The Star Treks are Right
The Stars are right. Or, as Mr. Spock might put it, the dimensional branes have reached a high level of permeability. Or as Dr. McCoy might have put it, “We’re fucked, Jim.”
The Galaxy, it is now known, has undergone multiple large-scale waves of extinction over at least the last two billion years, during which the number of technological species is drastically reduced, along with planets with advanced ecosystems as a whole. The exact nature of these events is unclear, but studies of ancient strata on dead worlds hints that some local modifications or alterations of the laws of physics make have taken place over large areas for a lengthy period of time. That “immutable” physical laws can be at least temporarily and locally modified has been confirmed by encounters with such beings as the Q and the Organians: whether the extinctions were a direct effect of such modifications, or due to some other phenomena associated with these changes remains speculative. The fact that advanced aliens can achieve such modifications has suggested that this may have been the work of conscious intelligence, but the sheer scale and lethality of these events is baffling. The last of these waves of extinction took place some 300 million years ago: according to some studies, we are overdue.
As to contemporary records, little exists from the 300 million pre-nuclear era, and even less from earlier periods. While some artifacts exist, they generally lack any real the informational content: the Irregular Stones of Leng II, the Bottomless Labyrinth of Nyil-Yath Rho V, the towers of Tindalos are all ancient, but contain no tangible records of the unimaginable age when they were built. Various great carvings and inscriptions of debatable origin may or may not date to the last or even earlier eras of destruction, but generally remain untranslated. The Grey Stone of the Milach Asteroid carries a complex mathematical formula based on universal constants which has been partly translated, but the translation is made debatable due to some of the constants being slightly off, and seems to be a painfully obscure meandering series of half-incoherent prophecies speaking of the “crumbling walls of the universe” and the “time of the great feeding” and the “conjunction of ten million spheres.”
That there are other, alien geometries where things are…different, has long been known. Humanity supposedly learned about this from the Vulcans, although there always had been some on Earth who had…other…sources. And that it was occasionally possible to travel into these other places – and return alive – has also long been known. However, there has never been any Federation expeditions to other geometries in search of New Life and New Civilizations. The public generally accepted the government’s “too dangerous, too expensive, and really not worth the trouble when we have a whole galaxy to explore where we don’t have to worry about suddenly turning inside out or having our entropy reverse ” line, when they thought about the rather complicated and confusing issue at all.
In the metaphorical language of the Tamarians, the incalculably vast sheaf of alternate geometries is visualized through Oceanic metaphors – an Ocean unplumbable, with no bottom, in the infinite darkness of which things larger than worlds may swim.
While the existence of other geometries might be known as a vague scientific fact to the general Federation public, less well known was the fact that as well as people from this geometry visiting others, not-people occasionally came the other way. Some of them had even settled in parts of the Milky Way galaxy. Some had come and gone and left often disturbing traces, while others still are around, at times a little outside the windows of perception, others in plain sight without being recognized for what they are. The Medusans, for instance, are well regarded (pun-ish me!) members of the Federation in spite of having a physical configuration which breaks various laws of geometry and perspective and light bouncing off them carries such massively wrong information to the brain as to drive most visually-oriented species mad. (The official line: they’re really ugly).
Section 32, the secret government organization for which Section 31 is just a disposable cover story, continues its research into finding ways to prolong the survival of humanity. Dispersal is of course the most obvious course: although periods of open contact with alien geometries tend to have extremely high extinction rates, biological life in some form always survives (if often abominably mutated). And dispersal in time and dimension are even more promising, although there indications that attempting to pass through certain periods in galactic history may be rather lethal (even the Guardian of Forever refuses to allow access by Federation personnel to areas more than a few million years in the past), while migration to other geometries has its own problems. As for quantum variants on the baseline geometry, probability theory indicates some will pass through the storm untouched: identifying such in advance is so far a problem with little hope of solution.
(The Guardian of Forever is not considered a reliable escape route for humanity. For one thing, any race which has extended access to it has a tendency to retroactively render itself extinct. The ruins on the planet? Just its latest custodians. When asked, the Guardian talks a good game about their not respecting the sanctity of the timeline, but those in the Federation who are paid to be paranoid are suspicious. Some wonder if the Guardian’s claims to be “its own beginning and ending” are literally true: the Guardian may be itself a violation of casualty, existing as a billion years long spacetime loop with no start or end. How such a thing could exist in the first place is uncertain, but most theories tend to be worrysome and some tend to cause mental breakdowns. But then casualty has been broken for a long time.)
Of course, running away is not the only option: there are, for instance, options more suited for surviving the coming era than the normal ugly bags of mostly water. There is a reason holodeck simulations have an annoying tendency to come alive, and why holographic medical doctors tend to become self-aware. Section 32 has been looking into finding ways of running Humanity 1.0 on different hardware, and one good thing about computer simulations is that they can shut themselves off if needed. (Fully embodied robots are more of a problem, especially given the fact that fully emulating a human consciousness within something the size of a human skull still is at the very limit of what is technologically possible. One of the more esoteric notions is the “Terratin Solution”, in which by shrinking themselves to near-microscopic size, and by moving to lifeless planets, humans may survive simply by being too small to be noticed.
