A typical Androsynth crew.
The Androsynth were a genetically engineered off-shoot of Humans, developed after the Small War of 2015 but before the Ur-Quan Slave War. Abused for both religious reasons and for their legal expendability, they abandoned their progenitors in a feat of mass-exodus. They eventually settled in the Vulpeculae constellation, former territory of the vanished Taalo. Later, the Androsynth were conquered by, and then joined, the Ur-Quan Hierarchy of battle thralls, fighting against humanity and the Alliance of Free Stars in the Ur-Quan Slave War. Several years after the war's end, they were apparently wiped out by the Orz, who seemed to come from out of nowhere, possibly drawn to Vulpeculae by the Androsynth's Dimensional Fatigue experiments.
The original Androsynth were all created from a single genetic encoding of what was meant to be a physically optimal human being. Their shared genome causes them all to look very similar, if not identical. Their features appear more or less like those of an average man of the Caucasian race, though part of their enhancements were to make their features unusually regular and symmetrical, and therefore unusually attractive by human convention. Perhaps in defiance of their original creator's insistence on the perfect symmetry of their faces and bodies, the later generations of Androsynth on Earth adopted an asymmetrical hairstyle, all brushing their hair meticulously to the right of their heads. This was their one stylistic affectation. On Earth, Androsynth were constantly required to wear uniforms with a triangular insignia informing others of their Androsynth status, along with a headset keeping them constantly in radio contact with their work supervisors. This uniform was supplemented with a small tattoo under the right eye of the same Androsynth insignia in case an Androsynth escaped his supervisors and attempted to disguise himself.
After the Slave Revolt and the Emigration, the Androsynth appear to have kept many of these markers of their former slavery as a conscious badge of pride, continuing to wear the uniforms and tattoos and use the headsets (later incorporating visors to add communication of visual data) in memory of their ancestors' way of life. They did, however, abandon the distinctive hairstyles; they also apparently made modifications to the base Androsynth genome, adding melanin to their skin and hair to make themselves more resilient against solar radiation in their colonizing efforts.
The Androsynth, all male and without functioning testes, continued to produce new generations using their own version of Hsien Ho's parthenogenesis process. Rather than adopt the naming conventions of their Human oppressors, they continued to wear the impersonal alphanumeric callsigns given to them by their masters as another badge of pride, with each clone identified by a set of letters corresponding to the "batch" in which he was created, then a number identifying the order in which he'd been born from that batch.
Society and culture
The Androsynth designed their fleet of Guardian vessels after the original space stations in their escape fleet, so that each Guardian has the features of a complete, self-sustaining spaceborne habitat, packing in as much useful living and working space as possible using the StarLight Hilton's avant-garde intriciately layered architecture. Rather than sacrificing this space for the increased acceleration and manueverability of a lower-mass ship when designing military vessels, Androsynth engineers discovered a more intricate, complex and elegant solution (if a more unwieldy one). Perhaps the most amazing engineering accomplishment was the invention of the "Blazer", a retrofitting of Guardian vessels allowing them to change configuration in a deceptively simple manner, allowing for much more efficient thruster use and the ability to use their own large mass as a weapon, instantly changing the existing quasi-civilian Guardian habitats into one of the sector's most powerful battle fleets. The development of such an alien-seeming technology is perhaps the best demonstration of how far Androsynth scientific and cultural development diverged from humans' during their separation.
What little else we know of Androsynth civilization comes from our encounters with them in combat. Both naturally blessed with great intellectual quickness and with a culture that encouraged constant communication through the ubiquitous headset-visors, Androsynth were able to function in concert as crews more easily than Humans, with small teams able to carry out most of a ship's command functions with little computer equipment or verbal communication in comparison with a Human bridge. They also required far fewer amenities in battle conditions, their bodies being physically hale enough to function under much greater stresses than that of the average human crewman.
