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Vox

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Vox
Vox 1.png
Basics
Playable: Yes
Antag Only: No
Whitelisted: Yes
Physical Characteristics
Height: 1.5m - 2.5
Weight: 60kg - 100kg
Homeworld
Planet: Arkships, Space Stations, and Various Vessels

The Vox (voks) are nomadic, bio-engineered alien creatures that operate in and around human space at the behest of crazed and dreaming gods. They present a cold shoulder to all other known cultures, and generally, their only visible role on the galactic stage is to act as a nuisance, as thieves, or as a threat, all as the Byzantine whims of their masters dictate. The massive moon-sized arkships that serve as their homes travel meandering and convoluted migratory trails through the Milky Way, and the appearance of their looted and repurposed ships is almost always a cause for alarm.

Biology

Physically, an average vox is a digitigrade reptilian biped with pronounced rigid quills on their head, a long prehensile tail, and a sharp, three-sectioned beak. They have a flexible and lightweight skeleton and a two-channel redundant nervous system. They generally stand anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 meters tall, with green, grey or brown colouration. Their bodies are scaled with rigid, nonconducting plates in overlapping rows, which can be bristled or flattened at will to optimize cooling or form a pressure seal capable of withstanding vacuum exposure. They do not respirate as humans do, but they do require a nitrogen-rich atmosphere to 'breathe', and suffer badly in the presence of oxygen. Their musculature is geared towards sudden bursts of rapid movement, with a vulnerability to lactic acid buildup as a result.

While vox can subsist on almost anything, they prefer a diet of specific strains of fungus-like matter grown within the arkships and tailored towards their biology. They will also hunt a variety of small, scurrying creatures that inhabit vox ships and facilities, though it isn't clear if these vermin are grown deliberately versus being allowed to flourish as entertainment and a tasty snack. Their internal biology is highly efficient and they are able to derive nutrition from almost any organic material. Unlike humans, they possess only a single facial orifice through which respiration, eating and excreting are all conducted. The vox digestive tract is quite robust and includes a gizzard-like mechanism to assist in digesting difficult food, requiring the vox to ingest rocks or metal for this purpose.

Each vox body is designed for a task before being loaded with a stored mind via imprinting of an implanted device called a cortical stack, similar conceptually to human neural laces. This functional immortality, and the machinations of the apex as they manipulate vox minds is detailed more thoroughly below. Functionally, while they do have a maturation process of a sort, even a newborn vox is completely physically capable and will possess a mind with possibly hundreds of lifetimes of experience behind it. Juvenile vox will struggle to maintain their status in their crew due to being physically smaller and weaker, but this state of affairs does not last for long as the bodies mature within a few months of imprinting.

All vox are sterile and cannot reproduce, as they are made rather than born.

Behavior

To observers, vox are greedy, cowardly thieves with no manners, no culture and a cruel streak a mile wide. They show up out of nowhere, ignoring all hails and negotiation in favour of raiding whatever soft targets are available, stealing things apparently at random before fleeing into the dark. When they are not in a position to steal, they lie and manipulate until they are either in a position of power or able to escape. A captured or imprisoned vox will fake cooperation with a sincerity that stands up to the most intense scrutiny, only to turn on their captors the instant their situation changes.

Internally, the reason for these behaviors is tied to the fact that vox do not consider other life to be relevant. The so-called 'meat' is acknowledged only as far as it is useful, after which it is discarded or eaten. After all, they have no cortical stacks - they clearly aren't actually people, even if they are pretty good at producing technology and raw resources for the vox to appropriate. Due to the constantly degrading state of the arkships, rampant greed is a common and encouraged behavior, so long as the person being stolen from is not another Vox.

The main authorities in vox society are called the apex and are essentially a series of massive, dedicated bio-computers within the central 'grove' of each arkship. The apex is inscrutable, immobile monoliths, dozens of meters in size, communicating only when a task must be completed or a behavior changed, and every vox reveres them as messengers of a great cosmic authority that goes unexplained and unacknowledged to non-vox. Asking a prisoner or an otherwise pinned-down vox about these matters will earn only silence or abuse. The apex also acts as the final mediators of what passes for the vox justice system and can punish deviancy and damage to the ark with pruning, modification or total deletion of a vox mind.