And of course there are truly post-human solutions, although the long struggle of the Borg to remake themselves into a God to fight God suggests that bootstrapping oneself sufficiently to feel safe is not really easy. The possibilities of the Galactic Barrier are being explored, as its Tides of Godhood rise and fall in a now predictable 2.17 terrestrial year cycle, but results remain frustrating, since it has so far been impossible to determine how the test subjects unusual abilities work (at least, the Bureau can celebrate zero Mad God Escape incidents: unlike certain Starfleet captains, they have no compunctions whatsoever about killing their test subjects before they get too dangerous. )
To add to the Galaxy’s problems, the first Kelvan colonizer fleets will be arriving in about another thirty years (they’ve improved their propulsion systems over the last few centuries). They won’t be coming to the area where the Federation lies, since their expedition to that part of the Galaxy failed to return: but some of the other one hundred and seventy two exploratory missions they dispatched to nearby galaxies did return. They aren’t fleeing radiation: they have successfully calculated when the Stars Will Be Right for what lives inside the giant black hole at their galactic core, and intent to have gotten the heck out of Dodge before then. (They’re not quite sure 2 million light years is far enough, but they think the odds are decent.) Of course, our own Galaxy faces horrors of its own, but it’s a better situation, in a “plague vs. brain cancer” sort of way: being an almost emotionless race by human standards, the Kelvans are able to make these sort of decisions with a degree of dispassion to make Section 32 members cry fat hot tears of envy.
The modern galactic era, with its great bursts of expansion by new civilizations and empires, and remarkable tales of technological progress on the part of seemingly dull witted hominids, owes its existence to the very weakening of the rules of reality As We Know It: some new technologies would have been far harder to achieve, or even simply impossible, a millennium ago. There has been a burst of Mad Scientists and highly improbably temporal manipulations (of course, with the general decay of “normal” physics, probability in self has been called into question). As the walls between universes thin, star drives have increasingly been causing damage to the fabric of space-time.
There was a surge of activity in the last century, leading to such anomalous intrusions as the amoeboid Star Eater, and increased activities on the part of non-standard entities such as the Dispersed Mind, whose trillions of Frisbee-sized mobile brain cells surged in numbers, leading to outbreaks of infection on several outlying federation colonies. (Things were even worse than it seemed to Federation personnel, really: most of the outbreaks were dealt with by more advanced races operating at a higher level). The walls between realities solidified again after some years, but it had been a warning for those who knew how to see it. Now once again strange things are stirring in dark places. The Crystal Entities devour whole worlds, but they are in the end fairly low down the pecking order, and can be overcome with moderately advanced technology and firepower. While the the Drella feed on love, and the Dark Hunters live on fear and terror, each one person at a time, the Dispersed Mind feeds on pain and anguish and despair, and the War Doves feed on rage and hatred, and both do so on a wholesale level, infecting whole worlds.
The War Doves are the more subtle of the two, manipulating from behind the scenes, while the Mind must act through its quite visible and gross cells (albeit largely indestructible, each sharing strength with their trillions of fellows) which furthermore require other people’s starships to travel from one world to another. Coming from a lightless universe, the Dispersed Mind’s cells perish in bright enough light - to Its annoyance the Federation has somehow found this out, so It will head for the Delta quadrant: there should be good feeding there, and there’s no way anyone from the Federation has been there to pass on the knowledge, right?
Other races, other approaches. The ancient Forerunners aeons ago, seeing their doom, manipulated the genetic patterns of many worlds, so that in time the galaxy would bring forth a bumper crop of “humanoid” (actually Forerunner-oid) life forms. The Preservers, before departing for nobody knows where, scattered small populations of a couple dozen races, including humans, on thousands of worlds around the galaxy: certain theorists have suggested that the selection parameters were for “weed species”, relatively unspecialized and adaptable lifeforms well fitted to repopulate a galaxy largely depleted of intelligent life (this theory is rejected both by humans disliking the notion of being weeds, and by other species secretly annoyed that they weren’t picked).
The “Yith cultural complex” is one of the more mysterious elements of galactic history. At least half a dozen extinct civilizations have been found showing the characteristic signs of the Yith complex: a highly rationalistic, scientific worldview: an obsession with the gathering and preservation of knowledge: a preference for massive styles of architecture, combined with an extremely long-term point of view, planning for positively geological eras of time: and correspondingly extremely stable and long-lasting societies, often changing but little over millions of years.
The Yith Cultural Complex usually arises in early technological civilizations, after their industrial revolution but before large-scale space colonization begins. It is accompanied by a rapid transformation in architecture, urban arrangements, and even writing styles, and on some planets seems to have been accompanied with large scale genocidal warfare against certain populations: details of the transition, its speed and nature, remain obscure, since no Yith cultural remains have been found later than 30 million pre-atomic. (Some have argued for an extremely rapid change, over a period of decades or even less, but there is insufficient evidence and in any case such a rapid cultural phase-change seems highly unlikely). The initial changes are usually followed by a rapid flowering of high technology, followed by stabilization, retrenchment, and a long period of slow change and technological progress, occasionally interrupted by new bursts of often quite unprecedented technological change.
