A Supox Captain
The Supox Utricularia are an intelligent spacefaring race resembling some carnivorous plants. When they were first met by the New Alliance of Free Stars the Supox had already forged a cooperative relationship with the nearby Utwig.
Physiology and origin
The name by which they chose to introduce themselves to Captain Zelnick of the Vindicator, the first human to ever make contact with them, appears to be a conscious mimicking of human genus-species names for organisms. It combines their native term for themselves, "Supox", as the name of their genus, with the human term "utricularia" from Latin (literally "small pouches") as a way of comparing their physiology to that of a genus of terrestrial carnivorous plants, commonly known as bladderworts.
Like bladderworts, the Supox are life forms best classified as being in Earth's Kingdom Plantae. They are multicellular organisms with a body structure defined by rigid cell walls held in shape by internal turgor pressure, dependent primarily on photosynthesis for energy, with body structures like roots, leaves and stems very similar to those of terrestrial plants. They appear to have a basic structure of large green leaves surrounding a central stem, similar to that of an enlarged Earth bladderwort (complete with a stomach-like cavity for digesting animal food), with the addition of vinelike appendages acting as arms, rootlike appendages that detach from the ground and act as motile legs, and a blossom-like appendage containing sensory and vocal apparatus that acts as the analogue of a head.
The Supox's home planet, which they call "Earth" in human language — both as a direct translation of the native term "Vlik" (which they only use when it is necessary to distinguish Vlik from the human homeworld) and in conscious imitation of humans' naming of their homeworld — is the first planet around the star the Alliance calls Beta Librae and Supox call Root. Root is brighter and hotter than Sol and glows in the green portion of the visible spectrum. The proportionally higher energy available to photosynthetic organisms on Vlik may explain why the Supox were able to attain levels of mobility, adaptability and complexity — all the way to the level of sentience — that no plant on the humans' Earth ever achieved.
The Supox, like Earth plants, extract water and nutrients through soil with their roots (though, unlike Earth plants, they are capable of fixing nitrogen on their own). They by far gain most of their energy through photosynthesis of ambient gases into sugars using solar radiation, and have evolved their radiation-detecting senses to the point that they compare their deeply held aesthetic perceptions of the energy gained from different wavelengths of light to the human ability to taste food. Nonetheless they can gain nutrition from other sources. They have been known to consume small portions of animal flesh in order to survive, similarly to the Utricularia bladderworts they named themselves after. The primary way their species gained dominance on Vlik was by intelligently devising various means of biological symbiosis with various other plant and animal life forms. They adapted their own flexible body plans to the lifestyle of another species so that they could find a way to extract energy from them while doing them a reciprocal benefit.
Relations to other races
When their first starships made contact with the neighboring Utwig the Supox, as a collective culture seeking guidance, did what they had always done as individuals seeking food — seek adaptive symbiosis. They developed their protocols of communication, exploration and scientific research by closely imitating the Utwig and in return lent the Utwig their resources and labor in all the Utwig's great endeavors. This arrangement pleased the Utwig, who at the time felt the impending acquisition of the Ultron would put them in the perfect position to lead other species to enlightenment. Despite their dependence on the Utwig, the Supox's native common sense soon made them skeptical of the whole Ultron concept, especially after the Utwig identified the Ultron as an apparently useless object sold to them by the Druuge at exorbitant prices. Nonetheless, for the sake of their friends they played along, and when the Ultron broke they undertook to safeguard it and attempt to repair it in order to save the Utwig social order.
With the Utwig incapacitated, the Supox were open to taking a new race as their cultural mentors, which turned out to be the Humans of the New Alliance of Free Stars led by Captain Zelnick. Most of our communications with the Supox are thus distorted by a Supox culture that has studied human culture in detail and now openly imitates our own etiquette and imports terms from our own language in communicating with us. For instance, the Supox not only now refer to their home planet as "Earth" and their home star as "Root", but also have begun translating their personal names into English, referring to themselves by such names as "Thorn", "Branch" and "Thicket".
During their early days of space travel the Supox had conscientiously mapped their entire sphere of influence and became the foremost experts on the coreward region of known space. However, they were uncertain about the relative importance of the information they discovered; trying to mimic the value systems of their Utwig benefactors, they allowed the Utwig's knowledge base to form the foundation of their culture and acted primarily as secondary implementers of the Utwig's cultural agenda. They decided to keep most of the scientific and astronomical knowledge they had acquired themselves to themselves, deeming it irrelevant to the concerns of a proper spacefaring civilization. This began to change in their relationship with the more curious Humans; Zelnick himself found Supox records invaluable in his search for the Rainbow Worlds.
Involvement in the War
When Zelnick restored the Utwig's Ultron, the Utwig valiantly led the charge to attack the Kohr-Ah and delay the outcome of the Doctrinal Conflict, calling their Supox allies to assist them. The weaker Supox military took grievous initial losses in this combat, but Utwig strategists soon learned how to use the Utwig's superior defensive capabilities to compensate for the weaknesses of the delicate Supox Blade ships, and use the Supox ships' superior speed and manueverability to strike where the Utwig could not. The Supox forces thus became a critical factor in delaying the Kohr-Ah victory and allowing the New Alliance to complete their desperate plan to destroy the Sa-Matra. Though their contribution here as elsewhere is often overshadowed by that of the Utwig, they nonetheless deserve the galaxy's thanks.
It's not easy being green
Before meeting the Supox, human xenologists had theorized that the development of intelligent, tool-using life among plant-like life forms was highly unlikely. They presumed that it would be much more difficult for plantlike cells, separated by cell walls, to develop the complex specialization needed for a sentient brain, and much less likely for a photosynthetic niche that encouraged a sessile lifestyle to lead to intelligent behavior. Interestingly, in studying their own origins Supox scientists came to very similar conclusions, expressing confusion among themselves as to why Supox should have achieved sentience rather than an animal-like species, and how the complex, incredibly unlikely seeming structures that allowed Supox intelligence and motility ever evolved. Many Supox saw these factors as a convincing argument that the Supox had been divinely created or at least artificially created.
The Supox are thus aware of their unusual place among sentient species as well as the tendency of most species, descended from animal-like life forms, to see the Supox as descendants of a kind of life they only thought of as background vegetation or food. The Supox generally take derogatory references to their plant nature in good humor, though they do take moral offense at the assumptions of animal-based life forms that sentience, even in its most primitive forms, is something only animals share. They are particularly offended by animal-based sentients that adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for moral reasons, who assume there is a degree of sinfulness in killing even the least intelligent animal but that all plants are free for animals to consume. Given their own long struggles to survive on their planet's surface and their history of constantly attempting to peacefully cooperate with species of all kinds — plant and animal, sentient and nonsentient — they take grave offense at animal sentients who see them as food (even in a vague, indirect sense) simply because they are plants.