A Dronescourge Hive: Memories of a Virai First Instance
It is sometimes said we – humans – are the sum of our experiences, that a human’s actions and reactions are shaped by their memory. Of course, there is a caveat on top of that that presumes the listener appreciates humans are also the result of a long period of evolution and adaptation to a particular set of environmental (and social) hazards. And on top of that, their is the deliberate genetic tampering or rapid evolution that many panhumans have undergone.
In the case of IMTel drones, the process is artificial: each new drone is built with a set of programmed reactions that have evolved from the IMTel’s appreciation of the situation to date – perhaps a form of evolution. However, like humans, the drones learn and have their memories to fall back on — up until the time of their last back-up, at least — and can study their failures to better themselves for the future. To some extent, the advanced technology panhumans (especially those in the IMTel societies), can do the same, providing they have a nonfunctional clone waiting or growing into which their mind-state can be poured.
With the Virai, the situation is very different. Hives are in a hierarchical structure: a single First Instance has a number of highly-capable Second Instances, each of which commands a larger number of Tertiary Supervisors. All these command or ‘managerial’ level Virai are architectors. Every architector leads, organises and controls any number of ordinary drones (warriors or constructors) in addition to any lesser architectors it may have attached to it.
Each Second Instance has a highly compressed core, however, which it can use to become a new First Instance. Further, a First Instance can manufacture another First Instance and either clone it’s own memory bank or implant a compressed memory core in the new drone. In either situation, these new First Instances are referred to as a ‘NuFirst’.
Each NuFirst Instance has potential access to all the memories of every single Virai First Instance that spawned it. The memory core is precious, containing all the experiences of every First Instance that was able to find resources sufficient to reproduce. Such memories are boosted when a hive controller meets a still-intact predecessor and will tag it’s own copy of that predecessor’s memories and experience as being more useful for survival.
There are so many memories in the databanks that the Virai have had to build a brake, ‘control gates’, on their release in order that a NuFirst can organise them all properly – and select those which are the most pertinent. Without this, the NuFirst would be flooded, even overwhelmed, by a plethora of disorganised, unrelated and unstructured memories. With the control gates, however, as each NuFirst encounters a new situation, memories are unlocked based on search criteria it used: the NuFirst can then build it’s own memory structure based on situational links that it finds the most useful.
In this way, the Virai ape the human evolutionary steps as each NuFirst encounters a unique environment and set of experiences: the Virai not only learn but evolve to meet the threats in their environment.
The first action of each NuFirst is to play safe, to make enough constructors so that it can reproduce effectively and in a secure location. Exactly what defines a ‘secure location’ varies from place to place, but is most often a resource-rich, abandoned city or orbital, or extensive mines, whether on a particularly rich asteroid or geologically interesting area on a planet.
When underground, the structure most resembles an insect hive, with mines, galleries, tunnels and multiple entrances. Warriors – Defenders and Assault drones – with a controlling Secondary Instance are more prevalent near the entrances whilst scavenger parties under the control of Tertiary architectors (Tertiary Supervisors) roam and scout the surrounding area. In all situations, away from the accessible areas will be found the majority of the constructors and mining drones and, somewhere in the middle, the First Instance.
All this is approximate, however. The Virai long ago learnt to adapt to their surroundings so whilst there are a few, common designs, such as the well-known suspensor-driven patterns, they are flexible enough to adapt their drone construction to suit the environment. Likewise, colours are highly variable, being dependent on the minerals and materials available. Despite this variety, the fundamental control structure of architectors (First Instance, Second Instances, Tertiary Supervisors), warriors (Bodyguard, weapon drones, Hive Defenders and assault drones) and constructors (basic, crew, miner, STAA and scavengers) is still maintained.
As each hive has only one First Instance, the Virai cannot “infight” within a swarm – every subordinate takes orders and instructions from that one First Instance. Similarly, when a NuFirst is created and sent it off with a few resources, initially there would also be no conflict as the NuFirst would not set up shop within the demesne of its ‘parent’.
It is conceivable, however, that if two, reasonably balanced, pre-existing swarms came into contact in a resource-poor system, they might each think they had the better claim and fight. If one was weaker than the other, however, its First would surrender and become Second under the control of the now-dominant, single First Instance.