All know Yith cultures appear to eventually die off rather abruptly - in some cases from natural causes such as Nova stars, or attacks by highly aggressive and technologically advanced races, but at time through more obscure means. The Yith of the Mebsuta system appear to have inhabited the third planet of their system - however, the current third planet is frozen, while at the liquid water distance there are instead two small planetoids which behave a lot like a pair of moons whose primary at some point simply vanished. Meanwhile, on Phnume the only sign of what happened is a dense layer of soot, accompanied by the mysterious abandoning of the cities and a precipitous decline in the number of fossil remains, with hardly an exoskeleton to be found beyond the collapse level.
The Yith Cultural Complex has generally been believed to have been spread by an unknown race imposing its cultural standards on other species, but the peculiarly sporadic nature of its appearance would seem to indicate multiple sources of distribution: after the extinction of the Yith culture on Mulberry IV some 200 million pre-atomic, the next known example appears on Cheleoth III some forty million years afterwards. Of course it is mostly likely that with the size of the galaxy intermediary cultures have been missed, and some clearly did overlap in time – it is known that a Yith culture existed on Earth in its prehistory contemporaneously with one on ancient Gornishan – but there are curious gaps and intermissions. Some have theorized that rather than being spread by a species, the Yith cultural complex may be in the way of an infectious meme or mental virus, perhaps spread by automated Von Neumann devices built aeons ago. This is generally considered a silly idea. and the search for the true Yith culture-bearers continues.
The Vulcan High Priests know more than they tell of what happened in the dark days before Surak brought the blessings of pure logic to the people of Vulcan. There was more at stake than just death and destruction. In the madness that broke the first great Vulcan civilization, the society which sent colonizing starships to Romulus and Remus and beyond, any approach to victory was acceptable: there were no bounds, no ethics, no sanity. The Priests remember what it was like in the days when someone could prove there were more than three prime numbers between one and five.
The Vulcan Priests could tell the Federation’s fumbling Department of Symbological and Mathematical Correspondence Enhancement (magic, in other words: sections 32-d through g inclusive) a lot. They’re just not sure if they should: logic was more than just a way to end war and violence. One can often find perfectly logical justifications for violence and logical ways to go about it (see, Spock’s first Pon Farr on the enterprise). Perhaps even more importantly, it was a means of deeply instilling a form of thinking that would make other forms of thinking almost unconceivable: forms of thinking more suited to places outside the walls of the universe than here; forms of thinking that could achieve impossible things;  forms of thinking that inevitably ended in madness or in forms of rationality largely indistinguishable from the same.
The imposition of a tight-fitting logical mold on Vulcan thinking probably saved the Vulcan race – and perhaps much more – from destruction. But when madness walks the star ways and the walls of night threaten to tumble down, is logic enough anymore, or is it a positive danger? To survive what may soon be coming, certain kinds of madness may be necessary. But the High Priests are not yet ready to speak – for one thing, some feel that death might be better than survival on the terms that may be necessary to coexist with the Million-Angled Ones…
The Tcho-tcho are a humanoid species, living in a widespread, thinly scattered diasporah: the location of their home planet is unknown. They generally prefer hot, humid climates, and their settlements are usually found in planetary tropical jungles or their biological equivalents, where their advanced biological skills allow them to adapt the environment to best suit their needs. In spite of their humanoid appearance, they are psychologically a quite alien race, and seem, for a species with a strong theory of mind, oddly lacking in empathy. Some scholars have suggested that they grasp the emotions and feelings of others just fine: it’s just that they don’t care. They also have an unusually strong sense of humor, and always seem greatly amused at the universe, especially when it’s doing something horrible to someone.
While a number of species have religions in which the body of a deity is symbolically consumed, the Tcho-tcho are unique in that as a part of their religious ceremonies they actually consume the bodies of their own and other sentient species. No murder or graverobbing is involved, their biological skills allowing them to grow clones, whole or single body parts – heads, arms, internal organs, legs, other extremities…generally speaking, if you belong to a species biologically close enough to the Tcho-tcho to eat their food, somewhere a Tcho-tcho is eating a member of your species. If one visits a Tcho-tcho city and are not careful with the disposal of one’s hair, nails, etc. then the situation may be even more personal.
Necrophilia is another important part of Tcho-tcho religious practice, and their biological technology allows them to maintain animation in bodies long past the normal point of total disintegration. Many Tcho-tcho of a deeply spiritual nature scorn sex with living people altogether. It is generally considered unwise to accept anything to eat from a Tcho-Tcho: they have, as mentioned before, a curious sense of humor, and their jokes can be quite painful when not downright fatal.
The Tcho-tcho are in demand across much of the known galaxy for their somewhat special medical and biological skills. Sometimes this is for legitimate purposes: much of the time it is for thing highly illegal outside the Black Planet. (In less enlightened times, they were favored as torturers within the Klingon Empire). They trade their services for protection and privacy: they rarely mingle to any extent with other species, and there are Federation worlds where the great majority of the population is actually unaware of the existence of Tcho-tcho communities on their planet.
