The enigmatic Arilou
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The Arilou Lalee'lay, Ariloulaleelay, or Arilou for short, are an enigmatic and reclusive species. They first made themselves known to the Galaxy during the Ur-Quan Slave War, suddenly appearing and applying to join the Alliance of Free Stars. Their actions were equally mercurial at the end of the war, retreating and abandoning the other races as soon as the Humans were slave-shielded. The motives for their actions seem to be some mysterious connection they have with the Human race.
While the name of the race is often represented as a single word, the Arilou always treat the name as two distinct words when referring to themselves. As the the term "Arilou" is used to refer to individuals of the species,1 this may indicate that "Lalee'lay" is some special identifier for the race as a whole or for some collective characteristic of the race. According to the Arilou, the name of the race was given by "the children of the Celts", which might refer either to modern-day Englishmen or to a very old Celtic civilization or one separated from the main family of Celtic groups in Britain, as the term "Arilou Lalee'lay" bears little resemblance to any Celtic terms known today.
Identifying Characteristics and Behavior
The Arilou are apparently very physically similar to Humans, with a build very close to that of a Human child, standing at about 1.5 meters tall with a disproportionately large head compared to a normal Human adult. They have pale green skin and dark, yet luminescent eyes.2 Their other features are shrunken and flat compared to Humans', with very small chins, tapered mouths, and a tiny, almost completely flat nose. This physical appearance is very similar to the late-twentieth century close encounter descriptions of white-skinned aliens with glowing, almond-shaped eyes.
In their dealings with the Alliance, the Arilou never spoke verbally, instead resorting solely to communicating telepathically while wearing an innocent, enigmatic smile. One of the courtesies they extend to The Captain, whom they seem to hold in very high regard, is their condescending to speak to him in normal, audible speech. Based on the way they command the engagement of their ships' HyperDrive Shunt — their captain portrait shows four white zig-zag lines about the captain's head — it can be speculated that they also use their psychic powers to control at least some of their equipment.
Interestingly, when they describe the vistas of their homeworld, the Arilou mention that Humans would experience premature "numbness" without first being properly "acclimated." It is unknown what this "numbness" and "acclimation" actually refer to, but it would seem to imply that the Arilou are somehow more accustomed than Humans to certain experiences, especially those related to other dimensions, as they also state, at one time, that The Captain is "not quite solid enough" to touch *Nnngn*. They also refer euphemistically to death as "discorporation", which may imply that they believe that a spirit or soul survives after the destruction of their physical bodies.
Their civilization is certainly very old, extending back in time even before the Humans' emergence as a species and aware of events that took place in the time of the Sentient Milieu. They claim that their "context is infinitely broader than [the Humans'], both in space and *time*" (where *time* may be a best-fit referring to an inter-dimensional concept), and so they sometimes do not attach the same importance as Humans to events such as the defeat of the Alliance of Free Stars. This concern of theirs for long-term consequences is also present when The Captain, if he has turned hostile to them, tries to leave the orbit of Falayalaralfali to which they reply, "This matter must be resolved, or many event strands will grow... more complicated. Your presence is required."
The Arilou claim their internal thought processes are quite different from those of Humans or, in fact, most other sentient life forms. Specifically, they claim to entirely lack what they call "instinct" or hardwired reactions to immediate environmental stimuli, in which they include all forms of emotional reaction and thought colored by prejudice as well as true instincts. By this definition Human thinking is, of course, almost entirely driven by "instinct". It is the "instinctive" tendencies of Humans that they claim to find most fascinating about Human activity and the developing Human mind, and it is these tendencies that they blame, should The Captain turn hostile to them.
First Contact and the Ur-Quan Conflict
No Alliance race had made contact with the Arilou before the beginning of the Ur-Quan Slave War. Even as open hostilities began between the nascent Alliance of Free Stars and the Hierarchy of Battle Thralls, the Arilou remained absent and silent until the Chenjesu made first contact with the Humans in 2116. On August 2, the day after the Human United Nations had formally ratified a treaty joining the Alliance, a fleet of Skiffs suddenly appeared orbiting Luna. Landing on the moon, the ships transmitted a request to meet with Alliance representatives.
It was on the moon's surface where Human and Chenjesu delegates met the Arilou La'leelay for the first time. Claiming that they, too, were under threat from the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za expansion, the Arilou asked for the Alliance's protection in return for their race's support. Alliance leaders quickly decided they needed any help they could get and welcomed the Arilou into the fold.
