Catslug

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A unique oddity originating from an undisclosed location in the Coreward Periphery, the catslug (Mollusca felis) is a mammal-like species of bipedal creatures resulting from a misguided effort to assist planetary colonization attempts through genetic engineering. Individuals often come in a wide variety of colors and occasionally bear unique aptitudes, skills, physiology, and other unusual traits while still retaining a number of species defining features.

Biology

The physiology of catslugs is elegant in design yet remarkably stable and robust. With a vaguely feline appearance, slim and noodly body profile, and enormous and curious eyes to observe the world, these creatures are well equipped for survival in a wide variety of environments. Dextrous limbs allow them to manipulate their environment and create tools to defend themselves. Loose skin and skeletal structure allows a catslug to compress their bodies into sometimes unbelievably tight spaces, allowing them to nest in areas safe from larger predators, as well as handle great falls or impacts with little harm done. Perhaps most important of all is the catslug's highly developed senses: their purposefully designed eyes and ears afford them excellent sight and hearing, with optimized neurology granting them amazing balance and limb-eye coordination.

Origins

The original concept leading to the development of catslugs revolved around creating a tool to more naturally identify ideal colony-building locations. To that end, a species was created using a variety of genetic templates that exemplified a self-sufficient and hardy survivalist, one capable of maintaining stable populations without outside interference. Equipped with excellent socialization instincts, catslugs are designed to form large groups as pack hunters and seek out habitats that coincide with ideal outpost locations: follow the local tribes and it is highly likely that you will find your way to areas rich in natural resources and protection from natural hazards.

Much to the dismay of their creators, catslugs proved insufficient when compared against more traditional methods of survey; though the creatures are indeed capable of fulfilling their role as previously described, it is not an effective replacement for hiring actual engineers to evaluate and design outpost establishment locations. In a perhaps foolishly unplanned-for development, the "release and not monitor" strategy of creating versatile survivalists that can nest in nearly any non-lethal environment promptly led to a number of test subjects and initial trial groups escaping from oversight of their creators. These escapees predictably found their way into shuttles and ships outbound from their home in the Coreward Periphery and continue to slowly spread to nearby star systems not unlike the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) of the Commonwealth's Earth or the Razorhoppers (Acuti stultus) which continues to plague Unathi colonies even now.

Behaviour

Today, catslugs are an increasingly common sight across the Coreward Periphery's numerous unaligned worlds or unofficial expedition sites and colonies, with a niche but growing exonet media following. To the varying pleasant surprise and intense frustration of many, the catslug's instincts and grouping behaviors frequently lead them to establish tribes in inaccessible regions of cities and space stations. Initial treatment of the creatures as invasive vermin was met with what can only be described as vent-based guerilla warfare that proved devastating to the delicate operations required of a modern living facility. Instead, many governing administrations have learned to strike a balance with their local tribes, trading food, amenities, and the ever-coveted and ill-defined "porls" in exchange for minor tasks like keeping other pest populations in check.

A number of locations have reported remarkable success in teaching catslugs sign language and beginning actual dialogues, up to and including outright training and employment performing simple routine tasks around the workplace. Full study of the extent to which these creature's intelligence reaches is underway, and initial evaluations indicate exceptional aptitudes for advanced social behaviors and creative problem solving, albeit in a somewhat simple and direct perspective. Relatively recent reports show individual catslugs entertaining a domestic living arrangement with other sapients, though describing the individuals as "pets" has almost universally led to friction. Through emphatic sign language and warbling vocalizations, the individuals display a strong sense of pride and insist that they are "friends, not pets". It is strongly inadvisable to attempt involuntary domestication of catslugs.

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