by Max Barry

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4

Among a Sea of Stars...



Sunset Exploration Command Resolution-Class Frigate
As long as the Republic has existed so too has the Sunset Exploration Command. Initially charged with exploring the Solar System, it has expanded as the technologies available to it have expanded to cover not only the local system but nearby star systems, interstellar space, and now nearly the entire galaxy. While the individual odds of coming across a Republic Explorer on assignment in a far-off system are low, those widely scattered ships and their intrepid crews have explored countless worlds and made contact with an amazing variety of new life and new civilizations.

From Empires to Utopias and beyond, some of these civilizations have contributed knowledge and individuals to the Republic far in excess of what their limited contact might suggest. Others have chosen to remain isolated with only scant knowledge flowing to the outside galaxy. There are some more that have become extinct either through their own actions, a grand accident of nature, or outside malevolence. In all of these the Exploration Command has sought to preserve some knowledge of their civilization. In a few cases this has led to the resurrection of entire species while in many others a mere factbook entry will suffice, awaiting the time when once again a starship will cross the void to discover them anew.

While many of the documented species and civilizations can be found in rare numbers in the Republic, this is not universally true. Some of these have links to other, more notable space-faring powers while some are near-vanishing in numbers and representation. In some cases only a single contact has been made with explorers from Sunset or the Triumvirate of Yut and the entire history of the civilization is either mostly, completely, or entirely unknown. Whether or not they are better known to others is up to the whims of fate but the goal of the Exploration Command is to always expand the scope and context of explored space.


Standard Operating Procedure

Galactic Exploration Command System Notation

The Exploration Command labels star systems, planets, and
minor bodies according to the following key:

Example: GEC-F1Ca

    GEC (Galactic Exploration Command) -
    F (Priority Designation; Reserved for Singularities,
    A
    rtificial Constructs, and Fractal Anomalies
    )
    1 (Numbered in the Order Surveyed) (Sol System)
    C (Position of the Planet from its Primary or
    Closest Star
    ) (Earth)
    a (Position of the Minor Body (Moon, Asteroid) from
    its Primary Gravitational Influence
    ) (Luna)
Whenever the Exploration Command surveys a new system, they follow a specific procedure that then varies wildly depending on what they find. However, the following is always true; The basic details of a system are determined and cataloged: The star type(s), how many planets and of what type, how many satellites they have, as well as other major and minor cosmological details. This survey is reasonably detailed but does not involve anything more than the sensors routinely available to an Exploration Command starship. In most cases, if there is advanced life - that is, sentience lifeforms that have a considerable impact on their environment - this will be detected during this phase. A combination communications/navigation/passive sensor satellite is deployed around every major body and these are labeled with the system information. This is also sent back to Fleet and then onward to the Galactic Exploration Command's central record-keeping operation. In most cases that survey data is then accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Not all system elements are named, but local names take automatic precedence over external assignment (if any) in the database and in official correspondence. Stars are then broadly categorized by stellar spectrum (O, B, A, F, G, K, and M), planets and minor bodies by type (D, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, P, T, X and Y) and all others by catalog entry number (10001-XYZ). While this is the official method, there are a large number of planets and star systems that bear popular labels from before the Galactic Exploration Command assumed the role of centralized record-keeper and these are still maintained and used where confusion would arise from their replacement.


Far Beyond the Republic
Beyond the colonies and developed worlds of the Republic, there are a number of planets and systems that have some degree of notoriety or infamy in the minds of both the common citizen and the noted explorer. Most of these are not claimed in whole or in part and some quite the opposite...


The Bazaar, Lethon
Lethon (Alpha/Gamma Border)
A scourge that haunts all righteous civilizations, slavery is a dark stain upon the very galaxy. To take away the free will of another - to remove unwillingly the choices that signify the very gift of sentience - is among the very worst crimes that can be committed on another being. Lethon is just one such manifestation of those crimes but to the Republic and other civilizations that contend over the issue of slavery it is an important one. A nexus for slavers and other miscreants across the sector, the slave markets of Lethon trade in the lives of thousands of slaves each and every day and an untold number more pass through on their way from one world to another. This also makes it an important location for those who fight the trade; Isolated and ill-prepared, it would be the work of a day for any navy to wipe the city away but more important is the information that flows through the traders, merchants, tavern owners, and the slaves themselves.

Numerous spies and informants work here keeping an eye on the comings and goings of the various slave traders as well as the mercenaries, pirates, and others who serve and service them. Occasionally the markets act as other sources of information as well with covert buyers and agents secretly purchasing slaves for both their freedom and for the information they possess. Eliminating the middleman of the Market would only be a temporary setback for the slavers but acting on the information gathered has allowed various entities to strike directly at both the harvesters and the ultimate destination of the slaves that pass through.