Even so, many Alliance members had reservations. The Arilou were extremely secretive, refusing to reveal any details about their civilization or their technology, even refusing to give the location of their homeworlds or the means by which they'd come to Luna. More disturbing, however, was the Humans' reaction. To their eyes, the Arilou appeared exactly like the stereotypical image of a legendary alien race long rumored to have secretly interfered in Human affairs, variously called "Martians", "Roswell Grays" or "Zeta Reticulans". Ancient archives kept by Human governments proved the resemblance too close to be coincidental, but the exigencies of war and the closed-mouthness of the Arilou prevented them from examining the matter any further.
The Arilou fleet proved indeed useful in the war; despite its small size, the Skiff had an amazingly fast travel time, disappearing and reappearing from combat sites at speeds far greater than that of the most advanced HyperDrives known to the rest of the Alliance. The Arilou Skiff, though an apparently weak ship, employs unique, exotic technologies, such as an inertialess TrueSpace propulsion system allowing it to hover in gravity wells and an incredibly powerful short-range HyperDrive allowing it to "teleport", making it unmatched for scouting, harassing enemy ships and bypassing fortifications.
However, the small and lightly-armed Arilou fleet took heavy casualties during the course of the war. When the Alliance began to crumble and the Hierarchy forces broke through the Coreward Front and took the Sol system, slave-shielding the Humans, the remaining defenders of the Front scattered. As the Yehat and Shofixti retreated to the Gorno constellation, the Arilou and Syreen fleets were left huddled together; expecting help from the Arilou, the Syreen were shocked to see the Arilou ("those creepy little weasels" as Talana describes them) wordlessly and suddenly vanish, abandoning them to the Ur-Quan.
Current events and The Captain
Though contact with the Arilou was lost after the Ur-Quan Slave War, when The Captain uses The Flagship to begin the anti-Hierarchy actions during the second Doctrinal Conflict, he discovers the Arilou once more, reestablishes contact with them on behalf of the New Alliance of Free Stars, and even becomes privy to some of their secrets.
Unbeknownst to the Humans, the Arilou have long held a base of operations in the Chandrasekhar constellation in HyperSpace, establishing a small sphere of influence and an amicable relationship with the neighboring Umgah. The Captain discovers the area to be rife with Skiff starships piloted by Arilou.
The Arilou explain that they are not native to this region of TrueSpace but reside in QuasiSpace, an alternate dimensional space only reachable by Humans through the nearby portal or by using Inter-Dimensional Fatigue technology such as the Arilou's QuasiSpace Portal Spawner. The local region of QuasiSpace contains a total of sixteen natural overlaps with or "portals" to HyperSpace, but fifteen of them are unidirectional from QuasiSpace to HyperSpace, so the Arilou found it most convenient to post the majority of their ships in the HyperSpace region immediately surrounding the single bidirectional portal.
Since they carry on very little contact with other races and have very little business in TrueSpace at the time, their reasons for keeping detachments of ships in HyperSpace are unclear. They claim their primary purpose is hunting and trapping strange creatures called *Nnngn*, which apparently frequent the ten areas dubbed by the Arilou "easy places" (possibly located around bidirectional portals) or are easier to trap there. The *Nnngn* are composed of a form of matter that Humans cannot perceive or interact with; the Arilou merely describe Humans as "not quite solid enough" to interact with them, and refuse to describe the matter further, stating that it only applies to their universe.
The Arilou, though they claim they are pleased that the Humans are safe under the slave shield, help The Captain in his struggle, permitting him to pass through the bidirectional portal into QuasiSpace, where he finds the Arilou homeworld, Falayalaralfali, a single TrueSpace planet kept in a pocket (termed an "eddy" by the Arilou) of TrueSpace within QuasiSpace. There, though they do not allow him to land, the Arilou speak freely to The Captain from the surface. They inform him that their numbers and physical resources are too depleted from the previous war for them to provide material support to the Alliance, but they are willing to supply technology and information, as such things "transcend reality perimeters". Nevertheless, they are still able to send a fleet of three Skiffs to the Earth Starbase, a fleet which joins The Flagship's escort as soon as the returns to the Starbase.
The degree of their knowledge about local events is impressively widespread despite their cloistered position, and through unknown means they learn of important pieces of information that they share with The Captain: the existence of the Slylandro, the nature of the Mycon Deep Children, and the history of the Ur-Quan.