Mi-Go are the most numerous known species in existence: they are fairly thinly spread, but have been found in every part of the galaxy known to Federation explorers. They have been encountered in Dominion space on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole, and were contacted by the Starship Voyager during its sojourn in the Delta Quadrant. The Mi-Go themselves claim to inhabit many other galaxies, a claim which cannot be substantiated, and to originate in a different space-time geometry, a claim made rather more plausible by their unique material composition.
The Mi-Go are multi-limbed bilaterally symmetrical life forms somewhat resembling terrestrial insect life, but fundamentally dissimilar in actual detail. Their rugose, cone-shaped heads have a number of tendrils, horns, and pits acting as sensory organs, but no true eyes, the Mi-Go apparently not using visible-spectrum light. The large, folding “wings” are actually radiation-gathering organs, and they reproduce through spore emission and budding. Organs inside the central body mass can create a buzzing equivalent of humanoid speech, allowing the use of the Universal Translator. Among themselves, the Mi-Go appear to communicate telepathically (they do not appear to be able to read the minds of other species, while efforts to read their minds by Federation telepaths and empaths have been unsuccessful.)
While of a somewhat vegetal and fungoid structure on a macroscopic and high-microscopic level, the Mi-Go are of a non-standard atomic and subatomic structure, and interact with radiation in manners different from normal forms of matter. They contain no true liquids or anything resembling a true circulatory system, absorbed matter moving through their bodies in a form of molecular phase-shifting. The Mi-Go are highly absorptive of radiation, being even more resistant to standard phaser weapons than the silicon-based Horta, but are no more resistant to solid projectiles than are humans or Tellarites. They are adaptable to a wide variety of environments, being able to survive the cold and vaccum of interstellar space, physically largely non-reactive with most gasses, and only undergoing molecular disassociation at temperatures close to the melting point of lead. They generally prefer low-temperature environments, in the outer edges of solar systems or even within Oort clouds, perhaps due to the lack of intelligent competition for such environments, but small settlements have been found in all forms of environments.
One reason for their extremely wide spread is their built-in space propulsion: apparently organic in nature, this acts similarly to a low-power impulse drive with very low but continuous acceleration, combined with a natural gravity-cancelling ability. It will take months for a Mi-go to cross a solar system, and many years to cross interstellar space, but they get where they need to go eventually, and apparently can enter a form of hibernation or estivation with no known time limit.
The Mi-Go are not, apparently, a truly united species: local customs and technology levels vary quite widely, some Mi-Go surviving with very little technology at all (although not apparently losing scientific knowledge in the process), while other Mi-Go inhabit densely populated urban with technology considerably in advance of Federation standard (the Mi-Go claim, again with no confirmation possible, that some of their more distant worlds possess technology rivaling the most advanced pre-transcendant species in the galaxy). There also appear to be cultural variations, with some Mi-Go worshipping a variety of vaguely described deities, others following what might be described as aggressive nihilism. The nature of Mi-Go government remains unclear, although their societies appear to be highly communalistic. One thing all Mi-Go seem to have in common is a strict disinterest in establishing close relations with other species: they do not create alliance aside from temporary ones of strict convenience, and follow an almost universal policy of neutrality in interstellar affairs.
Beside their ability to traverse interstellar space on their own, the Mi-Go also build spaceships, usually simply frameworks open to space. Some travel using a variant on the standard warp drive, others using subspace conduits, while still others simply emerge and vanish through dimensional warps in a manner inscrutable to sensors: there is some evidence that this is a form of higher-dimensional space rotation, allowing essentially instant relocation to any part of the galaxy. Mi-go have also been observed utilizing a network of fixed-location interstellar gateways similar to that employed by the Iconians: whether these are a Mi-Go creation or some other race’s repurposed technology remains unclear. (Sensor data from one such gate indicates a creation long before the emergence of the Iconian species).
The Mi-Go appear to be at least very long-lived, if not actually immortal: while the Mi-Go themselves tend to be ambiguous when asked about their life span, there are no known instances of a Mi-Go dying from natural causes. This leads to a high degree of cultural stability, to the extent that some Mi-Go societies have been essentially stagnant for at least hundreds of thousands of years. (Again, this varies).
Most Mi-Go conduct trade with interstellar civilizations, exchanging information and certain technologies and services for rare and exotic materials, information , and brains. The Mi-Go apparently find the presence of alien points of view among them valuable, probably in compensation for their lack of interspecies alliances, and will recruit – voluntarily or sometimes through the purchase of slaves or even abduction – members of non-Mi-Go races to return to their worlds. They usually take the brain and enclose it in a cybernetic life support system, most races being physically incapable of survival on the majority of Mi-Go worlds or in the empty space where they spend much of their time. In the case of some of the more advanced Mi-Go worlds, even the brain is disposed of and consciousness transferred directly into synthetic bodies. Such “recruits” rarely if ever return to their worlds of origin.
