The J476 system was discovered by American probes in the 2170s, when it was found that the system only possessed two worlds, both of which are gas giants. Nonetheless, the American government claimed the system for themselves, a claim the Coalition would follow up on two centuries later. The gas giants of the system were known to have high levels of deuterium and tritium, necessary for fusion power, so mining stations were set up in orbit around both. J476-IIs moons were soon colonized by small miner settlements, especially on the icy moon of J476-IIb. Discovery of intelligent life on the moon happened a short time later, when miners began to report what appeared to be intelligently designed artifacts. The mining companies, required by law to report suspected xeno actifity, notified the Coalition government immediately.
Although mankind had encountered xenos of many kinds throughout the centuries, this was the first discovered world where intelligent life was exclusively aquatic. All previous aliens had been terrestrial and living on worlds similar to Earth, had technology that could eventually threaten mankind, or both, meaning they had to be exterminated in order to make way for human expansion. Whatever life was on J476-IIb, Coalition scientists told their xenophobic government, cannot in any way compete with the Coalition. The government issued a simple charge: prove it. Government scientists ordered the miners off the moon (giving the companies compensation in the form of military surplus space stations) while life on the system was studied.
Submarines explored the almost incomprehensibly deep oceans of the moon, looking for any signs of intelligent life. These submarines discovered that while the surface of J476-IIb was desolate, airless and cold, the glaciers hid warm oceans fueled and fed by hydrothermal vents. Large “tube trees” rose up from the vents and latched onto the ice ceiling above. Invertebrate organisms (later termed slithersuckers) sucked nutrients from the tubes, and they in turn were eaten by larger organisms. Several months passed with the scientists studying the complex ecosystem before the government threatened cutting off the project’s funds if they did not determine that any intelligent life on the world was nonthreatening. Expeditions were sent out to look for settlements or the xenos themselves. A single xeno was soon found by Dr. Henry Lindbergh, who tried to communicate with the alien by using his submarine’s lights to communicate mathematical patterns. He noticed that the light patterns of the creature swimming before him seemed to demonstrate that the alien understood what he was trying to communicate. When the alien demonstrated an understanding of prime numbers, he excitedly notified his superiors. Lindbergh named the aliens seabrides because they looked like a woman wearing a long, flowing dress from a distance. Soon, settlements of the squid-like aliens were found and the original hypothesis of the scientists was proved correct. The most complex technology the seabrides possessed were farms of slithersuckers built on the skeletal remains of the native tube trees. With this evidence, the Coalition government decided against exterminating the seabrides, instead using them for xenobiological study. The Bureau of Special Scientific Affairs was formed to deal with this responsibility.
The first priority in dealing with the seabrides was communication. This had always been a problem in the field of xenobiology, but had not been too much of a concern given humanity’s general policy against xenos. It was determined early on that the seabrides communicated through bioluminescence, but the difficulty in attaching meaning to flash patterns and duration, colors, physical location of the lights on the seabrides’ body proved difficult. It took two centuries before the first “conversation” was conducted between a seabride and human. The “cracking” of the various seabride languages led to renaissance in xenobiology, as mankind learned more about seabride culture and history.
Seabride society was determined to be very tribal and collectivist. Large “schools” of seabrides, the largest of which can number in the thousands, live and eat together. Members of these schools are all, in a way, siblings: schools are formed when large clusters of eggs hatch near one another and the juvenile seabrides band together to find food and avoid predators. Seabrides are innately able to tell whether an individual belongs to their school or not, by light and movement patterns and certain pheromones, and are extremely hostile to individuals from other schools. This xenophobia, oddly, does not extend to mankind, a species they view with equal parts reverence and fear. According to the seabrides, this is because humans originate from beyond the “Great Ceiling” and regularly break through it, a feat seabrides considered impossible before first contact. Xenophobia between seabride schools had led to many wars throughout J476-IIb’s history. These wars usually lead to brutal, three-dimensional battles between entire schools, and no quarter is asked for or given. The victors of a conflict (or scavengers happening by a recent battle) usually eat the corpses of fallen seabrides. Cannibalism in general is totally acceptable in seabride societies, and some wars are waged simply to feast on the eggs of a rival school. This history of warfare in a three-dimensional space has proved useful for the Coalition, as seabride tacticians grasp the concepts of space warfare more easily than humans. Seabrides have proved time and again that they can think of space tactics much faster than even highly-trained humans.
Seabrides, like most complex life on their homeworld, have only one sex. Schools of seabrides reproduce all at once every three months, with approximately half of the school laying eggs on tube trees, and the other half fertilizing them. The roles switch during the next reproductive cycle. Reproducing with seabrides from other schools is seen as taboo, sometimes leading to mass mutations that can either exterminate entire schools or give them an advantage over other schools. The concept of parental or romantic love is lost on the seabrides, which reproduce en-masse and don’t particularly care about their individual young or whose eggs are fertilized by who. There have been cases of seabrides who, exiled from their schools, reproduced by themselves and created their own schools. This, however, is looked down upon by the communal seabrides and accusing a school of being “unioriginal” has led to genocidal wars many times in seabride history. As an entire species of homosexual cannibals that regularly commit incest, relations between the Coalition and seabrides were strained when theocratic elements in the Coalition became more powerful. Calls for extermination were made on a regular basis, and these were opposed by the military, which relies on seabride tacticians in space combat.
Although important, helpful and loyal, the xenophobia inherent in the Coalition system prevents most Coalitionists from fully respecting the seabrides as equals. Although species-motivated abuse is usually reserved for the despised cerafi or gusanos, Coalitionists tend to be patronizing toward seabrides, but due to differences in psychology and the “neutralizing” effects of translation devices the seabrides are not privy to this. Killing, stealing or physically abusing a seabride is illegal, but not to the same degree as doing the same to a human. Eating or raping seabrides is unheard of because of incompatible biology, but lawmakers still made both activities illegal in case of future cases. For their service to the Coalition, seabride colonies have been founded on Europa in Sol, but given the Coalition’s needs and loose pollution laws seabrides are not allowed to establish colonies in the oceans of human-occupied worlds. Because of old superstitions about the “Great Ceiling” and everything above it, these seabride colonists tend to be rebellious individuals who want to emulate humanity and reject old seabride culture.