Monday, May 28, 2012

More About The Bugs: Part 1

Sandwyrm here. Aeria Gloriss has been taking a crack at filling out the history and behavior of our Bug faction. Click on in and have a look, it's pretty cool!


The Bugs remain a mystery. Much is unknown, and much of what we do know is only speculation and hypothesis. What we have learned so far has been discovered through the blood and lives of the civilized races, military and civilian alike. There is intelligence at work, but not as we know it. Perhaps instinct and alien cunning is more appropriate. It cannot be bought off or be reasoned with.

They hunger, this we know for certain. To consume and reproduce seems their only goal in this galaxy. They will feed on anything organic, including Bugs from another super-colony. A super-colony is made up of many individual colonies, each with their own Queen. It can span many planets and star systems, uniting hundreds of Queens and millions of workers and warriors. The Queens communicate with each other using E/M signals they emit. Within these super-colonies the workers and warriors freely mingle without aggressive behavior. Another species that displays this kind of behavior is the Argentine ant, unlike other ants which are aggressive towards ants of other colonies.

The Queen is of great importance within a colony. She lays the eggs from which the workers and the warriors hatch, she produces the spores that seed the galaxy with new colony and her chirping connects her to the other Queens within her super-colony. These radio signals function as a pheromone trail and call new Bugs to the planet. The Queen starts as a tiny spore and ends up a giant towering over the plant’s surface in the last stage of the colony.

In a way one could say the Bugs have the perfect society. Every member does what is supposed to do and does it well. Any member would lay down their life for the continuation of the Colony without a moment’s hesitation. It is highly unlikely that they are even able to hesitate. There is no infighting within a colony and even between separate super-colonies it is a quick process. Nor are there doubts or politics, only a singular goal: existence. The workers and warriors are bred to fulfill their role, making the Bug army (if such a term could be used to describe it) a force to be reckoned with. And now whispers can be heard about something called the Bug Cult.

At the moment there are many theories on what the Bugs are and where they suddenly appeared from. The most widely believed is that they are a horrible example of evolution gone right. The semi-random seeding of their spores placed them within our galaxy and now they are drawn by the abundance of food to be found here . Other explanations include a biological weapon unleashed by a Colseran who played with the wrong toys. A great evil buried by the Ancients, but now escaped. A great evil created by the Ancients. The wrath of the original Prophet manifesting as a galactic plague to punish those who oppose his teachings. Depending on who you ask and where, the opinions are legion.

The Contamination

Colonization is done by dispersing their spores in space. The spores start their development when they are in the vicinity of a food supply. There are many ways a contamination starts. A ship might fly through a spore cloud or be hit by a piece of debris that contains spores. They then spread these spores along their route, on orbitals or on planets. And these are just the passive contaminations by unhatched spores. The Bugs can also take a more active approach in spreading their own.

The Bugs can utilize mimic-ers to smuggle larvae onto spaceships. Their imitation is far from perfect. It is in fact little more than just a humanoid shape. As such, most get caught. Even so, all those that get through carry a lethal cargo. In space the deception is better. Ships docking with contaminated station or passing through a colonized asteroid field can attract unwelcome hitchhikers. These carriers attach themselves to the ship and their adaptive chameleon-like skin makes them hard to distinguish from the hull. The Queen also plays a big part of course. But as she is of such importance to the colony, we will discuss her in detail later.

The Bugs have completely infested some key systems that can't be quarantined because they lie on the major shipping routes. As a result, the risk of both passive and active contamination is very real.  So if a captain takes his freighter or warship through them to save 2 years of travel, then he risks picking up some spores as he pass from one jump-point to another. Of course, they do their best to 'clean' their ships during or immediately after clearing the quarantine zone, but no process is perfect. So the bugs inexorably spread along the 'highway' systems and have to be found and fought before they fully dig in somewhere.

A planet or ship is very easily contaminated. Luckily for the rest of the galaxy, simply being contaminated does not mean certain death. The cleaning process used on the ships has a relatively high success rate. Although some captains seem to think it is a waste of time and money when you travel through safe systems though. Even when a colony is started, they can be uprooted before they can truly establish themselves. Once they do, it’s still not impossible to destroy the colony although the death toll will start rising exponentially.

