Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Featured Species - The Zig

Name: The Zig

“Nearly every other race we have encountered speaks of a concept… perfection.  Despite our intelligence, it took us a long time to understand what they meant by it, perfection.  How could there be a final state?  An ultimate design?  We understand this quest for perfection now, though.  It is an unfortunate mental defect brought about by not being Zig.” – An Dar Ak Raht, Zig Senator


            The Zig in general shape and size are quite similar to humans.  The greatest visible difference is in coloration.  The Zig have skin with distinctive metallic tones, which in a healthy specimen  from their home world are a slightly iridescent with a silvery sheen.  The exact tones and hues vary greatly based on diet and planet of origin.  Their hair is stiff, wiry and often difficult to manage.  The very practical Zig will often either cut it extremely short, shave it, or ignore it.  Their general build is based largely upon caste, although there are exceptions in those who were born to parents of one cast and chose to join another.  The Iron Caste or Laborers tend to be very solidly built, with heavy facial features and broad shoulders.  The Copper Caste or Scientists are usually lean, with long, tapering fingers and slightly exaggerated sensory organs.  The Gold Caste or Leaders cut an even average in build between the Scientists and Laborers and often have exaggerated secondary sexual characteristics.


            The Zig have been a space faring race for slightly longer than the Mauraug, though their society has nowhere near the monolithic character of the Covenant.  They too evolved from a primate-like species on a world not dissimilar to Terra. Their home world circles a star that sits in the outer arm of an especially rich nebula, not dissimilar to the conditions of Tesetsi Prime .  The abundance of elements that are rare in many other parts of space allowed the DNA based life of Zig Prime to adapt a host of solutions and processes not performed by life on other worlds.  The presence of these catalysts allowed for great efficiency of biological process, allowing for rapid evolution and adaptation.

            The Zig love of organization coupled with their lightning-quick minds resulted in many political systems being explored and either adapted or dropped.  Given their social behavior but strong sense of individual identity, the republic was a popular mode of governance that eventually survived their expansion into space.

            The isolationist stance of the Zig took shape early on.  First contact for the Zig was a deadly affair that started with the destruction of a colony and lead to a centuries-long war with a neighboring civilization.  The infamous Zig practicality lead to the genocide of the other species, and set a trend for them.  Their Republic did not share space gladly with other races that could consume the same resources that they do, and treated those other races as competition at best and rivals at worst.  As a result, they gained a galactic reputation that was not much more positive than that of the Mauraug.  Rather than being seen as despotic overlords they were viewed as terrifying outsiders who would eliminate other races wholesale and take their worlds.  This view was not far from the truth.

            The only thing that saved the Mauraug as a species from annihilation by the Zig was the very size of the Dominion.  Although they were convinced that given time and resources they could eradicate the Mauraug, their space was roughly the same size at the moment of first contact.  Such a war would be too draining upon the Republic and their Senate was unable to reach a consensus concerning the Mauraug until the Hrotata and Great Family arrived on the Galactic scene and convinced them to ally.

            The Tesetsi Diaspora was extremely helpful to the spread and maintenance of the Zig.  At first their worlds were leery of accepting these refugees from the empire of their blood enemies, but the medical miracles that the Tesetsi were able to provide as well as their low numbers and similarity of mindset overcame the Zig xenophobia rather quickly.  Although they have never been fully accepted as members of the Republic (nor would they want to be) the normalized relations with the Tesetsi may have actually paved the way for acceptance of the Great Family and the proposition of the Collective.

