The Orz are — is — an alien species/projections of an extradimensional entity first encountered by The Captain in the space near where the Androsynth had been known to reside. Despite a notable distaste for the human-derived Androsynth and for the mysterious Arilou, the Orz happily joined with the New Alliance of Free Stars and provided its powerful Nemesis starship designs to aid in the Second War.
Orz appear as gill-breathers who resemble yellow parrotfishes with eyestalks, though it is not known if this is their actual true form. Direct conversation with Orz, despite the translation difficulties, usually leads to the conclusion that the Orz come from another dimension; additionally the Arilou describe the Orz as "dimensional travellers." When asked about their origins, Orz explain that the Arilou are from *above* and that Orz is from *below*. The precise meaning of this explanation is still up to debate, although the Arilou make it clear that the Orz are not from QuasiSpace. Since *above* appears to refer to QuasiSpace, *below* would then likely refer to another, similar dimension located, however, on the "other side" of HyperSpace and TrueSpace.
There has been some discussion — confirmed by Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III — that the Orz as they are seen in normal space are actually a projection of some higher-dimensional being. The Orz-entity refers to what is seen of itself in the known dimensions as its *fingers* and explains that it is not like other races who are *many bubbles*. The Orz sometimes refer to themselves in the singular third person, although whether this is another quirk of the Orz's odd speech pattern or a reference to their true essence is unclear.
The Orz are a newcomer to TrueSpace that appeared suddenly in the vicinity of the Vulpeculae constellation, the adopted homeworlds of the Androsynth. As the Androsynth vanished about the same time the Orz arrived, it is reasonable to think that the Orz did something to them, but asking the Orz about the subject infuriates them. It is possible that the Dimensional Fatigue experiments that were being performed by the Androsynth (and perhaps the Taalo before them) brought the Vulpeculae constellation to the Orz's attention.
Just where the Orz resided before arriving in the area of Vulpeculae is unknown. The Orz indicate that they like TrueSpace and even prefer it over their origin dimension and are now in the process of fully moving into TrueSpace. They also denote that they have no intention of returning at any time to their original home.
Relations with other races
Only a few of the races in Star Control II mention the Orz at all. This is not surprising as they appear to be new in TrueSpace. The relations that they do have are as mysterious as the Orz themselves.
The appearance of the Orz coincided with the disappearance of the Androsynth from the same location. In fact, both the Arilou and the Orz themselves suggest that it was the IDF research of the Androsynth which enabled the Orz to come to TrueSpace.
Whether the Orz themselves were the cause for the disappearance of the Androsynth is the subject of a lot of speculation. Evidence for it exists, but is very circumstantial. Whatever their involvement, asking enough about the Androsynth is enough reason for the Orz to attack you.
Dialogs with both the Arilou and Orz suggest that they have had contact outside of TrueSpace. The Orz do not like the Arilou very much, and complain that the Arilou always "*jumping in front*". Conversely, the Arilou warn not to trust the Orz, as they are dangerous.
The Melnorme know of the existence of the Orz, and that they appeared when the Androsynth disappeared. Whether they've met them in person is unclear. While there is a Melnorme trader in Orz space, the Orz never mention Melnorme.
The Spathi also mention that the Orz entered this space when the Androsynth disappeared. They think that they are creepy and warn against an alliance. This is all based on their own speculation though and arguably the Spathi would object to an alliance with almost any race on this basis. Whether they have met the Orz in person or only heard about them from descriptions is unclear.
The Orz mention the Taalo on several occasions. They seem to have been in contact over a longer period of time. According to the Orz, the Taalo have fled TrueSpace to some space where they can go to themselves. The Orz refer to Delta Vulpeculae as the Taalo playground, where the Taalo "are making *Time jokes*". As the Orz language isn't very clear, it may be that this is all in the past though.
The Orz briefly mention the VUX, as being "*silly cows*" for asking too many questions about the Androsynth, which prompted the Orz to attack the VUX. (*silly cows* are races disliked by Orz)
There are various theories to explain the various mysteries surrounding the Orz.
The Orz are Them
There are theories that the Orz are in fact the ghost-like creatures that the Androsyth IDF researchers (and Bukowski, probably) ran into. They are mostly based on the fact that They were coming into this world just before the Androsynth disappeared, which was when the Orz appeared.
Even when accepting that the timing of the appearance of the Orz is not a coincidence, they do not have to be Them. The Orz could have detected the Androsynth in the same way as They did.
The Orz killed the Androsynth
This is based again on the timing of the appearance of the Orz and the disappearance of the Androsynth, combined with the fact that the Orz refuse to talk about the Androsynth. If this is true, then the Orz would be responsible for the violent land war that wiped out the Androsynth civilization. This is suggested by both the Melnorme and the Spathi. In the same dialogs however, it is made clear that they don't actually know that. However, a reliable source explicitly asserts that the Androsynth were indeed "snagged" by the Orz entity1.
The Orz are altered Androsynth
This theory is a variation of the idea that the Orz are responsible for the disappearance of the Androsynth. In this theory, "snagged" is interpreted as meaning some kind of infection or possession that transformed the Androsynth into the Orz. Usually this theory is proposed as a way to explain the mysterious lack of Androsynth corpses in the ruins of their city. The Arilou description of malignant, parasitic creatures from Beyond (Them) and reference to the Androsynth and Orz as an example are also usually taken as evidence of this theory.
The Orz are protecting races by killing those who ask too many questions about the Androsynth
This reflects the remarks made by the Arilou about parasites from beyond that can detect you when you show yourself. If you reject the theory that the Orz killed the Androsynth, this would provide an alternative explanation that connects 'Them', the disappearance of the Androsynth, and the Orz. In this case, the Orz, like the Arilou, would be attempting to keep TrueSpace races ignorant of and thus invisible to the extradimensional parasites.
