Physical Appearance Edit
The Mahlok have a very human-like overall build, but the similarities end there, save perhaps in terms of height. Mahlok are usually about six feet tall, but females tend to be shorter.
Their bodies are completely covered in translucent, rubbery skin. This strange skin is fireproof, and it clearly shows the heat that is building inside of it, growing from a dark red to a fiery orange to even bright yellow as the Mahlok's heat builds when using his fire abilities. Decorating the surface of their skin are thin, black lines like natural tattoos, the patterns of which vary greatly from individual to individual. These markings are often the only thing identifying a particular Mahlok from another. Traditionally, Mahlok wear no clothing. This makes it easier to identify one another, and there is nothing for them to be ashamed of, because they have no visible genitals.
The Mahlok have no hair, mouth, nose, or ears, but they do have eyes. Long, thin, and lacking pupils, these eyes appear almost to be windows to their inner flame, constantly glowing a bright yellow-white. Fire tends to flow from the Mahlok's eyes more freely than the rest of their body, and every now and then tendrils of flame can be seen licking out of them. When angry, the fire coming from their eyes grows more intense. At its most powerful, it causes their eyes to appear like long spears of white flame stabbing outwards from their eye-sockets. Mahlok tend to have very developed foreheads, and the back of their head is sometimes slightly elongated. They also possess round protrusions at approximately the locations that a Human would have ears, which probably serve exactly this purpose. When a Mahlok speaks, its deep voice seems to echo from within its body. This causes their voice to have a very frightening quality about it, often described as the rumbling voice of a volcano bellowing from under the earth.
Mahlok biology remains almost a complete mystery. It is known they have muscles and a skeletal system, since some Mahlok have been skinned to create Mahlok Hide Armor, but all other internal organs remain a mystery since X-rays do not work on Mahlok (they actually absorb all of the radiation), and their blood hardens almost to stone after death, making dissection all but impossible.
Natural Armor and Energy AbsorptionEdit
Mahlok skin, as previously mentioned, is rubbery, translucent, fireproof, and usually appears red, glowing brighter as it grows hotter. This color, however, is due to the Mahlok's internal temperatures; when skinned, their hides dry to a dark greyish-brown. Their skin is also at least as tough as most anti-ballistic mesh armor, blocking all lower-caliber, non-armor-piercing projectiles. Also, Mahlok blood is bright yellow and extremely hot when it first leaves their body, but it will cool and harden to a black color, almost like lava. This property serves a similar purpose to clotting in Human blood.
Energy weapons are also useless against the Mahlok, for they simply absorb their heat directly into their skin, actually adding to their power rather than decreasing it (although if too much energy is "consumed," the Mahlok will explode violently and fatally). For this reason, the oldest enemies of the Mahlok traditionally employed sharp weapons, such as swords or arrows. In the Xenocide War, the Human settlers of Terra Nova created many high-caliber firearms specifically for use against the Mahlok, such as Xarkon's trusty lever-action "Ironslinger" rifles. They also attempted to use nuclear weapons against the Mahlok, to disastrous results. The radiation of the weapons was absorbed by those Mahlok nearest the blast, turning them into flying, glowing death machines capable of firing intense beams of heat from their fingertips before fizzling out and dying in a few weeks.
The Mahlok, who have no mouths, do not eat solid foods. They have been observed to absorb liquids into their system for nutrients (a few seem to enjoy alcoholic beverages, like Humans), but it does not seem to be explicitly required for their survival. What is required, however, is heat. Mahlok can absorb life-giving warmth from any nearby source. Mahlok also need to breathe, which they apparently do directly through their skin. It is not true that they can survive in a vacuum, like some believe. Mahlok never truly sleep, but they do sit and "meditate" in the heat for many long hours each day.
Mahlok reproduction has never been observed by Humans. All that is known is that the Mahlok reproduce at a slower rate than any other sapient species in Nova Refuge, which is why they also have the smallest galactic population. Their children have smooth, unmarked skin until they reach puberty (at about 25-30 TSCs), at which point the distinctive lines on their skin begin to form, making them into adult individuals instead of merely children. Although Mahlok have the slowest breeding rate and aging process, they also live longer than any other species, sometimes for more than three centuries. It is speculated that there are Mahlok still alive in the Refuge who remember the day that Humanty first arrived there. There are no known Mahlok races, breeds, or sub-species. It is speculated that there was never enough difference in climate on their homeworld for any variations to evolve.
The most intimidating and mysterious aspect of Mahlok biology is their astonishing power to emit flames from any part of their body. Even an unarmed Mahlok is thus a deadly enemy to all but the most well-armed foes. The average Mahlok can do little more than make a burst of fire when needed, but there are some Mahlok who spend much of their time exercising their inner flame, training themselves to make the most of this gift. The Mahlok word for the most devoted individuals - those who train at the feet of true masters in special institutions - is Kassazar (KASS-ah-zar, pl. Kassazareth). Humans typically call them either "Infernals" or simply "Burners." A few of their abilities include:
- Shooting a continuous spray of flame from their fingertips, or building up a powerful burst of flame released in an explosive blast.
- Creating a beam of heat similar to a laser, with the ability to cripple most shielding systems and burn through most heat-resistant mesh instantly.
- Using a burst of flame to propel themselves into the air for considerable distances. Some can even fly, albeit for a limited period of time.
- Honing their reflexes so that, when a projectile is fired at them, a burst of flame shoots forth from that side of their body, possibly deflecting the missile, similar to reactive armor.
