Kzer-Za • Kohr-Ah
Second Doctrinal War
|Kzer-Za • Kohr-Ah|
|Path of Now and Forever|
Ur-Quan Hierarchy • Battle Thrall • Fallow Slave • Oath of Fealty Doctrinal Conflict
|Dreadnought • Marauder • Sa-Matra|
|Excruciator • Slave Shield • Talking Pet|
- This page is about the Ur-Quan species as a whole. See Ur-Quan Kzer-Za and Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah for more specific information on the two modern subspecies.
The Ur-Quan are one of the oldest species known to the Alliance and are by far the greatest political and military power known to the galaxy for the past twenty millennia. Until their recent defeat by the New Alliance of Free Stars they were the dominant force in our galaxy, and countless sentient races' development have been halted by enslavement or genocide at their hands.
The Ur-Quan as we know them today are divided into two subspecies, the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za and the Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah, which form separate cultural and political units and are thus treated in separate articles. This article is about the Ur-Quan species as a whole, including their development before the formal creation of the Kzer-Za and Kohr-Ah "nations". For details on the separate cultural paths taken by the Kzer-Za and Kohr-Ah, see the relevant articles.
Physiology and Homeworld
The Ur-Quan have been classified by Human scientists as anatomical analogues of certain species of predatory caterpillars native to Earth's Hawaiian Islands. However, the Ur-Quan's basic physiology is quite different from that of Earth insects', allowing them to grow to over ten meters in length. They were characterized by an exoskeletal body plan that, like a caterpillar's, had a tough skin, covered with brown, furry extensions, rather than a true shell, as a covering.
Adapted to live by clinging to the upper canopy of dense rainforests, they have long, multisegmented bodies with a pair of legs attached to each segment; the legs on the posterior section of their bodies are adapted for maintaining a constant grip on tree branches and crawling about from branch to branch, while the anterior legs are longer and can function as grippers and manipulators. The Ur-Quan typically hunted by hanging their long anterior section down from the canopy while their posterior section maintained its hold on the canopy, allowing them to swoop down and catch prey.
The Ur-Quan's most anterior body segment, or its head, possesses multiple compound eyes and a mouth surrounded by a dense cluster of tentacles or palps, which constantly wave about allowing the Ur-Quan to extract odors from the air -- this dense collection of sensory organs allows an Ur-Quan a much finer ability to perceive its environment than that of most humanoid species.
Unlike many sentient species, the Ur-Quan originally were not social animals; they were, instead, adapted to be solitary predators with very small, localized family structures, with almost all of their very limited repertoire of social instincts relegated to the field of sex and reproduction. Ur-Quan individuals were instinctively fiercely territorial against each other and against most other species, which they either hunted as food or chased off as potential predators or rivals.
Though Ur-Quan reproduce sexually and are divided into male and female sexes, they lack traits of sexual dimorphism almost completely, with males and females being socially and physically almost identical. This leads some scholars, such as Melnorme Trader captain Greenish, to prefer to use neuter pronouns ("it") to describe them when speaking in a gendered language like English. The Ur-Quan themselves are open about using gendered pronouns to refer to each other through Talking Pet communications when using a gendered language, but still have nothing similar to gender identity or gender roles attached to their biological sex; indeed, in communications with Humans all Ur-Quan have used their Talking Pets to assume male voices and something like a masculine identity, since in Human cultures the male gender connotes dominance.
The Ur-Quan evolved on a world far distant from the region of space mapped by the Chenjesu, one densely populated with a great variety of physically powerful species in fierce competition for resources. Though the Ur-Quan are quite physically powerful by the standards of most sentient species, they were physically inferior to many of the species of their homeworld, and so grew to develop intelligent hunting and combat behaviors and to learn to construct tools. As the Ur-Quan thus became their planet's dominant species and eliminated all other physically powerful species, the only real threat to an individual Ur-Quan became other Ur-Quan. Ur-Quan territoriality became focused against each other, and within nuclear family groups -- where individual Ur-Quan were forced into proximity -- struggle, combat and murder became common.
The growing intellectual capacity of Ur-Quan culture could not tolerate this for long, however, and slowly as the Ur-Quan learned and developed their understanding of the world more they created cultural mechanisms to handle these atavistic, territorial drives, eventually learning to develop cooperative ventures among their own species and creating what most sentients think of as a civilization with "modern" values, forbidding senseless violence and enforcing an attitude of social responsibility. In what has often been described as a very long, difficult struggle compared to the development of other races, the Ur-Quan managed to create a technological, industrialized society.
The Sentient Milieu
The Ur-Quan eventually learned to harness nuclear energy, and used this technology to create vehicles capable of traveling through interplanetary space. Having begun to explore their solar system, they were contacted by the Taalo, who had for some time been monitoring them and considering them as potential members of the Sentient Milieu. The Ur-Quan at first reacted with panic and fear, initiating combat against the Taalo vessels as possible attackers or conquerors; the Taalo, however, understanding the Ur-Quan's genetic predisposition to xenophobia, remained patient. Upon finally opening negotiations with the Taalo, the Ur-Quan were shocked to discover that confronting the Taalo face-to-face did not trigger their instincts of territoriality as did all other animal species, thanks to the Taalo's unique physiology that caused them to appear as no more than simple rocks.
