Content Warning: The following article contains references to and descriptions of genetic engineering that may be unsettling or uncomfortable for some readers.
Örvaj Amaathe r’Spirat (Ohr-vahj Ah-mah-ah-thay ur’Zpeer-aht) roughly, “Death’s Song Tastes of Might.”
|Place of Origin||Unknown Coordinates/Archimedes System/Uhan Kemaöhk|
The Kahak Örd (Kah-hahk Ohrd), or Kahaḱi (Ka-ha-chee), scientifically Homo Divisa, are a human species that diverged from Homo Sapiens after undergoing rapid genetic modifications in an attempt to harmonize with their homeworld. While not exclusive to the Children of the Vein in Beacon Space, their tendency towards religious belief and work on genetic science has led a number of Kahaḱi to Helocytus over the years. Renowned for their artistry, the Kahak Örd are commonly regarded as empathetic and visionary, even in the sciences, but also deeply tragic.
Kahak Örd is the Kahaḱi word for their particular branch of humanity, themselves a branch of Homo Sapiens, designated Homo Divisa. The Kahaḱi language is a mixed language, owing much of its vocabulary and structure to Mongolian and Gaelic, though pronunciation suggests the influence of both Lechitic and Semitic languages. The word “Kahak” roughly means Jackdaw or Raven, and the word “Örd” means “court” or “seat of power,” though it is often conflated with English “horde.” The literal translation of “Raven Court” is often confusing to non-Kahaḱi, but the more accurate meaning is “Scavenger Court.” The Kahak Örd were and are scavengers, eating and working with what is available to them, and early on established themselves under several fiefs, collectively the Örd.
The word Kahaḱi, used interchangeably with Kahak Örd, translates roughly as “those who scavenge.” Some non-Kahaḱi say “Scavengeresses,” because of the Kahak Örd’s lack of a male biological sex, but the Kahaḱi language is gender neutral, so such an inference is inaccurate.
Much of Kahak Örd physiology is a result of changes made to survive Uhan Kemaöhk (Oo-han Kay-mouhk, literally Red Sands), their former homeworld. The specific UV radiation of the planet’s star suited reddish-brown skin tones more so than the Sun. Largely red, orange, and brown soil and plant-life, combined with especially aggressive local predators, also necessitated some form of camouflage. While traditionally technological answers, such as weapons, armor, and tinted glass, were also implemented in some situations, the Kahak Örd elected to primarily pursue genetic and evolutionary options to adapt themselves to Uhan Kemaöhk, rather than adapt the planet to their presence.
Kahak Örd skin tone is a range of oranges and reds, a combination of adjusted melanin values for Uhan Kemaöhk’s star and camouflage properties generated by carotenoids through the introduction of aphid genes. The latter has resulted in symptoms of phototropism in some Kahak Örd, meaning they tend to seek out sunlight and avoid dark places, which occasionally manifests as scotophobia (a fear of the dark). Some research suggests that Kahak Örd also tend to be taller and better capable of surviving long periods without food when more frequently exposed to sunlight.
Hair is often white or faint shades of blues, grays, and blondes, though very young Kahak Örd may have more traditional human hair colors. It is thought the Kahak Örd introduced an inherited trait for an early onset of white and gray hair either by accident or as an intentional additional camouflage measure, mimicking the pollen strands and parachute seeds of many plants inidgenous to Uhan Kemaöhk.
Most Kahak Örd are shorter than other humans on average. Records fail to indicate if this might be an unusual side effect of the introduction of phototropism and carotenoid production, possibly connected to differences in light spectrum between Earth’s Sun and other stars, an inherited trait of the species’ progenitors, or a trait that won out naturally, as shorter stature would have been more advantageous for hiding amongst the low, tangled vegetation and thick copses of Uhan Kemaöhk.
