it, however it is uncommon and not all Ermin bother with the testing, however the weight cannot be worked off as easily as with other species. That being said, the Ermin are actively pursuing new DNA alteration technology to keep their gene pool up to date, as their numbers are so few there is a higher chance of undesirable genetic traits appearing as the generations go on.
Female Ermin are slightly larger and sturdier than their male counterparts, but the differences are subtle and not likely to be noticed by other species. Naturally there is more muscle mass, along with a small height difference. It is believed that back while they were still primitive and evolving, the females were responsible for guarding the young and food caches in the burrow, while the males roamed, tunneling and searching for more food to bring back. Male Ermin still retain their digging claws, but it is a social norm to grind them down to smaller, almost nonexistent sizes. If left untrimmed for a week or so, they develop into large, heavy digging claws, not unlike a mole’s. Females lack these digging claws entirely. It is almost impossible for a female to conceive more than one child at once, but gestation is short (about four months) and all Ermin couples typically have more than four children as a social norm, but families with ten or more children are not uncommon.
Sense wise Ermin have relatively poor eyesight compared to standards, both from their time in space and their relation to ancient tunneling mammals of their homeworld. However the sense of smell, touch and vibration is far above that of most galactic species (again, linking back to their old origins living in tunnels). The Ermin achieve this heightened sensory input from two unique evolutionary traits. The first is the existence of an organ not unlike a lateral line, a specialized sensory organ that runs down the length of their body which is normally found in aquatic animals to detect vibrations in the water. This organ works to a limited degree in air, but works a lot better when in close proximity with a solid object like a tunnel wall or the hull of a starship. The lateral line generates a weak electromagnetic field around the Ermin which can detect vibrations and other disturbances inside of it. The second uncommon feature about the Ermin is the fact that they are capable of pheromone based communication. They describe it as something less than using a language and more along the lines of painting. Different chemicals are secreted automatically through special glands which would smell like a faint musk to other species. Ermin are capable of reading and understanding the chemical combinations to have far more intimate interpersonal relations/communications to those around them, granted that they are Ermin. To other species the best comparison would be someone walking by and you hear them talking about how they feel exactly at that moment. While this ability to read and paint chemical pictures is usually limited to their own kind, Ermin can learn to read other species and their chemical responses if they spend enough time in close proximity to them. However the ability would be one way, the other creature not being able to read the Ermin. These two features combined have led some to believe that Ermin have a kind of sixth sense, being able to detect a person and their intentions before any other obvious signs have presented themselves. In addition, these chemicals are also capable of causing some mild behavioral changes or thought process changes. While these are very obvious to the Ermin being influenced, the ability to brush it off takes concentration, so it is most effective when the Ermin is intoxicated. The suggestions are usually sexual in nature, but also general feelings of attraction, acceptance or repulsion.
Society and Space:
Currently there are no major planet bound groups of Ermin, almost all live together in massive fleets of ships that all focus around one central, colossal ‘Homeship’ which contains most of the living quarters and logistical support for life in space, along with significant manufacturing and weapons capabilities. All Ermin share their names with the ship they were born too in the form of a “de –shipname-” after their last name (their ship of origin is a thing of great pride for their people). Other ships in the fleet are specifically designed to do certain tasks like mining, growing food, and defensive operations.
Typical Ermin are classified by their workaholic and hyperactive nature. They are almost always doing something productive or living up life to its fullest. As such they put a lot of investment in the material world, taking interest in worldly pleasures like money, art, and exotic foods. Ermin fleets always contain several ships that are exclusively used for entertainment purposes which contain all varieties of things from art galleries, bars, restaurants, rave areas, brothels, and libraries.
