I recently read one of these “humans are weird” posts that mentioned that humans are not apex predators. We’re a 2.2 on a scale of 5. We’re not even the middle of the food chain. Level 3 is carnivores that eat herbivores. Level 4 is carnivores that eat other carnivores. Level 5 is the “apex predator”, which is any carnivore that has nothing that preys on it. We manage to be space orcs despite our low rank, which is impressive enough.
But given how heavily people modify their bodies with the technology we have now, with piercings and tattoos and even filing their teeth and getting horns grafted on, and given that we already can sometimes use the hearts of other animals when our hearts stop working, and given that science is already working on human/animal hybrids… what if we made ourselves a 5?
It wasn’t common, before we made first contact. There were humans who grafted on animal ears or tails for cosmetic reasons, and animal eyes were a popular ‘upgrade’. It wasn’t until we were exposed to the vastness of space and the staggering variety of deadly predators on other planets that invasive cross-species body-modification became a 'thing’.
The most common recipients of such procedures were explorers funded by a group seeking new planets to colonize; a full overhaul of your body didn’t come cheap, after all. But when you’re trying to prepare for a totally new environment, the best tool you can have is your own body.
At first glance, he didn’t look that different from most humans. His head was hairless, and appeared scaly, but it was assumed that it was one of those “tattoos” humans were fond of. He always wore clothing that covered him from neck to toe, even gloves, but that was also not unheard-of among humans. Germophobes and people who simply find themselves cold often tended to cover up like that.
So it wasn’t until several days into the expedition that the extent of his mods became apparent. He was leading the party through a trail in the strange, red-vine-choked jungle, when, without warning, a scaled, six-legged thing leapt from the underbrush, latching onto his shoulders with its forepaws and raking his torso with the other four paws.
For one horrible moment, the aliens were certain that they were all going to die. Then he balled his hands together and swung them up into the creature’s gut, flinging it off him. Tattered fabric fell from his shoulders, revealing that the scales on his head covered his entire torso, and it was immediately apparent that they were no mere tattoos.
Claws ripped through the fabric of his gloves as he rushed the winded beast, smashing his forehead against its muzzle. The blood that sprayed from the impact was not his.
When the forest was quiet, and the thing lay dead, one of the aliens plucked hesitantly at the sleeve of another of the humans in the expedition. "Human-Tess…" It paused a moment, trying to phrase the question politely despite the alarm ringing in its mind. "We were under the impression that humans were the only sapient species on your planet.“
Tess laughed. "Oh, he’s human. The company just sprung to give him a little extra, y'know?”
A little extra? Human+? Horror beyond description.