Human crew on the bridge of a Cruiser.
Humans — scientific name Homo sapiens sapiens, also Earthling — is the race of hominid life forms native to the third planet, Earth, of the Sol system. Since this species is the one responsible for creating this encyclopedia, we presume the details of Human's physical nature, history and social organization are familiar to most of our readership. Those seeking more details can look to other Human knowledge bases, including this article from a Human general-knowledge repository: wikipedia:Human. We will here consider those features of the Human species pertinent for xenologists, and also to the events leading up to and beyond first contact with other sentient species.
Description, Early History
Humans, rather than being descended from pure predators like the Yehat or grazers and insectivores like the Zoq-Fot-Pik, are descended from primates; omnivorous, social creatures that had to cooperate and use clever strategies to scrounge food and defend themselves from larger predators. Other species find the evolutionary niche from which Humans evolved amusing, referring to them derogatorily as "monkeys" or "apes". It seems that Humans have developed in a few unique ways due to their ancestry. For one thing, humans have an unusually strong tension between their ideals of individual rights and community loyalty, causing them to turn to inefficient and complex means to hold their society together. Though all governments have some degree of bureaucracy, only among Humans has this practice, essentially an attempt at coercion through the mechanistic application of increasingly complex formal legal structures, become the central aspect of governance.
The odd Human tendency to maintain long-term tension between opposing drives also led to the phenomenon of the "Cold War" in their recent history, as competing Human nation-states, too stingy of their peace and prosperity to engage each other in combat outright yet too set in their ideological boundaries to negotiate a true settlement, played games of brinkmanship with each other, endlessly amassing stockpiles of ever-more-powerful weapons in an attempt to indirectly coerce each other into submission. This practice of endlessly vacillating between threats and appeasements may make Humans appear scattered and confused to more straightforward races (though one such race, the Thraddash, admired this ability in the humans and sought, unsuccessfully, to mimic it); however, in the long run the flexibility gained by this Human mindset seems to have served them well.
Perhaps it was this odd balance that gave Humans their technological precocity. All we know is that in the last few centuries of pre-interstellar Human development (the 18th to 20th centuries), Human technological progress and industrial development exploded at a rate that intrigued even such mighty races as the Ur-Quan. As Earth developed increasingly powerful radio transmission capabilities in the 1930s, the spacefaring races of the nearby stars began to watch this new race and attempt to judge their potential. Though their technology and social organization resembled in many ways those of a typical early modern (post-atomic) civilization, their social infrastructure somehow allowed them to very quickly establish an industrial capacity that rivaled that of advanced races like the Chenjesu, and the speed with which this was followed by their discovery of space travel and exploration of their home satellite in the 1960s sparked intense discussions in their vicinity of space. The Chenjesu, their most powerful close neighbors, considered making contact with the Humans but still considered them too young and volatile for such contact to be conducted responsibly; the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za, meanwhile, made Earth a priority world to invade and conquer, despite their contemptuous opinion of Human innovation. Surprisingly, no other races, advanced or otherwise, made successful efforts to contact Earth in all of this time; during a phase of technological development when many other races would have made contact with other races and at least partially been uplifted, Earth happened to be in a region of space where no one was available to make the offer. Humans were forced to make the difficult transition to a high-technological society on their own, a fact that has earned them respect from species like the Yehat.
The recent history of Human society has seen the slow combination of the various squabbling empires, tribes and kingdoms of humanity into large, self-organized nation-states that themselves combined into complex alliances; the final and greatest pair of opposing alliances formed after the so-called Second World War in the 1940s, the point at which alien surveillance of Earth began in earnest. The capitalist states led by the United States of America and the communist states led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, unable to curb the warlike, competitive urge that had poisoned Human cooperation since the beginning of their history, engaged in the aforementioned Cold War brinkmanship tactics, maintaining a tense peace based only on the threat of universal destruction by both sides' arsenals of jealously hoarded nuclear missiles if hostilities ever broke out.
