The Varden Order, commonly referred to as the Varden, are a race of biomechanical beings. Their origins are unclear, due to the fact that they are at least 60 million years old. Their technology is far above most intergalactic standards, making them one of the most advanced races known to the intergalactic community. Despite this, they appear to be in no hurry to try and conquer new territory. Indeed, few are the Varden planets, and mostly scattered throughout vast distances, meaning that they don't seem to have their own territory. These planets that they have claimed as their own, are most often unique in some way or another, be it astronomical, wildlife, or else in nature. In some cases, they seem to have claimed them for strategic purposes as well, either for interaction with other races, or as an outpost of some sort.
However, they don't seem to be in need of territory in the first place. Varden mostly dwell between, or actually inside stars. In the depths of space, hidden in the interstellar or the even greater intergalactic void, vast stations can be found drifting. These colossal structures greatly vary in appearance, based on their purpose, mostly, but are usually meant to house the thousands of ships of all sizes and natures that a battleforce consists of, as well as the inhabitants themselves. Each is being fuelled by a distant star or nebula, chosen to be sacrificed so that the station can keep running. The matter of the star is collected by a station placed there, and ferried to the station as needed. A single star can keep the station running for a very long time. The fuel source to be designated is usually a star with little to no significance one way or another, often those that are already at the end of their lives.
Stations may also be built inside the stars themselves. In these cases, coping with the heat and pressure are the main challenges. Since energy is available in vast quantities, the station can easily keep its gravitic shields running to keep the pressure at bay. It also allows it to produce heat cells with ease, using an Matter-Energy Converter to get the materials required. Such stations, with time, may grow enough to entirely surround the core of the star, covering the entire mantle of it in multiple layers of a web of structures.
Another thing of note, is their interaction, sparse as it may usually be, with other races. As could be expected, many primitive cultures, upon witnessing their capabilities, have started worshipping them as gods from the sky, riding their flying chariots, and capable of defeating armies with a single attack. The fact that unless there is a specific reason, they make little effort to conceal their presence or nature from these cultures, largely contributes to this(they usually ignore them and go about whatever business they have). In all such cases, they strictly deny any sort of divinity or supernatural powers. While on the subject, Varden deny the existence of any sort of gods, or divine beings, claiming that all can be explained with sufficient levels of science, whatever the nature of the "supernatural" may be. Another common occurrence is inferior factions asking for help in various matters. The most commonly employed principle in these cases is as follows: If they can solve it, if they caused it, if they have the capacity to become able to solve it, if they show no potential for notable development, do not help. For example, if asked to help a population with starvation related issues, and it turns out that the problem was/is caused by the current leadership in the first place, they will not help because they caused their own problem by messing up and putting the wrong people in command, and can resolve it by removing said people from command. On the other hand, if a pre-interstellar travel race is attacked by, say the Tyranids, they might very well be inclined to render assistance.
While on the subject of wars, they will not intervene in wars in general, as it is viewed as a driving force which can cause multiple times faster development than possible in peacetime, and the loser will likely have proven their inferiority/lack of promise. However, if requested, they may provide protection to third parties who have no reasonable way of defending themselves but would likely get involved. Furthermore, they view races such as the Tyranids as a plague. Even though they constantly evolve and improve, their sole purpose is to consume and reproduce, meaning that they have no higher purpose, and such races usually leave a barren wasteland behind. As such, they actively oppose them when encountered, though they will not commit a full army without good reason. As for resolving hostilities, they, usually, quite simply ignore such "threats". Few, if any, actually pose a threat to a whole battleforce, and most have already learned that even an outpost is a formidable adversary if "angered". The fact that their homes are also very remote, and very well defended, also means that any attacker would have a hard time successfully delivering a strike.Of course, being as advanced as they are, draws the attention of would-be "intelligence" personnel as well. If one could replicate a Varden battleship, one could acquire quite the status as a dictator. To prevent such occurrences, varden employ both extreme diligence in safeguarding their equipment, as well as hunter squads which track down and reclaim any and preferably all stolen or lost piece of equipment, software, or other. They also have a general "No giving the good stuff to outsiders" policy in place.
