A subtype of the Cybertronian race, Insecticons are registered as non-sentient animals within the constraints of Functionism, and are usually treated as such by everyone else. All Insecticons transform into some kind of insect species.
In the wild, Insecticon hives help maintain the structural integrity of Cybertron, by seeking out corroded, rusting and damaged portions of the ecosystem and feeding on it, effectively recycling damaged materials by converting them into energon or reshaping them into the interior structure of the hive. Insecticons can consume 95% of all known types of matter, and are able to sense and harvest the most minute fragments of raw energon ore in the land, converting it into processed energon which is then stored like honey in the hive, or using it in the production of hatching pods to spawn new Insecticons.
Ancient records indicate that Cybertronians once worked in cooperation with Insecticon hives, providing them living space and protection from predation in exchange for portions of the energon that the hives gathered. Their ability recycle scrap and slag did not go unnoticed, and they were fed what Cybertronians could not use, and trained Insecticon drones could produce beautiful lasting hexagonal structures from the scrap material. The polity of Hive City in Stanix was once famous for its Insecticon-crafted materials and energon-honey 'mead'.
As time progressed insecticons were gradually rounded up and farmed like cattle, being placed in artificial hives and being forced to eat waste materials and chew ore for higher energon production. It was discovered that by simply killing the Queen, the hives were effectively lobotomized and would mindlessly continue their tasks, piling up energon stores for hatching pods that would never be created. These 'domesticated' hives were simply worked to death, with little attention given to their care and maintenance. As drones simply collapsed from malnutrion and wear, new hives would be needed to replenish the old. Hive Hunting became a new occupation. Insecticon territories and nesting grounds were now simply pillaged and raided for hatchlings and smaller instars, with Queens and older drones slaughtered in the process. As fewer and fewer hives were found on the surface, Hive Hunters began looking underground for hidden ones.
Occasionally hatchlings taken from hives would develop into new Queens or Seeders, and attempts were made to control these particular insecticons to produce lines of fully domesticated drones. Young Queens and Seeders command a high price in insecticon markets and were kept like thoroughbred race horses for their value in energon production, hatchling production, and research. The filthy stinking rich would sometimes display their wealth and prestige by purchasing a hatchling Seeder or Queen and keeping it as an exotic pet -- at least until it got too big to safely keep around the house.
The reaction to this new pattern of raiding and capture brought about a change in wild hives, with entirely new soldier and hunter castes appearing, and Insecticon behavior turning from passive and cooperative to vicious and feral. Drones taken from deeper hives were now much harder and much more dangerous to control in domesticated pits. Being eaten by hives that suddenly turned feral became a very real danger for Hive Workers who tended the captive swarms, and criminal elements of Cybertron would keep hungry, vicious hives as a means of disposing of unfortunate individuals who crossed them - there were no bodies left behind to tip off police.
Presently, 'tamed' hives are still used in areas such as Helex, Kaon, Polyhex and Stanix, where their recycling and energon producting abilities make them part of the economy of the area. Hive City fueling establishments offer a local delicacy of freshly prepared hatching pods; filled with rarified energon they are boasted to keep you running longer than regular energon - if you can brave picking the wiggling larva out of the pod before you eat.
Other uses for Insecticons include:
- Waste Management
- Hunting / Guard 'Dogs'
- Manual Labor
- Laboratory Animals
- Energon Searching and Mining Operations
- Art, Jewelry or Decorations made from their body shells
- Gladiator Combat
- Sport Hunting
Insecticons exist in large groups called Hives, which operate in a similar fashion to a colony of bees or ants. The vast majority of individuals in a hive are exactly what everyone thinks they are: nonsapient drone animals, with a weak spark and brain stem like turbofoxes. Insecticons in a hive share single consciousness with each individual drone functioning like a cell in the body of a larger creature. A central intelligent insecticon known as a Seeder (mech) or Queen (femme) acts as the brain of the hive, controlling and directing the drones, and producing the hatching pods that create them. Within Insecticon language and culture, these sapient members are known as Self-Awares.
Insecticons are unusual among Cybertronians in that they actually go through periods of growth and maturity, becoming larger, stronger and more intelligent after a one-time burst-transformation that increases their mass and complexity. Each stage of growth between burst-transformations are known as instars. Insecticons usually go through four to five instar periods before reaching full size and maturity. At full maturity, Insecticons that will become Self-Awares become sapient and have full access to their t-cogs, allowing them to transform into a root-mode like other Cybertronians.
