1879: Mr. Khogisa’s Cryptids
In which we introduce Zakhele Manqoba Khogisa, MSc, and discuss his work in unlocking the secrets of life in the Zulu Kingdom. We’ll be putting out a $1.99 PDF later on with three Adventure Hooks, three Weird Science creations, and a bit of art, as the second in our Personalities line.
Khogisa Udokotela received his first name at the imbeleko, the welcoming feast, where his great-grandfather introduced the new baby to his ancestors as Zakhele, one who will create for himself. Seven years later, his father, a dour man who saw the Zulu Kingdom’s dependent relationship as a protectorate of the British Empire rendering their current peace and prosperity fragile and short-lived, gave him the name Manqoba, the one who conquers in hopeless situations. Nine years further on, when Zakhele Manqoba Khogisa went to Calcutta to study for entrance to the University, his second name seemed to fit. Despite the poor treatment African students routinely received, both from British colonials and the Indian native population, Zakhele achieved top marks, and won a place in the next year’s enrolling class.
A quiet, intense young man, driven by a deep-seated need to save his homeland from the disaster his father foresaw, Zakhele shrugged off the abuses and taunts. He set his sights on the medical college in Pondicherry, and focused on the courses that would win him entry – biology, chemistry, mathematics, Latin, Arabic. He began to see the potential in the processes of life, in the diversity of the world’s ecology. Each creature, no matter how great or small, played a part in an interlocking system that spoke of a deeper design. While his grades remained high, and he kept up with his required coursework, Zakhele began exploring beyond the boundaries of what the University taught. He took a job as a pot washer at a slap-bang, and spent his wages on his own small laboratory. From chemistry, he moved to galvanics and natural philosophy, seeking to understand the energies that drove the living cell, that carried impulses racing along the nerves, that kept the heart beating. His degree completed, he left the slap-bang for an adjutant position in Dr. Rajiv Singh’s biology laboratory and advanced studies. Pondicherry receded into the distance. Religion held no clear answers. The need to know consumed him.
And then came the opening of the Rabbit Hole. The fever seized Zakhele, holding him in its sweaty grip for three days. On the fourth, when he awoke, his eyes shone with reflected light, and his ears, still sore, rose to points. All around him, society threatened to collapse from the sudden changes. The newly elven Zakhele plunged back into his research. Why had this happened? What hidden potential had been unlocked? What force had brought about this sudden change in so many people?
The answer lay so far beyond the pale that its very pursuit carried risk. Dr. Harish Malhotra came back to Calcutta abruptly, abandoning his position in Manchester. The newspapers on the next week’s train spoke of terrible scandals in London, and the first mention of the Prometheans. Mr. Khogisa, now addressed as mister and sir with a science baccalaureate and a master’s assured, sought out Dr. Malhotra, won his trust with talk of his own research, and left Dr. Singh’s laboratory for a smaller, more discreet facility on the edge of the city. For two years, Dr. Malhotra and Mr. Khogisa laboured in relative obscurity, pursuing their research, keeping their findings to themselves, brushing off interest until it died away. Mr. Khogisa completed his Masters of Science, and left the University of Calcutta, confident the august institution had little left to teach him.
Six months later, he was on a steamer back to the Zulu Kingdom. Dr. Malhotra languished in a British prison in Bombay, arrested on charges sent down from London. In Mr. Khogisa’s baggage, the journals presumed lost in the fire that tore through Dr. Malhotra’s laboratory awaited further work. For the work would go on.
Khogisa Udokotela, Doctor Khogisa, received a joyous welcome from his family, although with a little puzzlement as to why he had not gone on to Pondicherry. No matter, he told them. He knew enough. The rest was not to be learned at a medical school, but to be sought in research. He set up a clinic in his village, cured the sick, healed the wounded, and built a new research facility out in the bush. What he has done there, some of his tribe know. A few people in the capital know. Some have been part of it. They approve of what he does. The Boers are pressing the border. The Basutho have grown in strength. The British are fair weather friends, around only when they stand to profit themselves, never in hard times. There will be no revelations to the press, no denunciation to the authorities like there were in London. Khogisa Udokotela has come home, and has brought the lightning to his people.
- Khogisa Udokotela gains +1 to his Mystic Defense and +1 to his base Karma Step from having achieved the Journeyman Tier.
- Khogisa Udokotela has gained the Rapid Adaptation ability. He may, through introduction of a serum, quick surgery, or other technique, modify an organism in the field. This process requires an hour, and does a Wound plus a Wound’s worth of Damage to the organism. The Promethean makes a Craftsman (Biology) Test and pays 3 Strain. On one success, the organism gains +2 Steps to an existing Attribute or power. On two successes, the organism gains a new power within the bounds of possibility for its species, at a Rank equal to the Promethean’s Craftsman (Biology) Skill. For example, a dog could gain the Howling Challenge power. On three or more successes, the organism gains one power not native to its species. The aforementioned dog could gain Burning Aura, becoming a hell hound. On a Rule of One result, the organism dies during the procedure, and the Promethean takes a Wound plus damage one point short of twice their Wound Threshold.
- His Social Level is 4 in the Zulu Kingdom and among other Prometheans, but 3 in the British Empire because of racist attitudes toward Africans in general and specifically against educated Zulus. The Boers would probably just try to shoot him on sight.
Khogisa Udokotela has accomplished many things, some of which he brought home and some of which he developed there. Among these are a living body suit made from a lion’s hide, that grants its wearer a partial feline transformation but has side effects; the inkanyamba, a giant electric eel told of in southern African legends, that the Zulus have unleashed as a weapon against the Boers; and the impundulu, another African cryptid, somewhere between bird and man, able to seize lightning strikes halfway between earth and sky and redirect them. Proper descriptions, stat blocks, and Adventure Hooks for these creations have been written, and will be in the PDF release.