Modern Kahak Örd are also exclusively biologically female at birth, though they may present as any gender. The “normative” pronoun is “they.” A combination of rapid genetic engineering on Uhan Kemaöhk, and poor management of genetic “restore points,” rendered the Y chromosome of the Kahak Örd damaged beyond repair. Most males born by the time the Kahak Örd found Beacon Space fell victim to various fatal genetic conditions or infertility, and the Kahak Örd believed their species was doomed to die out. Upon discovering Helocytus, however, and the ability to clone individuals, the Kahak Örd intentionally and purposely removed the Y Chromosome from their genetics to prevent further harm. Now, most Kahak Örd reproduce through cloning on Helocytus or zygotic thelytokous parthenogenesis (the combination of gametes from two biological female into a zygote), though they are still largely capable of sexual reproduction with other human species.
Metabolic rates amongst the Kahak Örd are higher on average than Home Sapiens. It is unclear how this trait developed, though several theories have emerged. Some believe that genetic modification was done to intentionally increase metabolic rate, allowing the Kahak Örd to more efficiently turn food into energy in the face of the predators of Uhan Kemaöhk. However, no surviving documentation proves this. Others believe the trait was naturally passed down from the specific Home Sapiens included in the original mission to Uhan Kemaöhk. Additional research records suggest that the trait was unlocked accidentally or circumstantially, a result of efforts to improve awareness and agility in the Kahak Örd. Whatever the case, higher metabolic rates have also contributed to lower life expectancies, the average Kahak Örd only reaching their fifties or early sixties. This has led to an increased risk for a number of health complications, including anxiety, restlessness, stress, and hypertension.
One cannot be a true steward of the Earth, of any “earth,” if they do not understand it. We do not seek empire. Command. Domination. We seek harmony. God’s creation will guide us, and we shall shape ourselves, not His gifts, to overcome His challenges.
~Excerpt from a damaged recording of Docentist Pastor Hezekiah Briggs, speaking at the launch ceremony of the 42 Archimedes b mission
The Kahak Örd were initially human, though they did not originate directly from Earth. A colonization effort, sponsored by the Docentist faith, several research foundations, and private donors, dispatched a number of large generation ships to a target world, known as 42 Archimedes c. The ships carried elective colonists from numerous systems, including scientists and defense contractors, and arrived unscathed to their goal after a lengthy voyage. Long range examination had suggested a somewhat Earth-like world, including a breathable atmosphere, water, and a likelihood of plant life. Unfortunately, these analyses proved only somewhat true.
Archimedes A, the system’s star, in combination with Archimedes c’s atmosphere, produced a narrow but very intense band of UV radiation. It was not fatal, but would likely prove more dangerous to humans, especially those born aboard generational ships. The planet’s surface did indeed support life, but observation indicated that the world had moved more quickly than Earth towards an inhospitable state. Low but tangled grasslands and vine patches were interspersed amongst red, rocky deserts, with only the occasional forest or receding jungle. Potable water was rarer than on Earth, and what herbivores had managed to cling to life were ferociously hunted by hardy and malnourished carnivores. The atmosphere, while breathable, was also denser than Earth’s, meaning humans would face exhaustion much more quickly than the local fauna.
And despite an uneventful voyage, fuel supplies had been nearly depleted by several major course corrections. The generation ships would be of little use in short order, so colonization efforts had to move fast. Landfall was rushed, and several outpost sites were provided incorrect or inadequate materials for initial construction. The local predators, drawn by a sudden influx of new meat, were quick to capitalize, and dozens died before proper facilities and defenses were able to be established. It was readily apparent that natural evolution had rendered the indigenous carnivores resistant to a number of human weapons by circumstance, and their disappearing natural food supply drove them to be far bolder and more stubborn in their pursuit of prey.
Once perimeters were finalized, research teams set about their work. The goal of the colonization mission, both an experiment and a religious conviction for a number of the colonists, was to avoid changing or pushing back against 42 Archimedes c as much as possible. Rather, extensive genetic equipment and DNA stores had been provided to allow the humans of the mission to better fit themselves to their new home.
