This article or section is from the VOREstation wiki.
This lore is from the VOREstation wiki.
- 1 IC Lore
- 2 Common IC knowledge
- 3 OOC lore (not IC knowledge)
- 4 Roleplaying a xenochimera
- 5 Traits and Abilities
An extraterrestrial colony organism, xenochimera are unusual in that they have no real defining physiology of their own - effectively, xenochimera mimic other beings, or parts of other beings, by consuming them and mutating their own cellular structure to imitate whatever evolutionary advantages they may find.
On the cellular level, these creatures are composed of a hive of microscopic organisms - these form the basis of the majority of their bodily systems. When they feed on another being, effectively these organisms will consume the prey like a flesh-eating bacteria, rather than the more typical acidic digestion used by many other species (note: that doesn't mean that a particular example of the species hasn't found that a traditional stomach is a desirable evolutionary trait to copy) and, once having consumed enough, the cells will split, possibly mutating to mimic that which was eaten, and assimilate themselves into the rest of the hive. Individual chimera cells are capable of rudimentary communication with their neighbours, forming a sort of primitive neural network, but are not capable of anything resembling intelligence beyond primitive survival instinct. Effectively, the default state of a xenochimera is an order of intelligence on a par with an ant colony - not an individual ant but the colony itself, driven by little more than to survive at all costs.
That is, unless they manage to assimilate and mimic something with a complex nervous system. At this point, provided that the hive successfully copies it, they can find themselves awakening to a greater degree of understanding than they have ever managed before - however, they are still the colony when all is said and done, and pressing survival needs will override whatever refined thoughts they may hold in their heads, leaving them generally prone to panic and fight-or-flight responses in extremely stressful situations, when injured or damaged, or driven to feed when hungry. The most common term used to describe a xenochimera that has reverted to primitive instinct in this manner is "feral".
Xenochimera do not reproduce sexually. Genetic diversity is attained through their diet, making the evolutionary advantages of mating a somewhat moot point. Typically, their digestive, immune, and reproductive systems are all one and the same - individual cells within the colony locate foreign cellular material, consume it, and then split into more chimera cells. The process by which new colonies are formed is not wholly understood, though exposing a laboratory mouse to a suitably large dose of chimera cells has resulted in the mouse being consumed and the resulting cellular mass forming into a proto-mouse copy. Either way, typically reproductive organs are absent from xenochimera colonies as they serve no useful purpose to them.
In most cases medical treatment is fairly standard as the colonies are mimicking the basic physiology of other species - if they are leaking fluids, then bandage them as normal. If they are poisoned, administer the usual pharmacy treatments. If they have suffered organ damage, provide surgical treatment. However, it should be noted that their bizarre genetic structure is completely incomprehensible to all available cloning technology. They are rather hardy creatures, though, and even if a colony is damaged to the extent that it appears "dead", as long as there is still some viable material present they can likely be revived, in a fashion, by injecting the body with a concentrated nutrient solution to prompt whatever remaining living cells are present to come out of hibernation and go about regrowing themselves. The process is not pretty, as the colony will effectively cannibalise any unviable biomass and grow a new body from scratch. This process can take anything from minutes to weeks, depending on the extent of the damage, and is extremely draining on the colony's resources - they will most likely be in a feral state when they emerge, and will almost certainly be suffering from neural degradation as a result of the trauma. Regrowing and repairing nervous tissue is extremely troublesome for them, and a colony that has suffered neural damage will often require an extensive period of recuperation and hibernation to come even close to fixing it themselves.
Typically, a colony will do whatever it can to avoid the need for such drastic measures - extremely stressful situations will prompt them to adapt on the fly in an attempt to minimise damage in whatever way they can - as one enterprising tajara scientist found out, even to the point of mimicking a host's own cells and hiding within their body, leading to some speculation among xenobiologists that the ability to hide inside a host from any potential immune responses may have even been the original evolutionary purpose of their cellular mimicry (the scientist suffered no ill-effects, though was quoted as saying "She will find otherr mice outside the lab to eat next time.")
Xenochimeras can be extremely voracious, especially when in a feral state due to hunger. While in this state, they will be unable to use most objects; primarily guns and other "advanced" items. A feral xenochimera is not always identifiable at first glance (even in their more lucid moments, they have a tendency to display instinctive behaviour, sometimes even the instincts of whatever creatures they are composed of), but can usually be spotted upon closer examination. The only way to get a feral xenochimera out of this feral state is to remove whatever source of stress is driving them into a feral state in the first place - if they are hungry, feed them - and be aware that the majority are obligate carnivores, and the closer the meat is to being alive, the better. If they are panicking, remove whatever is scaring them. If they are injured, let them heal. An entire crew descending on them to rubberneck will often elicit the same response that one would get from any cornered and frightened animal.
