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While the phrase "Yanme'e Hives" is generally considered by humanity and the Sangheili to describe the central Yanme'e body of civil and military authority, it would be false to claim that it is a true "government". At most it is a loose confederacy or hegemony of semi-independent hives, each with their own authority and territory, though the hives cooperate as a whole for the good of the species, especially on matters of defence. Founded long before the Covenant stumbled upon the species, these Hives have ruled Palamok, the Yanme'e homeworld, for centuries, perhaps millenia, and have returned to their place as the supreme Yanme'e authority after seceding from the New Covenant in 2569. In the aftermath of the Second Great War, the Yanme'e have formed a loose but mutually beneficial alliance with the Unggoy Star Empire, strengthened by the current Cold War against the expanding UNSC.
The Yanme'e do not keep a written record of history, with their Queens serving as the repositories of knowledge and history - it is therefore difficult to determine when the Hives arose, though it must have been soon after the Yanme'e achieved sentience, or else they would have quickly wiped each other out in wars over resources and territory. It may be that they did, and the reconstruction period led to the creation of a "united" Hive world authority. Until access can be secured to a Queen or her interpreter, it is likely that researchers will never know. What is known is that the Hives had already been established long before the arrival of the Covenant in 1112 B.C.E.
The Palamok Wars were some of the most brutal the Covenant had ever fought at that point. The Taming of the Hunters was vicious, but it was ended by the Sangheili threat of orbital bombardment - this was not an option against the Yanme'e, where the vast rainforests of Palamok obscured the Yanme'e population centres. Compared to the warriors of the Covenant, even at this point in time, the Yanme'e were primitive, still utilising a combination of crudely wielded stone-tipped spears, bows and arrows, daggers, and their own natural defences against the Sangheili and Mgalekgolo warriors who fought to gaina foothold on the planet. At first, the Covenant did not even realise the Yanme'e were sentient, and simply exterminated them on sight as pests or vermin - when they finally realised their mistake, and the Yanme'e had organised themselves to defend their homeworld against invasion on a massive scale, efforts were made to communicate with the Yanme'e. Though the wars would rage for a decade, eventually the Covenant's efforts were successful, and a dialogue was opened up between the Covenant and the Yanme'e, who were offered a place in the Covenant. The offer was deliberated on by the Queens, and the decision to accept the offer was not unanimous, but the important this is that it was made, and once it was made it was enforced down to the last individual Yanme'e - all dissent was purged. Though this perplexed Sangheili representatives, the brief Civil War saw the exile of those Queens who refused the Covenant's offer, and the slaughter of their hives. The exact fate of these Queens is unknown - they were allowed to survive, because while the hive can be replaced a Queen is irreplaceable - but Sangheili rumours hold that they captured a passing freighter, heading out deep into the galaxy, far away from the Covenant. It is more likely that they established new colonies and came around to the general way of thinking, entering Yanme'e society again.
Interaction with the other Covenant species would be difficult for a time, but eventually a system would be settled upon. Following the traditional linear hierarchy that had served them well, the Covenant Prophets assumed the place once held by the Queens, with the latter occupying a niche beneath them. Attempts to convert the Yanme'e to the Prophet religion invariably failed - not because of communication difficulties, or because the Yanme'e rejected the Prophets' teachings, but simply because the Yanme'e chose to interpret and manifest their adherence to the beliefs differently. To them, obedience was a requirement that the Covenant religion espoused above all other qualities, and they followed it to the letter, sometimes literally - that does not mean they had to understand it. With the collapse of the Prophets' authority in 2552, the Yanme'e lapsed into agnosticism, before returning to the fold of the New Covenant. Their religious practices wuld never bethe same again, however - religious obedience was not needed by the Prophet of Objection in the Yanme'e, and indeed would not be understood if required.
