APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 9 October, 2001



Merely thinking about it bugs you

Janne Kemppi

Skeeters are insect-like organisms that are very distantly related to skags. They are present in partially deserted areas around true deserts of Terra Nova. These areas have typically sparse scattered flora with large patches of open area.

Skeeters are active solitary hunters with very fast metabolism. It mainly preys in night and rests within its nest during day. Its extreme metabolism causes it to be constantly moving, even when it is stationary. Thus it consumes vast amounts of prey materiel. Its habitat is limited to arid areas where prey is present compared to true desert. Dense vegetation hampers its hunting style, which depends on a high-speed dash to capture its prey. This speed depends on terrain but in open terrain there are reports of some members of species reaching speed up to 50 kilometers per hour for short periods.

Skeeters are large - roughly 10 to 15cm sized (with legs) - insects with eight legs. It uses six legs for running and holds two legs ahead of it and uses them as antennae to locate and catch prey. Skeeter has weak eyesight but good tactile sense. It will run in its territory constantly in random search pattern till it has located its prey. It will then immediately dash for final attack. Skeeter's four massive jaws do killing action. These jaws are largest compared to its own body size in Terra Novan fauna. Its front body seems to be dominated by its jaws while its maggot-like back body is soft looking with numerous small chitin shields. Overall color is a slight yellow brown fitting well to surroundings.

Skeeters are highly territorial. They tolerate no trespassers to their territory including smaller and younger members of their own species. Exception to this is during the mating period when nervous males seek females, which are much larger than they are. Males are smaller with longer legs relative to their body size, which makes them faster than females, usually. Courtship may end with female eating smaller and too slow male. Territoriality includes also larger animals. It can be said that a skeeter will chase away any other animal except those it can kill and eat. Its hectic life style is only one cycle long. It somewhat resembles Terran shrew in behavioral patterns, always on move, always hunting.

Voracious appetite of skeeters may decimate small animal population of their range, which brings out another side of their nature. They may stalk animals far larger than their usual prey animals are. They will sneak upon a nearby large sleeping animal, locate bare hairless area and then regurgitate small drops of stomach acids and saliva. Saliva contains anesthetic drug that will enable skeeter to nibble away parts of skin and meat of without victim to notice it.

Humans may encounter skeeters in dry areas close to large Terra Novan deserts. However, they might also be met fairly close to oasis in desert. However, their limited numbers mean that there should never be more than one skeeter at the time.

Many Terra Novans do not like skeeters at all, especially who have to live or move through areas infested with skeeters. Since skeeters are so territorial, they'll attack immediately on humans entering their territory in daytime. Many Badlanders say that only good thing about skeeters is that they are so rare. They will typically deal with skeeters by shooting them with a jack swatter similarly as they shoot at redjackets. However, skeeter is tremendously fast animal and thus there is always only a one chance to deal with it. Catching a skeeter is never easy, especially when it is running as fast as it can straight towards. Thus "a good skeeter shot" has become a compliment for someone with fast sure aim and steady nerves with a gun.

Skeeters are highly aggressive but they are not deadly dangerous beasts. However, they have one mean bite. This bite is not fatal or venomous in case but they can cause great deal of inconvenience and pain to unwary. Since humans are a great deal larger than skeeters, they are large prey to skeeter. Thus skeeter might target human too. Skeeter would crawl upon unsuspecting, sleeping human. Skeeter would most probably target human extremities that are outside cover of blanket such as soles of feet hands, or perhaps face. It would apply its anesthetic saliva and then slowly nibble away small bits of skin and possibly even meat while its victim would have no idea of this at all. Morning wake-up could be quite revealing...

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 9 October, 2001