race from David Brin
sci-fi series of novels. The traeki are composite beings; they are formed from a number of donut-shaped ring
s, each of which is an independent entity in its own right. Each ring has a specific function
; for instance, a ring may accommodate sensory organs, or pheromone producers, or limbs of manipulation. These will combine together to form a stack
, a pile of rings conjoined together by mucusy bonds. Once joined, a ring is unlikely to leave the traeki entity, although new ones may often be grown by the traeki externally, and added to the stack.
The traeki is a composite being in more ways than just the material; a stack has no single, unified mind, but has instead the minds of every ring it incorporates. Rings in a stack not only cooperate, but actually converse with each other. To a traeki, the concept of democracy is instinctive. For most decisions, the rings will vote on what course of action to take. However, a ring still has the ability to go against the decision; for instance, if a traeki collectively decides to stand its/their ground in the face of danger, the basal segment(equipped with legs, or other means of transportation) may go against the collective will and take it upon itself to flee, taking the rest of the stack with it. However, under normal circumstances the democratic decision will almost certainly be obeyed by all the rings.
The physical composition of a traeki ring is basically the same, regardless of its function: a torus-shaped, fatty organic object. According to its role, it may have eye buds lining the outside, or other sensory organs; it may have tentacle-like manipulation appendages protruding from its sides; in a basal segment, there will be feet, flippers, or any other mode of transport positioned on the bottom; the list is endless. (It actually is endless, as the traeki engineer new types of rings with new functions constantly.) Some rings are featureless on the outside; these have interior functions, such as the rings-of-cognition, which deal with abstract thought that the other rings find more difficult.
Memory is not stored neurally, but in the form of permanent wax crystals, which are stored at the core of every ring. This form of memory has both advantages and disadvantages over neural memory. Every perception is recorded accurately to memory, with capacity for perfect recall. However, since the memories are stored materially, in wax, it takes a considerable amount of time for the memory wax to congeal, and so to record events to memory. Because of this, a traeki memory will not finish recording that something has happened until quite a long time after the event has finished. For this and other reasons, traeki reaction speed is very poor.
Traeki reproduction takes place either through the method of growing rings externally in mulch piles, and building a new traeki with them, or by the process known as vlenning. This is roughly equivalent to giving birth, but it is much more hazardous. During this process, a complete miniature stack or a number of infant rings will be expelled by the stack. However, the experience threatens the very composite identity of the traeki. During the period of upheaval which follows the shock of vlenning, the complex bonds and relations between the rings may be threatened. So dramatic is this experience for a traeki stack, that the entity which remains after the vlenning will often seem, to other species, to be a completely different person.
The traeki were originally Uplifted by the Poa, but were transformed from pacifist, docile stacks into aggressive and egotistical fanatics by the Oailie. The Jophur, as these remaining traeki are known, are a dominant species in Galactic affairs. The only true traeki remaining live as sooners on the fallow planet of Jijo, in Galaxy Four.