The vox (vəks), known amongst themselves as the Shoal, are a loose collection of nomadic flotillas, stations and arkships populated by several distinct forms of reptiloid. The rest of polite society generally knows them as raiders, pirates and thieves, and they are a frequent danger for anyone who ever has to venture away from the major shipping lanes and populated systems of galactic civilization. The Shoal itself doesn't care at all for the rest of the Universe, and is largely preoccupied with salvaging the rotting legacy of the mad, likely deceased gods who built the first arkships and grew their earliest forms.
The vox are not commonly encountered outside of raids, and are almost never found working alongside humans. From an OOC perspective, they are only found as antagonists in the Heist gamemode, encountered as crash survivors or salvagers in the wilderness, or encountered during admin events.
A detailed roleplaying guide for the vox, including a more in-depth discussion of their lore and vox-specific details, can be found here. It will not make much sense without the context provided by the rest of this page, though!
Note that the below mechanics are in the process of being revised - please read the bolded sections carefully.
The vox behave similarly to humans in terms of general gameplay. The main difference to be aware of is that they cannot breathe oxygen, and are poisoned both by direct exposure, and by oxygen-based medicines like dexalin. Ammonia should be used to treat suffocation instead. Human-made medication is also generally less effective on them, and protoslurry and voxform dendrites should be used instead.
Due to their scaled carapace, vox can use the Toggle Vox Pressure Seal verb to remove the need for a pressure suit to survive in vacuum, at the cost of slower movement. They do however still need a nitrogen supply to breathe and to avoid pressure damage to the lungs.
The vox digestive tract is an intricately engineered, incredibly efficient horror, and vox can eat all kinds of non-foods, process them into pure forms, and spit them back up. This feature is not in the game yet.
Vox have their own language, Vox-Pidgin, which can be spoken with ,5. They will also occasionally shriek out loud when speaking at conversational volume, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to be stealthy.
Nearly the entirety of vox society is organised around enormous, multiple-kilometre-long spacecraft called arkships. They are ungainly, ugly constructions, patched over countless times with salvaged spacecraft and materials until the original superstructure is almost entirely shrouded behind wreckage. Around eighty of them have been uniquely identified since the first encounters with the vox, but the positions and disposition of the arkship fleet is nebulous; generally only ten or fifteen ships are trackable at a time, usually when engaged in active raiding or salvaging against non-vox settlements. The arkships are enormous, roughly spherical in shape, and move extremely slowly, usually employing stolen or salvaged thrusters from dozens of smaller craft for attitude control and maintaining orbit. They are however quite capable of entering bluespace; a remarkable feat considering their size. Arkships are thought to hold hundreds of thousands of vox, employing a combination of shared living areas and a tolerance for cramped, crowded conditions that would be extremely stressful for humans or other species.
The arkships are ancient, though the exact extent of their history is unknown to anyone outside the Shoal; carbon dating of the oldest wreckage recovered from battles places it somewhere around the time that humans were discovering steel. The vox themselves either don't know or don't care to talk about their origins, and human understanding of vox history is limited as a result. Their cryptic or obtuse responses when they do talk, and the lack of artefacts or settlements to explore, do not help matters.
Smaller vox settlements in asteroids, derelict vessels, or in free-standing stations are also relatively common, but tend to be found a long way from populated systems, and rarely engage in outright piracy or hostile actions unless directly provoked. Often, these settlements are even open to or encouraging of trade with non-vox, though it is not recommended to dock with a vox station without being heavily armed.
These settlements are often formed of stolen or salvaged ships, sheet metal, mined asteroids and other miscellany bolted together with little to no rhyme or reason, and no semblance of aesthetics. The lifespan of such stations is variable, and it isn’t uncommon for two or more such stations to merge into a single community with an associated period of squabbling over a new hierarchy. Stations usually host numbers of vox in the hundreds to low thousands.
The vox generally encountered by galactic society appear to be a kind of servitor or worker caste, and leading minds have put forward that their society is broadly organised into a rigid pecking order, with the elusive and revered ‘apex’ caste ruling from secrecy. This is supported by field observations; vox leaders tend to demonstrate complicated neck markings and heavier personal decoration, and crews will engage in ritualised conflicts to sort out internal disputes, usually without bloodshed.
Vox do not appear to evidence any form of sexual dimorphism or gender identity, but may or may not identify with he/she/they pronouns, or refer to themselves as 'it'. It is unclear if this is a linguistic or identity consideration. Although they don’t appear to have any kind of blood-family structure, they form close-knit crews and demonstrate strong loyalty to each other and to their originating ship or settlement.
