The Ssora (sometimes written as: S'sora) are reptilian humanoids who are allied with TOG. The S'sora had a large space empire by the time they encountered Humanity and had also encountered the KessRith.
It is difficult to determine which S'sora stories are true since the S'sora are known for spreading disinformation amongst others.
The Ssora are a curious race often categorized as buffoons or treacherous villains. They are somewhat secretive about their species history and do not tolerate discussion of personal errors and embarrassments. They thrive within an ordered and deterministic society that forces them to employ labyrinthine means to accomplish their goals - as long as it does not take them outside the bounds of society's rules.
Ssora are warm-blooded, lizardlike creatures who average a meter and a half in height and 70 kilos in weight. While bipedal, they rely on their prehensile tail for balance. The tail is interesting in that it ends in two fleshy pincers that can hold tools or deliver a nasty pinch. Their dry, leathery flesh bears all manner of striations, dots and decorations, and can adjust coloration to the current environment. Their hands and feet each have three digits.
Ssora bond in pairs and remain together for life. Females are fertile once every two years and lay one or two leathery eggs that grow and hatch in six months. Ssora children reach maturity at 10 years of age and are cared for by their parents until that time. Their average life span is 80 years, with some Ssora even reaching 120 under favorable circumstances.
It is generally believed (by Ssoran and Human geneticists) that the Ssora evolved from small predators in an environment very much akin to the Late Cretaceous period on Earth. Some Humans have suggested the Ssora actually evolved on Earth and left in massive generation ships for the far side of the Galaxy. As they posit that such a migration would have taken place 62 to 65 million years ago, all physical evidence has been destroyed, if it ever existed. Still, the similarity between Ssora and Terran mitochondrial RNA has sparked such a debate. The Ssora vehemently deny this theory.
This debate over the Ssora's origin - whether or not they evolved from Terran dinosaurs - is fueled by some confusion in the Ssora accounts of their own history. While they have no memory of a period of exploration by ships lacking T-Space drives, when they traveled to a number of nearby worlds they located traces of what could have been Ssora civilizations. Many Naram have suggested that perhaps the Ssora, like the Naram, accomplished at least one interplanetary migration in their history. (Revisionist Humans claim generation ships from Earth seeded that whole side of the galaxy, but only one of the civilizations survived.)
The idea that the Ssora had a headstart on all the other sentient races (be it 62 million years or more modest) has a lerge number of followers - simply because of the amount of time it took for the Ssora to claim their arm of the galaxy. Though records are unclear, it appears that the Ssora developed T-Space drives about 100,000 BC. Their resultant spread proceeded at a pace not driven by the desire to explore, but by the need to find new worlds for an expanding population.
First Encounter with the KessRith
The Ssora's expansion eventually brought them into conflict with the KessRith. They ran across a KessRith generation ship orbiting a system. It had long since downloaded its cargo and had been maintained by the dominant clan as little more than a gunnery platform. True to KessRith philosophy, the Kess shot first, then put the pieces of the Ssora vessel back together. Their scientists managed to reverse engineer the T-Space drive and within a century (roughly 2589 by Terran reckoning) had a spacegoing fleet capable of T-Space travel.
Alliance Against Humanity
The KessRith would have pursued the Ssora and wiped them out in another millennium, but ran into a more worthy foe first - Humanity. The Ssora made the best of this respite - they negotiated an alliance of convenience with the KessRith and made a run at both the Human Raj (as the Human holdings were then known) and the Commonwealth.
The Ssora interest in fighting and conquest seemed secondary to showing the KessRith that they were holding up their end of the alliance. This was important because the Ssora had begun to infiltrate and liberate some of the Ssora worlds the KessRith had taken. Apparently the KessRith clan leaders decided returning these worlds were worth Ssora help in the alliance, because they did not consider this a breach of the treaty. However, when the Ssora pressed too hard at some key systems, the KessRith did react and sent the Ssora home in tatters.
The Earth Origin Question
Ssora interest in Human holdings apparently intensified when the Ssora learned about Earth. This coincidence has been put forward as yet more evidence of the Terran origin for the Ssora. And while that might be explained away as coincidence, the Ssora demand for Earth when it fell after the Snow Plague was very deliberate. While the declaration loses something in the translation, the Divinity (as the Ssora leader is called) informed the KessRith Grand Dominator that to refuse his request would "lead to a war in which we will eat your hearts and leave the rest of you for the scavengers." [Editor's note: The actual translation uses a Ssora term for "tender parts" where the author used the word "hearts." The author apparently used an older, expurgated copy of "War Declarations of the Ssora, 6300-6370."]
