A short story
Klardt had trouble wrapping his mind around the test results he’d just seen on abductee #23. Which was something he usually managed quite easily, since he had sixteen of them.
One brain was his, of course, a massive multi-lobed hunk of gray matter that even without augmentation made him one of the most intelligent beings in the universe. Of his other brains, twelve had been absorbed from lower life forms over the years, two were synthetic—prototypes he’d designed himself—and one was a parasite named Morris welded to his oversized forehead like a barnacle zit, symbiotically trading its ganglionic bandwidth for the occasional sip of blood.
This was all customary for Klardt, a calling in essence. He was a Nuronian, a race of beings where intellect ranked above all else, eons of evolutionary pressure stressing brainpower over physique, feelings or carnal appeal. And as lead scientist aboard the largest—and arguably the most exalted—reaper spaceship currently combing the universe, Klardt felt compelled to continually enrich those cognitive abilities. He felt it an obligation to his trade, encountering such a vast and varied array of creatures as they surveyed the cosmos, it only made sense. Knowledge is power, he said to himself, using the lexicon of the species currently under evaluation. It not only made him better at the job and incidentally fed the edict of niche, but the augmented I.Q. also allowed him greater understanding of the never-ending procession of creatures unearthed as part of their prospecting.
Their mission was one of commercial pursuit, wealth and treasure the bottom line. All of that was fine with Klardt, he understood the vital anatomy of economics. And over the years he had reaped great reward himself. But he was still a scientist. And like any scientist, he was beholden to the poke of curiosity and the fundamental duty to record data for generations coming. His thing, was to compile a comprehensive field guide of sentient lifeforms across the universe. Specifically, class 4 to class 7 organisms, a group that spanned the taxonomic spectrum from tool-makers to those just shy of truly enlightened.
It was a side gig, and he made sure it never interfered with the primary task of the mission. Easy to do, he had access to all the reports on every lifeform studied and plenty of down time between intergalactic jumps to compile and collate said data into intelligible format. It had been going on for the better part of a millennia, and over that vast span of time he had seen it all—creatures with traits and capabilities ranging from bizarre to wonderous…and all points in between. Yes, he’d thought he’d seen it all, every conceivable mutation of amazing and permutation of strange…until today.
…Until he’d seen the test results on abductee number 23.