Their incorporation did bring benefits with it - the establishment of the Palamok Neural Network, the global method of communication used by all Queens, was only made possible through the use of Covenant Forerunner-derived electronics. Likewise, the establishment of hydrogen/deuterium/tritium refineries on planets within the Napret System has made the Yanme'e's home system a rich source of fuel- and weapons-grade plasma, though Te has always outstripped it in this regard. nevertheless, during their more than three thousand years of service to the Covenant, the Yanme'e have mostly lived as they did before the arrival of the Covenant. Limited civilian and military service has been the only requirement of the Yanme'e, especially as technicians, who have otherwise been left to their own devices. This was changed during the 26th Century with the introduction of the Yanme'e Soldier caste into the Covenant military, in an attempt to expand the Covenant Army's aerial capabilities, utilising the Yanme'e soldiers as highly effective airborne shock troops in the war against humanity. By 2552, their use had spread considerably, to the relief of both the Unggoy and Kig-Yar, who had both taken the brunt of humanity's defence as the frontline forces of the Covenant. When the Great Schism erupted, most of the Yanme'e remained loyal to the Prophets and the Covenant.
Post-War and Post-Schism
Despite the splintering of the Covenant into various competing factions after the conclusion of the First Great War in 2553, the Yanme'e did not make a bid for independence like the Unggoy or Jiralhanae, instead remaining with the New Covenant. Seeking to try and keep the Covenant as unified as possible, the Prophets of Objection, Protestation and Devotion made many changes in the internal structuring and organisation of their faction, seeking to make better use of each of their member-races' talents. Yanme'e were elevated to the Warrior Caste, with Huragok taking their former technical roles, while Unggoy were removed from the military totally, relegated to civilian roles to build up the New Covenant infrastructure and to deny them the resources for revolt. Thus, the Yanme'e were mostly complacent throughout the War of Vengeance.
Second Great War
However, with the coup by the Governors of Contrition in 2561 and the subsequent Great Upheavel, many Yanme'e began to question their loyalties: the Prophets, their "Queens", had been replaced by the Sangheili-dominated Governors, whom the Yanme'e felt no loyalty to. Furthermore, with the pressing material needs of the Second Great War, and the Governors intent on beginning the Great Journey they had been promised for so long, they press-ganged thousands of Yanme'e into service. The conscription of the Yanme'e worker caste into an active combat role was recieved poorly by the Yanme'e Queens, and rumours began to circulate that the Yanme'e were preparing to leave the New Covenant in a similar schism to that of the Sangheili - and as before, the Governors cut down the leadership, scattering the main body, and quickly moved against the threat. Unlike the Sangheili, the Yanme'e had no access to the ships and fleets that gave them their edge, but their technical skills would become invaluable. Eventually, a sizeable portion of the Yanme'e hive queens splintered off - while they would remain separate from the Loyalist faction, they would still resist Governor encroachment, using equipment that was either stolen, bought from the Kig-Yar black market (with considerable difficulty), or recommissioned from the Virtuous Herald ship graveyard. Initially, the force was merely a handful of scraped-together ships, barely capable of protecting Palamok. Within a few years, the Yanme'e separatists had assembled a fleet large enough to repel Governor forces from Yanme'e held space. Contact with the Prophet-led Loyalists in 2570 would lead to the Yanme'e entering the war against the Governors in a full capacity, hoping to free their hive-queen brethren from the Governors practice of using leaders as puppet commanders.
These Yanme'e were only the largest unified faction - across the Orion Arm, separate Yanme'e hives rallied to their cause. Isolated by the Great Schism, many had settled worlds within Sangheili, Jiralhanae or even UNSC space, quietly going about their lives - with the secession of the Queens, they returned to their homeworld en masse to show a united front against the New Covenant. The thousands who made their way home brought with them knowledge and experience that would prove invaluable to the Queens - technical expertise gleaned from human technology, especially in construction methods and design philosophies, and martial skills gained from studying Sangheili sources. The Yanme'e that took to the field of battle in 2570 would be a different foe than had ever been fought before - they had a Navy, an Army, a focussed military leadership, and certainly a willingness to fight and win at any cost. Whereas many Sangheili had lost interest in slaughtering barbarians, and the UNSC had grown tired of fighting a war that was not their own, the Yanme'e had no such problems - with the exception of a number of Unmutuals, the Queens controlled the Yanme'e, and they knew this was a war for their survival.
