When the Tellurian Legion fleet broke from hyperlight into the Rex-Kaliph system, its human crews, desperately searching for another home for beleaguered humanity, discovered a solar system consisting of eight planets. Astoundingly, two of these planets supported abundant life:
RK-3: Genellan, third planet from the yellow sun and namesake for this series, a small, Earthlike planet, primitive and unspoiled.
RK-2: Kon, second planet from the sun, a ponderous hothouse; home planet to the system's dominant lifeform.
It is Kon and its inhabitants, the kones, that we discuss here.
From space, the planet Kon appears as a luminescent, golden pearl. It has two natural companions, Goho, a distant reddish satellite, and Kreta, a large silvery moon, but these moons are not the only bodies orbiting Kon. An entire constellation of Planetary Defense Force (PDF) weapons stations gird the planet in a pattern of integrated orbits. A brace of these PDF defense bases, magnificent silver and gold globes bristling with laser optics, also orbit the moon Kreta, for Kreta occupies an important role in konish space operations. Also orbiting Kreta are the sprawling PDF ship yards and interceptor staging areas and five orbital industrial bases, processing stations for interplanetary mining and mineral exploitation efforts managed by divers konish interests from both northern and southern hemispheres. Chief among these are the massive Ransan and Northern Hegemonic facilities.
Beneath the powerful energy weapons of the orbiting defense platforms, Kon's luminous atmosphere is delicately marbled with sweeping swirls of yellow and dun. This lustrous blanket presents a mystery to the unaided eye, shrouding the planet in a saffron veil of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon-dioxide and methane. Surface mapping techniques capable of penetrating the planet's sea of colloidal gases reveal a diverse terrain textured with mountain ranges, broad cultivated steppes, lakes, rivers, and land-bound seas. Most obvious to the scrutinizing eye is the distinct segmentation of the planet into northern and southern hemispheres separated by a wide belt of equatorial desert. The planet's great girth and slow moving weather patterns caused to be formed a cruel geological and meteorological barrier, isolating northern and southern realms as effectively as any wall or moat of acid. This globe-encompassing torrid zone is known to kones as the Band of Sterility.
Kon is a massive planet, with a surface gravity 1.5 times that of Earth. Gravity is an inescapable and limiting dimension to all technical societies, but the onerous attraction of Kon is especially evident. Habitation structures, relative to the soaring spires of Earth, are confined to modest reaches above the planet. Only palaces and citadels reach significant heights, and even these rarely exceed a dozen stories. Much construction sprawls underground.
Gravity has also affected the physiology of the planet's inhabitants; the planet pulls hard on muscle and bone, and its Gargantuan denizens more frequently than not ambulate on all four appendages, gaining large calluses and contact pads on knees, forearms, and elbows. Kones are immense creatures, the male of the species approaching three meters head to foot, and frequently weighing in excess of three hundred kilograms. The female is small in comparison, but still easily twice the mass of a large human.
Peculiar to the konish race is the manifestation of odor as an indicator of emotional state, a complex hormonal-glandular emanation resulting from involuntary evacuation of gas bladders. The greater the unrelieved emotional state, the more virulent the odor. An agitated kone has no emotional secrets.
Fetid, akin to offal or sewage
Wet, rotting humus, tending to putresence
Spicy sweet, similar to brown sugar
Putrescence, like great passion
Similar to Humor, only more bitter
Like Fear, but with a sweet aftertaste
Kon is an old planet, with civilized cultures predating human civilization by several millenia. Since before time konish nations, both northern and southern hemispheres, were ruled by an aristocracy, a nobility to its credit more often than not dedicated to renewal and truth. Over the eons the planet flourished, becoming a global society of order and economic vitality, largely due to the enlightened self-interest of the ruling class. Tribalism and economic competition did not disappear, particularly between northern and southern hemispheres; even noblekones were not immune to patriotism and economic advantage. There happened brutal wars, too often accompanied by cruelty and tyranny. And occasionally famine.
