Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kudu: The Age of Awakening

    For the Kudu, their Age of Awakening starts well before the Golemites. In fact it started during humanity's first steps into the galaxy with the discovery of an Earth like planet approximately four hundred light years from the Sol system along the Orion Spur of the galaxy.

    The system, identified as PSM-485-34c, was the thirty fourth system surveyed by jump probe 485 thirty four years after the BG Drive was invented. A science vessel was dispatched to cluster PSM-485 forty seven years after its charting. From that ship a small research and survey team was deployed to examine the planet for colonization.

    What the team discovered was a planet rich in both flora and fauna. With an atmosphere that closely matched Earths. Further study and research showed no serious threats to colonization and so the planet was given the green light for initial colonization.

    It was not long before three SEED ships moved into orbit of the planet. The ships carried materials, machines, habitats, and various flora and fauna for colonization. What was not planned was that one animal would be the catalyst for the quarantine of the world. That species was the unassuming Squirrel (specifically the California Ground Squirrel).

    The crews of the SEED ships went to work, deploying drop ships and depositing parts, machinery, plants, and animals in a large valley. Over the next three solar cycles the new settlement slowly grew. Waste processing, habitats, factories, and mines were all built. Shortly before the SEED ships left, Pioneer colonists started to arrive beginning the work of getting everything running.

    All looked good for many years except that the scientists left to monitor the effects of human colonization on the biosphere started to see some odd results. From their censuses, the Squirrel population was remaining constant instead of growing. But more worrying was that the Kudoe population (their name for the indigenous squirrel like species) was declining.

    The reason for this, as the scientists discovered, was that the Kudoe preferred to mate with the Squirrels instead of themselves. The cause was traced to a specific pheromone the Squirrels released that caused the Kudoe to enter a euphoric state. More surprising was that the Kudoe could be impregnated by the Squirrels.

    Many of the offspring were stillborn or had terrible mutations and died in hours of birth. But one in every fifty was viable, this new species would be named the Kudu (pronounced Koo - Doo) by the scientists. The Kudu were different, they averaged double the size of Squirrels when mature. They had denser muscles, were faster, their snouts were shorter, and their cranial cavities were larger with the frontal cortex being almost double the size.

    If this was not odd enough, the Kudu started to gather into groups and would breed at almost any time of the year. Their populations started to boom as the Kudoe were now dying out in the valley. With each successive generation of Kudu, their evolution continued. Fifty years after the first colonists arrived, the Kudu were three feet tall when standing on their hind legs. They were changing far faster than anyone could have dreamt and it had a growing number of scientists worried.

    On a cool day leading into fall on the planet now called New Stockholm, an incident came to pass that would change the course of the planet's future. On weekends the many children of the settlement would often migrate from the more populated areas to the fields and grasslands of the rural surroundings. One day two groups did not return to their homes for lunch.

    What follows is an accounting of events from one of the security staff:

    “The office was quiet till about noon, frantic parents were calling the security office reporting that their children could not be found. Officers were immediately tasked to look through recent camera data and to find the kids and track their movements. The last camera to see the large group of children was on the west side of town as they entered the forested area at the edge of the agricultural zone.

    Shortly after the we knew where the children were last seen, Commander Hargrove organized a search composed of parents, Security officers, and members of the science station including Dr. Sandesky, head of the science center.

    Within forty minutes the teams were organized and moving into the western forest. The brush was thick and hard to traverse especially for the civilians. Surprisingly the scientists were at home in it and moved with ease.

    After two hours of searching, my group entered a clearing. To the center of the clearing was something no one expected to see. Sitting in a half circle in front of a large tree were the children. A silver-gray Kudu was moving inside the half circle letting the kids pet it. The Kudu would chitter with each one and the kids would laugh when it did.

    Around the children was a crude pen made of woven vines and sticks. Outside were a number of younger Kudu standing about four feet to four foot six inches tall, each holding crude spears. It was with the outer Kudu guards that one of the parents panicked and tried to run to her child. The Kudu reacted by raising their spears as security grabbed the parent and pulled her back behind them while others raised their weapons.

    The situation was tense with security ready to fire and Kudu ready to attack. Before it could get there though, from the edge of the clearing a voice boomed from the woods “STAND DOWN!!”. The security team's weapons wavered as heads turned to see Dr. Sandesky moving out of the shadow of the forest.

    As the doctor closed he repeated “Stand down and put those weapons on the ground!!” The team of security officers did as he ordered, slowly lowering their rifles and placing them on the ground. When Dr. Sandesky got to the group one of the officers asked “Sir, why?” all the doctor did was point to the forest canopy.

    Behind us in the canopy of the trees were dozens of dark shapes moving around in the shadows. Spears and crude bows could be seen in their hands. The gray Kudu watched all of this, raising his staff, the Kudu waived it and the shadows faded into the green once again.

    Once the situation was diffused, the doctor started to walk to the gray Kudu, the guards still pointing spears at him, he pulled out a small pouch and took something out of it. We later learned that it was a bag of raw Walnuts, holding one in hand he stopped just before the gate and held out the Walnut.

    The elder Kudu motioned to the kids to follow and they did, he then moved to the gate of the enclosure and as he reached it, chittered something. The guard Kudu lowered their weapons and moved away from the enclosure eventually fading into the forest. The Elder, with only two guards remaining, approached Dr. Sandesky. Reaching out with his paw, or may be hand, the Gray Kudu took the nut and inspected it.

    Giving the doctor a nod, Sandesky handed the Kudu the bag. With a smile, the Kudu waived the children on and sat down with Dr. Sandesky following suite. Turning to the group “Two security members, please stay. The rest of you leave before you make more trouble for me.”

    It took three hours to get back through the forest. The doctor returned later with his guard some time after sunset. All personnel were accounted for with no casualties.”

    With the children found, a discussion of the Kudu was started. The civilians believed they should be exterminated like some pest that was eating their crops. While security was more interested in keeping the civilian population from acting on their own. The scientific staff believed an evacuation was in order, something most were not in favor of. Fortunately, no one had a choice in the matter.

    Reports from the security and science staff made their way to the highest levels of the Earth government. An emergency council was convened and it was decided that this was to important a chance to pass up. Humans had found numerous planets to colonize with many more to be terraformed. But a chance to observe and study a new species as it developed at such a rapid pace was to much to ignore. The order came down, the planet was now quarantined and all personal with exception to the scientific personnel and some security forces would remain.

    The Science center was expanded to double the number of personnel it could hold while much of the town was demolished and removed from the planet. All the while the Kudu could be seen watching from the tree lines. Observing the valley intently.

    As time passed, a key to the puzzle of why the Kudu evolved so quickly was found. The interbreeding of the Kudoe and Squirrels was a catalyst for the change. After humans left, the evolution of the Kudu slowed. It was discovered that a virus was taking snippets of human DNA and adding it to the malleable Kudu DNA. Much of the time it would fail leading to cancer and terrible mutations. But in enough occasions the DNA was in the right spot and changed the very nature of the Kudu.

    Without humanity on the planet the virus was of little concern. But as a precaution, the Kudu were inoculated against the virus and in time it was eradicated from the planet. For the remainder of humanities years in the universe the science station was manned. Through the war to the time of magic, the scientists were there watching, learning, and interacting.

    Then, one day, the Kudu went to the science center and no one was there. The scientists returned to Earth, and the Kudu were alone. For a thousand years the Kudu would develop some of the most spectacular magical technologies around. Until they created their greatest achievement, the Venture. A ship that would let the Kudu travel to other stars.

To be Continued: “Asterilians: The Age of Awakening”

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