Art by, Frog
Common Jobs: Researcher, Doctor, Microbiologist, Dancer, Quarantine Officer
Likes: Sterile workspaces, Gossip, Celebration, Washing their hands
Dislikes: Physical contact, Disease, Being behind on the times
Attack Method: Seek to disarm opponent, and engage only if cornered. Though most Axeni tend to avoid confrontation, especially physical, many come equipped with some tool or weapon as means of self-defense.
The axeni are incredibly pragmatic and find worship to be far-fetched. Exceptions exist, but very few partake in religious customs or honoring ancient forces when that time could be spent doing something more productive.
The axeni are bipedal, semi-amorphous colonies of symbiotic bacteria. The majority adheres to a similar anatomical physiology, boasting instead a plethora of diversity in their coloration, patterns, and physical qualities.
At the minimum, each Axeni possesses a single head, two to four limbs, and both a nucleus and rudimentary digestive system, both visible through their translucent torso. A small slit runs along their upper lip, creating an upside-down "Y" shape at rest. Though most do not possess bones, their gelatinous forms are protected by a tough, flexible membrane just strong enough to hold the axeni's form.
Physical traits vary widely, where some have grown cilia in place of hair, others sport patterns akin to growths on a petri dish running along their body. Mineral deposits, fungal growths, extra limbs, and an array of variations in body mass have all been observed as common physical traits.
Additionally, an axeni can pool their physical energy into developing "complex organs" for themselves. While these features are considered optional to their anatomy, they greatly aid in function; Tongues and teeth assist communication, eyes improve their perception, skeletal structures hold body structure and help mobility, etc.
Held at the center of every axeni's mass is a single nucleus about a foot in diameter, responsible for storing their genetic information and controlling cell reproduction. Come time for reproduction, the nucleus splits into two, taking a considerable portion of the "parent" axeni's mass with it and serving as a catalyst for a new axeni to grow from. Infant clones inherit both their parent's physical qualities and memories, prone to change as they continue to grow. Axeni do not view the cells that make up their body as individual beings, instead regarding the entirety of their biomass as one consciousness.
The axeni are, with few exceptions, NOT contagious to other species — in a way that could harm them, at least. The inevitability exists that cells will escape the axeni's body mass and are ingested or inhaled by other organisms. However, these cells are dead by the time they have left the axeni's central mass, and one's immune system usually makes quick work of the straggler cells. The cases in which non-viral axeni have made non-native species ill are in the single digits.
Axeni are incredibly sparse in numbers, with most beings entirely unaware of the species' existence, let alone ever encountering one of its members. Owed in part to their hesitance to establish colonies beyond their homeworld, the brave few that venture out into the universe necessitate the need for specialized spacesuits, meant to quarantine the axeni's delicate makeup from their surroundings.
The suits are as varied as the individual, coming in an array of styles to provide specialized functions, though the baseline purpose remains an impermeable, whole-body quarantine garment. Recent years have shown the popularity of flashier, more-modern suits to match the axeni's cultural evolution beyond the stars. This attempt to isolate their bodies from other species is, in fact, more for themselves than their peers; The axeni are incredibly fragile, and ironically far more prone to illnesses and contaminants than the majority of other species.
Equal parts cautious and curious, axeni are a highly social species by nature, eager to both observe and interact with their spacefaring neighbor races. Adapting to unfamiliar environments is never a concern for an axeni, provided their suits don't scare their potential crewmembers away.
One of the most notable species-wide principles is their remarkable hygiene. In axeni culture, cleanliness is not a courtesy, but an obligation to your peers. Strict laws on sterilization govern their off-world socialization, owed largely to the awareness of the physical dangers they present to other organisms.
From domed cities, hazmat spacesuits, and obsessive sanitization of their self and living spaces, the race is hyper-aware of their presence and possibility of contamination, owing to the notion that axeni are very concerned with appearances. As collectively anti-disease the species is, the stigma, regardless, still stands that the axeni are contagious, unsanitary, and risky to be around.
Regardless of their paranoia, axeni are shown to be talkative and enthusiastic around other species, naturally drawn to socialization and eager to explore beyond the borders of their domed cities.
If only they weren't so forgetful.
Storage of information across the individual cells in an axeni's body is both the species' greatest strength and downfall. As these cells naturally die off and replenish themselves, so too do the weaker or older memories stored across them. Thus, the species places a considerable amount of stress on the preservation of knowledge, especially within their own fast-paced culture. When out and about in the universe, they are frequently seen taking field notes. Even the average citygoer can be seen with a personal recording device or journal of some form, though blogs dedicated to this daily upkeep are extremely common in recent years.
Likewise, cultural norms and trends cycle faster than typical for axeni. They tend to go through phases of hyperfixation, from hyping up city-wide revolutionary movements, to novel hairstyle trends. Strong cultural emphases are placed on social standing, often pursuing the arts, fashion, or performance for the recognition alone. Alien races are especially fascinating to the axeni, with those integrating themselves in or adopting another race's culture. Scientists and explorers that take to the stars are revered if not only for how cool they seem doing so.
If not logging their day or catching up with social media, you'll often find the average axeni at a club, deep-cleaning their living quarters, or seeking out strangers to make smalltalk with.
When the aliens arrived, it was a colonization effort. Little about Hela stood out amongst the dozens of other moons orbiting its parent gas giant, but attempts to drill the frozen oceans for resources revealed a hidden, primitive ecosystem teeming within the frigid waters. More remarkable yet were certain species of bacteria that possessed clear sentience – observed in testing to make decisions and perform extremely simple tasks once given the time to clump together.
The colonists would continue to observe the axeni species through its infancy, providing it the means to grow and adapt to surface conditions as the precursor species built their cities. As the bacteria colonies were pushed to become larger (and thus easier to observe), so too would they develop more complex thoughts, emotions, memories. From behind the quarantine tanks of the laboratories, the axeni could observe how their ancestral race would present themselves, locomote, and communicate.
