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Danger Level: Medium
Commonly Infects: Plants, hardy animals
Attack Method: Hurls exploding spines; explodes when damaged.
Summary: Parasite that slowly consumes host and self-destructs upon attempted removal. Has a rare mature stage.
Original Creator: Gold
A manticore in the dormant or embryonic stage is a round, thin, flesh-eating metal growth that appears on the flesh or outer layer of any multicellular creature, whether plant or animal. Relatively simple in structure, these growths survive by attaching themselves to tissue and seeping nutrients while keeping the host tissue alive. Initially very tiny and difficult to discern from moles or specks of dirt, the growths slowly expand, and as time progresses their reflective silver sheen makes them obvious to any observer.
In the later embryonic stages, the manticore virus appears as a large blotch covering the surface of the host as if it were a massive metal patch of dead flesh. At this point the host is doomed.
Once the virus saps enough energy and the host begins to die, the virus will begin a horrifying transformation. The host's limbs or branches will begin to feature long, sharp claws; the roots or mouth will become a gaping jaw filled with multiple rows of jagged teeth; and a pointed, spiny tail will begin protrude from some part of the twisted mass of metal and flesh. Depending on what the host originally was, the full-grown manticore's body can look fairly strange, but it will typically be somewhat feline in appearance, and fairly intimidating with a large stature and aggressive demeanor.
In the dormant stage, a manticore virus will slowly spread to nearby living tissue. The rate of infection is very slow; a manticore can take years to grow centimeters, and growth slows even more as it gets larger. Left untreated for decades, however, the disease will begin its transformation into the active stage. This is extraordinarily rare because a manticore tends to explode before that happens.
The natural defense mechanism of a dormant manticore to any sort of stress -- be it attempted removal, exposure to fire, or the death of its host -- is to explode. Indeed, the clockwork's entire circuitry develops with the capacity for this builtin self-destruct, and they can react within seconds of exposure to drastic changes in pressure or temperature. It is believed this trait evolved in an effort to deter animals from attempting to remove them, and indeed, many species have learned not to do so because doing so typically results in death.
In the exceedingly rare situation where the manticore is left alone for long enough to fully mature, the clockwork that is ultimately produced becomes extremely agile. Mature manticores will attempt to seek out population centers or areas that are teeming with life and explode there.
To defend themselves, mature manticores have multiple methods of attack. Their tails are able to hurl spines from a distance, which will proceed to explode upon contacting living flesh. Additionally, when confronted at close range, severed spines, claws and teeth will also explode. These explosions are highly infectious, launching thousands of small bits of infected metal which embed themselves in any nearby flesh and begin to grow (although they destroy every other part of the clockwork). After damaging a foe, a manticore will typically flee the scene, leaving the poor creature with a manticore of its own growing from its wounds. If severely damaged, however, an active manticore will explode just as it does in the dormant stage, usually taking whatever landed the killing blow with it. This type of explosion is far less infectious, being more akin to a self-destruct that takes the entire clockwork with it.
Martichora: A mutated strain of manticore that seems more keen on infecting robots. While this subtype is identical to the normal one when infecting organics, it does not quite interact properly with metal shells, usually exploding within a few days of infection. It is theorized that the mantichora mutated from a version of the illness that infected species with high metal content in their flesh.
Androphagos: Identical in the dormant phase, a mantyger strain acts very differently in the mature phase, attempting to hunt down all nearby organisms and eat them instead of infecting them and running away. This type of manticore is far less infectious and generally easier to deal with than the normal variant, but it is also much deadlier in close combat, since its teeth will make short work of anything it can fit in its mouth.
Self-destruct: Each and every part of a manticore's circuitry resembles a primitive explosive, and manticores possess the ability to spontaneously explode at any moment.
• Despite the danger that a mature manticore poses, this strain of clockwork is not listed among the most dangerous, mostly because of the extremely long dormant phase. Indeed, when noticed within the first several years and appearing on a non-vital area such as a limb, this strain is considered easily treatable by amputation, with the infected body part quickly disposed of in a way that prevents the explosion from doing any damage. This is possible as unlike most clockworks, this strain focuses on building itself instead of rooting itself in the entire body. Even an infection that has progressed to a dangerous point can easily be solved by incinerating the infected organism and the surrounding area.
• Extremely infected animals spread the manticore virus to other herd members as time goes on. In the long run, these infestations tend to clear themselves up because any damaged animal will trigger a chain reaction of explosions that will completely destroy the area and clear away most of the infection.
• Some mutations in manticores cause them to explode with absolutely no provocation, often in areas where they cannot infect anything. While this is a bad thing for the infected organism, this trait often prevents the infection from spreading, and limits the damage that this strain of clockwork can do.
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