Though conscientious objectors had been known before, Erk culture is a product of the particular circumstances of the Orbital Wars. Civilians that refused military service and serving personnel that disobeyed orders or went AWOL naturally faced summary judgement and sentences of lengthy imprisonment or death. However, many managed to escape their righteous punishment. They found themselves unable to return home. Under the Union they could often find some hole where they could settle. But following the collapse of the Union and the destruction of Earth, the various participants in the Orbital Wars agreed that refusal of military service was the worst crime imaginable. Those guilty of such a heinous transgression were pursued vigorously, their details published in a public database freely available to all civilisations. They soon came to be known as Erks.
A number of Erks were members of the intelligentsia, and their response to persecution was often to further increase their intellectual capability and join the Axis of Kelvod. They were welcomed by that vile organisation, though they generally found themselves at the bottom of Kelvodian society, showing that even dymetricists have some sense of moral turpitude. However, most Erks, deciding it was impossible to survive on their own, began to group together. They formed bands in Benthic Space, keeping a distance from civilisations that was safe for them but, more importantly, reduced the offence their very existence causes to all decent people. As these groups grew in size they attention to themselves, but the Erks worked in mutual defence, forming a single, extended community. They engaged in acts of war to defend themselves and even to aid new Erks in escaping from the proper authorities. They were inefficient fighters, and only saved by their own irrelevance in the grand scheme of things, as pursuing them became more trouble than it was worth. In addition to military actions, the Erks pursued covert tactics perhaps more appropriate to their deviant nature, such as the famous assassination attempt on [Queen Audrey]?.
That all participants in the Orbital Wars (all those worth mentioning at least) had their own Erks, and that this word was adopted universally within a very short space of time, is generally considered an indicator of the enduring commonality of the human experience, rather than a mere coincidence. This is perhaps best expressed by the fact that those members of the Erk community who refused to participate in battle or spoke out against Erk militarism were cast out without hesitation, becoming Erks of the Erks. Following the Orbital Wars, Erks continued to be ostracised by all valid human societies. The sins of the Erks are visited upon their children, with genetic fingerprints included in the database of Erks, whilst each cycle and each new conflict reveals more Erks. Some societies tolerate Erk communities within, Erks performing those tasks beneath others. But most Erks and their descendants have made their homes in the [Strabol Zone]?, knowing that only there would they be absolutely safe from pursuit and punishment.