Vox are unique among the sapient species of the galaxy for apparently possessing absolutely no aesthetic sensibility or appreciation for art. They paint their ships (and occasionally themselves) garishly, but for purely practical purposes like communication, intimidation or warning. There are no recorded examples of vox music, art, poetry or any other commonly accepted artistic form. Their engineering is functional and efficient, but careless and graceless where refinement is not absolutely necessary. This, combined with their piratical reputation, has led many pundits to characterise them as subsentient, barbaric and worthy only of being eradicated from the cosmos.
Relationships with other species
Vox relationships with other species are universally terrible. They are insular and xenophobic at best, and piratical, raiding cannibals at worst. They have however developed a wide repertoire of bafflingly specific insults to deploy against the rest of the galaxy; vox tend to jeer a lot about how their victims are treeless meat, that their lungs are full of dust, and other such oddities. So far, the vox have been unable or unwilling to explain further.
|Humans||Due to the relatively low technological level combined with a general degree of levelheadedness and consistency, Vox favour humans out of all the civilized races of the galaxy when it comes to trading or partnering for raids. They don't respect them at all, of course, often loudly complaining about the primitive hairy treeless meat, but if given a choice of a human, a Skrell and Unathi, a raider or trader will strike a deal with a human every time. For their part, humans as a whole despise the vox, who are seen as piratical raiders and serial annoyances.|
|Skrell||Due to the size and age of their dominion, and their advanced technology and well-equipped navy, the vox are wary of the Skrell. The power disparity between a vox crew and a Skrell detachment is such that the natural suspicion, paranoia and caution of the vox win out; it's not worth the risk of trying to attack or partner with them, no matter the potential windfall if they give you a chance to stab them in the back. The Skrell in turn consider the vox a pest to be dealt with swiftly and uncompromisingly.|
|Dionaea||Dionaea are non-entities as far as the vox are concerned. They can't be traded with for anything the vox care about, they don't represent a military threat, and they generally aren't edible; there are much easier to find sources of carbon around, and they don't keep poking your face as you eat them.|
|Unathi||The Unathi are given a wide berth by the vox. Their technology is largely uninteresting, not worth the inherent risk of going toe to toe with an angry wall of lizard, and their holdings are generally well protected. Due to the relative reluctance of the vox to attack Unathi, the Unathi don't particularly care about them as a threat.|
|Tajara||The Tajara have been a favoured raiding target for the vox for many decades, with many raids sent against the Pearlshield Coalition from a nearby arkship. Being technologically behind humans, but behaving in approximately the same manner, they occupy a position of perceived weakness that the vox are eager to take advantage of.|
|Teshari||The Teshari are not considered a culture by most vox, who assume they are just companion-meat to the Skrell. They make a convenient snack when the opportunity presents itself, though.|
|Positronics||Robots and positronics are generally treated similarly to humans by the vox; walking resources that can occasionally be relied upon for trading or fighting alongside, but generally not worth the effort. Notably, they make no apparent distinction between positronic intelligence, drone intelligence, or organic intelligence.|
The shared Vox language, Vox-Pidgin, is a creole, with individual arkships and settlements often demonstrating markedly different variants. It is composed of rapid strings of chattering, clicking, hissing, squawking and screaming; as a result, it is incredibly unpleasant to listen to for everyone other than the vox themselves.
Autopsies have shown that the vox usually have two tongues - one large organ for swallowing and tasting, and another in the roof of the beak for vocalising softer sounds or subtones within Vox-Pidgin. For this reason, it is mechanically impossible for a human (or humanoid) to speak Vox-pidgin without drastic and disfiguring throat and facial surgery.
When vox deign to speak to non-vox, they will usually identify themselves with a short string of Vox-Pidgin (such as ‘Kikakarat’, ‘Hitakhaatiki’ or ‘Yahakata’), which tends to be very difficult for non-vox to reproduce. Vox working with mixed mercenary or raider crews will sometimes provide a callsign in Galcom or another more compatible language; these tend to be one or two words, usually descriptive, vain, dramatic or overly preening (such as ‘Tearing Beak’ or ‘Red Claws’).
Vox are capable of hearing and speaking Galactic Common with ease, but usually refrain, either from some disdain for non-vox language, or out of disinterest. The grammar and structure of Vox-Pidgin translates to Galcom as short, curt, simplified sentences, lacking in articles and including many unusual joinings (such as ‘meat-thing’ or ‘raider-hunt’). More experienced or less disinterested speakers, like merchants or traders, demonstrate more traditional grammar.
Some vox will play up their mangled Galcom despite speaking it fluently, usually as a goad or taunt, emphasising how little they care about communicating with non-vox. This is sometimes viewed as immature or pathetic by other vox, judging by responses from mixed vox crews, who have been overheard deriding it as ‘larva-talk’.
