Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Here's an idea I just flashed on - someone [I]must[/I] have done this before that I can't recall or haven't read: A highly intelligent sophont developed from lamprey or leech-like forbears. It is virtually helpless on its own, lacking any but the most limited mobility. However, it is an extremely accomplished parasite.

The species calls itself Riders. Their ancestors simply latched onto larger animals for food. In time, Riders developed the ability to exercise considerable neural control over its hosts, allowing them to guide their "mounts" freely. Riders, when they find a good mount, will stay attached to the side of their host's head as long as possible and to that end will see that their mount stays well fed and as happy as can be arranged. On the Riders' homeworld, this has resulted in a symbiotic relationship with several different species in a variety of environments.

The introduction of a human population during the (MTU's) Old Empire period led to the development of symbioses between Riders and human hosts. While the transition to this state of affairs can not have been smooth, the resulting society has (apparently) long since come to embrace the arrangement - to the point that human riders expressed horror at learning that the scout surveyors that found them were "all alone."

The degree of host autonomy is not known, though there have been reports of polite arguments between Riders and their Mounts. Riders communicate with each other only by touch (their tails are long and supple.) They communicate with their hosts by something close to telepathy. They communicate with other sophonts through their hosts. "I am l'Edan's Gerain. l'Edan asks, are you hungry? Do you require drink? We can prepare it for you."

Riders effectively possess the physical attributes of their host. Their Int is +3; their Ed and Soc are -2 each.

You really, really don't want to know how Riders reproduce.


Blogger Omer Golan said...

This reminds me of how the Zerg's evolution was described in Starcraft's (the computer game) manual. They started out as a parasite sticking to larger creatures, then began to control the hosts and later on even change them physically into useful forms.

Another computer game idea which sounds similar to this is System Shock 2's "The Many", consisting of worm-like parasites with some kind of a collective consciousness who could attach to human hosts and "whisper" to them, making them do the biddings of the Many and protect it.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Sounds pretty similar, yeah. What did The Many look like? I'm picturing a kind of eel-like thing, attached at the temple and wrapping around the head and shoulders. The sort of thing that might be mistaken for headgear...

"Would the ambassador like me to take his hat?" "Your pardon, but the ambassador *is* the hat."

1:30 PM  
Blogger Omer Golan said...

The Many looked like a 30cm-long annelid worm attached to the host's chest in one side and to his temple on the other. In many subjects the attachment has resulted in mental deterioration (to use the host as a warrior for the Many), but in some it resulted in the host (scientists in most cases) being very inventive - inventing new things for the Many to use...

Pictures of Many Hybrids (warning: low-poly 1999 graphics):

Here are some concept art pieces:

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:52 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Well, dang. Looks like it's just about everybody's idea. Guess that makes it classic enough for Proto-Traveller! Now I need to whip up a race of bugs.

6:07 AM  

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