The three most politically important species in the galaxy.
Primary Codex Entries
The asari were the first species to discover the Citadel. When the salarians arrived, it was the asari who proposed the establishment of the Citadel Council to maintain peace throughout the galaxy. Since then, the asari have served as the mediators and centrists of the Council.
An all-female race, the asari reproduce through a form of parthenogenesis. Each asari can attune her nervous system to that of another individual of any gender, and of any species, to reproduce. This capability has led to unseemly and inaccurate rumors about asari promiscuity.
Asari can live for over 1000 years, passing through three stages of life. In the Maiden stage, they wander restlessly, seeking new knowledge and experience. When the Matron stage begins, they 'meld' with interesting partners to produce their offspring. This ends when they reach the Matriarch stage, where they assume the roles of leaders and councilors.
The second species to join the Citadel, the salarians are warm-blooded amphibians with a hyperactive metabolism. Salarians think fast, talk fast, and move fast. To salarians, other species seem sluggish and dull-witted. Unfortunately, their metabolic speed leaves them with a relatively short lifespan; salarians over the age of 40 are a rarity.
The salarians were responsible for advancing the development of the primitive krogan species to use as soldiers during the Rachni Wars. They were also behind the creation of the genophage bioweapon the turians used to quell the Krogan Rebellions several centuries later.
Salarians are known for their observational capability and non-linear thinking. This manifests as an aptitude for research and espionage. They are constantly experimenting and inventing, and it is generally accepted that they always know more than they're letting on.
Roughly 1200 years ago, the turians were invited to join the Citadel Council to fulfill the role of galactic peacekeepers. The turians have the largest fleet in Citadel space, and they make up the single largest portion of the Council's military forces.
As their territory and influence has spread, the turians have come to rely on the salarians for military intelligence and the asari for diplomacy. Despite a somewhat colonial attitude towards the rest of the galaxy, the ruling Hierarchy understands they would lose more than they would gain if the other two races were ever removed.
Turians come from an autocratic society that values discipline and possesses a strong sense of personal and collective honor. There is lingering animosity between turians and humans over the First Contact War of 2157, which is known as the 'Relay 314 Incident' to the turians. Officially, however, the two species are allies and they enjoy civil, if cool, diplomatic relations.
Secondary Codex Entries
Ardat-Yakshi ("demon of the night winds") are asari suffering from a genetic disorder preventing conventional melding of nervous systems during mating. Instead, Ardat-Yakshi electro-chemically ravage their partners' nervous systems, in extreme cases leaving victims as vegetative invalids or corpses. Asari psychologists regard this incapacity for mental fusion as preventing the development of empathy, leading to psychopathy. There is no known cure.
The disorder generally begins in infancy, reaching full pathology during Maiden adolescent sexual development. While seductive and sexually-driven as other asari, Ardat-Yakshi are congenitally sterile.
Ancient asari mythology held Ardat-Yakshi as gods of destruction, depicting them as villains of countless legends and as the anti-heroes of numerous asari epics.
Contrary to popular belief, Ardat-Yakshi are neither extremely rare (around one per cent of asari dwell on the AY spectrum), nor are they all murderers. Most cultivate and discard countless exploitative or abusive relationships during their legally marginal lives. Despite rumors of Ardat-Yakshi syndicates, by nature Ardat-Yakshi are incapable of long-term cooperation.
As a disproportionately wealthy species, asari employ their economic reach and media ownership to hide the AY pathology from the galactic community, placing most Ardat-Yakshi in monitored work programs or seclusion. Only the most aggressive cases are sentenced to sanitaria and prisons or to the execution lists of justicars.
Asari have a robust cellular regenerative system. While they do not heal faster than other species, asari are known to reach 1,000 years of age.
Although asari have one gender, they are not asexual. An asari provides two copies of her own genes to her offspring. The second set is altered in a unique process called melding.
