Hiver prefer Mars type worlds with a more robust atmosphere and underground water. Hiver do not care for large bodies of water in general and tend to terraform them away.
Standard Hiver physique — to the extent there is such a thing — is a mantis–like form. Almost all Hivers will retain the basic morphology of six limbs, head, torso and wings — although in most cases wings are vestigial or entirely absent.
The problem is that Hiver are so constantly shaped during their egg phase and just post–hatching that the range of forms they assume are enormous. Even Workers and Warriors have more in common in terms of metabolism than they do in terms of shape and size.
The best terrestrial analog for the Hiver is actually the termite model, especially in the relationship and behaviors associated with Breeders, Workers and Warriors. Despite appearances, Hiver are not insects in the physical sense. They are much larger than any Terran insect, ranging from 40 to 250 kilograms in mass and 90 to 450 centimetres in height. They do have six limbs but the upper four are equipped with opposable digits. Most Hiver have a pair of wings on the dorsal surface of their bodies but these are vestigial and useless for flight.
A Hiver's body is partially covered with chitin but the shell is not an exo–skeleton. Hiver have an interior skeleton, a full array of internal organs and a circulatory system similar to that of a terrestrial bird or mammal. The chitin is not used for tissue support; it is adapted to serve as armor. Some scientists speculate that the bright colours and patterns of a Hiver's body also convey a great deal of social information to other Hiver.
Hiver will always consider the possibility of adapting their own bodies first, if it is easier and less expensive than creating a general toolset. The configuration of limbs on a Hiver can be altered substantially according to the needs of the Princess or Queen. Many aquatic Hiver are configured in a "sea scorpion" mode, and a tick–like physiology is fairly common in Hiver which can resist vacuum and extreme cold.
They are more than willing to create specialized Hiver to do particular jobs — if they consider it more efficient to create a vacuum–proof Hiver than to solve the difficulties of creating a Hiver space–suit, they'll go with the vacuum–proof Hiver. In general Hiver prefer to standardize certain aspects of their racial physiology. Their ability to specialize can become dangerous to the empire if overused on a wide scale; they are a species very much in danger of evolving into subspecies if too much genetic tinkering is done.
An extreme example of such specialisation is the Hiver warrior adapted for work in orbital shipyards and vacuum mining depicted in one of the in–game loading screens — The one that looks like a spider. It is very rare for a Hiver to be that size — most Hiver Workers are actually smaller than a Human, and Warriors, although bigger than Humans, are usually not the size of a backhoe. That particular warrior is a very special unit and probably requires a crew of smaller brothers to feed and care for him, as well as maintaining his armor and tools.
Hiver are dietary generalists.
Evolved from a society in which different clans constantly warred and regicide was common, the "default" hormone set for the average Hiver is testosterone–like — this separates the breeding female from the rest of the Hive and allows for development of more extreme aggressive and defensive behavior in the non–breeding castes.
Hiver are not as young a species as Humanity, and there is a good deal of diversity in their genome as it stands — there is a reason why females can produce semi–viable offspring without mating. Remarkable "sport" Hiver are produced fairly frequently, regardless of the Mother's intention. How these unintentionally unusual eggs and individuals are treated depends greatly on the individual mother — her attitude will determine that of the clan. She may have them destroyed, she may try to shape them through various means while in the egg or in infancy, or she may choose to regard them as a gift from the Goddess and simply keep them close to her as they grow up, to see how they turn out.
There are many Hiver heroic legends about the runt or the freak who was the Most Loyal Son When Given a Chance.
Hiver have more than a cardiovascular system — they have two hearts and two sets of lungs. The major heart and lungs service the thorax and brain. The secondary heart and lungs are linked to a respiration duct under each wing–pit and primarily supply the abdomen.
Hiver Chitin Edit
Hiver chitin is a living support and protection system analogous to Human bone.
