Table of Contents
Betelgeusians are an insectoid species of unknown origin and the primary source of conflict in Coalition space. First encountered by the Brokers around the year 2300, and later by the UNN in 2598 during the event known as the Betelgeuse Incident, their ruthless life cycle demands that they attempt to seize and hold any habitable planets that they come across.
The Betelgeusians are a race of bipedal, sentient insects. Their bodies are coated in a hard exoskeleton that acts as biological armor, jointed in places so as not to impede movement. The material has been compared to somewhat flexible plastics. It is smooth and dry to the touch and comes in a large range of iridescent colors that can differ wildly between individuals. The nervous system extends to the surface of the carapace to give the Bugs a sense of touch comparable to that of a human, with rich nerve endings in the hands, mandibles and other key areas. The carapace also aids in respiration, as Betelgeusians lack lungs and instead breathe through spiracles in their exoskeletons.
Betelgeusians have been observed operating in hostile environments, in deep water and even in open space without supplemental protection, which suggests that their exoskeletons are exceptionally resistant to pressure and temperature changes. It is unknown for precisely how long they can endure vacuum, but those operating in oceanic environments have been found to have the necessary adaptations to filter oxygen from the water.
While they live in a caste structure, their castes have some basic similarities. Betelgeusians have six limbs, two of which serve as legs and four of which serve as arms. They have two fingers and one thumb on both pairs of hands, as well as three-toed feet. Between the legs is an ovipositor with three prehensile, finger-like appendages that can both receive genetic material from males and lay eggs in the rare case that it becomes necessary for the survival of the hive. While they possess mandibles, the muscles are weak and they are almost completely vestigial, the various castes obtaining their nourishment from Repletes rather than from solid foods. They possess long, flexible tongues whose purpose seems to be tasting the air and examining objects.
Communication is achieved through a complex language of pheromones and scents, which can convey everything from emotions to highly detailed information. This pheromone language can also be written on objects, lingering for long periods of time under the right conditions in order to serve as markers or signposts. They do not appear to communicate using sound, but are capable of hearing, as they will react to audio cues in their environment. They do not possess ears and so they likely sense vibrations in the air through their exoskeletons.
All of the castes possess ornate horns, which vary greatly in design and appearance. It has been theorized that their unique horns, combined with the colors of their shells, might help serve to identify individuals who are out of pheromone range. The horns can take on many appearances, such as those of a stag beetle, the antlers of a moose or a deer, or even the branches of a tree.
One noteworthy aspect of their physiology is that while their brain is housed in their head, the stem extends deep into the torso, making headshots an unreliable method of dispatching them. It is recommended that Coalition soldiers aim for the solar plexus in order to inflict maximum damage.
The life cycle of the Betelgeusians is one of perpetual expansion, creating intense competition for habitable planets. This cycle begins when a Betelgeusian Queen births another reproductively viable Queen. Her offspring is given a finite amount of time to birth her own brood and to begin construction of her own fleet. Depending on the status of the parent hive and the availability of resources, these fleets and armies can become vast in size, with several hive ships and a large support fleet, along with millions of soldiers.
Once her time is up, the new Queen will be expected to board her hive ship and set out into space in order to locate a new planet upon which to found her own colony. This stage of their life cycle is roughly equivalent to the nuptial flights observed in some species of social insects. Beyond this point, other hives that the new Queen encounters will be hostile, and in the case that no new planet is located before the fleet’s limited resources run out, it is common for the fleet to turn on established Betelgeusian hives in order to secure living space. In very rare circumstances, a defeated hive may surrender rather than be exterminated if it is determined that their genetic material will benefit the victor, resulting in them being absorbed into the conquering hive.
In the case that the fleet encounters a planet inhabited by other sentient species, the fleet will attempt to exterminate them completely through a large-scale military invasion, lest they face the risk of starvation and death. It is unlikely that the fleet will have enough resources to leave the system and attempt to find another suitable home, and so planetary invasions are often brutal and desperate affairs.
The Betelgeusians are social insects that live in hives with a rigid caste system. Each caste has a unique form that fulfills a specific purpose, be it combat, labor or the production of food. No two hives are exactly the same and the longer a single hive survives, the more varied and specialized its forms will become.
Drones are the front line soldiers of the Betelgeusian hives. At around five feet tall, they are small and unassuming when compared to many Coalition species, but they are fearless warriors who possess formidable fighting prowess. Able to endure injuries that would kill a human, lift several times their body weight, and completely lacking any self-preservation instincts makes them dangerous and relentless combatants.
