Data File Updated: Monday, May 30, 2016

The Loroi have the ability to communicate mind-to-mind, without speech. The Loroi refer to this telepathic communication as sanzai, which means "sending." (Disclaimer: Wendy Pini introduced the "sending" term in her Elfquest series.) All healthy Loroi (both male and female) have some degree of telepathic power, telepathic sensitivity, and skill in various telepathic abilities, levels of which vary greatly from individual to individual. The term “telepathy” conjures up a lot of very different notions, many of which are highly mystical in nature (and probably better described as “psychic”). Examples of psychic abilities often associated with telepathy that are NOT a part of Loroi telepathy are: clairvoyance, psychometry, precognition, empathy, or astral projection. Some Loroi do have psychokinetic abilities, which are described here. At various points in this article I use the term "psionics," which refers to both telepathic and psychokinetic abilities.

Basic Telepathic Abilities

Sending

Sending is the basic ability to send a telepathic message to another Loroi. For most ordinary Loroi, sending has a range of not much more than 100 meters. Remote telepathic sendings arrive nearly instantaneously, and are not limited by the speed of light. Sending is also not limited by line-of-sight; physical objects such as walls do not present a barrier to sending. Individuals with greater telepathic power (especially if amplified) can transmit to a much greater range, but doing so presents potential problems of "volume" to nearby Loroi. Messages can be broadcast to all listeners, or targeted toward a specific individual, but the higher the "volume" of the sending and the greater the distance it must be sent, the harder it is to keep the message private.

The content of the message is not exactly transmission of “thought” or “emotion,” but is faster and more expressive than spoken language. The amount of information carried per second via sending is about five times the information carried in normal speech, but since a lot of the bandwidth is used to add nuance and deeper meaning to the message, sending operates at only about twice the speed of speech. Think of it as if sending was a spoken message with subtitles, a music track and mood lighting. Although it is possible to knowingly send false information via remote telepathy, doing so convincingly can be difficult because of the large amount of conscious, subconscious and emotional data involved in the message. The higher the bandwidth, the greater the detail and depth of the subtext, and the harder it is to consciously control. It's possible to intentionally omit this subtext, but then the receiver definitely knows something's up; it's a bit like when someone refuses to look you in the eye when talking to you. However, just because it's difficult to knowingly lie doesn't mean that the message must be impartial or strictly factual; it can contain opinion or judgment. Every Loroi has her own point of view, so information that she believes to be true is always colored to some extent by personal biases. Two people can watch the same event and form different interpretations of it.

Most of the content of sending is conscious, and deliberately structured, in a manner similar to spoken grammar. Elements of it are less conscious, and some may be completely unconscious, akin to muttering under one's breath, or babbling while asleep. A Loroi who stubs her toe might "cry out" telepathically, and the subtext of this telepathic message would probably contain information that the crier was in pain, but this would not be literally be a transmission of pain.

Physical Link

Skin-to-skin physical contact between Loroi automatically creates a direct telepathic link that is much stronger and more intimate than normal remote telepathy. Sending between linked individuals is faster and carries more bandwidth, nearly equaling the sharing of thoughts. Large amounts of information can be transferred quickly in this manner. Attempting to relay false information or to even conceal information is even more difficult than in remote sending because of the increased intimacy of the connection, and physical link is sometimes used as a means between individuals to verify the truth of a given issue. However, the direct physical link involves the lowering of a substantial portion of one’s personal barriers, and so is normally only done between close friends, or as an explicit demonstration of trust. Casual touching is taboo in Loroi society, which is one of the reasons why Loroi clothing exposes very little skin.

Mental Discipline

Unlike words spoken at a normal volume, which can be heard only at short range and do not travel through walls, telepathic sending carries to the fill limit of the sender's range, regardless of normal physical barriers. Loroi must quickly learn at an early age both to screen out external telepathic chatter, and to limit their own semi-conscious telepathic emissions. Every sane Loroi who survives past childhood must have developed some degree of mental discipline, but this discipline can also be specifically trained, as it is important for resisting telepathic intrusions or attacks.

Reception and Signature Detection

Most Loroi can only receive telepathic messages within their sent range, but particularly sensitive telepaths can detect messages from much greater ranges, and sensitivity can be enhanced mechanically (see Amplification, below) and through the use of certain chemicals. Very skilled telepaths can sometimes intercept sendings that were targeted for someone else.