The shock of their newfound ability to communicate as equals with other sentients without being tormented with feelings of terror and hatred -- something the Ur-Quan still had to struggle with among themselves -- was enough to make the Ur-Quan amenable to the Taalo's proposal to join the Milieu. The Ur-Quan soon registered as Sentient Milieu members and, though their instincts still made them unable to interact peacefully with the other members of the Milieu, were eager to find a useful role within the Milieu cooperative. The Ur-Quan soon found that they made ideal Milieu scouts; individual Ur-Quan could not only tolerate but enjoyed the prospect of piloting tiny, single-occupant ships to uncharted regions of the galaxy to report their findings, and the many Ur-Quan scouts gathered huge amounts of data and became a ubiquitous sight throughout Milieu space.
The Dnyarri Slave Empire
Then as now, the primary mystery most sentient species sought to investigate was the disappearance of the Precursors. The Ur-Quan scouts were a new and invaluable asset in searching for Precursor artifacts, and soon amassed a database of characteristic energy patterns radiated by Precursor ruins.
One Ur-Quan scout discovered a planet, later known as Glilandy, that showed readings particularly reminiscent of some Precursor artifacts. Unfortunately, those readings turned out to be generated by the emanations of an incredibly powerful race of psychic sentients known as the Dnyarri. Unfortunately, Ur-Quan psychology proved to be particularly susceptible to Dnyarri mind control; at the very moment the Ur-Quan scout landed on the planet, his mind was seized by the Dnyarri and examined. Having learned of the immense wealth of resources and labor to be had in the Sentient Milieu, the Dnyarri forced the Ur-Quan to return to the Milieu capital planet with hundreds of Dnyarri as cargo, and within a month the Dnyarri had seized control of all Milieu races and spread themselves throughout the Milieu, using the industry of hundreds of worlds for their own vulgar amusements.
The Dnyarri, themselves grossly slothful and lacking in any real will or ambition, allowed the Milieu's infrastructure to decay and collapse. They found that the Ur-Quan, being more physically powerful and easier to control than the other Milieu races, were their favorite slaves, and allowed the Ur-Quan to breed and spread across the Milieu worlds while neglecting the development of other races. They used the Ur-Quan's native intelligence and strength to operate their empire, and along the way used Ur-Quan military strength to genocide races they deemed not worth the trouble of maintaining, such as the Yuli and the Drall. The Taalo, who were immune to Dnyarri control, attempted to resist, but saw that with the military forces of all other races on the Dnyarri's side military action would be fruitless and would only result in the unnecessary deaths of countless sentients, mostly among their former friends, the Ur-Quan. Thus, they made no attempt to fight back when the Dnyarri commanded an Ur-Quan fleet to raze the Taalo homeworld, an act that the helpless Ur-Quan were fully conscious of as they committed it and that would haunt them for generations to come.
As time went on, the Dnyarri began to seek greater convenience in controlling the Ur-Quan; rather than maintaining a full range of diverse abilities among the Ur-Quan and having to go to the trouble of assigning individual Ur-Quan to the tasks at which they would be most efficient, they decided to use the Ur-Quan's own science to genetically engineer the Ur-Quan into physically distinct subspecies or castes to perform certain tasks. One group of Ur-Quan were optimized for intellectual tasks, performing scientific and engineering research to improve the Slave Empire's infrastructure and conducting administration and management on the Dnyarri's behalf. The other Ur-Quan, meant to serve as manual laborers and soldiers, were optimized for strength and diligence in performing manual tasks, altered to function better as cooperative groups and to remain staunchly faithful to simple orders, with the Ur-Quan's natural tendency to genetically encoded racial memory greatly amplified.
The brown, hairy covering the Ur-Quan originally possessed was bred out in these genetic alterations, and the administrative caste of Ur-Quan was identifiable by its now exposed brilliant green skin. The lower caste known as Effectuators, however, was given a hard black shell to allow them to work in harsher environments and allow them greater resilience in battle. They thus soon became known by the colloquial terms "Green Ur-Quan" and "Black Ur-Quan".
The Slave Revolt
After many thousands of years, the Dnyarri had become so spoiled by their life of extreme hedonism and their confidence in the permanence of their empire that their mental control over their slaves grew lax. A Green Ur-Quan scientist named Kzer-Za realized that a slave experiencing extreme pain would engender sympathetic traumas within a Dnyarri's mind, forcing the Dnyarri to let go its control. Once Kzer-Za was assured of this fact, he seized an opportune moment to poison himself. His extreme pain and impending death forcing the Dnyarri to release his mind, Kzer-Za broadcast an extremely powerful transmission across the whole planet and into space, making public his discoveries.
