A/N: As with the asari and the salarians, the very nature of the Cerberus Files means some things are not touched on, while others are looked at in the filter of what is important to Cerberus. While the turians were looked at in a more neutral light than the asari or salarians, some things were not touched on because Cerberus wasn't interested ... others because they did not know.
Any out of character notes will appear here. Just as with the other races, I've tried very hard to make the turians more than cardboard cutouts. Just as asari are more than ass-shaking sex fantasies, and salarians more than for-the-evulz researcher types, turians should be more than 'me-good-soldier-me-follow-orders' zombies who never run and always use airquotes.
This concludes the turian section, which was longer and harder than the salarians and serves me right for bitching about them.
UPDATES: Turian Kaless is now 315 proof.
Turian Social Interactions
Turians see themselves, at least in the modern era, as all struggling together. Their concept of unification is alien to us, because their concern is actually that of all turians as a collective. Killing individual turians for the good of the race as a whole is seen as right, not unethical or hypocritical.
Turians are loyal to even turian strangers, as long as they are not outcasts. They will call each other brother and sister, or elder turians father or mother. They tend, even when arguing vehemently with each other, to care about the other in the argument. Pallin does not argue with Garrus merely out of devotion to law, but because he worries about Garrus ruining his future and doing something that he will regret. Garrus argues not only out of frustration but admiration for Pallin, seeking to show him that he's right and win his superior's own approval.
Turian conversations are often informal when between turians of similar rank or meritocracy placement, or among old friends, but become more formal (and militaristic) the further apart two turians are on the scale. High rank turians do NOT look down on lesser rank turians, they are simply more formal with them and provide guidance.
Turian fighting (and the whole fight-mate-drunk thing) is not seen in a prejudicial light. A turian does not fight or spar with those he dislikes, as the desire to pounce and kill is too strong - a turian who turns down a match is basically telling the other turian he would like to kill him. Likewise, turians become offended if non-turians refuse offers of a spar, as they see it as the alien thinking they don't have the control to not hurt them.
Turian Emotion and Communication
Turians often suppress displayed emotion, but it is there – turians feel with an intensity that burns, and their sorrows, joys, loves, and hatreds run deeper than most other races. A turian who swears vengeance will never stop, one who declares his love will not go back on it unless betrayed.
The sub-tonal element of turian speech often conveys secondary emotional overtones, ones the turians have been careful not to introduce into translation software. As a result of bonding with asari, the general concept is known, but very few non-turians can interpret such sounds for what they are.
Turian females emit pheromones that have a tendency to stiffen turian male morale and bravery, which is yet another reason the military has the two sexes highly intermixed.
Turians often have problems expression their very strong emotional states, often suppressing them in favor of a calm, stoic front that is anything but accurate. When they do anger, it bursts free - Sparatus' reaction to Saren's betrayal is a good example of turian anger. For this reason turians prefer to receive bad news in private, so that they don't project a violent appearance.
Turian speech tends towards directness - double-talk and euphemisms are only used by the Palavanus in most cases. A turian values straight talk as a sign of trust, and will not shy away from criticism (positive or negative) if he feels it's deserved. The flip side of this is that most turians very free with their blunt opinions of those they feel are below them in rank or merit, while silent to those higher than them.
The Palavanus did what they could to obliterate individualism from the turian mindset, but no such operation can be fully successful. Inevitably, some turians simply will not be able to fit into the highly organized and stultifying turian culture. And equally inevitably, they will either flee of their own volition, or be forced out for not conforming.
Outcasts are not separatists. A separatist wants the Hierarchy destroyed and the old clan based rule restored. An outcast is just a turian who can't fit in to the greater turian society. Some outcasts still hang on inside the Hierarchy, rarely advancing up the meritocracy, doing the best they can to make sense of it all. Others become morose and depressed, leaving everything they know for a chance at making a new life.
