'Sivver is the common name given to crystalline parasites, which interact with the nervous systems of carbon based Chordate life forms.'
Definition of the word Sivver provided by the Galactic Scouting Guild's Almanac
'The Sivvers are an alien weapon that turns people into murderous glass sweating zombies.'
Uwell Ofmobile, retired Galactic Scout
Sivvers: (siv-ER) Are a parasitic crystalline life form envisioned for use in a Sci-fi game setting. In their autonomous or dormant 'spore' form sivvers are a translucent colorless high-energy alpine crystals with a complex internal lattice. The autonomous crystals, as they are found at standard atmospheric pressure and temperatures below 140 degrees Celsius, vary in volume from less then a 0.1 cubic millimeters to several cubic centimeters. They are elongated and very sharp. Spore crystals are chemically inactive and give off no electromagnetic radiation above background. However these autonomous crystals are great conductors of electromagnetic energy and would stand out on most EM scans of an area with a lot ambient electromagnetic fields or radiation. Infections occur when the crystals enter a life form, usually through the lungs or through punctures in the skin.
When dormant spore crystals enter the warm (32 degrees Celsius or greater) tissue of a Chordate life form they immediately become chemically active, begin to grow and to differentiate. As the lattice changes and becomes more complicated microscopic new crystals bud off from the parent crystal and migrate through the tissue. As this budding and differentiation occurs the anchored crystals begin to release electronic pulses that alter the function of the surrounding nerve cells. In short order the crystals control the tissue.
The end result of this is that the infected life form becomes a puppet of the Sivver. The goals of the Sivver are discussed below, but in all cases the Sivver wishes to spread infections to other life forms. The infected life forms have an increased body temperature, begin to secrete small fine sharp crystals through the skin and can transmit the infection by touching others. If the life form was alive when infected by a Sivver it will continue to be alive, eating, breathing and moving around more or less as normal. The crystals in the body communicates with each other through the afore mentioned electronic pulses creating a minor hive mind, and as time goes on a master crystal will develop in the brain of the host. In primates the master crystal displaces and consumes much the brain that is required for vision and visual processing. The master crystal also communicates with the brain centers that contain memory, knowledge and skills so that the resulting Sivver puppet retains all the knowledge and abilities of the host prior to infection.
If a Sivvers enters dead, but warm tissue, their initial behavior is the same as in living tissue. Once the Sivver crystal has taken control of the dead tissue, it will orchestrate the cannibalization of the tissue in order to produce energy enough to animate the dead life form, this metabolic process raises the temperature of the corpse and the Sivver begins to orchestrate the corpse's movement. The goal is again to infect other Chordate life forms. If the animated corpse is not capable of breathing or taking in food it will not be long lived. Anaerobic metabolism of the existing tissue can only take the animated corpse so far, and re-animated creatures with a sivver infection tend to be slower and weaker then their more vivacious counter parts.
Activated Sivvers are capable of perceiving the majority of electromagnetic spectrum. And fully infected hosts perceives the world around them not through their endogenous sensory organs but rather through Sivver's natural radar. Thus, the perception of a fully infected Sivver puppet is much different than that of the life form prior to infection. The whole body essentially becomes collection of antenna, which can judge the intensity, type and directionality of most electromagnetic wavelengths and sound waves. As you would guess this system does not provide any perception of depth nor can it discern details of texture. However, the Sivver also produces EM pulses which other Sivver can perceive and distinguish. A system similar to that produces the Sivver hive mind within an infected body, also allows activated Sivver collectives to communicate between hosts. Thus when you have multiple infected life forms in the same area the Sivver perception goes from passive to exquisite as all the information from each infected life form is integrated with distance between infected life forms being perceived by the delay is the signals between individuals.
Sivver ecology, evolution and thematic considerations:
I have envisioned multiple takes on the Sivver ecology, but in all cases the infected groups begin to undertake complicated multi-step projects in order to spread their infections. For exampled infected individuals will lay traps for uninfected individuals, construct or use transports to carry and spread infections, and employ the complicated skills that their host had in life. The over arching goal of the Sivver's that I envision depend on whether I treated them as either a) an intelligent life form, b) an animalistic life form or c) an advanced and programmable technology. In any case I hope Sivvers will intrigue the players because these apparently mindless zombies will also be engaged in outwardly enigmatic but complex projects.