As the Governors hammered the Sangheili and UNSC with fleets warships and legions of warriors, they left themselves open to attack on their home front, and it was an opportunity the Yanme'e did not waste. Striking hard and fast at critical points, the Yanme'e fleet would cripple the Governor war machine, at least temporarily - the destruction of the Renewed Allegiance refinery/transmitter facility would deny power to the Fleet of Enraged Ego during the Battle of Alpha Centauri, leaving the New Covenant fleet drifting helplessly, easy prey for the UNSC frigates, corvettes and fighters stationed at the shipyards. This was the first clue given to humanity that there were other factions within the New Covenant fighting, and efforts were made to locate precisely who, or what, these potential allies were.
When it was found that it had been a Yanme'e fleet, the UNSC deployed an automated drone to Palamok with a free-broadcast message aboard it, translated (they hoped) into Yanme'e, asking for a military alliance against the New Covenant. While the Yanme'e may have recieved the message, whether they found it intelligible is another matter entirely - UNSC translator technology is still unreliable when it comes to the Yanme'e's insectile language, finding it difficult to interpret the contextual nature of their many clicks and whistles. Eventually, diplomats met with a Yanme'e, hoping to negotiate an alliance. In exchange for military support, the Yanme'e asked for access to Sangheili DEW and shielding technology, an area in which their ships still lagged behind, which was granted by Arbiter Thel 'Vadam. When the Yanme'e next took to the field of battle, it was in support of the Sangheili invasion of Sorrowful Harbinger, with Yanme'e fighters striking deep into New Covenant resistance. After the alliance with the Prophets of Devotion and Protestation's Loyalis faction, the Yanme'e would prove instrumental in the reconstruction of Victorious Avowal, especially its shipyards, although it had already been pillaged by Sangheili technicians.
Along with the Lekgolo, the Yanme'e are perhaps the most "alien" of the former Covenant races in the Orion Arm of the galaxy. They possess an extremely rigid caste-based hetrarchy that is enforced only by biological neccessity, rather than concepts of racial or species superiority or inferiority - each caste depends upon the other far more than in other hierarchies, such as the Sangheili where caste position is determined by family, economic and military success, and "honour". The Yanme'e possess three main castes, each a vital part of the Yanme'e lifecycle - the "worker" or "drone" caste serves as the bulk of the Yanme'e population, and tend to the Queens. This is not their only duty - they cultivate land, barter and exchange goods between workers from other Hives, and construct the cities that dot Yanme'e colonies - but it is the most important. The second caste, that of the "Soldier" or "Warrior," is extremely similar in appearance to the Worker caste, but fill an entirely separate niche; they protect the Queen, and the hive, from internal and external threats, patrol the Hive's territory, and otherwise perform the functions normally carried out by law enforcement and military organisations. The third caste is the least common of the three, but possesses a degree of sentience that is at least more in line with traditional human concepts of the term; the Queens. The genetic progenitors of the hives, the Queens serve as the unifying force behind the hive. A good phrase might be "control," but a better one would be "guiding force" - the Yanme'e Queens do not control their hive totally, such actions generally being to the detriment to the hive's optimal survivability, and indeed this may be why the Yanme'e were able to attain sentience - without the Queen controlling all aspects of their life, the concept of an independent existence was able to develop. All Yanme'e regard themselves as a part of the greater whole, even the Queens - without the Queen, the hive would be consumed by chaos and confusion; without the Workers, the hive would stagnate and decline; without the Soldiers, they would soon fall to other hives or other threats. Each caste maintains some independence, without which sentience would be impossible, giving each individual a limited level of creativity, independence and ingenuity that is not possessed by others.