The tendency for turian outcasts to take up with asari is not, as some have suggested, deviance. Turians are by evolution pack-based creatures, and need others around them for psychological reasons. While many outcasts band together to find such, those who are loners will go mad without some kind of support,and the bond an asari forms with a turian can provide them with the balance they need.
Outcasts are in a hard spot when it comes to dealing with regular turians. Cast out of the pack, the outcast – even if he or she didn't fit in while she was part of the Hierarchy – is given to jealousy , hate, and fear. The non-outcast turian tends to feel a mix of disgusted pity and wariness around outcasts.
Many outcasts are more oddly more friendly than Hierarchy turians, as they cannot afford to make enemies by being surly and rude. Most of them tend to be far less traditionalist as well, although most will have one or two things they cling to and will not back away from.
When enough turian outcasts band together, they have a tendency to want to make one of their own the leader. The emergence of P. in recent years has sublimated this tendency – many outcasts see P. as the ultimate turian, standing firm against anything and everything in his path, and will follow his wishes in much the same way turians defer to Primarchs.
The day to day bits of turian society are both like and unlike that of other races. Businesses are not driven by profit so much as performance – as if every business was a non-profit organization. Even those that do outside business have a tendency for fair pricing and more focus on employee issues than making profits.
Likewise, turian entertainment is not so much propaganda as merely focusing on the things turians find important. If there is a glorification of the Hierarchy in such, it is because that is actually what turians find comforting and appealing.
Most turians live their lives in a manner not drastically different than humans, asari, or salarians, but with a focus on preparedness and more civil defense drills. Turians do not argue with one another over material things or basics – a turian in need is one every turian will try to help.
Turian Foods and Drinks
Turians are masterful, devoted cooks, who have a wide range of native foods and ones adopted from other dextro-compatible planets. Almost all turian cooks are male – female turians, especially when in heat, have difficulties with taste and smell that make cooking difficult. Many turian foods are pastes and jellies, spread upon a kind of bread made from legumes called ironwafer.
The primary turian foods are ground meat pastes baked or fried into wraps, a beanlike substance often turned into a mush with bits of meat, and steaks and other meat-based products. Vegetables and other plant material is eaten sparingly, often pre-ground up to avoid overuse of the gullet, and more for flavor and texture than nutrition.
Secondary turian dishes often incorporate fish and types of sea-life, shrimp analogues, and the like. Turian secondary dishes are served after the main meal, and are flavored to bring out aftertastes and as a snacking type of feasting leading up to drinking.
Turian brandy is unique in the sugars it is made from are actually bichiral, meaning it can be safely consumed with no ill effects by everything except elcor. The turians have over three hundred varieties of brandies, cordials, and fruit-extract punches with alcohol content starting at 25% and going up from there. The strongest and rarest turian brandy actually drinkable, kaless, has a proof of roughly 145, and will kill quarians, salarians, batarians, and most humans from shock alone. Turian horosk is literally pure spirits and will send even turians into a coma if consumed in more than tiny amounts.
Turian spices hail from a wide variety of sources, including plant and animal extracts, mineral compounds, and secondary processed extracts from dead turians. The latter is mostly restricted to funeral services.
Turian Romance and Sexuality
Turians understand romance and are surprisingly good at it, seeing the hunt and chase as highly enjoyable in any sort of encounter. Again, they are not human, and have no concepts of sin as related to sex, so it is highly casual. Romance is taken much more seriously, as turians may be casual with sex but bonding is very important.
While there is certainly an element of physical comparability, turian romance is based more around the concept of two turians to excite and support the other. Turians (for many reasons) have a tendency towards depression and mental instability, and their lifemates fight this better than any other remedy.
Most turian romance is a mixture of melodramatic moments and what most people would call sappy emotionalism. Turians, for all their hard-edged instincts, are much softer and more caring around their mates (and children, for that matter).
