Table of Contents
The Jarilo Hive
The Jarilo Hive are the descendants of a Betelgeusian nuptial fleet that invaded the newly-discovered planet Jarilo in the year 2624. A UNN fleet led by the jump carrier Thermopylae intercepted their hive ships during the initial stages of their attack, crippling two of the three ships in orbit before they could land their troops or deploy their orbital defense platforms. Only a single hive ship made it to the surface of the planet, which carried the Queen, who began to dig in and start building up her defenses.
A UNN counter-invasion soon began, and after having her troops and resources depleted, the Queen determined that she could no longer maintain control over Jarilo. Instead of fighting to the death as has been observed in many other hives, the Queen abducted a Sergeant by the same of Walker, surgically altering his nervous system with the implantation of a new organ that would allow him to communicate in their pheromone-based language. Once she was able to signal her surrender, she incorporated donated human DNA into the genome of all subsequent offspring, effectively making them hybrids. From the Queen’s perspective, she has submitted to – and been absorbed by – the human hive, ensuring that what genetic material deemed valuable is preserved.
Jarilans, as they have come to be known, are the hybrid offspring of the defeated Queen. Both their physiology and psychology have been tailored to allow them to better integrate with human and Coalition forces. It has been theorized that where once the Queen would have tweaked the genetics of her offspring to make them deadlier and better suited to their environment, she now makes modifications in service of cooperation and social interaction, believing that becoming as useful to her new hive as possible is the best way to ensure that her lineage continues.
As of 2625, the Jarilan hive has been officially admitted as a member of the Coalition, providing both auxiliaries and resources for the war effort. Although they are recognized as an independent entity, they have very close ties with the UN, a relationship that they view more in terms of familial bonds than political alignments.
The Jarilans live in a vast system of subterranean tunnels in a valley not far from the planet’s largest colony, where they operate extensive manufacturing plants and mining operations, taking on many of the tasks not yet feasible for the burgeoning settlement. Jarilan industrial capacity has quickly skyrocketed the planet into becoming one of the UNN’s most important shipyards, with extensive orbital facilities already under construction.
While the Jarilans share a common lineage with their Betelgeusian cousins, they have diverged significantly, and the introduction of human DNA into their genome has led to many changes both in their outward appearance and their physiology.
Jarilans share the same basic body plan as Betelgeusians, being bipedal and having two pairs of arms. The larger pair are usually dominant, while the lower pair are often somewhat smaller and less likely to be favored. Hands, however, vary a great deal between castes. While a Worker might have specialized hands that serve as digging tools, other castes might have more dexterous digits intended for far more intricate tasks. The same is true of their feet, which can range from almost ovine hooves to grasping toes, depending on the intended use case.
Carapace and Skin
Jarilans are covered by a protective carapace made from a tough, flexible chitin that comes in a wide variety of iridescent colors. This serves both to protect them and to help support their bodies and anchor their muscles. Jarilans also have a partial endoskeleton made from a cartilage-like material that provides further protection and support, which is usually confined to the torso, where it supports the internal organs.
There is also an impermeable covering that protects exposed areas of the body, such as the joints, lips, and hands. This material serves a similar function to the epidermis in other species and takes the form of somewhat waxy, smooth skin. This skin is richer in nerve endings than the carapace, making it more sensitive to external stimuli. Like the carapace, it comes in many different colors, from deep pinks to yellows and blues, even changing hue when the underlying hemolymph increases its flow to an area.
Sensory Organs and Ornamentation
All Jarilans have an ornate horn reminiscent of stag beetles, which serves a similar function as it did in their Betelgeusian ancestors – helping to identify individuals outside of pheromone range. These horns convey a great deal of information and are unique to each Jarilan, somewhat like a human fingerprint or a Borealan paw pad.
Antennae are another feature common to all castes, which take the form of large, feathery sensory organs that can pick up traces of pheromones and scents with a high degree of efficiency. Being so closely related to both Betelgeusians and humans, Jarilans are able to sense the pheromone signals of both species, making them expert trackers and giving them special insight into human emotions. With practice, they can also learn to associate the pheromones secreted by other species with different emotional states.
Instead of ears, Jarilans sense vibrations in their environment using their sensitive carapaces, which they interpret as sound.
The fluffy, iridescent fur that covers Jarilans in places varies a great deal in its size and placement between castes but seems to serve a common purpose, being both decorative and serving to protect vulnerable areas of the body such as exposed joints. This fur can appear purely functional or quite elaborate, depending on the caste.
Integration and cooperation with other species (most notably humans) has required the modification of many Betelgeusian features. This could be a natural consequence of incorporating human DNA into the Jarilan genome, but many of these changes seem to be calculated and intentional, perhaps intended to make the various castes more appealing and personable.
