Squirm

Description

Squirm are worm-like beings possessing rows of parapodia (short leg-like structures) along their sides and a group of six eye-patches on short stumps surrounding their mouth. From their mouth, they can extrude a mass of oral tentacles. Squirm have a tail that is skinnier than their main body, although still lined with parapodia. Their color is uniformly green.

Squirm display a variety of body shapes, from long and skinny to thick and stocky, from small as a cat to as large as a horse. They carry their gear inside of themselves, swallowing it into a crop-like structure from which it can be extruded as necessary. Squirm gear is usually covered in slime from this process.

Internal Anatomy

Squirm have no bones or other hard parts. A ventral nerve cord runs down their body from head to tail just under their belly muscles. Blood is circulated through a closed circulatory system by two heart-pipes shaped like rows of beads, with each bead a pumping heart. Lungs run along each side of the body, and pick up oxygen from spiracles on the underside of the parapodia. The gut occupies the central cavity of the being, from the mouth at the head to an anus just in front of their tail.

Senses

Analysis of deceased specimens suggests that Squirm vision is sensitive to near infrared light and most of the visible spectrum. Their hearing is likely to be good, although not quite as acute as that of a Human at higher frequencies. The high concentration of nerves in their oral tentacles likely indicates a well developed sense of touch and taste.

Communication

No one has observed Squirm using any kind of vocal communication. Laser detector and locator sensors have observed Squirm emitting flashes of near-infrared light, as have Tweechi and Pirang veterans of the Sextans war. It is theorized they use these flashes to talk to one another.

Locomotion and Biomechanics

Squirms move using muscular hydrostats, giving them both strength and flexibility. Longitudinal muscles contract to shorten a Squirm body part, circumferential muscles squeeze the longitudinal muscles to lengthen them, and helical muscles can apply twisting torsion. Bending is accomplished by contracting the longitudinal muscles on one side but not the other.

At low speed, squirm move by undulations of their parapodia. At higher speed, they gallop in a fashion somewhat between an earthworm and an inchworm - shooting out their forward section with a rapid elongation, followed by scrunching up into an inchworm's loop and repeating the process.

The lack of hard body parts allows a Squirm to squeeze through tight spaces. Their parapodia and oral tentacles have gecko-like sticky pads that let Squirm climb up walls and across ceilings and grip with surprising tenacity.

Diet and Feeding Habits

As far as anyone can tell, Squirm grab food with their mouth-tentacles then draw it back into their mouth. Squirm supplies usually involve some sort of processed food, rich in fats and protein. There are reports that Squirm will consume the bodies of the sapient species they war with, sometimes while they are still alive. Some rumors even say they use living sapients as hosts for their young, who consume their host from the inside. It is not known if these reports are true, at this time there is no good evidence either way.

Reproduction

No one has observed Squirm reproducing or raising their offspring, and they certainly haven't told us how they do it. Dissection of Squirm casualties have found similar atrophied reproductive organs in all specimens examined, but the details are not obvious.

Psychology

Squirm are implacable, relentless, merciless killers. They seem to be made only for destruction. All interactions of Squirm with other sapient species have been violent. If Squirm have a softer side that they show to other Squirm, no one knows about it.

Squirm do not seem to automatically attack non-sapients. They will destroy crops and livestock in the same way they destroy infrastructure – to deny their use to their enemy and weaken him for conquest and slaughter.

Society

All that is known of Squirm society is of their military. No civilians have ever been encountered. Even their means of production are run as a military operation. When the Gummis overran the Squirm strongholds of Sextans A, they found no evidence at all that Squirm ever even had a civilian society. They appeared to be a species totally focused on military conquest and extermination.

So what are the Squirm? Where do they come from? How did they arise in many different galaxies simultaneously? No one knows. Lots of people have ideas, some of them more sane than others.

  • A biological warfare agent designed by the Antecessors. In order to keep other sapients from finding their secret pinnacle of power, they engineered a berserker to eliminate any other space-going species.
  • The Antecessors themselves, again jealous of their secrets and motivated to destroy other species with interstellar reach.
  • The things that destroyed the Antecessors. Maybe there was a war across the galaxies that the Squirm eventually won, but this one encounter with another space-going species left them so paranoid that they reflexively attack anyone else.
  • A species that evolved well after the Antecessors dissapeared, who nevertheless believe that all other space-going sapients are an existential threat and thus act to wipe them out before they are themselves destroyed. Do unto others before they do unto you.
  • Radical environmentalists. Having reached a level of science and physical understanding more advanced than ours, they realized that wormhole networks – and multiply connected topologies of space-time in general – were a threat to the integrity of space-time itself. If left to propagate without control, the very fabric of existence of our universe would unravel!
  • They have a web of wormholes that spans the Local Group. They worked hard on this network to get it all synchronized and stable, and get very cranky when other sapients show up with their own wormholes and knock things out of whack with their causality loops.
  • A conspiracy, made up by the secret masters of the Verge to spread fear and ensure their control over the populace. Put on your tin-foil hats!

One possible clue comes from re-contacted colonies of the Verge lost during The Bump in the Night. Although worlds connected to the Verge network have been attacked by the Squirm, none of these isolated worlds recorded anything similar. It is entirely possible that Squirm only carry a grudge against interplanetary civilizations in general or wormholes specifically, and anyone not using wormholes will not be threatened by them.

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