Mass Effect: Ghosts
The Asari were the first species to discover the Citadel. When the Salarians arrived, it was the Asari who proposed the establishment of the Citadel Council to maintain peace throughout the galaxy. Since then, the Asari have served as the mediators and centrists of the Council.
An all-female race, the Asari reproduce through a form of parthenogenesis. They can attune their nervous system to that of another individual of any gender, and of any species, to reproduce. This capability has led to unseemly and inaccurate rumors about Asari promiscuity.
Asari can live for over 1,000 years, passing through three stages of life. In the Maiden stage, they wander restlessly, seeking new knowledge and experience. When the Matron stage begins, they “meld” with interesting partners to produce their offspring. This ends when they reach the Matriarch stage, where they assume the roles of leaders and councilors.
Ardat-Yakshi (“demon of the night winds”) are Asari suffering from a genetic disorder preventing conventional melding of nervous systems during mating. Instead, Ardat-Yakshi electro-chemically ravage their partners’ nervous systems, in extreme cases leaving victims as vegetative invalids or corpses. Asari psychologists regard this incapacity for mental fusion as preventing the development of empathy, leading to psychopathy. There is no known cure.
The disorder generally begins in infancy, reaching full pathology during Maiden adolescent sexual development. While seductive and sexually-driven as other Asari, Ardat-Yakshi are congenitally sterile.
Ancient Asari mythology held Ardat-Yakshi as gods of destruction, depicting them as villains of countless legends and as the anti-heroes of numerous Asari epics.
Contrary to popular belief, Ardat-Yakshi are neither extremely rare (around one per cent of Asari dwell on the AY spectrum), nor are they all murderers. Most cultivate and discard countless exploitative or abusive relationships during their legally marginal lives. Despite rumors of Ardat-Yakshi syndicates, by nature Ardat-Yakshi are incapable of long-term cooperation.
As a disproportionately wealthy species, Asari employ their economic reach and media ownership to hide the AY pathology from the galactic community, placing most Ardat-Yakshi in monitored work programs or seclusion. Only the most aggressive cases are sentenced to sanitaria and prisons or to the execution lists of justicars.
Asari have a robust cellular regenerative system. While they do not heal faster than other species, Asari are known to reach 1,000 years of age.
Although Asari have one gender, they are not asexual. An Asari provides two copies of her own genes to her offspring. The second set is altered in a unique process called melding.
During melding, an Asari consciously attunes her nervous system to her partner’s, sending and receiving electrical impulses directly through the skin. The partner can be another Asari, or an alien of either gender. Effectively, the Asari and her partner briefly become one unified nervous system.
This unique means of reproduction is the reason Asari are talented biotics. Their evolved ability to consciously control nerve impulses is very similar to biotic training. Asari believe that their offspring acquire the best qualities of the “father” from the melded genes, but evidence is anecdotal.
Asari pass through three climacteric life stages, marked by biochemical and physiological changes. The Maiden stage begins at birth and is marked by the drive to explore and experience. Most young Asari are curious and restless.
The Matron stage of life begins around the age of 350, though it can be triggered earlier if the individual melds frequently. This period is marked by a desire to settle in one area and raise children.
The Matriarch stage begins around 700, or earlier if the individual melds rarely. Matriarchs become active in their community as sages and councilors, dispensing wisdom from centuries of experience.
While each stage of life is marked by strong biological tendencies, individuals do make unexpected life choices. For example, there are Maidens who stay close to home rather than explore, Matrons who would rather work than build a family, and Matriarchs who have no interest in community affairs.
Because of their long lifespan, Asari tend to have a “long view” not common in other races. When they encounter a new species or situation, the Asari are more comfortable with an extended period of passive observation and study than immediate action. They are unfazed that some of their investments or decisions may not pay off for decades or centuries. Matriarchs can seem to make incomprehensible decisions, but their insight is evident when their carefully-laid plans come to fruition. In interstellar relations, this long view manifests in an unspoken policy of centrism. The Asari instinctively seek to maintain stable balances of economic, political, and military power.
Traditionally, Asari spread their influence through cultural domination and intellectual superiority. They invite new species of advanced development to join the galactic community, knowing that their ideals and beliefs will inevitably influence the existing culture.
The Asari possess the largest single economy in the galaxy. They have extensive trade and social contacts. Craft guilds, such as those within the cities Serrice and Armali, hold a virtual monopoly on advanced biotic technology. Given their political influence, an embargo by the Asari would prove disastrous to the Alliance.
The Asari came late to the concept of world government. For centuries, their homeworld of Thessia was dotted with loose confederacies of great republican cities. The closest Earthly equivalent would be the ancient Mediterranean city-states. Since the Asari culture values consensus and accommodation, there was little impetus to form larger principalities. Rather than hoard resources, the Asari bartered freely. Rather than attack one another over differing philosophies, they sought to understand one another.
Only in the information age did the city-states grow close. Communication over internet evolved into an “electronic democracy”. Asari have no politicians or elections, but a free-wheeling, all-inclusive legislature that citizens can participate in at will. Policy debates take place at all hours of the day, in official chat rooms and forums moderated by specially-programmed virtual intelligences. All aspects of policy are opened to plebiscite at any time. In any given debate, the Asari tend to lend the most credence to the opinions of any Matriarchs present, nearly always deferring to the experience of these millennia-old “wise women”.
Achieving consensus through public debate may take too long in a crisis. In cases where prompt, decisive action is required, the Asari defer to the wisdom of local Matriarchs.
