Introduction to Skunktaurs
By Bob Reijns
Edited by Bernard Doove
Foreword: The following is an account of my character's particular race. Greatly inspired by Bernard Doove's Chakats, a general knowledge about them is desirable before you start reading this text (The link to 'The Chakat's Den' is given in the list for convenience). It is by no means meant to be a fixed handle on how all Skunktaurs are supposed to be, such as not every feline 'taur is a Chakat. It's just how I envision the Chakat-kin Skunktaur to be. Before you go on, please let it be noted that most (if not almost all) in these pages is alike to the original text from Mr Doove. I used his transcript as a handle so that I wouldn't forget any necessary details, and some things just can't be altered without totally ruining the entire concept. I have tried to give all the text a new twist on wording so it will still be interesting to read even if you know the original version. Mr. Doove has been so polite as to edit my original text.
Read on now, and understand the curious world of Skunktaurs: Chakat-kin.
The history of Skunktaur society.
Physical and Mental characteristics of the Skunktaur.
The Social and Political standing of the Skunktaur.
Notes on Skunktaur Gender.
General Facts about Skunktaurs.
The Skunktaur Archipelago.
Some Skunktaur personalities.
People all over the galaxy now know the Skunktaurs as a friendly, active race, always eager to put their capabilities and knowledge to practical use. One doesn't know what hard work means unless they've had to put up with working alongside a shift of Skunktaurs. Their special mental capabilities, Telekinesis, Telepathy and Astral Travelling (all three divided by House) have helped in making the Skunktaur's name as decent workers. The surname Chakat-kin isn't given to them just by co-incidence, Skunktaurs are in all but a few things genetically equal to the Chakat. How all his came to be, and more, will be explained in the following text.
History of the Skunktaurs
After the world had recovered from the wars that had raged during the 21st century, and genetic science had been restored, Charles and Katherine Turner started their work in genetic research at the Institute of New Generation Genetics. Their work would later be crowned by the successful creation of the anthropomorphic breed called the Chakat. (See Bernard Doove's Introduction to Chakats) At the same time, an independent genetic engineer called Dr Bryant Curtis, started to work on research of his own.
Dr Bryant, Charles Turner and Katherine Turner were very close friends at that time, having both gone to the same Academy. All three belonged to the same Fraternity (still called Fraternity out of habit, because men and women were finally regarded as equals at that time) called "Alpha-Omega", Beginning and End, standing for the friendship between the members that began there and should never end. In that light, the three of them came together on occasion to compare each other's notes, add to them, exchange test results, or helping out in case the other got stuck. At that time, Charles and Katherine had already decided on most of the characteristics they wanted their "children" to be and were thus striving for the most ideal being in every way. Dr. Bryant, however, was less interested in a completely perfect creature. He was looking for a particular breed that could adapt to, and provide proper labour in the most diverse of circumstances.
In conjunction with Charles and Katherine, Dr Bryant searched for the best selection of survival-based genetics. Whenever one found a suitable candidate, all three would come together and see whether and how they could put this to good use. This was also the time when they discovered the right "frame" for the body and internal organs for a 'Taur-configured morph. Also at this point the issue about a hermaphroditic nature came in. While Dr. Bryant did see the use for a dual sexuality, a logical step if one wants a species that has to survive, he didn't grasp the actual benefit there could be if the morph had both sexes at the same time. He decided that a gender-shifting ability, as seen in some tropical bullfrogs, would be more suited to his goal. Also, possessing only one gender at a time, there was no hormonal interference to be worked out. At this point, the doctor's and the Turners' view and notes started to develop great differences. This grew further into a lag in Dr. Bryant's work while he tried to isolate the gene and provide a mechanism for the shifting abilities. The Turners, however, had already ironed out the difficulties in hormone imbalance and such that you get in a hermaphrodite, and had already discovered what kind of animal would best fit as a base model to work on: the cat.
Dr. Bryant lagged quite behind at this time, even with the notes and manuscripts the Turners kept sending him, and by the time Charles and Katherine were secretly rearing their first Chakat cubs, the doctor had only just decided on the base animal for his frame: the skunk. He found that the musteline body of a skunk could very much provide for a sturdy, supple frame, while keeping in mind an excellent way for the morphs to protect themselves against hostile creatures they were inevitably going to encounter. Also, with the skunks already possessing rudimentary grasp, he found a way of giving them an extra pair of hands quite like those the Chakats possess on their lower-body front paws. He had been able specify and balance all hormones to only target physical functions, using Charles and Katherine's notes, so that mood-swings and other hormonally-induced effects were eliminated.
Then all of a sudden, things went from bad to worse fast. An incident concerning a mountain accident brought the Chakats into the public eye, and Dr. Bryant lost all backing from sponsors in a blink of an eye. The deed was done and he was beaten to the punch, so to speak. Then three corporations offered their help. They would sponsor him, but he would have to show up with a tangible process fast. Pressed for time, he simply took Charles and Katherine's papers and changed the genetic blueprint to suit to his own. This wasn't quite fast enough and the Firms started to threaten to take it all away from him, thus destroying his life's work. Thus he finished his work by using the rest of the Chakat gene-configuration unaltered. This may have been a good turn of events for the prospective Skunktaurs, for in this bit of unaltered code lay the success to the balanced physical hermaphroditic nature, the proper positioning of internal organs and, most importantly, the basic blueprint of the neural networks. If he had taken to hastily rewriting this bit of information, the Skunktaurs may have never existed.
It was a great success and after a while some male and female Skunktaurs were born. They were in completely good health and genetically stable. As for the doctor, he was useless to the Firms now. Though world society had greatly changed for the better, there were always people that wanted to take more then they wanted to give, and so too the Firms. All they saw in Skunktaurs were cheap and sturdy workers, or to be exact: slaves. They chemically lobotomised the poor creatures and put them to work. After the doctor found out about this, he was so devastated that he secluded himself and seemed to vanish. Because he was too ashamed of himself for using the Turners' work, he couldn't tell them about the Skunktaurs and of what happened to them. In the following years, no one found any trace of him, not even the Turners or the Chakats.
In the meantime, the Skunktaurs were being used as cheap working staff, chemically kept in an automaton-like state. As most Skunktaurs weren't easily discernible from each other, skunks not actually having really original fur patterns, the Firms decided to introduce a little mutation to the system. Each Firm created a point-mutation in the fur pattern which caused a odd coloration on the right chest in the shape of a paw-print. Three different colours were used: Blue, Red and Black, so that each could discern the Skunktaur they "owned". This mutational virus had a little side-effect though. It reacted with the chemicals used to dull the Skunktaurs minds and induced a very peculiar change in the cerebral area. The Skunktaurs, over a course of a few months, started to develop an empathic bond. The first time proof of this came by was an incident when a lone Skunktaur was doing some work in a sound-proofed room and he was about to be squashed to death by a piece of machinery. A dozen other Skunktaurs rushed to his rescue, all coming from a different hall where they could have never known their fellow 'Taurs distress.
A series of tests showed that Skunktaurs formed an empathic link with each other if they came within a rough 10 metre radius of each other, and even two Skunktaurs further away could "connect" if there were other Skunktaurs in between to "relay" the connection. Their genetics, developed to recognise new strains that could further the adaptability of their species, quickly absorbed this new mutation, stabilising it and adding it to all cells within a year's time.
Time passed and, a few months after Charles and Katherine had died after a happy life of seeing their "children" beget them "grandchildren", a package arrived at the home of the eldest Chakat: Zigzag . It was addressed to Charles and Katherine and the sender gave them quite a surprise. It was Dr. Bryant's, or at least, it was his executor's. Dr. Bryant had passed on recently and wanted this package to be delivered to Charles and Katherine. As they were no more, the package was sent to hir instead as their closest kin. It contained Dr. Bryant's diaries spanning the from the day he started his research with Charles and Katherine, to the day he died. In it was accounted the story about the Skunktaurs and what had become of them. The last diary was filled mostly with self-contempt and begging forgiveness for the error he had made. The most interesting of all the books was a report of work done by him after he exiled himself. It described a way to engineer an Entron-based virus that would create a natural filter in the Skunktaur cerebral area that could nullify poisons and chemicals before they would affect them.