Most Jarilan castes have facial features that have been modified to be more human in appearance, foregoing the intimidating mandibles of their ancestors in favor of smaller, more easily concealed mouthparts. The face is made up of a series of closely-interlocking plates with a facsimile of lips made from the same soft, fleshy tissue as their epidermis. These lips are able to move to mimic speech – a reaction that is involuntarily and not performed consciously by the Jarilan. These interlocking plates can split open to expose the proboscis and the oral cavity.
The proboscis is a long, fully prehensile tube of flesh equipped with taste buds that allows Jarilans to take in food exclusively in liquid form. The natural diet of Jarilans, if it could be described as such, is a nutrient paste called honey that is derived from breaking down and reconstituting raw materials, which is created in the digestive system of a Replete. Jarilans are capable of consuming other food items as long as they are liquids, most often in a recreational context.
Circulatory and Respiratory Systems
Despite exhibiting some mammalian features, Jarilans are arthropods and use hemolymph in lieu of blood as their circulatory fluid. Rather than possessing veins and arteries, this hemolymph transports oxygen and nutrients to their tissues through an open circulatory system, whereby a series of valves push the fluid throughout the body. Jarilans have the ability to accumulate hemoglobin molecules in their fat and muscle tissue, which can then be released and expended as necessary. This gives them remarkable autonomy in environments that would be very hostile to other life forms, such as underwater or in the vacuum of space, where they can continue operating until their reserves run out or the accumulation of waste gasses reaches toxic levels.
All female castes have sacks of adipose tissue situated on the upper torso that bear an uncanny resemblance to breasts. They are not functional and could be a consequence of their hybridized DNA, or they could be intended as extra reserves of fatty tissue for storing energy and hemoglobin reserves.
Lacking lungs entirely, they breathe through spiracles, which are openings in the exoskeleton that allow air to enter the tracheal tubes that subsequently deliver oxygen to the body. They can be opened or closed voluntarily, allowing the Jarilan to seal their respiratory system in the event that it becomes necessary.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Jarilan reproduction is handled exclusively by the Queen, who produces up to 40,000 eggs per month, resulting in almost half a million new Jarilans being born per year. Using donated sperm that is stored within her body and must be replenished periodically, the Queen is able to modify the genomes of her offspring using a method that is not well understood by UN scientists, somehow sensing DNA on a molecular level and performing modifications through a conscious, entirely internal processes. It has been theorized that this is achieved through the use of extremely sensitive chemical transmitters that are capable of translating genetic code into sensory information.
Jarilans start their lives as leathery eggs that are housed in incubation chambers deep within the hive, which are carefully climate controlled to maintain a desirable and consistent temperature conducive to their development.
Once an egg hatches, a larva emerges that is very different from a Jarilan’s adult form. These juveniles are about the size and shape of a swaddled baby with a pale, somewhat segmented body resembling that of a maggot. They have no developed limbs, only a pair of eyes and mandibles that allow them to seek out and take in food. At this stage of development, the larva has an intellect somewhere in the range of a human toddler. They’re stored within alcoves in the walls of nursery chambers, where they are fed honey by Repletes periodically.
At about six months of age, the larvae will use the energy that they have accumulated during their infancy to metamorphose into adult forms, emerging as fully mature Jarilans, the caste of which is decided prior to the laying of the original egg. They seem to retain some memories of their time as a larva, suggesting that the brain may begin its development as soon as the Jarilan hatches, and that it remains largely unchanged during the metamorphosis. Adult Jarilans emerge with an instinctual proficiency in their intended role, which likely mirrors the knowledge of their Betelgeusian cousins. They are very quick learners and can match the proficiency of an adult human in as little as two years.
Jarilans other than the Queen are physically capable of engaging in coitus, though their reproductive organs seem to be dormant. While currently only a theory, it has been suggested that Jarilans may be able to activate their reproductive systems with the right chemical or hormonal signals, potentially allowing them to reproduce sexually under the right conditions.
Jarilan culture is a young one, as the colony is not even a decade old yet, but it has been heavily influenced by both its Betelgeusian past and its human present. While the Jarilans have been advancing rapidly, partially due to their very fast life cycle, they are too young as a species to have cemented many important aspects of their culture and society.
They have a strong desire to please and to prove themselves worthy of their new position within the Coalition, but prejudice born from negative associations with their Betelgeusian ancestors sometimes complicates their relationships with other species. Even so, they are generally considered to be patient and accommodating, trusting that their good deeds and their contributions to the alliance will one day outweigh that baggage.