If there are offshoots of the species as a whole, nobody has yet managed to identify them. Due to the wide range of diversity within the species, even if a specimen were to be obtained, it would be near-impossible to conclusively show that they were a different sub-species and not just another colony. For instance, it has been suggested that another species, dubbed "endochimera" is a genetic offshoot, while others believe they evolved independently and are another species entirely despite the superficial similarities.
Despite some similarities, particularly details like "eating someone's genes and copying them", they are not the spacer legends known as changelings - mimicking a particular person outright is far beyond their capabilities. At most, they might be able to pass as a particular species at a distance if they keep their hybridisation to a minimum.
Home planet: Not known, presumed no longer extant
Home system: Not known, suspected to originate from Norma Arm, somewhere between Virgo-Erigone and the galactic core.
The origins of xenochimera are presently unknown - xenochimera biomass has been found frozen in space, buried in asteroids, and in rare cases mistaken for fossils in xenoarchaeological digs, with at several examples of such a creature making planetfall in a meteorite - although it could be better described as a "seed" than a "creature" at that point. The majority has been found in asteroids that have been captured by stellar and planetary gravity wells - theoretically, more may be found in interstellar space, but due to the use of bluespace drives to cover such distances, any FTL-capable craft will simply bypass them.
Known planets that have experienced landfall tend to be found in the Scutum-Centaurus Arm, and the clustering suggests an impact in the Virgo-Erigone system is possible. Asteroids, but no (presently known) planetary impacts have been traced further out towards the edges of the galaxy, implying a point of origin further towards the core. So far, no impacts or asteroids have been reported around Sol or the Orion Spur, where human traffic is heaviest. Limited human exploration has lead to no data being available on the Norma Arm or much further past Virgo-Erigone.
The first known encounter with xenochimera biomass was the survey ship Roanoake, which suffered a meteoroid impact in 2382 while traversing the Scutum-Centaurus arm on a course 30 degrees from the Sol-A* axis. This is visible on the map to the right as a red dot on the edge of the shaded area. The crew of the vessel apparently scuttled the ship after contracting an unknown contagion after the impact, and being far beyond settled space at the time, set the ship on a deorbital trajectory and ejected the black box rather than risk infecting would-be rescuers. In 2437, a mining colony encountered a disease with similar symptoms, but the connection was not made until 2456 when a third site reported a similar contagion and samples could be compared, revealing that the same microorganisms were present in asteroids many thousands of light years apart. A survey was sent to the Roanoake's last known coordinates, and samples taken from comets in the area confirmed them to be the same disease, now titled Roanoake Syndrome. Laboratory testing shows that the organisms are capable of mimicking other microbes, but are too unpredictable to be useful in medical applications.
It was not until 2514 that a macroorganism was discovered that appeared to be an asymptomatic carrier of Roanoake Syndrome - no other species like it could be found in the area, though it had hybrid characteristics of several indigenous life-forms. Further study revealed that every cell in its body was a Roanoake microbe mimicking the function of its counterpart cells - due to its hybrid nature, the creature was designated as "Xeno-Chimera 1". Within three years, the first artifically-created macroorganism was created in a lab, a hybrid of a white mouse and a cockroach. Such "Roanoake-hybrids" remained a xenobiological curiosity with few practical benefits due to the unpredictability of the results, though effective treatments were developed to screen for and prevent Roanoake Syndrome from becoming a threat.
In 2542, the first positive identification was made of a Roanoake-Hybrid derived from a sapient species, showing signs of having crudely, but effectively, replicated the capability for intelligence. As a result of this discovery, the species is officially designated as "Xenochimera", after the name assigned to the first known example. Other xenochimera specimens are subsequently identified, some of which had been living scattered among frontier settlements for some time. In most cases they were known to be some sort of unusual lifeform but their exact nature or the connection was previously unknown.
