Volus language and biology

All information presented herein is taken from Myetel’s Spirit of Redemption fanfiction. Canonical information can be found on Mass Effect Wiki, http://masseffect.wikia.com.

Biology

Volus are silicon-based lifeforms. (Non-canonical, but the only thing that works with their home planet of Irune.)

They breathe ammonia vapors. (Canonical). The atmosphere of Irune has, at 'sealevel,' eight times the atmospheric pressure of Earth, making their air thick, and rendering them likely to explode if suddenly subjected to the atmospheric pressure most sapients find comfortable. A volus can, through work in a hyperbaric chamber, slowly acclimate to about 4 atmospheres of pressure, but any less is considered risky.

They evolved on a planet with methane/ethane seas with a water-ice shell over much of it, except at the equator.

Ethane melts at 90.4 Kelvin, or -296 degrees Fahrenheit.

Volus body temperature is a chilly 127 Kelvin… or-230 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal room temperature, or even the freezing point of water, would be blazingly, damagingly hot to them.

Oxygen is not toxic, but neither does it sustain their respiration. They would suffocate in an oxygen atmosphere, even if it were suitably chilly.

They emerged from Irune's seas, and remain slightly aquatic. Visually, they look to be a combination of squid, penguins, and moles. They have poor eyesight, only in a black and white range (Irune's atmosphere is so thick, little light reaches sea-level.) They depend largely on their sense of smell for understanding the world around them, and have nasal appendages akin to the star mole, and 'jets' at their throats for additional respiration. Physically, they can be gray, brown, or pallid in color.

Females lay 1-2 eggs per conception. The males carry the eggs with them to keep them warm and safe, and become 'broody' and prone to over-protectiveness when carrying an egg. When the egg hatches, both parents take turns feeding and caring for the nestling.

All volus food is consumed raw, or at least, 'cooked' in a marinade, at best. Heating food with fire would instantly burn most of their foods to a crisp, and all the ethane insidesince they use that as blood/fluids, in the way humans use waterwould immediately escape as super-heated steam.

Language

Generally designed to sound shrill, almost like a dolphin's cries.

eeree'pa — Similar to over-sized 'medusoids' from Terran waters. Served frozen, and very crunchy.
gar’ooom — A filter-feeding domesticated animal that looked like an enormous manta ray that had somehow interbred with a whale. Vaguely triangular in shape, but bulky, with a huge mouth that scoured the oceans. When young, they could even beach themselves on the pack ice to avoid the shark-like predators of Irune’s seas, but when they reached maturity, nothing threatened them, due to their enormous size. Volus had domesticated them, much in the way humans had domesticated elephants… but used them for transportation to and from the huge kee'thra forests, had hauled goods on their backs on long voyages in equatorial waters.
iri'see — crab-like crustaceans, about half the size of a volus.
kee'thra — the kelp-like, silicon-based 'kelp' of the Irune seas. These kelp forests are both wild and planted domestically. Silicon, in an organic life form, is not necessarily hard and glasslike, any more than carbon-based life-forms look like diamonds. These kelp analogues, however, are colorless, being clear, long, tubular plants, that have long tendrils reaching out to all sides. Mee'kaj live in these forests, and will hide in them, much as a Terran cat might hide in a tree. Only they're much more apt not to be found, considering that the kee'thra are hundreds of meters in length, and their tangles span miles.
meeka'al —the larval form of vent worms, from around volcanic vents on the sea floor of Irune. Eaten for intoxicating effects.
mee'kai — domesticated eel-like creatures native to Irune, used by volus in the past to help 'herd' schools of what passes for fish in Irune's seas. Some are highly intelligent, and prized as pets and guard, er, eels, and kept in pools outside of volus homes, where they shrill out cries if intruders come. Others are less intelligent, and used for meat.
peek'a — mild imprecation. Equivalent of 'crap!' but is actually also the name of tiny creatures akin to brine-shrimp. Sort of like a human saying 'Fleas!'
pelee'eek — "Extremely large single-celled organisms, by the standards of other planets. Sort of a cross between living furniture, pets, and livestock for volus.
shreee'eka; plural, shreee'eka'i — The go-between, literally. The closest friend/s or clan-members of a volus male, empowered to speak on his behalf to the clan of a female that he wishes to pursue in matrimony.

Culture and background

The volus emerged from the methane/ethane seas of Irune's equatorial region, and faced challenges unlike any other galactic civilization. They remain, to this day, semi-aquatic in lifestyle on Irune.

Their atmosphere is 78% ammonia, 21% oxygen, and the remainder consists of various other exotic gases. This is enough oxygen to allow fire to burn, but fire is problematic for volus. Silicon in its pure state, when burned, released more energy than carbon in its pure form.1 Thus, fires derived from organic material, such as dried kee'thra on Irune, burn hotter and faster than wood on Earth… and volus, having such a low body temperature to begin with, are easily damaged by this extreme temperature. The ethane that makes up as much of their body structure as water comprises human cells has a tendency to boil off into its gaseous state at only -89 °C, 184.6 K, -127 °F2. Water boils at 212° F. A barely visible red flame? 525 °C (980 °F)3. As such, fires sparked by lighting were incredibly frightening to early volus, and avoided as the wrath of the ancestors and gods.

