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INTRODUCTION


In the year 2007, Lead Scientist Joseph Shandlin successfully decanted the first human-animal hybrid: a mostly vulpine humanoid christened “Joy” by the team that created her. She was the property of Triple Helix Incorporated, originally engineered for the Homefront Project, a government-subsidized effort to populate the thus-far empty universe with other intelligent (and human-friendly) life.

Joy stood three feet tall and had the head of her vulpine father; her muzzle prevented her from speaking the language of her makers and her brain prevented her from understanding them. She never advanced beyond the level of a four- or five-year-old child—like the project that spawned her.

The engineering of sapient beings was an expensive process and the secretive nature of the project prohibited the government from diverting closely guarded tax monies into the coffers of the scientists. When the cash flow from the science foundations stopped, it resumed from corporations interested in the more utilitarian aspects of the products of Triple Helix. In 2012, Project Homefront and its original team had been disbanded, leaving the plans for the Pelted in the hands of Platinum Labs, a company involved in research in livestock cloning and engineering, and Headstart Incorporated, a conglomerate specializing in accelerated embryonic maturation and tissue growth.

In the year 2019, the public love affair with holographic costumes and projections fomented the perfect environment for the sale of carefully engineered “companions” to select individuals—and what few proved unsuitable for friendship were of great value to scientists testing new drugs or procedures on creatures even more like humans than their usual lab animals. Headstart’s factories required little modification to produce this more lucrative product, and Platinum Labs continued the research begun by Triple Helix. As the years passed, increasing numbers of the Pelted were produced to meet the growing demands of the moneyed elite. More and more of Headstart’s expansive facilities were dedicated to the decanting of the Pelted. New models found themselves deprived of claws, nails or teeth sharp enough to injure their owners; older-generation Pelted found their younger brethren mysteriously retarded, incapable of arithmetic or even speech.

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