It’s always raining on rainworld. Also each drop of rain on rainworld is a world, so it’s a pretty good name for the place. Apparently it kind of rains inside some of the worlds in the rain on rainworld, but it’s not a russian doll thing, there’s no worlds inside the rain inside of rainworld rainworlds. There’s only the rainworld and its rainworlds, and their rain I guess, but that’s all, no more worlds.
And to be fair, calling each drop of rainworld rain a world is probably hyperbole, they’re more like terrariums, but calling them worlds sounds cooler. Then again if you go by that standard of ‘world’, you could say there might be worlds inside rainworld rainworlds rain. So maybe it’s best to just say rainworld has a unique planetary atmospheric ecological cycle that perpetually generates large, self-contained droplets filled with complex collections of life that experience their entire lives as they descend through the atmosphere.
The droplets form over long periods. The hyperdense atmosphere slowly churns condensation, aerosols, aerogels, and fine solids until a bathtub sized volume accumulates. It’s just large and dense enough to begin falling, ever so slowly, towards the bottom of the genesis cloud layers. Once through the dense upper layers it begins its terminal descent through the clearest layers of the atmosphere, towards the great slushy ocean below. It may take over 100 planetary cycles for a droplet to fall, but it can be a pretty exciting ride.
Each drop is infused with a mixture of biological materials from the genesis clouds. Once a drop falls through to clear air, the seeds and spores of life within it are exposed to radiation bands that signal it to grow.
It’s hard to say what constitutes an individual lifeform on rainworld. Each drop is essentially a unique biome by the time it begins its descent. The building blocks of life on rainworld developed to be far more interchangeable than Earth life. The evolutionary pressures on rainworld were not driven by reproduction of individual living units, but by the ability to return biologically active material to the genesis cloud layer.
The slush ocean is too cold to support life, and the genesis cloud layer is too thick and dark to allow significant growth and development. Only in the fall through the clear layers allows the living structures within a drop to grow, mutate, and develop new molecular strategies to maximize use of the available thermal and radiative energy before crashing into the ocean below.
Upon crashing onto the semisolid ocean, the drop dissipates violently. Everything inside is torn and thrown as the heat from the drop flash vaporizes the frozen slush. In that violent moment, living structures created during the drops fall have only the thinnest chance to be carried aloft back towards the cloud layer.
The earliest stages of development were driven by simple physical forces. Only incredibly small or buoyant packages of living material made it back to the genesis clouds to be recombined into new drops. But over eons more complex structures developed, utilizing ever more sophisticated aerodynamic principles to improve the chances of returning biological material to the sky.
Life’s mindless brute force algorithm tried everything. The relentless biological lottery of rainworlds drops generated structures resembling balloons, kites, gliders, rotary and cold gas propulsion systems, even a catalyzed monopropellant bio-thruster akin to bombardier beetle.
Eventually life’s mindless brute force algorithm tried things that led to structures that were not quite as mindless, but could actually think a bit. Thinking inside of a drop doesn’t sound like much of an advantage, but it didn’t have to be at first, it was just an unintended side effect of systems that evolved to generate more complex reproductive aerial structures. Some of the aerial reproductive structures had evolved active reactions to stimulus, which gave rise to sensation and eventually thought.
As biological materials developed ever more sophisticated capabilities, the drops began to contain one, or many structures capable of thought, and eventually awareness. The thinking structures could be separate, or integrated, they may be aware of one another, or not, and if they are they may choose to cooperate, or to compete.
The thinking structures in the drops become so well integrated that some were able to understand the nature of their existence, and to take willful action based on that understanding.
At first they could only experience helpless finality, but some structures saw opportunities to improve their chances of returning material to the sky and developed tools and techniques that they employed as their final act. Those that were successful contributed the data for their thinking structures back to the genesis clouds, increasing the likelihood of another drop with thinking structures with similar inclinations.
Sometimes they tried to take a piece of their thinking structures back with them to somehow continue their experience of life, but this was never successful and generally considered a sign of mental illness by rainworld society.
Did I mention they had a society? Sort of- the thinking structures in drops developed enough awareness to recognize the reflection of themselves in the drops around them. A drop is able to communicate with drops in their immediate vicinity, and sort of micro-cultures develop in areas of dense rainfall, but they have very little means of preserving knowledge so their cultures are sort limited to a kind of oral tradition that is lost if it stops raining for a few minutes.
The latest development on rainworld is a new thinking structure that actually can preserve knowledge. Sort of a cellular punchcard mechanism that a living structure can include with its biological return package as a message to the next thinking structure that develops from its material. So far it’s mostly been used for weirdly depressing death notes but a few thinking structures have included their final observations watching other drops collide with the ocean, commenting that a properly designed mechanism could protect the drop, but use the vaporization of the ocean to propel the drop back into the sky, potentially preserving the thinking structure indefinitely.
Could get pretty interesting if they ever figure that out. Rainworld has fallen for a cosmic age, but should the rain ever learn to bounce, it will be the fall of rainworld.
Yeah- that was a stretch, I know. I really wanted to get to ‘The fall of rainworld’ with a kind of game of thrones tone somehow but that’s gonna have to do I think. I’m okay with it.