Moreover, they reveal that they have discovered the wreck of an Ur-Quan Dreadnought on Alpha Pavonis VII. This wreck represented a colossal and previously unheard of failure of Ur-Quan Kzer-Za technology, normally a benchmark for reliability. The Dreadnought's self-destruct systems utterly failed and two incredibly valuable things, the warp pod and the Talking Pet, both survived intact. The Arilou rescued the latter, the ship Lord's Talking Pet, the single surviving life form.
However, the Arilou had entrusted the Talking Pet into the care of the Umgah, whose understanding of biology (at least TrueSpace biology) exceeded theirs, only for the Umgah to activate the creature's latent genetic abilities after discovering large portions of the Talking Pet's genome that had been artificially disabled, transforming it into a powerful and malevolent neo-Dnyarri. However, The Captain, protected by the Taalo Shield, is able to capture the neo-Dnyarri, and its psychic powers prove to be the crucial element in breaching the Ur-Quan defenses during the attack on the Sa-Matra, which cripples their power enough for the Chmmr and allied fleets to be able to completely defeat them, ending the war.
The Captain is also instructed to salvage the warp pod and return it to the Arilou. Using the warp pod, the Arilou are able to construct a QuasiSpace Portal Spawner capable of generating artificial portals that allows The Flagship to travel through QuasiSpace at will. Making use of the immense reduction in travel time that proves so useful to the Arilou, The Flagship is able to hop across local space much more quickly than it would have otherwise been able, saving precious time.
Relations with other races
Despite the striking similarity of the Humans to the Syreen and the known, documented genetic connection of Humans to the Androsynth, the Arilou apparently showed no interest in either of them. The Androsynth do not appear to have been part of the Arilou's plan for Humanity and no Arilou interference has ever been confirmed with their civilization. Intriguingly, it was soon after the Androsynth separated from the Humans — and, therefore, from Arilou oversight — that they discovered Inter-Dimensional Fatigue devices and subsequently disappeared, replaced by the Orz. The Arilou claim that dangerous, parasitic entities "would like to find [the Humans], but they are blind to [the Humans'] presence... unless [the Humans] show [themselves]. The Androsynth showed themselves, and something noticed them. There are no more Androsynth now. Only Orz." This would imply that whatever modifications the Arilou made to the Humans (which presumably carried over to the Androsynth) do not protect them from being detected by Them and other similar malevolent extradimensional entities upon revealing themselves.
Upon initial examination most Humans quickly recognized the Arilou to be uncannily similar to popular depictions of a certain class of science-fictional extraterrestrial in the 20th and 21st century. Often called "Martians", "Zeta Reticulans", "Little Green Men", "Enochian Angels" and so on, the most common and neutral term for such aliens was "Grays" after their skin color. These depictions were based on a series of reported encounters between such beings and Humans, occurring primarily in Earth's period of rapid industrial development following the Second World War (the 1950s) and ending some time before the Small War and the creation of the United Nations Peacekeeping Army and Star Control (the 2000s).
In such encounters, Humans living in isolated locations were typically abducted by Grays using ships colloquially known as "UFOs" (Unidentified Flying Objects) or "flying saucers", after their disc-shaped bodies. Not only were these ships extremely similar in appearance to the Skiffs the Arilou piloted in the Ur-Quan Slave War, but they exhibited similar capabilities of inertialess acceleration, indefinite hovering in gravity fields, and even short-range teleportation. Though most abductees' memories were hazy, possibly modified (as the Arilou reveal that it was them who allowed the subjects of their experiments to retain their memories in such cases), they did describe undergoing strange, high-tech medical procedures, sometimes finding themselves with an unplanned pregnancy soon afterwards. These subjects usually reported one major operation or procedure being done on them in their first abduction, and one or more secondary abductions taking place afterwards, as though their captors were checking on the progress of their modifications.
The Grays were associated with other strange activities as well, including experimentation on non-Human animals, frequently experienced by farmers as mysteriously mutated livestock, and more bizarre behavior, like strange patterns of circular depressions left in crop fields.
Before the War
In their relationship with The Captain during his New Alliance efforts, the Arilou confirmed what the Humans had long guessed, that they and the Grays were one and the same. They moreover intimated that their interference in Human culture went back far longer than Humans had surmised, dating millennia back to the dawn of Human civilization and, according to them, the very first beings identifiable as modern Humans, implying that, if they did not create or transplant Humans on Earth, they controlled the Humans' early development to an astonishing degree.