The Chakats immediately deliberated in an emergency council. They all found that this kind of morph abuse was intolerable, and because the Skunktaurs were kind of related to them, they decided on immediate action. A group of Chakats set about following the doctor's notes and making the virus, while a second group started to find locations of where the Skunktaurs were kept. A third began tracking down those Firms' finances and undermining them, as a sort of personal score-settler, aiming to totally wipe them out.
The Skunktaurs were quickly located and when the virus was completed, liberation began. The Chakats literally pounced on the Firms, both physically and financially, and after a short, but furious skirmish, all the Skunktaurs were freed from their slavery. The virus was administered, and took effect in a matter of hours. The benefit of such a filter was recognized and genetically stored for their offspring. The doctor and the Chakats were in the opinion that the virus would restore the Skunktaurs to their natural intelligence. The chemical had already taken such a great toll on the Skunktaur's brains, however, that they remained on a simple level, being free-willed, but childish. The Chakats assumed that this was their natural intelligence and treated them with the care one would treat a small child. Also, because of the initial majority of male Skunktaurs, they were communally referred to as "brothers".
They were adopted into Chakat society, mainly because the Chakat felt a generous amount of pity for the poor Skunktaurs. There, they were given a basic-level education in the same way of life the Chakat upheld, in vision of life, knowledge, social structure and sexuality. It wasn't long before the second generation of free Skunktaurs arose, and the Chakats were genuinely surprised at the mental capability of the children. The smartest of the Skunktaurs were still only as advanced as the average Chakat would be, but it was an astounding difference between the two generations. The Chakats immediately set about giving them the same education and care they would their own children. They realised there was more to the Skunktaurs than actually described in the diaries and started some research of their own. They found that Skunktaurs had more than 90% identical DNA to their own and, not counting the mutation that caused their empathic linking of their neural pathways, were a 100% alike. They figured that the mental powers the Skunktaurs manifested had slightly reduced their intellectual abilities.
Meanwhile, the Skunktaurs displayed a natural aptitude for learning and a kind of instinctive yearning for practical knowledge and activity. A Skunktaur that sat still for over five minutes was either sick or asleep. They showed a devotion to anything that they set their minds on doing and the Chakats saw they didn't need to stimulate them into learning, although they did need some encouragement to learn languages, math and other more theoretically based subjects. Their progress advanced with reasonable speed and soon a second, incredible discovery about the Skunktaurs was made.
A group of Skunktaurs and Chakats was playing dodge-ball out in the field next to their school. Although they were outside, there were still a considerable number of morphs in the building. There was a parental meeting going on, when disaster struck. An automatically guided aircraft suffered a catastrophic system failure and came plummeting down onto the school. Morphs ran for cover, but the ones inside the building still had no idea as to what was happening. Suddenly the aircraft just stopped and hung there in mid air. After the amazed morphs cleared the area and evacuated the school, they noticed the small group of cubs sitting in the field, intensely staring at the object. On approach they observed an almost tangible aura around the kids as the aircraft slowly lowered onto the building. The school was still wrecked but no one was hurt, but once again Chakat eyes focused on their newly found family.
After a long period of extensive testing and researching, the Chakats, and by now some graduated Skunktaurs, found that the Entron Virus and the mutation caused by the chemical the Firms used, had stimulated use of regions of the brains that had been laying dormant until now. They also discovered that each "House" of Skunktaurs (They named the three different Paw-prints Houses, you had House Bluepaw, House Redpaw and House Blackpaw) developed a different mental power each. House Bluepaw turned out to be telekinetic, House Redpaw developed telepathy and House Blackpaw a power only describable as astral travelling (these powers will be explained in further parts of this transcript). A side-effect of the empathic link was also disclosed: as long as they kept within each other's active range, Skunktaurs could share and even augment each other's powers as if they possessed the particular mental power themselves. This, however, did not explain why the Chakats were also using telekinesis to help keep the aircraft up. A daring theory was that because Chakat and Skunktaurs had almost identical neural pathways, the Chakats could benefit from a one-way version of the empathic link. This proved correct but it was discovered that there had to be at least one Skunktaur to every Chakat that was included in the link.
The Skunktaurs prospered in the following years, gaining positions on countless levels in numerous places. They completely adopted the Chakat life-style and moral stance in life, as this was taught to them by the Chakat themselves. Because their adaptability levels were at least as high as, or even better than the Chakat's, they were sent out on the same type of scouting missions. Still, Skunktaurs kept an instinctive love for work, always opting for positions that kept them active. Whether as Chief Technicians on starships or simple working-crew, it didn't matter as long as they had something to do. Their newly found mental powers were applied to various ends. A hull-breach could be repaired by a crew of Skunktaurs and Chakats, projecting themselves on-site and telekinetically manipulating their tools. Though on practical levels a Skunktaur has no equal, the Chakat still proved their intellectual and theoretical superior.
When the Chakats' planet was founded, they invited the Skunktaurs to come over. The Chakats offered them a cluster of islands in a moderate climate. The Skunktaurs accepted and the cluster was soon to be known as the Skunktaur Archipelago. This cluster soon became the planet's productive capital and leading developer of new, safe and environmentally clean methods of production. The cleanest, of course, being situated in the Archipelago itself. For, when every worker can use telekinesis, what use is there for conveyor belts and other means of heavy-transport that harms the ecology? And because the Skunktaurs prided themselves on their handwork, almost none of the production processes were automated anyway. If someone possessed a product made on the Archipelago, they were sure it came with a lifetime guarantee they'd never need to use anyway. Skunktaurs make very sound products.
Skunktaurs have taken a similar place in the society as did Chakats before them, and were pioneers in most of the less hospitable places. Their ability to perform normal labour under almost any circumstance was very crucial at establishing outposts. Their natural affinity for practical labour earned many a Skunktaur a position as Chief Engineer/technician on starships, and their mental prowess proved to be crucial added to any landing party. As with Chakats, Skunktaurs can now be found almost anywhere, but most originate from Chakona, having left Earth behind them. The fourth generation of Skunktaurs in now growing up peacefully in the Archipelago.
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Physical and Mental Characteristics
Next is a description of the Skunktaurs physical structure. As they were engineered to be able to quickly adapt to their environs, a blend of species was being used to create their genetic code. This, in many cases because of their creator's close work with the Chakats' creators, resulted in a basic template to which they both conform. In fact Skunktaur and Chakat genes turned out to be almost exactly the same, with only a few exceptions. As noted, this is also the result of the hasty work of the Skunktaur creator, having used the Chakat model in the end to finish his results. The end result was a species that could survive in most environments without much adaptation, but possessed the capability to change some of their physical structure if needed. Also, if a new gene is implanted in them, it would eventually be copied into every cell in their bodies, enabling them to pass it on to their offspring. Other unforseen events, led to the development of their mental powers.
(In this account, I will be using the Chakat descriptions as a model, so I will be able to give an accurate as possible description).