An actively transmitted telepathic message normally conveys to the receiver both a clear indication of the sender's relative physical location, and also a recognizable telepathic signature identifying the sender. So telepathic messages cannot generally be sent anonymously.

An individual's mental signature can be detected even if that individual is not actively sending, though at reduced range and with less ease than detecting an active signature. In most Loroi this purely passive ability has a range of only a few meters, but very sensitive individuals, especially when enhanced by amplification devices and drugs, can detect the presence of minds at very great (read: interstellar) distances. This detection works to various degrees with non-Loroi minds as well, and being able to know the location of enemies in both tactical and strategic situations is, of course, one of the key Loroi advantages. The ability to consciously disguise or hide one's signature, referred to as lotai, is very rare and difficult, even among Loroi.

Telepathy in Loroi Society

Telepathy is used to the exclusion of spoken or written language in most situations in Loroi society. Written or spoken language is used mainly for information which must be permanently recorded, or mechanically transmitted in some way. Outside of certain situations in which spoken language is required (such as shipboard radio communication), the use of spoken language instead of telepathy is considered rude, indicating a lack of trust, dishonesty, or hostility. Spoken language is used in a prelude to a fight between openly hostile parties, to avoid telepathic connections that might be exploited.

Because of their reliance on telepathy, the development of language in most Loroi subcultures has been slow or non-existent. Nearly all Loroi cultures still use a variant of the Trade Language that dates back to the Soia era, and which has changed surprisingly little in all that time.

Names

Telepathic names are complex, partly descriptive, and partly an expression of the individual's mental signature. They are not easily translated into language, and so most Loroi (including all warriors) must additionally have a "spoken name," which usually has a literal meaning (e.g., Leinnol translates as “Fireblade”). Spoken names are used for the written record and when dealing with potential opponents or outsiders (aliens).

Archives

Telepathic communication is ephemeral; the Loroi do not possess any mechanical means to record it. Any information that needs to be preserved must be either written down or spoken aloud for audio recordings. Both of these methods are arduous for the Loroi and often involve some loss of detail, because of the higher bandwidth of telepathy compared to language. As such, the Loroi are notorious for their poor documentation habits. To help reduce this loss of information, the Loroi have a specialized caste of “Observers” (the Listel) who serve as a sort of living telepathic library; their job is to witness events and to receive and memorize important telepathic discussions, and to preserve and pass them on to the rest of Loroi society and future generations. The Listel have eidetic memories and can remember information with great precision, and by forming a physical link with another Listel, they can transfer this information at high speed. Listel serve aboard military vessels, both to record the events that transpire, but also to serve as a reference of existing information. Some forms of information depend entirely on this living record and are rarely if ever written down, such as the ancient heroic sagas that form the core of Loroi philosophy.

Mental Health

Telepathy is a double-edged sword when it comes to mental illness. On the one hand, telepathy provides superior tools both to diagnose and to treat mental disorders, from developmental problems, to behavioral disorders, psychoses, and dementia due to aging. On the other hand, when such disorders are untreatable, they present a serious problem to Loroi society. The mental illness of a telepathic mind cannot be hidden behind the walls of a sanitarium, and with a subject of sufficient telepathic power, such illness can be extremely dangerous to others. The unfortunate consequence is that for Loroi with severe birth defects, brain damage, untreatable insanity or dementia, the inevitable result is euthanasia.

Loroi vs. Aliens

The Loroi are, as far as they are aware, the only telepathic species since the fall of the Soia (who had psionic devices and so were presumably also telepathic). In addition to being seen as proof of Loroi descent from the Soia, many Loroi consider their telepathic nature as being a higher and superior form of life as compared with other alien species, collectively referred to as binzer ("mutes"). The subconscious Loroi association between the spoken word and hostility also increases the perception of other races that the Loroi are arrogant and belligerent (and is why the Loroi have developed a dedicated diplomatic caste for dealing verbally with outsiders).

Loroi telepathy has varying effects in regard to non-Loroi alien subjects. No known alien is truly telepathic, and so aliens may not transmit telepathic messages or experience the true depth of the Loroi skin-to-skin telepathic link. However, most intelligent alien species do generate a mental signature that can be detected by Loroi telepaths, and it is possible for Loroi to send a telepathic message to or use other telepathic abilities on an alien subject, though this often requires actual physical contact.