Structurally, a Hiver's shell is not simply an egg–like crust of chitin, like that of a terrestrial insect. It is a series of plates which cover its body and serve as armor to the organs and bones under the skin. If you were to get a Hiver on the dissection table, remove the armor and cross–section it under a microscope, you would see dozens of closely packed, densely woven layers which are made up of long fibers: protein, organic molecules, and in some cases (vacuum crawlers and shock troops) silicates or metals.
These microscopic layers do have a circulatory system, as Human bones do, and there are cells which create the lamellar matrix of the chitin, as well as cells which create new chitin and cells which destroy the old. It is through the activity of these three cell types that Hiver chitin is maintained and remodeled in the biological sense — there are actual tools that are used for cultural shaping. Cultural practices to alter chitin via coloring, cutting, scorching etc are extremely common among Hiver, just as cultural practices to alter skin, bone and hair are common among Humans.
Hiver chitin is alive. It will heal when broken. It can become infected by disease. It is capable of both longitudinal and appositional growth. And its woven structure is extremely light given the protection it offers.
The early stages of infancy and nurturing are six months to a year — this can be accelerated, but only at the expense of the child's emotional and cognitive development. Full physical maturation is usually achieved by age 8 in workers and warriors, and during ages 12–16 in Princes or Princesses. Cognitive development is ongoing through the Hiver's life, so long as no damage or suppression occurs.
Hiver lifespan varies by caste. The average Hiver Worker, barring accident, injury or mistreatment, could live up to 60–70 years. A Hiver Warrior is generally not designed for longevity and can live up to 50+ if given a life of ease, peace and safety — this rarely happens of course, and average lifespan for a Hiver Warrior is much lower with very few members of the caste living past 35.
Princes can have a comfortable lifespan of 300+ years and a Princess can live up to 400. A Hiver Queen in full maturity can live a healthy and productive span of 1,000 or so.
Fighting a Hiver Edit
I'm not sure which is the more impressive accomplishment; being able to kill a Hiver with your bare hands or being sufficiently conversant with Hiver language and culture to be able to taunt one verbally! Personally, I (Arinn Dembo) think that anyone with that kind of linguistic acumen would be entirely wasted in a hand–to–hand arena bout; that's a skillset which would be of much more use to SolForce military intelligence behind the lines.
As to Hiver organs; they have a full cardiovascular system and there are various ways to attack it. Blunt force trauma to the carapace simply isn't the best. To do enough thoracic damage to stop a Hiver, you need to rend or destroy a lot of tissue. Warriors are worse than workers in this respect; they are more likely to have redundant organs, blood that coagulates more quickly, etc. This is why SolForce marines call their 50 caliber explosive ammunition "bugbusters" — they've learned from experience to use a round that penetrates deeply and then tumbles and/or explodes.
Returning to the hand–to–hand duel, a Human with sufficient skill would be best advised to seek a weapon of convenience against his opponent. Just because the two combatants go into the fight empty–handed doesn't mean that a smart monkey has to stay empty–handed. The most obvious available weapon might even be a part of the Hiver's own body. If you could somehow find the leverage and strength to break one of its arms off at the elbow joint, you would find yourself armed with a formidable cutting blade and a spike. Not to mention having a parry–bar strong enough to withstand the strikes of the remaining three arms...and there is a certain satisfaction involved in killing your opponent with his own severed limb.
A Hiver with a severed head is dead. Its brain is too complex to allow it to continue moving for any length of time without its central processor. A Hiver warrior may keep charging blindly forward or spasm wildly with severe brain damage, but it will drop like a ton of bricks if the head is completely removed. Hiver are not a simple enough organism to do without the entire brain; there are too many autonomic functions which cannot continue if the spinal cords are severed.
Due to the quirks of Hiver physiology, death is not necessarily the end of any given Hiver's life. A great deal of short and long–term memory is stored in crystalline form in a Hiver's brain case, and these chemicals can be extracted intact for up to 72 hours after death. A Hiver's crystalline brain case can even survive the effects of vacuum for a time. With the help of the Princess — who passes these chemicals through her own digestive tract — the memory of the fallen Hiver can be injected into the thorax of a freshly laid egg. The result is a new–born Hiver which has many of the memories, skills and experiences of the Hiver who died.