The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wing Commander reboot, Know Your Enemy.

The Wing Commander reboot is a little something I cooked up for the AHN Unvierse. I've always liked Wing Commander, and it's a shame that the movie killed the franchise. The reboot is taking the franchise and placing it in An Alternate History of the Netherlands. But the big question is, is this reboot a future history, or just a science-fiction franchise as seen from a parallel universe?

The Kilrathi

Physical Appearance
The most feared enemy of humanity are the Kilrathi, first encountered in 2629 A.L. They are two-point-five meter tall felinoids. They walk upright, towering over a human when standing and walking. They resemble lions to a degree, in both physiology and society.
The head of a Kilrathi is very similar to one of a lion, including large lips that permit the mouths to open wide enough to bite into their prey or enemies. Thus, the males of the species have evolved manes to protect their throat from their enemy’s teeth. The size of a Kilrathi’s mane is often an indication of health and of social status, with nominally the Emperor and Council of Eight have the mightiest manes. The canines of a Kilrathi are as long as a human thumb. Their faces are very lion-like, with large eyes and ears that focus directly ahead. Each ear can move independently to detect and lock on to sounds. Their hair is a red to brown color, matching the rocky surface of their homeworld.
Kilrathi have long, muscular limbs, both arms and legs. Their wrist and ankle bones are long as well, and extended a good way up their limbs. In fact, Kilrathi actually walk on their toes. When they run, they can drop everything and drop down on all fours for more speed and better control. They tend to fall back on this ancient means of locomotion while chasing prey. Their limbs also allow them to leap their own body lengths with ease. When fighting, two Kilrathi will launch themselves at each other, both trying to get teeth and claw into their enemy’s throat. Kilrathi have only four digits per hand, with each digit retaining retractable claws. Most of a Kilrathi’s modern day
The Kilrathi have evolved on an arid world and have thus excellent water-conservation biology. Their liquid waste is kept to a minium, but not eliminated completely. They do require water, but once every few days. What they do consume is usually moisture from their prey. Around their heart’s four chambers are four lungs. The atmosphere of their planet is usually choked with volcanic ash and soot, an extra pair of lungs are required to bring in enough oxygen. These extra lungs also extend their lifespans, since lung disease is the second most common cause of death on Kilrah. The female of the species has four nipples on her abdomen.

The Kilrathi have a natural lifespan of forty years. Often a female will give birth to twins. If
the pair are of the same gender, they will stay together until one or the other dies, either in the pride as females, or rogue living until taking their own pride as males. Kilrathi grow fast, reaching their adult size in just four years and sexual maturity in ten years. Since their homeworld is tidally locked, they base their calender on how long it takes to grow into adulthood. Males are not ejected from the pride at this time, not if their fathers still reign. It is usually not until they are ten when they are forced from the pride. At this point, the males roam the land, taking jobs or enlisting in the Armed Forces. Usually the later, since work is viewed as a female’s domain and fighting it that of the male. However, if no war is currently happening, young males will have to work in order to support themselves. Males that become kings will live only as long as they are able to hold on to their pride. During challenges for control, old males will fight to the death to protect their offspring from the challenging males. Females often live to be over forty, where males seldom live that long.

The Kilrathi are predators, eating almost exclusively meat. They can eat and even digest parts of plants, such as roots and tubers, but seldom do. They do use spices on their meat. Their main source of meat is that of great herds of prey beasts upon their homeworld that have long since been domesticate. They will also hunt prey on new worlds, and even eat their alien enemies. There is a monkey-like animal that lives upon their homeworld that is viewed as a delicacy, especially when cooked with spice. More than one human has met their end as an impersonation of this dish.

The most commonly domesticate animal of the Kilrathi is the Mr’hak, a large boar-like animal. The Kilrathi have herds of these animals numbering in hundreds of thousands to millions on Kilrah as well as the worlds they have either colonized or conquered. The second most commonly domesticate species is not food but a pet. The Sqr’cack, a cheetah sized, dog-like scavenger that have long since filled the niche of a scavenger, following ancient Kilrathi around, feeding upon what they left over. Over the millennia, the Kilrathi have taken a liking to these scavengers, who have strong pack mentalities and easily bond with their new Prides.

