Zogs, an extremely rare species today, have been likened to a short gorilla upholstered in Gila monster skin. Zogs have strength out of proportion with their small size. Their three-fingered hands are suitable for manipulating controls created for humans. While fierce-looking, Zogs are known for being laid-back; some individuals mistake this ability to ignore a human's emotional tirades for stupidity. Zogs are in fact, quite bright, yet they tend to be secretive about their race - which are known to molt every 16-20 years in a painful and private ceremony.
The Zog are a highly imitative race discovered by TOG a century ago on a small, backwater planet. Over that 100 years the Zog have been slowly integrated into TOG society on a very limited basis. Because of the Zog's unique biological and social tendencies, TOG officials are uncertain if their policy of Diaspora would really serve a purpose in this case. The Zog, as far as they are concerned, are the perfect slave race. The Commonwealth considers them victims.
The Zog are highly social creatures that live in family bands consisting of one dominant male, several subordinate males, a number of females and all of their infant and juvenile offspring. Their organization has been closely compared to that of Terran chimpanzees, as has their physiology. Except for the patches of lizard-like flesh on the face, forearms, hands and lower legs, the Zog are covered with a thick fur that makes them easily mistakable for large chimps. Like chimps, their strength is out of proportion to their small size, and their triple-digit hands and feet can be used for grasping. On the average, they stand 120 centimeters tall and weigh 70 kilos.
Their fur varies from white and dun to black. The Zog make no racial distinctions on the basis of fur color, but the color of their flesh is another thing entirely. Flesh runs from a bright red, purple or green to a brilliant gold with black flecks. This latter pattern, which emerges only after at least one molt, is viewed as a sign of divine favor and these individuals are treated with great deference.
Zog females have an abdominal pouch into which their offspring are born. Pregnancy lasts for 7 standard months, followed by another 12 months in the pouch.
The dominant male Zog technically has the right to mate with any of the women in his band, with the exception of his sisters and daughters. These are given over to his subordinates in appreciation for their loyalty or as a bribe to prevent a dominance battle. With sentience, female Zog have risen above the status of chattel, but this has not eliminated the sharing of favors with males in the band.
Zog reach maturity by the age of 10, though they generally are not allowed to mate until a male reaches 20 years and a female is at least 15 years of age. At about the age of 30, Zog enter a molting phase of which little is understood. It is believed to be very painful and arduous. Zog generally wander off to undergo this process in private, and most are reluctant to speak of it in any great detail.
Even so, some things have been learned. It appears that a Zog undergoing this process loses all its hair. In the months before the process the Zog develops an incredible appetite and eats virtually everything in sight. The Zog's metabolism shifts down into starvation mode - becoming incredibly efficient - so all the food eaten is converted into fat. Its flesh stiffens into a chitinous cocoon within which the Zog lives, surviving off the stored fat, for up to three months.
The Zog refer to the process as Eyatcha, which has been translated as "Soulwar." During this chrysalis period the Zog believe an individual changes into something more like his true self. The vast majority of Zog come out of it in three months with nothing more than a new skin and some metaphysical insights. Legends suggest that others, from the saints among the Zog presumably, become tall, golden-skinned, human-looking immortals with magical powers, that go to live within the planet's hollow core. Finally the truly evil transform into nightmarish creatures that stalk the darkness, stealing bad chil-dren to eat them.
[Editor's Note: As usual, the author quotes as fact stories that are little more than fairy tales or the latest crackpot theory. These golden immortals have not been located, though seismic data does indicate the planet is riddled with subterranean cavern networks. The nightmare creatures are more real, but current scientific thinking classes them as a predator native to the Zog homeworld.]
Zog undergo three moltings in their lifetime. If they have not be-come immortal by then, they die of old age at about 95 standard years.
The Zog come from a harsh, dry planet characterized by broken lava plains and intense sunlight. The TOG scientists who came to survey the world did most of it from orbit. In fact, until they finally sent a small team down to the surface they had no idea that the planet was inhabited. When they met the Zog, they were fairly certain they weren't sentient.
The Zog band the scientists studied had been specially selected by the cave-dwelling natives to study the aliens. The Zog had been impressed by the appearance of the humans - being so close to the Immortals in physiology - but they were put off by the power of TOG weapons used in aimless target practice. The Zog scouting party acted completely and utterly primitive, and the TOG were taken in entirely.
The anthropology team were entertained by the Zog and marveled at how the Zog stole little bits and pieces of technological equipment and set up a crude imitation of the TOG camp. The whole human party began slipping the Zog equipment and castoffs which the Zog treated like treasure from the gods. By the time the survey crew packed up and left, the Zog had amassed quite a bit of equipment, including a P-Comm device and several obsolete expert systems on industry and electronics.
It is believed that the Zog were pre-industrial before the TOG incursion, but fifty years after the initial survey party departed, a second party discovered settlements with a technological level equivalent, in certain places, to 23rd-century Earth. When asked how they were able to understand all of the equipment, the Zog said the Immortals had helped them. Since then, however, most have come to believe that a bit of native intelligence combined with an incredible imitative tendency produced this overnight elevation of the Zog.
