A Vrusk Life In Song

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by Tom Verreault and Bradley McMillian

Back in 2011 I tracked down archived images of a Star Frontiers website that was no longer on the web. Material posted there by Bradley McMillian on vrusk singing was quite good and so I reposted it in the “Core Four” project at the starfrontiers.us site. This in turn led to a series of discussions that produced new ideas about this alien race: flicking emotions with their antennae, group sodality or solidarity songs, vrusk Tai-Chi, and my short fiction “A Vrusk In Two Worlds”. Special thanks is due to the community of fans at starfrontiers.us for input of ideas on the vrusk species and their emotional life.

Flicking Emotions

The vrusk antenna is a sensory organ with the ability to both sense vibrations and to smell. It is quite mobile and is used by the vrusk in an analog to what humans do with facial expressions. With the flick of an antenna a vrusk can convey a wealth of emotional feeling. Flicking an emotion begins with the base emotional feeling then tones of modification are added to the antenna flick. These tones of modification can be other emotional states or degrees of strength of the base emotion.

For example, an emotion flick of “mild angry annoyance” begins with the base emotion of annoyance with a hint of anger mixed in and the overall strength of feeling is mild. The combinations are hundreds and only a vrusk can truly read them all. It would take a non-vrusk years of study in vrusk communication to read these emotion flicks in all their nuances and even then they would not be able to reproduce them without a holographic projection of antenna on their head that was tied to a computer based translation program.

Song and Dance

The mechanics of vrusk singing were described by Bradley McMillian. The ideas that came from that description involved a corporate experience by groups of vrusk performing a sort of line dance with singing. The singing is of musical notes or words. It’s a group practice that is at the heart of vrusk emotional experience and conveys feelings of sodality and solidarity. Most vrusk trade houses have scheduled times for corporate song and dance, but informal groups will also come together to share this experience.

The alliteration, in Pan-Gal, of the vrusk name for the practice is pronounced Ti'Yagong-Tu, which means “group gathering song”. The song called “Chai'Ti”, which means corporate familial morning song, gave rise to calling these practices “Vrusk Tai-Chi” by humans. Vrusk find this human name for their practice somewhat annoying though most never comment on it.

Song of the Vrusk: An Artist's Reflections

by Bradley McMillian

Editor’s note: This material was originally published approximately a decade ago on the internet and the site is no longer available. It was located while delving into an internet archive. We’re publishing it again because it was the inspiration for the fiction piece “A Vrusk in Two Worlds”

The Vrusk Respiratory System

The Vrusk respiratory system is an outgrowth of the Vrusk nervous system (both run the length of the 'bug'). The vrusk's spiracles are lengthy, hollow tubes which run from the underbelly up into the vrusk's body to a that serves as the vrusk's diaphragm. All along these hollow tubes are smaller tubes (capillaries) that carry oxygen to all the other areas of the vrusk's body where oxygen is diffused into the blood stream. The spiracles are capped externally by a flap-like membrane and internally by a piston-like muscle. The piston-like muscles pull air into the lungs and expel carbon dioxide, while the flap-like membranes serve a similar function to the human epiglottis (i.e., it prevents foreign objects from entering the vrusk's lungs and prevents the vrusk from suffocating in dust storms, drowning, etc.).

Vrusk Song

Vrusk have control over each individual spiracle in much the same way that humans have control over their breathing if they actively try to do so. This level of control allows the Vrusk to make a variety of whistling noises. These whistling noises in combination with mandible clicks comprise Vrusk speech. Vrusk singing is accomplished by relaxing or tensing the external spiracle membrane and building up levels of pressure by speeding up or slowing down the internal piston-like movements. This level of control takes a great deal of practice (much like human singers have to practice breath control and the like), but essentially makes Vrusk into living instruments (the noise that is produced sounds similar to the noise one makes when blowing across the top of a bottle). A fair range of tone and pitch can be produced with appropriate practice. In addition, Vrusk musicians occasionally work in mandible sounds for percussive effects.

As the Vrusk became more technologically sophisticated, various harnesses and other devices were constructed to make use of the vrusk's natural talents (e.g., a harness with tubes that cover half of the vrusk's spiracles and acts similar to an accordion with the vrusk's natural breathing process acting as the bladder motion. This harness can also be hooked into a synthesizer, which allows for additional accompaniment and/or alters the vrusk's natural body sounds).