The Asari arose on Thessia, a rich world with abundant quantities of element zero that caused much of life on Thessia to exhibit biotic tendencies. Instrumental to the rise of Asari civilization was the intervention of the Protheans. Upon discovering the Asari, the Protheans crafted the guise of Athame, a benevolent goddess who imparted gifts of wisdom to the Asari through her guides Janiri and Lucen, a deception that allowed the Protheans to rapidly accelerate Asari development. The Protheans also genetically altered the Asari to grant them biotic capabilities, and defended Thessia from an asteroid strike and the resource-hungry oravores.
When the Protheans departed, they left a single beacon on Thessia, around which the Asari later built a lavish temple devoted to Athame. This beacon contained Vendetta, a Prothean VI, and over the following centuries was the source of countless technological advances that allowed the Asari to eventually become the most powerful race in the galaxy. The beacon’s existence became a closely-held state secret, as its revelation would have discredited the virtually universal belief that the Asari attained such heights on their own merit. By 2183 CE, few outside the highest echelons of the Asari government were aware of the part the Protheans played in Asari history.
The Asari were the first contemporary race to achieve spaceflight and discover the mass relay network. When they found the Citadel in 580 BCE, the Asari also encountered the Keepers, whose mute assistance enabled them to quickly settle on the station and learn how to operate its systems. Sixty years later, the Salarians made first contact with the Asari, and together the two species agreed to found the Citadel Council in 500 BCE, a galactic governing body that would come to unite dozens of races. In later years, the Asari continued to explore the galaxy and welcomed several other races to the burgeoning galactic community.
Despite the refinement and sophistication of Asari culture, criminality remains a fact of life. The Asari solution to the most vicious and destructive criminal element is the Justicar Order.
Justicars are an Asari class of virtually untouchable, extrajudicial executioners operating almost exclusively within Asari territory. In the last decade alone, Justicars have smashed dozens of criminal rings inside Asari territory, operated by Asari and non-Asari alike. Their methods range from subtle where possible, to brutal where necessary.
Trained for extreme-strength, biotic capacity, resourcefulness, asceticism, and ruthlessness, the fanatical Justicars are romanticized and feared throughout Asari society.
Although Justicars generally work alone, their effectiveness arises from the huge body of knowledge they can access. Any Asari who enters the ranks of Justicars has already spent centuries in a combination of criminal investigation, military intelligence, and combat experience; the collective body of Justicar knowledge exceeds even that of the Spectres.
Justicars tend to be independent, requiring little help but also scorning it since such advanced skill and experience usually travels with a powerful ego. The conflicts presented by such arrogance prompted the Justicar Order to develop the Oaths of Subsumation. The oaths pledge protection of the innocent, the punishment of the guilty, and defense of common law and the norms of Asari society. The effect of the Oaths is conservative, ensuring that Justicars respect the existing distribution of Asari power rather than staging a coup to rearrange society according to Justicar satisfaction. Nevertheless, the possibility of such an attack is a source of anxiety — and counter-intelligence — among the Asari elite.
Of all the pledges, the Third Oath of Subsumation is sworn the least of any of the oaths. Requiring a Justicar to swear loyalty that overrides the dictates of even the Justicar Code, the Third Oath is usually invoked in matters where even the black-or-white thinking of Justicars is forced to concede the existence of gray.
Asari: Military Doctrine
The Asari military resembles a collection of tribal warrior bands with no national structure. Each community organizes its own unit as the locals see fit, and elect a leader to command them. Units from populous cities are large and well-equipped, while those from farm villages may only be a few women with small arms. There is no uniform; everyone wears what they like. The Asari military is not an irregular militia, however; those who serve are full-time professionals.
The average Asari huntress is in the maiden stage of her life and has devoted 20–30 years to studying the martial arts. Asari choose to be warriors at a young age, and their education from that point is dedicated to sharpening the mind and body for that sole purpose. When they retire, they possess an alarming proficiency for killing.
Huntresses fight individually or in pairs, depending on the tactics preferred in their town. One-on-one, a huntress is practically unbeatable, possessing profound tactical insight, a hunter’s eye, and a dancer’s grace and alacrity. Biotics are common enough that some capability is a requirement to be trained as a huntress; lack of biotic talent excludes a young Asari from military service.
While fluid and mobile, Asari can’t stand up in a firestorm the way a Krogan, Turian, or human could. Since their units are small and typically lack heavy armor and support weapons, they are almost incapable of fighting a conventional war, particularly one of a defensive nature. So Asari units typically undertake special operations missions. Like an army of ninja, they are adept at ambush, infiltration, and assassination, demoralizing and defeating their enemies through intense, focused guerrilla strikes.
As a popular Turian saying puts it, “The Asari are the finest warriors in the galaxy. Fortunately, there are not many of them.”
The pantheistic mainstream Asari religion is Siari, which translates roughly as “All is one.” The faithful agree on certain core truths: the universe is a consciousness, every life within it is an aspect of the greater whole, and death is a merging of one’s spiritual energy back into the greater universal consciousness. Siarists don’t specifically believe in reincarnation; they believe that spiritual energy returned to the universal consciousness upon death will eventually be used to fill new mortal vessels.
Siari became popular after the Asari left their homeworld and discovered their ability to “meld” with nearly any form of life. This ability is seen as proof that all life is fundamentally similar. Siari priestesses see their role as promoting unity between the disparate shards of the universe’s awareness.
Before the rise of Siari pantheism, Asari religions were as diverse as their political opinions. The strongest survivor of those days is the monotheistic religion worshiping the goddess Athame. Like the Asari, the goddess cycles through the triple aspects of maiden, matron, and matriarch.