Vorticons are a peace-loving race from Vorticon VI that has been enslaved by The Grand Intellect. There are several kinds of Vorticon. Some of them are more difficult to stun than others, and not all of them kill Keen when touched. They give the name to the Invasion of the Vorticons trilogy.
Vorticon themselves look physically like bipedal, four foot high blue puppies, with short tails, droopy ears and a kind disposition. Nevertheless they have sharp teeth and claws they can use in a pinch, and Vorticon females can spit fire. Vorticons are immensely strong, being able to jump several times their own height. They have large feet and a prominent snout, and many are tough enough to take several times the lethal impact of a human and survive.
The history of the Vorticons is but sparsely known. The planet was once a peaceful monarchy with a Vorticon world government, but this seems to have been usurped and taken control of by a dictatorial being known as the Grand Intellect. The Grand Intellect was in reality a human boy called Mortimer McMire, lifelong enemy of Commander Keen. Exactly when this happened is not known, but it was far enough into the past to allow for the construction of many military bases, a Vorticon Mothership and the recruiting of the Vorticon Elite and VortiNinjas. (A period of at least a year, but no more than four years is suggested, given the identity of the Grand Intellect.) The Grand Intellect was able to force the Vorticons to use his mind-belts, thus controlling their thoughts and actions. The only Vorticons unaffected by the mind-belts were the ancient Vorticon Elders, who were kept in stasis chambers.
The Grand Intellect planned on using the Vorticon to destroy Earth, so he sent them to establish an outpost on Mars. At least four Vorticon grunts were stationed there, with orders to distract Commander Keen when he arrived at the planet. In Keen 1, the Vorticon stole vital parts from Keen's spaceship while he was visiting Mars, and hid them in different Martian cities. However, Keen was able to defeat the Vorticons, recover the missing parts and fix his ship. Keen also got the blueprints of the Vorticon Mothership from one of the Vorticon he defeated.
Meanwhile, the Vorticon Mothership was stationed above Earth, preparing eight cannons pointed at major Earth cities. However, in Keen 2, Keen was able to infiltrate the ship, using the blueprints he had found. After fighting the Vorticon and their robots, Keen eventually disabled each of the Tantalus Rays in the Mothership, and foiled the Vorticon attack.
The Vorticon Elders at the Mothership revealed Keen the truth of the Vorticon's origins. In Keen 3, Keen traveled to Vorticon VI to confront the Grand Intellect, where the Vorticon were preparing to kill him at any cost. Keen explored Vorticon VI, fighting hordes of Vorticon. When he reached the Castle of the Grand Intellect, he realized that he was actually his rival Mortimer McMire. Mortimer had built a device called the "Mangling Machine" inside his castle, to protect him and to destroy Keen, in case he reached him. Keen was able to destroy the Mangling Machine, and set the Vorticon free. The Vorticon King awarded Keen the "Big V" in order to show him his gratitude.
Although Vorticons harm Keen in the game, they are not evil, but their minds are controlled by the Grand Intellect through mind-belts they wear. In fact, Vorticons are family-loving creatures who live in a society much similar to the human one.
The Vorticon civilization is somewhat more advanced technologically than Earth's, but it resembles it in great detail. Vorticons have houses, cars and schools. Brick housing seems to be preferred and little is needed in the way of insulation, doors and windows in the planet's universally temperate climate. Housing is thus primitive, but with many features that would be at home on Earth: flush toilets, beds, fridges and kitchens. Furniture is very similar to Earth's. Most of the houses have on their walls a painting of a vague silhouette of the Grand Intellect. There are recreational areas with fountains and trees similar to their Earth counterparts. There are also schools for the young Vorticons, in which they learn the English language and information on Commander Keen.
Vorticon transport is more advanced than Earth's. Vorticons use both flying cars and teleporters to travel between the many disparate land masses of Vorticon (except for the Secret Island, which cannot be reached by a teleporter). This has lead to a totally uniform culture across Vorticon VI, made more extreme by the arrival of the Grand Intellect.
Vorticons speak Omnispeak, a standard galactic language. For writing, they use the Standard Galactic Alphabet. Many signs written in this alphabet can be found in Vorticon VI and in the Vorticon Mothership.
Vorticons eat Earth-looking food, such as candy bars, burgers, cakes, and cola-beverages (Vorta-Cola and Diet Vorta-Cola). Weapons can be found in most Vorticon houses; the most common one is a purple raygun, the Pistol. However, most Vorticons seem reluctant to use them, relying on their natural abilities for self-defense. Vorticon children play a dangerous game of jacks, with large balls and deadly bouncing jacks. There are stuffed-animal versions of different Vorticon that seem to be popular.
Young Vorticons are very good at jumping, and mature males can also perform impressive jumps. However, they seem to fear darkness, and will not jump at all if there is no light present.
Vorticons start out as small, bluish, juvenile citizens, usually called "youths". However, they are far from helpless, as they possess considerable hyperactivity. They also possess the ability to stun someone upon impact. Youths have unusually long arms, which they use to aid them while running to achieve faster speeds and higher jumps. Youths are sometimes sent by the Grand Intellect on off-planet missions aboard the Vorticon Mothership, as training to turn into fierce warriors.
When they mature, Vorticon fur changes from blue to gray-blue. Female Vorticons grow enormously rotund and resilient, in addition to breathing fireballs. They are also extremely protective of their children. Male Vorticons become unarmored grunts in the Army. Some grunts, like those at the outpost in Mars, have grown specially tough. Their leader is a Commander class unit that cannot be easily shot down. Grunts use different-colored uniforms: blue (for scouts), yellow (for grunts in off-planet missions) and red (for regular grunts).
Grunts that are specially skilled are trained as Vorticon Elite warriors. They wear pink-and-blue outfits, and carry a Vorticon HyperPistol, a special raygun reserved only for them. To show their loyalty to the Grand Intellect, they have their ears clipped. Vorticon Elites are usually sent to difficult off-planet missions aboard the Vorticon Mothership.
The land-based defense of Vorticon VI is composed of the VortiNinjas, ninja experts in hand-to-hand combat and very difficult to take down. They are specially chosen by the Grand Intellect. They study in Vorticon military academies, and wear black outfits.
The Vorticon Elders, wise masters of lore and common sense, are kept in stasis and possess knowledge from before the time of the Grand Intellect. They appear only in stasis prisons on the Mothership. The Elders are kept in the Mothership to serve as a source of knowledge in the most difficult Vorticon missions. They are able to give their advice telepathically from their stasis chambers to anyone that requires it.
Types of Vorticons
Several Vorticons can be seen in the first trilogy:
- Vorticon Grunt (yellow)
- Vorticon Youth (aka "Vortikid")
- Vorticon Elite
- Vorticon Elder
- Vorticon Grunt (red)
- Vorticon Woman (aka "Vortimom")
- Vorticon Youth (aka "Vortikid")
- Vorticon King
- Vorticon Press
- Mortimer McMire – the Grand Intellect who enslaved the Vorticons.
- Shikadi – Another race enslaved by the aforementioned Grand Intellect.