We start at a time shortly after the start of the "War on Improbability".1) Conscripts had been sent to the Island for long enough that the Improbability Drive had changed enough into kittymorphs, zombies, and the other races. New Home and Improbable Central were already thriving centres of population and some of the other outposts had started being recognisable as something more than just haphazzard meetings of contestants in the jungle.
Back then, the cigarette supply on the Island was extremely restricted, being limited to the few that get conjured into being by Improbability and then dropped by spiderkitties and the like in the jungle. Cigarettes were carefully hoarded as desperate smokers paid ever increasing prices for their fix. This was about to change.
One of the larger scale effects of the Drive on the Island was the creation of large deposits of so-called tobacco ore2) in the southern reaches of the swamp to the west of the Central Lake; the tobacco ore that is the ultimate source of almost all of the cigarettes currently smoked and bartered on the Island.
It is not known who first thought to mix the dry powdery ore with phlegm3); it is probable that the technique was discovered independently by several people.4) Whoever it might have been, the discovery saw this area of the Island receive rather more visits than previously. Hardened smokers had a tendency to visit on an almost daily basis, and it was a rare occasion when there weren't at least a few people to be found there digging out ore. A small economy started. Squats were naturally well represented amongst the crowd of heavy smokers, and if you have a large collection of squats and economic activity together, then the results are inevitable. The crime rate soared. Network statisticians stopped counting muggings committed per thousand people and started counting muggings per person instead. Still the numbers went through the ceiling. Eventually muggings per person per hour brought the numbers under reasonable control.5)
The crime rate; together with the squats unusually high production of phlegm; and their naturally thick skin rendering them immune, or at least insensitive to the gnat swarms in the swamp; all gave squats a noticable advantage in the digging of ore and rolling their own cigs. It was generally easier for non-squats to just let the small folk get on with the ore digging and cigarette production, and then simply buy the end product from whichever squat happened to make it out of the general scrum with intact cigarettes.
Squat Hole now had a more or less permanent encampment of squats living there. Its journey to fully fledged outpost had begun.
Squat Hole was at this point little more than a permanent collection of squats gathered together in one place, all doing the same thing. There were no shops or other amenities of any kind - just a semi-continuous fight over cigarettes and tobacco ore. Events elsewhere on the Island were to change this, in particular Noxious Smith's recent discovery of using zombie goats to brew beer. Many squats had taken advantage of this discovery, setting up a zombie goat holding pen where ever they could find space, and selling to each other any of the resulting tipple that they didn't drink themselves. These squats had their own cigarette requirements as much as anybody else, and the baccy mines were a natural place to set up a brewery, providing as it did, not just a ready source of cigarettes, but also a ready crowd of patrons happy to spend their new found wealth on beer. The baccy mines were already starting to be a magnet for squats engaged in the more traditional profession of mugging contestants in the jungle as well, and they brought requisition into the area.
One particular group of brewers were particularly successful. The McThugger family, led by Misanthropy McThugger. The reasons behind the McThuggers becoming the dominant brewers in the area are unclear. Perhaps it was their practice of adding panthzer tank fuel to their brew. Having a tight knit family meant that they were just better able to protect themselves against raids by rival brewers or better at handing out such attacks. Whatever the reason, the McThuggers soon rose to become the leading beer producers in Squat Hole. Certainly very soon they had gone beyond the normal practice of brewing at home and selling to passers-by on the street, and had set up a dedicated building where their brew could be bought and drunk, the aptly named McThuggers' Piss House.6) The squats now had all the basic essentials of life in the area. Beer, cigarettes, and an outside source of requisition.
This was around the time that the network decided to set up separate outposts for the various races, and for whatever reasons7) the baccy mines were chosen for the squats' home. The network set up a branch of the Bank of Improbable.8) An entrance to the Common Ground was established, and another exclusive squat-only entrance to Joe's Dojo was also built. Squat Hole was properly born.
As in all outposts, eBoy's lost no time in setting up a branch of their emporium. Sheila took a little while longer to be convinced of the value of a Shack of Shiny here, but she too eventually opened one of her famous shops.9) Other businesses soon followed. One squat, Micronoetic James had seen the success of the Mike's Chop Shop chain in Improbable Central and New Home, and demonstrating the initiative and entrepreneurship that makes Squat Hole what it is, set up a franchise in the outpost, undeterred by the minor detail that he didn't actually have any mounts to sell.
