Art by, CosmicClaxon
Common Jobs: Spy, Mapper, Miner, Plummer, Lantern, Pest, Landlord
Likes: Pipes, Caves, Dampness, Gothic stylings, Spelunking, Hibernating
Dislikes: Washout, Jars, Evaporating, Freezing, Exterminators, Getting lost
Attack Method: Blind the target and/or forcibly drown the target within their liquified bodies.
Puds do not have a unified culture and are unlikely to worship gods unless they have integrated themselves into a society that does.
Most will encounter pud-kind on an individual scale, in which the pud will appear like a blobby, wobbly creature with bright, white eyes. These individuals are not what real puds look like. They're actually wearing suits.
Unlike their viscous brethren, puds are comprised of living goo that is entirely liquefied, making them unable to maintain their own shape against gravity. While they can move and grab small items in puddle form, and movement is actually quite efficient given there's nothing holding them back from squeezing through the smallest of cracks, their air-tight exoskeletons give them the extra boost of strength and stability required to do more complicated tasks, like turning door knobs. Pud suits double as protection for other species, as uncovered pud bodies glow nonstop. This glow is not a pleasant glow like a candle; it's a blinding glow like a room full of floodlights, meant to aid in spelunking.
Pud suits can vary in size and build, but are usually made of rubber and always come with two eyestalks, two thin antennas, and three thin tails. These same suits can have any number of arms or legs depending on the wearer's preference. Most suits will be a black or dark grey, darker hues being the most effective at absorbing light, but some puds choose to wear translucent suits in order to show off their true color underneath, presenting as lava lamps. As puds cannot see color, lava lamp puds frequently ask others to describe their color for them.
Those few who are less fortunate may encounter pud-kind on a mass scale. Mass puds are no longer harmless, bright puddles in suits, and instead town-swallowing lakes. The act of town swallowing is not a goal of theirs, but it's such a common mistake they make that it's become part of their species' scientific name, Flux gulpenvilla.
Puds form lakes once a year as part of their month-long hibernation ritual. Pud lakes are not hiveminds, but the act of combining will put each member in a temporary catatonic state. Through naked eyes, pud lakes look like little more than a glowing white crater in the ground. Through computer imagery, it appears pud lakes are actually more like oil spills: all the colors of the rainbow swirling together in clumps.
Once the combined puds have tunneled underneath an area high in organic matter, the unstable foundation will cause the land to collapse, creating a deep, slippery sinkhole. At the bottom of the sinkhole will be the pud lake. Whatever organic life falls into the lake will be unable to climb out, and over time, will drown, allowing the pud lake to break down the nutrients externally as the matter drifts around their community stomach. Puds grow and gain most of their nutrients from these hibernation events, but they may always opt out of participation as long as they're willing to deal with cramps from overexertion.
Puds as a species only have a single biological sex, showing no differences behaviorally, visually, and reproductively, although much like other species, one can still identify with a different gender than they were born with.
Similar to how puds do not have a uniform shape, neither does the society they have built for themselves. Pud culture features no distinct customs, hierarchies, or strict rules other than their annual hibernation event, which can be different from region to region. Instead, it seems most puds are content at living life opportunistically, fitting whatever molds they need to survive. This means either squatting in used and unused homes, hiding in basements, entering city pipelines and sewers, entering the caves of nature reserves, and/or mooching off passing crews.
Puds were once pest animals long ago, and even years later in a sentient state, they maintain many of the same characteristics of one. They have little if any forethought nor a sense of privacy, confidently asking to borrow a bed from someone they've just met. Puds seem equally as likely to have issues understanding the concept of loyalty, and may give up valuable information they've heard through the pipelines to any sucker who is willing to pay them. In this way they are rigidly neutral creatures. Puds rarely have personal alliances or rivalries. They are as easy to take advantage of as they are untroubled by taking advantage of someone else.
Communities who pity these poor creatures that so obviously lack a sense of belonging may welcome them into civilization, as long as they're willing to stop being a public nuisance. Puds are born spelunkers and are able to hunt for tunnels and escape roots and often accompany retrieval missions, rarely getting lost in deep cave systems. Sometimes they may aid in construction by eroding the landscape. Puds dig in puddle form, rushing against walls and carrying away the dirt and rocks like a muddy river.
If after all this societal integration a pud still ends up without a job, they won't dither abandoning ship to hit the pipelines in search of the next opportunity.
Puds who do remain in public for a few generations seem to show a deep-seeded fascination with morbid and dark things. Some theorize that puds are so used to witnessing such things float around their hibernation lakes that they've become fond of it. If a pud decorates their space with gothic imagery, it may be a sign they feel at home. Needless to say, puds are not easily disturbed.
