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Imperial Interstellar Scout Service Details of the worlds of the Imperium (and beyond).

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Old July 31st, 2011, 07:05 PM
Enoki Enoki is offline
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Default The Maskai and the Maskai Empire

As part of my current Traveller campaign I had occasion to run into the Maskai Empire within the Glimmerdrift Reaches. There isn't much available on this tiny empire available. All I could find was that they were an alien race and "multi-legged insects." So, based on that I came up with this:

Minor Alien Race: The Maskai

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. They apparently evolved from Terran ants as part of some long forgotten Ancients experiment millienia ago. They are a nesting / colony race socially similar to their ant ancestors.

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 approxmately 20 kg. They have six legs attached to the middle segiment of a three segiment 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 segiments. Two are of equal lenght 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) mandables are located one each side of a central mouth. These are used for holding food.
The Worker Maskai appear to be primarily vegitarian 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 mandables 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 roughtly a 270 degree field of view but far better depth perception and stereo vision.
Their exoskeletons are approxmately 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 fomic 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 mulitple 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.

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 (camoflauge, decorative, identification marks etc.) on a regular basis. This practice varies by colony.

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 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 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.

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.
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