These bases house the Varden, where they can pursue their goals without much interruption from other races, whatever they may be. The station itself is usually lead by the High Commander Unit (HiCoU) of the battleforce it houses, though since said commander may be absent for extended periods of time, a sort of regent is often appointed to actually run it.
The Varden as a whole are directed by the Consensus, essentially a council of high commanders. If a matter that affects more than one battleforce arises, it is debated by the Consensus, and a course of action is issued to all battleforces.
Those who have gained some insight into the inner workings of this seclusive race came to the conclusion that it uses two primary sorts of "currency". The first is work, and is used for the normal purposes of currency. It measures how much time, energy, and skill/knowledge is needed to accomplish something, be it physical or mental work. The exact details of this system still eludes observers. The other "currency", is what outsiders refer to as prestige or honour. Whatever field one may start to do work in, one starts from the very bottom, and is given inconsequential tasks that barely matter (usually, exceptions are a thing). If accomplished successfully, one proves ones worth, gains prestige, and can be assigned more important tasks in the same field. Basically, you climb the ladder, not start at the top by birthright or connections (though those may get you past the first few steps). In case of very high importance tasks (high commander, "regent", etc), the mere fact that one has been appointed means prestige, even before they start their duties. Additionally, inventing better weapons, tools, methods(generally making advancements in technology/biology) seems to bring a significant amount of prestige. It would appear that gaining prestige in whatever field they are engaged in, is high on the to-do list of varden.
In case of a "normal" race, there would usually be a sharp distinction between soldiers and civilians. However, among Varden, there are only less, and more suited for actual combat. Being a soldier is merely a job with a higher-than-avarage risk of death. If one, for whatever reason, decides to join the battleforce proper from the "civilian" population, the only requirement is that one be fit for whatever duty one may be applying for. This includes hardware, knowledge, and an appropriate amount of the aforementioned prestige (obviously, if one has never been a soldier before, one will more than likely start as a grunt). Similarly, soldiers may leave active duty whenever they see fit (obviously not in the middle of an operation), and return to "civilian" life.
It should be noted that gun laws are limited to "don't blow out the walls outside the shooting range" in most cases, so it would be rather difficult to differentiate soldiers and civilians for outsiders, as is often the case. Though this might be more fit for another section, i shall put it here. Varden are a notoriously logical and matter-of-fact people, especially soldiers who need efficiency and effectiveness more than others. So much so, that outsiders often assume that each of them is just a drone, an AI/VI, part of a hivemind, or something similar. Though civilians are less so, one should still not expect to find entertainment facilities, parks, or otherwise unnecessary things in their stations/territory. Quite simply, they deem them useless and have better things to spend time and effort on.
This mentality is also shown in their names... Or lack thereof. Among active soldiers, a standardised designation system is used that tells all a stranger needs to know of one (usually). This consists of the following: size/weight/whatever, class (these first two almost always used with shortened words), battleforce ID, Ship ID, combat unit ID, number within unit (1 being the leader), type, variant Example: HeLaT 03.47.14.06:26.17 This would be a Heavy Launch Trooper from battleforce 3, ship 47, unit 14, of type 26 (melee, ranged fire support, etc), variant 17 (only if it is not a unique setup. Describes exactly what sort of armour, weapons, etc one has) Civilians seem to use a similar, though different system.
On top of it all, is the high commander unit (HiCoU). He is basically the king, governing the entire battleforce, either directly, or through intermediaries. As mentioned before, he is also the link to the Consensus (not as if other could not contact it). Though there are no defined requirements to becoming high commander, it takes significant prestige, and since one of the jobs main tasks is commanding military, they are usually appointed from there (though technically anyone with the proper abilities and prestige could become one). The high commander is appointed by the Consensus upon the death, or otherwise becoming unable to fulfil his duties of the old HiCoU.