The social hierarchy of vox crews is partially dictated by the apex, with a 'quill' being a designated authority, but more often than not the organization is left entirely to the vox themselves. Ritualized sparring and contests are common ways to derive authority, and 'younger' vox will generally find places lower on the totem pole. Vox crews generally consist of five to ten individuals, with wider 'families' of multiple crews forming in long-term populations like arkship maintainers or mining ships.

All vox have a series of neck, throat and face markings encoded with their genetic lineage, notable events in their history, and their arkship of origin. Flashing these markings is normally a prelude to a conflict between vox, and while they can be faked to some extent with cosmetics, doing so is considered pathetic and unworthy by other vox.

Language

The common vox language, Vox Pidgin, uses mainly the glottal and velar sounds, with a large emphasis on the plosive group, alongside the frontal vowels. Their generally loud speaking voices, shrill tones and the nature of their language make it noisy and irritating to the ears of those around them. Naturally, vox see other languages as being similarly annoying and noisy, having too many words and sounds.

Generally speaking, individual vox names are strings of shrieks, tones, and chattering, which spell out in Vox-pidgin a condensed summary of that Vox's current position and role. For example, a translation of a vox Quill's name might be 'The Red Spike Quill of the Roaming Thirty-Strong Frigate of the Arkship Dubious Synergy'. To a human, of course, this would simply be CHRAAKIYAKITIKAAA or such.

Vox interest in non-vox is minimal, and as a result, very few are even conversant in Galactic Common. Generally, crews operating in occupied space will have one or two 'interfaces' who speak the common tongue, though they will often feign stupidity as it serves their goals. For the most part, vox considers speaking other languages demeaning and beneath them.

Relationships with other species

Vox do not care for non-vox, and vice-versa. Due to this, along with their constant hostility and attempts at raiding unarmed stations and ships, they are unwelcome in most systems and many societies have shoot-on-sight policies for their ships. Shunning tourism, they make due with scavenging and raiding in backwaters and abandoned systems. They will avoid well-armed settlements, preferring soft targets.

Species Nickname Vox' View on the Species
Humans Stupid Monkeys General disdain and dislike. They are the most violent and expansionist sentient species in the vox sphere of influence, and generally the fastest to start firing. Their incessant jabbering and muttering is also offensive to vox ears.
Skrell Squid Things Caution and avoidance. Skrell vessels match or outclass even the oldest and best-maintained vox technology. If they are vulnerable, which happens only extremely rarely, they are valuable raiding targets, and Skrell eggs and tadpoles are something of a delicacy in the Shoal.
Dionaea Tree Men Disinterest. They make handy sources of fuel and rare elements, but don't have any technology or raw materials in sufficient quantity to make them a worthwhile raiding target. Low hanging fruit, generally.
Unathi Stupid Lizards Stupid, violent meat with thick scales, hard heads and no technology or material worth taking. The vox avoid Unathi as much as possible, seeing them as a huge waste of time and resources, and if you believe the average Quill, not at all because they are terrified of them.
Giant Armored Serpentids Ugly Roaches Very dangerous native fauna, terribly poisonous, not worth eating.
Integrated Positronic Chassis Metal Men Loot that can move it self! What will the meat think of next?

How other species see vox

Most species see the Vox as a loosely organized civilization of pirates and scavengers, with no home or goals. They do not know how they reproduce (though many believe them to reproduce via eggs, and will believe them to have genders) or where they come from. They are seen as stupid, dumb pests with a greedy streak.

Organizations that do take a magnifying glass to the vox are often stymied by the completely irrational, chaotic actions presented to the outside world. The samples of technology that are recovered tend to die in 'captivity', and the vox themselves are of course extremely uncooperative.