Synthetic armor is commonly used to supplement their carapace, which is designed to be indistinguishable from the creature’s natural exoskeleton in both color and texture. As such it can be difficult to tell at a glance where the armor ends and the natural exoskeleton begins. Drones also wear helmets to protect their sensitive eyes and mandibles, the lenses of which give them the appearance of compound eyes.
Like other castes they have two pairs of arms, the upper pair being somewhat longer and more robust than the lower. The upper pair often carry plasma pistols or energy shields, which the lower are commonly used to wield the ornate knives that are sheathed in shaped recesses in their thigh armor.
Female Drones are wingless, while the minority of reproductive males sport a pair of gossamer wings that permit limited flight. It is rare for males to risk themselves in combat, only being observed in the most dire of situations where the hive is under extreme threat, but in battles they have been known to act as paratroopers, using their wings to land behind enemy defenses or to attack from high vantage points.
Workers make up the labor force of the Betelgeusian hives. At around four feet tall they are even smaller than Drones, although they are stockier in appearance and markedly stronger, able to lift many times their own body weight. Their upper pair of arms are long and sturdy, with shovel-like hands designed for excavating the tunnels that make up the layout of their hives.
Their lower pair of arms are far smaller than the upper pair and far more dexterous. They use these to assemble technology such as plasma pistols, to service machinery and to perform medical procedures. Despite their oafish appearance, Workers are in fact very careful and precise workers, with medical skills that would put many human doctors to shame. Their saliva has special properties that allows it to harden, creating a resin-like substance that seals in the dirt during their excavations. It can also be used as an adhesive for engineering or medical purposes, closing wounds and gluing components together. Workers are often tasked with cleaning other castes, using their long tongues to probe inside the joints of their exoskeletons, removing dirt and polishing the carapace.
Workers are easily startled or frightened, responding strongly to pheromones that indicate stress, anger or fear.
Pilots are responsible for interfacing with the many Betelgeusian vehicles, such as the spacecraft of their Hive Fleets and their fearsome Warriors, bio-mechanical battle suits possessing superior armor and weaponry that most often serve in support of Drone armies.
At seven feet they are among the tallest of the Betelgeusian castes, with bodies that appear lanky and stretched in comparison to their more squat counterparts. They are relatively fragile and are unsuited to combat outside of their vehicles. Their limbs are long, with spindly fingers that are extremely sensitive and dexterous, allowing the fine manipulation of their technology. Along their spines, their nervous systems are open to the air, with exposed tissue that resembles brain matter protruding from between the plates of their carapace. There are orifices within this tissue that are used to interface directly with the nervous systems of the bio-mechanical vehicles that they pilot via connective tendrils.
Repletes are responsible for feeding the other castes. Using a set of extremely sharp and powerful mandibles, they are able to consume almost any biological matter, from wood and plant matter to muscle and bone. Their bodies render what they eat into a nutrient-rich paste, golden in color and with the consistency of honey. This sweet fluid is then fed to the other castes, providing them with all of the sustenance that they require. During the journey across interstellar space, the honey that the Repletes bring with them is the only source of food available.
Much like honey ants, the Repletes have translucent sacks on their chests and abdomens that will swell with nutrient paste, giving them a bloated appearance when laden with fluid. The largest sack is located on the lower abdomen, where the armored plates will splay apart to allow the flexible, tough skin to expand to its maximum capacity. The two sacks on the chest will also engorge with fluid. These have a breast-like appearance, evolved to dispense fluid to the other castes.
Repletes are large and stocky in comparison to the other castes, with oversized mouth parts designed for shearing through tough food items and a reinforced lower pair of arms that allows them to drop a four-legged gait not unlike that of a gorilla when carrying a great deal of fluid. Their upper arms are equipped with blades that are mounted on the wrist, and are designed to shear away parts of their food that will not fit into their mouths.
Repletes have been known to accompany units of Drones shortly after a battle, eating the bodies of both friend and foe in order to recycle their nutrients. If a member of the hive dies, it will also likely end up in the belly of a Replete.
The Queen is both the heart and the brain of the hive. She can reach upwards of twelve feet in height and sports an enormous, ornate headdress the size of a truck’s hood. When mobile, Queens can be formidable adversaries due to their size and strength.
The Queen will most commonly sit atop her egg sack, which is anchored to the ceiling and suspended a short distance off the floor. A flexible, segmented anchor not only secures her to the roof, but also serves to link her nervous system to that of her hive. In the case that the Queen is piloting a hive ship in space, she will tap into its nervous system in order to issue commands to the vessel, communicate with her fleet, and also to share information from the vessel’s sensory equipment.