The Orz snagged the Androsynth to protect them from Them
This one is a variation of the theory previously presented, that also explains what did the Orz to the Androsynth.
The Orz seek to take advantage of indigenous races in some undefined way
The Orz say they dislike the Arilou because they are "jumping in front." The Arilou claim to have changed humans to protect them from the "parasites" that would like to find them. It may be that the Orz want space and races that the Arilou do not control as these would be easier to conquer or manipulate.
Translating Orz Communications
Translating Orz speech is problematic at best. The Orz sense of reality is likely completely different from ours. Even the most sophisticated and powerful translators can't fully process its bizarre alien language, having to use many lingual best-fits in conversation. These are marked in text by surrounding the word with asterisks (*). It is possible that all words that appear in (*) can have more than just one meaning.
- *above* — where the Arilou come from, QuasiSpace
- *below* — where Orz comes from
- *camper* — An individual or species that is liked, or allied with by Orz? — "*Campers* may go to the Taalo *playground*." — "Happy *campers* are the best." It could be that only "Happy" signifies the alliance. Could also be any non-immortal creature, as 'camper' tends to mean one who stays temporarily and moves on, thus signifying that the Orz are/is immortal.
- *color* — reality phase?
- *dance* — combat — "I am *frumple*. It is *dancing*."
- *dissolving* — destroying a ship, dying
- *fat* — important, serious "These are *fat* words."
- *fingers* — an "individual" Orz; see *many bubbles*
- *frumple* — to become, or the state of being angry or sad or violent — "Do not ask about [the Androsynth]. You make me *frumple*."
- *game* — the action being done presently
- *GO! GO!* — space marines
- *heavy space* — Adjective for TrueSpace, *heavy* is also used. — "These are best for letting go near *heavy space* planet bodies." An example of universe/dimensional differences.
- *juice*/*squeezing the juice* — obscure. It is something relating to when the Orz are angry (or *frumple* as they call it) that they do to calm down: "It is always! Nnnnggaaahhhhh! There is *juice squeezing* and then we are not so *frumple*."
- *many bubbles* — the numerous distinct individuals of a species, or possibly organic cells or even atomic particles — "Orz is not *many bubbles*, Orz is *fingers*."
- *new town* — new/previously unknown universe
- *open* — advance your mind/understanding/technology
- *other* — two possible meanings: the opponent of Orz in combat and a neutral alien
- *party* — alliance? conversation? opportunities for *dancing*? If *dance* means combat or battle, then *party* may mean war. Party may refer to something far more sinister/extreme that humans cannot understand yet. Orz refer to parties a lot, signifying its importance. It seems that it is somehow related to *campers* and may be the reason they are here in our dimension. They say, "We can not have *parties* when Arilou always *jumping in front*." Just as we cannot fully understand the Orz words/ideas, they may have misinterpreted our word "alliance" to mean something else. However, they allow you to build their ships, give you pilots and once explicitly speak of an "alliance".
- *pieces* — a unit of time. "Six or nine *pieces* ago, myself the Orz did not even *smell* your *level*."
- *playground* — Orz gives the coordinates of Delta Vulpeculae as the location of *playground*. The significance of this star system to Orz is unknown, although it is inside the general area that they occupy. Also, Delta Vulpeculae IIc is the location of the Taalo Shield and the former homeworld of the Taalo, possibly giving the Taalo some significance. The Taalo may have changed space there, making it a good space for *sliding*. Something with a significant amount of gravity.
- *quick time* — An example of differences between universes/dimensions. "We can have extra fun for future *parties* in *quick time*"
- *relatives* — allies
- *sad animal* — one who is disliked by the Orz?
- *sauce* — related to *juice*. *sauce* is apparently better than *juice* in some way, plus the Orz seem to aquire *sauce* through killing. "After the *dancing*, Orz think you will make good *special sauce*. Maybe even for other Orz *party*." It would seem this is likely to be something sinister.
- *sick* — used when the Orz are about to attack, presumably "doing something wrong?" "You are *sick* for the last time."
- *silly cow* — one who annoys the Orz, *silly* is often used independently to mean annoying — "First the VUX, but they are such *silly cows* ... they ask so much about the Androsynth we must *dance* with them." It is important to note that Orz will attack *silly cows* on sight.
- *slide* — dimensional travel. Some interesting quotes using this: "*Happy campers* not going to *heavy space* *slide* near Chandrasekhar. Especially not ever! These are *fat* words." "Arilou can *slide*. Also Taalo." "Finally we find you, the *happy campers* and the Taalo *playground* for sliding through." The Chandrasekhar *slide* is the naturally occuring QuasiSpace portal.
- *slippery places* — dimensional portals, usually formed with IDF
- *slow time* — An example of differences between universes/dimensions. "It is not fun on the surface in *slow time*"
- *smell* — perceive in some unknown way/from another dimension. Also being used by the Arilou.
- *spread the wax* — become able to move between dimensions (i.e. remove the *sticky*-ness), most likely
- *squishy* — good, goodness
- *sticky* — unable to move between dimensions.
- *suprising toys* — secret weapons? "Do you want to see our suprising toys? NO! Do not!" could also mean their true existance, i.e., the sight of an extra-dimensional being could very well destroy a creature's mind, thus you do not want to see their surprising toys.
- *the middle* — not *above* or *below*, between *above* and *below*?, this dimension (ie, TrueSpace or HyperSpace)?