Social Structure
The basic social structure of the Kilrathi is the pride. Prides are mostly feminine organizations comprising of mothers, sisters, aunts, daughter and so on, along with numerous children. When the males age, they leave the pride in search of prides of their own. When the females age, they stay with the pride. Pride males, commonly known as kings, come and go. Kings will enter the pride by conquest, defeating the presiding king in combat. Once this is achieved, traditionally they will kill the male offspring of the former kings, as both a means of disposing of future competition and the threat of revenge.

Thrakrik is the ritualistic battle for control of a pride. In the old days, before civilization, Kilrathi would simply ambush and kill. In a civilized world, such behavior would lead to anarchy. Attempting to take control by this means today would result in execution for the attackers. The Kilrathi, in the early days of civilization, developed a method for taking control of the pride. In order for a male, or most often a pair of males, to take control of a pride, they must challenge the reigning kings. The challenge begins when the leader of one group will face off before the leader of the kings. He will invoke thrakrik first by word, then by slashing his claws across the face of the reigning king. Afterwards, it is not the sole decision of the king, but the pride matriarch, the oldest female, must also consent to the battle.
Thrakrik takes place in a small arena with the pride females watching. The contestants are unarmed and must win by their brute strength and cunning, as did their ancestors. The battle will begin when the pride matriarch rings a bell. After that, the contest is bloody and usually short. For the reigning kings, the fight is usually to the death, for failure means the death of their own sons. The challengers can easily be killed, but can also retreat from combat. Seldom does retreat happen in this case either. To do so would deem the challenger a coward, and other kings can reject their challenge in the future on that grounds. Either that, or the pride females will reject the challenge. Retreat would disgrace the challenger and stigmatize him for life.
Nominally, any fit male can challenge for right to claim a pride, but with one exception. The Council of Eight is exempt, meaning both the Eight Prides that rule the Empire, as well as the Imperial Pride. Those are inherited from father to son, creating a ruling aristocracy. Inbreeding is not an issue with these nine large prides, as there are thousands upon thousands of females within them.

Pride Hierarchy
At the top of the social hierarchy of prides in the Imperial Pride, with the Eight Prides directly beneath them. These prides rule the empire, with the Imperial Pride in absolute control (in theory) while the Eight are its immediate vassal and have divided the Kilrathi Empire into Eight Khazka (commonly known as Baronies among humans). Below these are a number of planetary prides, which have nominal domain over an entire planet. The Khazka were once planetary prides that elevated themselves to suzerain over several worlds. Planetary prides are viewed as minor nobility.
Below the planetary prides are the major prides, usually reigning over continental areas. It is possible for major prides to become planetary prides either through conquest or by moving to a new world, but this is rare. Their vassals are the middle prides, which reign over their own small countries and offer the Kilrathi Army most of its non-commissioned officers. At the bottom of the barrel are the minor prides, usually numbering ten to twenty females. These are the countless poor within the empire.
Kilrathi society has a very strict class structure, meaning Kilrathi are born into a position in life and remain their, as do their descendants. The only exemption to this is when a male challenges for the right to a pride. This rigid caste system also brings security to the society of an otherwise aggressive species.

The Kilrathi Empire is an absolutist feudal regime for the most part, with the Imperial Pride dominating all others, and the kings of that pride declared Emperors. The Emperor rule by decree with an advisory council known as the Council of Eight, consisting of the Eight other most powerful prides. Centuries ago, these nine prides rewrote the laws, preventing outsiders from taking over the prides and joining their ranks. However, one of the Eight could challenge the Emperor for control over the Imperial Pride. If successful, that king will become Emperor, and his oldest son will take his former place as Pride king.
In order to prevent this from happening, the Emperor tends to keep the Empire at constant war with any species they encounter (though this is only a minor reason for their constant warfare) and will lead the war through example. The Emperor, and the Eight will fight war and win glory for themselves. The Emperor risks most when he fights, for should he lose, his failure might be seen as weakness on his part and invite the challenge. To gain their own power, the Eight will often absorb smaller prides into their own, taking their lands (or worlds) as well as resources for their own.
Within the pride, the government is more of an oligarchy, controlled by the oldest females, the matriarchs, of the Pride. The reigning kings will sit in meetings of the matriarchs and have advisory powers. However, control of the Pride remains with the females, who spend their whole life within the Pride.

Name Structure
In the past, a Kilrathi’s name was their given name followed by their Pride name, such as Hrarik nar Molgren. As the Kilrathi spread through space, the Pride name was replaced by the name of their world. The most famous Kilrathi, Ralgha nar Hhallas, was from the world of Hhallas. If a powerful male takes over a Pride on another world, he will change he name to suit the world where he now reigns. Females would only change their name if their Pride conquered a new world.