Rime (GEC-92, The Periphery)
In the early days of extra-solar travel one of the first ships of the nascent Exploration Command stumbled across a frozen, seemingly lifeless world. Only a chance discovery by the SDF-Columbia would reveal the world to be anything more than just another frozen ball spinning darkly in the endless night. That discovery was a ship buried deep beneath the ice, entombed there for what would turn out to be nearly a million years. Mounting an expedition to breach the ice and explore the vessel, the Columbia's crew - along with several researchers and investigators from the young Triumvirate of Yut - discovered the ship to be both refuge and exile for the being known as the Nameless One. An exile from the long-fallen Empire of the Kal-En-Vesho, it was she who most directly contributed to that fall by betraying the secrets and methods of that corrupt and decadent civilization to their vast slave hordes. For this she was exiled, locked in the ice for all eternity, and doomed to forever contemplate the folly of her actions. The location of her prison was lost during the calamitous war that ended the Empire of the Shapers, but its rediscovery has led to their re-emergence as a species as well as to a glimpse into the far past of the galaxy.

For those willing to make the trip and able to present themselves before the Nameless One, she is capable of acting as both historian and seer. With the advantage of a million years of contemplation and the knowledge of a galaxy-spanning empire that rose and fell in the space of another hundred thousand, she can provide sharp insight into both current events and the consequences of history. Notably she maintains no outside connection to the galaxy aside from what she is given by the rare visitor; As alien as the Kal-En-Vesho are to us is the galaxy as it is now to her.


The Dragon's Eye
The Dragon's Eye (Deep Space, The Delta Quadrant)
Located far from any Republic world, the particularity known as the Dragon's Eye was discovered in deep space by the roaming exploration starship SDF-Ojeni. A rogue planet, the world was cast out of its primordial system many millions of years ago and has since crossed the stellar gulf between one of the nearby dwarf galaxies and our own. Discovered by chance, it was then used as a funeral world for one of the great conquerors; A place where their mortal body would lay undiscovered and undisturbed except for the chance encounter with the Ojeni.

A world covered with a single endless ocean, the secrets of the planet are only apparent when one ventures beneath the glass-smooth surface. Heated by a continual flow of burning phosphorous, and aided by a unique chemical makeup, the liquid seas cover a vast complex that spans nearly the entire planet, ringing the world atop a chain of underwater mountains that have been covered in structures that strongly resemble temples, gardens, amphitheaters, and galleries. But hidden far below these already astounding treasures lies the true secret of the Dragon's Eye; A single enormous tomb dedicated to the life and memory of a conqueror who lived some seventy-two thousand years ago.

This crypt houses both the singular coffin - an enormous crystal formed around the still-whole corpse - and numerous smaller edifices devoted to the bodies of family and most loyal followers. Surmounting these are great mounds of treasure in all conceivable varies from gems to currency to weapons and armor. These are intermingled with the cultural artifacts from a thousand conquered civilizations but beyond these lies the true treasure to those who seek knowledge. In an enormous circle of alcoves around the outer edge lay the preserved bodies of the leaders of these same along with their most important cultural relics; Founding documents, royal crowns, and similar are providing a treasure trove of information as to the past history of the Delta Quadrant.


Distant Civilizations...

    Esti'Ilwe
    Esti (Non-Aligned System)
    Avian Humanoid
    Size/Build: 1.5 Meters (Trim)
    Weight: 30 Kilograms
    The Esti'Ilwe were discovered on one of the Republic's first exploration missions into the Delta Quadrant by the starship SDF-Ojeni. While the circumstances of that encounter are still unclear, only a vanishingly small number of this Avian species has appeared in Republic space. Most can be found on Chains of Jade, which is also host to a number of other micro-population colonies.

    One of a very small number of Avian sentient species encountered, the Esti'Ilwe bear some resemblance to terrestrial Blue Jays. They have a black beak that fades to gray with age and their body, aside from fringes at ankles and wrist and their large wing feathers, is covered with very fine down. For their size, they are deceptively light weight and are still capable of flying significant distances though their wing muscles have begun the process of evolutionary atrophy. Because of this Esti'Ilwe architecture tends to emphasize very large and open interior spaces even in their spaceship design.

    The Esti'Ilwe labor under a military government that has ruled since the unification of their various governments approximately twenty years ago. Exceedingly tenacious, it holds power by any means necessary and has gone so far as to create an elaborate hoax where it claims to be in constant conflict with a nearby - and non-existent - civilization. It has sabotaged its own ships to create the illusion of attacks, destroyed multiple orbital colonies that have threatened sedition, and spread plagues through the local agricultural system in an effort to more closely control the population. All of this is made even more tragic because the neighboring system that is claimed to be the home of the non-existent aggressor has a large inhabitable planet that would make an excellent second home and relieve the population stress that contributed to the rise of the military government.