Present theories suggest a catastrophic impact of some kind that shattered their planet of origin and scattered the biosphere and topsoil into deep space - denser areas of the galaxy such as the core and major arms are considered likely to experience such impacts with greater frequency than those on the outer arms. As for the vast distances involved between the furthest discovered examples, it's projected that such an impact occurred relatively recently in astronomical terms - possibly younger than the Chicxulub impact - but certainly before present space-faring civilisations were around. However, it is unclear how any biomass could have survived such an impact itself, certainly one capable of imparting enough velocity to escape the gravity well of its star, never mind traverse such vast interstellar distances while remaining viable. Other hypotheses include the possibility of a close encounter with a rogue planet, possibly even a black hole, passing close enough to send it on a slingshot course out of orbit - such an encounter would certainly be capable of breaking the planet apart due to tidal forces. So far, no theory has come close to being definitively proven.
The most recent discovery of xenochimera material was on the outskirts of the Virgo-Erigone system, where an asteroid struck the rear of a hauling ship as it was completing a jump. The asteroid was composed of flash-frozen topsoil-like material with roots and other plant-matter present along with fibrous, fungus-like threads of xenochimera cells, and geologically appears far too young to have drifted any kind of interstellar distance - bubbles of nitrogen-oxygen air and water were found throughout the asteroid, suggesting that it had only been in space for months rather than the multiple millennia it would take to drift from another star. The only clue as to how it got there was an exceptionally high Alden-Sarapova particle count, indicating heavy bluespace exposure.
Common IC knowledge
OOC note: You're under no obligation to put yourself in harm's way to calm a xenochimera. As far as NT is concerned, it's the xenochimera's problem to avoid feral triggers.
Xenochimera are something of an unusual race, even by the standards of the various things that show up on station. Actually, that's probably an understatement. Xenochimera are weird. Most of the information on this page is not going to be known IC to characters who haven't had any interaction with xenochimera before.
If your character is experienced in xenobiology, it's likely that they've read about them in journals. Likewise, medical staff may have read about some of the bizarre creatures they may have to treat, and security have briefing materials available about working with potentially feral crewmembers.
Rumour has it that blending a good supply of meat (such as some steak) with a nervous system depressant (such as a shot of whisky) has been known to calm them down when they get into their little moods, even more so than may be expected from feeding them what effectively amounts to an entire pint of prime beef. The problem is getting them to hold still and drink it. Enterprising bartenders have nicknamed this concoction the Monster Tamer. Apparently it's popular with other carnivorous species too.
If your character is a xenobiologist, most of the information in the above section can be researched or looked up in the various scientific journals that deal with weird alien life, and getting one to voluntarily sit still for experimentation is something that most biologists with a passion for their work would jump at. It should be noted that NanoTrasen (and indeed, most larger organizations in civilized space that have to care about PR) do not condone non-consensual biological or medical testing on sentient life. Officially.
Medical staff will have information available to them on any unusual species that might be brought into the sick bay. Fortunately, xenochimera being what they are, medical staff will often have an easier time keeping them alive than they do with less hardy lifeforms. Those with training in Virology will likely be aware of the medical term "Roanoake Syndrome" for a crewmember that has been infected with primordial chimera matter, but modern medical treatments are capable of bringing such an infection under control rather handily - simple spaceacillin treatment has proven effective at putting a Roanoake infection into remission.
Xenochimera are generally identical to other biological crew when it comes to most medical treatment, with the exception that they are immune to infections. Low body temperatures put them into a torpid state, however, so if you resort to using the cryocells, don't expect much sense out of them afterwards.
Xenochimera bodies cannot be grown artificially (such as by the sleeve pod) nor can their bodies be defibrillated, however they can regenerate themselves, even from "death", though they may need assistance. If a member of medical encounters a passed-out or apparently-deceased xenochimera, check the following:
- If they're alive, and in no danger of dying in the immediate future, just leave them to it. Move them somewhere with a moppable floor such as a patient room.
- If they're dying, attempt to stabilize. Once the patient is stable, but doesn't seem to resume consciousness, see above.
- If they're dead, or die during the above, they will need additional nutrition in order to revive. Inject them with 15 units of animal protein. If this is unavailable, 30 units of nutriment will suffice. Double the quantities if taken orally. Once the patient has been supplied with appropriate nutrition, the process can be accelerated further - 5 units of Clonexadone, and an equal quantity of Monster Tamer, if allowed to mix in the bloodstream, have been known to react and force a regenerative response.
Security staff that have been assigned to a station with xenochimera on the crew will have basic briefing materials available to them on how to handle the crewmember in question's feral tendencies.