Once a hive is established, her Workers will dig a brood chamber for her and she will anchor herself to its ceiling, where the appendage will tap into a network of organic wires and cables that run through the length of the colony. These can be connected to surveillance cameras, organic computer consoles, and other varieties of wetware throughout the structure.
The Queen’s primary purpose is to populate her hive with new offspring, copulating with winged Drones and then storing their genetic information for later use. She has extremely fine control over the genetic code of her children, able to make edits and changes in order to produce new forms or to modify existing castes to suit her purposes. For that reason, no two hives are ever exactly alike, and may indeed vary greatly. It appears that the Queens all build off of the same genetic blueprints, and so the longer a hive survives, the more specialized and unusual its castes become.
In an emergency situation the Queen can break free of her tether, leaving her egg sack behind and becoming mobile. If the situation is resolved, she will eventually regrow a new sack, while the old one must be discarded along with any eggs that were incubating at the time.
A Queen’s intelligence should not be underestimated. She can calculate orbital trajectories and superlight jumps without the need of flight computers, and Queens are also expert tacticians, able to command vast fleets and armies with an impressive level of coordination. As well as manipulating the genetic code of their offspring, they also design the vessels and technologies that their hive uses. This means that encountering unknown weapons and ships when fighting against Betelgeusians is likely and should be taken into account.
Although the other castes are able to reproduce with winged Drones in order to replenish their numbers if the Queen cannot keep pace, if the Queen dies then the hive is doomed to extinction.
The Betelgeusians favor handheld plasma weapons, which use a magnetic field to shape and contain superheated gas before accelerating it down a rail. They are powered by compact, high-density batteries with unknown organic components, and fueled by canisters of compressed gas with varying mixtures.
Plasma pistols are small, handheld weapons often used by Drones. Their compact nature means that they can be wielded alongside plasma shields and knives, and are often holstered in shaped recesses on the thigh armor. They use a blend of organic and technological components, which are housed within an uneven resin casing that is usually orange in color. Despite their small size and relatively limited range, plasma pistols can accelerate a magnetically-contained ball of plasma to high speeds, delivering a significant amount of thermal and kinetic energy. There is no trigger system, the weapon instead fires when the user squeezes the grip.
Although many specimens of this weapon have been recovered from the battlefield, Betelgeusian technology with organic components dies and begins to decay if it is not properly maintained.
Plasma rifles are a larger variant of plasma pistols featuring similar technology, though their longer barrels and larger batteries result in a higher velocity projectile with greater effective range. They are most commonly employed as marksman rifles, where they take advantage of their longer range and integrated optics to target enemies from a distance.
The weapon features a pressure-sensitive trigger system, as well as dual forward grips to give its four-armed wielder better control. The weapon is reloaded by replacing the gas canister mounted just behind the magnetic rails.
Plasma shields are man-portable projectors that use magnetic fields to shape plasma into a barrier capable of stopping projectiles.
Much like Betelgeusian firearms, the shield projector uses organic components and is powered by a high-density battery. The compressed gas is stored in a small canister which can be replaced quickly. The plasma becomes so hot that it can melt tungsten projectiles enough to reduce their penetrative capabilities, resulting in the wielder instead being splashed by molten metal, which does not seem to seriously harm them. Nor does their close proximity to the plasma field, suggesting that their armor is able to protect them from its heat. They are much more effective at stopping plasma fire, which is absorbed into the field upon contact, suggesting that the system was originally developed to fight other hives. This also presents a weakness, however, as enough sustained plasma fire will overload the shield, causing it to collapse.
Drones use a pair of ceramic knives in close quarters, which can be deadly when coupled with the natural speed and agility of their wielders.
These knives are made from a zirconium alloy, making them substantially harder than steel, and their blades are sharpened to a razor’s edge. In hand-to-hand combat, Drones will attempt to drive these knives into the breaks in their opponent’s armor, targeting weak spots in their defenses.
While most Betelgeusian technology is purely functional, and nothing that could be considered art or culture has ever been observed in their hives, these weapons have elaborate details and geometric patterns along the blade and handle. Whether this serves some functional purpose such as improved grip, or if it is proof that Betelgeusians sometimes decorate their tools purely for aesthetic reasons is unclear.
The Betelgeusian hive fleets employ several different types of ground and space vehicles during their military campaigns. Unlike the castes, these vehicles are not sentient creatures unto themselves but are rather amalgams of biological and mechanical technology imbued with a simple animal intelligence. They require a pilot to function, who taps into the nervous system of their vehicle in order to direct them with any measure of intelligence.
