The Scourge are foul,
neuro-parasitic lifeforms which can utterly dominate an unfortunate host,
bending its life to its will. They thrive on the conquest and absorption of
other races, their very mode of existence as potent a threat as their
formidable battlefield technology. They are the galaxy's ultimate predators.
Their breathtaking assimilation of the central planets, including Earth itself, has made them the primary threat to the very existence of mankind. Their methods of killing on the battlefield are abhorrent to witness, but violent death at the hand of their potent plasma weaponry can be as nothing compared to the dread of being taken alive.
Outside a host, a Scourge isn't much to look upon, sickening though they undoubtedly are. Scourge adults are wispy, boneless, soft bodied creatures, frail in the extreme. Indeed, its fetid body is hard to identify amongst the myriad swirling tendrils of its extremities.
A Scourge can survive for its full lifespan without a host. It has been postulated that the Scourge evolved independently from hosts and only presented neuro-parasitic abilities late in their development. Once beyond the larval stage, in fact, it becomes impossible for a Scourge to take a host at all, and it must henceforth live as a pathetic, fragile creature for the remainder of its foul existence. It was a drive for physical improvement which ultimately led the Scourge to find strength in the bodies of other races.
Pure Scourge are obviously utterly unsuited for the open battlefield. Indeed, in gravity beyond 0.5G a Scourge cannot even move outside a liquid. Pure Scourge are however commonly found on the battlefield in control of vehicles, confirmed by studies of Scourge wrecks. Inside their unsettling and insectile war machines were found pockets of a black, tar like nutrient soup, floating inside which were pure Scourge. It seems that if larvae are not provided with a host in time, Scourge find strength in a manufactured chassis. The disturbingly predatory, organic qualities of the movements of scourge vehicles can be explained by this unholy communion of Scourge and construct, a process which is understood to be permanent.
Taking a Host
To live with any degree of potency, a Scourge must take a carbon-based host early in its life. How this is done remains a mystery to UCM scientists, since no man has ever seen the process and lived to tell the tale. Those few to have escaped Scourge 'breeding hives' speak of the unendurable screams and the agony of the victims, a torment understood to last for months in some cases.
Externally, captured hosts retain their normal physical characteristics in the early stages of possession. Internally however, the Scourge will have fully developed into a web of gelatinous fibres, bound to the nervous system of the host.
In a fairly short time, external symptoms become obvious. A heightened thirst, coupled with a constant sweat is the first noticeable sign of possession. Curiously, hosts lose the ability to produce colour pigment, and over time became more and more pale, the eyes eventually turning a sickly red. Their thirst and propensity to sweat also heightens with time, eventually reaching a stage where they routinely drink the blood of the fallen, comrades and enemies alike.
The Scourge prolongs the life of the host but ultimately ages itself, although it can live for several centuries. When the Scourge eventually begins to die, the host becomes increasingly erratic, as the Scourge's iron grip on its nervous system deteriorates. Eventually, the Scourge dies, closely followed by the host, wracked with apparent insanity and pain.
Usurpers by Nature
The Scourge appear to be exploiting captured planets to the full, running all human industrial centres 24 hours a day, and often augmenting and expanding them with their own, sinisterly organic looking structures. Areas of little use to the Scourge, such as the once thriving entertainment and cultural centres have been left to rot, leading to eerie vistas of beautiful buildings reclaimed by nature.
It has been suggested that the Scourge may be able to make use of a measure of the hosts memories, an insidious and ominous prospect explaining their continued use of human structures and systems. Indeed, this can be seen as a highly efficient mode of conquest, since a ready-made environment exists amongst the host's former cities. In this way, the Scourge not only absorb the bodies, but also the technology, knowledge and power base of their vanquished prey. As the Scourge conquer, they only become more potent as the Galaxy's apex predator.
The Scourge are masters of planetary invasion. Their entire fighting system is geared towards this single minded goal. Their dropships are strictly one-way transports, deploying from low orbit in freefall and only capable of sustained powered flight at relatively low altitudes. Sinister grav-tanks can deploy from these peculiar, vertically configured craft in seconds, reaching the combat zone faster than those all other races, save the Shaltari. Their weapons are short ranged, but spectacularly destructive. Their entire ethos demands lighting speed, intense shock and merciless aggression. The Scourge do not know retreat, they either conquer, or die trying.