The most common contributing factors for a feral episode are hunger, pain, injury, and (rarely) overstimulation. One can be a contributing factor to the others - a starving chimera is less likely to retain its composure while hurt, for example. It should be noted that tasers and other stun weapons hurt a lot. The energy net mode of a "Hunter" capture gun, not so much. A syringe (or slab of meat) full of soporific won't hurt at all. That's not to say a taser won't drop them (it will), but you won't get much sense out of them until they've calmed down.
Otherwise, the best way to neutralise any threat posed by a feral chimera is to remove whatever is agitating them in the first place. If they're injured then they're more likely to run off and hide somewhere, in which case they're only a threat if people provoke them. If they're hungry, leave some food around the place
or find a volunteer. If someone's fed them a quadruple-espresso, you may be in for an interesting time until they stop vibrating.
OOC lore (not IC knowledge)
What with their planet of origin not being known to NT (and quite probably no longer around - the most commonly accepted theory is that wherever they came from was involved in some sort of impact with another celestial body) there are a lot of details about the species that are simply... not known in-character. Not for certain. After all, the discovery that they could be sapient at all was a discovery made only a couple of decades ago, and that was just one example. Others have popped up in the meantime now people know to look for them, with the occasional example of one that far-flung colonists had known for years, who'd just been passed off as some sort of mutant or alien because it never occured to anyone that those hybrid-things that scientists play with might be capable of holding a conversation with you. Stories like that tended to be more common in seedier frontier colonies where nobody really questions why the visiting "free traders" have an arthropod as their first mate.
Myths and Rumours
As with anything else, when people don't know about something, they're inclined to open their mouths and say stuff anyway. While the speed of information has finally managed to break the light barrier thanks to the development of bluespace drives, somehow misinformation always manages to find a whole new set of physical laws to break.
A xenochimera could eat an entire planet's biosphere!
Well, one thing to remember here is that planets are big. Like, really, really big. Huge, really. Even if one were inclined to do so, this is something that would take them a very, very long time to accomplish, on the order of millennia, and would run into very definite limits, such as simply reaching the physical limit of the size of body they can sustain. The inverse cube law still applies to xenochimera, and the bigger the body they attempt to grow, the more energy it would need to sustain itself. It would need even more energy to sustain a body that was mobile enough to hunt. In reality, a chimera of this size would simply starve and expire before it came even close to depleting a planet's biomass.
The largest sustainable form that a xenochimera could adopt would likely be a life form on the order of something like a Honey Fungus - not exactly the rampaging monster that people imagine. A xenochimera this size might reach the complexity to form rudimentary intelligence on its own without having to copy a brain, though the transmission delays resulting from its size would make it a very slow intelligence.
They can come back from a single cell!
Eh. A single cell, if fed, might be enough to grow a new one, but it won't be the same one. It'd be "them" in the sense that taking a biopsy of a human's leg and cloning the cells there would be "that human", except there's probably even less resemblance. If they're minced or incinerated or cremated or gibbed
or dissolved in acid and enzymes, that's just as lethal to them as it is to anyone else, and if there isn't a brain left for them to recover their memories or personality from, it's better to think of anything that does happen to grow out of whatever few cells remain viable as a completely newborn creature. NT policy is to give them mindscans just like anyone else.
They can grow a new body in minutes, completely perfect!
Growing a body properly takes ages. Days, if not weeks, in hibernation. It's the kind of thing they take time off to do, cocooned in their habitat like a pupating caterpillar. Xenochimera are typically very reclusive when it comes to this sort of process as it's a rather vulnerable state to be in, and requires gorging themselves on food beforehand. While they can grow a new body in a matter of minutes, these bodies are... far from perfect. Sure, they'll work in the short term, but as one might expect for something that they're throwing together in an emergency under an immense time-pressure, it'll be flawed. Maybe not in an immediately apparent way, but there will be mistakes. Usually these mistakes manifest in the form of what, for any other species, would be considered congenital defects. Malignant tumours tend to be another manifestation of these flaws, and while the chimera can keep them in check by cannibalising the cells as and when they pop up, they'll want to do the job properly as soon as it's safe to do so.
Roleplaying a xenochimera
Going feral is not a license to start randomly attacking people. Deliberately doing so again and again for an excuse to lash out at others is grounds for revoking the whitelist.
The short way of putting this is that typically, xenochimera are odd. Even the more lucid specimens have very strong instincts, even when they're not snapping and eating anything that moves. Not really voices in the back of their head, but definitely... urges. It takes willpower to keep these urges in check and pretend to be anything resembling a civilized member of society.
