The long strange trip
Intelligent minor race native to Marhaban (Empty Quarter 0425). Known as Bwaps or Wabs (from their name for themselves, Bawapakerwa-a-a-awapawab), they are also known (vulgarly) as Newts due to their appearance.
Prior to obtaining civilization, proto-Bwaps lived in densely wooded, mangrove-like swamps. They burrowed under and among the root systems of large trees, forming dens for the communal protection of their young. Their culture and ritual interactions began at this time. A shift in weather patterns caused the marshy areas to shrink, forcing them into increased competition with other animals in the region. The discovery of tools and then agriculture permitted the Bwaps to gain a tremendous advantage over their competition, and put them on the road to civilization.
The Bwaps did not discover fire until late, due to their environment, which hindered development of metalworking and similar pursuits. When discovered by the Vilani, the Bwaps had reached TL 7 and stabilized. The introduction of advanced technologies such as jump drive had no major effect on their culture, and the Bwaps have prospered greatly in the intervening centuries.
Bwaps can be found throughout the Imperium, more commonly in the region trailing and coreward of Capital (Core 2118). Fewer than 12 Imperial worlds are fully controlled by Bwaps; most of these are classed as religious dictatorships. Bwap merchants and administrators can be found throughout known space, but are less common outside the Imperium.
Society is dominated by the Bwap world-view, which holds that each individual has a place in the wapawab or tree – a view stemming from their habitat, but including phratry, bloodlines, country, and place of duty. The literal tree is intricately tied into the planetary ecology, providing shelter and oxygen, converting water and minerals into food, etc. The figurative tree is much harder to define, but is roughly equivalent to a clan or tribal group. Both sorts of trees are part of a planet, which is part of a solar system, which is part of a cluster, which is part of a galaxy, which is part of the cosmos. Everything the Bwaps do reflects this complex, wheels-within-wheels outlook. Each individual takes great pride in being one small, functional and unique cog in a vast, ever-changing universe of interlinked patterns. Their ritual of greeting, for instance, seems like meaningless formality and windy chitchat to non-Bwaps, but communicates “I am in this place, and doing my part. Where are you and what are you doing?”
From the human point of view, Bwaps are obsessed with minutiae, patterns, and the order of things. Driven by this internal desire to see everything in its proper place, they make excellent bureaucrats, officials, mathematicians, bookkeepers, scientists, and historians. However, their obsession with ritual and proper conduct can make them difficult to deal with. Those who violate the rituals will be lectured to, at length, on propriety. Dealing with Bwaps takes time, but trying to speed things up only takes more time. Criminal behavior is extremely rare, and is considered the worst form of mental disorder among Bwaps, since it disrupts the proper order of things. Their world-view means that their definition of crime is often at variance with Imperial norms, but fortunately most Bwaps courts consider exile to be sufficient punishment, especially in the case of aliens such as humans.
Bwaps average 1.4 m in height and mass between 30 and 50 kg. They are upright, bipedal, homoeothermic and bisexual, with an internal skeleton and a closed circulatory system. Their hemoglobin is copper-based, a deep blue in color, making their skin a faint greenish-blue in areas without pigmentation.
Body markings vary tremendously from clan (“tree”) to clan, each one having a distinctive pattern. The pattern is determined by genetic factors and the color is determined by careful manipulation of the mother’s diet during the formation of the egg. Greens, browns, yellows and blues are most common, usually in patterns of darker colors over a lighter basic color.
Bwaps are uncomfortable in less than 98% humidity, as their skin must be kept moist. With special clothing, they can exist indefinitely in humidity as low as 25%, provided they have adequate water. This normally consists of a loosely fitting kaftan-like garment and a hood covering the head (giving rise to another nickname, “towel-heads”). The cloth of these garments is permeated with a network of fine tubes, through which water flows and keeps the cloth moist. In occupations where they must handle paper or other items which would suffer from moisture, Bwaps wear thin water-proof gloves. In humidity of less than 25%, they must use sealed environment suits. All clothing is colored with a stylized representation of their body, since recognition of body pattern is an important part of their greeting ritual.
Bwaps are oviparous, each female incubating a single, non-amniotic egg in a special pouch on her lower abdomen. After hatching, the young remain in this pouch for several weeks, occasionally coming out to be fed, until they are strong enough to survive outside. The young reach maturity after 14 years.