Of all the ELFs, Leaf Nodes are the least human. The zoomorph files have shown irrevocable sapience breakdown at about 63% genetic fidelity; to be safe we limited the Leaf Nodes to 67%; no lower.
The purpose of the Leaf Nodes was to serve as an interface and repair mechanism for theriopliotic vessels. As such, rodent, monkey, and beetle biosystems were the secondary emphasis, with aetheric integration being primary. Leaf Nodes actually have significantly stronger aetheric manipulation capabilities than Elites — even though they lack both the intellect and physicality to deploy these capabilities in a combat effective manner as the Elites can. Part of this intrinsic capability is pyscho-cyber communication, directed kinetic conversion (allowing an effective telekinetic manipulation of any object containing a sufficiently large aether crystal), and of course, the shell system.
This is a sketch of the unshelled Leaf Node. In reality, such will seldom be seen alive. Soon after birth, a crust of aether begins forming around the node. This shell provides protection against minor physical harm, and the radiation normal to the interior of theriopliotic vessels. The ears and forehead cups are typically capped with organic aether crystals that serve as amplifiers for the communication and kinetic abilities, as well as offloading significant amounts of cognitive load. The natural genetic potential of the Leaf Node towards intelligence tends to peak at an IQ of 80, but with the assistance of the amplifiers, their intelligence curves have nearly human potential. Because they are designed to tie into a ship’s computer and serve as processing cores for that computer, they are additionally able to boost their intelligence significantly via psychic bonding through the computer interface.
It is known that we have lost ships, and that the Leaf Nodes of downed vessels have gone feral and formed independent colonies on various worlds. People outside of the Peoples of the Cosmos call them gremlins or goblins. Such colonies tend to be short lived — without the uterine tanks of a PC vessel, reproduction is hard. Females are equipped with a failsafe, where they lay an aetheric egg, but this failsafe is useless outside of a high-aether environment.
Of course, such colonies, when found in PC territory, are exterminated, and the cadavers submitted for analysis.
It is believed there exists a thriving colony on the lost aether mining station, Pandora, whose members call themselves “Piqha…”