Thursday, September 10, 2009

Consortium Setting: The Cicada Queens

So reading my friend Aaron's sci-fi post and reading over comments on my Hornets No More post, I got to thinking about bugs and science fiction.

After a few moments grimacing over the memories of the Starship Troopers movie, I recalled one of the alien species in my Consortium Sci-Fi Setting (which I had originally planned to pitch as a possible RPG setting to game designer Chad Underkoffler, with the idea of self-publishing it as a .pdf, but which has been back-burnered as I try to hammer out the Illyria novel manuscript).

The Cicada Queens are the biotechnological remnants of an ancient civilization, one of several that flourished and disappeared long before the rise of the current collection of sapient starfaring species. Vaguely insectoid, they got their name from the fact that they are divided into a number of Nests ruled by distinctive Queens with their own agendas and from the fact that they lay dormant for tens of thousands of years.

No one is sure exactly what they were intended for, though the general consensus is that they were weapons of war. Other scholars argue that the Cicada Queens were meant as caretakers and possibly even curators of the cultural artifacts of their dead civilization, whether to preserve them for the possible return of their creators or to keep them from falling into the hands of younger civilizations not yet ready for the terrible knowledge.

The Cicada Queens are smart, but they are also programmed with a certain set of guidelines that act as a code of honor and conduct. For example, they will not destroy natural biological habitats, such as planets, that house no sentient life, but they will demolish huge artificial structures housing millions of beings. They use technology that in some cases in far in advance of what the current civilizations can muster, but much of their most advanced technology relies upon access to a high-tech data network and energy infrastructure that simply doesn't exist any longer. So for the most part they make do with "crude" equipment that is cutting edge by the standards of their opponents.

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