Most TOG atlases list the Zog homeworld as Zoga - taking the name the second survey group was given by the natives. In fact the world is still known among the Zog as Zeztra, and they call themselves the Zezari. To honor and win acceptance from TOG, however, the Zezari declared their world the Zeztra Overlord Government and have taken to calling themselves Zog.
Zoga has been used as a training site for TOG grav tank operations because of the open expanses of featureless plains. The vaunted Harbingers of Death (Rasulta Legion 13379), among others, have actually recruited and accepted a Zog male as a member of their unit. From all reports, though the Zog are not a particularly bellicose species, they function well enough in combat.
The Zog live in bands that consist of a dominant male, his subordinate males, females, juveniles and infants. A male is bonded with his band for life. To betray this trust is the greatest sin a Zog can commit. A traitor to a band, when caught, is forced to kill and consume his own offspring. This induces a molt incident and, legend has it, such an individual becomes a monster.
Dominance in the band is decided through "combat," though the contest itself is undertaken on whatever grounds the current dominant male wishes to name. Once a mentally adept Zog becomes the dominant male, all his challengers will have to meet him in a test of wits. A defeated challenger can either remain subordinate or, in less frequent cases, can split off and form his own band. This latter course takes some time but, in gathering females and other males, it insures good genetic mixing. When a dominant male is injured or ill and decides to relinquish his rule over the band, or undergoing molt - in which case he must relinquish control - he decides the nature of the contest to be waged to replace him. It is easy for a dominant male to insure, in this manner, that his choice for an heir are respected, though it is possible for his hand-picked replacement to lose the contest.
Females were once considered the property of the band, but sen-tience has modified this view. The dominant male still maintains a harem of five or more females, and the subordinates have anywhere from one to four mates. The dominant male no longer can transfer one female to another male on a permanent basis, but he can demand she submit to another male. This submission involves a rather elaborate ritual that only rarely results in actual sexual consummation. The purpose of the action is to punish the male with whom the female is attached, and the embarrassment is profound and very real. Inheritance is figured along paternal lines. Males stay with the family band and females are brought in from other bands, forming alliances with them.
In general, the Zog are a very relaxed race. Often this lack of reaction, especially to insults, is taken as a sign of dimwittedness, but no one who has spent much time around the Zog consider them stupid. Actually the opposite is true: those who know them consider them smarter than they are given credit for. Some wonder what the Zog are up to in passively submitting to TOG.
The Zog take verbal abuse from xenophobic Toggies very easily, which tends to enrage many of their tormentors. Most Zog note, "Words are wind with weak thunder and less force than a spring breeze." Zog tend to treat their human friends as members of a loosely defined band, and accord them the loyalty that comes with that classification. Those who befriend a Zog find him always ready to help, even at risk to himself. Those who earn the ire of a Zog (a difficult thing to do, but then Humans can be very persistent) find themselves with an indifferent team member who would sooner kill himself than lift a finger to help a bigot.
The Zog government is decidedly bizarre, from what little can be determined. Family units form the basics, with the dominant male being the key individual. Apparently, dominant males are organized into local and continental Councils, but they never seem to travel anywhere to have meetings. Instead, the Zog claim, the dominant males conduct business in their sleep. These gatherings are organized and chaired by the Immortals.
TOG scientists still have not been able to test dominant males for latent psychic abilities, but they have not been able to discount that possibility. Telepathic communication would explain how these pre-industrial people were able to step into the atomic age in fifty years, especially if the Immortals provided guidance and technical assistance. [Editor's Note: To repeat - no evidence for Immortal existence, much less involvement in technological development, has come forward. Evidence of telepathic capabilities among the Zog is just as elusive.]
Semper Fidelis seems to be the watchword of the Zog. For example, they view the Renegade Legions as apostate. To betray one's band, no matter how large, is anathema to the Zog. (Had General Constantin returned to Earth and challenged Ivanolo Buntari for dominance, the Zog would have understood and respected him.) The Zog carry this faithfulness to an extreme, vowing to do all they can to destroy those who have slain their comrades.
Beyond that, the Zog seem devoted to learning and to avoiding all unnecessary conflicts. Every Zog believes that survival or elevation within molting depends upon how much anger and resentment he harbors in his soul. Knowledge and friendship are the counters to anger and destructive tendencies. Only by having an over abundance of the good can a Zog hope to become an Immortal. Avoiding needless fights, then, is the key to salvation.
Curiously the Zog have no theology. They see the Immortals as their final, greatest state of being. They know they can attain "heaven-in-body" so they don't worry about deities. When asked, "If you don't believe in God, who created you?" the Zog reply, "Does it matter? If you are right in all you say about your God, He will welcome me to Him no matter what. If He did not, He would not be all-loving and omnipotent as you say He is. If I am right, I promise I will remember you when I have become an Immortal. See, we both win."
The Zog are an intelligent race that seem to be quickly coming up to speed with the rest of the galaxy. They are very good friends and very capable enemies. What role they will play in the continuing saga of TOG depends upon the ultimate government disposition of their species. For a species that still clings to superstitions, they seem to understand the modern world well, so whatever TOG decides to do with them may not go unopposed.