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The Tenctonese, also known as Newcomers, are a humanoid species in the Alien Nation, television series and earlier film, as well as the later Alien Nation telefilm series. They are from the planet Tencton, though references to numerous slave colonies throughout the series and telemovies indicate that they are widespread beyond their own planet. They are easily distinguished from humans by their hairless, spotted heads. According to the show, more than a quarter of a million Tenctonese reside on Earth in the United States, mostly in the Los Angeles area.
Tenctonese are taken from their parents as children at the age of ten and their tasks are allotted to them. Some of these children are chosen to be "Kleezantsun(popping sound)" or Overseers and are specially conditioned. There are several levels of Overseers, from lowly civilian slave group leaders in charge of the procurement and transport of slaves, to commanders of military vessels, with the highest-ranking Tenctonese seen (so far) being a Fleet Commander with subordinate commanders, addressed as "Excellency." Whether there is a master race to the Tenctonese, or if a small segment of the Tenctonese themselves rule the slaves under them, has never been made exactly clear. Though it has been stated that they are a genetically engineered race designed for any work environment.
On October 19, 1988, a spacecraft from the planet Tencton crash-landed in California's Mojave Desert just outside of Los Angeles. The six-mile-long slave ship Gruza was transporting 250,000 Tenctonese especially bred and genetically engineered for hard labor in any environment. The slave ship's overseers, identified by jagged wrist tattoos on their arms, used hallucinogenic nerve gases to induce fear and keep the slaves submissive. They also exploited the slaves' culture and mythology by personifying the roles of Tenctonese "demons." Because of the hallucinogenic gas and the intertwining of their cultural mythology and their condition of slavery, several years would pass before the Tenctonese could even remember there having been anyone on the slave ship to rebel against, or even that there had been attempts by slaves to rebel, such as the Udara faction.
Despite the Overseers' attempts to subdue the slaves, a vibrant culture managed to survive the voyage. The Tenctonese Elders functioned as a government-in-exile, and there was a recognized resistance force, as well as an extremist resistance faction called Udara, which "seeded" its own members as well as children on the slaveship with programming activated by post-hypnotic suggestion which turned the "seeded" individual into a programmable killing machine.
The overseers arbitrarily punished innocent Tenctonese in retaliation for Udara's actions. Because of this, feelings about Udara were mixed. Some considered them heroes, while others considered them no better than the Overseers.
Initially the U.S. government quarantined the aliens for several months and with the assistance of the Immigration and Naturalization Service each slave was given a human name. Most of the first Tenctonese to be processed, received "normal" human names. However, as the aliens continued to pour in, INS workers became bored and overworked, and at times chose whimsical names, reflecting historical or literary characters and geographic settings. Some examples: Albert Einstein, Wyatt Earp, Betsy Ross, Buster Keaton, Madame Bovary/Emma Bovary, Silas Marner, Kenny Bunkport, Norman Conquest, May O'Naise, Sam Francisco, Phillip Dirt, Polly Wanakraker, and Paul Bearer.
After being released from quarantine, the majority of the Tenctonese settled in an area of Los Angeles that became known as Little Tencton (or, abusively, Slagtown). They assimilated into American culture, becoming known as "Newcomers," taking jobs wherever their individual talents might lie and becoming just another minority in the city.
The Newcomers are hated by some humans, self-proclaimed "Purists" who fear the alien presence on the planet. These people use the pejorative term "slags" or "spongeheads" or "rubberheads" when referring to these interstellar refugees, who in turn derogatorily call humans "terts." Like any other minority group, the Newcomers face a daily battle just to maintain their civil rights.
Tenctonese are highly spiritual, and have at least three, and possibly more, major religions. The most common Tenctonese religious tradition is called the Celinus, and is based on the idea of living by the example set by Celine and Andarko, a Tenctonese woman and man who sacrificed their own lives long ago to save many. Detective George Francisco and his immediate family practice the Celinus.
Another religious tradition, practiced by Uncle Moodri, identified as only "pre-Celinist," is distinguished by its matriarchial traditions and worship of the goddess Ionia. A third tradition, practiced by Cathy Frankel, is described as more like an Eastern tradition, being more "internal." Various "Liubof" sects also exist among the Tenctonese, as well as a number of smaller cults that have broken with mainstream Tenctonese religion.
Despite having religious differences, Tenctonese do not appear to experience many religious conflicts. As stated, even members of the same family may follow different faiths. Many Tenctonese of different faiths observe the same secular holidays, such as the Day of Descent.
Some Tenctonese spiritual practices appear to transcend religious differences. One example is the serdso, a colorful, palm-sized artifact which is said to carry the soul of an individual Tenctonese. It is placed near the bed every night, so that the soul, which wanders during sleep, can return to the waking world. Warriors in Tenctonese society were said to have fought for their serdsos.