During melding, an asari consciously attunes her nervous system to her partner's, sending and receiving electrical impulses directly through the skin. The partner can be another asari, or an alien of either gender. Effectively, the asari and her partner briefly become one unified nervous system.
This unique means of reproduction is the reason asari are talented biotics. Their evolved ability to consciously control nerve impulses is very similar to biotic training. Asari believe that their offspring acquire the best qualities of the "father" from the melded genes, but evidence is anecdotal.
Asari pass through three climacteric life stages, marked by biochemical and physiological changes. The Maiden stage begins at birth and is marked by the drive to explore and experience. Most young asari are curious and restless.
The Matron stage of life begins around the age of 350, though it can be triggered earlier if the individual melds frequently. This period is marked by a desire to settle in one area and raise children.
The Matriarch stage begins around 700, or earlier if the individual melds rarely. Matriarchs become active in their community as sages and councilors, dispensing wisdom from centuries of experience.
While each stage of life is marked by strong biological tendencies, individuals do make unexpected life choices. For example, there are Maidens who stay close to home rather than explore, Matrons who would rather work than build a family, and Matriarchs who have no interest in community affairs.
Because of their long lifespan, asari tend to have a "long view" not common in other races. When they encounter a new species or situation, the asari are more comfortable with an extended period of passive observation and study than immediate action. They are unfazed that some of their investments or decisions may not pay off for decades or centuries. Matriarchs can seem to make incomprehensible decisions, but their insight is evident when their carefully-laid plans come to fruition. In interstellar relations, this long view manifests in an unspoken policy of centrism. The asari instinctively seek to maintain stable balances of economic, political, and military power.
Traditionally, asari spread their influence through cultural domination and intellectual superiority. They invite new species of advanced development to join the galactic community, knowing that their ideals and beliefs will inevitably influence the existing culture.
The asari came late to the concept of world government. For centuries, their homeworld of Thessia was dotted with loose confederacies of great republican cities. The closest Earthly equivalent would be the ancient Mediterranean city-states. Since the asari culture values consensus and accommodation, there was little impetus to form larger principalities. Rather than hoard resources, the asari bartered freely. Rather than attack one another over differing philosophies, they sought to understand one another.
Only in the information age did the city-states grow close. Communication over internet evolved into an "electronic democracy". Asari have no politicians or elections, but a free-wheeling, all-inclusive legislature that citizens can participate in at will. Policy debates take place at all hours of the day, in official chat rooms and forums moderated by specially-programmed virtual intelligences. All aspects of policy are opened to plebiscite at any time. In any given debate, the asari tend to lend the most credence to the opinions of any Matriarchs present, nearly always deferring to the experience of these millennia-old "wise women".
Achieving consensus through public debate may take too long in a crisis. In cases where prompt, decisive action is required, the asari defer to the wisdom of local Matriarchs.
Despite the refinement and sophistication of asari culture, criminality remains a fact of life. The asari solution to the most vicious and destructive criminal element is the Justicar Order.
Justicars are an asari class of virtually untouchable, extra-judicial executioners operating almost exclusively within asari territory. In the last decade alone, Justicars have smashed dozens of criminal rings inside asari territory, operated by asari and non-asari alike. Their methods range from subtle where possible, to brutal where necessary.
Trained for extreme strength, biotic capacity, resourcefulness, asceticism, and ruthlessness, the fanatical justicars are romanticized and feared throughout asari society.
Although justicars generally work alone, their effectiveness arises from the huge body of knowledge they can access. Any asari who enters the ranks of justicars has already spent centuries in a combination of criminal investigation, military intelligence, and combat experience; the collective body of justicar knowledge exceeds even that of the Spectres.