An intelligent life form: (this is how I plan to use them in 'My traveler universe') the Sivvers are ancient pre-historic race that evolved in high temperature thermal vents on a world that also had a parallel evolution of carbon based oxygen breathing life forms. These primitive sivvers would send out 'spore' crystals in order to populate new thermal vents. The spores were dormant and their success was based on the law of numbers: if enough sand is thrown into the currents then some will land where you want. Through some ecological or biological event these spores began getting ingested by a Chordate creature. Some of these spores adapted to this new habitat, and the end result of this new evolutionary branch were parasites controlled the hosts.
Eventually the Sivvers developed a whole civilizations in which they bred hosts, developed technology and thrived as a giant hive mind. The whole world was like one computer. Technology was used to keep crystals active outside of bodies so that they could act as control diodes. One problem was that the Siveer crystals themselves had little capacity for memory. Their cystaline genetic material could encode instincts well enough and over millions of years those instincts became very sophisticated, but the memories of an individual lifetime were stored in the host's brain. The hive mind can store memories but that is predicated on the maintence of the complex network. Thus when a huge catacysim struck (solar flares, super nova, intergalactic war) the hive mind was disrupted, the Sivver was damaged and civilization was destroyed. More correctly it was laid dormant. Small groups of Sivver could use their own lifetime of knowledge to try and full fill their instinctual drives to spread and survive, but they were no longer truly intelligent beings. The instinctual goal of 'intelligent sivvers' in the game is three fold, find suitable hosts, spread as many 'spores' as possible and build a new hive mind. Until the hive mind becomes self aware there is no negoiting or talking to Sivvers even though they may use speech and complex tools. And despite the fact that the infected individual can appear to have much of his original personality, the infected individual is driven only by the Sivvers primal instincts.
As animalistic life forms: In this scenario the Siveers are pseudo-life forms that are hundreds of billions of years old. They evolved on high a energy, dense atmosphere terrestrial planet such as Venus and this is were they most want to be. Siveers will use the knowledge of their hosts (they have evolved to infect spacefaring races) to try reach a Venus like planet. Infected people, though they may still sweat crystals and try to spread the infection, will also be drawn to planets like this. It will become a compulsuion. Infected individuals will be attracted higher atmospheric preasure, higher temperatures and respond positively to the smells of amoninia, ozone and methane.
As weapons: In this scenario the Sivvers are a designed life form meant to destroy a planet's population. In this system I envision the Sivver having an off switch. The operators of Sivvers could send out a signal, which would send all Sivvers inactive and kill all infected individuals.
The zombie sivver in which the crystals are animating dead tissue will try to scratch and touch uninfected individuals. An infected individual gives off a distinct EM signal, and thus Sivvers can tell the difference been infected and uninfect individuals even if the symptoms of infection have not yet manifested. A 'live' sivver host is also hard to kill because they can adapt to a lot of tissue damage, and they don't respond to pain. A successful head shot that takes out the control crystal however will change the infected sivver from a 'live' sivver that can use technology and access the host's memory to a zombie sivver which will only try and touch the uninfected or will be controlled by a Sivver super-intelligence (see below). As discussed above Sivver's have radar which envelops them 360 degrees. Groups of Sivvers have even more sophisticated means of perception. This makes it extremely hard to sneak up on them.
As mentioned before Sivvers are excellent conductors of EM energy. If infected puppets or Zombies are operating in a high enery, stable EM field, the crystals can differentiate into lattices which can convert that raw energy into chemical energy. This can fuel the infected tissue, making it stronger, resistant to oxygen deprivation and capable of focusing the EM radiation. Depending on how violent the gaming group gets and how much of a challenge the Sivvers are presenting, it could also be possible to shoot crystals or extend the crystals through their skin so as to make extremely sharp melee weapons.
Intelligence and Society: As stated active Sivvers are not truly intelligent, they have strong instincts and these instincts direct the intelligence and problem solving abilities of their hosts. A true Sivver intelligence can and will occur when enough active crystals can communicate. The communication will inevitably develop a super intelligence, with each active crystal functioning like a single neuron or circuit. This new intelligence comes with highly evolved instincts regarding survival and propagation, but it is also a newly self-aware conscious with a need to learn and mature. I imagined that their are entire Sivver planets, in which species have evolved along side the Sivvers. On a Sivver world the concicinous could be thousands of year old and in possession of massive computing power.
