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The Aash'n evolved from a carnivorous species but are now omnivores, with much of their diet being plant life. Their unique motor system is the result of their carnivorous nature; their torso is hung between a pair of tall, powerful legs which allows them to stride large distances whilst reaching for prey with shorter arms ending in large but dextrous digits. Their primary neural functions are, like humans, contained in a head which rises atop the main body and is equipped with eyes and ears, a mouth and nostrils. They have more acute vision and hearing tha humans but, partly as a result of thousands of years of homogenous diets, have lost much of their sense of smell and taste.
As a species the Aash'n are social, and are governed by a mixture of technocracy, corporatism and democracy. They have a mental capacity similar to that of humans, resulting in common concepts of reasoning, language, and problem solving. They are a technologically capable species and in their greatest years developed technologies that allowed them to colonise several solar systems, possess advanced genetic engineering technology, create extremely durable alloys, and travel to within fractions of the speed of light. However in their travels most of the population has lost its understanding of the powers that constructed its spaceship and the handful that still knew how to operate their ship had little idea of how their machines actually functioned. By the time they encountered humanity they had lost the ability to communicate via television and were only capable of indistinct radio messages through which they broadcast their only non-regressed pool of knowledge: mathematics (which they still surpass humanity on, using base-12).
Since the Aash'n have settled on Earth scientists from both their species and humanity have been anxious to unlock as much knowledge as they can about the species, ranging from the operating of their machinery (as only empirical data exists on their workings) to the biology of the Aash'n.
Like humans the Aash'n cells are based on DNA, though have reported that other species they encountered on their travel were based on other proteins. Unlike humans the Aash'n continue to possess unbiased stem cells in their bloodstream for their entire lifespan, granting them increased regenerative capabilities. It has been observed that since initial planet fall the number of these cells in the bloodstream of the Aash'n has increased 800%, suggesting that prolonged habitation in space had reduced the need for the cells dramatically.
The Aash'n appear to be reptilian, but ultimately the term is redundant given their complete disassociation from the class. Roughly 70% of their body is covered in scales, the remaining 30% in skin and fur clustered around the joints and genitalia. The Aash'n possess a helical structure of veins just within their skin through which, in an emergency, water can be redirected from the bloodstream via the osmotic gland, or via the bladder, and pumped around to reduce the body temperature. This is one of the many ways the Aash'n have adapted to their high-temperature environment. Aash'n have a higher tolerance for heat than humans - up to 90 degrees Celsius - but have extremely poor cold tolerance. When exposed to temperatures below freezing the Aash'n automatically fall into a coma and channel energy away from most unnecessary functions and into shivering to create heat, a process which can be consciously avoided but is extremely dangerous for prolonged periods of time.
The Aash'n evolved from carnivores but are omnivorous, though prefer meat (preferably live). Unlike the human digestive system they make use of most of the body substances in consumed food, and are capable of digesting bone after it is thoroughly ground up by their powerful jaws. The Aash'n do not fatten easily, given that it would raise body temperatures dangerously in their warm desert environment, and instead of growing obese in the same way as humans they channel the fat molecules into the bloodstream, which forces it to work harder to remain working efficiently and subsequently keeping energy levels in constant use and the cardiovascular system in constant readiness. The Aash'n contain, effectively, two stomachs - one for the digestion of just-chewed food, located at the end of the gullet, and the other just before the rectum and after the digestinal tracts, to recycle any bacteria and remaining usable molecules. For this reason Aash'n faeces are coated in a thin layer of acid at roughly pH3.
Unlike all Earth bipeds the Aash'n body is arranged, for want of a better word, in 'reverse'. In relation to the torso, the legs are in the place of the arms, and vice versa. An adult Aash'nite leg measures around two metres with a backward-facing knee and extended ankles, with four hand-length toes pointing at the four corners of a square. This enables them to stride large distances and affords them decent stability and grip on the ground, a key predatorial aspect. Their arms are abnormally long and dangling from the base of the triangular torso, located on either side of the anus, though are normally held clutching the shoulders (a sign of laziness by an Aash'n is to let the arms drag behind them on the ground). Juvenile Aash'n use their arms as support legs until they are capable of balancing normally. Aash'nite hands are symmetrical, with four fingers from the centre of the hand and two thumbs on either side, which gives rise to their base-12 numerical system. The Aash'n are excellent at melee combat, but possess some difficulty with throwing weapons, as they need to rotate their torso upwards to ensure that their eyes and arms are aligned to aim accurately. The Aash'n head is arranged almost identical to that of the human, except that they possess multifaceted eyes that cover the forward two-thirds of their triangular heads. Immediately behind and between these are the three ears of the Aash'n, and underneath, the weak nostrils, and then the mouth. The Aash'nite mouth is composed of two separate jawbones which both hang from the skull by powerful muscles, with flat and strong tooth-like protrusions beneath the lips. They have four rows of teeth inside their mouth and two tongues on either side of the throat, which are lined with tiny hooks approximately 0.5 mm tall.
Behind the face is located the Aash'nite brain, which is of slightly greater size than the human brain, though this is mostly to accommodate the larger ocular and aural data process centres. The brain allows the Aash'n to create the same concepts as humanity, such as reasoning, abstraction, emotion, introspection, and religion. The Aash'n are exceptionally good at mathematical reasoning and have a strong capability to visualise the abstract, beyond the capability of the human mind. They have a strong edge in metaphysical fields, though this is helped by the fact that they have had a several thousand-year lead over humanity in the field. The Aash'n level of emotion, however, is only as strong as that as humans, but in another direction; whereas humans find it difficult to temper negative emotions of grief and anger and can more easily suppress happiness and love, the Aash'n easily control their more confrontational emotions but will display emotions of extreme happiness and sexual attraction more brashly.
