Dyson Aliens, also known as "Primes" in the novel, are a fictional species of intelligent extraterrestrial life which originate from the solar system of the primary sun of the binary star system known as the "Dyson Pair" in the Commonwealth Saga of science fiction novels books by Peter F. Hamilton. The Dyson Aliens are introduced in Pandora's Star when the Commonwealth starship Second Chance arrives to observe the Dyson pair and feature heavily in the rest of the Commonwealth Saga.
Dyson Aliens exist in two separate forms — motiles and immotiles. The motile form performs physical tasks — labor, construction, and warfare. Immotiles are clusters of fused motiles with greatly improved brain power. Immotiles are immobile and are responsible for controlling motiles.
Individually, motiles are capable of only limited autonomous function, and are only really capable of obeying the orders of the immotile that produced it. Immotiles are created when, given appropriate conditions - usually a shallow pool of water - four motiles combine into a single immotile, expanding their collective capacity for thought to the point that a new intelligent being is created. Immotiles control motiles to build, cultivate and exploit the land around them. They are, in essence, the immobile brains of a single large entity capable of spanning over miles. Immotiles are also responsible for the reproduction of the species, as they produce "base cells" - single-celled organisms that are the basis of Prime life. Base cells are both food to the Primes, and also the source of primes - when certain chemicals and hormones are excreted into water containing a culture of base cells, the cells will react by coalescing and forming, over the course of a few days, a functioning Prime motile.
The motile form can take many forms that have been specifically constructed to perform certain tasks. One of the more basic and versatile varieties appears as having a pear-shaped torso approximately a meter wide at the base, with four vertical tapering ridges of hardened skin running up the flanks, each of which terminates in one of the motile's four legs, which are flexible, strong and hooved. Motiles of this type sport four arms, which sprout from the body some sixty centimetres above the leg joints. The arms are similar to the legs, differing only in that they terminate in a neat quad pincer arrangement. The form is topped by a cluster of four sensor stalks, each of which incorporates a nerve receptor - a thin impulse-permeable membrane over raw ganglions that allow motiles to communicate directly with another motile's brain by touching these receptor pads together. The brains are stored deep within the body.
Immotiles are only capable of handling the organisation of a certain number of motiles at any given moment. Past a certain point, the entity will be forced to grow a new immotile unit, which permanently attaches to the first, increasing its capacity for thought and multi-tasking. Extremely old Primes may consist of many hundreds, or even thousands of immotiles, controlling vast armies of motiles. If an immotile loses contact with the motiles under its command they will resort to a primitive animal like mode
Immotiles have no names, or language. They are entirely thought-based creatures, and identify themselves based upon the mental image of the location of their central immotile cluster, resulting in identities such as MorningLightMountain, ColdLakePromontory, TemperateSeaIsland, or SouthernRockPlateau. They are pathologically intensely hostile to any and all life that is not under their direct control. Other life represents competition for resources and space, and the concept of sharing is so completely alien to Prime immotiles that it simply doesn't exist. All immotiles exist in a state of permanent cautious war with each other, vying for resources, territory and dominance. Although they may form temporary alliances, such agreements are very short-lived. During the commonwealth saga the primes offer no kind of alliance or treaty to the Commonwealth. The primes have also been described as being the concept of growth in a physical interpretation.
It should also be noted that, due to the immotiles being effectively immortal, their memories span throughout their entire existence. This is stated to give them an unparalleled sense of continuity, to the point where they are unwilling to accept any new ideas for fear of being 'corrupted' and losing their identities. This leads to their intense paranoia regarding other forms of life, and to their complete refusal of such 'alien' concepts as genetic modification. The conflict between the Primes and the alienPrimes (see below) began on the basis that the alienPrimes, being separated from their home clusters, began altering themselves with genetics and cybernetics, presenting the original immotiles with fearsome competition.
Immotile technology is quite advanced, and they have functioning spaceships, nuclear warheads, and advanced electronic communications that allow them to transmit their neural control impulses over vast distances, effectively allowing a single immotile cluster to control a whole star system.One of their more insidious weapons are the "star corona-rupture devices", weapons capable of creating massive solar flares, lethally irradiating entire star systems. Prior to the events in Pandora's Star, many immotile groups developed such devices, but they were never actually tested for fear of sterilizing the Prime homeplanet. As their war with humanity continues they gain an understanding of wormhole technology, which they were unable to develop themselves due to their scientific methods being based mostly on natural observation and little or no imagination.