Before their disappearance, they had a well-developed urban culture on their own planet, with several large cities whose daily activities were all linked by a giant computer network based on an enormous central server, with smaller mainframes serving the central-computing needs of each city and dedicated research station. The Androsynth emphasized centrally coordinated research and information storage, and their intricate library system did not begin to break down until the early stages of their disappearance. The meticulous record-keeping of their computers is the main reason we have even as complete a picture of their last days as we do today.
The story of the Androsynth begins in the initial renaissance of peaceful development of science and technology in the first days after the Small War of 2015, when the warring nations of Earth were united under the United Nations. The UN, fearing a future global holocaust if the development of weapons of mass destruction continued, began forcibly trying to steer Human innovation toward peaceful applications that could benefit a unified, cooperative Human race. They specifically restricted work related to existing "Mass-Kill" devices, barring physicists and engineers from many cutting-edge fields including the study of nuclear power or high-energy lasers. With human creativity thus stymied in the areas it had been strongest for most of its recent past, humans began exploring the new and fruitful field of biotechnology.
A brilliant Swiss scientist named Hsien Ho at the Zurich BioTeknik, one of the institutions that sprung up to meet the new demand for biotech research, did an extensive study of the completed map of the human genetic code that the Human Genome Project had finished years before. Modern technology now allowed him to use this information to edit human genes at will and then develop a reliable, cost-effective method of parthenogenesis — eventually not even requiring a biological host mother — to grow living individuals based on those genes. Ho had realized the dreams of generations of engineering and cloning researchers — being able to produce artificially designed human beings.
In 2019, Ho began creating a series of such "designer people". None of their genetic traits were outside the normal capacity of human beings, but Ho's engineering created an improbably "perfect" genetic code, with any possibility for genetic disease or disability wiped out, and the chances for physical health and fitness, very high intelligence, and a strong and balanced personality maximized. The new humans were all genetic near-clones of each other, with only slight differences between individuals. In order to prevent the various potential complications linked to reproduction (both flaws that might show up in his genetic sequencing, and political opposition from those who saw the clones as a threat to "normal" humans) Ho made all his clones male and congenitally sterile.
The original hopes of Hsien Ho were that, as the clones matured, they would be slowly integrated into Human society and, serving as great scientists, artists and engineers, open the door for future improvement of the human race through genetic engineering. Unfortunately, these hopes would not be realized, thanks to the vagaries of Human politics. Many Humans, still traumatized by the near-brush with total destruction of their species in the Small War, found themselves bereft of spiritual solace. Many of the world's oldest and most powerful religions had collapsed, or had their foundations deeply shaken, as their most sacred sites in the Middle East had been melted to glass by nuclear weapons. Filling this vacuum came the teachings of one Jason MacBride, a man who had formerly made his living selling used ground-transport vehicles before he received what he believed to be a divine revelation.
MacBride believed the Millennium was near — a profound shift of the nature of existence, an end to the metaphorical "thousand years" of Human history and the beginning of a new "thousand years." In this new Millennium, Humans would ascend to a godlike, wholly spiritual existence, free from struggle or doubt. MacBride predicted a specific date — March 11, 2046 — on which normal human existence would end and any of sufficient faith and virtue would attain this ascension. Whether it was MacBride's strong personal charisma or just the novelty of a sincere new religious movement, one unaffiliated with the discredited religions of the past and unafraid to make boldly optimistic claims in a pessimistic time, MacBride's influence spread like wildfire and he soon became one of the most influential leaders on Earth, though he never formally considered himself more than the first among equals in his movement, taking no title other than "Brother Jason."
MacBride claimed that he and his followers were the Homo Deus, or "Godly Men." The use of the Latin term was to imply that his followers would become a new Human species, superior to ordinary men and women, at the moment of the new Millennium. MacBride's religion, acting as a cultural opponent of the United Nations' humanist, materialist, technological plans for a future utopia, thus saw the creation of an artificial race of humans, using godless science to further human evolution, as the ultimate blasphemy.
