SERPENT SHIELD - Threat Analysis Summary [2R6.K2U.ANA.8K7]
Tuuros Expeditionary Initiative / Security / Intelligence / Threat Analysis and Prediction
Product of Javelin Terminal Office
The following is a Threat Analysis Summary of SERPENT SHIELD -- the so-called 'Worm' -- based on all currently known and available evidence [appended, see section 5].
The Worm is an extrinsic parasitoidic biological neural network teleonomically adapted for the infiltration and destruction of civilizations. The appearance of the Worm in a civilization is hereby referred to as an "iteration." The Worm is believed to have been present in Tuuros for well over █ billion years. Over that time, Worm iterations have occurred in an estimated ██,███ civilizations. Each iteration consists of two components: a species and a religion. These components are inseparable. The Worm species promotes the Worm religion, and the Worm religion propagates the Worm species.
As a species, no two iterations of the Worm are exactly alike, but all share common functionalities, archetypes, and goals. All Worm organisms are telepathically linked, forming a superorganism; the overall intelligence of this superorganism increases as the Worm population grows, particularly the number of hosts. Its origins, in terms of both location and evolution, are unknown and likely unnatural [possible Discontinuity source hypothesized]. How Worm organisms initially manifest within a civilization is currently unknown.
As a religion, the Worm is as mutable as the species. This is because the Worm typically piggybacks on existing, widely accepted religions, adopting their appearances and practices for its own. However, at its core, the Worm cult inevitably features three constants: the worship of at least one of three god-figures RHAA, ZUOR, and QARNH [or phonetic equivalents], the belief that an eschatological event can be brought about manually through the actions of the faithful, and the need to convert as much of the population as possible [leading directly into the second constant].
The culmination of each Worm iteration is the total destabilization of society in advance of an Immanence event [see section 3]. This is executed by the widespread emergence of titanic exofauna, corresponding massive hostile mutations in civilian populations, subversion of influential figures by the Worm parasite to serve its interests, and the actions of the Worm cult in worshiping, protecting, and facilitating these disasters.
Known Worm archetypesEdit
Every iteration of the Worm species is unique. Each displays different morphological and genetic characteristics. Only the fact that every iteration behaves nearly identically allows them to be considered part of the same phenomenon.
In every iteration, the Worm species demonstrates four archetypal morphs.
The parasite worm represents the beginning of any given Worm iteration. It is the most common and least obvious archetype. Every parasite iteration appears individually tailored to the species it infects. Regardless of morphology, parasites are invariably obligate-permanent, endoparasitic, and subjugating. Parasites usually cannot survive outside a host.
The exact method of infection varies, but always ends with the parasite merging with and subordinating the host's central nervous system [or equivalent]. This transforms the host into a wholly compliant Worm quisling. No outward indication of infection will exist. The host retains all memories, skills, and behaviors, and for all appearances remains the same individual it was before infection.
It remains unclear as to what degree host and parasite remain separate individuals - whether the parasite fuses with the host's mind, simply takes over its functions, or completely "kills" the host consciousness and converts it into a p-zombie under total parasite control. Removal of the parasite either kills the host or renders it comatose.
Regardless, infection inducts the host into the Worm psychic network. Every infected individual may access the knowledge and experiences of every other host, regardless of distance. This gives the Worm superior coordination, information distribution, and the ability to react to threats immediately.
In accord with the Worm species is a chemical substance called mutagen. All Worm archetypes produce it: parasites secrete it as a defense mechanism, others disperse as a weapon. As with the parasites, mutagen's composition varies from iteration to iteration, each one apparently adapted to target a specific host species. Its exact mechanism of function remains unclear, most likely Essence-based.
When mutagen enters the body of the targeted organism in "threshold" quantities [pathways include inhalation, consumption, injection, etc.], it instigates a rapid, traumatic, and total transformation into a new species, a hybrid of Worm biology and the original organism. The resulting organism is classified a metamorph.
When threatened, embedded parasites are known to secrete mutagen to transform their host into a metamorph if no other option for escape exists. Metamorphs appear to lose most of their original intelligence, becoming driven solely by the Worm group mind. In compensation, they generally develop superior physical characteristics. They are often themselves capable of producing mutagen. In the early stages of a Worm iteration, metamorphs may be used as attack animals, protecting important locations and individuals.