Their heads resemble the traditional Skunk's muzzles. Their eyes have been moved forward into their faces to give them an accurate depth-perception. Their lips are also slightly more supple to enable articulated speech. They have a full head of hair, albeit nowhere as much as a Chakat, and it doesn't grow into a mane if left uncut. It resembles a more human hairdo. The rest of their body is covered with the sleek black-and-white fur of the skunk. In their female state, this also covers their breasts. The length of their fur fluctuates with climate, thus they are at ease in almost any temperature, but like their cousins, they prefer the more temperate 20° Centigrade. Fur coloration does present a problem, as skunks are not very noted for their originality in coats. Almost all Skunktaurs follow the same pattern, although there are minor variations like the spotted skunk. They are mostly covered in black fur, with their upper torso possessing a white-furred chest and abdomen. This white colouration continues into the lower body's underbelly. One or two white stripes run along the Skunktaur's spine and into their tails. Their faces are also generally white-furred. The only known differentiations known are possession of "socks" or "gloves" on the ends of their limbs: either none at all or up to six (both arms and all four paws), and a coloured patch on their right chests. This mark has the shape of a four-digit paw print and comes in three colours: blue, red and black. These are a reminder of the time Skunktaurs were used as cheap labour by the three Firms.
Their ears are mobile, they can focus them in any direction. Hearing is at least twice to that of a normal skunk and far superior to humans.
Skunks being primarily nocturnal creatures, nothing special can be said for the daytime vision of Skunktaurs, aside from their eyesight being much sharper than the average individual, and their range of sight further as well. It is at night, however, that the Skunktaurs rival even the most clear-sighted Chakat. Colour vision is perceived at all times, and due to the highly effective way the light is redirected and reflected back into the lens, their eyes seem to glow an eerie green.
Their muzzle, as noted, is still morphologically equivalent to a skunk's, having been adapted slightly to enable proper speech. Their sense of smell is highly developed and honed to such a degree that even the slightest alteration in scents can be detected. Having been transformed from carnivores to omnivores, they too possess both grinding molars and prominently displayed canines.
The upper torso is built the same way as any other 'taur, but benefits from the extra flexibility gleaned from their Chakat genes. Also they possess the same forward hip built to protect their spines in the right angle it makes at the waist. The upper torso is not only fairly short, for a low centre of gravity, but also slightly broader. The reason for this is the generous amount of muscle they are provided with due to their heritage as slave workers. All Skunktaurs have that decided beefy look whether they work at it or not. This provides them with quite a lot more strength than any other race, even slightly more than the average Chakat. Their hands are humanoid in shape, save for a thicker skin on the fingertips and generously reduced, non-retractable claws.
The lower torso, too, follows the general build of Chakats, being solid and quite strong. Dr. Bryant had, however, managed to keep the innate flexibility of the mustelid even with the greatly expanded size of the Skunktaurs. While walking at a normal pace, they have about the same speed as a Chakat. If shi starts running, however, a Skunktaur cannot match hir speed. However, while they are no way near half as fast as a Chakat, the fact that almost all of their muscle tissue is of the energy-saving red filamented layer-type, they can continue running long after the Chakat has been exhausted. This also means that they can put up with long, heavy labour for a seriously extended time without the need for more nourishment than usual. They can manage a short burst for jumping and such. If they are provided with an appropriate harness, they are able to carry a greater load than their cousins. The front paws of the lower body are by nature in possession of semi-claws, much like the ones Chakat have been provided with. With just a slight alteration the paws were turned into a crude extra pair of hands (Dr. Bryant wanted to go the whole way at first, but Charles and Katherine had pointed out that the wrist at that point could no longer support the weight). Their legs, in comparison with a skunk, are a little bit shorter to provide sturdy support for the much heavier body, and add greatly to balance in this way. All four paws possess semi-webbed digits with non-retractable claws.
In Skunktaurs, it is actually their tails that are highly modified to store nutrients. With no permanent form of breast available, there had to be a different place to store liquids and such. The choice fell on the tail. The tail-muscles are enveloped with a thick layer of fibrous tissue which forms an anchor for the many sugar phosphates that are needed to hold the liquid. In general form, this liquid is a lot like the milkwater Chakats store in their breasts, but it also possesses a lot of enzymes and specific substances needed for cell duplication and growth stimulation. On average, the base thickness of the Skunktaur tail is about 50% more than proportions they normally would have and it is also considerably longer. The amount of fluids and nutrients is usually enough to last the Skunktaurs four consecutive days without food and drink, provided they don't exert themselves. They also need this storage when their metabolism increases during the changes their bodies undergo while adapting, but more on that later on. It is a good thing not to tell a Skunktaur he has a fat tail, unless you want to be hit. (A 'fat' tail occurs when more nutrients are stored there, this may occur when the Skunktaur eats his due, but doesn't work it off. Generally you would be calling them slackers). Due to the adjustments, a Skunktaur tail isn't prehensile at all, although it can still function as a counterweight to the rest of the body, should this be needed.
Their internal structure doesn't differ much from the Chakat model either. They have a dual stomach system to digest almost anything. The first stomach in the upper, the second in the lower torso. They benefit from the same high tolerance level for poisons. Also they possess a dual lung system, the first one primarily for speaking and somewhat smaller, the other, larger and purely for oxygen-exchange. They do possess two hearts, the primary one in the upper torso is the larger, filling the spare room left by the smaller lungs. The other heart is placed in the lower body, in its normal spot. It is rudimentary but needed to provide the extra pressure when Skunktaurs work, the increased oxygen-demand needing a greater bloodflow. Their waists are also nearly solid muscle, a necessity for complementing the strain imposed on the junction between both torsos.
The bulk of their organs, not counting those associated with the first stomach, are kept in the lower torso. The organs are, again like Chakats, efficient and are all paired for the same reasons. Because the waist area is completely devoid of organs, no internal stress is imposed when they twist or bend. Their resistance to disease is higher than a Chakats because of their body's increased metabolism and adaptability due to their hybrid nature, and therefore they also have a greater chance of regenerating severe injuries and even limbs.
Skunktaurs also possess stinking glands. These are located in the lower torso, left and right of the anus. In structure, they are identical to a normal skunk's glands. These are, however, much larger. The entire structure comprises of two glands, surrounded by muscle. When the muscle contracts, the musk is ejected through specially modified nipples. The Skunktaurs are able to spray this massive amount of foul-smelling substance with almost pinpoint accuracy at their victims, who can be almost 4.5 metres away. Through the special form of the nipples, none of the liquid ever comes into contact with the user's fur. Besides the stench, the musk also has the ability of temporarily blinding victims when it gets into their eyes. Natural tears will eventually wash the substance away, but it's a very painful occurrence. No two Skunktaurs smell exactly alike. This is a fortunate (or unfortunate) occurrence, because this enables to identify individuals without error. The exact chemicals in the musk are still unknown. Though their scents don't bother each other, the Skunktaurs are aware of the great discomfort it causes others, and therefor only use their spray as a final resort.
Skunktaurs are a hermaphrodite species. However, they are cyclic herms either male or female at one time. The particular genes for this trait were picked from a species of tropical bullfrog, and after long and difficult work, were successfully encoded into the Skunktaur genes. Skunktaurs have complete control over what sex they possess at a time and are able to shift this at will. The transformation to either sex takes about 15 minutes, but due to the enormous increase of metabolism, resorption of redundant organs, developing new organs, bone alteration, rapid cell multiplication and diversification, the Skunktaurs are forced to use almost all of their stored nutrients from their modified tails. This takes a great toll on them, because without this store, they are unable to fuel any necessary adaptations until they restore it. Usually they "pig out" on highly nutrient foodstuffs shortly after their transformation, but this behaviour is not compulsory. Also because Skunktaurs generally stay in their male form when not in estrus, they have been regarded as "brothers" to Chakats, and they are commonly called "Hy" [Hij] (and hym, hys and such [hijm, hijs] note to pronounce the 'j' ). The use of this type of herm pronoun has become standard for all cyclic herms.
In their male mode, they possess all the male reproductive organs. The penis is placed between their hind legs and is sheathed. It is proportioned to the rest of the body and is very human-like. Their testes, like Chakat's, are safely tucked away, so there are no external genitalia to worry about when performing particularly hazardous work. Their upper torso only has the male nipples, which are covered in fur. When male, the Skunktaurs are just as virile as any other male species, but it takes about an hour after their transformation to male form for enough semen to be produced for the Skunktaurs to be fertile. Also their overall look is more masculine (ie, more square and such).