            The Zig reaction to mankind was also a mixed one.  Zig arrogance dictated that humans were like unto dumb cousins.  They were similar in physical form, and not too dissimilar mentally (although, of course, slower than the Zig).  Zig also had less concern with the humans’ use of artificial intelligence than many other races did.  Although the Zig themselves need no other minds to think for them, it seemed like a practical solution for a less-intelligent race.  The only Zig concerns about mankind revolve around mankind’s expansionist tendencies.  Other than the Mauraug and possibly the Great Family, no other race has the potential to be such direct competition to their kind, and they have marked this well.  Since human space is on the other side of Dominion space from the Zig Republic, they are less concerned about it presently but acknowledge the potential for mankind to be a dangerous rival should they become more established in the Galaxy.  Therefore Zig politics tends to be more conservative than usual when concerning mankind, rarely garnering support for human colony worlds unless Zig trasmuters and terraforming are directly involved in the project, giving them a foot in the door.

            The Zig also had the misfortune of making First Contact with the Awakeners, and that has left a mark upon them.  The crew of a Zig terraforming effort was viciously psychically assaulted on a potential colony world.  The entire staff went mad within days, and when a Collective effort was sent to find out what happened to them, the Hrotata telepath aboard reported many powerful intelligences on the planet, who were attempting to strike out at those who had begun poisoning their air and water.  

            When it was discovered that fungal colonies were at the root of this, the Republic demanded their extermination.  These deliberations lasted long enough to allow for two things to happen: established Awakeners complete with hosts and ships made themselves known and apologized for the actions of their less civilized brethren, and the mind-plague was revealed.  The rogue Awakeners on the colony world in questions had created a very destructive meme that spread through Zig psyches, causing confusion and distress among regular Zig and crippling insanity among their telepaths.  The discovery of the meme would have been the nail in the coffin for the Awakeners had other Collective species not realized their potential and unanimously offered them membership.  The Zig, unable and unwilling to accept the Awakening, have voted against nearly every motion the Awakeners have made as a species, and keep an eye out for motions made by other species that might benefit them.

            The meme plague still spreads through the Zig.  Only a small percentage of their population has been affected, but it spreads quite easily and attempts by Zig telepaths to cure it have thus far only resulted in their own infection.   The Awakeners have offered to help make reparations and aid in the cure, but this has been rejected out of hand by the xenophobic Zig.  As a result, the Zig have a few quarantine worlds that they position guards in the orbits of and allow no direct communication with.  Newly infected Zig are sent to these worlds almost immediately if diagnosed.  Mauraug diplomats have tried hard to have sanctions imposed on the Zig for violations of the rights of sapient beings, but their motives are obvious to the rest of the Collective and such efforts have been solidly grounded time and time again.

            Despite setbacks, the Zig Republic enjoys great prosperity.  Its members do not want for material things, or (due to their connection to the Tesetsi) medical care.  Individual Zig tend to live full lives, well cared for and with as much potential for growth as is possible within their political and social system.  If the Zig have any complaints about the current state of affairs, it is reflected in mild irritation at getting lower priority in the establishment of colony worlds and in the fight for resources.  Other races generally agree that the Zig are far ahead of them where inhabitable worlds are concerned and with their ability to synthesize necessary compounds and elements they do not need as extensive resource rights.  This resentment is tempered by the satiety that comes with abundance and their racial pride.  They generally believe that their race will be able to out think and out last the others based simply upon their own merits and their policies and interaction with the rest of the Collective reflect this.

Native Technology:

            Materials Tech.  After expanding their colonies past their home system, the Zig discovered that many of the planets available for colonization or terraforming were less than ideal in that they did not carry the blend of heavy metals unique to the Zig world and biosphere.  The vast Zig intellect was turned towards the development of elemental transmutation, first out of desperation and then out of stubbornness.  After centuries of experimentation they produced the basis for the technology that they are famous for today.  Their matter transmuters allow them to alter molecular and even atomic structures safely, which enables them to produce any elements that they need.  Their experience in the use of these transmuters and their byproduct technology has allowed them to create materials with very unusual physical properties including transparent metals, superconductive gas, and compounds that include normally non-reactive elements.  Most Collective ships boast Zig bulkheads and drive housing and many Collective colonies (even some Covenant-owned) have teams of Zig available to man atomic transmuters that make terraforming much more feasible.  Weapons applications have been known to exist as well; they Zig are known to possess technology that allows them to alter the state of matter at a range.  They also produce their infamous “molecule seeds” that provoke the transmutation of an element they encounter.  On the large scale these have been use to destroy the atmosphere of a world by converting the oxygen to something far less (or more) reactive.  On a more personal level, Zig projectiles sometimes contain molecule seeds that can poison or even destroy organic tissue that their alchemy comes into contact with.