Life in space has ups and downs for the species and the Ermin have a unique way of going about it. Since there is no day and night and no seasons in space, the Ermin adjust the lighting and temperature in their ship’s hallways, corridors and common areas to mimic day and night by increasing and decreasing the amount of light present for the time on the ship’s clocks. The seasons are mimicked in a similar way by raising or decreasing the temperature for each. This can actually force the Ermin on a ship to grow their winter coat at the appropriate time of the year as well. Worth noting that only the common areas are affected by this. Personal quarters and vital areas like the sick bay or bridge are kept on constant climate control which is separate from the changes outside in the hallways. All ships in a fleet try to keep their internal clocks matched while they are together. Living in space does have some adverse affects on the species and individuals as well. As stated above, the species has degenerated somewhat physically over time off of planets. Luckily their immune system has not been compromised over time, as they allow other races to visit as well as some general hygiene issues which arise from the working conditions on most of their mining ships (this influx of bacteria has kept their immune systems up to date and active, rather than isolated and allowed to degrade). Constantly living in a confined space has also lead to a rather mild form of agoraphobia throughout the race. Ermin can become physically uncomfortable if left in open areas without walls, ceilings or climate controls. Few Ermin have been on planets, so the ideas of open areas are a rather alien thought to them, and being stuck in one without a wall to your back can leave them unnerved, feeling vulnerable. Comparatively, an Ermin stuck in an open area could end up feeling like how a normal creature would feel if they were afraid of heights and up high. The feeling of vulnerability varies on the individual; some can brush it off easily while others cannot leave a ship.
Most ships and fleets in the Ermin Migratory are headed by a “House”, a leading family that is the equivalent of their nobility, the individual leader being called a Baron. Ermin who are not in a House lack a last name, have less respect in general and are treated as second class citizens, the working class as it were. While House Ermin are responsible for major ship operations and roles as commanders and officers, non-House Ermin are usually left working in the industrial areas, along with general janitorial and maintenance work, although they can own small businesses, serving in defense fleets, and working as police officers and doctors. All non-House Ermin are also disallowed from wearing the bright House colors, wearing grays and browns instead. Regardless, the non-House Ermin often form beneficial alliances to the major Houses which increase their overall prestige and opportunities in life in return for their loyalties. The major houses are House Ereux, House Bourbon, House Lalique, and House Bastille. Each House holds significant numbers of ships and resources as well complete authority over them. Laws of Houses can vary, and are enforced individually by each House depending on the ship.
Almost all focus on mining operations as their major source of income. However their strip mining techniques are highly destructive to the natural environments, and the governments have since limited their planet based mining operations to uninhabited rock worlds or planets not capable of supporting life. Worth noting that almost all mining operations that are now conducted by the Ermin are based off of asteroid mining and hydrogen gas mining. The Ermin are actually rather advanced in their mining techniques, and are often capable of undercutting other mining corporations in the core worlds in terms of prices on their raw materials. That and their constant use of privateers to defend claimed areas and disrupt rival groups has since put them on odd terms with the galactic governments. Most Ermin fleets tread lightly and spend most of their time mining outside of the government jurisdiction and selling to the species and organizations which are not supplied by main stream companies and aid groups from the galactic core. They are the single largest source of metal, alloys, fuel, and negative energy batteries outside of legal space.
Religion and Death:
The Ermin are a passionate people in their material life, as well as in their spiritual life. All Ermin follow a single religion that spans the species called The Cycle. There is an idea of a single entity, an amassment of all souls, basically the equivalent of their God, which is called The Silver Sea (a beach scene at night with the sky full of stars and the most light comes from a glowing, silver white sea). Put most simply, the Ermin believe in a system of reincarnation, their souls moving from body to body through their existence. The Silver Sea is the mass collection of souls which is their ultimate destination, their heaven. Souls go through each of their body’s lives, trying to experience as much as they can, live each of their lives to their fullest in every way possible. If a soul goes through a great many lives, living each to their fullest and not letting chances to better themselves and their families pass them by, than the soul will be considered valued and experienced enough to rejoin The Silver Sea to continue the rest of eternity living and basking in the glory of all lives that have been lived. Sinful Ermin (ones who squander life and its gifts, like family, passion, and love) are forced to continue their reincarnation cycle until their soul is deemed worthy to reenter the Sea. Truly terrible sinners are forced to have their soul stranded on the Beach, and whenever they would try to approach the Sea, it would recede as they approached, never to reach it. The Barren Beach is the Ermin equivalent of a hell.
