Anyhoo, in my book, the focus is on a race (or rather collective of races) known as the Funebrarans (this will likely be changed to something far easier to pronounce) or "Funebrarum" if referring to them as a whole (bro-points if you spot the reference). To keep it simple, they're large (averaging around six to seven feet tall) arthropod creatures, standing as men might stand, but bearing a bizarre, grotesque, and often repugnant physical features. In essence, they look like a mixture of WH40K's chaos space marines (mostly the really ugly possessed ones), classic late 80's/early 90's death metal artwork, and real life arthropods mixed in with the not-so-real hellish mutant nightmares many people have about them. These are actually the protagonists. In this setting, they are used as a elite military force, with their advanced biological/cybernetic integrated technology (noticeably further ahead of the curve than most of their contemporaries), extreme toughness, and a strange combat demeanour that is seemingly funereal/nihilistic, viciously barbarian, yet somehow eerily detached and controlled all at the same time. They're kind of like WH40K's space marines in a way, sans religious and spiritual dogma. Right, anyways, now onto the titular bit. You see, as tough as the arthropods are, they have a bit of a problem in the fact that first of all, they don't actually have a home world. Well sort of, their entire population lives in a large "hive fleet", the main points of which are the four massive "hive ships" which are around the size of small planets, albeit very ugly ones. This fleet essentially lives within space controlled by the Trans-Space Coalition (might have to change this as well), something equivalent to the Western World/NATO/possibly the U.N. although with various races/usually-dominant factions of races involved, humankind included. They are essentially the dominant military/political/socio-cultural force and the largest "empire" (well the largest one that actually works coherently). The T.S.C. however, isn't quite perfect and often finds itself dealing with a wide variety of border conflicts, insurgencies, rebellions, civil wars (occasionally inter-planetary) and so on. Although these are "smaller scale" conflicts as opposed to the very rare larger ones, this doesn't stop them from reaching a level of intensity that at times is equivalent to a world war. As tough as Coalition forces are, they do have their limits in terms of technology, experience, capabilities, and training as well numbers. Many of these conflicts tend to feature dissident/rebel/invading/etc. groups with increasingly more deadly training, weaponry, organization, and logistics support and when combined with their unconventional tactics, very tough nuts to crack. Yes, this is where the segmented killing machines come in, not surprisingly. The funebrarans however, aren't really "warlike" people inherently and neither are they blind to the fact that for the most part, they have pretty much nothing to do with any of these conflicts. While they aren't actually mercenaries and are used more like attack dogs, "on paperwork" what they're doing is officially certified, regulated, moderated, and treated as a specialized act of war. Now, this is where my problem really begins. Essentially, I'm trying to figure out how the Coalition/SPACENATO gets them to do their dirty work without making it overtly authoritarian/fascist. 1) I'm thinking that the T.S.C. essentially has an official "deal" with them that states that the first world they conquer essentially is the first world they will claim as their own. However, because they tend to fight alongside other Coalition factions with a generally higher sociopolitical and cultural standing in the eyes of many, be it civilian or bureaucrat, their bargain of the deal hasn't happened for over a thousand years. They will have had assisted in major battles but their roles were "supportive", "ancillary", or merely secondary to the greater "allied" push. I guess that adds an extra tinge of grimdark to things but it sounds sort of really difficult to imagine that happening continuously for that long even in a pseudo-40K-esque universe such as the one I'm trying to portray. 2) The other one I was thinking of was that in order for their society to continue functioning, they need food, money, equipment, and other such supplies from the outside world. However at the same time, I'm trying to portray the Hive Ships as small self-sufficient worlds with their own eco-systems, replicas or biological "excerpts" from a murky, unknown past and as such, actually have enough to keep their population levels going like an actual society. But maybe there are some things their world lacks and they can be strangle-held through the right paperwork, speeches, deals and such. There isn't much from the outside world they would really have a need for that they can't simply produce themselves, being more advanced than most of the main Coalition factions. 3) Perhaps their rights to their autonomy (or whatever little they have) are dependent upon their obedience and their performance in battle and all the supplies they get in reward is merely superficial/unnecessary front-page-press-fodder to make it seem as if they're buddy-buddy with the coalition. That essentially means the whole thing is a mere circus they can tout around to the rest of the universe to make it seem that while they do throw them into the mouth of hell itself, they're "rewarded" greatly for it. This could be linked to the first point about how However, I'm not sure how to make the Coalition act up when the Funebrarans aren't apparently doing their battle magic and failing to satisfy their masters. More importantly, do any of you have any ideas of your own that you think would actually be better than any of the above? We don't have to work solely with those three or mere variants of them. If you have anything new that's a complete departure from what I've said in the last few paragraphs, then by all means, please post it here. I don't really care if it's utterly insane and over-the-top, but as long as we can somehow find a way to make it work, I might just run with it. Mind you, the bugs are for the most part, pretty closed off from the rest of the universe. They are aware of it but they have no real trade relations with any outside factions and pretty much are kept isolated within their own fleet. The only ones that really get to experience the rest of the universe are the military, certain administrative figures, diplomats, I guess their "navy", but they're kept separated, almost quarantined, for paranoid, somewhat overly-cautious reasons.