The Liberators had no way of knowing, but what they were facing was a Splin'thrup. An aquatic race from the galaxy **85, in the **Galaxies, which are in the universe of Earth-616, on the other side of the Great Void[1] from the Known Universe[2], the Splin'thrup are known, even in the Known Universe, as one of the most unpleasant and hostile sentient races that can be found between the Known Galaxies and the Edge of the Universe.

The Splin'thrup are a devoutly religious race; unfortunately, their religion preaches the genetic superiority of the Splin'thrup to all other races, and further states that those races which do not acknowledge the moral supremacy of the Splin'thrup must be destroyed. This has resulted in the race becoming, to a single individual, religious fanatics and zealots, and every known encounter between the Splin'thrup and non-Splin'thrup, with the exception of the Splin'thrup's slave races, has resulted in conflict. The clashes between the Splin'thrup and the members of the Paladins, the galactic peace-keepers, have been particularly fierce.

The Splin'thrup dominate much of **85, and seem to be acknowledged by many of the other races of the **Galaxies as being one of the foremost races in that galaxy. They have approximately 30 races enslaved to them and have military installations across **85. Their culture is a militaristic and religious one which preaches that jihad is the noblest of goals and that death in combat will gain a Splin'thrup honor in the afterlife.

The Splin'thrup are aggressively expansionist, and after conquering a planet will attempt to convert it to somewhere in or on which they can live. However, the Splin'thrup have a few requirements which prevent them from making use of several of the more common types of planets. They are acquatic creatures of mid-range waters, comfortable between (in Earth terms) 3000 and 10,000 feet below sea level; they are uncomfortable above that level and cannot survive pressures below 10,000 feet. They are extremely sensitive to light. Their digestive systems appear to be limited, and they are particularly vulnerable to alien bacteria. Because of all of these things, there are relatively few types of planets which are completely suitable for Splin'thrup inhabitation. Planets whose gravities are too great or whose rotations are too extreme will unduly discomfort or even lethally endanger the Splin'thrup. Planets with relatively small oceans, or in which the average sea depth is above 4000 feet below sea level, are likewise passed over by the Splin'thrup. Finally, planets in which the food beasts on which the Splin'thrup subsist cannot thrive, either due to competing local life forms or due to unfriendly bacterial environments, are obviously not suitable for the Splin'thrup.

Those planets which the Splin'thrup deem uninhabitable, or somehow undesirable to them, are nonetheless kept after conquest. The Splin'thrup will establish a military colony on the planet and begin attempts at aquaforming the planet so that it may eventually be used and inhabited by the Splin'thrup. The Splin'thrup have made some elementary advances in terraforming, although they are nowhere near the level of the Core or the more advanced races of the **Galaxies. On the "unacceptable" planets the Splin'thrup slave races are forced to build weapons or ships for the Splin'thrup, develop further advanced technology for them, or breed the Splin'thrup food creatures. The Splin'thrup, once they have completely aquaformed a planet, usually will destroy the slave race currently inhabiting it (actively, through their military, or passively, by letting the levels of the planet's oceans rise above its continents, drowning the land-based slave race(s)), but those slave races which have been particularly loyal and productive will be either delivered to other Splin'thrup slave planets or allowed to live on the land which is allowed to survive.
Although the Splin'thrup reproduce by spawning in numerous cycles (approximately 3 per Earth year), they have so far been (relatively) limited in their expansion by certain drawbacks. The size of the Splin'thrup means that their interstellar craft must be larger than the norm. Moreover, their environmental needs necessitate that their ships be submerged in oxygen-carrying liquid, which makes the use of slave races in the Splin'thrup ships difficult. Although the Splin'thrup are militarily active, their technology is only average for the **Galaxies. Finally, their religious zealotry and fanaticism have at times cost them, as they underestimate their foes or overestimate their own might.

The Splin'thrup are an aquatic race of sentient arthropodic mandibulates. Those few humans who have encountered the Splin'thrup describe them as looking like "a cross between a monster crayfish and a mutant lobster." The Splin'thrup range in size from only a few inches at birth to upwards of 20 feet long in the cases of the oldest Splin'thrup so far encountered. The average Splin'thrup appears to be 10-14 feet long. They tend towards darker colors - blacks, browns and duns - which operates on their homeworld as protective camouflage. They have segmented bodies, with a very strong chitinous exoskeleton, 12 walking legs (six per side), a muscular abdomen and tail, two large and powerful chela (claws) for crushing food, two manipulatory maxillipeds (arms), powerful, small jaws for digesting the food, and two sensory antennae. They are both strong and quick in their native environment, and are capable of constructing and using tools with their maxillipeds. They are most comfortable in worlds of approximately 1 Earth gravity.