Interpersonal Relationships
Usually, males view other males who do not share their blood as natural rivals. This instinct is strong, and thus the Kilrathi Armed Forces use extremely draconic disciplinary measures to keep cohesion within the ranks. When they first leave the pride, brothers will stick together. They will stay together for life if possible, and will work together to challenge for control of a pride. As Kilrathi life is very violent and war-like, males will often be brother-less. In this case, older males will take younger males under their wing in a sort of apprenticeship. This is very common in wars, where younger males will alliances will learn from their elder and survive the warzone long enough to return home. This alliance is known as the Sworn Brotherhood, and swearing brotherhood is a simple act. All two Kilrathi must do is stand before each other, and swear on their honor their undying loyalty, after which they will cut themselves deep enough to draw blood on their arms, and grasp each other’s arms, mixing the blood
The female of the species can be just as aggressive as the males when concerning other prides, but only if they view the other pride as a threat to their own family’s position. Otherwise, the females are rather cordial. They have to be since they make up most of the Kilrathi workforce. Several generations of related females share the same house or compound, its size depending on the size and strength of the pride. Relations between the generations are as rigid as those between prides. The younger females both respect their elders and obey them without question. The social structure within the pride is more stable than that of the male world, largely because a female’s aggression is more defensive in nature. Females will not kill in conquest, but will kill others who invade her pride’s territory if they are viewed as a threat.

Kilrathi culture is very warlike, glorifying not only battle, but the hunt as well. Being natural born predators. Their art, such as paintings, literature and modern forms of media, pay tribute to these two parts of Kilrathi life. Kilrathi culture also pays high tribute to brave deeds committing by its warriors, and Kilrathi will honor any whose merit warrants it. Though a warrior might be low born, a Kilrathi in one of the Eight Pride will acknowledge (albeit grudgingly) the bravery and actions of any worthy warrior. Those warriors who have truly distinguished themselves may even have the highest honor awarded to them, and that is recognition of service by the Imperial Pride. Despite the rigidness, they are a people who value strength, courage, valor, and above all, victory.

Gender Roles
The Kilrathi are unusual in that, statistically speaking, half their population are dedicated to warfare. The gender roles of the Kilrathi go back deep into prehistory, when it was the task of the females to hunt and the males to protect the pride from all challengers. As society evolved, and hunting gave way to domestication and pastoral ways, the hunter soon became the worker, but the fighter remained. At first, females were just the herders, but as technology advanced, they became the builders, forgers, craftsmen, technicians and so on. As with the wild, when a male left the pride, they must hunt for themselves. In modern society, they must also work in order to support themselves.
The near state of constant warfare in the past two thousand years of Kilrathi history has meant that many males can circumvent this tradition and simply enlist in the army or navy. Most prefer the army, for it allows them to fight like Kilrathi, but the prohibition of females in the armed forces means some males must serve in the navy. Kilrathi value valor far more than teamwork, and the most prestigious positions in the navy is that of pilots. Though they are pack-hunters by nature, and assignment that will allow a male to stand above all others is desirable. As for rank, the command ranks of the Kilrathi Armed Forces are controlled by the higher castes, with the Eight Prides comprising the admiralty and the Planetary Prides supplying most of the ship’s captains and division commanders.

Living on such an unstable world has lead to some rather peculiar architecture. Kilrathi buildings are made with jagged edges and sharp angle, at first to mimic the surrounding landscapes. Kilrah has mostly stone for building, and thus most buildings do not even have roofs. The roofs that do exist are made from hides. Even to this day, the Kilrathi on the homeworld cling to this ancient design, though those on more humid worlds have adapted to having roofs over their head. The constant danger of repeat earthquakes also factors into the lack of roofs, as well as the over engineering of structures upon Kilrah, as well as their other worlds.
Kilrathi fortresses took this geologic design one step further. Though they pride themselves on fighting, the Kilrathi have a great deal of psychological warfare in their doctrine. Fortresses are meant to look menacing and fierce, to give an enemy pause. If a fortress looks mean enough, an enemy may reconsider attacking it. The design of both weapons and ships in modern times also have jagged edges. They are designed to intimidate the enemy, especially non-Kilrathi enemies.

