There are many civilized cultures inhabiting the Pandora Cluster. Most of them have arrived through the Eye and established their colonies around the cluster. Some are native to the Cluster, and some (mostly sub-species) were created or born through adaptation. When the first colonists arrived and the competition for habitable and resource-rich planets was fierce, extraordinary measures were taken to establish permanent colonies on some hostile or harsh worlds.
A clade (from Ancient Greek: κλάδος, klados, “branch”) is a life-form group consisting of an ancestor and all its descendants—representing a single “branch” on the evolutionary “tree of life”.
When the first Enigma was found on Mars in the Sol system, humanity was already on the verge of technologically assisted evolutionary transition. But the emergence of the technological singularity truly made genetic manipulation, nanotechnology and cybernetic augmentations available for most of the human population.
For hundreds of years, there was a great deal of cultural resistance against the manipulation of the human genome, and most of the more radical alterations to human biology were banned by international laws and regulations. Still, this did not prevent the powerful mega-corporations, the rich, or certain extremist transhuman groups from manipulating the human genome.
Eventually, as humanity spread into the stars, new human cultures were born. With the new cultures, also known as tribes, more drastic changes in human evolution also started happening as humanity broke free from the moral restraints of earth-born cultures. Over time, this resulted in three very different branches, or clades, in human evolution.
A clade is a broad definition for a group of humans sharing the same distinctive innate traits or evolutionary vector. This is not to be mixed with the human culture as a whole. There are countless cultural groups under the umbrella definition of Human Culture.
Also called: baseliner, humie, rando
Baseline humans are either unmodified or only slightly altered humans. They form the largest population of the humankind and typically resemble their earth-born ancestors. There are exceptions, of course. It is not uncommon for the wealthy to undergo basic genetic sanitation or for the early colonist populations to have undergone more radical adaptive genetic redesigns resulting in exotic physical features like blue skin, ridges on the forehead or elongated limbs. Some baseline humans can have minor genetic modifications, but they are mostly cosmetic changes or slight adaptations, like ultraviolet resilience or ability to breath in an unusual atmosphere.
Also called: splice, hybrid
Of all the clades, the genics are the most easily distinguishable from baseliners. Genics are usually descended from various transhuman cultures or human-animal hybrids created as slave labor or military purposes. In addition to hybridization, the genics also exhibit some other exotic genetic adaptations.
The usual physical traits for genics are different animal features, a radically changed physique, additional body parts like tails or wings, or entirely new genetically engineered organs and adaptations, such as a limited resistance to the vacuum of space.
Genics are especially common among original colonists populations on hostile worlds and within nomad clans.
Also called: linker, frac
The oberonian population originates from the attempts to form a symbiotic relationship between human biology and nano-swarm based AIs. The enhanced nervous systems of the oberonians offered the AIs a perfect platform to inhabit. In turn, the AIs provided the oberonians with enhanced mental capacity and the ability to directly interface with other oberonians, networked computers, and devices without any hardware. Many oberonian populations are also biologically attuned to neural uploads and cybernetic implants.
Cybernetically unaugmented oberonians look very much like baseliners, but there is a certain feel to them that makes them stand out in regular social interaction. Regardless of, or because of, the enhanced mental capacity of the oberonians, and constant information stream in the form of oberonian collective communication and augmented reality gives a certain “autistic” feel to them. Still, on the inside, the oberonians are very much aware of their surroundings – usually much better than anyone else.
Drusks are an insectoid alien species that go through various physical forms during their lifespans. The most commonly encountered form, an adult drusk resemble six-limbed giant spiders walking on two legs.
The Druski Empire is one of the largest cultures in the Consortium. Were drusks not divided into several rival broods, each controlled by a single drusk lord, the empire would be much more powerful than it currently is.
During its lifespan, a drusk will usually undergo two metamorphoses, and three under certain rare occasions. There are rumors of a fourth metamorphosis, but many believe that this is just the stuff of legends and old sagas.
The first phase is the nymph stage. The drusk nymphs skitter around on six legs while serving their lord mindlessly. As a drusk reaches the adult stage, they start walking on two legs, and the middle pair of limbs atrophy to form a pair of smaller assisting “hands.” They also develop their own will but are still controlled by their lords through pheromones. As a drusk adult matures, it grows resistant to its lord’s pheromones. At this point, the mature drusk adult usually faces one of the three possible fates: it submits and continues to serve its lord and retains its adult development stage, but stops growing and starts to lose its own will slowly; it will grows in size, and eventually tries to take over the control of the brood or; it abandons the brood voluntarily or is exiled from it, and retains its adult stage and free will.
All of the drusk characters are mature adults exiled from their broods.
The druski have a protective exoskeleton and they are naturally quick. They have also an excellent sense of smell and sense of pressure changes making them exceptional pathfinders and bounty hunters.
Louhos are an underground-dwelling alien species with a knack for fine craftsmanship and trading. On average, louhos are a bit shorter than baseliners, and have a strong, muscular build and a thick hide. As the louhos age, their hide will thicken, eventually forming a hard turtle or armadillo-like carapace on their backs. Their skin color and carapace offer natural camouflage in rocky terrain.
Louhos were enslaved by humans a long time ago, before the founding of the Consortium. For the most of humankind this is ancient history, but because of their long lifespan and strong tradition in passing down knowledge to the younger generations, the louhos have not forgotten the cruelties humans committed on their people.
Despite the fact that louhos are usually honorable and polite, they can be distrustful and aloof towards most humans. Surprisingly, this unwelcoming behavior does not seem to concern the nomad clans.
Nibirans are a species descended from vulture-like scavengers. Regardless of technological advancements, most likely accelerated by an enigma located in their homeworld, the nibirans are still what their ancestors were – opportunistic carrion-eating scavengers.
The nibirans look like beak-faced rats walking on two legs. They have a prehensile tail that can be used to grab things or to assist in climbing, and leathery webs between their arms and torsos. They can use these vestigial wings to slow falls and glide for short distances if wearing no armor.
The nibirans are known for their advanced optical camouflages and portable deflector barrier technology, but besides this, their technology is mostly reverse engineered from other cultures. The nibirans are excellent scavengers and pilots. This is the likely reason why many nibirans work in salvage crews or enlist as pilots for exploration missions.
Qu’aris are an amorphous, silicon-based species that has lived in a sort of symbiosis with the druski for thousands of years. Qu’aris inhabit the druski cities, space stations, and capital ships. Being resistant to small amounts of radiation and extreme temperatures, qu’aris find their dwellings in places that are inhospitable for drusks or most other carbon-based species.
Drusks leave qu’aris alone, and in return, qu’aris provide technical maintenance and security support. The amorphous form of qu’aris allows them to move unrestricted in confined spaces, such as ventilation ducts. Qu’aris do not “see” as humans do. Instead, they sense electromagnetic fields, such as magnetism, infrared and the like, around them. This makes qu’aris excellent technicians as they can detect electric currents and radiation leaks without any tools or sensors.
Qu’aris do not need clothing or other apparel, but a many qu’ari living with different Cultures grow pseudopods to mimic the physique of their fellow species. Some even carry armor, weapons or other equipment when they prove useful.
Qu’aris do not have a gender, and they reproduce asexually by dividing their mass into 2, 4 or 16 qu’ari younglings. Before reproducing a qu’ari turns into a hard leathery cocoon. When the division is complete, the newborn qu’aris emerge from the chrysalis. The offspring inherit fragments of their progenitor’s memories and personalities, but each of them is a new individual with a unique personality and slightly altered DNA. In practice, this means that every qu’ari can reproduce only once in their lifetime.