    Because of their need for open space and widespread damage to their home planet's ecology, the Esti'Ilwe have spread out to populate their entire star system with a bewildering array of orbital habitats, constructs, and resource reclamation facilities. Most of these consist of a large spherical habitat that is spun for gravity with an attached zero-g facility dedicated to whatever the primary economic purpose is. Previously, four large asteroid bases with a number of tethered spheres were host to a large portion of the space-based population but three of these were destroyed in a false-flag operation and their surviving population dispersed to increasingly overcrowded secondary habitats. It is speculated that the level of destruction was not intentional and that this may be the misstep that tips the government and the Esti'Ilwe civilization over the edge.


    Duab'Akii

    Duab (Non-Aligned System)
    Humanoid (Amphibian Origins)
    Size/Build: 1.6 Meters (Average)
    Weight: 55 Kilograms
    The Duab'Akii are a near-Human species with a number of significant and interesting differences. The most important is their religion, Akii, which is so widespread and pervasive that they are almost universally known as Duab'Akii rather than the more linguistically correct Duab. Emphasizing knowledge, exploration, and education, the only standard of faith is that there is a goddess, Akii, who created the Universe and its physical laws and set it to run. Her adherents believe that by learning more about the universe they learn more about her though whether this will allow them to transcend the Universe or control it is one of the few strong points of contention within the Faithful.

    Biologically, the Duab'Akii evolved from an amphibian that somewhat resembled an eel or snake and they still have several physical remnants of that ancestry. They are capable of storing a significant electrical charge in specialty organs and discharging it. This is now commonly used to power the strip-like appliances that they wear for both decoration and function. They can also use this discharge as a weapon, stunning or potentially killing a similarly sized target. It should be noted that they are not immune to their own ability. Also of interest are the shape of various body structures; A rounded diamond shape that often finds its way into other aspects of Duab'Akii design. They also have a notable spur that extends up from the back of the jaw to the skull; This is made of cartilage and contains the ear canals.

    Another unique facet is their reproductive process; Male Duab'Akii fertilize an egg which is then consumed. This is required because the hard-shelled egg must be softened by the digestive enzymes before the hatchling can break through. Once these have moved through the digestive tract they are then placed in incubators; Before the modern era decomposing bodily waste provided the needed heat and 'dung baby' is still a common insult.

    There are four possible genders; Hatchlings, Male, Female, and Fal'Os. All hatchlings are capable of becoming either of the three genders though the Fal'Os requires participation in a special ritual. The female and male gender balance is determined at puberty by the body sampling the prevalence of certain pheromones in the air and favoring the lesser of the two. This can be manipulated by spending three to four years in the exclusive company of one or the other gender. Fal'Os is the result of a hatchling who has gone through puberty without exposure to any of these pheromones and is exceptionally rare. While it renders the individual sterile, having the reproductive organs of neither gender, it also results in a heightened level of physical sensation that is considered blessed by Akii.

    Of additional note are the flexible rubber-like strips that all Duab'Akii wear instead of clothing. These are both tool and decoration as well as having some religious significance. Some function as tools, such as various types of sensors, while others are decorative and may serve to indicate particular events, ranks, or simply to emphasis the shape of their body in pleasing ways. They also have a part in the Faith of Akii; To experience the world around them is to learn more about Her. Allowing more of the body to have contact with the world is seen as an expression of the Faith.


    Dulyani
    Dulyan (Non-Aligned System)
    Humanoid
    Size/Build: 1.6 Meters (Average)
    Weight: 60 Kilograms
    The few Dulyani that reside in Sunset are the result of slow immigration from their colony on the Republic world of Queen of the Valley. Constructed by the Princess Shasta Meniver as an trade and diplomatic outpost, the colony is small and not expected to grow much larger and thus the total migrant population of Dulyani in Sunset will likely be limited. While their numbers inside Sunset are expected to remain limited, this isn't to say that they themselves are a vanishing species; The Dulyani Principality has fully developed their home system and all of the Great Houses bar one control a major colony world or several smaller.

    Aside from a faint growth zone along the center-line of their body the species is, baring a few small differences, identical to Humans. Whether this is due to some shared ancestry or galactic coincidence is something that is only being lightly investigated; The Dulyani have been through several near-extinction level events during their known history and many records as well as artifacts have been lost. What is known about their past is fascinating to both researchers and of concern to their galactic neighbors. At one time, the Dulyani were ruled by the House of Shatterblood. This House started as a despotic military rule and descended from there into madness and cruelty. Eventually the Great Houses arose and fomented a revolt. A trap was laid that successfully removed most of House Shatterblood's military might and the Great Houses deposed their overlords and banished them to a far realm. It is apparently these banished that have somehow escaped their captivity to occasionally seek revenge and conquest over their former chattel.