Justicars tend to be independent, requiring little help but also scorning it since such advanced skill and experience usually travels with a powerful ego. The conflicts presented by such arrogance prompted the Justicar Order to develop the Oaths of Subsumation. The Oaths pledge protection of the innocent, the punishment of the guilty, and defence of common law and the norms of asari society. The effect of the Oaths is conservative, ensuring that justicars respect the existing distribution of asari power rather than staging a coup to rearrange society according to justicar satisfaction. Nevertheless, the possibility of such an attack is a source of anxiety -- and counter-intelligence -- among the asari elite.
Of all the pledges, the Third Oath of Subsumation is sworn the least of any of the oaths. Requiring a Justicar to swear loyalty that overrides the dictates of even the Justicar Code, the Third Oath is usually invoked in matters where even the black-or-white thinking of justicars is forced to concede the existence of gray.
Asari: Military Doctrine
The asari military resembles a collection of tribal warrior bands with no national structure. Each community organizes its own unit as the locals see fit and elect a leader to command them. Units from populous cities are large and well-equipped, while those from farm villages may be only a few women with small arms. There is no uniform; everyone wears what they like. The asari military is not an irregular militia, however; those who serve are full-time professionals.
The average asari huntress is in the maiden stage of her life and has devoted 20–30 years to studying the martial arts. Asari choose to be warriors at a young age, and their education from that point is dedicated to sharpening the mind and body for that sole purpose. When they retire, they possess an alarming proficiency for killing.
Huntresses fight individually or in pairs, depending on the tactics preferred in their town. One-on-one, a huntress is practically unbeatable, possessing profound tactical insight, a hunter's eye, and a dancer's grace and alacrity. Biotics are common enough that some capability is a requirement to be trained as a huntress; lack of biotic talent excludes a young asari from military service.
While fluid and mobile, asari can't stand up in a firestorm the way a krogan, turian, or human could. Since their units are small and typically lack heavy armor and support weapons, they are almost incapable of fighting a conventional war, particularly one of a defensive nature. So asari units typically undertake special operations missions. Like an army of ninja, they are adept at ambush, infiltration, and assassination, demoralizing and defeating their enemies through intense, focused guerilla strikes.
As a popular turian saying puts it, "The asari are the finest warriors in the galaxy. Fortunately, there are not many of them."
The pantheistic mainstream asari religion is siari, which translates roughly as "All is one." The faithful agree on certain core truths: the universe is a consciousness, every life within it is an aspect of the greater whole, and death is a merging of one's spiritual energy back into the greater universal consciousness. Siarists don't specifically believe in reincarnation; they believe that spiritual energy returned to the universal consciousness upon death will eventually be used to fill new mortal vessels.
Siari became popular after the asari left their homeworld and discovered their ability to "meld" with nearly any form of life. This ability is seen as proof that all life is fundamentally similar. Siari priestesses see their role as promoting unity between the disparate shards of the universe's awareness.
Before the rise of siari pantheism, asari religions were as diverse as their political opinions. The strongest survivor of those days is the monotheistic religion worshiping the goddess Athame. Like the asari, the goddess cycles through the triple aspects of maiden, matron, and matriarch.
Salarians are noted for their high-speed metabolism, which allows them to function on just one hour of sleep a day. Their minds and bodies work faster than most sapient races, making them seem restless or hyperactive. The drawback of this active metabolism is a short lifespan of around 40 human years.
The salarians are amphibian haplo-diploid egg-layers; unfertilized eggs produce males and fertilized eggs produce females. Once a year, a salarian female will lay a clutch of dozens of eggs. Social rules prevent all but a fraction from being fertilized. As a result, 90% of the species is male.
Salarians have photographic memories and rarely forget a fact. They also possess a form of psychological "imprinting", tending to defer to those they knew in their youth. Salarian hatching is a solemn ritual in which the Dalatrass (matriarch) isolates herself with the eggs. The young salarians psychologically imprint on her and tend to defer to her wishes.
During the hatching of daughters, the Dalatrasses of the mother and father's clans are present at the imprinting. This ensures the offspring have equal loyalty to both, ensuring the desired dynastic and political unity.
