The Kth'k'k'kt - A New Look at Hivers
Though each drone possesses little intelligence of its own, together, they are the Kth'k'k'kt, who span the stars.
While certainly multi-morphic across their three genders, the Kth'k'k'kt all share a common body plan. Insectoid in origin, these Hive beings resemble nothing quite so much as an ant or bee scaled up to well over a meter in total length, and blended with the mythical centaur.
Though they originated in stock similar to the Earthling ant, evolution has wrought significant changes upon them. Their thorax has split into two segments, permitting a significant upwards bend in their 'spines', allowing their foremost limbs to become manipulative appendages, while they still ride upon the four grounded legs. While still multi-faceted, their forwards-facing eyes have managed to come together in a complex system that closely approximates the ability of the human eye, though damage to any one of the hundreds of facets may result in odd visual impairments, such as color blindness across a small arc of their vision. Their chitinous shells still form the framework of their body's anchoring, though now, their rainbow-hued chitin is oddly segmented within, providing a strangely linked endoskeleton to go with their exoskeleton. Coming in every color of the rainbow, and a few outside it, the color patterns of the Kth'k'k'kt help identify the particular hive - all members will have permutations of a given pattern.
Unlike the ant as well, each of the hive members is capable of communicating with all other members of its immediate hive, along a certain range of deep radio frequencies. This communication is effectively mind-to-mind, and although each of the individual hivers has very little intelligence or memory capability, between the many hundreds to many millions of members in a given hive, a sort of gestalt intelligence arises. The more members that are within the hive, the more powerful the mind that arises. There is also a certain continuity of the hive mind - the removal of one mind, be it by death, distance, or interference, will only remove a few memories from the greater mind, no matter which hiver it is. A hive which suffers many fatalities, however, is a confused hive, one that will have difficulty sorting its gestalt out once more.
Three 'genders' can be observed within the hive, each of which is also a hard-wired caste. The caste and gender of an individual Kth'k'k'kt is determined after birth, during a larval gestation stage, through hormones and defined feeding regimens, with need determined by the hive as a whole.
The first, and most common is the male worker drone. Approximately 1.25 meters in total length, the six winged drone provides the hive with its primary tool user. Used by the hive as farmers, builders, scientists, and artists, their delicate hands make them the most useful for the common tasks of the hive.
Second is the sterile female soldier caste. Larger and sturdier than the male worker, the primary purpose of the soldier caste is to fight. Contributing slightly less brainpower to the overall hive, the soldier is none the less able to fill her roles of scouting and fighting without the mental help of the hive, relying on strong instinctive urges when outside the range of the male's minds. Due to their low use when not at war, and rapid maturation rates, a given hive may have literally hundreds of times more drones than soldiers. A hive that frequently sees war or other stressful situations, however, may have nearly an even ratio of the two castes. Further, due to their relative lack of mental power and likely lack of life experience, the death of a soldier has a far smaller impact on the hive than the death of the worker - Because they are less important to the cluster, they are more easily expended.
The massive fertile female queen, meanwhile, is easily the largest of the castes. Extremely rare, without the gestalt of the hive mind, the queen's mind is essentially nonexistent, for she exists for one purpose only: to mate. The final section of her body may swell up to over four meters in length as it pulsates disturbingly with the creation of new life. Often, she is attended by dozens of males, who provide her with food, clean her, and mate with her.
Society & Culture
With their enormous hive minds, coming together from the many individual minds, individuality is a barely known concept to the Kth'k'k'kt, and is a thing to be avoided. All is for the hive. Instead of between individuals, then, it is the hive that forms the basic unit of Kth'k'k'kt society. A complex network of alliances and rivalries between the hives defines the society, each competing with the others to become their own dream of the 'most successful' hive. From time to time, individuals may be assimilated by other hives, traded for genetic root stock, or taken in from a failed hive. This is a long process, with some trauma to the individual, as until the hormones that regulate their ability to access the gestalt respond to those of the new hive, they are cut off from the new hive mind that surrounds them.
It is from these competition and trades that the artistry of the hives arises, and through their attempts to communicate with each other at a deeper level than is possible through simple language. Garish and bizaare to human eyes, the art of the Kth'k'k'kt focuses around complex colored patterns, with a certain fondness shown for the hexagon, as it evokes memories of the hive's life cycle.
While, in general, hiver technology follows the standard spacer's track, they are particularly deficient in the computing technologies. As their hive mind provides more than sufficient processing power for the grand majority of tasks that the hives have as yet encountered, there has been no need to develop such things. Instead, the hive gestalt interacts directly with the machinery that surrounds it, designed and built to respond to the spectrum of the hive. Because of this, it is difficult in the extreme for individual objects to be used by a second hive without significant retooling.
Because of the limited effective range of the gestalt conciousness, Hiver ships are generally built to carry hundreds, if not thousands of crew members, in crowded conditions that would drive members of species with ideas such as individuality and personal space quite mad.
Relations With Others
As the Kth'k'k'kt are unable to comprehend the idea of the individual, the Kth'k'k'kt have a tendency to treat all aliens that look alike as if they are part of the same mind-gestalt. This leads to bizaare complications of contracts and trades, when they mistake one brown-haired, brown-eyed human for representing all brown-haired, brown-eyed humans. It is common for a hive to feel slighted or cheated by aliens that do not cooperate according to their perception of the 'hive' that the alien belongs to, and more than one conflict has broken out in result on each side. They are also notorious for delivering goods to the wrong individual, another flashpoint in often tense relationships with the hives.
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? Responses (16)
Updated: Live, I command thee.. Live!