The gall of their demand struck the KessRith as brilliant within the realm of malavoqa, so the demand was respectfully honored. The Ssora rejoiced at gaining this fine planet and renamed it Swuivuli – Birthplace. [Editor's Note: Again, this translation is not wholly accurate. Swuivuli is more correctly rendered, "a place suitable for egg-laying." The author overlooks the fact that no fewer than seven other worlds within Ssora holdings bear that same name.] The obvious question begged by this rechristening is this: Why would the Ssora call Earth their birthplace if it had not been the world on which they had arisen?
Many experts feel the Ssora deny this theory so vehemently because of their current embarrassment over losing the world. This embarrassment would also explain why the Ssora did nothing to warn the KessRith about the Human uprising until too late. Of course, an alternate explanation - they didn't want to lose face in front of the KessRith because of the uprising - also has some validity. In fact, the Ssora Admiral on Terra at the time literally died from an asthmatic attack over his embarrassment. Without their leader, and accustomed to following orders, the rest of the Ssora did exactly what the rebels told them to do.
The Ssora / KessRith conflict flared up anew because of Alexander Trajan's activities, and the KessRith once more took the worlds the Ssora had previously recaptured. When the Commonwealth and Naram also revolted, the KessRith chose to ignore the Ssora. The Ssora realized very quickly that TOG posed a greater threat to them than did the KessRith. Most Ssora support for the Renegades is concentrated around Commonwealth worlds.
The Ssora believe in order in everything and this makes them seem ruthless to many humanitarians. In issues of law and order, for example, a deviant - mentally incompetent or not - is given a flat 10-year sentence for any crime. It is, in effect, a chance to redo his process of maturation. If he commits the same or another crime after that 10-year period, he is killed. If his crime was truly deviant, like the smashing of eggs or something equally horrid, his family might also be destroyed to prevent defective genetic material from being passed along.
That said, Ssora society legitimizes a great deal of behavior that most other cultures consider less than ethical. Lying, cheating and manipulating are common practices among the Ssora, and do not endear these lizards to most other sentient races. The trick within Ssora society is to arrange everything so that what you desire is accomplished without your having to make a direct move at the target. It is a game of guess and double-guess that horrifies even the most seasoned Human politicians.
An example is in order. If a Ssora wanted one of the jars of macadamia nuts you received in a shipment from home, he would not ask for it. Were it within his power he would arrange for someone to have you posted to temporary duty in a place where you cannot take such things. When you offer the nuts to him because they aren't going to do you any good, he will refuse the gift, commiserate with you on your horrid fate, then offer to exchange something of slightly lesser value than the nuts for what you had previously offered free. In this way it finally comes out that he's doing you a favor for taking the nuts off your hands - leading you to believe he never wanted them in the first place.
Yes, the system is terribly inefficient, which in part explains why it took the Ssora as long as it did for them to expand as far as they have. Fortunately for the Ssora species, there are cases where this twisted logic isn't applied. For example, Ssora raised in contact with alien species tend to be more direct in stating their needs and more reluctant to manipulate others for their own ends. Exaggeration is still a flaw in most Ssora reports, but even that is retreating to manageable levels.
The second place where this double-dealing doesn't enter is in what the Ssora refer to as a Ciesiesr – soul bond. This is what they use to define the relationship between husband and wife, parents and children and two friends. It also defines the relationship of each Ssora individual with The Divinity, and therein lies the secret of progress. The Divinity can declare a Slaciesiesr, which is a soul bonding that encompasses a group of individuals for the duration of a certain project. One of the Divinity's main duties is to constantly renew the thousands of Slaciesiesris that make technological devel-opment and military operations possible.
The Ciesiesr is considered so sacred that Ssora rarely enter into them with anyone not of their blood. Rescuing or being rescued by another forms the basis of many of these cross-species Ciesiesris. Only the outright betrayal of a Ssora by a friend will earn a repudiation of a soul bond. And even then, it is not unheard of for a Ssora to continue to fulfill those obligations with the kin of someone who has betrayed him, assuming the kin will bring their rogue back into line.