When female the obvious is also the case. Their upper torso possesses breasts, which are quite firm even when not lactating. Their breasts are not modified to the same extent Chakat breasts are, and only aesthetic value remains during these times. They are also completely covered in fur, though the nipples may show when stimulated. Part of the paw-print coloration is situated on the right breast. On the lower body, the female vagina completely takes the place of the penis, uterus and womb form and the hip there slightly alters its form. In short, they possess the complete female reproductive system and are capable of carrying children. Skunktaurs ovulate, and the process starts after they assume their feminine forms. The cycle takes about 28 days and they can be fertilised for only two days, after which unfertilised ova and uterus linings are re-absorbed. This too, they have to thank the Chakat for. Their overall body structure also takes on a more feminine form, such as a sleeker waist.
During a gender change, the resorbed sexual organs are not entirely eliminated. Instead they are still present in a dormant vestigial form, waiting for the stimulus to once again come forth. A careful search of a Skunktaur in female phase will find a hint of the sheath, and conversely when in male phase, the vaginal entrance can be found although sealed.
Pregnancy lasts slightly longer than a Chakat's: 330 days, at least half a month longer. During this time a Skunktaur is "locked" in hys female form, quite logically since shifting would be the death of the child. Due to their extreme adaptability, Skunktaurs are able to stabilise their systems with great effect, they do not suffer from morning sickness, and are able to perform any task they were capable of before their pregnancy up to a week before actual labour. The mother bestows the most important information on the child, the House from which the child will draw hys mental powers. Single child births are the rule, and no exception to this has yet occurred. Since all of the Skunktaur's social structure has developed from the Chakat (after all, Chakat adopted and raised them), birthing parties occur just the same. The sire is always present at childbirth and only the most extraordinary of circumstances can prevent that from happening (even if they have to hijack the starship they work on to get there!). They are fertile with every other species due to their adaptive nature, even their original template, the Chakats. The child, however, will always conform to the mother's species.
Skunktaurs are a practical race, and though affectionate and promiscuous to a degree, they will not just engage in sex-play. They tend to take quite a longer time to open up to someone. If they do, however, and can find the time to be with their friend, they are more than happy to shift genders for the occasion. All genetic defects have been carefully removed, at the cost of a diverse gene-pool. Therefore, as Chakats do, they strive to create a more diverse gene pool, and at the same time, add more genetic code that could prove useful for future generations' adaptation possibilities. They are capable of self-fertilisation, with a generous amount of outside help, since the semen has to be stored while the Skunktaur shifts and cycles through ovulation. This method is practised only in the most dire of circumstances for two reasons. They share the belief to produce children with someone they love, and this type of reproduction doesn't add to the gene-pool in any way, it just reproduces the original strain.
As said, all problems concerning hormones were solved when turning the Skunktaurs into a gender-shifting hermaphroditic breed. Having only one sex at a time prevents two different sets of hormones being present. And with specification of the hormones, making them affect only physical levels, their minds stayed unaltered. Due to this, Skunktaurs possess quite stable personalities, with their sexual nature an accepted, natural part of their psyches. They are a exceptionally psychologically-sound race.
Skunktaurs don't look at sexes much further than a physical level, although they might possess preferences at being either male and female, they regard their other mode as an integral part of themselves and as such will shift sex from time to time, enjoying either equally. The Skunktaur that did not feel this way has yet to be born. As a result, they tend to ignore sexual bias in other races.
They teach their children the same view on sexuality as the Chakats, and as such behave in the same way, both regarding and during love-making. Despite their physical prowess, and the fact that most tend to be uneasy around them on account of their musk, they are a caring and affectionate people, but they do tend to take some things too seriously sometimes. They are devoted to their family, and like to have a lot of children, but they only have them when they are certain they can provide for all of them with equal love and care. When a Skunktaur chooses a permanent mate, the word means just that, as they stay with each other to the death. As they can scent each other's fertility, and are aware of their own, they can circumvent unwanted children. Unplanned births never occur.
Another difficult subject of their body is their brains. Although they share the neural blueprint with Chakats, they are not as highly intelligent. The average Skunktaur intelligence being slightly lower than a Chakat's, but the lack is more than made up for on a different level.
During their slavery, the virus that was to create the telltale fur coloration, got warped by the immense amount of mind-numbing chemicals and it affected a region of the brains that was still unused. The Skunktaurs started to develop the ability to form an empathic link with another Skunktaur within a rough ten metre radius. This was a two-way link and enabled a form of emotional communication between Skunktaurs. As long as there are enough Skunktaurs in between, two individuals can form a "connection" miles apart. The mutation was copied into cells all over the body, including semen and ova.
The second change occurred during their liberation. An entron-virus was introduced to their system to create a natural blood-filter for their brains. Initially it was supposed to nullify the lobotomy-drug but it also proved able to filter any other foreign substance before it could affect their brains. While, for instance, alcohol would impair their bodily functions, the Skunktaurs stay completely rational. The substance would be removed before they would become mentally drunk.
The third, most dramatic alteration, was when the entron-virus got into contact with the unknown mutation, resulting in further development and stimulation of that particular region of the brain. The generation that followed developed psychic powers (at the cost of some of the very high intelligence). It turned out that there were three distinct powers, one for each 'House' (as mentioned, that was what Skunktaurs with the same colour pawprint were called): Telekinesis for House Bluepaw; Telepathy for House Redpaw; and Out-of-body (Astral) Projection for House Blackpaw. What was more interesting was that the empathic link enabled the Skunktaurs to share their powers. For each Skunktaur in the bond with a certain power, the others were able to use it as if they possessed it themselves. And for each extra Skunktaur with the same skill, the base strength of the power increased.
Additionally, Because the Chakats have an almost identical neural configuration, they too are able to profit from the shared psionic link, being able to use all powers to the same extent as long as there is at least one Skunktaur for each Chakat who wishes to join in. Conversely, the Skunktaurs can share the chakat's enhanced Empathic Talent while in the link.
More intriguing to this point is a recent discovery. In light of the ability of Chakats to make a permanent Empathic Bond with their mates and others they care strongly for, Chakats and Skunktaurs who become lifemates usually find themselves sharing a full Empathic link. Both mates feel and sense each other's emotions completely, and share the Skunktaur Talent equally.
It also seems that the emotional part of the link is stretched almost indefinitely in range for both mates, amongst Skunktaur/Skunktaur and Chakat/Skunktaur relationships. However, for sharing powers, the 'range' of the natural link must still be observed. The Emotional Link seems to have a great impact on mated couples as well. Sharing each other's emotions and strongest feelings during lovemaking usually results in both sharing each other's climax equally. Something more commonly known as the "Chakat-Manoeuvre" only more mentally experienced.
If you ask yourself whether a Skunktaur never has any privacy with this mental bond, you must take in account that it's perfectly normal to hym to feel and 'hear' the buzz of hys fellows in the back of hys mind. And likewise hy accepts that others can sense hym as well. There was, however, a Chakat psychologist who figured that there might be people who wold object to constantly having others 'read' their emotional wellbeing and/or having a din of the entire 'linked' Skunktaur populace in their minds. Shi devised a simple solution, added to the training a young cub undergoes when learning to cope with hys powers. They are introduced to a very special headband that can shield their minds. The effects are that Skunktaurs wearing it are no longer aware of others.
The 'trick' here is that the headband doesn't do diddly. It's all 'in the mind' as the subconsious mind is trained to filter out any incursions when the headband is worn. Secondly, other Skunktaurs likewise 'ignore' the other when they notice the band, and even 'actively' try and stop sending their emotional patterns. With the shared bond, the unconcious message that Skunktaur A is wearing the headband, the entire community will automatically adjust as hy walks by. Similarly, this also works on Chakats, as long as they believe that the headband is indeed special. To keep up with appearance, an uncommon material is woven into the headband.
