Physical Appearance Edit
Achmer have large, bulbous bony heads covered by a carapace or shield that protects their oversized brains, the largest of any species in the Refuge. Their faces consist of three eyes above a circle of six short mouth-tentacles that are used to take in food. Inside of these tentacles is a three-part beak lined with sharp teeth for tearing and grinding.
Despite their fearsome-looking heads, their bodies are relatively weak. Designed for travel under the water, their body is little more than a long, snake-like tail with a fin running along the end. Sprouting from this eel-like torso are eight tentacles; six relatively short ones and two particularly long "arms." These "arm" tentacles are so called because they split on the ends into three smaller tentacles that act as fingers for the Achmer. The Achmer have no nostrils and breathe with gills along their sides, just beneath the arms. Most Achmer are dull-colored, with murky, watery eyes. Most are blue-grey in hue but a few in dull greenish, purplish, and reddish shades have been seen. There is also a variety of Achmer that lives much deeper in the oceans of their homeworld, with pallid, translucent skin and a glowing third eye attached to a "lure" or stalk. They are larger, stronger, and more savage, with less well-developed minds.
The natural Achmer lifespan is actually quite short: around 40-60 TSCs. However, with their advanced technology and medicine, the Achmer usually live around the same average lifespan as a Human. Some Achmer have been rumored to have psychic abilities, and a few have been observed to emit electricity from their skin, though neither of these abilities have been studied to any great extent by Humans. Achmer are known, however, to create shifting patterns of bioluminescence over different parts of their skin. This ability is sometimes used to communicate nonverbally if another creature's written language is known, but the Achmer do not have access to a device that will allow them to speak it. Understanding Achmer light-speak is not easy for other races, however, nor is it easy for the Achmer to understand the nonverbal communication systems (sign languages) used by terrestrial species. This is part of the reason that the Achmer are usually distanced from the rest of galactic civilization.
The Achmer are all sexless, though individuals are typically referred to as "him" in polite conversation. Because of this, Humans often find it awkward when they first learn that all Achmer have children. They reproduce asexually, by laying small eggs at certain stages in life which later form into polyps and then split into a group of small squid-looking creatures. These are the Achmer larvae, which they call Chogi. The Chogi are sheltered and protected by their parent until they develop into adult Achmer, and the cycle begins again. Sometimes the Achmer keep their own numbers in check by discarding underdeveloped Chogi. They see no moral dilemma in this and regularly practice social artificial selection (what Humans might call "eugenics") to maximize the intellectual development of their species. Many Achmer view Human breeding practices as species degradation or even species suicide, while Humans view many Achmer practices as cold and unethical. This highlights the essential difference in the thought process of the two species: Achmer are the most "coldly" logical of all the inhabitants of the Refuge.
There is far less variety among the Achmer than any other Native species. In fact, it is almost impossible to tell individuals apart from visual appearance alone. Though it may seem strange to us, the Achmer do not mind this because their society places very little emphasis on the individual. Individuals are all considered part of a group, which Humans often refer to as a "School" due to their association of the Achmer with fish. Each Achmer individual's name is simply his place in society combined with the name of his school. For example, a typical Achmer name like "Sil-ma Grol" translates to "Head Biologist of House Grol." The name "Sil-ma" simply means "head biologist."
Emphasis in Achmer society is placed on the House (sometimes called the School or the Family), and the House makes its decisions as a group. All civil wars between the Achmer take place between major Houses. These wars, however, are seldom, and most of the time there is peace between all Achmer as they continue to spread their influence throughout the galaxy, wherever they can possibly go. The Achmer have powerful brains and keen scientific methods of thought. Their usual reaction to any new lifeform, technology, or anomaly encountered is not fear or hostility, but merely curiosity: a desire to study it and learn more. Indeed, curiosity often seems to be the only thing like an emotion that exists in an Achmer's logical mind.
Religion and Art Edit
Thus the Achmer have no known religion and very little art. When the great alliance of Achmer schools joined the High Council of Harmony, they accepted the Sarran flag as their symbol with no changes made to it, because they simply cared nothing about symbology or artwork. All Achmer now use the Sarran language as their standard for conferring with surface-dwellers, since their own language cannot be understood out of the water. They respect the Sarran religion only out of the desire to learn about it and discover whether or not there may be some truth behind it. The only thing the Achmer can be said to worship is nature. They wish to learn all about the natural world around them and how to use it. They never kill or cause damage to an environment or ecosystem when they can avoid it, but they also seldom make an attempt to save a life or a species. Let nature take its course; that is the Achmer way.
In short, the Achmer can be seen as peaceful, thoughtful observers. They are students, not conquerors, of the world around them. This is not to say they are incapable of hostility, however. When an offense is made against a major House, the Achmer will let nothing get in the way of reconciliation, be it peaceful or otherwise. Since they tend to think more on the level of large social groups rather than individuals, they tend to hold an entire group responsible for the actions of any of its members. Certainly no believers of forgive-and-forget, the Achmer say that all debts must be repaid, one way or another, whether in a week or in a decade, or even in a century. This sort of ruthlessness has ennabled them to get a firm grasp on the galactic economy, as seen in their space station in the Hub system, which is literally the hub of galactic trade.
Land- and Exo-Suits Edit
As underwater creatures, Achmer are not adapted to life on land. When out of the water, they cannot breathe and have difficulty moving and speaking. For this reason, the Achmer have developed advanced mechanized suits that they wear during their land-based excursions. These suits are locked onto the Achmer's body and filled with water so that the individual can breathe, while an attached device ensures that the water is kept well-oxygenated. To aid in communication with land-based lifeforms, the suit also includes a vocalizer that translates their speech into something understandable by surface-dwellers. Normal Achmer speech can only be heard correctly underwater, and even then a Human would not be able to hear most of it with his own natural ears, and would certainly have a hard time understanding any of it, as the change between many "words" is extremely subtle. Finally, the mechanical suits also have a pair of strong, human-shaped legs to help in locomotion. The Achmer's tail still sprouts from the back of the machine, as do his head and arms, and sometimes some of his tentacles. Most Achmer weaponry is designed for underwater battle, but they have developed highly advanced exosuits for use by terrestrial infantry.
Also, strange as it may seem, all Achmer vehicles are filled with water. This makes them extremely heavy, so hover vehicles are seldom used. Land vehicles typically either employ wheels or tentacle-like legs/arms, which the Achmer are very adept and creating, giving many of their vehicles - especially the walkers - an almost biological appearance. The Achmer also have no love of bright sunlight, so many of their vehicles lack windows or canopies, instead relying entirely on computers and sensors to observe the outside world. Achmer aerospace craft (which tend to be rounded, even saucer-shaped) have extremely small, tightly-compacted cockpits to ensure that the weight of the water inside does not keep the vehicle from flying. Often there is no room for the pilot to move about at all, except to control the ship. Most larger Achmer starships are constructed entirely in space, never leaving or entering a planet's atmosphere. The water for the interior is brought up to the vehicle from the planet as it is built. The amazing display of evaporating water that results after the destruction of an Achmer craft in space is said to be truly a sight to behold. After a battle, the Achmer, never wasteful, usually return to recover the water cloud and take it back to their planet.