Alien brain structure and thought patterns vary widely, and so alien susceptibility to Loroi telepathic techniques also varies greatly from species to species. Loroi can read some species very easily, and others hardly at all. On the extreme side, one race (the Golim) is so susceptible to Loroi telepathy that any individual within a certain range of a Loroi is essentially mesmerized and completely open to the will of the Loroi (even if the Loroi isn’t consciously attempting to influence the Golim). At the other extreme, Humanity appears to be highly resistant to all Loroi telepathic abilities, including signature detection.

In general, aliens cannot receive Loroi remote telepathic transmissions unless they are “shouted” at (Golim being the notable exception). With only a few exceptions, Loroi can detect the signatures of all alien minds. Loroi can establish direct physical link with an alien subject via touch; even resistant aliens will notice the telepathic contact. However, while the contact will enhance whatever abilities the Loroi might attempt to use on the subject, the Loroi and the alien subject will not experience the intimate two-way contact that a Link between two Loroi produces, because the alien is not itself a telepath. The effectiveness of various other Loroi telepathic abilities on aliens varies from species to species.

All aliens are uniformly susceptible to Loroi psychokinesis, regardless of their relative resistance or susceptibility to Loroi telepathy. Psychokinesis produces real forces that interact with matter in ways consistent with physical law; telepathy does not. One cannot be “resistant” to psychokinetic effects unless one is also psychokinetic, and is using one’s own abilities to counteract another source of PK.

Advanced Telepathic Techniques

These are specialized abilities, normally taught only to members of the Mizol, Teidar and other telepathic warfare specialists, or to members of special civilian orders, such as the Nedatan (Philosophers) or Bistimadi (Farseers).

Amplification

With the return to spaceflight, the Loroi rediscovered examples of psionic amplifiers left by their Soia predecessors, and promptly replicated the technology and put it to use. Amplifiers can increase both the range and power of active telepathy and the sensitivity of passive telepathic reception and detection.

Passive telepathic amplifiers are large room-sized devices, serve both to increase the range and sensitivity of passive detection and to screen out local telepathic chatter. They are used aboard starships by Farseers to track the distant location and movements of foreign populations, and domestically by civilian orders to keep track of local populations. Range of Farseer sense varies. "Average" Farseers are generally able to sense some distance into the Umiak lines, although most don't have the "resolution" to detect ships distinctly from planetary populations, so for the most part they can only detect ships when they have entered the lifeless Steppes, or occasionally when they are moving through largely uninhabited "transit" systems.

Smaller, wearable telepathic amplifiers for enhancement of active telepathy are mainly used by Teidar. Portable active telepathic amplifiers may also be used by Mizol or other authorities in some cases, such as the interrogation of an uncooperative subject or emergency long-range transmissions. Actively amplified telepathy is often harder to finely control, and prolonged amplifier use may sometimes cause health problems (see Psychokinesis: Amplification).

Offensive Sending

A powerful telepath (such as an amplified Teidar) may attempt to overwhelm a target mind with a brute-force telepathic attack. A high-volume telepathic "shout" can disrupt, overload, or confuse an alien mind that is unprotected, or a Loroi mind with much weaker telepathic power than the attacker. Such an attack, if successful, will momentarily stun or disorient the target, but with a very high power differential or a particularly sensitive mind, it is possible for the target to lose consciousness or even suffer lasting impairment.

Jamming

A powerful telepath may attempt to "jam" telepathy by flooding the area with telepathic noise. Some telepaths have the ability to passively detect the use of all psionic abilities, including psychokinesis as well as telepathy. Such detection usually has a short range, unless amplified. Telepaths with this "psi sense" can also have the ability to interfere with psi use on a more fundamental level, projecting an "antipsi" field that damps down all psi use within an area.

Mind Warfare

In addition to sending and reception of information, telepathy can be used to interact in more complex ways with a target mind. If a telepath can get past a target's mental defenses, it may be possible to read what's on the target's mind, or even actively interfere with the target's memory, sensory perception, sleep, or actions. In ancient times, these skills focused on Loroi vs. Loroi techniques, which meant overpowering or subtly infiltrating the other telepath's mental discipline. In modern times, the primary focus of these warfare techniques has shifted to the less subtle Loroi vs. Alien techniques. Most of these abilities require close proximity or even physical contact.