It's important though that the actual bond isn't broken. To the Skunktaurs, this Empathic sense is as natural as another's sight, or sense of touch. Depriving one of this sense might have disastrous results. You might want to think of yourself in a completely dark room, soundproofed and your own ears blocked. The only sound you can hear your own heartbeat. A Skunktaur can shrug off such 'sensory deprivation' for a while, and as long as hy knows hy's going to be 'restored' soon, it's no problem at all. But those who are separated from their brethren for a longer time will start suffering; homesickness in its worst forms you might say. Some Skunktaurs can become obsessive about something: music, work (more than is healthy), or collecting things. Others might develop a phobia, enter a state of manic depression, or, worse yet, bouts of violence in very severe cases. It has happened on occasion that a Skunktaurs mind may wander, seeking contact with minds otherwise unthinkable. House Redpaw, the Telepaths, are the ones who might readily seek contact with non-Skunktaur friends or even pets, diving into and connecting with their minds in a desperate act to receive solace.
Power sometimes comes at a very high price indeed.
Finally there are the adaptation skills their bodies possess.
Skunktaurs are in their natural state when they are usually encountered, conforming to the physical characteristics shown above. In more different surroundings, a Skunktaur's metabolism is highly increased as their bodies use the nutrient store in their tails to provide necessary adaptations quickly. With new worlds being discovered, and new genetic material being added to the base model daily, the amount of adaptations a Skunktaur can make increases, and new ones are frequently discovered. A few of the most common are:
- A lens of variable opacity forms over they eyes to shield them from bright surroundings, damaging radiation, or sand (blown into their eyes). It also forms when a Skunktaur is immersed in salty water, to provide underwater vision.
- Their fur, at normal length between 25° to 3° Centigrade, starts getting longer and denser as temperature drops. On the other hand, when temperature raises, they start shedding at an enormous rate. It is known for Skunktaurs on desert planets to possess nearly non-existent fur and deeply tanned skins, so as to provide protection from the sun, while keeping the body cool. Additionally, they can sweat an oily substance over their fur and weather-proof it in the process. This gives their fur an oily sheen and makes them slick to the touch. They are able to oil and then shed their fur at will, to provide a natural lubricant if they get pinned between something.
- When faced with drought, they can survive on the fluid in their tails and start to resorb almost all fluids that would normally leave their bodies, except for the minimal amount needed to transport waste-products.
This list can continue almost indefinitely, but it is important to note that the increase in metabolism needed to quickly provide any adaptation is always fuelled by the amount of nutrients in their tails, or they would have to be eating almost all of the time.
Since Skunktaurs become more common as they gradually leave the Archipelago, more relationships between skunktaurs and other anthropomorphic species develop, the most common relations with Chakats. As this relationship continues, the Skunktaurs may find themselves 'adapting' to their mates in one way or another. This usually occurs with the Skunktaur developing a bit of the opther species most apparent physical trait. After a few days the Skunktaur gains the ability to 'switch' this feature 'on and off', choosing whether or not to show it as if changing their genders. Most Skunktaurs choose only to show them in more intimate or formal occasions. Some examples follow, though these are by all means no fixed results.
- Chakat: Fully herm form as Chakat are fully herm, so may hir mate adapt to hir. (Most Skunktaurs keep this permanent as it is more energy efficient.)
- Felinoid A purr might be heard from Skunktaurs with feline mates. (This could also happen with Chakat mates instead of the full herm.)
- Vulpine Fox ears are common, Sometimes the tails become more bushy and on rare occasions digitigrade feet.
- Lupine Mostly the same as Vulpines.
The possibilities are legion.
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Social and Political Standings
Skunktaur roles in society.
From the beginning, Skunktaurs were designed for adaptability and work. Over time, an instinctive fondness for activity has formed in the Skunktaurs and they will alway strive to put their knowledge to good use, be it in a laboratory or one of the Archipelago's work-stations. Even in their spare time, they still are active, looking for hiking vacations and the like, or rigorously engaging in sports. They aren't serious in everything they do, but doubly so in their chosen vocation, and any spare time activity is also pursued to the maximum.
Though almost as intelligent as Chakat, they tend not to choose laboratory and research work, preferring to get into the field as soon as they graduate. Though it will be a Chakat who'll usually invent and perfect new technological breakthroughs, it will more often than not be a Skunktaur to actually build the prototype, field test and point out possible problems for the Chakat scientist to overcome.
Because of their immense hands-on knowledge, Starship Captains are usually very fond of having a Skunktaur as their Chief Technician. At least they won't give them any "if I'll push her any further, she'll blow" crap. An engine looked after by a Skunktaur can provide all the power it needs to, and if it can't, the Skunktaur will call in the Chief Engineer (most often a Chakat) and together they'll adjust it so it will.
Telepaths are often looked to for Ambassadorial functions, able to gauge their adversary's feelings and sometimes thoughts. It's nice to know when you're being lied to or not.
Astral Travellers are known to scout ahead of landing parties, to look for a suitable place to land, and to look for possible problems in case of hostile races.
And Telekineticists are, for instance, able to repair hull breaches in outer space, as long as they have a clear view of the tools they need and the area that needs repairs. Often, they team up with an Astral Traveller, a Telepath and one or two Chakats, to project themselves to the site and telekinetically repair the damage, using telepathy to communicate. This means the ship doesn't need to land for emergency repairs, doesn't need to put crew out on a dangerous spacewalk, and it can be performed during battle, as long as the physical bodies of the team are kept safe while they are "out".
A Skunktaur Team always consists of one Telepath, one Telekineticist, and one Astral Traveller, so each is able to use all three powers. Teams are very close, and more often than not, very intimate. They trust each other without question. Often a Chakat joins a team and shares the bond. Not just the empathic one, but also in intimacy and trust. A real team stays for life, the members eventually become each other's lifemates, sometimes even including the Chakat. Their children, however, do not join each other in a team automatically. This is logical, because if the lineage keeps joining same teams and forming life-long bonds, no genetic diversity will ever occur. Also a Skunktaur isn't forced into joining a team; sometimes they never join one.
A Shift on the other hand is composed of at least two teams and can comprise of up to five. Shifts are not as close as teams as they are frequently changed to suit the job, or disbanded if their assigned task is over. Lone Skunktaurs are also known to join shifts if their presence is needed.
There are no altered social dealings with Skunktaurs who do not join teams, since all are regarded as equal "brothers". And while they do not join a team, the Skunktaurs still find themselves a vocation that suits them. As noted, a Skunktaur that sits still for over five or more minutes is either sick or asleep.
The typical day on the Archipelago starts at about 7:30am (times are given in terms of Terran hours for easy reference) when the Skunktaurs wake up and groom themselves, after that they all pitch in for making breakfast. Guests are generally left undisturbed until breakfast is actually being served, a good hour after they wake up. This is a common courtesy, since most of their guests aren't prone to waking up so early. Afterwards they go on their daily duties, work and school starting at 10:00. They tend to take a 30 minute break after every 2½ hours of work so as to keep energy levels up through regular eating. Work ends at 17:00, school at 15:00. Young Skunktaurs receive an extended education to learn how to use their powers and put them to good, responsible use. Dinner at 18:00 and after that there is time for leisure. The children tend to go about sports or some other activity until it is time to eat. Bedtime is early, 21:00 is usually lights out, since they need plenty of sleep. Guests are left to their own time. After a six-day work-week, there is a two day weekend, conforming to usual time schedules.
Aside from the usual holidays and vacations, there is only one real other festivity for which Skunktaurs take the day off. It's a three-day festival starting on the day closest to January 15th on Earth in which they thank and honour the Chakats for their freedom and is kept on the day the final Skunktaur was set free from slavery. There is a large, well-organised feast and anyone is invited. The major festivities centre on the Skunktaur Archipelago but, everywhere throughout the Federation, Skunktaurs congregate and throw a massive celebration. People and morphs alike try their best to participate in the party on the Archipelago as it is something you won't easily forget, and Skunktaurs always try to go "home" for the occasion.