Metamorphs are individually consistent. Every targeted organism mutates the same way into the same species. Non-targeted organisms that ingest mutagen may also transform, but in a markedly less stable manner.
Ingestion of sub-threshold quantities of mutagen triggers [usually non-obvious] cellular and subcellular changes, which causes a broad spectrum of potentially-fatal deleterious symptoms due to the affected subject's immune system attacking its own body ["mutagen fever"]. Cancer is a common long-term outcome of sub-threshold mutagen ingestion.
A titan worm is the imago form of the Worm organism, occurring only when the network has achieved a certain critical threshold in population and intelligence. The emergence of a titan worm represents the escalation of Worm strategy from infiltration to invasion.
Titans arise from bonded parasites, the result of synergistic interactions between mutagen and other chemical factors. Driven by these interactions, the host encases itself in a gelatinous resin ["caul"] secreted from its pores and orifices and begins to mutate. The pathways for titan mutation are radically different from those of metamorph mutation; while metamorphs are a hybrid of Worm and host genetics, titans completely break down the host into an organism of pure Worm biology.
Titan mutation occurs relatively quickly for its size. The caul continues to grow to accommodate the nascent titan as it grows hundreds or thousands of times larger than the original organism. The adult titan bears little resemblance to either of its progenitors. Unlike the iteration-based diversity of parasites and metamorphs, titans are individually diverse. However, they present with three constant threats.
- Size. Their colossal scale causes tremendous damage to infrastructure and challenges conventional armed response protocols; furthermore, the impossible structural resilience that allow titans to function at such sizes gives them correspondingly impossible durability. Historically, weapons capable of wounding titans are usually starship-grade and cause significant collateral damage in terrestrial contexts.
- Mutagen. Titans also produce mutagen continuously and in industrial quantities, spraying it in an aerosolized form into the atmosphere and contaminating the air for hundreds or thousands of kilometers. Other titans are known to excrete mutagen where they walk, polluting soil and water sources. In this way, the Worm gradually renders planets uninhabitable for life in its original state.
- Intelligence. Titans are the first Worm organisms to display higher reasoning and sapience. Once titans begin to emerge, the Worm no longer requires hosts to coordinate its actions [though hosts will continue to be infected] and becomes fully self-sustaining. Each titan represents a sudden, enormous leap in the processing power and throughput of the Worm network.
Records indicate that titans often present with additional, variable idiosyncrasies. The following is a list of known "secondary" threat adaptions.
Secondary threat adaptions
- Projectile weaponry [both physical and energy-based]
- Spawning new titans
- Spawning metamorphs
- Proximity-based disruption of communications technology [both FTL and sublight]
- Proximity-based disruption of electronics in general
- Rapid healing
- Body parts remaining active and autonomous after being separated from the main body
- Psychic interference
- Psychic domination
- Reanimation of dead organisms
The leviathan worm is a further transformation of the titan and the Worm species, developing only after titan emergence becomes pandemic. Most information on leviathans is fragmentary and unreliable, as by the time such information can be recorded, civilization is typically well on its way towards total collapse.
However, certain commonalities can be identified. It is known that leviathans are at least several times larger than titans and capable of spawning new titans in overwhelming numbers. They consume organic material in vast quantities, sometimes including other Worms and bonded parasites. Leviathans are capable of surviving and traveling in space unassisted through unknown means.
In short, leviathans exist to overrun worlds that are clean of Worm infection and to consume their inhabitants.
This consumption is believed to serve a constructive purpose. Under the "Bootstrap Godhood" theory, the central nervous systems of intelligent organisms, living or dead, are integrated into the leviathan and the Worm network en masse, replacing parasitism as the Worm's preferred method for increasing its intelligence. Then, using the integrated minds to boost its gain, each leviathan acts as a psychic transponder that allows the god-worms to emerge.
The god-worm is the theorized final stage of the Worm organism, appearing some time after leviathans. At present, it is believed that they are separate and distinct from the standard Worm life cycle, existing as both cause and culmination of every Worm infection.