Jarilans identify each other primarily through the unique pheromone markers secreted by each individual, and their distinct carapace color and horn shape. They also receive names that facilitate interactions with other species. While the Queen has no understanding of or indeed any need to give her offspring names, the donor of their human genetic material sees things differently and has made it his mission to name as many Jarilans as he can. Each time the retired Sergeant reappears from one of his long expeditions into the Jarilan wilds, he names the latest batch of newly matured adults.
Jarilan names have their roots in Walker’s love of botany and ornithology, and are usually derived from various plant and bird species. Examples might include Lavender, Cardinal, Tulip, or Robin. Other names can be derived from precious gemstones such as Jade or Ruby. Names are usually chosen to match the individual’s carapace color, and the tradition is being carried forth by other members of the hive who assign names in Walker’s absence or when there are simply too many individuals for him to get through.
Descending from social insects, Jarilans are extremely social creatures and are commonly seen as being unusually friendly and outgoing by the standards of many other species. Close physical intimacy is common, with members of the hive sleeping together in close proximity, and even relying on the Worker caste to assist with bathing and grooming.
Jarilans are very closely attuned to the emotional states of those around them, both in the company of their own kind, where pheromone signals can convey powerful emotions and complex information, and in the company of alien species whose pheromone signals they have learned to interpret. All species secrete hormonal and pheromonal signals, usually subconsciously, which is a common form of sharing information in species such as the Borealans. Sharing human ancestry, Jarilans are strongly attuned to human pheromone signals, which humans themselves are unable to consciously detect. This sometimes results in them erroneously being assigned empathic powers, but far from being able to read thoughts, they can only infer a person’s emotional state based on the chemicals that they secrete.
Much like their Betelgeusian ancestors, Jarilan society is split into castes, all of which perform different functions within the hive.
Ambassadors were the first of the hybrid castes created by the Queen using donated human DNA. Their role is diplomacy and outreach, serving as liaisons to the various Coalition members and sitting on the security council on Jarilo’s behalf. While the Queen’s intelligence is immeasurable from a human perspective, she lacks a thorough understanding of alien concepts and thought processes, often requiring an Ambassador to act as an interpreter. Ambassadors are afforded a great deal of autonomy, and are able to make decisions on the Queen’s behalf without consulting her. It’s possible that the Queen’s lack of understanding of alien emotions and interstellar politics results in the Ambassadors making many of the important calls on their own initiative, forming something that other species might refer to as a governing body.
Ambassadors are wickedly intelligent and very sensitive to the emotional states of others, using both their pheromone-sensing antennae and their keen eyes to pick up on subtle cues and tells that might be beneficial in their negotiations. They are meticulous planners, and will take every possible factor into account before committing to a decision or a course of action. Their inoffensive appearance and impeccable manners may be an intentional attempt to put others at ease, which often results in them being underestimated.
Ambassadors average five feet tall, making them a head shorter than most humans. They are encased within a protective exoskeleton that also serves to help support their bodies and anchor their muscles. This tough, flexible carapace comes in a variety of iridescent colors, ranging from vibrant reds and greens to pearlescent whites. Ambassadors are not a combat caste, and as such, their armor is thinner and sparser than what might be found on some of their sister castes. Notably, areas of the torso and inner thighs are left exposed, but are protected by artificial plating that takes the form of clothing. These commonly include a corset-like structure that covers the torso, and winglets that perform the role of a skirt. It can be hard to tell at a glance where the organic and artificial elements of the carapace begin and end due to the careful matching of color the style.
Some of the most prominent features of the ambassadors are their long antennae and their fur. Two pairs of antennae grow from the Ambassador’s head, the smaller of which stands upright, and the longer of which falls down the back like braids. Their coloration is not uniform, tapering from a dark black to a frosty white at their tips. As well as giving the appearance of hair, these sensory organs perform many important functions, such as detecting odors, pressure changes, and pheromone signals with incredible accuracy. Around their necks as a large ruff-like structure made from thin hairs that sparkle with a colorful iridescence somewhat akin to fiber-optic cables. The same fur is present around the wrists, ankles, thighs, and waist. These structures are most likely in place not for the purpose of retaining heat, but to protect the vulnerable joints where the skin is exposed.
Like all Jarilans, Ambassadors retain the horn that was endemic in their Betelgeusian ancestors. This horn rises from the forehead on a thick stem, which transitions into a pair of swooping, ornate branches to give the appearance of a tiara. Whether this is an intentional attempt to draw parallels to human royalty is unknown.
Ambassadors have a pair of gossamer wings that are anchored to the lower back, just above the haunches – a feature which has so far been unique to male Drones. These wings are non-functional, and appear to be purely decorative, as vestigial limbs could be very easily edited out of the genome by the Queen.