The first thing to bear in mind is that they are what they eat. Literally. They eat stuff, then the bits of that stuff they like is replicated, forming a hybrid of their prey. And they are not a sapient species by default. In order to attain that lofty status, they had to get a complex nervous system from somewhere - this fact alone is likely to mean that a xenochimera is likely to have been shunned in most parts of the galaxy simply for existing, as the simple fact that they're walking on two legs and talking means at least one sentient creature has been part of their diet at some point in the past.
That's not to say that a xenochimera can't be civilized, depending on their upbringing. One raised by the skrell or diona may well have been given some instruction in keeping their urges at bay, through meditation or other such mental discipline. It's entirely feasible for a chimera to, say, take full responsibility for the fact that their sentience was only possible with the consumption of another being, and to take steps to make amends for this. It's equally likely that they just won't care and figure it was just another meal, especially if they're hanging around the parts of the galaxy where people eating each other is seen as a pretty normal thing to be doing.
They're not a great species to play if you're wanting to get into ERP. The concept is somewhat alien to them (and in some cases, deemed rather silly) - considering that they literally reproduce by killing something and spewing a bunch of flesh-eating microbes onto it, such niceties as "sex" are somewhat beyond them. They may have picked up and replicated some instincts from whatever creatures they're primarily composed of, however, or may have unwittingly incorporated a pleasure response to something or other into their brains, so it's not completely beyond them, it just doesn't serve much of a reproductive purpose.
Xenochimera go feral when subjected to stress factors - notably: pain, jitteriness, and hunger. You'll get a big red warning when this happens, along with occasional nudge messages to remind you of your state. You'll twitch, and you'll hallucinate - this isn't so much a "bugs coming out of the walls" crazy, it's more of a "the station is a strange, alien place that your instincts can't fully comprehend" situation. Ideally, you'll want to retreat and hide somewhere, preferably somewhere dark. If the light level is low enough, the hallucinations will stop, but you won't start to come out of your feral state until all stress factors have been resolved. As a rule, it takes less pain/hunger to keep a xenochimera feral than it does to make them feral.
In order to keep from interfering with scenes, these hallucinations will cease when you have someone on your screen, but you'll still get periodic nag messages.
The main piece of advice from a roleplaying perspective is that when you're feral, you are an animal. Not some wildly aggressive, pain-ignoring killing machine that laughs at danger, just an animal. Usually a rather scared, possibly wounded, possibly hungry animal in a strange, unnatural place. You're going to want to hide. You're going to want to eat. You're going to be scared by loud noises and large crowds. Pain will definitely motivate you. Displays of aggression will provoke a fight-or-flight response, or displays of your own. Technology will seem strange and complicated and you're not likely to be doing anything fancy like operating computers or hacking doors, even guns will be more of a "see this in someone's hand and you'll sorta be aware that you're about to have a really bad time" thing than actually knowing what it is or how to use one.
tl;dr - you're a wild animal. Act like one.
Resleeving and off-site cloning
Their unusual biology is beyond the abilities of a body-printer, but a mind-scan is perfectly capable of recording them (even if their bodies do tend to spit out the implants as a foreign body). Fortunately, being as difficult as they are to actually kill off completely, as long as there's enough left of the body to scrape into a jar - including being completely blown to pieces or forced through an industrial shredder - what's left of them can be used to seed the growth of a new body suitable for re-implanting a mind-scan. This is, however, a lengthy process - if they get gibbed, they're not coming back in the same shift, or possibly even in the same week depending on how badly central screw it up. As an absolute last resort, the same off-site mind-scan facilities are available to xenochimera as to other crew in the event of total bodily destruction, even if CentCom forgot to keep a tissue sample on ice and they have to spend a few days as a synth rooting around in their apartment for an old skin or whatever. If there's still a corpse but they're not revived on-site, CentCom's current procedure is to toss the body into a bathtub of meat and let it sort itself out.
Many xenochimera experience discomfort when sleeved into a non-xenochimera body, with the feeling that something of them is "missing" - even if they can achieve a certain clarity of thought that isn't possible with their more feral instincts constantly gnawing at them, it feels wrong somehow - psychiatrists have noted similarities to extreme cases of body dysmorphia.
Life Cycle and reproduction
A younger chimera will typically grow from whatever biomass is available. They can start off from cast-offs of another chimera, infections of chimera cells in a living host, or occasionally, still-viable chimera cells will make contact with life-bearing planets (or vessels) via meteorite/asteroid impact. The latter appears to be the manner in which xenochimera reached this sector of the galaxy - to date, nobody has been able to determine a point of origin, or even estimate how long they've been drifting through interstellar space.
