|Homeworld location||Maskaan (Glimmerdrift Reaches 1322)|
|Primary Star||M2 V|
|Reference||Gateway to Destiny 35, 56-57.|
Physiology & Environment (Ecology)
The exoskeleton of a Maskai acts as a vac suit. Maskai can live for 30 minutes to an hour in a complete vacuum and indefinitely in a very thin atmosphere without life support. They are subject to immobilization due to cold but can be revived if returned to warmth afterwards. Loss of body temperature is apparently a serious problem for them. Maskai who would be exposed to such conditions are often painted with a conductive material that acts as an electric heating system. They then wear a power pack that supplies the system keeping them warm. Maskai are also known to have adopted painting their bodies in other ways (camouflage, decorative, identification marks etc.) on a regular basis. This practice varies by colony. The lifespan of a Maskai is about equivalent to that of a human. Nothing is currently known of Maskai medical techniques, if any.
History & Background (Dossier)
This minor race inhabits just a few systems in the Glimmerdrift Reaches. They have largely gone unnoticed as a result of their relatively isolated location within that sector and because they rarely venture outside their homeworlds. The Maskai, named that by the Imperial Scout Service, are a race of multi-legged insectoids. Some have conjectured that they may have been evolved from Terran ants as part of some long forgotten Ancients experiment many millienia ago. They are a nesting / colony race socially similar to their ant ancestors. Other have posited that they may be related to the Poicxh. Even others have proposed that they may just bear evolutionary similarities to the Terran Ant.
Psychology & Philosophy (Mindset)
Leaders can link to form sort of a living computer multiplying their cognitive powers. Hence, why the Maskai are good at mathematics. Workers can be linked to such an arrangement as essentially additional ram for the leaders to use. The computing capacity of such an arrangement depends on the number of leaders and workers so linked.
Maskai also apparently have a limited range of communication via an RF (radio-frequency)-like signal emitted from their antenna. This seems to have a range of a few meters at most although the exact limits are not currently known. Touch seems to be the norm rather than remote contact. Possibly the remote signal doesn't allow the same level of information exchange. Several scouts report being able to sense general feelings or vague general concepts when touched by Maskai antennae. Things like "Greetings" or "Yes / no" type responses. It is assumed that the Maskai themselves are capable of much greater information exchange given their written texts and use of mathematics.
Maskai leaders are very, very inquisitive in the extreme. They want to explore anything new or unusual. They will generally use workers or warriors,as the situation requires, as essentially self-propelled information gathering devices to "record" a variety of sensory inputs or to access other data sources rather than go themselves. This way they don't have to expose themselves to potential threats or get near non-Maskai.
Maskai hives have a genetic caste system to carry out different social functions. The workers and warriors are led by a queen. The warrior caste are armored to withstand vacuum for short periods of time and have sharp mandibles.
Like Terran ants, the Maskai are a caste society with each member specializing in certain functions. All Maskai, except for the singularly rare drone, are female in gender.
The various castes in a Maskai colony are:
Queen: Generally just one per colony although the rare possibility exists for two. The Queen is the reproductive portion of the colony and is the sole source of new Maskai. All Maskai within a particular colony are therefore genetically related to all others. Maskai appear capable of telling whether another Maskai is from the same colony virtually instantly although the mechanism for this is not fully understood.
The Queen lays eggs at a rate of about a dozen per day. These are fertilized by the Drone. Each egg is about 10 to 12 cm in diameter and a Maskai is about the same length when hatched. Workers take the eggs to special incubation chambers within the colonies and tend to them and the newly hatchlings. It is speculated that the caste of a particular Maskai is determined by the leader caste of a colony. The exact means by which they accomplish this is unknown. A Queen is virtually immobile and speculated to reach several meters in length. One has never actually been seen by any other species to date as far as is known.
Drone: The sole male in the colony. His task is to fertilize the eggs laid by the Queen. The drone is believed to be small compared to other Maskai but the only description is a vauge one in Maskai writings. He is also described as docile and non-intelligent.
Worker: Genetically female with essentially identical genes. This is the most commonly encountered Maskai. Workers comprise 80 to 90% of the colony. The figure varies with the level of threat the colony faces.
