Common Name: Sydian (singular); sydians (plural)
Sexes: Male and female.
Height: 4’ 6” to 5’ 6” for females and 6’ 3” to 7’ 1” for males.
Weight: 90 to 160 lbs for females and 200 to 320 lbs for males.
Limbs: Two arms bearing hands with two thick fingers and a thumb. Two legs with two large toes each. An armored tail branching into four protrusions covered with downy fuzz. Two 1’ to 2’ long prehensile antennae, also covered in downy fuzz.
Skin: Pale white or beige in color, covered in drab black or brown chitin.
Hair: Soft and feathery, found only atop the head. Generally earth-toned but rarely green or shades of red-orange. Orange hair in females usually indicates a seasonal change in hormones.
Tongue: Extends up to six inches. Fully prehensile.
Eyes: Insectoid and multi-faceted. Typically black, but rarely found with greenish sheen.
Ears: Internal. Located under small openings in the head chitin, above the jaw hinges.e.
Sydians are covered in chitinous plating, with only the face and, in females, the front torso and groin exposed. Located under the porous chitin are glands that secrete a corrosive enzyme. While concentrated in the antennae and tail fuzz, they are found all over the body. This enzyme catalyzes oxidation of (i.e. rusts) most metallic elements. When living tissue is exposed, the enzyme stimulates low-level ion exchange in the nerves, causing a feeling of pleasure. On non-metallic substances or organisms lacking nervous systems, the enzyme sits inert or is absorbed without effect. Sydian secretions have a slight citrus flavor and aroma.
Habitat and Diet
Sydians are warm-blooded (endothermic) and live almost exclusively in the junkyard wastes of Tarkus; their ability to oxidize most types of metal suits them to this environment. Infrequently, individuals are found in settled areas but encounter difficulty co-existing with other civilized species.
Sydian dietary requirements include heavy metals alongside water and organic nutrients; colonies form when the three are found in close proximity. Freshwater bodies carrying fish and trace metals are common sites. Isolated colonies have developed rudimentary farms using scavenged or stone tools once forage no longer supports population growth. Lone individuals, social groups without settlements, and those in frequent conflict exist as nomadic hunter-gatherers, sometimes for generations before a colony is founded.
Male sydians are taller and burlier than females, with larger, stockier tails. Male antennae tend to be smaller, growing no longer than 1’ 4”. The chitinous plating is more prominent on the male, covering all of his body except the eyes and mouth. Flexible plates protect the male genitals, and open slightly during copulation. Females bear chitin only on the arms, legs, tail, and back, including the back and sides of the head up to the sites of the antennae. Large areas of the female sydian’s front torso are exposed, including the throat, breasts, stomach, and groin. Females conceal and protect these places with a layered patina of metal oxides mixed with clay and body oils; these solidified body paints are usually styled, decorated, and accented to resemble male plating. High-ranking females exhibit more abstract and colorful patterns to symbolize their rank. Female sydians have a much higher concentration of enzyme-producing cells in the armor they do possess. The head hair and downy fuzz found on the antenna and tail grows longer on the female.
Sydians reproduce sexually. The male penis, when exposed during arousal and copulation, is slightly larger than an average human’s (prior to genetic manipulation). First-hand accounts estimate lengths between nine to thirteen inches. Sydian penises are orange and covered in tiny brushes that flutter on contact to stimulate the partner. Ejaculate is silvery in color and may have a metallic component, though rudimentary testing establishes it as nontoxic to at least 85% of known sapient life forms.
The female vagina appears as a simple slit or lipped opening that, according to report, blooms to ease penetration upon arousal, exposing its orange color. The upper edge of the vulva bears a single clitoris.
Female sydians do not have an established breeding season and ovulate multiple times throughout the year. Roughly every 240 days and lasting up to 30 days, regardless of estrous phase, female sydians begin to crave the oxidizing enzyme of other sydians; male-female interactions during this state almost always result in intercourse. This heat-like state is indicated by the head hair becoming fiery orange and the affected female seeking out other sydians more diligently. While males prefer females in the receptive state, they are not above seducing non-receptive females or employing physical force to breed.
During either consensual couplings or forced copulation, the male penetrates the female with his penis, ejaculates, and potentially impregnates the female, who ovulates two to three eggs in each cycle. Embryos attach via hemochorial placenta to the uterine wall. Gestation lasts six months, after which the female gives live birth.
Sydian children are born with scaly, soft gray chitin that persists until puberty. Puberty occurs between the ages of eleven and thirteen, whereupon the chitin scales thicken into the sex-appropriate adult configuration, darken, and join together.
Behavior and Society
Sydian society is patriarchal, with groups of ten to one hundred led by a dominant male. Larger size, thicker armor, and weaker corrosives cause male sydians to rely on and respect brute strength, giving rise to a culture underlaid with terrible violence. Most do not hesitate to resort to force to obtain food, breeding rights, and positions of power, resulting in a semi-stable group dynamic frequently interrupted by internal and external challenges. The leading sydian has absolute primacy in matters of females, food, and, when found in settlements, housing and governance. Some subject males willingly take positions of servitude, looking after children or performing manual labor; other males are forced into such positions. Younger sydians, especially powerful males, may eschew the group, striking out to join or attract a new clan. All males court mates from among the group’s females and establish relationships, though the leader’s ability to claim rights on any female at any time usually prevents monogamous coupling. Cuckolding is commonplace, especially toward subject males who have challenged the dominant male and lost. Vengeful leaders sometimes assign a rival as the personal slave of a favored female; while intended as humiliation, this has lead to the clandestine rape or seduction of the female in many observed cases.
Female society is shaped by the parallel male society, with females favored by the dominant male assuming positions of dominance themselves. The highest-ranking female has access to the best housing and finest goods as well as many social liberties; such females can be distinguished by the breathtaking detail on their body paintings, made from the most colorful metal oxides and applied by subordinates. Correspondingly, lower females shoulder more of the work and employ lower-value materials for their coverings. Lower-caste females not currently pregnant are expected and often forced to aid in hunting and gathering, accomplishing the task with exceptional reflexes and higher chemical load. Dressing accessories, usually made from scavenged non-metallic materials, are used to highlight or conceal body features. Such possessions are one of the few items sydian females prize enough to hand down to their offspring, and being offered one as an outsider can be considered a sign of ultimate trust.
Female sydians regard being without their body paint as an extremely vulnerable position, both mentally and physically, and such ‘naked’ females are scorned in public; this has been exploited to humiliate social adversaries and captives. Non-consensual couplings often involve intentional damage to the paint as a display of power by the transgressing male.
Though extremely unpopular among other Tarkus races and held in a literal stone age by their diets and tempers, observation suggests sydians are no less intelligent than the galactic average. Their culture is tribal and traditionalist, with little room for scholarship or what would be seen in higher societies as a progressive attitude toward sex and gender. Most sydians have accepted the limitations of their biology; some prominent individuals publically express quasi-neo-Luddite, anti-technology opinions. Conversely, a few have left their colonies, using specially-tailored clothing to study machinery in detail.