Unfortunately, some of the best geneticists of the mission were amongst those who died in the first wave of predator attacks. And those who remained, born on generational ships, had only ever worked in laboratory environments. As they struggled to develop solutions for the colonist population, predator attacks became more frequent and desperate, the creatures throwing themselves against walls, vehicles, or into firing lines. It was dangerous to even go outside, making sample collection and research missions increasingly risky.
At the same time, political machinations by those colonists not devoted to scientific work resulted in the establishment of fiefdoms at the outpost sites. Differences of faith, philosophy, and ethics pushed each group to follow a different path forward, but time would eventually see the colonists reunited as fief-states under the collective “Örd” court. The scientists of the mission needed protection, and without currency, exchanges could only be made in promises, those trained in politics and combat quickly taking command. This pushed the scientists to try and fulfill demands as soon as possible, motivated by political pressure and mounting concerns over the harm humans were causing to the planet’s ecosystem.
In order to generate results more quickly, most fiefs took a rapid iterative approach, combining and dividing cells at an incredible pace to produce and advance new genetic modifications. New elements were introduced in one strain and left out in another, and often the full results of a change were not immediately perceptible to observation, taking years or even generations to fully manifest. Unfortunately, this process contributed to the advance of Y-Chromosome degradation, the propagation of maladapted alleles, and ultimately irreparable damage. Across many generations, Kahak Örd biological males would be born with increasingly high instances of fatal genetic conditions or infertility, but lack of oversight, restricted equipment, and rapid engineering meant that, by the time the true scope of the damage was realized, there was no chance of fixing it.
Some conditions did not manifest in biologically female offspring, but would reemerge in the next biologically male descendant. Other conditions did pass from male to female, and concern was raised that continued reproduction would ultimately end the Kahak Örd altogether. Attempts were made to “go back” to earlier versions of the Y chromosome, but with years passed, the original colonist population long dead, and limited storage capacity, it was discovered that the damage was unavoidable, only delayable.
Some current research has suggested that the introduction of aphid genes may have inadvertently overwritten elements of human reproduction with aphid reproduction, which is interchangeably parthenogenic, females cloning themselves, and sexual, females parthogenically producing sexual males and females, often with the sexual aphids lacking wings and mouthparts. This has been theorized to be connected to the genetic conditions present in Kahak Örd biological males. How exactly such an occurrence could have happened “accidentally” is a matter of much debate, and some conspiracists have suggested that, if such a change took place, it could only have been done intentionally.
Diaspora and Hope
Many generations after their original landing, the Kahaḱi language had solidified, the colonists dubbing their homeworld Uhan Kemaöhk, and their people Kahak Örd. Their race in an inescapable downward spiral, many had become fatalistic, believing each generation would be the “last.” Clashes between fiefs had led to the destruction of several colonist bases, and the already limited production capabilities of the Kahak Örd were bottlenecked. Some had even revoked technology, building hidden villages and scavenging food from the planet, using their engineered camouflage to hide from or hunt local carnivores. Then, the Beacon signal appeared.
The Kahak Örd had nothing left to lose. In only a handful of generations, it was predicted that reproduction would have to be outlawed, the incidence of genetic conditions in biological males reaching too high a percentage. In a few long years, the Kahaḱi fashioned new vessels out of the relics of their original generation ships, distilled the necessary fuel, and departed en masse towards the Beacon. Some remained, but many believe those that stayed eventually died out, as was their fate.
Upon arriving in Beacon Space, the Kahak Örd learned that various other species had already arrived, including some humans. As they began to communicate their plight, they were quickly pointed in the direction of Helocytus, a world allegedly home to powerful tools of genetic science. It was there that the Kahak Örd found salvation, the tools of cloning, which had not been available to them on Uhan Kemaöhk, and the resources for large-scale same-sex gamete births. Many Kahaḱi would join Veins of the Children of the Vein, enamored with the miracles that had saved their people. Others would remain outside the rising faith of Helocytus, but would find work and money elsewhere to pay for cloning or other procedures, either from the Children of the Vein or other denizens of Beacon Space.
