Bentu

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Their home world is named Beni Ontu. Bentu are nocturnal desert-dwellers who evolved to live in rocky warrens. Their society is built around corporations originally founded by clans. Each clan was centered around the underground spring where their original warren was founded.

They somewhat resemble hairless tarsiers, with large, yellow eyes, a small pug nose, and thin lips in a small mouth. They have bat-like ears designed to dissipate heat. Their skin comes in tera cotta shades that can skew toward pink or orange. Adults have brown tiger stripes of fur patches along the back of their necks and upper back. They have 6 long, slender digits on their hands and feet. They have heat pits running in an arc under each cheek like a snake.

Their large eyes give them extremely good night vision, but while their hearing is better than an average human, it's nowhere near as advanced as a bat or other animal with similarly large ears. Their heat pits allow them to move in total darkness well enough to avoid running into things, though resolution is extremely rough and the effective range is only a few feet, so it's more like proximity sensors than any kind of heat vision.

Colonies

Bentu have few colony worlds, most of them established to secure homesteading rights so they could have exclusive access to valuable resources. They generally prefer to let other species shoulder the upfront costs of creating, growing, and securing a colony, then move in to supply goods and services contracts as soon as the colony is big enough to support the stores. Resource-harvesting outposts, on the other hand, are extremely common. Bentu will set up harvesting operations anywhere that's profitable (and most of the time legal). It is quite common for probationary Commonwealth members to sell mining rights in their home systems to Bentu corporations. That's also why Bentu sponsor more new species into the Commonwealth than any other member.

Corporate Culture

Bentu government is essentially controlled by the leading corporate clans, and regulatory policy usually designed more to keep their peers in check than to protect the general population.

Corporate Clans

Bao na Dae

Nassir

The Stone

The traditional symbol of management and power over others is the stone desk. It consists of two sturdy columns or blocks (traditionally stone but not always) with a thin stone slab placed on top to form a table. The type of stone reflects the manager’s rank in the company (and therefore society). Sandstone is for the lowest rank, increasing in strength and value up to diorite and granite. The stone slab is cut thin as a judge of the manager’s worthiness of their position. All unfinished or in-process work is required to be left on the manager’s desk, as is any computer or electronic device. Bentu continue to use hardcopy paperwork for most of their forms (even if already copied to digital). This is deliberately done to add weight to the manager’s desk. If the workload breaks their stone, it shows that they were incapable of handling their responsibilities and they forfeit their position (either being demoted to the lowest rank in their division or fired outright). Another reason for the thin stone is that the act of firing a manager is made official when their superior breaks the stone (with fist or tool). Firing someone is called “shattering their stone”, and it is not only loss of their job, but expulsion from the corporation and clan. They become touni- worthless outcasts.

Covertly repairing a fracture or reinforcing the slab is the most unethical, dishonorable thing a manager can do. Punishments are severe, even considered equal to treason at higher ranks. Deliberately shattering a manager’s stone when you are not a superior in their chain of command is almost as bad. No one else is even allowed to touch a manager’s stone for this very reason. Traditionally, the stone is supposed to come directly from Beni Ontu, though cost-cutting for the lower ranks means a lot of sandstone comes from local sources.

Water Tribute

The giving and receiving of water is a gesture of respect and acknowledgement of one's power over another. Managers keep a tribute bowl on their desks (directly over one of the support columns so its weight doesn't strain the slab). When an underling arrives to make a request, they pour their own water into the bowl as a tribute offering symbolic of the days when water was used as actual payment. When a manager makes a request of another, that person is allowed to take some of the water from their bowl. The ritualized process clearly spells out who has the valued service at the meeting. Like an overloaded desk cracking, only less severe, a manager who runs out of water in their bowl is seen as useless dead weight - they obviously provide far less value than they consume. Traditionally, it's only supposed to be water from their home world, preferably clan water, but cheaters have diluted their own supplies for so many generations that it's meaningless at this point outside of formal ceremonies.

Outside of the office the supplicant can offer a cup or vial. Between equals— either exchange water, share a cup, or visitor offers and host returns offer. Counts as “you don’t owe me anything”. Friend asking for a favor would still give water to keep if the other considered it a real favor. Accepting water from a touni is considered dirty and demeaning, lowering yourself out of desperation or lack of character.

Clan Water

Employees are given a small vial of water sourced from the founding spring or well of the corporate clan. It represents their shares in the company, and can be held as collateral in debts or repossessed if they are fired. Theft of clan water from an employee is considered an offense against the entire corporation and dealt with brutally.

