The Iz’kal are a gregarious and proud people. Slightly smaller in stature and more slender than humans, they live in large cities on the surface of the planets they colonise.
The State is the basic unit of government for the Iz'kal, and they have a complex economy which is organised around ideas of collective responsibility. The iz'kal were historically enslaved by the Korian.
Iz’kal are mammals with an average height of 1.8 metres for males and 1.73 for females. The average mass of an adult iz’kal is 70 kilograms for males and 65 kilograms for females, but this is highly dependent on the gravity of the planet they grow up in and many other factors such as exposure to sunlight and nutrition.
Their life expectancy is quite high at 70 Earth years, but with genetic manipulation, an urbanite iz’kal with access to the free care system of the State can live up to 180 years.
Iz’kal are completely hairless and have a tougher skin than humans, but their skin has a tendency to dry up. This is why they live in swamplands and along coasts whenever possible. They are adept swimmers and they have a very large lung capacity.
Before genetic manipulation, the Iz’kal had no vocal cords and had evolved to communicate through hyperlink. After the Uprising, in which the Iz’kal wiped out the the Korian, they developed an advanced civilisation and modified themselves genetically to develop vocal cords to be able to communicate in a universe that they shared with many other species.
They have a tail, reminiscent of their time as marine creatures, which they used for swimming. They can still control its movement, but they cannot grab anything with it. They have a head appendage that contains an organ connected to the brain called the iz, which allows them to enter hyperlink. Although it has been studied in depth, there is still much to learn about it. When an iz’kal loses his iz, he can no longer engage in hyperlink, which usually leads to depression and suicide. Very few iz’kal can live without the hyperlink, and those who do so become ‘voidwalkers’, suffering heavy changes on their organs and even at a genetic level.
Iz’kal modify themselves genetically to adapt to the star cycle and environmental conditions of the planet they inhabit, allowing them to eat whatever is available. However, they tend to have vegetarian diets.
The State is the concept that incorporates everything that is iz’kal related, from the planets they inhabit, to their spacecrafts and their mines, and even their districts in shared planets with other species.
Rebel fleets, pirates, anarchists and any other type of groups who do not accept the ways of their common society are not considered part of their society or the State itself.
Iz’kal can form neural networks with other members of their species. While connected, individual thoughts merge, creating a large single mind influenced by every individual. This connection is known as a hyperlink.
While in hyperlink, iz’kal get a pretty good picture of the feelings and reasonings of all the other members. Witnessing the internal processes of another person creates a strong bond and makes everyone very empathetic. This is one of the reasons the levels of violence and discrimination are so low within their society.
A hyperlink can only be achieved by reaching out to others close by, and as the network increases in size, the mind processing capability of the joint mind grows stronger. Any number of iz’kal can join the same hyperlink if they are close enough to any of the members already in it. In urban areas, iz’kal tend to form large networks, allowing them to share their thoughts, discuss the latest news and engage in small talk with their fellow citizens, while also enjoying a shared mental map of the city. Even when visiting a new city, an iz’kal will find his way around very easily and will always feel like a small but essential part of a whole.
In their houses, iz’kal share a more personal hyperlink with their home community, but they can transition to the main city hyperlink very quickly. In rare cases, hyperlinks are formed between the society as a whole to tackle matters that pertain them all. Such large hyperlinks are tiresome to the individual and some fear what it might do to an iz’kal’s individuality.
An iz’kal can choose to disconnect from a hyperlink at any time, but to be able to join or create one with another individual, all its members must be willing to accept him. Most iz’kal have no trouble connecting with any other members of society and share their interests and motivations. In fact, most of the relevant decisions in the personal life of an iz’kal are made while in hyperlink.
Iz’kal learn to control the emotions they share at an early age, since their feelings can easily influence those around them. Individual sentiments of anger, fear, sadness, or hate are usually suppressed, but when they are too intense to keep inside, they usually exile themselves from the hyperlink to avoid affecting others’ psyches with their personal problems. The hyperlink exile takes as long as the individual needs to come to terms with whatever affected him; some iz’kal are so damaged that they never join a hyperlink again, and they become voidwalkers.