The rare salarian females are cloistered on their worlds out of tradition and respect. Powerful female Dalatrasses are dynasts and political kingpins. They determine the political course of their respective regions through shrewd negotiation. Though male salarians rise to positions of great authority in business, academia, or the military, they rarely have any input on politics.
Due to their method of reproduction, salarians have no concept of romantic love, sexual attraction, or the biological impulses and social rituals that complicate human lives. Male-female relationships are rare (due to the scarcity of females) and more akin to human friendship.
Sexuality is strictly for the purpose of reproduction. Ancient social codes determine who gets to fertilize eggs, which produces more daughters to continue a bloodline. Fertilization generally only occurs after months of negotiation between the parents' clans, and is done for purpose of political and dynastic alliance. No salarian would imagine defying this code.
Salarian names are quite complex. A full name includes - in order - the name of a salarian's planet, duchy, barony, fiefdom, family, and finally, the given name.
In many ways, the salarian political network functions like the noble families of Earth's Medieval Europe. Structurally the government consists of fiefdoms, baronies, duchies, planets, and marches (colonization clusters). These are human nicknames; the original salarian is unpronounceable. Each area is ruled by a single Dalatrass (matriarchal head-of-household) and represents an increasing amount of territory and prestige within the salarian political web.
Approaching 100 members, the first circle of a salarian's clan comprises parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, and cousins. The next circle includes second cousins, etc., and escalates to well over 1,000 members. The fourth or fifth circle of a clan numbers into the millions. Salarian loyalty is greatest to their first circle and diminishes from there. Their photographic memories allow salarians to recognize all their myriad relatives.
Salarians: League of One
Before they joined the Citadel Council, the salarians' most potent military tool was a small reconnaissance team known as the League of One. Their primary training was in espionage and assassination. Never more than a dozen strong, the team was adept at infiltrating the tightest defenses and eliminating all necessary obstacles.
Only a few top members of government and military were privy to the League's identities. League members wore no distinguishing garments, and held no particular rank. The only evidence of their participation in the League was a small medallion presented to each member upon induction. This secrecy was maintained until the formation of the Council.
In an effort to dispel rumors and appease their new asari partners, the Salarian Union released all classified documents pertaining to the League. The League of One was suddenly exposed and in danger of being hunted by enemies of the salarians. Before any harm could be done, the team mysteriously disappeared. Most assumed this was a convenient lie to help hide their identities, but a few months later, the inner cabinet was murdered. Though there was no incriminating evidence, it was clear who was responsible.
Realizing the threat posed by this rogue outfit, the Special Tasks Group dispatched a team of hunters. When they didn't return, the STG dispatched ten of its brightest operators with broad discretionary powers. Only two returned; they reported no evidence of the League.
No further incidents were reported and it was assumed the League was wiped out. Some recently declassified documents, however, have suggested there may have been a thirteenth member who eluded the salarian military.
Salarians: Military Doctrine
In principle, the salarian military is similar to the Alliance, a small volunteer army that focuses on maneuver warfare. What differentiates the salarians is not their equipment or doctrine, but their intelligence services and rules of engagement. The salarians believe that a war should be won before it begins.
Conventional wisdom holds that the salarians know everything about everyone, and this is not far from the truth. In war, the unquestioned superiority of their intelligence services allows them to use their small military to maximum effectiveness. Well before fighting breaks out, they possess complete knowledge of their enemy's positions, intentions, and timetable.
In every war the salarians have fought, they struck first and without warning. For the salarians, to know an enemy plans to attack and to let it happen is folly. To announce their own plans to attack is insanity. They find the human moral concepts of "do not fire until fired upon" and "declare a war before prosecuting it" incredibly naive. In defensive wars, they execute devastating preemptive strikes hours before the enemy's own attacks. On the offensive, they have never telegraphed their intentions with a declaration of war before attacking.