Since they have four digits on each hand, the Kilrathi have a base-eight number system. The first numbers would be 0 to 7, with 8 being the equivalent of ten, and simply called eight, or eights if plural. 11 to 17 is known as eight-and-one, eight-and-two and so on. 20 (16) is called two-eights. Between 20 (16) and 79 (63) the numerology follows a German-like pattern; for example, 21 (17) would be one and two-eights, or 34 would be four and three-eights. 80 (64) which is the equivalent of one hundred, is called an octave, where it will be two octaves, three octaves and so on. 204 would be two octaves and four and 354 would be three octaves, four and five-eights. The written numbers are far simpler than letters in that they are circles divided into eights. One would be one-eighth of a circle, going all the way to eight, which would be a filled circle. Zeros are “blank” circles, that are colored black, while eights are colored white.

With a world tidally locked with its sun, the Kilrathi have a calender based on how long it takes one to grow to adult size (though not maturity). This takes roughly four Earth years, and the Kilrathi call this span of time a Shrik. Like everything else, they divide by eight, with month-like units called Kahrik, and these last about six months. The concept of day and night was not known until the Kilrathi became spacefaring, and their equivalent of a day is based on their sleep cycle, called a Nroth. It consists of nearly twenty hours, with pre-pastoral Kilrathi sleeping fifteen of the hours. Their clocks are based on the Nroth.

Art and Literature
The Kilrathi have little in the way of painting, with lack of material to paint upon on their homeworld prevented it. Their form of paper, before they reached for the stars, consisted or parchment made from leather. This was too precious to be used for painting, and instead was used to record histories and sagas. The Kilrathi have a rich tradition of sculptures. Within their temples, especially the War God Sivar, statues of their greatest heroes stands. It is one of the greatest honors to be bestowed upon any warrior, is to have their likeness carved into stone.
Both Kilrathi literature, what little existed, and their music, celebrated great warriors and glorious victories. They also celebrated the hunt; females who are excellent hunters are highly praised and lone females of great skill are sought out by other Prides, which seek to add her genetic material to their family. On of the most renown of Kilrathi songs is that of Karga the Hunter; she was a female who single-handedly brought down the mighty brakta, a buffalo-like animal the size of an Asian Elephant.
In pre-technological times, Kilrathi prides were kept entertained by drama. Traveling bands of Kilrathi would preform from town to town. This was one of the few times a small Pride would be allowed to cross the territory of another unmolested. With the advent of radio and television, the traveling play came to an end, as Prides can now be entertained without sharing their food. Aside from government-owned news broadcasts, the most popular form of electronic entertainment are various historical and dynastic saga. As the species continues their wars, new sagas are added; the most recent being the conquest of the Varni.
Before they landed on worlds rich in forests, they had no paper. After the development of paper, books were mass produced, and this less to an increase in the literacy rate of the Kilrathi. Their written language is alphabetic in design, with each letter comprised of a series of claw-like marks, and a total of thirty-one letters. The advance of technology and specialization of warfare required a literate populace.

The Kilrathi language consists of a series of snarls, growls and hisses, very lion-like in its sound. Unlike lions, the Kilrathi produce a very distinct pattern in their vocalizations. The sounds are the difficult part to replicate, the rest of their language is a series of fifty syllables mixed and matched to create words, sentences and speech in general. Their language is simple, much so that humans can learn it far easier than Kilrathi can learn any human language. Because of their innate arrogance, Kilrathi refuse to speak any language of an inferior species, though Kilrathi working in various intelligence organizations much know other languages. Statistically speaking, more females know foreign languages than males. Although, warriors will learn certain insults in the language of the enemy, for psychological attacks.