When an iz’kal spends a great amount of time disconnected from hyperlink, he becomes anxious and has a feeling of loneliness that can easily turn into a deep depression.
If the separation from hyperlink is long enough or produced by a shocking event of great magnitude, some individuals might never be able to connect with others through hyperlink ever again. In times previous to the addition of the vocal cords to the Iz’kal, this meant that a voidwalker could never talk with another person again.
The change affects the iz organ, which develops a new function for itself that increases the mental strength of the Iz’kal (it is thought to be an evolved trait to reduce the risk of suicide) and makes the voidwalkers excellent soulbenders, allowing them to wield the powers of their Gods at a whole new level. Some radicals put themselves through this ordeal on purpose in order to obtain this ability, but they are forever changed.
The voidwalkers are treated with a mixture of respect, fear, and sadness, for losing the ability to communicate through hyperlink is seen by all iz’kal as a great loss, and the events that lead to that loss are usually just as terrible. They tend to be lonely and quiet, trying to stay away from other iz’kal and keeping mostly to themselves. Their mental strength and determination make them extremely valuable to the State, and many voidwalkers enter the ranks of the Savak, the elite force in charge of state protection.
The Iz’kal State has seen value in this trait and their elite military group, known as Savak, is composed solely of voidwalkers. That most of them are people who have lost everything makes them even better soldiers, as they are given a new reason to live and die for.
“When an iz’kal is born, he or she has around a dozen parents. When she goes on to study, the choices of subject, location, and ways are already made for her. When she begins to work, she will face hundreds of experts parenting her. When she goes to choose the colours of her home, she has experts making the choice for her. The State treats its citizens like children for their whole life. The Iz’kal have yet to reach the maturity of their society.” – Feng Wang, corvo politician and businessmanIn their personal lives, iz’kal engage in majmoas, which are usually group relationships of three to ten members of both genders, but they stay faithful to that particular majmoa. Monogamous relationships are rare and seen as restrictive. Although not all members of the majmoa engage in sexual activity with all the others, they are all very close to each other, sharing all their experiences and emotions through hyperlink and devoting themselves to each other. Each majmoa shares a house and any child born is considered the child of the whole group.
The Iz’kal are mammals and, while female and male members have different physiologies, their social structure does not enforce differences between them. Reproduction is controlled by the government. New citizens are genetically engineered during conception and pregnancy cannot occur without medical intervention. Only in rare cases, such as when a group of colonists is sent to a new planet, are they modified so as to restore their natural reproductive physiology.
Bringing a new child to the Universe requires governmental approval to keep the population levels low enough to maintain the extremely high quality of life the Iz’kal are known for. When a majmoa wishes to have a new child, they can apply to the State, and if they meet all the requirements, they will be granted permission. It is up to the majmoa to choose which among the willing female will be impregnated with the baby. This is one of the few instances where individual choices are allowed and not frowned upon.
The baby himself is genetically designed in a laboratory, following the highest standards to ensure that the new specimen is as healthy as possible and extends the genetic diversity of the iz’kal species in case of epidemics or other similar threats. This can very well mean that the baby might not share any relation to any of the members of the majmoa he will be born into. While this might seem strange, iz’kal see no problem whatsoever with this and everyone in the majmoa will behave as caring fathers and mothers to this new child.
All iz’kal societies that have been studied throughout history have had group relationships of this kind, even before genetic manipulation and the Korian.
Entertainment and Art
The Iz’kal did not have natural vocal cords, and thus they were always fascinated with the singing of other species, especially of humans. Good singers are always welcomed in an iz’kal community, where they will be hosted by a different majmoa every day. In small towns, the arrival of a singer is a celebrated event and most people will attend their performances. In the big cities there are stadiums where thousands of iz’kal watch concerts by human or corvo singers.