A Vrusk In Two Worlds

by Tom Verreault

Vi-k'tr flowed through the movements of the Ti'Yagong-Tu, the Group Gathering Song. He felt energized and invigorated to be with other members of his species, the vrusk, doing this quintessentially vrusk activity. To be a vrusk was to participate in a public show of social solidarity through song and dance; beauty in motion and sound.

Humans liked to call this social solidarity gathering Vrusk Tai Chi, because the Corporate Familial Morning-Song, as properly pronounce by a vrusk sounded like “Chai'Ti Qind'Yagong. In typically human fashion “Chai’Ti” became “Vrusk Tai Chi.” To a certain degree he understood humans better than most and recognized the similarities between Thai Chi and social solidarity songs. They both involved structured graceful movement by groups of beings but the similarities were superficial. For a vrusk a solidarity song was an emotional experience that conferred a feeling of belonging and bonding to his social circle or company. Even as the participants focused on the dance moves and the song notes created by expelling air from their spiracles under their abdomen, there was a wealth of communication going on amongst the participants. This communication was lost on non-vrusk as it was carried by minute flourishes of movement in body or antennae or by the slightest stress of a song note.

Vi-k’tr had not been able to participate in this activity while growing up because he had not been raised by his own kind. Born on a pirate vessel crewed by vrusk he had become a ward of the Crown of Clarion when the Royal Marines had captured the pirate vessel. None of the vrusk crew had surrendered nor survived. With no living relative to take him in, and no vrusk trade house willing to accept the orphan of criminals into their crèche programs, Vi-k’tr entered the foster care system on Clarion, a human world.

His foster parents had been working class Commoners. His foster father had served with the Royal Guard during the famed Mercy Mission to Madderly’s Star when the human colonist of Kdikit had risen in rebellion and evicted the vrusk running that colony. Atrocities had occurred and the Crown of Clarion had sent in troops to stop the killing. It seemed to Vi-k’tr that his father had perhaps taken him in as some form of penance for guilt associated with that long ago police action. He had never been able to discover the truth behind it, and his mother vigorously professed their love for him. She had been prone to doting.

He loved and appreciated his human parents but he had always felt cut off and a misfit in Clarion’s human society. After his mother had called him Victor in front of class mates he had garnered the nick name, Victor the Vrusk. There had been bullies too but his natural speed had allowed him to avoid most harassment. It was the sense of not belonging that had led him to attend college on Triad with its evenly mixed human, dralasite and vrusk population. His mother was hurt at his refusal to attend school on Clarion but something drove him to seek out other vrusk.

The first time he had joined a solidarity song as a freshman had been like an epiphany. Many of the other vrusk students had showed amused surprise at his awkwardness, not suspecting it was his first time. The moment had changed his life. From then on he had become a student of vrusk culture, history, and society. Later that passion matured to focus in depth on the Hive Period of Vrusk History but the passion of his heart was the social solidarity dance.

After graduating, and about the time he had taken the job at the institute, he had made peace with his human culture. He had embraced the name Victor for use with his non-vrusk colleagues and begun to send Christmas presents and birthday cards to his parents every year. He still felt somewhat out of place because his youth had given him a deep insight into humanity and his adulthood was honing his insight into vrusk society. He would probably forever have a bond to both that neither would understand, But, if he was honest with himself, he enjoyed both the solidarity song and decorating the Christmas tree with his foster mother. Perhaps next Christmas he would develop a modified “Vrusk Tai Chi” to share with his human family.

The Group Gathering Song ended and the twenty or so vrusk present began to twitch their antennae in the customary “warm embrace” gesture to one another. Vi-k’tr enjoyed this moment of afterglow most but it was suddenly disturbed by a passing trio of humans.

The group had the appearance of parents bringing their son to attend the institute.

“Look, Honey! They’re doing Vrusk Tai Chi,” exclaimed the mother a little too loudly.

Some of the vrusk clicked their mandibles in mild angry annoyance while others gestured mild perturbed annoyance with their antennae. Vi-k’tr just flicked his antennae in laughter.

Sharp looks form his fellow vrusk brought forth his first true spoken communication since the song had begun, “Humans, to know them is to love them.”

Many of the vrusk flicked “warm love mild annoyance” back at Vi-k’tr.