The Splin'thrup (the word works both for the singular and the plural) on the plain of the M'krann was not typical of the race, however, being a mutant (whose name, in the language of the Splin'thrup, translates to "Eater of Heathens") whose spawning, on a planet which the Splin'thrup call "Currents of Divine Heaven," was done near the irradiated poles of the planet.[3] The rest of the eggs in Eater's crop were killed by the lingering radiation, but Eater was born with a number of beneficial mutations. While Splin'thrup tradition dictates that those of its race who are born "wrong" are immediately killed, Eater's size and strength were immediately obvious, and the Priests of the Deep dictated that he be taken aside and especially nurtured.

Eater of Heathens grew to be the strongest and largest Splin'thrup yet seen, capable of surviving outside of water without the aid of artificial means, as well as having strange powers that no Splin'thrup had ever displayed, including the ability to see events on faraway worlds and to travel with them by himself. When Eater became aware of the M'krann, he received Unction from the Priests of the Deep and left for the M'krann, to conquer it so that the entire Multiverse might receive the blessings of the Splin'thrup...

[1] The "Great Void" is the unimaginably vast space between the "Known Universe" (see [2] below) and the rest of the universe. The Great Void acts as a sort of border to the Known Universe, although that is in a sense anthropomorphizing what is simply an uncountably enormous stretch of vacuum; there was, so far as anyone knows (or will discuss) no purpose in putting a stretch of emptiness measuring at least 10300 billion Megaparsecs between the local galactic cluster and the rest of the universe, it simply happened that way.

While most of the starfaring races and beings see the Great Void as the border between their galaxies and the "center" of the universe, the truth is that, properly speaking, the Great Void encircles, across 360o and in a spherical fashion, the galactic cluster of the Known Universe. The galaxies of the Known Universe, blown outward by the Big Bang and expanding, with all other matter, towards the "edge" or "end" of the three-dimensional universe, are moving away from the "center" of the universe - that is, the spot at which the Big Bang occurred. For any number of reasons there is a common belief among the star-traveling races of the Known Galaxies that there are, or were, a large number of races - ancient and advanced beyond belief or reckoning - who live or lived near the "center" of the universe, and therefore any being or race who might find them, or their remains, would likely stand to gain great wealth or technology. Which is why most travelers attempt, eventually, to go to the "center" of the universe, and why the Great Void is seen as lying between the "center" of the universe and the Known Galaxies. However, the Great Void also lies between the Known Galaxies and the "end" of the universe, and between the Known Galaxies and whatever is "below" and "above" them, in the expanding sphere that is the universe of Earth-616 - a fact that few in the Known Galaxies seem to have fully grasped.

[2] The "Known Universe," otherwise known as the "Known Galaxies," is the local cluster of galaxies in which is included the Milky Way, Andromeda, Fornax, the Shi'ar, the Greater and Lesser Magellanic Clouds, and those other galaxies that humans have had any sort of contact with and can view.

[3] The planet had been an M-Class world, inhabited by the Drint, a quadrupedal race descended from canines. A Splin'thrup "Proselytization And Conversion" Fleet, venturing into a section of one of **85's outer galactic arms, discovered the Drint's planet and demanded that they surrender their world and give themselves up to be the slaves of the Splin'thrup. The Drint, loyal members of the now-defunct Union Of Aligned Worlds of **85, were some steps below the Splin'thrup in technological development but did not wish to become another of the Splin'thrup's slave races, and so responded with a message of defiance for the Splin'thrup and with a message, sent via transspace, requesting help from the Paladins. The Drint expected that the Splin'thrup would attempt a military campaign, which would take long enough for assistance to arrive from the Paladins. Instead, the Splin'thrup sent fusion missiles into the polar icecaps of the Drint's world, releasing vast amounts of methane and clathrates into the atmosphere of the world and causing enormous hurricanes, which destroyed the Drint's civilization within a matter of a month and flooded 94% of the land of the world. The Splin'thrup then populated the world and converted the few remaining Drint into food creatures and slaves.

Go back to Liberators #25