The Focus is an abstract universal phenomenon that exists as something of a "metalayer" of living, perhaps even conscious energy. Its nature has been broadly studied and speculated upon by various scholars in any number of civilizations. Normally, the effect the Focus has on the material world is so subtle as to be completely glossed over even by the most observant scientists. Indeed, all of the cosmos's civilizations could easily come into existence and then fade away again without ever knowing about the Focus's existence, if not for the advent of Focus-sensitive people. Such people can not only confirm the existence of the Focus, but can connect their minds, bodies, or souls to it, and even draw from its indescribable layer as a form of magic. With such power, they can accomplish amazing feats, prime amongst which is the ability to understand the flow of time and events in limited but highly advanced ways.
Though an extraordinarily rare trait overall, almost every part of every galaxy in the universe has given birth to at least one Focus sensitive sentient being. In fact, most species of civilized beings have had one or more Focus sensitive members, though whether that race was aware, or whether the sensitive member was even aware of what it was sensing may not always be the case. Some races are particularly apt to Focus sensitivity, though even in these races, sensitives are a tiny fraction of the populace.
Most sensitives grow into the sensations from a young age, having a preternatural sense of what will happen in the very immediate future. While they can't necessarily describe it to another person, they can react to it. Occasionally, it is mistaken for a weak form of psionics, as sensitives can often feel the general emotional environment around them. Where a psion simply "hears" such emotions as mental noise on a background, however, Focus sensitives will "feel" the emotions that take place around them. Particularly intense emotions can even cause them to be unconsciously emulated in the sensitive -- i.e. someone feeling a particularly powerful bout of anger may make a nearby sensitive also very angry, without realizing why they are feeling that way.
Sensitives can also sense the presence of other sensitives, if they concentrate. In particular, those who have specifically trained themselves to connect with the Focus can easily pick out all manner of other sensitives, and are themselves much easier to sense in this way. People who have connected in this way often form communities to share understanding and knowledge based on their experiences and discoveries, and help other sensitives become connected. In some parts of the universe, these communities are scholarly and simply try to understand the power they have become a part of. In the galaxy that Earth resides in, however, Focus sensitivity has caused a significant philosophical dichotomy which frequently results in violent conflict between members of differing standpoints.
Focus-sensitive people who learn how to "connect" themselves to the Focus become much more aware of what the Focus is. Even among them, the subject is sufficiently vast and elusive that no connected individual can truthfully claim to have a complete understanding of it. Communities of connected individuals tend to make the naive error of trying to classify what the Focus is, defining it in terms that make sense to them. Some believe it is the great, subtle, mutual consciousness of sentient beings, attributing things like karma to it. Others expand this further to be a superset of energy to which ki belongs, a quasi-spiritual medium that links all living things together. Another theory insists that the Focus is the unknowable but ever present hand of the puppeteer or God that gently and subtly works and molds all of creation to some unfathomable purpose. Regardless of how this mistake progresses, every theory seems to be simultaneously correct and incorrect. The word "Focus" itself is not even universal, and instead is local to the galaxy Earth inhabits.
One of the most fundamental realizations of a connected Focus sensitive is that everything is some form of energy. In addition, all forms of energy are related in some ultra-primal fashion. Through this connection, the Focus is made manifest. In connecting one's being to the Focus, they can create impressions upon it, and so affect the tangible and sensible world around them. They can create psi-like effects of moving things around with a whim of the mind. They can experience visions of the future, and glimpses of another person or thing's past. Some Focus-connected individuals experience it as a sort of extra, enhanced instinct, which they can allow to take complete control of their body, which in turn allows them to perform radical physical feats that ought not be possible. Some can relay impressions through the Focus onto the minds of others, causing ideas to be pressed into their minds as though they were their own.