It is said of the Mi-Go that they are “slow to anger, but terrible in their wrath.” Although often surprisingly indifferent to the killing of individuals of their race – which has led many to suspect the existence of some sort of hive or dispersed intelligence – violence on too large a scale will eventually cause Mi-Go over a wide stretch of space to band together for self-defense and retaliation. The last time someone attempted large-scale violence against the Mi-Go was the Klingon Empire’s attempt to seize control of the Mi-Go spaceship building yards (for lack of a better word) in the Oort cloud of Gummitch Major. This would lead to the destruction of Praxis by Mi-Go forces and nearly lethal damage to the Klingon homeworld’s environment; since then, respect for Mi-Go neutrality has been universal in the known regions of the Alpha Quadrant.
(From what little data exists, it appears the relationship in the Delta Quadrant between the Borg and the Mi-Go can be described as “we leave them alone, and they leave us alone.” While what is known strongly indicates that the Borg are simply incapable of assimilating the Mi-Go, it appears to be more than that, since the Borg are known to have destroyed or dispersed several unassimilatable races they considered a threat).
The Borg is not a species. The immense structure of a Borg travelling “hive” (the word “spaceship” covers too little territory) will contain the DNA of a multitude of species, some intelligent, others not, sometimes concentrated in a mobile drone, other times spread through organic sub-structures of the ship. The Borg assimilate both the biological and technological uniqueness of all species they encounter, and recombine them into a broad spectrum of new forms and types, constant experimenting in their effort to create the perfect being, which is the Borg Collective as a whole, not the many biological and technological components that make it up.
The Borg have seen God, or what passes for it. They have been fleeing it for a hundred thousand years.
Having looked far, too far, in their efforts to see the true nature of things, the ancestors of the Borg, long ago, went mad with terror, and in seeking an escape, found their millennial purpose: to remake themselves, to improve themselves, to armor and gird themselves to the point where IT could not make them NOT. To become a God themselves, to seek perfection. It was perhaps a better choice than death and despair, but the pursuit long ago became divorced of any interest in personal or even species survival, and had become a race that could never end, because even if they could encompass all the universe, they would still be an invisible speck among the endless universes along the axes of both probability and physical law.
So the Borg go over onward, ever changing, ever mutating, splicing their bodies with alien genes and machinery, one brain controlling many bodies, many brains spliced together into one, links and grids and networks, little crawling things powered by a few neutrons, titan machines inhabited by many consciousnesses subordinated to one purpose like the individuals in Hobbes’ Leviathan, neural tissue spliced with electronics through cubic meters of space, linked consciousnesses, submerged consciousnesses, specialized minds carrying out advanced tasks with the self-awareness of a potted plant. Mass production of new genetic hybrids, mass disposal and recycling if they fail to live up to expectations. Sanity, ethics, a sense of proportion: all irrelevant. Perfection, improvement, enhancement is all.
The Elder Race (also known as the Elder Things by those less polite) are like the Mi-Go, a wide-spread and much divided race, although they do not claim as vast a domain as the M-Go - but vast it must be, because they are considerably older than the Mi-Go, indeed the oldest known intelligent species not extinct or gone transcendent, their characteristic triangular flipper-prints having been found fossilized in strata over two billion years old. At the very least, they are found throughout the Local Cluster. Federation knowledge of them is limited, since their nearest world is well beyond Federation territory, but some contacts have been made by ships on long-range, multi-year exploratory missions.
They have been through several Cosmic Great Cycles, but their response to efforts to gain information on previous periods of darkness is generally “we do not remember” or “we do not talk about that.” They are, like the Mi-go, practically immortal and can place themselves in a death-like state of suspended animation for as long as tens of millions of years awaiting better conditions. Unlike the Mi-Go, while they can survive in sessile form even in interstellar space, they prefer liquid-water planets for their active phases, although some variants have adapted to very different conditions. (They seem rather more diverse than the Mi-go, with a wide variety of both cultures and physical forms, with some variants almost unrecognizable as Elders.)
The ability of the Elder Race to pass millions of years in suspended animation means that hibernating Elders are occasionally dug up or otherwise discovered by pre-starflight civilizations. This can mean a tremendous technological boost from picking the Elder's six-lobed brain for knowledge, or in the case of more primitive or too trusting races, their reduction to the status of servants of alien masters. (Although normally rarely reproducing due to their extremely long life spans, the Elder Race can asexually produce fertile spores at will and in quite large numbers). You win some, you lose some.
Some Elder Race subspecies (or give the timescales involved, diverged species) evolve technologically and physically at quite high rates, either successfully Transcending or hitting hard epistemological failure and going extinct. Other branches go for Yith-like long terms extreme stability, or pursue anti-technological philosophies which also prevent technological singularity from ever reaching the takeoff point. Some pursue something close to “hunter gatherer” lifestyles, or undergo aeons-long periods of what can only be called “degeneration”, including a possibly deliberate decline to the animal state. (There are planets where the entire large animal ecology largely consists of non-sapient variants on the Elder Race).
