Background: The Inverse Shadows

23 Mar

The Inverse Shadows

Little is known about the Inverse Shadows. Their extra-dimensional nature ensured that no human met them in person and lived to tell the tale. Indeed, they were unquestionably the strangest – and the most dangerous – race encountered by humanity. The following report is largely comprised of informed speculation.

The Inverse Shadows – their real name is unknown; the Ancients dubbed them the Inverse Shadows for reasons unknown – exist in a dimension apparently adjacent to humanity’s home universe. Their universe has very different physical laws, accounting for their bizarre and often incomprehensible capabilities. It seems clear that the Inverse Shadows are the dominant life form in their own dimension, although it isn’t clear if there are other races that exist alongside them. Some researchers have speculated that the Inverse Shadows might keep other races as livestock, but it seems likely that the physical laws of their universe will not allow life as humans understand it. There is no way to know for sure.

When manifesting within the human universe, an Inverse Shadow appears as a giant octopus-like form, with tendrils that reach down to its victims. The form is translucent and physically immaterial, rendering them largely immune to physical weapons. Indeed, their presence appears to be a mental projection rather than anything real; AIs and automated sensors cannot detect their presence. Given time, advanced technology within the entity’s zone of influence starts to glitch and then to fail completely, a manifestation – researchers assume – of their own natural laws leaking into humanity’s home dimension. It makes it difficult to research their nature and develop countermeasures, although most sensor technology is unable to pick up anything that might prove their presence. The only sign of their physical existence is disruption in the local quantum foam.

Nothing is known of their political system, assuming they had one. Some researchers believe that the Inverse Shadows, sharing thoughts openly, were governed by a form of communism, while others believe that there is only really one Inverse Shadow breaking into humanity’s dimension at numerous different points. What is clear is that they (or it) maintained a total and absolute contempt for all other forms of life. As far as can be determined, the Inverse Shadows made no attempt to communicate with humanity as equals, or even as slaves. Their telepathy presumably allowed them to understand their human captives, but they never seemed to realise the advantages it gave them. But then they hardly needed to communicate to make their presence known. The staggering power they possessed was daunting even to the Ancients.

In order to gain access to a target dimension, the Inverse Shadows required someone in the other dimension to open a gateway into the quantum foam that would intersect with their universe and allow them to reshape the gateway to gain permanent access. Once open, thralls within the target dimension could open up new gateways through mental power alone and offer their life energy to the Inverse Shadows. This provided them with the power to make the new gateways permanent and take up residence on populated worlds. Their telepathic power (although not telepathy as humans understood it) allowed them to touch the minds of millions of humans and other races, either enslaving them or driving them mad – or killing them outright. Even the briefest mental contact was enough to cause a person to fall into thrall.

While humanity was not inexperienced at dealing with telepathic mind control – the Great Minds of Sigma III used mental powers to control unwary colonists – the sheer scale of the Inverse Shadows and their power created vast problems for uncontrolled humans. Worse, the Inverse Shadows viewed humans (and all living things) as livestock, draining them slowly, but surely of life energy. Enthralled humans began to die, along with the entire biosphere of worlds tainted by the Inverse Shadows. The Inverse Shadows appeared to be indifferent to the fact that they were (put coldly) eating their seed corn. Instead of breeding humans for food, they chose instead to keep expanding their holdings in searching for more victims. Their more fanatical thralls were happy to open gateways for them in previously safe worlds.

If the mental assault was not bad enough, the Inverse Shadows also deployed fleets of ‘needles,’ tiny starships apparently based on organic technology. (Theoretically, this allowed them to operate in universes with different physical laws.) These ships possessed a largely incomprehensible method of travelling at FTL speeds and a single, but extremely destructive weapon. Drawing energy directly from hyperspace (rather like a planetoid core tap) they blasted it out at their targets, knocking down even Peacekeeper-grade shields at terrifying speed. Early encounters between human starships and the needles ended badly for humanity and even when the Peacekeepers learned to adapt their weapons the needles were still very hard to kill. Energy weapons had little effect on their biological hulls. Only projectiles and nanotech weapons were able to kill them.

When human thralls were not sufficient, the needles would deploy ‘spiders,’ terrifying monsters carrying weapons that served as ground forces. Early researchers believed that the spiders were actually the masterminds of the incomprehensible invasion, but later work proved that they were little more than thralls, although ones with more independence and initiative than other mind-controlled slaves. The spiders showed little regard for self-preservation, considering themselves expendable in service to their unseen masters. Functionally hermaphrodites, the spiders laid eggs as they charged across targeted worlds, eggs which rapidly hatched and released entire clutches of spiders to join the offensive.

Their exact origins are unknown. Researchers believe that the spiders were genetically-engineered by the Inverse Shadows or their thralls. An alternate interpretation is that they were created by mental effort alone, devised into forms that would terrify humanity. It seems unlikely, however, that the Inverse Shadows ever considered humans to be worth terrifying.

Worst of all, although the Inverse Shadows were unable (or unwilling) to enter hyperspace themselves, they are capable of disrupting it to an extent that any starship entering hyperspace is destroyed, or simply unable to jaunt out. Warp drives cannot be jammed in this manner, but by locking human ships out of hyperspace it makes it much harder for the Peacekeepers to respond to any new crisis.

It is impossible to say exactly how intelligent the Inverse Shadows are, or even if they were intelligent at all as humans understand the term. Some of their tactics showed an understanding of their opponents and deliberate attempts to disrupt any response to their intrusion. At other times, they have shown no concern for human activities and have been content to ignore human starships watching from their sphere of influence. Overall, it seems that their sole interest was in gorging themselves on life force and they took steps to ensure that they could continue to do so.

Confusingly, some of their thralls show no initiative at all, while others display remarkable intelligence in the service of their masters. Consumed with what can only be really described as religious fanaticism, the thralls will do anything for the Inverse Shadows – and revolt seems to be impossible, even inconceivable.

However, it is clear that the disappearance of the Ancient civilisation (and of all races that might have existed prior to the Ancients) was the work of the Inverse Shadows. Their dead worlds stand in mute testimony to the cost of failing to defeat the Inverse Shadows. Indeed, their last incursion into the Milky Way exterminated all life forms within the galaxy. Intelligent or not, the Inverse Shadows are the most dangerous race known to exist – and a terrifying threat to the entire universe.

3 Responses to “Background: The Inverse Shadows”

  1. The Deposed King March 29, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    I think I remember reading a book you did about this already. But maybe this is cross poliation of two works of yours I read.

    I think what humanity needs to do is discover a mind that can drive the Inverse Shadows as insane as they are driving their sheep.

    I wonder if the Inverse are like this sea creature I read about. They start off as very similar to little fish. They swim around eating things, then they land on the bottom at some point in their life cycle, and put down roots. They grow into these giant plants and at some point in their life cycle, their brain is ejected.

    Pretty weird. Maybe that’s why they are inverse. For every race that ascendes, they eject this inverse shadow that desires to regain what it lost. Only it can’t recognize it, and since it has no brain…

    I’m sure you’ll come up with something cooler than I just did, but at least you could use it for some of those crazy (and wrong) scientific theories about the creatures.

    The Deposed King

    • chrishanger March 29, 2012 at 8:58 am #

      I did something the same earlier – now I’m switching ideas and blurring them.

      On the IS themselves, my thought was that it would be a mystery if they were actually intelligent, or merely very odd parasites. Of course, even wasps can be deadly – particularly if you don’t realise what a wasp is.

      Chris

      • The Deposed King April 1, 2012 at 2:47 am #

        Sure. It sounds like you’ve got it covered.

        the deposed king

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