Image from Keith Wigdor

The Vedokiklek are a race of insectoid or arthropod splices that first became known during the later ComEmp period in spinward Solar Dominion space. They appear to be the result of a feral provolution hobby farm constructed by the Genen, perhaps dating back as far as the middle Empires period. The original habitat orbiting Rathona III has long since been disassembled, and the only remaining evidence of their origin can be found in historical records, hazy hive memories and scattered museum pieces. During their long isolation they have developed their own culture, making them close to being true aliens.

The Vedokiklek stand approximately 1 meter in height, appearing very much like oversized wingless grasshoppers. Their respiratory system has been enhanced beyond the standard insect trachea, but they still need a high oxygen atmosphere to function and become sluggish in the low oxygen levels found in standard terragen atmosphere. They are not quite endothermic, preferring 30-40C temperatures to become fully active. They are vegetarians, mainly subsisting on fruits, vegetables and genetically modified fungi grown in orbital farms.

They possess a strongly communal hive consciousness. This hivemind is the most obvious augmentation, based on the inclusion of radio-producing neural tissue and an artificial packet-based language ganglion. While individual Vedokiklek are intelligent on their own, they are fairly limited in their actions. As a number of compatible Vedokiklek come into contact, they can divide tasks and mental processes between them, forming a significantly more intelligent entity. A Vedokiklek hive consists of 50-1000 attuned individuals, and will survive far beyond any individual's death. Members of different hives usually have trouble recognising each other's mental "languages", and will not be able to communicate efficiently (something which has made cooperation except for limited trade between hives rare). A Vedokiklek larva will however learn the right mental language from the hive it grows up in.

Vedokiklek senses are mainly hearing, smell and artificial senses. They have large prominent compound eyes, but the resolution is not very good. Instead they have a very well developed hearing and vibration sense, and their antennae are extremely sensitive to smell. However, Vedokiklek commonly extend their senses either through wetware implants or by artificial devices sending radio information to them; the later interface directly to the hive consciousness, and it is not uncommon for a hive to be aware of many things through sensors far from any individual Vedokiklek.

Vedokiklek have retained an insect-like lifecycle. The hatch from eggs, spend a few months as larvae feeding on vegetables and then form pupae. During the pupae stage it is common to add wetware augmentation and other enhancements. As they hatch, they remain juvenile for two moltings until becoming adult after their third molt. Adults are asexual most of the time, developing sex organs every third year for a brief period of time. Apparently the provolve did not fully succeed in integrating the sexual behavior: during their sexed state the Vedokiklek lose their hive mind connection and single-mindedly pursue partners. Especially useful or skilled Vedokiklek are hence chemically neutered during work periods.

Vedokiklek culture is passed on in the hive consciousness, transferred by repetition and stories into the young from the old. They vaguely remember, with a mixture of fear and awe, the 'Others' who created them. They also believe that their creators abandoned them at some time in the past, for reasons they do not understand. In reality, the Genen family which created the Vedokiklek seems to have withdrawn from the system deliberately, in order to allow the insectoids to develop independently. The 'hobby farm' was well provided with automation and autonomous vot servitors, who still serve the Vedokiklek to this day but retain no relevant memories of their makers.

During their long isolation most of the hives came to the conclusion that being abandoned and unknown was better than being found and subjected to the all-powerful Others. Instead they spent time exploring the space habitats they grew up on, making the Other technology theirs and developing their own unique take on things. Especially biotechnology interested them, and many hives learned to design and apply advanced biotech constructs.

Vedokiklek individuals do, contrary to the common myth, have an individual self and will not mindlessly do whatever the hive consciousness orders. Many Vedokiklek demonstrate high levels of individuality and unique skills, and hives value their best members. At the same time they have an intense sense of communality, very similar to the human empaths. Vedokiklek have strong inhibitions to harming other Vedokiklek, especially from the same hive. While individuals may chose to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, their hivemates will often go to extraordinary lengths to save them.

Vedokiklek culture is very hive-dependent. Some hives show great aptitude at acoustic, electric or scent art, while others are highly utilitarian. In general the Vedokiklek are communal internally and businesslike externally, but it is common to simply ignore the outsiders and concentrate on whatever is viewed as interesting. This has led to a number of hives becoming noticeably obsessed about various things, slowly dwindling like many other collective mind societies. The mainstream hives guard themselves against such tendencies and try to retain their pluralism and breadth of interests.

Vedokiklek seldom colonise planets, preferring to live in orbital habitats or spaceships. They are well adapted to low or zero gravity, and the high oxygen levels they need would make any extensive biosphere a fire hazard (Vedokiklek have a noticeable and natural phobia against fire, and their habitats have clever fire extinguishing systems wherever possible). The most common arrangement is for one or possibly a few hives to live in the same habitat, very rarely mixing.

They are generally reclusive, and activities in galactic politics are mostly confined to issues that involve them personally, or possible restrictions on the movement of their ships or colonization efforts. However, they have good relationships with a number of local hyperturings, who have provided technical assistance and helped them build up their industry. The Solar Dominion has signed a number of treaties with different hives, but given their independence from each other this does not amount to the major influence the Dominion prefers to have on minor clades. There are strong suspicions that Perseus Rift powers are making overtures (or already have) to the Vedokiklek hives about secret alliances or trade deals, but it is uncertain whether they have had anything to offer to make the Vedokiklek interested.

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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg
Initially published on 26 September 2001.