    Kaissi
    Unknown (Non-Aligned System)
    Humanoid
    Size/Build: 1.5 Meters (Average)
    Weight: 50 Kilograms
    The Kaissi are an essentially humanoid and nearly Human species aside from a couple distinct traits. The first and most obvious is their blue skin which only ranges slightly in color. Their eyes are slightly larger and are either violet, red, or a dark blue. A very few have gray hair but for the most part it is solidly black. They are in fact close enough to Humans that they can interbreed with any meta-Human species though most of their young are infertile. The major difference is that all Kaissi have a dense cluster of glands under their cheeks that can rapidly change according to their emotional state in patterns that can be easily discerned and read by those with some experience. These patterns, and various extensions there-of, form the basis for their written language. Individuals who have trained themselves to suppress their emotions, and thus the visual clues as to their actions, are widely feared or respected throughout Kaissi culture.

    What little is known about their civilization is that they appear to be largely a slave-species, possibly under the domination of the Serukta Sehkrisaal. A few of their species were purchased from the market on Lethon - a notorious slavery nexus on the Alpha/Gamma Quadrant border region - as part of an intelligence operation and these have then filtered out into broader Sunset society. Whether they still have a homeland at all or whether their world has been subjected to the harsh xeroforming notorious of the Sacral Empire is unknown.


    Danyth

    Jerenda (Non-Aligned System)
    Humanoid (Amphibian Origins)
    Size/Build: 1.6 Meters (Average)
    Weight: 60 Kilograms
    The Danyth are a near-human species that hails from the distant civilization of Jerenda. Contact was established when an SDF task force recovered a Danyth scout ship that had been captured by the Syo, a species of psychotically aggressive and clinically insane duck-like humanoids. Their civilization is broadly nomadic and suffered greatly under a large number of Syo attacks. Humanoid, they have a visible collar of cartilage at the neck, the back of the hand, and along the shin and knee. They also have a low ridge above where the ear would be on a human and this borders their hairline. Their nasal and auditory sensory organs are located inside the neck collar, though they have a somewhat flattened 'nose'. They also breath through the neck collar. This collar wraps around the back of the neck and spreads across the chest, wrapping under the chest and disappearing over the floating ribs. Additionally, there are small depressions on all of the 'collars' and along the brow ridge, dipping down into a subtle 'Y' shape on the nose. These have small markings that are luminescent. Under the right lighting, such as black light, they will glow a soft blue or white color. Their skin color ranges from blue to white and hair color from gray to white. Their eyes are also mildly luminescent and are typically a soft blue occasionally varying to dark blue or white.


    Xiaru

    Kalimos (Non-Aligned World)
    Humanoid (Mammalian Origins)
    Size/Build: 1 Meter (Thick)
    Weight: 25 Kilograms
    The Xiaru are small, furry humanoids that hail from the independent planet Kalimos. They are small - barely over a meter in most cases - and have short sandy brown to dirty red fur all over their bodies. They have a short parrot-like beak on a vaguely newt-like head and have a crown of antenna similar to those found on some species of salamander. Their feet are bird-like, with long claws, and their three-fingered hands have the same orange colored claws as their feet though they are much shorter. Xiaru normally live in large packs organized around the senior-most breeding females. When the number of females gets beyond four or five, the pack splits up. On Kalimos this usually results in a bloody conflict as one group tries to seize the resources of the former pack and drive the other group into exile. Often this results in enough deaths that the group re-unifies, though they seem to be blind to this cycle of growth and death. Off-world Xiaru are typically loners - single survivors of these battles who have decided to make the ultimate journey into exile.


    Druth'Haari

    Unknown
    Per Host Species (Crystalline Infestation)
    Size/Build: Per Host Species
    Weight: Per Host Species
    The Druth'Haari are something of an enigma to both Republic science and the galaxy at large. What little is known about their civilization indicates that they are extremely powerful - at least on the level of a civilization controlling a single galaxy (K3) or possibly more. However, they are extremely diffuse - quite possibly existing in some fashion at scattered locations across the entire universe. Whereas most species know much of their own history and their origins, the three examples of the Druth'Haari currently known know little about themselves other than the name of their species. However, this lack of knowledge is tempered by a seeming connection to a series of highly advanced artifacts of both indeterminable age and power. While these artifacts, or the remnants there-of, seem to be the evolutionary source of two other species (The Doso and the Heon) it is unknown as of yet whether their current form is their true one, an intermediate stage, or simply representational. The current Druth'Haari form is that of a humanoid from any number of known species with a framework of metallic extensions wrapped around their body studded with the occasional crystalline node, usually at a hard point such as the back of the hand or breastbone. The metallic extensions, while they seem to encase the body, are in fact merged with it to such an extent that any attempt to remove them would likely be lethal. Whether or not these extensions contain the sentience of the combined organism is unknown, but crystalline nodes have been found deep in the host's nervous system. A pattern some consider similar to circuitry is inscribed on the metallic areas but it is not known whether these link together the crystals or have their own, yet undiscovered, function.