Below him are the SubCommander Units, or SuCoUs. These are everywhere, and can be anything from squad leaders, through chief engineer of the station, to commander of an outpost. Their role is to direct the "grunts" under their command, and provide a link to the higher echelons of command. It is one of the few ranks between "nobody" and "boss". Most Varden will get "stuck" with this rank for most of their lives, since there is only Hicou, and some separate ranks above it.
The captains of ships are a separate category. Ship Commander Units (ShiCoU) are technically the same rank as a Sucou, however, while on their own ship, they have the higher authority, even over other captains. As such, while transporting troops, he is their commanding officer, but once he drops them at their destination, they become their own separate units with equal rank to his.
There may also be such unique ranks among civilians, depending on the place in question. Such might be the chief engineer, chief researcher, the aforementioned "regent", etc.
As mentioned before, Varden are biomechanoids. Generally, they are synthetic on the outside, and have various organic components inside. The most common use of organics is abstract thinking and the kind. A machine may be able to emulate it, but it proved much better to have components actually capable of doing it. Another widely spread system is used to prevent hijackings of ones body via hacking. If the synthetics are taken over, one can use pure organic systems to essentially drive a wedge into each joint, thus preventing further damage until help (or destruction) arrives (obviously, there are many more uses). As stated before, Varden often put Vulcanians to shame with their emotionlessness. This is mostly due to them artificially disabling emotions that might arise in their thought processes. This is achieved with what is called a logic matrix. Though it can be disabled at any time, few choose to do so, mostly for experimentation, and temporarily.
In appearance, they can vary greatly, bit the humanoid form seems the most common. Though it should be noted that technically even many capital ships are counted as Varden instead of a ship with an AI.Their exact lifespan is unknown (and probably varies), but observations suggest that they either don't die a natural death, or it takes a very, very long time.
Unlike popular belief, Varden do have genders, though this is not always obvious, since the primary manifestation of these is the DNA of the organic components instead of the outside appearance. Experience has shown that having DNA recombine naturally, and modifying the parts that need to be, is much simpler and generally not much more unreliable than writing the entire string of DNA from scratch, or attempting to combine incompatible ones. As such, on the DNA level, organics are usually based on the same basis (one could say they implemented a common operating system). Despite this, it is entirely possible to simply write an entirely new strand of DNA for an offspring.
As could be expected, love has little to say in Varden reproduction. It is simply a matter of agreement. If two deem that their organics and synthetics are compatible, that they have both gained enough knowledge to make a noticeable improvement (compared to themselves), and that they both want to create an offspring, it likely happens. The arrangements for materials, etc are made, the plans drawn up, the hardware constructed, the software written, data uploaded, the unit activated, and you have a new little Varden ready. Though technically the offspring would be more than capable of independent life at once, it should be noted that knowledge does not equal experience, especially since organics are also involved.
Another, much rarer form of "reproduction", is the initiation of a new "candidate", if you will. As the "pureblood" (and I use this term completely unofficially) Varden are rather inept, when it comes to social interaction with other races, and local knowledge is always valuable for most operations, it is not uncommon to employ auxilliary units of other races. From these units, Varden may choose candidates deemed suitable, who is then offered an official place in the battleforce, as opposed to the previous auxilliary unit. Though no actual reproduction happens, and the new varden is by all standards another species, the battleforce does count it as a new birth. This is usually followed by various degrees of augmentation at the new initiates discretion.
The basis for most high end Varden tech, is Xychorium. This crystalline material is created by an Matter-Energy Converter, as no natural sources are known, and it seems nigh impossible to create even a bit of it with traditional methods. The crystal is capable of absorbing tremendous amounts of energy, in the form of heat, without melting, or otherwise destabilising. When exposed to specific effects, this process is reversed, and the stored energy is released from it. The amount of energy a crystal can handle is unclear, as the casing and cabling of these heat cells are destroyed before the crystal would be overloaded. When this happens, the crystal simply melts its way out of the heat cell in whatever direction the surrounding forces pull it. To prevent this, more advanced (and larger) cells make use of built-in gravity generators to keep the crystal locked in the cell for longer.
