Goons (Royal: Rowe), officially known as hivemind-augmented soldiers, are a group of artificially altered humans created primarily to serve as disposable troops for an eventual invasion of the Dark Canopy. Following a series of revolts incited by a goon known simply as Ogibi in Geran Year 1795, the head of the Goons' development, Darfler, was sent into hiding, and hundreds of thousands of goons escaped their compounds in Efsisi. The vast majority of Goons ended up in the southern Bread Bin, where a series of settlements consisting mostly of goons consolidated to form an entity dubbed Goontown.
Following the failure of the cyberzinic ATs and the creation of Ignea in 1786, chief archmage Kenedi was inspired by the hivemind-like behavior of the Dark Canopy animals to try another solution to the Dark Canopy problem. The solution to overwhelming the Dark Canopy was not, in Kenedi's mind, a small number of highly powerful soldiers that could each cause massive damage if they went rogue, but instead an extremely large number of troops that acted as a single unit. Kenedi proposed this solution to an financially desperate Darfler, who cautioned that giving humans hivemind capabilities would come at the cost of reduced intelligence and ability to act independently. To solve the potential ethical problems, Kenedi told Darfler that all subjects would be criminals taken from Gera's prisons. Darfler was hesitant, but bankrupt and unable to find other work, so he agreed to create the goons for Kenedi as long as he funded the project and never spoke to him directly again. Darfler agreed to these terms, and set to work creating the first goons in secret.
Within a year of beginning, Darfler had created a prototype device, and Kenedi's team had derived a mixture that would allow a subject's brain to accept the device properly and slightly augment the body. The original test subjects were criminals sentenced to execution. Several subjects were killed or rendered brain dead before serial killer Karnel Zovio was the subject of the first "successful" trial that produced a severely deformed, but living, result. Though the muscle augmentation had gone out of control, producing bulbous fleshy grows and making him unable to speak, the external hivemind device seemed to be functioning correctly, until Karnel unexpectedly removed the device, broke his restraints, and fled the lab. Though it was a setback, Darfler and his team continued to work, and several more failed experiments (though none as catastrophic as the first) were created. Finally, by 1789, a working device and formula had been finalized, which in tandem produced the desired cognitive and physical effects. Kenedi himself presented the project before King Fyuri, who asked for the Lords' opinions. With the approval of Lorewell and Yakov, and with Caius being the only Lord opposed, King Fyuri decided to allow the project to be implemented on a mass scale.
First hundreds, then hundreds of thousands, of criminals and political dissidents, primarily from Efsisi and the Bread Bin, were brought in to be turned into hivemind-augmented soldiers. They were housed in massive compounds, mostly in the desert duchies of Alwa and New Kaito. They were trained to hone their hivemind abilities in order to better act as a unit, and to use various weapons. By 1792, knowledge of their existence had leaked to the general public, but few outside of the workers in Efsisi's compounds had seen them, and hundreds of fanciful tales about them sprung up. By 1795, the number of converted humans had reached two million, and Gera's regular prisons housed very few inmates. Production was slowed as head of the military court Lox Merkoda considered that force sufficient to invade the Canopy.
This all changed when a man named Ogibi, a previously respected de facto leader among the altered soldiers in the main Alwa compound, initiated a massive rebellion, seemingly killing the project's development head Darfler, and liberating his entire compound. Though no other compounds rebelled, the project was thereafter considered a failure. Some compounds attempted, but usually failed, to kill the subjects within, while some simply told them that they were no longer needed there. Thousands of purposeless altered soldiers streamed into all parts of western Efsisi, which resulted in numerous conflicts between them and the unaltered. The Efsisi public quickly began to loathe them, giving them the name "goons", due to their perceived pliability and stupidity. This name rapidly became the accepted term throughout Royal-speaking Gera, and the goons themselves even began to use it, knowing no other name for what they had become.
Expulsion from Efsisi
In 1797, Yakov began a campaign to expel the goons from Efsisi, due to the tensions between them and his people and the potential danger they presented in his eyes. Once the notion had spread, however, the goons lefts surprisingly willingly in groups of thousands, and there was little fighting to remain Efsisi. In thousands made their way into Zeminar, but Lorewell had prepared. In public, Lorewell had preached against the goons as abominations, despite voting to approve their experiments. Therefore, he decided to let Caius deal with whatever havoc they might cause. Once guided by Lorewell's forces, the caravans made it through Zeminar surprisingly smoothly, and about half of the goons chose to settle on the sparsely populated border of Zeminar's Ughrem and the Bread Bin's Shiikeyenna, while the other half did seek refuge in the Bread Bin.
The transformation into a goon is a painful process. The subject is tied down, and continually administered several different cocktails of potions. The bone structure fundamentally changes, as do the muscles. Around the third day, the back of the neck is sliced open and a small transmitter, with enough natural magic to last fifteen years, is attached to the brainstem. The neck injury is magically healed, and the process is continued for approximately three days, during which most of the cognitive changes occur. After that, a human has been irreversibly turned into a goon.
Goons generally resemble unaltered humans at first glance, and a few can even pass as unaltered humans. However, there are some key differences. Goons are on average generally shorter and stockier than unaltered humans, and their limbs are almost always somewhat thick with muscle. Their heads are also slightly larger than those of unaltered humans, and this effect is accentuated by their proportionally shorter bodies. Goons, no matter the sex, are also rendered sterile by the transformation process. Goons have whatever Epzin concentration they had prior to transformation, and as a result can perform magic. Compared to humans, goons need comparatively small amounts of food.
The much starker difference between goons and unaltered humans, however, is in their cognition. Though goons often exceed humans in fighting capability and reflexes, they generally perform more poorly than humans in most other tasks, especially tasks that involve creativity or novel thought. Goons can perform most motor skills, including agricultural tasks, constructing building and operating machinery, provided they know how. Most goons, however, are either illiterate or only basically literate, even if they knew how to read prior to their transformation. Writing is even more difficult; most goons struggle to even write their own name, no matter how much energy is expended trying to teach them. Creative tasks, such as painting, composing poetry, or playing music are also incredibly difficult, and children can often exceed the efforts of more intelligent goons in these areas. In terms of speech, goons are often well-spoken relative to their intelligence, though learning new languages is generally beyond them. Most goons can converse rather easily and fluidly about simple matters, though science, politics, and philosophy tend to confuse them, even if they were proficient in these subjects before their transformation. While they can be overly credulous, goons' understandings of social matters is also comparable to an average human's. As stated prior, Goons with Epzin are capable of magic. Though their magic can be powerful, they are usually limited to a few strong but simple spells, and generally can't use Epzin that creatively.
As a unit, goons have rudimentary hivemind capabilites. Goons are aware of the location, emotional state, and basic thought patterns of all goons in a certain radius. Their hivemind can also be influenced by a transmitter, though this influence can be ignored.
On average, goons tend to be more pliant and susceptible to authority than their pretransformation selves. Though this was intended, goons are not particular loyal to any given authority. Goons may abandon a previous authority figure to rally a sufficiently compelling opponent, provided they see a reason to. Given goon's hivemind capabilities, new stances and intentions can spread through a group of goons like wildfire. Other than this, however, goons' emotional lives generally resemble those of unaltered humans. They can love, grieve, laugh, and feel joy, and these emotions too can spread through hundreds or thousands of goons in a given area.