Name: Tarok(s) [TAIR-ock(ss)]
Origin: Taroks were genetically engineered on Aibla by a famous Jhee geneticist named Ziisho. Red female Akarwhu was the first; black female Jekki is also noteable, as she was the second to escape the Jhee, after Akarwhu did. Both women have respectable bloodlines; their direct descendents are surnamed "jin Jekki/Akarwhu."
Height/Length/Weight: Taroks are a reasonably sized species, ranging from 5.5' to 7.5' in height when standing fully upright. In their normal angled-spine stances, they range 5-7' or 5-6.5' tall. They weigh between 160 and 325 lbs; tails range in length from 3-5' (generally a little over half the Tarok's height).
Physical Description: Taroks are furred, bipedal mammals who walk digitigrade and generally hold their spines at a 75* angle. They have sleek pelts (except for whites, who have long, layered, and shaggy fur) and some grow manes. Taroks have long snouts, canine noses, whiskers, erect and triangular ears (whites have tufts on the ends), almond-shaped eyes, and a set of wickedly sharp teeth with only a few molars in the very back. Their fangs are only barely longer than the rest of their teeth, which is unusual for most predators. Taroks have long, smooth, arching necks and torsos that are more bestial than humanoid; they don't have well-defined pecs or abs, rather having a deeper chest and a smooth waist. Their arms are lean and fairly long, often held tucked to their chest or stomach while running full-speed (during which, they often hold their spine close to horizontal and keep their heads low). Their legs are muscular and bestial, digitigrade in stance, and possess incredible leaping and kicking power; their hind paws are three-toed, with the inner-most toe being longest and largest, kinked upright to hold a six-inch 'longclaw' off the ground. Their other toes have normal-sized, curving, sharp claws - non-retractable. Some Taroks have hands reminiscent of their paws, with two long fingers and a longclaw as the third (acting as a thumb); other Taroks merely have two-fingered hands sans the longclaw, and some have one of each. Taroks have muscular, flexible tails that are used for balance while running as well as combat. All males have tailblades, a scythe-shaped blade that branches off at the tailtip, supported by a heavy 'base' of bone and cartilage in the tailtip itself; about half of all females also have tailblades, though their tails are both shorter and heavier than males', and even those females who are bladeless still have the blunt, heavy tailtip that would otherwise support a blade. Taroks, despite being bipedal, are quite capable of scrambling around on all fours on difficult terrain, and their tailblades often aid in traction and climbing. Females do not have noticeable breasts (except when nursing), and males have internal testes and a fairly unnoticeable penile sheath; both genders have longer, concealing fur in their groin regions.
Senses/Capabilities: Taroks have excellent full-color, long-range sight that is equally good at perceiving motionless detail as it is indistinct movements; they are adept at navigating both feral surroundings and technological ones. Their sense of smell is fine-tuned, and their hearing is very keen. Their physical cabilities generally vary by breed. From strongest to weakest (and also most enduring to least): reds, whites, blacks, browns, tans. From fastest to slowest (and most agile to least): tans, browns, blacks, whites, reds - along a spectrum of 40 mph to 25 mph.
Coloration/Clothing: Taroks have no particular need to wear clothing, since their genitalia is largely unnoticeable. Some Taroks, especially those with close ties to Olashi, enjoy dabbling in fashion and will wear cloth for decorative purposes; many will consent to wearing hooded cloaks in hot places and more insulating clothing in cold places. Taroks do not wear shoes, but many will wear belts or straps across their torsos to hold weaponry or other possessions. Coloration is determined by breed. Blacks are, quite simply, black - some can have a greyish matte pelt, others can have a blue-ish gleam to their pelts, but they are all still black. Reds range from deep, blackened red to rusty brick-red to brownish red to blood-red. Tans range from pale cream to tawny yellow to vivid copper, including a bland beige color ('tan'…). Whites are sometimes snow-white, but also can be ivory, off-white, and very pale silvery-grey. Browns are usually a medium-colored spice-brown, but can range to a dark chocolate brown to cinnamon-brown to a bland medium mud-brown. Eyes can be yellow/gold, silver/grey, blues, greens, browns, and very rarely black, orange, red, or violet. Claws and tailblades are usually matte black or silvery grey, but can also be ivory, pale creamy-gold, vivid copper-gold, or dark grey. Pawpads are either black or pinkish peach; noses are always black.