In addition, the matriarchal system of the pre-Celinists seems to have been inherited by the Celinists and possibly other Tenctonese religious groups, from the Pre-Celenist tradition. In the most traditional of Tenctonese villages, women are said to have made all the decisions, while the men only gathered roots and had babies. This has been relaxed by modern Tenctonese, but the matrilineal social structure has been maintained, as is evident in the female-dominated Tenctonese clergy and the tradition of men moving into women's homes, or "nests".
Practitioners of the Celinist tradition make use of an object known either as the "Portal" or the "Heart of Tencton," a technological marvel in the form of a small box with symbolic ornamentation, which is in fact capable of projecting virtual environments, including alien worlds, for its users to navigate as they attempt to reach a higher spiritual plane. The box contains a highly powerful energy source, and if opened incorrectly, will burn its handler into a charred corpse. The box, officially the property of the Tenctonese elders, was at one time appropriated illegally by a Tenctonese millennial splinter cult.
Ironically, among the formerly enslaved Tenctonese is a lowly caste of "Eenos." Eenos can be distinguished by a spotting pattern that is considered gray and ill-defined by other Tenctonese, who hardly consider Eenos to be of their own species. The reason for this is that Eenos performed the lowliest jobs on the slave ships, primarily involving waste-handling, and were forced to feed themselves from the waste, which included the bodies of the dead. Eenos are considered cannibals by the other Tenctonese, despite the fact that the situation faced by them in slavery left no other option. Resentment is so strong between Eenos and other Tenctonese that most humans do not even know the Eenos exist. Upon reaching Earth, the caste system was maintained, with Eenos taking the jobs of the "unclean," and living primarily underground.
The Tenctonese look generally similar to humans, but have bulbous craniums and no hair on their scalps. Instead they have large reddish-brown spot-like markings on their heads and down their spines. These Potniki spots are an erogenous zone and will identify the individual and family. These markings will fade with the loss of mental faculties due to drunkenness, age, or drugs. This effect is similar to a human’s eyes losing focus and glazing over.
Since they had been bred as slaves, the Newcomers are 30% stronger and 20% smarter than the average human, as well as having a life expectancy of about 140 years and keener senses. This is partially due to the way they have been bred for adaptability but also due to their anatomical differences, which include having two hearts. With two hearts, the onset time of poisons is halved. If one heart is damaged, the other will work harder for a limited time. One heart is located in approximately the same spot as a human heart, the second is located in the center of the chest at the bottom of the rib cage.
Additional differences include the fact that Tenctonese bodies do not assimilate the nutrients of food if it has been cooked. Their main diet consist of raw animal flesh such as uncooked small mammals (weasel, beaver, muskrat), organs (spleen, pancreas), molluscs and insects. Drinking sour milk affects them in the same way that humans are intoxicated by alcohol. Rather than blush, the eyes of the Tenctonese change color with embarrassment. Instead of getting tense around the neck when they feel stress, their feet swell. Tenctonese ears look more like slits or holes in the sides of their heads but are still more sensitive than human ears. They also have no fingerprints, need large doses of ultraviolet light to increase energy levels, and their skin (and some of their flesh) dissolves if exposed to simple salt water (it is like acid to them).
Some terrestrial diseases appear to affect the Tenctonese as well, though their reactions to these diseases may be different. For example, instead of sneezing, a Tenctonese affected by the common cold has a tendency to blink rapidly and in succession.
Tectonese have very sensitive nerve clusters, or axials, just underneath their armpit that are the physiological equivalent of human temples. Striking them there has the equivalent effect of kicking a human in the groin. If precisely struck with enough force, a blow to the axial can be fatal.
Certain common compounds found on Earth are poisonous to the Newcomers and some compounds that are poisonous to humans are harmless to Tenctonese. Poisons include salt (harshly acidic); monosodium glutamate (MSG) (mild poison); chocolate (gives them the shakes, leads to a heart attack); tobacco (makes them stutter, leads to laryngitis); fluoride (strong poison); fluorocarbons (choking, leads to asphyxiation); and caffeine (causes dizziness). However, methane, alcohol, asbestos, and radon, have no effect on them. Some Newcomers, such as Uncle Moodri, have demonstrated an ability to touch salt water (Moodri actually walked in ocean water) without harm. Newcomers sprinkle arsenic flakes on their food, but it is unknown whether it is a required nutrient, or just tastes good.
The Newcomers have a number of organs that humans don’t have, such as the spartiary gland, which produces a substance in Tenctonese blood cells that accelerates healing by rapidly carrying oxygen and needed nutrients to injured areas, and gives Tenctonese blood its pink color. Because of the color of their blood, the skin of the Tenctonese has a pinker hue than human Caucasians.