Given the extremely strong impetus for females to produce offspring, it should come as no surprise that turian sexuality is somewhat rampant. There is a great deal of social pressure on turians to mate and produce offspring, even above evolutionary urges. Unlike asari, to whom pleasure is merely passing and often seen as unimportant, or humans, who tend to be able to rein in their own impulses, most turians are functional sex addicts.
They have extremely poor methods of stress relief or managing emotional issues, and the fight-sex-drink routine only purges stresses for a short amount of time. This has had the effect of cheapening turian sexuality to the point where bonding rates are starting to fall – it is simply more common for females to mate with as many males as possible to stay continually pregnant, and more common for males to take advantage of such.
The downside to this is that bonding produces biochemical changes that lead to better egg-laying conditions. Turian children from unbonded women develop more slowly and have five times the mortality rate of children from bonded women.
Sadly, the pressure on the turian military – losses from batarian incursions, losses from separatist infighting, and ongoing losses from turians literally working themselves to death – had only increased the pressure for more turian offspring to be born. The Palavanus have not seen this trend yet, and when they do they are unlikely to do anything to correct it.
Turian Literature and Entertainment
Given the turian love of melodrama and themes of vengeance, the most popular genre of turian literature is the therxal, or the Redemption Hunt of Revenge. It is a story where a popular and valorous hero is unfairly outcast by corrupted, cowardly enemies, and must struggle against odds and enemies to face his foe in a life-or-death fight, usually contrived in nature. Garrus's off the wall comment to Telanya about not fighting Saren over a live volcano on a rope bridge is a snippet from one of these works.
Turians like salarian crime drama, finding the twists and turns exciting, and are (even if they try to hide it) enormous fans of human war films, especially ones set prior to spaceflight. Turians have been the highest consumer of human WWII movies among aliens. Turians also like noir films and have a strange attraction towards the Maltese Falcon.
Turians tend to dislike softer asari works, but do like asari music, along with some batarian musical arrangements. Very few turians experiment much with alien music, but a lot of turian music has the same sorts of sounds and overtones as human death metal, and it's becoming popular in some turian circles.
The turian love of melodrama is a well known fact among the galactic races, and it often seems as if much of turian society is constructed to extract the maximum value of such from everyday actions. Turian weapons, for example, have no need of heavy, loud and intimidating cocking noises, pump actions, or bayonets, but all have these features. This love of melodrama is found in all their works, and a turian who does not indulge in it is seen as strange and boring.
Relationships between the Turian Commoners, Clans, and Families
The Clans are the collection of turians who have no blood link to the old nobility of Palaven, who prize action louder than words. The closest thing you can get to in human society would be medieval reenactments, except these people do this 24/7.
The Clans are open to anyone high enough up in the meritocracy, and they tend to be full of turians subtly dissatisfied with popular life, longing for battle, valor and glory. They aren't seen as throwbacks, but nor are they seen as proper leaders. The clans lost a great deal of prestige in the Unification War, as well as almost all of their lands, ships and power, and the Primarchs are not going to let them ever restore it.
The Families, on the other hand, are very much throwbacks. Most turians see them not quite as nobility, more like we would see the rich and famous. Families push their members very hard to be ideals of the turian people and the turian concept of duty and sacrifice, as opposed to the focus of glory and honor and valor of the Clans. The Families are seen as more level-headed, more mature and definitely more suited to leadership in most cases.
Families and Clans alike deal everyday with regular turians, and there isn't much of a divide between them. Clans will tend to be slightly snobbish around non-military turians (such as those engaged in maintenance of wilderness areas or medics), while Families tend towards cold formalism with turians perceived as lacking in duty (such as entertainers and artists).
The Palavanus are an enigma to most alien races, one that they have worked very hard to maintain. The Palavanus are indeed very different than all other turians, and their strange nature is entirely due to the origin of the turians.
