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The Krell are a species of amphibious reptiles native to the planet of the same name, located in the 61 Cygni system, approximately 11.4LY from Earth. They are one of the two founding species of the Coalition, along with the Brokers, and have been members for more than two hundred years.
The Krell hail from a relatively primitive, pre-industrial society, and are not capable of space flight under their own power. They rely heavily on the Brokers to transport them to and from their posts, and they seem content with that arrangement, showing no signs of wanting to develop their planet any further. The exact nature of the relationship between the Brokers and the Krell is not well understood.
The Krell are amphibious reptiles that evolved in an environment primarily consisting of mudflats and mangrove swamps. Their ancestors likely resembled crocodilians, convergent evolution having imbued them with a body plan that is outwardly similar. They are basically humanoid, with two arms, and two digitigrade legs. Their bodies are sheathed in layers of tough, leathery scales and bony scutes that are a spinach-green in color, tapering into a lighter beige on their smoother undersides. Their coloration darkens with age, ranging from a leaf-green in hatchlings to an onyx-black in elders. Their long snouts are filled with jagged, interlocking teeth that aid in catching fish and other prey animals. Krell have long, oar-like tails that make up about half of their overall body length, which aid in swimming and in which large fat deposits are often stored. Krell have seven-fingered hands which end in dull claws, and their seven toes are splayed wide, providing a large surface area that prevents the heavy creatures from sinking into the mud of their homeworld, not unlike a camel walking on sand.
Their size and dimensions vary wildly due to the fact that the Krell seemingly never stop growing throughout their lives. Their natural lifespans seem to be indefinite, and while suspicions of biological immortality abound, no observer has lived long enough to confirm it. At the very least, a Krell can live to be several hundred years old due to their plodding metabolisms, and their immense resistance to disease and injury.
An average Krell of the appropriate age and status to serve in the Coalition is around nine feet tall, despite their hunched posture, and measures on average sixteen feet from nose to tail. They range from 1500-2000lbs, making them the largest and the heaviest species in the Coalition by a wide margin, but the oldest surviving Krell are rumored to have reached sizes approaching sixty feet.
Much like their Earth counterparts, the Krell evolved as ambush predators, able to remain inactive for long periods of time in wait of prey. Once a suitable target nears, the usually lethargic creatures are capable of impressive bursts of speed and strength, which allows them to surprise the skittish ungulates and other native animals that make up the bulk of their diet. The Krell are also powerful swimmers, and it can be argued that they are more at home in the water than on land. While walking, their gait is slow and ponderous, but thanks to their streamlined bodies and powerful tails, they are graceful and acrobatic while swimming.
Unlike the hemoglobin that is used to transport oxygen in the blood of most vertebrates, giving it a red hue, the Krell instead use a protein called hemocyanin. This protein, which is more commonly found in invertebrates, gives the blood of the Krell a blue tint and colors their mucous membranes and tissues a shade of azure when exposed to the air. Being ectotherms, the Krell are unable to regulate their body temperature internally and must either bask beneath a heat source in order to warm themselves or enter cold water in order to cool off. Krell serving in the Coalition must be provided with heat lamps and basking pools, or otherwise, be fitted with bodysuits containing heating and cooling elements.
The hemocyanin found in Krell blood is suspected to have anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that it may prolong survival, decrease tumor growth and incidence, and act as an immuno-stimulant. Due to their long lifespans, this adaptation may have evolved to combat the DNA damage that results from cell division over extended periods of time, thus allowing them to survive for hundreds or even thousands of years without succumbing to cancer.
Following this trend, Krell blood is packed with powerful antibiotics that are able to counter bacterial and viral infections far more successfully than the antibodies produced by humans, meaning that infections are very rare. It is possible for a Krell to sustain a serious injury that results in an open wound or even the loss of a limb, and despite direct exposure to the swamp water of their native environment, no serious infection will result. The Krell immune system is dependent on thermoregulation just as their other biological functions are, however, and can be suppressed by extreme cold.