The ‘standard’ voxform is loosely similar to a human, with a number of obvious physical traits shared across all known examples of the species:
- a somewhat hunched, forward-leaning posture,
- densely muscled digitigrade legs,
- elongated arms,
- clawed/taloned hands and feet,
- rigid quills along the back of the skull, the neck and various body joints,
- a beak or beaklike structure making up most of the jaw and mandible area of the face,
- a prehensile tail.
The diet of the standard vox is hard to pin down, as they have been observed eating all manner of things, including meat, vegetable matter, plastic, wood, metal filings and depleted uranium. It’s entirely unclear if they derive nutrition from these things, or eat them for some other metabolic reason, or even just for enjoyment.
The internal chemistry of the standard voxform is quite blatantly engineered; their metabolic processes are optimised and specialised beyond what would be reasonably expected, and feature powerful solvents and enzymes that would be more suited to the chemical storage cupboard in an industrial facility than the insides of a living creature. While they are clearly grown rather than built, their internal structures are somewhat modular, and their organs are largely independent of each other, implying a degree of mix-and-match inter-vox compatibility unheard of in more traditionally evolved species. Prosthetics have been found seamlessly integrated with apparently natural-grown vox flesh, and vice-versa.
Vox are adapted or engineered for a primarily spacebound existence, with dense skin and thick membranes well suited for low pressure environments. They do not respire in the sense of Earth animals, but do make extensive use of gaseous nitrogen for a number of internal cooling and waste cycling processes. Oxygen is broadly speaking poisonous to them, rapidly corroding their internal membranes and surfaces upon exposure and interfering with specialised exchange processes, causing cascading organ failures that will rapidly kill them.
Vox appear to live short lives characterised by periods of rapid growth and rapid decline. A ‘new’ vox raider could be as young as three or four Earth years, but will evidence cognition and memory far in excess of its apparent age. Some observers have theorised that this indicates genetic memory, biological immortality, or some kind of hive mind, which is supported by the refusal of vox to allow the possession or study of the skull contents of their dead.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of the rarity of the more specialised voxforms, and difficulties in effectively dissecting something full of pressurised acid and poison, only a patchwork understanding of the broader vox species has been assembled. Adding to this is the fact that the vox will often prioritise groups that dig deeper into study of their physiology or technology, putting aside their usual reticence and caution to thoroughly eradicate the facility or ships involved.
Most vox technology recovered from wreckage or captured stations is repurposed, modified human or Skrell equipment. A limited number of weapons and armour are crafted from an unknown composite or alloy that has thus far resisted attempts to replicate it. These artefacts are prized by the vox, and are both very difficult to acquire without violence, and extremely useful as trade goods for barter or hostage exchange.
Many items of vox technology appear to be intended to integrate directly into the body of the user, which can present a hazard to human handlers and makes direct employment of some vox artefacts like their carapace armour or spike throwers more or less impossible. Some of these artefacts even appear to be alive, with biological components demonstrating the same engineering and composition as the vox themselves.
One oddity of vox technology is a lack of traditional bluespace engineering. While their ships and communications clearly make use of faster-than-light technology by virtue of their speed and responsiveness, they do not demonstrate any of the ‘normal’ signs of such technology, with their engines leaving no bluespace signature on departure and their comms having no detectable transmission overspill. Captured or salvaged ships have no apparent bluespace drive, aperture control system, or any related infrastructure expected on an FTL vessel. The vox do however value the specific isotopes and alloys used in the construction of bluespace technology, suggesting that whatever their methodology is, it relies on the same principles as Skrell-based vessels.
Across the civilised galaxy, vox are generally encountered in one of two categories: raiders and scavengers.
These vox are organised into ramshackle pirate fleets operating with loose association with an arkship or a station. They are callous, greedy and without mercy, striking softer targets with overwhelming force, stripping them of materials and goods, and retreating before an organised response can be mounted. There are even rare, but verified, accounts of vox engaging in kidnapping, either for hostage bartering, slavery or (according to some accounts) food. These are the most well-known and hated vox, and more or less define the average citizen’s idea of what a vox is.
One notable raiding arkship has been terrorizing the Pearlshield Coalition for decades.
Individual raiders, or sometimes entire crews, will occasionally accept mercenary contracts or work alongside non-vox mercenaries, but never for very long, and always with an eye towards their own benefit. They have a reputation amongst criminal circles as quite effective, but rarely worth the inherent risk of trusting your back to a greedy, thieving murderer who may view you as dinner.
Scavengers are markedly less violent and less organised than raiders, and are more numerous but rather less commonly encountered by the rest of the galaxy. They tend to keep to themselves, avoiding other ships and refraining from raids or burglary due to the inherent risks. Scavengers tend to be associated with individual settlements rather than an arkship, and as a result are less well-equipped and tend to be in poor health, with limited access to nutrition and a higher proportion of prosthetics and field repairs than seen in raider parties.