Once grown into a mobile life form, the chimera will be driven by the singular instinct to survive and evolve, which will entail consuming whatever it can get its various limbs on. Whether they successfully capture and mimic a sentient neural structure or not, this early stage typically involves a flurry of rapid change and mutation as each new thing is incorporated into it - rather like the early fossil records on Earth, where evolution seemed to throw all sorts of crazy ideas out there to see what would work. Even sentient chimera are prone to experimenting with their bodies at this young stage, as they try out different traits and tweaks just to see what they like, though they typically end up stabilizing once they've found a formula that works for them.
The process of regrowing and mutating their bodies comes naturally to them, and will usually take place while the chimera is resting. Their body will simply cannibalise any parts that are no longer required, and grow new ones in its place. For drastic changes, or when severely damaged, they may hibernate while their entire body reverts into a base cellular state (save the outer skin) and regrows into the new form - rather like an earth caterpillar.
While xenochimera are technically androgynous, those that have been raised by other cultures (typically, most sentient examples) may end up adopting a gender identity just for the sake of convenience and/or fitting in. While it serves no real biological purpose to them, there are examples of chimera mimicking sexual dimorphism, such as a "female" growing breasts purely for the sake of signalling their identity to their host species. Others simply do not bother, or consider themselves so different that gender is irrelevant: a typical human cannot always tell a tomcat from a queen at a distance, after all.
Once a chimera colony is sufficiently mature, it may seek to split or reproduce. This is usually a simple matter of casting off some of its own biomass and letting it grow independently of its own body. Usually some feedstock is required. As with a lot of chimera biology, the process is rather unpleasant to most civilised species and will typically entail hunting and killing another creature then seeding the fresh cadaver with chimera cells (read: vomiting on it). Given time, the chimera cells will consume the donor mass and proceed to mutate into a new creature.
If a chimera approaches someone in a seductive manner and propositions them with a chance of reproductive acts, therefore, it is recommended that they get a mind/body scan in medbay before accepting. Worth it? Well, we're not going to judge.
Traits and Abilities
Xenochimera have a few buttons in the "abilities" tab. Most of these are identical to those available as traits on custom species, but there are a couple of unique aspects:
Xenochimera really don't give a shit about things like "germs", given what they are. Cold temperatures will make them uncomfortable and slow, though will not deal any permanent damage. While low pressure environments will cause them some problems and possible organ damage while they're up and active, they are completely spaceworthy while hibernating.
This verb is found on the "Abilities" tab.
Something of a last resort ability - when someone mentions their ability to "regenerate", this is probably what they're talking about. In short, the chimera goes into a state of hibernation, rebuilding an intact body for themselves from the ground up (except for their outer skin, which is left in place for them to grow a new body inside, then discarded).
Using this ability will bring up a confirmation box to ask you whether you really want to go through with it, and tell you how long it will take. The time taken is dependent on your nutrition level - hungry characters take longer to regenerate, but the range is between 4 and 20 real-life minutes. This is considerably slower than resleeving.
Upon confirmation, the following will occur:
- Your character will be paralysed immediately. While you're not put into the "sleep" state, this is only to avoid interfering in scenes.
- Any internal bleeding you might be suffering from will cease, just so you won't die from it while regenerating.
- You will cease to require oxygen. A hibernating chimera is effectively spaceworthy, but pretty much unable to act. Calling for help and mashing the button to put yourself into stasis until help arrives is a perfectly valid use of this ability.
Once the timer has elapsed, you will receive a notification and the "hatch" verb will appear in your abilities panel. Press it to complete the process of regenerating.
- You'll burst out of your old skin with a horrible and obvious message, splatting gore everywhere. Oh, and you'll drop your clothing.
- Your character will be immediately healed of all injuries and maladies. You'll even have your markings set in accordance with your save file. Yes, you can adjust your character's appearance to an extent, save the character slot, then regenerate to grow yourself a new set of stripes or whatever.
- Your nutrition value will be cut in half.
- A cooldown of one hour will be applied to reconstituting yourself again.
Note: if you actually die, either before hitting the button or before you finish hatching, the process will abort. You'll need protein/nutriment in your system to continue - Injecting 15 units of protein is enough. Double the quantities for other nutriment sources, and double again for ingested rather than injected.