MacBride thus began a public campaign attacking the adolescent clones. He named them "Android Synthetica" or "Built Man-Like Things" (idiomatically, the "Artificial False Men"), a conscious parallel to his "Homo Deus." This name, interestingly, uses Greek words rather than Latin; whether this was intentional or not (MacBride was no scholar), it soon gained the connotation among the Homo Deus of defining these artificial humans as not even worthy of an ordinary Latin genus-species name, placing them outside of the taxonomy of "natural" animals. This may be the origin of Human xenologists' habit of using the Greek language by convention to name alien concepts when direct transliterations are inconvenient or unavailable -- for instace, the name of the "Mycon" (fungus) race, or the concept of the "Ultron" (thing beyond) from Utwig religion, etc.
The rest of the world, grown complacent in their material peace and prosperity after the Small War, allowed the Homo Deus movement to win legal battle after legal battle, stripping away the clones' rights and increasingly defining them as non-human. The "Android Synthetica" term used by Homo Deus, shortened to "Androsynth", eventually became the commonly used name for them, and by the time the clones reached adulthood they had attained a legal status more or less parallel with slavery. They were immensely valuable both as scientific curiosities and for their native genetic talents that made them excellent at refined intellectual work, and were pampered and sheltered wherever they went. However, the corporations who had sponsored their development effectively owned them as chattels. They lacked the basic rights to bargain for their wages, choose what projects they wished to work on, or freely express their views and participate in governance and independent economic activity, a state that the enlightened governments of Earth at this point would never have tolerated for any Humans had not the dehumanizing rhetoric aimed at them by the Homo Deus not infected Earth's culture to such a degree.
The day March 11, 2046 came and went, and no detectable change in the human condition took place. MacBride, shamed and discredited, claimed that the that the vast majority of his followers had been deceiving him about the purity of their hearts and motives, and that their faithlessness poisoned the movement and prevented the Millennium. Soon, the Homo Deus movement dissipated, and MacBride faded from public life, leaving the legitimacy of his most enduring political legacy, the definition of the Androsynth as non-human non-citizens, in question. Nonetheless opportunistic corporations continued to finance the creation of new generations of Androsynth to join Ho's original creations.
Whatever the ethical issues involved, the prospect of having preternaturally talented and competent employees whom one could legally control with absolute authority was irresistible. By the 2070s, tens of thousands of Androsynth existed all over the world, and the cutting edge of human technological research was dependent on the Androsynth as an easily exploitable intellectual resource. In particular, Androsynth researchers were deeply involved in humanity's most ambitious technological project to date, the creation of a hyperdrive that would allow them to break the speed-of-light barrier and reach the stars.
It was, in retrospect, inevitable that a group whose usefulness came from their high levels of education, intelligence and resourcefulness, with a cultural sense of ethics and morality that was, after all, essentially human, would grow to understand their uniquely subjugated position in the world, find it intolerable, and find a way to escape it. This was reinforced by the Androsynth's knowledge that they were designed to be superior to the ordinary Human population by every Human standard. Finding themselves slaves in a society that they increasingly began to see as beneath their level, they began an intense series of secret communications with each other and with a growing worldwide network of Human sympathizers.
The last humiliation was when a group of scientists in the Eurasian Region of the United Nations used several Androsynth as disposable guinea pigs in a highly dangerous physics experiment that left many maimed or killed. The experiment would have been impossible to conduct without subjects who were both humanly intelligent and resourceful, yet legally expendable; even then, the project would have been unthinkable in earlier decades when Androsynth had been rarer and more valuable. Outraged Eurasian Androsynth responded to news of these abuses with the abortive Hamburg Revolt, in which isolated Androsynth rioters briefly seized control of that city before they were violently suppressed by the UN Peacekeeping Army. It was this incident that crystallized for the Androsynth community how impossible it would be for them to live in peace with Human masters who saw them as property, and it drove them to universally commit to planning for revolution and escape.
