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In appearance they stand anywhere from 1.5 to 3 meters tall (depending upon their caste) in a relaxed state, although their digitigrade legs can extend their height by an additional 25% if needed. At their elbows, lower knees, and in a 'V' from shoulders to just above their tail, their fur raises in tufts, often trimmed to add 'flare'. They lack whiskers, and their ears are large and round. Their hands are typical, and equipped with very sharp retractable claws. They have good manual dexterity and are able to manipulate small things. Males and female are of comparable size, based more on heritage and lifestyle than on sex. Their tails are quite long, usually at least 3/4 of their body and are prehensile, although they lack a lot of strength. Males tails are sleek, with short fur, while female tails have long fur, tending to make them look 'fluffy'.
Their fur is perhaps their most curious feature. Unlike Terran fur, K'Tauk'Tau have a very fine fur that has many crystaline quatilies, although it remains very soft. This allows it to transmit light at a very good ratio. When not on their body, their fur is clear. The skin of the K'Tauk'Tau has unique color changing properties, much like the Terran Cuttlefish. This coloration can range from near pitch-black, red, green, yellow, blue, to brilliant white, or anything inbetween. While is can be consciously controlled, and even used for simple communication, it can not be used to make them invisible, but more for cammoflage, or decoration.
Reproduction of the K'Tauk'Tau is much like the Terran platypus, with the female laying eggs which, when they hatch, are carried by the mothers for up to 6 months. After this time, the young are able to take care of themselves, and do not require further aid.
The planet of Phan'lat (fan-lot) has a gravity equal to 1.2 Terran normal, leading to an increased muscle and bone mass. While agile in their own gravity, in anything they are even more-so, though sometimes over-react or misjudge the amount of force needed. They also have the ability to heal quite rapidly, their skin rarely scarring. Although they can not regenerate limbs without medical assistance, if given enough food, they will heal from most major injuries within a few days.
They have two large eyes where most beings do. These only see in black and white, but can see in .001 candle-watt illumination. The light level that most find comfortable is extremely painful to a K’Tauk’Tau. To alleviate this, they have developed thick opaque membranes that cover their eyes, filtering this light out, so that they can see normally. Located between these two eyes, is a much smaller third eye. When closed, it is nearly unnoticeable through their fur. This eye is capable of seeing color, though it lacks the membrane to protect it from bright light.
Their families are rather 'open', with a structure similar to a pride, although there are castes within this structure. No caste is considered another's better, all being needed within the society. Within each of these are other, more subtle divisions.
The Si'ran (see-ran) are the directors, the ones who make most decisions, diplomats, and traders. They typically fall in the middle range of both height, and mass. Their fur is the only of the three that can display silver.
The Kar'sun (car-soon) are the warrior/servant caste, raised to both protect and serve those they are bonded to. Are the largest of the three, and often have even more exaggerated ridges of fur. The Mra'Fer (mraw-fur) are the laborers, scientists, and technicians. They are the shortest, on average, though they are in no way inferior.
Their young are raised together, in part because of the many partners that they share, so it is rare that the exact parentage of an individual is known. The eggs are cared for in a central nursery, and are raised and look after by the Mra'Fer. Their caste is decided based upon their eggs coloration and color-shifting, which, like their fur, changes based upon the child inside of it. Once they hatch, each is fed a diet that differs slightly, based upon their caste. This helps in part, to determine the characteristics that they will eventually display. While an ancient, and some say primitive practice, it has served it's purpose since before time begun. All K'Tauk'Tau of the same generation and city usually consider themselves bother and sister, with those elder all being their parents, and those younger being their children.
Honor is held in the highest standing, with the word of one often being worth more than all that they own. Family honor is next in this, and often entire cities will back themselves behind a single member when wrongly accused of an offence. Duels, both bloodless and to the death, are typically used to settle disputes, these being presided over and following strict rules.
Their monetary system was based originally on the amount of work it took to acquire something, rather than precious metals or gems. This has continued, in a some-what socialist society, where needed things are provided for those who work, and those who excel or work extra hard can gain more privledges, while those who do not, are punished, or even exiled. Following this, there is much leeway on exactly what any individual does, and much cross-training, with many shifting their occupation every few years. Trade is usually handled between different families, than on an individual basis.
The improvement of self, both physical and mental, is held in high regard. Physical exercise is usually a daily routine, along with practicing their martial arts. While reminescient of oriental styles, their martial arts focuses on both the mind and body, harmonizing precise and controlled movements and balance with acuteness of perception and logic.
Their technology is a bit behind Terran standard, having only populated their system within the last fifty years. Medical technology is very advanced, although tuned for their metabolisms, and based more upon stabilizing the patient and allowing their own body to heal itself, although they can clone tissue, and re-grow lost limbs or organs with the right equipment. Cybernetics have not been explored, as they would rather have a living limb, than metal, although bio-enhancements are common. Nano-technology is, for them, still the stuff of theory.