The axeni thrived in the laboratories for decades, coexisting quietly. There was a point where the fledgling axeni had become so advanced, they began to rival the intelligence of the alien colonists. Subjects now became individuals, some giving themselves names, others growing rudimentary limbs and organs that mimicked their bipedal neighbors, while a few began to ask questions pertaining life beyond the laboratories.
The relationship between axeni and the colonists was mutual, if not symbiotic. And that's when the sicknesses started.
Overexposure to these hyper-advanced masses of bacteria inadvertently gave way to disease, and eventually the extinction of the dominant race. Nobody could remember if they ever pinpointed an individual or strain responsible, but first wave of illnesses were carried out of the laboratory by colonists hasty to return home, likely foregoing sanitization procedures, equally as likely a freak accident. Symptoms were muddled with time, but most axeni researchers remember it being most dire when the local fauna began to carry the disease as well. The illness spread like brushfire within the walls of the tight-knit colonies, planetwide in mere weeks.
The axeni were intelligent enough even then to grasp the fact that they had caused this. Even if it was just one of them, it was all that it took, and the axeni now recognized the possibility of threat within their physiology.
There was nobody left to inherit the abandoned cities, so with a rudimentary knowledge of the culture and lifestyle of their progenitor race, the axeni worked quickly to fill the niche. They would model their physical features after the extinct colonists, adopting now their fashion, technology, and species-wide goals.
The axeni easily grasped the idea of space travel. Given their extensive history with the colonists, the thought of life beyond the stars was not hard to grasp, and they were soon making their first steps towards interspecies contact.
Much of Hela's history is lost to the fickle memory of its inhabitants, but the recorded definites have been adopted as common knowledge. Axeni have taken on a species-wide effort to prevent a pandemic of any form from happening again. They flourished under the circumstances, but are now extremely cautious of their presence when among other species.
Following the adoption of spaceflight technology, the axeni can now be found widespread, if sparse, across the universe as on-site researchers, medical practitioners, explorers, or other intellectual professions. Those who remain on Hela might instead pursue a lifestyle devoted to the arts or media, but their collective goal is to establish themselves among the stars, creating offworld colonies where they may reside in peace beyond the walled cities of Hela.
The small, tidally-locked moon known as Hela was historically little more than an icy satellite. It orbits a massive gas giant whose name is lost to all but few - the general axeni public merely refer to it as "the moon". Domed, utopian cities dot Hela's sparse landmass, with remnants of her precursor species' structures slowly sinking beneath the waves. Organisms inhabiting the freezing oceans are diverse, dangerous, and at home in the extreme conditions. The axeni populous tends to keep away from the coast. Life exists on land predominantly as lichens and amphibious insects, Hela's other kingdoms still recovering from pandemic.
Axeni existed on Hela long before the precursor species, dormant under her frozen oceans. The domed cities they now inhabit are perfectly sterile, pristine utopias composed of plastic and neon lights. Strict sanitary ordinances are almost overshadowed by the luster and music of a bustling downtown. To be let inside their fiercely-protected checkpoints is a privilege, though the cultural shock that follows may take longer to acclimate to than the time it takes to undergo the standard checkpoint sanitation process.
Viral Axeni: While the majority of the axeni population poses little risk of contaminating other races, exceptions always exist. Unlike their self-reproducing cousins, viral axeni require another organism's living cells to infect and convert to their own bodymass, be it animal or fellow axeni. From this, they inherit a characteristically chaotic physical appearance; mutations already present in their genetic code are only compounded upon by the random dna they fuse with when feeding. Virals can grow massive compared to the common axeni populous, sporting a slew of abnormal or physically debilitating growths, spikes, half-formed extraneous limbs and digits, or misshapen silhouettes. Without nourishment, their mind and body deteriorate, and they become more impulse than creature, drawn to living beings the same way gravity draws heavy objects to fall.
Infection is an issue. Symptoms vary from individual to individual, but the end goal is always to convert the living tissue of those infected into the catalyst by which a viral axeni may form or feed.
Modern medicine is not often equipped to deal with the rare, unusual circumstances surrounding viral axeni infections. One can only pray they're able to seek out the help of another axeni who is.
Bacteria Physiology: The gelatinous substance that makes up the majority of an axeni's body is actually billions of clonal microorganisms working together as a single biomass. The individual cells network amongst one another, sharing their thoughts through chemical gradients and housing information such as memory or motor function across themselves. Their true intelligence is realized as a mass, networking their collective memories and thoughts together to form a consciousness that governs all the cells across an individual.
Though a single cell lives no longer than a month, an axeni's body is constantly growing, dying, and endlessly replacing the cells in its body. Without external complications, Axeni have been theorized to live indefinitely, though prone to issues with memory.
Because of their adaptive makeup, they are somewhat amorphous, able to shift their body mass around to a minor degree and provide additional defense or strength if needed. Though every part of their body can be regenerated if damaged, their nucleus cannot, and the axeni go to great lengths to protect such precious cargo – destruction of the nucleus means cells cease self-reproduction, and eventually death.
• Axeni spacesuits are commonly modeled after hazmat quarantine garments and the spacesuits of their precursor race. Because of this, spacefaring axeni are frequently mistaken for prometheus units, or even humans at a first glance, making their first forays into interspecies relations particularly difficult.
• Due to their terrible memory, there have been a handful of cases where viral axeni, or axeni that have otherwise proven themselves dangerous to other sentients, have simply forgotten they were dangerous at all.
• No viral axeni wants to be viral. Many viral individuals are able to live their entire lives in complete obscurity within city walls, as long as they are quarantined from their peers.