Alien Evolution System
Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End

The Collector hurtled through the unending darkness of deep space at blinding speeds, pulverizing any stray asteroid or debris in its way into dust. It was encased in a ball of durable organic-hyperalloy more capable than any Dreadnought-class ship hull in the entire sector.

Like a planetoid bowling ball of segmented, ashen white, chitinous carapace, it traveled as a relativistic phantom of blurred white that promised nothing but death and destruction.

The tinkering races that needed life support systems to brave the void of space and firearms to compensate for their weak limbs and all manner of trinkets to cover for their biological weaknesses might have conquered the ecosystems of their home planets and perhaps, as their individualistic, selfish tendencies were wont to do, even exploited them to destruction, but the Collector symbolized a side of nature that could never be tamed.

It was pure evolutionary progress honed to a razor edge sharper than that belonging to any plasmoid blade known in the galaxy.

For the Collectors were the premiere heralds of the Collective, a hivemind species that consumed all life, adapting their biological structures into its own to produce hyper-efficient, hyper-deadly organisms without equal throughout the stars, painting the vast, dark canvas of space with the blood and tears of billions.

And for all the complexities involved in the so very many tools the tinkering species used, the Collective's methods were rather simple.

The Collective, once consuming an interstellar species, would find more targets in their memories.

It would track these targets, finding any weaknesses it could in the memories it absorbed and, over several years tinkering with the best genetic material possible, morph a Collector - an almost indestructible, unstoppable force of raw biological power - and send it onwards to harvest to the helpless civilization.

It was nothing short of ironic that the greatest marvel of the tinkering species would lead to their downfall.

With the advent of warp-link technology that could generate wormholes that connected the farthest ends of the galaxy together, interstellar commerce and interaction became commonplace, but with it came the rise of the Collective.

Once, the Collective was an isolated species that had extended its tendrils only across its home solar system over the course of millennia.

Over a century ago, the very first strange tinkering ships warped into the Collective's then unknown home system. The Collective consumed these adventuresome stragglers, and with their knowledge, accessed the warp gates they left behind.

As it consumed more and more tinkering species, the Collective eventually devised its own way of generating warp gates, and soon enough, it used the very same interconnected routes of gates meant for trade and peace to wage war and consumption.

To any spacefaring onlooker, the Collector would have raised immediate alarm.

Any ship witnessing the Collector's balled figure speeding through the starry void would have alerted every single nearby civilization it could.

There were very few times a Collector fell in battle, and it had always been through the united effort of several races, for no single civilization could best a Collector with its many evolutionary adaptations tailor made against the likes of weakling tinkerers.

But unlike the missions granted to its past brethren, this Collector knew not what it would face.

A warp gate had opened strangely close to the Collective's home solar system.

The Collective's solar system had long since been closed to space-travel, deemed far too dangerous to ever traverse, and so this wormhole's appearance so close to the Collective home world was all too strange.

Perhaps an attack.

Perhaps an accident.

But the Collective did not like uncertainties. It thrived on knowledge, and so it sent a Collector to this wormhole to face any potential threat on the other end.

The Collector felt pride in being able to serve the Collective. Though it retained a mental independence crucial in allowing it to adapt to the high-intensity, high-uncertainty challenges of battle, it still had an undying loyalty to the Collective.

Its purpose was to defend the Collective at all costs and destroy and consume all its foes, bringing back their genetic material as spoils of war.

Nothing less, nothing more.

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It was an extension of the Collective, utilizing only the best parts of free will the tinkering species had evolved while trimming the excess - the rebellious, unproductive tendencies that so often led to infighting.

This was the mindset the Collector held as it neared the wormhole, a pulsating mass of blinding light almost as large as a small planet. Waves of undulating gravity and space wreathed its horizon, drawing in the Collector as it neared.

When the Collector touched the horizon, it felt itself drawing into the wormhole, its body warping every this way and that as the realities of space and time became fluid.

Its body, hardened by countless evolutions and perfected by the Collective, could survive the rigors of warp travel, and soon enough, it passed through without issue.

It was an interesting process, warp travel was. The feeling of having every atom of its existence warped at the seams of spatial and temporal limitation managed to make the Collector feel nausea – a feeling that no weapon in the galaxy, biological or munitions based, was capable of.

At the other end, the Collector found itself floating above a vibrant planet. It did not take utilizing the Collector's massive array of senses to know that this was a planet full of life.