While capable of defending themselves against most threats, the salarians know that they are small fish in a universe filled with sharks. As a point of survival, they have cultivated strong alliances with larger powers, particularly the turians. Though the relationship between the two species was rocky at first due to the krogan uplift fiasco, the salarians take pains to keep this relationship strong enough that anyone who might threaten them risks turian intervention.
Salarians: Special Tasks Group
Salarian intelligence field agents are grouped into an organization called the Special Tasks Group. STG operators work in independent cells, performing dangerous missions such as counter-terrorism, infiltration, reconnaissance, assassination, and sabotage.
The STG is a proactive organization, puncturing worrisome trends before they become movements. At any time, a dozen groups are operating covertly within the lawless Terminus Systems, sowing dissent among the various factions. Civilian analysts also note how troublesome "hinge point" individuals in Terminus frequently meet unexpected deaths.
STG operators are feared throughout the galaxy for their clear-eyed, remorseless practicality. They are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their mission, even if it kills civilians or results in the team's own destruction. In many ways, they are akin to the Council Spectres.
The turian homeworld, Palaven, has a metal-poor core, generating a weak magnetic field and allowing more solar radiation into the atmosphere. To deal with this, most forms of life on Palaven evolved some form of metallic "exoskeleton" to protect themselves. Their reflective plate-like skin makes turians less susceptible to long-term, low-level radiation exposure, but they do not possess any sort of "natural armor". A turian's thick skin does not stop projectiles and directed energy bolts.
Although life on Palaven is carbon-based and oxygen-breathing, it is built on dextro-amino acids. This places the turians in a distinct minority on the galactic stage; the quarians are the only other known sapient dextro-protein race. The food of humans, asari, or salarians (who evolved in levo-amino acid-based biospheres), will at best pass through turian systems without providing any nutrition. At worst, it will trigger an allergic reaction that can be fatal if not immediately treated.
While turians are individuals with personal desires, their instinct is to equate the self with the group, and set aside personal desires for the good of all.
Turians are taught to have a strong sense of personal accountability, the "turian honor" that other races find so remarkable. Turians are taught to own every decision they make, good or ill. The worst sin they can make in the eyes of their people is to lie about their own actions. Turians who murder will try to get away with it, but if directly questioned, most will confess the crime.
Turians have a strong inclination towards public service and self-sacrifice, so they tend to be poor entrepreneurs. To compensate, they accepted the mercantile volus as a client race, offering protection in exchange for their fiscal expertise.
The turian military is the center of their society. It is not just an armed force; it is the all-encompassing public works organization. The military police are also the civic police. The fire brigades serve the civilian population as well as military facilities. The corps of engineers builds and maintains spaceports, schools, water purification plants, and power stations. The merchant marine ensures that all worlds get needed resources.
Turians have 27 citizenship tiers, beginning with civilians (client races and children). The initial period of military service is the second tier. Formal citizenship is conferred at the third tier, after boot camp. For client races, citizenship is granted after the individual musters out. Higher-ranked citizens are expected to lead and protect subordinates. Lower-ranking citizens are expected to obey and support superiors. Promotion to another tier of citizenship is based on the personal assessments of one's superiors and co-rankers.
Throughout their lives, turians ascended to the higher tiers and are occasionally "demoted" to lower ones. The stigma associated with demotion lies not on the individual, but on those who promoted him when he wasn't ready for additional responsibility. This curbs the tendency to promote individuals into positions beyond their capabilities.
Settling into a role and rank is not considered stagnation. Turians value knowing one's own limitations more than being ambitious.
At the top are the Primarchs, who each rule a colonization cluster. The Primarchs vote on matters of national import. They otherwise maintain a "hands-off" policy, trusting the citizens on each level below them to do their jobs competently.
Turians enjoy broad freedoms. So long as one completes his duties, and does not prevent others from completing theirs, nothing is forbidden. For example, there are no laws against recreational drug use, but if someone is unable to complete his duties due to drug use, his superiors step in. Judicial proceedings are "interventions". Peers express their concern, and try to convince the offender to change. If rehabilitation fails, turians have no qualms about sentencing dangerous individuals to life at hard labor for the state.