The Skronkys did not originally hold the surname by which they are now so well known but instead had the surname Smythe.10) The sisters originally hailed from the hamlet of Scronkey which lies about ten miles from Blackpool in Lancashire UK and consisted of two households headed by the sisters Melony and Susan. They lived in adjacent houses, together with various offspring. The sisters' husbands were no longer with them; Susan's husband was dead while Melony's husband Michael had some years ago sought a divorce, citing mental cruelty, snoring, and a particularly vicious backhand. The attempt was ultimately unsuccessful but he disappeared shortly afterwards and his whereabouts is currently unknown.11)
The Smythes ran a profitable family building business, Smythe Bros. Constructions - "We make short work of your building needs." This employed the various male members of the family along with Melony's daughter Annette as the secretary. The rest of the family spent their time curtain twitching, reading the Daily Mail, writing angry letters to the local newspaper, using the phrase "political correctness gone mad" in every other sentence, and generally pissing off all the neighbours.
Susan was very competitive, and pushed her children hard in every competition that she could find, doing everything in her power to achieve what she perceived to be success. When any member of the family did anything that might be considered worth mentioning, she made sure that the neighbours were fully aware of it. In fact she never shut up about it.
This was the routine for some years. It all changed when the Smythes received an early morning call from the local constabulary. Smythe Bros had from time to time been contacted by unhappy clients with such petty, nit picking complaints as "My roof still leaks.", "My kitchen extension fell over a month after you built it." and "You took the money six months ago and I haven't seen you yet." Annette had got adept at giving such trouble makers the brush off, and they rarely caused too much bother. On this occasion however the clients in question turned out to be the sister and brother in law of the local chief of police who decided to take a close look at the business.
Discrepancies in the accounts were found. Some of the Smythe Bros' materials were found to have originated from a local council building site. Most of the firm ended up in court, and then given accommodation as a guest of Her Majesty. Melony and Susan complained about this miscarriage of justice to anybody who would listen, explaining how the materials were bought in good faith, and how the bookkeeping was just a simple misunderstanding about a loan that had not yet been entered. Anybody who would listen however turned out to be a rather small number of people. Most people just laughed.
This response was not to the Smythes' liking. It drove Susan's competitive nature to new levels. There were stories that Susan went well beyond what might be considered fair in ensuring her family's success. When her daughter Mildred won Blackpool Musician of The Year there were dark rumours regarding corruption and skulduggery. Everyone was convinced that their own rendition of a Chopin piano etude was far superior to Mildred's performance of Three Blind Mice on an out of tune violin. People made dark comments about the haunted look on the faces of the judges.
The neighbours groaned when they heard of the Smythes' application for joint membership of Mensa, knowing that they'd never hear the end of it.
The final straw came when Annette won Blackpool Young Scientist of The Year for a project demonstrating gravity by showing that dropped objects fall to the floor, despite being thirty eight and well past the official age range. The neighbours knew that they had to act.
Alderman Robert Sudgeon who happened to live at number 17 opposite the Smythes, pulled strings at the town council. A deal was negotiated with the local representative of the As The Island Turns show to have all of their numbers "drawn by lot" in the weekly lotto. The following Saturday the family had an unpleasant surprise, and the next thing they knew, they were contestants on the Island.
The Smythes first arrived on the Island in the same fashion as everybody else. Kicked naked off a plane. They were cold, confused, disoriented and angry. Very very angry.
The details of the initial meeting with The Watcher are best left to the imagination. Suffice it to say that it did not go well for the family12); Melony and Susan were left even more angry than before and vowing revenge.13) The meeting with the gatekeeper was less bad for the Smythes, although the same could not be said for the gatekeeper himself. While this worthy gentleman had some tricks up his sleeve which prevented him from coming to too much harm, his friend Harry was a different story and wound up in the hospital tent for some while. I looked up the entry form for Susan. It lists gender as "Unknown", and email address as a list of the sort of colourful expletives that would make a sailor blush. The name here is entered as "Skronky" and it is this confusion between name and home town where the now familiar family name originated. For this reason we will now drop the original surname and call the family by their more familiar name - the Skronkys.
