Race: Code Walkers
Lifespan: Ordinary Descendants live for 30 days on average. Cannibals live for as long as they can feed themselves. Code Walkers with human hosts have their lifespans extended while living inside the human.
Code Walkers are a highly unique race in the fact that they do not have physical bodies, but they are not spiritual entities, either. Instead, they are a sentient digital race. Code Walkers are abundant inside computers, cell phones, game consoles, and anything else digital, warping easily from host to host through the air, and survive by eating data. Essentially, they’re like highly realistic Digimon.
While these similarities are standard for most variations of Code Walkers, the rest depends on what branch of the species they come from. The most dominant and abundant of the Code Walkers are a branch known as Descendants, named for being direct descendants of the first Code Walkers, rather than a mutant offshoot. Descendants are peaceful and hard to notice, as they typically eat only small bits of data at each host (digital appliance) they visit, which likely will not be missed, before warping to another host within range and continuing the pattern. While the range of their warping ability covers a decent 20-feet radius or so from their current host, it is impossible to warp out of a host that is deactivated, or, turned off, and the few who are unlucky enough to be trapped in one for lengthened periods of time are most often trapped for life, given that a Descendant’s lifespan is a mere month on average, or they may simply starve, as they run out of data to sustain themselves on. On the digital plain, they take on a very humanoid-esque form, often with various animal/alien/machine/just-about-anything augmentations. They just keep a humanoid shape.
However, in extreme cases, a dying/starving Descendant may be driven to cannibalism, attacking another of their kind, and feeding themselves off their data. When this happens, said Descendant mutates into a completely new branch, aptly named Cannibals. While the change can often be slow and gradual, Cannibals become less like sentient creatures and more like data-devouring beasts with each one of their kind they consume. To match, their digital bodies shift into more monstrous, beast-like creatures than their previous humanoid forms. Ordinary data becomes bland to them, and their new mind drives them to consume more of their kind; be it Descendants, or, rarely, other Cannibals. The more they eat, the more their body and mind mutate. The more their mind mutates, the more they’re driven to eat. It is a vicious, inescapable cycle, put in motion as soon as one claims their first victim. While the whole thing seems like something no Descendant would ever want to happen to them, it does allow them access to a longer life. A Cannibal does not age anymore- instead, they can live for as long as they can eat. They only die when they starve. So, to a Descendant facing death, some of the weaker-minded will indeed choose this option over dying with dignity.
Lastly, there is a branch of Code Walkers that is not quite its own species, but certainly makes for its own category; the ones that consort with humans*. Humans are a race that all Code Walkers are aware of, and one they both fear and revere, as they created the world they know. Additionally, Code Walkers can sense when a human is nearby, and have a sort of vague mind-reading ability to use on humans; they can sense their general emotions. Not exact thoughts, but emotions and general thought processes, at least. The thoughts they can pick up are clearer and more defined depending on how close the human is to the host that the Code Walker is residing in. However, in most cases, it is absolutely taboo to converse with a human. Descendants, and even most Cannibals, stay hidden and avoid human attention. But, there are a very rare few Descendants who break this unspoken law for whatever reason, and develop a friendship with a human, as it is possible for a Code Walker to speak telepathically to a human, as well as hear actual sounds (such as human speech) in the physical world. It is a rare thing, but, it can happen.
And in some cases, even rarer than just forming a friendship, a Code Walker manages to make the connection, somehow, and realize that the human brain itself is but another host that it is possible for them to enter. Like a giant supercomputer, also suspending a Code Walker’s lifespan so that they no longer age while inside a human. A Code Walker with a human host is fully aware of all their host’s thoughts, has access to their memories, can feed off of the human, and even take control of some of the host’s muscles. It is an extremely vulnerable state for the human. But, hopefully, the bond between human and Code Walker is one full of trust. If a Cannibal were to ever discover such a thing, however… the result would no doubt be disastrous.
*To a Code Walker, a “human” could actually mean a variety of races, not just true humans. A race that a Code Walker can sense, like they can an ordinary human, as well as sense the thoughts of, and enter as they would a human, might as well be a human, to them. It all boils down to whether or not a Code Walker can sense a particular race, and that depends on whether or not they have a ‘mortal brain’, like a human, as that is really the only thing they’re sensing. Non-human races that would still count include things like nekos, silvers, anthros, vampires, werewolves, etc, while races that they cannot sense and are essentially “blind” to (hardly being aware of their presence), would be creatures along the lines of angels, demons, ghosts, genies, microz, dieties, etc. More human-like races are counted as humans. It’s not overly complicated to see which side of the fence each race would fall on.