Saturday, June 9, 2012

The History of Kalquor, Part 4

The Virus

                A few centuries ago, a virus spread through Kalquor’s population like wildfire, devastating the people of that planet.
                Patient Zero, the first victim that originated the outbreak, was a young Matara mountain climber named Togrynt.  Along with friends, she’d visited a small moon within the Empire, known for its challenging peaks.  While there, she was bitten by a small mammalian creature called a lubury.  As this was not an animal known for aggression, it was agreed it must have been sick with some disease.  Togrynt was brought home to Kalquor and quarantined, along with her fellow climbers and the carcass of the lubury, which a member of the climbing party had killed.
                The infection carried by the lubury was not one Kalquorian doctors had ever seen before.  In Togrynt’s system, it mutated.  All of the young woman’s organs, including those of her reproductive system, hemorrhaged.   She was dead a week after contracting the virus.  The last of her companions on that ill-fated trip died five days later.
                Despite all precautions, the virus escaped the confines of the hospital and laboratories.  By the time it ran its full course, nearly forty percent of all men and over sixty-seven percent of the female population were dead from it.  Every single Kalquorian on the home planet and many of the colonies was infected, though not all victims suffered the deadly hemorrhaging.  However, everyone showed some sort of damage from their exposure, especially the women. 
                Because the virus caused anomalies to the X-chromosomes, the most devastating effects showed up in the female population.  Of the survivors of the virus, over seventy percent of the women were rendered infertile.  In succeeding generations, daughters born to those who could still conceive were not guaranteed fertility; indeed, the majority was not.  It didn’t help that Kalquorian women ovulated only once a year.
                Even those few who had remained away during the virus’ outbreak could not counteract the effects once it was safe for them to return home.  There were simply too few unaffected Kalquorians left.  The small infusion of still-intact original DNA only delayed the inevitable end.
                Between the virus’ initial destruction and the following decline in births, Kalquor’s population dropped precipitously.  As fewer and fewer viable childbearers were available, the men began to compete more and more aggressively for mates.

The Clan System

                As noted in previous installments of Kalquor’s history, polyamorous unions were not uncommon on Kalquor.  So long as all participants were accepting, a single household could consist of any number of men and women.  Most such family groupings were quite small however.  Rarely would one find a mating group of more than three members, though it was not unheard of for there to be groupings of four or even five.
                But as the number of women declined, many men became possessive.  Public fights, duels, and killings were on the increase as each man attempted to keep a fertile mate all to himself.
                After a riot ended with a quarter of the capital city’s underground market area on fire, then-Emperor Relor and the Imperial Council issued a decree:  family groupings would now consist of a male from each breed.  These clans of three men would establish themselves as responsible and capable of offering comfortable, stable households for potential Mataras and the children they would bear. 
                Relor was elderly and near the end of his reign, so it was left to his son Crown Prince Shev to show the way.  He clanned with two longtime friends Nobek Mekyi and Imdiko Hartob.  The group then chose Matara Dalic for their female mate, and she accepted their proposal. 
                Upon Relor’s death, the first Imperial Clan ascended to the collective throne.  While Relor had intended Shev’s clanmates to be only advisors to him as had been the tradition for the best suited members of the Imperial Family, Relor felt it best for the entire clan to share in the prestige (and many headaches) of rulership.  The Council agreed, as did the battered and weary populace of Kalquor.  With four monarchs ruling, the sudden death of one would not throw the Empire into confusion, as had happened in the past.
                But even with the establishment of the clan family, Kalquor’s population continued to decrease until extinction loomed on the horizon.  All scientific efforts to reverse the effects of the virus failed.  The very DNA of Kalquorians had been altered.  It seemed the mighty Kalquorian Empire would be felled; not from war or an enemy takeover, but by a small, unseen foe.  A mere virus.
                In the final decade of the rule of Emperor Zarl’s clan, less than one hundred births occurred on all of Kalquor.  Of the forty-three female infants born, only twelve lived past their first week.  The rest died of the severe chromosomal deformities that continued to plague that gender. 
                Kalquor might have given up all hope of its survival but for the miracle of a second chance that suddenly presented itself.
                The indigenous people would still soon be extinct, but a new race had wandered into the boundaries of the Galactic Council of Planets.  They were in search of a planet to colonize, one that would lessen the burden of a huge population on their homeworld.  They were a suspicious lot and known for an almost fanatical adherence to a strict religion.  Still, most member planets welcomed these explorers from a tiny world in a distant galaxy.  Because these newcomers so closely resembled the doomed Kalquorians, all the Empire’s allies hoped the culture, if not the race itself, could be saved.  That perhaps the two species would be compatible enough to breed a hybrid race that would continue the wonderfully intelligent and yet still primal Kalquorian code that had benefitted so many others.
                That other world which offered Kalquor a new beginning was none other than Earth.  And you know how the rest of the story goes.

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