A shog, a polymorphic, gelatinous vec with a wide range of capabilities
The Shogs are a Metasoftvec clade derived from gelbots. Since the invention of gelbots in the post first-fed era sophont versions have appeared sporadically as individual vecs chose to augment themselves with omnitool technology. The Shogs however were the first fully fleshed-out clade, created by Metasoft engineers during the Version War (though records show they had little involvement with the war effort).
Physically Shogs possess all the typical characteristics of gelbots. Their bodies are a shape shifting mass comprised of many different types of smart matter. The diversity of smart matter allows for a plethora of subsystems and tissue types optimised for different conditions. Forge Integrated Technologies (FITs) embedded within the mass allow for the ratio and type of matter to be adjusted as well as maintained and added to. Along with FITs Shogs contain hundreds of embedded constructs that, when unpacked and activated, provide a variety of metabolic, sensory and tool functions. Shogs take full advantage of their polymorphic nature frequently changing their shape, size and colouring as well as customising limb number and type. Given their polymorphic nature there is no default appearance of a Shog. They can appear in all shapes, sizes and appearances. In addition Shogs in a particular region will tend to adopt some similarities whether it be movement type, colouring or shape, this is usually for cultural reasons. Despite this there are general trends of appearance, Shogs at rest will commonly spread out over whatever object they are resting on, adopting a "melted" form. This is particularly common when resting on induction trees for charging their internal batteries. Surface colour and patterning often alters to contrast the colour of the surrounding environment though it is not entirely clear why exactly. Drifting lazily on their surface will be a variety of sensory platforms, some extended on stalks, and a few tentacled limbs may be present if they need to operate anything.
From their very beginning the Shogs were created with a relatively unusual mind type. Whilst a Shog of sufficient size is sophont their fundamental capacity for individuality is transient. Two Shogs can readily merge together into a larger being both physically and mentally. Likewise a Shog can split into multiple versions each taking a general or specialised set of physical and mental characteristics.
Cultures and Colonies
Unsurprisingly given their origins Shog culture has strong themes surrounding creation and manufacturing. Shogs rarely use assemblers, bots or other automation in their projects. Rather they place high importance on building things themselves, either individually, as a group or a hazy combination of the two. Their social practices mirror their physical forms: transient and vague. Family, friends and colleagues are all terms difficult to express in Shog languages. Similar to hive minds Shogs have a blurred view of themselves as individuals and their entire clade. There is no direct translation for concepts such as "we" or "our". Instead when expressed in Anglic a Shog will seem to say "I" and "Mine" in both an individual and plural sense (often translated to "I(me)" or "I(we)" by Shog to Anglic translators). Sophontological studies show that hive mind societies maintain easier relationships with the Shogs, sometimes even clear friendships. Mediation via loose hive minds reveal that the Shogs understand but have difficulty relating to "Ossies", a term translated (as best as possible) by hive Shal-Thal-Dhal. Derived from the old Anglic "Ossified" it relates to how the Shog view clades with strongly individualistic mentalities. To them Ossies seem incredibly limited and static, only informed by one lineage of mind with limited ability to change, adapt and gain historical experience.
The various colonies of the Shog throughout Metasoft space and beyond consist mostly of highly convoluted arcologies. Spires, tunnels, halls and art work of all shapes and sizes (from kilometres down to the milliscale) are arranged in chaotic fashion. Many sophont cultures find something eerily beautiful about these cities. Seemingly preferring static over dynamic art the Shogs decorate their spaces with many sculptures, paintings, dioramas and frescos. Analysis of the artwork reveals a broad range of inspirations from historical events to personal experiences (which through body splitting and merging become widespread). Most however tends towards the abstract.
Despite their penchant for personal work some infrastructure in Shog cities is maintained through non-sophont means. Rather than employ common automation however Shogs prefer to bud off sub-sophont parts of themselves that will mindlessly undertake whatever assigned task they are given. This behaviour can give their arcologies a biological look with skeletal infrastructure supporting webs, pools nodules of dedicated Shog material.
As with many clades Shogs can be found exploring and living in other polities and cultures. Unusually Shogs have rigorous rituals surrounding leaving their homes. A Shog that travels the wider Galaxy is seemingly created for that purpose. A group of Shogs, sometimes many hundreds, will bud off a tiny amount of their body, these small amounts will go on to form a sufficient mass for sophonce. This new individual is known as a Traveller and will proceed to head off for foreign lands. When questioned Travellers rarely have a plan of where to go or how long to be away for. Eventually though they will return and upon their arrival home immediately break apart into thousands of discrete pieces to be absorbed by nearby Shogs.
The Tau-66a/Shining.Light/ Conflict
Shog numbers were low for the first few thousand years after their inception. Their first major growth came during the Second Vec War. Unlike their experience in the Version War here the Shogs would play a role, albeit minor. Many Shog cities reorganised themselves into vast manufacturers, dedicated to the construction of material for the Standardist war effort. Of note was the Shog world of Perfect Six, the world being particularly rich in resources the population worked to litter much of the surface in mines, quarries and magway lines. Along the equator several hundred space elevators led to an orbital ring in geosynchronous orbit. The entire ring could be said to be one giant Shog; measuring 290,000km in circumference, 10km in diameter. The ring was hollow save for scaffolding and partitions that would fill it as needed. 1% of the volume of the 100m thick wall was given over to assemblers, at full capacity the ring could manufacture 90 trillion kilograms of goods per hour (a number dwarfing the peacetime industrial capacity of most systems but was barely a drop in the ocean in the Standardist war machine).
By the end of the conflict efforts were made to rebuild, as part of this new beamrider links were laid down to link systems isolated during the war. It was at this time that Shog envoys from Perfect Six (now in the process of dismantling itself) were sent to the isolated system of Tau-66a/Shining.Light/. The system had been cut off from Metasoft society near the start of hostilities, some three centuries before. It was not noted as important by most organisations of the time that this was the longest any population of Shog had been separated from merging with any other. This was soon to jump to the forefront of Empire wide news when reports returned from Tau-66a/Shining.Light/ seemingly showing a huge conflict breaking out in the Shog population. Clear data has never been available but an account from a surviving witness claimed that upon arrival the envoys broke into separate units and merged with the local Shogs. The locals then went on to exhibit a higher than usual level of splits and mergers, presumably to spread the envoy material around. Within a day of this happening it was clear something was wrong, individual Shogs were seen to "strain against themselves". Shogs would violently split into multiple pieces (some formed so poorly they were little more than crippled) which then went on to fight each other. Other survivors in the system acted to protect themselves, using their defences to keep the Shogs out of populated areas. Intervention was attempted but failed, the Shogs represented the bulk of industrial capacity in the system and seemed intent on using it all to destroy themselves. Over a period of two million seconds the Shog society tore itself apart, little more was left but the rubble of their cities.
No clear theory of why this occurred has been confirmed, by the Shogs or anyone else. The most popular hypothesis is that the long term isolation caused the two populations to diverge so much that attempting to merge generated a violently suicidal psychosis. Critics of this theory point to the design of Shogs as being more resilient as this, in addition the vastly asymmetric quantity of locals compared to the envoys should have diluted any psychotic stimulus. Since this time no event like this has occured and the Shogs themselves decline to speak of it (save for some examples of artwork that hints at the event).