Human religion and mythology had long had a near-universal fascination with supernatural beings known by various names -- elves, leprechauns, duendes, tengu, and so on. Universally depicted as humanoids diminutive in stature and slender in build, they were notorious in legends for being capricious and amoral, appearing sporadically to make odd and unreasonable demands from Humans and employing a bizarre array of magical powers to enforce their obedience.
These legends were apparently based on early interventions of the Arilou, who nursed Humanity from its prehistoric origins and, acting as gods to some civilizations and devils to others, set the bounds for the growth of its civilizations. They claimed special credit for inspiring the pyramids of Egypt and the standing stones of the ancient Celts.
The Arilou kept up a continuing program of steering Human development, meanwhile performing equally mysterious experiments on other animals and leaving the crop circles and other patterns as covert signals to each other during their missions. The Arilou's interventions had grown less prominent as the Human civilizations developed, until they suddenly accelerated to a staggering pace during the last half of the 20th century, a time of great conflict as Humans neared self-destruction multiple times.
Birth of the New Alliance
In any case, the Arilou again retreated into obscurity during the days of the ascendant United Nations and Star Control, until they suddenly revealed their presence and directly offered assistance in the Ur-Quan Slave War. Once they saw that the slave-shielding process left the Human species intact and safe, they lost interest in the war and chose to cut their losses of physical material by returning to QuasiSpace, betraying their rather cavalier attitude to other Alliance species. During the period when Earth is slave-shielded, they confine their visitations to the Humans on Unzervalt and the Earth Starbase. While they are aware of the looming threat of the genocidal Kohr-Ah, they choose not to help The Captain otherwise than mounting a QuasiSpace Portal Spawner on his vessel and granting him three Skiffs and some information; they claim that they cannot help him "with ships and weapons... blood and bones" because "too many shipmates were forcibly... discorporated.. in the last conflict", and that their cooperation is not necessary anyway, as The Captain is "the focus". Interestingly, one Arilou captain claims to have visited and even touched The Captain as he slept.
The Arilou's purpose in all of this is unclear, but the Arilou claim to see their relationship to Humans as analogous to that between a parent and a child — in their own words, Humans are part of their "extended family". They claim that they and Humans are but one example of many similar relationships between an elder and younger species throughout the various dimensions, and hint that this relationship is basic to the nature of their form of life and cannot be morally judged by resentful Humans who do not understand their position. Interestingly they react to the common description of themselves as "invaders from space" by claiming that their goal is not to "invade" — presumably, not to take the stereotypical role of conquerors and overlords often ascribed to them by Earth popular culture during the UFO craze — but to "pervade".
There is an ultimate purpose they have for Humanity, and they seem to be working to tailor-fit the Human species to that ultimate destiny, protecting and nurturing them along the way. They apparently find this process itself a thing of beauty, frequently commenting on the aesthetic pleasure they received observing the development of the Human mind from its primitive roots.
The Arilou were also known to the shadowy, almost omniscient-seeming sources of the Melnorme traders. The Melnorme were not only aware of the presence of Arilou Skiffs at the portal regions but were also capable of tracing the Arilou's movements to and from Earth and were well aware of the Arilou's interventions in Human culture and even tracked their movements up to the the second Doctrinal Conflict, detecting their actions at the Earth Starbase. This broad base of knowledge did not, however, extend to the Melnorme being willing or able to follow the Arilou into QuasiSpace, of which they presumably remain ignorant.
Much of what little understanding we have of the Orz comes from the testimony of their enemies, the Arilou Lalee'lay; cryptic as the Arilou's references to them may be, their descriptions are far more revealing than the Precursor translator's garbled interpretation of the Orz language, and the Arilou's descriptions provide a commonly used basis for interpreting Orz terminology and concepts.
Though the Arilou refused to elaborate on their final goals for the Human race, they did make clear that accomplishing such goals entails the long-term survival of Humanity, and therefore much of the Arilou's energy was bent toward guarding Humans from certain subtle threats, particularly extradimensional ones that only they could perceive.
The Arilou described the existence of parasitic beings in other dimensional spaces that had intimate relationships with mortal races -- races dependent on TrueSpace matter -- as they did with Humans, but of a purely destructive and violent nature. They claimed that any awareness of the details of the beings' existence would make one vulnerable to their attack. This resonates eerily with the garbled reports from The Flagship's Science Officer Bukowski of the references to "Them" he discovered in the Androsynth computer core during his ill-fated expedition to Eta Vulpeculae.
