Tuesday, June 23, 2015

174. God's Acre

There is life between the stars. Massive beings, devouring comets for water, skimming gas giants for food, and absorbing starlight for energy. Whatever they are, we have never seen a live one. We know they exist only because of the icy dwarf planet called God's Acre, where they crash themselves to die. We call them leviathans.

Their bodies are like bundles of long, winged snakes. Their biochemistry is carbon-based, but based around radiation-proof building blocks. They curl up and tighten themselves into dense spheres in deep space, when nearing stars they unfurl their wings, which photosynthesize and possibly act as solar sails, and when they need to skim from a gas giant they can arrange themselves into an aerodynamic form. From what form of life the leviathans could have evolved from is totally unknown.

Of at least as much interest as their bodies is their brains and minds. The speed of nerve impulses has always been a limit to the practical size of morphs: the larger you are, the longer it takes nerve impulses to travel to and from your brain, and the slower you inevitably become. The current leading hypothesis is that they overcome the latency problem by being able to predict the actions of the other parts of their body as well as the movements of everything they can see, negating most of the need for reflexes. The leviathans have no central brains, but cores of neural tissue similar to spinal columns run through the centers of each of their long limbs, which supports the idea that they can be thought of as a cooperative gestalt as much or more than a unified ego: they are like an ant colony that happens to occupy one body. Most of their brainpower must be occupied with communication and prediction, and the degree of their intelligence is unknown.

Plot Hook: Argonaut, exhuman and hypercorp research teams have all requested the player's help in retrieving samples from the freshest carcass. Only one of the groups will be able to obtain the key samples, and the teams they don't support will hire NPCs to get them first.

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