These heat cells consist of an armoured outer casing, a highly reflective inner coating, the crystal in the middle, in almost perfect vacuum, and the energy tap. This tap is currently the limiting factor for the output of heat cells, as they are not as resistant to heat/energy as the crystal itself.
These cells are often used in pairs. While one powers equipment, the other charges, absorbing the waste heat created in the process. This is especially important for the energy efficiency of equipment like capital ship class weapons, null-drives, and the like.
As stated before, Xychorium is created by Matter-Energy Converters. These devices break down matter to create energy. This is the main method of powering large stations and ships. However, the converter is also capable of creating matter from energy. This is the main source of Varden materials, and what enables them to live in the middle of nothing en-masse.
Being an intergalactic civilisation poses the obvious problem of vast distances. This is solved by the null-drive. This device, when activated, tears the ship out of reality, and thrusts it into nothingness. Space and time are maintained around the ship in a bubble created by the drive. The ships AI then begins calculations and careful manipulation of the bubble, attempting to create a specific pattern in it. When this pattern is reached, the drive returns the ship to reality. If the preparations were successful, the bubble surrounding the ship could only fit into one place in reality: the destination (kind of like removing a puzzle piece, trimming it a bit, and hoping it would fit into another spot in the puzzle). This process requires extreme amounts of energy and processing capacity, and as such, can only be installed on capital ships. So far, no other race has been observed making use of it.
Another version of the drive is the null-gate. This is a fixed version that is used to transport smaller vessels, or to maintain links to specific destinations. The gates are only capable of reaching other gates, often permanently locked in pairs for better and more reliable performance.
Gravitic shielding. This is the primary defense of capital ship and stations. Generators essentially create a layer of powerful gravitic fields around the protected object, with more and less powerful parts, creating a "flow". When an object hits the shield, it swiftly gets crushed, then is directed towards designated areas in the shield, like water flowing on terrain into a lake, where it is either simply ejected into space, or is fed into an Matter-Energy Converter which breaks it down. With this method, the impacting object actually feeds the defenses of the ship to some degree.
Another use of this technology is the previously mentioned stations inside stars, gas giants, or planets. In these cases, the shields simply reduce the weight of the surrounding matter pressing on whatever it protects.
Ships and stations are usually also protected by a layer of dispersing coating on the actual armour. This provides defense against energy based weapons, by drastically reducing the amount of energy acting on a single point. It is also often made so that the energy can be directed into heat cells.
One of the most powerful Varden weapons, is the Point Singularity Cannon (PSC). These are capital ship class weapons, and can range from turret mounted versions, all the way to an entire ship being built around a giant cannon. These weapons use tremendous amounts of energy to create small black holes, then launch them at the target with speeds approaching that of light. Upon contact, it can easily rip through nearly any, if not any armour, and destroy everything in its path, often flying all the way through their targets, and into space where they soon disperse due to their small size. The aforementioned XL sized versions are mostly used as planetbusters, or even star destroyers.
More widespread weaponry include plasma based weapons, energy weapons, railguns, missiles, various blade types, etc.
Of note is their attitude towards nanotechnology, specifically, self-replication capable nanobots. Despite their constant quest to improve upon their technology, this field seems to be something that few, if any, engage in. When harassed for an explanation for long enough, it was revealed that they "fear" the possibility of a malfunction, or even deliberate sabotage or rebellion of these machines. This fear is not unfounded, as such machines can only be fought with total elimination in mind, and that should always be in mind in the case of self-replicating foes, with total annihilation of all the surrounding area, as well as anything that came into contact with said area, or the use of more such machines which presents the obvious problem. They do, however, deem machines of microscopic scale acceptable if they do not have the means to create more of themselves, or new designs of smaller size.