As explained in the history, Palaven was indeed engineered. An ancient alien race, uncovering the truth about the Reaper Cycles and realizing their numbers would not be enough to survive, decided to build perfect soldiers and influence them through Reaper-related technology – the Arca Devices. These were created using the secondary Reaper implants this ancient race had managed to salvage during their own long fight against the Reapers. The Arca Devices would create a weak-order indoctrination effect, stimulating the creation of husk-like creatures to dominate and lead. Subtle tweaks to the nature of the indoctrination coding, however, would make such creatures immune to actual Reaper indoctrination, or at least highly resistant.
The Arca Devices were not well understood, even by their creators. This was not helped when the Reapers invaded while the aliens were still in the process of getting everything ready. Testing revealed they had a wide range of side effects, and the final produced creatures were horrific looking and likely to invoke terror. Still, with their war going very poorly, the ancient race poured everything into their effort. Their goal was to create a race to avenge their deaths, to be the perfect foil for Reaper abilities and technology.
They took the best possible lifeforms that they found like themselves - dextro in nature - and threw them on a special world designed for rapid evolution of a pure hunter-killer. In order to cover the entire planet of Palaven, three such devices would be needed. Unfortunately, one of the devices was shot down by Reapers on Eden Prime, and the other one was damaged. The undamaged one ended up in the Valluvian Temple, creating the Valluvian Priesthood. Unfortunately, the Priesthood itself was not the product the aliens wanted, being too fixated on ritual to move beyond that, and the volcanism of the planet ended up destroying it in any event.
The damaged Arca Device,however, managed to do it's job correctly. It ended up in the clan territory of the Palavanus and was undiscovered until they found it.
The Palavanus Arca Device acts very differently from the main one. The damage to it was very severe, and it attempted to repair itself as best as it could, but the level of success it achieved was low. Instead of converting the turians physically into complete husk-super-soldiers, it instead modified the Palavanus, giving them low levels of regeneration and completely nullifying most pain and fear responses.
It altered their minds as well, giving them something the Palavanus call the Oversense. Just as The Illusive Man can instinctively understand alien languages, technology and see certain things that others can't, the Palavanus have a semi-subtelepathic connection to other turians and can innately understand many technologies. The sub-telepathy makes them natural leaders of turians, who cannot help but feel stronger and more powerful when a Palavanus leads them.
The alterations of the device have resulted in all Palavanus born near it (which in the modern era is all of them, as the device is in the center of their egg chambers) coming out mentally altered as well as physically. The device boosts their toughness to completely unnatural levels, heightens their intellect, and gives them a keen and cunning instinct of how to manipulate turians. They are highly resistant not only to indoctrination but even Thorian domination – the Thorian on Eingana could not completely control Vorkus Palavanus even after the latter died. It gives them a coldly manipulative and cunningly treacherous outlook that would not fare poorly in salarian or asari circles. It somehow blinds their acts from the perception of the salarian Wheel Priests, and it even attracts the spirits (see below).
Most importantly, it has made them something very close to sociopaths. Palavanus do not, and perhaps cannot, place value on anything except an urge to follow the ancient commands of the Device and build a perfect warrior race. Every action they took has been to change and mold the turian people into the perfect warriors the aliens who crafted Palaven were trying to achieve.
They have stepped back because their perfect soldiers are faltering, and they do not yet know how to fix the issue. There is simply too much stress and militarism and emotion in the turian lifestyle, and not enough softer things to balance it all out. The Palavanus understand this but can't figure out how to bring it about, and are taking a hands-off approach to see if the turian people can figure it out.
When it comes to Reaper exposure, the Palavanus will instinctively hate and fear them. The Palavanus have not been fully briefed on everything that happened during ME1, but the moment they are brought the wreckage of the Reaper main gun, the Palavanus will know they must fight whatever this is. It will be why in ME2 it is (hilariously) the turians and Sparatus who continue to bring up the Reapers as an immediate threat when the other races believe it to be hundreds of years in the future before the Reapers will show up.