Radially symmetrical beings of a partly plant-like nature whose life cycle includes an early period of growth as a sessile, rooted form, communicating telepathically among themselves at such high “band widths” as to be incomprehensible to humanoid telepaths, the Elder Race is a deeply alien species, and interactions with the creations of the Predecessors tends to be limited. Although some branches of the species have become transcendent, most of the Elder Race is deeply rooted in the physical nature of this universe, and are simply contented with a continued existence in a manner that is the envy of discontented, ever striving short-lived species. There are indications, including some of the records in the hundred million years old Archive of Celaeno and the Pnakotic Tablets preserved by the Voth that some branches of the Elder Race have achieved technological heights seemingly unknowable to still-physical races: references which have been tied to graviton irregularities observed in some areas of intergalactic space appear to suggest that these are the traces of entire galaxies placed in space-time pockets by ancient branches of the Elder race, preserving them from the cosmic cycle by creating regions of deeply anomalous physics. How exactly intelligent life would operate, or even survive, under such conditions is unknown.
“Shoggoth” is a widely used term for what is a class of entities rather than a single species. It references the wide-spread usage of genetically engineered servitor beasts by the Elder Race, and more specifically the most commonly surviving variety thereof: amorphous shape-shifters, lying somewhere between the nanomachine and protoplasm, cruder in their abilities than such true polymorphs as the Changelings, but far sturdier and more lasting in their composition. On worlds and planets where various branches of the Elder Race have become extinct or simply departed for some unguessable reason, Shoggoths often continue to exist (the Elder Race, as mentioned earlier, are characteristically bad at cleaning up their own messes). A wide variety of types exists, some aquatic, some terrestrial, others able to operate in either environment, some reproducing at will, others sterile without Elder Race intervention but immortal, some pacific in nature, others highly aggressive, some almost mindless, others of quite high intelligence. In some cases free reproduction and low intelligence have combined badly: there are several worlds around the universe where all multicellular life vanishes from the fossil record at a sharp boundary in the strata, followed by a thin planetary layer of characteristic organic molecules.
Shoggoths were a slave race, designed to be controlled by Elder Race telepathy, and while some over millions of years have lost the impulse to serve and obey, others are simply waiting for new masters. A Shoggoth will never accept a master who cannot communicate with it telepathically, but can be quite eager to serve if it finds one: most people in the Federation have heard the story of the Betazoid’s Planet by now. The telepathic explorer is warned, however, that some Shoggoths, especially the more intelligent varieties, have become very determined not be re-enslaved, and react very badly to telepathic probing. Aside from exuding digestive acids, Shoggoths, being designed in most cases for heavy labor, are horrendously strong: the larger varieties can crumple hullmetal like cheap tin, and having no fixed physical body and holographically distributed intelligence, can lose the majority of their body mass to disintegration weapons without being seriously disabled: a process which can be quite time-consuming, given their often immense mass. (In case of violent encounters with Shoggoths, most races preferred option is “orbital bombardment.”) A number of species have taken on the role of new masters for abandoned Shoggoths: this only occasionally results in their extinction.
Most Shoggoths, being able to survive almost anywhere and live off of almost anything (there are even some varieties adapted for hard vacuum) and very rarely effected by diseases, have little need for tools to survive, and most Shoggoths aren’t too bright either, so Shoggoth communities living free generally follow a non-technological lifestyle.
The smallest Shoggoths ever found only had 2-3 times the mass of human beings and sufficient intelligence to mimic (obese) humanoids for predation purposes. The largest ever found in the Milky Way Galaxy was apparently a mutuation which existed as a thin layer of organic debris-consuming matter coating a world’s Ocean floors: estimated mass was over a trillion tons. The alien scientists examining it decided to stop investigation when evidence emerged it was aware of its entire self, and capable of locally concentrating its mass with great velocity.
Several other servitor species, sapient or other, are known or suspected. A strong case can be made for the Horta, a silicon based lifeform perfectly adapted for mining, living on a planet which does not appear to have any other silicon-based lifeforms, and an improbable life cycle that winnows down the entire species to one survivor at predictable intervals. Another suspected species are the Kelvans, with their hundred limbs each capable of separate tasks and lack of any sort of physical pleasures: but while the Kelvans are largely emotionless, they can be offended, and there are certain questions you don’t put to them.
Usually found in association with aquatic Shoggoths, the Deep Ones are an aquatic life form (although capable of survival out of water for lengthy periods) found in the deep seas of worlds scattered around the Alpha and Beta quadrants. Geological proofs indicate an ancient origin, and that, along with certain biological peculiarities and their association with Shoggoths and other apparently engineered deep-sea origanisms (the Spiny Mega-squid, the Great Sea Eel, Builder Crabs, and Island Seaweed, among others), has led many to suspect an artificial nature to them: their own myths of their creation by the Great Old Ones seem to support this, but they reject with indignation the notion that “lower beings” such as the Elder Ones are identifiable with the Great Old Ones.
They are a shy and retiring people, and since they can live at all depths of the sea from shorelines to thirty thousand feet below the surface, they have no difficulty avoiding contact when not desired, something facilitated by their usual close association with very dangerous life forms. They are opaque to telepaths (the term “as mentally perceptible as a corpse” appear in the Betazed literature), raising questions as to how they manage to control or even communicate with the Shoggoths. The nature and level of their technology is unclear: they do not build starships or use anything appearing like modern galactic high technology, but they seem to have some odd ability to manipulate biology, and their immense stone sea-floor cities are not the work of primitives (although they may have achieved this in part due to assistance from the Shoggoths).