Aash'n language has suffered greatly from millennia of isolation. Each ship has developed a very distinctive dialect and a thick accent, and in two cases the inhabitants of one vessel simply switched to using a whole other language. Five Aash'n languages are spoken (asterisks are used to show unpronounceable sounds):
Indr*v is the most commonly spoken Aash'n language, though Anfrandi is the 'polite' language spoken in the presence of humans, as it uses (by human standards) less complex sentence structures and fewer unpronounceable sounds, making it easier to translate. Sebuet is widely spoken by Moroccan Aash'n and uses a variant of the standard Aash'n alphabet. Gj*gj*xi is recognised as by far the hardest language to master both by humans and Aash'n, and is reserved mostly as a ceremonial language; nonetheless, a few humans have grown fluent in the language, such as US Minister for Foreign Affairs Hillary Clinton. Cantronorm is a constructed language which has been heavily refined by Aash'n mathematicians to produce a form of communication that embraces logic and does away with all unnecessary verbal baggage. This language has been found to be extremely useful for communicating scientific concepts; Stephen Hawking's voice synthesizer is able to translate into Cantronorm.
Aash'n religion has been of interest to anthropologists for several decades now. The two most common belief systems are one that holds a single creator god and the divinity of the Aash'n themselves. The former belief system seems to have been strongly influenced by the Aash'n cultural heritage of being master engineers, and the two largest faiths both believe in an entity roughly translatable to the 'Great Engineer' who designed the universe from the quarks up. The larger faith of this belief system, the Kalarat, believes that this God punished the Aash'n for their insolence of daring to reengineer the universe by scattering them onto their huge pilgrimage, whilst the other, N*hory, believes that the exodus is a test of the skills of the Aash'n. To many humans' quiet satisfaction several cults of the N*hory have interpreted their arrival at Earth as some form of miracle, thereby making humanity some form of holy race. Given the general technological naivete of the Aash'n population, at least back in the 1960s and 70s, this idea grew popular, though a regrowth of rationalism has tempered this somewhat. Even so most of the popes since the 60s have held conferences with High Prophet of the N*hory in particular.
The second belief system, of the divinity of the Aash'n, seems to have fallen out of popularity within the vessels. However, its popularity has grown since reaching Earth, and has even spread to several New Age groups on Earth itself. The most common faith of this belief system is the *ndrahek faith, which seems to have incorporated the fate of the Aash'n voyage into itself; *ndraheki believe that those who work hard in one life will be reincarnated sooner in the next; the more lives and good work one has done throughout the voyage, the greater their personal paradise when the Aash'n reach their new home will be. Since reaching Earth many *ndraheki have decided that they have already reached paradise, and 'Budrahekism' has arisen, a fusion of *ndrahek and Buddhism. Budrahekism is a growing faith in India and the Middle East, the West, and despite being illegal, parts of the People's Republic of Asia.
Crime and Punishment
From a Western perspective Aash'n punishment is ridiculously draconian. Thieves receive third-degree burns, assaults and rapes are punished with the crushing and removal of digits and bones, murder is punished with partial dismemberment, and mass murder, corruption and extreme damage to property (such as arson) is punished by chemical execution. Surprisingly, there is logic behind these seemingly overly harsh rules. The Aash'nite bloodstream contains unbiased stem cells, which allow them to regenerate most wounds and injuries. Corporeal punishment is therefore easy to administer, the afflicted will learn their lesson, the victim will feel that necessary punishment has happened, and most importantly, a visible example is set. Of course, some wounds simply do not heal; fingers and toes never return to the same effectiveness as their originals, and in the space of lost limbs skin generally bubbles into ugly piles unless cauterized soon after dismemberment. For that reason Aash'n criminals are allowed to chose which digit or which limb they will lose.
Unfortunately this system of punishment has often met with contempt. In the Aash'n African Administrative Zone it is often forgotten by law enforcement officers that their human counterparts lack the regenerative capabilities of the Aash'n, and over a hundred cases have been reported of overly pro-active officers acting as judge, jury and dismemberer. In the wider world the conflict between national punishments and Aash'n punishments have often occurred. During the 1970s such conflicts were rife before a special UN meeting was declared to resolve the issue. It was eventually decided that, unless the crime had been committed towards an Aash'n, local law would take precedence. However, if the act in any way affects an Aash'n, and both a human and Aash'n court agree that the criminal is guilty, then Aash'n law takes precedence. This still causes tension, and in 2004 an Indian law firm made global headlines when it was hired by a human rights group over the legitimacy of Aash'n punishments, specifically over the chemical execution of a man who been responsible for the induction of fatally poisonous chemicals in an export of grain to the AAAZ, soon causing uproar on both sides of the political spectrum. The case ended in 2006 with an official policy from the Supreme Communicator of the Aash'n, Tnn* Tsa Ma Ts*, and a promise that chemical punishment would be replaced by more humane methods where Aash'n law demanded the death sentence. The human rights group admitted that they were hoping for an outright banning of capital punishment from the Aash'n, had it not been for the court's decision that, upon landfall, the Aash'n were permitted to maintain 'all desired cultural traits', including capital punishment.