June 9, 2023

A Study of Tandem Telepathic Tundra-Dwelling Beings

Man After Man, Dougal Dixon
Blandford Press (UK), 1990

The air is thin and cold, altitude high enough that snow still clings to the ground and sits heavy on tree boughs. A crust of ice covers the ground, crunching beneath your feet. You hear the snap of twig breaking and freeze, quickly scan the sparse forest. At first you see nothing but the trees and the lingering snow. Then you spot it, or rather, you spot them. Two sets of eyes watch you from the shade, a small, fuzzy head resting atop a huge man-shaped creature covered in shaggy white fur. And then they charge, lumbering toward you, the two creatures acting as one. 

Get ready to take on the Hunter Symbiont. 

This Dougaloid comes to us from a million years in the future, the product of genetic engineering followed by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and deepening dependence of two creatures on each other. Hunter Symbionts thrive in the cool spots left on the planet, living in clans groups with strict hierarchy. Hunter and carrier are bonded for life, and the death of one means the other will soon follow. They communicate telepathically, sharing impressions and feelings more than words, with the more intelligent hunter able to issue simple commands and questions to its dimmer and much stronger partner. The pair work together in a fight, with the hunter guiding and strategizing while the carrier punches, claws, and grapples with their foe. To encounter a lone Hunter Symbiont ups the potential danger–they are social creatures, and only live on their own when they’ve been expelled from their clan, left to wander and fend for themselves. These solitary symbionts may also have weaker bonds, with the hunter exerting less control over its partner, the carrier more violent than its socialized counterparts. 

Separating the two could be key to beating the symbiont in a fight. They need physical contact to communicate telepathically, so getting the hunter away from the carrier kills their ability to work as one. Individually, they are less formidable. The hunter is not particularly strong or dexterous, the carrier is not particularly clever. Better to tackle them individually than to deal with them as a team. 

If you do end up stumbling across a group rather than a rogue symbiont, best bet is to take on the leader instead of trying to fight the whole group. Hunter Symbionts adhere to strict hierarchy, and will be scattered without a leader. Defeating the leader may even let you become the boss of the entire group. It’s unknown how a Hunter Symbiont clan would react to a non-symbiont leader, but you might as well embrace the most chaotic possible option and see what happens.