Utilizing their refined organizational skills, and a number of technological breakthroughs they had carefully kept secret from their masters, in the spring of 2085 the Androsynth and their human friends staged the violent Clone Revolt. With quick and deadly precision, the Androsynth captured almost every spaceport on the planet. Androsynth engineers and managers had been integral to the operations of the world's largest spaceflight centers, and had used their influence there to secretly siphon off over a thousand spacecraft from the world's shipping, keeping them fueled and ready in preparation for a mass Androsynth exodus. Within 48 hours, all Androsynth had left the Earth's surface and seized control of all of Earth's orbital and lunar stations.
Shocked and terrified, the authorities of Earth mobilized Star Control, a wing of the United Nations military created to maintain order in extraterrestrial space. Facing the greatest breakdown of order imaginable, Star Control forces launched strike after strike against the Androsynth. However, the Androsynth, in defiance of the UN ban on exploring laser technology, had earlier researched a cheap and effective means of converting ordinary radio transmitters into huge microwave-frequency lasers (that is, MASERs), far more powerful than anything available to the stagnant Earth military-industrial complex. They jury-rigged a large arsenal of MASERs from the peaceful stations' formerly benign communications arrays and used them to effortlessly demolish Star Control invasion forces for two months.
The Androsynth, rejected from the Human race and now no longer considering themselves Human, now blockaded vital traffic between Earth and its mining and manufacturing outposts in the inner system, and were in prime position to attack their former masters with whatever weapons of mass destruction they might possess or eventually create. A numbed United Nations now faced a dangerous, unpredictable, inhuman enemy inside their jurisdiction; seeing no other options, they steeled themselves to unlock the Peace Vaults, where Earth's ancient stockpiles of nuclear warheads and orbital lasers had been kept in reserve for an event such as this.
Whether the Androsynth became aware of the UN's plans or not is unknown, but in all probability they recognized that their hold on near-Earth space was not tenable in the long term. Before Earth's arsenals could be refitted for duty, Star Control observers saw eight of the largest orbital stations, including the recently finished StarLight Hilton, an exotic luxury hotel, accelerating toward the outer system.
The Androsynth engineers had somehow modified huge, ungainly orbital habitats into fast, powerful spacecraft. Despite the stations' great mass, their new engines were able to accelerate them quickly enough that Star Control's fastest interception vessels were unable to stop them or even catch up with them. However, one of the faster ten-thruster ore freighters in the asteroid belt, taking advantage of the Androsynth's abandonment of their near-Earth strongholds to return to Earth with its cargo, detected the Androsynth fleet passing it and was able to intercept the Androsynth by pushing its engines to their limits. Before the freighter's pilot could act, he saw the Androsynth vessels surround themselves with a glowing, rotating energy field, which then suddenly moved to a point 500 meters ahead of the vessels, creating a huge glowing red region of space like a "great hole". The vessels accelerated into the hole, at which point vessels and hole suddenly vanished.
In the years to come, humans would correctly identify this phenomenon as a hyperdrive "pushing up" into HyperSpace by opening a portal (a region of Hyperspatial overlap with TrueSpace), a sight familiar to spacefaring races. Not only had the Androsynth created a working hyperdrive in secret, they had managed to fit all eight of their habitats with hyperdrives powerful enough to carry those huge structures out of the Sol system. The Humans of Earth would never make that last leap into technological modernity on their own, only acquiring hyperdrive technology when given it by the Chenjesu at the founding of the Alliance.
Little is now known about the Androsynth's history after their "Emigration", as they called it. However, we can infer that they eventually arrived at the Vulpeculae constellation, the same place the Taalo race had made their home in the days of the Sentient Milieu. Finding the second planet of the star Eta Vulpeculae a suitably Earthlike world, they settled there and began expanding, soon having a bustling population and a colonial sphere of influence throughout Vulpeculae space, even establishing uneasy but peaceful interstellar relations with their Spathi neighbors.