Reading Thoughts

Most Loroi can perceive some of the surface thoughts of another Loroi if the two are sharing a direct physical link, but it is much harder to do at range, and especially without the target being aware of the contact. Establishing such contact without the cooperation of the target means either overpowering the target's mental defenses with superior telepathic power, or else very subtly establishing a covert contact without the subject even being aware of it.

Getting into a target's mind and searching for information that the subject is not actively thinking about is possible, but it means essentially asking the target questions; the target will generally be aware that it is being probed, and may refuse to "answer." This can again be overcome through brute force, willing the target to retrieve the desired information. To retrieve such information without the target's knowledge means somehow asking a question and receiving an answer, all within the limits of subconscious activity. The latter obviously requires great skill and finesse.

Q&A

It seems there is no chance for Loroi to be betrayed. Their allies could not hope to deny the Loroi any form of technology. Unless, of course, they strictly control which members of their society the Loroi come in contact with. Specifically, there is supposed to be an allied race who has higher tech than the Loroi. How do they keep their technology secret? 

The Historians themselves do not routinely interact with any alien species, and especially not with the Loroi, for this very reason. Most interaction between the Historians and other aliens is done through the medium of artificial personality constructs.  

With telepathy like theirs, the Loroi could form a society of one. They could be something that has never been seen before: A super-organism of unimaginable intelligence. Humans and Umiak would be like bacteria to a mind composed to 6-7? however many billions of Loroi exist. The Loroi would win any war with their far superior technology, and imagining the psychic power of 7 billion minds is difficult. 

The kind of telepathic "gestalt" you refer to requires that the Loroi be physically touching, so there are physical limits to this sort of "supermind." And I'm not sure how well a group of minds linked in this manner would really be able to think as a group. I suppose a team of 4 or 5 physically touching, telepathically linked Loroi would probably make a formidable chess opponent... but it would look like a game of Twister.

If Tempo is holding Beryl's hand in her left hand and Fireblade's hand in her right, does Beryl have a connection to Fireblade, or do both of their connections stop at Tempo? Would a mosh pit of Loroi all be connected?

Touch contact is peer-to-peer; Fireblade touching Tempo doesn't give her direct access to Beryl. However, Tempo could choose to act as a telepathic relay, giving Fireblade and Beryl access to each other (that's not quite as high-bandwidth as direct touch, but close). This is of limited use, since if she's close enough to touch Tempo, Fireblade is probably close enough to lean over and touch Beryl herself. As osmium suggests, there are practical limits on how many people can be linked in this manner, as the amount of information being passed back and forth quickly becomes unmanageable. The only practical use I can think of for multi-person links is groups of Listel transferring information.

Signature Detection: Is it limited to intelligent, thinking things or all living creatures? If all, then how does one (in this case) define living? For example, if i grow/create an AI, will a Loroi detect it? 

The signature is created by minds, not necessarily "intelligent" ones. The more complex the mind, the stronger the signal; very primitive organisms do generate signatures, but for the average Loroi, trying to detect the signatures of every small organism around them would be like trying to see stars in the daytime. In general, a mind needs to be more sophisticated than a frog or primitive reptile to be detectable. Computers (electronic, photonic, quantum or otherwise) operate in a manner that's completely inconsistent with a Loroi mind, and so don't generate a signature that a Loroi would recognize (regardless of whether the computer could "think" or not). An artificial organism or brain (a "replicant" or "bioroid") that operated in a manner similar to an organic brain might generate a signature that a Loroi could detect, but thus far the Loroi have never encountered such a mind. The Historian AI constructs, for example, do not generate a signature detectable by the Loroi. 

Warfare: Will we ever get to see a mind-battle?

Yes.

Surely the Umiak have captured enough Loroi by this point in the war that, and have sufficient skill in genetic manipulation, that they should have been able to reproduce telepathy in their own people by now.

Loroi telepathy is a product of the way the Loroi brain is structured; there isn't a telepathic "organ" or something similar that is easy to identify and reproduce. Even the Loroi themselves don't understand exactly how telepathy works or what makes some telepaths more powerful than others.

Hmm, if the Loroi have amplifiers, then there is a detectable AND reproducible effect. This brings up two questions: One, do other races, and even the Loroi themselves, have telepathic screening tech? And two, are 'psi-bombs' used? I mean, like, bombs that create a massive physic outburst. If no, why not? 

The short answer is that it's possible to amplify an effect without necessarily being able to independently reproduce that effect.

See also: Psychokinesis, The Loroi