This Cold War lasted until, in the year 1991, the United States and its allies declared a victory that turned out to be short-lived. The communist nations' centrally planned economies proved less robust than the market-based capitalist economies. When the United States began their (never to be fully completed) "Star Wars" project, creating massive orbital laser arrays to intercept and harmlessly destroy any Soviet missile attack and giving the United States an unanswerable advantage in any future missile exchange, the Soviets attempted to expand their arsenals in response but lacked the funds, leading to the economic collapse of themselves and their allies. Their deadly nuclear arsenals, however, remained, and poverty-stricken Soviet officials proved willing to sell them off to the highest bidder. With nuclear missiles now owned piecemeal by numerous local dictators and warlords, the formerly stable set of alliances broke down; nations formerly dominated by the Soviet Union or too weak to be aligned in the Cold War now became dangerous nuclear threats, and without a common enemy the great capitalist nations turned against each other.
One of the major sources of continuing conflict was the industrialized nations' fight for control of "petroleum", a peculiar mix of organic hydrocarbon deposits left in the Earth by fossilized plants and animals rich in chemical energy which fueled human industry for an unusually long period in their history, before nuclear power became widespread. One of the human race's great misfortunes was that the Middle East, a region that had been the origin of many of Earth's oldest societies and religions and long a hotbed of its deepest, oldest cultural conflicts, also was one of the world's richest sources of petroleum.
The rich nations thus had many incentives, both cultural and economic, to support the local factions in the region and foment conflict. It was thus in the Middle East that the tenuous global peace finally shattered in the Small War of 2015, in which several local nations, secretly backed by the world's remaining great powers, initiated a strategic nuclear exchange of fewer than a dozen missiles. Even the use of such a small percentage of the available nuclear arsenals killed millions of Humans and decimated all civilization in the area, and it later became known that a retaliatory global strike had almost been launched by the combatant nations' larger sponsors and only averted at the last minute.
This shocking catastrophe, and the holocaust that almost accompanied it, finally provided the spur for Humans to overcome their deep-seated ideological disagreements, vesting supreme political power in an organization known as a United Nations that had originally been a mere arbitration council with nominal powers over Earth's many sovereign states. Though Earth's nations retained their cultural identity, the United Nations was allowed to attain military ascendancy with a worldwide peacekeeping army and police force. The immense stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction produced during the nations' Cold War madness were impounded by the United Nations and their production became one of Earth's greatest taboos. Even so, Humans' inborn paranoia kept them from destroying these weapons utterly, and their disassembled components were stored as reminders of the past in giant Peace Vaults. A ten-year concerted effort by the United Nations and the leaders of its member states finally led to the abolition of intraspecies war among Humans in the year 2025. The United Nations became a true, unified political entity, although it was still seen as a sort of meta-nation by many humans, and observed this tradition in several ways; for instance, it had no permanent capital, instead rotating its base of operations from national capital to national capital every ten years.
It was in this time that the Humans gave rise to the phenomenon of the Androsynth, a race of artificial clones of Humans, whose right to be recognized as fellow Humans had been withdrawn due to a wave of religious hysteria. Their enhanced strength and intelligence as well as their easily exploitable legal status made them highly useful tools for Humans in the coming century of high technological development.
It was in the 21st century that human sublight space travel became highly advanced, allowing Humans to explore, exploit and colonize most of their own inner star system, concentrated mostly in factory bases on their own satellite, Luna, and in the asteroid belt between the inner and outer systems. The United Nations formed its first major new military arm since the Peacekeeping Army, a space-based regulatory office known as Star Control, established with a permanent headquarters in the city of Geneva, Switzerland. Humans began working on discovering the secret of Hyperspatial travel; unfortunately for them, the highest-level workers on Hyperdrive included many Androsynth, and in the Slave Revolt of 2085 all Androsynth, with the help of Human sympathizers, managed to successfully hijack all of Earth's orbital space stations. The Androsynth used their high intelligence and the many technological secrets they had hoarded from their masters to modify the space station's equipment into technology far beyond anything Humans had yet seen; defending themselves from Star Control forces with powerful MASER weapons, they soon created the first Hyperdrive systems known in Sol space and pushed up out of Human history for the rest of the century.
It was at the beginning of the 22nd century, in the year 2112, when Humans first made contact with a truly alien race. The Chenjesu, who had been aware of Humanity since the 1930s, now saw that the situation with the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za had grown desperate; Ur-Quan hostilities had broken out within range of Sol and, though great in technological sophistication, the Chenjesu and their Mmrnmhrm allies lacked the resources and labor to expand their fleets quickly enough to match the swelling Hierarchy of Battle Thralls, while their new Yehat and Shofixti allies were still too far away to assist in the main conflict. As a race with a large population, powerful industrial technology, and easy access to many natural resources, the Humans were the ally the Chenjesu desperately needed. Three years before, Humans had pushed out the farthest they ever had from their sun, building a major installation on the asteroid Ceres. Now, a messenger ship from the Chenjesu accosted the humans at Ceres Base, begging for their help in what they termed the "Great Crucible of Sentience".