Even in such an alien society as that of the Yanme'e, there are outcasts - the closest translation for the Yanme'e description is "Unmutuals," true individuals unable to integrate themselves into the larger hive. Outside observers might regard the level of free will they possess, and the fact that they do not depend on the hive for their existence, as an improvement - to the Yanme'e, these Unmutuals are the equivalent of psychopathic murderers, and historically have been treated as such. Before the Covenant, Unmutuals would be driven from the Hive to fend for themselves, or perhaps join bands of Unmutuals living on the very fringes of Palamok society; after their incorporations, Unmutuals became slaves for the Covenant, press-ganged into labour forces and worked to death. After the Great Schism, large numbers of these Unmutuals were suddenly left free, and would found colonies of their own - lacking biological reproduction capabilities, Unmutual colonies are usual small, isolationist affairs, though they do practice a form of Athenian democracy. The Verge colony is the largest known Unmutual colony, but is not the only one - when the Schism had settled, and the War of Vengeance broke out, it was to the Unmutuals that the Sangheili turned to assist their technical endeavours. When the Palamkor Hives joined the Second Great War against the New Covenant, there was a certain amount of friction between them and the Sangheili over the fate of the Unmutuals, but it would eventually be agreed that even allowing them to colonies worlds far away from Palamok and establishing their own societies was preferable to them remaining in the Hives to cause chaos and confusion.
During their centuries of service to the Covenant, the were required to serve in at least some capacity in the Covenant military, though in their case it was on a voluntarily basis. At first, participation was restricted to members of the Worker caste, who served as repair and maintenance technicians, their chitinous exoskeletons allowing them access to the outer hulls of starships, a useful skill among the Covenant Navy. Later, during the Human-Covenant War, the need for new niches to be filled was seen, and members of the Soldier caste were recruited as aerial shock troops - though they would serve in extremely limited numbers, and in specialised roles, the Yanme'e Soldiers would prove to be quite effective against human Soldiers and Marines. At the same time, Workers continued to serve aboard warships that lacked their own Huragok contingent - there was never any crossover of the two roles, though. If technical and martial skills were required, then Soldiers and Workers would be carried - to the Yanme'e, the use of Workers as combatants was a stupid waste of skill, while the expectation of Soldiers to carry out menial tasks was demeaning. Even their fellow Covenant members have little experience with Yanme'e society - when the Second Great War erupted, the Governors of Contrition began an extensive conscription program on Palamok, press-ganging Workers and Soldiers alike into both roles. They had expected it to be a smooth process - the Yanme'e had never troubled them before, and those that served actually seemed to enjoy their work. In retrospect, this was a disaster for the Governors - incensed, the Hives rose up as one, driving the Governors from the planet. Realising that they were percieved as little more than slaves by their new masters, the Hives declared themselves independent.
Being a eusocial hetrarchy, the Yanme'e do not possess a form of government that is easily classified in UNSC, or even Covenant, terms. Perhaps the closest analogue is a socialist monarchy, though even this is a very bad description - the Yanme'e are each members of a hive, each of which is ruled by a Queen. The Queens of all hives are, in essence, the only government the Yanme'e have ever needed - there is no hierarchy among the Hive Queens, and no centralised leader. At these upper echelons of Yanme'e society, they practice a form of deliberative democracy - all opinions and thoughts are given due consideration by the whole, and a combined decision is reached. For the most part, this system works for the Yanme'e on a broad scale - it has been useful in times of war, either internally with opposing Hives engaged in territorial or diplomatic disputes, or externally, especially during the Age of Conquest. In narrower fields of expertise, though, it falls far short of the systems used by other species, but it has never been meant to effect these areas - the autonomy the Queens give the Worker and Soldier castes mean that these problems are usually solved separately.
Diplomatic issues have historically presented problems for the Yanme'e - the idea of two Queens meeting face to face would be laughed out of the room, if Yanme'e could laugh. Indeed, even emissaries from the Covenant are never permitted to be present before a Queen - messages, orders, and dialogue are carried out internally between the Yanme'e on a "neural network," perhaps the Yanme'e analogue to the human concept of the Internet - millions of computer terminals are linked electronically, although in this case the terminals are directly linked to the Queens themselves. It is the closest any species (besides the Flood) have come to true telepathy - communications are created at the speed of thought, transmitted nearly instantaneously, and able to be sent and recieved at any point throughout Palamok. On the other hand, communication between Yanme'e and Covenant delegations has been more problematic - normally, Workers who serve the Queen form diplomatic councils to interpret and communicate her will. Naturally, this requires a certain amount of free-thought, and these "Diplomats" are almost considered a separate caste.