Political and Social Structure
Since the Skunktaur race makes its home on Chakona, they conform to its government and rules. The current seat of Representatives for the Skunktaur Archiplelago is located in the City called New Bletchley, the 'ruling capitol' of the Archipelago.
More about the Archipelago and a map will be added later ((Under heavy construction)).
For more information on Chakonan Government see An introduction to Chakats by Bernard Doove, and specifically the chapter Political and Social Structure of Chakona.
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A word on Gender.
It can be quite confusing when someone meets a Skunktaur in one form one day, then in another the next day. Some information has been given in previous chapters, but I'd like to delve deeper into this subject here.
Skunktaurs are in basis hermaphrodites. This means that they are fully male and fully female. However they are cyclic herms, and they are only always in one phase at a time, with the rare exceptions previously noted.
When Skunktaur cubs are born, the child will always be in male phase. This, together with the initial population of Skunktaurs rescued in the past being male phase, has led to the use of a predominantly male pronoun and the use of 'brother' by the Chakats. The child is outwardly unaffected by the hormone chakafertizine in the Skunktaur's mother's milk which, as in Chakats, induces lactation in their partners, and the child remains in male form until their puberty. The age at which they reach this stage is early for some, and later for others generally from early age 14 to late age 15. Hys first oestrus will occur a couple of days later. When the child gains the ability to shift, the parents usually host a 'Coming of Age' party, something like a 'Sweet-Sixteen'. From that day on, the Skunktaur is affected by all the shifting stimuli a grown Skunktaur is affected by.
Also, though most skunktaurs a person might meet have a slight predisposition to their male forms and will spend most time in this form, the opposite is not uncommon. A hermaphrodite species cannot survive if they are not comfortable with either sex they posess.
Gender Shifting Methods
The first is the easiest; Skunktaurs can control their shifting by will. It takes about 15 minutes for the transformation to finish and is completely a physical effect. Metabolism speeds up and their reserves are drastically depleted. This topic has been greatly discussed in former chapters.
Secondly a Skunktaur developes a natural rhythm over time. As hy ages, hys body will gradually settle into a cycle of genders most suited to the Skunktaur's unique personality and needs. A Skunktaur's body and mind need the availability of both male and female hormones. It is easiest to illustrate with Zwokkie as an example...
Zwokkie has a slight preference to hys male side. Therefore, hys body will have to change into hys female form for hym from time to time. Normally, hy will be male for a complete hormonal cycle, reaching hys virility peak. This takes about 28-30 from hys shift into male form. During hys peak hy is 'locked' in gender. Afterwards, hy automatically shifts into female pahse, usually within a day, and then free-shifting is restored soon thereafter.
In hys female form, hy will go through ovulation and come into heat in a similar timespan, again hy is 'locked' for the duration of the peak and will shift afterwards. Usually hy will shift hymself before reaching estrus to prevent hymself from going into heat.
If for any reason, a Skunktaur is forced to 'step out of rhythm', not being able to shift for a long time (reasons why are legion), hys body will react. Hy will generally feel miserable and become grumpy, testy, moody or depressed. This is a reaction to hys body protesting, hy will shift involuntarily given the next opportunity.
Forced shifting is another way, albeit one that is usually irritating to skunktaurs themselves. It is known that Chakat have a hormone in their mothers milk to stimulate their partners to lactate, and this hormone is also posessed by Skunktaurs. Both species are enough physically alike to be affected by each other's mothers milk. For a skunktaur, however, drinking it will force a shift to female form if hy is currently male.
A side note here is that a Skunktaur with child or weaning is 'locked' into female form, both for obvious reasons. The same hormone that induces lactation suspends the need for their male side, and as nursing itself stimulates further lactation, the mental and physical wellbeing of the mother is provided for.
The last form of involuntary shifting currently known is a result of a sort of 'Species Survival Instinct'. It has occured on several occasions that a settlement of Skunktaur pioneers consisted of mostly, or all, male-phase Skunktaurs. After a week or so, many wake up to discover themselves having shifted into female form overnight. Usually a male:female ratio balanced out to 1:1. It's quite logical for this to happen, as the species has been built for survival. You can't sirvive as a whole when there aren't enough of the opposite gender around. The reason this happens at night is because at night all physical functions are low, so there is a greater energy-buffer for their bodies to employ when shifting.
A few exceptions on the rule of Skunktaur shifting have been discovered lately, and more seem to be found every day. Since their moving to Chakona, some Skunktaurs have been starting relationships with Chakats, which is hardly surprising. The surprise is that lately the chidren more often than not possess traits from both species, instead of the child conforming to the mother's. Examples are Chakat cubs with their Skunktaur sire's mental abilities, as well as the tell-tale pawprint in their chests. Also common when the mother is a Skunktaur are cubs who are fully herm at birth, but still seem to be able to change their outward appearance looking male or female, but having their gender from their Chakat sire. However, they still look male until puberty when their shifting abilities 'unlock'.
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The height of a fully grown adult is about 1.5 to 1.7 metres (5 feet to 5' 7" approx.)
Life expectancy is well over a century.
Their name is derived from what they look like: skunks. However, they are actually hybrids based on the skunk form.
Because skunks are plantigrade creatures, so are skunktaurs.
Despite the fact that the titles Mr. or Ms, can be appropriate because they have only one sex at a time, it can be very confusing to be referring to the same Skunktaur that two people have met when in a different sexual mode. They are therefore addressed by their personal name, followed by their house. They get a name sometime after birth which reflects their characteristics, physical or personality, which, due to the emotional link is "right" and does not change. They are very fond of odd-sounding names that seem to suit their personality, and rarely use human-type names. They only ever use one personal name (not counting nicknames) and they regard themselves as one great family. Lineage is denoted as being the child of two others. For example, my character would be formally addressed as Zwokkie of House Bluepaw, child of Softpaw and Jester. The mother is always named first, then the sire.
They are not into the slightest form of self-mutilation and so you will never see tattoos, shaved fur or even an ear-ring (clip-ons excepted). They will also avoid surgery whenever possible but are not foolishly blind to the need.
When raising the first Skunktaurs, the Chakats taught them all that was taught to themselves, teaching them to care for people of all kind, and giving them the facts necessary for fitting into a civilised society. They do not have any class distinctions amongst themselves, but they do have a certain pride in their particular talents and strive to achieve a high as possible skill in their chosen vocation. As said, they pride themselves in their handiwork and take it very seriously. They cannot have any sexual bias and they completely ignore it in humans and other single sex morphs. They have no nudity taboo and they have no need for clothes except for protection in harsh environments, but they are well aware of the allure of well-designed decorative clothing, the most common of which are halter-tops and a kind of vest which serves many functions. They can be provocative, ornamental or functional. Often, they just want some pockets! They are also sometimes a concession to some more prudish humans, although, as with the Chakats, they can't be forced into wearing anything if they don't feel like it.
While Chakats are not atheists, they didn't teach any religion to the Skunktaurs either. But, being very intelligent, they find themselves in awe of the splendours of the universe and they sometimes... wonder?
Technologically, they share the highest level available to the general community, and because they are very versatile, many are in the forefront of research programs whilst others put their adaptability to use to set up living arrangements on inhospitable planets. They are regarded as a vital addition to any starship team as their combination of mental powers and strength are a definite advantage in hazardous situations. In the general community however, humans being humans, some love them and some hate them. But mostly they are held in the same sort of curious and careful regard that humans have for their non-morphic skunk relatives.