Pathology and Psychology of a Sivver Puppet: The symptoms of a Sivver infection goes as follows. At the site of infection there is tingling, muscle spasms and finally numbness. As the infection progresses the body temperature rises, the subject develops a perceived a weakness in the limbs, a constant feeling of thirst and hunger combined with strong cravings for salty and bitter foods. A fully infected individual can no longer see as they did before, they sweat profusely and their skin appears covered in fine quartz sand.
The term puppet may be a misrepresentation of a fully infected individual. The communication between the sivver crystals and the host body is only one-way. Sivver crystals communicate to the host, but they do not directly gain information from the host. The behavior of the crystals can be altered if the hosts under goes drastic chemical or physical changes, but the Sivver programming does not change based on the mental state of their host. Thus regardless of whether a Sivver infects a spider monkey or the human commander of a large intergalactic fleet, the Sivver programming will give the same commands. The intellect and personality of the host will dictate how those commands our realized. The spider monkey will try and touch and grab uninfected individuals in order to spread the crystals. The military commander will likely order people to approach him privately and then infect them. The commander may then be able to place those infected individuals in areas in which they infect numerous others.
This begs the question, does the Sivver Puppet know they have been infected. I suppose this could be up GM's discretion, but as I used the Sivvers, the infected individual was not entirely aware anymore. The infected individual loses his or her emotional drive, no longer has a sense of self preservation apart from the Sivver's, and has no initiative apart from the Sivver's instincts. Thus the Puppet is not truly a puppet because it still retains all of the knowledge and abilities it had prior to the infection and the Sivver is not directly controlling it. Yet they are Puppets in that infected individuals now place the Sivver's well being above that of their own and that of their own species. So they may know they have they have been infected in as much as they can distinguish their state of being from that of other which is uninfected, but they no longer know who they were before the infection.
Interview with Bolt 77237-9, on the Prison Moon of Pappiluna two week following his conviction for manslaughter and conduct unbecoming by the Rich Read Incident tribunal
'My name is Bolt 772327-9. At the time of the Rich Read incident I held the rank of Master Chief in the Dynastic Marine Corps. I was part of the 173rd Orbital Assault regiment placed on discretionary duty under the direct command of the Lord of Gamyediea: he was the Sector's Governor at that time. The force sent to Rich Read's World was part of a mixed unit of House Warriors and Dynastic Military. That situation gave us what I observed to be an unstable and poorly defined chain of command. I was personally commanding my 12 man combat team. We made the first landing, but I was not in command of the mission. All I knew was that the population of an agrarian community on the planet Rich Reid had come under attack...correction all we knew was that was a distress signal, maybe hostages, maybe pro-Union rebels...we didn't now about the Sivvers at that time.'
Excerpt from Dr. Regina Huntington's untransmitted lecture regarding her work with the Rich Read's World Specimens. The lecture was upload from the central computer aboard the FTO Research station on the world of New Fatland. The station is still under military quarantine.
'The Sivvers are a form of semi-intelligent crystalline parasitic life forms. When Sivvers come in contact with primate biological tissue they begin to emit a series of relatively low energy electronic pulses generated by breaking and forming chemical bonds within in the Sivver's crystal lattice. If the biological material is still alive, even if the central life functions of the organism have stopped the Sivver crystal will begin to grow and differentiate. In short order the growing crystal will interact with the nervous system, and the circulatory system. The crystal will begin a feed back loop with the nervous system, issuing commands to nearby muscles groups. As the Sivver infection continues microscopic seed crystals bud off from the growing founder crystal. If the host is still alive, the microscopic seed crystals travel along the extracellular matrix by alternating their polarity until they are able to enter the circulatory system. This first wave of seed crystals released into the circulatory system deposit themselves in large banks of bio-chemical energy such as the spinal column, brain but also nerve bundles such as the trigeminal ganglion. Eventually the host's higher functions cease to exist and the Sivver programming or consciousness takes over completely. The possessed body is fully locomotive, and able to respond to stimuli possibly exceeding the range of normal human perception. The primary activity undertaken by the possessed body is to attempt and implant other individuals with seed crystals.'