Towards the end of the book "Pandora's Star" there is only one known immotile cluster left in existence in the Dyson Alpha system. That immotile cluster, MorningLightMountain, has used its knowledge of wormhole technology, taken from the memory storage of the captured human astronomer Dudley Bose, to eliminate all the other immotile clusters.
Having learned the location of the Commonwealth planets, MorningLightMountain then undertakes to invade the Commonwealth, eliminate all human life, and claim the territory as its own. Its ultimate plan is to spread across the entire galaxy and beyond, ensuring its own immortality - with each system claimed and with each immotile cluster that is founded, the probability of its being completely destroyed by a single event dwindle.
After acquiring wormhole technology and discovering the location of the Commonwealth from the memories of astronomer Dudley Bose, MorningLightMountain launches an attack on the unprepared Commonwealth with a massive fleet of warships and an overwhelming number of soldier motiles. With no regard for the global ecology of the planets it intends to conquer, MorningLightMountain devastates an initial 23 Commonwealth worlds with massive nuclear bombardments, killing tens of millions of humans in the process. MorningLightMountain colonizes the 23 worlds buts meets resistance from the surviving residents of these planets.
With the Commonwealth unable to launch an effective counterattack, MorningLightMountain begins the invasion of a further 48 worlds, but is stopped when the Commonwealth destroys the wormhole staging post it is using to transport its forces into human-occupied space. Once MorningLightMountain is out of contact with immotiles it sent to human space, they splinter into multiple independent factions.
MorningLightMountain is eventually re-imprisoned at the end of Judas Unchained when the Commonwealth finds a way to reactivate the force field surrounding Dyson Alpha. MorningLightMountain is not dead by the end of the book, and it is suggested that the memories of Dudley Bose (now preserved in the body of a motile) will attempt to coax it into changing its mentality and teach it tolerance, with the prospect in mind of one day making it peaceful.
With MorningLightMountain imprisoned again and Prime life so incredibly hostile and prolific, the inter-solar colonies that had been created are said to be eventually destroyed by the Commonwealth Navy in a firebreak attempt to thwart any future threat from the species.
During the course of their history, prior to their contact with humans, the Primes made an attempt at star flight in the form of slower-than-light ships that they sent to their primary's pair star of Dyson Beta. Several of the main immotiles sent such ships towards the star, trying to collect information about it and it's potential for colonisation. The first starship to arrive belonged to MorningLightMountain. Knowing that communication was impractical and that the ship's commanding immotile would sooner or later gain independence, MorningLightMountain designed the ship to be unable to carry out anything more than a simple exploratory mission. As it reached the Dyson Beta system, the commanding immotile discovered that one of Beta's planets was inhabited by an intelligent species. After bombing the planet from orbit, the immotile began a research programme to gather further information on the new species, controlling them as it did its own motiles. In the process, it found about many concepts and ideas that were either useless, or inconceivable to the native Primes, most important of these being the sciences of genetics and cybernetic augmentation. It began altering its own structure as well as that of its immotiles, both genetically enhancing it and adding mechanical parts.
As more and more immotile clusters arrived at Beta, they formed a coalition, and a war began with the inhabitants of Alpha. At some point during the conflict, a third, extremely advanced alien race known as Anomine intervened, sealing both the Dyson Alpha and Dyson Beta star systems in enormous forcefields. At this time, at least one of the Alpha immotiles (now called alienPrimes due to their divergence from the originals) was in transit towards Beta. Upon its arrival, it discovered the barrier, and left for the stars to analyze the situation. Its ship reached the distant star system of Far Away, where it set off an enormous solar flare to signal for others of its kind. Hundreds of years later, after Humanity had arrived and colonized the world, they discovered the remains of the crashed ship and the effects of the solar flare on the planet. In the course of investigating the Prime ship, the human survey team were captured, processed and subverted by the immotile. From there on, the alien concocted a scheme to manipulate the Commonwealth into a war with the original Primes, hoping to weaken both races, at which point it would release the imprisoned alienPrimes to dominate the galaxy unchallenged.
During this time, it decided to investigate the alien Silfen that humanity had contact with, and sent the director of the Far Away research programme, Bradley Johansson, to gather more information. Upon contact however, the Silfen Motherholme freed Johansson from the alien's conditioning. Johansson swore to stop the alien (now known as The Starflyer) from controlling humanity, and founded the organization of The Guardians of Selfhood to do so.
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