By the time that they got into New Home, Melony was still seething, and the rest of the family weren't much happier either. They stormed straight into the jungle and had variously reached levels between four and six before they realised that beating up monsters was what they were actually meant to do. Had the Skronkys realised this from the beginning, then history may have taken a different turn, for they would have refused to do anything of the sort on general principles. However now that their natural aptitude for this work had been conclusively demonstrated, the habit had been formed and the Skronkys simply carried on doing what came naturally.
It is hard to find any reliable information on the various Skronkys' time as kittymorphs and zombies. This researcher made several enquiries amongst people who might remember them, however it seems that they spent most of their time fighting in the various outpost's jungles and weren't seen very often. The one person who I did manage to find who seemed to have had dealings with them was an old preacher who had originally arrived to set up a mission on the Island but is now an out and out alcoholic instead. It seems that his fall from grace stems from about this period. Certainly he seems to become very agitated at the mention of their name, but his brains are now so addled and his speech so slurred that it is difficult to be sure just what he is trying to say, and when it is possible it would be most unwise to place too much faith in his memory of events.14)
There is a school of thought which states that the Improbability Drive has a form of sentience. Maybe not sentience as we know it, but enough consciousness to make decisions. This school claims that the Drive often does things which are strangely appropriate, or at least ironic. When the Drive changes somebody's form, it does so in accordance with their inner self in some sense. Whatever the truth of this theory is, the Skronkys were all sooner or later, and usually sooner, altered to become squats, a form which none of them have ever been changed away from, and it cannot be denied that it certainly suits their temperament.
Mildred was the first Skronky to become a squat, predating her mother in this regard by a couple of days. She woke up in Squat Hole to find an ugly face with a scraggly beard, a broken nose and several broken teeth leering at her and rough hands busily frisking her for her wallet. Curmudgeon McThugger, the squat to whom the face and hands belonged, soon found that his nose had been broken a second time, and a fight ensued, an event that was to prove quite prophetic in that the McThuggers and the Skronkys have been sworn enemies from that day to this.
Mildred and the other Skronkys quickly fitted into Squat Hole life very well. They were soon given names that the inhabitants of the Hole were more comfortable with, for example Melony became Felony, Susan was called Sewage, Mildred became known as Mildew, and so on.
When the Drive gives you a new form, it also changes your whole being including your memories so that you are unaware that you were ever anything else. Very soon the Skronkys forgot that they had ever been called anything else either, and their status as citizens of Squat Hole was firmly established.
This is an appropriate place to pause and list the names and relations of all the Skronkys who were brought to the Island. The first generation of Skronkys consist of Felony, Sewage and Buckfast. Then there's Sewage's children; Dogend, Mildew and Julia. Mildew is in turn the mother of Big Danny, while Julia has two children, Thuggins and Impudencia. Felony's side of the family consists of her two daughters Nettle and Wasp, together with Wasp's daughter Chlamydia.
A Family Portrait of the Skronkys - Shi
For more details of the Skronky tribe, see Who's Who in Squat Hole.
Felony and her tribe were still earning their keep in the usual squat profession of mugging contestants in the jungle; but soon they graduated on to mining tobacco ore together with cigarette production and sales. From the start the Skronkys had advantages over other ore digging outfits. Some of these advantages were due to the sheer size of the family. Their numbers meant that they were better able to defend their produce from the raids of other squats, and better able to conduct such raids themselves. When they found a particularly rich seam of "snout", they were able to mount a round-the-clock guard on it and keep it for themselves. Other advantages came from Sewage's son Dogend.15) As previously noted, Dogend had been a builder before the Skronky's arrival on the Island, and some vestiges of these skills stayed with him through the transformation to squatdom. When a seam was being mined, Dogend would use timber to prop up the roof of the resulting tunnel, allowing such tunnels to extend several tens of yards further before they collapsed sending the miner to the failboat. Walls were built round seams of snout that the Skronkys found to be particularly profitable. Crude walls certainly, but enough to significantly aid the defence against the equally unsophisticated attacks from other squats.