The Kahak Örd swelled rapidly in number, and were quick to throw off the shackles of their former fiefdoms. Only a few biological males remained at that time, and though some believed the damage could be reverted with enough time and research, the council of the Kahak Örd, which took shape in the wake of the fallen fiefdoms, and many Kahaḱi, agreed that it was best to let the last biological males live out their lives peacefully. Consecrated as one of the Nuvah (Noo-vah, holy ones, saints), the last Kahaḱi biological male died some thirty years after the Kahak Örd arrived in Beacon Space, leaving the biological females, the Aniturza (Ah-neet-oor-zah, survivors, those who survived) to carry on alone.
The Kahak Örd were originally a human colony group, sent out to attempt to harmonize with, rather than dominate, a prospective colony world. Largely influenced by differences in faith and ethical philosophies, they divided over time into fiefdoms, sections of land overseen by politically-minded research heads or defense contractors. Protection was provided in exchange for various forms of work, including scientific studies, agricultural experiments, and construction labor. These fiefs were very small and varyingly peaceful or aggressive, and were partially responsible for failures in proper oversight on the genetic modifications of the Kahak Örd.
After their arrival in Beacon Space, the Kahak Örd underwent numerous schisms, dispersing from their old centralized government, the Örd, and the fiefs were dismantled. A largely ceremonial anarchic tribal council still represents the social interests of the Kahak Örd, but they have no significant political power.
Cloning is considered sacred, both to the religious and non-religious members of the Kahak Örd, as it is one of their primary methods of reproduction, alongside the merger of gametes from two biological females. Many Kahak Örd support growing the ranks of their species from their dwindled numbers, while others often harbor a superstitious fear that bearing children with non-Kahaḱi humans risks passing on conditions or infertility, especially to biologically male offspring.
Despite no longer operating under fiefdoms, the Kahak Örd are intensely hierarchical. Age is a sign of wisdom and maturity, and thus social rank, and those who elect to reproduce through cloning or same-sex gamete births are held in higher regard than those who reproduce with other humans. Subsequent clones of an individual also often bear higher social rank than those before them, though the Kahak Örd largely ascribe to the philosophy of clones as individuals.
Because of their specific past, the Kahak Örd also have a tendency to behave slightly differently around male-presenting individuals of other species. It is not hatred or jealousy, but rather somberness and melancholy, the Kahak Örd mourning for those they lost. This often goes unnoticed by those not keyed in to Kahak Örd culture, but it has been a controversial topic for the Kahak Örd internally, whether to allow this almost subconscious tradition to continue or to overcome it. If non-Kahaḱi do notice this dolor, they often mistake it as unhappiness or displeasure with their present company.
Kahak Örd are also typically noted for their empathy and vision. They treat science as an art, preferring beauty over functionality, even if it requires more work, and tend to be avid listeners in conversation. They largely respect the individuality of life, and most have a strong belief that suffering is something that must be overcome with the help of others. This lends itself towards a mixture of individualistic and collectivist philosophies, which may at times seem paradoxical to non-Kahaḱi.
This can be seen in Kahak Örd traditions around food. While each individual life is valuable, it is those Kahak Örd who sit higher in their societal hierarchy that eat first at a meal. Those below them then take from what is left, and so on until the last. This tradition may also be noticed in large gatherings with non-Kahaḱi, where individuals will often refrain from eating until others have taken their pick first. It is considered rude for a Kahak Örd to take what might feed others and bring them joy.
The Söhéḱ Prisva (Zoh-hech Pree-zvah, literally The Council Arrayed on Perches, but most often translated as The Flock Collected) is the cultural leadership of the Kahak Örd in Beacon Space. While they possess no direct political power or control of any specific worlds, the Söhéḱ is incredibly influential in the lives and society of the Kahak Örd. Its members are chosen from amongst the highest ranks of Kahaḱi society, the eldest, the most-iterated clones, and those who have reproduced only with other Kahaḱi.