Races/Breeds: Taroks have five breeds, plus a sixth genetic mutation; four breeds are taken from Koratian DNA (which is also where the mutation comes from) and the fifth breed is from Sub-Korat DNA. Breeds are referred to by color of fur and strongly influence physical capabilities and build, as well as general temperament - but because of the mixed heritage of Taroks, many individuals of a certain breed are shorter/taller or different in personality than the stereotype. Tans are usually the smallest, both short and light in build, lean and streamlined and often the most agile; they are by far the fastest and least enduring. Some are pacifists or passive in nature, but others are dare-devils with arrogance inflating their actual competency; they tend to be very good at reading people and most have large groups of friends. Reds are also on the shorter end of the spectrum but very stocky and brawny in build, heavily muscled and immensely strong; they're the most enduring breed but not terribly fast nor agile. Reds are typically blunt, honest, and honorable, preferring to be straight-forward with no masks or deceit; they are powerful allies to have but have little patience, especially for mind-games and politics. Blacks are average in build, sleek and cleanly-built, usually on the tall side of average, and quite graceful; they strike an often-lethal balance between strength and speed, and while they are the best in no one area, they are well-rounded in speed, agility, strength, and endurance. They are extremely cunning, intelligent, and complex individuals; generally regarded as the most keen-witted of the breeds, they love mind-games, are adept at politics, and are often frustrated at too much bluntness. Whites are the largest of the breeds, muscular and long-legged and tall, but not quite so blocky as reds; their endurance and strength is excellent, often comparable to that of a red's, and they can run fairly quickly, but their reflexes and agility are poor. They are stoic, logical individuals who are both intelligent and perceptive, without being affected by emotions or instincts; they make fantastic leaders and strategists, but their rigid adherence to reason over emotion often frustrates others who act on gut impulse. The fifth breed are browns, built like a hybrid between blacks and tans - tall, lean, sleek, and swift, they rely on speed and flexibility over strength and endurance; they're not as fast or agile as tans, but they have better endurance and are stronger, but not usually to the extent of a well-trained black. Browns are typically extremely reckless and arrogant, nearly always have longclaws on both hands and a tailblade, and show little respect for caution or logic - they act on intuition and emotion, despite being quite intelligent and perceptive. [Please note: brown Taroks do NOT come from the bloodline of brown Korats; brown Taroks result from the influence of Sub-Korat DNA.] The mutations are stripeds, which combine any two breeds into one individual. Stripeds are fairly common but only rarely have brown as one of their colors; they have stripes of one breed's color over a base coat of another breed's color. The base color is considered to be stronger in that individual than the stripes, so a white Tarok with black stripes is referred to as a black-striped white, or a black-white for short. In some individuals, the striping is so thick that the colors appear to have equal prevalence. Stripeds mix some qualities of both breeds but do not include all qualities of both breeds; they are a conglomeration and resist stereotyping. Unlike Korats, Taroks hold no grudge or bias against stripeds and consider them equals to unicolored individuals.
Language: Taroks speak Kalash as a general rule; many speak Kusanian (the official language of the Tri-System fleet) and Koratian as well. Taroks do not have their own language, but some still speak remnants of the Jhee tongue.
Technology: Taroks have developed their own style of spacecrafts, based off the pair of Meka-Length 13 prototypes that Akarwhu and Jekki stole from the Jhee; however, other than spacecraft, they use Olashi technology with only a few additions. The Meka-Lengths are thick, long, almost serpentine spacecraft that has little capacity for cargo but an immense capacity for weaponry and defensive systems; they were made to be slow but effective warships that requires a small crew of two pilots and four gunners to operate. Over time, Taroks diversified the design to include small, fast, but still well-armed and well-armored crafts that only required one or two crew, as well as larger, hollow-bodied, swifter MLs that could be used as emergency transport or heavily-armed passenger carriers. In other fields, Taroks are fond of short-barreled, blocky rifles (Shrr rifles in particular, and similar models), which are also favorites of Siyymn and Luir (both bipedal species from Lavana - low population in the Tri-System fleet). Taroks also designed a tiny dual-pistol weapon that's mounted on circlet that wraps around their heads, above their eyes and below their ears; though this headset is weaker than a typical DB (handheld laser pistol, Olashi model) and cannot be aimed independently of their skulls, it's a quick and effective form of defense in a tight spot. The headset can be fired with a code word or by pressing a button inset into one of the two slim barrels (one along each temple, aligned horizontally).
Magic: N/A. Taroks don't use magic, nor do they have any skill with life-force, unlike some few Korats.