Workers are generally about 1 meter long and weigh approximately 20 kg. They have six legs attached to the middle segment of a three segment body (head, waist, abdomen). They vary in color from dark brown to bright red and, light brown depending on the colony they are from. Each colony appears to have a unique color.
Each leg of a worker is about the length of a human arm and consists of three segments. Two are of equal length and the third is like a hand or paw with three opposable fingers/ toes about the length of a human thumb. Workers use their front two legs extensively as arms to manipulate tools and grasp items. They are capable of walking on the rear four and often 'rear up' to bring their front legs more forward for working.
Worker bodies have an exoskeleton and are soft internally. The entire outer surface of a Maskai is covered in a semi-flexible but hard chelatenaous material 5 to 20 mm thick depending on location. This gives them the equivalent of both a vac suit and body armor roughly equal to cloth over their entire body.
Workers have two large black non-mobile eyes that have a circular hard cover that can close over the eye. This gives the worker excellent near 360 degree vision in almost any light condition from bright to almost total darkness. But the eyes are located such that they have poor depth perception and very limited stereo vision. They have good to excellent color perception also.
They sense sound only by vibrations against their body as they have no dedicated hearing. The head has two mobile antennae 20 to 30 cm long placed near the front top side by side. Two small (about 15cm) mandibles are located one each side of a central mouth. These are used for holding food.
The Worker Maskai appear to be primarily vegetarian but have been known on occasion to eat meat and other proteins. Their mandibles are quite strong and can be used as a defensive weapon with serious injuries being possible.
Workers encountered are generally intelligent. They normally can read and write excellently and are capable of understanding mathematics. They typically are not curious and generally are docile unless provoked. They take instruction in writing excellently and are capable of prolonged work often going for days at a time with no breaks.
Soldier: Also genetically female. These are sometimes referred to as Amazons in Imperial literature but the term is unknown in Maskai writings. This larger version of the Maskai represents only 10% or so of a typical colony. The soldier is usually 1.5 to 2 meters in length and weigh nearly 70 kg and is far, far stronger than a worker. They are capable of jumping 6 to 10 meters in standard gravity and can easily outrun a human being. They are about as fast as a galloping horse.
They have very large and razor sharp mandibles up to 40 or 50 cm in length and could easily cut a human in half. Their eyes are placed more forward on the head than a worker's giving roughly a 270 degree field of view but far better depth perception and stereo vision. Their exoskeletons are approximately double the thickness of a worker's.
They are intelligent and extremely aggressive to anyone or thing that is not part of the colony. They may attack without warning. This tendency is curbed if a leader is present.
Leader: Genetically female. The leader is similar in size to a worker but has a larger head and four versus two antennae. These are arranged in a semi-circle on the front and side of the head. They are extremely intelligent and capable of performing very complex mental tasks. Leaders make up less than 1% of a colony's population but, one or two can frequently be found in a large group of workers or soldiers. Workers and soldiers will normally be extremely protective of leaders and will readily sacrifice themselves to protect one.
The Maskai have no known verbal communications. They do have an extensive written language and very advanced mathematical skills. They communicate by scent using formic acid based solutions. These are very specifically tailored to the colony and can indicate a number of different things to the members. They also appear to communicate by touching antennae. This has been widely observed and it appears that multiple Maskai can link via their antennae to each other at the same time. Communications via this method appear virtually instantaneous and can be made to any number of colony members.
Leaders will often somehow signal those Maskai around them to touch antennae and once a large number have they virtually instantly start working in unison towards directed goals and tasks.
Government & Politics (Leadership)
The Maskai Empire government is characterized as having a very high degree of centralization, which sets supremely uniform policies that direct a multi-system state and utterly disregards local/planetary differences.
Generally the Maskai are friendly with the exception of the Soldier class who are, as noted, very aggressive. They are unwilling to allow anyone to enter most areas of a colony and most of what is known about their colonies comes from their writings. The Queen and Drone have never been seen and there are no known pictures or drawings of either.
Occasionally one colony will go to war with another. Such wars are often limited to personal combats by the colony's soldiers and frequently do not involve any technology by, apparently, mutual agreement. These wars are usually over limited resources and access to them.
Language & Letters (Communication)
When the Maskari touch antennae, they link minds, effectively doubling the brainpower while linked. When twenty or thirty are linked, they can form a "hive mind" that can, via parallel processing, compute faster than a TL 15 computer. as a result of this, the Maskari never developed computers, as they have effectively unlimited processing power already.