The Humans were immensely shell-shocked, having been in the unusual state of utter isolation from alien races for their whole history. They rallied admirably, though, and spent the next few years consulting with Chenjesu ambassadors about the full extent of the atrocities, consulting recordings of the Ur-Quan in action and sending delegations to travel through HyperSpace with the Chenjesu to visit worlds that had already been devastated by Ur-Quan attack. Finally, in 2115 the Humans agreed among themselves to join the Chenjesu cause. On August 1, 2116, the highest official of the United Nations, High Provost Ivana Or-Kachov, along with Star Control's General Juan O'Reilly, signed a concord with the Alliance of Free Stars' civilian Secretary of Space Zeep-Eep (of the Yehat) and Commander-in-Chief Bzrrak Ktazzz (of the Chenjesu) pledging Earth's full commitment to the war in return for Alliance protection.
The speed with which Humans were thrust into such a perilous situation without even a basic experience in dealing with other sentient races made Humans appear to be clumsy and provincial next to the more sophisticated races of the Alliance, leading to such diplomatic blunders as the disastrous Human/Syreen crew exchange, an accidental human attack on an Arilou fleet, and the Great Insult that poisoned relations with the VUX. Nonetheless the Human industrial base became crucial in the war effort; a massive, worldwide effort was made to reignite the engines of war formerly concentrated in the nation of the United States of America. In a nod both to expediency and tradition, the final assembly centers for the new starships of Earth were established in the city of Detroit, Michigan, long a bastion of Earth's original Industrial Revolution. Moreover, it was Human-developed skills in intelligence and profiling that led to the creation of Star Control's division of Synthetic Special Reconstruction and Intergalactic Intelligence, which pieced together diverse data to come up with the first detailed profiles on Hierarchy races available to the Alliance -- though these profiles are seen as flawed and biased today, they were nonetheless a triumph of Human ingenuity. Star Control itself in this era became one of the major operations centers of the Alliance, directing many fleets of many races.
Interestingly, it was Earth's entrance into the Alliance that coincided with the sudden appearance of a fleet of the Arilou Lalee'lay, a race no other race had ever encountered before, around Luna with desires to join the Alliance. Suspicions of some connection between the Arilou and Humans seem to have been borne out by recent events. Similarly, the discovery of the Syreen sent shockwaves through human society as the obvious connection between the two races was recognized.
Humans fought bravely in the war, producing a relatively crude but numerous and flexible fleet that fought on multiple fronts, while also providing many officers and crew for allied fleets. Those who had chosen to maintain the Peace Vaults in the first days of the Peacekeeping Army were vindicated; even the Chenjesu were shocked by the total destructive power represented by the sheer number of the old alliances' nuclear warheads and the United States' half-finished orbital laser defense systems. Primitive as they were, refitted for ship-to-ship combat they became the reliable and ubiquitous weapons system of the Earthling Cruiser.
Unfortunately, the Alliance proved unable to hold off the Hierarchy forces forever, and once the Sa-Matra came into play the Alliance was doomed. The Ur-Quan Kzer-Za, having very little respect for the complex bureaucratic jumble that characterized human government, insisted that the human terms of surrender be decided upon by a purely democratic vote, which led to humans becoming a slave-shielded fallow species in the year 2134.
After the War
By chance, however, it had been a Human expedition that went to the Precursor ruins on Vela 1 in that same year, just before the war ended; when the Humans were marooned there, the world was renamed Unzervalt ("Our World"). The story is well known of how the Humans activated the Precursor factory there and created a great Precursor ship, the equivalent of an all-purpose cruiser/service tug, which they managed to send away from the planet before they were discovered and shielded by the Ur-Quan. It was this Precursor ship, the Vindicator, commanded by the famous young Captain Zelnick, that returned to Earth in 2155 and joined with Commander Hayes of the Hierarchy Starbase the humans maintained in Earth orbit, launching the series of guerrilla actions against the Hierarchy known variously as the War of Liberation or the Second War of the Alliance. The ragtag fleet known as the New Alliance of Free Stars was led by these Humans for most of its career, and it was their cunning and persistence that eventually led to the downfall of both Ur-Quan subspecies in 2159, freeing the Kzer-Za slaves and preventing a wholesale Kohr-Ah genocide. For all their faults, the free races of the galaxy owe the Humans a great debt.