The Arilou seemed to identify the Orz as "Them" or perhaps the agents of "Them" within TrueSpace. They claimed that the Androsynth had drawn the parasites to themselves through their investigation into and growing understanding of Inter-Dimensional Fatigue and other dimensional spaces, and as a result, though they would not explain how, the Androsynth were now totally and irrevocably destroyed, replaced entirely by the Orz.
The Arilou claimed a large portion of their biological and cultural modifications of the Human species were to give Humans a physical form and general psychological mindset that the parasites would find hard to detect. However, they continued to hide almost all details of their homeworld, their own nature, and the nature of their home dimension QuasiSpace from Humans so that Humans would be unlikely to begin the series of investigations and discoveries that would give them dangerous levels of knowledge. The Arilou defend this closed-mouthed policy by asserting that "in a way, ignorance is [the Humans'] best protection."
Unfortunately, the Arilou were forced to allow The Captain into QuasiSpace and trust him with many secrets in order to fight the more immediate threat of the Ur-Quan; the Arilou openly complained that The Captain's high level of knowledge introduced a complication to their plans. Not only that, but in the course of the war The Captain was also (optional) forced to compromise and openly make treaty with the Orz and allow them access to the Alliance. The Arilou had strenuously warned against such an action; although they seemed to fear no immediate threat from the Orz in their current state, they felt them to be untrustworthy. What consequences will result from these actions, and how the Arilou and Humans will deal with them, remain to be seen.
The Arilou had very few relationships with other races; they rarely spoke to or encountered anyone, though they were sensed from afar and found to be benign by the Pkunk (though this is not conclusive evidence, as the Pkunk claim to love even the twisted Ilwrath).
Similar to their lack of interest in the Androsynth, the Arilou seem to bear no particular concern for the Syreen. They have never had any observed contact with them, and were certainly not concerned enough to intervene when Syra was destroyed. At the Great War's end, once they confirmed the Humans were safe under the slave shield, they ceased their efforts and abandoned the Syreen, despite the fact that the Syreen fleet was far weaker and more vulnerable than the Human population they had initially set out to defend.
This seems to pose a paradox, as Arilou claimed to have overseen Human development so closely that it is hard to explain why the closely genetically related Syreen would not be part of their project. Some surmise that the Humans are the Arilou's main experiment and the Syreen are some sort of discarded or unneeded relic, either a control group set up under standards of strict noninterference for comparison with Humans, or some sort of leftover of genetic breeding pools now unneeded, or, most intriguingly, an original population from which the Human genome was extracted and transplanted to Earth. Certainly there is compelling evidence from a Human point of view that the Syreen culture is a "natural" state for Humanity that Human society and culture seems to have been distorted away from, even perhaps the planet Syra being the template for the Eden stories in many human religions (as was hinted at by the Syreen), but without further information from the Arilou we can do no more than speculate.
The Arilou also mentioned to Alliance members during the course of the war that there was a species none of them had yet discovered in the Draconis constellation, the Thraddash. They were able to say little about them and did not bring them up again in that war or in their dealings with The Captain, being naturally closed-mouthed and their time being at a premium. However, they did mention "having some fun" with them. One need only look at the extremely distorted, counterintuitive and maladaptive social mechanisms employed in Thraddash society to find it likely that their cultural development was somehow artificially tampered with. The Arilou may have done this, as they say, purely for sport, or it may have been an early experiment in covert social engineering, to perfect techniques that they would later use on Human society.
The long-term Arilou presence in the area surrounding the Chandrasekhar portal led them to develop a friendship with the nearby Umgah. The Umgah outstripped them greatly in the fields of biology, medicine and genetic engineering. It may be that many of the biological techniques used on the Humans by the Arilou were at some point learned or borrowed from the Umgah; the Umgah certainly seem accommodating to the Arilou's desires and would most likely find the large-scale manipulation of Humans to be a wildly funny joke.
The Arilou and Umgah's relationship was interrupted when the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za attacked and laid waste to Umgah space, subjugating the Umgah as their Battle Thralls during the War. Afterwards when the Arilou joined the Alliance the two races were forced into combat with each other, but after hostilities ended the two races were able to reestablish normal relations.
Notes and references
- 1Star Control II manual, pg. 63 (PC)
- 2The Star Control II manual, pg. 63 (PC), also describes them as having "dark, soulful eyes"
- 3This is a temporal paradox sometimes seen in popular science fiction like the protagonist in Robert A. Heinlein's "All You Zombies—" and the Danellians in Poul Anderson's "Time Patrol" stories.