In the end it is a matter of statistics. Innumerable spores drift on the solar winds. And some will inevitably expand to the last stage of colonization.

It is currently unknown how many colonies exist in our galaxy. Before the species was discovered and the cleaning procedures were implemented, the Bugs were able to spread like wildfire. How many uninhabited systems house colonies is also unknown. At the moment, attempting to kill them off as they are discovered is the only option.

The Colony

Make no mistake, the Bugs are a threat to other life in the galaxy. When a planet or any suitable living space is contaminated it will either be turned into a habitat perfectly suited for Bug-life or the colony will die trying.

Depending on the environment, the bugs will adapt to the oxygenlevels, the planet’s gravity, … (or lack thereof on spacestations). Based on those parameters, the Bugs can show differences from colony to colony. The key difference lays in the location however. Whether the spores land on a planet’s surface or remain in space is of key importance.

The planet-dwellers build their nest underground, creating a massive network of tunnels. Therefore it is not always clear if a planet houses a colony or not. Only in the later stages of colonization.

At the first stage, the digging begins. First a single shaft and chamber for the Queen and her eggs, but many more are added as time passes. When the colony reaches a certain size, they start becoming self-sufficient. Using local plants, algae and fungus are grown. Food pods are also build. In these pods unarmed civilians and incapacitated soldiers are incased to be fattened and to be kept for later consumption. It is because of these hundreds of ‘captives’ that most commanders don’t just bomb a colony from afar once it reaches this stage. In the last stage, the agriculture is taken above ground. Forests, cities and everything else is torn down and replaced with algaefields as far as the eye can see. What’s left of a planet is a labyrinth of shafts and tunnels underground where the Bugs live and the foodpods are stored. On the surface nothing but fungus and algae remains with a huge tower dominating the horizon. This tower plays a vital role in the future expansion of the Bug race.

But no matter which stage the colony is in, it will take luck to discover the tunnel openings before the ground disappears from under your feet. As a result, a Bug army can appear around you at any time and any place on the planet surface. They rely on this to close with the enemy quickly. Underground detonations are also a risk on infected planets.

In the confines of space vessels and space stations there is little room for digging. So the spacedwellers adapted. Instead of digging tunnels and chambers, they build their colony, using whatever they find and a chemical substance they secrete themselves to reinforce and bind the structure. Using this method, they effectively build a reinforced bunker. There is less space and food so the colony tends to remain much smaller than on a planet’s surface.

Spacedwellers rely on superior numbers, speed and misdirection to close with the enemy. The relation between the workers and the warriors remain the same as on a planet though.

No matter where the colony is located, a few things stay the same. The workers build the colony, the warriors defend it. And if need be, both will die protecting it.

The workers are the smallest of the bugs, while the warriors are larger, stronger and more durable. When a worker needs to do heavy lifting, they work in groups. Only the warriors are armed by design, but that does not mean one doesn’t see workers in battle. The workers depend on the warriorclass to be combat effective. They act as shields and cannon fodder. In some cases they can also be armed by warriors. When no warrior is around, a group of workers are known to act as scouts.

The warriors are some of the most lethal troops to be found. Their capacity for long range combat is limited, but they make up for this by being able to tear nearly everything to shreds and by being very hard to kill. Destroy a limb and they will use the remaining ones to kill you. Make them unable to move and they will keep on shooting from where they have fallen. It is the nerve case that must be shot and even then they will keep coming and keep shooting, completely oblivious to their surroundings. In a war of attrition we cannot win. They breed faster and their soldiers do not need to be trained. So we will need to beat their quantity with quality.

Whether a third class of drones exist is up for debate. Some researchers group the fighters together in the single warrior class. Others make a subdivision: the leviathans. While their purpose is arguably the same as the more generic warriors, no-one will get the two mixed up when they see them. The leviathans are rampaging beasts that tower above the battlefield. They all have unique tools of destruction which all can be described as efficient.

The leviathans interact with their smaller warrior counterparts in a similar way as the warriors interact with the workers, it’s heaving bulk surrounded with a group of its smaller brethren providing close combat protection or fire support.

In a war of attrition we cannot win. They breed faster and their soldiers do not need to be trained. So we will need to beat their quantity with quality.

Continued In Part II...

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