A Brief History of the Stellar Foxtaurs
The newest species to be introduced to the Stellar Federation is actually a revamping of an older and very successful one – the Foxtaur. Foxtaurs have been the hereditary caretakers and rangers of the National Parks and Wilderness Preserves for many decades, and they have fulfilled that role with minimum technology and maximum environmental preservation. This made them the ideal candidates for the role of pioneers on newly opened worlds being developed by the Star Corps. However, one factor that made the Foxtaurs such a great success – their close affinity for the land – was also their failing. They are so closely bonded to their home territory that few will ever leave it, which meant that there were far too few for a settlement program. A more recent species – the Chakats – were excellent and hardy explorers, naturally equipped to deal with many climates and conditions, but they had never been intended for long-term pioneering settlement (although that option was open to them if they wished). The Star Corps still wanted a species that could fulfil that role, so their only recourse was to approach the Institute of New Generation Genetics with the goal of producing a new species suited for this purpose.
Because creating a new species in this era is no longer something that can be done at a whim, the Star Corps consulted closely with the elders of both the Foxtaur and Chakat clans when designing them. The Chakats were particularly sensitive on the issue of freedom of destiny, ensuring that the INGG wasn’t simply going to breed willing puppets. Eventually a satisfactory design was agreed upon and work was begun. The basic design would still be a Foxtaur, taking the best traits of the species and improving upon them. They also learned from the knowledge gained in creating the Chakat species, imbuing the new creations with several of their superior traits such as their very high tolerance to almost all toxins, their ability to regenerate injuries and replace limbs, plus enhanced senses. While they felt that the new foxtaurs did not require other Chakat features such as the prehensile tail or handpaws on the forelegs (with one exception), there was one trait that had proved to be a surprisingly great success – their dual gender. It was decided that the new foxtaurs would also be hermaphrodites, thus ensuring that populations could be rapidly established. In order to maximise the terrains that could be explored efficiently, they established seven breeds of what they came to name the Stellar Foxtaurs (or Stellars for short) based on existing sub-species of foxtaurs. These breeds are the Forest, Desert, Marine, Mountain, Veldt, Polar, and Starwalker, the names being an accurate indication of the climates and conditions they were best suited for.
The first cubs were born around late 2289. Raising the new creations was handled by a combined team of Foxtaurs and Chakats, each species teaching them what they needed to know about their combined heritage. The Foxtaurs showed the wonders of nature and the skills of working with minimal technology, while the Chakats taught them herm social values, useful high technology and the spirit of adventure. Every Stellar kit had the benefit of several loving foster parents and a thorough education that guided them without forcing them into any particular field. Upon maturity, the Stellars were then given the choice of following a pioneering career or remaining on Earth to pursue other life-paths. The Star Corps was pleased to have an average uptake of 92% across the entire program, and the first of the new planets to be pioneered by them was soon opened up. They soon proved to be an enormous success, but because the breeding program was now officially concluded, the Star Corps had to wait for new candidates to be bred naturally. Fortunately, the Stellar Foxtaurs were quite diligent in doing so! Each breed of Stellar can interbreed with any other, but in order to prevent dilution or drifting of their special features, a genetic lock ensures that the child is always the same breed as the mother. They are also capable of interbreeding with other Foxtaurs and Chakats, but the resulting children are always Stellars in the first case, and always the species of the mother in the second case. However, Chakat cubs can gain extra traits from Stellar sires.
The Stellars that did not go on pioneering programs ended up forming a couple of combined colonies in quiet corners of the continents. For the most part they usually like to be left alone, although they still use their special skills to do work for the World Government. Occasionally they are seen amongst normal populations but because they are so rare, they are seldom recognised as being anything but unusual-looking foxtaurs.
A review of the breeds.
The Forest breed is perhaps the most attractive of the Stellar Foxtaurs with their contrasting fur colours. They all have a medium grey fur starting on their heads, down the back of the neck, spreading over the shoulder and down the arms, across both backs and down the legs and tail. They have “gloves” and “boots” of soft grey, off-white fur that also covers the muzzle, cheeks, throat, chest, and upper & lower bellies. Dark grey muzzle markings and tail stripe. What makes them so attractive though is the bright red fur that borders the medium grey and off-white fur. The fur is fairly waterproof, which is a big asset in the rainforests. They also have the longest headfur of all the Stellar Foxtaurs, long enough to actually call hair, although it still never grows any longer than a thick mop. Hair and ear colours vary between individuals and may be any of the above-mentioned colours, plus a true white and several other shades of grey. The hair and face patterns are the major method of telling them apart. Typical eye colour is bright green.