    Thus far, none of the observed examples show any apparent deviation from the culture of their host. They clearly have supplanted the original sentient, but whether this is now a combination or a complete replacement is again, unknown. While there have been no attempts to goad them into defending themselves, their actions are peaceful and seem to indicate a desire to fully explore a chosen aspect of their new life. One well-known individual has a popular Internet broadcast where they make hats, on request, on a live stream.


    Zsenyu

    Unknown (Nomadic Traders)
    Humanoid (Aquatic Mammal Origins)
    Size/Build: 1.5 Meters (Heavyset)
    Weight: 110 Kilograms
    Not much is known about the origins of the Zsenyu; Nomadic traders and merchants, most contact with their species is inside of this context though it is known that they place a high emphasis on personal capability and hard work. Standing only a meter and a half in height, they resemble in a vague way the various Terran Pinnipoid species (Walrus) with thick gray skin and two large tusks. It is suspected but not confirmed that both male and female have the same outward characteristics as no distinctly female or male examples have been encountered.

    Very little is known of their technology or of their civilization in general aside from a specific ritual conducted when trade negotiations are initiated. Those who wish to have the best deals will join with the Zsenyu Trade Master for a leisurely session of hands-only fishing in one of the large rocky pools they maintain aboard their ships for this very purpose. There is something of a contest and a method to this ritual; A potential partner will want to catch the largest fish possible but they will also want to have their fish match that of the Trade Master as closely as possible but not catching a fish at all - or worse declining the ritual - can be highly negative to the negotiations to come. The ritual is meant to establish if the potential partner is personally capable of feeding themselves. Those who catch a fish are considered trustworthy as they know the value and the skill of honest labor. Those who cannot are seen as lazy and incapable of any kind of trust; Cash up front only.

    Further information has placed the Zsenyu as one of several protected civilizations within the larger Therian Hegemony. While little is known about their homeworlds, they seem to act as the external contact agents for the Hegemony; Those who are willing to engage them in peaceful trade are considered for potential contact with the Hegemony.


    Krȃng

    Homeworld Unknown (Destroyed)
    Amorphous (Amoeba Origins)
    Size/Build: 0.4 Meters (Average)
    Weight: 6 Kilograms
    Intruders from the outlying Monoceros Ring, the Krȃng were the builders of the Circlets and would-be galactic conquerors. Having established their own Empire across a significant portion of the Monoceros some ninety thousand years ago, they had set their eyes on an expansion into the Milky Way proper. This was thwarted by the i'Halalaentariel when they took advantage of the Krȃng's over-extension to first attack and destroy their home system and then ravage their returning fleets piecemeal. Now it is understood that the various Circlets are the only remnants of that fallen Empire in our galaxy - though the i'Halalaentariel and their militant Avatars seem to believe otherwise; They threaten to destroy any planet where the Krȃng are discovered. This is cited as the only way to ensure that the Krȃng never again threaten our Galaxy.

    Originally a species of parasite feeding off the blood nutrients of the TsahThah (Annihilated by the i'Halalaentariel when they destroyed the Krȃng homeworld), they appear as small semi-flattened ovals of translucent blue gel with three trailing tendrils with flat, spade-shaped manipulators at the end. Various indentations and slight protuberances mark the main body with individual variances though the color and size does not vary except in case of illness or disease. There are no visible organs; The Krȃng are still very close physically to their unicellular origins. Their reproductive cycle is very much tied into their culture and the expansion (and contraction) of their Empire. Aged Krȃng begin a process of cell division that results in dozens of young and these are then implanted or ingested, ideally by a sentient species. The young then feed on the host's neurological tissue and eventually kill them. They are then 'born' as mature Krȃng by breaking open the host's neuro-cavities, typically exiting through either the ears or mouth. Multiple young can inhabit the same host but competition is extreme with only one surviving to maturity.

    Unfortunately this means that to produce a mature Krȃng another sentient must die; Young that find themselves in an animal host do not mature and are treated as less than slaves by other Krȃng. According to their religious beliefs, the more intelligent the host is the more intelligent the mature Krȃng will be. This led to the Krȃng cultivating enormous herds of 'cattle' species with the best and brightest being culled to serve as hosts. This loathsome system of reproduction was what led to their destruction at the hands of the i'Halalaentariel but, as noted by the Avatar i'Farerelia; "...to fight the monster one must become one."

