When humans first began to explore Antarean space they soon encountered the Askar, already an advanced race of great antiquity, whose worlds spread across a significant portion of the Antarean Nexus. As humans expanded their worlds beyond Old Earth the Askar appeared unconcerned, watching on benignly, but largely ignoring the new-comers who were but one among many such emergent races after all.
The Askar disappeared entirely from the Nexus after the long isolation that followed the gate collapse at the end of the Third Age. During the Fourth Age of Xon Times the only Askar worlds that returned to the Nexus were discovered to be uninhabited; the Askar congregates long since abandoned and fallen to ruin. The same was true of many human and alien worlds, but where some human planets retained high levels of civilisation and survived to repopulate Antarean space, the Askar were nowhere to be found. From the heights of space-spanning civilisation they appeared to have plunged to the depths of extinction. It would not be a unique fate for an Antarean race by any means, were that to prove the case.
The next contact between the Askar and humans happened many thousands of years later, towards the end of the Sixth Age, during the bitter conflict between the Trisapients and the newly resurgent Vorl. Like the Askar the Vorl were believed extinct, so it was a considerable surprise when Vorl armies began to raid and destroy human worlds. The Vorl armies of those times were observed to include a number of subservient races, including entire formations of creatures that were soon identified as Askar. However, these Askar exhibited practically none of the marks of high-civilisation that had characterised the peaceful, progressive and technologically advanced race of former times.
The deployment of trans-dimensional weaponry against Vorl gates would lead directly to the collapse of the Nexus, known as the Trisapient Catastrophe, bringing an end to the Trisapient Age altogether. When the Nexus began to reform thousands of years later there appeared at first no sign of the Askar. However, soon small numbers began to turn up in the service of other races, including their old masters the Vorl. Subsequently, Askar appeared as mercenaries for hire in those Freeborn Houses whose routes lay closest to the marches of Vorl space. Following the PanHuman Schism (When the Isorian Senatex divided from the PanHuman Concord) the Askar spread throughout much of known Antarean space upon the backs of the Freeborn as suppliers of mercenary soldiers.
Today the Askar can be found in small, scattered groups throughout the Nexus, where they serve as mercenary warriors in the forces of many different species. They travel the Nexus via the ships of the Freeborn and other, alien races that have need of their fighting qualities. No Askar homeworlds have ever been discovered. Perhaps the surviving Congregations have their own reasons for maintaining a low-profile, or possibly they have been subjugated by some other power, driving bands of warrior-protectors across Antarean space; all this is conjecture and impossible to confirm at the current time.
The Askar of ancient times lived in hive-like cities called congregates with a number of sister-hives forming a Congregation: the closest thing among the Askar to a nation or planetary state. Although the Askar were then divided over many thousands of worlds, they retained a sense of universal identity which they called the Congregation of Askar. It is not known whether the Askars of today derive from a number of worlds – and hence a number of distinct Congregations – or a single planet. Either way, this does not stop bands of Askar taking opposing sides when employed to do so; certain bands are known to be close and even bitter rivals.
The Askar race is naturally divided into distinct morphological castes that are determined epigenetically by the subtle hormonal signals by which Askar largely communicate. However, at the height of their great civilisation the Askar discovered how to manipulate and control these signals, overcoming the ancient biological processes that condemned some Askar to a life as brutish labourers, others to a role as warrior-protectors, and permitted only a few to attain levels of intelligence comparable to humans. The Askar of ancient times were intelligent, individual and entirely self-aware creatures with advanced technologies comparable to, if not superior to, that then possessed by humanity. However, the Askar encountered today appear to have reverted to the more primitive warrior-protector form. They are intelligent to a modest degree but psychologically and physically specialised as fighters. Whether the hypothetically existent Askar homeworlds retain the full variant of Askar castes is unknown. Only the warrior caste has so far been identified in mercenary service.
The Askar are powerfully built creatures with tough exoskeletons and segmented bodies much like other arthropoid races. Their claw-like hands are capable of close and delicate manipulation but are also incredibly strong, able to crush even stone and metal. Their reactions exceed normal human parameters by quite a margin. Askar warriors are a sterile caste with selective intelligence and practically no interest in matters beyond their immediate concern. Although perfectly communicative in their fashion, no mercenary Askar has ever been able to convey anything of the creature’s origin or of its species beyond its own limited role in Askar society. The mercenary bands are led by a warrior chosen amongst them, who will generally speak for the whole band, taking such decisions as are necessary in the band’s dealing with other races.
In Vorl armies, the Askar follow the same ideal, following a notable individual, but are a core component of the Vorl armies and are not treated as Mercenaries.
Weapons and Equipment
Askar bands have few needs or ambitions beyond fighting, but when it comes to weaponry and armaments they have an eye for both quality and ‘show’. Bands working within the Freeborn mercenary procurement network tend to be armed in similar style. Their preferred armament of choice is the Compression Carbine – a high-status weapon that is favoured by many independent, freebooter and private forces in Antarean space. The weapon’s ability to punch through cover is its chief advantage and the distinctive noise and visible ripple of its compression field are instantly recognisable, enough to strike terror into any hapless enemy – no doubt part of its appeal.
Compression weaponry doesn’t function as very close ranges, which means that troops carrying them augment their armament with a variety of pistols or similar close-fighting weapons. The most popular of these is the maglash, with its crackling energy and range, or the X-sling supplemented by SlingNet or Overload ammunition. A mag pistol is also very popular, with the more deadly plasma pistols on command squads.
Protection is afforded by means of standard reflex armour, which combined with a naturally tough exoskeleton enables an Askar warrior to stand toe-to-tarsular claw with practically any opponent.
Mercenaries for Hire: The Askar Protector-Warriors may be hired as Mercenaries (see the Playing the Game rulebook).