Turian religious practices – the spirits
As one can probably intuit from their religious section, the turian 'spirits' are nothing even remotely to do with an actual afterlife. They are fragmented energy beings from a higher dimensional state, shattered and destroyed by the Reapers in a far-past cycle, and attracted to the Arca Device of the Palavanus.
Turian prayers and pleas are somehow understood by this fragment of the race, which cannot always directly affect the lower dimensions in a reliable manner. They do what they can to aid the turians, always working towards methods to encourage them to advance far enough to be able to perceive them.
The Palavanus can see the spirits very clearly – and communicate with them, albeit in a fractured language that barely conveys any easily understood meaning. The Palavanus have used the spirits to understand some technology they can't quite grasp. The Palavanus have managed to figure out the spirits are trying to warn them about something dangerous, although more details are hard to work out aside from the fact that it is an extra-galactic invasion.
The spirits have been able to show the Palavanus 'things to see' – namely, ruined bits of technology they can adapt to fight the Reapers with. At the same time, they don't truly understand 'mere' three dimensional beings, and some of the things they are showing the Palavanus are very dangerous – like the ruins of Gryt-III.
As an aside, yes, the spirits did indeed deflect those bullets in the doctor's office.
The Transitional Piece...
Jack Harper sighed as he viewed the two men standing before him, before lighting his Compineros cigarette with a moue of disgust.
"Gentlemen, you are both graduates of the best programs and training humanity has to offer. You are lethal assassins, deadly soldiers with more than thirty years of experience and background. And yet you are responsible for nearly wrecking the Minuteman Shuttlebay. Can either of you explain exactly how this came to be?"
The figures in front of the Illusive Man were as different as night and day.
The one on the left was slender and tightly muscled, short and wiry. His Asian features were coldly composed, his eyes occluded behind his low-light cybernetic mask, leaving only white staring spaces in their place, framed by messy black hair that fell to his shoulder. His slim-line Cerberus armor was decorated with complex Chinese imagery, curing dragons and tigers, shaded in pale gray on the glossy black surface of his armor, and half hidden under his ballistic long-coat. A monomolecular blade sat in a battered sheath across his back, with a long bandoleer of omniknife hilts, grenades, throwing knives and darts crossing his chest.
The man next to him towered over him by a good foot, thick with powerful muscle. Strong arms and a barrel chest came to a fairly narrow waist atop pillar like legs, the entire form sheathed in heavy plates of black armor trimmed in gold. Two huge shotguns cut down into pistols slumped in wide holsters from a slantwise belt, and the man's African features were fierce - shaved head, a strong jaw, cold black eyes narrowed in amused anger, and gleaming white teeth bared in a sudden smile.
Kai Leng and Theo Pellam spoke at the same moment, each gesturing at the other. "He's a goddamned moron."
Jack closed his eyes, telling himself that if he just exhaled and inhaled enough, he would either wake up from this ridiculous nightmare, or the two in front of him would suddenly mature to act their age. When he found to his immense disappointment that this was not the case, he poured himself a very liberal three fingers of scotch and drank heavily before speaking.
"Kai, Pel. Cerberus is not an organization given to levity. And while I certainly appreciate your jobs are stressful and liable to cause some need for the expression of... polite disagreement ... the answer should not involve taking out nineteen soldiers, five JOTUN mechs, and requiring a GUNSHIP to make you to stop brawling."
He tapped ashes from his cigarette. "Luckily, since you are free of your assignment to turian space, Pel, and you are done cleaning up on Eden Prime, Kai, I have the perfect task for you."
He tapped a padd on his desk. "Pel, you have already assisted Dr. Minsta and Matriarch Trellani on putting together reports on the alien threats we face in this galaxy, so you can fill Kai in on the goals later. My next target of interest is the Batarian Hegemony. Given the fact that asari would be ... extremely vulnerable in batarian space, and that sending any female into that region is non-optimal, I've decided the only assets that I can afford to send who can take care of themselves are you two."
