The Virai are an ancient threat, a drone species thought destroyed long ago. Based on a technology that has no need for the complex interactions of a nanosphere, the Virai are virtually immune to the IMTel’s combat nanophages. This is not to say the Virai are primitive, merely that they use power systems, controls and communication capabilities that have no need for nanospore. All a Virai architector needs is raw material to build a fabricator and it can reproduce itself and more of its kind, preferably in a system in which it can quietly do so until it has reached a critical mass. Over the millennia of their persecution, the Virai have optimised their drone classes to three broad classes of citizen drones: constructors, warriors, and manufacturing and command drones referred to as ‘architectors’.
The primary weakness of the Virai is their dependency on their architectors for command, control and construction: only an architector is capable of programming another architector. Before the dronescourge resurgence, it is thought that all were eradicated and even now it is thought that few Virai architectors still exist. The surviving architectors orbit dead systems and dying stars in a semi-quiescent state, hoping a visitor will come through the Antares gate. When those visitors leave, rarely do they realise that they are host to a technological species that is using them like a parasitical insect.
The host for the Virai’s resurgence in The Dronescourge Returns is TOR 563. When the ancient starship visited a long-dead system, an architector secretly hitched a ride, used the ruined metals and materials on the ship to fabricate copies of itself, and dropped off replicas in each system the TOR visited. What exacerbated the problem this time is the new operators of the TOR are fleeing from contact with other factions in a quest for resources to repair the ancient ship. Though incapable of comprehending Antarean wormhole physics, and having no idea of how to operate the gates, the Virai are happy to use the TOR as a safe breeding ground and transport.
Virai programming is less complex than that of the IMTels, normally highly logical (based on their extensive memories) and – for now, at least – it is highly unlikely the Virai would be capable of designing a ship able to withstand the pressures and stresses of the Antares machine and its dangerous photosphere. To propagate, however, the Virai need minerals and material that are rare on the space debris and meteors that they might encounter. Their normal strategy is to wait for a ship to arrive, secretly hitch a ride and stealthily begin to replicate themselves and fabricate drones from the material on board the ship.
The Virai’s paranoid tendencies result in conflict wherever they are found simply because each time they resurface, the other civilisations try to eradicate them. Because of this, the Virai could even be said to be the ultimate paranoid. However, they do not automatically attack opponents, unless feeling forced to prepare a world for their own existence, but are always prepared for hostilities and are distrustful of any who attempt diplomatic solutions. They are particularly hostile towards those scavenging or mining in the same locations as them, as such creatures – especially ‘biologics’ – are essentially competing for the same resources that are vital for the propogation of the Virai species. This makes them natural enemies of the Boromites, the quintessential miners and workaholics of Antarean panhumans.
To the IMTel societies, the Virai are a dangerous threat, an enemy that is essentially immune to their core technologies. Further, the single-minded focus of the Virai is as disconcerting to the IMTel civilisations as the Ghar: though artificial intelligences, the Virai do not want to fuse with any IMTel. If the Senatex and Concord were able to cooperate, the Virai might pose less of a threat. But all the Virai want to do is to survive. To them, anything associated with biologics, including more complex machine intelligences, is simply hostile and a danger to their existence. It is this hostility and paranoia that makes them the Dronescourge.