Mind the tags. Nightmare Fuel is on here for a reason.
I’ve read the first two books in this series by Roger MacBride Allen, and there was one line that stood out to me from the setting. Someone’s wondering why humanity’s never found another alien species before this mess, and then realizes exactly why: “The Charonians had eaten them.”
The Arrancar species is very much based on that line.
They’re also a bit based on “The Andromeda Strain” – the idea that a race announcing itself to the universe might say “here we are!” by way of a genetically engineered organism. (Which, of course, Went Horribly Wrong. Ouch. )
So. I haven’t got all the details yet, but… at some point the species that became the Arrancar decided, why fight other intelligent species when you can absorb them?
No, they’re not the Borg. The Borg are a bit more cohesive. The Arrancar… well, they’re a lot more organic. And quite willing to fight each other. (And eat each other.)
But they do agree on some things as a species. Arrancar are “real beings”; other sapient life forms, not so much.
What the Arrancar do, is wait until they detect signs of mass transport/psychokinetic energy manipulation. Then they teleport in probes, gather what info they think they need including the DNA (or equivalent) of the intelligent species and its relatives. Polish up an Arrancar virus that will fit the new species, and send it in. After all, if a species is playing around with teleportation, the new infected victims have a very easy way to get around. And if half or more of the Hollows/Akuma die before they reach full Arrancar status? Ah well, they served their purpose. Planet’s taken, so who cares?
This has worked on every other alien race so far.
Humans, though, are paranoid bastards.
Seriously. In this AU, humanity may be the most paranoid intelligent race out there. (The kami got lucky this far because their “frequencies” were a bit off from what the Arrancar were set up to detect.) We tend to put dangerous experiments on deserted islands. Behind locked doors. Buried in mountains. We tend, in short, to take precautions when we don’t know what we’re doing.
…And then there’s Nii. Oy.
This is actually why the Arrancar have now gone after humanity twice, in two different areas of human space. (The Akuma hit on Nova Roma, that then spreads to Shangri-La, takes place at least decades after the original mess at Project Tatterdemalion.) As a species, the Arrancar are still in shock that the first hit didn’t spread off Satoyama like a wildfire. “It didn’t work. Why did it not work?”
If you’re wondering if Arrancar are the virus or the carriers of the virus, the answer is yes. They can reproduce in a “normal”, biological offspring fashion. (Why waste a perfectly good means of spreading your species?) They also reproduce by infecting other intelligent species. And sometimes not-so-intelligent ones. Depends on the ethnicity of the Arrancar.
So far the bunnies have given me two: the r-selected Hollows (create a lot of offspring so a few will get lucky) and the k-selected Akuma (invest a lot of energy into relatively few offspring, so a higher proportion survive). This is why the Hollow/shinigami viruses affect all mammals, while the Akuma/feral youkai/ sane youkai viruses only infect humans. The Hollow Arrancar are willing to let their sub-intelligent offspring eat a lot of each other to build up to an intelligent Arrancar, while the Akuma group want theirs to eat a relative few of each other to turn out their own kind.
…Yeah. Like Bleach canon, every evolved Arrancar (though not necessarily the born ones) is the product of cannibalism. And the born ones aren’t considered proper Arrancar until they’ve eaten at least a few other of their own, as well. Because Arrancar are mass minds. Single-souled organisms are so primitive!
Did I mention not human? Brr.
Which leads to an interesting and amusing conclusion: Youkai and Shinigami pack instincts? They’re not alien. At all. They are, instead, instinctual human (or at least higher mammalian), turned Up To Eleven.
(Yeah. This is likely why Kanzeon is giggling.)
That said, there is a definite element of alien in those infected, designed in by the Arrancar, that’s going to be a bit tricky to handle. Because while Arrancar may not at all get human pair-bonding, they do know it happens; and given that’s relatively common in the DNA-based species they’ve dealt with (2 DNA strands, after all!) they have a standard workaround to break up that bit of society.
So. Shinigami and youkai? Actually have three sexes.
At this point, the vast majority of them have no clue about that. Some details of physiological maturity take time. Depending on stresses, possibly considerable time.
(I will spare the innocent eyes of anyone who doesn’t want the R-rated details. Suffice to say I worked it out, there are tentacles and psychokinesis involved, and twin offspring would actually be common).
Unfortunately for the Arrancar, humans are not only paranoid but experimental, adaptable, and sometimes kinky critters. *G* They’ll figure it out eventually.