The Mahlok rarely ever fight members of their own species. This is largely because it is nearly impossible for them to harm one another without a blade of some kind. They have no teeth or claws with which to puncture each other's skin, they cannot strangle each other because they breathe directly through their skin, and they are immune to one another's fire. Because of this, there has rarely ever been a Mahlok civil war, and their history of interaction with each other is (rather ironically, given their current tendency toward war and conquest) actually more peaceful than any other Native species. Seemingly to counter this fact, they war with other species all the time. Most of them seem convinced that they are the strongest and most powerful beings in existence, destined to rule all others. Most of the hard labor in their cities is done by slave races, such as the Slashrim. Political leaders in Mahlok societies are always war leaders as well. Leadership ability is determined by intelligence and tactical skill, and he who wins the most battles also wins the greatest power in their government.
The Mahlok sense of brotherhood is amazing to most Humans. They rarely squabble over who gets to be leader, pushing great generals into positions of power eagerly, simply because they are aware that these men will lead their race to greatness. They fight as one, never divided or leaderless, carving a massive empire across the galaxy. Most of the actual fighting is done by slave races, since the Mahlok are so few in number and breed so slowly. Their society seems to be male-dominant, perhaps because of the long gestation period of females, or because their numbers are so small that they guard their females to ensure their own survival. Mahlok children are raised by the females, often communally, to ensure obedience to Mahlok tradition and loyalty to their own species (they are not allowed to interact with other species until they become adults). There are only a few Mahlok individuals who separate from their people. These are shunned as outcasts, hated by the rest of their kind. Two well-known Mahlok "blood traitors" are Zegaldorph, Lord of the country Mordark on Terra Nova, and "Ignatus," High Admiral of the Xarkon Aerospace Forces.
Mahlok language is surprisingly sophisticated, though it sounds guttural and coarse to human ears. It is not as complex as the language of the Sarran, but it is still extremely hard to learn. It employs many odd sounds that other species have difficulty reproducing, including low rumbles, clicks, and fizzles, created somehow within their body. Luckily for Humans and other species, their language has largely been adapted for a more traditional biological use by the Slashrim, creating the tongue known as Mahlo-Slashrim, though this language still employs many guttural noises and clicks. This is the universal language of the Empire of Helexith, regional and tribal tongues having been all but eradicated.
Mahlok names usually consist of only one word. During childhood, each Mahlok is only called by a nickname. When he reaches adulthood, those who raised him will give him a name derived from one of his personality traits, habits, etc. These names are often demeaning, since they are meant to point out the primary flaw in each individual, sort of like the "final instruction" from those who raised them, telling the Mahlok what they need to work to improve. "Zuhaxellod," for example, apparently means something like "he who basks too often in the sun." From this we can surmise that the original prophet of Helexith wasted much of his youth sunbathing.
Despite what one may think when hearing the Mahlok preach to their Slashrim followers about the power of Helexith, the Mahlok themselves do not believe a word of this religion. It is merely a modified version of the religion practiced by the largest of the Slashrim tribes before the Mahlok conquered them. By twisting this religion, they were able to get the Slashrim to worship and follow them. Most Mahlok seem to be utterly irreligious. There is some evidence that early Mahlok believed not in a "sun-god" like Helexith, but rather in an earth-god who dwelled in the heart of their planet. This seems to have lost popularity when space travel was first discovered, though a few rare Mahlok still subscribe to this ancient cult, believing that a god rests in the core of each planet and other celestial body.
"You move like a Mahlok," is a popular saying in the Hub system, since Mahlok are notoriously slow going about their business. They are also surprisingly slow in war, using long-term, plodding strategies rather than fast, aggressive ones. This is probably a side-effect of their long lifespans. The individuals themselves are, ironically, usually cool and collected rather than hot-headed... although if one does ever truly anger a Mahlok, they had best flee the premises quickly. Those who have had good dealings with the Mahlok sometimes say, "The Mahlok never forget a favor." Those who have had slightly less favorable dealings instead say, "No one holds a grudge quite like a Mahlok."
Mahlok technology has actually advanced a bit slower than Sarran technology, despite the fact that they are seemingly just as intelligent as the Sarran. Around the same time that the Sarran were first using Starlight engines on their Aerospace craft, the Mahlok were forming an alliance with the Space Dragons to carry them in and out of planetary atmospheres in large "transport boxes." This, of course, led to them only developing the Starlight drive much later, after encountering it in battle against the Sarran. During this time, the Mahlok used special weapons which were simply arm-attached devices that concentrated a Mahlok's flame into a beam of heat. Only in relatively recent years have they begun using energy weapons with external power sources. The Mahlok rarely carry swords, because in the hands of the enemy, these could be used against them Only the commanders, on the cautious lookout for treachery from their own people (as uncommon as it is in Mahlok society, it still occasionally happens), carry swords or combat knives at their sides.
The vehicles (and often other weapons) employed by the Mahlok in war are almost always fitted with control panels that only react to the intense heat that Mahlok can create with their fingertips. Thus, the vehicles are virtually unpilotable by Humans or other species without an adapter of some kind. The Mahlok never allow Slashrim to pilot their deadliest weapons of war, and Mahlok themselves almost never serve as infantry. This helps to maintain their elite, aloof status with the slave races. The Mahlok developed walkers long before humans, and frequently these walkers would be carried from planet to planet in the claws of a massive Space Dragon. Mahlok walkers tend to have more legs than human ones, varying from two to as many as eight on the largest models. This gives them an insect-like appearance, which is why Humans refer to them with arthropod names (ex., "Weevil," "Scarab," "Scorpion," etc.). This method has been extended to their flying vehicles as well (since they have claw-like landing gear that appear like insect legs), resulting in names like "Paperwasp," "Swallowtail," and "Dragonfly." For the starship classes, scientific arthropod order and family names are used, such as "Hymenoptera-class" and "Lepidoptera-class."