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The Swarm are a species of semi-intelligent insectlike alien robot evolved from a self-upgrading machine designed to clean space junk. They are widely known in the galaxy and regarded as a threat, yet nobody can pinpoint the locations of their hives because of their advanced cloaking field.

The anatomy and behavior of the Swarm has been studied well, and the results say these synthetic organisms are powered by the fifth fundamental force referred to as Flux and are divided into several castes:

  • The gnats are the smallest of the castes, measuring 1-2 m on average. Morphologically they resemble a wingless mosquito, with a Flux thruster on its back and a salvage beam in its mouth, which they use to harvest resources from shipwrecks before bringing them back to the Hive. They have little defenses and are easy to take down with a well-placed shot.

  • The soldier caste is specialized in attacking the starship from the inside, attempting to kill as many crewmen as possible. Their shape is something in between a saucer and a spider cephalothorax, measuring 2-4 m in diameter. They have a pair of Flux thrusters on each side, which allows for fast and agile maneuvering. Their exoskeleton is very durable and heavily shielded, and they can fire energy projectiles from their mandibles or taze the target with them.

  • The space worms are humongous centipede-shaped constructs equipped with one powerful charged beamer. They specialize in breaching the ship's external defenses, and are not suited for dealing with smaller targets. There are typically only one of two of them in each swarm. They have Flux thrusters on the sides of each segment, allowing them for moderately fast movement and are highly resistant to ballistic weapons.

  • The workers also have the shape of a centipede, but are much smaller, measuring 5-20 m in length. These are only lightly armored and have no weapons, they specialize in repairs, expanding the Hive, and constructing new members of the Swarm. They have no thrusters and never leave the Hive.

  • The Hive guards have the shape similar to a worker, but with much heavier armor and moderately powerful shielding they activate only during combat. They have a pair of rotable arms with blasters mounted on them, and a powerful short-range beamer inside the mouth. Like workers, they also never leave the Hive.

From their numerous encounters with the Swarm, the Galactic Federation has also determined which strategies work poorly against them:

  • Detection: Due to the vastness of space and the cloaking system the hives have, any attempts to locate them have proved futile. Once the Swarm is out of the hive, however, it's already too late.

  • Retreat: Despite the recent advances in propulsion technology, Swarm soldiers are still too fast to outmeneuver and will always find a way to harass the ship. Larger ships, however, are unmaneuverable enough that retreat isn't an option for them.

  • EMP: While the Swarm are robotic, they are functioning on principle fundamentally different from electromagnetism, so an electromagnetic pulse has no effect on them.

What would be the standard defense procedures on Galactic Federation starships in case of encountering the Swarm during space travel?

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  • $\begingroup$ so basically a gray goo scenario. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_goo $\endgroup$ – John Dec 25 '19 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @John Not quite, as these aren't nanobots. $\endgroup$ – DarklingArcher Dec 25 '19 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ what do you mean by "Larger ships, however, are out of contest"? Larger Federation ships aren't threatened by the swarm? Or unable to outrun the soldiers? $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz Dec 26 '19 at 7:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Nahshon_paz I meant they are unable to escape from the Swarm, I corrected that in the text. $\endgroup$ – DarklingArcher Dec 26 '19 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ On universe scale they are @DarklingArcher $\endgroup$ – alamar Dec 26 '19 at 18:14
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Step 1: design your ships right.

The soldier caste is 2 to 4m. If you make the hallways 2m maximum, which should be plenty for most and is more economical in a space ship anyway, then you hamper the mobility of the soldier caste that is subsequently forced to tear their way through the hallways instead of the people.

Against the space worms you add objects that look like external defenses and the space ships try to put these as close as possible to the worms. The worm will try to break through and waste time breaching parts that arent as important to the ship. These parts could even lure the worms into fields of fire that can then strike at the important bits.

Step 2: they act animalistic, trick them.

You can use their own tricks against them. For example the swarm has a method of recognizing their own. If you can copy that by shaping your ships right and copying their codes and signals you could infiltrate them, follow the swarm through their cloaking devices and perhaps send a nuke.