One very common trait amongst the connected is an attraction to manually working with energy of some kind. In violent clashes, this leads to weapons made entirely or almost entirely out of energy, or striking others with energy-coated limbs. Peaceful pursuits often bring the disciples to places where energy is in greater abundance, whether that means greatly preferring sunbathing, or working with dangerous, high-voltage machinery, or some other form. It is highly intrinsic to most connected to want to be able control energy in a situation, the more directly the better.
Not all Focus-connected people are power wielders, but many are, particularly in Earth's galaxy. Focus attunement certainly lends itself to fighting at extremely high speeds and strengths, as there does not appear to be any upper limit of speed that the Focus cannot perform beyond, so long as the individual is capable of harnessing it sufficiently. Those who do not use the Focus to fight often seek out occupations where it can be of benefit, however, whether that be a political career or an electrical engineer or something else.
As hinted at earlier, Earth's galaxy has developed an unusual manifestation of Focus-connected communities. In most other areas of the universe, a single community determines how the Focus is "translated", and as they espouse that theory to other sensitives, it becomes more popular and real, and the inconsistencies wash away. For the local galaxy, two entirely different philosophies formed from what was once a united community. Nobody recalls what the original community was like, or how it finally fell apart; only that it did. What remains and has evolved from then are two sects of Focus-connected people who not only further their own understanding of the Focus, but also actively work amongst the civilizations of the galaxy to further the agendas of their polar-opposite core beliefs.
These sects are known as the Mejjai and the Nerathi. Independent, Focus-connected individuals who leave their planet or make contact with other civilizations usually end up becoming part of one sect or the other. There are still some sensitives, connected people, and even communities who have never been brought into contact with the sects who may hold entirely separate beliefs about the Focus, but the ideological "war" usually snatches up any who manage to leave their homeworld.
Often mislabeled as a force of "good", the Mejjai believe that the Focus is akin to the soil of the universe; from it grow all of the stars, planets, life forms, and energies. Most crucially, they believe it is an intelligent force that transcends the traditional understanding of intelligence, and that all actions and events everywhere are guided invisibly by it. Mejjai hold that, in fact, the entire universe is alive, and every piece of it is another organ of the whole. Connected to the Focus, Mejjai perceive themselves to be akin to the universe's antibodies, seeking out anomalies in the great natural cycles of existence and setting them straight. They frequently meditate to connect even more deeply with the Focus; a state where they can feel the living will of the Focus, and allow it to guide them to where they must be. As Focus-sensitives go, Mejjai have developed some of the most powerful senses through their connections. Highly trained members can comprehend events happening hundreds of light years away, and when something significant disturbs the natural harmony, most Mejjai in the same quadrant of the galaxy are cognizant of it, if not its specific details.
Despite their correctional attitudes, one of the most important tenets of the Mejjai sect is a policy of non-interference. They generally avoid visiting planets that have not developed advanced space travel, and planets that have no sentient life at all are nearly off-limits. In all cases, when a Mejjai lands on a world, they attempt to make the least disturbance in that world and its civilizations as possible. Though there are advanced space-faring civilizations who are very aware of them, the Mejjai refuse to ally with any nation or civilized body. They may, however, work with them when a mutual interest occurs. They keep limited company outside of brothers of their own sect, and generally eschew any sort of following, fan club, or support group. However, the fact that they highly prize life and especially sentient life means they are selflessly responsible for saving many, many lives, and have therefore earned themselves a very warm reputation in many parts of the galaxy. It has also led many underhanded government officials to try and manipulate the Mejjai to working toward their own agendas. It is fortunate for them, then, that Mejjai feel an intense, platonic compassion with the living civilizations of the galaxy and, for the most part, very easily forgive betrayals, deceit, and trespasses.
Mejjai often travel either by themselves or with a partner, and/or an apprentice, so as to not give the impression of an intimidating body of people. Mejjai do heavily network with one another, however, and keep in close contact with one another, aiding their fellows with missions where appropriate or necessary. Thus, if one Mejjai should feel overwhelmed by a task she has taken on, she can very likely find one or more additional Mejjai in the same sector, and request their help. Mejjai generally also police themselves, and meetings between them can be as much to ascertain whether a fellow Mejjai is staying true to their philosophy as it can be about forming a bond of camaraderie.