Warriors are biological battlesuits that serve as heavy infantry for the Betelgeusian fleets. At nine feet tall and in excess of two thousand pounds, a Warrior makes for an intimidating opponent on the battlefield. Their size and carrying capacity allows them to carry heavy armor plating that makes them resistant to small arms fire, and they can be outfitted with super-heavy equipment such as vicious claws for dismembering enemy troops and tearing open the hulls of vehicles, or plasma weapons capable of melting through armor.
They are most often used as shock troopers, spearheading assaults or breaching fortified positions, preferring to close into CQB where their innate advantages can be leveraged even further.
Warriors are biomechanical in design, comprised of both organic components created through genetic engineering and technological components such as weapons systems and electronics. Although they might appear outwardly similar to Betelgeusian castes, they are in fact vehicles that are directed by members of the Pilot caste. The Pilot enters the suit through a cavity in the torso, where prehensile, biological data cables connect to sockets that run down the Pilot’s spine. This establishes a direct neural connection between Pilot and Warrior, allowing the wearer to interface with the suit’s systems and take control of it. Warriors have been observed to have their own simple intelligence, but it seems akin to an autopilot system, not allowing them to do much more than walk to a maintenance booth or follow the simple directions of Workers.
Scuttlers serve as the heavy armor of the Betelgeusian hives, filling the role of MBT on the battlefield. They’re equipped with thick, heavy carapace plating imbued with metallic alloys that strengthen them against enemy fire, making them especially resistant to plasma and laser weapons. Their configuration varies, but they are commonly armed with a high-powered plasma cannon that uses a trio of magnetic rails to accelerate bolts of super-heated gas, a weapon usually only encountered on spacecraft. Auxiliary weapons include rocket pods capable of launching various types of munitions, including high-explosive warheads that spray the target area with poison shrapnel, and gas canisters containing toxins and irritants.
At a weight of thirty tons, and a length of twenty feet, they are smaller than UNN Kodiak tanks, but their maneuverability makes up for their shortcomings. Their eight segmented legs make them highly mobile and allow them to traverse difficult terrain with ease, even letting them burrow into loose soil to present a smaller profile. This makes them ideal for ambush scenarios, where they can maneuver into unorthodox and unexpected positions before launching surprise attacks on unsuspecting targets using their array of weaponry. A well-placed shot from a Scuttler’s main gun can easily melt through armor and disable critical components, while volleys of chemical rockets can wreak havoc on unprepared infantry formations.
At the front of the vehicle is a beak-like structure that shields the delicate sensory apparatus. When searching for targets or examining its environment, the trio of plates open up, and a fleshy appendage snakes forth. This flexible organ is equipped with eyes that can see in various spectrums, antennae that are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation and chemical signatures, and nerves that allow them to sense temperature and pressure changes. This serves as a form of organic periscope, giving the Scuttler a better awareness of battlefield conditions.
Hive ships are the flagships of the Betelgeusian fleets, serving as carriers, troop transports, and command vessels depending on their individual configurations. Like all Betelgeusian ships, their size and armament varies quite dramatically, but the largest reported hive ship neared one kilometer in length, making it more than twice the length of a UNN Jump Carrier.
Hive ships are vaguely shrimp-like in appearance, with a curled body that is overlaid with protective plates of organic carapace. This natural armor is often supplemented with additional layers of alloy plating for added survivability. The entire ship is covered in sensory apparatus seemingly at random, giving it a three hundred and sixty-degree awareness of its surroundings. It makes use of organic eyes and cameras, long antennae that are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, and other sensory organs.
Propulsion is achieved through chemical thrusters that are spaced out along the flanks of the vessel. These thrusters are vectored and are attached to housings grown from muscle, giving the ship very fine control over its direction and velocity. They burn methane fuel, which may be a by-product of some internal metabolic system.
Armament varies, but a common weapon configuration encountered by UNN fleets is a series of long-range, high-powered cannons that use magnetic rails to accelerate magnetically-contained plasma projectiles. These cannons can also be modified to fire autonomous sensor drones and other unconventional munitions. Plasma torpedoes are also a mainstay of Betelgeusian fleets and are often carried by Hive ships. Plasma torpedoes carry a warhead of magnetically-contained, super-heated gas, which is released when the organic sensor array that serves as the weapon’s guidance system determines that it’s in the proximity of a target.
Hive ships are able to carry a variety of troops and vehicles, including hundreds of thousands of Drones suspended in a low metabolic state during transit, which are often deployed to target planets and enemy ships using drop pods. Drop pods are filled with an organic gel that helps protect the occupants from the shock of impacts, and are also equipped with aerobrakes and retro thrusters to shed velocity during an atmospheric landing. When used in boarding operations, they penetrate the hulls of enemy ships and installations using their pointed tips, which are coated in thick armor.