If all this seems to good to be true, remember that they were designed to be ideal adaptable beings. However, nobody's perfect. They weigh a lot more than a human, require more food and plenty of sleep. They hate confined spaces, although a very flexible spine partially compensates for this liability. They enjoy water and swimming, and having semi-webbed digits makes it easier for them, but drying the fur can be a long and tedious job if they are not prepared to drip dry naturally. They must spend a lot of time grooming, although they tend to use this time for socialising with others, be it Skunktaur, Chakat or any other species.
Little things we take for granted make life difficult, such as revolving doors and turnstiles. Special furniture and facilities must be produced for their needs. A rug on the floor is fine for a lounge room but their bathroom facilities are more complex. Automobiles need to be specially modified both for access and driving. Their relatively small population means that there is a shortage of mass-produced goods suitable to their needs. But they are presently in the process of building a workshop that can provide for these specially adapted goods to suit all taur-configured races.
The social consequences of a species that is neither wholly male nor female is a bit more of a grey area. The Chakats, as mentioned, started to generally refer to them as their "Brothers" and adapted to that, even if they are female at the time, just as the Chakats are generally referred to as females. They do not mind being referred to as girls or ladies either, this description being also appropriate. The rest has to be left up to the enlightened social values of the times.
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The Skunktaur Archipelago
The Skunktaur Archipelago is the adopted home of the Skunktaur race. It is situated in the northern tropical regions of Chakona, northwest of Flinders Continent. The Archipelago is a cluster of islands of varying sizes, the largest being roughly a quarter of Earth's continent of Australia and the smallest going into surfaces of about 50 square metres. The Archipelago is prominently dominated by splendid coral reefs, the most important one being the northernmost Crimson Reef. The Archipelago is populated mainly by Skunktaurs, though many other morph spieces, Chakat, Foxtaurs or even Humans make their home there.
So far, every settlement on the Archipelago is based and integrated with some form of industrial productivity or has been planned to hold another purpose. For instance, Curtisport was founded to take care of commerce and tourist travel, from here all imports and exports are coordinated. Likewise every tourist who wants to visit the Archipelago will find himself landing in Curtisport first.
The Archipelago consists of hundreds of islands, though only a few are populated. Many islands are kept unpopulated on purpose to preserve the unique ecological balance.
To the north of the Archipelago, spanning almost along the entire length, lies the Crimson Reef. This is probably the finest natural highlight of the Archipelago and is home to many different species of sea-creatures. The reef can be seen from miles away, due to its distinct color. The exact nature of the reef is still under research by many marine biologists.
Just under the Reef on the map lies the Island of Newolland. From here the research of the Reef is coordinated and quite an impressive marine biology research facility has grown near the beach Newolland Marine Biology Centre. Its work is closely tied with Dewclaw University on Flinder's Continent. Newolland itself has only one settlement called The Glades.
Further south lies Mephitus the largest and main island of the Archipelago. Mephitus is crowned by a huge sweet-water lake named Chakat Lake, in honor of the Chakats who liberated them. Like all the islands in the archipelago, Mephitus is covered in lush tropical forests with the occasional rock outcropping. There are no high mountains in the entire Archipelago, though the southeast edge of Mephitus hosts an impressive cliffside. Mephitis has three settlements: Curtisport in the north; New Bletchley to the northwest of Lake Chakat; and Redpaws, southeast of Lake Chakat and the first Foxtaur village in the Archipelago.
To the east of Mephitus lies ::unknown:: a stretched island with a huge white beach along its east side with a nice view of one of the many coral reefs surrounding the Archipelago. As of yet there is one dwelling on this island, situated on the side nearest to Mephitus.
Further down south lies ::unknown::, this is the southernmost island in the Archipelago. Two settlements are founded here, though one of them is the 'obligatory' Federation Star Fleet/Star Corps base. Many of the inhabitants of the Archipelago who choose to enroll into either will go here for their basic training and education. Both settlements are located on the west side of the island, but are on opposite sides if a very long bay.
Lastly to the east lies a group of three medium islands that are bunched together, their name is ::unknown::. Two of them are inhabited, but the third is kept as pristine as possible. This last island is home to a group of mammals known as Barclay's Wolf and is off-limits to anyone except the scientists who are trying to study the Barclay's Wolf in general and who are trying to determine whether or not the seclusion has caused them to develop differently from their 'mainland' relatives. The island to the north is home to the town of ::unknown::. The island to the southwest is home to the town of ::unknown::.
Political and Social Structure
Since the Archipelago is situated on Chakona, its inhabitants adhere to the laws and codes set by the Chakats after they founded their first city. The general Political structure of Chakona can be read in Bernard Doove's 'Introduction to Chakats'.
The Archipelago has its own local Council located in New Bletchley. Like most provinces on Chakona, this is little more than a formal office. There is also a Justice seat located in the same building, and all matters that can't be settled privately or locally are taken here. Overall, the Skunktaur Archipelago runs the same course as the rest of the planet, legally, socially and politically.
On social notes there is a slight difference. Each town and city that has been built was planned, having a specific purpose in mind. Usually these towns are integrated with workshops and other production facilities, products ranging from simple tools to entire starship parts like engines. The detailed accounts of Skunktaur society is given in the chapter 'Social and Political Standings'. Schooling is provided for everyone in these settlements, and special training is also provided for skunktaur childred to teach them how to use their powers well and wisely. Everyone who is old enough or wants to, has a job working in one place or another and if you're without a job, a suitable position is soon found.
Like stated, every town or city on the Archipelago is integrated with some form of productivity. This can be anything from household products to Starship engine parts. And not every town produces the same product continually, since workshops and factories can be adapted to produce something else typically within a day. The entire Archipelago can actually be seen as one big centre of productivity. Orders are put into business offices in Curtisport and from there the work is divided amongst the different towns. The end products are then sent to Curtisport for final shipping. Of course, when a town needs certain products for itself, then these are quickly assembled locally.
It's necesarry to note that Skunktaur productivity is not at all stressful on the environment. In a workplace where the combined telekinetic powers of the crew can slot a five tonne engine into its place with millimetre precision, detrimental tools such as heavy trucks and cranes are unneccesary. Also, new methods of production are developed and discovered every day, not just for use in the Archipelago, but for anyone who wishes to use them.
Skunktaurs are very proud of their handiwork and put in meticulous efforts to produce the best they can. Everything from the Archipelago therefore comes with a lifetime guarantee, one you won't need to call on.
The only exceptions to the above so far are Curtisport, New Bletchley, Redpaws and the Federation Base.
Curtisport is the biggest city on the Archipelago and is centered on being the axis for import and export as well as being the general Customs for any tourist or traveller to and from the Archipelago. Its position is also on the side of the Archipelago easiest to reach by boat and closest to Flinder's Continent. Trying to reach the Archipelago from a different location, especially by boat, could upset or even destroy much of the reefs around it. Curtisport is a bustling city with lots of hotels and businesses.
New Bletchley was founded to be the 'capitol' of the Archipelago and serves at a Government/Student city. It houses the Council and the archipelago branch of the Justice department, as well as many research facilities and the Twinstripe University of Crafts. This University offers a broad range of technical educations and courses. Most facilities work in close contact with the T.U. and the university itself works closely with the Dewclaw University. It is also here that most of the new developments in environmentally safe, physically safe and improved methods of production are researched. It is not uncommon for Engineering students to spend their education in Dewclaw for their theoretical base, then transfer to Twinstripe for practical classes and finish their education with an internship in one of the many facilities in New Bletchley. This kind of closely knitted education has earned Chakona the label of offering the finest Engineering education available.