Death is treated as a necessary, however a very painful part of life. The body is ultimately not considered to be as sacred as other cultures would think of it. The Ermin body is however carefully guarded and watched over for the day following death as rituals are performed to ease the pain of the soul leaving its mortal shell. After a day, the body is merely a husk with no other value and is usually cremated. Ermin who suffer a death in which the body is destroyed or lost (as in a ship’s distruction) prayer services are held for the eventual return of the soul to the Sea, as they did not have anyone to help guide them when they died. Loved ones are thought to still be found if one were to stare into a mirror that overlooked a crowded room. Some Ermin say that the true soul can be seen through a silver mirror, and it would be the best say of seeing a loved one again in this world. Loved ones thought to be in the Sea are believed to be able to touch the souls of their living family in their dreams, coming to them in visions with overwhelming feelings of peace and happiness.
There are rumors that on Touraine there exists a mirror that would allow one to see his or her true soul. A direct link to The Silver Sea. However there is too much fear over that place, the nuclear war that devastated the species is believed to have caused so many deaths that their billions of souls have been stranded outside of The Silver Sea…and would take any body that would approach them. All Ermin ships that have dared return to Touraine have never been heard from again, further exaggerating the paranormal and other worldly nature of the planet.
Atypical Ermin behavior, deviancy, multiple personality disorders, mental illness, and other social strangeness can be explained away with their religion as well. Deviant Ermin are called “Alembics”, creatures who have had two souls (or an improper one) try to inhabit the same body, causing them to merge into a single new soul which displays the odd traits. Emile Lalique de Marne is an example of an Alembic because of his homosexuality; it is believed that a feminine soul took refuge in his body in addition to the masculine one (or opposed to one). Alembics are typically treated as strange, or peculiar, but otherwise accepted into society.
Government and Politics:
The Ermin focus heavily on the Houses and personal families, and their political system reflects that. Ships and fleets also factor in, as each is almost like its own personal town. Each fleet is lead by a Baron and his council of advisors, the commanders of each ship under his jurisdiction. The Baron is always a pureblood Ermin (usually the position is inherited), rather than a member of a non-House family. While the Baron has the final word in any situation for the fleet, the Captain’s Council almost always determines the course of action the Baron will take, as he is nothing without his supporters. The entire race is controlled collectively by a single, elected individual known as the Marquess, who once held the title of a Baron before his or her ascension to the higher leadership role. The Marquess has the final say over anything that affects the entire race, but like the Barons, he or she is influenced heavily by a council of underlings. Each fleet sends three representatives to the Grand Council. The Baron of each fleet arrives with two councilors in tow that he has no real control over, one that represents the entire clergy of his fleet, and one that represents the entire proletariat of his fleet. The Grand Reader is personally picked by the highest members of the Cycle’s religious leadership in each fleet respectively. The Grand Reader is not necessarily a person of power in the Cycle’s temples, just who they believe is most worthy to represent them. The Grand Worker is the Ermin which the lower working class proletariat picks personally by majority vote, the only limitation on the vote being that no House Ermin can vote, or run respectively. While the Grand Worker is not the most respected councilor in the group, he holds more influence over his fleet than either of the other two would like to admit. When in the Grand Council, both the Baron and his two councilors have an equal say, each fleet making up a total of three separate votes.
While the votes of the three councilors represent a significant portion of the Ermin fleet, the Marquess is capable of going against the Grand Council, as they are merely his or her highest advisors and not an actual governing party. This is most common during times of extreme crisis, where rule by comity can be too slow and unwieldy. However if the Marquess is acting truly in a way that is impeding the race as a whole or endangering them, the Grand Council will move to have him ousted from power or simply no longer follow his instructions. The Marquess usually sets all encompassing doctrines and political plans for the race to follow, leaving the Barons to their own devices as the follow the general instructions of the Marquess.
The Houses themselves are ruled by the Barons, however they make choices like a family would. Often they argue and bicker, bus sometimes agree on subjects and actions…there is no voting or requirement to follow another Baron’s instructions, they go about their business. However, being family, there is usually an inclination to try and stay politically cooperative. Each Baron controls his own division of the EMFSF and privateers, however the security forces are in a whole, more loyal to the entire House than just one Baron.