    Once they have emerged from their hosts the mature individuals prefer to augment their lack of physical ability through the use of various robots and drones. Every Krȃng carries within its own DNA-equivalent a unique operating system/interface that they load and unload into each robot as it is used or left idle. Without either the operating system or the genetic 'key' required to install it, most of their complex technology is completely useless. Undoubtedly established as a method of ensuring their cattle populations remained so, it has also made the exploration of their remaining artifacts very difficult. So too does the fact that they seemingly anticipated their own destruction; nearly every piece of their technology beyond the most basic elements is somehow booby-trapped. In some cases these are 'merely' lethal, but in many they are directly designed to result in the revival of the species through the reactivation of automated systems or the subversion of whatever technology these find themselves in contact with.

    Formal warnings and advisories concerning the discovery of or contact with Krȃng technology have been issued through all Republic and Triumvirate information sources. It cannot be emphasized enough how dangerous it is to even examine their artifacts. Stern warnings have been repeatedly issued; if one comes in contact with anything that might be related to the Krȃng, alert the local military immediately and - if possible - the closest Republic Defense Force asset. Even if an enemy of the Republic the priority will be the containment and neutralization of these artifacts. It should be noted that working with the Defense Force is the best option - the i'Halalaentariel have the ability to sense even a moderate Krȃng infestation anywhere in the galaxy and they will respond with overwhelming force.


    i'Halalaentariel

    Homeworld Unknown
    Quadruped (Unknown Origins)
    Size/Build: 2.0 Meters (Average)
    Weight: 125 Kilograms
    Among the many civilizations that sprang up in the Monoceros Ring of one hundred thousand years ago, the i'Halalaentariel are one of the few to have survived to the present day. Most of the others were wiped away; Either enslaved by and ultimately destroyed by the Krȃng or wiped away when the i'Halalaentariel became the monsters they despised and embarked on their Great Crusade to destroy the parasites and become - in their own taking - the Salvation of the Galaxy. That conflict ended somewhere in the region of eighty thousand years ago with the destruction of the Krȃng home system during a moment of weakness - their attempted invasion of the Galactic Disc. Having prepared their fleets in secret, the war-spheres struck at the heart of the empire to wipe it away in fire and ash and eventually consume it. The substance of their system would become the Expanding Helicoid Mega-Structure known as Union and the i'Halalaentariel would, at some point during these many millennia, ascend to leave their biological selves behind.

    While they are notoriously closed-mouthed about their origins, some guesses can be made. With four spindly legs raised on broad three-toed feet, bio-luminescent patches here and there as well as various armor or chitinous plates, the leading theory is that they evolved as swamp or marsh predators in an environment strikingly similar to that of their greatest natural competitor. Some have gone as far as to suggest that they may in fact be an off-shoot species of the altogether-unknown TsahThah though this speculation has gained little factual traction. Since the Krȃng home system was destroyed - possibly in a great act of self-sacrifice? - this is impossible to confirm. The other functions of their displayed biology are similarly hard to confirm as they have either migrated to or left behind engram images of themselves and all representation is done by appropriate video or holographic display though this too lends some credence to the idea that they were once the TsahThah; Non-biological sapients are largely immune to the Krȃng and certainly cannot be fed on during their reproductive process.


    Blishi'i

    Blishi'i(Blishi'i System)
    Humanoid (Aquatic Origins)
    Size/Build: 1.8 Meters (Slender)
    Weight: 60 Kilograms
    The Blishi'i United Federation is one of the larger civilizations inhabiting the Monoceros Ring, that distant halo of sparse stars that sits at the very edge of the edge of our galaxy. As the name suggests, they were the founding species (Inhabiting, of course, the planet Blishi'i in the Blishi'i Star System) of the United Federation. They are a bipedal species with plentiful traces of their aquatic origins; Slick scales cover their body and their three-fingered hands and two-toed feet are wide and flat and still give them exceptional speed and agility in the water. Filter feeders, they have no mouth as such and they communicate with others via an adhesive appliance over a conveniently placed sonar transducer that translates the vibrations of an external membrane to a common language used by the various sapient species of the United Federation. It should be noted that they are no longer aquatic; Their filter-gills (located on their chest) have evolved to process atmospheric gases though they still use them to eat; Blishi'i cuisine is noted for its soups as well as a particularly uncommon set of table manners.