While usually docile and friendly, the Krell have powerful protective instincts that, when triggered by a threat to their charges, results in them entering a state of heightened metabolic activity. This is often referred to by UNN personnel as a frenzy, rampage, or freakout. The Krell store a great deal of energy in their copious fat reserves, which their slow metabolism allows them to subsist on for long periods of time under normal circumstances, resulting in them only needing to eat once every few months. In times of stress, this energy can be burned extremely quickly, endowing the Krell with strength and speed that transcends even what one would anticipate from such a physically imposing creature. This state of heightened activity manifests as increased resistance to pain and injury, increased reflexes and reaction times, and heightened aggression.
Sexual Dimorphism and Gender
Unlike many species, the Krell are not especially sexually dimorphic. Although they have a ZW sex-determination system, with male and female chromosomes, it is often difficult to tell one gender from another due to the lack of secondary sexual characteristics. The females lack breasts, as they do not nurse their young, and the changes in figure and fat deposits between genders are subtle. Krell have no external genitalia, their reproductive organs are housed internally in a modified cloaca, and are only visible during arousal. Said cloaca differs from those used by birds and reptiles on Earth, and is comprised of two distinct channels, one of which is used solely for passing waste, and the other of which houses the reproductive organs.
One notable feature of Krell sexuality is a phenomenon known as sequential hermaphroditism. If a population of Krell is isolated within an environment with a significant gender imbalance when their mating season begins, an event that happens once every few decades, a percentage of said population will begin to spontaneously change gender. The reproductive organs are built from the same basic structures, and changes in the levels of sex hormones released into the body will trigger them to begin the process. In only a matter of days, a previously functional male can develop fully-formed and functional female reproductive organs, or vice-versa. This process is theoretically reversible, though that has never been observed to be the case.
For the duration of their mating season, the Krell enter a period of heat in which the desire to reproduce is powerful and overriding. Males will compete for the attention of females using powerful, low-frequency mating calls, and copulation usually occurs in large groups of several dozen individuals. During this period, males will attempt to inseminate as many females as possible, fertilizing their store of eggs. Krell are oviparous, laying clutches of eggs with leathery shells which are about the size of a cantaloupe. Once a female’s eggs have been fertilized, she will search for a suitable location to lay them, usually somewhere wet with the correct environmental conditions. The gender of Krell hatchlings depends on the temperature of the local environment, with cooler climes producing females, and warmer ones producing males.
Krell young are numerous and highly mobile, resembling quadrupedal lizards about the size of an Iguana. They are independent, able to hunt small fish and insects on their own, and it is common practice for hatchlings to be released into the wild on the homeworld. Those that survive will return to Krell society once they have reached the appropriate stage of development. This method was likely favored because it prevents overpopulation, as the mortality rate in adult Krell is extremely low, as they are resistant to injury and suffer no predation. As a side-effect of this, Krell never know who their parents are, and the burden of raising and educating them falls upon the community as a whole rather than a single couple.
Although Krell are polygamous during mating season, copulating with a large number of the opposite sex, monogamous behavior has been observed in some cases. During each mating season, they will seek out a partner that they have a special connection or compatibility with, bonding with that individual for life and continuing to procreate with them even after their heat has ended.
Role in the Coalition
The Krell are imposing creatures, possessed of great strength and resistance to injury. This makes them ideal for service in the Coalition. Krell who serve alongside UNN troops are known as Linebreakers due to their ability to push through seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and their usefulness in breaking up enemy formations and repelling attacks. Their friendly nature and protective instincts result in them devoting themselves entirely to the safekeeping of their squad, a trait that has earned them a great deal of admiration and respect in the Navy. It is not uncommon to see a Krell charging headlong into gunfire in the hopes of rescuing a fallen Marine, or using their body to shield their comrades.
They are most commonly outfitted with armored ponchos made from ceramic plates and Kevlar weave, providing extra layers of protection on top of their considerable natural defenses. When operating in a vacuum or a hostile environment, they can be equipped with armored space suits or environment suits that help regulate their body temperature, though they are generally not suited to such tasks.
