In the Devonian period, life began to earnestly reach the land—395 Million years ago. Plants had began to flourish and managed to stabilize the carbon dioxide-abundant atmosphere by releasing large quantities of oxygen—paving way for land colonization by arthropods i.e. mites and millipedes. Vertebrates followed—lead off by lungfish, advancing to amphibians.
“Are we going to tell them they’re microscopic? I’m opposed to it. It may saddle their entire history with gods-and-demons mythology that they’d be better off without.”
Picture this; a miniature wooden spaceship, out to conquer space! So it ensues that whichever race is inside must be microscopic. And as the title of the tale gives away—SURFACE TENSION / SAFE UR-ION SCENT—a liquid that occurs in plenty and of significance to this race, will play a major role. Surface Tension is hard science fiction explaining life from its origins—the sea.
“Martin, what would you think of our taking to the sea? We came out of it once, long ago; maybe we could come out of it again through Hydrot.”
The tale of a galaxy-trotting, planet-hunting crew on a mission to scatter men, or at least lifeforms very much like men, all over the galaxy. Until they crash-land on a target planet, with zero survival chance. They rush against time to ‘create’ the new race through pantropy. These creatures (pantropes) are calibrated, with detail that once out of the water, they go through a couple generations as amphibians before breathing through the larynx.
“Those people will be of the race of men, Eunice. We want them to win their way back into community of men. They are not toys, to be protected from the truth forever in a fresh-water womb.”
Ensuing is a description of the lifeforms appearing in the classic novella; found descriptions; and relations to each other.
. . .
Location: Hydrot—A waterscape, similar to Earth, immersed in water bar a triangular slab. Evolution here seemed to have stopped with the crustacea. Crayfish.
Star: Tau Ceti—performs the role of Solar System’s Sun.
Man: Was fashioned from the genes of his crash-landed ancestors. 250 microns in size. He had a thermocline to protect them from cold during hibernation, an amniotic fluid produced from a winter-induced protective shell. At this (hibernation) time, he lived in spores. Had webbed extremities, all lead by Lavon.”They are creatures that look alike.”
Shar: Knowledge keepers of the race. With each awakening from hibernation, the (new) Shar‘s responsibility is to drill Lavon of his environment before he (Lavon) embarks on leadership duties. Translates the first words of the corrosion-proof micro-engraved record from the ancestors—‘i/terste//are//e/ition.’ …this was as fascinating as the prevalence of sound /ə/ in the same language.
Protos: Man’s accompanies. On the same hierarchy level with Euglena. A family of Paras, Didins and Stent. Could be taught man’s language. Their bodies flared regularly with blue-green pulses. Were gleaming mobile cylinders. “Not green and had a visible nucleus, no matter how strange its shape.”
Paras: Man’s Proto allies. Communicated with invisible cilia vibration in even, emotionless tones. Each separate hair-like process buzzed at an independent, changing rate. The resulting sound waves spread through the water intermodulating, reinforcing or cancelling each other. “A transparent bubble-filled cylinder, a colourless slipper of jelly, spirally grooved, long as the length of man”.
Generation XVI Para: Has cilia and hover with a muted whirl. “Slipper-shaped organisms, nearly transparent except for the thousands of blue and silver granules and frothy bubbles which packed its interior.
Didins: Shared hierarchy level with Para and Stent, all Protos. “Barrel-like creatures ringed to rows with cilia, and bearing a ram-like prow.”
Euglena: On the same hierarchy level with Protos.
Vortae: From one level with Paras. “Placid and murmurous.”
Eaters: Man’s number one foe/predator. Occurred either as Rotars or Rotifers. Rotars only locomoted by swimming. “As beautiful as the fruiting crowns of water-plants. ” All had the whirling crown of cilia which could suck quarry into the incessantly grinding mastax in a moment.”
Dicran: Man’s foe. They were Eaters, Dicran. Their method of locomotion was leaping. Have an armour plate for defense, a mastax and cilia which make a rhythmical pulsation to create an illusion of rotating corona. They are poisonous. Means of locomotion; leaping. “The armoured trumpet-shaped body”.
Notholka: They are leapers just like Dicran. They are Eaters.
Diatoms: Same hierarchy level with Desmids. Beautifully marked, oblong, pillbox-like shell swarming with greedy bacteria. “Everything which was green and had an engraved shell of glass.”
Desmids: Flexible shells which could not move. Was the food source for Man before he started growing his own.
Syn: Fronds in the water. Plants that communicate with Paras. Refused to help men as they expected them to be dead before the Eaters awake (they rise the last from hibernation/awakening).
Bacteria: Was visible to Man. Appeared in rods, globes, and spirals.
Noc: A flagellate with no natural weapon against rotifers. Drifts like star-shell. Of the same size with Dicran. Produces a blue light in flashes when excited.
Caddis-Worm: Live in sand-built houses—a masonry tube with everything in form of a conical bore differing from the next tube only in size—clinging to mountainous slopes of under-water rock. This was the first City of Man—once the Caddis-Worm was exiled.
Stephanost: A predator of Man, but is easy to avoid. A trapper, but not a hunter.
Flosc: They live in castles; which are all tunnels and exits and entrances. They are colony-builders. Man fought them out of their castles, which were much better than the worm-houses.
. . .
SAFE UR-ION SCENT / UR+ION SAT FENCES (so undecided)