Scouts have asked about this hive mind, and have been told that each member of the group is still fully self aware while "Linked", and they remain able to leave the Hive Mind at any time without any negative effects (i.e. each Maskari's mind is not subsumed by the Hive Mind). The effect is described as being like all the linked Maskari sitting down in a room and discussing, in a polite, productive manner, for hours, but in the space of a heartbeat.
It is thought that linking in this manner helps to "normalize" (move towards an average) individual Maskari thought patterns within a colony. Certainly, Maskari within a colony all think the same, or nearly so, while Maskari form another colony will hold different views, but again with the same uniformity within the colony. Efforts are made to ensure that all Maskari join in Hive Minds on a regular basis.
Technology & Trade (Economy)
The Maskai have no current jump technology. It is not known if this is due to inability to adopt it or no desire to do so. They do build very large sub-light colony ships that resemble giant ant hills turned inside out using ceramic, cement, fired clay and other non-metallic materials. The Maskai regularly use a wide variety of technology and have adopted many human technologies.
The Maskai have factories and other production facilities within their colonies. They are excellent miners and have technology in this area exceeding Imperial techniques. Farming and food production is generally done in the equivalent of large greenhouses and open field techniques are virtually unknown.
They also have proven excellent at performing many repairs to other race's starships at their starports so long as jump drives are not at issue. Their ability to work in a vacuum without special equipment gives them a big advantage in this area.
The reason for the frequent non-use of technology in Maskai on Maskai wars is simply a social one. There are human examples of this such as the ritualized Flower War of the Aztecs where capturing enemy warriors was more important than killing and conquering was. It is very clear that the Maskai segregate themselves by colony. Members of one colony have very limited access to any other colony. They appear to exchange information and will cooperate outside their colonies on a regular basis but with clearly defined limits of cooperation.
The reason for their aversion to FTL travel is that it causes any Maskai, for reasons not understood by them, to have the equivalent of a nervous breakdown and die. So, they travel using sub-light colony ships; sort of a home away from home. This is part of the reason the ISS gave them the tech level ratings they have. In many areas they exceed this rating other than FTL space travel.
The starports at Maska Shi'ir and Kada Sei are both orbital in nature. No one has been to the surface of either world. Contact has been limited to these orbital stations. In appearance they look like a cross between a starfish and a sea urchin on a truly enormous scale (approaching 20 + km in size). These are made of a non-metallic substance that is a cross between something like concrete and ceramic with non-metal reinforcement. Their colony ships are similar in size and appearance but equipped with propulsion.
On approach a ship can usually see a fairly large number of workers on the outside of the structure adding to it. The Maskai communicate via text on ship's screens and it is presumed that a leader is performing this function although this cannot be confirmed. At 224-103 the station is smaller but similar. There is no station at Alone... Yet. There has been no report of a successful landing on that planet to date.
Visiting ships can expect the Maskai to want to board their ship and crawl over the outside of it as well as the inside. They tend to be passively aggressive in attempting to do so. One can expect only workers to normally do this. The workers will be polite and very careful not to damage or take anything and generally will "ask" permission if being observed. On the "starport" a person will frequently run into warriors that block corridors and will prevent entry of non-Maskai in many parts of the station. The Maskai will, via worker communication, perform most repairs and servicing of a starship except on the jump drives which they avoid completely.
As a note: My party found several Maskai workers still aboard in odd corners of the ship and dead after jumping to FTL. They ended up having to almost forcibly leave the station as the Maskai kept trying to keep them there and that was becoming obvious to them. A visiting ship may also find the Maskai may make attempts to keep them there for more "study" although that won't be how it is put to the visitors. That is, they may recommend additional work, make excuses for not being able to fuel the ship (Use of the gas giants in the Maska Shi'ir and Kada Sei systems by visiting ships is strictly prohibited. They have to use the station.).
Their trade with outside entities is limited as they have only a limited concept of money and economic exchange. As an economic system they could be termed successful communists. That is each member of the colony engages in productive work they are capable of and are given a share of food and other necessities as they require them. Older and less capable workers for example will be given less strenuous tasks to perform as one example of this. They appear more interested in collecting ones and twos of various technologies rather than wanting to buy them outright. It is assumed this is due to their unique alien characteristics which would make it easier for them to modify a technology to fit their physical form or their mental characteristics.
