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The Hive were a race of aliens from outside the Milky Way Galaxy. They originated from the Magellanic Clouds and started their exodus over half a million years ago when they were chased out of the Clouds by another, more warrior-like native race. This journey from the cloud to the galaxy was known to them as the Crossing.
They looked like humanoid armadillos, about the size of an adult Bajoran, with segmented shells covering their backs and skulls in varying shades of gray and brown which can curl into a fetal ball on reflex. They had long arms with 4 fingers, short legs, thick necks, long heads, lips on their mouths, snouts with 2 slit nostrils in front and large, expressive eyes. Small tufts of spiky hair protruded in clumps all across the non-shelled skin, and they did not wear clothing. They also had a thorax, a tail, a male and female gender, and more than one heart. They were not able to sit down, and their bodies would not have allowed them to sit in chairs like other humanoids. Instead they made use of board-like furniture with a protrusion sticking out two feet from the floor to lean on and rest upon.
There was a reference to them having Hatching years, which was probably when they gave birth all at once during specific times to keep the population growth under control instead of giving birth every day, due to them being in an enclosed society. And since it was called a "Hatching year", it is probably implied that they hatched from eggs.
Each generation of their species lasts about two hundred years, and the Hive ship has been around for two thousand seven hundred and sixteen generations, which is a half a million years. Some in later generations saw the first generation, or the "First Hive", as something akin to a deity, and they prayed to it as they would to a God. Each generation of the Hive had somewhat different ideals, with some whose beliefs and actions affected later generations more than others. For example, the Six Hundred and Fourth Hive thought that the stars outside the ship were illusions placed there to test their beliefs and that there was nothing out there, while future generations saw this as heresy.
They were ruled by the Hivemasters, with each one controlling a certain aspect in their society, such as security. In turn their leader was the Grand Master. They kept all of their information of the past in the Texts, which told the histories of the past generations, as well as held the sayings of their people and the plans for the Great Design.
The Hive species had a process called the Determination that chooses the career of an individual, in turn making them an adult. Those that had not done the process were still considered children and were not allowed to socialize with adult members of the opposite sex. Their concept of marriage was becoming "One" with each other, and stroking an individual's shell was a form of greeting. They were capable of great feats in engineering and scientific capability, and even a half a million years ago they were well endowed in fields such as astronomy, being able to detect specific areas from immense distances from the Milky Way Galaxy back to their home system.
Due to the fact that the species spent countless centuries in their large starship known as the Hive, the Hive species became agoraphobic and were incapable of living in open large spaces or on planets without retreating into their protective shells; looking at the stars in space terrified most of the population, except for those who were astronomers. They had a low opinion of species who lived on planets, believing them to be insane, and had a brighter opinion about those who live on space stations. This was due to their views of natural progression; life begins in the oceans, then moves to land, and then to space. To remain in any one place is counter to their natural reason. But they also believed themselves to be a peaceful race, only defending themselves when they were being attacked first. However, their actions seem to instigate others into attacking first.
Aside from their Hive ship, they also had dart-shaped attack ships that attacked in pairs using monofilament webbing between each ship to slice up enemy craft. The ships also had torpedoes with monofilament in them that has the same result.
To obtain materials for their voyage through space they strip mined planets. This included inhabited planets. It was all for the Great Design, a plan to ensure the survival of the species. Originally the Hive ship was supposed to enter the galaxy and terraform an uninhabited planet to live on. However, the original plans were lost during the Two Hundred and Third Hive, when rebellious mutineers planned to change the Texts and alter the Great Design. This led to a lot of fighting, with the rebels supposedly defeated but in actuality the Texts were secretly altered. Since then there had never been open rebellion against the authority of the Hivemasters.
Instead of finding an uninhabited planet, they would find a planet that was inhabitable and take it's resources. It did not matter if it was inhabited. Transporters would be used to take up any noticeable resources such as plant matter, animals, and inorganic materials visible on the surface. After that, the ship would break the planet up for the rest. Then, using the resources, the Hive ship would split in two and head in two different directions to find two more inhabited planets to take from. After that, one ship would leave to go to another galaxy while the other stays and, every thousand years, take resources and split into two ships again.
In 2371, they first reached Darane IV and took its resources, which ended up killing most of the Bajoran colonists living there. Then they reached Bajor, and demanded that the Bajorans leave. One half of the Hive ship was destroyed fighting the Cardassians. After it was discovered that the plans for the Great Design had been altered, the original plans were corrected and terraformed Darane III to live on, and the entire population was transported to the planet, much to the sudden horror of most of the population. (DS9 novel: Objective: Bajor)