Seven Sins A Sun
Summary: Seven damned alien races left their traces across the universe., each succumbing to a deadly sin. Only now, their full histories can be told.
To a radiophilic race, stability was survival. Excessive metabolism led to meltdowns, literally and figuratively. Just as radiation was their life essence, so to would its dearth or excess seal their doom. In that way, the Crag lived and died upon temperance.
They evolved around a neutron star, showered in the radioactive pulse of a dead sun. The remnants of a stillborn solar system orbited the celestial carcass. The morass was rich in organic materials and heavy metals, all periodically bathed in radiation. Nevertheless, the heartbeat of a dead star catalyzed life.
Towards the outskirts of the system was an ice shell world, its liquid core warmed by radioactive elements. In those lightless depths, life grew on radiation. While microbial at first, more exotic lifeforms grew in those sightless seas. Curiosity, it was the sessile lifeforms that escaped first.
A meteor crashed into the moon, sending a torrent of water out of the icy sea. With it were particularly robust microbes, larvae that anchored beside a deposit of radioactive ore. They landed on a comet, which brought them further in system. Protected from pressure and radiation, they took root on the comet.
They matured as they traveled towards the pulsar, a voyage of many years. They gathered the ambient radiation in small organelles in their bodies, which resembled crystalline stems of metallic shells around organic cores. They trapped radiation, and they used it to drive their chemosynthetic metabolism. Like terrestrial life and water, excess was unhealthy.
The individual member of the Crag would have resembled crystalline, scintillating coral. They grew across centuries, with their stems radiating outwards like the branches of a tree unbound by gravity. With out the pull of a planet beneath them, the height and size of ancient specimens dwarfed those of even terrestrial redwoods. Like the branches of a tree, each stem was a metabolic investment. In time, the Crag learned to harness them in another way.
As they were unbound by gravity, the Crag grew in three dimensions, along craters and irregular rock formations. Their metabolic mechanisms came to mimic logic gates and controllers, to regulate the flows of nutrients and waste. Some found, that by expelling waste, they could propel the objects on which they grew. Thus, the Crag developed an ion thruster, and the most successful survivors grew into living computers out of necessity.
They were a race of sentient mineral computers, able to grow across asteroids and comets and alter their trajectories with their own excretions, planting seeds and saplings across they system. The pulsar that deluged their system in radiation was also as dangerous to them as a tsunami to a terrestrial land-dweller. Too much radiation could kill them, yet it did not stop them from experimenting.
The Crag had something approaching imagination, which only grew as their intellectual capacity did. At first, it was the means of simulating trajectories for themselves across the void, and later, planning where and how to grow their mineral-organic thrusters. Instead of spoken language, they even developed communication by means of small, specialized radioactive gas jet-glands visible over long distances. In doing so, they formed the basis for their civilization.
Owing to the tremendous distances and ambient materials in their system, the Crag rarely knew conflict among each other. Individual members would seed nearby celestial bodies, and their offspring carried memories of their sire. Some of these offspring began to experiment with new molecules, gases, and materials in gas jets, forming the rudiments of the scientific method. They soon found a fatal flaw in their own biology.
The excessive accumulation of radio-isotopes in their organelles, reacting with volatile organic materials, could cause them to combust. The pulsar's intensity, thus increased the danger to them. Yet a subfaction of the species wanted to get close to the pulsar, and to build radiation shields exclusively for themselves with the system's mass. They dreamed of building a megastructure, a multilayered Dyson shell, filled with devices to capture radiation and heat.
Simply put, the solar system was not big enough for others to exist. They were not motivated by desire to explore or experiment, but the simplistic urge to coral that which sustained them. They were not foolish, however, and they knew their intentions were. The cold, crude math they used to justify their actions showed a zero-sum outcome with others of their species.
Unfortunately for the Crag, they coordinated and conspired. They converged on members of their species, and small family 'groves' of related members. They did not offer surrender, only cold extermination. They adapted their mineral 'seeds' into dirty bombs full of toxins and deadly concentrations radio-isotypes, to ensure anyone wounded would die. While they had no direct analog for pain, it would nevertheless be a slow, lingering death.
Thus, the gluttonous members of the Crag exterminated those content to live in moderation. The large distances between habitation clusters precluded large battles or counter-attacks to the death squad. Escape attempts and evasion were far more successful, owing to the nightmarish distances along the rim of the system. The comet nursery at the edge of the neutron star became the burial shroud of the humblest among them.
Yet the Crag's gluttonous members never had a chance to build the megastructure buffet. They did received all the radiation they could dine on, and more. A gamma ray burst from a nearby solar system directly struct the system, scouring it clean of life. The remnants of the Crag, scattered and isolated, would never again rise in intelligence or coordination like they had. Thus, the gluttonous passed into oblivion with the temperate.