Even from high orbit, it could see that the planet, blue and green, had countless life signatures worth consuming. Seven rings, each a different shade of light, circled the verdant planet, glowing with a strange yet alluring intensity that promised life.

Alarmingly, the warp gate behind the Collector closed away, leaving it stranded.

It did not panic, however, for that was not part of its evolutionary development. It merely recalibrated its goals.

It did not have the capacity to open a warp gate - the Collective alone had the combined psionic power for that - so it would instead savage this planet to accumulate enough biomass for another burst of deep space travel to the nearest warp gate.

Where exactly that gate was, the Collector could not ascertain. It looked into system of memories embedded, built upon by Collector after Collector that came before it, to map out a path, but this star system was entirely foreign, this planet utterly unknown.

Odd. All warp gates had to be built within a certain degree of proximity to each other, each gate forming a supportive node in a much greater system. Any warp gate that existed far beyond the reach of the greater whole would not maintain itself.

The Collector emitted a psionic pulse, mentally attempting to establish connection with the Collective.

For so long as any member of its kind, no matter whether it was a lowly drone or another Collector, was within distance of it, it could essentially pinball and amplify this mental message and reach the Collective.

The effective range of the Collective's psionic communication network spanned many light years and cross dozens of warp gates.

And yet, though the Collector could feel the pulse reaching out, it could not find a signal returning to it.

The possibility existed that the Collector was stranded far, far from home, but that did not induce panic within it, nor was it biologically capable of feeling such an inefficient emotion to a high degree.

The greatest likelihood existed that some life form on this world had created the aberrant warp gate.

All the Collector had to do then was to consume all life on this planet and, through extracted memories, find a method back to the Collective.

The Collector unfurled out of its balled cocoon state. Suited for hyperspace travel as the compact form was, it was not suited for combat.

Its appearance could now best be described as bestial, appearing like an armored, infinitely more monstrous kind of crocodile. It looked like something crocodiles would worship as a god.

It was quadrupedal, supporting its enormous, six thousand plus ton weight on skyscraper-like legs muscled with the densest, most efficient ultrafibers and sheathed in ashen carapace impervious to even the strongest of blasters.

Flexible spikes emerged across its back and through seams in its armor, acting as tools of war that could scythe through entire cities.

Its neck, long but thickly muscled, stretched forwards eagerly, its carapace-helmeted head opening a set of monstrous jaws in expectant hunger.

Its multiple tails, prehensile and dexterous like arms, flitted about it, morphing between acid spitters, blades, bulbous electromagnetic pulse emitters, and any other variant of destructive weapon it required for assimilation.

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With a grunt of exertion unheard in the soundless void of space, the Collector sprouted enormous wings bat-like in structure but dotted with pulsating tubules which emitted bursts of raw, blue plasmoid energy like jet engines, surging it towards the planet.

But as the Collector neared, there came forth a challenger unlike any it had ever known.

A towering being of brilliant light.

Twelve feathered, energy-wreathed wings sprouted from its back, fluttering gently to propel it forwards. It was a good deal smaller than the Collector, but still as large as any capitol-class ship.

It was bipedal.

Humanoid and armored in platinum white with a blazing helmet of sterling silver that shone ever the more brighter in the contrasting dark of space. The Collector reached into the psionic link it had with the Collective to access the shared memory database of tinkering species wired into its brain.

However, the humanoid structure's armor did not match any ship covering that the Collector held in its memory bank. Especially not any belonging to the human race, one of the three tinkering species that comprised the United Front against the Collective.

An entirely new species, perhaps? Or perhaps a strange new device that the other races had devised in order to try and kill the Collective?

It was not unheard of. One Collector had even fallen to a similar humanoid machine titan of war created by the vast alliance that comprised the United Front.

Either way, the Collector had to destroy it, whether for defense or consumption it did not matter. It stood in the way of this planet.

"Halt!" shouted the being. Its voice resonated throughout even the soundless expanse of space, powered by a strange phenomenon that the Collector did not understand. "I am Solarion, the high-king of the gods, defender of the seven realms, lord of Aetheria, keeper of the Eternal Light!

On the authority vested unto me, I command you to stay your advance, monster!"

The Collector did not recognize the being's language and continued forwards, its tails armed with acid spitters, its jaws bared, and its claws extended.

"So be it," said the being. It materialized a blade almost as large as itself from light it generated out of nowhere.

Solid-light constructs were a phenomenon that the Collector had witnessed before in its memory bank, but this was entirely different. It could not sense any of the regular energy signatures that accommodated the construction of such weapons.

