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Voidbrood

Wrath stood and stretched xyr wings, the long curved blades unfolding with a wet scraping sound, tentacles adjusting their grip on the railgun hanging across xyr chest. Xe looked down into the chasm separating the two buildings, thirty stories leading into darkness. Then xe took a step back, muscles tensing.
Jumped.
The AI calculated distance, gravity, terminal velocity, and flashed a warning across the HUD that went unheeded. Tiles shattered with a sharp crack as the Peacekeeper hit the terrace running, ice-cold rain water drenching xyr shinguards and pant legs, then xe was at the far side and launched xemself off the low parapet and toward the train station's glass façade, arms raised to protect xyr face. Ten meters ahead, one floor down.
Easy.
The AI resigned itself to the improbabilities.
— Voidbrood: Nightmare City Blues
  The voidbrood, or kurshâri m'gkôrah as they call themselves, are a parasitic species native to space. They fled their home universe 600 billion years ago when it tore itself apart, and have been traveling the multiverse ever since.   Even before their exile, they had a reputation as ferocious killing machines, and they have since made it part of their mission to win their place at the top of the food chain in every region they settle in.  

Evil of Old

A name used in their native universe and based on legends of the first encounters early space travelers had with them in the uncharted depths of space. While referring to their spaceborn form, it only came into widespread use during the voidbrood expansion, once people made the link between their new form and the spaceship killers of those ancient legends.

Basic Information

Anatomy & Morphology

While attached to its host, the only visible parts of the parasite are part of its head and back, and the three pairs of tentacles.  

Parasite

The voidbrood themselves are tear-shaped invertebrates with one short and two long pairs of tentacles and a rudimentary tail. The lack of bones means they can squeeze through very narrow openings.  

Space Adaptation

While they have since undergone significant genetic engineering, both voidbrood and their hosts are entirely capable of living in the vacuum of space. They don't need to breathe (though their hosts have lungs so they can speak and make use of various atmospheric gases), and are completely immune to extreme temperatures and massive amounts of radiation.  

High Gravity Adaptation

Voidbrood hosts are adapted to high gravity, and their soldiers routinely train at 3 g, and can survive up to 20 g for a limited time. They have thick and heavy bones, both to carry their weight in those conditions and to prevent fractures.  

Skin

Both voidbrood and their hosts have thick, sometimes scaly, skin that protects them from small space debris, making them essentially bulletproof. That said, large caliber rounds will cause some serious bruising, and their skin offers little protection from armor-piercing rounds.   Their skin is black or dark gray due to high amounts of melanin, which helps them metabolize gamma radiation.  

Wings

Voidbrood hosts have a second pair of arms that look similar to wings, however they're not made for flying.  
Queen caste wing:

Voidbrood Wing Concept 1

Genetics and Reproduction

Voidbrood have one primary reproductive caste, the Queens. Since they're hermaphrodites, that caste also includes drones. The only differences between them are their role and the amount of genetic material they transmit to their offspring.   Who becomes a queen and who a drone is decided in the courtship ritual. The strongest is usually the queen, as she will have to carry, and give birth to, the young. It's not uncommon for older drones to leave a queen's harem and found their own swarm as queens.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Voidbrood are eusocial. They live in swarms led by Hivequeens (or occasionally, Drone Kings). All members of a swarm share a hivemind, allowing them to pool the mental processing of many individuals. The amount of control the common consciousness has over its members is limited. Higher ranks and specialists also carry a slaved non-sentient AI that augments their mental abilities, and those AIs form their own kind of hivemind.  

Ferals

Ferals are those born outside an established swarm, often to young queens, or former hivequeens who have been kicked out by a rival.

Facial characteristics

Voidbrood Concepts 01

 

Jaws and Teeth

Voidbrood hosts have skull-like faces with a pair of needle-like lower canines. Those are venom fangs, complemented by rows of several more in the mouth, kept folded up against the palate until needed. The rest of their teeth are triangular, sharp, and very strong. They also have a second, pharyngeal pair of jaws, used to hold on to uncooperative food.  

Eyes

Their eyes are black, without a distinct pupil, as the iris opacity changes to regulate the amount of incoming light. They have a third, transparent eyelid to protect their eyes without having to close them.  

Wing Skulls

All but the Queen hosts' wings each have a skull-like head located at the top of the largest blade. The only working sensory organs are the eyes.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Aside from hearing, both voidbrood and their engineered hosts share the same senses.  

Hearing

Voidbrood themselves can neither speak nor hear, as sound doesn't travel in space. Their hosts on the other hand have very good hearing, including near infrasound (down to ca. 7 Hz). They can move their ears independently to locate the source of a sound.  

Vision

Voidbrood eyes have about a dozen types of photoreceptors, allowing them to see not only colors in the visual spectrum, but also infrared, ultraviolet, and polarized light. They can also tune the sensitivity of their vision to different environments.   That provides them with a multispectral map of their surroundings, making orientation in space easier. The colors they see beyond the visual spectrum, and in combination with it, are difficult to fathom for humans, while spectral tuning allows them to approximate what species limited to that spectrum (or to any other within their visual range) would see.  

Olfaction and Taste

Voidbrood have extremely good smell and taste senses. The two senses are closely linked, and usually considered part of the same sensory complex.   Their sense of smell allows them to track prey and resources by following otherwise invisible trails of chemicals even over long distances. They're able to detect not only organic compounds, but also a number of metals and minerals, especially in combination with their sense of taste and their radioceptive sense.   Additionally, they can communicate via pheromones, both directly and by marking items and locations.  

Radioception

The ability to sense and track sources of gamma radiation was crucial to voidbrood, as for the longest time, it was their primary energy source.   It's a quasi-olfactory sense, allowing them to smell radiation. It provides a fairly good resolution and combined with their sense of smell, allows them to recognize patterns of intensity and different radiation sources.   While less important now that they have easy access to a wide variety of foodstuffs, they still have a few uses for this sense:
  • Reading radioactive patterns used to mark items and locations, invisible to anyone without the sense (or a sensitive Geiger counter).
  • Finding and tracking radiation leaks.
 

Electro- and Magnetoception

The electroceptive and magnetoceptive senses use the same organs and thus are commonly considered to be one single sense. The responsible organs are clustered around the head, and measure differences in electromagnetic potential   Incidentally, strong electric or magnetic fields aren't disorienting to voidbrood, but can induce a kind of trance similar to a flow state. The hiveminds tend to take advantage of that, which is one reason they like to build bases in pulsar systems.  

Vestibular Sense

The vestibular sense works different than in planetborn species. While voidbrood have the ability to sense gravity and orient themselves accordingly, they don't rely on it, and those new to gravity environment require some time to get used to it and to move around confidently.  

Telepathy and Hivemind

Voidbrood are telepaths, and each swarm shares a common mind. The line between this hivemind and the individuals sharing it are blurry. Ferals are the odd ones out, as they're not part of a known swarm.   They're ability to communicate telepathically with other species is very limited, as they simply don't speak the same language. However, it's not uncommon for them to pick up occasional mental images and similar cues even from individuals with only very latent telepathic ability, if they're linked to particularly strong emotions.

Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms

While the voidbrood are parasites -- or more accurately, parasitoids, as they usually end up killing the various species they use as hosts -- they live in a beneficial symbiotic relationship with their engineered hosts. In fact, those hosts cannot survive without their voidbrood symbiont after reaching maturity.

Voidbrood

Lifespan
potentially indefinite
Average Height
host: 2.1 - 2.7 m
Average Length
parasite: 0.9 - 1.4 m
tentacle span: 1.2 - 3.5 m
Average Physique
host: muscular / bulky

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