Erinys wrote:Sometimes a Black Designation is given when a familiar enemy appears in an unfamiliar form.
Ok, this is (possibly) a strong hint here.
A familiar enemy, in an unfamiliar form.
So, let's put this simply, this is something we have already seen before. And if you want my opinion, this is probably not an AI, as the loas are already there, but would be most redundant already.
This leave two major possibilities:
A-A random encounter or grand menaces prove itself to be but the point of an incoming iceberg. This can be something that is already there, like the proteans, though something like the proteans feels unlikely as they have no Black designation yets nor has there been hints they are related to Black 21 either yet... though it may still be possible. Quite likely, it may be something we've already encountered in SOTS1 but has been absent sofar in SOTS2 for varied reasons. Good examples of this particular category would be the refugees, the Peacekeeper or the Puppetmaster. All SOTS1 encounters which have yet to return(were they "defeated", did they just "disapear" like the Refugees?).
B- Note the wording of "familiar in an unfamiliar form". Something familiar might not have made it on the black list, or be known for so long as to be barely considered a "Black" item anymore.
Like one of the current races. Which leaves two very strong contenders:
-The Silver Imperium, or the descendant of it's lost remnants at least, changed by distance and whatever made them disapear from known space altogether.
-Modified Hivers: It's been said that Hivers colonial efforts extended to before the development of gates at all. This generally ended in disaster, but similarly it was said some colonies might have survived. Now, it's also been said Hivers have a penchant for self-modifications when it comes to tackling new environment and challenges("under an unfamiliar form").
Similarly, a princess who is cut off from the Queen and other princesses long enough might also be able to evolve into a Queen herself.
And now... nothing say that if such a splinter group of Hivers, who would have evolved/modified themselves differently from other Hivers, evolved their own Queen... would stick to the One Queen Only rule of the traditional empire("The beginning of the End" would be a nice way of describing the conjoint invasion from the forces of not one, but -multiple- , possibly allied, space ages Hivers Queen who would have been able to develop their own fully fledged civilizations away from known spaces for hundred or thousands of years(depending on just how long hivers have been around in space). Recalling the first Hivers wars, imagine if you multiplied the whole of Hivers forces by two... or ten?).
I don't know for you, but I cannot help but picture the image of a swarm of Locusts coming to reap one's world of ressources to feeds their billions of hungry mouth.
Just food for thoughts. I cannot help but feel the Hivers hypothesis would have potential, but then that's just me liking this theory in general even after the Loas were proven as the new race for the current expansion.