This last innovation of the Skronkys was especially important. Areas belonging exclusively to the Skronkys were defined, and then extended. The Skronkys were soon in possession of large tracts of some of the best mining land. They were producing plenty of tobacco ore. They were producing more tobacco ore than they had phlegm to process. At first, the younger members of the family were pressed into service. The Skronky portions of the baccy mines became known for the distinctive phwup plup sounds of lung butter production coming from them at all hours of the day and night. However as more and more ore was produced, an upper limit of phlegm was reached. The Skronkys needed an outside source of this important resource.
The Skronkys did what came naturally and tried violence first - capturing random squats and beating them up for their phlegm. However the amount of squat-hours that was required for this approach meant that it was less efficient than just producing the stuff themselves. Finally, as a last resort, Felony decided to stoop to paying for lung butter. A location was found in the centre of Squat Hole, and the now famous Skronky Pot was set up. A division of labour was adopted; Felony in charge of the mines and Sewage in charge of lung butter acquisition. The final member of the senior generation of the Skronkys, Buckfast16), spent most of his time lazing around and getting drunk.
We come now to the story of Felony's oldest daughter Nettle17). Nettle was something of a rebel. Instead of helping out with the production of lung butter and digging snout in the mines, she would skive off to spend time looking at books instead. While she could never understand a word of what was in them, having lost her reading ability upon transition to squatdom, some vestigial memory of her time spent cooking the books for Smythe Bros Constructions resided somewhere in Nettle's brain and this was enough to attract her to the written word, and in particular numbers. Using the page numbers Nettle managed to relearn how to count to twenty.
This went on until one day when Nettle was caught counting by one Gangrene Ellis, a notorious gossip. Squats as a whole have a tendency to dislike and distrust what they don't understand, and this includes counting, so this display of rampant intellectual snobbery would have resulted in ostracisation for most squats. Nettle however was protected by her family connections. Felony Skronky was shrewd enough to see a use for Nettle in her business empire, and decided to protect her.
Gangrene was coerced into going to Ace High on a mission to steal the recipe for cake from the Cake or Death joker. Unbeknownst to her, she had a notice pinned to her back saying "Jokurs suk", that Sewage got a mutant to write for her. It is not known what shape Gangrene is now in, but she hasn't been seen for long enough that it can be safely assumed that she is no longer a squat.18) Other potential witnesses were threatened with a soapy bath if word of Nettle's misdemeanors ever got out.
Nettle was rehabilitated and sent to Pleasantville to find somebody to teach her advanced mathematics. Here she met Cyril, the three headed mutant.
Cyril had never really fitted into Pleasantville, partly because of his very poor spelling and partly because of his avant garde approach to poetry, reading a different poem with each of his heads simultaneously. Being rejected from a society that already consists of outcasts can lead to something of a siege mentality, and so it proved with Cyril. He became bitter and rebellious, causing lots of trouble and confirming everybody's previously held prejudices.
Cyril's life started looking up when Nettle Skronky arrived in Pleasentville looking for a maths tutor. He watched as Nettle approached the first mutant she saw and was dismissed out of hand. He was just starting to sympathise when he saw how Nettle dealt with this dismissal, leaving the mutant a quivering wreck of pain on the ground.19) After the third mutant had been dealt with in this way the population of Pleasantville had learnt to be rather more polite, and Cyril was inspired. While Cyril was no great mathematical genius, he knew more than enough to teach Nettle, and approached her to offer his services.
Nettle proved to be a good student and surpassed everyone's expectations so much that she even got as far as learning her four times table! From then on her skills were put to good use keeping a close eye on stocks of baccy ore, pots of lung butter in the Skronky Pot, and requisition everywhere.
Cyril's involvement with the Skronkys didn't end there however. Felony and Nettle were going to dismiss him from service once Nettle's maths was up to scratch. However the Skronkys had at times been at something of a disadvantage from not being able to read, and it occured to Sewage that having a mutant who could read and write would be of some use. After Cyril had been dissuaded from reading his poetry, he became quite useful indeed. He had no reason to return to Pleasantville and so has stayed with the Skronkys ever since.