The Söhéḱ were considered decisive in the decision to let the Kahaḱi biological males die out, and it was the Söhéḱ who pushed many Kahaḱi to work with and join the Children of the Vein. They are often consulted for wisdom by individuals, families, or clans, and they often pass down denouncements of Kahaḱi who are felt to have lost their way, but who haven’t broken any particular laws.
The membership of the Söhéḱ varies greatly, but is often between twenty and forty. Those who join the council often do so for life, and as they pass the age of forty-five, new members are added to reduce the burden of decision making and work placed upon the eldest. No single individual officially leads the Söhéḱ, but subconscious notions of social hierarchy outside the council often results in certain voices carrying more weight.
The Kahak Örd are traditionally religious as a culture, though this is not true for all individuals. The original colonization of Uhan Kemaöhk brought a number of faiths with them, and many of these have persisted in one form or another to the present day. Some of the beliefs found in Kahak Örd who have joined the Children of the Vein are clearly influenced by their prior religious heritage.
Related to human Christianity, the Docentists emerged as a denomination in response to theological debates around the development and use of early genetics and cybernetics. The Docentists argued that Jesus Christ was a guide in a literal sense, as humans were to emulate him. Humans were incapable of fully doing so on their own because of sin, but God had provided the tools to overcome this through genetic modification and cybernetics. These tools were still corruptible by Satan, but proper use and application could serve as a divine armor against the shortcomings of sin.
The Docentists were partially responsible for the choices of the Kahak Örd on Uhan Kemaöhk. They preached a doctrine of taking care of God’s kingdom, avoiding the Imperialist mistakes of humanity’s past. Instead, they urged humanity to change to blend with their environment, using the gifts available to them from God to harmonize with Uhan Kemaöhk’s environment, instead of using violence or displacing natural habitats.
The Fourth Temple
Allegedly coming from colonists of the planet Mars, The Fourth Temple was a minor faith owing its roots to human Hermeticism. It pursued science and later the Beacon in a search for a prime divinity, which the Fourth Temple had come to believe was far from Earth in a place either long forgotten or never reached by human hands. Teachings of the Fourth Temple are scattered and incomplete in Beacon Space, owing to a small population amongst the original Kahak Örd. It is speculated that less than a thousand still follow any form of the Fourth Temple in Beacon Space.
Alongside cloning, the bonding of two or more individuals is a socially sacred tradition for the Kahak Örd. As the hierarchical traditions might suggest, bonding between two or more Kahak Örd is often held in higher regard than bonding that involves non-Kahaḱi, but this is largely becoming out of fashion.
The specific bonding rituals and ceremonies come from each Kahak Örd’s faith or personal preference. Because children, in the traditional sense, are often off the table, a much greater weight is placed on love, compatibility, and mutual understanding. Kahak Örd are less likely to consider financial factors or biological compatibility in their consideration of a partner or partners, and are quite happy to bond with non-human aliens.
A second ceremony is also often undertaken following a marriage, involving the presentation of the new couple to the Söhéḱ Prisva by their parents. The Söhéḱ offers wisdom and guidance, but at times also warnings if they disapprove of a particular union. Their opinion is held in high regard, and warnings are often taken as a sign that a marriage will need work to survive, rather than as a prelude to divorce.
Once a bonding is complete, many Kahak Örd still practice Awí Kriḱa (Ah-wai Kree-chah, literally the Heart’s Hunt, used to also mean the Marriage Feast). Each partner must hunt together, scavenging and killing food for a meal, cooked over a fire in the wilderness. The Awí Kriḱa may take days, and is often considered analogous to a honeymoon in older human traditions. It is through this tradition that the memory of Uhan Kemaöhk is honored, and the ways of the Kahak Örd are introduced or shared with those they have chosen to love.