            On the surface, Zig biology is very similar to that of humans and the Mauraug.  Investigation of basic biochemical processes reveals this to be a fallacy.  The heavy metals in the Zig system serve as catalysts for many of their biological functions where they would merely build up and cause tissue damage in most other DNA-based life.

            One side effect of this is the hyper-efficient Zig nervous system.  Their electrochemical transmitters are much faster than those of other life forms with similar nervous systems.  As a result they tend to be far more intelligent individually.

            A Zig with the proper nutrients will also heal damage to their body very quickly.  Although their immune systems are not better equipped to deal with foreign pathogens than most, they are capable of restoring damaged tissue at an astonishing rate when their diets have a full complement of minerals.  They are even capable of regenerating lost limbs and (given proper medical attention) vital organs, given time.  This remarkable healing is a property that they share with all of the life forms of their home world, and was a major point of interest for Tesetsi biologists during the Diaspora.


The Zig caste system is the source of much interest.  A Zig chooses his caste and gender before he reaches full adulthood, as the Zig go through a powerful growth spurt at puberty.  During this growth spurt, they tend to adapt to the physical characteristics of those around them.  The Zig generally choose to remain with the castes of their parents’ family, but may choose another caste pre-puberty.  If so, they are moved to live with another family of the appropriate caste, among members of their chosen gender, allowing their coming of age transformation to specialize them.  Although a Zig is not forbidden from seeing his old family, ties usually fray and break over the years as they have less and less in common with their biological parents.

The Zig race populates a vast enough region and has enough members that attempting to encapsulate their cultural variety in a few simple pages is impossible.  However, certain things hold true on most Zig worlds.  On a given world norms of style, dress, and entertainment are more often than not caste-based.  The workers tend to enjoy crude and slapstick humor and down-to-earth drama.  The Scientists often favor intellectual humor and documentary entertainment.  The Leaders are usually patrons of social drama and have complex role-playing games and theatrical productions.

There is a movement of admiration for human culture and the pace of human life that has sprung up since mankind’s’ joining of the Collective.  There are those among the Zig that see the relatively slow pace of human life and behavior as being a form of enlightenment; humans suffer less stress-based diseases, both physical and mental, than the high-strung Zig and have an appreciation for life and depth of emotion that Zig culture does not go out of its way to cultivate.  “Humicker” Zig work to question their constant urge to alter and improve their environment, and engage in very un-Zig like practices and philosophies such as Zen and Taoism.  They also will often mimic humans on a more base level as well, occasionally taking human names and dressing in human fashions.  Humickers are treated as mentally incompetent or diseased by the eminently practical Zig, and although they are not necessarily discriminated against, there are therapists and counselors among the Leader caste that specialize in “setting them straight”.  Outside observation is on the fence concerning these Zig; there are those that claim that fighting their natural urges lead to even higher levels of stress, and there are those that wish that the madly active Zig would learn to take a step back and enjoy the world as it is rather than constantly seeking to improve the things that may not require improvement.


            It has often been said of the Zig that when they look at a thing they do not see the thing, they see what it can be made into.  This applies across the board for all of their castes; not only are they great Scientists, but their Leaders are frighteningly capable social engineers.  Their highly efficient cerebrums are calibrated to constantly alter and improve their environment.

            Some take these qualities as a form of callousness, not understanding that from the Zig perspective these things are a matter of practicality.  Having powerful family and social bonds, they rarely identify strongly with those outside of their established social group, much like the Vislin, who are the most agreeable members of the Great Family to them.

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