Krell are often equipped with hefty riot shields that allow them to soak up enemy fire and provide cover for their squad, and they carry weapons far heavier and more destructive than would be considered man-portable for a human. The most common of these is the light machinegun variant of the XMR platform, a six-foot-long railgun with a gun shield that helps provide additional protection for the wielder.
This weapon has a large magazine and a high rate of fire, making it suitable for suppression. Its wielder often acts as a living pillbox, providing covering fire and area denial. The weapon is generally fielded with several replacement barrels, with the expectation that they will melt due to heat buildup after sustained use.
Travel to the Krell homeworld remains tightly controlled by the Brokers, but in recent years, United Academy of Science personnel were permitted to travel to the planet under carefully controlled conditions. Two expeditions have been sent to the planet thus far, and a permanent UAS research outpost was recently established on the surface. Krell cultural and social quirks are poorly understood and are at best observations of their habits and behaviors, but recent breakthroughs in translator technology have provided deeper insights into their rich inner lives.
Krell society revolves around the concept of circles. Circles can be loosely translated to mean tribal or family groups, defining a collection of individuals who all share some commonality such as living in the same village or having the same goals. The Krell would consider the Coalition to be a circle as much as their own tribe, and there seems to be no limit to the scale at which the concept can be applied. Circles should not be misconstrued as a divisive concept that separates ingroups and outgroups as is the case with the human understanding of tribes and nations. The Krell interpretation is much looser and more inclusive, referring more to a social bond.
This does not mean that there is no formality or ritual associated with circles, as being initiated into a Krell village or fighting unit requires a lengthy and complicated ceremony in which each member of said circle applies a mark to the initiate’s hide using colored pigments derived from native plants.
The use of body paints and pigments is an important part of Krell culture, used both in a decorative capacity, and to identify individuals based on their social role and even their romantic status. The pigments are derived from colorful flowers and other plants that are native to the planet’s swamps, which are ground up into a paste and applied directly to the hide. These pigments can be quite vibrant and are easily visible against the dark complexions of the Krell. The pigment stains the scales for long periods of time and is resistant to water, making it difficult to wash off without solvents that are not available on the Krell homeworld. They also endure for some length of time on human skin.
These designs usually take the form of Krell runes, handprints, geometric shapes, and dots. Some are more elaborate, depicting simple figures and animals in styles reminiscent of Earth’s ancient cave paintings. Due to the immense size of the average Krell, the available space for applying these designs is quite large. The underbelly and areas of the body without scutes such as the face and limbs are favored for the application of pigments, suggesting that they might not take as well or be as visible if applied to the armored backs of the reptiles.
Some markings that have been documented include a red dot or smear on the forehead indicating that the subject is in a monogamous relationship, runes to denote a place of origin, and various sigils applied to the belly that describe the subject’s profession or role within their respective circle. During initiation rites, handprints are applied all over the body as a way for a circle to welcome new members.
Krell generally have few personal possessions, but communities and auxiliaries living off-planet always maintain access to one or more ceremonial chests carved from native wood, and secured with a rope. These containers are filled with pots of pigment from the homeworld, which can be used in small-scale rites and ceremonies.
Clothing and Jewelry
Because the Krell lack external genitalia and have few secondary sexual characteristics, clothing plays a primarily functional role in their society. Most garments take the form of unisex ponchos that are draped over the shoulders, sometimes featuring mild decorative flair such as geometric patterns or frills. They’re commonly made from tanned leather which is obtained from the native ungulates that serve as prey items for the Krell. These ponchos are often used as utility vests and are equipped with pockets for carrying tools and items.
Jewelry plays a much more prominent role in Krell culture. Their necklaces especially hold a deep significance that goes well beyond mere decoration.
Making jewelry is one of the few activities in Krell society that is segregated by sex, and is undertaken exclusively by women. Necklaces use a string woven from native plant fibers as a base and are assembled using various decorative items, each of which holds some meaning or significance to the wearer. These include glass beads, shells, and carved pieces of wood. There is a level of superstition surrounding these necklaces, and their configurations are believed to bring fortune to the wearer or influence their fate in some intangible way.