They often explicitly describe their perception of the Focus as the "Transcendant" Focus, as their connection allows them to ascend beyond the common mortal beings they once were and become part of something immortal and far greater. Through this connection, they draw "higher-order" emotions and states of mind, empowering themselves with selflessness, compassion, courage, and calmness in the face of adversity. Sometimes, followers of the Transcendant Focus are also described as "White" or "Bright".
Common opponents of the Mejjai include intruders from other universes, beings that defy or corrupt the natural cycle (such as undead, and to a lesser extent, artificial intelligences), and of course, the Nerathi. It should be noted, however, that Mejjai only turn to combat when it seems necessary. They will prefer words and manipulations of the mind, as combat often leads to unnecessary death. As Nerathi often seek to directly disrupt what the Mejjai wish to preserve, and as the Nerathi are often immune to the sort of negotiations and mind-trickery that the Mejjai ply, armed conflict between the two sects is not uncommon.
The Mejjai maintain a loose but binding organization with its members. Planets with particularly large Mejjai populations often erect a temple for members in their sector to visit. While Mejjai generally recognize seniority as a vague form of authority, the only real directorate that matters within the Mejjai body is the Mejjai Council, which currently operates from one of the only known relics of the old, unified Focus organization known as the Sigil, which they have restored as best as they can to serve as a sort of super-temple and educational facility. On the Mejjai Council sit seven of the most respected Mejjai, known as Conservators. They direct and conduct bodies of Mejjai to action where individual members and teams would not be enough, and discuss any changes or issues that may arise within the Mejjai. Their agreed word is generally considered law, but such is their presence in the Focus that other Mejjai usually feel inclined to obey as a matter of nature. Large scale dissent in the ranks is extraordinarily rare, though many young and/or inexperienced Mejjai sometimes become lured to the philosophy of the Nerathi, just as Nerathi are sometimes drawn into the Mejjai ranks. The Council itself grows and shrinks organically as time goes on, gaining members as the Mejjai body feels a better representation of current events is needed, and shrinking as members die or retire from their positions. There are no written requirements for who can become a Conservator, nor is there any protocol for the induction of one. Conservators are simply "selected by the Focus" and appear, and the other Conservators simply know that they have been joined. Generally speaking, however, Conservators have always been profoundly powerful and/or talented with their Focus-related skills, and usually are very well known among their peers for their merits.
Much as the Mejjai are viewed with a false sense of benevolence, their nemeses, the Nerathi, are frequently slandered as evil. The Nerathi philosophy perceives the Focus as the living will of universal sentience -- essentially, it is the evolution of sentience to become connected to the Focus and, in a sense, come within reach of the essence of every sentient being in existence. From this connection, they have divined that all sentient people are meant to compete and conflict, to always change to adapt to adversity, and to advance and evolve using any means at their disposal. If a star needs to die that a civilization or even simply a Nerathi might become much greater, then it is their right to explore that option. Everything in the universe is a tool that the universe has presented to its inhabitants to be used as a stepping stone toward the next level of existence. This attitude tends to develop rather narcissistic, selfish, and even megalomaniacal personalities, resulting in Nerathi who seek conquest and war, collect great cults around themselves, and mistrust one another. Not all Nerathi are power-mad, however; some take their philosophy to philanthropic extents, often shedding great technological advancements upon entire civilizations, causing them to prosper and experience golden ages. Nerathi are often very patriotic and/or possessive of their home civilizations, and carry them to greatness (or attempt to) as they ascend, themselves. As a whole, Nerathi are gifted at acquiring knowledge and power, and they almost universally possess a strong ambition, which is amplified by their connection to the Focus. Rather than placing themselves above the concerns of common men, they embrace the primal emotions that drive all sentient action, and draw upon those powerful base feelings to drive themselves and motivate others.