What I like is the reltionships with others, and the interfacing with technology. Their close similarity to insects is somewhat disappointing; i'd expect more innovation regarding their capacity of existing as an individual. With interstellar travel, you have either to load a whole hive into a ship for it to make decisions, or it is necessary to have individuals that can operate away from the swarm.
I have to agree with Echo with reagrd to his comments touching on their relations with non hivers and their technology use. Their amusing inability to recognize individuals and their awesome ability to process complex information with the aid of complex machinery, give them an interesting touch. As for interstellar travel, I suppose they could alter a the soldier caste and 'program' them with the instincts that they'd need to pilot the spacecraft and complete mission. Their ability to exist as an individual independently of the hive if possible, would undermine the ability of the gestalt mind to function effectively.
I think a trans-light radio would do the job nicely of keeping their travellers in touch.
Interesting insecticle beings.
I like these folks, though they are only a few technical advances away from becoming borg :P
Edited to clarify the living conditions on their ships.
Now, as to complaints for lack of individuality: That is the major factor that generally defines the 'Hiver' trope in Science Fiction settings, one mind, many bodies, which care about most of those bodies about as much as we do toenail clippings. The gestalt-mind, meanwhile, is intended to replace the typical 'queen centered' mind. For all intents, the Hive is the individual. To them, it is the Way Things Are.
There is, you see, also a philosophy behind this: As I have changed as a writer, I find that I do not much like the 'elf as wise man with pointy ears' and 'aliens are humans With wrinkly foreheads' tropes. Instead, I feel that the truly alien being, who functions in a manner different from a human should be deployed - it makes the human more human. The Hive sacrifices its individuals, but is transcendent as a society. So long as the many live, the one is functionally immortal. What is human individuality in the face of that? That's what those who encounter the Hive have to answer. To this end, the common 'om-nom-nom' of the Hiver trope has also been removed. The question is harder to answer when the alien is not actively evil.
Hive aliens are 'traditionally' more of the central-nexus-with-limbs breed of "hive mind" - that is, rather than being a genuine hive awareness, the drones are little more than additional appendages of the Hive Queen.
This, however, is a much more accurate concept of a hive mind. Decentralized cognitive processes, which would have numerous useful results. A true hive species is one where the hive is what can be considered the entity, while the individuals comprising it are more aptly considered cells of the hive's collective body. I've seen this brought up in some of Stephen Baxter's novels, usually as human colonies in marginal conditions evolve into 'eusocial' hives due to generations of evolutionary pressure.
It's a good take on the Hive, and it certainly beats the random Swarming Devouring Horde that must be beaten by killing the Queen. This species, killing the queen is probably the least useful tactic for rapid victory. You could, theoretically, halt the hive's replenishment, but if they have pupal-stage members of the hive still, the Hive would likely just spawn a new queen from one. For these creatures, their 'society' is a unity. Individuality is irrelevant. They don't assimilate other races, and likely don't even really need to compete with them; I expect a hive that has been existent for a while will have a very long-term view on the universe and probably relatively progressive views on sustainability practices.
Ah, had not looked at this from your perspective. Still, my point about the ships stands: FTL radio able to be mounted on small ships is poor story-wise, as then, there is instant communication everywhere, with everyone. Detrimental to many story-arcs.
Even if the hive is able to imprint warriors with combat patterns, their fleets will be very unflexible... which may not be a bug, but actually a feature. In the case of a war they might have good ships and lots of them, but the crews, they just suck.
/If/ FTL communications exist - and just because FTL drives may exist is no reason to surmise an FTL communication system does; it may require the physical drive to move something at FTL speeds, after all - then if the hive could use it to maintain contact, it becomes even more potent; a single Hive could spread across the galaxy or universe to the range limit of said radio, effectively making it almost invulnerable. Also, FTL communications do not certify instant communication, merely that communication can happen faster than dictated by the lightspeed barrier.
And the hive isn't imprinting, as it stands, I believe. The entire hive, literally, loads itself aboard a single ship or a small fleet that remains in close enough contact to remain coherent. You /couldn't/ imprint a single Hiver; their neural systems aren't developed enough on their own for such a thing, and that would essentially inflict a form of individuality on the hive member, which is essentially incomprehensible to the hive. It'd be like you having a single strand of hair that you instruct to keep an eye on things, then pluck from your head and leave it to do so. It just... Doesn't work.
Yes. A hive mind shuts down plots which depend on individualizing hivers. However, in respect, it opens up the plots that you can't do because herding humans is like herding cats.
And no. Their fleets are anything but rigid. So long as they are within reasonable communication range, (And remember, even 5 light-seconds is a long, long distance), they move with a fluid coordination and reaction to events throughout the fleet with a speed and grace that will shock and awe traditional commanders. After all, they've all got one mind... with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails.
I'm still not sure what to think of these guys. They remind me a lot of the Zerg, but they definitely aren't. They're interesting definitely, but I'm just not sure if I can take too much of a stance on them.
They definitely aren't the Zerg, nor the critters the Zerg are ripoffs of, the Tyranids. Both of /those/ require a 'hive leader' and are of the kill, eat, and assimilate style of hiver. These I could see being fairly peaceful if you can manage to deal with them without misunderstandings.
An excellent addition to my next Rogue Trader campaign, a hive species that isn't out to consume the galaxy,
It should keep the players guessing and uncertain for a good bit, as well as make them markedly less confident they know what to expect in the unknown reaches of the expanse.
Silveressa has a point, it is a nice change of pace that they are not the ULTIMATE DOOM OF THE GALAXY! But, I also second Echo and Maggot. A great mix of Zerg, Borg, Chaos and Pseudo-Arachnids. Good job!