He puffed his cigarette again. "I was almost feeling regretful for doing so, until you two smashed my pinnace."
Kai Leng sighed, while Pel folded his arms. "Look, bossman, I know the Dog has a stick up it's ass. So shit got a little out of hand. If Rachel's bitch-ass Iron flunkies hadn't pulled weapons on us it would have just been a little blowing off steam."
Kai Leng made a disgusted hand motion. "If that's the best Iron can produce you might as well just hire a pack of vorcha. No training. No emotional hardening. You kill one of them and the rest act shocked."
Pel grimaced. "You're not supposed to kill our own guys, slant-eyed idiot."
Kai glared back. "They're Iron, not 'our own guys'. We did not ask for these amateurs to be grafted onto us like leeches, and besides, a single punch should not kill a normal human." He fingered a knife. "Call me slant-eye again."
Pel opened his mouth but the Illusive Man tapped his desk sharply. "Children, I believe I was talking about dispatching you to batarian space...and the fact that you smashed my pinnace. I am waiting for you to either accept said order, or magically provide me with a new, nineteen million credit pinnace."
The two nightmare assassins gave nearly identical sighs, and Kai was the first to speak. "Fine, Mr. Harper. We'll go to batarian space and torture some information out of the squints. Do we have any support or resources?"
The Illusive Man glanced over at the form of Trellani, who had been silent up to this point. She sat comfortably off to one side of the room, and quirked her lips, her intricate facial paint taking on a sinister look in the dim lighting. "The ship we used in turian space is still available, and most of the translation resources, study software and telecom equipment is intact. The pinnace would have been a better choice, but..."
Her smirk grew, and Jack sighed again.
Pel rubbed his chin. "We'd have to go in as slavers. We can probably buy back some of our own people if you drop us a dime or two for that, then blow up some shit on our way out to cover our tracks. Not that I'm scared of the punk-ass state army, but the SIU ain't nothing to fuck with." His expression brightened. "We can probably 'liberate' some fine ass women on our way, now that I think about it."
Kai Leng shot Pel a look of pure loathing, then rolled his shoulders. "Mr. Harper, I rest my case in regards to Pel being a moron. When do we depart?"
Jack put out his cigarette. "You have a day to gather what you need. Events are coming to a head here, and I plan to relocate with Trellani back to the Denver Arcology, well away from the HQ. Our relationship with Admiral Kahoku is becoming strained as more evidence of our interaction with Saren comes out, and when the SA realizes it is not me but it's own two watchdogs who have gone rogue, there is no telling what the reaction will be."
He rubbed his head. "I will be trying to determine what our level of danger is. Minsta is already occupied here at Minuteman with the breakdown of what we intercepted from the Normandy in terms of footage from Feros, which is why he won't be coming along. Assuming nothing changes, once you finish with the Batarians, meet up with us at the Cord-Hislop HQ."
Kai nodded. "And if something does change?"
Jack almost ignored the idea, but paused. "If things go very downhill...I will enact Benedict. Your job if that happens is to ensure the safety of as many of 'our people' as you can - at the very least, Oleg, Hope, Miranda, Trellani, Henry Lawson, and if needed our little mole in the Broker Network. Our first fallback will be Horizon. In the event I am killed, Miranda Lawson will lead the organization, and if she is killed, then Henry and Oleg will figure out what to do from there."
Pel nodded. "What 'bout Iron and Shadow?"
Jack smiled. "In the case of Benedict? I said 'our people'. I believe you have long advocated a housecleaning of Cerberus, Mr. Pellham."
Pel and Kai both gave icy, grim smiles at that, and Pel inclined his head. "That's why I like you, bossman. In that case, we're off to pick up some enslaved honeys and write about guns and shit. Kai can do the rest."
Kai only shook his head. "Jesus wept."
Batarians, Quarians and Krogans will be covered in the next Cerberus Files