[Note to the baffled reader: this is a bit of background fluff for my Warhammer 40K Tyranid army. If the terms ‘fluff’, ‘Warhammer 40K’, or ‘Tyranid’ are unfamiliar, you’re probably best off not wasting your time reading further.]
Vervactor is the designation for a widely-spread splinter fleet of unusual composition, recently discovered and posited to be evidence of a new tactic of the Hive Mind. Unlike other well-known hive fleets, this splinter shows up in widely spread and isolated pockets, usually limited to one planet or planetary cluster when discovered. Hive ships are few in number, or not in evidence at all. Infestations have been found at the local, continental, and near-planetary scale; correlated hive ships have been observed only in cases where the planet is mostly consumed, which implies that the ships are being grown from local sources, rather than acting as a primary vector of infestation.
Based on the lack of hive fleet presence, and the verified existence of isolated instances of infestation across multiple unrelated sectors, it seems probable that the Vervactor splinter is somehow being randomly seeded across the galaxy. The mechanism for this seeding is unknown, but observations of various infestation sites have revealed the following:
- Initial incursion seems to be via one bio-ship, which usually makes planetary contact in a remote region, isolated from existing cultures. (One notable exception is the incursion on Bahrab IV, wherein the bio-ship descended directly on the outskirts of the hive Bahrab Primus. The immediate presence of a division of Astra Militarum, with leadership provided by the personnel of an Adeptus Mechanicus research facility, resulted in a quick extermination and much useful information.)
- Unlike most hive fleet incursions, little to no disturbance in the Warp is initially noticed. In hindsight, analysis of astropathic logs and civilian communications often reveals increased incidence of foreboding dreams, but not at a sufficient level to raise significant concern. The planet-wide Shadow in the Warp phenomenon seems to occur fairly suddenly, and only after the infestation has grown to significant size. Localized Warp effects are still evident.
- In stark contrast to other hive fleets, Vervactor makes significant use of stationary structures. These take the form of nodes in a fast-growing web-like digestion network, roughly analogous in form to a traditional, biological circulatory system. These structures seem to have one of two purposes: facilitation of consumption, as in the well-known digestion pools, capillary towers, and spore chimneys, plus the capillary tubes and other digestive structures that route biomatter between nodes; or production, wherein the biomass derived from the consumptive nodes is fed into bio-factories to produce additional Tyranid organisms.
- As Magos-aspirant Meekart Vevos so clumsily stated, “The more there are the bigger they get!” While juvenile in formulation, the essential nature of the statement matches observed facts. Early infestations seem to possess a much smaller proportion of large Tyranid forms; later/larger infestations have been observed to include bio-titans such as Harridans or Hierophants. This lends weight to the theory that the lifeforms are being grown locally, as the amount of biomatter collected from a growing network becomes sufficient to support creation of the larger organisms.
- Complete planetary consumption takes place over a matter of months, not days, as the infestation slowly grows; however, the final phase of assimilation can be nearly as quick as that of the traditional hive fleet incursion.
Based on the limited data gathered thus far, it seems safe to say that Vervactor’s purpose can be viewed as an extension of the practice of fostering genestealer cults decades or centuries in advance of a hive fleet incursion. However, rather than preparing a culture to be more easily conquered, then immediately consumed by the existing fleet, Vervactor seems designed to act as a patient and long-term “seeding mechanism”, wherein sufficient success in consumption of the local ecosystem results in the generation of bio-ships and the eventual rise of a new splinter.
Some members of the Magos Biologis have speculated that Vervactor is, in some ways, a throwback to a more primitive stage in Tyranid evolution. The lack of reliance on bio-ships, and (relatively) slower pace of consumption, would seem to mesh well with a biology optimized for consumption on a more local scale.
The mechanism of distribution is still unknown; again, however, wild speculations have been made. Some believe that the “seed ships” are being randomly thrown into Warp portals of some kind, there to remain until chance spits them out into realspace once more. (Proponents of this theory claim that the seed ships are grown with some form of innate Geller field, keeping the contents in stasis and unaffected by, but unable to navigate in, the Warp. Because there is no evidence for this whatsoever, it should be regarded as speculative fiction rather than a plausible explanation…)Others propose some form of FTL bio-drive for propulsion, too inefficient in terms of energy consumption for use by an entire fleet. As there is no data of any kind available on the subject, true disciples of scientific thought shall remain silent on the matter.