It has been conclusively proven that the Zuul are not the product of natural evolution. These savage marsupials are the result of profound and sophisticated genetic tampering; they have been shaped by bio-science which far surpasses that of any known race. Although it is nearly impossible to say what sort of creatures served as the base stock for the Rippers, or what race created them, we do know that a number of their natural attributes have been enormously enhanced. Rate of reproduction, tendency to aggression, intelligence and psionic abilities have all been artificially increased...and the latter two qualities seem to be increasing further with each generation.
Human spacers have dubbed this species “the Rippers” for a number of reasons, not least the savagery of their attacks on SolForce colonies. In only a few decades, the Zuul have gone from a smattering of disorganized raiding parties to a large, organized, and coordinated fighting force. Although the location of their central base is presently unknown, SolForce has gleaned some valuable information on the history of the Rippers from the ruins of planet Irridia-five. Please see the additional notes on the Ruins of Irridia V.
Modern Zuul recognize themselves as an artificial species. Their own artificial origin fascinates them, and they have developed an obsessive desire to find the race they call the Creators or the “Great Masters”—a.k.a. Species Y, the mysterious scientists that abandoned them on the surface of Irridia V. It is the belief of modern Zuul that every aspect of their nature represents a deliberate and purposeful choice on the part of the Creators, who made them strong, rapacious, intelligent, etc. in order to serve as part of a greater scheme. They would like to have the details of this scheme revealed to them, and most Zuul appear to believe that their Creators will re-appear and explain a great many things about the universe and the Zuul’s place in it when their creations have somehow proven their worth.
Accordingly, all Zuul ventures into space are conceived as part of a great Crusade, a quest for knowledge and power which will ultimately lead the Rippers to their celestial Fathers—the scientists of Species Y. Opinions seem to differ on whether the Creators are planning to return at some point of their own accord, or whether the Zuul are expected to find them in some colossal cosmic game of hide-and-seek. Regardless, until they meet the Creators face to face, the Zuul believe it is their sacred duty and divine right to act on the imperatives that all males of the species seem to share. They believe that they are obligated and entitled to satisfy their relentless curiosity and thirst for knowledge on the one hand…and to enslave and destroy the weaker, less worthy species that populate the universe on the other.
The Great Masters[edit | edit source]
The creators of the Zuul are known to SolForce investigators as Species Y, but to the Zuul they are known as The Great Masters.
The Zuul have developed a species-wide religion based on the worship of the scientists that created them. They also refer to the Liir as heretics. This has led to a popular (yet unconfirmed) theory that the Zuul were created by the same race that enslaved the Liir, the Suul'ka.
The Zuul faith in their Great Masters is based upon recently lived experience. They are only a few generations removed from Zuul who were directly created by the gods. Their fear and veneration of these beings is based on memories of the pain and terror of the laboratory.
Whether or not the Suul'ka are responsible for the Zuul, we know they are religious zealots bent on finding the race that created them "in the fires of advanced biotechnology," and do so by whatever means necessary. How they will perceive and relate to the Great Masters if and when they ever find them is a mystery. They will have evolved a great deal by the time such a meeting could take place—the Zuul are creatures of rapid change. It's certainly possible that they will perceive weakness or frailty in their former masters.
Biology[edit | edit source]
The Zuul are a savage marsupial race, developed in the bio-warfare laboratory by an unknown species. The rootstock from which they were bred was a carrion-eating, pack-hunting predator, and they still have the high reproductive and metabolic rate of their ancestors. They live fast, breed fast, and die fast. And along with their many physical abilities, they are also telepathic, with a talent for coercion and interrogation — dominating the will of another, crushing the will and forcing the body to obey, and ripping thought, memory and ideas from the cortex of another living thing.
There is a high degree of sexual dimorphism within their species, with enormous physical and psychological differences apparent between males and females. Zuul also undergo an unusual cycle of development from birth to adulthood. Because there are such extreme differences between male and female Zuul as adults, and between all adult Zuul and their offspring in the early phases, a Zuul family seen together might easily be misconstrued as four or five separate species.
Nonetheless, there are some general statements which apply to all Rippers. They are a species of non-placental mammal, warm-blooded and oxygen-breathing, with a very high metabolic and reproductive rate. They thrive in a variety of conditions, and adapt with alarming speed to nearly any set of environmental challenges. Zuul of both sexes and all ages are covered with a thick coat of hair; colors vary with the individual. This fur will be considerably less dense on the adult male, and the coat may be greatly reduced in length and thickness on hotter worlds.
Zuul of all ages are omnivores, and have a taste for carrion. This is especially true in early childhood; a growing Zuul consumes many times its own weight in meat per day. Having been bred from a rootstock of carrion-eating predators, they have an extremely high resistance to infection, especially by bacterial pathogens.
Thanks to information developed with the help of a Zuul presently known by the code-name “Deacon”, SolForce xenobiologists have some ideas of what “Species Y” (or "The Great Masters" as the Zuul call them) did in creating the Zuul.
The major changes to the Zuul were physical. Their adult size has been greatly increased, as well as their metabolic rates. Their natural tendencies to disease resistance and environmental adaptability were enhanced, probably to compensate for their increased demand for calories. The changes in intelligence and psionic ability were minor relative to the other changes made in Zuul physiology. The resulting snowball effect appears to have been unintended.
Technology[edit | edit source]
Zuul ships appear to be assembled from components that were once part of some other structure. Very often their vessels are made up of parts torn from different sources—bits and pieces of several enemy ships, colonial storage crates, even ore carriers or water pods can all be made to serve in a single Zuul destroyer. The disparate parts are welded together into a serviceable whole.