Unfortunately, they had barely been free for thirty years when the Ur-Quan Hierarchy entered our region of space. Turned away by the Chenjesu and Mmrnmhrm's initial defense force, which had halted the Ur-Quan fleet's rimward advance towards Sol, the Ur-Quan headed spinward to accumulate more local Battle Thralls for the war ahead. With the prized resources and industrial capacity of Earth inaccessible to them, and the Chenjesu already busily recruiting the Humans into their Alliance of Free Stars, the Ur-Quan decided to use the Humans' wayward children against them.
The reclusive Androsynth had no advance warning of the Ur-Quan advance and were taken utterly by surprise when the Hierarchy invaded their territory. Hearing the Ur-Quan's demands of fealty, they had no wish to again be enslaved and fought bitterly to retain their freedom. Unfortunately, their relatively small population and underdeveloped military was no match for the Hierarchy's might. Faced with humiliating defeat around the year 2116, the Androsynth, as the Ur-Quan most likely predicted, chose to accept the status of Battle Thrall and maintain the illusion of freedom. Cementing this illusion in their own minds, Androsynth culture accepted their place in the Hierarchy by rationalizing it, not primarily as serving their new Ur-Quan masters, but as an opportunity to wreak revenge upon their former Human masters.
The rebuilt Androsynth military thus became an enthusiastic supporter of the Hierarchy, demanding to primarily be placed in combat against the Humans as a condition of their service; the Ur-Quan gladly indulged them in this, as had been their plan, and found them to be a highly effective weapon against the Humans. Androsynth ship designs and tactics were optimized for use against the comparatively more primitive Star Control forces, and Androsynth commanders, filled with bloodlust, would go outside their Ur-Quan-given orders and purposely seek out Earth-built vessels to hunt for sport.
Androsynth became one of the Humans most feared enemies in the war, second only to the Ilwrath. Humans found it terrifying to fight an enemy that they saw as a genetically enhanced version of themselves, the "next step of human evolution". Moreover, humans experienced deep collective guilt at being asked to direct their strength against an enemy whom their own mothers and fathers had been complicit in cruelly oppressing, a sense that the Androsynth's hatred of Humanity was justified and Humanity's defeat at Androsynth hands would be deserved. These psychological factors, combined with the incredible speed and manueverability of Androsynth Guardian vessels in Blazer attack mode, which made them almost impossible to detect with primitive Human laser-scanning arrays — a fact the Androsynth utilized to great effect in their hit-and-run tactics against human fleets — made patrolling Androsynth-contested space one of the most dreaded tasks for Human commanders in the war. Human captains in Androsynth territory became obsessed with their invisible enemies and their inevitable vengeance, often mistaking nearby asteroids for Guardians and madly destroying them in bursts of what Star Control officers colloquially termed "clone fever."
As thralls, the Androsynth saved their energies for their anti-Human war, choosing to keep a low profile within the Hierarchy. Though they achieved a fearsome reputation as warriors, especially among their Spathi neighbors, few other thralls had much contact with them. The VUX, for instance, knew of them and found their appearance as repellent as that of the Humans, but chose for various reasons to vent their xenophobic hatred on the main human race and mostly ignored the Humans' clones.
After the war ended in 2134, with the Humans defeated and Earth slave-shielded, the Ur-Quan left for their Doctrinal Conflict, leaving their slaves more or less unattended. The Androsynth, gratified to have participated in the defeat and humiliation of their former masters, re-embarked on their peaceful programs of scientific research and self-improvement.
A decade after the end of the war, an Androsynth Guardian, performing a long-range high-speed scouting mission in Blazer form, detected a Precursor artifact in Alpha Lalande, which it recovered. The device generated waves of altered space-time — a phenomenon Androsynth scientists dubbed Dimensional Fatigue, or DF — that allowed them to observe numerous other realities separated from ours, aside from the previously discovered and easily accessible HyperSpace.
What happened next is extremely unclear. The story only became known during the Second War, when The Captain of The Flagship began investigating strange reports from the Spathi of the Androsynth's recent disappearance from interstellar affairs. What had once been Androsynth space was now populated by a new sentient race that seemed to have come from nowhere, fish-like beings calling themselves Orz. They had made their home on the nearby world of Gamma Vulpeculae 1, spoke a bizarre tongue that human linguists had great difficulty in translating even with Precursor computer technology, and were singularly unwilling to discuss the fate of the Androsynth.
