Nikitaks are well known as jovial, friendly, sociable mammalian aliens and are openly accepting of many other species. Their strong family ties make them some of the most loyal of friends and workers. But what about the world they come from? Let's find out!
>> Where Is Nikiticha?
Nikiticha is in the Niilo system, three fourths of the way down a spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Nikiticha is the second planet from its sun in the Niilo system and one of only three terrestrial planets in the system - the other two being gas giants.
It is accessible via jump-gate. Their closest neighboring world (without use of a jump-gate) is Contura.
The planet itself is tilted heavily on its axis, but maintains a standard elliptical orbit around its sun. It possesses one haze-covered moon, named "Dok." Beneath the surface of the Dok moon, bacterial life has been found which exhales methane gas - resulting in Dok's unique multicoloured haze.
>> What Does It Look Like?
Nikiticha is a primarily ice-bound world, on the outer reaches of the goldilocks zone. Due to the tilt of its axis, summer around the equator often results in enormous lakes of meltwater forming on the surface of the planet.
Beneath the ice is a frozen sea, jam-packed with exotic lifeforms. Life would have remained locked beneath the ice of Nikiticha if not for geyser eruptions pushing up through the pack ice and spraying into space. These enormous geysers lie dormant now, but could erupt again at any time. From space, these geysers resemble giant mountains of ice.
(Bonus round! There is a moon doing this in your own solar system! Meet Enceladus - all science fact, no science fiction.)
While the poles of the planet are too cold for most species to inhabit, Nikitaks find them tolerable. The majority of settlements on Nikiticha, however, populate the tropics.
Below the timber line, dense forests fill the planet. These forests are spartan with their bounty and only the highly adapted Nikitaks seem suited to surviving within them.
>> What Kind of Life is On Nikiticha?
Beneath the ice, behemoth invertebrates swim through the darkened seas. It is extremely rare that any of these creatures come onto land, and even more rare that someone would succeed in killing one. It is speculated there may be intelligent life below the surface, but current technology is insufficient to protect against the things dwelling below. Probes sent to the depths reveal a spectacular light show of ghostly organisms.
The spray of heated geyser water onto the surface of Nikiticha brought with it microbial life. It is known through fossil evidence that the very first life developed on the slopes of the geysers, and spread from there. The base of the geysers is also where the earliest records of Nikitichan civilization have been found.
The plant life on the surface of Nikitichan is sparse. Ice lichen are common, and are fed upon by most surface animals. Small thorny bushes are found growing in droppings and produce a pungent fruit which is commonly used in brewing. The largest and most common of the Nikitichan plant life are the purple trees. These trees are conically shaped to help prevent snow from weighing down their branches, but their 'leaves' are much more akin to thin, soft hairs. The filaments from these trees are prized for their insulating properties.
surface animals are typically small, and Nikiticha's surface is in its Mammalian era. The majority live the year beneath the snow, buried into the ice in burrows and emerging only to search for food.
One exception is the ice moth. Ice moths are larger than Nikitaks, but generally docile until their nests are invaded. They dwell solely on the slopes of the ice-covered geysers, and do not migrate. Their egg cases are considered a delicacy by the Nikitaks, and so the moths do sometimes attack Nikitaks who stray too close. However, the moths are not equipped with any defenses aside from their size, and so the only injuries sustained are typically a few bruises from being battered by the insects' wings.
As with all alien planets, some animals on the surface of Nikiticha are dangerous. Three notable examples are the rix, the howler and the norguk.
The gliding mammal known as the norguk builds its nests in trees. Norguk adults are particularly aggressive, but immature norguk are considered a delicacy. A norguk is about the size of a grown human's fore-arm, but fights viciously when provoked. It is considered unwise to hunt norguk without being properly trained.
Howlers are omnivores and somewhat simian in their nature. Heavily haired, with long prehensile tails, they make their homes in the treetops. Because of their opposable thumbs and large appetite, they can be dangerous to lone travellers. In size, they are slightly taller than a Chuian - but have been known to attack beings twice as large as they are.
Although Nikitaks will often import or domesticate animals to keep as companions, only two genus - the marmuk and the spiruk - have been domesticated as a food source. While the frugivorous spiruk proves a staple of most Nikitak meals, it is the marmuk which is the most nutritious.
There has been some difficulty in convincing humans or humanoids to try marmuk meat, as they find the face of the marmuk too like their own. The meat of this herbivore is both tangy and rich, and those who can look past the animal's face often comment they have not tasted anything as delicious.
>> What are the Buildings Like?
Nikitaks are highly sociable mammals, and their society reflects this. Dwellings are often grouped with several tight-knit families into one area.
The Nikitak architecture is primarily low-set domes, with equally low passageways and storage structures. To eyes on the surface, it looks like the buildings are just several overturned bowls.
However, the majority of the Nikitak building structure is not below the surface but beneath it. Nikitak cities, homes and towns are burrow-like, with many causeways, passages and rooms all beneath the surface. This works in their favour for preserving heat, and towards their social nature. If there is a new member to the family or a new guest, a new room is excavated on the spot. Typically, adults take the room closest to the surface for safety purposes.
Near the equator, Nikitak homes are above-ground and smaller. They are built around either the base of a tree or the base of a secured metal pole, and bouyed on the underside. These homes rise as the ice begins to melt and fill the lakebeds, and so are in a way 'tropical' get-aways. Nikitaks rarely live in these locations year-round. Due to the temporary nature of the lakes, it is safe to swim in them - as opposed to any oceanic cracks which may open in the ice sheet.
There are three major cities, two of which are primarily underground. Norra is the political capital of Nikiticha, where all major decisions about the planet's role in the galactic stage are made. Sorre is the trade city, which deals most often with outside species and aliens. Urro is a floating city on the equator, only habitable for part of the year, and is largely a tourist destination.
Nikitaks find trees a sign of family wealth and prosperity, and so it is very common that trees near a Nikitak settlement will be uncannily cared for. They would not consider chopping down their own trees for fuel or resources, and disputes often erupt between rival Nikitak family units over who holds claim to any particular patch of forest. Typically, cities set aside a certain portion of forest for resource harvesting and another section for communal care.
Nikitak cities, though underground, contain all of the elements found in above-ground cities with one major exception: there are no cars. Nikitak cities are pedestrian meccas, with mobile walkways for the elderly or frail. They have adapted a great deal of Chuian technology to their populated areas, and most visiting beings will find themselves right at home in spite of being underground.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, and give Nikiticha a visit this summer!