The Kilrathi tendency towards violent conquests is more than biological or geological. Around the same time humanity fought its bloody wars of the 20th Century, Common Era, the Kilrathi were on the verge of peace. For millennia before, Prides constantly battled each other for territory and dominance in the caste hierarchy. Concepts such as diplomacy and trade were flowering, and society was starting to wonder what they would do with all the extra males if wars were a thing of the past. It was the dawn of Kilrathi Enlightenment.
However, this first and only time of peace coincided with the Kilrathi’s first contact with an alien species, though at the time, they were believed to be something different. Little is known about the aliens, for many of the records were destroyed during their invasion. The Kilrathi call them the Munru, and they are the only species the Kilrathi fear. They swept over Kilrah like a plague, destroying cities and slaughtering millions. Why exactly the Munru did not follow up their invasion with colonization is not known. What is known is that after all the Kilrathi elite and the established higher Prides were wiped out, the Munru departed. Surviving intellectuals suspected that the Munru were called away to battle a more dangerous foe.
This was not the consensus of the people. Out of the ruins of civilization came a self-proclaimed prophet. To him, it was all clear; the Munru were demons released by Sivar, the War God, to punish the Kilrathi for their decadence. This demagogue gathered a large following that shaped modern Kilrathi religion. Sivar would smite the weak, and only those deemed worthy man live. Sivar’s lack of tolerance also lead to a rather painful ritual suicide for fallen Kilrathi, for simply killing oneself would be seen as a weakness, something that will damn the Kilrathi to eternal torment. In order to prove he ended his own life for honor instead of running from his failure, a Kilrathi must tear out their own throat.
The prophet, while on his death bed, left his followers with some final words: the Kilrathi must remain strong and true to their nature. They must conquer. Should the Kilrathi ever show weakness (such as world peace) then Sivar will send the Munru to finish what they started long ago. Of all the gods in their pantheon, Sivar is the only one who is not loved, but feared. When the Kilrathi vanquished a rival Pride, the victorious Pride will present the heads of the dead kings and matriarchs to the War God at one of his temples. When the Kilrathi left their homeworld and began to encounter other species, they would finish the wars of conquest by offering great sacrifices to Sivar on the homeworld of their victims, and would go to extreme efforts to appease Sivar.

Kilrathi have two means of combat, which they call Prey and Competition. The Prey method is what they would use to hunt prey, or an enemy they deem so beneath them as to not be worthy of being considered equal. Their instinct for the hunt is to ambush a herd and pick of the weakest. They hunt on all fours, using the speed and agility inherited from their ancestors to tackle prey. To charge an enemy on all fours is considered the gravest of insults. Their propaganda has so ingrained Kilrathi to see non-Kilrathi as prey, that they will often charge into battle on all fours. When they do this, instincts tend to kick in, and NCOs have to make sure unit cohesion is upheld. While fighting the Terran Confederation, humanity will often use a “wounded” decoy to lure out the Kilrathi on the hunt, which triggers their hunting instinct. Veterans of the war against the Terrans look on newly arrived soldiers who fall for this trick with contempt, and are disgusted by how many replacements always fall for it. But even the vets are not immune to this trick, for their blood lust can get the better of them.
The Competition method is a battle of honor, much like the Thrakrik. They will face an opponent they deem worthy, standing upright. There will be no ambush, for in such a challenge, both warriors must attack head on. This method is dangerous, but to a warrior, it is the only way to prove oneself superior to his foe. The battle is usually an unarmed one. However, in the few cases Kilrathi see a worthy opponent in an alien, they will allow weapons to be used. Soldiers seldom get the chance in recent years for no human is foolish enough to face a Kilrathi one-on-one. If a challenge is not met, the Kilrathi who issued the challenge will feel gravely insulted. However, fighter pilots will often challenge Terran aces to single combat with a greater success. Success in having the challenge accepted, not in actual victorious sense. To bestow such a challenge on a non-Kilrathi is the greatest honor a Kilrathi can bestow upon an alien; as to see them as a foe and not food.
There are various forms of strategy to warfare in the Kilrathi arsenal. For ground combat, they usually start out as chaotic charges, due to their instincts and the fact they have been trained since youth to view aliens as prey. In order to maintain rank and order, draconic measures are used by the Imperial Army, including executions for what humans might deem minor infractions. There is a method to the madness in that generals and division commanders will use these charges to expose weak points in enemy defenses. In time, they will strike at these weak spots from various angles. In the defensive, Kilrathi are excellent in guerilla warfare, for their instinct is to ambush.
For fleet actions, similar hunting instincts are used. The fleet will attack head on and attempt to break up the enemy’s formation. If successful, they will split off ships and destroy them one at a time. As opposed to their instincts, the Kilrathi will target the ships they deem the biggest threat, such as carriers, first. After the strongest ships are destroyed, they can take their time picking off the rest. Humans would know this as divide-and-conquer. Fighter pilots use similar tactic, including ganging up on individuals. There exists an odd comradery with alien pilots within the Kilrathi’s fighter corps. As such, they will challenge enemies one-on-one, and refrain from using missiles unless the fleet is in danger, preferring to defeat their foe up close with ‘guns’.

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