They have four-fingered hands which are not armored, along with a pair of dainty, deer-like hooves, giving them a graceful and dignified gait.
Drones serve as the Jarilan infantry, and are the primary fighting force of the hive, making them something equivalent to a UNN Marine. As befits their station, they are naturally skilled combatants, endowed with quick reflexes and a strength that far exceeds what one might expect from a creature of their size and weight.
Their carapaces are reinforced with extra plating, and they go into battle wearing supplemental layers of artificial armor to help bolster their defenses. These include a durable chest piece that protects the exposed areas of torso, and a skirt made from hanging plates that serves to shield the thighs and groin area. The hands are protected by segmented gloves, and a helmet that attaches in two pieces protects the head and the sensitive antennae.
Thanks to the inclusion of UNN technology, their helmets feature a heads-up display and are fully integrated with Navy communications and weapons systems. It can also provide rebreather functions, and allows the Drone to function in a vacuum by creating an air-tight seal. The helmet is equipped with movable panels that allow the Drone to extend their antennae while wearing it so as not to inhibit their important sensory functions.
The vast majority of Drones are female, but a small minority are winged males, a now obsolete morph of Drone that formerly served as the Queen’s consorts. While no longer necessary for breeding or guarding the Queen’s chambers, males still have military value, and the Queen continues to produce them at the request of the UNN. Males share all of the same features as their female counterparts, but as their name suggests, they have a pair of functional wings that give them the power of flight in atmospheres of sufficient density. This makes them extremely mobile and gives them the ability to deploy from dropships in flight, as well as tackling terrain that foot soldiers cannot. Winged males make excellent scouts, snipers, and paratroopers.
Drones commonly field variations of XMR platform weapons provided by the UNN, usually configured as small frames. These include submachineguns, support weapons, marksman rifles, and conventional squad rifles. Despite being closely integrated with UNN squads, Jarilans are able to field fully functional units on their own.
Female Drones have two-toed feet that resemble hooves, while males have three grasping toes that allow them to climb sheer obstacles and perch on tree branches more easily. Females have four-fingered hands, while males retain the three fingers of their ancestors, perhaps suggesting less genetic drift from their original forms.
Both genders share a similar shape of horn, which extends on a thick stem before branching into two downward-swept prongs, but the males lack the hanging antennae of their female counterparts, likely because they would become tangled in their wings during flight.
Male wings are made up of thin, gossamer membranes and are protected by hard wing casings made from chitin, reminiscent of those evolved in Earth beetles. These wings allow the Drone to lift a little more than their own body weight in the right conditions, and provide a great deal of mobility.
Workers make up the primary industrial base of the hive, performing both menial and highly technical tasks. They dig the tunnels and chambers, assemble machinery and electronics, and even maintain biological systems using surgical techniques.
Averaging four feet tall, they’re a foot shorter than a Drone, with a squat, stocky build. They can lift many times their own bodyweight and are equipped with modified hands on their upper arms that are tailored for digging. Despite having access to modern industrial equipment, Jarilans prefer to do much of their labor by hand, which seems to have no detrimental impact on their productivity.
Like Drones, Workers are able to operate for long periods of time in hazardous environments by storing hemoglobin in their tissues. This means that repairing an underwater pipeline, working on orbital structures, or even mining in the presence of dangerous gasses is of little concern to them.
Affectionately referred to as Jockeys in some circles, Pilots are the Jarilan caste responsible for interfacing with and piloting Jarilan vehicles.
Pilots are seven feet tall, with a lithe, lanky build. Despite their stature, they do not weigh significantly more than a Drone or a Worker, nor do they consume more resources. This also makes them rather fragile compared to their counterparts, and although they may wear supplemental armor plating, they are unsuited to direct combat roles. They have long limbs with slender fingers that are well-suited to manipulating various interface devices, both organic and technological in nature.
Their primary means of interface are their neural plugs, which are a holdover from their Betelgeusian forebears. Overlapping plates run down the spine from the base of the neck to the lower back, which can be raised or lowered using dedicated muscle groups. This exposes tissue rich in neural connections that resembles brain matter, along with plugs that take the form of organic orifices spaced out at regular intervals. These allow a Pilot to make a direct connection to her vehicle, using specialized, tentacle-like cables that transmit sensory information and commands between the two. A Pilot can see through her vehicle’s eyes, access its senses, and manipulate limbs and weapons as though they were her own.
Pilots have only a single pair of short antennae, as the cramped, damp cockpits of their vehicles do not allow them much opportunity to make extensive use of that sense. The antennae are most often superseded by the sensory equipment of the vehicle, though Pilots still make sure of them while off-duty.