Splices - Early History
The waning of organised religion, and an increasing interest in gengineering novelties in the late 1st century a.t. led to an era of genetic experiments in human-animal hybridization.
It began several decades earlier, innocently and nobly enough, with Dr Sally Tannenhaus and her Sapientbonobos. Tannenhaus was concerned with exploring the ultimate potential of the great apes, although claims that she embraced a dream of pongids and hominids co-existing in interspecies harmony are generally acknowledged to be the result of later hagiographers. In any case the biotech megacorporations that provided funding for her institute had their own ideas, and after a lifetime of work the project was taken out of her hands, although Tannenhaus, lacking funding and access to her sapientchimps, still continued her work, although now in relative obscurity, for several years.
Sally Tannenhaus's seminal provolution work was to unwittingly conjunct with advances in AI software engineering and genetic manipulation to create an interesting spin-off of cyber-enhanced animals. During the 70s onwards, paralleling secret military research with dogs, seals and dolphins, cyborg augmentations were developed that allowed domestic animals to understand human speech rather than just voice intonation and a few specific commands and with later developments even to speak and use voice activated or simple press-stud household appliances. These involved the implantation of tiny but sophisticated computing systems at a very early age, and a period of intensive training. Developments using police dogs, guide dogs, search and rescue, and the like had good results, although wider developments were strenuously opposed by animal welfare groups and others opposed to "playing God" and "terminator dog" (as the military augmented animals were called). In any case the cost of training meant that these augmented animals were too expensive to be commercially viable, although in the 90s, with the development of special autodidactic software, the prices dropped tremendously. Even so, applications remained limited, as few people wanted talking pets.
The early cyborg animals were followed in the early 2nd century a.t. by other developments involving cross-species gene-splicing, such as cats or dogs with raccoon-like hands for better functionality than paws.
Throughout the 2nd century a.t., provolved and custom lifeforms were all the rage among the well-heeled. IntronTek, Biotopia, GeneTEK, Modernbody, Neotek, Sarawara, Chang Agribusiness, and all the other big biotech, bio-nanotech, and cosmetic megacorps vied with each other for the best and most marketable, customer-friendly and cuddly, gengineered lifeforms. Sapientchimps and bonobos were followed by human-animal hybrids of many mammalian species, the so-called "Manimals", and even bird and reptile hybrids. These combined human or near-human intelligence with strangely humanoid but furry, feathered, or scaly bodies, and were hugely in demand as pets, companions, servants, and sex-toys. Each was a distinct species, in a sense that none could interbreed with anything other than their own patented kind. Thousands of variants hit the market. Some were well cared for, others treated terribly. Some, like the enhanced dolphin, eventually came to equal human potential and established societies and civilisations of their own - these were the so-called provolves. Others never gained freedom. By the early 3rd century, the Splices, as they were by then known (after the genesplicing technology used to create them) formed a major element in the population of sentient beings, alongside Baseline Humans, Tweaks, Cyborgs, AIs, Vecs, and Constructs. Like Vecs, they were treated very badly and had few rights, and societies of Normals and of Tweaks formed to further their rights.
Although the majority of Splices lived on Earth, some made it into space during the Space Rush of the early 2nd through to the mid 3rd century, mainly as pets and companions of Normals, but later on an unknown number seem to have migrated up the well with help from abolitionist, animal liberation, and other small activist groups. Some of these Splices were later to make it to the Belt or join the Jovian League, where the Genetekker superiors (who had always despised the Normals and even more so Normal oppression and exploitation of Splices and Provolves) gave them citizenship and allowed them to set up their own colonies.
Many of these deep space Splices escaped the nanodisaster of the 5th and 6th centuries, making it to the Oort Cloud and beyond, where they joined the Shadow Federation or founded their own indigenous cultures and civilisations.