Now that the Skronkys had a good supply of phlegm, it was the tobacco ore that was proving to be the bottle neck. By this time they were in possession
of a significant percentage of the tobacco ore fields, but they didn't have the wherewithal to exploit it fully. This situation had been exacerbated by the departure of Sewage and her daughters Mildew and Julia to run the Skronky Pot, and provide protection from attempted theft of same. Dogend had experimented with using barrels of gunpowder obtained from an encounter in the jungle with one Robert Catesby, and TNT obtained from Palindrome in a similar manner, to blow the snout out of the ground, but this approach was abandoned. This was partly due to the difficulty in obtaining a reliable supply of explosives, but mostly due to the tendency of the ore to blow everywhere, providing passersby with a free bonanza of the stuff instead of it staying on Skronky land. Attempts to reclaim this snout, or at least charge for it were only partially successful.
Felony started to employ other squats to provide labour for the mines. But this tactic produced it's own problems. Squas are naturally lazy feckless thieves, and they need watching at all times. Felony just didn't have the resources to beat all of the work force at once, even with the other family members to help her. Felony needed to find new methods.
Inspiration came from a surprising quarter. One of the miners, one Shagnasty McAlistair had something of a way with machines. He'd been attacked by a perpetual motion machine in the jungle, and although it was soon broken, he'd managed to patch it up, and attached some paddles to the fly-wheel. This made a great "whacking machine". Shagnasty would sneak up behind miners working down a mine shaft and set the machine going - a great practical joke.
Felony was quick to see the potential for this beyond just a joke, as a labour saving industrial device. She got Shagnasty to make several of these devices, and once they were in position, she could set them going after minors had started working and sit back keeping an eye on things safely knowing that the miners were being kept hard at work. Shagnasty has gone on to be useful employee of the Skronkys, providing technical support to the Skronky Pot Protectors Society (see below).
The Skronky mines started to grow beyond the bounds of successful cottage industry and turn into a fully fledged industrial process. Success breeds success, and in not too long a time, the Skronkys were in control of almost the entire tobacco ore fields. The robots who run the abandoned factory for their own obscure reasons now obtained their supplies of cigarettes to stock the central prize with directly from the Skronkys. So did the robots who ran the rally and even the Watcher's employees who stock the cameras with their cigarettes. In short, the Skronkys had a virtual monopoly on the Island cigarette supplies.
The Skronkys weren't the only group of squats engaged in empire building. The McThuggers (mentioned above) were simultaneously building up their brewing business. Wiping out competeing breweries and gathering ever larger herds of zombie goats to brew with, they had found their own local genius in the shape of Micronoetic "Mike" James, he of Mike's Chop Shop. Despite Micronoetic' unorthodox business models, Mike really did have a knack with animals. He knew exactly where to belt a zombie donkey with a two by four to achieve maximum effect. He was also adept at handling zombie goats and was good at getting the maximum beer per goat ratio - a skill of value to the McThuggers. All of this, together with the natural propensity for a pub to be far closer to the heart of squat society than a place of work, meant that this family were probably the most respected and influential in Squat Hole.
At first this was seen as fine example of squat ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills, qualities which the squats were proud of and famous for.20) Soon however, the Piss House became so popular that the Skronky sisters started to see it as a threat, and more importantly, a source of revenue which they weren't getting.
The Skronkys paid a visit one evening to make a claim on this income. An income which they saw as rightfully theirs as the "Founding Dynasty of Squat Hole" a conceit which they had been putting about, and now believed themselves.21) The McThuggers saw matters in a different light however, and a vigourous debate on the subject followed. The pub was full, and the Skronkys had assumed that the drinkers, being mostly miners in their employ, would naturally take their side in the argument. They were quickly disabused of this belief. First of all, not all the patrons of the establishment were miners. Squat Hole was being used more and more as a base for squats in the mugging trade, and many of the drinkers in the bar that night were muggers rather than miners. Moreover, the mining population was less loyal than the Skronkys believed. The mines offered work, but the Pisshouse offered Mudwiseacre and Wanker, which was rather more important. Felony only paid a pittance to her workforce, believing in the power of the stick over that of the carrot, and the miners had slowly become aware that their brothers working the mugging routes were able to drink longer before running out of requisition. Resentment had been growing, and it boiled over that night. The Skronkys were defenestrated.22)
This was the start of outright gang warfare between the Skronkys and the McThuggers. The next day, the McThuggers launched a counter attack on the Skronky Pot, which although less prestigous than the Skronky mines, was still a vital part of the Skronky cigarette operation, and far easier to reach. The attack was ultimately unsuccessful, but although the McThuggers were finally repelled, and the pot kept in Skronky hands, a lot of valuable lung butter was lost in the fracas.
