- Vol. 07
- Chapter 02
They had devastated a hundred planets, a full half of those in the system inhabited by plant and animal life-forms, before the Gestalt collected enough information to deduce that they would eat themselves to starvation if something extraordinary was not implemented. Another score of planets died in waste as they mulled it over.
If space travel had proved problematic, the finite nature of resources would have presented earlier. They might have developed some sort of organic telescope which indicated the relative sparseness of life-bearing planets the further removed from the systems core. But the creatures were transphasic by nature. Their chitinous bodies excited their molecules to coast the tachyons as easily as cuttlefish excited their cells to pulse light and colour. Only the actual encounter of dead and empty planets alerted them to their possibility, and the Gestalt was bemused at their undeniable existence. What were they for?
They saw no ‘chance’ in living: only that their extended environment existed for them to feed and propagate. They hadn’t noted the diversity of the life forms they devoured en masse, only the calorific and nutrient variances, to which only one of the triumvirates – which made up the Gestalt –had even given a passing consideration.
Every eye, feeler, and spiracle relayed the information available in the immediate environment, while a third of the system’s population were cannibalized to slow the resource-gobbling to allow more time to process that information.
They needed to develop or discover a more specialized form of sustenance. The Gestalt examined the wastelands until they discovered a substance which was known to alter genetic code. They would order the queens to absorb this to birth a smaller, explorer, species, needing less to eat and less able to breed – plus a deliberate sub-queen flaw to ensure they would not contest resources.
The target species to provide hybrids lived in a society which valued pretty clouds and plastics. The image implanted in their army was simple and apropos.
Decision made, the pheromones of instruction rode the tachyon highway, and the five queens of the thousand devourers began their labour … literally.