Upon hearing Kzer-Za's message, Ur-Quan everywhere began a mass movement, seizing any moment of weakness on the part of the Dnyarri to injure themselves in any way possible, inflicting whatever pain and physical trauma was necessary to distract the local Dnyarri controller enough to track it down and kill it. The Dnyarri had, perhaps, bred their slaves too well; the same impressionability and singlemindedness that made the Ur-Quan useful slaves also gave them the strength they needed to carry out their slave revolt to its conclusion. The resistance successfully carved out a region of non-Dnyarri-controlled space from which they could launch military actions against the Dnyarri; it was there that they developed the Excruciator, a device that could be implanted in an Ur-Quan brain and provide calibrated levels of pain that left an Ur-Quan physically functional yet continuously protected against psychic domination.
The Ur-Quan finally succeeded in purging the Slave Empire of Dnyarri and returning to Glilandy, where they agreed that death was not fitting enough a punishment for the few remaining Dnyarri and used their genetic engineering skills to transform the Dnyarri into nonsentient biological tools, the Talking Pets.
The Ur-Quan's own, natural pathologies -- their instinct-driven xenophobia and territoriality -- had been grossly magnified by the many generations of struggling against Dnyarri enslavement, and all of the surviving Ur-Quan rebels had only survived by subjecting themselves to intense, continuous pain for years. This most likely was the reason for the Ur-Quan view of morality to have become as warped from what the Alliance would consider standard views of right and wrong as it did, and the Ur-Quan, driven by nothing else but a deep, core conviction that their enslavement was an aberration that must never happen again that had been allowed to happen by the Ur-Quan's weakness in allowing other species to exist freely, integrated the new Talking Pets and the freedom from direct contact with other species they represented into their new cultural blueprints or "Doctrines".
The Green Ur-Quan, as natural administrators, came up with a sophisticated blueprint for future cultural development known as the Path of Now and Forever. They named their new civilization the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za after the martyred scientist-hero, and claimed that in honor of Kzer-Za's sacrifice they must ensure that the Ur-Quan forever remain the culturally dominant species of the whole galaxy, using the immense technological and material resources they had amassed during the reign of the Dnyarri Slave Empire to achieve this. Using Slave Empire technologies, they were able to construct a unique form of self-sustaining force field called a slave shield, with which they hoped to eventually contain all species that would not actively submit to Ur-Quan dominance. Facing one of the remaining Milieu members, the Faz, with this choice, the Faz chose to be slave-shielded.
At this time, however, the Black Ur-Quan rebelled against the idea of being controlled by Green Ur-Quan theory. They viewed the Green as having become effete and weakened by their position as administrators for the Dnyarri, and viewed themselves, who had done most of the actual labor in maintaining the Empire, as more worthy. Moreover, less natively intelligent than the Green in the first place, the Black had also greatly strengthened racial memories, and still felt and experienced the long suffering of the Slave Empire -- including the horrible sense of betrayal in genociding the Taalo, for which they had never forgiven themselves -- far more vividly than the Green. One of the Black leaders, a military hero of the Slave Revolt named Kohr-Ah, came forward with his own Eternal Doctrine, challenging the Path of Now and Forever's complexity and claiming true safety could only be assured by the simple destruction of all other species. The Black Ur-Quan enthusiastically responded to Kohr-Ah's proposal and formed their own civilization based on his principles and named after him, starting by genociding the Yuptar.
The newly named Kzer-Za and Kohr-Ah races confronted each other over the homeworld of the last remaining Milieu race, the Mael-Num. Neither side willing to submit, they began the great Doctrinal War, and, their forces evenly matched, would have destroyed each other had the Kzer-Za not used the Sa-Matra at the last minute to gain victory. Unwilling to destroy their brothers or be too confident in the rightness of their doctrine, however, the Kzer-Za came to an agreement with the Kohr-Ah that they and their doctrines would coexist and would periodically ritually re-fight the Doctrinal War to determine which of the two cultures would dominate the other. They thus traveled in opposite directions around the galaxy, the Kzer-Za leaving behind a trail of slave-shielded civilizations and the Kohr-Ah leaving a trail of burned worlds. Many, many new civilizations that have developed in the past twenty thousand years have tried and failed to resist the Ur-Quan, who, despite their resistance to integrating new technologies from other species, have leveraged their immensely developed technological achievements left over from the long-ago Milieu into an ability to efficiently organize a Hierarchy of conquests in the Kzer-Za case or efficiently and precisely destroy civilizations outright in the Kohr-Ah case.
No developing civilization was able to survive the assault of the technologically superior and messianically driven Ur-Quan subspecies until they met again at the opposite end of the galaxy and fought their second Doctrinal War when, in what we know as the Second War of the Alliance, the species of the New Alliance of Free Stars were able to use the distraction afforded by their war with each other to find a way to destroy the Sa-Matra and defeat both Ur-Quan subspecies, driving them out of our galaxy in the direction of the Magellanic Clouds.
Hopefully in the near future Alliance forces will be able to find them and put a stop to them permanently, either integrating them into a new galactic civilization or, if need be, destroying them. In any case the defeat of the Ur-Quan marks the first chance in twenty thousand years for new civilizations to develop without the looming threat of being cut short by an Ur-Quan fleet.