There was already a small guard installed at the Skronky Pot, to guard against stray burglery attempts, and this was now expanded into a full fighting force, The Skronky Pot Protector Society.
At this time there was a new up and coming generation of Skronkys who were lean and hungry for power.23) Sewage and Felony were very reluctant to hand over any sort of responsibility to this new generation, unsure whether they had the brains to successfully run the family business. One of the new Skronkys, Felony's daughter Wasp, felt held back. She determined to prove herself, and decided that she was going to take over the Piss House for herself.
Wasp realised that she was going to get no help from her senior family connections, and so together with her daughter Chlamydia, enlisted the help of another Squat Hole crime family, the Steeks. The Steeks were a minor family, with interests in illicit arms dealing, second hand cigarettes, and the occasional protection racket. They had long tried to break into the booze market, but with no success; and they jumped at the opportunity.
Together this group started spreading malicious rumours that the McThuggers were cleaning the pipes in the Piss House. These rumours were generally disregarded, as squats had been drinking in the Piss House for as long as anyone could remember,24) and had never had any problems with that sort of thing. But, throw enough muck and some will stick, most squats were vaguely aware of the rumours.
Wasp's next step was to break into the cellar of the pub one night, and spike the barrels with soap. When the pub opened the next morning, squats coming in for their morning 'hair of the doggymorph' were shocked to see their pints full of soap suds. The rumours were remembered and a riot broke out. Wasp had made sure that she, Chlamydia, and some of the Steeks would be there. Together they encouraged the violence and saw to it that the McThuggers were run out of town. After this had been done, Wasp made a rousing speech standing on the bar of the pub, where she promised that the Piss House would be properly run now, that she would see to it personally. The pub was renamed to Booz, and the sign was pulled down and replaced accordingly.25)
Simultaneously, other members of the Steek family made a move on the McThuggers brewery, and now that the main family members were no longer there to help protect it, successfully took it over. The McThugger's fate was sealed. Felony and Sewage were bound to take Wasp seriously, and so they did. The sisters were so impressed with Wasp's achievements and consummate political skills, that she was considered virtually on par with the elder family members from then on. She ran the pub, ably assisted by Chlamydia.
It is rumoured that the McThuggers are still living out in the wilds of Improbable Island as a nomadic tribe of bandits. In fact they have taken up residence in Port Foley where they are again brewing beer and plotting revenge on the Skronkys, looking forward to the day when they return triumphant to take what they consider to be their rightful place as lords of Squat Hole.
The heart of the Skronky empire was Felony's tobacco ore mines, the Skronky Pot was seen as an important, but secondary part of the whole operation. Sewage chaffed somewhat at playing second fiddle to Felony, and would have moved openly to take over the mines. However after the Piss House fiasco, Felony had been nurturing loyalty to herself amongst a small core of miners by making them 'foremen'. These foremen were used principally for persuading rebellious miners who were considering strike action. To help foster loyalty, the foremen were given extra privileges. They were allowed to simultaneously drink and smoke on the job, whereas the rank and file workers were obliged to keep at least one hand free at all times; they could ride the zombie donkeys that were being used in the mines for ore transport; they were occasionally given other jobs going and beating up squats who had incurred Felony's displeasure and so on. They were even paid a slightly higher allowance. These foremen were told that if Sewage took over, then they'd lose their privileges, and be relegated to the ranks of ordinary miner. This group represented a serious block to Sewage's ambitions.26)
With the threat of the McThuggers dealt with, Felony and Sewage Skronky were free to feud amongst themselves again. However, the balance of power had been changed somewhat. Felony had been the stronger of the two previously, and with her daughter now controlling the pub, an important institutions in Squat Hole life, Felony felt that her position had only been strengthened. However, while she was still the dominant sister, her place wasn't as secure as she believed. Running the Skronky Pot was a relatively easy job, leaving Sewage plenty of time to develop other business interests. The expanding mine workforce needed somewhere to live and Sewage's son Dogend was set to work building shacks for them which Sewage then charged extortionate rents for. These shacks were very shoddily constructed and often blew over in strong winds. The occupants were then forcibly charged for the rebuilding. Other req making schemes were also being pursued. Protection rackets on other beer production operations; brewing and distributing the illicit drug muse in Pleasantville and so forth.