Having an excellent voice is one of the easiest ways for an alien to be accepted in the State as a citizen, and many do so. Some alien communities are aware of it and in the poorest neighbourhoods the children train their voices in the hope that they will be brought to a place where all their needs are taken care of. Many spend their savings on a one way trip to an iz’kal colony, where they hope to be welcomed.
Iz’kal are considered to be excellent dancers and are very keen to learn and practice all the arts imaginable. So much so, that some instrumental and dancing groups known as ghaziwas are lured into the Corvosphere, with the promise of richness, to play in galas and parties of the highest level. There is a trend of corvo infatuated with the iz’kal costumes and their fashion, a new age confrontation resembling the political realities of their species. The trend is believed to originate from corvo who believe that they are above political conflict. For this very reason, the State has hardened its emigration and movement laws - making it very hard for an iz’kal to move to the Corvosphere.
Science and philosophy are the other two main forms of entertainment for the iz’kal, who are encouraged to be curious from early ages, continuously engaged with the Idealab and the hyper-schools where learning is the main focus. They are fascinated by metaphysics and the whole process of understanding the Universe, life, the Gods, and themselves. Many iz’kal are granted special permissions to travel the Universe as groups of explorers looking for new places through the Labyrinth, or as missionaries trying to bring the iz’kal ways to other species.
Planets have limited resources and the iz’kal have managed to make the best of the environments of their colonies, building smart cities efficiently managed by highly specialised teams.
Although very expensive to build, these zaki-waaha cities have proven to be the most cost-efficient way to live for big communities in the long term. The buildings recycle all the waste their occupants generate and the industrial parks generate an almost organic symbiosis between factories, bringing the usage of raw materials to a minimum. Public transport is constantly evolving to better suit the needs of the citizens, and while it might be confusing for a recently visitor, the neural webs formed through hyperlink by iz'kal allow them to manage the apparent chaos with ease.
Water is stored in centralised deposits, and energy is usually generated with a well balanced mix of solar and geothermal energy, coupled with nuclear fusion during periods of low light. The water tanks are used as batteries, pumping the water up when there is an excess of energy generation and allowing it to flow down again when there are energy shortages.
Everything in a zaki-waaha serves a purpose, and the constant monitoring of resources, citizens, and the environment allows the automated systems to take care of almost every problem without any assistance. Most routine tasks are performed by robots and the only non-robotic workers are police officers and archivists that constantly study the workflow of the machines, seeking ways to improve them. After many years, the systems have been almost perfected in most colonies, but iz'kal do not like to leave any stone unturned in their quest for efficiency.
It is quite hard for an iz'kal to move from one colony to another, as each colony is built to work with an specific number of citizens. As a result, the State asks that one provides them with a proper reason for the emigration, which should be somehow beneficial for the society (taking into consideration the work he can accomplish in the new colony and the work he will stop doing in the old one).
Things like moving houses, or moving to a new city or planet are also organised with waiting lists. This can take several years, but is free and available to the totality of the society so the iz’kal endure as they understand it is needed to maintain their privileged lifestyle.
When the State needs to populate a new colony or city, or create any other migration movement, they will do so as fast as it is needed. People can sign up for such things, and if the vacancies are not filled voluntarily, they will be filled by drafting. How likely a citizen is of being drafted depends on many factors, such as the role he currently fills, how useful his skills are at the destination, or how much he will suffer by being moved. Most drafts entitle entire majmoas to avoid breaking such bonds.
It is also very hard for a member of another species to come into iz'kal society. While some colonies are more open to visitors and are prepared to receive them, most are completely closed, as changes in the demographic of the State could put the efficiency of the system at risk. These colonies are called conversion camps by the corvo. In general, the Iz’kal haven’t had such good experiences with other species and are reluctant to welcome them in.
Members of other species have many problems adapting to iz’kal ways. They are usually unhappy with working at whatever the State assigns them at the time, living only where given the right to, having ‘holding rights’ (as the corvo call it) over items or services, etc. They also have problems communicating with the iz’kal as they cannot join them in hyperlink and miss out on most things relevant to society that are communicated this way.
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