Technology

Vox technology is both extremely advanced and extremely stagnant, as the surviving artifacts predate the current state of affairs by thousands of years, and the means of making more are largely lost. The weapons and ships that do still remain in circulation are treated with an almost religious reverence, passed down from 'generation' to 'generation'.

Inter-ark network

A powerful network of subspace and bluespace transmitters link the arks together. Although these connections are built and maintained by the apex for their sole use, they do not always notice or care if the vox piggyback on the conduits, and the rather ramshackle and patchy comms network that results allows for some cultural exchange and coordination. Since the arks are always moving, this isn't exactly reliable.

Cybernetics

To a vox, a prosthetic or a cybernetic augmentation is just a modification to an already tailored body. They do not spare much thought for the line between biological and mechanical, and will often use relatively crude cybernetic technology stolen from other races to repair damage to their own, bio-engineered bodies. Amongst raiders, such jerry-rigged replacements are almost a mark of pride, as they show that the owner is completely willing and capable of operating far away from the apex and the arks. For specific examples of vox weaponry, refer to slug slingers and spike throwers.

Bio-machinery

Vox weapons and ships are often grown rather than built, and frequently use strains of musculature and such derived from vox lines. This has caused a lot of confusion amongst the handful of scientists who have managed to examine samples from these vessels or weapons. Vox crews will often treat their weapons and ships with affection due to a cousin or slightly dim sibling, as they do indeed have a shared ancestry.

FTL

The exact mechanism of vox-built FTL is bewildering and unknown to modern science. They take the form of large globes about two feet across, set into the nose of the craft. No indication is given that any of the vox aboard ships with native-built FTL have any idea how it works, or how to use it; FTL jumps by such vessels seem to happen at the whims of the apex, without any consent or input from the crew. The jumps are not bluespace derived, and the components determined to be the source of the effect have no moving parts or recognizable internal mechanisms. However, these are extremely rare, and more often than not vox ships just make use of repurposed, stolen FTL systems.

Cortical stacks

Mind uploading is one of the oldest and best-maintained disciplines of the vox, and their cortical stack technology is more robust and fundamentally more complex than equivalent neural lace technology. A vox cortical stack is a second, authoritative brain, rather than a simple backup system. They also control many of the Vox's more esoteric internal organs and systems, regulating them and ensuring that they run efficiently.

Fleet

As vox have no home planets, their fleet is their native territory. Each ark hosts thousands to tens of thousands individual vox, with hundreds of thousands more in disembodied storage within the central 'grove' of the apex. The structure of the arks is generally spherical, with the apex grove in the geometrical center and a wild tangle of an ancient native-build hull, stolen ships, and crude sheet metal bulkheads welded on after the fact. This additional construction is called the shroud, and it often dwarfs the original ark structure by an order of magnitude and is where the vast majority of vox will live, die and live again.

Arkships have extremely long and complex titles that are completely indecipherable to non-vox, and when translated, would sound more like a long-winded recitation of the arkship’s history than a name. A brief example would be 'Arkship Long Nights of Solace, Spent Reciprocating Many Moons of Technology Long Stolen Before Expansion'. The naming of an arkship also incorporates a kind of subtle cipher, indicating the current social state and import/export offers available to other arkships.

The vox 'military' is not worth dignifying with such a name. There are somewhere between eighty and one hundred arks in human space at any given time, and individual arks will maintain a wildly varying menagerie of stolen or repurposed vessels, apex-driven combat wasps, and ship to ship weaponry haphazardly embedded into the arkship's shroud. In a stand-up fight against any organized navy, an arkship is not remotely a threat, but they are surprisingly mobile despite their size and have proven extremely difficult to pin down. They generally maintain two or three jumps of distance from populated systems, ensuring they remain undetected as long as possible but are close enough to targets to permit easy raiding.

While there are smaller satellite settlements and stations occupied by vox, they are near-universally temporary, as the arkship is core to vox culture and it will always eventually move on.