The obligations of the Ciesiesr are rather simple: the two people pledge to do whatever they can to help the other, up to and including giving one's life for the other. The depth of the Ssora commitment is evidenced by the fighter jock admonition that having a Ssora wingman is better than two guardian angels and flicker rate 140 shields.
Skin Patterns and Reincarnation
The Ssora are able to exercise some subconscious control over the color variations in their flesh. In particular, their color scheme and patterning change to reflect new status and new responsibilities. Counting the stripes on a female Ssora's abdomen reveals, in theory, the number of eggs she has laid. Certain other patterns indicate family and economic status, and minor changes in them reflect almost daily adjustments in current situations. These differences are all but invisible to alien species, but other Ssora read them clearly.
Because some children hatch with intricate patterns on their flesh, the Ssora have developed a belief in reincarnation. While the family may take pride in the fact that their new infant apparently was a banker with four children and homes on two worlds, it is considered in poor taste to locate the family and suggest wealth should be shared to insure the child's proper upbringing. The Ssora do not believe in free will, because they see it as the progenitor of entropy and chaos. They argue that no matter what you think you could have done, your perception of choice was an illusion and your life would have been lived this way regardless - everything you are forces you to make the choices you make.
The Ssora theocracy works in what appears to be an utterly confusing manner. Members of an oracular religious sect (Swatala) make pronouncements about what the gods have deemed necessary in a leader: e.g., "We need a Ssora with four life trauma spots on his chest in a diamond pattern." Qualified candidates who are interested in the office put their name forward and the people vote for one by selecting a ballot with his name on it and giving it to the Registrar of voting.
Because of the Ssora deterministic bent, however, the election does not end there. These ballots, often in the form of a ball, are dumped into a hopper and mixed. The winner is then selected by chance (predetermination?) from the available ballots. Obviously, a popular candidate has a greater chance of winning, but this final step of leaving the selection in the hands of the gods means that the governing bodies do not have as much deadwood as is found in more conventional democracies.
Obviously the system is open to incredible fraud. The oracles can be vulnerable to bribery or coercion. The ballot selection could be fixed. The Ssora accept this, however, as the will of the gods. They assume if the gods have not meant for someone who abused the system like this to reign, they will already have determined that he will die shortly. Most often the abuse of the system actually takes place on the part of the oracles, who can closely define the announced qualifications to fit the individual they want to have the job.
Elections and votes on all governmental matters follow this pattern. Yes and no chits are put into a hopper when a piece of legislation is being considered. From these votes, the final decision is picked at random. Juries in criminal cases are polled in a similar fashion.
While this seems utterly counter to the Ssora love of order, it works to make the system flow more evenly and smoothly. What is the need for lengthy discussion of a law when you know that the gods will make the right choice for you? Why bog things down in red tape when you know red tape will only anger the gods? Get things done by whatever means you can, and then move along to do something else. Vacillation over decisions that are already predetermined is sheer folly. (In the eyes of the Ssora, Humanity is proof the gods have a sense of humor and a willingness to watch time be wasted.)
The Ssora government works in triples or triples of triples (i.e., nines). Most cities elect nine City Councilors and three County Councilors. The County Councilors elect nine State Councilors and three Continental Councilors. The Continental Councilors elect nine District Councilors and three Sector Councilors. The Sector Councilors elect nine Division Councilors and three Supreme Councilors. The Supreme Councilors elect the Divinity, but they are given so narrow a choice of candidates for that post that they really only ratify what the oracles report is the will of the gods.
The Ssora, because they have rejected the concept of free will, have not developed much in the way of philosophy. They believe in honoring the Ciesiesr as best they can and, other than that, they seek to do whatever they can to get what they want. After all, falling for a plan laid out by a Ssora is part of the will of the gods. (The Ssora do know they are blessed by the gods because they had T-Space travel first. They also know they're beautiful, unlike the other species, which is yet again more proof.)
Favouring strong central governments, the Ssora regard any race without one as a chaotic group of insane beings. As a result, Ssora within the Commonwealth are forever complaining about the lack of organisation, while those in TOG, while not agreeing with its policies, admire it for its strong government. In more personal relationships, Ssora are capable of a variety of emotions, almost as wide as the Human range. Though often devious, they never betray a sworn friend (one with whom a Ssora melds destinies), not necessarily out of affection or kindness, but from a fear of jeopardising their own fate and personal honour.
Unless you're soul bonded to a Ssora, trust him as far as you can throw two KessRith.