Redpaws is in this list because it's not a Skunktaur settlement. It's home to a Foxtaur Clan which has recently moved to the Archipelago. They live their lives according to the law on Chakona, but mostly secluded like most Foxtaur clans. Their hunter/farmer lifestyle has given them a close bond to nature and the Clan had decided to take care of the surrounding forests and act as unofficial rangers shortly after they settled in. Foxtaur patrollers set up small lodges for hikers along trails and for themselves if they found themselves still out and about at dusk. The storages are always kept filled up. Lately the council in New Bletchley has decided to offer the Foxtaur Rangers an official appointment, as increased tourism could mean a heavier burden on the forests,not to mention more trouble as tourists sometimes have the tendency to pick the wrong trail. Due to this, a Ranger station has been set up in Redpaws and the Foxtaurs now have official authority to act when something is wrong.
The Federation Base is part of the membership of Chakona in the Federation itself. Some Federation forces are based there to provide for the protection as well as being able to 'keep an eye' on this young pioneer planet. Also, a training facility for young cadets is incorporated into the base as the surroundings provide for a good basis to train certain survival skills.
While obtaining visas and permits for tourism and hiking is usually easy, there is one time a year when the Skunktaur Archipelago enforces a strict number of permitted visitors. This is on the 15th of January (Terran Date) during the three day Freedom Celebrations. Because Chakona's year is longer than Earth's, this means the holiday celebration has a floating date. Some groups have suggested that the Archipelago government should fix a date to be observed each Chakonan year, but because this Terran date is celebrated by Skunktaurs all over the Federation, that idea has been resisted so far. The festivities are held across all Federation planets wherever there are Skunktaurs to celebrate, though most try to get home for the occasion because the celebrations are greatest on the Archipelago. Mates and other people invited by families are usually permitted to enter, but all other tourists must make sure they have a special visa of wich there is only a limited number available. This to keep some sense of order and to prevent the islands to be flooded with people. The festivities centre mostly round Curtisport and New Bletchley with a special 'surprise' held at Chakat Lake on the last day.
Chakat visitors and psychicly active species are given a special headband when they enter the Archipelago. Usually this is supplied with the tour booking or the visa itself. The headband is woven with strands of a special alloy in it which has a certain psychic blocking characteristic. This because every Skunktaur has the ability to form an empathic bond with hys brothers, within a certain 'psychic range'. Because this works as a 'relay' every Skunktaur feels the buzz of a legion of Skunktaurs around hym, or even on the other side of a city. To hym this is absolutely natural and often soothing and Skunktaurs can even 'pick' certain signals belonging to close friends, relatives and even mates. However, Skunktaurs also form a one-way bond with Chakat, sending hys signals to hir, including everything relayed, but not sensing hirs. The Chakats mind would be flooded with input. Also shi could inadvertantly begin to use the mental powers of the Skunktaurs around hir, since on an island filled with skunktaurs, the possibility of making a link is easily met. Other psychicly active species could be affected in the same, or even a worse way. Walls of hotels and private rooms are also have specially tuned force-fields for privacy.
The Archipelago has a fine infrastructure for traveling, though not yet as extensive as on Flinder's Continent. Buses travel regularly between Curtisport and New Bletchley, though personal transport can be rented if you wish to travel further. There are regular ferries that travel between islands, and most ports also service 'express fare' to single target islands, which you can use instead of a ferry that visits each port in turn. Each town and village also has a small aircraft field just outside its limits, which is usually used for shipping goods, but can also be used for personal travel. With the only exception the pad near Redpaws which is only to be used for supplies and emergencies. In the worst case, the Archipelago hosts the same hitchhiking formula as employed on the 'mainlands'. That is, if you don't mind that you can end up being suspended in mid-air next to some big piece of equipment when the only ride going your way is a factory transport. Communication is still a little underdeveloped in the Archipelago. The usual FEDSTELNET communication is possible, and Public terminals are available in every town. The Foxtaur rangers have even set up each cabin with a means of communication. It is best, however, when you choose to go out hiking in the wild to get yourself a CommStar-compliant communicator. The Archipelago tourist association has set up an office in every settlement, though some are rarely more then a single office, where a tourist can get a communicator free of charge. Because of central communication it's not neccesary to return a communicator to the same office where you got it, as long as you return it. Close tabs are being kept on these devices, but the generous availability seems to have a positive effect, because not a single communicator has gone 'missing' yet.
Additional Tips about the Archipelago
The following information has been given on numerous occasions and can be found in a lot of texts about Chakona. It is, however, a very useful list and the latest edition of the compiled texts is provided below.
Dos and Don'ts
- Do be polite and courteous - a smile and a friendly attitude goes a long way!
- Don't refer to Skunktaurs as "it" or other neuter terms - Skunktaurs are referred to as Hy (or Hie, pronounced like the English word He), Hym or the possessive form Hys (pronounced like the English word His).
- Don't refer to Chakats as "it" or other neuter terms - Chakats are referred to as Shi (or Sie, both pronounced Shay), or the possessive form Hir (pronounced like the German word Herr). Using female pronouns is usually tolerated however.
- Do remember that Chakona was primarily intended as a homeworld for non-human species, and expect some differences in standards and amenity configuration based on that fact.
- Do take the time to get to know the locals. Friendships can be easily made and last a long time.
- Don't stare or point at Chakats or Skunktaurs, and don't discuss their sexuality with them unless they invite you to. After all, how would you feel to have your sexuality and bedroom habits the subject of public interest?
- Do feel free to give Chakat service staff a friendly hug in lieu of a tip for good service tipping isn't generally practiced on Chakona due to the good wages paid to service people, and a heartfelt hug is genuinely appreciated by the empathic species.
- Don't mistake the friendly and affectionate nature of Chakats as an open invitation for sex, and don't assume every chakat who takes an interest in you wants to bed you. Chakats may be promiscuous, but they are also discriminating, just like other races.
- Do keep an open mind, and refrain from judgmental comments about Chakonan society until you have spent some reasonable time on-planet, as you would anywhere else.
- Do take care if you are psychically active; The empathic abilities of Skunktaurs have proven to include not only Chakat, but also other species. When you're unused to it, it might be disturbing to sense the emotional state of everyone you meet. A special headband is supplied to you if you request one, at no fee.
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I've only gotten one character, but to give an example to Skunktaurs, here hy is.
Zwokkie of House Bluepaw, child of Softpaw and Jester:
Zwokkie is about 5' 2" tall from the floor to his head, over twice as long, not counting his lush skunk tail. Hys eyes are a sparkling green and one of them is almost always obscured by a tousle of his white human-like hair. Hys fur is pitch black with two stripes running along hys spine, starting from hys half-long hair and running into a white tip at the end of hys tail. Hy also posesses white gloves or boots on all six of hys limbs. A flash of white starts under hys chin and runs along hys chest across hys stomach and into the underbelly of hys taur body. A blue colored patch of fur shaped like a pawprint sits on hys right chest. Dull black clawtips sit on hys finger and digits.
Male phase: Hys vest usually half-opened revealing a nicely toned chest and the blue pawprint. A six-pack cannot be seen under the fur, but hys overall state indicates healthy workout or activities. A single braid of hys white hair hangs along the left side of hys head, and a small gold armlet sits on the biceps of hys left arm.
Female phase: Hys vest snugly fitting an ample bosom, not too large though, the blue pawprint sits slightly to the right of hys right breast. Hys curves are softened into more female shapes and hys entire body seems to convey more fluffyness, hys overall state indicates healthy workout or activities. A single braid of hys white hair hangs along the left side of hys head, and a small gold armlet sits on the biceps of hys left arm.
Zwokkie is mated to Chakat Silktail and they share a full empathic bond, both sensing each other at a greater distance than the normal Skunktaur bond. Being mated to hir is also opening hym up a little more than the average Skunktaur.
Zwokkie was born in The Glades, the only settlement on the Island of Newolland, located just under the Crimson Reef in the Skunktaur Archipelago. Hy was born on 3/34/72 (29th of September 2310 according to the Terran calendar). That makes hym a young adult currently.
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Skunktaurs and the article Skunktaurs: Chakat-kin are © 1999-2010 Bob Reijns. Chakats are © 1995-2010 Bernard Doove.