Turians: Military Doctrine
Although they lack the brutality of the krogan, the skill of the asari, and the virtuosity of the humans, the turian military has formidable discipline. Officers and NCOs are "lifers" with years of field experience. Enlisted personnel are thoroughly trained and stay calm under fire. Turian units don't break. Even if their entire line collapses, they fall back in order, setting ambushes as they go. A popular saying holds: "You will only see a turian's back once he's dead."
Boot camp begins on the 15th birthday. Soldiers receive a year of training before being assigned to a field unit; officers train for even longer. Most serve until the age of 30, at which point they become part of the Reserves. Even if they suffer injuries preventing front-line service, most do support work behind the lines.
Biotics are uncommon. While admired for their exacting skills, biotics' motives are not always trusted by the common soldier. The turians prefer to assign their biotics to specialist teams called Cabals.
Command and control is decentralized and flexible. Individual units can call for artillery and air support. They make extensive use of combat drones for light duties, and practice combined arms: infantry operates with armor, supported by overhead gunships. Strategically, they are methodical and patient, and dislike risky operations.
Tradition is important. Each legion has a full-time staff of historians who chronicle its battle honors in detail. The oldest have records dating back to the turian Iron Age. If a legion is destroyed in battle, it is reconstituted rather than replaced.
The turians recruit auxiliary units from conquered or absorbed minor races. Auxiliaries are generally light infantry or armored cavalry units that screen and support the main turian formations. At the conclusion of their service in the Auxiliaries, recruits are granted turian citizenship.
Although turians have a strict moral code, their belief in individual responsibility means that the concepts of good and evil are simply the individual's choice between egotism and altruism in any given decision. They have no concept of "good" deities that encourage noble behavior or "evil" ones that tempt individuals to misdeeds.
Turians believe that groups and areas have "spirits" that transcend the individual. For example, a military unit would be considered to have a literal spirit that embodies the honor and courage it has displayed. A city's spirit reflects the accomplishments and industry of its residents. An ancient tree's spirit reflects the beauty and tranquility of the area it grows within.
These spirits are neither good nor evil, nor are they appealed to for intercession. Turians do not believe spirits can affect the world, but spirits can inspire the living. Prayers and rituals allow an individual to converse with a spirit for guidance or inspiration. For example a turian who finds his loyalty tested may appeal to the spirit of his unit, hoping to reconnect with the pride and honor of the group. A turian who wishes to create a work of art may attempt to connect with the spirit of a beautiful location.
Turians enjoy absolute freedom of religion and can practice whatever appeals to them so long as it does not impede anyone's ability to perform their duties. There are many practitioners of the asari "siarist" philosophy. Since opening dialog with the human Systems Alliance, some turians have embraced Confucianism and Zen Buddhism.
Turians: The Unification War
At about the time the salarians and asari were forming the Council, the turians were embroiled in a bitter civil war. The Unification War, as it was later named, began with hostilities between the colonies furthest from the turian homeworld, Palaven.
These colonies were run by local chieftains, many of whom had distanced themselves from the Hierarchy. Without the galvanizing influence of the government, the colonies became increasingly isolated and xenophobic. Colonists began wearing emblems or facial markings to differentiate themselves from members of other colonies and open hostilities became common.
When war finally broke out, the Hierarchy maintained strict diplomacy and refused to get involved. After several years of fighting, less than a dozen factions remained and the Hierarchy finally intervened. By that time, the chieftains were too weak to resist; they were forced to put an end to fighting and renew their allegiance to the Hierarchy.
Though peace was restored, it took several decades for animosity between colonists to fade completely. To this day, most turians still wear the facial markings of their home colonies. As a point of interest, the turian term "barefaced" refers to one who is beguiling or not to be trusted. It is also a slang term for politicians.