Relations to other races
Physically, humans appear to follow a similar body plan to many (though not all) spacefaring species, the generally useful one of a bipedal configuration with mobile graspers (hands and arms) with a wide range of motion and a dedicated sensory appendage (a head), leading some Human chauvinists to describe most sentient races as "humanoid" (though there are still very great biological differences among "humanoid" species). Some of Human beings' personality traits may come from their status as a "naked ape", having a highly flexible body capable of using many tools but itself greatly lacking in resilience or natural defenses, compared to races with protective exoskeletons or natural venom weapons. One consequence of this combination of Humans' relatively high awareness of danger with their relatively vulnerable bodies is that their potential for the experience of pain and fear is very high, making them a favorite victim of Ilwrath religious rituals.
Interestingly, the VUX race has had a highly negative history with Humans. The VUX race appears highly distasteful to Human eyes, and Humans had long regarded Captain Jeffry L. Rand's inadvertent insult of a VUX captain as one of their greatest diplomatic missteps. However, it later transpired that the VUX culture, placing far more emphasis on vanity and personal appearance than Humans did, was repelled by Human appearance to a far greater degree, and the VUX had only played up the incident of the Insult to justify their own irrational desire to destroy the Human species because of their visceral reaction to its appearance.
Other notable relationships to aliens include the unusually strong fraternal bond between Humans and Yehat. The Yehat found a great deal more in common with the Humans than with other races, greatly respecting the fact that Humans, like the Yehat, had progressed to the age of space travel through a bloody history of intraspecies war and cultural conflict without the civilizing influence of "higher" races. Humans' similar long experience with warfare had led them to develop a concept of "honor", strong personal integrity among even enemies, similar to the code that formed the basis of Yehat law and morality. The Yehat thus saw the Humans as spiritual siblings, and in communication with Humans consciously chose to name many of their cultural concepts after similar concepts from Human history, primarily the milieu of medieval Europe; similarly they drew many parallels between the hybrid culture that their Shofixti charges developed and that of feudal Japan. Zelnick's own Human upbringing gave him enough sympathy for the Yehat, and enough Yehat sympathy for him, that he was able to successfully engineer the Yehat Revolution against their Ur-Quan-allied Veep-Zeep rulers in the Second War.
The most interesting connection Humans have with other races, however, is with the Arilou Lalee'lay; indeed, the name "Arilou Lalee'lay" is a name from an ancient human culture, the Celts. Though there was little opportunity to discuss this matter during the war, from the Arilou's first appearance Humans recognized the appearance of Arilou and Arilou Skiffs as being identical to those of the beings from the human 20th century known as "Roswell Grays" and their vessels, "flying saucers". Recent Human history was peppered with incidents of Humans claiming to have observed disc-shaped alien craft traveling through the atmosphere (such as in the famous incident over Roswell, New Mexico), even of memories of being captured, studied and modified by small, mysterious beings inside such craft, often resulting in repeated visits to check up on the progress of their "patients", sometimes resulting in mysterious and sudden pregnancies. Though often dismissed as cases of hysteria and rumor -- as was, indeed, often the case, the so-called "flying saucer craze" or "UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) craze" becoming one of the greatest human fads of the late twentieth century -- modern investigations found top-secret records from studies conducted by that time's national governments, such as the United States Army's Project Blue Book, of legitimate, unexplainable instances of encounters with aliens whose descriptions exactly matched the Arilou. On closer investigation, vaguer references from Humans' past about such creatures as elves, faerie, duendes, and so on seem to resonate with the modern stories of UFOs.
Widespread suspicion and hostility toward the Arilou continued throughout the course of the war, and during the Second War, when the Arilou reappeared as Zelnick's personal benefactors, Zelnick was able to confront them about these rumors, which, surprisingly, they gladly confirmed, naming themselves as the elves and Roswell Grays of Human mythology, though maddeningly reluctant to give specific details.