Their biology, as mentioned, is peculiar. They do not die of natural causes, and ever so slowly grow throughout their entire lives: if they do not deliberately restrict their diet, they after periods literally geological become too large to move themselves unaided, even in the buoyant medium of water. There are rumors about the uses to which some of these sessile colossi are put to: rumors circulate of visuals pulled from a stealth deep-sea spy camera, of a giant enthroned and worshipped as an avatar of their dreaming God, and of the strange and hideous physical modifications the giant had undergone to better play the role. This is, of course, mere hearsay.
Of late, large numbers of Deep Ones have been applying for visas to visit Earth’s oceans. They claim to be pilgrims, although they decline to give details of the Earth’s religious significance on the basis of holy secrets and surely the Federation isn’t intolerant of other people’s faiths, right?
Aside from peculiarities in their life cycle, the Deep Ones are unique among known intelligent species in being able to interbreed with almost all carbon-based life forms: while some humanoid species can successfully interbreed with others thanks to the legacy of the Forerunners, the Deep Ones are quite non-humanoid and have successfully interbred with both Gorn and Sheliaks. They are also unique in that the phenotype always reverts to kind: the child often resembles the other parent, but if it lives long enough it will take on an at least roughly Deep One physiognomy and turn to an aquatic lifestyle, while at the same time often maintaining various useful physical and mental abilities of the other race. The Deep Ones also interbreed with a number of non-sentient animals, whose offspring gain intelligence, and are enthusiastic promoters of cross-species pollination, drawing many down to the beach or at least the fertility lab with promises of a watery immortality for their children. They seem to consider this a holy task.
(They do: the Deep Ones are a pious people, and they really just want to Save Us All.)
The Organians are gone. There is no sign they were ever there: their planet is now as lifeless as Old Mars. (Leading some philosophical thinkers to wonder about the exact difference between actual air and an illusion of air which you can somehow breathe). The only indication of their ever having been there is a gigantic, mile-high symbol of unknowable meaning carved into a mountain wall, along with, in almost equally large letters in the standard Federation and Klingon Empire speech: WE’RE SORRY.
The Transcendant races are those who have achieved not only personal immortality but an ability to modify the very nature of reality at will, and therefore have become As Gods, or so one might say. Essentially, it’s a matter of being able to grasp the nature of reality so completely as to be able to direct modify it, and vast intellect, at least of the analytic type, comes automatically with the package. Most are beings of pure energy, but this is not necessarily the case: some are quite physical, at least most of the time. Races who use machinery to alter reality are a somewhat different case: it’s not necessarily that they are less powerful (the Q might speak contemptuously of races which use mechanical methods to rewrite physics rather than doing so as an inherent skill, but such statements forget such facts that computers have much more accurate memories than elephants, planes fly at lot fast than birds, and moose who play “chicken” with main battle tanks rarely come out the better), but it is their machines which are at least weakly Godlike: if they could apprehend reality on the same level, machines would become largely unnecessary.
Of course, why an intelligent race would choose to let machines do the Godding for them is not entirely incomprehensible: to really grasp reality on that level is to see beyond the Universe as we Know, and to do so may beyond the capacity of certain races. There is what is known as Hard Epistemological Failure, and may bring on extinction or racial insanity (and mad races of demigods are a much worse problem than mad dogs). Even for those who succeed, there is no peace: they know what stirs beneath the thin coverlet of space and time, and against the Final Gods even the Transcendant may strive in vain, for mastery of local reality may be of limited use in the face of what breaks all reality. Most eventually migrate to deeper, denser, more stable space-time geometries where energy life but not biological life can survive, and the Stars are hardly ever Right. Others, in places beyond time and space, strive against the eternal and unstoppable, and may even win some small victories: but this is beyond the knowledge of all races still rooted in the physical universe.
Sybok was lucky, really. The universe is scattered with the losers of ancient and unimaginable conflicts, immortal beings eternally imprisoned: what he encountered was strictly a small fry. (Like a certain large tentacled entity taken by surprise by a steamboat, It managed to pull Itself together again before too long, but stars will grow cold before the embarrassment of being PWNed by Klingons goes away). And then there are those who sleep or await dead but undecaying for the right conditions to return: they are not safe to encounter either - they may dream monstrously, and their dreams can reshape the surfaces of worlds.
The Borg, in spite of the risks, continue to explore and study alternate geometries: in the struggle to create the perfect, eternal life form, there is no knowledge too terrible, no risk too great (what’s a few hundred million drones here and there?). Recent events have called their methods into question, and some billions of linked minds have been put on to the job of developing better Methods and Practices, after detailed analysis determined “fluidic space” was actually the body of an unimaginably large organic life form filling its own spacetime geometry, and the alien race encountered there (which destroyed dozens of Borg worlds before countermeasures could be developed) was actually its equivalent of an immune system. (First suggestion by the mind link, a millionth of a second after booting up: do these experiments far outside of Borg space, where other races will be on the sharp end of the stick if things go wrong).
There is a reason why the Federation maintains in operation an automated, unscrewed starship at the very edge of the Solar System. The Alert’s mission is simply to accelerate to very close to light speed and crash into a particular point in the Pacific Ocean. That this impact will kill everyone on Earth is a feature, not a bug: if it proved unequal to its task, death would be a mercy.
