Image from Steve Bowers

During the latter part of the Interplanetary Age, even as Mankind began to spread throughout the Solar System and take the first tentative steps beyond, society on Earth in many respects was becoming increasingly more decadent. Genetic engineering of Earth animals, a series of projects initially explored for the benefit of the population in the realm of food production and ecological recovery, had begun to slide towards sheer exploitation in many circles.

The very profitable but relatively short-lived company, WayneGenTech, had begun its existence with the lofty goals of reintroducing extinct and nearly extinct species into tailored environments. However, there were various failures of the genetic recombination process, and it became swiftly apparent that some of these failures had the potential for huge success in terms of capturing the public eye... and pocket book.

In 215 AT, after an abortive attempt to resurrect various species of Pleistocene fauna for a nature park in Alaska, one particular animal became a literal overnight hit. Miniature woolly mammoths were brought on to the scene. Standing no larger than a German shepherd canine, these animals were an international hit among those circles that could afford them. With their gene tailored soft wool, stubby tusks, and bright black, beady eyes, these so-called 'Muts were the darlings of the rich and famous. It was a rare celebrity that did not own at least one 'Mut, while many took to breeding the animals.

By 234 AT, several distinct breeds of 'Mut were in existence, the most common being a long-legged, short-haired variety. The animals had begun to show up in the common man's home, and the sight of a miniature woolly mammoth trotting along at the end of a leash in any large community was no longer a rare or novelty thing. In 236at, WayneGenTech went out of business in the face of new international regulations regarding gene tailoring animals for profit, but the 'Muts were on the scene to stay.

The fad began to wear out in the early '40's as a resurgence in baseline canine breeds began to rise. Mastiffs and great Danes began to replace 'Muts as the pet of choice, and like any group of unwanted animals they began to appear in the wild, either going feral or dying out. Small herds began to wander the temperate regions of Europe and North America, the animals having become quite intolerant of very warm or very cold regions. Indeed, selective breeding, coupled with the specific gene tailoring that had first brought them into existence, had made the animals quite fragile, and they were becoming even more so with time as their numbers thinned and inbreeding became more common.

Eventually, even those 'Muts that still enjoyed a domestic existence were experiencing shorter life spans and an entire host of medical problems. The creatures began to fall even further out of favor because of this. By the 260's, 'Muts had become all but extinct. All domestic specimens had disappeared before the end of the decade, and the last known sighting of a feral 'Mut was made in central California in 267 AT. Eventually, the little animals had become nothing more than a folkloric subject, spoken of by even those who had once owned them as one might speak of a tall tale.

'Muts were a perfect example of what happens when the flighty nature of Man combined with his technology, and his short sightedness. Genetic tailoring would not stop, and indeed it would eventually lead to the high level tweaking of Humanity itself. But the 'Muts remained an important historical cautionary tale.

"Don't get tweaked to be rage," people might say in the coming centuries, "or you'll just end up like 'Mut!"

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Development Notes
Text by John M. Dollan
Initially published on 04 May 2004.