Visitations and Vice:
Non-fleet species are welcomed to visit the Ermin Migratory Fleets. Foreigners are the best source of income for the Ermin, buying metal, fuel, supplies, art, etc. Most ships that are fitted with docking bays have larger common areas and shopping districts near the bay, allowing non-fleets to travel around the ship to a limited degree (otherwise they could not easily fit in the corridors). The Ermin also offer a wide variety of food that is edible for them, as well as small hotels and other services to allow the visitors to stay for a few days without much hastle. While with the fleet the visitors can travel wherever they can fit…traveling to other ships like the entertainment ships for fun and factory ships to look over industrial projects or buy some. The most common visitors are people passing by, just stopping to get food and fuel, maybe stay for a day or two to get to the entertainment ships. More serious customers come to buy metal, alloys, and other raw materials to make products with. Visitors are often welcome to, or encouraged to ‘rent’ a non-House Ermin for the duration of their stay to serve as a guide and helper while with the fleet. Any other Ermin is also capable of renting a member of the lower class to be their servant for a predetermined time (and for pay of course). Escorts from the brothels are also available should any visitor wish to engage in sexual activities. Escorts are also available to Ermin, both House and non-House, and are usually a member of the non-House group (who has been rendered unable to conceive or father a child).
Besides the typical things you could get visiting the Ermin fleets, they also have a few otherwise illegal things onboard that are available for purchase. Chemical narcotics and other drugs are available for purchase from special, House registered vendors. While the species does not dabble in drugs outside of fine alcohol and tobacco, they are more than willing to act as the middleman for other groups that need a place to peddle their products. Selling these drugs is highly regulated, and very illegal to sell without a license. Barons look upon it as just another form of income. The most common crimes on the fleets are theft and assault. Being a passionate people, there are occasional scuffles over topics which get a bit too heated. The punishments for crimes are typically light, all things considered, usually a fine and a few days of forced servitude. Imprisonment is often considered impractical, as there is little room for prison cells on the fleet’s ships. The death penalty is also usually dismissed; instead for harsh crimes exiling the guilty party is the solution, or stripping any House Ermin of his House status. New punishments are being looked into however, such as forced amnesia or more permanent servitude options for harsh crimes.
Military and Defense:
While not a violent race, the Ermin are territorial and will defend their claims. While all of their ships are capable of defending themselves, the Ermin Migratory Fleet Security Forces are responsible for maintaining the safety of the fleets. Each House has a part in the EMFSF and branches that answer only to them. Typically each part operates independently, but all share intelligence and technology in order to better protect the species. There are two main divisions of the EMFSF, the ship bound forces and the defense vessels. Inside the ships of the fleet, the EMFSF operate as police officers and peace keepers, especially when dealing with visiting species. The defense vessels are entirely self contained combat ships which are built only for battle, unlike the rest of the utility ships in the fleet. The warships are small, and lack any frills and fluff like civilian ships (like living quarters or mess halls). That combined with the Ermin and their advanced skills in miniaturization (along with their small size in general) allow them to build small, fast, and respectfully armed ships. Most of their defense vessels are small, short range destroyers armed with highly accurate and fast particle cannons and one or two heavier plasma weapons for hitting larger targets in addition to some normal mass drivers and missile launchers. Ermin warships also aggressively use tractor beams to manipulate the movement of hostile ships as well as damage them by using the beams as catapults to fling asteroids at larger ships. While not the most advanced technology, it works. In an order to preserve their numbers, the EMFSF also deploy a number of remotely piloted drone ships which are expendable in battle and as skillfully maneuvered as a manned fighter. The Ermin do deploy a small number of larger cruisers, but their numbers are limited, as they lack the construction facilities. When not on patrol or in use, the defensive ships are docked with the Homeship to allow crew transfer and resupply. In the case of a dire emergency, the Homeships are equipped with a massive deflector shield generator that they call a “Fortress Shield” which is capable of deploying an energy field that can form a massive spherical bubble several hundred kilometers in diameter, more than enough to shield the entire fleet the Homeship is responsible for. The shield is neigh impregnable, but using it puts a very severe power drain on the ship and it can only function for a little more than three days before the entire ship is drained of all useable reactants and backup power cells.