While thinking about my aliens, I’ve been considering what’s been done before and have been trying to come up with a look and feel that can stand out as my own. The movie Alien had some great ideas, but I want to avoid anything that can draw a direct comparison. The same goes for any other movie, story or game.
I want them to appear otherworldly, in appearance and manner, frightening to behold and terrifying just to think about. Their movement should be quick, calculated and aggressive. Their manner and focus should revolve around the task they’ve evolved to fulfill. There should be a distinctly recognizable feature, with a variation between types.
I’d considered making them extradimensional creatures, which means they would exist in and perceive a higher dimension than third. This would give the appearance, to our eyes, of shifting between spaces when they moved. Attacks could come from any angle, and the victim would not see it. This would make them extremely difficult to defeat. I’m still debating it. I do like the idea of calling them Shifters.
I decided on creatures that appeared to be gelatinous. They have no organs, no bones nor limbs. They sense the world with their entire being but are particularly sensitive to stimuli upon the outer surface (touch, vibration, temperature). This will become important later, because it will be possible to overstimulate their senses (blind) with loud noise from every direction. They can harden any part of their body in an instant and emulate with exacting precision any biological mass they’ve made contact with. This means they could impersonate people, but that level of intelligence (deception) is not necessary. They use this ability, instead, to scout new areas with an abundance of life. They can create limbs at will, in any shape deemed necessary (sharpened, tendrils, ending in phalanges). They move by stretching and pulling forward (like a snail) or by creating limbs to attach or grasp nearby structures to pull or propel themselves. They can split into separate creatures, existing as small as a fly or as large as a situation demands. During this decision to split, they can choose which type (see below) each half becomes. They can merge as well, forming a single being as large as an ocean.
At this point, they seem very similar to Odo’s people on Star Trek Deep Space Nine but without the intelligence. I intend to make them very different, but it’s almost impossible to come up with an entirely new creation. The best I can hope for is a unique take. In a way, the Founders in Deep Space Nine are a species of Blob with intelligence. My spin on the Blob would be in how the aliens spread, consume and terraform an entire planet.
They look like a globule of solid, pliable and coarse material. Color may vary, but most will appear in a reddish purple hue with black striations. When the outer layer hardens, it resembles volcanic rock. Thick, rugged and in deeper colors, the shell makes movement with that area impossible (aside from rolling downhill). Rarely would the entire layer harden but more likely the area in immediate danger would react accordingly.
The coarse surface grants an adhesive quality, allowing the body to grip terrain. This is used to both move forward and stand ground. Stretching and forming limbs to wrap around, attach to or impale surrounding objects can also aid in the same endeavors. While the aliens can easily kill prey, they go to great lengths not to do so. They have use for dead biomass but prefer to convert the living.
Though they have no orifices, they still make sounds by vibrating. Communication is done by pheromone, touch and varying these vibrations.
Proto: an unspecified type, capable of hardening its outer surface to a much greater degree and indefinitely (cannot exist any larger than a fist)
Scout: seeks out life and marks areas with pheromone tracers
Soldier: an aggressive combatant with melee and ranged capabilities (can shoot hardened pieces of itself to damage structures or stun prey; can also shoot pieces of itself to convert prey)
Builder: alters the landscape with biomass, creating protective structures for artillery and ultimately terraforming the planet
Collector: converts the dead to raw biomass and delivers it to builders
Artillery: shoots protos into space for further propagation (very large, incapable of hardening; uses its entire being for the sole purpose of propelling objects with great force)
I may come up with more types as I work on the story, but this seems to cover most of what they need to spread.
How do the aliens convert life?
I’m leaning toward a change at the cellular level, where any contact results in an immediate overpowering of the existing structure. This would be a slow and painful process. Whether it can be stopped or reversed is up for debate. There are a number of ways in which I can utilize this process: a simple touch that leaves material to convert prey, fully engulf and immobilize prey for the duration, force material inside prey through orifices, etc. I think I want to avoid any kind of cocoon scenario or any comparison to the gestation of Alien. I think any contact is enough to mark a target as infected, so they will no longer be viewed as prey. The transformation will consist of stages, where the infected can feel themselves changing from within. The final stage will end with unconsciousness, where the body will break down and collapse, resulting in multiple protos.
What are they trying to accomplish?
They want to convert all life on the planet to fire more and more protos into space to start the process all over again. The notion of self does not exist. Each alien serves their instinct to survive and spread. This means self-preservation is important but does not supersede propagation. An alien will sacrifice itself without a second thought if it means infecting at least two other prey.
How do they go about achieving that goal from start to finish? How do they deal with opposition?
They seek out life, mark and infiltrate swiftly. They infect efficiently and try to cause as little damage as necessary. Damaged biomass is of no use and serves no purpose. Anything that causes damage takes precedent over spreading. If prey cannot be infected without taking a lesser loss (numbers are important) than would be gained, they are marked as threats (with pheromone) and killed instead.
Do they have any sort of weakness that can be discovered and exploited?
Extremely loud noise can overwhelm their senses. If it comes from all directions, it can effectively blind them. They can be damaged in unhardened areas. Since they cannot remain hardened for long periods of time (some not at all), any number of things can eventually cause harm. Hardening to avoid damage results in an inability to move. As with most life, kill it with fire applies.
Once dead, they can no longer infect prey.