As a Nerathi develops their own understanding of their place in the universe, they tend to gain an ever-larger scope. A budding Nerathi might only be concerned with being the best employee in their company. Ten years later, they might be aspiring to be the most famous person on the planet. Later, they might have galactic ambitions, making tentative alliances with space empires and other Nerathi to achieve mutual goals and manipulating entire civilizations to achieve long-term end goals. Their uniquely potent insight drives them to explore every possibility that seems worth the risk, which can come at the cost of celestial bodies and entire nations alike. Almost all Nerathi are power wielders, though they may not all start out that way. They all come to realize that, even in pursuits benevolent to a nation and non-combat ambitions, being able to exert significant power themselves is invaluable in advancing their understanding and exploitation of the Focus. Many also realize that without significant power, more powerful Nerathi or other mighty individuals will likely press them into service, very possibly toward ends or with methods they do not agree with.
These entrepreneurs are fiercely independent, and reject governance and authority over themselves, if they have the capacity to resist it. They embrace freedom of action and expression, as every barred action is a potential step forward foregone. At the same time, unlike the Mejjai, they recognize the importance of strength in numeracy, and often try to convince, collect, coerce, or subjugate other people and Nerathi under their own command, as their general influence and power would dictate. They tend to be very insightful and expert leaders of men. While there is no single overarching power that reigns over all Nerathi, there are several large space empires lead by Nerathi, even if they may not openly advertise that fact. These empires vie for control with one another, and squabble over things frequently, but generally are willing to temporarily put aside their conflicts when the Mejjai threaten their plans. Similarly, when a Nerathi becomes too powerful for their own good, and their plans threaten the wellbeing and/or ambitions of other Nerathi, those other Nerathi rarely hesitate to join forces to assassinate them. Aside from that, however, Nerathi rarely meddle in one another's works, unless they have their own agenda in doing so.
Nerathi often refer to their particular view of the Focus as the "Primal" Focus. It is so called because those who draw from it are empowered, and occasionally ruled by their most basic emotions: fear, anger, desire, and pleasure. Wielders of this "Black" or "Dim" side of the Focus must maintain a delicate balance between control and lack thereof; discipline diminishes what advantages they can levy from the Focus, but to surrender control entirely inevitably leads to violent, pointless and extraordinarily dangerous insanity.
Again, though there is no central authority over Nerathi, the most powerful Nerathi in the galaxy live on an extremely secret planetoid known as Nerathi Prime. When weak Mejjai and unaligned Focus sensitives are found by Nerathi, they are frequently taken here, to be impressed with the core understanding of Nerathi philosophy by the residents. This training is said to be simultaneously some of the most intensely traumatic and spiritual experiences a person can experience. They are made to face their most basic instincts and desires, and to allow the Focus to flow through their mind, saturating them in the collective emotion of every sentient being in the universe. They quickly comprehend the competitive nature of their existence as they vie for favor with the elusive elders, that they might be shown some new secret of the Focus before their peers and so gain advantage over them. Regardless of how education proceeds, Nerathi recruits leave completely convinced of their place in the universe, and knowing exactly how to proceed next in their lives ... or they leave dead. Nobody is certain who the leaders of Nerathi Prime are, why they donate their time to the education of Nerathi acolytes, or how they came into their positions. Many simply presume that an aspiring, powerful Nerathi simply orchestrated the assassination of one of the existing residents and took their place, and that their purposes are so grandiose and transcendent that to understand their agenda would require having their own general skill and power. The location of Nerathi Prime is so secret, only those the inhabitants wish to find them can discover it, regardless of means used to remember, record, or track the location. Some whispers among Nerathi say that their leaders have such incalculable influence over men that anything they wish to happen simply orchestrates itself through the Nerathi and various nations and hands without any of them understanding that they have been influenced.