Values: Taroks don't really hold many values as a whole species. Loyalty to other Taroks seems to be the only thing that is consistent across professions and breeds; Taroks have been known to go to great lengths to protect, retrieve, and avenge their kindred, even amassing completely uninvolved individuals and ships to aid in the effort. Even Taroks who don't spend time with others or who prefer to mind their own business will join in such widespread events, showing a surprising solidarity against any who truck with their race. Beyond that, breeds share some vague values: whites value calmness and logic, reds value honesty and courage, blacks value cunning and intelligence, tans value socialization and cooperation, browns value intuition and fearlessness.
Social Groups/Society: Varies. Some Taroks are extremely social and will become unstable if kept alone too long, but most are comfortable with living their own lives and only crossing others' paths on occasion. Most Taroks are employed in the Tri-System fleet and function within that hierarchy. The fleet works on the following premise: Olashi provide information and materials via academies to train an individual in whatever fields it wishes, for as long as it wishes. After its schooling is over, that individual owes X years to the Olashi for its education and serves the fleet in some capacity - pilot, gunner, xenobiologist, medic, teacher, mechanic, engineer, etc. Each localized group of fleet members answers to a Simnohs [SEEM-noess], a Captain; this term is used for any profession, even mechanic or teacher. Simnohs answer to Aelt Simnohs or Elite Captains, who in turn answer to a wide council of Olashi (and some representatives of other races) that governs the entire fleet. Aelt dahn are elites of their chosen profession who are not captains; technically, dahn is the term for the unranking graduate who serves the fleet, but most simply call themselves pilots or medics or whatnot. Once the dahn serves its time within the fleet and pays off its education, it may do whatever it wishes; however, events while serving the fleet (such as accidents, mistakes, wrecking spacecraft, etc) can add on to the time that individual owes the fleet. Some speculate these things are planned so that most graduates are forced to stay in the fleet for most of their lives, but nothing has been proven yet.
Reproduction/Aging: Taroks will often take mates, but those in hazardous occupations or in space will nearly always take some measure to prevent the conception of offspring. Those who do breed realize that most of their race does not, and so tend to have several children in their lifetimes. Gestation period is about seven months and will result in one or two cubs; Tarok cubs are born immature and lacking all of the sharp, pointy bits of adults - generally a good thing for the mother's health. Cubs are weaned around a year of age, enter adolescence around seven, and are considered adults at ten years old. At fifteen, a Tarok is considered to be done with young adulthood and to be a 'true' adult; at sixty, they begin showing signs of aging, and by eighty, they're considered elders. Many Taroks, if they lead a healthy and relatively peaceful life, can reach one hundred years of age; most Taroks in dangerous occupations die well before they even begin to degenerate with age, however. The average life-span of a spacer (be it pilot or warrior) is forty years; the average lifespan of a colonist on Jekarwi is 70; the average lifespan of a domestic Tarok in an established settlement is 90. A note: all Taroks hold the genetic potential for all five breeds. Stripeds are not the result of two different breeds mating. For example, two black Taroks could produce children of any breed. Stripeds are never the direct offspring of brown Taroks, however. Another note: Taroks are completely capable of forming mate-like emotional and physical bonds with non-Taroks of a similar physiology (such as Olashi, Tokathe, Nila, Masi, etc) but cannot produce half-Tarok children; such unions are childless by nature.
Habitat/Settlements: Taroks are quite adaptable creatures, able to thrive in primal environments of nearly any terrain and climate (with some exceptions - whites do poorly in deserts, for example) as well as survive in purely mechanical or technological environments. Preference of terrain/climate/tech-level tends to be individual, though - unsurprisingly - whites prefer cooler areas and tans prefer warmer. Their own settlements on Jekarwi range the gamut from small, primitive villages with very little tech to large, highly advanced cities; most tend to be somewhere in the middle, balancing their heritage of technology with their instincts that long for untainted nature.
Religion/Beliefs: N/A. Taroks were created by science - they have no need for religion and no patience for abstract 'blind faith' in something that cannot be sensed or proven.
Interaction w/ Other Species: Tarokian reaction to and interaction with non-Taroks cannot be generalized. Both the individual's own knowledge and experience, as well as its breed's tendencies and instincts, play a role in how they respond. Taroks are generally quite knowledgeable about the species they may potentially encounter in any given situation or area; while most would respond with hostility to Jhee, there are practically no known xenophobes among the species. Most Taroks get along with other races of the Tri-System fleet (Olashi, Masi, and Nila being the primary three) and work without undue bias with other species.