Who are the Skaard?
The planet ATTR was originally colonized by companies that wanted to use its isolation and obscurity in order to perform experiments that would have been illegal anywhere else. Since the United Worlds never established an official outpost on the planet, UW law never applied. The wealthy corporate entities that originally brought humanity to ATTR were the sole authority, and there was no law but what suited their purposes. A vast array of scientific experimentation facilities were built up, scattered widely from one another, as the different corporations mistrusted their neighbors and wanted to maintain their secrets. The resulting arrangement of human civilization on ATTR became a jagged wheel, with Port City as the hub, small settlements and outposts serving as supply line spokes, and out on the rail, the various experimental facilities.
On the northern edge of the human frontier, a biological research facility performed experiments with chemical and viral combat augmentation. They produced combinations of drugs and unique strains of engineered viruses designed for use by combat shock troops to enhance their performance. The subjects of these experiments came from a variety of sources. Many were criminals purchased from the UW penitentiary system on other planets and shipped off to ATTR illegally. Others were kidnapped or captured from worlds with little technology that were to fight back. Some were simply taken from the outskirts of the settlements closest to the compound. All of them were irrevocably changed. Many lost their minds; either the chemicals and diseases mutated their brains or they simply went insane from the agony of the changes wrought upon them. Many more, of course, simply died, their bodies forced to shut down by the horrific mutations. There were a few nominal successes, but none without drastic side effects. When the United Worlds government collapsed, there were very few successful products for those who fled to take along with them. No disposal or cleanup was performed in their facility. They were, after all, leaving the planet to its own devices. Why waste time and resources cleaning up an abandoned world? Those few living subjects that remained were simply left in their observation habitats, deemed not even worth the expense of execution, and the compound was abandoned, to lie like a forgotten land mine in the northern wasteland for years.
It did not take long for the fallout of the UW collapse to produce a new class of people on ATTR-the outcasts. On a world where the structure of society had suddenly collapsed, the haves were separated from the have-nots very quickly indeed. Those who were evicted, fired, expelled, and shunned very quickly learned that they needed to band together or they would surely perish. Cast out from even the slums of Port City, unwanted and unwelcome, they gradually began to migrate out from the city. There were rumors of settlements not too far out into the wastelands to the north, and the refugees decided to strike out for those alleged facilities to make their new homes.
The caravan of scavengers trickled northward for over a week, scrabbling and infighting, tempers flaring in frustration and desperation. Many starved or were slain in vicious brawls; most of those that died were eaten by their companions. Those who remained never forgot the people who had cast them out into this harsh and brutal fate. Their hatred festered and dug itself deep into their psyche, and grew stronger. They covered over three hundred miles, losing fully half their numbers, before the strong that remained finally crested a hill and saw in the distance the object of their search. The abandoned compound lurked on the horizon, squat and ugly, and they loved it. It was on the thirteenth day after setting out from Port City that they reached their new home. None of them noticed the significance of that number, although it may have been prophetic. On the fifteenth day, it nearly destroyed them.
By the time the outcasts reached their destination, they were already plotting their vengeance on those who had so callously banished them from their homes, leaving them to die in the wilderness. They called themselves the Baniss, and their new compound-cum-village they named Fort Retribution. Having gotten inside the compound and found basic barracks, they almost immediately fell into comas of exhaustion, plunging into dreams of reprisal. That night, they went to sleep comfortable and content for what may be the last time.
The next day, they set out in groups to explore Fort Retribution, to see what remnants of technology they could scavenge from those who had abandoned her. Handfuls of the Baniss set off to the far corners of the sprawling compound, trying to pry into locked rooms and sealed storage cabinets, searching for anything valuable. They found much more than they had expected. One group, searching the eastern wing of the compound, came across a room filled with canisters and lifeless computer equipment, sealed tanks and defunct refrigeration cases. Unfamiliar with the strange symbols emblazoned on them, they opened nearly every one in their search for useful materials and supplies. When they found nothing inside most of them, and only foul-smelling chemicals in the others, they abandoned the wing to continue their search. Within three hours, the entire group of Baniss was in the throes of incredible agony, as the unleashed viral and chemical contaminants spread like wildfire throughout the compound.
Like the experimental subjects before them, many of the Baniss went insane or died in the first 12 hours. The initial sweep of the toxins and diseases halved their population again, decimating the once sizeable mob that had marched north from Port City. Those that remained were altered significantly. The weird amalgam of viral contaminants and mutagens in the air of Fort Retribution combined to have incredible results. Some of the survivors devolved into a primal and nearly animal state. Others watched in horror as their bodies twisted and reshaped themselves into unnatural proportions. Some felt the stirrings of odd powers deep within themselves. Nearly all of them felt their emotions swell to all but consume their rational minds. Their fear, their anger, and their deeply buried hatred of those who had cast them out all bubbled to the fore of their minds.
Eventually, the remainder of the group re-entered the compound, stripped of options. The intensity of the toxins had faded, but some of the viruses had mutated and several of the chemicals had combined with one another to form new and even more catastrophic combinations. Over the next several months, the Baniss set up a camp for themselves outside the building at Fort Retribution, periodically venturing inside for materials, food, tools, and other supplies. Each trip inside was an experiment, and each load of salvage was paid for in mutation, pain, and a certain amount of death. Slowly, the toxic air became less volatile, the environment less hazardous. The mutations became more predictable, and the people became accustomed to their lot. The Baniss grew tough and brutal. They fought the elements, the strange wildlife around them, and even each other. They developed great skill at scavenging loot from other abandoned settlements, and new tribes sprung up around other areas rich with plunder. They defended their territory fiercely against any further exploration as more and more people were exiled from Port City and her surrounding encampments. Only the toughest and fittest of those they encountered were allowed to join their tribes, becoming exposed to the viral and chemical infestations and changing as they had changed. In the years to follow, they learned, they adapted, and they scraped by, but they never forgave or forgot.
In the second and third generations after the Exodus, some of the Baniss began to manifest strange abilities. They discovered that they were capable of manipulating the emotions of those around them, of paralyzing them with fear, inspiring them with rage, and strengthening them with fury. Some of them were even capable of causing physical harm, snapping bone and rupturing blood vessels with a mere thought. The others, awed and terrified, began to defer to those who possessed them, allowing them to lead the tribes. They became the patriarchs of their tribes, and were called the Fathers. In addition to the fearsome fighting tactics possessed by most of the Baniss, these leaders also had their respective unusual powers to aid them.
The Baniss continued in this way for decades, honing their abilities, increasing the size and strength of their tribes, and building that which served as a society for them. They were cutthroat and merciless, even amongst one another. The only time they cooperated is against outsiders, or at the specific command of their Father. Each family or individual would scavenge and fend for itself; indeed, they likely would not have tolerated the nearness of so many others at all were it not for the tremendous charisma of the Fathers or their acolytes, the weird and powerful Bone Doctors. The society and ways of battle of the Baniss were simple and brutal, but sufficient. All the while they planned for the time that they would become strong enough to take their revenge upon those who had cast them out, the humans that now called themselves the Forsaken.
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