    This particular Blishi'i is a member of the United Space Fleet, which is charged with defending the United Federation as well as destroying its great enemies Heresy and Corruption. This marks the organization as quasi-religious though both concepts are quite real with Heresy being direct adoption of the ideals of the Krȃng or the i'Halalaentariel while Corruption is use of ill-understood or directly harmful technologies or artifacts of either civilization. In most cases the first is more hastily pursued than the second; The i'Halalaentariel are generally seen as watchers who have removed themselves from the galactic stage - Ascended Guardians. This does not mean that their ideal or technology are wholly harmless but certainly not as outright malevolent as that of the Krȃng nor likely to lead to their resurgence and domination. Aside from this task the BUSF also performs the normal duties of a military space force - patrol, enforcement, rescue, exploration, and intelligence gathering.

    Contrary to what might be suggested, the BUF is a peaceful civilization that is all too aware of the dangers of the galaxy; As example, the i'Halalaentariel subjected the planet Blishi'i to intentional nuclear winter some eighty-thousand years ago to deny the Krȃng potential reproductive stock. This wiped out a species on the verge of sentience and paved the way for the later evolution of the Blishi'i. Their preference is peaceful exploration, communication, and trade and this is reflected in the mannerisms of the BUSF. While their ships carry their weapons behind visible but concealing hatches, the officers conceal their weapons and armor in order to present a more peaceful demeanor. There are no common crew on a BUSF vessel as automation and self-configuration have eliminated the need so instead there are two ranks of officers; Fellows and Paladins occasionally augmented by the Clerics of the Inquisition though as one might expect these have been translated into terms we recognize.

    In the regular service, the Paladins serve as the commanding officer while Fellows are their juniors. Neither rank is explicitly divided further but both carry their history as part of the robe-like uniform they wear; The characters on the brow and on the lapels show the officer's history from duration of service to postings to notable actions. According to guidelines the Fellows are supposed to sort themselves out according to suitability for each task but there is always a measure of interpersonal relations at play with the ranking Paladin having the final authority as to the seniority and responsibility of their Fellows. As illustrated, Fellows wear a uniform marked in silver trim and characters while Paladins substitute this with gold; The Clerics of the Inquisition instead wear crimson robes with black characters and trim. The robes are fixed to the upper edge of the armor all officers wear underneath at forearm, shin, and neck. Getting dressed in the morning is a pain in the posterior.


    Sh'Dos

    Shiva(Ares System)
    Centaur Caninoid (Mammalian Origins)
    Size/Build: 2.2 Meters (Slender)
    Weight: 90 Kilograms
    The Sh'Dos were one of the many species created, shaped, and controlled by the Kal-En-Vesho empire until its eventual overthrow and destruction at the hands of its own slaves some one million years ago. With a flattened canine face, black fur over black skin, and towering pointed ears, they have something of a satanic or even demonic appearance and this is further reinforced by their four legs, which are spaced very close together and seem almost awkward. Perhaps because of this the Sh'Dos tend towards slow and careful movement which some consider stately. They are thinkers and planners and it is guessed that they were one of the core species behind the rebellion that ultimately ended the Kal-En-Vesho era. No collaborating evidence exists, of course, as it has long rotted away along with the rest of the empire but opinions in this direction have been given by the lone survivor of that era.

    It is not known in what way they opposed their masters, but the method used to gain revenge on their rebellious slaves is. Firstly a biological plague was spread upon their world that led to the adults wasting away, unable to move to even feed themselves, while their children died in front of them in utter agony. Then the world itself was stripped of all life and all features, even the mountains blasted away to leave nothing but a nearly-uniform sphere. This was then sewn with toxins and left as a warning, only discovered and rejuvenated in the far distant future when the Republic colonized the system. But the Sh'Dos remained; Perhaps aware of their impending fate, they set a great machine deep under the surface that would awake when eventually disturbed. Using the darkest Kal-En-Vesho technology, it attempted to spread a retro-virus to the new inhabitants that would reshape them into the image of the Sh'Dos and thus lead to their rebirth. Unfortunately Shiva - as it is now known - is extremely sparsely inhabited and is mostly covered with enormous drone-operated farms. The virus petered out and the machine was removed for careful study elsewhere. A small colony of the newly resurrected Sh'Dos has been established though it is being carefully monitored for any detrimental tendencies.


    Maiorca

    Ker'Strel(Sessool Space)
    Humanoid (Saurian Origins)
    Size/Build: 3.2 Meters (Imposing)
    Weight: 2800 Kilograms
    Among the exports of the distant Sessool Empire is one of particular interest to those seeking a new experience in the realm of psychotropic pharmaceuticals; The Maiorca Feather. A strong hallucinogenic, it induces a mild state of torpor while the mind wanders elsewhere. Beautiful as well as intoxicating, these feathers are often seen on the silver-chaste platters of the wealthy and notable before being carefully placed on the tongue so that their delicate plumage might color the coming effects. What is often of little concern to those who seek the feathers is what - or in this case, who - they were plucked from. Many assume they come from some manner of avian but that assumption is incorrect - they are the natural crest of the Maiorca, a towering people previously found only on the planet Ker'Strel in the middle of Sessool space. There they serve as the Golden Goose for the local Trade Prince, who carefully controls the export and thus price of this luxurious desirable.