The universe, it is hinted, is not a “natural” thing. Much of its structure was determined by intelligent (or what works like intelligence, anyway) long ago, including many of its physical laws. Causality was broken long ago by those annoyed by universe that would limit them to the mere speed of light and never fixed. The great voids between the masses of galaxies have a meaning quite unrelated to the behavior of the Big Bang. The very universe itself may have been parasitized in its early billennia by older, darker, colder universes. It is a vast graveyard, that would be littered with the debris of dead civilizations, if it were not for the compulsions of some races to recycle. It is a low valley, between vast dark mountains from where the thunder occasionally comes. Much of it is claimed and held in fief by absent owners, which may soon be returning.
Of course, this will have some benefits. When the Million-Angled ones return, the small fry will scatter, and annoying pests such as planet-sized amoebas or sun-eating clouds will meet the fate of insects in Raid commercials. Man does not countenance sharing the sheep with wolves. And there will be glory as well as terror, and strange transfigurations and transformations, although likely not ones the current puny minds of humanoids will be able to grasp or properly appreciate.
Q is fond of humans. He’s placed quite a few of them on worlds and dimensions where, while the local survival prospects aren’t always for the best, the chance of certain unfortunate First Encounters is minimal. He’s even given his old friend/pet/humorous sidekick Jean Luc Picard a few useful clues about black holes, although it’s unclear whether he’s bright enough to properly understand them. In any event, he has to pack his bags, metaphorically speaking. The whole “Q dimension” gag was pretty amusing for a while (he still can’t believe they actually took the US Civil War stuff seriously) but his Masters are coming and it’s time put away the masks and puppets. Well, those masks and puppets, anyway. He’s got several other sets – indeed, a million of them.
 Having one’s entropy reverse may sound like a positive thing, but just wait until your body starts steadily diverging from ambient temperature.
 Sometimes of a rather esoteric nature, such as certain ancient myths and legends.
] Not all races curious about the Galactic Rim Barrier have been so careful, and it falls to such races as the Organians or the Douwd to deal with the fallout: the thing trapped in the Barrier is loathsome even to its own kin, and those infected with fragments of its self will inevitably bring disaster to whatever they touch.
 Vulcan was once much less covered with barren desert, and it once had a Moon.
Postscript: a few candles are still lit against the darkness.
Somewhere in deep space, an unusual meeting takes place. Its participants would be a surprise to trillions around the galaxy, since it includes many of the most famous entrepreneurs, artists, and performers of dozens of civilizations. It also includes a smaller number of beings who rather resemble traditional portraiture of various Gods worshiped by primitive races thousands and tens of thousands of years ago.
This is because they are Gods, or used to be.
Some races need love or fear or hate, but others flourish on a diet of worship. This race (aside from some traditionalists such as Kukulkan) have kept up with the times, having learned that with the invention of mass media one no longer need to be a God (or a God-king) to be worshiped. They are the small Gods of Earth (and many an other world), who have long guided and inspired young races in exchange for their worship, although they have taken up a more relaxed role (in most cases) in more recent millennia. After a moment of silence for the departed , the debate begins: shall they abandon their followers to their fate and flee to places of relative safety (not true safety: there will be no such, not in this universe), or as the Gods they once were, defend and aid their worshipers? Their power is considerable given worship and a big enough energy source to manipulate, but in the end the Gods of Earth, and Vulcan, and Qo'noS , are but little things compared to the Outer Gods. Nodens prepares to speak, but before he can rise another stands, one of the most famed of the new generation, for this occasion wearing his perhaps most famous face: his presence is magnetic, his pompadour gleaming under the bright lights, the sequins glittering on his white jumpsuit, and his lip twists with a familiar sneer as he prepares to speak on behalf of humanity...
Yes, my bad, decided to end on a lighter note. ;D But hey, Lovecraft did have his smaller Gods and Nodens once helped put one over on Nyarlathotep, no?
 Although immortal, some of the Gods become so one with their roles that they cannot bear it when their followers outgrow them, and choose to end themselves rather than take up some new role on an alien world. This is another benefit of their new survival strategy: it's hard to grow too attached to a role in the few brief decades of a mortal's life.
 Those who avoided being killed, anyway.
Not so Great Old Ones
As for Cthulhu, if I may quote myself:
"There is a reason why the Federation maintains in operation an automated, unscrewed starship at the very edge of the Solar System. The Alert’s mission is simply to accelerate to very close to light speed and crash into a particular point in the Pacific Ocean. That this impact will kill everyone on Earth is a feature, not a bug: if it proved unequal to its task, death would be a mercy."
Even Cthulhu might be momentarily inconvenienced by a massive RKV packed with its dry mass in antideuterium slush slamming into the middle of his skull at somewhere above .99c. If Old Man Henderson can pull off an epic win against Hastur, the Starfleet Corps of Engineers should be able to go one better than a crazy old coot with alcohol poisoning and a shotgun. And if nothing else, it's probably a better and cleaner way to go than all of Earth's population getting to spend eternity experiencing each and every theoretically possible way to die stuck in Cthulhu's mental simulation spaces.