Originally thought to be self-generating, research into the species has shown that every hive is actually one massive spark network: The Seeder/Queen is the sentient portion of a super organism, with drones being little more than cloned offshoots of the original Self-Aware. It is theorized that sapient Insecticons arose when the original organisms located sparks within energon seams, and encased the sparks in hatching pods, completing the nurturing process and causing the protoform to develop with Insecticon CNA. This process may still be ongoing within deeper hives, leaving the frightening possibility of an Insecticon Point-One-Percenter, or a full hive produced from one. Due to the network nature of a hive, it is sometimes possible for a destroyed Self-Aware to re-emerge out of one of its drones, if enough of the hive remains intact. Such ressurections are effectively a reset of the individual, who carries over no memories of experience of its past existence. Self-Awares that have no hive of their own are vulnerable to permanent destruction.
Drones come in various shapes, types and sizes and occupy a natural caste system based on the job they do inside the hive: Swarmers are scouts that seek out feeding sites and move energon gathered from place to place in the hive. Hunters are large, powerful specimens that hunt live prey to feed hatchlings. Soldiers are heavily armored brutes that protect the hive from danger, either from outside interference or from other competing hives. Workers build the structures of the hive and shape the terrain to suit its needs. Nurses repair the injured, feed and care for hatching pods and young hatchlings (first through third instar development). Warpers are the most feared caste, existing in only the deepest hives: They engage in mind-control warfare, stealing drones from other hives by overpowering them mentally. They are also capable of shielding the EMF of their hives from being located, which can result in the disruption of Cybertronian communication networks in the area. Warpers have also been known to mind-control unwitting mechs and femmes who stumble into their territories, making them part of the hive. Insecticons bear each other no caste-based enmity; it is simply a function of their birth.
Insecticons communicate through electromagnetic fields (EMF), using frequency, duration and other alterations to speak with one another. Referred to as "wavespeech", this is a language unique to the subtype, and is difficult for other Cybertronians to understand or use without special wave-generation equipment. While Insecticons are capable of standard Cybertronian speech, most have simply ignored the use of it. This trend has lead to the unfortunate impression on other Cybertronians that Insecticons are non-sapient, and thus incapable of it.
Seeders and Queens can arise from any caste, and hives produced from them will tend to favor that particular caste in number and in function. Super Hives composed of multiple Self-Awares and their drones exist beneath the surface of Cybertron, but occasional competition between Self-Awares will cause larger hives to split up, with the outcast hive seeking new territory elsewhere.
All Insecticon player characters are either Seeders or Queens. Drones such as Bob the Insecticon can exist as the NPCs of other characters; Non-Insecticon characters shouldn't have more than one or two drones (there are a few exceptions ).
Insecticon characters have a wide variety of choices for their backgrounds: leaders of feral hives, laboratory animals, cherished pets, slave labor, etc. Insecticons can be a member of any faction, but always start as Disposable caste due to their low position in society: They have no rights, are considered property, and can be treated in any manner their owners wish. Elevation to a higher caste (even Low) allows an Insecticon to be self-owned with minimal rights.
All Insecticon PCs are capable of transformation and speech if they decide to start as mature Insecticons. Players may opt to start out as Juveniles or even Hatchlings, and let their stories be determined purely by fate and interaction with other player characters. Maturation into adulthood need not take a long time, but around two weeks is standard (as it would be for Cybertronians who are Nurtured). Younger Insecticon PCs gain the ability to speak, reason and transform upon maturity.
Insecticon PCs are effectively the same as any other Cybertronian in stats and abilities; they only gain the benefit of Drone Production and Matter-to-Energon Fuelling through their ability to eat solid material as fuel. Drones should be treated as a form of Ammunition - each drone has a particular 'attack' and is 'spent' after it engages in combat, as drones are pretty much cannon fodder. Stronger and older drones can be treated as NPCs - play fair with them. It's all right to have a particularly tough monster to fight, but it shouldn't be undefeatable - it's a drone.
Being able to talk normally is considered a spectacle and abnormality in current Cybertronian society, and is likely to gain unwanted attention. It is up to the player to decide whether or not they wish to brave the potential consequences of speech, or communicate by other means, such as Wavespeech, or Hand.
Frame-Swapping: It is entirely possible, as a form of punishment or experimentation, for an Insecticon's spark to be transferred into another frame. This gives the frame-swapped character Wavespeech capability, but nothing else.
Likewise (perhaps as punishment), a spark can be transferred into an Insecticon frame. This gives the character Matter-to-Energon fueling, but excludes them from drone production: such a character does not intrinsically possess the spark-networking capabilities of an Insecticon, and would be unable to produce or control drones. Likewise, they do not automatically know wavespeech and must learn it (which makes them stand out dangerously in a normal hive).