Furthermore, the nature of the Skronky Pot Protector Society (SPPS) had changed, and changed to Sewage's advantage. What had started as a few bouncers, had been built up by Sewage into a large fighting force, used for many more purposes than the nominal protection of the Pot: collecting protection money, burgling various other businesses round the Island, and although the McThuggers had been dealt with, there were still regular attempts by smaller operations to muscle in on the Skronkys action in a variety of enterprises.
After the McThuggers had been ejected from Squat Hole, Sewage had been quick to recruit their animal expert, Micronoetic James. Mike's contributions were many, but perhaps the most important was his method of "turbocharging" zombie donkeys by force feeding them an exclusive diet of month old brussel sprouts. After a fortnight or so of this, the zombie donkeys would have a severe case of chronic flatulence. An SPPS operative finding themself in in a tight spot whilst riding one of these beasts could simply light their cigarette lighter close to the animal's rump and they would be one of the fastest things on the Island.
Altogether, Sewage now had her own independent muscle and could operate on a par with Felony.
This marked a change in the balance of power within the Skronkys. To consolidate her position, Sewage needed to have a counterpoint to Wasp, one of her own daughters in an influential position. With her practiced business eye, she had seen an opportunity. Making her oldest daughter Mildew deputy of the Skronky Pot, Sewage took her younger daughter Julia, and put her on the game. Julia showed herself to be remarkably suited to this business, and with the help of some dubious promises of wealth and some even more dubious SPPS members, Sewage and Julia soon persuaded a number of other squats to work for them, and they set up Squat Hole's very own Squat Squeezes brothel.
The advantages of this were threefold. Firstly of course, the direct business and the income of extra requisition and cigarettes into Skronky coffers. Secondly, the natural prestige and influence that accrues to successful and visibly rich squats. Thirdly, as a source of useful information. Wasp had realised soon after taking control of the pub, that drink loosened squat tongues,27) and a lot of valuable information was to be gleaned from listening in on conversations held there. This information enabled the Skronkys to keep a finger right on the pulse of Squat Hole life, and revealed many interesting sources of wealth which they could take a professional interest in. This information came first to Wasp and Chlamydia, and thence to Felony. Only then did Sewage get to hear about it, and so was forced to take the crumbs left behind by Felony and the mine foremen.
Squat Squeezes started to serve a similar function. A place where squats, and in this case sometimes other races, would let their guard down and start to let slip all sorts of interesting tidbits. Armed with this information, Sewage, for the first time, could operate on par with Felony not only in terms of muscle, but in terms of information also.
Felony tried to fight back. Chlamydia was put in full charge of Booz, and Wasp was set to work as a full time spy. In return for a cut of any profits, she was set to work hanging around in the Prancing Spider Kitty and other similar locations. At first this worked to some extent, but not enough to work decisively in Felony's favour. Other squats were recruited to work under Wasp's direction and a whole spy network was formed. However Wasp saw herself as working for the Skronkys as a whole and recruited her spies from the SPPS, as these were squats already known to be loyal to the Skronkys. This was indeed the case, but they were more loyal to Sewage than to Felony. Felony had been outplayed by Sewage and this is how the situation remains today, although Felony hasn't given up trying.
In the following months, the Skronkys expanded their empire until it reached into all corners of Squat Hole life and beyond. There are plenty of back room gambling dens hidden away in the back streets of Squat Hole, and these are usually run by SPPS members, or if not, then they pay "licensing fees" to the Skronkys, or else do not last for very long.
The Skronkys have tried setting up such gambling dens in other outposts, however most other races realise how badly loaded "Heads we win, tails you lose" is against them and avoid such dens. The one exception to this is AceHigh, where these dens delighted the jokers, but the dens found themselves badly losing despite all precautions to the contrary. After enough requisition, not to mention three SPPS members, had been lost, the Skronkys withdrew their attempts in this direction.