It is unknown where puds originated from, only how they were found.
A corporation had bought the mining rights to several assumed-desolate planets, intent on harvesting them dry. One particular mining group, traveling farther down the surface than the others, found themselves a glowing white reservoir. The liquid pulsed on occasion and felt warm to the touch, but was otherwise unresponsive. Catatonic. Assuming the underground lake was little more than just that, a lake, the miners packed up samples in jars until nothing remained.
A few days later, another mining group exploring another planet found another lake with the exact same glowing properties. More collection ensued. As more mining groups dug through the tunnels of each planet, they discovered that these lakes were a constant. If this was a new resource, they thought, than they had hit the jackpot.
Unlike fire which burned up wood or headlamps that used up batteries, the jars of this strange fluid were a much cheaper tool for lighting the caves. Branded as "sun jars", the corporation sold heaps of them on a whim to miners across the galaxy. It was a successful business for the short month it lived. It just didn't last. Unknown to them at the time, by spreading the jars, they were consequently spreading an invasive species.
By the end of the month, strewn in endless rows throughout thousands of abandoned mineshafts, the puds began to wake up. Drains were getting back up, as were native fauna getting kicked out of their cave systems.
Removal of these creatures was attempted, but the threatened puds only retreated into depths of the planets' crust that were difficult to track. By the anniversary of the spread, the pud hibernation began all over again, and now sinkholes had become another universal epidemic.
Desperate, representatives of the collapsed cities went to speak with the pud lakes. They were prepared to face property disputes, a war for resources or something like it. In reality, the puds were surprised to hear the representatives' claims. They had no idea what they meant when they spoke of "private property," "laws," and "vandalism," but they tried to listen nonetheless, meaning no harm. A deal was struck hence, granting the puds species rights in exchange of the banning of sun jars and hibernating on city properties.
While the law has prevented both deeds from happening on the regular, it did not stop them outright.
Special Eyes: Puds only see the world in black and white. Yet, the definition of what they see is extraordinary. Puds can see in the dark the same as if it were the day and have developed x-ray vision in order to map out tunnels and exit routes.
Pud x-ray vision only extends roughly 10 feet and can be shielded with high density materials like lead.
Double Team: The neurons of puds are evenly distributed within their liquified bodies. This gives them the ability to split into several puddles (4 at max) and still function normally. For example, if one pud gets separated into two puddles, both puddles will still retain the memories and personality of the initial puddle. Each puddle is then able to work on its own until they finally merge back with the other half, which will share any new memories with the whole. While in separate pieces, the puddles have no psychic connection to each other. Some puds carry more than one smaller suit in order to divide safely, while others are just happy sliding across the floor in full on puddle form.
• A group of individual puds is called a flood. A group of combined puds is called a lake. When a pud lake is exposed to the surface during an unnaturally hot day, there is a chance that they may be evaporated into the atmosphere, causing an unnatural disaster known as a, "pud rain" which makes it seem as if the sky is falling. Luckily, puds don't like being evaporated any more than the next species would, as it often leads to death, and will take precautions to avoid becoming rain. This includes staying underground, staying in suits, or the easiest solution of all, staying hydrated.
• Puds are able to squeeze themselves into all kinds of unexpected places. If a pud wants to get into someone's home, and they are denied, they will force entry through the bathroom drain. For this reason, puds are among the few sentient species that there exists exterminators for.
• Scientists assure that it's, "totally okay to sample a pud's blood". Unless the sample contains 25% or more of the pud's original mass, it will not have enough of its liquefied brain to be a 'person'. Unlike sun jars, lightbulbs that run on a droplet of pud blood are undeniably humane.
• Due to their eyesight, some researchers believed that puds were able to see into black holes. These same researchers went on to fund an expedition to their local blackhole for testing. The problem they didn't seem to consider, however, was that no matter how good someone's eyesight is, bringing them close to a black hole still leads to death.
• While division is a useful trick, most puds will prefer staying in one piece, knowing there's always a chance an accident will separate them indefinitely. If two or more halves do not remerge, they'll be forced to wander space on their own. At first these pud pieces will behave as duplicates of each other, but as each one gains new memories and experiences, they become unrecognizable. There is no time limit for when a pud has to remerge, forcing some halves to embark on an endless hunt for their missing pieces. Puds do not need their other halves to survive, but replenishing neurons is such a strenuous activity that they often describe living without wholeness as akin to surviving years off no more than the bare minimum of sleep.
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