'We descended to the planet's (Rich Reed's World) surface in a modified PGM glider. It had no ordinance, and I was able to control it manually. We were told that the Lord wished our landing to be quiet, so not to escalate the situation. Though they never said it, the Lord's staff hinted that this was hostage situation as part of a general rebellion. However, I was guided to the surface by a landing beacon, that had been prepared by the Lord's Steward, we don't at the time that the Steward had been infected or whatever you call it when Sivver attacks'
Dr. Regina Huntington
'We call them semi-intelligent because they to do not appear to be engage in any art, philosophy or culture to speak off. Yet they do seem capable of problem solving and communication. They also appear to be able to access or at least direct the skills of their host. For example, our lab conducted several experiments in which non-human primates were infected with Sivver crystals. One cohort of primates had been previously trained to navigate a 5 point maze and open a complex puzzle lock in order to rejoin the colony, the second cohort had no experience with either the maze or puzzle locks. Once infected both cohorts dedicated 95% of their score-able actions towards contacting uninfected life forms. When the trained cohort was exposed to the maze they immediately made their way through the maze without error and opened the lock at speeds significantly higher then uninfected trained primates. They immediately infected the rest of their colony. The untrained primates did not try navigate the maze or open the puzzle lock, until at least 12 hours after being placed in the maze. We conclude that Siveer parasites were able to access memorys and training of their host.'
'The grass, all the foliage actually, on Rich Read is black, a flat black. The same color as our PGM. I put us down real soft, in about 1.5 meters of grass, behind a hill, about 3 clicks south of beacon. There was a real strong wind blowing north, I had turned the glider south and used that wind to make a soft landing on that hill. We landed and disembarked without making a sound. Rich Read was turning away from it's star and there were streaks of orange and red light all over the sky. Red glares bouncing of our gun-metal gauss rifles. The wind was blowing us north towards the beacon. The whole planet smells like sulfur, nobody spoke as my team fanned out. This drop felt different than others, pariatlly because the 173rd usually brought hell with em. Here in the orange light, silently passing through the tall black grass it felt like we were arriving in hell.'
Dr. Regina Huntington
'A typical Sivver has a high energy crystalline lattice varying in size from less the an cubic nanometer to several cubic centimeters. In our specimens with advanced infections, much of the brain had been consumed or displaced by several large Sivver crystals. Mostly, in the regions of the brain responsible for vision. We referred to these crystals as control crystals, because they were only present in animals with advanced infections. In these late stage specimens there was also a layer of crystals directly under the dermis. These crystals were linked into the muscle tissue and would protrude from the skin, when a non-infected creature was detected. These small dermal crystals have very fine points, and are capable cutting through most materials. These crystals in the skin are a means reproduction. Once physical contact with a uninfected specimen is achieved the dermal crystals at the sight of contact release from the muscle tissue. This allows them to enter a new host and effectively reproduce.'
'We got to the beacon quickly, Rich Read had 0.8 gravity, so travel time was decreased. The beacon was in a multi family estate, with a large metal hanger or barn on the southern edge of the estate. Thermo graphics, revealed a smallish well-shielded fusion reactor in the hanger and about 11 peop...well humanoids moving around the reactor. They must have been working on it, cause we detected several shifts in its power signature. Their heat signature were aptyical for humans, if they were wearing signature reducing body armor, but they also appeared warmer then typical humans leaving long after images in the air. I had the squad wait, we were about half a click out. Once it got dark, we linked our UMN to big brother in orbit. This court martial was a farce, if they would have let us know...'
Dr. Regina Huntington
'Our primate colonies with advanced Sivver infections appeared to have perception, beyond that of uninfected specimens. Again, using our maze and puzzle experimental models we were able to but various type of barriers between our infected specimens and the uninfected colonies. We found that infected specimens were significantly delayed in finding the colony or unable to find the colony when there was complete electromaginetic shielding. However, without any disruption of electromatic transmissions, the Siveer infected specimens attempt to access the uninfected colony almost immediately. Our uninfected colony had no transmitters or tags, only their own organic production of heat and other EM signals. '
'I sent in a four man observation team, the one with Specialist Berkley in command. True, Berkley had never passed the Squad Leader Command course, but I had severed with him for 9 years. He had passed every test I'd ever given him. All of my guys were the best; they would have known if they kicked some alarm, neither us nor the orbital observers could detect any surveillance equipment. But that party in the hanger knew my guys were coming. When the team was about 200 meters away from the hanger, those things in the hanger stopped what ever they were doing to that reactor and started heading out towards my team. I switched my rifle scope from thermo to starlight scope, and saw the face of the first one of those things that came out of the hanger. At first it looked like he was wearing a mask, his face was all shiny, completely reflective eyes. I sent a ' take cover' signal to the team. It was a silent signal, just a little light in our heads up display. But those things heard or snooped my transmission, cause that lead one... the guy .... the one I was tracking, as soon as I blinked twice to confirm the send command in my heads up display, that lead guy turned and looked right at me. I was zoomed in right on his head, right on his face and I saw his face twitched. It was then I realized that he wasn't wearing a mask or a visor at all. He wasn't human. My 25 years in the core, gave me some instincts. I took the shot. The gauss rifle put 2 five centimeter steel rods right into that things head. And that is when all our comms went blank.'
