“Not a match,” the scanner read with a flash of red light and a nearly muted low beep. It felt like the one-hundredth time she had read it. Nikami passed from one hovorg over to the next, again plucking a sample of hair from their hide, again inserting it into the hand-held DNA scanner, again trying not to smell the aroma of the beasts next to her in the dark, and again the scanner reading, “Not a match”. She rubbed her eyes.
How did I get roped into this? she thought to herself. The work in the barn was slow going, mainly because of her insistence on remaining clean while walking among the livestock and trying to move undetected at night. She was not a neat-freak, but the animal dung was something she was unaccustomed to having to walk around. The innards of a starship were one thing, and the tangled mess of computer code written by sloppy AI was one thing, but this stuff was organic: she felt it might start growing on her if she stood still. She felt like she was drowning in dusty earthiness, and wondered how anyone could manage to eat these things. What’s wrong with proper vat-grown protein? It gives as much of a “stat boost” as any other meat, so why go through the trouble?
She sidled along to another one of the cows, and again no match of what she was looking for. The biotech corporation’s secret files were encrypted onto the DNA of a hovorg, and she had also deduced beforehand that they had to be stored in the genetic code of one of the animals in this farm. But, again, another negative reading.
She looked over to a smaller specimen – a calf, apparently. With its six thin legs and four large doe-like eyes, it did seem comparatively cute. But as Nikami approached it, it retreated back to the safety of what she assumed was its mother. Aware of her presence, the large beast eyed her suspiciously.
“It’s okay,” she whispered reassuringly, “I just need one hair, and I’ll be on my way to check …”
She noticed behind the animal a subtle blurring motion. Suddenly the calf let out a cry of pain, as if it had been prodded sharply, and Nikami saw: the momentary silhouette of a stealth-cloaked operative. He pocketed the syringe, whose glow had changed from red to green, and then with a jump up to the barn rafters flickered back out of sight.
The hovorg cow, hearing the startled cries of its calf, went from wary to mad in a flash. Unable to see the one who struck her baby, but with Nikami in full view, it lowered its head and let out an angry bellow. It pawed the dirt with its sharp cloven hooves, as if readying a charge.
“Oh, great,” she said, realizing there was no where to back up to: not only had someone else found the target first, but she was about to be in the middle of the stampede.
Nikami focused a sequence of energies across the neurology of her body, a kind of magic program that she relied on for her technomancy spells. In her hand she held a ready charge of arcing electricity, which illuminated the hovorg herd around her as they grew increasingly more unsure and agitated.
Just before the mother creature charged, Nikami quipped, “You may not believe me, but I have no beef with you.
Starfinder Stat Block:
HOVORG CR 2
N Large animal
Init +0; Senses low-light vision; Perception +7
DEFENSE HP 23
EAC 13 KAC 14
Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +1
OFFENSESpeed 40 ft.
Melee gore +8 (1d4+6 P) or hooves +6 (1d4+3 B)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Offensive Abilities powerful charge (gore, 1d6+8 P), trample (1d4+6 B, DC 13)
Str +4, Dex +0, Con +2, Int –4, Wis +1, Cha –3
Skills Athletics +7, Perception +7, Survival +12
Environment any plains or hills
Organization solitary, pair, or herd (3–15)
Powerful Charge (Ex) When a hovorg makes a charge, its attack deals extra damage in addition to the normal benefits and hazards of a charge.
While the vast majority of most worlds’ populations are by now used to artificial meat, some still prefer the flavor and form of the meat of slaughtered animals, either raised on farms and feed lots or hunted from the wild for sport. One particularly hardy beast has traveled throughout the cosmos perhaps more than any other domesticated animal: the hovorg, a horned ungulate of substantial constitution and variable forms.
While more expensive than mass-produced meat, the steaks of a hovorg are considerably more delicious, for it was biologically engineered to be so. Much of the creatures are heavily modified: they reach maturity very quickly, are resistant to most diseases, the females produce milk even when not pregnant, and they maintain a largely calm demeanor around people, making them the perfect domesticated animal. The only catch is that they retain these qualities only if fed a particular chemical blend of special corn and livestock feed-grains, which is proprietary and only available through one company that holds the monopoly. Animals that go off this expensive diet, either to go free-range or which escape into the wild, quickly change in as few as three generations, becoming more wild, more fit for survival (and less fit for eating), and more prone to genetic mutations and variability. Of particular note is the growth of horns, which is suppressed in most hovorgs throughout their lives, but which become sizable in wild specimens, growing easily large enough to gore a man to death.
Domesticated hovorgs are not easily spooked, and if threatened will simply just run away. Presented here are the more dangerous feral hovorgs, which will stand their ground against predators (especially to defend their young), and will trample attackers in a stampede of sharp hooves and stabbing horns. Many xenodruids detest hovorgs, both because they represent meat industries’ insistence of having creatures that are needlessly slaughtered, and because the wild ones, being opportunistic herbivores, will defoliate and wreck ecosystems to which they are not native if given the chance.
(Artwork made with Spore Creature Creator and Serif PhotoPlus, a free image-editing software.)