Their first technology was probably nets of kee'thra or animal sinew, and knives or spear-heads made from ice, which was rock-hard on Irune, and abundant… and easily chipped by real rocks. Learning to chisel ice, build burrows into the sides of the massive ice-lines that ring the equator of their world, provided shelter from the intense storms of this high-pressure planet. Their next technological leap involved moving off the ice-sheet onto the land, where they found that they could work the rocks there, including obsidian, into knives and axes. There were more plants there, all tending to be squat and twisted and hardy, not like the beautiful billowing strands of the kee'thra forests . . but these tree and reed analogues gave the volus their first access to 'wood' of any sort. Sled and skate building began after the invention of the travois (If anyone has read the Icerigger trilogy by Alan Dean Foster, then they'll understand that the wind-propelled skate-sleds of the volus are similar to those of Tran-ky-ky. Mee'kai had been domesticated in the water; iri'see were domesticated on the land. These are fairly quick-moving crustaceans. Not particularly intelligent, but tasty, and they laid their eggs on the land.

Their next advances came in medicines and chemistry, learning the properties of the plants native to the land, and some of the rare earths there. They'd learned to make some very, very basic chemical reactions… low-temperature exothermic ones that heated the area around them in limited ways, to warm their ice caves and burrows. But the fact that cutting and chipping the ice and the ground remained incredibly labor intensive was a limiting factor on their population.

About 10,000 years ago, the first volus developed a method for safely handling fire. By wearing their first insulated suit, according to pictograms cut into the oldest rock caves. Multiple layers of animal hide, with chips of ice in between, the first fire-handlers carried fire at the ends of twenty-foot long sticks, made of reeds tied end-to-end, for their own safety. And used the fire on piles of dried kee'thra to bore out holes in the ice large enough to create holding pens for the valued mee'kai… even far from the open sea. This led, gradually, to boring shafts down through the heavy ice pack to unexplored parts of Irune's seas. This became known as the Ice Age, as explorers ventured under the ice pack, bringing back new foods, new animals, new plants to a burgeoning population… and the fire-handlers began to work with the 'white-rock's blood,' as they called liquid water. They began to realize that it could be shaped. Could be used to shatter cold true-stone, which allowed volus to begin their first mines. And that led them to wonder what other rocks they could melt into rock-blood.

That lead to the discovery of copper, around 5,000 years ago, bronze alloy about 4,000 years ago, and so on down the line.

As a result of the challenging climate and the difficulty of life on Irune, explorers were valued for what they brought back, not for mere exploration, or being first. If what you found didn't have value of some sort, it, and you, had no worth. The tight-packed nests and burrows emphasized clan-life and organization, even when multiple clans congregated together to form the first cities, again, about 10,000 years ago. Personal worth, and being of service to the clan, dominated volus thinking from very early times, and continues to this day.

Volus clans have a male and female clan-leader. They practice male exogamy; males are traded to other clans in the hopes that they will be of worth enough to be considered marriageable by their new clan. Females remain within their home clan, and are considered to be of slightly more worth.

In-story quotes regarding culture

"And you say you're not slaves?" Dara had finally asked.

"Certainly not," Fors had snuffled indignantly. "A batarian slave has no worth. Every volus has worth." He snuffled again. "Look, from the moment we're hatched, most volus are raised by the clan. Taught by the clan. Apprenticed. All of that is an investment of capital in you, right?"

"… yes?" Dara had answered, tentatively.

"So, you have to make a return on that. You have to give back at least your initial investment, or you're a failure." Fors snorted. "And that's the pressure that ensures total loyalty to the clan or the corporation or, usually, both. Like the term 'company-man' in Japan… that level of loyalty and commitment."

"But…you wind up getting traded?" Dara asked.

"Yes. And you're expected to be just as loyal to whoever now owns your contract as you were to the first clan. More so if your value went up, because now you have to work harder to return on that investment. If your value went down, it's shameful, and you have to work harder to demonstrate that you're worth your initial value."

"And how is the initial value calculated?" Dara was clearly having some problems with this.

"Actuarial charts. Average man-hours worked per lifetime, net worth of the profession to which you've been apprenticed. It's all worked out in neat little graphs in each family's back rooms."

Eli had raised a finger at that point. "So, let me see if I have this straight. Every time you're traded, unless your value remains the same, you need to work harder than you did before?"

Fors snorted. "Oh, no, even if your value stays level, you need to work harder, to prove that the new family made the right decision in acquiring your contract!"

There was a slight pause. "And you've been traded ten times?"

Fors nodded.

"You must be the hardest working volus in existence."

"Oh, I would be, except I don't believe in all that peek'a." Fors snorted. "They didn't trade me for value, my human-turian friend. They traded me because they didn't know what in the ancestors' names to do with me. I dropped all the names but my first clan's a long time ago, and I don't feel any more loyalty to Bire than I did to Lorsa or any of the rest of them. And they hate that."

Notable volus

Fors Luka

Chissa Lorsa

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License