In the far distant past the konish nobility realized that over population was the single greatest destructive factor in their society. One by one, or in small alliances, nations enforced Draconian population measures. Those nations so disciplined gained inexorable advantage over those konish nations adhering to the old ways. In time, out of economic necessity, all states subscribed to uniform population controls. Thus it became law and custom: conceiving children was permitted only by formal approval. Breeding outcomes were analyzed before conception, and only healthy parents given license to proceed, and then only if state population quotas were properly serviced.
At birth all common kones are removed from their parents and consigned to the state for socialization. (Of note: the children of nobility are not so treated; however noble born, by strict tradition, are otherwise conditioned with rigorous and aesthetic education. Nobility are expected to lead their respective societies in all endeavors, military, scientific, commercial, and artistic.) Common kones in their infancy are subjected to rigorous testing and genetic profile, and according to complex formulae are divided into two castes, trods and intelligents. Each class is subcategorized still further based on a objectively calibrated forecasting algorithm as balanced by the prevailing needs of society.
Trods, in general, lack effective decision-making skills and high degrees of intellectual acuity. Depending on their gender and physical constitutions, these duller beings are assigned to menial jobs, working the fields, laboring in the factories, and filling the ranks of the armies. From their earliest memory they are programmed for lives of drudgery; and thus they expect no less. Theirs is a simple compact with society; they do what they are told, and in return are fed, clothed and housed. Their lives are not rich, but neither do they want. In general, they live happy lives.
The intelligents are also categorized at an early age into emotional and skill set dispositions. Professions are carefully matched to talent and psychological profile. Of necessity, the assignment process of the intelligents is a deliberate and interactive process, not infrequently taking a score of years to finally assign the individual to their ultimate professional path. Some become technicians, others become teachers or bureaucrats, some are assigned to the trades or to agriculture, others become scientists. A special few become artists. Those beings displaying aggressive tendencies and commensurate physical strength become military officers.
Of note, all konish societies are male-dominated. Females are expected to remain silent in public, to avoid eye contact and even spoken communication with males, except within the narrow scope defined by their assigned functions. Ironically, many of these professional endeavors are critical to the continuing development and well-being of konish society. In konish society medical doctors, teachers, translators, data librarians, archeologists, and many similar analytical and care-giving professions are exclusively female.
For eons this system worked reasonably well. Not perfectly, of course, but all in all the planet thrived, and the various nations and even the hemispheres were united by healthy commerce. Konish technology and industry blossomed. Powerful konish spacecraft even escaped gravity's chains, hurtling into orbit, and from planetary orbit they made the simple leap to their moons, and from Kreta and Goho to Genellan, and beyond--all a thousand years before humans gained command over steam. Konish space ships visited all the planets of their solar system, but in perhaps the greatest irony of konish technical evolution, konish scientists were unable to make the breakthrough into hyperlight. That watershed advance would not occur until humans arrived in their system.
Four hundred years prior to the arrival of humans in the konish system, another event occurred that profoundly changed the planet -- Kon was attacked by a marauding alien fleet. Laser weapons from space bombarded the planet, killing millions and destroying the fragile infrastructure of society. The aliens did not come to ground, but instead were satisfied to do mayhem from orbit. In the ensuing vacuum of chaos and death, the power of the nobility was all but destroyed, and the Rule of Generals commenced.
The northern hemisphere was ruthlessly united under the fist of armies; entire cultures were annihilated, not by the alien invaders, but by a succession of self-serving konish tyrants. The mysterious aliens departed, leaving behind starving mobs and a world in utter chaos. The strongest survived, and the need to conquer arose from the ashes. The equation of civilization changed. Global commerce and economic structures fostered and controlled by the noble families disappeared. Konish cultures turned inward, thwarted by international intrigue and jealousy. Wars became common, and powerful generals and strong armies became necessary national resources.
But one compelling fear provided grounds for unconditional cooperation -- fear from another invasion. The arguing governments managed a self-serving truce; the Planetary Defense Force was formed, and all state leaders solemnly vowed that the protection of the planet would forever be foremost. All nations provided conscripts and technicians. All nations, each to their means, provided material and personnel to build a network of planetary defense stations and fleet of interceptors. These became known as the Vows of Protection. Never again would the planet Kon be attacked by alien invaders.