You could perhaps also compromise members of the swarm. Say that you find out that damaged members return to the hive for repairs. You could damage one, capture it and sabotage it. Maybe insert a virus or a bomb could be used. Imagine if you can cause the damaged member to become passive and unaggressive towards the galaxy at large and allow it to reproduce more of its kind in the swarm. It would suck more and more resources from the hive as the amount of members grows. This causes the hive to end up handicapped or even destroy itself as it tries to sustain useless members.

Another option is simple bait. They look for specific targets to devour and sustain their hive. When given the choice a predator will always pick a target that has the lowest risk to itself, so it'll prioritize a wreck over an active ship. From simple bombs that kill or incapacitate the target to letting it take hidden chemicals that will disrupt the hive refineries that will ineviteably process the scrap brought into the hive you can use it to harm or cripple the swarms.

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The biggest weakness of the hive is that it's members are only semi-intelligent. So hunt them like big game animals. Set up some bait (abandoned retired ships) then when they arrive... fire an appropriate caliber weapon.

Set up your bait in large open areas where the scale of the weapon will not cause too much collateral damage. Once the bait ship's computer recognizes the approaching hive, have it wait till they are as close as possible, then overheat the ship's main engines, causing an massive explosion, large enough to take out everything within a few light seconds.

The nice thing about this trapper's approach to hunting is that you can set up these bait ships in all the big empty spaces and then just sit back and wait for them to go off.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent idea, some sort of anti-matter warhead (or just a really, really big gigaton class nuke) hidden inside of a bait ship. Lure the swarm in, detonate it when they are too committed to battle to escape. Space-age fire ships. You get rid of ships you don't need, and you destroy an entire swarm at the same time. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Dec 25 '19 at 19:33
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Natural enemies.

/The Hive guards have the shape similar to a worker, but with much heavier armor and moderately powerful shielding they activate only during combat. They have a pair of rotable arms with blasters mounted on them, and a powerful short-range beamer inside the mouth. Like workers, they also never leave the Hive./

There is a caste of organisms dedicated to Hive defense. That means that there must be things that attack Hives. Maybe that is humans but probably not - we have not been around that long. These hive predators are (or historically were) successful enough that ad hoc defenses with soldiers and workers are not enough - an entire Hive guard caste was advantageous enough to the hives who had them that they persisted.

The nature of these Hive predators might be deduced by study of the hives, just as the nature of termite nest predators could be deduced by examining the attack apparati of hive defense termites. Or possibly one might find a dead hive with dead attackers still within.

Once you have identified the natural enemy of the hive, augment it, or ally with it, or steal its tricks, or sabotage the defenses of the hive specific to their ancient enemy. Or find these enemies and cultivate a critical mass and then turn them loose.

Humans have only recently been taking on the hive because humans are recent. They would do well to learn from something that has been taking them on for millennia.


The scene where the Federation protagonists investigate a dead hive and find a defunct Hive Predator and bring it back for study is also very much in accord with the Rule of Cool.

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  • $\begingroup$ Let's not forget that the Swarm are robots. Why would anything prey on them? $\endgroup$ – DarklingArcher Dec 25 '19 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ If nothing preys on them, why do they have Hive defense caste? They could just have workers. A nest represents a concentration of resources which the Hive has collected or made. Something assaulting the nest presumably wants the resources or to destroy the competition for resources that Hive represents.. My first guess would be other Hives but there may be other things. $\endgroup$ – Willk Dec 25 '19 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ Why not just have the soldiers defend? The fact that there exist specialists in nest defense suggests to me that there might be (or once have been) specialists in Hive nest offense. Plus if there are that makes for good story energy - what are those things? $\endgroup$ – Willk Dec 25 '19 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ They are their own enemy? Space has limited resource density. Best to quickly take down the scouts of a competing hive lest they try to seize the accumulated resources of a cloaked hive. $\endgroup$ – user2943160 Dec 25 '19 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ Since they are robots that were originally designed by something it makes sense that they have some kind of protection inside the hive. Not necessarily against predators but for the eventuality that the hive itself is attacked. Since the hive attacks ships to get more material to grow it is almost guaranteed that the owners of those ships will try to attack the hive. So you install cloaking fields and a basic hive defense. As for predators attacking the hive its easy to imagine other swarms or species preying on the hive for materials in return. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Dec 26 '19 at 9:09

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