Examination of derelict Ripper vessels reveals bits and pieces stolen from many species. These fragments can often be identified by nose art or serial numbers; it is somewhat disturbing to note that very often, these random chunks were taken from a vessel lost in battle with a species other than the Zuul. From this evidence it would seem that the Rippers have visited the scene of many battles after the main combatants had departed, to comb through the drifting debris looking for anything—or anyone—that they could use.
The only technology unique to the Zuul is their FTL drive, which is based on an unknown branch of gravokinetic theory. The so-called “rip drive” uses a focused energy event to create a miniature black hole. This artificial singularity creates a tiny tear in the fabric of space-time, penetrating to the subspace or “Nodespace” layer. What begins as a small puncture immediately opens into a larger “rip”, a new gravometric stress fracture which quickly forms a channel between the closest massive stellar body and that of a neighboring star system. Unlike Node lines, however, a rip-lane is not a stable connection through Nodespace. These lanes have a tendency to collapse over time.
Military Culture[edit | edit source]
The Zuul consider themselves farmers of the surrounding universe, but what exactly do carrion eaters farm? The simple answer is – carrion eaters farm flesh, of course. They produce livestock for slaughter much as other species do. They simply age the meat a bit longer, and waste less agricultural space growing vegetables or grains for their own consumption.
There is no caste system per se, but everyone is looked down upon if they can be controlled by others. The universe is conceived by the Zuul as an endless cycle of dominance and submission, of power and control. Those to whom you must bow are your masters. Those weaker than yourself are to be controlled—and, if they are weak enough, crushed at your whim.
A male Zuul is very accustomed to using his inferiors as "claws". Female Zuul are significantly stronger, physically, than males. This is conceived as a natural relationship: it does not matter who is physically strongest, if the master has greater force of will. The same is true even of the way that stronger males control weaker males in their society, although a vassal is allowed greater autonomy.
It is not a subject of shame among the Zuul to serve one stronger and wiser than yourself; it is fact natural to seek status and power by serving the most powerful master you can. Part of being the superior Zuul being able to mind control the inferiors around you, especially in the upper echelons of power. It is common for a superior Zuul to not just order subordinate male Zuul, but also psychically exert control over them or otherwise coerce them with more than just rank or intimidation. Additionally, Zuul benefit from experience and consider information a currency. By Zuul standards, a powerful interrogator is not only fearsome, but also incredibly wealthy.
Of course, there is always the danger that the younger males could rip apart the mind of an older one if the opportunity presented itself. This process is known as "promotion". In fact it happens quite often. It is very rare for a Zuul to live past the age of 40 or so, not least because many males begin to lose their vigor at this age—at which point their proteges tear them apart. A single powerful experience of pain and humiliation can however be a strong deterrent for enemies who might otherwise take your measure more frequently. And if you terrorize a young protege sufficiently during his development, or implant enough suggestions that he should love and serve you while he is still too unformed and weak to defend himself—it can be years before he's able to muster a significant challenge.
Civilian Culture[edit | edit source]
To say that Zuul society is “male-dominated” would be a grotesque understatement. Among Zuul, females are regarded as beasts at best; in general, a male sees the members of his coterie as expendable tools, and treats them as he might treat a body part that can be easily and painlessly replaced. When Rippers meet in social situations, females are generally concealed from view, draped with cloth or ordered to crouch inconspicuously until they are useful.
“Society” as such consists only of male Zuul. At present, the race is organized into a loose theocracy. All Ripper males are members of a single religion, and motivated by a single set of ideas and goals which are tenets of this religion.
Whether the Zuul can be truly creative in generating new ideas of their own remains to be seen. They have a tendency to view interrogation as the "proper" way to learn new things, and this is something of an obstacle. However, their society is reaching what might be termed "critical mass" rather quickly, as more and more ideas and concepts are absorbed.
A great deal of Zuul creativity manifests simply in their art of collage—the successful combination of "found objects", both intellectual and physical, IS the premiere Zuul art form and represents a form of species genius in and of itself.
The only true currency of the Ripper economy is information. The wealth and influence of any given Zuul is measured by the number of ships and slaves he can control. Intelligence and strength of mind is highly valued; higher status is conferred upon those with the strongest psionic abilities. Rank among Zuul tends to be analogous to the organization of a religious faith; more influential Zuul hold their positions by the charismatic power of the will, as well as the ability to educate or enlighten others. “Father”, “Lord” or “Master” are the common terms of respect used by those addressing a superior; “brother” is how one addresses an equal, and “son” is the term one uses to address an inferior.
The highest-ranking members of Zuul society hold titles equivalent to that of a bishop or a cardinal, and the nearest human equivalent to the Zuul’s “GreatFather” would probably be an ancient pharaoh or pope. The orders given by these high-ranking Zuul are obeyed without question...but there is a good deal of debate as to how long this unity and cooperation among the Zuul can last.
Given the rate at which Rippers seem to be absorbing information and ideas from alien captives, some kind of social breakdown or schism is a definite possibility. Even the current organization of Zuul society seems to be a perverse, distorted version of religious and social notions which were somehow “ripped” from other races. If just a few new ideas could have such sweeping, far-reaching effects on their culture, a few more could easily reduce their species to internecine war.
Every sentient race has seen how easily a new idea can become a new ideology. In their hunger to swallow the souls of other races, the Zuul may eventually bite off much more than they can chew.