Their power systems are based off of magnetic rather than nuclear properties, and while less efficient, and bulkier, are a bit more reliable and versatile. For long-range propulsion in space, they use a 'net' of magnetic fields, which catch solar winds and act as a sail. Fine maneuvering is accomplished via ionic drives.
Hand to hand weapons are typically have large, sweeping blades, as graceful as they are deadly, and used in sweeping arcs and movements rather than brute chopping. While they do not have molecular blades, most weapons are vibro-capable, and made of a composite ceramic. They are also often decorated with script, scenes, and flowing lines, as much a thing of beauty as an instrument of death. Some of the latest weapons are made only in zero-gravity, strong crystals being grown into clear blades, their hilts having lasers placed within them to make them glow brightly.
Ranged weapons evolved from crude 'rock-throwers', the K'Tauk'Tau never having developed shafted weapons. The basic weapon is a tube down which the projectile is accelerated via electro-thermal reaction instead of explosive (gun-power), and is equivalent to gun-powder weapons. These weapons are also crafted into pieces of art, and rifles usually have an attached blade to function in close combat as well.
How the K'Tauk'Tau got to Sol
Having detected the object long ago, before they had even achieved space travel, the K’Tauk’Tau had always been on a mission to find out just what it was. When they finally were able to examine it, they discovered that the object on the edge of their system was actually an ancient jump gate, that had been placed by unknown people long before time.
Quickly, work was begun to study it and find out how to activate the great machine, though with some factions arguing against such a risky thing. A decision was eventually come to. A single ship would be dispatched, to discover if it was safe to send anyone else, and to see what was out there.
The ship was equipped with all that could be foreseen, living quarters, medical, weapons, lab, and cargo. It even included elaborate cryo-chambers, for the crew if needed. The ship was named the Pir’nan (peer-non), or Last Light. It’s crew consisted of many K’Tauk’Tau from all castes, each skilled in several fields, and competent in both hand to hand, and the use of weapons.
With a large amount fan-fare and hype, and a fair share of protests, the Pir’nan and it’s crew set off, the ancient machine being activated and the ship disappearing through it, destination unknown.
Upon emergence from hyper-space, the crew suddenly found themselves just outside of another system, unknown to them, and the stars unfamiliar. The sensors detected one inhabitable planet, as well as two other of the gates, but no indication of any intelligent life.
Upon the planet, they found only primitive life, although there were ruins of a civilization that showed progress into the stone-age. Taking back several samples of life from the planet, microbes, several insects, plants, and small mammals. Most interestingly, one of the exploration team brought back a large mass, in the shape of a blob. It reacted to stimuli, and was brought back to the ship for further research.
While under study, the life-form began to react to one of the Directors, Rhedyn (ree-din). It would always react to her presence even beginning to react before she would show up, whether expected or not. This baffled those studying it. During one of the sleep-cycles, the alert sounded throughout the ship, waking all of those not on duty. The on-shift technician was found at the sealed door of the lab, babbling near-incoherently about a monster.
Upon investigation, the only thing found an unknown K’tauk’tau, within the containment cell where the unknown life-form was. Appearing as a near ideal form of their species, all were stunned by her beauty and apparent physical perfection. She appeared awake, and alert, though reacted to no one until Rhedyn showed up, at which point she immediately latched onto her, cuddling to her leg as would a kit to their care-mother.
Somewhat hesitant, Rhedyn began to teach her and train her, though she was still a mystery. The new one was given the name Sashik (saw-shick), or enigma, and was accepted into the family, getting quite agitated and even violent when separated from Rhedyn for long periods. Sashick learned quickly, taking on the manners and language of the K’Tauk’Tau within weeks.
During this time, the planet was continuously explored and charted, plans already being made for landing sites of colonizing ships.
Soon after, another ship was detected that out-massed the Pir’nan a hundred-fold. Quickly, communication was attempted, signals being sent on every conceivable frequency from visible light, to x-rays, but failed to gain any response. Retreating toward one of the other gates, the one back to their home already cut off, they continued to attempt to establish communications.
The larger ship still closed, sensors picking up an increase in it’s power-output. Not wating helplessly to be obliterated, the Director of the Pir’nan ordered the near gate to be activated, the whole crew hoping that it would lead to safer territory.
Before the gate could be activated, the unknown ship opened fire, its weapons tearing into the Pir’nan, damaging systems and wounding crew. By the time they were able to slip through the gate, the ship was severely damaged.
Once on the other side, the Director quickly ordered the gate destroyed, stranding themselves in the unknown system, but stopping, or at least delaying pursuit. Most of the crew were injured beyond their abilities to heal, the ships systems damaged to a critical level. Those who could be saved were quickly sealed into the cryo-chambers, the only way to save them until more help could be received.
What repairs that could be done were, and the few crew left started heading towards the faint signals being picked up by their damaged sensors. With the star over twenty years away, they set the auto systems, and followed their brother and sisters into cryo-sleep, the systems set to wake them up at first contact, or when they were near the system.