The god-worms are assumed to be the Worm cult's focus of worship; if such is correct, then there exist only three god-worms, each one an entity of catastrophic occult power. It is uncertain whether the god-worms are physical creatures, disembodied minds physically reincarnated by each Worm iteration, or some combination of both. Regardless, the successful emergence or incarnation of the god-worms invariably results in the rapid end of an infected civilization, and the extinction of an infected species with 98% certainty.
How this occurs similarly remains unclear. References to the god-worms in Worm scripture describe them "consuming" all life during an eschatological event of interstellar magnitude, manifesting on all worlds simultaneously; this consumption has been depicted in alternate iterations as physical or spiritual, literal or metaphorical. Excavations on former Worm-infected worlds have not been particularly forthcoming on the matter.
Stages of iterationEdit
Regardless of individual morphology, each successful iteration of the Worm undergoes four common stages. The following is a chart of Worm stages, organized by designation, summary, and probability of Worm defeat/failure to progress if engaged at that stage.
|Stage||Summary||Probability of defeat|
|Stage 1: Infiltration||The Worm attempts to covertly disperse itself across as many worlds as possible. If no religions are viable, the Worm cult will conceal itself as a social club or similar prestigious organization.
Early Stage 1 iterations will prioritize parasitization of key individuals, such as civil and military authorities, charismatic religious figures, and medical infrastructure, in order to speed the process of infection and protect those already infected. The rest of these structures are likewise infected from the top down as Stage 1 progresses.
In late Stage 2 iterations, non-parasitized but brainwashed individuals grow increasingly numerous, and may even outnumber Worm hosts.
|40-90%, depending on political factors, progression of infection, and time of discovery|
|Stage 2: Invasion||Stage 2 begins once the first titan worm emerges, often leading to mass transformation of civilian populations into metamorphs. Armed conflict becomes inevitable.
The Worm is usually well-dispersed at this point; the first titan is soon followed by many others across many worlds. Parasite hosts in positions of power play a key role in spreading division and distrust, weakening attempts to respond against the Worm. Brainwashed agents may openly encourage Worm-worship with willing parasite consumption as sacrament; in other iterations entire branches of government turn rogue and instigate civil war.
|Stage 3: Consolidation||Stage 3 begins once the first leviathan worm emerges. All non-Worm organisms, including hosts and cult members, begin to be devoured. Organized, macro-scale resistance has become extremely difficult by the time Stage 3 is reached, and will shortly become more so. The Worm is now too numerous and central government too fragmented for any effective response to be formulated. All remaining non-Worm holdouts are gradually either destroyed or infected.||12% average|
|Stage 4: Immanence||The god-worms are summoned. All civilization ends, including that perpetrated by the Worm. Species extinction.||0%|
The Worm is an existential anthropic threat: simply being able to conceive of its existence puts a given civilization at risk, and failing to eradicate it leads to that civilization's total destruction. Repeat infections are extremely rare, but possible; at this time the only known documentation of this occurring comes from Tenet, which has defeated Worm infection three times. This is typically attributed to Tenet's considerable age, though its similarly considerable occult potential may also be a factor.
Due to the Worm's nature as an infiltrating agent, civilizations capable of effectively combating it tend to be authoritarian, militarized, capable of infringing on personal freedoms and privacy at will, and willing to kill their own citizens at minimal provocation. Civilizations that do not match some or all of these criteria experience two outcomes: either they quickly learn to do so, or they are destroyed by the Worm. An estimated ██,███ out of ██,███ civilizations, both pre- and post-spaceflight, have been so destroyed over the past █.█ billion years. By culling Tuuros's more peaceful, open cultures, the Worm thus contributes significantly to the borderline ruthless nature of civilizations within Tuuros.
The Worm appears to be restricted solely to the environs of Tuuros Galaxy. The reasons for this restriction are unknown, but should be considered a high priority for further research so that we may understand how to set additional barriers against it. If the Worm ever manifests in other galaxies, infecting one or more existing Great Powers successfully, we project a 77% chance of catastrophic political/economic collapse with Gigaquadrant-scale repercussions and a radical power shift detrimental to our interests.