Communication between Yanme'e hives on other planets, and even in different solar systems, presents a considerably greater obstacle. Colonial Queens are able to access the Palamok Neural Net , but communication neccessarily takes place at considerably reduced speeds. Covenant hesitation to allow the Yanme'e access to their superluminal interstellar communications network has effectively isolated Yanme'e colony worlds - this has raised much concern on Palamok, where colonisation has always been regarded in material terms rather than as a relief on a population burden (which can be regulated extremely efficiently, either by selective birth control or by small wars), and Independent Queens are regarded with a certain level of suspicion - they are the equivalent of the Unmutuals of lower caste-members, though they are tolerated. The opportunity to be isolated from the Old Queens is an attractive one for young hive leaders, and new colonies are sometimes intentionally founded to be separate from Palamok.
The neccesities of space warfare mean that in some regards, the Yanme'e military, the Palamok Defence Force, is the most "normal" aspect of Yanme'e society. The nature of warfare means that frontlines must be far from the Queens of the participating Hives, and outside of her influence the participants must organise themselves into a smaller sub-Hive. While Yanme'e society as a whole is a hetrarchy, with each caste possessing equal importance regarding the others, internally the Soldier caste becomes a strict Hierarchy, differentiated by colour-coding to denote rank, experience and skill. This is a biochemical process, akin to the loss of pigment in Jiralhanae through age and experience, and is a gradual process. The method by which it is triggered remains unknown, and permission has been denied by the Queens whenever it has been sought, though it is thought to be partially psychological, a result of the collective group interaction dynamics. Again, as stated above, much of Yanme'e society is simply too "alien" to be rendered into understandable terms and concepts.
In practice, this creates the only truly meritocratic military operating - ascension above an individuals experience and skill is simply impossible, and indeed is inevitable. At the bottom of this hierarchy are the traditional green hues witnessed by UNSC personnel. As the Yanme'e Soldier caste members gain experience in tactical and strategic combat, and especially in direct engagements, their exoskeletons transition from green to red, to blue, to white, and finally to gold, perhaps mimicking the traditional Covenant colour scheme, or even serving as the basis for it - whether differentiations exist based in specialty roles is unknown. The acquisition of experience makes Soldiers who have achieved rank above that of the basic Soldier extremely valuable to the Yanme'e war effort,and they are better armed and protected than their less experienced brethren, even being equipped with limited personal energy shields. Yanme'e field commanders are invariably gold coloured, filling a roughly equivalent role to Sangheili Zealots or Jiralhanae Chieftains, and although they wield authority only over their own troops, obeying orders from superior Jiralhanae or Sangheili officers, it is likely that they would not seek to utilise their authority if it was given - Yanme'e have proven to be extremely insular, preferring to keep apart from their fellow Covenant members, regardless of their loyalties.
- "Its hard to see how you get sentience in bugs, but then again I guess the Drones see it hard to understand how humans developed society. We're polar opposites on the societal spectrum. Perhaps its a good thing we can't understand each other - if we tried, there would only be the inevitable failures, and the resulting fallout to deal with."
- "A Sangheili finds it...difficult to comprehend the life of a Yanme'e. To be without a sense of one's self, to be merely a cog in the greater machine, would be...alarming, to say the least. On the other hand, loneliness would simply not exist - it is virtually impossible to communicate the idea to a Yanme'e."
- "I expected them to act like ants, but they don't. They're like the most efficient SWAT teams ever - every movement is part of a larger formation, reactions are instantaneous, and the group can perform tactics that are hard even for us to grasp. Its a good thing human nature makes us inherently unpredictable to them - not that we have to worry about them now, of course. But just in case."