Algolian

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Algolians, sometimes referred to as “space vampires”, are a species of sapient psychic or energy-based beings concentrated, and speculated to have originated, in the star system Beta Persei, also known as Algol. Little is known definitively about these beings, with such information as is currently available coming from the testimony of a few Algolians encountered by System Force (particularly one known as Cynthia Varney, who assisted System Four during conflicts in the early 1990s), from an unpublished monograph attributed to the Renaissance physician/natural philosopher Paracelsus, and from brief visits by System Force to the Algol system.

Contents

Morphology

The Algolian species is fundamentally energy-based and non-material, but seems to utilize material organisms as reproductive “hosts”. The mature form is intangible, but able to exert physical force akin to telekinesis at will. It can sense and communicate telepathically, though those abilities remain largely unquantified. It commonly projects a mental image when interacting with others, and is capable of modifying that image as suits its whims, though the complexity of appropriately modifying that image for indirect perspectives means that observers typically don't perceive them on reflective surfaces or on records such as photographs or video.

Behavior

Mature Algolians derive sustenance through psychic parasitism, with stronger emotions effectively more “nourishing”. As fear is a particularly strong emotion, and one relatively simple to generate with great intensity in sentient lifeforms, it is apparently the traditional staple of the Algolian diet. However, any strong emotions, including anger, love, and sadness, can offer nutritive energy as well. Humans have been observed to be physically weakened by Algolian feeding, and the energy loss has sometimes been found to interfere with the process of memory formation in the victims. Mature and psychically skilled Algolians can utilize this tendency to avoid detection as they feed, though it is unclear how much physical harm may result from this energy drain in individual instances, or cumulatively. It may be difficult to distinguish such effects, however, from other consequences of strong emotional stimulus, such as post-traumatic stress, or heart failure.

Algolians reproduce asexually, via partial fission, with the new, weaker being occupying and controlling a physical host life form – a process the Algolians term “ensoulment”. The requirements of this process, and the extent to which it is voluntary on the Algolian's part, is unclear. Typically, on Earth, live humans are the preferred hosts, as the mental faculties and memories of the host are the foundation on which the new Algolian's mind develops.

Juvenile Algolians possess substantial control over their material body's cellular structure. They can alter their size and shape to some extent, manifesting fearsome claws and jaws as needed in combat, and can regenerate damage at startling speed – amputation of limbs, for example, typically requires physical obstruction, as a cut with a thin blade will have repaired itself before the blade has reached the other side of the limb. They can also regenerate damage from fire, though a sufficiently massive conflagration can overwhelm it.

Algolians, both juvenile and mature, are vulnerable to electromagnetic radiation, and electrostatic effects. Direct sunlight can be lethal to them, as can exposure to the radiation belt of a planet with a significant electromagnetic field, such as Earth. Materials with piezoelectric properties (most notably selenium) are effectively toxic to them.

The energy costs of Algolian maturation are substantial, and require sustenance for the host body as well as the immaterial soul. In practice, these are frequently obtained together through acts of terroristic predation.

The Algolian's consciousness supplants, and is believed to consume over time, that of its host. The course of this maturation is poorly understood, but is believed to take at least several years, and perhaps decades. Whether the mature Algolian consciously vacates the host for an extracorporeal existence, or the host deteriorates gradually leaving the psychic entity behind, is likewise unknown. While it is possible for a juvenile Algolian to be fatally driven from its host body, this typically requires enough damage to that body to kill it.. A particularly resilient body, however, like that of the superhero Starfire, can apparently survive such “purging” with its original consciousness intact.

Algolians encountered on Earth have been largely solitary, though they apparently share information with known allies through limited personal networks and “dead drop” messages, and mature members of the species appear to actively distance themselves from their juniors. While this behavior has no doubt been influenced by Algolians having been hunted by hostile humans for centuries, extraterrestrial observations show the species as appearing to display little sense of parental obligation toward their progeny.

History on Earth

Algolians are believed to have arrived in the Solar system many thousands of years ago, via a light-sailing ship from the Beta Persei system. The ship itself landed in Tsiolkovskiy crater, on the far side of Earth's moon, with most of its passengers remaining dormant while some portion made their way to Earth. Given the vulnerability of Algolians to planetary radiation belts, it is speculated that some sort of shuttlecraft may have been used for the planetary landing, but no specifics are known.

Over the course of millennia, Algolians spread among the Earth's population, but their acts of predation frequently provoked violent reprisals by humans. Such hostile encounters are believed to be the basis for the monster mythologies of many cultures – in particular, the legendary characteristics of vampires, and ghouls are noted to reflect the habits and vulnerabilities of Algolians. The prescribed methodology of a stake through the heart, and/or beheading with a shovel to kill a vampire are believed to have been inspired by Algolians' regenerative capabilities[1]. Similarly, the vampire's traditional aversion to garlic may have been inspired by the Algolian's vulnerability to selenium, which has a comparable odor. The vampiric habit of blood-drinking is believed to reflect the behavior of somewhat older, or simply wiser, juvenile Algolians in seeking to obtain physical sustenance by means not immediately lethal – providing food security while being somewhat less provocative of “torch-bearing mobs”.

Most contemporary accounts of encounters with Algolians over the centuries have been in the form of folklore, and tend to be inconsistent and unreliable. It is possible that a more systematic attempt to compile and assess such stories was made in the early 16th century by the natural philosopher Paracelsus, in an unpublished and untitled monograph known as the “Hohenheim Almagest”. Most historians consider the Almagest to be of suspect authenticity, given the absence of corroborating content in Paracelsus' other published works, including those posthumously assembled by Karl Widemann. However, antiquarian science historian/cryptozoologist Thaddeus Breckenridge came to be a leading advocate of the work in the 1980s. He eventually became a gadfly to western academia, and also tested the patience of North American and European law enforcement with persistent allegations of supernatural involvement in various murder and missing persons cases. After providing some assistance to System Four during their Algolian investigations in the early-'90s, Breckenridge seems to have severed most of his limited social ties and gone into hiding after a traumatic involvement in the group's battle with an Algolian-possessed Starfire in their Liberty One headquarters. Though some have linked him to occasional Algolian-related posts on internet message boards over the subsequent decades, his current whereabouts and activities remain unknown.

In conversations with System Four, the Algolian known as Cynthia Varney asserted that conflicts with human communities had largely driven mature terrestrial Algolians to rely on emotions other than “fear” for sustenance. She described their attitude toward their primitive forebears' habits as comparable to the disdain of wine connoisseurs for children guzzling Kool-Aid. When she and her kin became aware of the “unevolved” Algolians still on the moon having revived, and planning to land en masse, she cooperated with System Four, to thwart their advance parties. System Four ultimately obtained a nuclear weapon from the US government and destroyed the Algolian ship with its passengers before they could leave the Moon. The remaining Algolian population on Earth, true numbers still unknown, have remained largely hidden since, though members of System Four and System 4ce have occasionally sought to confer with them. Cynthia Varney has not been seen since a meeting with Psion in 1994, which ended with her being ejected from PsiPlane after the supervillain Poltergeist triggered selenium releases from on-board security systems in an apparent, and possibly successful, attempt to kill her.

Notes

  1. A broad surface, such as a shovel blade, being necessary to prevent the Algolian's simply regenerating around it, and a wooden stake being an easier weapon to procure and handle of the size required to obstruct an Algolian heart from healing
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