"To think that the prophesied End was no Undeath, no star stone, even, but a beast from the void itself."

The being held the sword above its head. It flashed with all the brilliance of a sun, its white-hot blade generating a radiance that drove the cold of space away.

"Come, foul creature of the stars!" shouted the being. "You will be reduced to ashes just as the countless demons and monsters I have slain before you."

The Collector did not recognize the being's language, but aggression was an universal indicator.

It surged forwards, spitting acid and electricity as it barreled towards the strange organism or ship.

The battle was fierce and on a scale the Collector had never believed possible.

It lasted for an entire day and night cycle, the humanoid being restoring its acid-ridden, electricity burned, claw-gouged flesh seemingly out of nowhere and the Collector regenerating its own flesh with its advanced genetic traits.

Organic-hyperalloy claws the size of megastructures clashed with a heavenly sword of light.

Streams of acid and blasts of condensed electric energy were countered with beams of burning, fiery, radiance.

But eventually, there was a winner in sight.

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The Collector.

It was missing two limbs, its tails shaved off, its body littered with scorch marks and cuts that refused to heal, but the being was in an even worse state.

It floated weakly with one remaining wing out of twelve. Its armor had melted, burnt, cracked, or sheared, leaving a bloody, beaten humanoid figure heaving with exhaustion underneath. The being did not heal anymore, nor did it generate scorching blasts of light.

It had run out of whatever energy was fueling it, the aura of radiance dimming down all about it as its power escaped it, dooming it to death.

The only thing that remained pristine was its blade, but the Collector cared little of any tinkerer's construct.

The Collector felt excitement instead for the flesh of this being, for instead of being some kind of mechanical titan, it was instead a being of flesh and blood underneath its armor.

In a way, the Collector felt a sense of respect for the beaten entity, for it was with its own strength alone that it challenged the Collector.

The Collector would show its respect by consuming the being. It would regenerate all of its wounds by consuming this strange and powerful new creature and also attain heights of power never before seen.

It would destroy the blade – useless as it was as an inorganic piece of metal – to prevent it from falling to any errant hands and then lay havoc upon the denizens of this planet.

Judging by how nothing aided the being, it was apparent that it was the planet's most powerful line of defense, and all that lay behind it was free for consumption.

The Collector surged forwards, slower and weaker than before, but all the being could do in response was attempt to hold its blade with arms barely functional with how badly they were bruised, burned and cut.

"Forgive me, my brethren," the being said, looking back at the planet behind it, faintly glowing strands of white hair floating around its bloody head. "Forgive me, all the mortals that believed in me. The chaos my death will cause…I hope you will all find it in your hearts to forgive me for it. But it will be nothing compared to the chaos this beast will wreak should I not do this."

With a sudden burst of energy, the being raised the blade high above its head. "O Dawnrise, blade of infinity, bringer of light, I will entrust to you my life, and so in return, create strength for me as you have created life.

To that which is worthy to receive your strength after my passing, I grant all my blessings."

The Collector did not care about this theatrical show. Any analysis of the being's physical form indicated it had no real energy to fight with.

But surprisingly, the being did not try to run, it met the Collector head on.

The being enveloped itself in a halo of power so bright that it seared all of the Collector's optical capabilities out, and in the moment of blindness, the being charged forwards, driving the blade deep into the Collector's chest.

The Collector felt white-hot energy comparable to the sun liquefy and instantly evaporate its flesh.

A moment later, an explosion rocked the orbit of the planet. It was a blast of light so bright and expansive that every being on the planet could witness it.

Those on the day witnessed their world grow infinitely white while those on the other side of the planet saw night become day for just an instant.

And so came the end of Solarion, High-King of the gods, and the Collector, herald of the Collective.

Or so the peoples and gods of the world would have been fortunate to believe.

For the Collector had survived, a single, small shard of its body surviving incineration and entry into the planet's atmosphere. It landed indiscriminately in the thick of a wild, overgrown forest, burning out a small clearing among towering trees that twisted high into the sky.

From the crater emerged a grub no larger than a dog – all that the once mighty Collector had been reduced to.

But it had survived, and so it could still fulfill its purpose.

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This planet was dangerous, the Collector determined. It had to be neutralized for the sake of the Collective. Then, it would find its way back home.

First thing was first, though.

The Collector had to survive, consume, adapt, and evolve to become the strongest being there was on this strange new planet.

Alien Evolution System Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End
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