The Flagship's Science Officer Bukowski led an ill-fated expedition onto Eta Vulpeculae 2 to investigate the Androsynth's fate. From pieced-together computer records, he learned of the Androsynth's acquisition of the Precursor artifacts and their discovery of DF phenomena. Eager to potentially use newly discovered extradimensional spaces as media for transport and communication with even more compressed distances than HyperSpace, they began experiments, only to make contact with some sort of sentient being living in another space. The entity or entities then began to make reciprocal contact with them, manifesting itself in the form of anomalous, supernatural-seeming physical events eerily similar to those described in Earth paranormal studies; fundamental forces like gravity experienced wild fluctuations in their strength, sensors began to inconsistently perceive nonexistent objects, and physical objects appeared to undergo motion and stress from sourceless, disembodied forces. The Androsynth frantically consulted their sketchy records of such phenomena, derived from a few Earth studies rarely seen as reputable, but to no avail.
Though we can never know the details, the Androsynth at some point appear to have waged some sort of massive ground war; curiously, there appear to have been no invasions or bombardments from space, no combat in orbit or in the atmosphere, or even any substantial combat outside the Androsynth's own cities; it appears they were either warring against each other or some enemy that suddenly appeared in their midst. With the cities devastated by nuclear explosions that detonated from within, all Androsynth bodies then appear to have mysteriously vanished; no biological traces of the Androsynth remained on the planet. And then, somehow, the civilization of the Orz appeared, ships, settlements and all.
We might have learned more had Bukowski not himself gone insane during his investigations, claiming that his increasing knowledge of "Them" — the entities responsible for the Androsynth's disappearance — had allowed "Them" to make a psychic link with him personally, and that further research would draw "Their" attention and cause the human race to be destroyed as the Androsynth had. He was found by his team in the process of destroying all remaining Androsynth computer records, bleeding heavily from self-inflicted wounds (though some witnesses reported seeing wounds spontaneously appear on his body). He was rushed back to Earth's Starbase for psychiatric treatment and the expedition was scrapped. Though Bukowski later achieved some level of recovery, he never again spoke of anything he'd learned on the Androsynth homeworld.
Speculation rages as to why the Androsynth vanished. It may have just been their bad luck to discover DF at all, or to have studied the particular dimensional space that they did. Or it may be that human psychology, after ages of having been engineered by the extra-dimensional Arilou, is particularly vulnerable to attack from extra-dimensional entities for one reason or another. Once the Androsynth left the fold of the main Human race, they seem to have left whatever form of protection the Arilou claim to have placed on the Human race to prevent an attack by "Them".
It may also be that they were unfortunate in their choice of a home. The Captain confirmed speculations by xenohistorians that the Taalo homeworld had been the third moon of Delta Vulpeculae 2. If some translators interpret particular statements by the Orz correctly, the Taalo had some mastery of DF technology themselves and were able to use this technology to travel between realities, using it to escape destruction from the Dnyarri Slave Empire. This action in the past might have contributed to attracting the attention of extra-dimensional entities to the physical vicinity of the Vulpeculae constellation and put the Androsynth at greater risk, though our understanding of the relationship between physical places in our space-time and "Theirs" is hazy at best.
In any case the ultimate knowledge of what happened to the Androsynth seems to rest with the Orz, who have greeted any inquiry into the nature of the Androsynth disappearance with clearly communicated hostility, escalating into violence if they are provoked by further inquiries. Most who have had contact with the Orz agree that the Orz's sudden appearance seems sinister, and that whatever caused the Androsynth's disappearance -- be it the Orz themselves or some greater entity of which the Orz are manifestations -- purposely did so in order to replace the Androsynth with the Orz; indeed, Spathi observers communicating with the Alliance held to an interpretation of the Orz language that implied that the Orz somehow physically consumed or "ate" the Androsynth.