The Forest breed is the second–smallest of the Stellars, to make it easier to weave through dense growth. Their forelimbs and all paws have been modified for climbing, and they are almost as good at it as a feline. They have an excellent sense of balance, and spend large amounts of time in trees, either looking for prey or fruits, working, or living in one of their arboreal villages. Depending on the type of forest, dwellings can vary from mostly on the ground to mostly in the trees. They have a strong affinity for all living things in the forest, and prefer a mostly vegetarian diet, although not obsessive about it.
Umbra is a spectacular redhead. Young and vivacious, shi could have hir choice of many possible companions, but has fallen in love with a visiting trader, Savannah, a Veldt breed. Shi is a gatherer for the tribe, but does animal biological studies for the Star Corps.
The Veldt breed is characterised by its lean and leggy looks, in some ways resembling the Terran Maned Wolf. Adapted to their ideal environment of grasslands and plains, they are capable of both endurance running and bursts of great speed, and they are the swiftest of the Stellar Foxtaur breeds. They are also the tallest, averaging between 178cm (~5’10”) and 183cm (~6’0”). Their fur is of average length and thickness. The base colour ranges from a deep red to medium orange, with cream or white fur on the chin, throat, and tailtip, but not on their chest or belly. “Gloves” and “socks” of fur range from black to dark brown. Headfur may be of any of the above-mentioned colours, but never grows longer than a thick mop. Their ears are exceptionally large and sensitive. Not only can they easily hear prey or predators hidden in the thick grass of the plains, but they can communicate by sound readily over large distances. Typical eye colour is brown.
The Veldt clans are nomadic, following the herds that are a major source of food and raw materials, such as hides. Additionally, in keeping with their main purpose for being on a frontier world, they study the herdbeasts and other species that interact with them, assessing their environment and the possible impact of settlers on their lands. However they also do have some permanent settlements established near important resources, small farms, and bases of operations for Star Corps related purposes.
The Veldt foxtaurs are quite flamboyant, with family banners and pennants flown over every dwelling or tent, plus many others purely for decoration. When they choose to wear clothing, it tends to be ornate and colourful rather than practical.
Savannah – or just “Vanna” to hir friends – works as a trader for a living. With hir specially designed cart yoked to hir, shi transports luxury goods and region-specific items between the various clans and the main port, paid either in barter or Fedcreds (Federation Credits). These goods usually fall outside classification as necessary items that would be transported by the limited shuttle service available to all the clans. Shi is also one of the world’s few “posties”, delivering parcels and mail that can’t be sent by electronic means. Hir duties to the Star Corps though are as a trained biologist specialising in plantlife. On hir travels, shi makes frequent stops and side trips to collect specimens and samples, and to check on long-term field experiments. Shi’s also a chocoholic!
Savannah is about thirty Terran years old, and is mated to Willow who has borne them their one kit so far, and is currently pregnant with their second. Vanna intends to get pregnant also, but at a time when travelling won’t interfere, which Willow claims might mean never despite Vanna’s protestations otherwise.
Vanna has a pet Pennantail - a bird with two very long tailfeathers – that shi named Tweet. Raised from an egg that was rescued from a nest-raiding predator, the bird has imprinted on Vanna and refuses to leave hir despite the foxtaur’s travels to various unpleasant climates. Vanna has grown to enjoy having a travelling companion who is the perfect listener, and shi has made it a special birdcage that keeps out the worst of the weather, but the bird travels on hir shoulder at most other times.
The Polar breed of Stellar Foxtaur is immediately recognisable by its luxuriantly thick fur, which is capable of insulating them from the worst of cold conditions. Because of it, they are capable of sleeping quite comfortably in a snowbank, although their trademark hooded fur capes make them even more flexible in their choice of conditions. They are the only breed whose fur permanently covers their nipples, for obvious reasons. Special convoluted air passageways pre-warm air as it’s breathed in, preventing damage from freezing cold air and ice crystals. A special third eyelid helps protect each eye from the cold and, because it is tinted, stops snow glare from causing blindness. Adaptations to the circulatory system minimises heat loss from the extremities. They are perfectly at home in Arctic conditions.
Fur colour depends on the season, with temperature triggering the change. During the cold seasons, their fur is primarily white, with some black markings varying from such as tipped ears, tail, paws and hands. During the warm seasons, the black spreads in random fashion to cover about half the body, and makes very good camouflage. They don’t really have head-hair, but extra thick fur all around is almost a short mane. The ears are short, thick, and heavily furred to minimise heat loss. They put on extra layers of insulating fat that tends to give them a zaftig appearance and, in combination with the thick fur, makes them look more buxom than they actually are. Their paws are broader than any other Stellar Foxtaur for better footing in snow. Typical eye colour is bright blue.