    That is, they were.

    Some distant event has allowed the Maiorca out into the greater galaxy and now small pockets of the titanic herbivores can be found here and there though most seem to be in the Beta Quadrant, where the Sessool Empire still lays near. Since most have been spotted wearing the same manner and form of armor shown, it is assumed that they are part of some military or pseudo-military organization though when asked they are apt to ignore the question. For those with the right connections they have been linked to the hidden moon Kyupuu, where the Slave Prince Jero Heron maintains an active trade in that most despicable merchandise. With a dozen of the titans standing guard, it could be assumed that their emergence into the galaxy is somehow connected to the galactic underworld of slaves, drugs, and worse.


    Flora and Fauna...
    Along with many different sentient species, the scientists, researchers, and officers of the Exploration Command have uncovered many new and unique species of plants and animals and these are augmented by those brought in by merchants, traders, and independent explorers looking to find the next new million DiCoin fad. Some of these are edible, some huggable, while others serve some commercial purpose. The most common of these imports are food products - typically produce - of some kind with most making their way to various research centers to be adjusted to the dominant biochemistry or into suitable agricultural or farming methods. Pets are the next largest segment after this and these are distantly followed by more dangerous species intended for hunting preserves or use as guard animals.

      Txatchel Origin: GEC-2949491Ba
      A small balloon-like animal, the Txatchel have started to make their way across the Republic as a popular pet. Carried at the end of a floating leash, each one looks like a colorful double-cone (or football) with two egg-shaped bulges on each side. A large compound eye on each far side and a wispy group of tendrils clustered around the chin give it the appearance of a floating head. They propel themselves by means of fine cilia all over their body and thus have a soft, downy feel to their skin. When gently stroked behind the eyes, they emit a soft cooing sound and seem to be pleased with the attention, moving closer to press themselves against the hand. They eat small crawling insects and are popular on frontier worlds as both pest control and companionship.

      Kenj Origin: N'Xypndiltn
      The Kenj are a small dog-like species native to the planet N'Xypndiltn, in the Western Expanse of the Ares Cluster. They are an important element in the local culture where their hair is ritually shaved and then placed in a barrel (Kenjal'it) carved from the Kenjal tree and seeped in hot water next to the village fire where it then dissolves into a flavorful and savory brew. This brew, and the Kenj, have started to spread through Republic space as both a popular beverage and a pet, with individuals sometimes owning the pet to maintain their supply of the drink though much of the ritual has been removed in flavor of modern beverage preparation. The Kenj itself is essentially dog-like except for a bony ridge that contains the nasal passages and runs from where the nose would be, over the head, and spreads out to form two curling horns that also incorporate aural passages.

      Syn Origin: GEC-245309D
      Originating with from a small white and purple flower that grows around the base of various trees on the unnamed planet GEC-245309D, Syn is a spice that has the curious effect of inducing temporary synesthisia; The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body. In layman's terms someone who treats their food with a suitable amount of the spice can then see colors or taste sounds. This most often takes the form of a sensory event where the eater experiences the various sensations associated with the origins or nature of the food in question. Seafood might thus invoke the taste of the sound of the ocean surf or the texture of the cry of seabirds. Alcohol seems to heighten and speed both the effects and their duration and taking multiple shots of different liquors of startlingly different origins is an enjoyable way to experience the effects.

      Trypun Origin: Unknown
      The Trypun is a fish-analog that is kept by the Zsenyu for use in their trade negotiation rituals. Aside from its usefulness there, it is also quite tasty. They vary from one-quarter to one meter in length and have a unique three-lobbed appearance with a horny beak and a long fin down the edge of each lobe. They are tailless, steering with the fins and moving with a snake-like undulating motion. There is a large bony spine that runs down the center and this also contains the major organs, rendering most of the meat easily accessible. The flesh is a dark purple when cooked and has a delightfully long-lived aroma. Only one live example of the species has ever been obtained by an outsider and it is currently mounted on the wall of one Magnus Hesche.


    Editor's Note: This factbook is intended to explore the various species that might be found only rarely in Sunset but that might have a much broader representation in the galaxy. Thus they will usually be presented in more detail than in the 'I'm Not Saying It was Aliens but...' factbook, along with information about their origins including other places - NationStates especially - that they might be found.

The Republic of Sunset

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