While certainly multi-morphic across their three genders, the Kth’k’k’kt all share a common body plan. Insectoid in origin, these Hive beings resemble nothing quite so much as an ant or bee scaled up to well over a meter in total length, and blended with the mythical centaur.
Though they originated in stock similar to the Earthling ant, evolution has wrought significant changes upon them. Their thorax has split into two segments, permitting a significant upwards bend in their ‘spines’, allowing their foremost limbs to become manipulative appendages, while they still ride upon the four grounded legs. While still multi-faceted, their forwards-facing eyes have managed to come together in a complex system that closely approximates the ability of the human eye, though damage to any one of the hundreds of facets may result in odd visual impairments, such as color blindness across a small arc of their vision. Their chitinous shells still form the framework of their body’s anchoring, though now, their rainbow-hued chitin is oddly segmented within, providing a strangely linked endoskeleton to go with their exoskeleton. Coming in every color of the rainbow, and a few outside it, the color patterns of the Kth’k’k’kt help identify the particular hive - all members will have permutations of a given pattern.
Unlike the ant as well, each of the hive members is capable of communicating with all other members of its immediate hive, along a certain range of deep radio frequencies. This communication is effectively mind-to-mind, and although each of the individual hivers has very little intelligence or memory capability, between the many hundreds to many millions of members in a given hive, a sort of gestalt intelligence arises. The more members that are within the hive, the more powerful the mind that arises. There is also a certain continuity of the hive mind - the removal of one mind, be it by death, distance, or interference, will only remove a few memories from the greater mind, no matter which hiver it is. A hive which suffers many fatalities, however, is a confused hive, one that will have difficulty sorting its gestalt out once more.
Three ‘genders’ can be observed within the hive, each of which is also a hard-wired caste. The caste and gender of an individual Kth’k’k’kt is determined after birth, during a larval gestation stage, through hormones and defined feeding regimens, with need determined by the hive as a whole.
The first, and most common is the male worker drone. Approximately 1.25 meters in total length, the six winged drone provides the hive with its primary tool user. Used by the hive as farmers, builders, scientists, and artists, their delicate hands make them the most useful for the common tasks of the hive.
Second is the sterile female soldier caste. Larger and sturdier than the male worker, the primary purpose of the soldier caste is to fight. Contributing slightly less brainpower to the overall hive, the soldier is none the less able to fill her roles of scouting and fighting without the mental help of the hive, relying on strong instinctive urges when outside the range of the male’s minds. Due to their low use when not at war, and rapid maturation rates, a given hive may have literally hundreds of times more drones than soldiers. A hive that frequently sees war or other stressful situations, however, may have nearly an even ratio of the two castes. Further, due to their relative lack of mental power and likely lack of life experience, the death of a soldier has a far smaller impact on the hive than the death of the worker - Because they are less important to the cluster, they are more easily expended.
The massive fertile female queen, meanwhile, is easily the largest of the castes. Extremely rare, without the gestalt of the hive mind, the queen’s mind is essentially nonexistent, for she exists for one purpose only: to mate. The final section of her body may swell up to over four meters in length as it pulsates disturbingly with the creation of new life. Often, she is attended by dozens of males, who provide her with food, clean her, and mate with her.
Society & Culture
With their enormous hive minds, coming together from the many individual minds, individuality is a barely known concept to the Kth’k’k’kt, and is a thing to be avoided. All is for the hive. Instead of between individuals, then, it is the hive that forms the basic unit of Kth’k’k’kt society. A complex network of alliances and rivalries between the hives defines the society, each competing with the others to become their own dream of the ‘most successful’ hive. From time to time, individuals may be assimilated by other hives, traded for genetic root stock, or taken in from a failed hive. This is a long process, with some trauma to the individual, as until the hormones that regulate their ability to access the gestalt respond to those of the new hive, they are cut off from the new hive mind that surrounds them.
It is from these competition and trades that the artistry of the hives arises, and through their attempts to communicate with each other at a deeper level than is possible through simple language. Garish and bizaare to human eyes, the art of the Kth’k’k’kt focuses around complex colored patterns, with a certain fondness shown for the hexagon, as it evokes memories of the hive’s life cycle.
While, in general, hiver technology follows the standard spacer’s track, they are particularly deficient in the computing technologies. As their hive mind provides more than sufficient processing power for the grand majority of tasks that the hives have as yet encountered, there has been no need to develop such things. Instead, the hive gestalt interacts directly with the machinery that surrounds it, designed and built to respond to the spectrum of the hive. Because of this, it is difficult in the extreme for individual objects to be used by a second hive without significant retooling.
Because of the limited effective range of the gestalt conciousness, Hiver ships are generally built to carry hundreds, if not thousands of crew members, in crowded conditions that would drive members of species with ideas such as individuality and personal space quite mad.
Relations With Others
As the Kth’k’k’kt are unable to comprehend the idea of the individual, the Kth’k’k’kt have a tendency to treat all aliens that look alike as if they are part of the same mind-gestalt. This leads to bizaare complications of contracts and trades, when they mistake one brown-haired, brown-eyed human for representing all brown-haired, brown-eyed humans. It is common for a hive to feel slighted or cheated by aliens that do not cooperate according to their perception of the ‘hive’ that the alien belongs to, and more than one conflict has broken out in result on each side. They are also notorious for delivering goods to the wrong individual, another flashpoint in often tense relationships with the hives.