The Polar foxtaurs are migratory, and have two or three semi-permanent settlements set up to use depending on the season. They primarily eat meat during the cold seasons, but find a rich variety of plant foodstuffs during the growing seasons. Ice fishing is also very common.
Tundra is unusual in having pure white fur during the cold season, and far less black than average during the warmer months. Hir obligation to the clan is as a hunter. Although shi is a very capable hunter on hir own, shi usually works in a hunting pack of three or four to increase the likelihood of a good hunt. Hir Star Corps related work is very different as shi’s a climatologist. Shi is currently unmated, although shi has two or three frequent bed companions.
The Marine breed have a very otterish look, which is hardly surprising because they have many of the same features as sea otters. They have a very dense coat that is waterproof for both insulation and buoyancy. The colour of the fur is a reddish brown almost everywhere except for a cream-coloured area from the muzzle, down the throat, between the breasts and down the belly as far as the forelegs. It never goes onto the lower belly. The tail is frequently tipped with cream also. They have no headfur other than the same fur that covers the rest of their bodies that are more streamlined for swimming, including the smallest ears of all the Stellar breeds. Their forelegs are designed to lie close to the body while the hindlegs can stretch out behind and are used in conjunction with the tail to propel the body through the body through undulating. The upper torso is brought level with the lower while doing this. They also have partially webbed fingers to assist in thrust and direction. Their breasts tend to be less protrusive and spread over a larger area to minimise drag, but have about the same capacity as other breeds. They have valves to close off air passages, excellent oxygen storage and efficiency to maximise time between breaths, and a third eyelid that compensates for the distortions of water as well as helping protect the eye while diving. Typical eye colour is aqua.
The Marine foxtaurs are naturally great fishers, but they excel in all kinds of marine activities. Their kind can be found anywhere there is sufficient water, from mountain streams to the deepest ocean. Besides fishing and harvesting sea plants though, Marine foxtaurs are great sailors, specialising in transporting goods by water, and trading with distant clans. Some live most of their lives on boats, while others build sea and river ports. They are also the most high-spirited of all the breeds. Be prepared to be exhausted by all their energetic activities if you choose to visit them. They’re also some of the worst jokesters!
Tempest grew up in a fishing village, but found hir talent lay with the selling rather than the catching of seafood. Shi developed this until shi worked up to the position of Portmaster at the major coastal settlement that also serves as the centre of the land trade routes, as well as the spaceport. Hir Star Corps training is as an oceanographer, which knowledge shi put to very good use in giving traders working under hir an advantage. Shi is mated with three kits, two of whom shi birthed and one sired. Shi plans to have many more!
The strongest and most hardy of all the Stellar Foxtaurs, the Mountain breed is rarely found outside of the rocky hillsides and mountain ranges that are their territory. Not only are they suited to the rugged landscapes, but have traits such as a superior sense of balance for negotiating dangerous trails, and a high tolerance for oxygen-poor environments such as are found at high altitudes. Their strength and stamina enable them to travel and work in areas that would exhaust many other species. Their fur is dense and fairly water-resistant, keeping them warm and dry in both cold and wet environments. Fur colour starts with a base coat of white which ranges from the muzzle, throat, arms, breasts, bellies and down the legs, with dark brown “gloves”, “boots”, half the tail, ears and face. The back of the neck, shoulders, upper & lower backs have a graduated colouring from dark grey through brown to a reddish shade which then blends with the white fur. The pattern of the latter varies between individuals and makes them fairly easy to tell apart. The short dense headfur can be any of the above-mentioned colours. Typical eye colour is amber.
The Mountain foxtaurs make their homes in natural caves, dens carved out of mountainsides, or dwellings made from stone. Subdued colours are typical of their villages, but they show more enthusiasm for other cultural aspects such as singing. In fact they are quite enthusiastic singers, often doing so while working, and more organised sing-alongs and choirs liven up the hillsides with regularity. Fortunately they have good voices and are quite pleasant to listen to. They tend to have a rough but good-natured sense of humour.
This breed was developed to take advantage of resources found in mountainous areas. Many of them are professional geologists and miners who are looking for precious metals and unique gemstones. Strata was the first to discover the eternally glowing starstones that have become the latest fad in Federation jewellery shops. Rare and unreproduceable, they have become the status stone of the era, affordable only by the moderately wealthy.
Strata is a mining engineer by trade, and makes a comfortable living by finding the starstones and selling them to traders who market them off-world. Shi is unmated and probably will remain so due to hir lifestyle choice. Although shi loves hir mountain home, shi dreams of leaving it to seek a new start elsewhere, and perhaps the mate of hir dreams.