The colors and patterns of beads are said to bring luck while fishing or hunting, make the wearer more desirable, and even enhance their physical strength. Shells are mostly decorative, but all of the necklace’s organic components must be used the same day they were collected, or otherwise be returned to where they were found, as it is believed that their magic will fade. Pieces of wood are polished and carved with a rune that is said to strengthen the body and mind. While beads are intended to display one’s hopes and wishes, a wooden charm is said to help the wearer overcome a flaw or shortcoming, one that must be admitted before the carving begins.
“Beads are arranged in patterns, each pattern is different. Some bring luck while fishing, others enhance fertility, some make the wearer grow larger. Every necklace is unique. Each person has different needs, different desires. The hunter wishes for speed and stealth, the romantic wishes to meet a mate when she is in season, a parent hopes that their spawn will survive until adulthood. Before you make your necklace, tell me what you wish for.”
-quote from a Krell Elder
When body paint and necklaces are used together, a Krell can tell a great deal about a stranger at a mere glance. They immediately know their village of origin, their profession, their relationship status, their hopes and aspirations, and even what shortcomings that person might be trying to work on. A hunter can approach a stranger knowing that they share an interest in hunting or that they wish to improve their skills, and subsequently collaborate, or a prospective mate can know with a look if the object of their affections has already been claimed. What appears at first to be primitive and frivolous pageantry is actually an extremely sophisticated system of social signaling that transcends human concepts of privacy and community.
Necklaces are often provided as gifts during courtship, where males are tacitly required to admit their desires and failings before entering into a relationship with a female.
They also play an important role in ceremonies and community events, where the village elder will don necklaces presented to them by the members of their circle, literally wearing the hopes and aspirations of those they are responsible for. High-ranking Krell are often seen to be wearing cumbersome numbers of necklaces piled one on top of the other during official functions, though it is assumed that some shortcuts are taken for the sake of practicality.
The planet Krell is located in the 61 Cygni binary star system, approximately 11.4LY from Sol. It is an abundantly wet planet, with most of its surface covered in mangrove swamps, mudflats, impenetrable equatorial jungles, and snaking waterways. The climate is warm and humid, with frequent rainstorms and pervasive mists that wreathe the planet in almost perpetual cloud cover.
The planet is home to a multitude of plant life that is still in the early stages of being cataloged by UAS personnel. These include trees with similar adaptations to the mangroves of Earth, which raise themselves out of the water on stilt-like root networks. They are often draped with parasitic vines and covered in fuzzy colonies of mosses that thrive in the humidity. Forests of these trees can be dense and practically impassable. There is also an abundance of water weeds and aquatic plants that have colonized the planet’s extensive networks of rivers, estuaries, and lakes. There is practically nowhere on the planet’s surface that hasn’t been overrun by some kind of vegetation.
The Krell cultivate some of these plants for their own use, most notably for ceremonial purposes. Farms of carefully-tended flowers and colonies of mushrooms are a common sight in and around Krell settlements.
The planet’s ecosystem is old and well-established, and the wildlife there has adapted to many ecological niches, including land-based, aerial, and aquatic habitats. These include long-legged, agile mammals resembling Earth’s deer, water-dwelling amphibians, fish, eels, and various invertebrate species that resemble crabs and mollusks. Water-dwelling amphibians and reptiles do especially well in the wet environment, growing to impressive sizes.
One such animal is known to the Krell as a Biting Log, a species of reptile analogous to Earth’s snapping turtles that camouflages itself as driftwood. Its tough hide resembles bark and is patterned with green markings evolved to mimic moss. The creature lies in wait for passing prey, then attacks with its sharp beak and powerful bite, shearing off chunks of flesh. While these creatures do not present a serious threat to adult Krell, they are one of the few animals that are treated with any degree of hostility, often being chased away or struck when they’re spotted. It’s safe to assume that even the hardy Krell find their bite to be a painful irritation.