Biology and life cycle Edit
The Pak are hominids, and members of the diverse genus of human species. As such, they are intelligent, bipedal primates with five fingers and five toes per limb. Their evolutionary line split from humanity's sometime in the early Pliocene. Having attained space flight much sooner than the other human species, the Pak left Earth around 2,500,000 BCE. Their somewhat primitive, more ape-like appearance reflects this, and an adult Pak, known as a Breeder, is said to superficially resemble the ancient primate Homo habilis. Being members of the human genus, the Pak are recognized as Reclaimers by Forerunner technology in the post-Array era.
Unlike humans, the Pak passed through several distinct stages of development throughout their lives. The first of these stages is the Child stage. Much like the juvenile period of any other species, Pak Children are sexually immature, and are entirely dependent on the loving care of their Breeder parents. Children contain many of the physical features usually associated with youth and immaturity, including short, stubby limbs and almost comically large eyes and heads. The next stage is the Breeder stage. After a Child has transitioned into a Breeder, they will lose all their juvenile physical characteristics entirely, now resembling a tall, thin and lithe hairless ape. Their facial features are scrunched and wrinkled, and their arms and legs are now much longer in proportion of the rest of their body. Compared to adult humans, Pak Breeders are, although sentient, quite unintelligent, relying largely on the wisdom and guidance of the next stage of their life, the Protector stage. Towards the end of a Breeder's reproductive cycle, usually around the 40th year of their life, a Breeder will acquire an immense craving for the root of the Tree-of-Life plant, a shrub originally native to Earth but now extinct there. The Tree-of-Life root's strange viral properties act as a mutagen which transforms a Pak Breeder into a Protector. Protectors are massive, usually around 7 to 8 feet tall, and possess superhuman strength, a thick, leathery hide for protection, and an exponential boost in intelligence. In the Protector stage, all previous sexual characteristics disappear.
Pak Protectors are tasked with maintaining the continued existence of their bloodline and that of the Pak species as a whole. Their duties include defending their bloodline from attacks and threats, removing impurities and defects from their gene pool, and ensuring the prosperity of their species into the future, by whatever means necessary. Protectors serve both as the Pak species' warrior caste and their greatest scientists and engineers. A Protector must maintain a steady diet of the Tree-of-Life root, otherwise the virus which infects the root will kill them. Continued consumption of the root can grant a near-infinite lifespan, provided their other biological needs are met as well.
Society and culture Edit
Much like their human cousins, the Pak are a naturally war-like and violent species. The Pak's society in particular is in practice quite xenophobic and cruel, sometimes waging wars of conquest out of a proposed need for security and even resorting to infanticide among their own species in order to curb the spread of genetic defects which could weaken the gene pool. Most Protectors are concerned chiefly regarding the welfare of their own line of descendants and relatives, although very old Protectors usually shift this sense of allegiance to the species as a whole. In the time of the Ecumene, the Pak's knowledge of mega-scale engineering rivaled the Forerunner's own. The region surrounding the deep core of the Milky Way was considered the Pak's domain, and the Forerunners maintained good diplomatic relations with them to enable safe passage through the area. After the firing of the Halo Array in 97,445 BCE, the Pak were reseeded on their adopted homeworld of Orum in the Alpha Quadrant.
Increased levels of stellar radiation in the core worlds led to severe mutations over time. The Pak's unique life cycle, specifically the Protector stage, served as a mechanism to ensure the continued survival of the species in such a hostile environment. However, the Protector stage's intense focus on gene purity and clan loyalty naturally led to a great deal of conflict. Civil warfare between clans and bloodlines have been a constant reality for the Pak throughout their existence, and has impeded social and scientific progress throughout the millennia.
Early history Edit
The Pak attained an advanced spacefaring culture very early on in their history. By 2,500,000 BCE they had abandoned Earth entirely, colonizing new worlds in the core of the galaxy and having dealings with other galactic species. They adopted the planet Orum in the deep core as the capital of their interstellar empire. When humanity was defeated by the Forerunners at the end of the Thousand Year War, the Pak were spared punishment, even though they were closely related to the humans. Due to their empire's location in the core, the Pak were relatively safe at first when the Flood invaded the galaxy around 107,445 BCE. However, as more and more species fell to the Flood, and the Forerunner-Flood War began, the parasite grew in strength and reach. They eventually penetrated the core, invading many Pak worlds and killing trillions. The Flood infestation of the galactic core left the Pak weakend and without an empire.
The Pak convened with the Forerunners and the other surviving species of the galaxy aboard the Maethrillian in 98,445 BCE, where the construction of the Halo Array and the conservation measure for post-Array re-population were discussed. While the Pak species was eventually indexed for preservation aboard the Lesser Ark, the Pak's existing leadership, a council of high-ranking Protectors, set about construction of the Ringworld, a mega-structure whose existence was kept a secret from the Forerunners, in the outer reaches of the Alpha Quadrant. The Ringworld was meant to shield its inhabitants from the deadly effects of the Halo Array, ensuring continuity of Pak government so that they might emerge as the supreme galactic power in the aftermath of the firing of the rings. In 97,445 BCE, the existence of the now fully-constructed Ringworld was discovered by the Forerunners, but there was no time to do anything about it in the rush to fire the rings and defeat the Flood.
The scale of the Ringworld was massive, dwarfing nearly all of the Forerunner's engineering projects. With a diameter of 1 astronomical unit and an inner surface equating to roughly three million Earth-sized planets, the Ringworld was thought to be a sufficient sanctuary for the remnants of the Pak empire in the era which would follow the firing of the Halo rings. The Pak on Ringworld survived the firing of the rings as planned, while a seperate population of Pak, indexed by the Librarian on the Lesser Ark, was reinstated on Orum. However, the central government of the Ringworld Pak, a group of elder Protectors, descended into infighting in approximately 83,000 BCE. This, combined with the onset of an unknown disease which was lethal to Protectors, left civilization on the Ringworld in ruins. The surviving populations of Pak on the Ringworld receded into barbarity, and the mega-structure was left mostly Protector-free going forward. The now primitive Ringworld Pak even interbreeded with the human population that was left there, producing a new species.
Post-Array era Edit
The Pak on Orum took several millennia to advance beyond Tier 7 status. By 80,000 BCE, they had developed to Tier 4. Eventually rediscovering space travel and expanding back out into the galaxy, the Pak were in possession of Tier 2 status, and a new interstellar empire spanning hundreds of worlds, by approximately 60,000 BCE. Some of these worlds, concentrated largely around the core of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, were previously colonized by the Pak in the pre-Array era.
Around 55,000 BCE, the Pak's interstellar empire had intersected with that of the Isunari Realm, a relatively peaceful multi-species confederacy based primarily around the outer reaches of the Beta Quadrant. The Isunari where a young species, having first emerged as a spacefaring race only after the firing of the Halo Array. Having encountered several Tier 4 races in the past, the Isunari had taken to assimilating these species and cultures into their confederacy. Due to the Pak's Tier 2 status, they did not have anything to gain by joining the confederacy (the Isunari themselves were a native Tier 2), but trade and communication was nonetheless opened up between the two races.