Squadrons of Betelgeusian fighters can be stowed beneath the spindly legs of the Hive ship in recesses in the hull, which are deployed in both an offensive and defensive capacity. Their number depends on the configuration of their mother ship. It’s also common to see Hive ships carrying defensive orbital installations tucked beneath their legs, which can be rapidly assembled and deployed in a gravity well to help secure their newly-claimed territory.
One of the primary functions of a Hive ship is to carry the Queen, who directs the fleet from her flagship. Like all Betelgeusian vehicles, Hive ships have organic components and must be piloted by either a Queen or a member of the Pilot caste. There may be several Hive ships in a Betelgeusian fleet depending on the resources that were available to them on their planet of origin, but one of these invariably acts as the command vessel. The destruction of this target will cripple a fleet, leaving them leaderless and uncoordinated, ultimately dooming the hive.
Despite their immense mass, Hive ships are able to make landfall, often moving quickly to reach the surface of a planet where they can disgorge their complement of troops. Hive ships not only play a crucial role in the fleet but are critical to the founding of a successful colony. Once a permanent ground presence has been established, the passengers will disassemble, recycle, and consume the ship, using its resources to help kickstart their new hive. Depriving them of this essential resource has proven a successful tactic for limiting a fleet’s ability to dig in and fortify their positions.
Needless to say, Hive ships are priority targets, and there is no scenario where their destruction does not strike a severe blow to a Betelgeusian fleet.
The Torpedo Frigate is a mobile weapon platform, able to carry deadly plasma torpedoes in its legs, which it passes towards its specialized forelimbs for launching. These massive projectiles contain volatile, super-heated gas, which can melt through even the armored hull of a capital ship when released. Each torpedo is a creature in its own right, able to track its target with a suite of sensitive eyes and antennae, adjusting its trajectory in order to maximize damage. Torpedo Frigates are susceptible to attacks by smaller fighters, and so are commonly equipped with defensive plasma cannons that can help to ward off aggressors and intercept projectiles.
These frigates tend to remain at the rear of a Betelgeusian fleet, attacking priority targets at range using volleys of torpedoes. When engaged at closer ranges, they try to disengage, using their point defense cannons to cover their retreat.
At around seven hundred feet, Torpedo Frigates are comparable in size to UNN Doloto-class frigates and serve a similar battlefield role. Due to their varying sizes and configurations, Betelgeusian ships are most often designated based on comparisons to UNN vessels.
These hulking vessels serve the role of combat carriers in the Betelgeusian fleets, being comparatively smaller and less strategically important than the Hive ships. As many as a dozen fighters can hitch a ride on their segmented tails, deploying to swarm their targets when the Carrier senses danger.
At a length of eight-hundred feet, Assault Carriers are a little smaller than a UNN Jump Carrier, and significantly less massive. They sacrifice defensive systems for carrying capacity, relying on their complement of fighters to protect them from enemy craft. Despite their vulnerabilities, they are often encountered acting independently of larger fleets, hiding in asteroid belts and debris fields in wait of vulnerable targets. The large claws that are mounted towards the prow of the ship are used to crush and smash enemy vessels and can be employed to tear open the hulls of hostile capital ships and defensive installations. When attacking, an Assault Carrier will attempt to ram, closing into range as quickly as possible.
Serving in the interceptor role in the Betelgeusian hive fleets, the Fighter is used to counter enemy interceptors, and to harry larger vessels with its suite of onboard weaponry. They are commonly deployed from Hive ships or Assault Carriers, having limited fuel and range. Although they can be equipped with a variety of loadouts, the most commonly encountered is a pair of twin-linked plasma repeaters that fire magnetically-contained projectiles of super-heated gas, and seeker missiles, small vessels in their own right that can track targets once released. At fifty feet, Fighters are among the smallest spaceworthy vessels employed by the Betelgeusians.
The hulls of fighters are lightly-armored when compared to their larger counterparts, and are very susceptible to railguns and conventional weapons, but are reasonably resistant to plasma. Said hulls are covered in small eyes that give the pilot an unimpeded view of their surroundings, as well as antennae that can pick up electromagnetic radiation and chemical signatures such as residue from engine plumes.
Fighters are capable of operating in an atmosphere, though their performance is far from optimal, and they can make landfall where their six long legs make them remarkably mobile and capable. The possibility of a fighter landing to support ground troops should not be ruled out.