Sritht workers in communion with their hive. They secrete a thick fluid which contains nanites and communications channels, allowing the formation of a partial tribemind
The precise origin of the Sritht is a mystery. Before mainstream contact, they did not keep records. It is thought that they are the heavily modified descendants of some of the oldest hider or haloist groups, though the extent of their adaption suggests that they may have had some hyperturing assistance along the way. Reports of "slimy human hives" (quote attributed to the Genen explorer Da-Karesinda Xassima) go back as far as 3476, but the first confirmed reports date from 6259 when a Sritht Hive on the outskirts of the Oro Mistral system responded to hails from the Utopia Sphere ship Hymnoc. A short but fruitful contact was established, after which the Hive returned to the system's Oort Cloud. Over the following centuries, further contact with Sritht Hives was made in various systems across the Utopia Sphere and the bordering parts of the Negentropy Alliance and NoCoZo, with increasing levels of interaction. In 6877 Sritht Hives interacting with other clades began using specialised Ambassador Caste individuals to further contact. By the 8000s, over forty million Hives were known to be operating within mainstream Terragen society. Since then they have diversified into a number of subclades, variously settling down in the Sephirotics, exploring the Outer Volumes, and heading toward the Periphery.
Sritht are extensively genemodded and fitted with bioborg implants. Prior to augmentation, Sritht individuals have two different phenotypes, both female: Workers and Queens. In addition, Hives are an integral part of the clade.
Workers: Workers form the majority of the Sritht, numbering anywhere from several hundred to several thousand per Hive. They have a similar bauplan to a microgravity adapted human, with a second pair of hands on the lower limbs. Workers are on average 1.5 metres from head to toe. The skin is hairless, pale and translucent, and studded with ports that are used to interface with augments and the Hive. The head lacks eyes and a nose; the eyesockets instead serve as additional augment ports. Inside the Hive tactile senses and echolocation serve supplant vision, and a long bifurcated tongue allows an olfactory sense. The jaw is also bifurcated, forming two separate mandibles. Together, the tongue and mandibles form an effective manipulator.
When in the Hive, Sritht connect with it and with each other in a number of ways. The palms of the hands and the saliva glands secrete a thick, fibrous fluid. This fluid contains nerve fibres and gengineered mobile computer cells. When Sritht are in close proximity for several hours, the nerve fibres will connect and bionanites will be shared. In addition, the Sritht secrete a wide range of pheromones. Together the neural connections, the mobile cells, and the pheremones allow very high bandwidth communication between Sritht, enabling a partial tribemind.
Queens: Queens are even further from the original hominid form than Workers. They are subsapient: the head is reduced to little more than a container for the brainstem. The limbs are all undeveloped, and the abdomen is increased in size (approximately a metre wide and three metres long). Many younger Hives no longer use Queens, having replaced them with vat tech. Implants:
Most of the original Sritht implants were used to enable them to work in a vacuum. When preparing for a spacewalk a tight, leathery second skin is connected to the body in several patches, and then covered with a series of tough plates (formed from a resin secreted by the skin) for additional protection. Eye augments and other electromagnetic sensors, radio wave generators, and sometimes additional limbs, are connected to the plates and interfaced with the nervous system. Additional organs such as respiriocite glands, cometary ice digesting stomachs, and photosynthetic light sails allow Sritht workers to exist independently of the Hive for long periods of time.
Since joining the mainstream of Galactic society, other implants are regularly used. Protective skins, muscle augments and sensory implants allow Sritht individuals to move about on the surfaces of planets with relative comfort, and various other implants can be grown to allow the Sritht to survive in a wide range of environmental conditions.
In many of the older and more conservative Hives, the use of biological augments to delineate castes (and sometimes signify heritage) is an important part of the culture (albeit in very different ways depending on the Hive). Younger and more radical Hives often do away with these notions and use augments in a more egalitarian and pragmatic way, though the term caste is still used to describe individuals with similar sets of augments.