The Desert breed strongly resembles the Terran Fennec Foxtaur due to it being adapted to similar conditions. However, although it is the smallest of the Stellar breeds, it is still significantly bigger than the Fennecs. Their small size and large ears are just two of the adaptations this breed has to cope with hot desert conditions. Their fur coat is short and smooth, optimised to keep them cooler during the heat of the day, yet warm enough during the cool of night. Colouration is an even sandy shade all over the body and can include the headfur, although it’s often a slightly darker shade. The headfur is long enough to help shade the head from the sun, but they frequently wear “coolie” hats that do an even better job. The only markings they have are a medium brown tail-tip, muzzle marks, and a pair of random symmetrical spots somewhere on the coat. They are very hard to tell apart otherwise by sight, so scent is the major means of identification. This breed has the best smelling ability of the Stellars, and combined with superior hearing, they can find prey hidden anywhere from sand dunes to desert scrub. Their metabolism is extra water-efficient to minimise the need for drinking when water supplies may be far away. Nosepad and nipples are dark brown from melanin protecting them from the sun’s rays.
The Desert clans have semi-permanent dwellings typically set up around waterholes, wells or some other permanent water source. Availability of food resources usually determines which site they use. Hunting and foraging or work is usually done in the early hours or evening to avoid the worst of the heat. Open airy tents and other structures keep them cooler during midday. Not having much to do at these times, the Desert foxtaurs have developed a culture of storytelling that they have raised to high art. Visitors to a Desert clan can be entertained for days from their seemingly unending supply of tales.
Zephyr is a tanner, and shi produces high quality leather both for the clan’s use and for selling to traders. Hir Star Corp work is as a geologist. Shi is mated in a triad with Sirocco and Mirage, and has borne one kit and sired another.
Although the Stellar Foxtaurs were bred for independent planetary exploration and development, they still require contact and support from the Federation, and they maintain a space station and shipping facilities in orbit. It is here that the seventh and most aptly named breed live and work - the Starwalkers. This breed is immune to claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and horizon stare, does not ever get motion-sickness, and has a superior sense of spacial awareness.
The Starwalkers have many adaptations to enable them to live long periods in space without noticeable harm. A compensating system prevents problems with bone decalcification due to long periods of freefall. Their fur, which is always solid black in colour, is short and dense, and has special thermal and anti-radiation properties. Their eyes have also been fortified against radiation, and possessing a golden-coloured nictating eyelid to protect the fragile eyeball from the vacuum and guard against sun glare. They are a small but wiry species, enabling to get into awkward areas in cramped spacecraft, yet still be able to handle fairly heavy objects. The ability to seal off all body orifices even enables them to survive full vacuum for about an hour, more or less depending on the degree of activity, without ill effects. In an emergency, they can also go into a form of hibernation that drastically reduces their need for oxygen and enables them to survive disasters that would kill any other species. Their paws have longer digits which, somewhat like chakat pawhands, enables them to grasp objects crudely. The insides of their ears have heat-radiating surfaces that help them get rid of excess heat while in an insulating vacuum. The ears are fully mobile and can be folded down flat against the head for space considerations. They also have large tails which would seem inconvenient for a species that regularly uses spacesuits, but they are actually key to their ability to survive for so long in a vacuum without air. Although the tails seem to be even furrier than an average foxtaur's, they in fact have less fur covering a much thicker limb. Surrounding the bones and muscle the length of an otherwise normal tail is a very specialised unique organ that stores oxygen that can be released at need.
Because of the closeness of the typical frontier space facilities, the Starwalkers were bred to actually prefer being in the company of others most of the time. Because of this, they don't usually form limited mating bonds like the other breeds, but make a communal family. A typical workgroup of Starwalkers can also be regarded as being co-mates also. They will live, eat, play, sleep, and procreate together. Because they all have the same black fur, they tell each other apart by scent or voice.
Nimbus is one of a family workgroup of sixteen. Shi is a systems engineer and is head of maintenance for the space station. Because of the limitations in room and resources, only a very few cubs have been born to the group so far, but because of hir seniority, shi was chosen as the sire of one. The colonies on the planet they orbit are growing considerably though, so they are due to have a major upgrade to the station soon by the Federation, giving them a lot more room. At that time, there will be many who will qualify for having a baby themselves, including Nimbus. Shi just hasn't decided yet which of hir co-mates will be the sire.
The Stellar Foxtaur Portfolio is currently available as a set of full size colour prints of all seven characters, plus their history and bios. Contact Bernard Doove to purchase them. At only US$35.00 plus S&H, it's a real bargain!
If individual characters catch your eye, all of them are available as the highest quality prints from Kacey. Contact Ayukawataur for details.
All art is copyright © 2005 Kacey Miyagami. All characters and text are copyright © 2005 Bernard Doove.
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