- "Our plans are these. We will send a carefully selected and trained crew of Searchers to the Surface in this powerful new vessel. We will take whatever oceangoing vessels we encounter. We will mount raids on the Cultures of the Sun! We will conquer villages, towns, cities – even larger land masses! We will show all Surface-Dwellers how powerful and advanced are the Nartec! The long centuries of our exile are over!"
- ―Queen Soco
The Nartec are an amphibious ocean-dwelling race native to Earth as a mutated human subspecies. The Nartec are a dying race who believed themselves to be the rightful rulers of Earth, aiming to conquer the 'Cultures of the Sun'.
- "We adapted to our new underground, underwater world. Over time we discovered alternative sources of light. Like that produced by the narna rocks that blanket our roofs and ceilings. And, of necessity, our bodies changed, too. At an impressively rapid rate. We became amphibious by an act of supreme will."
"Even without the necessary experimentation, I am fairly certain the light produced by the "narna" rocks Queen Soco mentioned is radioactive. No doubt this radioactivity hastened the rate of the Nartec's mutations."
"Thus did we come to build this magnificent city. Thus did we survive and prosper. And thus did we come to be the rightful rulers of the One Ocean and all lands touching her."
- ―Queen Soco and Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill
They live in a giant cave under the ocean off the coast of the Animorphs' home town. According to the ruler of the Nartec, Queen Soco, the amphibian race once lived on 'the Surface', on an island in the 'Great Ocean.' Over decades, the sea began to swallow up the island. Over generations, the islanders built a towering wall around the island, which grew and grew. Eventually, they were completely submerged, but enclosed by the wall, whose perimeter bent over, touching each other to create a dome. However, according to Ax, this story is highly improbable. What is certain, however, is that the submerged humans adapted to their new environment. Queen Soco referred to this as a "supreme act of will". But soon it became apparent that the narna rocks, a highly radioactive material that serves as the Nartec's source of light, was the cause of the rapid mutation of the Nartec to their present form, in the span of a few centuries.
- "Their skin is blue – not that we haven't seen that before. Kind of cool, actually. But I have to give a "thumbs-down" to the oily look."
"Jake? Look at their necks. They're... they're gilled."
"And webbed. Feet and hands."
"And the eyes. They're oversized, like the ones on the seagull."
"Not a bad body on that one."
- ―Rachel, Cassie, Jake, Tobias and Marco
Despite being apparently humanoid, the Nartec have huge eyes that consume much of their faces. Their skin is blue and oily, and their hands and feet are webbed in order to improve hydrodynamic performance. Finally, the Nartec possess a dual respiratory system. While retaining their human lungs, which they use on land, they have gills on their necks in order to filter oxygen from the water. The Nartec move fluidly in the water, but are weak and slow on land, with a few exceptions.
- "Of course the Nartec continue to study the technology of sunken oceangoing vessels constructed by the Surface-Dwellers. We study construction techniques and food storage methods. We learn of navigational equipment and other electronic devices that might be of use to us. From the large oceangoing pleasure boats we learn about the changing styles of Surface clothing and furnishings and recreational activities. And if there are survivors of the wrecks that bring these vessels to us, we study them, too. That is, until we have learned all we need to know from them."
"Here it comes."
"Then they are preserved to become part of our storehouse of knowledge."
"You kill them and stuff them."
- ―Queen Soco, Marco, Jake and Rachel
The Nartec culture appears deplorably degenerate to the visiting Animorphs. It seems backward and extremely inhumane to them. The Nartec have stolen human seagoing vessels which have sunk over the millennia. The Nartec 'Searchers' are deployed to retrieve wreckage, as well as any surviving humans, whom the amphibians refer to as 'Surface-Dwellers'. Ship parts, flotsam and jetsam are used to build furniture, houses, and other items. Sunken ships, some as large as aircraft carriers, that have remained intact are placed in giant galleries on the outskirts of the only Nartec city the Animorphs have seen. The Animorphs' views of the Nartec 'wonders' vary on two different extremes: the way the city was constructed from ship parts, and the gallery, is incredible; and yet, the Nartec technology was merely stolen from humans. The Nartec militia is equipped with a myriad of collected human arms, from bows and arrows to sub machine guns.
It appears as though no accolade can be awarded the Nartec for cultural or scientific achievement. The Nartec are a race of scavengers, using stolen human and Yeerk technologies. However, they have developed a technique of extracting human DNA for reproduction.
Society among the Nartec is comparable to feudalism, which appears to have changed little over centuries. The royal class and aristocracy live in the center of the town. The bourgeoisie live further out, while the traders, artisans and manufacturers live closer to the outskirts. Finally, criminals and the poor make out an existence outside the town. Cassie makes a remark about the sheer backwardness of Nartec discrimination.
Human prisoners retrieved from sunken vessels have appeared to have been treated well as guests, at first, but are then subjected to horrible torture. Nartec 'doctors' inject a solution of ablata weed, which 'renders subjects peaceful and compliant'. This drug merely sedates the victims; it does not put them into sleep, or mask the pain. After dissecting their victims alive, the Nartec remove all organs and stuff them with an unidentified material, and are then put on displays on the human vessels as 'educational exhibits', which the Animorphs found shocking, disturbing, and disgusting.