Hives: Hives are biological habitats, and form the basic unit of Sritht society. A Hive will usually be home to a single Queen and several thousand Workers. The majority of Hives are mobile, equipped with either fusion or conversion drives, though there are also a number of stationary hives, some of which are on planetary surfaces. They are usually grown around cometary cores, being seeded by a colonial organism consisting a Dyson tree, several species of gengineered coral, a gengineered ant colony, and several infertile proto-queens (see Reproduction section). Neurocomputers, DNA computers, and chemical computers are spread throughout the structure. A Hive will also possess a variety of organs such as cometary ice digesting stomachs, photosynthetic membranes, implant factories, and simple bioforges.
When connected, the Sritht individuals and their Hive form a single composite organism. When connected to the Hive, the Workers lie in a labyrinth of dark, narrow, fleshy tunnels and alcoves. They share a single complex circulatory system, with the Hive cleansing and oxygenating the blood. Most importantly, they are connected mentally via their neural links, pheromones and cytobot computers (some Hives have adopted the terms IonNet, ChemNet and CytoNet for these processes, all of which feel quite distinct to the Sritht). When fully integrated, a Hive is capable of acting an S1 entity with some peaks into S2.
It is important to note that the Hive does not "take over" all the metabolic functions of the Workers. The relationship is reciprocal; for example, if too many of the Hive's metabolic organs (such as ice digesting stomachs and nutrient reserves) are damaged, the Workers themselves can take up the strain to tide the Hive over until it is healed.
Lifespan and Reproduction
A new Hive can be formed either when two Hives meet, or by a lone Hive choosing to fission. Prior to reproduction, two Hives will send one another Workers to serve as delegates and decide which party will contribute the new Queen and which will provide biological components for the new Hive.
A suitable cometary body will be seeded by the partner providing the components of a new Hive. Around six subsentient proto-Queens are birthed by the old Queen of one of the hives. Only one of these is chosen to become Queen of the new Hive. The others are chemically neutered. Their bodies continue to grow, and they are integrated into the structure of the new Hive to provide an initial set of organs. The chosen Queen is impregnated by a Worker from the other party using ova fusion technology, and then settles into the heart of the new Hive.
Finally, both parents will donate some of their Workers and biocomputers to the new Hive to provide an education of sorts. The new Hive is then left to fend for itself. In the case of fission, the sequence is much the same, but with only one Hive providing all the required material.
An unaugmented Sritht is incapable of surviving for very long in any environment outside a Hive. They are incapable of walking under gravity, they lack sight, and they are unable to digest most forms of food. Traditional augments allow them to survive for long periods alone in a vacuum, however, and since joining the mainstream of galactic society many new augments have been designed that allow Sritht to survive quite happily in a variety of different environments.
Sritht are strongly communal, and possess a great deal of empathy for their own clade and, usually, other sentients. The primary loyalty is to one's own Hive and its members, and many Sritht are quite willing to sacrifice themselves for the rest of their Hive. Being alone for long periods of time is tolerable, if not entirely pleasant, and Sritht are generally very eager to return to their Hive afterwards.
The majority of Sritht in the civilised galaxy are also extremely curious. Each individual may have a number of obsessions, about which she will try and acquire as much information as possible. Such obsessions tend to be pursued in a fairly orderly way - an individual will spend several years working on a single one before becoming satisfied and choosing a new one to start on. It is likely that this curiosity is not an artefact of the original Haloist lifestyle, but a later change in some Hives that was responsible for their return to the galactic mainstream.
Sritht Hives use a form of consensus panocracy enabled by CellNet for internal politics. The details vary between Hives - the consensus may be highly obtrusive or allow a high degree of individuality and liberty (though such distinctions are difficult to discern for modosophonts with no experience of collective minds). Hives rarely congregate to the density where complex forms of society are necessary, but when they do, they may be connected to one another to form higher levels of panocracy for some issues.
Sritht in the civilised galaxy are most often found in the Utopia Sphere, Deeper Covenant, Zoeific Biopolity, and Red Star 'M'Pire. Recently a large number of Hives have also been seen working in the Outer Volumes.
Sritht Thalassae: A subclade adapted to exist in underwater environments, common in systems with large numbers of water habitats.
Sritht Scintillae: The Sritht's high mental connectivity and affinity for biotechnology makes them particularly amenable to lifestyles in the Red Star 'M'Pire. Sritht Scintillae have enhanced their Hives using Farview's godmod and thus become part of the 'M'pire.