It now seems undeniable that Humans' reputation for being an isolated race with no outside contact was exaggerated; indeed, that very situation may have been purposely engineered by the one race that had a close and continued yet clandestine and one-sided relationship with Humans for their whole history. The Arilou have implied they have been intimately involved with the development of the human species from the very beginning, perhaps being responsible for the evolution of the human species itself, or at least for the origins of Human civilization; we know that their only real purpose in joining the Alliance was to protect Humanity from possible total destruction, and after the slave-shielding of Earth they immediately withdrew. The Arilou hold a paternal attitude toward Humans which they insist is benevolent; they seem to have, in a series of carefully timed interventions, been steering the human race toward a specific destiny, as the Arilou's tools — or perhaps their heirs. For this purpose the main procedure seems to have been the careful crafting of the structure of Human instinct (instinct being a characteristic the Arilou claim to entirely lack) through both genetic and social engineering. The Arilou claim to have been primarily responsible for preventing Human interaction with extra-dimensional entities like the Orz, the perils of which very quickly consumed the Androsynth after their separation from the main Human species. Some even speculate a connection between the Arilou and Zelnick's affinity for Precursor technology that made the Second War possible, given that the Arilou claimed to have visited Unzervalt close to the time of Zelnick's birth.
Arilou engineering might lend an explanation to the odd relationship Humans have with the Syreen; the two species are physiologically almost identical, the only difference being a blue-colored element in Syreen skin pigmentation and various signs of their having been adapted to a higher-temperature climate; moreover, the two species are genetically almost identical, and have in fact proven to be cross-fertile and capable of sexual reproduction. For this to be a coincidence of convergent evolution is statistically impossible, and indicates the two races must have a common ancestor and must have been separated very recently in their evolutionary history. The obvious explanation is that the Arilou either took Syreen stock to Earth to begin breeding Humans or Human stock to Syra to begin breeding Syreen -- Arilou attitudes toward the two indicate the former is more probably true.
If this is so, there is a very good chance that the Syreen either function as a control group for the Arilou/Human experiment, or else are simply an abandoned original population. Indeed, the Arilou fleet, which had been accompanying the Syreen fleet at the end of the Second War, vanished to leave the Syreen defenseless once they heard the Humans had been safely slave-shielded, indicating their lack of interest in the Syreen.
This relationship appears even more likely when we examine the resemblance Syreen society bears to Human society. The Syreen's natural mode of existence, based on peaceful cooperation, balanced and harmonious relationships with natural forces, and strong appreciation of sensual and aesthetic pleasures closely resembles the paradise long dreamt of by Human mystics and philosophers and striven for by Human political reformers, but never achieved in Human history. Syreen historical development followed a path of combining hunter-gatherer tribes into agricultural collectives, until society was unified into a peaceful agrarian super-community. Humans, for some reason, never experienced this sociological transformation; the Agricultural Revolution, rather than putting military dominance and political power into the hands of a collective agrarian system, instead served to funnel resources to the hunting and raiding cultures, whose competitive, expansionist cultural system absorbed the agrarian societies and forced them into a resource-hoarding, conquest-seeking model of society, leading to the system of militaristic empires and nation-states that defined Earth history.
Furthermore, the Syreen, like the Humans, defined much of their society's roles based on a gender binary based on sex, but unlike in Humans, in Syreen society the feminine dominated the masculine. Human society almost became the inverse of the Syreen, with the masculine, for most of their history, seen as having natural priority over the feminine, so that Earth's leadership and military even now is male-dominated, just as the Syreen's was female-dominated.
Humans, in other words, lived as though they had the instincts and ecological niche of predators like the Yehat, even though their ecological niche as farmers and builders should have created a Syreen-like society. It seems plausible that this is the Arilou's doing, using the Humans' combined desire for prosperity in peacetime and victory in wartime in order to push the Humans to great technological sophistication far in advance of the unaltered Syreen.
The molding of Humans into a high-technology competitive society may also be responsible for another major difference between Humans and Syreen; though Humans have long been known to have detectable psychic potential, training in the use of psychic abilities has never existed beyond the most rudimentary degree in Human society, while in Syreen society it has been commonplace and formed part of the basis for the Syreen's complex rituals of social interaction, as well as being the technological foundation of the Syreen's defense systems. Human psychic abilities seem to have been purposely locked up by the Arilou, perhaps as part of the Arilou's system of protecting Humanity from extra-dimensional threats.