One of the Skronkys' best known businesses was set up by Julia's daughter Impudencia Skronky. Impudencia was a relatively sophisticated squat who travelled widely, sometimes as far afield as Kittiania. In her travels she had seen several of the outposts open food outlets. This gave her the idea of opening such a place in Squat Hole, but with a difference. Her place was going to be a really high quality restaurant. The sort of place where you can go in confident, that no matter what you order, there's always going to be at least a litre of grease with it. In fact she decided to make a point of this and provide it as a guarantee.
Impudencia found Sarky Williams, a squat who was particularly fond of his food, and sent him to Maiko's Academy in Kittiania. Sarky worked hard, and after much effort and stress on his part, and indeed Maiko's, he finally made it to level 1 in cooking28). This was considered to be all that the kittymorphs could teach him before specialising in squat cuisine, and Sarky was withdrawn for work in Squat Hole. Kebabs 'N' Shite opened shortly after. The squats are proud of their food, and Julia is proud of her daughter's business acumen. There is still much speculation in Squat Hole as to why K'N'S doesn't draw more custom from the 'big' races.
Julia now splits her time between running the Squat Squeezes and a 'Recker Porn Theatre' where, for a fee, squats can go and watch a stage show consisting of squat lasses playing with piles of requisition tokens, tucking them saucily into each others pockets, and on special occasions outright throwing them around with abandon. Although obviously only cheap forged tokens are used, the watching squats often don't realise this and the theatre can house some of the wildest nights anywhere in Squat Hole, or indeed anywhere on the Island. Mildew's son Danny is being groomed to take up running this venture leaving Julia free to go back to running the Parlour and perhaps setting up other business ventures. Julia would have rather installed her own son Thuggins in this role, but it is clear to everybody but himself that Thuggins is unintelligent, even by squat standards of intelligence, and there is no way that he would ever be allowed be in charge of anything at all.
The Skronkys persuasion techniques have grown more sophisticated as well. As well as violence, as an extreme measure, pushing squats into hot soapy baths is sometimes employed. For non-squats, other methods have been developed.
One day Wasp Skronky was interrogating a robot who she believed had double crossed her, and the robot was proving recalcitrant. The hot soapy bath trick wasn't working so well on the robot for some reason. At that moment Cyril came into the room, looking for an audience for his latest poem. Wasp was just about to slap him when she noticed the effect that the poetry was having on the robot. This was a revelation, and for the first time in her life, Wasp appreciated the value of poetry.
One last interesting story from the Skronkys' past remains to be told. Dogend Skronky, as has been noted, works building and maintaining many of the dwellings round Squat Hole. Many, but not all, a fact which he is working hard to change. One day while in the jungle he met an insurance salesman. Dogend was in a good mood at the time, having just had a large lunch of kebab and pizza, and let the salesman waffle on for a little while before beating him up. In this time he heard about fire insurance, getting paid if your house burnt down, and this had given him an idea.
Not long after this the concept of 'fire insurance' was a hot topic of conversation around Squat Hole, and there was a sudden marked increase in arson attacks in that outpost. This went on until the squats finally realised that-
Only the owner of a burnt building gets insurance money,
Even then they only get paid if insurance premiums have been previously paid, and
There's no such thing as fire insurance on Improbable Island anyway.
By the time all this complex information had been digested by the squats, a significant proportion of Squat Hole had been burnt down. Skronky Bros. Constructions 'won' contracts not only for much of the original reconstruction work, but also for the secondary reconstruction work after the original rebuilt homes had fallen over in the first strong wind.
Dogend's income increased sharply and Skronky Bros. Constructions is now considered an important part of the Skronky empire.
And so we come to the present day. The Skronkys are very much the dominant force in Squat Hole politics, there is very little that they don't have control over, although so far Tynan has managed to keep his gym away from their clutches. The bigger, Island wide businesses (Sheila's Shack of Shiney, eBoy's, the bank) have enough resources that they can see off takeovers from this quarter, although they ignore them at their peril.
The McThuggers brood and scheme from their base in Port Foley, but their ability to carry out their plots are limited.
The Skronkys are in charge and they're here to stay.
This document is part of Alexander Quandle's Squat Hole Project.