Having been genetically engineered to adapt to harsh conditions, Tenctonese may evolve more rapidly in certain situations than human populations. It is not unheard of for Tenctonese to "adapt" in a single generation. This potential adaptability is addressed several times throughout the franchise by various characters. The original movie Alien Nation also introduced a drug used on the slave ship that, in an otherwise fatal environment, triggers a last-ditch physiological alteration in Newcomers.
At about eight weeks, the Tenctonese fetus, inside its pod, possesses several insect-like characteristics, including a claws and an exoskeleton, suggesting that the Tenctonese evolved from an ancestor possessing these characteristics.
One sexual activity among Tenctonese, where one hums along the spots on his or her partner’s back, is referred to as humming.
Their method of procreation is also unique. For the Newcomers to conceive, there are two kinds of Newcomer males, Gannaum and Binnaum. Fertilization of the female’s egg requires both types of male. The binnaum prepares the linnaum (female) for fertilization. Binnaum children are rare (1 in 100) and do not take permanent mates. Instead, they are expected to grant their services as needed for the continuance of their race. A binnaum is recognizable by the oversized spots on his head. These individuals form a brotherhood and each of them service hundreds of females a year. The ceremony of fertilization is shared by close friends. While holding burning candles, those in attendance discreetly turn their backs on the female as the binnaum prepares her for her spouse. The binnaum prepares the "channel" with the catalyzing emission, and the gannaum (the father) provides the sperm. The binnaum does not contribute genetically to the offspring, however. The ejaculate of Newcomers is referred to as "Aklafluid."
Binnaums, in addition to their role in reproduction, also demonstrate an ability to communicate with others on what has been described in the telemovies as a psychic plane. This communication, not limited to other binnaums, seems to take the form of telepathically transmitted imagery.
Another major difference between Newcomers and Humans is that the male and female Tenctonese share the burdens of reproduction equally, with the female carrying the baby for only the first eight weeks of the pregnancy. As seen in the series episode Partners, the male and female remain biologically in-sync throughout the process so when the female begins to experience pangs of the coming separation, the male will experience pains in his lingpod flap, which will also fall and open in preparation for the pod. The baby is incubated in a pod called the haffacotta (pod surrounding the fetus) inside the mother's womb. The time of passing the pod to the father is a much celebrated happening in which the entire family participates. The mother enters a state of relaxation to allow her body to begin the process of transferring the haffacotta. The female's navel opens and the pod's tentacle emerges. This tentacle is gently encouraged to suction to the father's chest. The pod is then passed out of the female womb through the navel. Charcoal powder is sprinkled on the navel to enable its closure. A hard shell develops around the pod as it dries in the open air, this shell is immediately cracked off gently and in some cases a piece is eaten by either or both parents. The sex is identifiable once the haffacotta is completely shelled and then the pod is gently placed inside the lingpod flap by both parents. The male will carry the haffacotta inside his lingpod flap for the remaining eight weeks of pregnancy, similar to a kangaroo's pouch, until he gives birth, much like a male seahorse.
As seen in the Alien Nation telemovie "Body and Soul," Newcomer/Human copulation is possible, but if it is attempted without proper training, the human will suffer serious injury. Even simply attempting to copulate with a Newcomer can result in whiplash at the very least. Newcomer sex clinics exist in order to facilitate mixed-species relationships. Whether it is only human males who risk injury in sex with Newcomers, or if human women would be similarly affected via sex with Newcomer men, was never elaborated on. Male newcomers and human women have, however, been seen as couples in the series (Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Allan Poe of Nu-Knit, Inc.), and a homosexual male mixed-species couple attended classes at the sex clinic, so there is some circumstantial evidence that mixed-species copulations may pose a danger for both male and female humans.
As Newcomers have been known to adapt quickly to new environments, it has been theorized that the ability to interbreed with humans is only a matter of time. When a deformed Newcomer girl was publicized as a hybrid, outrage from both human Purist and Newcomer communities was naturally triggered, with both sides fearing that interbreeding would lead to pollutions of their respective species' genomes.
In Cross of Blood, the final novel of the series. it is revealed that humans and Tenctonese are potentially reproductively compatible, when Cathy Frankel (a Tenctonese female) became pregnant with (a human male) Matthew Sikes' child without the aid of a Binnaum. This indicates that human male ejaculate can serve as a catalyzing agent for Newcomer pregnancy in the same manner of a Binnaum. In this case, unlike the normal Tenctonese gestation cycle, the Newcomer female carried the child for the full term of the pregnancy. However, the resulting offspring did not survive beyond the first few weeks of his birth, due to physiological incompatibilities resulting from his Tenctonese biology trying to overtake/override his human biology. The topic of cross-breeding did not come up again as Cross of Blood was the final novel of the franchise, and the comics did not approach that particular aspect of Human/Tenctonese relations.
- Binnaum are similar to the concept of the Cogenitor as shown in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode of that name.