Water Oath

“Stone to stone, blood and water bound, I promise to balance the scales.” Followed by whatever the promise or contract is, detailing the obligation and remuneration offered. The oath-giver offers clan water to the other. Accepting the offered water seals the contract and binds them both to uphold their side of the agreement. This verbal agreement is considered just as legally binding as a signature/seal on a paper contract, and the original water container can be presented as proof. Using such proof to claim a false contract will result in significant penalties. Since touni have no corporation and are not recognized by the clans as people, they may not enter into this kind of agreement from either side. While technically permitted, it is exceedingly rare for a Bentu to offer a Water Oath to a non-Bentu. Having an outsider show the oath-giver’s water to others is deeply embarrassing and can cause the Bentu to lose face, especially with their superiors.

Water as wealth

Beni Ontu has little water and is mostly desert. Water became a symbol of wealth and power. Big, wasteful displays of water are traditional trappings of royalty/CEO/warlord, similar to how gold, purple, and silks were for ancient humans. Now that it's plentiful, that's considered tacky and desperate, like a politician naming a golden skyscraper after himself.

Ancestor Worship

The closest thing Bentu have to religion is the veneration and idolization of their direct ancestors and the leaders of their corporate clans.

Family structure and breeding

Genealogy is simplified by only tracking direct ancestors and siblings. Anyone outside of that line is simply considered a "cousin". Traditional inbreeding concerns are bypassed at the DNA level. The application for a parental permit includes genetic testing for heritable diseases. Both parents have to prove they’ve had germline therapy to correct anything the tests find before their parental permit is approved. Modern Bentu society has no cultural inbreeding taboos beyond those medical concerns.

Children are looked at as a long-term investment in the family and clan. One that is expected to pay off if it is to be sponsored into the corporation as an adult. In the event that a Bentu couple becomes unable to maintain the resources necessary to care for both themselves and children, the parents will abandon as many children as necessary to maintain their own survival. A viable adult requires far more investment, and is much harder to replace than a child. Few touni children abandoned this way survive long, and only the most exceptional children would ever be adopted into a new family (likely forfeited to pay a debt rather than any kind of compassion on the adopting family's part).

Touni

The untouchable class. Anyone who’s not an employee of one of the corporate clans or a registered, recognized business owner of their own (subject to daunting qualifications). Includes fired employees, employee offspring they refused to sponsor, and those born of existing touni. Roughly 20% of the Bentu population (varies by location). Stereotype, largely inaccurate and undeserved, is that they’re stupid, lazy, and inept parasites incapable of learning any useful skills even if they were forced into the effort. Touni have few legal rights or recognition beyond those granted by Commonwealth citizenship. They are often exploited as a cheap, disposable workforce by Bentu corporations, especially at remote outposts where Commonwealth inspections are too rare to properly enforce international labor laws.

Technically, the owner and all employees of any corporation that is not officially registered and recognized by the governing corporations are also touni, but this is a somewhat gray area that largely depends on how well the corporation is doing. A Bentu who can build their own successful corporation commands tremendous respect.

There are only 3 ways to stop being touni:

  • be sponsored by an employee (extremely rare)
  • start your own successful corporation (even more rare)
  • die

Language

Every corporation has its own language descended from the original language of its founding clan. Teaching this language to outsiders is considered a minor treason and very shameful, but there have been more than enough slips, espionage, intermarriage, and turncoats over the generations for them to be more obscure than secret. In reality, anyone who cares enough to do the work can find the resources to learn.

Sowri or Low Bentu is a creole used for trade between the clans, but is thought of as sloppy and ugly- only fit for touni and uneducated barbarians (you know, all those *other* clans, not like our fancy, high-class clan). Soft, sibilant consonants and the half r/l sound of Japanese. More aggressive species with harsh languages consider Sowri weak and lisping, but it is as much a necessity from function of mouth and tooth shape as it is linguistic culture.

Common Phrases

“Ancestors’ blessings upon your work.” Formal greeting.

"May the Ancestors favor you and your work." Formal departure blessing. Informally shortened to just "Ancestors' favor" when among equals or sometimes to subordinates. Considered somewhat disrespectful to use the informal with a superior.


Swearing and Insults

"Poisoned wells"

"Ancestors' tears"

"Salted sands"

Parasite: You're not just worthless, you're an active drain on worthwhile people. A severe insult. In a society that bases your value as a person on the value you produce, the only thing worse than a person who produces nothing is a person who actively takes from the productivity of others without giving anything in return.