Dr. Regina Huntington
'Even a small direct laceration from a Sivver crystal produces an inevitably lethal pathology, as long as the offending crystals is able to penetrate dermis and enter the blood stream. The time course of the Sivver pathology appears to vary with the size of the initial dose. One unfortunate lab accident took 23 days to manifest in a full-grown human male. Our non-human primates were infected by surgically implanting 100 grams of harvested Sivver crystals at the base of the spine. That infection manifested fully within 12hrs. To prevent contamination of our staff we used autonomous robots to perform the surgeries, and the dissections. An interesting problems arose when it came time sacrifice the infect colonies. Sivver infected animals were resistant to pharmacological termination. Even a lethal period of oxygen deprivation did not render the animals unresponsive. Thus we determined that the Sivvers' life function and behavior was not linked directly to the host's life function. '
'Communications went out, we were hit with some kind of interference, static flooded all our channels, my sites went dead and my heads up display went off line. The range finder on the gauss rifles were out also, but my boys just knocked off the unit/mission network safeties and opened up on the targets. There were 11 targets, me and my boys dropped em all with 7 short controlled bursts in a four count at more then 200 yards. It was quick and silent. Comms were still out so we couldn't talk to the sky eye and we couldn't talk to each other. Basic electronics were still working, anything that wasn't dependent on wireless software seemed fine. I used my torch to signal the scout team to press on. There was no moon, the only light was the star and the abnormally harsh white light streaming out of the open hanger. It drew my eyes too it, made it hard to scan the periphery. '
Dr. Regina Huntington
'Our monkeys were forcefully restrained by our surgical robots and dismembered. As we had expected the removed arms and legs continued to move for several minutes following the procedure. Indeed, the arms and feet would actually try to move towards the exit. The process became further complicated when we first attempted to section the skull and brain of fully infected subject. The surgical robots fractured a command crystal in one of the brains. This caused a large energry release from the crystal which interfered with all our wireless communications. Luckily we were able to reboot the robots and continue the procedure. We plan to repeat this process in the presence of other infected subjects to observe how that signal will change the function and behavior activated crystals. '
Berkley's unit was approaching the hanger... Berkley had point. I had Wrench, Specialist Wrench 937602-2, reloading our Unit/Mission Network. Thorn, that was Berkley's first name....as you can tell by his sur-ID Berkely was not born on a Dynasty world. He was from first a 1st migration family, but a solid soldier. Maybe he and 1st migrants are a little more aggressive and more prone to risk taking, but that is what I wanted in our kind of unit. Beside I still don't think not inspecting the bodies was overly reckless, any way he went straight into the hanger. Without pause, just classic Berkley, he just charged straight in, and that is when they got up, those silver corpses, three of me, shot straight up off the ground and dived in the hanger after him. They all had holes in their chest, but they moved liked game rabbits. We could hear shots being fired in the hanger, Berkley took six shots, three more than it should taken. Wrench got the networks back up just in time for me to hear Berkley's last words and he didn't say ' it is a Sivver', I know it sounds like that on the log. That was just his backwater accent, he said ' it was severed'. But I guess the name stuck.
The things had opened up his jugulars, they can do that with their hands if they want to, just make their hands into knives, I saw em cut up Washer and Cord-the two other Specialists in Berkley's team, those things sliced right through our body armor like it was cotton. I know, they say that Sivvers always try and take people alive, well maybe, unless they have a plan. These guys had a plan. Anyway I didn't have time to think about it then, in 0.8 gravity, with a strong wind at my back and augmented muscle tissue, I flew toward that hanger.