For example, persons visiting have remarked that they have never seen a stationary or fixed vid screen or computer terminal. The only ones they have seen are "hand" leg? held units that many workers carry. The workers have usually been more than willing to 'hand' these to visitors for their use temporarily or even provide one to them freely.
The Maskari have taken Genetic Engineering to a level far beyond that found in the Imperium, and use specially created animals to replicate many tasks performed by machines in the Imperium. One notable example of this is the use of "living" lasers.
A slug-like creature, about the size of the human hand, has been developed by the Maskari that can, using a specially created organ, generate and amplify a coherent light beam (i.e. a laser). On low power, with a "spreader" lens place in front. these function like a flashlight, and are used as such.
When placed into a rifle-like holder, with a separate, jellyfish-like organism acting as a dynamic lens, it can generate focused laser blasts comparable to a Imperial Laser Rifle, though the slugs can only produce about 10-15 "shots" before exhausting themselves and needing to be fed and rested for roughly eight hours. Maskari warriors have been seen carrying a projector and as many as half a dozen laser slugs, swapping them out as a human would ammunition magazines.
A slightly scaled up version, roughly the size of a grown man's arm, is used in banks to power Maskari starship lasers, again using a living, dynamic lens.
Military & Intelligence (Force Projection)
The Maskai Empire systems are protected by large asteroid monitors delivered by colonial sub light hive ships from the home world of Maskaan (world) in ancient pre-imperial times. The soldier cast regularly is armed with a variety of personal and heavy weapons. Many support weapons like artillery are often primarily serviced by workers led by a soldier.
The Maskai have a unique way of attacking enemies in space. Offensively, they have been seen to use only very small ships made of materials similar to their space stations. These appear to be little more than propulsion and fuel units with some control system (leader caste + workers operating the ship). At most these are a few hundred tons in size and only have maneuver drives. They generally can move at or near 6G in operation. They can sometimes be seen attached to the starports or a colony ship.
When in use the warrior caste will simply pile onto these ships in very large numbers clinging to the outside and each other. The ship will attempt to approach an enemy vessel at high speed and the warriors will simply 'cast off' using the momentum the ship imparted on them along with a small maneuver pack to propel themselves onto the enemy vessel. Once attached they then use energy weapons / cutting torches to open the hull for access and engage their enemy at close range using the same weapons as well as their 'built in' mandibles etc. It is clear they have little concern for fighting in zero G or vacuum environments.
A ship thus attacked could easily expect hundreds or thousands of attacking warriors to attempt to attach themselves and board. Such ships crews can also expect the Maskai attackers to partially or seriously dismantle / damage their ship by simply cutting it up into pieces. Given the number of potential attackers this is a real threat to smaller vessels. Such attacks have been now observed on several occasions where a ship attempted to refuel off a gas giant. The attack came without warning and was relentless in nature. Waves of attacking warriors were used each time.
Defensive energy weapons are known to exist on their large space station / colony ships and likely are also available on their planets although the later have never been seen in use.
The same ships with smaller engines are frequently used for transfer of workers and other Maskai between planets and the space stations. Other times it has been observed that they will simply add to such a ship more and more material then move it to a needed location and disassemble the ship to add to a space station or colony ship.
From this it would appear that they see the propulsion systems as temporary parts of a ship constructed for a specific purpose and when that purpose is fulfilled the ship is dismantled for other uses. New ships are constructed when needed.
This race is primarily located in the following areas:
Of their four home worlds the names are those given by the ISS again. Maska Shl'ir (1423) and Kada Sei (1324) both contain multiple colonies of Maskai that only cooperate to a degree. Hence, their being called "Balkanized" by the ISS. 224-103 (1323) and Alone (1522) each contain a single colony that dominates the planet.
It is interesting to note that the thick CO2 heavy atmosphere (roughly 5 standard atmospheres) of 224-103 apparently has little effect on the Maskai living there and their unique exoskeletons apparently act as a check against the high atmospheric pressure. For excessive solar heating they use thin film technologies to give the exterior of their body solar power cells or using heat reflective paint or coatings as required. It would appear that they see little or no reason for some sort of protective suit in most circumstances.
The homeworld of this race is: