Friday, 11 May 2012

Chapter 10: Squigs: The Wonder Material

“The Orks use Squigs for an amazing variety of purposes, depending on the special characteristics of each species of Squig. Though there are many forms of Squig, and each variety can incorporate many subtypes, there are about twelve main varieties, including edible, musical, hair, medical, parasite-hunting, face-eaters, pet, buzzing and paint Squigs.” (Waaargh! The Orks, pg 5)
All good societies, be they real or fictional, thrive upon a solid foundation. For Orks, that foundation is the Squigs. Squigs fulfil an almost infinite number of roles within Ork society, from simply providing the basic societal cycle, to becoming a myriad of different creatures all with conveniently useful adaptations, which the Orkoids use widely to solve a number of societal needs. In short, the Squigs provide the Orkoids with their own portable eco-system that provides all the basic mod cons any society could need, short of metal, well, so far anyway… The term “Squig” is the shortened version of their descriptive epithet Squiggly Beast. The word is rather perplexing, but has a few notable literary clues to start us off on our investigation. Squiggly is an adverb (a word which modifies a verb), so logically the term Squig is a verb, so “to squig” denotes behaviour associated with what they are. One can make stabs at the meaning, which could all be equally valid. Although the obvious suggestion is that it is either onomatopoeic (so the word resembles what it sounds like) or descriptive of the action it makes, such as scurrying or scratching. However I would take it further. I would suggest that the term “Squig” is supposed to be quite open. It’s an intransitive verb (i.e. the verb doesn’t require an object to form a complete sentence), and thus, much like how Orks work, the term simply denotes the fact that Squigs ultimately do what they do (note: the verb ‘to exist’ is intransitive, and isn’t far from how Orks view their own society in general “I exist therefore I is”). As to what they do, well, it’s almost infinite amounts of things. At their most basic level, Squigs eat the refuse of the Orks, and the Orks eat the Squigs. It’s a happy (if rather smelly and unsanitary) cycle of life and death that underpins Ork society. As I will cover in more detail later in the series, all Ork Settlements have a place for the disposal of refuse, known as The Drops. Most Squigs live amidst it, and it is up to Snotling and Gretchin servants to ferret out Squigs to cook for Ork meals. Drops can be quite hazardous, as most Squigs have a predatory nature, meaning that any trip to the drops can be a very memorable, or even short-lived one. In spite of the Orks’ rather crude nature, they are somewhat prone to gourmet temperaments (especially Nobz and Bosses, who expect a good feeding), and most Gretchin servants are experts at finding and cooking meals, especially using Squigs. Almost all Squigs are edible, but some taste better than others. The nicest and juiciest “eatin’ squigs” are the largest, and found in the darkest and deepest recesses of the drops, and are exceptionally rare, and equally difficult to catch. Orks do prefer cooked Squig, but they will eat them raw as a snack, or if they’re really hungry and there are no Gretchin about. I like to compare eatin’ squigs to fish. The comparison to fish seems odd, but it works rather well. Squigs mostly exist to eat, and if they eat a lot they get bigger. If they live very long, it is because they eat a lot and don’t get eaten, and get so big that the only thing that can generally eat them is a bigger Squig. Many of you may be familiar with “the bigger fish” principle, and it’s exactly the same. Of course, Squigs form a whole eco-system, based on what seems to be adaptations that are exceptionally convenient for the Orks. There are a number of theories as to why these adaptations occur, but it’s actually not that problematic, because there’s a fair chance that any explanation has a slight aspect of truth to it. It’s very likely that psychic resonance plays its part, giving Squigs the ability to adapt or change to suit the society’s needs through resonance. Also with Orks, as a survivalist race, the other Orkoids are not exempt from this process either. Squigs that thrive will develop things that are useful to the Orks, probably as an effort to not get eaten or killed. These attempts at survival don’t always work, but the principle has a solid foundation. All Orkoids adapt, and Squigs do it to absolutely astounding degrees! So as you can imagine, there are lots of Squig variants that make themselves incredibly useful to the Orks. Some take other paths to survival altogether, but we’ll discuss those later. Whether they have specifically adapted to meet a very specific societal need, or that the Orks have developed a use for them according to their traits vary between the types of squig, but certainly the Orks using the nature of the breed of squig almost definitely forms the catalyst for other “useful” breeds to emerge. Probably the most common one is one that not everyone notices, or indeed knows about, but otherwise provides Orks with a very useful commodity that they lack: hair. The Hair (or Hairy) Squig is a small, parasitic squig that comprises of a very small head with clamp-like teeth that latches onto Orkoid skin, and provides a useful, mutually benefiting existence for both Orkoids. The other Orkoids (especially Orks) are quite fond of ornamentation, and an easy method is to acquire hair (something no doubt Orks were at one point somewhat envious of in mammalian races). The Orks get a form of expression that they like (often painting or dying the hair to fit Clan colours, or may already come in a suitable colour), and the Hair Squigs draw nutrients from the Orkoid’s skin. Similarly, there are other Squigs that alter their nature to suit basic societal needs. Another common variant is the Paint Squig, which excretes powerful dyes. Some even develop tufts of hair on their tails, so that they can be used both as a source for paint and a paintbrush at the same time. Another popular generic breed are the Squigpipes, which provide, as one could imagine, a crude working musical instrument. There are also breeds that although not specifically adapted to suit Orks, make themselves invaluable to Orks through their nature, or a quirk of their character. Many Squigs (particularly Growlers) present themselves as useful opportunities for Orks to have pets, which they can train, or otherwise laugh at. Orks and Gretchin can grow exceptionally fond of their pet Squigs, training them to do tricks, or just chortling when the Squig runs dementedly and latches its jaws onto some hapless bystander. Their shapes and forms vary rather vastly, and can resemble dogs, lizards (favoured by Gretchin), or just have some little quirk of character or appearance that makes them far too adorable to eat. Other useful breeds include parasite-hunting Squigs, which the Orks use to crawl about them and eat other parasites, fleas and ticks (although they have a habit of becoming a meal afterwards anyway). Flesh-eaters are also popular for their ability to shed teeth at an alarming rate, providing a useful source of wealth (although their teeth depreciate substantially quicker than Ork teeth). They seldom breed in captivity, making them rare commodities, and usually owned by Nobz. This explains how Nobz can be wealthy without having their own teeth punched out, even if they go out of the habit of getting ones from other Orks. It also probably goes some ways to explaining the curious origins of the Bad Moonz. Indeed, the individuality of Orkdom has potential to alter squigs, although the process being usually biological is naturally far slower, probably taking generations of Squigs of that type to fully develop into something universally useful to Orks. Probably the simplest example of this is the humble Bag Squig, which consists of a Squig with a bag-like body and an internal anatomy of mostly stomach. As it stands, it’s a basic creature, but its slow digestive system made it obvious to the Orks that they could use them as bags, flasks and other items. Usually, they are dried out to make flasks or tanned into belts and pouches, but the Bag Squig’s digestive system is so slow, it can live off bits of food that are stored within it, meaning an Ork merely needs to pick up a Squig and immediately has a bag to store things in, just so long as he thoughtfully accommodates for its basic nutritional needs. The Oddboyz, naturally, have a large affinity with Squigs. Performing various societal roles and services within Ork society, means that they are far more likely to notice and (to the extent an Ork can) appreciate the quirks of the incredibly flexible squig. One of the most common Squigs used by Oddboyz (in this case, Runtherds) is of course the Herd Squig, which usually starts off life as a pet, but is a case of how the Orks have specially bred breeds of Squigs that they have encouraged to suit their needs (much like Dogs). Runtherds have been training Squigs for quite some time to help them control their various herds of Snotlings and Gretchin. Naturally, the relationship between Herder and Herd Squig is often close, almost empathic, using unique calls, grunts, gestures and commands to control the Squig in ways that no other Runtherd or other Ork could achieve. The Mek’s own favourite is the Oil (or Oily) Squig, which emits an oily black secretion from its slug-like body, usually out of a long protruding snout. The Meks use this secretion for machine oil. For spot oiling jobs, the Mek can grab an Oily Squig and simply squeeze its bulbous body and point the snout in the direction of the object that requires lubrication. Of course, Meks get through large quantities of the stuff, so they tend to have ready-prepared barrels of Squig Oil that have been collected earlier. The most efficient manner is to put the Squigs into a large pressing machine, but the old fashioned way is to put them in a large barrel, and have Gretchin jump up and down on them until they burst. It produces a lot of wastage, but is a popular event for Orks to watch and laugh at all the Grots slipping over covered in black goo. Ork Doks, however, have a massive multitude of useful Squigs. They probably use the lion’s share of the Squigs in any Ork settlement. Doks will find most Squig variants useful for some reason or other, but there are quite a few specific Squig variants that are more likely to see use. The Syringe Squig has a long needle-shaped, sharp proboscis with which they use to inject venom into their prey. The venom is quite powerful, but not deadly to Orks, and can knock them out for anything up to three days at a time. Doks use them (or their venom in metal injectors) as an anaesthetic. This also denotes an interesting linguistic origin from the Ork fluff, of the word “Urty” which refers to the largest of the three size bands for the length of the syringe (Small, Big and ‘Urty. Freeboota “Bad” Doks in particular favour the latter category). Another popular variant among Doks is the Vampire Squig, a bat-like Squig that has long, sharp fangs. It is, obviously, a bloodsucker, and the Doks use them for bleeding patients, and sucking up bad blood and pus from septic wounds. Vampire Squigs aren’t particularly fussy creatures, so long as they are fed blood regularly. When a regular supply of blood is difficult (i.e. when there isn’t much fighting), Doks use other methods of keeping them alive; one of the more ones is suggesting the idea of regular bleeding to exceptionally healthy Orks. Doks also make regular use of Hair Squigs, using them to provide materials for stitches, either using several Hair Squigs, using their pincer-like mouths to seal a wound together, and then twisting the tail off, leaving the head in place, and using as many Hair Squigs as needed to hold the wound together. Alternatively, a single Squig is used, the hair being used with a needle to thread the whole wound together. The head should be able to feed on blood and pus initially, and can live for years in such a state. By the time it shrivels and drops off, the wound should be fully healed. There’s also a special variant of Hair Squig called the “Swab Squig”. Unlike its longhaired cousins, its hair is short and fluffy, allowing it to be used to sponge up and absorb liquids, and is ideal for cleaning up after messy operations, and is also useful as an emergency handkerchief. Most Squigs see use through the Doks, along with a lot of fungus variants, which are killed and preserved to make medicines. The Bloodshade Speckled Fungus, for instance, is used as a coagulant, along with generally enriching Ork blood. It is likely that a Dok’s surgery will have its own indoor latrine, for the (almost) sole purpose of breeding varieties of Squigs. It can often form a bit of a hazard if an unknowing Ork uses it, and gets an injection from a Syringe Squig, before falling into the latrine and never being seen again. All Doks raise their own strains of Squigs, and take a great deal of pride in their potency and effectiveness. Doks are always trying to make new “medical squigs” or adapt existing ones for medical usage, although not every Squig is quite so easy to adapt. This leads me on to another category of Squig. Being part of the Orkoid genus, it doesn’t take too long to realise that there are a lot of Squigs that are just plain nasty. They do, of course, have their uses, but Squigs obviously quickly realise that one of the simplest methods of ensuring survival is to make oneself incredibly unpleasant and hazardous to be around. I’m pleased to tell you that the list of Squigs that fall into this category is quite considerable. Most Squigs are nasty, really, but some of them are so nasty that even the Orks notice. So let’s start with the most famous. You probably don’t even know it yet, but again, I’d be surprised if you’ve never heard of the infamous Face-Eating Contest. It involves one of the more impressively nasty Squigs: the Face Eater Squig. Also known as “Gnasher Squigs” (or simply “Gnashers”), they consist of a small body, with a snake-like tail, and an exceptionally large mouth with an awful lot of teeth. The mouth is so big, in fact, you’d be forgiven for assuming there’s much else, but the tail allows them to grip onto things, such as an arm, branch or rock, from which they strike out with their mouth. They’re the most common hazard during a trip to the drops, where they hook themselves up onto the edge, and wait for a shadow to fall over them, before striking out, and biting the first thing they see, which is often an Ork’s bottom, Gretchin’s arm, or a whole Snotling. Obviously, given their incredibly violent and dangerous nature, the Orks very much approve of these Squigs, and they provide them with endless entertainment. The Face-Eating Contest one of the Orks’ favourite pastimes, and is a regular feature of Ork Pubs; usually after the Ork participant has had a few pints of Fungus Brew. For the contest, an Ork grabs a growler Squig by the tail (which it promptly wraps around the Orks forearm), and the Ork tries to eat the Squig before it has a chance to bite their face off. Sometimes the Ork merely dangles the Gnasher by the tail above his face, usually when he’s had a few more pints than he should, but either way it’s a race, between jaws. The Ork is stronger, obviously, but the Gnasher has a very big mouth. The other Orks and Gretchin watch with delight during the proceedings, as the two go at each other with a gourmet’s gusto. Sometimes, an Ork keels over backwards with a Gnasher embedded in its face (you can just imagine the twitching, can’t you?), other times, the Ork quickly manages to munch on the Squig and gobble it down before it even gets a chance to scratch him. In any outcome, it always entertains. Another fairly common Squig with a nasty reputation are the Buzzer Squigs. They’re actually the earliest instance of a somewhat contradictory nature. They are mentioned in Waaagh The Orks as “Buzzing Squigs”, looking rather like a Hornet with a very unpleasant looking sting. By the time of Ere We Go, and since, they are referred to as Buzzer Squigs, and the picture in that book, is essentially more akin to a Bee with a mouth like a Venus Fly Trap. Their description, however, has remained more or less constant. They are small, winged, insect-like Squigs that are exceptionally vicious and even more vicious when angry. Their feeding method is to bury into the skin of their victims, feeding internally, before emerging again, and either diving back in through a new hole, or flying off to find another victim. They are primarily used as the ammunition used in the fabled Squig Catapults. They are found in the fungus groves and drops, flying around and generally attacking anything unfortunate enough to be nearby. Gretchin are sent to collect these creatures, trapping them in pots made from dried mud gathered from the bottom of the drops (obviously, Gretchin aren’t particularly fond of this duty). Once a Grot has caught enough Buzzer Squigs, the top is corked, and all that remains are the tiny holes that allow the Buzzers to breathe. Once captured in the pots, they are starved for weeks. Gretchin get good at maintaining the supply of pots, and can easily tell which contain the angriest Buzzers; the high pitch generated from the buzzing and droning as the Buzzers try to burrow out of the pots is fairly distinctive. These pots are then used in war, being placed upon catapults and lobbed at the foe. Upon landing, the pots break, and the Buzzers emerge, incredibly angry, and attack the first thing they see. Orks find this weapon quite entertaining, but evidently due to being deployed by catapult, Orks must prefer to watch them from a distance for some reason… The Buzzers are actually one of the more common victims of a major misconception, which for a while I believed myself, and didn’t exactly help with the matter. References are sometimes made to a “Rippa Squig”. But as far as I’ve been able to determine, there isn’t one. The Buzzer Squig is the closest match, and as the ammunition of the Squig Catapult, there are unlikely to be any other candidates. This Rippa Squig supposedly highlights the apparent link to Tyranids, but I have not found a single reference to it, nor to any indicator that Squigs are remotely affiliated with Tyranids in any way, other than on Black Library, which alleges that the Tyranids assimilated Squigs into their species (not the other way around as is often argued). If there was a tie, the link has not existed since the first Ork book (Waaargh! The Orks) was released for Rogue Trader, so, nothing more to say, really. Finally, we come to the Spiky Squig. It always makes me think of some Badnik from a Sonic Game. The Spiky Squig has a ball-shaped body, from which it can produce countless nasty spines that carry a poisonous sting. Spiky Squigs are often used on some of the stranger bionik arms upgrades tend to use these as a surprise weapon. They are typically mounted in cages, and released as a close combat weapon, but they can also be mounted on springs, and fired like projectiles, before being pulled back to fire again. This latter version seems to be rather popular with Freebootas, at least going by models I’ve seen over the years (if anyone has a fluff reference to help explain this, I’d like to hear from you). Spiky Squigs aren’t the only Squig used in such weapons, but they are one of the more popular versions because of how nasty they are. There are a lot of Squigs that are so nasty that they are useful as weapons, entertainment, or simply appreciation by Orks. There are passing mentions to various Squig types in many of the Ork books. Ere We Go mentions the “Stink Squig” that emits gas (and is used as in Bionik weapons similar to the Spiky Squig), and if you know of a reference to the oft mentioned but hard to find “Squigshark” I want to hear from you. The nature of Squigs means that a full catalogue of the Squig variants is impossible, but it means that if you can envisage a problem the Orks need to overcome, odds are you can come up with a clever Squig variant to address it. To close with, I thought I would mention in passing something that has been a problem in the past. The issue of Boars and Squiggoths is still not something that has been completely resolved, but I am hoping to clear this up with this article. The article has been a bit of a pig, and I’m actually publishing this somewhat unfinished. I would like you all to look at every possible source you have so that we can definitely and finally absolutely confirm that Squiggoths are a type of Squig. As far as I’m concerned it is impossible that it isn’t, but some people really would like this spelling out. So if anyone with various editions of Epic, Imperial Armour, and so on could check for me, I want to make sure it’s canonical as possible, and that there is no room for doubt. Boars have never been said to be Squigs, but given the nature of Squigs it isn’t impossible to integrate them in future if necessary. Squigs are indelibly useful to the Orks. Without them, nothing in Ork society would be possible. The lowest of the low just so happens to be the thing that allows the highest of the high to stand up, exist, and conquer whole galaxies. Squigs are marvellous.

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