I was 30 meters from the hanger when the roof blew off and their missile streaked into the sky. The missle was a small orbital shuttle they had stripped down and turned into a projectile. My 25 years of instincts told me one thing, when the enemy throws something up you knock it down. Wrench and I both had one-shot SAM launchers with us, and we both let em fly. When our missiles hit that rocket, it didn't explode, it popped. A cloud of silver particles mushroomed out. I strapped my face mask into place and watched the fine sharp dust blow across the black grass. I wouldn't find out what happened till weeks later, and I really didn't understand all these details until the court martial. But I knew enough that day, I knew they had won.
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? Responses (17)-17
Truly good space-zombie variant. And the background story is great too. The only things I wonder about is whether the wireless network the crystals form can be interrupted or even be hacked, and whether it is possible to cure an infected person.
Thanks, as for your questions. Those things would be up the GM I suppose, but the way I envisioned it was that there was no cure (of course clever PCs could come up with one) and that yes the network could be disrupted be something like a solar flair emp, or any other large source of radiation. As for being Hacked or snooped, why not. I also flirted with the idea of the sivver using a psionic energy or the Force depending on the setting.
Not things to be messed with.
Sci-fi p-zombies. The interview log really added to this, taking an already well-thought-out idea and giving it an even more interesting "face of the enemy" as it were.
Oh, I like this one. They are on face a space zombie, but the depth and characterization make it something different entirely.
A new question: do I read it correctly that cold-blooded creatures do not 'activate' the srpores? If there are cold-blooded aliens, than these might carry spores without knowing it (or so they say...) Meanwhile, survivors of these zombies might become quite paranoid about dust and glittering particles.
Yes, the spores as they are written would not become active in any animal with a body temperature below 32 degrees C? What above fish or filter feeders like clams and oysters, might laying dormant in these food stuffs be a means of transmitting infections.
Axel, I have a small request. Can you edit the formatting of the summary for this sub so it's not spaced so far at the top and bottom on the main page? It's nothing huge, it's just irking me in the same way that an image that stretches your screen horizontally does.
DId that fix it?
Wow, very indepth and complete, I was expecting something shorter, but it just kept going, with mroe and more useful info to paint a complete picture of these parasites. (whcih is a good thing by the way.)
Very veristile and quite nasty, they make for a great take on "space zombie" and excellent example of non carbon based life forms that are truly alien in their outlook and goals.
The multiple evolutionary options are a nice touch, and they can be easily adapted to a fantasy setting with minimal effort.
Excellent stuff, and sure to show up in my upcoming space campaign!
I marvel at stuff like this, because I can't write it. Engrossing!!
I like the flavor a lot! Zombies that sweat crystals. And extra points for not making it a simple virion or bacterium that does the dirty work. The biology backstory is pretty good, too. I don't like to imagine anything coming out of a deep-sea vent that isn't a horrible monster.
Are they like prions? Saying something is a crystal is sort of like saying that it is stackable in a grid, and nearly all proteins are can be forced into a crystalline pattern (that's how X-ray crystallography works). But at the same time, you can have really simple proteins direct massive behavioral changes (mad cow disease), so that works.
Also, it strikes me as sort of weird that crystals have an EMP profile when crystals are just lattices of ionically balanced molecules. No polarity.
I would imagine that the sivver molecules would have to have a great deal of catalytic activity to direct the formation of new sivver molecules within the host. So they could also direct the folding or re-fold existing proteins. Perhaps that could be a sivver infection biomarker, when nitric oxide synthase or calcineurin is folded incorrectly (I just want to pick molecules that bound non-carbon molecules)
As for the crystal lattice, I am willing to suspend disbelief enough to imagine a clear shiny crystalline molecule that actually has complex molecular structure containing both high energy and low energy bonds and when exposed to a relatively small amount of ambient energy becomes polar when the those low energy bonds break. But indeed there is more fiction in here than science and certainly more fiction than engineering. But also the word crystal, in addition to biochemecial definition, just means something that looks like quartz.
This is quite well done sir!
Definitely well done -- glad I finally had a chance to give this one a read. I personally enjoyed the informative part of the article far more than the combat and research logs later on. That was probably because they used a lot of words to repeat information you'd already given. If you shortened that section and tightened up the narratives a little, it would be a stronger piece.
That's a pretty minor nitpick, though. I loved the evolution of these guys, the different approaches you thought of for treating them, and the intriguing possibility for them to gain sentience. Well done, sir!
Really well done and an enjoyable read.